Ways to feel happier as UK ranked second most miserable country in the world

Woman looking miserable. (Getty Images)
New research has ranked the UK the second most miserable place to live in the world. (Getty Images)

We knew things were bad, but turns out living in the UK is pretty darned depressing with the nation voted the second most miserable place in the world to live.

It seems that joy has taken a back seat of late in the UK with only Uzbekistan ranking lower in a global mental wellbeing index, according to the Sapien Labs’ Mental State of the Year report.

The US non-profit looked at results from 500,000 respondents, from 71 countries, for a survey on how people's "inner state impacts their ability to function within their life context".

It seems that Brits are still more miserable than those living through intense humanitarian disasters, such as those in Yemen, with researchers explaining that more prosperous Western countries performing poorly overall: "Greater wealth and economic development do not necessarily lead to greater mental wellbeing."

So why are Brits feeling so miserable?

According to psychotherapist and author Eloise Skinner there are multiple factors leading to our lack of happiness right now.

"Along with all of the practical factors (cost of living crisis, environmental anxiety, political and global concerns), we might also feel a general sense of uncertainty about where things are headed," she explains.

"With many things in the UK seemingly in periods of change or uncertainty (including our political leadership, economic stability and monarchy), we can start to feel a general sense of being 'unsettled', which can be experienced individually and collectively."

Man looking miserable. (Getty Images)
The UK has been ranked the second most miserable nation. (Getty Images)

Endless drizzle has a role to play in our unhappiness too.

"The weather can significantly affect our mood and overall wellbeing," explains Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.

"When it's rainy, dreary, or overcast, it's not uncommon for people to feel a bit down, lonely, or sad. This isn't just anecdotal - there's a real connection between our environment and our emotional state."

Thankfully, we don't have to wait for sunnier days to see an improvement in our wellbeing. We spoke to the mental health experts to find out what we can do to get a much-needed boost of happiness.

Simple tricks to feel happier

Spend time outside

Studies consistently show that spending time in nature can boost mood, reduce stress, and create essential Vitamin D.

"It doesn’t have to be hours either - research has found even 15 minutes of sunlight a day is beneficial, so a quick lunchtime walk can have an impact (yes, even when it’s raining!)," explains Helen Villiers psychotherapist of Insight Podcast.

Woman breathing outside. (Getty Images)
Getting outside is a simple way to improve mental wellbeing. (Getty Images)

Look forward

A hope anchor is something to keep us moving forward. "These hope anchors can be small, like a cinema trip or a walk to a waterfall, or bigger milestones like holidays or finally getting started on that DIY project," Villiers explains. "They’re personal to you, and a way of helping you focus on what’s ahead."

Reward yourself

Rewards have long been associated with increased dopamine levels, so it’s crucial to reward yourself for a job well done.

"Each time you tick off a task or achieve something you set out to do, reward yourself," Villiers suggest. "A small reward like a cup of your favourite coffee or dancing to a song you haven’t heard in years can work wonders for your mood."

Laughter is good for your mental health. (Getty Images)
Laughter is good for your mental health. (Getty Images)

Get giggling

Laughter is the best medicine. "Various studies say children laugh approximately 150 times a day, whereas adults laugh up to 15," explains Dr Sarah Jenkins, women's health doctor and former GP. "But laughter releases good neurotransmitters, so even if you don’t feel like it, fake it until you make it actually works!"

Find pleasure in small things

When we feel overwhelmed, finding time for yourself can be challenging, however, it is crucial to prioritise taking a daily break from the stresses life presents. "Notice the flowers, notice the sounds, notice the smells and be present," suggests Ruth Kudzi psychologist, neuroscience expert and author of How to Feel Better. "Smile as you notice what is around you."

People enjoying a drink together. (Getty Images)
Doing more things that bring you joy is a way of boosting wellbeing. (Getty Images)

Cut out bad foods

What you eat can have a big impact on how you feel. "Nutritionists advise against eating foods that are highly processed (containing man made oils, sugars) as they create an inflammatory reaction in your body which contributes to stress," says Courtney Greene, regional lead occupational therapist at Cygnet Health Care.

"Keep a food diary to track what you eat and how you feel afterwards, in order to look for links between food and your mood."


Stop making yourself so freely available. "The technology that we use on a daily basis results in us living in a state of constant stimulation, and in reach at all times," Greene explains. "To build awareness of your smartphone or internet use, consider checking your daily screen time, and setting yourself goals to reduce this, or schedule time to ‘disconnect’."

Get more sleep

It is important to establish healthy sleep routine, advises Greene. "Try and follow the same routine every night," she adds. "Limit screen time before bed, instead swop it for a book. If you do have any caffeine, set yourself a cut-off point during the day and switch too decaf closer to bed time."

Commit to regular physical activity

Exercising at least three times a week is another scientifically supported strategy to boost happiness. "Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, often referred to as the body's 'happy hormones'," explains Dr Touroni. "These endorphins play a key role in boosting your mood. Regular movement isn't just about physical health - it's a catalyst for emotional and mental wellbeing too."

Woman breathing deeply. (Getty Images)
Breathing is another simple trick to feel more calm. (Getty Images)

Breathe yourself calm

By taking five minutes to breathe consciously. "Taking time each day to stop and observe the breath can help us remain calm and centred as well as prevent stress and exhaustion from accumulating," advises Dr William van Gordon, associate professor in contemplative psychology, University of Derby.

"Research shows that practising mindful breathing can help people feel happier, energised and more engaged with life," he adds.

Mental health: Read more

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