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Happiness encompasses feelings of satisfaction and contentment and the drive to live a life of meaning, purpose, and depth. It involves creating strong relationships and helping others. It requires uncomfortable or painful experiences—to continue to learn, grow, and evolve.

Misperceptions abound when it comes to what really makes people happy. From pinning hopes of happiness on wealth, status, and possessions, to avoiding any feelings of distress, we are poor predictors of our own future happiness. But understanding what underlies happiness can help you take steps to achieve it.

The Pillars of Happiness

Finding happiness will always be an ongoing process. As people strive to create a meaningful and joyful life, cultivating certain behaviors can help, including meaning, authenticity, optimism, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.

How do you determine what makes you happy?

Living according to your values is a central component in the pursuit of happiness. If you don’t know which values are important to you, try this thought experiment: If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have everyone’s approval and admiration, what would you choose to do with your life? Take steps that adhere to those personal values.

How do you make a habit of happiness?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for happiness, but certain steps can help people achieve more happiness on a daily basis, such as this five-step process. One is to take responsibility for your happiness, acknowledging that you can change your circumstances by taking action. Others are to put yourself first and practice living in the present moment.

Mindfulness, Spirituality, and Religion

Mindfulness is a powerful way to cultivate happiness. It involves focusing on the present moment and observing thoughts and emotions without judging them. Simply acknowledging these feelings, rather than struggling against them, can help release their potency and negativity.

Spirituality and religion also have the capacity to create joy, community, and meaning. Abiding by the values of a given religion, which often include community, self-care, and a trusting relationship with God, can help individuals find health and happiness.

Does mindfulness make you happier?

Practicing mindfulness is associated with experiencing more positive emotions, research suggests. Mindfulness involves slowing down and deliberately focusing on and appreciating aspects of your experience, as well as accepting your thoughts and emotions, viewing them with openness, curiosity, and kindness. The ability to release control and criticism may be the reason why mindfulness fosters happiness.

How do you practice mindfulness?

You can practice mindfulness in meditation sessions or in smaller moments throughout the day. Draw your attention to your breath, and to the sensations of your body and surroundings. Observe the thoughts and emotions you experience without judgment, simply acknowledging and labeling them. At a later time, exploring why those emotions surfaced may help address underlying challenges.


Above and beyond finances, intelligence, or hometown, relationships are a crucial determinant of happiness. Deep connections with family, friends, and romantic partners fulfill a basic human need for belonging. Investing time and energy to create and maintain those connections is therefore a central component of finding happiness.

Why do relationships make you happy?

Relationships provide acceptance, support, and safety, and they’re one of the most important keys to happiness and health. We benefit from close and nurturing relationships whether with a spouse, parent, colleague, or friend.

How can I be happier in a romantic relationship?

Certain choices are especially important in creating a happy, successful relationship. Being attentive and supportive, willing to work through differences, sharing household responsibilities, discussing sex honestly, being affectionate, and practicing gratitude are among the behaviors that boost relationship satisfaction over the long term.

Careers and Money

Committing to work that aligns with your values can instill meaning and fulfillment. You may, for instance, prioritize creativity, travel opportunities, or financial stability for your family. Understanding your values can help determine which job options will bring you happiness.

Happiness also depends on factors such as whether the work is engaging, whether you’re skilled at your job, and whether you like the people you work with. A job that meets your basic needs is important too, including fair compensation, reasonable hours, a manageable commute, and job security.

How do you find happiness in your job?

People view employment in different ways: Some see a job as a way to make money, some see it as a path to success and prestige, and some see it as integral to their identity and life. The latter often find their work more meaningful and their lives more satisfying. Identifying your orientation can help you understand which career choices will make you happy.

Does your happiness affect your work?

A common narrative purports that if you work hard, you’ll be happy. But research suggests that the opposite is also true—positive emotions may promote career success. This could be due to happier employees setting higher goals, persevering at challenging tasks for longer, being more optimistic that they’ll succeed, and having more social support at work.

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