History of International Day of Happiness

Every March 20th, the world celebrates International Day of Happiness, an observance established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. The idea was originally brought to the UN by Jayme Illien in 2011, who spent the previous 6 years running a campaign at the UN focused on encouraging and advancing the primacy of happiness, well-being, and democracy. The establishment of the International Day of Happiness is a step towards the UN’s mission of helping people understand the importance of happiness in people’s lives, and the working towards incorporating happiness into public policy. The day also seeks to promote the belief that ‘progress’ should not only be defined by economic growth but should also be measured through an increase in happiness and wellbeing.

Defining Happiness

Happiness is commonly defined as a state of well-being and contentment. Where do well-being and contentment come from though? There are many different factors that contribute to happiness. According to the Annual Review of Public Health: Health and Happiness report, these factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Education
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Social network
  • Time use and activities
  • Stress exposure
  • Marital status, family
  • Personality

These factors may not all impact happiness equally, and can also have varying impacts from person to person. To understand where your own happiness comes from, it can be very helpful to explore the topics listed above and identify the areas where you feel the greatest fulfillment and satisfaction.

Happiness Around the World

Each year, the World Happiness Report conducts a worldwide social survey on the topic of wellbeing. Based on their findings in the 2022 report, the top 5 happiest countries in the world are:

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. The Netherlands

Interestingly enough, the top 3 countries are the list are all Nordic countries. Based on the findings of the World Happiness Report, Individuals in these countries highly ranked factors like social support, freedom, generosity, and trust in institutions, which are all also key indicators for happiness. For individuals, these insights can help guide us on how we might be able to inspire positive change in our own smaller communities.

Spread Happiness

International Day of Happiness is a wonderful annual reminder to prioritize joy, excitement, optimism, kindness and well-being in our lives, and explore ways to foster a culture of happiness in our communities. Of course, it’s important to keep happiness top of mind year-round, not just on March 20th. Together we can all work towards achieving a happier, more fulfilled world for all.