The 2019 World Happiness report came out and the United States slipped for another consecutive year.
The U.S. has slipped to the #19th spot.
What was alarming in the report though is that our teenagers continue to be less happy.
Even though, by all reports, we have a low violent crime rate, low unemployment and increasing income per capita.
Yet, happiness among teenagers has continued to decrease since 2012 and the report also shared that mental health issues continue to increase at an alarming rate.
Why is this?
The State of Happiness Among United States Teenagers
Mike asks the question, in the podcast episode above, which group do you think is loneliest… adults, seniors, or teens? Most of us would expect seniors who have perhaps been isolated through the loss of friends or for health reasons.
But that’s not true.
It’s kids who are the loneliest group. Shocking, right?
As connected as they are, you would expect them to be the LEAST lonely.
“Our survey found that actually the younger generation was lonelier than the older generations,” says Dr. Douglas Nemecek, the chief medical officer for behavioral health at Cigna.
Research published in 2017 by psychologist Jean Twenge suggests that “more screen time and social media may have caused a rise in depression and suicide among American adolescents. The study also found that people who spend less time looking at screens and more time having face-to-face social interactions are less likely to be depressed or suicidal.”
While I don’t believe that social media, alone, is the cause of all the stress, anxiety, and loneliness our teens face today, I do believe it’s one of the biggest culprits. We believe the top five are: social media, negative media/news, marketing messages, peers, and (believe it or not) education.
Read the article below for a better understanding why.
10 Ways to Increase Happiness for Teenagers
So let’s face it, the five things we named above aren’t going away.
Social media and the internet and the news and marketing… those things aren’t going away.
And they aren’t inherently bad.
As Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University, who studies loneliness and its health effects, points out, “If you’re passively using it, if you’re just scrolling feeds, that’s associated with more negative effects. But if you’re using it to reach out and connect to people to facilitate other kinds of [in-person] interactions, it’s associated with more positive effects.”
What we need to do, as parents, is focus on increasing our children’s happiness. Here are 10 ideas to help you get started:
Do More of What Makes You Happy
Do more of what makes you happy and less of what drains your happiness. Click here for a downloadable you can use with your own family to list out the top 50 things that make you happy. Aim for doing at least 5 things off the list each day, half of the things off the list each week, and 90% of the list every month.
A Gratitude Practice
Write down, or even just speak out loud, three things you’re grateful for in the morning and/or before bed.
Even meditating for just a few minutes every day can have a big impact. There are a ton of apps to help you get started or you can just set a timer and sit quietly for a few minutes every day. Try to start with just five minutes and work your way up!
Turn Off Notifications
The constant buzzing of notifications on phones is distracting and draw your attention away from what you’re doing. It also can cause you to wonder what you’re missing out on (Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO, is a real thing).
Watch your Circle
Do your friends make you laugh and build you up or are they negative and leave you feeling drained. Be careful of with whom you spend your time.
Random Acts of Kindness to Others
Try volunteering with an organization you love. Even just try picking up trash as you see it and throwing it in the garbage. This simple act off kindness can have a big impact on your state of mind.
Turn off the News and Negative Media
You aren’t missing anything and seeing negative events going on around the world can actually make you feel helpless and depressed, as if there’s no good left in the world. Which, as we know, isn’t accurate.
Learn Something New Daily
Make a list of things you’re interested in and try to learn something new on that topic every day!
Good Sleep, Eat Better, Get Outside
Shawn Stevenson, host of the Model Health Show and author of Sleep Smarter, shares in his book how he used a combination of healthy diet and quality sleep to cure what he was told was an “incurable” spinal condition.
Sleep and nutrition are POWERFUL and, without a doubt, have a huge impact on our overall health and mental well being. Make getting rest, eating well, and getting outside in the sun (even for just a few minutes a day to soak up that Vitamin D) a priority.
This is actually a bonus suggestion. But having a morning routine can put you in the right mindset to face your day. It can also help you feel less rushed as you get out the door in the morning, which, as we all know, can easily throw off the rest of your day.
Conclusion: 2019 World Happiness Report Review
It’s honestly frightening, the impact that social media and digital devices is having on our kids.
But these things aren’t going away.
And banning our children from using them isn’t the solution (remember, FOMO IS a real thing).
The best thing we can do is check in with our children regularly to get a feel for their state of mind. Be open and talk to your kids about the effect that social media has on you. They need to know that it affects you as well. This will help them be more aware of the impact it has on their own mood.
And talk to them about periodically taking breaks. Unfollow people if seeing content only makes you feel bad (even if those fitness images ARE inspirational). Turn off notifications so you aren’t hearing your phone buzz day and night.
And spend more time focused on the non-device activities that DO bring joy into your life.
Mom and Dad, what are your thoughts on this report? What do your children do to remain positive and happy? Do you have any guidelines in your home around the use of cell phones and social media?
We would love to hear what you think! Drop us a comment below or join our Parent Only Facebook Group to share your advice.