According to a happiness poll, only one in three Americans consider themselves to be “very happy.” Why? Some of it’s genetic, but a lot of it has to do with our hectic lifestyles. We spend too much time at work, and not enough time on our personal well-being. If you feel as though control over your own happiness has somehow slipped away from you, try out the following five tips to take back the reins.


1) Be Grateful: When everything seems to be going wrong, maintaining a positive attitude can be something of a challenge, but statistics show that people who take a few moments every week to reflect on the things that they are grateful for live happier, more productive lives. Try keeping a journal of positive thoughts, or making an effort to thank the people who make a difference in your life. You’ll be surprised how much of an impact it can make on the way you seen yourself and the people around you.


2) Volunteer: Volunteering can actually decrease your chances of depression and increase your lifespan, studies say. Not only does volunteering have a positive effect on the community that you live in, but it has proven its effect on psychological well-being time and time again. Volunteer work helps us to realise that there are always others out there who have it worse than we do, but most of all it gives us a sense of hope and purpose. Depressed people often feel as though their lives are meaningless, but study participants found that volunteer work gave them the motivation to get up in the morning, and the resolve to make positive changes in their own lives.


3) Create Goals: Purpose is an important part of happiness. When we have a set of goals to work for, we focus on achieving our goals instead of dwelling on the negative. Try to set little goals as well as big goals; growing an avocado plant, for example, or refurbishing an old couch. By interspersing your overarching goals with little, achievable goals, you can maintain a constant feeling of purpose and achievement.


4)  Go with the Flow: While goal-setting is important, don’t be afraid to change your goals as you change, and just go-with-the-flow every now and then. If you feel like there’s something that you can’t do, ask yourself what’s really holding you back. Is it circumstance, or is it your own fear of change? Give yourself a little freedom every now and then. Take a day off work just because you want to, buy that pair of shoes that you know you shouldn’t, and splurge on that brownie sundae that’s calling your name.


5) Take a Vacation: Psychologist opinions vary on the correlation between vacations and happiness, with many experts claiming that the stress of organizing a vacation often outweighs the good. On two key points, however, all agree. The anticipation of an upcoming vacation can increase happiness levels significantly, and a positive, stress free vacation can promote improved energy levels and general satisfaction. To ensure that your vacation remains stress-free, plan well in advance, and only go with friends or family that you feel 100% comfortable with. If you want to avoid the stress of travel altogether, just take a week off to relax and pamper yourself.