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Happiness on a personal level can make any day better and add great value to your life. But what if happiness was cherished on an international scale? How would that change the way the economy works or how societies function?

International Day of Happiness aims to celebrate happiness all over the world, inspiring people to spread positivity, whether big or small, with others and encouraging each nation to prioritize the happiness of its citizens.

As one of, if not the key pursuit of human life, it’s no surprise that there’s been endless philosophizing and discussion on the subject of happiness for thousands of years.

The Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, for example, argued that happiness is the only thing humans seek in and of itself – all our other wants and desires ultimately contribute to our happiness, while happiness itself is the end goal. And in the 18th and 19th centuries, utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill developed an ethical theory that saw virtuous acts as those which maximize happiness and decrease suffering.

Happiness can bring a fairer and more balanced approach to economic growth in particular, such that it foregrounds sustainable development, tackles poverty and increases personal and social well being. A great example of this is the East Asian country of Bhutan, which adopted the idea of Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product in the 1990s, prioritizing its citizens’ happiness in all decisions relating to economic growth.

History of International Day of Happiness

International Day of Happiness has a truly global history regarding its creation. Back in 2011, the idea was introduced to the United Nations by the advisor Jayme Illien. Illien also founded the United Nations New Economic Paradigm project and ‘happytalism’, which aim to change the way nations approach economic growth by focusing on ‘happytalism’ over capitalism.

The General Assembly of the United Nations agreed with the proposal and officially founded International Day of Happiness in July of 2012, with the occasion first being observed in 2013. The celebration acknowledges how important and desirable happiness is to people everywhere and how essential it is that happiness is incorporated into public policy.

International Day of Happiness is celebrated and hosted by various organizations, including Action for Happiness, and the United Nations. Through these websites and via social media, people can share inspirational stories about what makes them happy, how their happiness contributes to those around them and how it can pave the way towards a better future.

International Day of Happiness Timeline


“Gross National Happiness” is introduced

When the phrase “Gross National Happiness” is uttered by the 4th king of Bhutan, he takes a stand for valuing sustainable development and a holistic approach over economic growth, giving equal importance to non-economic aspects of well-being.[1]


“Happytalism” Campaign begins at United Nations 

Founded by Jayme Illien and Luis Gallardo (Presidents of World Happiness Foundation), the “Happytalism” project is formed to advance the cause of happiness, well-being and freedom all over the world.[2]


Idea for International Happiness Day is introduced 

The brain child of Jayme Illien of the “Happytalism” project, the idea for International Happiness Day is proposed at the United Nations General Assembly to promote the economic development of all countries.[3]


First International Happiness Day is celebrated 

Agreed upon and established the previous year at the UNGA, International Happiness Day is first celebrated on March 20 of this year.[4]


UN Launches Sustainable Development Goals

Working toward the goal of making the world a happier place, the list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals includes items like eradicating poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water, affordable and clean energy, and several others.[5]

What do we mean by happiness?

Happiness can be a difficult concept to define, but broadly it covers two key areas – how we feel in the present moment and how satisfied we are with our lives overall. Happiness can therefore range from a sudden rush of intense emotion such as joy or euphoria to a much calmer and steadier sense of contentment.

There is some debate over the relative importance of these two aspects for achieving genuine happiness, with many arguing that long-term quality of life is more essential than short-term emotional highs. Indeed, the Ancient Greeks believed in the concept of eudaimonia (‘happiness’ or ‘flourishing’) – under eudaimonia, happiness became associated with virtue and excellence, an ongoing activity or process through which individuals fulfilled their role in society to the best of their abilities.

Various other cultures have also viewed happiness as a collective achievement, something the community should work towards together. More recently, and particularly in the West, the focus has turned towards our individual psychology and wellbeing as the source of contentment.

How to celebrate International Day of Happiness

Celebrate International Day of Happiness by sharing what makes you happy. Taking the time to notice and appreciate everything we have to be grateful for, even the little things, can lift our mood and help us feel more content with life. And think about making this a regular habit, for example by starting a gratitude journal.

Good quality relationships are key to our happiness, so spend time with loved ones and try to rebuild any relationships that are going through a rough patch. Another simple tip for an improved quality of life is to get more sleep, so why not treat yourself to an early night and wake up feeling rejuvenated!

Organizations such as Action for Happiness provide plenty of great resources that can set you on a journey to greater happiness. These include things like monthly action calendars and an app, both of which give you daily nudges on how to incorporate more positivity and mindfulness into your life. There are also a whole range of self-help articles and books available detailing various keys to happiness – check out your local bookstore to see what’s available.

While these are great ways to increase your personal wellbeing, happiness also comes from our contributions to the groups and societies in which we live, so why not share these tools and resources with your friends, family, colleagues and community?

Try out a step-by-step program, meeting regularly with like-minded people to support each other in taking action and achieving happier lifestyles. And you could also donate to or volunteer for a charity of your choice that promotes good deeds.

Another way to reach out to others is through social media. It’s an especially powerful tool for this day, as it allows us to share and spread our activities and the happiness they bring all around the world within seconds.

Also check out the World Happiness Report, published on International Day of Happiness each year, which ranks cities and countries all around the world by happiness levels. Where do you and your community sit?

However you celebrate International Day of Happiness, it’s sure to bring a smile to your face!

International Day of Happiness FAQs

Who coordinates International Day of Happiness? 

The day is coordinated by Action for Happiness, which is a non-profit movement of people from at least 160 countries all over the world, with the purpose of creating a kinder, happier world together.[1]

Why is International Day of Happiness celebrated?

The purpose of the UN initiative of International Day of Happiness is to bring awareness to the fundamental human goal of happiness and highlight the importance of well-being for people all over the globe.[2]

How is International Day of Happiness celebrated?

This day can be celebrated by doing something to make someone else happy, as well as looking into the greater needs to make people all over the world happy. Perhaps make a donation to fight poverty and gender inequality, or to provide clean water to a community in need.[3]

What is the World Happiness Report?

Linked with International Day of Happiness, the World Happiness Report is an annual tool that ranks countries by their happiness levels.  Finland often holds the #1 place, then followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and the Netherlands.[4]

What is the theme of International Happiness Day?

Each year the theme for the day changes, but it has included themes like Happiness for All Forever, Happier Together, Happiness for All, Share Happiness, and 10 Steps to Happiness.[5]

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