Happiness is a state of mind. Specifically, it is a state of “well-being and contentment.”
But the definition can be tricky and assumptions about the word can cause confusion. Many don’t even realize learning how to be happy is something that can be intentionally practiced. Some people, when they hear the word ‘happiness,’ assume it is speaking of an emotion such as pleasure or joy. For them, it is what people feel in the immediate here and now.
This is the reason some people say, “Don’t pursue happiness, seek joy. Happiness is fickle and fading, joy remains forever.”
But this short-term definition of happiness is not how everyone understands the word. Some define it to mean long-term satisfaction.
In fact, when I speak of experiencing happiness in life, I am not thinking of short-term emotions at all. I think of a quality of living—a much longer-term view of the word.
Both definitions are understood to be correct and speak of different realities.
But are they really that different? I don’t think so.
After all, a long-term experience of life satisfaction is almost certainly made up of many short-term feelings of joy and pleasure. Does that mean every day is a great day with no trials, temptations, or downturns? Certainly not. But it does mean when we look back at the many seasons of life, we can look back satisfied at how we navigated them.
The long-term feeling of life satisfaction is most experienced when we embrace the emotion of joy in the here and now.
And we accomplish that by taking steps each day to be happy. Here are some tips on how to be happier starting today.
1. Choose happiness
The most important thing to realize about happiness is that it is not an outcome of current circumstances. Just the opposite, happiness is a choice. Is this easier on some days than others? Absolutely. But if you get caught in the trap of thinking your circumstances need to change before you can be happy, you’ll never, ever get there.
2. Focus on the good
There are good things in your life right now: you are alive, you are fed, you are healthy, you have family and friends, and you have opportunit
Marine Sgt. Jonny Joseph Jones lost both of his legs in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan. I was struck by a quote of his I saw recently. He said this, “People ask how I stay so positive after losing my legs… I simply ask how they stay so negative when they have both of theirs.”
Happiness is about perspective and if you’re looking for reasons to be happy, you’ll probably find them. Happy people focus on positive thoughts.
3. Stop comparing
No matter how you choose to define happiness—short-term or long-term—comparison will rob you of it. Whether we compare our finances, our body type, our vacations, our talents, our house size or our shoe size, there are no winners in the game of comparison. But here’s the good news: Nobody is forcing you to play! You can stop any time you want. Be grateful for what you have, appreciate who you are, work hard every day to live your best life, and stop comparing yourself to others.
4. Practice gratitude and generosity
In the world of positive psychology, there are a few themes that emerge every time happiness is studied. Among those recurring themes, we find gratitude and generosity.
Both of which can only be understood correctly when we see them as disciplines rather than responses. A discipline is something we practice regardless of our circumstances. If you are waiting for enough money to become generous, you’ll never get there. Likewise, if you are waiting for everything to be perfect to be grateful, you’ll never experience it. Choose to be thankful today. And choose to be generous with your time and money. Making them both a discipline in your life will result in a happier today… and tomorrow.
5. Don’t pursue physical possessions
Possessions are necessary for life, but our society has seemed to confuse consumerism with happiness. Marketers work hard to convince us their products are not just needed for life, but that they are essential for happiness.
Slowly but surely, we begin to believe their empty promises and waste our lives pursuing things that can never satisfy. We sacrifice time, money, energy, and focus chasing and accumulating things we do not need.
These excess possessions add stress, worry, and burden onto our lives. Want to become a bit more happy today? Go declutter a closet or drawer and start to challenge consumerism in your life.
6. Be present in your relationships
Robert J. Waldinger is an American psychiatrist and Professor at Harvard Medical School where he is best known for directing the world’s longest-running longitudinal study tracking the health and mental well-being of a group of 724 American men for 76 years.
One thing that he has learned, and has been confirmed by studies elsewhere, is that relationships hold the key to happiness:
Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.
We don’t get to control every aspect of our relationships (we didn’t choose our family, for example). But we can all take steps to be a good friend. And good friends tend to attract healthy community.
7. Develop healthy habits
Annie Dillard is credited for saying, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” And she is right. Our lives are filled with days, our days are filled with hours, and this present hour is filled with whatever you chose to fill it with. So pursue healthy habits that add value to your hours, days, and lifetime.
Spend time outside. Eat healthy. Exercise regularly. Quit smoking. Put down your cell phone. Obsess less. Work hard. Pray often. And get enough sleep.
8. Look outside yourself
The pursuit of self comes natural to us. We don’t need to be reminded to pursue our own self-interests. We pursue self-survival, self-promotion, self-actualization, and self-exaltation as if it is hardwired in our genes.
But the most efficient pathway to lasting happiness and fulfillment is not to look only at your own interests, but also to the interests of others. When we shift our focus off of ourselves, we live lives of greater meaning and greater contribution. When we serve others without concern over what we might receive in return, we experience the beauty of selfless love. The size of our universe (and happiness) begins to expand exponentially.
It is no small thing that happiness is pursued by so many. Let’s make sure we find it—in both the short term and the long term.
you know what really amazes me is that this article almost says nothing new or helpful, meanwhile everybody is thanking and are so amazed. didnt you know that you have to exercise or quit smoking!!
the real problem is that most of people like myself, know these thing and are even doing them but still we are nit happy.
maybe in a world like this these things does not work anymore.
joshua becker says
How are you doing on Point #1?
Mardi Lynn says
The article doesn’t mention the importance of having a passion and purpose in life and a spiritual connection with the Creator that endowed you with unique gifts to share with the world. I think these might be the missing pieces for you Mojtaba When you have these foundational elements, all the other elements of happiness fall into place.
I agree with you mojtaba. This article is ‘happy clappy’ help.
We aren’t stupid, we know the theory of what anyone can do to be happy, actually living happy isn’t something that comes naturally or easily to some of us. We do the things in the article, and many more as well, but sometimes, happiness alludes us. I’ve struggled for 60 years to be happy. I’ve had therapy, medication, spiritual mindfulness, and much more. Where some people have moments of being low or miserable, I have moments of happiness in an otherwise depressive life. Just ‘choosing’ to be happy isn’t a solution. If choosing to be happy worked, I’d be the happiest person on earth! I choose happy, but it’s so hard to feel it. One of the biggest problems is that society, all the happy and non-depressive, non-anxious people, are always telling us that people who don’t feel the way they do need to be ‘fixed’. People like me don’t go around telling you it’s not good to be so happy and so positive, yet you all feel justified in telling us we shouldn’t be the way we are. You were born they way you are, we were born the way we are. You don’t struggle to be happy, calm, confident, positive; we struggle everyday to be everything. We are trying hard every day, we don’t need to be patronised with advice like ‘choose happiness!’
This post is a great reminder that happiness is not something that can be bought or achieved through external means, but rather a state of mind that we can cultivate through intentional actions and attitudes.
Ashish Chakravarti says
Great post! I love the simple yet powerful message about focusing on what truly matters in life and letting go of material possessions and societal pressures. Your tips on mindfulness, gratitude, and relationships are spot on. Minimalism has definitely brought more happiness and peace into my own life. Thanks for sharing your insights.
Obeydul Haque says
Loved the article, Thanks JOSHUA
Thank you that really worked
Pawan Singh says
Being happy is not just about feeling good. Research shows that it also makes us healthier, more productive – and nicer. And this post shows us the way how to achieve happiness in the real world. Thanks Joshua for this wonderful article.
Micael P. Bernardo says
Micael Alejandro Bernardo says
We can’t find the real and lasting happiness on the ephemeral things here on Earth, but on God alone..
Thank you very much for this article. It seems im not the only one viewing it which makes me feel like im not alone <3
You are right Joshua. Healthy habits are the way to go. I have adapted healthy habits for the past three months, and I feel energised, fresh, and strong every day. Which makes me happy in the end. Great article.
Obeydul Haque says
Thanks for the article,Joshua.This is very inspiring. Will try it one step at a time.
Timur Yakubov says
Thank you, this is wonderful
Oswell Namasasu says
Inspiring article. Made me realize how happy I ought to be for the numerous blessings that have come my way.