Six resolutions that could help make your New Year a happier one

It’s customary to start a new year with the hope that it will be a happy one, but what exactly can we do to improve the odds of a favourable outcome?

Some of the answers might lie within a well-known global study called the World Values Survey. In 2006, pollsters asked 2,164 Canadians how happy they were with their lives, along with a wide range of other questions about their lives that can help determine what separates the 46 percent of Canadians who said they were very happy with their lives from the other 54 percent.

Based on the strongest differences between those who were very happy with their lives and those who were less so, here are six worthwhile resolutions that could help make your New Year a happier one.*

1. Join a gym or a sports team. The healthier Canadians felt, the happier they were likely to be.  So hit the gym or get involved in a sports team. Not only will the exercise make you feel healthier — it’s an easy way to meet others and strike up new friendships and acquaintanceships.

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by self-assessed health:

In very good health: 61%

In good health:  40%

In fair health: 28%

In poor health: 16%

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by involvement in sport/recreation groups or organizations:

Active member of a group/organization: 52%

Inactive member of a group/organization: 48%

Not a member: 42%

2. Get into better financial shape. The better people felt about their household’s financial state, the happier they tended to be.  So don’t be lulled into buying now and paying later by today’s unusually low interest rates — keep those debts under control.

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by perceptions of household’s financial state:

Finances in good shape (8-10 out of 10): 59%

Finances could use some improvement (6-7 out of 10): 39%

Finances in dire need of improvement (1-5 out of 10): 26%

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by household income:

$100,000 or more: 57%

$50,000 to $99,999: 45%

$20,000 to $49,999: 44%

Under $20,000: 37%

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by statement best describing household finances over the past year:

Saved money: 53%

Just got by: 42%

Spent some savings and borrowed money: 41%

Spent most/all of savings and borrowed money: 39%

3. Be accommodating, but not too accommodating. It doesn’t pay to be a martyr. If you feel that people routinely take advantage of you, it’s likely taking a toll on your satisfaction with your own life. So, if necessary, find an assertiveness training program and start making use of the most potent word in the English language: “No”.

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by how free they feel from being taken advantage of:

Rarely/never taken advantage of (8-10 out of 10): 58%

Occasionally taken advantage of (6-7 out of 10): 42%

Frequently taken advantage of (1-5 out of 10): 35%


4. Keep an eye open for a charitable or humanitarian organization to join. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell once observed that it’s being happy that makes people good, not the other way around. So, if you want to meet up with some people who are happy enough to want to do some good in the world, keep your eyes open for charitable or humanitarian organizations that are looking for assistance.

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by level of involvement in charitable/humanitarian organizations:

Active member: 56%

Inactive member: 42%

Not a member: 42%

5. Take charge of your life — don’t presume that the stars or the spirits have already mapped out your life for you. The more control Canadians felt they had over their lives and the less they felt themselves subject to fate, the happier they felt they were with their lives. So, if you’re involved in any organization or belief system that tells you your options are limited — from astrology to certain religious groups that attempt to micro-manage their believers’ lives — and you’re privately unhappy, start planning an exit.

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by perceived influence of fate in their lives:

Fate plays little/no role (8-10 out of 10): 51%

Fate has some role (6-7 out of 10): 39%

Fate plays a major role (1-5 out of 10): 39%

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by perceived level of choice and control over their own lives:

High degree of choice/control (8-10 out of 10): 54%

Moderate degree of choice/control (6-7 out of 10): 32%

Low degree of choice/control (1-5 out of 10): 36%

6. Tired of the boss always looking over your shoulder? Get a new one! When Canadians were asked how much independence they have in the workplace, it turned out that more independent workers — the ones who were left alone to get on with their jobs without being second-guessed — were the happiest people. Since it takes a happy person to be a good person, organizations with a strong command-and-control culture — such as call centres and airlines — might want to ask what cost this imposes on morale and customer service. So, if you’re in an environment where you’re being constantly micromanaged, consider making this the year that you find yourself a new job or upgrade your education to expand your career options.

Percentage describing themselves as “very happy”, by level of on-the-job independence:

High level of independence (8-10 out of 10): 52%

Moderate level of independence (6-7 out of 10): 37%

Low level of independence (1-5 out of 10): 35%

* – Data weighted by province and gender. Source: World Values Survey

Footnote: Other Canadians who tend to have higher levels of life satisfaction include those with strong ties to friends (51%), those with a solid religious faith (52%), those who feel they can trust others in their neighbourhood or people they know personally (52%), active members of professional organizations (55%), married people (54%), people who strongly agree that they seek to be themselves than to follow others (52%), and people who say it is very much like them to help others (51%).

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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