What Makes People Happy? The Top 10 List

Most studies on what makes people happy agree that family and relationships rank right at the top. Next come meaningful work, positive thinking, and the ability to forgive. In rough order of importance, here are the top 10 things you can do to increase happiness in your life.

What MOST makes people happy:

1. Family and relationships

The happiest people spend time with those they love. Intimacy with others fulfils two basic human needs. We need social connections with others of our kind. We also need the personal growth that relationships provide which makes us feel fully alive.

Try to accept social invitations whenever possible, or initiate social gatherings with family and friends. Face-to-face meetings make us more happy than online networking, because hugging and other forms of physical touch release endorphins. So use technology to set up meetings, but get out there and hobnob the old-fashioned way.

2. Meaningful work

We are happiest when engaged in activities that make us forget ourselves and lose track of time. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this the “flow” experience. Flow can be achieved when making music, gardening, playing with children, practising sports, writing, or even pouring over a spreadsheet. You achieve flow when you enjoy doing what you do best.

Abraham Maslow defines “self-actualisation” as the innate human motivation that each of us has to achieve our potential. This is why we experience a sense of fulfilment when using and developing our skills, talents and abilities. When we complete a challenge or task that we are pleased with, we achieve a peak experience of self-actualisation.

3. Positive thinking

Refuse to compare yourself with others. Be content you have “enough house” instead of envying your neighbour’s bigger house. If you really have to compare, compare down and not up. Olympic bronze medallists who consider themselves lucky to get a medal are happier than silver medallists who feel that they missed the gold medal.

You can also choose to believe the better option. For example, if your partner often works late, accept that he is overwhelmed with deadlines instead of telling yourself that he just doesn’t care enough to spend time with you.

What also makes people happy:

4. Gratitude

This is a subset of positive thinking, yet it is such an important aspect that it deserves a place all by itself. Grateful people are happy people. Gratitude is best expressed in writing or talking. Keeping a gratitude journal or saying prayers aloud every night is a surefire way to increase your happiness.

5. Forgiveness

Those who cannot forgive become angry and depressed over time, and suffer poorer health due to the physical reactions to these negative emotions. Give the gift of forgiveness, and you increase your happiness.

6. Giving to others

Many people testify that what lifted them from depression was helping others. So you could volunteer at a homeless shelter, hold the hand of a terminally ill patient, raise funds for charity, or tutor children from poor families. All these forms of giving take us out of ourselves and set us back on the path to normalcy and happiness.

7. Religion

Religion provides a personal creed, a direction in life, and this sense of purpose contributes to a person’s well-being and happiness. A person’s specific religions belief or denomination does not seem to matter as much as the fact that she believes in something.

8. Personal freedom

We cannot be happy unless we determine our own fate and are left to make our own choices. Each of us may need this freedom in varying degrees. If this is extremely important to you, starting your own business, freelancing, or even choosing a single life may contribute to making you happy.

9. Good health

Surprisingly, health does not contribute much to happiness. This is because health, like money, is a hygiene factor. We are unhappy with it, but once we have it, we take it for granted and do not become any happier with more of it. So keep yourself in reasonably good health so that you can enjoy life, but do not obsess over it.

10. Watching TV

Psychologists and economists confirm that this simple activity increases our enjoyment and happiness in the moment. While excessive TV may reduce your quality of life by taking away time from other important things, a little TV is harmless and may even be good for you 🙂

What makes YOU happy?

Lists like this are useful only if you take action on at least one of the 10 areas above. If you’re not sure where to start, work on your personal relationships. This is the number one thing that makes people happy.

A good way to improve your relationships is to learn the 5 languages of love. Start using these with the people you love. Doing this alone will work wonders for your happiness. And theirs too!

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23 replies on “What Makes People Happy? The Top 10 List”

Sometimes it makes me happy to wallow in a bit of unhappiness but then I write to get it out of my system. I feel happy when I create even if unhappiness causes the creativity. Right now, happiness is a calm ocean and a soft sunset.

I think, you can say that smile is a reflection of happiness. The more we smile more look happy. I’ve created the way, haw we can cheer up the whole world, virtually. I believe its a good starting point to make world a happy place. Its cheerupz.com. There you can cheer up a sad face and park your website, blog or any third party url forever. And there are many sad faces to cheerup, how wonderful it would be if we can cheer up most of them… it is my dream… Check out a cheerupz fundraising campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/cheerupz?a=493050.

May be we will make the world a happy place one day.

I WANT YOU TO THINK HOW ABOUT THIS WELL FOR THOSE WHO DONT KNOW HOW TO START HAPPYNESS YOU NEED TO START BY MAKING YOURSELF START IT LIKE A MATCH A STRIKER TO LITE A FIRE I FOR ONE REALIZED IT JUST RECENTLY AND IT WORKED I EXPRESS KIND WORD’S TO PEOPLE TO SEE WHAT THERE EMOTIONS SAY TO THEMSELVES A GREAT EXAMPLE IS TO SAY HELLO TO A STRANGER YOU HAVE A WONDERFULL SMILE EVEN WHEN THEY DIDNT SMILE AND YOU WILL SEE A CHEER IN THEM AND A REAL SMILE COMES OUT SECONDLY YOU SEE SOMEONE YOU LIKE JUST SAY HI AND NICE TOO MEET YOU AND THEY WILL BE TAKEN … AND WHEN YOU LEAVE SAY GOODBYE IT WAS NICE MEETING YOU AND THEY WILL LOOK FORWARD TOO SEEING YOU AT THE SAME PLACE LIKE A STARBUCK’S ONE TIME I SAW A GIRL SHE LOOKED AT ME AND I LOOKED AT HER AND I SMILED AND I SAID A QUIET HELLO OR A HI … AND WHEN I WAS LEAVING AND PACKING UP MY LAPTOP I TURNED LOOK AT HER EYES AND SMILED AND I SAID IM GONNA MISS YOU .. AND YOU WONT BELEIVE THE CHEER IN THERE SMILE WAS FOR THAT REGARD .. TRUST ME PUSH AND MAKE YOUIR WORDS COME TRUE AND WHAT YOU FEEL AND SHOW IT YOU WILL SEE THE DIFFERENCE DONT LIVE YOUR LIFE BORED AND UNLIVABLE SMILE AND CHEER PEOPLE YOU WILL NEVER BE LIVING A LIFE LIKE BEFORE AND THOSE THAT DONT RESPOND TO YOU LEAVE IT ALONE THEY ARE THE ONES WHO ARE THE BIGGEST MALAKA’S IN THE WORLD TAKE CARE PEOPLE AND SMILE

happiness is a biggggggggggggggggggg lie. I never felt it.I a m living waiting for “Godot” but he will never come.it’s not the husband, not children , not money.it’s smile.how to find it?to feel it?what’s it’s shape?it’s taste? it’s color?where does it exist?
we exist just to suffer.

Hello Joe,

I appreciate your honesty, and those are good questions as happiness is indeed intangible. Your comment reminded me of something I read about Buddhism, although I’m not a Buddhist myself. Given your worldview that we exist just to suffer, you may find it interesting to read up on the Four Noble Truths of Buddha:

1) Life means suffering.
2) The origin of suffering is attachment.
3) The cessation of suffering is attainable.
4) There is a path to the cessation of suffering.

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I just discovered this site, looking for a little something to spark a happier healthier (is that a word?) me for the new year.

This is a great list and I would like to add music to it. I have a playlist called “happy music” on my ipod where I keep the subset of music that is there primarily to put a smile of my face.

I recommend it!

[…] What Makes People Happy? The Top 10 List. what makes people happy The one thing most studies on happiness agree on is this: family and relationships are the surest way to happiness. Close behind are meaningful work, positive thinking, …Go to Source […]

While agree that this list of elements certainly increase the happiness of the majority of people, what I disagree with is a notion that they may be required.

For myself I know that simply being ‘present’ right now is enough to enable happiness. Regardless of what else is going on.

The other aspects I believe are due to generations worth of conditioning. All happiness can be sourced wholly from within.

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