What Makes Us Happy? A Few Thoughts on Happiness

Joe Rich shares a few thoughts on happiness, and what makes us happy.

Therapist Joe Rich shares a few thoughts on happiness, and what makes us happy:

Sometimes people will talk about happiness or
being happy and come to realizations about their lives, their
past relationships & the kinds of things upon which they have focused their

Many people in relationships are busy arguing about
"right and wrong" and never learn to make the choice between "right
and happy." Right and wrong is an argument. Right and happy is a way
to make choices:

eg: "I think I’m right but if I continue to argue and make my point
then I will wind up right and fighting. Today I think I’m right but I want to
pick happy so I’m letting this go."

For some happy is seen as a luxury rather than a
necessity. They say things like "Must be nice to worry about happy
instead of food and rent." They generally don’t understand much about
happy and think that only rich people are happy people. Realizing that people
with problems, people who are poor, etc. are also happy can reinforce some
positive thinking about your chances of experiencing and feeling happiness.

Money can’t buy happiness.

The opposite of happy is not unhappy or sad. Unhappy and sad are feelings on their own. The opposite of
happy is the absence of happy, never really having the feeling.

Happiness is in the present.
Try living in the present. People who spend large amounts of time worrying
about the past or the future rarely experience high levels of happiness. Living
in the present is necessary for experiencing happiness

This might make finding happiness more difficult for
people who are anxious because they worry and they often live their lives
in the past (regrets, should haves, etc.) and in the future (what if…) People
who are anxious are often encouraged to try and live in the present. Living in
the present brings less worry AND is an opportunity for happiness too!

Happiness is a part of a process, not an outcome. Reaching goals and meeting objectives in life is important.
Getting to certain successful places in your life is important. But, factoring
in happiness along the way makes the journey worth the work.

If you are thinking happy will be here as soon as:

-some event is over
-or some debt is
an event takes place (lose those 15 pounds!)

then you are delaying happiness (not working towards it)
and will have to face the possibility that happiness may never come.

Delaying happiness looks a lot like working towards it,
until you realize happiness is in the present (and therefore how can I work
towards it in the future?). You can work towards "living more in the
present" as a way of getting rid of this entire dilemma.

I hope we get there, meet our goal, etc. but we should
be happy while we are working towards it, just in case we don’t get there!

Most of the time, how we get there turns out to be
as important as if we get there. I call this the "if and how


In this case it work like this:

IF we get there and we have been happy during the moments
along the way, what a great journey.
IF we don’t get there and we have been happy during the moments along the way,
what a great journey.

Yes, one is better that the other. Neither is: What if we
get there and don’t think about happy and then find out we’re not happy?
What’s that?

(More on the IF & HOW FORMULA at a future date!)


Sometimes "I’m just not happy" is a great place
to start assessing what’s going on in your life and what is next in your life,
in your day, in the moment.

The first question is not:

"Why aren’t I
happy?" (although it is frequently the one that comes to mind!)

A better first question is something like:

"Have I ever been happy or am I starting from scratch
in the happy department?"


"What is my capacity for happiness?"

Sometimes people will move on, or end a relationship, or
act impulsively without asking these questions first. I call this the lost art
of thinking. Thinking about happiness and assessing one’s capacity for
happiness should happen before decisions to change the outside world in order
to feel happy are put in place. Sometimes getting to happy is an evolution, and
some times it’s a revolution. Think, assess, change. If happy escapes you time
and again, consider evolution as a way of change first.

Happy Strategies

  1. Make happy a priority. Do the
    assessing. Take inventory. Think.
  2. Surround yourself with happy
    things. Positive memories, friends, pictures from fun trips.
  3. Watch comedy. Laugh. Go to
    light movies. Do things that make people happy. Use that part of yourself.
  4. Check out if you are
    "anxious" or an "anxious person" and get to work on
    this before you start looking towards happy. Anxiety is very specific and getting through it is really important before
    you can be at the calm place people call happy.
  5. Happy hour is not about
    happiness. If you need alcohol, drugs or other things to "make you
    happy" than you are missing the point. It happens. I am talking about
    happy as a feeling, not about being stoned or drunk or loosened up, or
    buzzed or sloshed or that "happy." You know what I mean.
    Try looking at happy without all of that stuff.
  6. Ask life questions about
    happiness by reading, looking around you, finding stories (Chicken Soup
    books!) and places where people lift their spirits and find room for


We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get
married. When we’re married, we think things will be better when we have a
baby. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough for us to relax,
but we know we’ll be more content when they are. After that, we’re frustrated
that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are
out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our
spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on
a nice vacation, when we retire.

The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now. If not now,
when? Your life will always be filled with challenges. It’s best to admit this
to yourself and decide to be happy anyway.

A great quote on this very subject comes from Alfred D. Souza. He said,
"For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin, real
life. But there are always some obstacles in the way, something to be gotten
through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be
paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were
my life." This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to
happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment that you have.

treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to
spend your time… and remember that time waits for no one.

Stop waiting until you finish school, until you go back to school, until you
lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your
kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get
married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning,
until you get a new car or home, until fall, until winter, until you are on
welfare, until you are off welfare, until the first or the fifteenth to decide
that there is no better time than right now to be happy.

Happiness is a journey,
not a destination.

Thought for your day:

Work like you don’t need the money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
And dance like no one’s watching.