Happiness Is… How it All Began!

The Origin of Happiness

Ralph and I got the idea for Happiness Is… sitting in the happiest of places: a hot tub in Northern California.

A little while earlier I had finally replied to ALL of the emails in my inbox (and it’s not happened since). “Happiness is… an empty inbox” I said to Ralph, and he said “And happiness is…getting into a hot tub“.

And so, right there, we began to list all the things that made us happy. We soon realized that these happy moments were not only inexhaustible, but happened every day—if we only made the effort to notice them.

We decided to illustrate small happy moments.

The original idea was to ask people on Facebook: “What makes YOU happy?” and for Ralph to draw and post the ideas we liked best.

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It started as a few submissions a day, which was encouraging. Within a week, submissions were in the hundreds, which was thrilling. Six months later we had over two MILLION likes on Facebook from every corner of the world — which was pretty unbelievable.

The Spread of Happiness 

Many of people were writing to us from different cultures, even war zones, and yet they appreciated the same lovely simple moments in life that we did. Bare feet on fresh grass . . . a baby gripping your finger with their whole hand . . .  singing loudly when no one can hear . . . finding matching socks in the laundry pile . . . feeling the warming sun on your skin . . .

There seemed to be a kind of primal capacity to savor the moment, whatever one’s circumstances may be. Ralph illustrated literally thousands of submissions in those first few months alone. Things that make us happy, such as facepaints, the perfect campsite...

As the new “Happiness is…” ideas came pouring in, we’d often find ourselves thinking: “Hang on a minute! That makes US happy too!” 

Simply being reminded of what made us happy, made us more happy, and knowing that it made some other person (possibly in a remote corner of the planet) happy too, was even more happy-making. And then, to share it with a soon-to-be-happy friend online, woah…

This happiness thing was clearly contagious.

And hence we had the start of this very-real-happiness-generating-virtual-shareable-phenomenon which still shows no signs of abating. With the Chronicle series of Happiness is… books being translated all over the world (ten languages and counting!) it’s easy to believe that happiness is the universal language.

Things that make us happy, such as a desk with a view, the reflection of clouds on water...

Chronicle Books  is giving Happiness Is away! Enter below for a chance to win a prize pack including all of the happy books and products in the line. Just fill out the form below for a chance to win.

Happiness Is books and prizes

Ralph Lazar and Lisa Swerling

Ralph Lazar and Lisa Swerling

Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar are famed illustrators, the authors of the New York Times bestseller Me Without You, and the creators of the internationally beloved Happiness Is...brand. They live in Marin County, California. See more of their work at
Ralph Lazar and Lisa Swerling

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