It’s time to “share happiness”, and concentrate on relationships, kindness and helping each other.


That is the message of 2018’s International Day of Happiness, an annual celebration that has even won recognition from the UN. The aim of the day is to inspire people and advance the global happiness movement.


Adversity, grief and other difficulties become a reality for all of us during life’s journey, and it is important not to dismiss these. But there are always lessons to learn and a way to move forward.


These five things help foster a greater understanding of what makes us happier:


1. Believe in Free Will


Studies show that people who believe in free will tend to be happier. Free will is the ability to make independent choices, where the outcome of that choice is not influenced by past events. Some psychologists and neuroscientists don’t actually believe it is possible not be influenced by the past. But - whether or not it is a reality - believing in free will leads to a more positive outlook on life, as well as a sense of control.


2. It's not all about money


A certain amount of money does make you happier. It enables a good quality of life and the ability to enjoy leisure pursuits, good food and job satisfaction. However, a survey of one million people around the world identified something called “the satiation point”. This is when more money no longer correlates with increased happiness. And in some places, life satisfaction even gets lower above the cut-off level, possibly because of the pressures of work. The satiation point is different, depending on where you live - as shown in the chart below:


Australia and New Zealand have the highest satiation point.


3. Serve others


The Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, a spiritual leader and friend of the Dalai Lama, has been described by the media as “the happiest man alive”. He says influence, respect and wealth do not necessarily lead to happiness. He advises instead that people should pursue “personal flourishing” and strive to fulfil their deepest aspirations. Self-fulfillment, he argues, comes from positively affecting others and through the transformation of self to serve others.


4. Measure GNH rather than GDP


The Kingdom of Bhutan has chosen to measure Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product. The government’s planning commission has an explicit role of ensuring that all policies in the country pass a “GNH stress test” in order to ensure a balanced approach to economic development. All government bills are screened, and - if the suggested policies are not going to make people happier - they are changed.


5. Copy the Nordics


Finland is top of the world according to the World Happiness Report 2018, and Nordic countries take four out of the five top spots. They are well known to be stable, safe and socially progressive, with a healthy work-life balance, good education system and subsidized childcare. There is very little corruption, and both the police and politicians are trusted.


World Happiness Report


Other important factors include a high GDP per capita and the freedom to make life choices. So, if a move to Scandinavia isn’t on the cards, maybe just copy the way they do things.