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Meaningful activities that make us happiest

Updated: Sep 5

Nathan Yau analyzed and prepared the interactive data below, which derives from the well-being module from the American Time Use Survey. He downloaded the data via IPUMS and used data from all available years: 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2021.

Explore what activities give us the most meaning and happiness by clicking the image below.

Dr. Ashley Whillans is a Modern Husbands Advisory Board Member, social psychologist, and researcher at Harvard who has extensively researched the factors contributing to happiness. Her research suggests several key factors can increase our overall sense of well-being and life satisfaction. Here are some of her key findings:


Dr. Whillans' research has shown that having more free time can increase happiness. Specifically, having more control over how we spend our time, and using that time in meaningful and fulfilling ways, can lead to greater happiness and life satisfaction.

Social connections

Building and maintaining strong social connections with others is an important contributor to happiness. This includes spending time with friends and family and engaging in acts of kindness and generosity towards others.


Expressing gratitude for the good things in our lives, and cultivating a mindset of appreciation and thankfulness, can boost happiness and well-being.


While having enough money to meet our basic needs is important, Dr. Whillans' research has shown that additional income does not lead to greater happiness beyond a certain point. Instead, investing in experiences and social connections tends to have a greater impact on happiness.

Giving back

Engaging in acts of kindness and generosity towards others can boost happiness and well-being. This includes volunteering, donating to charity, and other forms of giving.

You can listen to her thoughts on the Modern Husbands podcast below or by clicking here to listen to the audio version.


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