General Topic: > Mind

Summary: You were expecting a 140 character summary on how to be happy? Seriously? Just read the article. (Tweet This)

I've written a lot of words in my lifetime, but I can't imagine four words being so daunting as the ones in this title. Those twelve letters could lead to twelve books.

Happy Blonde Girl

I think that this article may give birth to almost every other article on this site. Almost everything I plan on writing is going to, in some way, lead back to a life that creates happiness for yourself and those around you.

My initial thought on the subject is to approach happiness like a cake. What would the ingredients of that cake look like? Let's get to it.

The Ingredients of a Happiness

Eliminate Suffering

The first idea I had is that it is hard to be happy when you are suffering. I know that everyone has problems, but not everyone's problems are equally bad. Let's look at some common ways to eliminate suffering.

Have Enough Money.

A lot of people will say that money that doesn't buy love or happiness. Research tends to show that they are both right and wrong. Princeton University researchers found that $75,000 is the magic number for happiness. If you make more than that, you aren't automatically happier. If you make less than that, you may be less happy, but you are not necessarily less happy.

So for maximum happiness, aim to make $75,000 a year. More money is fine, but be careful you don't risk the other Ingredients of Happiness to grow this number. All work and no play isn't in our recipe for happiness.

It's also important that the source of income relies on factors you control. If you live in fear than the income can be taken away, it can cause unhappiness. The question becomes whether you really control your source of income. It seems like a change to the economy could disrupt almost anyone's income.

Let's Get Healthy.

If you've ever seen anyone in pain, you can tell they aren't happy. Some say, "Your health is all you have in this life."

We'll add "Health" to our list of Happiness Ingredients. Much like the example with money above, there's a limit to how much health impacts our happiness. Being able to do 1000 pushups doesn't make you 10 times happier than being able to do 100 push-ups.

Once again, we'll rely on having a good overall balance of ingredients.

Have a Purpose.

Doing useful stuff with your life helps you be happy. In fact, "creation" is one of the fundamental human needs. (Now you understand why I love to write. I am creating something unique.)

In fact, research is now telling us that having meaning is healthier than happiness itself.

The lesson here is simple: Do great work. That can mean being really Productive so that you can create more. Or it could mean focusing on charity to help others. Either one should give you a strong sense of meaning.

What Harvard Says About Happiness

Fun Girl

For over 70 years Harvard researchers have looked into what makes us happy. The project was called the Grant Study and it was directed by George Vaillant. Vaillant has published a book, Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study, giving us some clues about happiness.

At the end of the day, the biggest conclusion is that happiness is about "warm relationships" and love.

Here's what doesn't make you happy: drinking. It was a main source of divorce, depression, and when associated with smoking brought on an early death.

Putting it All Together

I'm just scratching the surface on this topic. It's going to evolve perhaps more than all the others on this website. My current feeling is that happiness is about eliminating stress, being productive, having great relationships, and simply being in the right frame of mind.

Further Reading: Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard - This may be one of the most definitive on the subject. More than 125 people have rated it 4.6 stars. Also, according this article, "Ricard donates all proceeds of his books to 110 humanitarian projects which have built schools for 21,000 children and provide healthcare for 100,000 patients a year."

Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study by George E. Vaillant - At the time I'm writing this more than 65 people have given it 4.5 stars.

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