It’s easy to feel a burst of happiness when you start doing something you enjoy after suffering a period of dullness and routine.  I was both interested and surprised to read the results of a recent survey of tens of thousands of people conducted over five years by the people at the app Mappiness on the activities that make people the happiest.

The activities at the top of the list such as intimacy, attending concerts and the theatre, sport and gardening are to be expected although I was surprised to see no reference to either work or technology in the top 20.

The Top 20 (rated according to the percentages indicating the average increase in happiness levels from engaging in that activity) was as follows:

1.Intimacy, making love14.20%
2.Theatre, dance, concert9.29%
Exhibition, museum, library8.77%
4.Sports, running, exercise8.12%
5.Gardening, allotment7.83%
6.Singing, performing6.95%
7.Talking, chatting, socialising6.38%
8.Birdwatching, nature watching6.28%
9.Walking, hiking6.18%
10.Hunting, fishing5.82%
11.Drinking alcohol5.73%
12.Hobbies, arts, crafts5.53%
13.Meditating, religious activities4.95%
14.Match, sporting event4.39%
15.Childcare, playing with children4.10%
16.Pet care, playing with pets3.63%
17.Listening to music3.56%
18.Other games, puzzles3.07%
19.Shopping, errands2.74%
20.Gambling, betting2.62%

The study which was first published in The Economic Journal (Bryson & MacKerron, 2015), referred to the creator of Mappiness, Dr George MacKerron. He reflected that the results “show that people are happier doing almost anything other than working.  Although we may be positive about our jobs when reflecting on the meaning and purpose they give us, and the money they provide, actually engaging in paid work comes at a significant psychological cost.  It appears that work is highly negatively associated with momentary wellbeing: work really is disutility, as economists have traditionally assumed. At any given moment, we would rather be doing almost anything else.”

Thank you Dr MacKerron.  I’m still surprised though and also that gaming and other activities on mobile devices didn’t feature. Perhaps the point is that both work and access to technology are now just things we have to do, not things we enjoy doing.

Published by Paul Lyons. Paul Lyons is an experienced chief executive, leadership coach and mental toughness professional and you can reach him via or via his website at

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