The 5 Happiest States In America Are All Over The Map

Sometimes a change of scenery is like a breath of fresh air. It shifts your perspective and lifts the spirit. Problems may not feel as dire as they once did and a sense of vitality sweeps through the body. You might even have an "aha!" moment, pinning your life dissatisfaction not on yourself, but on your location. Whew.

While external circumstances absolutely do affect quality of life, we've also all heard the wise saying that happiness is, in fact, a state of mind. And as the zen philosophers say, you may eventually come to find that wherever you go, there you are. So, since happiness levels are determined by both internal and external forces, you may want to take these studies with a grain of salt.

But, to discover which places are the most joyous in America, Wallethub took a look at the economic, emotional, physical, and social well-being of each state. And the findings may surprise you, aside from the top winner — Hawaii. Yeah, we all saw that one coming.

These are the 5 happiest states in America

With Hawaii coming in first for its positive work environment and sense of community, the natural beauty of the state is, of course, another draw. The aloha state was also found to have the lowest rate of adult depression, according to Wallethub. Next ranked are Maryland, Minnesota, Utah, and then New Jersey. It might be a little puzzling to read at first as these aren't places we necessarily associate with fantastic vacation hotspots, but again, there's more to it than that.

While money doesn't buy happiness, a strong economy does help. And Maryland has one of the top economies in the country. "Money is important in as much as it helps us achieve basic needs or other things that would bring happiness. So having money does not make people happy, but spending it in strategic ways can make people happy," says Dylan Faulkner Selterman, Ph.D., Associate Teaching Professor at Johns Hopkins University (via Our Community Now). "People tend to be happier when they spend money on others (altruistic spending), or on time-savers, such that people have more leisure time to spend on fun or meaningful activities."

Whether it's thanks to stunning scenery or positive cashflow, from the East Coast to the Four Corners to the Midwest, happiness is pretty spread out in America.

Finding happiness where you are

Maybe your state didn't rank in the top five or ten, or even twenty, happiest states, but you can still create a joyful life wherever you're rooted. According to The New York Times, choosing a positive community, spending time in nature, and decluttering your home all contribute to overall life satisfaction levels. Efforts to integrate these things into your life can be done just about anywhere.

Nature is said to be healing and sunlight is almost medicinal, so most won't be surprised that some studies suggest small, rural communities tend to be happier than those in large urban areas (via The Washington Post). A connection to nature and a sense of belonging are monumental.

If you're in a rut or can't yet move to a geographical location more aligned with your values, start with the thing you do have control over — your mindset. A daily meditation for stress relief can work wonders. If that feels too daunting, maybe start by just listening to someone else talk about happiness. "The Positive Mindset Podcast" by Henry G. Lawrence features "meditation-style storytelling" to lift listeners out of negative thinking and into a realm of positive possibility. With several short and influential episodes per week, chances are you'll start to see things in a new light, no matter where you are on the map.