Let’s talk about happiness on World Happiness Day

March 2021

“Happiness” – something we would perhaps like to experience more of and something most of us are trying to achieve.

What do we mean by happiness? Where did World Happiness Day originate? What can we do to attain a state of positive emotion? Let’s look at these areas and see if we can make ourselves happy in the process.

Positive Psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, the author of The How of Happiness [1], described happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” 

My interpretation of happiness comes from the science of emotion – an ‘in the moment’ sensation, slightly lower in energy than joy, yet higher than contentment and satisfaction. A sweet spot in our transitory emotional repertoire where our body’s chemical reaction combines perfectly to induce this feeling we call ‘happiness’ – when things are going our way or when we gain something we have desired. I believe we can choose experiences to help increase our happiness – the things we do, the way we think, the way we express ourselves – can all help us attain a level of happiness, even if just in the moment.

When thinking about happiness, many of us think of an overarching experience, one that aligns with Sonja’s definition. When we ask ourselves if we are ‘happy’ overall, we generally think about all areas of our life – am I fulfilled? Do I enjoy my work? Do I have a loving family, people who care about me? I think about that as flourishing – am I flourishing in life?

A flourishing life – one that is also filled with happiness – is a desire for many of us. The good news is, we can all flourish, even on days when happiness eludes us.

To this end, on 12 July 2012, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 20 March as National Happiness Day as a way of recognising the relevance of happiness and universal well-being being goals and aspirations of people globally.

In a move that resonated with its country’s beliefs, Bhutan initiated the resolution as it certainly dovetailed nicely with their adoption in the early 1970s of a Gross National Happiness Index over Gross National Product.

So today, on this day where we celebrate happiness, I ask you to choose just that; flourish and recognise the times in your day, your week, your year, when life is good, goals are being achieved, and your body tells you – right now you are happy!

[1] Lyubormirsky, S. (2007). The How of Happiness. Penguin Random House.

“The pursuit of happiness is serious business.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 2015

20 March will see individuals, teams and organisations all around the world celebrate the United Nations International Day of Happiness.

This joyous day was founded on 28 June 2012 by United Nations adviser Jayme Illien who came up with the idea of a U.N Resolution that recognised the pursuit of happiness as a human right and a “fundamental human goal”.

Ever since International Happiness Day was launched, happiness initiatives have popped up all over the world.

So what can you do to celebrate this happy day?

Start simple. Do something small that makes you happy and that contributes to your wellbeing.

Smile – smiling boosts your mood







Listen to your favourite music







Get out into nature







Eat something healthy and delicious







Meditate – even a few minutes in your day can increase your happiness







Do something small that makes others happy. And you’ll even find yourself with an extra boost of positive emotion as a result!







Click here to get involved in International Happiness Day!