How to be happy

A woman smiling with her eyes closed

What can we do to be happy in life? How can we avoid being unhappy? Four psychologists give their advice.


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How to be happy

We asked four psychologists for their advice on how to be happy and, equally importantly, how to avoid being unhappy.

There has been a lot of research which shows the importance of physical health in avoiding anxiety and depression. The mind and the body are highly interconnected. We can all make fairly easy changes in our lifestyle to include more exercise, healthier eating, getting enough sleep, being exposed to sunlight and so on. Research into exercise has found that it has a positive impact on mood. Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain to produce the feel-good factor. Sleep is vitally important for children and adolescents to help concentration levels. A good night’s sleep also stops people being bad-tempered and flying off the handle.

Having good relationships is a big part of being happy. In one study, most happy people were found to have strong ties to friends and family and they made sure they spent time with them regularly. You also need at least one person who you discuss personal feelings with – called ‘self-disclosure’. Just one person for a heart-to-heart is enough, together with a network of other relationships. It’s not enough to have lots of friends just to do things with or chat to about music or football. That deeper connection is all-important. Some people need to learn how to listen effectively to others in order to develop stronger relationships.

I would recommend being completely immersed in a pleasurable activity, sometimes called experiencing ‘flow’. The activity could be anything from doing judo to painting a picture to playing chess. Typically, the activities require a certain amount of skill and are challenging but not too challenging. If you are experiencing flow, you lose track of time and are immersed in the present moment. You find the activity rewarding for its own sake. People who spend time doing ‘high-flow’ activities feel more long-term happiness than those doing things like just lounging around or chatting online.

Make like Superman! Discover what your unique strengths and virtues are and then use them for a purpose which benefits other people or your community. People who play to their strengths (e.g. curiosity or persistence) or virtues (e.g. justice or humanity) and use them in different ways and in different situations are happier than those who focus more on their weaknesses. In other words, focus on the positive, not the negative, and be true to yourself. Studies in different countries have shown that people who do this report higher levels of well-being.


What do you do to be happy? Which of the advice in the text do you think is good advice? Are happiness levels high in your country?

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Submitted by strawberries on Thu, 03/07/2024 - 12:32

I personally think that psychology and the well-being of people in general are very intresting topics. There exists a lot of diffrent ways to approach these subjects and these examples are obviously the most common.
Something that baffles me is the fact that we humans know so little about our own psychology and how our brains actually works, this is the reason why the field is so open for speculations. We do not even know why we dream, even though it is something that nearly everyone has experienced multiple times.

Submitted by pomelo on Fri, 04/14/2023 - 15:15

I usually sleep to be happy, I don't know what advice in the text is good advice, I think happiness level in my country is average

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Submitted by Banfinn on Thu, 06/16/2022 - 01:38

I understand the point of this article, but I can't say I agree with it. No matter how many exercise I do, how healthier my life is, how many times I spend time on my likings, or how many times I try to help people around me, I always feel something's missing. I feel like if I was an outsider in my own school, like if all the people I know are just acquaintances. I just can't truly say I have any friend, but I think that's what I need. I've tried to know new people, with no results as consequence. At this point I don't know if they aren't the right people, or if I just can't rely on someone. Perhaps I don't know how to appreciate relationships with people. Maybe Im just too reserved. The only thing that I know for sure is that I don't feel happy about it.
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Submitted by JoModerator on Thu, 06/16/2022 - 08:22

Hi Banfinn,

I'm really sorry to read that you're not feeling very happy at the moment.
It might help to know that know that everyone feels like this sometimes. Speaking to our team, we all can remember feeling something similar when we were teenagers. Thanks for sharing your feelings on this page. It's always good to talk to someone when you're feeling unhappy. Can you speak to someone you trust about it?
You could also look at this website. We can see that your English is very good so you'll be able to read the information and advice there.
This organisation is in the UK. Perhaps there's a similar organisation in your country.

Best wishes from the LearnEnglish Teens team.

In reply to by Banfinn

Submitted by Edaa on Wed, 06/08/2022 - 06:18

being happy is a very different thing, you can be happy with small things, sometimes you don't need a reason for happiness.

Submitted by 0english on Wed, 06/01/2022 - 08:23

I don't think this is a recipe
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Submitted by robotrobot on Mon, 02/21/2022 - 19:05

I have always believed that happiness surrounds us everywhere. Look at this sentence,you can read it and it means that you can see and read! Is not it happiness? Think about blind people,they are unable to live without one's help and it is quite difficult.Be happy with who you are now and start to develop yourself to be who you want to.Do not try to justify one's hopes. Live at the moment. If you do all these I've written above,you are a really happy human being! I hope it rings true for you.Thank authors for all these facinating articles. They gave me plenty of food for thought about happiness.

Submitted by hermione123 on Thu, 11/18/2021 - 10:29

i think what makes me happy is winning something or do amazing thing. it feels kinda great when your hard work pays off.

Submitted by kefir on Tue, 11/16/2021 - 17:18

Talking about psychologist C, you can't do what you really want all your time, but even delicious food or a tiny walk can change a whole situation))
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Submitted by Giovannichoi on Mon, 04/27/2020 - 04:16

I think 'happiness' is not only feeling for us, because it's from our soul and our heart. Personally I feel happy when I'm near someone who can now and understand my minds all the time, even if it is from my imagination at all... I've been saying goodbye for some friends, close friends. So I frequently cry quietly under the bed cover, thinking of them. The irony is it makes me to cry and smile both. If I try to remember their face, I feel pity cause it makes me imagine their happy faces, without me. They all have many friends and I am not. So, my very first wish is make a lot of friends. (And if you read my comments, I want your reply below it.)

Submitted by unicorn2005 on Fri, 01/24/2020 - 17:00

For me happiness is state of my soul. Happiness comes to me when I feel comfortable. I think, a lot depends on our worldview and outlook on our life and different things. I am often happy. My friends, family, home, favourite music, interesting and inspire books, tasty food and much more make me happy. I want every person on earth to be able to feel happy. Your happiness depends on you, so don't worry and be happy!

Submitted by Hiep on Mon, 11/11/2019 - 14:42

My happiness comes from solving problems. The more problems solve the more happy. I happiness when I do something, when I solve my problems well. After reading the advice from the different psychologist, I could be in agreement with most of them. Nevertheless, I would recommend to find the happiness by following advices from first and second psychologist. Having a balanced between mind and body, and a good relationship will help us always feel comfortable in all matters.
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Submitted by Youjiro on Sat, 02/09/2019 - 09:05

In my case ,I avoid dislike people and thing feeling more happy life .avoiding dislike things makes us more time to enjoy what pay attention when I study .I also agree answer D .I discovered what is unique for me and strength .It is better then follow other people .
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Submitted by Zoezoe on Thu, 03/01/2018 - 18:45

Work hard, pay attention on things that are actually important and enjoy the little things. I think happiness is behind all those everyday moments that we ignore because we are used to them, but when we don't have them anymore that's when we remember how significant and fulfilling they were. I think that the best advise is said by psychologist A.

Submitted by Gera35 on Sun, 01/07/2018 - 18:15

I totaly agree with all opinion show: lifestyle, family and friend, activities-skills and work for others peoples are very important for being happy.
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