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What Makes Us Happy

What makes us happy? This can be a complicated idea to define. Most people are not very self-reflective. That is, few of us take the time to think about what makes us happy, and what makes us really happy.

Does money make us happy? Well – yes and no! The rich are not really happier (Zhong & Mitchell, 2010). The research shows that once we can afford the basics – good food, decent housing, transport and the like – additional income does relatively little to raise our life satisfaction levels (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2009).

What about status or career? In fact, well-paid professionals such as doctors and lawyers tend to have higher levels of stress and depression than blue-collar workers (Eaton, Anthony, Mandel, & Garrison, 1990).

How about work? Everyone complains about work – so being at home should make you more happy than being at work – right? Well – it seems that people have higher levels of “flow” – a positive and pleasant state of mind when they are totally absorbed in the moment – at work, rather than at home (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997).

What about sex? The world seems to be obsessed about sex! Well, sex is not the happiness boost that people often assume. One study found that having a bath or shower was a more reliable way of boosting mood than sex (Wallis, 2005) – and for many people far less complicated!

Working out what does and doesn’t make us happy is the key to us achieving this happiness.

Content adapted from: Coach Yourself, by Dr Anthony Grant and Jane Greene, and Eight Steps To Happiness: An Everyday Handbook, by Dr Anthony Grant.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York,: Basicbooks.

Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2009). Will Money Increase Subjective Well-Being?: A Literature Review and Guide to Needed Research The Science of Well-Being (pp. 119-154).

Eaton, W. W., Anthony, J. C., Mandel, W., & Garrison, R. (1990). Occupations and the Prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 32(11), 1079-1087.

Wallis, C. (2005). The new science of happiness. Time(17th January), Retrived 5th May 2010 from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/2010,9171,1015902,1015900.html.

Zhong, J. Y., & Mitchell, V.-W. (2010). A mechanism model of the effect of hedonic product consumption on well-being. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 20(2), 152-162.

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