INDIANAPOLIS — It would appear that Americans are the “unhappiest” they’ve been in decades.

According to the latest data from the General Social Survey, which asks people to document their happiness in terms of “happy,” “pretty happy,” or “not too happy,” Americans are the most unhappy they’ve been since 1972.

In that time the people who described themselves as “very happy” decreased from 30% to 19%, while those who described themselves as “not too happy” increased from 17% to 24%.

It’s not all negative news however, those who described themselves as “pretty happy” increased from 53% to 57%.

Some of the biggest shifts came in 2021, and much of that can be understandably explained as being driven by the pandemic.

Asking the question, “Is there anything that people can do to help improve their happiness?” CBS4 spoke with health and wellness coach Erica Ballard. She explains in many cases happiness can be improved upon by changing the perspective for which you view your life.

“And I’m not talking about ‘toxic positivity’ where I want you to ignore all the bad things that are happening. But, what we tend to do is have maybe 80%, 90% of things in our life looking the way that we want it to, but, there’s that 10% that’s off and we focus all our efforts on that 10%. You can focus again and turn around and say, ‘Oh my gosh, look at the 80%, 70%, 60% of my life that’s going well,’” Ballard said.

Ballard reiterates that she’s not advocating for people to ignore their problems in lieu of a “sunnier disposition,” rather she champions looking at the entire landscape of your life, then recognizing all the things you do have to be grateful for. 

It’s a process she notes isn’t always easy, takes time, and at first may not even feel good.

“Because we’re human, we default biologically to the negative. When we start to create a positive outcome, that positive outlook, it feels weird. It doesn’t feel normal. In fact, it doesn’t even feel that good. It feels fake, and we tell ourselves that it’s not real, it’s not true, I don’t know why I’m doing that, it’s ridiculous. Yes! You are doing it right.”

Ballard continued, “That is how it feels at first. You’re doing it right if it feels hard and different weird. Because you have to change the neural pathways in your brain and to do that you have to practice,” she said.