Surprising steps to happiness

When I was younger I thought that happiness was something that happened to you, like you won the lottery and then lived the rest of your life in the Bahamas. But now I know that happiness is something that people choose to do. The surprising thing is just how unpleasant some of the things you have to do to be happy. Seriously. People who are happy do things like win the lottery, and then give it all away to charity.

So, for you out there who want to be happy (hopefully all of us), here is a professionally developed list of unexpected happy-people traits I wrote in the last ten minutes. I think if we followed this list, world peace would ensue within a year and a half.

1. Happy people laugh a lot, but they aren’t funny and don’t try to be.

2. Happy people talk a lot, but don’t complain, don’t talk about other people, and never curse. I guess they talk about the weather.

3. Happy people don’t wait for something to make them happy. We know this because, if they were waiting for something to make them happy, they would not be happy people

4. Happy people don’t always smile. They do smile often, and it’s a happy smile. Sometimes is the most depressed among us who smile the most, reacting to nervousness with a plastic grin. So smile only if you mean it.

5. Happy people do things that make them happy, but exercise restraint. Most of us binge on dumb things to pass the time that don’t make us happy. Like too much T.V. Happy people never say “I watched every episode of Scrubs in the past two days!” unless they’re goal oriented and that was a lifelong dream.

6. Happy people are patient. They’re astoundingly patient. It just struck me how much patience and happiness are intertwined. Saying “I have no patience” is like saying “I can’t be happy.”

7. Happy people are grateful. They don’t look at all the things they don’t have; they look at what they do have and are genuinely surprised and amazed that they have it so well off.

8. Happy people must enjoy pain. Life is full of aches and pains, little and big, and the happy people of the world have figured out how to deal with it.

9. Happy people don’t want to be famous. I love the line in the movie “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” delivered by the bad guys. “We don’t want to be happy, we want to be famous!” they say. I’m sure fame has its emotional highs, but emotional highs are followed by emotional lows, and I wouldn’t categorize that as happiness.

10. Happy people see the positive in everything, and nearly annoyingly so. One of the happiest people I met was my creative writing professor in college. He went to law school and was a high powered lawyer in Atlanta, raking in the big bucks, when he decided he wanted to be a poet instead. If you haven’t checked to see what poets make, I will tell you it’s a lot less than lawyers. One morning I met him outside of the Liberal Arts building on a bitterly cold day in the middle of winter. “Isn’t this a beautiful day!” he bellowed at me. And it was a beautiful day. I would have appreciated the beauty more while sitting in front of a roaring fireplace and sipping hot cocoa though.

Probably the happiest person I ever met was a ninety-year-old man, homebound, nearly blind, but was joyous in a life well-lived at a time when most people are frustrated with pain and disability. How he managed to be happy I don’t know, but it’s a secret worth figuring out.

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