What makes a house a home? And what makes that home a happy one? Despite the fact that most of us spend more time in our homes than anywhere else, the impact our homes have on our happiness has been relatively unexplored. Until now.
Where lies the key?
The GoodHome Report research shows that often we look for happiness in the wrong places. Sometimes what we think makes us happy and what really makes us happy are not always the same. This research builds on the belief that our homes shape our lives. Our homes are where we find comfort and safety. Where we let our guard down and connect with loved ones. In a world demanding more and more of our attention, our homes are where we can retreat to and seek refuge.
“First we shape our homes and then our homes shape us. Homes are where we may not only live, but thrive.” – Winston Churchill
The GoodHome Report builds on thousands of voices. Men and women. Young and old. People who live with others and those who live alone. Homeowners and tenants. Home improvers and those who wouldn’t know where to start. Through these many voices, studies show how we connect with our homes emotionally and what is truly important to achieve happiness in them.
The Happiness Research Institute, King & Fischer, (2019). The Good Home Report 2019: What Makes A Happy Home?: United States & Europe, 2019 Retrieved from https://www.happinessresearchinstitute.com/publications (7-8).
Link Between Happiness & The Home
The Happiness Research Institute, King & Fischer, (2019). The Good Home Report 2019: What Makes A Happy Home?: United States & Europe, 2019 Retrieved from https://www.happinessresearchinstitute.com/publications (figure 2.1).
“Our homes shape how we feel about ourselves and the lives we lead. Studies show that how happy we are with our home is very closely linked to how happy we are in general.” – The GoodHome Report
Happiness with our home reflects many feelings. Why is our happiness with our home so important to our general happiness? The answer is that the two are intricately related. How we feel about ourselves is often reflected in how we feel about our homes, and vice versa. Our homes are expressions of ourselves. Data shows that happiness with the home is closely linked to many other emotions and aspects of our lives, such as feeling at ease at home, feeling safe, feeling connected with ourselves, and feeling in control.
Researchers found that a happy home accounts for 15% of our overall happiness. This is just slightly more than the percentage of our overall
happiness accounted for by physical health and almost as much as mental health. How happy we are with our homes also proves to be much more important to our overall happiness than our income, whether we are employed, retired, single, married, and many more life conditions that we typically consider highly important to our well-being.
The Happiness Research Institute, King & Fischer, (2019). The Good Home Report 2019: What Makes A Happy Home?: United States & Europe, 2019 Retrieved from https://www.happinessresearchinstitute.com/publications (8).
How we feel about our homes: Five core
Being happy with where and how we live is not only a question of having sufficient heating, good light, and plenty of space, it is also about how we feel and express ourselves through our homes. The GoodHome Report has identified five core emotions and explore how they relate to our general happiness and our happiness with our homes. Of these five core emotions, pride is the far most important but also the rarest.
The Happiness Research Institute, King & Fischer, (2019). The Good Home Report 2019: What Makes A Happy Home?: United States & Europe, 2019 Retrieved from https://www.happinessresearchinstitute.com/publications (figure 3.1).
These five core emotions have been chosen because they cover many of our basic human needs and together they largely explain whether or not we feel happy about our homes.
Pride is about our own achievements. In the present context, these achievements could include all kinds of home improvements and other achievements related to the home. Pride can also be derived from qualities or possessions we have in our home. Pride is by far the most important emotion out of the five core emotions. It alone counts for 44% of the emotions that explain how happy we are with our home.
Safety is a feeling of being physically secure in our home. We define it as the absence of threats to our physical body. In particularly dangerous areas, this threat could come from neighborhood crime and violence. The feeling of being unsafe could also be related to threats concerning the basic condition of our home. For instance, if a roof continuously leaks when it rains, it could potentially result in water damage, mold, or dry rot. Physical threats could also arise from bad sanitation facilities or structural concerns relating to the building itself. Safety accounts for 10% of the emotions that best explain how happy we are with our home.
Control is a mental state, a feeling of having agency over ourselves, our finances, and decisions made about how and where we live. It is a feeling of being ‘on top of things’ and in charge of decisions being made about the home. This could be affected by how high the rent or mortgage is, or the extent to which renovations to accommodate the needs of the family or people living the home are permitted. We define control as the extent to which we can decide what happens to and in our home. Control accounts for 4% of the emotions that best explain how happy we are with our home.
Comfort accounts for 25% of the emotions that explain how happy we are with our home, and therefore comes in as the second most important factor. We define the feeling of comfort as a mental state: It is the feeling of being mentally at ease at home and the feeling of having a home that is a stress-free safe haven, where we have the ability to shut off the rest of the world, if needed.
Identity is the feeling that our home is a place that is an integral part of ourselves. It represents who we are and how we would like to world to see us. We can express our personality through our home through the choices we make regarding style. But our personal preferences are also reflected through decoration, color, furniture, and the personal items we display. These may include photos of people we love or souvenirs from holidays that help us remember who we are and where and with whom we feel we belong.
The Happiness Research Institute, King & Fischer, (2019). The Good Home Report 2019: What Makes A Happy Home?: United States & Europe, 2019 Retrieved from https://www.happinessresearchinstitute.com/publications (12).
Pride is a mediator for many other emotions that are key to understanding happiness in general. How proud we feel about our homes is often reflective of how much time and energy we are willing to invest in our homes to make sure they suit our needs and preferences. In a study, a very clear and direct link was found between how proud people are of their homes and how much time and energy they put into home improvement. Conversely, when people have an interest in home improvement but don’t have the time, money, or ability to make these improvements, they tend to feel less proud.
According to the quantitative survey conducted in the GoodHome report, the more interested people are in home improvement, and the more time they spend on it, the prouder they become of their home. 74% of people who have an interest in and spend time doing home improvements are proud of their home.
Home improvement promotes pride and happiness.
The Happiness Research Institute, King & Fischer, (2019). The Good Home Report 2019: What Makes A Happy Home?: United States & Europe, 2019 Retrieved from https://www.happinessresearchinstitute.com/publications (14).
What can we do to make our homes happier?
So, what can we do to make more homes happier in the future? Some things are up to us as homeowners and renters and they need not be costly or time-consuming. It’s about finding our own personal way of feeling truly settled and at ease in our home:
1. Re-arrange space
Whilst the actual size of our home is less important, feeling like we don’t have enough space was one of the basic needs found to have the greatest impact on the happy home. Rearranging and improving our homes to create a greater sense of space could therefore be an easy way for many of us to boost our happiness levels.
2. Make time for change
We’ve found that taking the time to improve our homes has a positive impact on home happiness, regardless of whether we enjoy the process itself or not. This means that investing time and energy into updating our homes and adapting them to suit our changing needs is also an investment in our happiness.
3. Invite people in
Our homes are happier when we invite people to share them with us. This increases our pride in our homes, as well as the emotional connection we feel with where we live. Both of these factors are important drivers of home happiness.
4. Get green-fingered
No matter where we live, access to green space makes a big difference to our happiness levels; we found we’re significantly unhappier without it. Even if we don’t have a garden or balcony, bringing some greenery into our homes will improve our overall well being.
5. Put your own stamp on it
Whether we rent or own, what matters is that we identify with our homes and feel settled there. Finding ways to add personality to where we live will create a home, we feel happier with. Whether we choose to just add a new color to a wall or hang photos of our loved ones or whether we do a total make-over of our home is a personal preference. It’s all about feeling that our home expresses who we are.