What makes people happy?

Whenever I read a headline that claims to define happiness, I am immediately cynical. Why, you might wonder, is this? Surely, happiness is a state to which we should all aspire.

No, I am not the Christmas Grinch who hates to see people laugh. In fact, I would like to think I am the opposite. However, I think happiness is an elusive state while contentment is more accessible and realistic. If we are content, there is a congruency between how we feel within ourselves and how we feel towards others. We do not expect anyone else to make us happy and we learn to seek those inner and outer states that bring about contentment.

Life Coach, Louise Thompson, has some thoughts on this. She lists some characteristics she has observed in happy people. I paraphrase them for you as it never hurts to remind ourselves happiness or contentment are states we can all achieve without anyone else’s intervention.

  1. Happy people celebrate other people’s success. They do not envy other people. They know that success is an unlimited commodity.
  2. They do not compare themselves to others but rather focus on their own lives, as they know there will always be richer/smarter…. people than themselves.
  3. Happy people do not hang about waiting for things to come to them. If what they seek proves elusive, they quickly move on to something that is accessible.
  4. They do not try to control other people. They stay focused on their own lives and their own issues rather than telling others how they ‘should’ live their lives.
  5. Perfection is something to aim for without it becoming an obsession. We aim for the best and perhaps choose one or two projects we can focus on knowing that there will always be more we can do. Projects then become ‘works in progress’ and we know we will always seek to improve on them.
  6. Happy/Contented people allow themselves to feel uncomfortable with a situation in order to understand why they feel that way and what they can do to change it.
  7. Happy people expect the best. They approach life believing that everything will work out and they look for the best in everyone and in circumstances.

In an earlier article, Louise shared some other thoughts on what happy people have in common.

Although I continue to say happiness is a short-lived state, whereas contentment can be permanent, I agree with the points she makes. I also qualify that when I say contentment I am not saying we can ever be complacent.

Happy people, Louise says, are responsible for their own emotional wellbeing.

The small stuff never captures them. Instead, they ask themselves, ‘will this be important in five years’ time?’

They do not complain. They speak up. They know that life is not about owning things. It is about the challenges we meet and overcome, the relationships we form and the insights we gather along the way.

Above all, it is about mind-set.

happiness
contentment
being happy