When it comes to being happy, you have more control than you think. In fact, the choices you make in life account for over half of your happiness. Dan Buettner spent five years studying happiness – and is the author of “Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way.” Blue Zones are regions of the world where people commonly live to 100 and beyond. Here’s what he found to be common characteristics among the happiest people:

  • They don’t watch TV. Most of us spend over four hours a day watching television, but in places where happiness levels are the highest, people spend more time with family and friends and less time in front of the tube. That’s why Buettner suggests owning no more than one TV, and keeping it in an out-of-the-way place, like the basement. Then watching it will become a deliberate activity, instead of an “automatic” one.
  • Another common characteristic of happy people: They have a “flow room,” a space where people naturally tend to congregate, talk to each other, and flow in and out. Flow rooms tend to be free of TVs, computers, and clocks, and are usually stocked with books, musical instruments, and games to encourage interaction.
  • Happy people are also less likely to shop. In North America, we often feel pressured by the media to always want more. A study found that the high you get from buying something new lasts no more than 14 minutes. Instead, put your money toward something that gives you a life-changing experience – like a class or a weekend retreat. Or, invest the money in a life-long memory – like a trip or a family vacation.
  • The final characteristic of happy people: They’re religious. When people in Mexico were asked - on a scale of one to 10 - “How important is God in your life?” More than 80 percent of them responded with a “10.” Experts say this explains why Mexican people are among the world’s happiest, despite being among the world’s poorest.