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Happiness is currently getting a lot of attention and it should. It’s a vital element to a healthy balanced life and in the current climate it feels in short supply. During times of turmoil, like now, it can seem wrong to be focused on something so individual when bigger problems fill our thoughts and news feeds.

Research is showing that it’s more helpful to think of happiness as an active noun and complex concept that requires regular review and updating. To make happiness part of life we need to reframe our understanding of it to encompass a wider emotional and intellectual range. Brands can help with that.

Below are five facets of happiness and how companies have successfully navigated this tricky terrain through their brands.

1. Belonging

Belonging is as fundamental as you can get to maintaining social wellness and a happy, stable life. We are nothing without our friends and family, and it extends to the broader community, both local and global. The emphasis on DEI has been a welcome step towards belonging recognizing that being seen and heard can improve lives. Loneliness, the opposite of belonging and happiness, has made headlines recently as Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has categorized it as an epidemic that has repercussions for our physical and mental health and certainly our sense of happiness.

When most beer ads focus on men, Heineken‘s Cheers To All Fans emphasizes inclusion, reaching out to  women who are “almost half of football fans across the world,” acknowledging their contribution to football fandom.

Nike goes for the power of shared experience and community in You Can’t Stop Us. “We’re never alone, and that is our strength,” says a narrator. “Because when we’re doubted, we’ll play as one. When we’re held back, we’ll go farther, and harder. If we’re not taken seriously, we’ll prove that wrong. And if we don’t fit the sport, we’ll change the sport.”


2.. Perspective

Many of us have focused on unattainable goals or worn-out notions of happiness that don’t ultimately make us happy. It’s clear that a lot of people have realized that it isn’t stuff, promotions, being skinny, winning, or money that makes us happy and are now looking for answers. Four million people have enrolled in Laurie Santos’ wildly popular class on Coursera, The Science of Well-Being. Santos reveals misconceptions about happiness, while encouraging participants in new points of view to increase their own level of happiness.

Michelob Ultra gets us thinking about a new approach with Happy. “What If we were wrong this whole time thinking that joy only happens at the end after the sacrifice. What if happiness has always been there fueling the run towards greatness. What if joy is the whole game not just the end game. Are you happy because you win? Or do you win because you are happy?”


3. Generosity

Repeatedly we are reminded that kindness, gratitude, and giving of yourself provide benefits beyond the act itself. If You Want to Be Happy, Try to Make Someone Else Happy is a another new study from the Greater Good Science Center that shows that doing kind things for others is an important path to happiness. And this understanding goes back hundreds of years. “There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others.” TIME

The Atlantic challenged the pandemic fad of “self-care” as a cure for regaining happiness saying “me time is great, truly, but human flourishing is typically out there with everyone else. Another approach—one that has been shown in years of research to bolster people’s sense of self—is to show up for others.”

Kindness, The Greatest Gift from Amazon shows how “It’s the small acts of kindness that have the biggest impact.”  It takes effort but is returned to us as happiness.

4. Purpose

Brand purpose gets a lot of ink as consumers look to support the companies that align with their own values. But what about people’s own sense of purpose? Identifying what truly makes us happy, what makes it worthwhile to get up in the morning takes self-reflection, risk-taking, and honesty and can pay off in finding purpose, meaning, and happiness.

Arthur Brooks professor and author of the series How To Build a Life says “Happiness is not just about feeling good, it is about doing good with our lives and having meaning for ourselves and other people. We see this as a social movement.”

Michelle Obama gave a commencement speech asking graduates “WHO are you going to be? Not WHAT are you going to be. How are you going to deal with life when you get knocked down. Ask yourself, WHO are you going to be. Research has shown that cadets that scored high on grit and determination did better in life than those who scored highest on test scores. Resilience, conscientiousness, grit, and determination, those are the skills that will get you through life.”

These experts are asking people to dig deep to know themselves to achieve happiness.

5. Nature

The restorative power of nature has long been recognized as cure for what ails us with peace, beauty, awe, and happiness.

The American Psychological Association reported on a study that “assessed the overlap between connectedness with nature and feeling in tune with one’s friends or community. They found that feeling connected to nature was a significant predictor of happiness even after controlling for the effects of general connectedness.”

Two brands below take very different approaches to demonstrating the benefits of nature and the role their products play in delivering the beneficial experience.

You can’t help but smile as you watch Burberry’s Open Spaces film as the cast bounds weightlessly through fields, defying gravity as they take flight blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. The brand’s goal is to create products “that help people embrace the outdoors and explore new spaces and places.”

L.L. Bean’s Every Possible Way communicates how they “design products that make it easier for families of all kinds to spend time outside together. For more than 100 years, we’ve recognized the benefits of getting outdoors and sharing the fresh air – because the only thing better than being outside is being outside together.“

It turns out that, all this time, happiness has been right there in front of us. We just need to break down the pieces to make it more understandable and attainable. Brands can play an important role in providing community, helping us look at life differently, reminding us to be kind, helping us search for meaning, and reminding us to get outside.