5 min read

What Makes Us Happy?

Research shows that lasting happiness is not something to be found so you can get on with your life...

written by -
Kevin Palmer

What am I missing?

Somewhere in my early 40s, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something in my life was off. My marriage was good, my health was good, and everything seemed to be fine. But for some reason, I just didn’t feel very happy with my life. What was I missing?

I set out to learn where happiness comes from, and hopefully re-discover it so I could get on with my life and feel happy again.

So what makes us happy?

As it turns out, there are a lot of things that can affect our happiness, but one of the things I got wrong from the very beginning was thinking of happiness as something we feel as soon as we reach our desired destination. The reward for achieving the goal. Once I get there, I’ll finally be happy.

However, research shows that lasting happiness is not something to be found so you can get on with your life. It’s the fulfillment that you feel from living a life with deep connections, working on something that excites you, accepting the things you cannot change, and acting in accordance with your highest values (just to name a few).

It’s a byproduct, not the end product.

A Harvard study that started in 1939 followed 268 Harvard Graduates and 456 men who grew up in the inner-city neighborhoods of Boston over the course of their lives (over 70 years). The study found that “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.”

Realizing that I had fallen out of contact with most of my dearest friends, I knew the journey needed to start there. I could literally feel the void.

Looking forward

Research also shows that we are happiest when we have something to look forward to. A passion project. Something you get excited to work on.

This was another wake-up call for me. For the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t working on a project of any kind. No band, no album, no newsletter. I was just going through the motions.

"The three grand essentials of happiness are: Something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for." - Alexander Chalmers

Other factors

Other factors that contribute to our happiness are:

  • Gratitude
  • Spending time in nature
  • Regular acts of kindness
  • Experiences > Things
  • Exercise
  • Journaling
  • Listening to music


There will be days we don’t feel happy. We will go through crisis and loss. Life can and will be stressful and unfair at times. But a life well-lived is more often than not a collection of beautiful relationships (eternal and temporal), things to look forward to, new experiences, gratitude, grace, hope, and love.


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