Updated October 2022

I have been called a Pollyanna many times in my life. Countless people seem to think I float effortlessly through life with a permanent sense of happiness, and tough times have never knocked on my door. It seems clear to them that I’m forever smelling the roses and know nothing about a glass being half empty!

And while this might be lovely if it were true. It’s a far cry from the truth of my life. Much like everyone else, there have been times when roses and glasses half full seemed like a million miles away.

Despite all the dark days, or maybe because of them, I set out to learn lessons about why some people find ways to almost always return to happiness. I tested and tried many and ended up with about six that seemed to work the best.

It’s not for everyone

I get that the idea of choosing to be happy more often than not isn’t for everyone. And there are definitely those who think it’s a terrible idea for various reasons. But I don’t care. A happy state leads to gratitude, and gratitude leads to so much more.

And here’s what neuroscientist Alex Korb has to say in his book The Upward Spiral:

Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.

Time to round up my personal research and experiences on living a happy life to see what you can use. But first, if you haven’t already seen it, you must see this video with Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon Professor (Oct. 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008), who gave his last lecture at the university on Sept. 18, 2007. And even if you have seen it, you must watch it again.

1. Release attachments

Happy people know that within each day, there will be highs and lows; they will win or lose and have opportunities to encourage, love, and change. And they remain unattached. Unattached to being right or to absolutely having to have something right now.

They choose happy, peaceful thoughts, and that is brought into every life situation.

Regardless of the circumstances, they find themselves in, they allow it all to come and go without making their happiness dependent on any of it.

2. Pursue a passion

Happy people live life to the fullest. They’re inspired to find what they’re passionate about, what stirs their soul.

You don’t need to be inspired by some great project with a magnificent purpose. You just need to have a goal that expands you in every direction. This is when you’ll find an idea you never had before springing to the fore, and you will discover within yourself this incredible person you never knew existed.

3. Don’t count troubles

Don’t let your troubles take over; their only power is what you give them through how you think.

Remember what Mark Twain had to say: 

I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
So don’t waste the present moment wallowing in all that is wrong and allowing these troubled thoughts to take root.

Instead of recounting your woes in your mind or to anyone who’ll listen, try counting your blessings. Chances are you have a lot more than you ever thought possible. Vent if you must, and let’s face it, sometimes we must, but not over and over. Vent, release, and let go.

Your past is not now. Your future is not now. Happiness lives in this present moment, in you.

If all else fails, remember that nothing lasts forever, everything changes, everything evolves, pain ends and pleasure returns, and on and on.

4. Give up the drama

Cut the drama kings or queens out of your life and hang around other happy people.

Sometimes it’s challenging to remember that you’re controlling what’s happening and where you’re going in life. And attention to all the drama that some people carry around with them will shape your future into something you wouldn’t choose.

The thoughts you think today and the feelings you feel today form your destiny; it doesn’t lie in the stars but in yourself, as someone much more eloquent than me said.

Some people might be part of your past or present, but they don’t need to be part of your destiny.

Free yourself from the complications of drama. Free yourself from those whose life is centered around it. You’ve likely been around long enough to see it can never lead to feelings of happiness.

Your life would be entirely different if you stopped being pulled into someone else’s drama-filled life.

5. Try liking yourself

If you’re not happy with who you are and what you have now, what makes you think having more or being different will make you happier?

Remind yourself that it’s beautiful to be you. No one else can be you quite as well as you can. This is key to leading a happy existence.

This doesn’t mean you’re not seeking expansion and greater expression, just that you’re okay with who you are right now.

If you’ve made mistakes, forgive yourself and move on. You did the best you could with what you had or knew. Holding on to your mistakes just gets between you and your capacity to be truly happy.

Happiness is all around you. You’ll find it in the simplest things; joy, gratitude, a smile, promises, fulfilling a desire, the beauty of nature, loving thoughts, and all the glory and magnificence that is life.

I love this Groucho Marx quotes on the topic:

I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead; tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day today, and I’m going to be happy in it.

Bonus – Tigger or Eeyore?

We can all live as a Tigger or an Eeyore. You know the characters from Winnie the Pooh. 

So how about you?

Do you live life as a Tigger or an Eeyore? 

Eeyore is the ‘woe is me,’ doom and gloom donkey, creating his own misery with every thought and word. The epitome of personal disempowerment and discouragement. And likely one of the unhappiest characters created.

And then there’s Tigger, the incredibly positive tiger with his super bouncy positive vibe. He’s always seeing life’s bright, shiny side, filled with new opportunities and possibilities.

This is the greatest thing I learned…thank you, A.A. Milne, for teaching me how to be my happiest self whenever possible, as much as possible. And no, I don’t mind being seen as a Pollyanna, not one little bit.

I have found that in life, we will experience the things we focus on most. And I frequently ask myself if my thoughts and actions are helping or hurting. So I learned to look for what is right more than what is wrong. And truth be told, it took a lot of effort initially. But these days, I can manage it much more effortlessly. Not perfectly…but certainly, it comes more naturally.

I highly recommend you let your inner Tigger out to play…your life has incredible possibilities. Look for them, and you will undoubtedly find them.

Happiness is a practice. If you’d like to bring a little more of it into your life, think about how you could use the principles of those who are almost always happy.
One last little thing:

On top of all the ideas that I have noticed happy people pay attention to, it seems that there’s a link between genetics and happiness. You can read more about that here.

Encourage one another.

Love Elle

xox

Author

Elle Sommer is the author of 4 books and a workbook. Her latest publications are a series called The Power of Consciousness, and you will find all three books in this trilogy now available on Kindle. She shares quotes, inspiration and positive vibes on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And her greatest desire is to encourage and inspire others to create not just a good life, but a phenomenal life.

34 Comments

  1. Hi Elle,

    Great reminder to everyone that happiness is a choice and it is always available to us, its not in our next new toy or event or person, it is and always has been within us.

    Glad to see being unattached at no.1 on your list, releasing attachment is powerful and freeing, if we can live life being attached to nothing, we live a life of happiness, joy and free from fear and insecurity.

    Immersing yourself in what you love, listening to music, being grateful, spending time in nature are all happiness boosters!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Elle

      Hi Clare, I didn’t really put them in any particular order, and there are tons more of course, and you are so right that choosing to feel happy is liberating, especially from fear and insecurity. 🙂

  2. I agree with the comment above – Happiness is a choice. I choose to be happy because that is what I want to be. I am in the process of shedding that which does not make me happy and your words have really helped guide me through! Thank you, Elle!

    • Elle

      Hi Cher, our entire life is a process isn’t it. We grow here, we make a new choice there, something changes and we choose again. Choosing to start each day and deciding to feel happy no matter what is an incredibly powerful factor in making changes easier. Congrats on choosing to shed the stuff that doesn’t work for you anymore…that’s a huge step. 🙂

  3. thanks for another awesome post; I need to smile more. I am generally happy but for some reason smiling still doesn’t come as naturally as i would like it to. I think a good first step is to try to stay in the current moment as much as possible. I picked up a saying from an old tv show called eisenhower and lutz. it only lasted a few weeks, but one of the characters said we never book problems in advance. for some reason that has stuck with me. I think it is a good philosophy. And you have to practice being optimistic. this morning i heard from someone who might want to buy a brand new amusement ride from a company I have been hoping would take me on as their official representative. when i was telling my brother patrick about it i asked him how does this sound for a blog headline the midway marketplace sells its first brand new ride. My mom’s reaction is you haven’t done it yet. Patrick replied before i could that this is how positive people see things. Nothing has append yet, but nothing will happen if i spend too much time thinking of all the bad things that could happen to derail the purchase. and i’ll admit it there are and there will be those days where being positive is hard work and where finding things to be grateful is like searching for unicorns. smile thanks for the post and good luck to all your readers, max

    • Elle

      Hi Max – I think it’s great that you have support in assuming whatever it is you want. It’s funny how, even though we have no evidence to support it, we’re willing to assume the worst, and find it harder to assume the best? Hmmmm something to do with learned habits of seeing the world methinks. And yes, those old thoughts of fear and doubt might try to interfere, but the good news is that we’re in charge of what we think and one of my favourite expressions is, ‘not in my world’. It keeps me in the space of non acceptance of what I most definitely don’t want. 🙂

      • hi; i love that idea of not in my world. its like with a garden. You decide what plants flowers or vegetables you want and you work hard to keep the weeds bugs and stray dogs out of it. You have to choose what you want in the garden of your mind and then be diligent about nurturing the plants and repelling the pests. great image. take care my friend, max

        • Elle

          Hi Max – what you say about gardening is so true. Life is pretty much the garden of our choosing isn’t it? 🙂

          • yes elle; it is. and like a garden it requires constant effort even in what seems like the down times of the year. You have to decide every day to be positive to get out of bed to put on your clothes and do the meriod of things that show you are alive. And that includes savoring the beautiful flowers smelling the wonderful scents or eating the tasty vegetables. thanks for being there for all of us my friend. take care, max

        • Casey L Kleopfer

          Awesome message Maxwell get fighting the good fight!!!

  4. All your points resonate with me.

    I think that happy people believe that they can bounce back. Everyone has there ups and down, but just because you fell doesn’t mean you can’t get back up. Happy people know it can happen and focus more on that then being down and out.

    ~Lea

    • Elle

      Hi Lea, I like the bounceability factor. It seems to me happiness is less about not having challenges show up in our world, but in maintaining our happy feelings whilst we manage them. Having faith in happy endings helps a lot with this! 🙂

  5. Hi Elle….Thanks for the reminder to be happy…and as I was reading this my first thought was to add….I’m happy because I know I can CHOOSE to be happy…but some of your other readers (and commenters) said the exact same thing. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I choose happy! ~Kathy

    • Elle

      Hi Kathy, it’s funny isn’t it, I think once we get we’re at choice in the happiness stakes it makes it easier for us to say…hang on I’m choosing happiness in every circumstance. It’s a powerful place to be. 🙂

  6. ok so the only one on this list that i’m not following regularly, is #1. allowing my happiness to be independent of anything else. I need to be mindful of that and practice it more. Thanks for the great list Elle. I gotta pat myself on the back for getting 4/5 😀

    • Elle

      Hi Vanita – join the club. This one is challenging for most of us, but you’re dead right when you say practicing this is what counts. And congrats for #s 4/5. That deserves a big woohoo. :_)

  7. Joseph Appaloosa

    Elle, this article is brilliant !
    My smile grew and grew as I read it.
    You share pertinent and powerful insights in such a readable and delightful way !
    One thing I do when I find myself in less than happy energy is point out to myself just how ridiculous I AM Being . That usually brings me back, with a laugh to boot.
    Thank you and Write on, Elle !

    • Elle

      Hi Joseph and thank you for your kind and oh so encouraging words. You’ve made my day ‘cos one of my aims is to make everything really simple and clear. Love the way you’re able to laugh at yourself when you fall into the space of less than happy energy. Woohoo for you. 🙂

  8. Took me a while to get there, Elle, but I did and I am loving it. I find that unless we personally experience the joy of letting go, along with the pain involved in the process, we cannot make it a habit. No matter how much advice we receive, even if it is from our favorite folks, experience is the best teacher. Love the points you’ve listed! And letting go is really key, and the hardest!

    Love you.

    • Elle

      Hi Vidya, I think as Vanita mentioned earlier it’s a constant practice. And you’ve hit the nail on the head, we can gain all the knowledge and information in the world, but unless we actually get down and do it, nothing changes. 🙂

  9. Hi Elle,

    What a wonderful post to start my day with. I so agree with the quote at the opening of your post, and as your headline says, happy people are “almost” always happy. Why almost, well, because as humans we know that’s pretty much impossible (even though I do not like that word) to be happy all the time.

    We may have a death in the family, we may learn of bad news that can’t possibly make us happy at the moment, but if we truly know how to find that place of happiness in us, once the pain has gone away some, we will be happy again.

    Happy people don’t like drama 🙂 while unhappy ones do.

    Unhappy people, on the other hand are the opposite. They may have something to be joyful for falling on their laps, but as soon as the euphoria has worn out they’re be miserable again.

    People who have an unhappiness tendency need to read this.

    Thanks you for this great post 🙂

    • Elle

      Hi Sylviane, glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for taking the time to say so. Always appreciated. 🙂

  10. Great article – thanks a lot Elle and I’m sure this put a big smile in all of your readers face 🙂

    There is already so much wisdom in your intro: “Let today be a great and happy day” Yes, all we really need to do to feel the happiness that is already within all of us is to go with the flow, to let go and yes, just to allow it to be a happy day…

    • Elle

      Thanks for stopping by Robert, I think it’s remembering, always remembering to be conscious throughout our day. It’s good to set up little ways we can be reminded. 🙂

  11. Lots of good happiness tips here, Elle. Happy people give up the drama – haha – made me laugh. Yes, that’s exactly why you never see happy people on soap operas:)

    I think, related to #1, happy people not only release attachments but they also have a way of acceptance. They are willing to take a good or bad situation and deal with it, instead of resisting it too much. They can take the good and embrace it. They can take the bad and be able to ease into it. Instead of feeling like they need to jump out a tall skyscraper, they work on shifting perspective and coming to terms with events in their lives:)

    My happiness is practice is doing more of what I enjoy and being around people that I enjoy (and hanging out with bloggers who I enjoy reading:) !!

    • Elle

      Hi Vishnu, I never thought of the soap opera connection Vishnu, now you made me laugh there. But it’s so true, soap operas are filled with such angst! I like your happiness practice it’s amazing how just being around like minded people can be uplifting to our spirits. 🙂

  12. I’m a big fan of the Yoda philosophy — when he came down on Luke for always looking behind or ahead and never concentrating on where he was at and what he was doing. Yoda’s real Zen…

    • Elle

      Hi Tammy, my hubby has a zen tendency too Tammy, not quite in the same league of course, but being around zen qualities tends to rub off…good for me! 🙂

  13. I made it a daily goal to meet 5 new people every day. I have met this challenge 85% of the time.
    It has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

    • Hi Brad…I love your challenge and it’s awesome to know that it’s one of the most rewarding things you’ve done. We could all follow your example here. 🙂

  14. Love this, Elle. Happiness really is about how we choose to guide our minds in all the helpful ways you’ve suggested. I like the Tigger and Eeyore analogy. Pooh is also a great example for all of us in mindfulness and being present!

    • You’re right Debbie – Pooh is a great example for living in the moment. 🙂

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