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.