What is the International Day of Happiness, when is it, and what's the theme for 2021? Discover the history of this day dedicated to spreading well-being and making people happy...


The International Day of Happiness is an annual event organised by the United Nations to promote the idea that feeling happy is a global human right. Actionforhappiness.org supports and organises the day, with support from other groups. Many of the world's leading religions and philosophies promote positive emotions as vital for the well-being of mankind. However, the idea of having a dedicated day of observance for the concept is relatively new.


International Day of Happiness: 2021

The theme for this year's International Day of Happiness is 'Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind' and is, of course, in response to the COVID pandemic. As we face an ongoing global crisis together, this year's International Day of Happiness is a chance to find uplifting and positive ways to look after ourselves – and one another. Exploring the theme further, Action for Happiness suggests:


Keep calm. There are lots of things outside our control. Let’s remember to breathe and focus on what really matters so we can respond constructively.


Stay wise. Making wise choices helps everyone. Let’s choose positive actions that support our well-being and help others to do the same.


Be kind. We’re all in this together, even when we’re forced apart. Let’s stay connected and reach out to help others who may be in need.

Furthermore, this International Day of Happiness you can get involved by sharing the Coping Calendar and joining the 10 Days of Happiness coaching program.


International Day of Happiness: the history

The first International Day of Happiness was held on 20 March, 2013, following several years of campaigning by Jayme Illien, a United Nations adviser. After growing up in one of Mother Theresa's Kolkata orphanages, an American family adopted Illien. He was keen to end global inequality.

All member states of the UN are encouraged to participate in the International Day of Happiness, to raise awareness of the importance of positive emotion for humanity and to help others to find ways to create happiness.

Come together: the International Day of Happiness


The past few international events have had attendees including world leaders and celebrities. Pharrell Williams, the singer-songwriter, has been heavily involved with the event as a spokesman and the composer of the worldwide hit Happy. In fact, an innovative part of the 2013 celebrations was the first ever 24-hour global live streaming video of this very song. Other celebrities who have attended and supported the event include Chelsea Clinton, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela.

RELATED: Finding happiness – 11 science-backed ways to increase your well-being

During previous celebrations, numerous free events have taken place across the world, such as dances, drop-ins and conferences. Community workshops, walks and social media are all tried-and-true ways of spreading the message about how everyone deserves to feel happy.


“The theme for this year's International Day of Happiness is 'Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind' and is, of course, in response to the COVID pandemic.”

Some years have focused on particular areas essential for well-being. For example, 2015 concentrated on the importance of relationships and discovering the key to a good life. While in 2014, people shared images of what made them feel happy. The event aims to reduce global inequality, end poverty and protect the planet for future generations. 


International Day of Happiness: World Happiness Report

Every year the UN measures and compares the happiness of different countries in the World Happiness Report, which is released to coincide with the International Day of Happiness. The World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, and 117 countries by the happiness of their immigrants. The UN bases its report on social, economic and environmental well-being and sets goals for countries to achieve to increase happiness because it believes happiness is a basic human right.


Studying happiness

The first history of happiness studies began over 2,500 years ago when great philosophers such as Confucius, Socrates, Aristotle and Buddha, and many others devoted their lives to the pursuit of this topic, influencing the lives of countless millions to the present day.

Well red and happy: take a leaf out of her book!


Today, positive psychology or the science of happiness is the study of what exactly make happy people happy, and recently there has been an explosion of interest in this field. The eight-week and totally free course, 'Science of Happiness' is one of the most popular courses since its inception in 2014. Students report that the information and materials provided have been very useful for improving wellness levels.


The benefits of happiness

Although studying happiness is not a new concept, it's only in recent years that psychologists have begun to understand the importance and far-reaching implications of positive emotions. Scientists conclude that the key to human wellness is strong social ties and a sense of purpose. In other words, involvement in things that are for the 'greater good' of humanity.

Others believe that having a positive mindset is responsible for as much as 90 per cent of our feelings of well-being. These might include a fulfilling career where helping others is paramount, voluntary work to improve the community, or participation in a religion that promotes communal activities such as regular group worship.

Related: The power of kindness


The science of happiness continues to be, perhaps, the most valuable area of studies, concentrating as it does on the question of how to find or increase happiness levels.

Give to get: volunteering leads to happiness 


People who are happy tend to live longer and have fewer health problems. Indeed, happier people are less likely to have high blood pressure and heart issues. One thing remains clear – we still have a lot to learn about this area of study and the myriad benefits of a life well-lived. Hopefully the International Day of Happiness can raise even more awareness of this and help us all to be happy in 2021 and beyond. 

Main image: Colorbox.com


Written by Guest Author

bert.jpgWe're happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.com, please contact us.



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Guest LightSeeker


Although we should embrace happiness every single day, I do agree with the others that celebrating an international day of happiness every year is also a great idea. This year's theme about being kind is especially relevant during COVID and bearing in mind the media is set up more and more to divide us. ?⁉️ Be kind to yourself and others, always.

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I agree with Lizzie and think the International Day of Happiness is a great way to raise awareness and recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people all over the world. Pity there won't be celebrations for the second year in a row, but I do hope they have an online/remote programme. I especially like this year's theme. So relevant with the current state of the world! Keep calm, stay wise, be kind.

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The International Day of Happiness is a great initiative to raise awareness and have people all over the world come together over something. I really liked the theme for 2020 International Day of Happiness too - focusing on what we have in common rather than our differences has never been more important. 

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Guest Factivist


I used to think that those awareness days are kind of useless. Why would a day of this or that change anything? But as I got more into activism - as sitting around complaining didn't change anything for the better - I started understanding why they are essential. 
Activism and political work are powered by awareness. Like the day of happiness, a day allows all kinds of groups to bundle their efforts and create awareness for one particular subject. If an issue has, it's own international day that's already a big step.

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