The key to happiness may be as simple as logging off Facebook for a week, a new Danish study has found.

Researchers at The Happiness Institute tested how social media affected users’ general happiness. A total of 1,095 Facebook users were asked to evaluate their overall life satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 10 based on different factors, such as how happy they were, how much they enjoyed life, whether they felt worried or sad, and if they were enthusiastic or decisive. Ninety-four percent confessed to logging on to Facebook at least once a day. After the evaluation, half of the group was asked to avoid going on Facebook for a week, while the other half was told to continue with their lives as normal.

A week later, the participants’ life satisfaction was once again measured. Results revealed those who hadn’t given up Facebook experienced a slight increase in their overall happiness, from an average happiness rating of 7.67 to 7.75. However, this group was also 55 percent more likely to feel stressed. The group that had given up social media, on the other hand, experienced a much more significant increase in happiness — their happiness rating jumped from 7.56 to 8.12.

Participants who gave up Facebook also experienced an increase in social activity and satisfaction with their social lives. And when they were asked about their moods on the last day of the experiment, they reported feeling happier and less sad than the group that had kept Facebook. Overall, the group without Facebook was 18 percent more likely to feel present and in the moment.  

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, said it’s not that Facebook is inherently bad, but rather the social media site might affect the way individuals perceive their lives. “Facebook distorts our perception of reality and of what other people’s lives really look like,” Wiking told The Local. “We take into account how we’re doing in life through comparisons to everyone else, and since most people only post positive things on Facebook, that gives us a very biased perception of reality.”

Facebook acts as a “non-stop great news channel” and puts users at risk of seeing their own lives in a negative light. “It shouldn’t be used as the background for evaluating our own lives,” Wiking added. According to the researchers, this is because humans have an innate tendency to lose focus on what they actually need and instead focus on what others have. For example, the study found many of the volunteers responded negatively to other people’s Facebook posts when they included the hashtags #AMAZING, #HAPPY, or  #SUCCESS.

Another recent study found happiness in adults aged 30 and over is on the decline, and it pointed to social media as a main culprit in this downward trend. While young adults may thrive in today’s technological culture, which rewards attention seeking behavior, older adults clearly don’t experience the same effects. As a result, happiness in American adults aged 30 and over is lower than it was 40 years ago.

Source: Wiking M, Tromholt M, Lundby M, Andsbjerg K. The Facebook Experiment: Does Social Media Affect The Quality Of Our Lives? The Happiness Institute. 2015.