The Five Pillars of Happiness

ContentmentIn a little over a year, Pharrell Williams’ music video “Happy” catapulted to over 503 million views (and counting) on YouTube. The video’s upbeat tune and joyous dancers may leave us wondering, “How do I get that happy?”

The good news is that most of what determines happiness is due to personality and thoughts and behaviors within our control. In other words, we can learn to be happier.[1] And we can do so by focusing on the five pillars of happiness: spending time with loved ones, appreciating what we have, staying optimistic, finding our sense of purpose, and living in the moment.



1. Spending time with family and friends. Investing time and effort in your relationships can reap rewards down the road. Spend time with loved ones who are happy and who make you happy.

2. Appreciating what you have. Practice gratitude on a daily basis. One way to do this is to note one or more things that you’re grateful for in a gratitude journal, each day. You can also try swapping out negative thoughts (“The train is late again”) for more positive ones (“I have time to finish my magazine”).

3. Staying optimistic. The first step is to be aware of negative thoughts that may come up. When you notice these negative thoughts, ask yourself:

  • Is the situation really as bad as I think it is?
  • Is there another way to look at this situation?
  • What can I learn from this experience?

4. Finding a sense of purpose. Find your purpose by prioritizing your values (what’s most important to you, above anything else), identifying your core strengths and recognizing what truly makes you feel alive.[2] Try to align your day to day activities with your purpose.

5. Living in the moment. Learn to really appreciate the small things in life. One way to channel the here and now is to practice mindful breathing – focusing on the flow of your breath.



MHN, Health Net, Inc.’s behavioral health subsidiary, offers a variety of resources through its Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help employees lead happier lives. Members can receive support for a range of emotional health issues. In addition, MHN’s EAP member website features articles on happiness, healthy relationships, thriving at work, and whole person well-being. To learn more about MHN, please visit, call 1-800-327-7526 or email


Managed Health Network, Inc. (MHN) is a subsidiary of Health Net, Inc. The MHN family of companies includes Managed Health Network, MHN Services and MHN Government Services. Health Net and Managed Health Network are registered service marks of Health Net, Inc. All rights reserved.


[1] Mayo Clinic. 2012. “How to be happy: Tips for cultivating contentment.” (accessed December 3, 2014).
[2] Dinsmore, Scott. “Discovering Happiness through Purpose in 3 Natural Steps.” (accessed December 3, 2014).

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Mike Spasoff