Autoethnography as a research method in happiness studies


  • Ana Margarida Casau University of Aveiro
  • Marta Ferreira Dias
  • Gabriel Leite Mota
  • Manuel Au-Yong-Oliveira



Autoethnography, Happiness, Well-being, Innovation


The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal that has been studied by philosophers, theologians, and scientists for centuries. Despite its universal importance, the definition and means of achieving happiness vary greatly across cultures and individual experiences (Uchida, Norasakkunkit and Kitayama, 2004). Cultures have different beliefs, values, and customs that shape their understanding of happiness. For example, some cultures may place a higher value on material wealth and success, while others may prioritize spiritual fulfilment or strong relationships (Joshanloo and Weijers, 2014). In this autoethnographic paper, I reflect on my own personal journey towards happiness during a one-year travel across 22 countries within southern Africa, southeast Asia, and south America, focusing on the first part of the trip – southern Africa. Autoethnography is a qualitative research method that involves the researcher reflecting on their personal experiences and cultural positionality in order to understand and analyse cultural phenomena (Bunyan, 2021). It combines elements of autobiography and ethnography, as the researcher uses their own experiences as a way to explore and understand the cultural context in which they participate (Hamilton, Smith and Worthington, 2008). Through the use of personal narrative and cultural analysis, I delve into the ways in which my own cultural background and societal expectations shaped my understanding of happiness. I also explore the ways in which immersing myself in a new culture and community impacted my pursuit of happiness and well-being. By reflecting on my own experiences and observations, I aim to shed light on the complexities of the pursuit of happiness and the potential for personal and cultural growth that can result from stepping outside of one's comfort zone. Through this autoethnographic lens, we hope to offer a unique and personal perspective on the pursuit of happiness, and to encourage readers to consider the cultural and individual factors that influence their own pursuit of this universal goal. We also reflect on how innovation and technology, essential to business, may not be as important to achieve happiness in certain contexts. This essay is a call for reflection on what truly matters in life.