The Secret to Happiness

Ask the average person what they want in life and most will reply “happiness.” Of course, //any article on this subject is limited:// what makes one individual happy may depress another, and the wheel of fortune is forever turning. //But// Even if no simple answer exists, the following are always worth trying:

Happy people's portraits

1) Embrace change. Many people find change difficult, and they waste a huge amount of time and energy avoiding it, especially when things are going well. This is futile. Change alone is constant, as a Greek philosopher once wrote. However, embracing change should not be confused with seeking change. Some veer to the opposite extreme and ruin a fulfilling relationship or rewarding career because they miss the thrill of new partners and new surroundings. Embracing change means ceasing to resist what cannot be resisted. Instead, think of change as synonymous with opportunity. //All too often,// People often believe their life is over when a relationship ends or a milestone birthday is reached. They convince themselves they will never be happy again. But you can usually be happy once more, just in a different way.  

2) Cultivate a passion. The happiest people tend to have a passion. That passion may be for anything, from J.R.R. Tolkien to rock climbing, kung fu to Elizabethan drama; it //really// doesn’t matter, so long as it is fulfilling, harmless, and fun. //And// Try to leave your ego aside; in other words, do it for its own sake. For example, those who write poetry because they love language and are thrilled by the creative process will be far happier than those who write in the hope of fame and praise. //All too often,// A nasty, competitive streak spoils the most innocent hobbies.   

3) Seek connection. This does not mean you must become a faceless conformist. The most well-balanced people manage to both cultivate uniqueness and connect to something bigger than themselves. For some, that means family, for others a religious faith, a political cause, even a local sports team. Humans are tribal creatures, and they need to feel they belong to something. 

4) Attach greater importance to life’s trivial pleasures and less to its major worries. Most people take life’s little pleasures for granted and foolishly imagine that some expensive vacation will be the happiest time of their life. In fact, such experiences are often fraught with stress, worry, and disappointment. The best days are the ones filled with trivial joys: snuggling beneath a duvet with your partner, a bag of warm popcorn, and a DVD boxset. So live for the pleasure of a hot bath, a good book, and a swim in the sea, not for a distant promotion or bigger house.

5) Fight depression and stress. This does not mean you should pretend to be happy and relaxed when you are not, but far too many people allow stress and depression to get the upper hand. You have more choice in this matter than you realise. Look at the happiest people you know, and you will find that they resist depression. As soon as they feel it creeping up on them, they do something about it; they go for a walk, put on a funny DVD, or phone a cheerful friend. Others, though they may fiercely deny it, wallow in misery and self-pity.

6) Come to terms with death. Magazines often contain articles on happiness, yet surprisingly few ever mention this subject. But if you wish to enjoy a deep, mellow happiness, you must first make your peace with death. How you do this is up to you. For many, religious faith provides all the consolation they need. But you needn’t be a believer. Indeed, many atheists and materialists face death calmly, even serenely. They have thought the matter through and decided they are nothing more than a collection of atoms, that at death these disperse, and that that is the end. To some, this seems bleak, for others it is liberating and comforting. So read widely and deeply and come to terms with death in your own way.

The truth is that everyone must discover their own secret to happiness. But the tips offered here are not a bad place to start.