What People Identify As
Their Top 3 Needs For Happiness

According to a survey in October 2018, 67% of Canadians reported feeling very happy.

With the challenges related to COVID-19, I suspect this number would look a little different now, but overall, Canadians have been a fairly happy bunch.

But what makes you truly happy? And how would you rank your top 3 needs for happiness?

Let's take a closer look at the top 3 needs for happiness in the present day and see how these needs have changed over time.

In a 2014 survey presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference, it was found that the top 3 needs for happiness were:

  • Good humour
  • Leisure time
  • Security


And as luck would have it, the same question was asked to a group of study participants 76 years earlier.

Here are the Top 3 needs for happiness in the 1938 survey:

  • Security
  • Knowledge
  • Religion

Not surprisingly, as times change, so do people's needs, yet there was one important constant in both lists - a need for security.

a top 3 need for happiness since 1938

And one very important takeaway from the current pandemic is the impact of uncertainty on mental health.

In a recent survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association, it was found that 79% of Ontario residents reported struggling with feelings of uncertainty about the future.

And as we can see from both surveys, feeling secure is a key ingredient for feeling happy.

Take-Home Message

While you may not share the same top 3 needs for happiness from the 1938 or 2014 list, it's an important question.

I encourage you to take a few moments to ask yourself, "What will truly make me happy?" as this is hopefully one of your primary goals in life.

And I'd suggest revisiting this question from time-to-time, as needs for happiness can change, and it can be important to make mid-course corrections to ensure that you are living your best life.

3 Quick Strategies For Improving Happiness

I suspect we could all feel a little happier, as we work to overcome the challenges with the current pandemic.

Fortunately, there are many scientifically-supported strategies to help improve feelings of happiness.

Let's take at 3 strategies you can incorporate into your daily routine.

Be Grateful

When you think about it, there are many things you can feel grateful for right now. Whether it be your health, freedom, family, friends, career, quality of life as a Canadian... you name it.

And when it comes to feeling happier, gratitude works. Emmons & McCullough (2003) conducted a study in which they asked study participants to write down five things they were grateful for during the past week.

The result – being grateful resulted in a 25% increase in happiness.

And if you are looking to add a little variety to your gratitude routine, I encourage you to check our Gratitude Checklist.

Be Social

Another one of the important takeaways from the current pandemic has been the importance of socializing and the subsequent impact on mental health.

Socializing is one of those things that is easy to take for granted and avoid prioritizing, especially when life gets busy.

But when we are unable to do it consistently, it interferes with feelings of happiness.

Especially with young adults.

Tkach & Lyubomirsky (2006) found that out of all the happiness strategies they explored with university undergraduate students, socializing was number one.

And if you are wondering about the other happiness strategies young adults use, here is the list (in order from most popular to least popular).

Please note the strategies aren't rated in order of effectiveness. It just happens to be the order the students rated them!

Regardless of your age, studies routinely show that socializing is beneficial for happiness. So, figure out how much socializing is optimal for you and make sure you meet that goal.

One of the great realizations from the current pandemic is how badly we all need consistent socialization to feel happy.

Evaluate your Expectations

Expectations are powerful.

If we achieve what we expect, we generally feel good. When we don’t achieve our expectations, bad feelings usually follow.

How powerful is this?

Rutledge et al. (2014) were able to create a happiness equation that predicts moment-by-moment happiness.

And what were the two most powerful predictors of happiness?

How study participants were feeling beforehand and their expectations.

That's the power of expectations!

And setting your expectations artificially low is unlikely to help you feel happy, as this will probably leave you feeling unfulfilled.

However, it is essential to consistently re-evaluate your expectations in different areas of life and ensure that you minimize the gap between your expectations and what's reasonably achievable.

If there is a big gap between what you expect and what typically happens, that gap could leave you feeling consistently unhappy.

What are your top 3 needs for happiness?

Do you have a favourite happiness strategy?

Join the discussion on Facebook.