Everyone has met people in the course of their lives that seem to not have a care in the world and are always happy. The natural reaction is to think the person is extremely lucky or lives some sort of charmed life. I use to feel this way myself, but as I have traveled the road of life I have discovered that there isn't a person alive that doesn't have problems. And the individual can choose to meet their challenges with a happy disposition or an unhappy one. I have come to realize in my life that there are four keys to happiness which I hope you will find helpful in yours. I must give credit to Dennis Prager for setting me on the road to thinking through the happiness issue and for being a major influence on what you are about to read.
Fake it 'till you make it: Each one of us has an obligation to our fellow human beings not to inflict our bad mood and unhappiness on them. If we are not feeling particularly happy, it is essential that we act happy in the presence of others. Just as we would bathe and brush our teeth in order to avoid inflicting bad ordors on people, we must bathe our atitiude in happiness in order to not inflict our bad mood on them as well. In acting happy even when we are not, we actually begin to attain happiness for real. Happiness is the same as any other human endeavor, it must be cultivated and practiced. One can not become proficient at playing a muscial instrument if they never pick it up and practice. So it is with happiness, the more one pratices it, i.e. fake it 'till you make it, the better one will become at being happy.
Expend more energy in others happiness than your own: I once read that depression is a very selfish affliction that requires the individual to dwell completely within themselves and focus only on their problems. The literature I was reading suggested that the best way for someone to fight depression was to help other people and focus on something other than themselves. So it is with happiness. I have found that my greatest happiness comes from making other people happy, not in selfish pursuits that I thought would make me happy. That's not to say that one can't derive great pleasure and happiness from soletary pursuits such as reading a good book, but people who are generally selfish are not normally happy. My theory is that the happiness you inculcate in others is returned to you in a multiplied state.
Do the right thing, not the thing that feels good: There are many people who feel that a fulfilled and happy life is the result of always doing what feels good at any given time. This idea began to germinate in the 1960s with the counter-culture and it taught people that being selfish was the road to happiness Nirvana. I believe, from my own life's experience and those I have known, that the surest way to happiness is by doing the right thing. When one lives a balanced life of meeting their responsibilties to something greater than themselves, they create a space for happiness to exist. I have found that the times in my life when I am most happy is when I am living day to day doing the things I should, not necessarily the things I want. This is because wants come from the heart, and following the heart is the quickest path to ruination.
Count your blessings, not your problems: My motto for the last 10 to 15 years has been this, "There are 7 billion people in the world and I am sure that at least half of them would gladly change places with me and live my life, so stop complaining about this problem or that one." A more general, and more succint, motto would be, "Count your blessings." Everyone has blessings, if you are breathing you have life which is the greatest blessing of all. Start from there and focus on those things in your life which are good. If you have eaten today, that is a blessing. So many of us become accustomed to the basic blessings we have that we don't even consider them blessings. True happiness walks down the road of life hand-in-hand with gratitude. Those who are the most thankful for what they have, no matter how little it is, are generally the most happy.
Well there it is, my four keys to happiness. What it all boils down to is that each one of us has the ability to choose happiness. Happiness is not bestowed upon certain people at birth and not on others. It does not come as the result of wealth, there are many wealthy people who are extremely unhappy. As you go about your daily life look for opportunities to be happy, even in the worst of situations. Because if you can achieve a level of happiness in the worst situations, then how much easier will it be to achieve in every day life.