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What Does Happiness Mean to You? (1,155 Answers with 11 Examples)

by Hugo

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There is no universally agreed-upon definition of happiness. If you google the definition of happiness, you’ll read that happiness means “the state of being happy”. Not very helpful! So what does happiness mean to you? And what does happiness mean to me?

If I asked you and your neighbor what happiness means to you, the two answers would be wildly different. In fact, a survey we ran amongst 1,155 respondents proved that virtually no two people share the same meaning of happiness.

If you’re still looking for personal meanings of happiness, varying from person to person, then you’re in luck. Here are 11 varying answers to this question, which you can use to get inspired to think of what happiness means to you!

Our survey on the meaning of happiness

If you were asked to describe what happiness means to you without actually using the word “happiness”, what would you answer? We asked this question to over a thousand people and recorded the answers. 

We asked them the following question:

Of the following words, which 5 words do you associate most with “happiness”?

Each respondent had to pick 5 words that they felt most associated with the word happiness.

Here’s which words they associated most with “happiness”:

word association study tracking happiness featured

These results showed us how differently people think about the meaning of happiness. (If you want more details on our results, you can find them here!)

💡 By the way: Do you find it hard to be happy and in control of your life? It may not be your fault. To help you feel better, we’ve condensed the information of 100’s of articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet to help you be more in control. 👇

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What does happiness mean to you?

So it’s clear that the meaning of happiness varies from person to person. In fact, it even changes over time. What made me happy as a kid probably won’t make me happy as I get older.

That means that no one will share my exact meaning of happiness. Sure, some people will agree with what happiness means to me, but when you get into the details, my definition of happiness is as unique as I am myself.

That’s why I rounded up a handful of different people, with varying backgrounds and personalities, and asked them this simple question:

What does happiness mean to you?

Here are their answers:

What happiness means to…

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Raffi Bilek – Director and therapist at the Baltimore Therapy Center

Happiness means you can recognize and appreciate the good things.

Happiness is when you can recognize and appreciate the good things in your life without letting the bad things overshadow them. For the vast majority of us, the good in our life far outweighs the bad. Has your back been hurting lately? Consider that the rest of your body feels fine today.

Life is imperfect, filled with pluses and minuses. Focusing on the positives and savoring them is what happiness is about.

What happiness means to…

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Traci Shoblom – MS. in Psychology, Certified Whole Health Educator and Personal Development Coach

Happiness is when one’s behavior is in alignment with their values.

Happiness is when one’s behavior is in alignment with their values. In other words, if you are a person who values family, and you invest time, resources, and spend time with your family you are happy. If you are a person who values health, you’re happiest when you’re engaged in activities that promote health. So, the core element of happiness is knowing what you value and then adding those things into your life. A happy life is a series of happy moments strung together.

What happiness means to…

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Emma Donovan – M.A., LPC, Therapist and Coach

Happiness means embracing the messiness that comes from being a flawed human in an unpredictable world.

I used to believe that I could earn happiness by maximizing my full potential, both personally and professionally. What I’ve realized, though, is that failure, disappointment, personal shortcomings, and uncomfortable emotions are part of life.

Happiness is not about transcending them through accomplishment, but rather embracing the messiness that comes from being a flawed human in an unpredictable world. Happiness is not achieved, it is lived as I embrace each moment.

What happiness means to…

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Dana Avey – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Fulfillment Counseling and Life Coaching

Happiness means the ability to experience gratitude and meaning amidst all experiences.

Happiness is the ability to experience gratitude and meaning amidst all experiences. Happiness isn’t a life full of perfection but rather finding the good or the purpose within whatever the circumstances – as flawed and as imperfect as they may be. That is what generates happiness. 

Life will give us all sorts of experiences, but if we can exercise a grateful heart within it, we can have happiness in any given moment and to have happiness in each moment, is to have it fully. We can never have total control over what happens to us, so if we can find an ounce of gratitude and meaning in all scenarios, we can thrive and be happy regardless.

What happiness means to…

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Amrita Madhusudan – Neuroscientist, emotional wellness practitioner, and productivity coach

Happiness means enjoying the simple things in life.

When I think of happiness, I think of being curled up with a cup of tea and a good book on a rainy afternoon. I think of the smell of my mum’s freshly baked chocolate cake. I think of cuddling my sleeping baby and feeling the softness of his cheek against mine. Happiness is dark chocolate, good friends, and clean clothes fresh from the dryer. I think of freshly fallen snow and rainbows, the rumble of the waves at the beach, and the birds calling at dawn. Happiness is meeting my husband’s eyes across the room and feeling cocooned in his love.

What happiness means to…

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Kahlil King – Professor teaching Psychology at Hofstra University and Economics

Happiness is the culmination of my life – good and bad.

Happiness is self-care and mental wellbeing. Having the autonomy to make my own decisions on how I can contribute to the well-being of others. Happiness is a balance of hedonistic and personal growth endeavors that make me a better person, and enjoy myself while doing it! Happiness is the culmination of my life – good and bad. Everything that has made me who I am has made me, in its own way, happy.

What happiness means to…

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Wendy Jones – Life Design Coach at The Optimists Journal

Happiness is a mindset that is within our control.

Happiness is found when we can be content exactly where we are today and have the conviction to go after what we want tomorrow. It’s found in the moments of calm when our vision is clear, and in learning to savor the small things like a sunset, our favorite coffee, or a great conversation. We all want to be happy, so it’s best when we train our minds to find it in the things that happen almost every day.

Above all else, happiness is a mindset that is within our control, it just takes self-awareness to access it so spend some time getting to know yourself and your definition of happiness will follow.

What happiness means to…

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Lauren Cook – Master’s of Marriage and Family

Happiness means when you are living in accordance with your values.

Happiness is when you are living in accordance with your values. It’s when you know what matters in your life (which many people struggle to actively define) and you are in the active pursuit of those values. It does not mean that you are always successful in your pursuits; rather, you are intentional about how you place your time and energy.

Happiness also comes when we practice gratitude on a daily basis. It’s when we appreciate not only the aspects of our life that have gone “right,” but when we give thanks for the struggle as well. Even when we’re in pain, we are growing and there is just as much beauty in that experience.

What happiness means to…

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Kellie Zeigler – Certified Applied Positive Psychology Practitioner

Happiness means being at peace with my past, optimistic about my future, and enjoying the present.

Happiness for me is about being at peace with my past, optimistic about my future, and enjoying the present. This means I can look back on my past with gratitude for what has happened. I can look to my future and feel hopeful about what is to come and the experiences I want to create. In the present I use mindfulness, gratitude, savoring, meaning, and purpose to experience frequent positive emotions.

What happiness means to…

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Carla Manly – Clinical psychologist and happiness expert

Happiness means exploring and being in touch with our best selves.

I have found that happiness comes from exploring and being in touch with our best selves. When we consciously devote time and energy to being attuned to that which provides peaceful, lasting internal joy, we tend to be happier in the long term. As well, those who are happiest tend to focus on the present – being in the here and now – rather than getting stuck in the past or being anxious about the future. Indeed, those who learn that happiness exists in this very moment – not in the future or in the past – tend to radiate with joy.

What happiness means to…

hugo huyer tracking happiness

Hugo – Founder of Tracking Happiness

To me, happiness means finding the perfect balance between long-term and short-term happiness. Short-term happiness can be found in the simple joys of life, like going on a nice date with my girlfriend, running outside, laughing with my friends, or even just enjoying a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. On the other hand, I find long-term happiness in following my purpose in life, being free and stress-free, and working actively towards a better future.

In short, my meaning of happiness is enjoying my life as it is right now, while not having to worry about my happiness in the future!

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Closing words

There you have it: 11 different examples of what happiness can mean to you. What this article proves, once again, is that happiness is different for everybody. What makes me happy doesn’t necessarily have to make you happy as well. It’s what makes happiness such a beautiful thing to learn about.

With that said, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! What does happiness mean to you?

Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

4 thoughts on “What Does Happiness Mean to You? (1,155 Answers with 11 Examples)”

  1. Thank you for all the good thoughts about happiness!

    I agree with all of the positive aspects mentioned (meaning, gratitude/appreciation, acceptance, hedonism, short-term long-term, true to self’s values, etc.) but I also take another angle at the subject which none of your experts directly mentioned: the absence or reduction of the things which make us unhappy.

    If happiness is an enhanced state of wellbeing, what are the things that diminish this state? Or in other words, what are the things that make us unhappy? If we removed or reduced the things that produce our unhappiness, would we by default be happier?

    For myself, I’ve compiled a list of over 50 things that contribute to my diminishing state of wellbeing. I call them my Termites of Happiness (from behavioral and cognitive patterns, self-worth issues, guilt, anxiety, areas of dissatisfaction, and many other things). I have found as I eliminate or reduce these termites, I have become happier.

    How do you remove guilt, shameful/embarrassing memories, anxiety, self-worth issues, and all the other things that diminish happiness? If you personally resolve these, wouldn’t you experience your best and happiest life?

    Thank you for your efforts towards a happier world!

    Tom Gregoire

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tom!

      In my opinion, it really depends on who you are as a person.

      There are always some factors in your life that you can directly control. For me, one of those is the amount of sleep I get. I am 99% responsible for how much “tiredness” impacts my happiness, which is why I focus on getting enough sleep.

      But some things are beyond my control, and I believe they should be. It’s got something to do with your comfort zone/bubble of happiness. You may be able to remove all negative factors from your life, but that would mean that you’ll be living in a bubble without any risk, thrills or excitement.

      In the end, no matter how hard you try, unhappiness is a part of life. I find it’s best to embrace this part, and learn to go with the flow.

      Being aware of this part really helps here though, hence why I track my happiness. 🙂

      Thanks again for sharing!


  2. I am basically a happy person but things that increase my happiness are the things I accomplish. I know what things make me feel happier and yet I don’t always do them. At 72 I have spent a lot of time doing things that I had to do to earn a living and raise a family. Now in life if I take time to watch tv read play games on electronics look at emails and texts and not accomplish tasks it is ok. But I do feel better about having balance in my life where I accomplish tasks and still do the downtime things.

    • That is great. I think you have a good balance between short and long-term happiness. Watching TV and playing games might not make you feel productive, but if you enjoyed it and don’t over-indulge, then it’s nothing to feel bad about! 🙂 It’s all about finding your balance.


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