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.


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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.
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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.
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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. ;')

Submitted by Ariya_ali98 on Tue, 24/03/2020 - 23:34

Hello everyone I really enjoyed to read this article and i think the most important thing people need to be happy is mental health. You can't be a happy person with unhealthy mental.

Submitted by popo1011 on Mon, 30/09/2019 - 10:38

I think that Self-awareness is the first step for happiness. If I know myself, including my moral and spiritual qualities and values,I can do good behavior in problems. I can help others and love them. I believe that this help and love expand to people and whole of them will be happy.

Submitted by parisaach on Mon, 02/09/2019 - 07:14

Happiness is a feeling so you can't describe it exactly. to feel happy you need something that motivate you, something that you love it. It is definitely different in different people. Every person needs different motivation to be happy, some people like money, some like a lover, some people like bright future while other just live in present and as long as they have enough money and enough welfare they will be happy. I don't know how Bhtan's king measure happiness, It is so difficult to measure a feeling, there are people who are rich, they have a good family but they are sad and depressed. But when a society is poor and people don't have money and good job they are definitely not happy. For me it is difficult to be happy, actually I've never felt deep feeling of happiness, though I'm not poor and I have a good family. I feel happy sometimes when I travel with my family or friends, but it is difficult to express myself and say what I want. I just know I never feel happy to what I have.

Submitted by Olgierd on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 21:25

What I want to say is that happiness is the most significant thing in life. It's easy to understand because everyone dies, but people who enjoy their life a lot have no regrets. Besides, we all have some tough time. If we stay happy, we will get out it very quickly. Back to happiness it self, I would say happiness is an attitude, not a right or something else. So I think the reason why many people are not happy now is that they put too much pressure on themselves and forget they are human, they can be happy whenever they want to be.
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Submitted by mehrazin on Wed, 26/06/2019 - 18:23

Hello everyone As you know, life without purpose is meaningless, so we set goals in all processes of our lives. then we try all the best to succeed them one by one with strong efforts. then we are trying to think positively and do not lose our hope. my opinion a disappointed person lose everything in his life. but the most important thing is when you come across a problem do not convert it into a crisis. we should learn to manage our problems. and if they are not under control we will imagine the end of it , ie imagine the problem is continuously unresolved, and at last, imagine and say your self, what will going on then, so you realize that the thinking makes you feel both relief and calm. all the best Mehrazin
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Submitted by Mostafa Taavoni on Thu, 16/05/2019 - 13:45

In my mind, the most important thing is psychological matters. People have to know exactly what a human is? And what does this creature need? We have to know ourselves and our problems. Sometimes we just need to recognize shortages and take a step to solve them. Sometimes problems are out of our control. Humans' today life is a consequence of tremendous progress throughout history. We should solve many difficult problems to achieve a brilliant future.

Submitted by vothuyquynh28 on Wed, 24/04/2019 - 16:21

I think happiness is something that is very important in my life. I do what I like, I get my job which I feel it is comfortable. When I am happy, I can do everything although it is very hard for me and seems to impossible. I believe the day of happiness makes people have belief in life. On March 20th, the balance between day and night is like the balance of everything life. It must be the best idea when in a year, the whole world has a happy day together.
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Submitted by soleiman on Wed, 13/03/2019 - 09:13

From my side, I guess the most important thing for happiness is to think with positive vibes because we made the happiness for ourself unless there are a lot of problems.

Submitted by Azzarine on Wed, 13/03/2019 - 08:43

Very nice lesson, thank you !