What does it take to be happy? In truth, we all look for different things to bring us joy.
Yet, there are a few common themes that tend to pop up among the happiest people. In many cases, these are values or beliefs that especially contented people appear to share.
A recent Wall Street Journal-NORC poll of more than 1,000 adults found that just a fraction of Americans — 12% — describe themselves as “very happy.”
So, pollsters followed up and asked people who fall into this joyful category what makes them so happy. What emerged were traits the happiest Americans share in common.
They tend to be older
Contrary to what many people might suspect, studies have revealed that we tend to experience more happiness — not less — as we age.
In the Wall Street Journal-NORC poll, 44% of the happiest folks were 60 or older. Yet, people in that age group made up just 30% of survey respondents.
They are much more likely to be women
According to a Wall Street Journal summary of the poll findings, women — “far more than men” — were likely to report being very happy.
Dr. Robert J. Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, told the WSJ that such a disparity in happiness could come down to the fact that women live longer than men, and advancing age is tied to more happiness.
They are religious
The survey found that people who are very or moderately religious are much more likely to report being very happy.
Two-thirds of very happy people describe themselves as having deep religious convictions. That compares to less than half of adults overall.
They stay involved in their community
A 2020 study of nearly 70,000 people found that those who volunteer are more satisfied with life and rate their overall health as being better.
The researchers in the 2020 study said volunteering gives people a “warm glow” and keeps them connected to others.
They value close relationships
Those who are very happy value marriage — even if they are not married themselves.
Among the very happy, 67% say marriage is important to them, the WSJ says. Just 43% of all respondents feel that way.
They make fitness a priority
Several studies have found that even relatively small amounts of exercise help increase happiness and well-being.
Physical activity also curtails anxiety and depression.
Money isn’t that important to them
It feels a little odd to report this — after all, the name of this website is Money Talks News. However, very happy folks say money just isn’t all that important to them.
In the WSJ’s summary of its findings, Mary Ann DePasquale, a retired medical secretary in Keedysville, Maryland, says:
“We’re living on Social Security and a couple of small pensions. We live from month to month on that. But we don’t want for anything.”
For more results from the Wall Street Journal-NORC poll, check out “4 American Values That Are Fading Fast.”