Radboud100 Bierviltje

How can you become happy or happier?

People are searching for happiness. For years, films, series, news sites and scientists have been studying how you can become happy or even happier. It’s not easy to answer this question, but one theory about happiness stands out: If you want to be happy, do something for someone else.

According to Professor of psychology Ap Dijksterhuis, people feel happier if they help others or give them something. That feeling of happiness comes from positive feedback. 'If you feel that people are grateful, you’ll also feel better yourself,' stated Dijksterhuis. This has been shown in scientific research. 'Students were each given twenty dollars', Dijksterhuis said. 'Half of them were asked to buy a present for themselves and the other half had to buy a present for someone else. Afterwards, the last group was happier.'

Of course, there are various ways of helping others or giving them something; this can even be part of your work. English research has shown that florists, hairdressers, beauty specialists and plumbers head the list of the happiest professionals. 'They’re all people who spend their days doing something for someone else and who in turn receive thanks for this,' Dijksterhuis explained.

Everyone can increase their happiness by doing something for someone else. 'I think the best thing is that even people who have a little less to spend become happier by giving. Income isn’t important here,' Dijksterhuis stated. 'What counts is that you make an effort to make others happy. And whether you do so with money or with effort, that makes no difference!'

And then there’s the other important question: does money make us happy? 

According to Esther-Mirjam Sent, Professor of Economic Theory and Economic Policy, feelings of happiness based on having money or possessions are only temporary. 'Money activates the same part of the brain as drugs. Once you have it, you want more.' Sent said that to become happier by having money, you especially have to spend it in the right way. 'You have to know who you give it to and why and you have to feel as if you’re making a difference. You don’t simply want to throw your money onto a big pile, but rather you want to see tangible results. Only then will you really be happy from giving money.'

Would you also like to become happier by doing something for someone else? For example, you can support students and researchers at Radboud University. They seek solutions to social problems, by doing research or starting their own initiatives. You can help them! Read more about Radboud Fonds or donate here.

Radboud 100 years

In 2023, Radboud University will celebrate 100 years of significance for our students, researchers and staff, as well as for the world around us. Find out more about the university's 100th anniversary here.