Action for Happiness: More Than Just “Choose Happiness”

GREAT DREAM: 10 keys to happier living from Action for Happiness

I’m definitely not a fan of the whole toxic positivity business, and no, happiness is not a choice (or at least not always). But a while back I stumbled across the Action for Happiness website, and I like their style. I was looking through my journal and came across the 8 pillars of joy I’d made note of from The Book of Joy, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. That made me think of Action for Happiness, hence this post.

Action for Happiness is actually talking less about happiness as a transient emotion and more about the joy described in the Book of Joy. Joy isn’t about situational factors; it’s more an attitude and a state of being. I think this is far more meaningful to seek out than happiness, and there are ways to move in the direction of joy that are more tangible and concrete than trying to summon arbitrary happiness out of nowhere.


Action for Happiness, like the name suggests, focuses on actions that can move you in a more happy/joyful direction. They identify 10 keys to happiness as captured in the acronym GREAT DREAM:

  • Giving
  • Relating to Others
  • Exercising – take care of your body
  • Awareness/mindfulness
  • Trying out new things
  • Direction
  • Resilience
  • Emotions – look for the good
  • Acceptance
  • Meaning
Pillars of joy: acceptance, humility, humour, perspective, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, generosity

Pillars of joy

There’s a fair bit of similarity to the 8 pillars of joy:

  • perspective
  • humility
  • acceptance
  • forgiveness
  • gratitude
  • humour
  • generosity
  • compassion

Not just choosing happiness

I like that both of these approaches are feasible even when dealing with mental illness, which really isn’t the case for “choose happiness.” Depression-related anhedonia has taken happiness off the menu for me, but these are still things that I can do. These elements are also things that are consistent with moving in a recovery direction.

For more joy-promoting actions, Action for Happiness releases monthly action calendars. Here’s the calendar for January 2021, and today’s action is looking for the good in others and noticing their strengths. I think that’s something we do here in the blogosphere each and every day.

Action for Happiness July 2022 calendar
Action for Happiness

Action for Happiness also has a free 10-day online coaching program called 10 Days of Happiness. I haven’t tried it, but the idea seems good.

What do you think of the idea of pursuing joy/happiness through actions? Do you see a distinction between joy and happiness?

Mental health coping toolkit

The Coping Toolkit page has a broad collection of resources to support mental health and well-being.

41 thoughts on “Action for Happiness: More Than Just “Choose Happiness””

  1. Great post. One of the issues I used to have with the construct of happiness was that I was under the impression that it just came to an individual, rather than consistently having to work for it. Additionally positive energy is important for mental health. However, I’ve found it hindering when I needed to feel pain, discomfort, or emotions that needed to cycle out of me. Happy New Year.

    1. Happy New Year! And that’s so true, the negative stuff needs a release, and I don’t think anyone can actually be happy when that stuff is bottled up inside.

  2. Ooh, I like that calendar! I will use it! I like things like that.

    I think I try to seek out and enjoy/fully experience enjoyable things pretty often. It’s the Accumulating Positives DBT skill in the ABC of emotion regulation. It works pretty well for me! I agree with you, taking action is different to choosing to magically “be” happy. I can’t just “be” something. It annoys me when people sign off their emails with “Be well.” I know they have good intentions, but I can’t just “be” well; how does telling me to be well when I’m not help me at all?!

  3. This has been an amazing resource, for those that are struggling give it a go…if you don’t like it you can always stop, but it is so easy and effortless…

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