International Day of Happiness

International Day of Happiness

There's more behind the International Day of Happiness than you might think. Find out more by reading the article and answering the questions.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.


You might think the International Day of Happiness is a day to practise positive thinking or to give thanks for the things in your life that make you happy. But it's actually a United Nations project which has a more serious purpose. The UN thinks happiness will only be for everyone when the people of the world are equal.

Why 20 March?

On this date (and also on 23 September), the centre of the sun is directly above the Earth's equator, which is called an equinox. On the equinox, day and night last for almost equal time all over the Earth. The equinox is felt by everyone on the planet, which matches perfectly with the idea behind the Day of Happiness. Since 2013, the Day of Happiness has been celebrated in all 193 United Nations member states.

How did the idea start?

The idea goes back to 1972, when the King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, said that we should measure a country's progress by its happiness and not just how much it produces or how much money it makes. He called it Gross National Happiness (GNH). Again, it is more than just a nice idea. Bhutan developed a system to measure happiness based on things like people's psychological health, their general health, how they spend their time, where they live, their education and their environment. People in Bhutan answer about 300 questions, and the results are compared every year to measure progress. The government uses the results and the ideas behind GNH to make decisions for the country. Other places use shorter, similar versions of this kind of report, for example the city of Victoria in Canada and Seattle in the USA, as well as the state of Vermont, USA.

The man behind the International Day of Happiness

In 2011, a UN adviser called Jayme Illien suggested the idea of an international day to increase happiness. His plan was accepted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012. Jayme was born in Calcutta, India, and he became an orphan when he was a child. He was adopted by an American nurse, Anna Belle Illien. She travelled the world to help orphans and she took Jayme with her. He saw children like him, but who were not as lucky as him because they were often escaping wars or they were very poor. He wanted to do something about it, so he worked in the areas of children's and human rights.

The World Happiness Report

The UN measures and compares the happiness of different countries in the World Happiness Report. It bases its report on social, economic and environmental well-being. The UN also sets goals for countries to achieve to increase happiness because it says happiness is a basic human right. Happiness should not be something people have because they are lucky to live in a place where they have basic things like peace, education and access to healthcare. If we agree that these basic things are human rights, then it is not a very big step to agree that happiness is a basic human right too.



Worksheet84.01 KB

Language level

Average: 3.5 (11 votes)

Submitted by Janelyy on Mon, 15/05/2023 - 03:44


I think it must be mental health. It means people need to have a positive thinking. For me, happiness is not caused by external events or things that happen to us. Let's be totally absorbed in in, or focused on, what we are doing then people feel happy.

Submitted by Calmo on Tue, 14/03/2023 - 19:36


The most important thing for being happs is music.Music always keep your morale high thanks to god my head inside like nonstop playing radio

Submitted by meknini on Tue, 26/07/2022 - 01:39


There are a few basic necessities that are the rights of all but if I were to choose only one I would definitely go for food. With having enough food it means that no one is hungry irregardless of their situation whether they're in a war torn country, refugee camp, homeless and other dire circumstances. As long as they have food to fill their stomach and don't suffer from hunger, I think to a certain extent, they'll be happy.

Submitted by jyoti Chaudhary on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 14:48


What is the most important thing people need to be happy?
every people in our country need happiness and in my opinion, people need to become a happy life that is our life mission and prospective goals and you cant found happiness outside. happiness is inside our conscious mind. we are happy when we do some protective things on a day when we achieve something in our life. you cant find happiness with your friends and someone else. many people think I'm frustrated about my personal things I want to spend time with my friends and I feel happy this is not right. real happiness always comes with yourself, spend some time alone with yourself and think about it what is the purpose of sadness and do something valuable and become a happy person.

Submitted by Thinthinmyoe on Mon, 21/06/2021 - 12:14

Health is the most important thing for everyone to be happy.To be healthy,it is essential things like peace,justice, Standard of living,money and good environment.

Submitted by PARIMALA MADIAZHAKAN on Tue, 02/03/2021 - 13:39

Most important thing people need to be happy for their health. Health is well. As a people we need keep happy for our health. Because health is biggest factor for our life. If our health is in poor condition it can make us feel uncomfortable. Happiness give us a strength for live life with healthy.
Profile picture for user danisep

Submitted by danisep on Fri, 12/02/2021 - 17:14

The most important thing to be happy is health with health and good physical and mental conditions you can do many things even change your economic situation. but I think that we can't hope to be happy all the time, that it's not possible and it's not healthy, I think that one important thing too, is to appreciate every moment and enjoy what we are and what we have, not important how few or much it is. happiness in many cases is a choice a decision.

Submitted by Htet Naing Win on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 08:14

The international day of peace is very important for life.
Profile picture for user OlaIELTS

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 03:30

The most important thing that people needed to be happy is basic human rights.

Submitted by cunninglinguist on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 00:32

Such a solicitous step and considerate idea. Over this period of growth that I've had in past few years, I've realised how 'priceless' this emotion-happiness is. To celebrate a day that projects the the idea of not only happiness and gratification but also equality, is something highly appreciable. I knew about the equinox but reading about Gross National Happiness and World's Happiness Day for the first time. Hope this global pandemic soon gets treated and settled. I wish everyone around the globe peace. ;')