Celebrating the International Day of Happiness: Strategies to maximize positive feelings

Two happy coworkers share a high five at the office.

The UN established the International Day of Happiness almost a decade ago to help people realize the importance of happiness. It called happiness a “fundamental goal” and argued that economic progress needs to be balanced by an approach that “promotes the happiness and wellbeing of all people.” Since then—and especially over the past two years—positive mental health, wellbeing, and happiness have become focal points for people and organizations worldwide.

As we continue to deal with evolving global challenges, including the pandemic, the UN encourages us to “take action to Build Back Happier and make people’s overall wellbeing our top priority.” When we feel happier, we have a more positive influence on those around us, and we are statistically less like to experience other wellbeing and mental health issues.

Global data has shown that happiness is correlated to positive mental health and wellbeing. According to Our World in Data, people diagnosed with depression or anxiety tend to have lower self-reported levels of life satisfaction. In the UK, the US, and Australia, the website notes that the “magnitude of the correlation between mental illness and life satisfaction is higher than the magnitude for the correlation between income and life satisfaction.” It says the relationship probably works both ways, with depressed and anxious people more likely to become unhappy and unhappy people more likely to become depressed.

Regardless, we all inherently know we prefer being happy to not being happy. It stands to reason then that we should commit to strategies that help us live happier lives.

But first—what is happiness?

According to psychiatrist Dr. Nik Grujich in his LifeSpeak micro-learning video What is happiness?, happiness is a broad term with many different aspects.

One is joy or moment-to-moment happiness. Another is a more general sense of satisfaction—like a fulfilling family life or career. Grujich says we have to find strategies to help us improve in both areas.

He says it’s also important to realize happiness isn’t the opposite of sadness. Being happy doesn’t mean you never feel sad, angry or depressed. Rather, happiness acts as a buffer. When we have higher levels of happiness, we can control and address our negative emotions more effectively.

Three ways to celebrate the International Day of Happiness

Action for Happiness, a not-for-profit coordinating activity around the International Day of Happiness, lists 3 ways to celebrate the day this year:

  • Doing something for yourself
  • Doing something for someone else
  • And sharing the day with others

Below, we highlight three tips from LifeSpeak experts to help anyone celebrate in these three ways. Share them with your clients, employees and their families to help them improve their mental health and wellbeing and enjoy a greater sense of happiness in their lives.

  1. Do something for your own happiness

When we think about doing something for our own happiness, we might think about making a big purchase, like a nice piece of clothing or an electronic device we’ve always wanted. While there’s nothing wrong with spending money to enhance our happiness, Grujich encourages us to be judicious. We should pursue experiences that will provide us with positive memories or purchase things that help save us time. Examples of these might include a dinner or a trip with a loved one or an appliance that expedites meal preparation.

Grujich also warns that we need to avoid social comparison and the hedonic treadmill when we spend money on happiness.

Social comparisons often involve objects like cars and houses. We buy a new car, and we love it, and then we see someone with a better car, and all of a sudden, we don’t feel as good about our car. Grujich points out studies that show owning a small house in a beautiful neighborhood confers less satisfaction than owning the biggest house in a much worse neighborhood. Similarly, the hedonic treadmill, often called the rat race, is when “people work harder, make more money, spend more money, only to ultimately work harder, still make more money and spend more money.” As Grujich says, this cycle also takes away time from activities that would lead to more positive emotions and happiness.

Striking the right balance between activities or purchases that enhance happiness and those that facilitate the hedonic treadmill can be tricky. Individuals can focus on Grujich’s tip to pursue activities that provide positive memories and experiences to help guide them.

  1. Do something for someone else

When we think about our friends, family, and loved ones, we often want to do what we can to elevate their happiness, especially if they’re going through a difficult period or have a typically lower level of happiness than we do.

But in his LifeSpeak video, I’m an upbeat, positive person, but my partner is not—what can I do to support them? Grujich says it’s important to recognize that we are all different, and some people have a genetic or biological disposition to be more positive than others. Once we recognize that, we can embrace techniques to bring greater happiness to others.

For example, making time for social connection or exercising with someone else is a great way to give both of you a happiness boost. Or you might try a technique called active constructive responding. In her LifeSpeak video Well-being & happiness strategies: increase your positivity ratio, positive psychology expert Louisa Jewell says this is a technique for responding to good news that helps strengthen social bonds—a big component of happiness.

A passive negative or active negative response tends to shift focus away from the person with the good news or downplays their accomplishment. If a partner, for example, tells another partner they just got a promotion, the active constructive response would focus on the other person and celebrating their good news. It might involve suggesting a celebration. It would focus on the other person’s success with questions, praise, and discussion.

  1. Share the Day with others

The third way to get involved is to share the day with others. Take the expert tips gathered here and share them with coworkers, clients, and family members. If you’re already a LifeSpeak client, encourage your people to access the platform and browse your selection of happiness content. There they’ll find even more strategies to increase happiness and expert-led education on topics like where we go wrong in the pursuit of happiness and the importance of taking time off—that’s on top of all the other mental health and total wellbeing education available.

Not a LifeSpeak member?

LifeSpeak offers micro-learning education in the form of expert-led videos and blogs and live web chats with real experts on a wide range of topics, including anxiety, depression, fitness, nutrition, financial health, caregiving, and more.

To learn more about everything that LifeSpeak has to offer, including education on a vast range of mental health and wellbeing topics, book a demo today.

Tina Kaichis is responsible for developing and executing the marketing and communications strategy for the Company on a global basis. Most recently, Ms. Kaichis was Vice President, Marketing & Communications at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She has held executive-level marketing roles in the non-profit sector and marketing leadership roles at large public companies and industry-disrupting start-ups in the communications and software industries. Ms. Kaichis holds a BCom from York University and an MBA from Schulich School of Business.