Happiness has various meanings for different people. It’s not always easy to understand what it is that makes people happy.

What made me happy as a child has changed a bit now that I’m an adult. Well, ice cream still makes me happy, and so does splashing my feet in cool water. But, there are many other things which have changed me between then and now, and in turn, changed the way I see happiness. Now, I believe the things which make me happy are simple.

Dr. William Compton describes happiness as so:

“to make normal life more fulfilling.”

Transforming the way we see happiness

In our quest to understand happiness, we have read, questioned, and experimented with different things. Studies reveal things that could change the way we used to see joy and contentment, or shall I say happiness.

Here are some interesting facts and studies that shed light on the things that make people truly happy.

1. The Science of Gratitude

This study was conducted in 2005 at the University of Pennsylvania, and it states that happiness lies in the simplicity of gratitude. Just three admissions of gratitude per day can greatly change our mood into a more positive outlook.

A few things we can be grateful for are our shelter, food, and our families. Many times we focus on the things that we want and not on the things we already have, which, in the end, bring us such fulfillment.

2. The power of spending money on others

In 2008 at the University of California in Berkley, a study proved that those who spent more money on others than themselves were much happier than self-absorbed individuals.

The reason this is true is that a certain satisfaction comes with making life better or more enjoyable for other people. When you know you’ve improved the lives of others, you will feel “full” inside.

3. Exercising makes people happier

I think we already knew this to be true, but being active improves the mood. Exercise changes chemicals in our bodies, and even if it didn’t, we can feel truly happy knowing that we’ve done something to better ourselves physically and mentally.

If you want to know what makes people happy, then trust in this study from the University of Bristol from 2008.

4. Smiling makes life better

I bet you’ve heard this many times before, but smiling really does make you feel better. If sometimes you don’t feel like smiling, you can fake it until you make it! There is just something magical happening when you smile.

According to Michigan State University in 2011, all it takes is recalling a fond memory from the past and voila, a beautiful smile spread across your face and brighten your day.

5. The myth of wealth and well-being

A huge myth persists in society today. Humans believe that the more money you have, the happier you will be. On the contrary, the more money you have, the more opportunity for trouble to surface.

At least that’s how it seems. It’s totally false that happiness lies within the confines of wealth. You can be humble and still be just as happy. It’s actually how you see your life and not about how many belongings or money you have. Harvard Business School conducted this study in 2009.

6. More Oxytocin, better morals, and more trust

Scientists have discovered that when we are treated well, we are able to trust and we have better morals. So, when hugs are being offered, we should take advantage of them. Hugs make your body release more oxytocin and improve your day drastically.

Research from Claremont Graduate University in 2011, and the educated opinion of neuro-economist, Paul Zak, reveal that being kind, thus releasing “hormones could be the key to a better world altogether.

7. The Dynamic Spread of Happiness

In 2008, at the University of California in San Diego, studies confirm that being around happy people will make you happier in the future. So, the key is this: Always try to surround yourself with loving and positive individuals so that you can reap happiness as you go through life.

This also means that being around negative people would have the opposite effect. So, keep this in mind.

8. The public health intervention of volunteer work

So, it seems that volunteer work can do wonders for your health. So, what makes people happy? According to a study at the University of Exeter Medical School in 2013, volunteer work not only makes you feel better about yourself but also reduces your risk of early death.

So, if nothing else, you can look forward to a long life when you help others or special causes.

So, what makes people genuinely happy?

After reading through the various studies about happiness, I can say that authentic happiness is about fulfillment rather than material possessions. It’s about love and compassion, and not being entertained endlessly all the time. Happiness is not a selfish thing.

Rather, happiness is knowing that you did the right thing and you feel good about that. Happiness is also about enjoying rewards and fun, all with a clear conscience. I think we all should take some time to really analyze what makes us happy.

I think we would be pretty surprised by what we find.


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