From a psychological point of view, what causes happiness

What causes happiness - Overview

"What causes happiness?" There are various methods in happiness research to get to the bottom of this question. One of them is dividing people into groups (e.g. men and women, poor and rich) and using questionnaires to record and compare the "happiness level" of the groups. Another is to let people keep a log of what they are doing and how they feel about it, and then group that information and draw conclusions about what makes it happier.

Over the course of many such studies, certain areas have emerged that have a major impact on our experience of happiness. Some topics are rather contradicting and some topics have been found to be "not relevant".

The results of happiness research are generally "correlative relationships" between certain factors and "happiness". Correlation means that if one factor is present, the other factor is also present, and if one is not present, the other is also absent. Correlation does not mean that one factor is necessarily the cause of the other! So if there is a correlation between, for example, "activity" and "happiness", it does not necessarily mean that "activity" produces happiness. It can also mean, for example, that happiness makes you active or that both activity and happiness are influenced by another factor at the same time. Or to put it another way: Sometimes it is difficult to say exactly whether a certain factor causes happiness or is caused by happiness.

Important areas for whether and how we experience happiness:

Education, income, gender, "marital status" (whether we are single, married, divorced or widowed) and other so-called "socio-demographic variables" have been examined many times, but apparently only influence our happiness to a small extent (2-5%) and must be examined in great detail.

With the topics health, Money, intelligence or attractiveness one might think that they are of great importance for our happiness experience. However, happiness research cannot confirm this.

Two life events affect our level of happiness sustainably negative: divorce and unemployment. A number of studies showed severe acute stress with a significant decrease in the level of happiness. After the end or processing of the events, there is an increase in the general level of happiness, but the original level is usually not reached again.

In addition to the in-depth pages on the most important topics mentioned above, here are a few more details on the "causes of happiness":

  • Happy people have their lives in their own hands, which also means that they believe that they can bring about their own happiness (and also their unhappiness) themselves. This belief in control, i.e. the cognitive sense of being able to influence things, is important for achieving central goals in life and for a satisfied attitude towards life.
  • Happy people create the balance between tension and relaxation.
  • Happy people strike a balance between what they have and what they want; between possibilities and demands.
  • Happy people are creative and curious. You take an active part in life, open up, are sensitive, spontaneous and productive.
  • Happy people have found a meaning in life, e.g. through religiosity.
  • Happy people are not focused on happiness, they just live and take the joys in life with them.
  • Happy people (according to happiness researcher Ed Diener) often have positive events - the frequency and not the intensity is decisive. It seems better to feel good about many small occasions and to be happy instead of waiting for the "big luck".
  • Happy people are realists in assessing their goals and opportunities. You either lower the demands or intensify the effort. They have goals they want to achieve and mix short and long term interests, desires, and life goals.
  • Happy people are not only moment-dependent and pleasure-oriented (i.e. not hedonistic), but they also don't save themselves, they live in the here and now.
  • Happy people invest in their social relationships, they get support from friends and family. They also believe that other people appreciate and like them (regardless of whether that is true). Good social relationships create positive experiences (love, trust, self-worth).
  • In their professional and private activities, happy people have feelings that are closely related to happiness and that happiness researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as flow. Flow arises at work, when exercising hobbies, when socializing, talking, sex, sports, going to the cinema, learning and driving - generally with activities that are neither too demanding nor too demanding. Flow doesn't come from resting or watching TV.

A very scientifically driven presentation of further psychological approaches can be found here.


All is well. Everything. Man is unhappy because he does not know that he is happy. Only because. That's all, all! Whoever realizes this will be happy immediately, immediately, in the same moment.
(Dostoevsky: The Demons)

We don't live, we hope to live someday.
(Blaise Pascal)