What is the Key to Happiness in life?

In 2003, I was at a Nigerian university studying for a degree in Architecture when a research published by the UK’s New Scientist magazine stated that the happiest people in the world lived in Nigeria.  I was fascinated by the report, it came as a surprise to many Nigerians because, at that time, Nigeria was four years into a democratic government after years of military oppressive administration. This made me ponder, What is the key to happiness in life?

Key to Happiness – Lessons from Nigeria

Key to happiness
Happiness is infectious here.

Reflecting, when I lived in Nigeria in the ’90s and early ’00s, despite the challenges and economic struggle locals face, there was always something they were happy about. The proverbs, of where there is life, there is hope played out too many times in the streets and neighbourhood that it made you pause and wonder at how Nigerians were so unique in their pursuits of happiness. It felt like they had cracked the code to the lock on happiness and there are some lessons to be learnt from their way of life. I hope these lessons on how Nigerian locals live a happy life might help someone have a different perspective on the keys to happiness.

5 lessons on the keys to happiness


1. Genetic propensity to happiness

Celebration is the key to happiness
Image by Kelly Robinson

Happiness is hereditary in Nigeria, parties and celebrations are thrown right from when you were born (naming ceremonies) to your first year on earth, to your tenth year of living, sometimes, to every birthday in between, then to marriage ceremonies which are like carnivals. There was always a reason to be happy and to celebrate. The gatherings and celebrations was a time for families and friends to come together to share stories, experiences and knowledge.

2. Make friends and value them

Friendship was reciprocal and turning up at your friend’s house unannounced was the norm. There was no need to fake it until you make it here, anything goes, no one judge the way your house looked. In most cases, your friends helped you with chores. Hosting friends wasn’t expensive as well. Everyone ate what was available. It was a simple way of living.

3. Have Faith

Church Picture
Faith gives hope and a key to happiness.


Faith was a big part of the Nigerian culture whether it was religious or traditional. Sayings like every good turn deserve another was well embedded into the culture. As a result, Nigerians had faith that their situation will get better, they dreamt and hoped for the best.

4. Slay in your lane

The Nigerian culture encouraged everyone to achieve their very best but it also reminded you to do so in ways that will make you leaders in your field rather than a jack of all trades.

5. Grow old gracefully

The importance of family and community couldn’t be more stressed out in Nigerian culture. It was important to look out for your family, support your family and be surrounded by your family. Multi-generational living was encouraged and sharing experiences was valued.

Key to Happiness: What the research says?

There are a variety of research on the key to happiness. Sometimes, research favoured different aspects of lifestyles. Some researchers concluded that money was the key to happiness others claimed that living with a sense of purpose and meaning was the answer.

Is Money the Key to Happiness?

A  Cambridge University study explained that money can buy happiness if your spending is matched with your personality. It observed spending using five personality traits which are:

Your openness to experiences – are you open to experiences like artistic experiences or are you more traditional?
Conscientiousness – Are you willing to do your work/ duty thoroughly? Do you have self-controlled or are you easy-going?
Extraversion or Introversion – Are you outgoing or reserved?
Agreeableness – Are you compassionate or overly competitive?
Neuroticism – Are you prone to be moody or likely to experience feelings such as anxiety, worry, fear, depressed mood or do you have more stable feelings?

It concluded that money can bring you smiles and can be the key to happiness. Do you agree?

Is living with a sense of purpose and meaning the key to happiness?

Another group of researchers believe that living with a sense of purpose and meaning is the key to happiness.

What exactly is your purpose?
Your purpose is your why?
Why are doing something? This book explains what your ‘why’ is further.
Your why helps you renew your commitments.
Your why stretches you to manifest your purpose.

How do you live with a sense of purpose?
Scott Mautz’s book ‘find the fire and make it matter’ explains how to live with a sense of purpose.
He explores living with a sense of purpose with these questions:
1. What powers do you possess?

You were born with supernatural powers that sometimes never get explored. You have the power to make choices and the power to change the world. If you tap into that power, you begin to live your purpose.

2. What are your values and beliefs?
Values are guiding principles that shape you. They are what you deeply believe in that shapes your everyday action. Integrity? Honesty? Kindness?

3. What would you do for free?

Things you get absorbed in could give you an inch idea or signal of what you’re meant to do.

4. What have been your happiest moments?

Moments that have taken your breath away. Could it be cracking a code? solving a problem? discovering new worlds? Whatever it is, happy moments with common trends might again give you clues.

5. What deeds needs doing?
What are you all about? How can you help? What problem needs solving?

Our purpose usually feeds something greater than ourselves.

Take some time to ponder on your key to happiness – is it money or is it a sense of purpose?

Is Travelling the key to happiness?

Family travel on Beach in Bali

Travelling tops the list of what can truly make you happy and maintain your happiness. If you love to travel, then going away for more holidays can help you to be happy.


Happiness is derived from experiences, not materialistic things. The memories of travel experiences live with you and can be relieved as at when needed.

5 ways in which travelling can make you happier.

Nigerian Girls Dance

1. Happiness Is Infectious

I have found that the locals in any country I visit are tremendously friendly and joyful. This was my experience when I visited Antalya, Turkey. I was treated like a celebrity – a high number of the locals asked if they could take my picture. They threw big beaming smiles that needed to be returned and were just happy and proud to show their country off. I can recall the ripple effect and positive vibes their happiness had on me. This experience stays with you, lifts your mood and becomes a habit.

2. Doing what you enjoy

Jet Ski
Image credit: Unsplash

Travelling helps break the barriers of routines by temporarily leaving your constant routines in favour of a time – out. Adult life can be difficult and we might find it hard to slow down in the constant ‘go go go’ system we live in. Taking a break to try new things, doing things you enjoy and gaining new perspectives will make you feel happier.

Travelling can bring out your inner child and allow you to try activities you might otherwise think you couldn’t do. For example, I didn’t realise how brave I was until I jet- skied on the Atlantic Ocean during a visit to Tenerife.

Travelling presents the opportunity to unlock some hidden skills and potential which in turn causes happiness.

3. Boost your Self- Confidence.

Travelling comes with surprises and thrills. From lost baggage at the airport to cancelled fights – you can never be too prepared for what might happen. However, no matter what happens, there is always a way out. The assurance that you can deal with whatever is thrown at you during travelling gives a huge boost to your self-confidence and consequently your happiness. This inevitably results in an improved sense of self-sufficiency, growing interpersonal skills, better levels of flexibility and advanced measures of self-assurance.

4. Appreciate What You Have

The more you explore the world, the more you realise that there is so much more to life. It is obliging to keep in mind that very few things matter forever. The distance you create through travelling gives you a sense of perspective and also lets you be grateful for the seemingly little things you take for granted.

5. Gives a fresh start

While it is nice to have a break from work and be able to sleep in, what many of us look forward to the most is travelling. Travel can be entertaining, soothing, interesting, and influential – all of which can make you happier.

Do you need a fresh start? Going away from your norm gives an organised and refreshed mind. Friends have testified that it was during a travel moment they found their ‘why’ because they could regroup their thoughts, calm down and re- strategies.

Travelling is essential for the body, mind and soul. The joy in travelling can’t be explained, it is comparable to the joy of exploring uncharted islands for those who love adventures. We all deserve to be happy so travel more and discover that the key to happiness is travelling.

Keys to Happiness Quotes

Quotes are reaffirmations into a positive lifestyle. If you truly want to lead a life of happiness, arm yourself with inspirational quotes that will pick you up when you need it, serve as a comfort in challenging situations, remind you of what is important and guide you to be better rather than bitter.

5 Keys to happiness quotes

  • ‘Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.’ – David Steindl- Rast.
  • ‘Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.’ – Dalai Lama
  • ‘There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.’ – Epictetus
  • ‘To be kind to all, to like many and love a few, to be needed and wanted by those we love, is certainly the nearest we can come to happiness.’ – Mary, Queen of Scots
  • ‘Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. if you love what you are doing, you will be successful.’ – Albert Schweitzer

Key to Happiness Books

Books provide physical exercise for the brain and  mental stimulation to the mind. The more you read, the more you will discover. These books can provide grounded cognition into the Keys to happiness in life.

10 keys to Happier Living – Venessa King.

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for living – The Dalal Lama.

The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments. – Meik Wiking

The Key to Happiness: How to Find Purpose by Unlocking the Secrets of the World’s Happiest People – Meik Wiking.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Mark Manson

In Summary


This article explores the question – What is the Key to Happiness in life?

It starts with lessons learnt from how some Nigerians have cracked the code to the Key to Happiness. It looks at what the researchers say about how to unlock the Key to Happiness whether money was the key to happiness or if it was living a life of purpose and meaning. It moves on to explain how travelling is the Key to Happiness and why you should travel more. Finally, this article referred to books and quotes that will help you achieve the Key to Happiness.

Let me know in the comments if you agree that travelling is the Key to Happiness or if there are other factors you think are the Key to Happiness.

Please find the links to the books mentioned above.

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What is the Key to Happiness?


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