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  • Writer's pictureKirsti Gwynn

What Makes You Happy

If you’re experiencing a sense of discontent with your life but you aren’t sure why, that leaves you pretty stuck.

You know that something’s missing, but you just aren’t sure what.

I recently met a man who felt that way. He told me he had tried lots of different ways of dealing with this - setting goals, working harder, antidepressants - but nothing had worked for him in a lasting way. He was at a loss for what to do.

The truth is, until twenty years ago, psychology-as-usual focused only on dealing with negative experiences. This was simply the more pressing issue. There wasn’t any research being done into what makes it possible to enjoy a happy, contented life.

Thankfully, the rise of the science of happiness and resilience (Positive Psychology) has changed that.

If you’re unsure what makes you happy, familiarising yourself with the three types of happiness is a good place to start.

Positive emotion

The positive emotion aspect of happiness is about waking up energised, feeling excited about life, and enjoying what you’re doing. 

How much laughter, inspiration, love, gratitude, hope, and excitement do you experience on a day-to-day basis? The happiest people experience three times as many positive emotions as negatives. 

This is about learning to tune into the good experiences in your life, reduce negativity, and making time for the things that bring you joy.


Purpose drives us. We all need to feel useful, to know we’re making a meaningful contribution to the world. This is about uncovering what your unique purpose is (we all have one!) and tapping into the sources of meaning within your life. 

Positive emotion on its own may be fun for a while, but without a deeper sense of meaning, you’ll eventually find you feel unfulfilled. In the same breath, if you feel deeply meaningful but aren’t enjoying your life, you can quickly burnout. The good news is, you can have both!


Perhaps you’ve considered enjoying life and feeling meaningful, but engagement is one you’ve never heard of. When you’re experiencing engagement, you’ll find you’re living in the moment more and getting stuck in thinking less. It’s that gratifying feeling of losing track of time. 

I love this one because it is the key to feeling content in the present while creating a better future. It’s really about being yourself. 

You can find engagement by tapping into the unique set of things that energise you, making it possible for you to live your purpose and enjoy life. 

Now that you know about the 3 types of happiness, you’re better-equipped to discover what makes you happy.

Try this out:
  1. For each type of happiness, rate where you are on a scale of 1-10. How much do you experience of each in your life?

  2. Which area are you already satisfied with?

  3. Which area do you want to improve?


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