International Day of Happiness: What Really Makes Us Happy

On March 20, we celebrate World Happiness Day: reason enough to take a look at the question of what we really need in order to be happy. Happiness is a bird: one day you hold it tightly in your hands, the next day it flutters off again. Is happiness a matter of chance or can we succeed in preserving happiness permanently? On the occasion of the International Day of Happiness, we have collected some scientific facts and revealed four tips for more happy moments in everyday life.

Where do the happiest people live?

Did you know that the South Asian kingdom of Bhutan was the first country to introduce the measurement of gross national happiness? In addition to the conventional gross national product, which measures a country’s economic strength, gross national happiness is intended to determine the well-being of the population. Factors in this are, for example, the preservation of cultural values or the protection of the environment. According to the World Happiness Report, however, the happiest countries in the world are Finland, Iceland, and Denmark (as of 2021). What makes these countries so happy? They have a long democratic tradition, social differences are relatively small, women and men live largely on an equal footing and there is material prosperity. But you can’t afford to move to Finland at the moment? No problem: With the following four tips, you can actively increase your experienced happiness.
Happiness tip #1: Consciously feel gratitude
Not every day is good, but every day has something good – you just have to recognize it. Several different studies have examined the effect of gratitude exercises. To do this, people write down three things a day for which they are currently grateful. Study participants who kept this happiness diary for six weeks reported higher levels of perceived happiness at the end of the period than the control group who did not keep such a diary. What can we be grateful for? It doesn’t have to be big events; you can also note down the pleasant spring sunshine, the good lunch, or the short phone call with your best friend.
Those who introduce this positive daily review as a daily evening ritual also focus their perception on the beautiful things during the day: “This goes in my gratitude diary in the evening!”
Happiness tip #2: Pursue positive goals
Happiness is not a goal, but a path: we are happiest when we are on the path to a goal because human beings strive for growth. Therefore, keep setting new goals and think of concrete steps you can take to reach them. Perhaps you would like to complete your studies? Then every time you pass an exam, you get a little closer to your goal and gain orientation in your life, which gives you security and makes you happier. Actively set goals that match your values, write them down, and keep checking to make sure you’re on the right track. By the way, if you keep talking about goals with people you know, you’re more likely to achieve them.
Happiness tip #3: Discover new things
The days swim into each other and every week is like the next? It’s easy to forget to pause and experience happiness. If you consciously experience something new frequently, you are demonstrably happier. Try a sport, visit a city you haven’t been to before, sign up for a pottery workshop or flamenco dance class, or cook an exotic dish. A practical tip for implementation: make it a firm resolution to try at least one new thing every month.
Happiness tip #4: Spend time with loved ones
Our last tip is not particularly surprising, but all the more important: consciously make time for your friends, colleagues, and family members. Social inclusion is important for the production of happiness hormones and the reduction of stress. While you’re at it, put your smartphone aside and focus entirely on the conversations and moments with your favorite people. You live in a new city and don’t know many people yet?
Get involved in a club or volunteer activity. By the way, interacting with animals also helps: When you pet animals like cats and dogs, the bonding hormone oxytocin is released, which provides satisfaction.
What else makes you happy? Sufficient sleep, regular exercise, foods containing serotonin, such as bananas and pineapples, and spirituality. Fun Fact: Researchers have found that having two children makes you happier than having one or three. And for the rascals among you, we have good news. Because: According to the University of Washington, those who cheat are happier. The thieving joy of getting through a challenge with a little trick causes the release of happiness hormones (“cheater’s high”). Provided no one gets hurt. With this in mind, don’t get caught and have a great World Happiness Day!

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