Happiness – what the research says

Everybody wants to be happy, right? But sometimes it can seem hard to come by. So, how do you consistently achieve happiness?

Researchers around the world have spent years investigating what makes people happy. There are a few things that consistently show up that have been shown to improve happiness.

Image credit: 123rf

Here are our 5 top tips for happiness based on scientific research:

1. Do something kind

Research shows if you help or do something kind for somebody else, it makes you feel happier. It doesn’t have to be a huge act of kindness, even something small can have a positive effect. It can be for a stranger or somebody you know. Volunteering has also been shown to improve feelings of well-being and satisfaction.

2. Exercise

Regular daily exercise makes you feel better mentally and physically. When you exercise your brain releases chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel good. Exercising gives you more energy, is good for your body and it also helps you sleep better. Read more about physical activity and mental health

3. Have meaningful relationships

Having meaningful, strong friendships and relationships makes you happier, according to research. Spending quality time and feeling connected with family and friends makes a huge difference to how happy you feel. Studies find close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy.

4. Practice gratitude

Being thankful for the good things in your life has shown to improve happiness. A good way to practise gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal, which helps you focus on positive things. This involves, regularly writing down several things you’re grateful for. It can be people in your life or things that have happened – big or small, that you’re grateful for. It can also be for things that are often taken for granted, such as a roof over your head or food on the table.

5. Meditate

Numerous studies have shown meditation improves happiness. The great thing about meditation is it is free and you can do it anywhere, anytime, at any age. Meditation is calming and helps you focus your mind. Studies have shown regular meditation can actually rewire parts of the brain so that you don’t feel as much stress and anxiety.

Need support?

Remember, it’s normal to have slightly changing moods – some days are better than others and sometimes life can be challenging. However, if you experience long periods of sadness or depression, please visit your GP or healthcare professional as you may need medical help.

Support numbers:

  • 1737 phone or text 24/7 to reach a trained counsellor
  • Depression Helpline (0800 111 757)
  • Lifeline (0800 543 354)
  • Samaritans (0800 726 666)
  • Youthline (0800 376 633)

You can find more services and supports for mental wellbeing listed here. 

Learn more 

Five ways to wellbeing Mental Health Foundation, NZ
Authentic happiness University of Pennsylvania. In his book Flourish, Martin Seligman, the inventor of positive psychology based at the Penn State University, provides practical examples of simple exercises in kindness and gratitude you can try. 

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.