In What Happy People Know author Dan Baker explains how to be happy in life. First realize that happiness doesn’t come all at once. It doesn’t “happen” to us. It is a catch-all term for a condition that is really a by-product of several different “qualities” or ways of being. These we have control over; they are the 40% of the “happiness pie” that we can influence. Not all have to be present, he writes, and they don’t all have to be there in equal amounts. Still, most must be abundant for someone “to experience the kind of lasting, rock-solid happiness that endures even when life gets tough to take-as it always does.”
How to be happy in life? Here are the 12 qualities of happiness:
- Love: Loving someone else is a powerful happiness tool. Emotionally and neurologically, love is the opposite of fear. Performing loving and generous acts or thinking with “loving kindness” towards yourself and others is a first step toward happiness.
- Optimism: Optimism is not merely a trick of perception. It is the attitude of seeing the glass as half full and truly appreciating that half. The half-empty half is still there and is no less true or real; however, when we focus on the half-empty, our lives are more difficult. In truth, even hurtful events hold lessons, and often the more it hurts, the more we learn. It is possible to suffer deeply and still hold onto (or cultivate) optimism. Optimism, too, gives us power over fear of the future and regret for the past.
- Courage: Fear is hard-wired into our neural circuitry, and so we cannot live without fear. However, we can learn to make choices from our “higher” selves, choices rooted in love or generosity, for example. We can choose to let fear run our lives, or we can choose courage in the face of fear.
- Sense of freedom: Everyone has the power to make choices, but unhappy people don’t acknowledge that freedom. Choice (e.g., in our interpretations, in our coping, in our meaning-making) is available to anyone who has the courage to exercise it.
- Proactivity: Happy people don’t wait for events or other people to make them happy. They forge their own happiness.
- Security: Happy people know that nothing lasts forever – not money, not achievement, not even life itself. They don’t try to “hold onto” things. Security is an “inside” job – happy people simply like who they are.
- Health: Happiness and health are interdependent. Happy people tend to live healthier lives.
- Openness (or Spirituality for some people): Happy people welcome extraordinary experiences. They’re not concerned about dying – they’re concerned about not living.
- Altruism: Unhappy people are often self-absorbed. Happy people know that giving to others connects you, gives you a purpose, gets you outside your own suffering, and feels good.
- Perspective: Unhappy people tend to see things in black and white, in absolute terms, and often can’t distinguish small problems from big ones. Happy people see shades of gray and don’t lose sight of the big picture during bad times.
- Humor/Laughter: Humor/Laughter involve a shift in perspective. It “lifts suffering off the heart and hands it to the intellect and spirit,” which can be healing. It doesn’t deny reality, but provides a moment of abandonment. Read this.
- Purpose: Happy people know why they’re here on earth. They are doing what they are meant to do. If they died today, they would be satisfied with their lives. (If you’re unclear about your life purpose, start by identifying your core values and do your utmost to integrate them in your everyday life. The further away your life will be from them, the more miserable you will be.)