What Makes Us Happy

October 15, 2012

"True wealth is what money cannot buy and death cannot take away." -anonymous

In a previous article I outlined the science of happiness and the “American Myth” which is the belief that the more money we have the happier we will be. The fact is that it takes more than money to have a happy life. In fact, other factors may be even more important. So if money is not the main ingredient what is? The following is a list of qualities that contribute to happiness. This list is by no means complete but here is a good sampling of qualities that scientific research has linked to happiness. 

The Qualities of Happiness*

1. Love. No surprise here. Love truly makes the world go around. Love is the polar opposite of fear, emotionally and neurologically. Thus, it is the antidote to fear and the first step towards happiness.

2. Optimism. In his book “Learned Optimism” Dr. Martin Seligman emphasizes how important optimism is to happiness. Optimistic people lead happier, healthier lives. Optimism gives you power over fear of the future and over regret for the past.

3. A sense of freedom. Nothing fills the soul like freedom. When we choose we define who we are. Everyone has the power to make choices, but unhappy people don’t know they have it. They think it is only for the rich. Its not. Choice is for anyone who has the courage to exercise it.

4. Being Proactive. Happy people participate in their destinies and forge their own happiness. They are not passive victims.

5. Security. Happy people are secure in themselves. They know that it is an inside job.

6. Health. Happiness and health are interdependent. It’s hard to be happy if you don’t feel healthy, and it’s hard to be healthy if you’re not happy.

7. Courage. Overcoming fear is important to be happy. Courage is the best weapon to overcome fear. Courage also helps us to change and grow which helps us to reach our goals and pursue our dreams.

8. Spirituality. Happy people are not afraid to go beyond the boundaries of their own lives. They have less fear of death. They’re not concerned about dying; they’re more concerned about living.

9. Purpose. Happy people know why they are here on earth. They’re doing the things they were meant to do. If they died today, they would be satisfied with their lives.

10. Humor. Laughter is the best medicine. It helps you feel less depressed and brightens your whole outlook.

Notice that there is no mention of power, status or material things even though conventional wisdom in our society implies that these lead to happiness.

Now that you know some of the qualities of happiness a good exercise would be to take each category and see which are the most important to you. Then ask yourself an interesting question, what can I do to experience more of these in my life?

* From “What Happy People Know” Dan Baker, PhD and Cameron Stauth