Expressing Happiness And Joy In Spanish

Medically reviewed by Dr. Jerry Crimmins, PsyD, LP
Updated May 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Do you know how to say "happiness" in Spanish? In 2022, 15% of the world's population spoke Spanish. After Chinese, English, And Hindi, Spanish is among the most spoken languages worldwide. More than 500 million people speak the language.

Happiness or feeling glad may vary depending on the culture. While you may not be able to buy happiness, learning how happiness is communicated and expressed in different countries and communities may help you learn more about how you practice it in your life. Below, learn more about Spanish, French, Japanese, Latin, and Chinese cultures and the word happiness. 

Expressing complex emotions like happiness can be difficult

Exploring Latinx happiness

People around the world may seek happiness in different ways, such as through health, money, and relationships. The World Happiness Report is a global survey examining 156 countries and how they rank their happiness levels. The report measures human happiness based on income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity.

There are several Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain and many South American countries. In 2022, here's how they ranked:

  • United States: 16
  • Costa Rica: 23
  • Spain: 29
  • Uruguay: 30
  • Panama: 37
  • Guatemala: 39
  • Chile: 44
  • Mexico: 46
  • El Salvador: 49
  • Honduras: 55
  • Argentina: 57
  • Colombia: 66
  • Dominican Republic: 69
  • Bolivia: 71
  • Paraguay: 73
  • Peru: 74
  • Ecuador: 76
  • Venezuela: 108 

Additionally, according to the 2022 Gallup Positive Experience Index, Latin America is where the world's most optimistic people live, often engaging in valuable collaboration within their communities. The 2022 report showed that Panama had the highest positive experiences worldwide. 

So, what about Spanish-speaking populations creating positive environments and happy people? One argument is that the propensity toward happiness and positivity could be genetic and may have something to do with an individual's ability to develop the neurotransmitter serotonin. However, another viable factor may be the solid social community many Latin cultures enjoy. If you tell someone in a Spanish-speaking community you are happy, don’t be surprised if they say “Yo también” (which means “me too!”). One phrase you might hear from a loved one is “Gracias por ser parte de los momentos más felices de mi vida,” which means "Thank you for being part of the happiest moments of my life."

Laura Montenegro, the cultural attaché for Panama, says, "family bonds are very strong here, and on Sundays, everyone still gets together. So even when people are struggling, they don't feel alone. We have a very beautiful landscape too, and even in Panama City, you never feel too far from nature."

Language and happiness

In a 2015 study titled "Human language reveals a universal positivity bias," researchers examined 100,000 words, considering the aspects of language that provide a sense of security and positivity across ten different languages. Along with Spanish, the study examined French, Portuguese, German, English, Arabic, Russian, Indonesian, Korean, and Chinese. They took words from Twitter, songs, films, TV shows, and Google Books. From the 100,000 words, scientists created a list of the 10,000 most common words.

Then, they had participants rate each word (whether it be a noun, adjective, verb, or any other type) as positive or negative. While participants concluded that each language was "inherently positive," they found Spanish was the happiest language, followed by Portuguese and English. According to the messaging app Viber, Spanish users were the ones who sent the most love-related stickers, more than users in France and Italy.

Happiness in Spanish is the word "felicidad," which is also a way to say "congratulations!" and express best wishes. A similar word would be “alegría”, which means “joy”.  Spanish speakers often have unique colloquialisms, including the word for happiness. This includes the endearing phrase “curva de la felicidad” which means "happy curve" or “large belly” en inglés (which means “in English”). Spanish-speaking countries are often among the most optimistic countries in the world. That may be why some Spanish-speaking cultures believe they have “toda la felicidad del mundo”, which means “all the happiness in the world.
If you’re in the pursuit of happiness, you might find “mucha felicidad y alegría” in the Spanish language!

Japanese happiness

According to the World Happiness Report from above, Japan holds the 54th spot (out of 156), and in the Gallup Positive Experience Index, it did not rank in 2022 as far as happiness goes. 

Happiness in Japan may be lower than in Spanish-speaking countries and countries that primarily speak English. The Japan Times says, "We should be thankful for unhappiness; we owe our survival to it. Too much happiness in our primate state would have doomed us to extinction in the struggle against less happy, more alert competitors. Even today, happiness in excess would blunt our resilience.

If this is the general approach to happiness or 幸福 (kōfuku) in Japan, the culture may not put a high premium on it. Instead, they might see happiness as a threat to survival.

One might say that happiness and gratification in Japanese is about less rather than more. The Japanese proverb, 遊び人暇なし or Asobi-nin hima nashi, translates to "pleasure seekers have no free time." Japanese culture, valuing discipline and force of character, may see living in the moment and working hard as more beneficial than happiness or social connection.

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French happiness

Happiness in French translates to bonheur, which combines bon (good) and heur (hour). Happiness in French translates to "good times." Bonheur is also a common word in French. It was labeled one of the 4,000 most commonly used words in the Collins dictionary in the last decade.

But what does happiness en français look like? Are they just talking about it rather than feeling happy? According to the World Happiness Report, France is 20th for happiness and was not among the top countries for positive experiences in 2022. Despite these numbers and France's free healthcare, medicine, and education, it's no secret that the French may be generally dissatisfied with their quality of life. 

In an interview in 2017, French professor, economist, and author of The Economy of Happiness, Claudia Senik, imparts that since the 1970s, when words first started being gathered about French satisfaction, researchers have noted that dissatisfaction and the propensity to complain is a nationwide issue. Senik observed that when you ask Belgians to rate their happiness and life satisfaction in France, they rate everything much higher, even though they evaluated the same things as the French.

However, there may be hope for happiness in France’s future. Studies show it may be growing. Senik confirmed that life satisfaction is an essential objective for the French government. Additionally, a growing wellness industry may be centered around improving mindsets, with practices like yoga, mindfulness, and meditation taking root in French societies.

Chinese happiness

In the World Happiness Report, China ranked 72 in 2022 and scored 16 in negative experiences worldwide. However, although China has seen exponential economic growth in the last 25 years, Chinese citizens may be experiencing less happiness than in the 90s. 

Although their GDP rate rose, a 2022 article states that Chinese youth are unhappy with the Covid-19 policies and have protested throughout the years. Although families may now have up to three children instead of one, and social services may have improved since the early 2000s, government and political influence may cause unease. In 2012, when a TV program set out to conduct random interviews to ask Chinese people the question, "are you happy? " many individuals stated they were not. 

Many interviewed individuals appeared to be confused, suspicious, and surprised at the question. Does that mean happiness (幸福 (Xìngfú)) doesn't exist in China? Not necessarily. Chinese and Americans may think about happy emotions in different contexts. For example, one study found that happiness in China is about harmony, whereas Americans see it as a more individualistic experience.

The study stated that Americans might experience happiness due to money and materialism, but Chinese individuals may find happiness internally. Americans estimate happiness as the "ultimate value," whereas the Chinese might not put as much emphasis on happiness. Although reports indicate that China ranks low in happiness levels, happiness in China may not be the same as in Spain, France, the US, or Japan.

Expressing complex emotions like happiness can be difficult

Latin happiness

Happiness is a prevalent concept worldwide and may mean different things in different cultures. Latin is an ancient language still used in some dialects and is often referred to as the basis of various languages. 

Latin words are often used in English. For example, we use Latin in the following statements: 

  • id est., which means "that is"
  • et cetera (etc.), which means "and the rest"
  • Bona fide, which means "in good faith"
  • Vice versa, which means "position turned"
  • Carpe diem, which means "seize the day"
  • Cum laude, which means "with praise"
  • Alma mater, which means "nourishing mother"
  • Quid pro quo, which means "something for something"

Latin may be relevant even though many individuals no longer speak it. It is used in many languages, including Spanish, Italian, and Greek. So, what does Latin say about happiness? 

Happiness in Latin translates to beatitudinem. This word may be related to the eight beatitudes, which are outlined in the Bible (Matthew 5:1-10) in the Catholic faith: 

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

For some, Catholic principles may be a way of life and finding happiness. Humbleness, mercifulness, or peacefulness may have values across humanity. However, not all people believe in Christianity, and there may be other ways to interpret beatitudinem from Latin. 

Happiness in Latin may combine the American and Chinese take on happiness. For Chinese individuals, happiness is often about internal development. For Americans, it may be about accomplishing and achieving. Latin culture was often focused on seeing within, through philosophy, and looking outside yourself for knowledge and peace.

Happy also translates to laetus and felix, or felicis. These words may describe happiness, cheerfulness, and joyfulness. The word "felix" may relate to words in other languages, like "felizidade" in Portuguese, "felicidad" in Spanish, and "felicity" in English. Since Latin influenced many romance languages, you may see similarities in particular words.  

Many centuries have passed since the Ancient Romans spoke Latin. However, although the meaning and search for happiness may evade us, happiness is a subject that has traversed different cultures, and societies. 

Counseling options 

Whether you primarily speak English, Spanish, or another language, you may find that happiness is a constant in the human experience. Finding real happiness may mean different things for each individual. However, for many, it is found in success, contentment, and invaluable collaboration with your community. Others find it by creating a closer bond with a loved one like a parent, significant other, son, or daughter. No matter what the situation, counseling could support you if you're struggling to find a path to happiness in your life. You may not be able to buy happiness, but you may be able to work with a therapist to find it.

Counselors help people of all ages and walks of life, without prejudice, to build skills that can add to lasting happiness. Online therapy is a convenient choice and is shown to be as effective as traditional, in-person counseling. A study by Brigham Young University researchers found that technology-based therapy provides other added benefits, including "lower cost, no travel time, no waitlists, and trackable progress."

If you're interested in trying counseling online, an online platform like BetterHelp can provide support via chat, phone calls, or video calls from anywhere with an internet connection. 

Happiness is a worldwide concept that may differ from culture to culture. However, happiness as an emotion is an example of humanity. We would like to close this article by offering all of you in all countries happiness, or in Spanish, “Nos gustaría cerrarlo ofreciéndoles a todos ustedes en todos los países felicidad.” If you're struggling to experience happiness or felicidad in your life, consider reaching out to a counselor to build a treatment plan and find out what makes you feel content.
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