A survey of tens of thousands of people conducted over five years has revealed the 33 activities that make people the happiest.
At the top was making love, followed by concerts and the theatre, sport and gardening.
To study everyday happiness, researchers created a smartphone app which ‘dinged’ at random points during the day to ask how they were feeling and what they were doing.
Dr George MacKerron, who created the app, which is called ‘Mappiness’, said:
“Mappiness is interesting because it quizzes people in the moment, before they get a chance to reach for their rose-tinted glasses.
For example, it is common to hear people say that they enjoy their work, but the Mappiness data show that people are happier doing almost anything other than working.
Although we may be positive about our jobs when reflecting on the meaning and purpose they give us, and the money they provide, actually engaging in paid work comes at a significant psychological cost.
It appears that work is highly negatively associated with momentary wellbeing: work really is disutility, as economists have traditionally assumed. At any given moment, we would rather be doing almost anything else.”
Below is the full list of activities that made people happy.
The percentages indicated the average increase in happiness levels from engaging in that activity:
- Intimacy, making love 14.20%
- Theatre, dance, concert 9.29%
- Exhibition, museum, library 8.77%
- Sports, running, exercise 8.12%
- Gardening, allotment 7.83%
- Singing, performing 6.95%
- Talking, chatting, socialising 6.38%
- Birdwatching, nature watching 6.28%
- Walking, hiking 6.18%
- Hunting, fishing 5.82%
- Drinking alcohol 5.73%
- Hobbies, arts, crafts 5.53%
- Meditating, religious activities 4.95%
- Match, sporting event 4.39%
- Childcare, playing with children 4.10%
- Pet care, playing with pets 3.63%
- Listening to music 3.56%
- Other games, puzzles 3.07%
- Shopping, errands 2.74%
- Gambling, betting 2.62%
- Watching TV, film 2.55%
- Computer games, iPhone games 2.39%
- Eating, snacking 2.38%
- Cooking, preparing food 2.14%
- Drinking tea/coffee 1.83%
- Reading 1.47%
- Listening to speech/podcast 1.41%
- Washing, dressing, grooming 1.18%
- Sleeping, resting, relaxing 1.08%
- Smoking 0.69%
- Browsing the Internet 0.59%
- Texting, email, social media 0.56%
- Housework, chores, DIY 0.65%
Down at the bottom of the list were the seven activities that made people the least happy:
- Travelling, commuting -1.47%
- In a meeting, seminar, class -1.50%
- Admin, finances, organising -2.45%
- Waiting, queueing -3.51%
- Care or help for adults -4.30%
- Working, studying -5.43%
- Sick in bed -20.4%
The study was published in The Economic Journal (Bryson & MacKerron, 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Happy man image from Shutterstock