Are we truly happy in the Illawarra?

Grinners are winners, especially when it comes to measuring happiness in the Illawarra.

Earlier this month, Wollongong was identified as the happiest place in Australia based on the broadness of our smiles.

It's not surprising. Nestled between the escarpment and the ocean, with abundant beaches, parks, cliffs, rainforests and a gorgeous lake, what is there not to be happy about in this gorgeous city?

The happiness ranking was determined by US-based smartphone app Jetpac, which used photos from Instagram to count pixels and determine which city came up beaming.

In the Smile Score, Wollongong was ranked 43.4, followed by Townsville on 40.1 and Canberra on 35.

The Gong was miles of smiles ahead of other coastal cities such as Newcastle, which scored 34.9, the Gold Coast which gauged 28.4 and Sydney with 24.9.

But Aussies are a pretty happy bunch generally, according to the Paris-based Better Life Index. For the past three years, the land Down Under has led the field as the happiest nation in the world, ahead of Sweden and Canada.

The wellbeing index crunches numbers based on income, jobs, housing and health, with Australia ranking well above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average.

Significantly, Australians are more satisfied with their lives, with 84 per cent of people claiming they have more positive experiences each day than negative ones.

And why wouldn't we have positive experiences when we live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world? That's enough to make anyone smile.

But if you need a bit of help to keep the smile on your dial, here are a few tips.

1. Shake a leg. Even seven minutes of exercise a day will help release those proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier.

2. Get your beauty sleep. When you are well rested, you are less prone to negative emotions and more likely to cope with the stresses of life.

3. Move closer to work. A long daily commute is one big drag, especially when it involves sitting in a car in heavy traffic.

4. Spend lots of time with family and friends. There is plenty of evidence that having close relationships leads to a long and happy life.

5. Enjoy the great outdoors. Step outside and take in the view. Go for a stroll along a beach or through a national park. The tranquillity and beauty will revive you.

6. Lend a helping hand. Helping other people is a fulfilling experience which engenders a feeling of goodwill and satisfaction.

7. Keep smiling. Just the action of curling those lips is enough to tap into positive vibes. And it's infectious: one smile will lead to miles and miles of smiles.

8. Plan a trip, but don't necessarily take it. Strangely, the anticipation of a holiday often makes us happier than the actual vacation.

9. Meditate. Relax and release. Meditation is helpful in stopping or slowing obsessive thinking, anxiety, depression and hostility.

10. Be grateful. Try sharing at least three good things that happen to you every day with a partner or friend and show gratitude for any kindness.

One curious little postscript - and something we can all look forward to - is that we get happier as we grow older.

As we age, we recall the happy times and block the bad, we do things that lift our mood and spend time with people whose company we enjoy, and we learn to deal with loss and disappointment better.

Are we happy? You bet your life we are.


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