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Summary: Happiness is a state of well-being characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure or joy. The bad news is that seeking happiness through superficial and materialistic means is ultimately doomed to fail. The good news is that there are many simple, basic things that any person can do to increase not only their own happiness, but that of those around them.

What is Happiness?

Happiness is a state of well-being characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure or joy.

How is Happiness Related to Mental Health?

The concept of mental health overlaps with happiness. Although in the past, mental health was concerned more about disorders and illness, mental health is now being seen in more positive terms.


"Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community."


-- World Health Organization

So What's the Secret to Happiness?

Countless philosophers throughout history have tried to figure out the secret to happiness, and no doubt, all of us strive for happiness in our own way... Interestingly enough, there is now a whole field of "happiness" research that is actively studying what makes people happy.


Research in the area of "positive mental health" shows that the following activities make a significant difference to people's mental health:


Take Care of your Body

Connect with People

  • Spend time and energy in family and friends. For more information about making friends, see the Making and Keeping Friends Guide from SAMHSA.
  • Thank those that are important in your life 
  • Engage in charity: Give to others, and do acts of kindness 
  • Forgive: Holding on to anger and resentment hurts you more than the other person. Forgiving others allows you to move on.

Take Care of Your Mind


Studies show that having a positive mental attitude can be helpful, which includes:

  • Be grateful for that which you have in life
  • Live in the present moment, as opposed to focusing on the past, or future. 
  • Having positive coping skills. Studies confirm that people are happier when they have positive attitudes and emotions and coping behaviours, as opposed to negative attitudes, emotions and coping behaviours.

Take Care of your Spirit

  • Studies show that being spiritual, and feeling connected to something beyond yourself can be helpful. Spirituality is about having a sense that your life has meaning and value. Religion is one way to be spiritual. Studies show that spirituality, and not religion per se, is what contributes to our happiness.

Further Readings

The New Science of Happiness, TIME Magazine, 2005.



The Happiness Project, a blog and bestselling book by Gretchen Rubin.


Google Scholar search for articles on "Happiness"



About this Document

Written by the eMentalHealth Team.


Information in this pamphlet is offered ‘as is' and is meant only to provide general information that supplements, but does not replace the information from your health provider. Always contact a qualified health professional for further information in your specific situation or circumstance. 

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Date Posted: Mar 20, 2010
Date of Last Revision: Jun 21, 2013