How to Get Happy or Die Trying

Reflect for a moment on what your goals are. Maybe they are academic, to get an A in your next assessment, to understand a challenging concept in math… Maybe you want to win the grand final, maybe you want to make new friends, be more popular, or hit Diamond rank. Maybe you just want to not feel so damn tired all the time. Regardless, of the goal behind that goal, the goal that most people strive for is simple. What our goals really say, is this: 

“I want to be happy”. 

Yeah, cool thanks sir, being happy is better than being sad, kind of knew that already. Perhaps you don’t know just how important it really is. Scientists are a difficult bunch, who argue about most things. Even the idea of ‘happiness’ is too broad for them, instead referring to more subjective well-being (Easterlin, 2003). Despite this constant bickering, one thing scientists do agree on is that subjective well-being has a strong positive correlation to increased physical and mental health.  

Putting this simply – being happy makes you live longer. We can be here for a good time AND a long time, or we can have lives that are short and depressing. With that in mind, there is only one logical option – Get Happy or Die Trying.   

Happiness is fleeting, and so the search for it is eternal, but there are practical, proven steps you can take based on scientific research: 

1. Be Grateful. 

Try something right now. Hold your hands in front of you, and stretch them out as far as you can. You should see 10 fingers in front of you (if not, my condolences for your loss). 10 fingers, 10 opportunities to be grateful. Think of things you are grateful for, the blessings you have, the amazing, unbelievably special people, special things that make your life worth living. Your best friend, your dog, your grandparents, your mum, your dad. For each finger, literally, count your blessings. Try it out right now, and see how you feel. 

Feel better?  

A study found that participants who wrote down things they were grateful for on a regular basis reported greater happiness and well-being than those who wrote down daily hassles or neutral events (Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. 2003). As a result, these people were able to have better emotional and interpersonal lives – they felt better and made more friends.  This led to them having more things to be grateful for, leading to even more happiness!  

Instead of contemplating whether the grass is greener on the other side, if we focus on our ‘own lawn’ we can develop lush and vibrant lives. 

2. Love thy neighbour.  

What would you do if you won the lotto? Whatever the hell you wanted, you’re rich! Unfortunately, you would likely find out quickly that money and material possessions are not the keys to happiness (Diener, 1993). While having a certain level of financial security is important, studies have shown that beyond a certain income level, money does not have a significant impact on happiness (Mayraz, 2008). It is a concept in psychology called Hedonic Adaptation – the tendency for people to return to a base level of happiness over a certain period (Frey, 2002). Eventually, the extreme joy you feel from spending all that money will fade, and all the stuff you have acquired will just be that- random stuff clogging up your house. 

So, all this money is useless then? Well, only if you spend it on yourself.  Studies have found that participants who spent money on others reported greater happiness than those who spent money on themselves (Dunn, 2008). This trend has been found across all age groups and cultures (Aknin, 2013). The best way to use your money to make you happy is to spend it, thoughtfully, on those who need it. Give to charity, give your parents or siblings a sweet birthday present, or buy your chemistry teacher a really expensive end-of-year gift (hint hint). As the ancient wisdom says – it is more blessed to give, than to receive. 

3. Pray unceasingly. 

There are many other factors that impact happiness, but the last one I want to focus on is the link between prayer and mental well-being. One of the most attractive things about Christianity to me is the peace and joy it can bring. This joy is not insular but is echoed by research. Religious activities, including prayer, are associated with greater well-being and happiness (Ellison, 1998) as well as greater emotional self-regulation and self-control (McCullough, 2009). Think about what you are doing in prayer. You are thanking God for your life – being grateful. You are praying for friends and family – focusing on others instead of yourself. The simple act of stopping and reflecting is shown to reduce stress and lower anxiety (Lyubomisrky, 2013). 

One of the most vitally important factors for long-term happiness is having a strong social identity (Jetten, 2012). One identity which cannot change, no matter how old, how sick, or how lonely you get is this – you are a child of God. If that isn’t something to be happy about, I don’t know what is. 

At the end of the day, there are many factors out of our control that impact our happiness, but we can control our outlook. The future is not written, and it can be as bright, or as dull as we perceive it to be. If all else fails, I will leave you with some final words of wisdom: 

Try not to be sad, cause sad backwards is das, and das not good. (Wholesomememes, 2023) 



  1. Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Dunn, E. W., Helliwell, J. F., Burns, J., Biswas-Diener, R., Kemeza, I., Nyende, P., Ashton-James, C. E., & Norton, M. I. (2013). Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(4), 635–652
  2. Diener, E., Sandvik, E., Seidlitz, L., & Diener, M. (1993). The relationship between income and subjective well-being: Relative or absolute?. Social Indicators Research, 28, 195–223.
  3. Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319(5870), 1687–1688 
  4. Easterlin, R. A. (2003). Explaining happiness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(19), 11176-11183. 
  5. Ellison, C. G., & Levin, J. S. (1998). The religion-health connection: Evidence, theory, and future directions. Health Education and Behavior, 25(6), 700–720. 
  6. Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389 
  7. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). What can economists learn from happiness research?. Journal of Economic literature, 40(2), 402-435. 
  8. Jetten, J., Haslam, C., & Haslam, S. A. (2012). The social cure: Identity, health and well-being. Psychology Press. 
  9. Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013). How do simple positive activities increase well-being? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(1), 57–62 
  10. Mayraz, G., Layard, R., & Nickell, S. (2008). The marginal utility of income. Journal of Public Economics, 92, 1846–1857.  


*This article was written as a part of Teacher Takeover.