How Happiness Happens

I’ve been pondering happiness a lot over the past few weeks. It could be for a number of reasons that happiness has come to mind…

  • We’re a few months away from having our first child! Happy.
  • I just changed jobs at work to a position that is more in line with who I am and what I love. Happy.
  • I published a book on Amazonand am working on a second with two fellow writers. Happy.

I was so interested in happiness that I watched this documentary, aptly called “Happy”.* It chronicles the lives of a cross-section of people and cultures and finds several common denominators among them relating to happiness.

It’s worth your time.

Money and Happiness

Even a smile is an act of charity
Farrukh via Compfight

The documentary found that there is a threshold to money creating happiness…and it’s a surprisingly low threshold.  

Above and beyond meeting basic needs (food, water, shelter), happiness levels for the whole of life don’t generally increase with a higher income.

Although Forbes reported that money could buy happiness, it’s findings were directed toward happiness in vocation, not for all of life in general.

Simply put: money can buy happiness, but only while you’re at work.

Conclusion: since the majority of our time is not spent at work, money doesn’t buy happiness.

Community and Happiness

I can be a bit of a loner at times. Give me a quiet corner to write, muse or read and I’ll be fine for hours. A lot of creative people are in the same camp–preferring seclusion rather than social activities.

But we need to break out and link up more often than we do.

In the film*, the happiest people were the ones who lived in close community with others. From a neighborhood comprised of multiple families doing life together in Denmark to ancient African cultures in Namibia, the findings were all the same: people felt happier living in closer communities.

Community creates happiness.

Do What You Love

We create because it makes us happy.

Sure there’s the work of pushing through what Steven Pressfield calls “the resistance”*, but we break through that barrier because ultimately, it makes us happy.

To simplify…

creativity happiness

What makes you happy?

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*Disclosure: A few of the hyperlinks above are affiliate links to Amazon.


Author: Andrew Zahn

I'm a son, husband, dad, business owner, actor and good sleeper/eater. On this blog, I pave a highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.

  • Papa Mike

    We attended a performance of Handel’s MESSIAH with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra Saturday night and found ourselves saddened that we knew no one, on stage or in the audience, and no one knew us. This is unacceptable. We are quite used to being VERY connected in the communities we’ve lived in, especially the arts community, and found ourselves just a little sad and wistful. Lack of community creates sadness. (We hope to remedy this VERY soon, possibly in Lancaster, PA!)

  • Sounds like an interesting documentary. I’ll admit that i’ve not watched many, but the older I get the more appealing they seem. I used to think that was the lamest thing ever…watching a documentary…really? 😀 Then I grew up, a little.

    • That’s hilarious Jared! Documentaries are my favorites. A good one to start with is Man on Wire ( I think it’s on Netflix too.

  • Andy Black

    Bacon. No, wait. Mayonaise. Bacon dipped in mayonaise. That would make me happy. At least for a little while. Seriously? Besides bacon, family makes me happy. Spending time with my own immediate family fuels me. Being with my family also encompasses the arts. We are a pretty creative trio. My wife and I are both visual artists, my son is a musician (he plays viola and is at college majoring in music composition), I am also a writer and I dable in music. I have a nephew who is an amazing vocalist/actor/dancer (he is working on his undergraduate degree in Musical Theater). Needless to say, much of what we do together revolves around the arts.I feel very fortunate.

    • Bacon and Family: the Key to Happiness.

      Perfect title for your next book.

      With a kiddo on the way, I greatly admire what you’ve done Andy!

      • Andy Black

        I love the book title. You might be on to something!

  • It took a long time to figure this out…but helping/serving other people.

    • A whole post…or book…could be written on that along, Tom!

      How do you serve and what does it do for you and those you serve?

      • At home, I serve my family – it could be cleaning up, cooking dinner, or reading an extra bed time story; at work i serve my team by doing the “blocking” so they can do what they do best; and in my side gig I help others with career transition. I have found that approaching people with an intent to serve completely changes the dynamic…so I guess for me it improves relationships and makes me feel like I am doing what I was meant to do. Hopefully that made enough sense to follow!

        • Beautiful. It’s refreshing to hear your family makes you happy and that your work is so fulfilling as you help others. Awesome Tom.

  • Scrollwork

    Needs Met + Community + Creating = Happiness

    So there really IS a formula! It applied to my life. With food, shelter and bohemian rags in good supply, I skipped merrily about engaging with my community, and sewed many an upcycled clothing item for my shop (creating). No wonder I’ve been deliriously happy. Now, one of the elements in that formula is shifting, and I am in observation mode. Will the revised equation still add up to happiness? We shall see.

    So excited for you and your wife about the baby you’re expecting.

    • I’ll stay tuned! We’re always in flux…but you’ve got me curious: what is shifting? I hope it’s all good 😉

      Thanks so much for the well-wishing on our baby! It’s one of the most exciting times in our life!

  • Nippon98

    Well said. I read The Art of Happiness by Our Dalai Lama and Cutler over a decade ago. The acts of daily living en route to happiness are to be enjoyed as those acts = happiness if enjoyed to the fullest. It appears you have a more concrete explanation of happiness than our highest Dalai Lama. Well said!

    The birth of a child = unexplainable happiness, Congrats!

    • I appreciate the compliment 😉 Very kind of you!

      And yes, now that the little darling has arrived, we are VERY happy!