happy mood and confidenceA large body of research tells us that happiness go beyond material things.

It’s true that a new car or house, a luxury trip, or some designer clothes and bags can give us an instant feeling of joy and gladness. But the positive emotions brought by these things quickly wane and if we cling on them as our major source of happiness, we could find ourselves lonely, discontented and disconnected at the end of the day.

If it’s not money, fame or fortune, then what makes us happy? There’s no secret formula to lasting happiness. But numerous researches suggest that happiness could be a product of the following things combined together:

Good Health

Exercise and depression

Exercise and depression

An illness doesn’t only drain our wallet, but also destroy our energy and zeal in life. Therefore, the body must be treated well and given its needed nourishment, love and care. When you are healthy, you could focus more on what you do and be able to deal with problems much better. We can opt to live a healthy lifestyle by engaging in regular exercise, getting enough sleep, eating right, and learning to manage stress.






Humans are social beings. Therefore, it is a basic human need to look for affection from others. We all need to feel loved and cared for. It is crucial that we have at least one person to share our life with. Research published in 2001 in the Journal of Counselling Psychology found that people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. They also have higher self-esteem, and are more trusting, empathic and cooperative with others. As a result, the number of people who love them increases.

Sufficient Source of Income

happyAs mentioned, happiness goes beyond material things. But in order to have more time on things that give us lasting happiness, we also need to work hard to get a sufficient source of income. This reduces our worries about where to get our basic needs and concentrate more on things that truly matter – like health, family and social relationship. Whilst we can always aim for higher status in life, it should not be our motivation to be happy.


The cliché “the more you give the more you receive” is true.  People usually feel good when they donate to charities, help someone in need, and reach out to others. Compassion is critical to happiness. When our hearts are filled with love for others, our sense of well-being dramatically increases. Not only that, it benefits our brain too. A research by Jordan Grafman, a neuroscientist from the National Institute of Health found that the “pleasures centres” in the brain, or the parts that are active when we experience pleasure from food, money or sex, are equally active when we observe someone giving money to charity as when we receive money ourselves.

Defined Goals

In life, we should have a clear idea of what our goals are. Goals are what give direction to our lives. They motivate us to do better, keep learning, exceed our limits, and work harder. After setting our goals, we must make a clear plan on how to achieve them.


Without being grateful, it’s very difficult to be happy. A bulk of studies confirms that gratitude is vital to happiness. “Thank you” is a simple yet powerful phrase that can uplift our spirit and touch other people’s lives.

Optimism and Resilience

Positive psychology

Positive psychology

Seeing the glass half full has a significant effect on our happiness levels. Optimism is what gives us hope to move forward despite the adversities we experience in life. It goes hand in hand with resilience – which is the ability to handle difficulties effectively. The world is full of imperfections. No one in this world has ever experienced any problem at all. Challenges are part of life. But they shouldn’t be a hindrance to our happiness.

Unless we incorporate all these things to our life, we can never be completely happy. Not practising one of them is like forgetting the secret ingredient that makes a recipe stand out. Good health, affection, sustainable income, compassion, defined goals, gratitude and resilience – all these things are essential to happiness. And the good news is that they are something we can learn and master over time.

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