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International Day of Happiness and Beyond


The UN created the International Day of Happiness in 2013 – celebrated on 20th March each year. It’s not just a day for us all to do our best to be happy, or make others happy. It’s much more than that, and in 2015 the UN launched 17 ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ focusing on essential components of happiness and well-being: an end to poverty, the reduction of inequality, and the protection of our planet.

This year, the UN brought these together under the banner of #SmallSmurfsBigGoals with this video featuring those funny small blue people and on the 20th March, people all over the world celebrated and did their bit to make others, and themselves, happy.

What can we actually achieve in a single day? 

Is having a single day of happiness effective though? What can we really achieve in 24 hours? Perhaps we should just see it as an opportunity for us all to take stock and consider the happiness of those around us, as well as our own individual happiness.

Happiness has developed a bit of a bad reputation over the years and is often associated with everyone feeling they’re expected to be happy with bright smiley faces, no matter what - this is due, in part, to the misinterpretation of positive psychology. From the beginning, when a few psychologists wrote the ‘Positive Psychology Manifesto’ together, there was a strong emphasis on not just individual wellbeing, but also for communities and society to thrive.

Sometimes it can feel like hard work to stay happy ourselves, let alone working on helping the whole of society to thrive and this is the bit that the critics are missing. It’s not just about individual happiness. From what we understand from the UN work and Action for Happiness, the communities element is more important with the International Day. It’s not possible for us to flourish as individuals alone, to be truly happy we need to find meaning and a sense of purpose.

Does that mean happiness a fairy tale?

Of course not. But have you ever wondered what it is that people who always seem to be happy have in common? What characteristics or habits do they share - and how can you get them? Online and in books a thousand gurus offer their own ways for you to find happiness. But how do we know which of them works?

If you take a look at the scientific studies on positive psychology and the science of happiness or, to put it simply, discovering what makes happy people happy, you’ll find that many of these studies point to specific behaviours that can strongly impact our happiness and reading through articles, such as "10 Keys to Happier Living" from Action for Happiness, indicates that there are five things that stand out and are in common amongst those happy people. Use these practical tools to make every day a happier day in terms of focusing on others, and not just yourself.


People who have one or more close friendships appear to be happier. It doesn't seem to matter if we have a large network of close relationships or not. What seems to make a difference is if and how often we cooperate in activities and share our personal feelings with a friend or relative. Simply put, it's not the quantity of our relationships, but the quality that matters.


People who volunteer or simply care for others on a consistent basis seem to be happier and less depressed. Although caring can involve volunteering as part of an organised group or club, it can be as simple as reaching out to a colleague or classmate who looks lonely or is struggling with an issue.

Strengths and Virtues

Studies by experts such as Martin Seligman in the field of positive psychology show that the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths (such as persistence and critical thinking) and virtues (such as humanity) and use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goals.


Of all the areas studied gratitude has perhaps received the most attention. Grateful people have been shown to have greater positive emotion, a greater sense of belonging, and lower incidence of depression and stress.


Regular exercise has been associated with improved mental well-being and a lower incidence of depression. The Cochrane Review (the most influential medical review of its kind in the world) has produced a landmark analysis of 23 studies on exercise and depression. One of the major conclusions was that exercise had a "large clinical impact."

So now you know the habits, it's time to start adopting them for yourselves to see if you too can lead a happier and more grateful life. Enjoy.

Well being


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