woman smiling at sunset
Photo by Allef Vinicius

Liz Waid and Adam Navis look at what makes people happy. What makes you happy?

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Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

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And I’m Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Follow along on YouTube
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What is happiness? Are you happy? What makes you happy? For thousands of years people all over the world have discussed these questions and expressed different opinions. We begin today’s programme with some of their thoughts.

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Aristotle was a great thinker who lived in Greece over 2,000 years ago. He said,

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‘Happiness depends on ourselves.’

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Thucydides also lived in Greece at about the same time. He was a military man who studied history. He said,

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‘The secret of happiness is freedom. And the secret of freedom is courage.

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William Gladstone was the prime minister of the United Kingdom in the 19th century. He said,

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‘Be happy with what you have and are. Be open-handed with both, and you will not have to hunt for happiness.’

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Charles Spurgeon also lived in the United Kingdom at about the same time. He was a religious speaker. And he said,

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‘It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.’

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Today’s Spotlight is on happiness.

older woman laughint
Photo by Huyen Nguyen
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People all around the world think that happiness is important. In 2012 the United Nations even passed a resolution about happiness. All 193 member states agreed to the resolution. They recognised happiness as a global human goal. And they decided to make the 20th of March the International Day of Happiness.

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On the 20th of March 2015 the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, wrote a special message. In it he said,

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‘I wish everyone around the world a very happy International Day of Happiness! The search for happiness is a serious business. Happiness for the whole human family is one of the main goals of the United Nations. Peace, plenty, lives of respect for all – this is what we seek. We want all men, women and children to enjoy all their human rights. We want all countries to know the joy of peace. We want both people and planet to be blessed with lasting development, and to be free of the terrible effects of climate change. Let us give thanks for what makes us happy. And let us give our efforts to filling our world with happiness.’

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But what makes people happy? Many people think that happiness depends on being rich and beautiful. But scientists and experts have studied happiness. They know this is not correct. Good and bad things happen to everyone. Many scientists and experts believe that happiness is something we can choose. They believe that happiness is not always about what happens to you. They believe that much happiness is about how you choose to react. You can choose to react to events in your life in a positive way. Dr. Amit Sood is an expert at the Mayo Clinic in the United States. He said,

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‘Happiness is a habit or custom. Some of us are born happy. But most others have to choose it. We often, however, do not understand we have that choice. We also do not know how to exercise that choice. As a result we push happiness away. Do not let that not happen to you.’

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So how can we choose to be happy? What do we need to do? Experts have a lot of different advice. But they agree that gratitude or being thankful is very important. You will learn to be happy or happier by being thankful.

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Dr Robert Emmons is a leading expert on gratitude. He suggests many ways to become more thankful. One method he suggests is keeping a gratitude journal or book. Every day, write down things for which you are thankful. These things may be about you, events or people. He also suggests that you use the language of thankful people. You can use words like gifts, givers, blessings, blessed.

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What things are people most grateful for? BUPA is a health organisation in the United Kingdom. BUPA did some research about the things that make people feel happy. They found that many small and simple things make people feel good. For example, sleeping in a clean, fresh bed. Another example: many people enjoy feeling the sun on their faces. Other people feel good when someone is kind to them.  Other people like laughing so hard it hurts or smelling freshly made bread.

woman laughing
Photo by Frank Busch
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Some people find that music makes them feel happy. Pharrell Williams writes and performs music. He said that that music brought him happiness. He even wrote a song called ‘Happy’.

[excerpt of the song “Happy”]

It is a very joyful song. People around the world have enjoyed watching it. They have watched the song more than 750 million times on YouTube. And many people have even made their own versions of it. Williams told the BBC why he wrote the song.

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‘The purpose of the song was to make everyone remember that you have a basic freedom to find happiness.’

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Even the United Nations knows that music can make people happy. And in 2015 the United Nations celebrated the International Day of Happiness with music. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, asked people all over the world to share a song that makes them happy.

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Many famous people shared songs that represented happiness and made them smile. They helped to create the world’s happiest playlist. The actor Michael Douglas chose the song ‘Zip a Dee Doo Dah’. The singer James Blunt chose the song ‘We are Young’.

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Pharrell Williams attended the United Nations event that launched the playlist. He told everyone that protecting our planet is necessary for human happiness. He also urged everyone to find out what makes them happy, 

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‘It can be something as detailed as a long term goal. Or it could be something as simple as the way I feel when my son smiles. You should know that happiness is your right. It is a reaction to something, or someone, or a time.’

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Are you happy? What makes you happy? What are you thankful for? Does a particular song make you happy? Tell us about it. You can leave a comment on our website. You can also comment on Facebook at facebook.com/spotlightradio. Be happy!

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The writer of this programme was Katy Blake. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this programme and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this programme again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This programme is called, ‘Be Happy’.

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We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


What is one thing that makes you happy? Is it a simple thing or a complex thing? Write your answer in the comments below.

Join the discussion

    • Hello Warner, you can still download the audio! But it is a little more difficult. Please click on the link to Spreaker, then choose the Spotlight podcast. There, you will see all our episodes. You will have to find the one you would like to download. I hope that helps!

  • I think the happiness changes. For example; some people likes to travel around the world. Some people likes to have a family. Some people wants have both.

  • I love making happiness by myself like watching my favorite program in Netflix, or writing my feelings, or talking with my friends and my lover, or and making textile, i love anything making by myself because it will stay longer, but the happiness that comes from the others will fade away quickly .. THX for reading my letter ♥️.

  • Hi ,Im aya
    The hapiness for me,is having a perfect health and achieving my goals which is expanding my english to the top
    Additionnally,I d like ro mention that hapiness is to come along with your friends well and get together with your lovely people

  • ،I,m thinkful for every things in my life ..and the top is (Iskam)..blased be to Allah.I have
    a nice family and I feel I’m spatial like Allah gave me an ausum vouise and
    a beautiful face and a cleaver brain in education And Community. And the most importnant is my positve vibes always for every events in the life.About simple things that make me happy Immiditly is muzic and rain and learn some thing new.

  • for happiness as I am Muslim we have the gratitude concept and grateful to god called in Arabic الحمد لله Elhomd Allah

  • Happiness is to witness, in the morning, waiting for a new day, at the first appearance of dawn, to grasp all the beauty of nature and every form of life. The light that affirms itself over darkness as a sign of every other hope. Thanks Spotlight.

  • From: ssramossilva@gmail.com
    To: spotlight program
    Subject: to answer to the questions below
    Date: Tuesday 10, November 2020
    Location: São Paulo city – São Paulo Brazil South America

    Dear Liz Waid, Adam Navis, Katy Blake, and Michio Ozaki

    First, I want to thank you for bringing us more one great article. Thank you very much.
    Question 1 – What is one thing that makes you happy?
    Answer 1 – It makes me happy when I see our patients getting the cure from their health problems and leave the hospital and go to their houses with their families. So for my team and I this is a great happiness and It lets us very happy.
    Question 2 – Is it a simple thing or a complex thing?
    Answer 2 – Yes, It is a simple thing. We should believe in God and in our team and in our health care.
    God bless you
    Severino Ramos da Silva

  • No one can be happy always, but we have to think about everything that makes us happy. there are individual differences about things that make us happy. In my opinion, self-development, learn new things and working on future goals lead to success in the whole of your life, Therefore we can be enjoyed and be happy in our life

  • I find happiness in the small and simple things, just like having my family and friends around me and enjoying every moment in my life and living with peace.

  • really i had been realised what is values of happiness 🙂 if you not born happy Create happiness on your own 😀

  • mmm.. I feel happy when I finish something that takes a long time for me also ،when I see my beautiful mom happy it mean a lot to me and when I pray I feel happy and so calm .
    I am thankful to you spotlight < I keep working to develop my english ,So I am sorry if there are any errors in my script.

  • What Makes be happy is lifting weights in the gym and watching movies and series on netflix and gang out with my friends .
    This is what makes me happiest person in the world .

  • I think happiness is sometimes complex, sometimes basic. Some people want to be rich, to have a house, have a nice job, or travel around the world. But some people just want a warm dinner or a peaceful night. It’s so many different ways to define happiness. For me, when i hear a song that was sung long time ago, and i hear that song is sung today – I can see the singers of two ages, it makes me feel enjoyable, peaceful, happy and makes the world more lovely. But we just need to appriciate to everything we have, be kind to everyone around us and enjoy the life in a positive way, we can find happiness

  • When I see my family feel happy
    When I see my dad in a good health
    When I sleep early and weak up early that’s makes me happy
    When I have a coffee I was extremely happy
    It’s so simple things makes me happy .

  • yes, I am happy. when I listening to stray kids and while I watch chan rooms in V live I think this group make me happy

  • Actually there are many things make me happy like playing football, exercising and talking with my family. And in my opinion it is a simple thing for people to feel happy because as Aristotle said at the beginning “Happiness depends on ourselves”. Finally, Happiness is a good thing for all people to feel relaxing and happy in this life.

  • I am happy Allhamdllah. My happiness being in the small details of my day. when I see my friends and family fine, I be happy. also, when I spend time with baby I become happy. that is some exmple for things make me happy.

  • I feel so happy when I meet people who I love, like my family, my friends and my nieces, on other side when I finish my works successfully I feel so happy.

  • The happiest thing that I have now is a full and happy family. Because of the coronavirus, I have more chance to beside my most beloved people. Thanks

  • one simple things to make me happy is helping someone if I see another person smiling it makes me feel happy too

  • When I started to enjoy the small things that I have that make me feel happy. Like the smell of my coffee or the best part of my day when my family talking and laughing.

  • I am so grateful for all the blessings I have, I thank God for that always, I thank Him for being in this wonderful world, I thank Him for the hope and kindness that fills me

  • When someone tell me a lovely comment about me or something i do , when I listen to the music that I love , when I think and told my self the good things are coming for me just wait for it , I think simple things make me happy

  • Yes I’m happy
    And I think happiness is a choice for you ✅
    I love making happiness by myself, eat my favorite food , drink coffee, watching favorite series and watch sunset and more things
    But the best happiness hear voice my love

  • Simple things like makes me happy like watching video in youtupe that fild with large amount of information and a lot og songs makes me happy

  • I always believe that a great life isn’t about great huge things !! It’s about small things that makes a big difference.

  • The things that make me happy are usually quite simple. It could bewhen I meet a professor who lectures with great enthusiasm or when I meet a new friend who is warm and welcoming. I used to beecstatic for the rest of the night after meeting a cute sister; she provides me with an enormous amount of positive energy. That’s all there is to it. The smallest of things like that can bring me great joy and satisfaction. I don’t deny that the big things can bring me happiness, but I also believe that the small things can bring me happiness. An illustration of a particularly memorable occasion. When I was in high school, I applied to The University of Medicine and Pharmacy. After putting forth my best effort, I was able to passthe entrance exam for my dream university. While it was difficult, I was overjoyed when I finally achieved my goal. I believe that we should view our lives in a positive light and keep things simple in order to keep our minds free and make life more enjoyable.

  • when i go out with my friends to coffee shop and we discussing all issue social and talking about our remembers when we was at high school , and when i see my family everyday and when i talking with my girlfriend she is one of the most beatiful women in the world and when i achive my goals even it was small goals i enjoy with it

  • I think the things that’s make me so happy when I get A+ in the hard subject,It not sample thing you can get it easily so that’s why happiness are complex sometimes

  • Before the covid 19 disease happened, I often happy when I go to university with my friend. But, at that time, I always live in home all full day that make me hard to happy. When the disease is improved, I go to my grand, I meet my niece, and I am very happy with them.

  • I think I feel happy when I go to the gym with my friends.
    I see it is a simple thing because it’s a something you do dally.

  • Hi , I’m thankful for everything in my life . Things make happy… When I help someone , When someone be kind to me , When it rains , When I watch a kdrama while having a great meal . I like many songs , there is no a particular song make me happy .
    In the end always be thankful and try to do things that make you happy ☺️

  • there are lots of things make me happy in this life for example the smell of the ground after the rain .. watching my favourite movie .. reading quraa’n ..meeting my freinds .. doing small achievements every day

  • First i want to thank you on this episode, my english language is not very well yet, so don’t be focus on my mistakes 🙂
    Most things make me happy are good smells like roses , and when i eat my favorite food , watching a movie with my family that most things makes me happy , that’s it

    Thank you so much

  • first when I’m doing the must direction of God and listening quran
    second playing, shopping, learning something new and traveling

  • Hi, I’m An, I’m 12 years old and I live in Vietnam. I really like this app because it helps me to improve my English very well

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