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Live Science just reported on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index of the happiest states in the nation. It's an eye opening poll and the top states have some obvious and not so obvious similarities. States that you would have thought would be higher on the list, rank at the bottom of the pack. What makes us happy and what gives us that overwhelming sense of well being?

The overall evaluation included a number of criteria like job satisfaction, physical health, and emotional health. The top five on the list included Hawaii at number one, followed by Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, and Colorado. This isn't surprising to me because each of these states boasts nature as its main ingredient to happiness. More time outside and the positive physical health associated with an active lifestyle are undoubtedly the secret to life satisfaction.

Not so obvious, is that these states for the most part are more difficult to get to and more rural, therefore, much of the population likely moved to be happy. Those that refuse to settle and take steps toward their overall happiness are the most likely to feel satisfaction in the end. Less population equals less stress and better emotional health as well.

What's surprising is that the states that came in at the bottom of the list are mostly southern states where the sun shines regularly and the weather is mild. My state of South Carolina ranked 35 while Alabama ranked 46, Mississippi 48, and Florida 37. Though some of the basis for the lack of happiness could be that southern states especially South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida were crippled by the economy with some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. And we're also quite out of shape so physical health is out as well.

A closer look at the wellness survey:

[It] included a random sample of 352,840 adults ages 18 and older living in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia — looked at six categories of well-being. These categories included life evaluation (self-evaluation about your present life situation and anticipated one in five years); emotional health; work environment (such as job satisfaction); physical health; healthy behavior; and basic access (access to health care, a doctor, a safe place to exercise and walk, as well as community satisfaction).

So, how did your state rank?

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