When are Americans happiest – and most stressed?

What was the happiest day of the year last year?

Thanksgiving, according to Gallup’s well-being poll of 175,000 Americans. The research group conducted daily telephone interviews about the previous day’s moods with randomly selected adults.

More than 70 percent of Americans felt happiness on Thanksgiving as they socialized with friends and family without much stress or worry, up from the 66 percent who found Christmas Day the happiest day of 2012.

In 2013, Christmas Day finished as the fifth happiest day of the year at 64 percent behind Memorial Day and two plain old Saturdays, June 8 and Sept. 28.

Not surprisingly, holidays and weekends are traditionally the happiest, least worrisome days of the year. Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the Saturday of Martin Luther King weekend and Saturday, June 10, rounded out the top 10 in 2013.

Overall, nearly half of Americans (48.4 percent) are happy and without stress most of the time, a slight uptick from 48 percent the year before.

At the other end of the spectrum, about 11 percent of Americans are stressed and worried most of the time. Stress levels peak during the workweek and begin to decline on Fridays.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the most stressful days are Mondays, with Monday, June 3, being the most worrisome day of 2013. That Monday, 20 percent of Americans felt stressed out, possibly due in part to wildfires raging across the West and tornados touching down in middle America.

The poll also found that among employees, those who were actively engaged in their jobs reported lower stress levels than those who were not engaged. Lowering stress levels in the workplace benefits the employer, Gallup says, by decreasing health problems and improving productivity. Stress can lead to injuries, poor health, increased absenteeism, tardiness and employees leaving the company – all factors that can sink a company’s bottom line.

Management can improve employee well-being by creating a more positive work environment that is conducive to employees becoming truly engaged and gaining satisfaction from their work, as well as developing social relationships, the research group said.

Four characteristics of companies with low stress levels, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, are:

  • Recognize employees for good performance
  • Offer career development opportunities
  • Ensure actions and management values are consistent
  • Maintain a culture that values individual workers

Other particularly stressful days of 2013 were Thursday, Feb. 21, and Thursday, Feb. 28, when economic woes were heavy as the government approached budget sequestration; Monday, April 8; Wednesday, May 22; Tuesday Sept. 10, and Monday, Sept. 16, amid talk of war with Syria; and Monday, Dec. 9.