Depression and other mood disorders are increasingly pervasive in societies around the world. Film can capture the love, peace, and positive emotions that otherwise only exist in our memories. As unhappiness creeps its way into the souls of so many, Healthline's Photo Contest aimed to remind readers of the joy and beauty present in life. From tearful reunions to picture-perfect summer days, hundreds of contributors eagerly shared their ideas of happiness. Thanks to reader submissions, you too can experience the happiness so wonderfully caputured in these images. 

The following images are the 26 finalists from Healthline's "What Does Happiness Look Like to You" Contest. Scroll, smile, and enjoy!

army family smiles at new baby
elderly man celebrating 90th birthday

"My husband is the subject of the photograph.  Here are his thoughts on what makes him happy:

"This picture captures some of my favorite things: Traveling and making new friends with other fun-loving RV’ers; Celebrating birthdays: This was my 90th, looking forward to upcoming 96th ; Having enough breath (hot air) to blow out 90 birthday candles. Life's Good!"

young girl, smiling, with puppy

"As someone who has suffered from depression for years, I know how important it is to grab hold of those things that keep me elevated. Some days, that's something as simple as a great chat with a friend or savoring a delicious meal. But what sustains my happiness is my family. I chose them and they chose me, and love is the best thing in the world to keep a smile on my face!"

girl happy to be with large dog

This picture is taken of my daughter at a family weekend for families with children with disabilities and mental health issues. She has PDD and severe mental health issues but is doing great with medication and a secure environment.

She was thrilled to get her picture taken with the pizza dog at the Family Weekend!   I believe this photo shows how people with disabilities and mental illness can have productive, happy lives!

breast cancer patient

"This is a picture of my older son with my younger son's Fiancee Gina.  She was a wonderful girl who loved life and didn't let the fact that she had cancer EVER get her down or depressed.  This picture just embodies how much she loved life and loved to smile and laugh!  We lost her on May 12, 2011, but that SMILE is always in our hearts!" 

girl eating gluten free cupcakes
"A girl with celiacs disease indulging in a gluten-free cupcake." 
cute raccoon, sticking tongue out
beautiful sunset
"Chasing the perfect sunset on a cruise ship"
girl hugs puppy
"The photo I submitted is of my daughter and her puppy Rosie, the very first day we got her. It makes me happy because it exemplifies true puppy love and innocence.  Pure happiness captured in a photograph."
smiling baby
Caucasian girl traveling in africa
This photo ALWAYS takes me to a happy place, and reminds me of what really matters in my life.  Family, gratitude, compassion, happiness, diversity, and travel.  My husband took this photo of me being greeted by the women of a Masai family in Tanzania.  We got to spend time with this family  during our safari, and I must say this trip and this moment reflect one of the happiest, most educational, eye-opening, memorable times in my life - I will never, ever forget this day.  There is always a reason to smile, I learned that on this day.
kiss on the cheek - pure elation

"This photograph entitled 'Elation' was taken as a spontaneous portrait. I snapped my two friends amidst hug as they greet each other. You can see the sheer joy on their faces from being in each other's company. I believe that true happiness comes from the realisation, and action after the thought, that you're happiness involves the happiness of others. This is why I love this photograph because these friends always strive to make sure everyone around them is okay. They are like backbones in a body, always supporting one another and this I believe is happiness at work in friendship."


girl excited for graduation

"This image was taken at my college commencement at the Chicago Theatre this May. It is a drive-by, in the moment, unposed, camera phone shot taken as I passed by one of my favorite professors, about to walk in to the ceremony. It represents happiness to me because it captured a moment of pure excitement and the energy of the day. Graduating college in four years with the burden of bipolar disorder and anxiety at times seemed utterly impossible. Sometimes the colossal weight of depression and mental illness kept me in bed, unmotivated, paralyzed with anxiety (or worse, in danger of self-harm), and I was in and out of the hospital for psychiatric care twice over the course of my college career. I know that I would have never walked across that stage if it weren't for my entire family (especially my mom), my best friends, and the support of the best college faculty in the world. This picture represents happiness because it represents reaching a milestone against a lot of challenges. Despite all of the pain that went in to getting that cap and gown, the happiness in the picture celebrates not just me but all those who helped me get there and will support me in the future that lies ahead."

Follow Nora at:

girl happy on swing

"This photograph embodies happiness. This is my sister, laughing during the swing carousel ride. This is smiles and sunshine as we spin twenty feet high on the 4th of July. This is freedom and gratitude for light-filled days and starry nights. This is us together, silly and briming with joy as we fly around and around. This is forgetting work, school, and stress and being far above it all in our little swinging chairs for a few minutes. This is my sister, and I am right behind her in another chair. This is us together. This is happiness."

baby smiling

"Nothing makes me happier than a happy baby. The pure innocence of a child's smile defines happiness. This photo was taken as a Father's Day gift. Baby Levi was smiling throughout the entire shoot, and it made me love photography at a deeper level. The fact that I could capture that moment was such a beautiful thing!"

happy bride

"This photo makes me happy because the bride exudes pure joy. On her wedding day, as she prepares to assume the responsibilities of an adult, she embraces the fun, carefree moments of her childhood. Her happiness clearly makes those around her feel her sense of joy. Note the man's gleeful marveling in the background as well as the photographer's own appreciation of this fortuitous moment."

man with children in central park

"The image captures many of the components we as Americans work, live, and die for created by an artistic photographer who records stories through the lens of her camera.  This is a story about freedom,  and was shot on Memorial Day, 2012 in Boston Commons (the oldest park in the United States and a significant piece of real estate in the American Revolution).  The flags in the background are planted to honor fallen soldiers who gave their lives for the freedom for families to live and love, and work to achieve their dreams and goals.  The group on the photo are symbolic of my vision of good health and wellness.  Not knowing if they are rich or poor you know these people are healthy, fit, and enjoying the privilege of living in America.

Why it makes me particularly happy is that I live that life.  The grandpa in the picture is me, the kids my grandchildren, and the photographer is my daughter capturing the memory of the blessings we enjoy.

swimming with dolphins

"My family was very happy the day this picture was taken! We were taking a summer vacation to the Caribbean after getting through a very challenging year. This picture captures the simple and most wonderful joys in life: smiles, hugs, family, sunny summer weather, and cute animals! I am so grateful for these simple joys in my life. This picture reminds me that simple moments like these provide my life with meaning and true happiness!"

live laugh love

"Happiness is what I see through my daughter's eyes and what has filled my heart since the day she arrived. After battling breast cancer while pregnant with my daughter, every moment with her is pure joy. Getting to celebrate life with my daughter makes me happy."

this little girl just won her first stuffed animal

"This is a photo of Shania after she won her favorite stuffed animal, Scooby Doo at the carnival during her very first visit to the beach in Ocean City, Maryland.  The picture makes us happy because it depicts a little girl who is full of life,  happiness,  and love.  Every person living with T1D has daily struggles...Shania is no different,  nor anymore special than the next.  BUT it is upto us as parents, guardians,  or caregivers of the people who need us to make sure they live as normal life as possible.  Anytime we get to see Shania smile, or hear her laugh,  it's a good day to us!     Here's to happiness!

baby happily sleeping
cute brown dog

"She has helped me cope with my stroke. She never has bad days and I can always count on her friendship, She makes me want to get up everyday so I can play fetch or go for a long walk with her, she is by my side 24/7!!"

happy woman after a proposal
"This is a picture I took of my two best friends who are getting married next month. It has been so exciting preparing for the wedding with them and it makes me happy to see how happy they are together."
woman playing with her two children
two girls graduating
baby sticking tongue out

The photo that I submitted was of my daughter Aubrey. She makes me so happy! She has taught me a lot about myself, has taught me what is important in life and to be a better person. I love watching her learn and grow. My daughter means the world to me and I strive to be the best mom I can for her and provide the best life for her. My ultimate goal in life is for her to be healthy and happy.