Sometimes, a simple reminder that you're in control will do, but according to a recent survey from Harris Poll, happiness is based on more than just mood.
In a survey of 2,345 U.S. adults conducted online between April 10 and 15, 2013, only a third of Americans (33 percent) reported being very happy, a figure that Senior Vice President of the Harris Poll, Regina Corso, says is an indication that "while attitudes on the economy may be improving ... this is not translating into an improvement in overall happiness."
For minorities, the decline in happiness over the last two years -- the last time the poll was conducted -- is even more pronounced.
African-Americans appear to be less happy than in 2011, the report states, with 36 percent qualifying as very happy, down from 44% in 2011. But, although happiness is down in the black community, African Americans remain roughly as happy as whites (34 percent). In contrast, fewer than three in ten Hispanic Americans (28 percent) are very happy, which represents not only a decline from 2011 (35 percent) but also a significantly lower percentage than seen among either whites or African-Americans.
Harris notes that causal links cannot be established from its research, but did examine how respondents feel about their current work situation, college degree status and political views, among others.
One silver lining: More Americans appear to be happier in their jobs, an uptick that Harris suggests may simply be the result of Americans realizing that in this tough economy, having a job is a good thing.
Earlier this year, U.S. scientists devised a happiness assessment tool called the hedonometer, which combs some 50 million updates on Twitter each day, analyzing them for "happy", "sad" and "neutral" word content. In February, the team revealed what the hedonometer determined to be the happiest city in the U.S. -- wine-growing Napa, California.
According to a report by The Huffington Post's Mallika Rao last month, happiness indexes like these may help inform U.S. politics with the goal of governing with a citizen’s inner life in mind. If an index finds that train travel causes less stress than driving, for example, funds might shift from highways to public transportation.
"It's too early yet to gauge the results of these efforts," she notes, "but in the wake of the global recession, the promise of the experiment still captivates cities, states and countries willing to try their chances."