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These are the happiest countries in the world. Here are 7 mood-boosting lessons we can learn from them.

Smiling woman holding teacup.
What we can learn from countries ranked high in the World Happiness Report. (Getty Images)

Happiness is an important factor in our overall health and well-being — and a new report shows Americans are lacking it. The annual World Happiness Report has ranked the U.S. 23rd in the world for happiness, falling from the No. 15 spot in 2023. The happiest country is Finland, followed by neighboring nations Denmark, Iceland and Sweden. Israel, The Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Australia round out the top 10.

The report, which uses data from the Gallup World Poll and is analyzed by scientists, looked at six variables: gross domestic product per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity and perceptions of corruption.

According to the report, young people in the U.S. are less happy than older generations. “The reason the U.S. dropped out of the top 20 is due to a real drop for the adolescent and young adult group, which dropped down to No. 62,” Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the How Can I Help? podcast, tells Yahoo Life. “While above-60-year-olds remained in the top 10, it's young people that brought the U.S. down to 23.” This raises a lot of questions about what we can do better going forward.

While happiness is relative and depends on a wide range of factors, there are some common themes that come up in the countries with the most joy. Mental health experts recommend adopting these habits to boost your happiness.

Get out and socialize

All of the countries in the top 10 ranked high on socialization. Meaning, people hang out with each other and value their relationships. In the U.S., Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has called loneliness and isolation a “public health crisis,” noting that those conditions can increase the risk of early death to levels that are comparable to having a daily smoking habit.

“We are social creatures, and interacting with others makes us happy,” Thea Gallagher, a clinical assistant professor of psychology at NYU Langone Health and co-host of the Mind in View podcast, tells Yahoo Life. “Social support is a huge contributor to overall happiness. If we don't have it, it can raise the risk of depression and anxiety.”

Gallagher suggests making a point to have regular meetups with friends and family. If you're new to an area or don't feel that your current social connections are strong, joining a club or organization can help you meet new people, Jaime Zuckerman, a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of adults with anxiety, mood disorders and relationship difficulties, tells Yahoo Life.

Lower your screen time

Americans spend nearly half their days in front of screens, which isn't doing mental health any favors — research has found that higher levels of screen time are linked with a greater risk of depression. “People are having less in the form of ‘in real life’ social supports because so much of their community has moved to online,” Saltz says. That doesn't promote the same level of interaction you'd get from talking to someone in person, she says. “It is actually, in some instances, extra-alienating.” If you work in front of a computer, there's only so much you can do during your workday. But once you're done with work, she suggests making a concerted effort to get away from screens more.


Generosity is a big theme in the happiness report, with people in the happiest countries reporting high levels of giving in their country. “Generosity is important,” Gallagher says. While you can't make others be generous to you, Gallagher points out that you can volunteer to give back to the community. “We know that volunteering can help with depression and mood,” she says. “It's a worthwhile investment.”

Zuckerman recommends thinking about your values and finding a volunteer organization that lines up with them. “Any behavior we do that takes us away from our values sets us up for depression and anxiety,” she says. “If you're volunteering with something that you value, and you're mindful of that, the more you will do it and the better you will feel.”

Listen to your body

Finland offers universal health care, which means that everyone in the country has access to social, health and medical services. The same isn't true for Americans. “We have such a broken system,” Zuckerman says. While you can't change the entire health care system today, she recommends doing your best to advocate for yourself if you feel sick to ensure that you are as healthy as possible. “It's very common to have your symptoms dismissed and to even dismiss your own symptoms,” she says. “If you think something is wrong and everyone tells you it's not, continue to press for answers until you feel satisfied.”

Do what you can to minimize stress

Some stress is inevitable, but chronic stress is linked to lower rates of happiness along with a higher risk of developing serious health conditions like hypertension, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Adding in stress-combating lifestyle moves like meditation, mindfulness and yoga can help, Zuckerman says. “Make sure to practice self-care and schedule pleasurable things you enjoy,” she says. That can decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, which will then lower levels of inflammation that can make you sick, she adds.

Try to find a work-life balance

Experts admit that a good work-life balance can be tricky to achieve, but Gallagher says it's important to try to maximize your time off when you have it. “In this country, there is a lot of commitment to working upwards of 40-plus hours a week,” she says. “That naturally impacts your ability to socially connect and can interfere with healthy habits around working out and eating well.” But socializing, eating well and exercising regularly can help promote a more positive mindset, making them things to prioritize, Gallagher says.

Add more movement to your day

The cultures in many of the top 10 countries promote being active, and Finland in particular is known for having a physically active population. “The studies are just mounting that being out in nature, moving our bodies and exercising is so crucial and important to our physical and mental health,” Gallagher says. “I really try to encourage people to shake the notion that exercise is self-care. This is health management, like eating and sleeping.”

If you're not as active as you'd like to be, Zuckerman recommends starting small and managing expectations. “Walk to the mailbox. Instead of taking the elevator, use the stairs. [Cook] something healthy twice a week,” she says. “It gives you a sense of mastery and makes you feel in control — and that can lead to more happiness.”