What Makes Your Happy… Really?

By Tom Hinton

For the past six years, as part of my work with The 10,000 Days Foundation, I’ve been studying happiness. Specifically, I’ve explored one question — what causes people to be happy? I’ve reached some very interesting conclusions.

First, most people choose to be happy or unhappy. Happiness is both sensory and habitual. What I mean by this is that many people are genetically predisposed to either being happy in life or being unhappy. We all know people who make us laugh, smile and feel good whenever we’re in their presence. These are the kind of people we enjoy being around. They raise our spirits, invigorate us and help us appreciate life experiences.

At the other end of the spectrum, we all know a few people who just never seem to be happy. They complain and whine about everything. They could win the lottery on Tuesday, and by Thursday they are upset and complaining because their brother wants to borrow a few thousand dollars! The unhappy person is always bending over dollars to pick up the few pennies he dropped.

Happiness expert and author Barbara Yager reminds us that “Happiness is a state of mind that people develop over a lifetime.” I agree. I think we choose to be happy even though life will throw roadblocks and hurdles in our path. So, the first step to being happy is to simply resolve to be happy and set that goal firmly in your mind each and every day. Things will not always go your way, but that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable and a chronic complainer!  Celebrate the 90 percent that goes right in your life.

Secondly, cultivate gratitude. Be grateful for what you have. I’m not referring to material things like clothes, cars, and jewelry. I’m referring to your talents and gifts, your physical and mental well-being, your family and friends, your job and the community where you live.  These are the things that true happiness is made of. While money is important and certainly makes life more tolerable, you can’t buy happiness. You can buy pleasure and lots of good times with your money, but true happiness is not something you can buy.

Thirdly, practice the philosophy of Givers Gain. Understand that true happiness – that is, sustained happiness — is a result of not what you have, but how much you give of yourself. When I talk to people who are truly happy, I notice that their happiness is rooted in their spiritual essence – in other words, how much they give of themselves to help others, serve others and use their talents, gifts and money to bring joy and happiness into the lives of others.  They are champions of giving and they celebrate life by creating happiness.

Author Dan Millman wrote, “I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live — that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.”  It’s so true, and my experience has been the same.

The Course of 10,000 Days teaches us that we waste much of our Discovery Years and Fulfillment Years chasing the false gods of happiness – that is, material things that bring pleasure, but not true happiness. This isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t enjoy the finer things in life. We all want to experience the best things life has to offer us.

But, don’t expect to find happiness, fulfillment and joy through material things. You’ll forever be disappointed and frustrated. True happiness is rooted in the simplicity of life’s natural joys – giving, sharing and helping others find their happiness and true purpose in life.

About the Author. Tom Hinton is a popular speaker on Life Balance and Employee Engagement based in San Diego, CA. Tom is also the author of 10,000 Days: The Rest of Your Life, the Best of Your Life!  Contact: tom@tomhinton.com

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