How to be happy

I may have linked to this MSN article before, but I think it’s really interesting.  To an extent, you can choose to be happy.  That’s something that I feel like I know instinctively, but I didn’t know it when I was younger–especially when I was a depressive teenager.  I think it’s something that everyone has to learn.

The steps to getting to happiness are: 1) nurture your relationships; 2) exercise; 3) be more extroverted; 4) nurture your spiritual side.  Also,

happiness is associated with characteristics like autonomy, competence, close relationships, and high self-esteem.

One part of the article in particular warns against buying things to be happy.

“The route to sustained happiness is not to change the static circumstances of your life, but rather to change the activities that you’re involved in,” says Sheldon. “This could mean committing to a new vocational plan, pursuing a new set of goals, or joining a new organization.”

One more interesting quote:

One way to steer your life toward happiness is simply to count your blessings, and perhaps even create and make regular entries in your own “gratitude journal.” Myers points to research showing that people who pause each day to reflect on the positive aspects of their lives (for example, their health, friends, family, education, freedom) are more likely to experience heightened well-being.

I think that this journal is something like that for me.  I write about my triumphs and feelings of happiness.  I write about bad things, too, and I think I need to work on being more positive here.  But it’s a start.

The last paragraph of the article is great.  Check it out.  (I was going to include it here, but I’ve quoted enough already…)

I really felt as I was reading this article that my opinions on happiness were reaffirmed.  I have thought for awhile now that the happiest people are those who are working towards a goal.  It’s not enough to just have a goal.  You have to know that you are doing something every day that will help you reach it.  Working towards a goal makes you feel good about yourself because you are accomplishing something.  In other words, you like yourself more, and liking yourself is absolutely necessary for true happiness.

But you can’t be single-mindedly devoted to a goal and be happy.  You have to have relationships, friends.  My husband is a pretty happy person in general.  He spends a lot of time on his computer, but he has really good friends there.  He takes care of those friends, and they take care of him, and seeing them and working with them each day is very important to him.  Sean’s goals aren’t to start a business or land a high-paying job or what have you.  He seems to know instinctively that working towards something, whatever it is, is the road to fun and happiness.  The things he works towards are for him and for the online communities he is a part of.  It’s a different, rather social kind of achievement.

(Sean is the only “gamer” I really know well, so I’m wondering if this is true for other people who play video games.  When playing a game, you’re working towards a goal, and when playing online or a multi-player game on a server, you have to work cooperatively.  It gets the social aspect and it gets the working towards a goal in one fell swoop.  And I do think that, in general, gamers are happy people.  I’ve never met a gamer like the ones you see portrayed in the news.)

For me, the times when I’ve felt the most unhappy are when I’m powerless to change something that I’m willing to work my ass off to change.  And lately, now that I’m doing workouts and things and taking better care of myself, I’ve felt better–I’m working towards the goal of a healthy me.  Soon I’d like to start working on the goal of getting proficient in Japanese.  I have lots of study materials.  I want to start saving up to buy those Pimsleur tapes, because hearing it and practicing it is important, but in the meantime I’ve got books and plenty of online resources.  It’s been nagging at me that I haven’t done anything, and I think I will be even happier if I start up some self-study.

In a nutshell, it’s productive people who are happy.  If you just fall into the status quo, get complacent, and sit around all day doing passive activities like watching TV, then you’re not bettering yourself, and you’ll start to lose respect for yourself.  But if you work to improve yourself and do the things that you like with people you like, you’re on the road to happiness (and possibly other successes, depending on what your goals are).

At times like these, I feel so optimistic :)  I just want to go out and make my mark on the world.