16 Interesting & Scientific Facts About Happiness

Scientific and interesting facts about happiness reveal the thoughts and behaviours that are proven to make people happier.

Scientific and interesting facts about happiness reveal the thoughts and behaviours that are proven to make people happier.

People taught the basics of happiness science consistently report better mental health, research finds.

University students who did an online ‘Science of Happiness’ course fared better mentally than their peers who did not take the course, the study found (Hobbs et al., 2022).

Facts about happiness

There is a longer description of the study at the bottom of this article, but here are the facts about happiness taught on the course, (relevant studies are linked):

It is based on the latest research into the thoughts and behaviours that are proven to make people happier.

  1. Talking to strangers makes us happier, despite a majority of us shying away from such encounters (see: why you should talk to strangers).
  2. Social media is not bad for everyone, but it can be bad for those who focus on their reputation (12).
  3. Loneliness is linked to a weakened immune system.
  4. People who are optimistic tend to live longer.
  5. Giving gifts to others activates our own reward centres in the brain—often providing more of a happiness boost than spending money on yourself (why spending money on others promotes your happiness).
  6. Sleep deprivation impacts how well we are liked by others (people feel socially unattractive when they don’t get enough sleep).
  7. Walking in the countryside deactivates part of the brain related to negative ruminations, which are associated with depression (As little as 10 minutes spent in nature is enough to make people feel happier).
  8. Kindness and happiness are correlated (acts of kindness really do boost happiness).

More facts about happiness

Here are some more interesting facts about happiness, as revealed by psychological research.

9. Most people are happy most of the time

Maybe you don’t need to do anything at all to feel happy…

People are, on average, in a mildly good mood most of the time all around the world, a study finds.

Researchers have reviewed evidence drawn from many different nations — rich and poor, stable and unstable.

As long as people have not just experienced a strong emotional event, even those in poor circumstances are likely to be in a mild positive mood.

10. The mid-life dip is normal

Life satisfaction dips in middle age, after which it starts going up again beyond the age of 54, a study of worldwide well-being finds.

The dip in life satisfaction occurs around the age of 45 until 54, and is seen across many wealthy English-speaking countries, including the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia.

Professor Angus Deaton, one of the study’s co-authors, said:

“This finding is almost expected.

This is the period at which wage rates typically peak and is the best time to work and earn the most, even at the expense of present well-being, so as to have increased wealth and well-being later in life.”

11. Take a tip from seniors

With increasing age, people get more pleasure out of everyday experiences; while younger people define themselves more by extraordinary experiences, a study finds.

The study asked over 200 people between the ages of 19 and 79 about happy experiences they’d had that were both ordinary and extraordinary.

It was older people who managed to extract more pleasure from relatively ordinary experiences.

They got more pleasure out of spending time with their family, from the look on someone’s face or a walk in the park.

12. Prioritise positivity for happiness

An approach to life called ‘prioritising positivity’ has been linked to increased well-being.

Prioritising positivity is all about organising your everyday life around activities which bring pleasure.

The authors explain:

“Perhaps people high on prioritizing positivity reserve Saturday afternoons for watching college football or taking their family to a local park.

Maybe others start their weekdays running or drinking tea while reading the New York Times.

Some people may consistently seek out activities that elicit calm and contentment whereas others may seek out excitement and vigor.

The exact behaviors or choices may differ drastically from one person to the next…”

13. Fact about happiness: walk happy, feel happy

It’s well-known that when we’re in a good mood, our style of walking tends to reflect how we feel: we bounce along, shoulders back, swinging our arms in style.

Sometimes, just from our gait, it’s more obvious to other people how we feel than to ourselves.

Well, a study finds that it also works the other way around: people who imitate a happy style of walking, even without realising it, find themselves feeling happier.

14. Act like an extrovert (even if you’re not)

Acting like an extrovert — even if you are an introvert — makes people all around the world feel happier, research suggests.

The findings come from surveys of hundreds of people in the US, Venezuela, the Philippines, China and Japan

Across the board, people reported that they felt more positive emotions in daily situations where they either acted or felt more extroverted.

The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, also found that people tended to behave in a more upbeat way when they felt most free.

15. Mindful dishwashing and happiness

Mindful dishwashing can decrease stress and calm the mind, a study finds.

People in the study focused on the smell of the soap, the feel and shape of the dishes to help them enter a mindful state.

Doing the dishes in a mindful way also increased the pleasurable feeling of time slowing down, the researchers found.

16. Seek out the feeling of awe

That jaw-dropping moment when coming across something surprising, powerful, beautiful or even sublime can have a transformative effect.

Awe makes people more patient, less materialistic and more open to helping out others.

This may happen because awe slows down our subjective experience of time.

Awe, the authors write, has two components (in case you want to seek it out scientifically!):

“First, awe involves perceptual vastness, which is the sense that one has encountered something immense in size, number, scope, complexity, ability, or social bearing (e.g., fame, authority).

Second, awe stimulates a need for accommodation; that is, it alters one’s understanding of the world.”

Scientific facts about happiness study details

The study, which was carried out during the start of the pandemic, included 166 students who took the course over one semester — they were compared to a control group.

The results showed that while well-being and anxiety declined in the control group as the pandemic continued, those who had taken the course maintained their good humour.

Professor Bruce Hood, study co-author, said:

“The results were a welcome sign that the course is achieving its aims.

It was also pleasing to see it working with all content and interactions conducted online.”

One of the students, Izzy Bond, who took the course and went on to become a student mentor, said:

“One of the things that really stood out from the course is when we did a quiz which ranked what we felt were our strengths and weaknesses.

Studies have shown that those who do jobs that match their strengths have higher life satisfaction—all of my strengths suggested I would enjoy being an academic, which really confirmed my decision to pursue becoming a lecturer.”


Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

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.

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