In 2019, genuine, uncomplicated happiness can feel like an impossibility. From Brexit uncertainty to millennial burnout, terrorist attacks to climate change, we’re under immense pressure to thrive in a world that seems increasingly stuck in a downward spiral. As mental health issues rise and overall wellbeing falls, it can sometimes seem that happiness is a luxury afforded to few.

The UN, however, has other ideas, making each 20th March ‘International Day of Happiness’,  not only to recognise happiness as a fundamental human right, but also to acknowledge the key role it plays in driving economic growth.

So how can we keep our happy tank topped up in an increasingly complex world?

There are hundreds of studies dedicated to the subject of happiness, from TED talks (including some we’ve linked below) to university courses, all looking to discover the secret to a life of joy. We often turn to socially-acceptable models of success as a measure of how happy we are; have a high-flying career, buy a house,  get married, and have children. We think we’ll be happier at a particular age, or weight; with a new outfit or hairstyle.

But according to a study by the Office for National Statistics, the key factors influencing personal happiness are simple, yet they are infinitely difficult to control. To quote George Bantham, who reported on the results of the study for the Resolution Foundation: “The best prospects for policymakers targeting future increases in national wellbeing lie in raising job quality, raising incomes, particularly at the lower end, and policies to improve security in the housing market.” In other words, our happiness, like our anxiety, is as much political as it is personal.

Being happy is often a sign that our other basic human needs – access to healthcare, housing, job security, companionship – are being fulfilled. It follows, then, that by campaigning for a fairer, more equitable world for all, we’re essentially fighting for our own right to be happy. Activism and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive: they are inextricably connected.

So our call to action for International Day of Happiness 2019 is this: let’s stop thinking of happiness as a luxury or an impossible ideal. Instead, let’s consider happiness as a barometer for the state of the world and an essential tool in our arsenal when it comes to the business of changing it.


“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”

Mahatma Ghandi



If it makes you happy…

We’ve selected a few things for you to read and watch to get those happy feet moving

Can you learn to be happy?, BBC

Ten easy steps to happier living, The Guardian.

Pleasure Activism: A feel-good approach to changing the world, Man Repeller

Museum of Happiness

How millennials became the burnout generation, BuzzFeed News

Is happiness a universal human right? npr

The money, job, marriage myth: are you happy yet? The Guardian

41 things you should say “No” to for a happier 2019, The Startup

TED talks

Lessons from the longest study on human development, Helen Pearson

The Surprising Science of Happiness, Dan Gilbert

My Philosophy for a Happy Life, Sam Berns

What all happy people have in common, Eiji Han Shimizu

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