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Go to Your Happy Place: Celebrate World Happiness Day, Today!  

Photo by Saptak Ganguly / Stocksy United / 992031
Photo by Saptak Ganguly / Stocksy United

Today is the International Day of Happiness! In 2012, the United Nations called for the pursuit of happiness to be recognized as a human right—and we're all for it. 

Happiness, of course, is a very subjective experience—but there are plenty of people, from psychological pundits to “happiness economists” who spend a lot of time thinking and writing about it. Need some "get happy" inspiration? Check out Pharrell Williams' toe-tapping 24-hour global music video and then read on: Here's what happiness research has to teach us. 

What makes your family happy?

According to NY Times columnist and author of The Secrets of Happy Families, Bruce Feiler there are three simple ways to make your family happier.

1. Share your family history.

In his book, Feiler shares research from Emory University that suggests the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being is knowing their family history—including challenges, triumphs, and inspirations from previous generations that can serve as real-life role models to your kids. Want to get started? Go through old photo albums, share stories about your grandparents and their parents, and talk about how your family put down roots in America.

2. Eat dinner together.

According to The Secrets of Happy Families, “A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem.” Can’t make it to dinner every night? Try to come together at the breakfast table, or make a special meal together on the weekend.

3. Address your own stress level.

Researchers from the Families and Work Institute asked children, “If you were granted one wish about your parents, what would it be?” Most parents predicted their kids would say spending more time with them. They were wrong. The kids’ No. 1 wish was that their parents were less tired and less stressed. Take some time for you every day; your kids will thank you.

What makes your work life happy?

There’s no shortage of tips for helping you feel better about your job: taking breaks, lunchtime yoga, changing your schedule to avoid traffic-filled commutes. But the main factor affecting our feelings about our work lives are the people we work with. In a report called Labor of Love: What Employees Love About Work and Ways to Keep the Spark Alive, here are the top three things that make us love work:

  • Great relationships with our employer
  • Interesting and challenging work
  • The company’s mission

The lesson? When you're job hunting, many people will want to consider first how well you like the people you’ll spend 40+ hours a week with, in addition to the job itself.

What makes nations happy?

Research from the United Nations shows that 87 percent of people would rather live in a society with the greatest happiness rather than the greatest wealth. Although it may seem like comparing happiness across cultures is an impossible task, researchers who call themselves “happiness economists” have been able to show how people evaluate their quality of life over time. One such report is the OECD Better Life Index, which measures satisfaction across 34 countries. According to the report, here are the Top Ten Countries for “life satisfaction”:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Norway
  3. Denmark
  4. Canada
  5. Iceland
  6. Austria
  7. Sweden
  8. Mexico
  9. Finland
  10. The Netherlands

In case you’re wondering, the United States comes in at #17 (in this study, we fall down in the areas of “Work-Life Balance” and “Civic Engagement”). 

Sometimes the little things in life make all the difference, like spring flowers blooming, a child giggling, or cozying up with your loved ones. So go ahead, carve our your own little piece of happy pie—the world is a more joyful place when we're all free to pursue our own visions of happiness. 


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