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Celebrate International Day of Happiness! But, what is happiness?


Today is the United Nations International Day of Happiness.

But what actually is ‘happiness’, and why, when there is so much else to worry about, should we care?

It can seem a fleeting concept, this idea of happiness, and one that doesn’t automatically spring to mind as ‘scientific’. Yet science is starting to show that being happy is very important – not just because it is an enjoyable state to be in at the time that we are in it. There is a growing amount of research going into what happiness actually is, how to increase it, and ultimately why it is a good idea to do so.

There are many studies that show happiness can have an impact on different aspects of our lives. It can improve our mental health, and our physical health, too1. It can increase our sleep quality, and decrease the levels of our stress hormones. It can improve the functioning of different body systems, including our immune system, and our cardiovascular system as well. And in psychological terms, happiness is an idea that has several aspects – it is much more than just a temporary good mood. It includes aspects such as the social, the emotional, and the cognitive.

Research is also showing us some interesting links between what we do, and how we feel. Studies show that smiling can affect how you perceive other people’s emotions – with happiness perceived ‘longer and sooner’ while smiling2. And there are even studies that support that maintaining a smile can have psychological and physiological benefits in times of stress3.

While simply putting on a smile may have its benefits, it is clearly different to happiness. Some interesting studies look at the relationship between happiness and resilience4. Resilience is loosely defined as being able to ‘bounce back’ after emotional experiences that are negative, and being flexible to the demands of different situations. And the good news is that resilience skills can be learned.

Resilience goes beyond personal characteristics, and extends into sets of skills that can be acquired that may help manage the impact of various negative events, and learning these skills may help promote recovery from these events. For instance, cognitive restructuring may help to improve how we perceive and manage such negative events. We can learn coping strategies and resilience promoting tools. And being more resilient may have a broad range of benefits. It can be linked to lower levels of burnout, and to higher levels of productivity5. If you are interested in learning more about resilience, and how to develop the skills promoting it, speak with a member of the Cognacity Performance team.

And interestingly, a range of studies support that ‘positive emotions lead to positive consequences’6. So taking the time to learn how to do promote your positive emotions may be of a greater benefit than just ‘feeling good’

And that’s something to smile about, not just this World Happiness Day, but every day.



1 – Mehrdadi, A., Sadeghian, S., Direkvand-Moghadam, A., & Hashemian, A. (2016). Factors Affecting Happiness: A Cross-Sectional Study in the Iranian Youth. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR, 10(5), VC01–VC03.

2 – Lobmaier, J. S., & Fischer, M. H. (2015). Facial Feedback Affects Perceived Intensity but Not Quality of Emotional Expressions. Brain Sciences, 5(3), 357–368.

3- Kraft TL1Pressman SD. (2012) Grin and bear it: the influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychol Sci.;23(11):1372-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797612445312. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

4 – Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009). Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 9(3), 361–368.

5 – Shatté, A., Perlman, A., Smith, B., & Lynch, W. D. (2017). The Positive Effect of Resilience on Stress and Business Outcomes in Difficult Work Environments. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine59(2), 135–140.

6 – GableS , Haidt J. What and why is positive psychology? RevGen Psychol. 2005;9(2):103–10

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