Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

Remember that song “Don’t Worry. Be Happy”?

I used to really hate it. I thought it was the worst song in the world. It was silly, simple, and not very creative. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that it was just catchy enough to get me whistling, singing, and feeling better every time I heard it. I suppose that was the whole point of the thing. If you listen to it often enough, one might even start to internalize the message which basically is, no matter how little you have, you always have something to be happy about.

I know there are a lot of people out there who have excuses why they can’t be happy now, like:

  • I’ll be happy once my money troubles are over. Everything is just too tight right now.
  • I’ll have time for making myself happy when my kids are grown. Right now I am just too busy.
  • I will be happier once I graduate from college. Life’s just too stressful right now.
  • I will be happy when I find another job. I hate what I do.
  • I just don’t feel well. When I get over this illness, things will be better.
  • I will be happy when I get married. I just need somebody to love.
  • I’m too depressed about my weight. When I lose twenty-five pounds, I will smile again.
  • I will be happy again when I get divorced. This relationship is killing me.
  • Once I move, things will be different and I will be happy then.
  • The problem with all these reasons is that they just aren’t true.

Happiness has very little relationship to how much stuff you have or how expensive your stuff is. Happiness doesn’t depend on education level, marital status (although married people tend to be happier than singles), your weight, or where you live.

Happiness has to do with how you live and think. A happy lifestyle and way of thinking is available to you right now regardless of the other factors in your life. If you don’t have a happy lifestyle now, you won’t have one when you are rich, finished with school, married or divorced, retired, and living in the place of your dreams.

So what does the mindset of a happy person look like?

Happy people are connected to others. There are no happy hermits. Happy people notice what is going on around them and savor the pleasant things. While we all have good and bad in our lives, the things that happy people focus on are the silver linings. They are grateful for the things that went right. They take pleasure in little things like smiles, compliments, an unexpected phone call from a friend, and lunch with a co-worker. They make time for things like this and enjoy them. They are optimistic.

Happy people are involved. They have something meaningful in their lives that allows them to contribute. Happy people use happy language. Instead of responding with, “I’m not bad” when someone asks how they are, they say, “I’m great!” Instead of describing a night out with friends as “alright,” they might say it was fun, awesome, entertaining, or fabulous. There is zest in the way they talk because there is enthusiasm and joy in the way that they experience.

Happy people take credit for good things, but see bad things as random. This isn’t suggesting that they are wearing rose colored glasses or ignoring responsibility. It’s an adaptive way of staying happy and healthy. For example, when a happy person loses ten dollars, she might brush it off saying, “I guess someone else needed it more than I did” or “Oh, well. It will come back to me somehow” whereas a pessimistic person might say something like, “I can’t believe how careless I am.”

Happy people see good as being everywhere and bad as localized. For example, if Happy Hannah won a contest at work on the same day that she had a fender bender, she might think, “I am so lucky! I have this great team that has helped me to learn and grow. My parents gave me this great work ethic to see things through. My girlfriend has already set up a party to celebrate. What great timing too. This prize money should just about cover the damage to my car. I am truly blessed!”

Happy people see bad as being temporary and good as being the natural order of things.

Aren’t all of those things things you can change right now? If you need any more convincing to put some effort into changing the way you relate to the world, think about this. Studies show that happy people tend to:

  • be smarter and more creative
  • have more stable and happy marriages make more money
  • be healthier and live longer
  • be more generous
    The payoff is well worth the effort, wouldn’t you say? Aren’t you ready to be happy?
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