Top 10 Happiest Cities in the US in 2021
By Bree Lewis
Happiness—what does it really mean and how do we reach it? That’s the million-dollar question. How can we achieve and hold on to happiness in a world that seems to be throwing us curve balls all the time? Are there habits we can develop to increase our level of happiness even during times of grave uncertainty?
In a year where wellness, however we define it, is at the forefront of our minds, can we dive deeper into what happiness means and the role it plays in our overall wellbeing? That’s where the Mindbody Wellness Index comes into play.
We analyzed the top 10 happiest cities in America in 2021 to see what makes them tick:
1. Miami, FL
The happiest city in America is Miami, with 70% of residents saying they feel happy most of the time. This is the second year in a row Miami has ranked first on the list (supporting happiness pre- and post-pandemic). Miami is not only the happiest city but the healthiest and most active city as well. With more than 87% of people who live there working out once a week or more, they are moving their bodies as much as our world is moving us. Miami is making it a priority to look and feel good; residents invest an average of $74 a month on beauty and grooming services—more than any other US city. It’s also the second-most spiritually fulfilled city, with 70% of residents claiming they feel spiritually fulfilled. It seems that no matter how hard outside circumstances may get, Miami residents know a few tricks for finding and attaining happiness.
2. Atlanta, GA
Our second-happiest city is Atlanta. Also, no stranger to the happiness leaderboard, this city has been on the happiest cities list for two consecutive years now. Not only have they maintained their spot on the leaderboard, but residents report feeling even happier than in 2020 (up 6%). During an unexpectedly challenging year, Atlanta is still doing it right. Amidst the strains of a global pandemic, they’ve remained active with 81% of people working out once a week or more. Atlanta is also the most spiritually fulfilled city in the U.S and ranks first in feeling most connected to their neighborhoods and communities. When it comes to happiness, Atlanta has its bases covered.
3. New York, NY
New York experienced a great deal of hardship this year. Facing significant lockdowns and serious COVID-19 impact, New York showed the grit it’s known for. Not only did 63% of New York residents report being happy most of the time, but happiness levels increased by 11 percentage points from the year before (more than any other city). Like a phoenix that rises from the ashes, the pandemic has brought New Yorkers together in new ways (65% of them doing virtual workouts at least once per week), with residents feeling more intricately connected to their neighborhoods and communities and ranking high in close relationships with friends and family. There is nothing New Yorkers, with an unbreakable spirit, cannot carry out, together– meaningful happiness being just one of those things.
4. Washington DC
With 60% of people who live in our nation's capital reporting feeling happy, Washington DC is not new to our list. So, what is it that keeps these locals happy? It could be that 79% of residents are exercising once or more per week. They also keep their workouts diverse, with 64% of people doing virtual fitness at least weekly. The capital also ranks second for group Pilates and group dance fitness classes– keeping their forms of exercise fun, unique, and centered in comradery. DC is keeping up with its appearances, too; a quarter of DC residents are even dedicating more time to their beauty and grooming routines. Could it be that a little self-care brings more happiness?
5. Dallas, TX
Dallas, Texas moved onto our top 10 list this year, with 8% more residents claiming they feel happy most of the year. We are all thinking the same thing: how is that even possible? When asked, 69% of residents say they are more focused on their health and wellness since the start of COVID-19. People who live here are also value community, ranking 3rd for group yoga. They have dedicated more time to grooming services since the pandemic and continue to be well-rested– making them true movers and shakers in the business of looking for and achieving happiness.
6. Houston, TX
While it would be easy and expected for happiness levels to diminish due to intense external circumstances, Houston’s position on the top 10 list has still managed to go up two spots since last year. Houston residents are more invested in their health and wellness now; 64% say they are more focused on it since the start of the pandemic and over half have adopted virtual fitness as a part of their routines. Well-rounded and active, they illustrate& how to build unwavering happiness from within.
7. Oakland, CA
Oakland is new to the list this year with 59% reporting they feel happy most of the time (up from 52% last year). Despite being the most stressed city on the list, Oakland ranks highest for meditation practices. Oakland residents know the value of true connection firsthand, ranking sixth in feeling connected to neighborhood and community and 11th in close relationships with friends and family. This city reminds us all the importance of fostering meaningful connections during a time where the realities of lockdowns and restrictions can feel isolating. The way this city has leaned into human connection makes us reevaluate the significance of community, family, and friends in building and keeping happiness.
8. San Francisco, CA
San Francisco takes 8th on the list this year, staying in the top 10 for the second year. What makes this bustling California city happy? As a city that was highly affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, these residents still managed to remain regularly active, with 82% of residents working out once a week or more. Not only did they continue their exercise routines, but they also ranked seventh in feeling connected to their neighborhoods and communities and getting a restful night's sleep—two healthy behaviors that we all need to efficiently cope with the stressors of the world.
9. Memphis, TN
We welcome Memphis, Tennessee, as the ninth-happiest city in America for 2021. It’s no surprise, coming in as the second least stressed city. Memphis also ranks second for group exercise with cardio machines– keeping their heart rate as high as their comradery. This city also incorporates multiple dimensions of wellness into its routine, ranking as the 7th most spiritually fulfilled city and many saying grooming services are a part of their wellness routines. This city shows us how much our daily choices matter when it comes to building happiness that lasts.
10. Detroit, MI
Rounding out our top 10 happiest cities in the US is Detroit. The people of Detroit keep it active, with 67% of people working out once or more per week. Residents are not only staying active, but also keeping their chill– ranking as the least stressed city on our list. Detroit ranks ninth for group dance fitness– people are literally dancing away the stress. Active, relaxed, keeping it fun, and well-groomed (54% or people claiming that beauty and grooming is a big part of their life), this city reminds us what relaxation, moving our bodies, and self-care can do to improve our overall happiness.
And there you have it—the happiest cities in America for 2021. While some were new to the list and others were returning victors, each one of these cities managed to unlock happiness during a time where the world is redefining it. Although, we must be realistic about the challenges of our circumstances–it seems that getting outside, staying active, leaning into community, and continuing to nourish ourselves plays a significant role in what it means to feel happy.