International Day of Happiness

Today, as I write this post, is the International Day of Happiness. It is celebrated throughout the world on March 20th each year. The United Nations (UN) state that they celebrate this day “as a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world” (UN, 2021). Happiness has been a struggle for many people globally during the last 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, for so many reasons. However, irrespective of all the challenges that we have endured, and may continue to experience for some time, it is important to do what we can to experience positive emotions as they are vital for our well-being.

As I wrote in my book “The 5 Keys to Burnout Recovery”, “positive emotions help us to expand or broaden our thoughts and our behaviours, and as a result, we increase or build mental, physical and social resources (Fredrickson, 1998). Joy [and happiness], according to the “broaden and build” theory, helps us to expand as it creates the inclination “to play, push the limits and be creative” (Strümpfer, 2003). Another benefit of positive emotions… that they reverse persistent negative emotions, in addition to fuelling and building resilience, for example (Fredrickson, 2001). In short, positive emotions have been found to not only enhance our psychological well-being, but also our physical well-being too (Gong et al., 2018).” (Buchan, 2021).

The Dalai Lama stated “happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.” Therefore, we need to do what we can to cultivate happiness, wherever possible, especially when we are experiencing burnout, compassion fatigue or other challenges, due to its’ positive benefits. Simple activities that we can do to experience happiness include making ourselves smile, spending time in nature, watching something on TV or YouTube that we know makes us laugh, doing something enjoyable with our children or spending time with our pets for example.  Sometimes cultivating happiness can feel too difficult. At such times, we can take action to cultivate another positive emotion, one that feels easier, such as gratitude for example. By identifying one or more things that we are grateful for each day and doing this regularly over a period of time, it can lift our mood and thus we find ourselves feeling happier.  


Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Am. Psychol, 56, 218-226.

Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Rev. Gen. Psychol., 2, 300-319.

Gong, Z., Schooler, J. W., Wang, Y., & Tao, M. (2018). Research on the Relationship between Positive Emotions, Psychological Capital and Job Burnout in Enterprises’ Employees: Based on the Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions. Canadian Social Science, 14 (5), 42-48. doi:

Strümpfer, D. J. W. (2003). Resilience and burnout: A stitch that could save nine. South African Journal of Psychology, 33, 69-79.