CNBC recently published a study that named Illinois number seven in a list of the top ten unhappiest states in America. Citing factors such as a unemployment rate, sales tax and median household income, the report shed little light onto why the average resident of the states listed is reportedly so unhappy.
While many factors can influence happiness, according to Dr. Nicole Prause, PhD, Assistant Professor at Idaho State University, some of the stronger predictors of happiness include social/familial support, financial resources to cover basic needs and job satisfaction.
Since eliminating stress and increasing happiness is essential to maintain overall good health, Dr. Prause says that instead of analyzing causes for depression, it can be productive for doctors and other mental health professionals to also think about what causes happiness.
"Psychologists spend much time studying how not to be depressed, but we know much less about how to be happy," says Dr. Prause. "Based on the predictors of happiness, some of the more important things to do might be to develop new friendships, increase your contact with supportive family members, and start new activities."
To mitigate general malaise or discontentment, Prause suggests engaging in an enjoyable hobby like reading a story to your children or running a 5K race to raise your spirits. "While ignoring unhappiness won't solve any problems...a pleasant distraction decreases your ability to keep ruminating."
A blog post from the New York Times about the happiest states of America suggests a positive correlation between wealth and well-being. Prause suspects that the high unemployment rate in Illinois could be partially responsible for it's low happiness rating.
To learn more about the well-being of residents in your area, visit the America's Health Insurance Plan's home page for well-being.