What Does Happiness Feel Like?
Happiness has many different flavors. It can be contentment, excitement, joy, or awe. But true happiness is about more than our emotions. Try this activity to discover what happiness feels like for you.
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True happiness is the combination of positive emotions and having a sense that life matters in some way. This can emerge from things like doing work that we value, engaging in fun activities, making an impact in the world, or building stronger connections with others. To learn more about the skills you can build to increase you happiness, take our well-being quiz.
To explore what happiness feels like for you, try this activity.
Activity: What Does Happiness Feel Like?
When we imagine events, our brains process these events as if they were real. Our brains have a difficult time telling the difference. This means that if we imagine ourselves in situations that make us happy, we can get a taste of what happiness feels like. If we do this often, we can actually feel happier in the future.
To give you a sense of how this works and feels, let's do a happiness visualization exercise.
Update: After reading your feedback on our original "happiness feeling" exercise and learning that it was still difficult to discover what happiness feels like, we've added a new and improved happiness exercise with audio. If you'd like to try the original exercise, it's still here at the bottom of this page.
Feeling Happiness Exercise
This visualization activity can help you generate positive emotions. These positive emotions counteract the effects of negative emotions, generating a sense of calm and peace.
Press play on the video below. Then close your eyes and listen to the audio to be guided through the Feeling Happiness Exercise. Feel free to come back and use this anytime you're feeling down and need a calming, positive boost.
Original Happiness Feeling Exercise
During this exercise, you will imagine experiencing happiness.
Before we begin, think about what you want to focus on. Maybe you want to imagine having stronger relationships with your community, or maybe you want to imagine being more accepting of your negative feelings, or maybe you want to imagine gaining the confidence to live more authentically.
Try to think of what it would be like if this happened:
1. Think about the people, smells, and sounds around you while you experience happiness.
2. Focus on the good feelings that you are having. How would it feel? Who would be around? Where would you be?
3. Imagine how these experiences will make you feel even better in the future.
4. Imagine anything else that helps you fully experience true happiness.
5. Try not to focus on aspects of your current life that are not making you happy. Just imagine that you are a happy, future version of yourself.
For the next 2 minutes, close your eyes and imagine being the future happy you. After completing the exercise, reflect on the experience using the text box below.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.