Behavioral Trends: The Pursuit of Happiness


The Pursuit of Happiness


The pressure to be happy is everywhere and we all pursuit it. We can’t control life circumstances, but we can control our thoughts and behaviors. We describe happiness as an emotional and mental state of well-being, where a long-lasting sense of peace, fulfillment and contentment is the result. Happiness is a consequence and not a goal, and it is accessible to all.




The smiley face is an internationally recognised symbol of happiness – however, this ubiquitous image hasn’t been around for long. It was the creation of Harvey Ball, an American commercial artist who, in the 1960s, was commissioned to create a design for a button that could raise employees’ morale. Ball charged the company 45 USD and the smiley became extremely popular, and eventually, a symbol of corporate America. In 1999, Ball created the World Smile Foundation, a non-profit charity for children’s causes around the world which licenses the smiley face and organizes the World Smile Day on the first Friday of October every year. The much-altered, but still quintessential smiley has inspired people for decades and serves as a reminder that happiness can also lie in simplicity.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation


The University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, directed by Martin E. P. Seligman, is primarily dedicated to the dissemination of positive psychology, as well as research, training, education around it. Positive psychology differs from traditional psychology in that, while the traditional approach is to focus on what causes suffering and alleviating it, positive psychology pays extensive attention to finding what makes life worth living. Eschewing the belief that people just want to end suffering, instead the focus is on how people can “lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves”. The PPC’s director, Dr. Seligman, is considered a leading authority in the fields of positive psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism, which makes him an expert on the subject. His extensive work is spread out over 350 scholarly publications and 30 books. The work made by the PPC and Dr. Seligman encourages people to find a life-force within themselves, not just the absence of suffering.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Penn Positive Psychology Center Martin Seligman


Superior education institutions in general have the reputation of being highly stressful and pressuring environments for students, making the experience of going through academia challenging and unhappy for some. What if universities lent themselves to the active promotion of happiness in their institutions? After all, students are supposed to be studying (and doing) something they enjoy. Luckily, Mexico-based Tecmilenio University, an institution founded by the prestigious Tec de Monterrey (ITESM) in 2002, has earned the title of the first happiness-focused university. This is all thanks to its intense interest in fostering an environment where their students can find joy – to the point of creating Mexico’s first Happiness Sciences Institute (Instituto de Ciencias de la Felicidad). This institute promotes well-being through certificates, courses and even post-graduate programs centred around Positive Psychology and other principles. Thus, Tecmilenio University actively fosters not only the creation of happiness within its institution, but also the generation of significant academic knowledge around the subject.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Institute of Happiness Science at Tecmilenio


The prestigious Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, or simply Tec (Mexico) recently inaugurated their “Space of Reflection”, a building designed by Alberto Kalach with the sole purpose of providing users with a place for introspection, meditation and spiritual growth, with diverse spaces for aiding in this task. This is an innovative approach to ensuring the wellbeing of students’ and university personnel’s mental health, helping them be a step closer to happiness.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Espacio de Relexión


Tal Ben-Shahar is an American and Israeli teacher, and writer in the areas of positive psychology and leadership. As a lecturer at Harvard University, Ben-Shahar created the most popular course in Harvard’s history. He has subsequently written several best-selling books such as Happier, and Being Happy, which have been translated into 25 languages.

the pursuit of happiness - tal ben-shahar


As its name suggests, the International Day of Happiness is a worldwide holiday that commemorates the most coveted human emotion that has been celebrated by the United Nations since 2013. The designated date for this celebration is March 20, and besides being the most appropriate day to indulge in happiness and company, it’s been used as an opportunity to recognise the importance of happiness in people’s livelihoods around the world – after all, it’s what every one of us is after.

The Pursuit of Happiness - International Day of Happiness


Every year since 2012, the United Nations has released a worldwide report focused exclusively on happiness, surveying citizens of 156 countries in several factors, including levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption, and correlating these metrics with the actual well-being of each country’s inhabitants. For several consecutive years, countries in the Nordic region, like Finland and Denmark, have consistently ranked in its top positions, while war-torn and severely unstable countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Burundi have ranked in the lowest ranks. However, there has been some scrutiny as to the accuracy of the Report. For example, the Nordic countries also have high suicide rates, revealing situations that are not taken into account in the Report itself. Nonetheless, the mere existence of the Report shows a shift in the way we value countries, not merely by its economic positions but also by the day-to-day perspective of its inhabitants.

The Pursuit of Happiness - World Happiness Report


Frequent, quality sleep is fundamental for our well-being and happiness. The refreshing boost in energy we get after a solid eight hours of blissful shut-eye can greatly influence our mood and our productivity, which is why it’s so important to get the rest we need. However, for a lot of people, a good night’s rest seems unreachable and unrealistic. The Gravity blanket might just be the answer to that: a weighted, warm and fuzzy blanket that’s meant to simulate a hug, and in turn reduces anxiety and stress by relaxing the nervous system. Its creators claim that you’ll achieve “faster and deeper sleep” thanks to its anchoring presence – hopefully, happiness comes as a part of that package too.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Gravity Blanket


Our social media feeds often reflect the most pristine versions of ourselves, choosing only to post the most like-worthy content on there. Especially on the era of hyper-positive social media culture, posting our irritation and anger is prone to get some backlash. We need somewhere to drain our frustrations without fear of scrutiny in order to be happy. Vent is a social media app launched in 2014 as an outlet for those thoughts you just can’t keep inside. The app lets you post either publicly or anonymously, and allows you to select from a range of five emotions: calm, irritated, annoyed, angry and furious, in order to better reflect your current state of mind. The community in Vent is ready to consume your most venomous thoughts without even a second glance.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Vent


Designer and author Ingrid Fetell Lee founded her firm The Aesthetics of Joy in 2009 in order to find the link between the aesthetics of our everyday surroundings and happiness. In 2018, her book Joyful was published, as “the definitive guide to finding and creating more joy in the world around you”. Through her research on neuroscience and psychology, as well as her design knowledge, Lee aims to shine a light on that often-overlooked influence, and offer advice and guidance on how to make our spaces more joyful through conscious design.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Ingrid Fetell Lee's The Aesthetics of Joy


Obsessed with tidying and organising since her childhood, Marie Kondo developed the famous KonMari method inspired on practices from the Shinto religion. Taking a category-based approach, she does not suggest keeping those objects with a particular utility, but instead urges people to throw away those items that no longer “spark joy” within them: thanking them for their service, then letting them go. Her peculiar method, at least to Western audiences, has earned her somewhat of a guru status, becoming the host of her own Netflix show and a bestselling author of several books. Her method has inspired people around the world; keeping the select things that speak to the heart has led them to a more calm, enjoyable, joyful environment.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Marie Kondo


The past few years have seen an increase in what could be called a “good vibes only” mentality: people avoiding negativity at all costs (particularly on social media) to an unhealthy degree, leading to the portrayal of a constantly optimistic persona to others. This has been called toxic positivity, and it has resulted in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience. In other words, it makes affected people feel like they’re somehow living their lives wrong by remaining in constant negativity, when in reality they’re just living an authentic human experience, flaws and all. This incessant pursuit of eternal happiness just leads to more unhappiness – it’s best to just embrace life with its ups and downs so that when the happiness comes, it’s authentic, not forced.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Toxic Positivity (article)


The well-known saying “money can’t buy happiness” has long been source of controversy – people who are struggling economically feel like they would be much happier if they had money, while people with abundant money are finding anxiety and insecurity about their wealth. A 2010 study by Princeton researchers Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton revealed that money *does* increase people’s happiness up to a threshold of $75,000 a year per person; however, after that point, their day-to-day well-being didn’t really improve. Once their basic needs are met, people don’t really see emotional benefits from additional wealth. Instead, the source of that happiness must come from experiences, connections with other people and following a passion – none of which money can truly buy.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Money and Happiness (article)


In a 2017 New York Times opinion column, writer Ruth Whippman said “Happiness is other people”: most people can’t be truly happy in isolation. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, those words have rang truer and truer, but even before quarantine, human contact was already on the decline. Nowadays, as people are increasingly reluctant to connect with strangers and insist on using their phones, it feels awkward, out of place and even unsafe to simply strike up a conversation with a stranger. The UK-based Campaign to End Loneliness seeks to provide tools for coping with loneliness, including the most obvious one: connecting with people and making new friends – which are more often than not, the source of most of our day-to-day smiles and laughter.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Campaign to End Loneliness


Happiness is hard to come by when your mind is clouded by everyday worries and frustrations. For millennia, meditation has been hailed as a way to make peace with sorrow and anxiety, and it only makes sense that 21st century meditation guidance comes in an app. Headspace is a platform providing users with a guide on meditation and mindfulness founded by Andy Puddicombe (UK), who, after finishing his Buddhist monastic commitment, returned to the United Kingdom with the purpose of spreading meditation techniques to as many people as possible. Originally starting out as an event company, Headspace went to become an online service by demand of its users, fulfilling Puddicombe’s original goal and leading people into a path of (increased) serenity in the process.

The Pursuit of Happiness - headspace


The key to a happy life might not lie in not having any problems – after all, having gone through the darkness is what makes us appreciate the light once it reaches us – but rather, in knowing how to deal with and maneuver around them. Therapy is one way to acquire these tools, and Betterhelp makes therapy more accessible and more connected than before: An affordable and accessible network of licensed therapists that can assist you, whatever your predicament may be, so that happiness is no longer a pipe dream but more of a work-in-progress you inch closer to completing.

The Pursuit of Happiness - betterhelp


In times we all are looking for “happiness”, a bit of pharmaceutical help is appreciated. Prozac, the best-seller drug from Eli Lilly Laboratories, is a strong antidepressant. Instead of finding and treating the psychological causes for depression just take the pill, forget about the symptoms, and be “happy”.

the pursuit of happiness - prozac



Coca-Cola has successfully demonstrated through the years that people is looking for happiness as an ideal in their life. They have switched in the last 50 years over several campaigns around that same ideal, making the brand almost a synonym of the word: Coca-Cola = Happiness.

the pursuit of happiness - coca-cola (article)


Click here to navigate our list of Behavioral Trends for value creation, full of insights and needstates, written from a post-demographic human-centered perspective by our partner Andrea Lobo.


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