The secret to happiness is simple...

Happy couple

The happiest people are the ones who’ve chosen work, hobbies and relationships that they enjoy.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Stop comparing yourself to other people, their money, status or possessions.
  • Instead shift your focus to how you approach your own life.

Most people imagine that more money will make them happier. But happiness is actually a state of mind, not something that depends on your bank balance. Being happy involves both pleasure and meaning, so the happiest people are the ones who’ve chosen work, hobbies and relationships that they enjoy, and which also really matter to them.

It also helps to stop trying to do too much. And to look after yourself well.

But the real secret of happiness is simple. Stop comparing yourself to other people, especially their money, status or possessions, and shift your focus to how you approach your own life. So, for example, happy people tend to accept themselves just the way they are, and build on their good points.

They’re also optimistic, outgoing, cheerful and expect other people to like them. Which tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because optimistic, outgoing and cheerful people tend to have more friends, have happier marriages and find the best jobs.

Happy people also believe that it’s their efforts that determine what happens in their lives, so they work more conscientiously in school and their profession, and manage stress well.

They also make good use of their time. They’re punctual and efficient, because setting and meeting deadlines makes you feel confident and in control. Unhappy people postpone things, turn up late and waste time. They sleep late and mess around on social media. Which leaves them feeling empty and dissatisfied.

Character and attitudes

Happy people believe that what they do today shapes what they’ll become tomorrow even though they also know how hard it is to change your personality. That’s because every time you do something you strengthen the beliefs and values behind it.

Most people assume that it’s our character and attitudes that create our habits. But actually, the same things are also true in reverse: new habits create new attitudes and values.

So, if you want to change yourself in some important way, like becoming more optimistic or outgoing, you can. All you have to do is to start doing it! Don’t worry if it doesn’t feel right to begin with. Just pretend.

Because you’ve actually already done something just like that, many times before. Every time you stepped into a new role. Such as during your first days as a new parent, or in a new job. Remember how it all felt strange to begin with, but the feeling of strangeness gradually subsided? Slowly your new role began to feel right along with all the new attitudes that go with it.

So doing the right things creates the right emotions. Like how when you’re in a bad mood, but make yourself cheerful to talk to a friend. And as you go on chatting, you start to feel better.

So change things one step at a time. Don’t wait until you feel like it, just begin. Pretend, and before long you won’t need to. And suddenly you’ll realise how much happier you are!