10 Common Positive Emotions Beyond Happiness

people experiencing a range of emotions

Verywell / Alison Czinkota

Happiness is the subject of much psychological research. While these studies can give insight into the emotional state of individuals and groups, there are several other positive or happy emotions that contribute to one's life in a meaningful way.

While similar, each of these other happy moods or emotions is also very unique. Here are 10 emotions of happiness that can help you feel more satisfied with your life, along with a few tips for how to harness them.

In her book Positivity, psychologist Barbara Fredrickson suggests that we experience a range of positive emotions, and that each of these emotions helps us build resources or broaden our perspective in useful ways.


Studies have connected joy with increased well-being over time, also indicating that it is a very distinct emotion of happiness that is processed in our brain a bit differently than other positive emotions. But what exactly is joy and how does it contribute to a happy mood?

While the definitions of joy vary, most describe it as "a response to a 'good' object-usually a positive event or circumstance." In other words, when we are delighted with a particular situation in our life, joy follows.

Think of the moment you had a fantastic meal at a new restaurant, for instance, or an enlightening visit with a close friend. These types of "good" events can bring you feelings of joy.

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Gratitude is sometimes referred to as thankfulness or appreciation. This emotion of happiness is connected to joy; in fact, the more gratitude you have in your life, the more likely it is that you will experience joy.

Thankfulness emerges when we recognize that someone or something is a positive in our life. We might feel gratitude for gifts we've received, kindnesses extended to us, or for something as simple as being able to wake up each day.

People who experience gratitude are likely to engage in prosocial behaviors and "pay it forward." An example of this is being grateful for your own financial stability, so you pay it forward by picking up a stranger's lunch check without them knowing.

One of the interesting things about this happy emotion is that the more you express gratitude, the more gratitude you are likely to experience in your life. At the same time, feeling gratitude can also sometimes lead to unpleasant emotions, such as guilt or indebtedness.

Gratitude can lead to guilt when we are unable to repay kindnesses, if we made it through a situation in which someone else was harmed (such as survivor's guilt), or if we have feelings of pride or a lack of autonomy that prevent us from feeling thankful without also experiencing negative emotions.


Pride is another positive emotion related to happiness. When we accomplish a goal or contribute in an important way, we may feel pride in our abilities. We can also feel pride in others, such as being proud when our child takes the initiative to befriend a new student at school or when our spouse receives a promotion at work.

Recognizing our abilities, or experiencing what is sometimes referred to as "authentic pride," can enhance our motivation to continue setting and achieving goals, also leading to improved performance. We are proud of what we've accomplished so we want to accomplish more.

Feelings of pride can also be influenced by how others value our achievements. The more worth or merit that others assign to whatever it is that we've accomplished, the greater the level of pride we typically experience in that accomplishment.


Full length shot of a young Asian woman with eyes closed and crossed legs, feeling calm, sitting on a yoga mat near the window.

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Serenity is defined as "the quality of being peaceful and calm." We might feel serene or content when we find ourselves in circumstances that feel right or easy. Think of a lazy Sunday morning spent with family or enjoying the calm and quiet of a peaceful walk through a garden.

According to Frederickson's broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, contentment encourages us to savor the present moment and reevaluate our priorities. This can help deepen our understanding of ourselves.

In a study involving 615 children, those that experienced the most serenity also had the most prosocial behaviors and the least amount of aggression. The children who described themselves as being serene were also more likely to extend help and comfort to others.

A well-known writing involving this happy emotion is "The Serenity Prayer," which originated in religion and is now one of the key tools used in certain recovery support groups.


Interest is a positive emotion that involves focusing our attention on something that is significant to us. You may have an interest in various psychological theories, for instance. Or you might be interested in politics, history, music, sports, or something else.

While we like things that are familiar to us, we are often interested in new or novel things. Whether it’s binge-reading articles on your favorite subject or discovering a new neighborhood in your town, interest invites us to explore and learn.

Interest energizes the learning process and, according to some researchers, is critical to academic success. This happy emotion encourages us to dive deeper into a topic not just once, but time and time again. In this way, interest serves as a motivator.


people laughing

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Amusement is a positive emotion derived from things we perceive as being funny or entertaining. Even if we try to suppress when something amuses us—such as during a sober event, when it may not feel appropriate to laugh—we still feel this emotion fully.

Some people are amused by videos of laughing babies or pictures of pets dressed in costumes. Others experience amusement when their child says something comical or they see a funny meme. Whatever it is that makes you chuckle, this happy emotion serves a few valuable purposes.

Aristotle considered amusement a type of relaxation. He contended that it serves this purpose by offering a bit of relief from whatever has been going on in our lives. And when our laughter is with others, it strengthens our bonds with those people even more.

There are also several health benefits of laughter. It decreases stress hormone levels, improves immune system function, and increases the secretion of endorphins, the latter of which can help when we're feeling uncomfortable or depressed.


The American Psychological Association defines hope as the expectation that an experience will be positive, or that negative or threatening situations will either not materialize or work out in a favorable way. Hope is what we have when we envision a brighter future.

Hope can also help us through hard times, even improving our wellness at the same time. For example, one study involving 101 people newly diagnosed with cancer found that those with hope had greater levels of well-being and improved psychosocial outcomes.

Other research has reported that, when combined with self-compassion, hope helped college athletes reassess themselves cognitively after experiencing a negative event (such as losing a game). It also contributed to their improved performance at the next day's practice, sometimes by more than 10%.


When we see other people being the best versions of themselves, we are often inspired to be our best. Whether we witness them display high moral character or perform with excellence or mastery, we connect the greatness in them to the potential for greatness in ourselves.

Inspiration helps us grow and develop both personally and professionally. With each challenge that we face at home, socially, or at work, we are inspired to continue to push forward in an effort to meet our needs and achieve our goals.

Another benefit of inspiration is increased creativity. Participating in activities that inspire us helps to spark our imagination. These activities might include watching an inspirational video, going for a walk through nature, or having a brainstorming session with a co-worker or friend. All of these can inspire our creative side.


Cheerful teen woman covering her mouth

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Something may cause us to feel awe when it pulls us in and brings us a sense of connectedness to something bigger than ourselves. Grandiose goodness or beauty, like a view of the starlit sky from a remote place, can stop us in our tracks as we feel overpowered by wonder and respect. Awe transforms our view of the world and our place in it.

When you experience awe, you also likely experience:

  • Altered perception of time
  • A diminished sense of self
  • Feelings of connectedness
  • Perceived vastness
  • Physical sensations
  • Need for accommodation

One thing that sets awe apart from other happy emotions is that it inspires us to think scientifically. Studies have found that when people have an awe experience, they are more likely to question the natural world, leading to the pursuit of scientific discovery.


The most frequently felt positive emotion, Frederickson defines love as the shared experience of any of the above positive emotions with someone you care about. Love allows us to know others more deeply and focus on their well-being, leading to increased levels of intimacy and trust.

The emotion of love offers us physical benefits as well. When engaged in loving relationships, we tend to have lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, greater heart health, feel less pain, and live longer. No wonder love makes us feel so good!

Love even changes our brains. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have found that being in love increases activity in the portion of the brain that deals with self-control and learning, also increasing activity in areas related to reward, motivation, and emotion regulation.

Tips to Harness These Positive Emotions

Would you like to experience more happy emotions in your life? These tips can help.

  • Develop a gratitude habit. Spend time regularly thinking about the things you are thankful for. Write down your blessings and focus on them.
  • Focus on one happy emotion at a time. It can also be helpful to identify which of these happy emotions you feel least frequently in your own life. For a week or two, focus on creating moments to experience that emotion and enjoy a new aspect of happiness.
  • Get outdoors. Take the time to go for a walk or hike on weekends. During the workday, use your breaks as an opportunity to get some fresh air. There's something about being outdoors that can make you feel better mentally.
  • Recognize negativity triggers. Do certain situations or people tend to make you feel more negative than positive? Recognizing and avoiding these triggers can help you lead a more positive life.
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good. These people could be family members or friends, or they might be co-workers, fellow church members, or others who are involved in a common group. Whoever they are in your life, spending time with them can help elevate your happy emotions.
  • Stay in the present. If you're rethinking the past or worried about the future, it's hard to feel happy emotions today. When you feel your mind wandering to yesterday or tomorrow, return it to the here and now. Be present in what is going on right this moment.

If you try these things and still have trouble experiencing emotions of happiness, it's possible that something else may be at play. Talking to a mental health therapist can help uncover the reasons you may not be able to fully experience happy emotions, also working with you to overcome these issues.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Derrick Carpenter
Derrick Carpenter is a positive psychology coach at Happify, a website and app that uses science-based activities to help people live happier lives.