Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy

There are many ways for people to be unhappy, but happy people have common characteristics. That’s why a good way to be happy is to learn the common characteristics of happy people and apply them.

So I studied what the great minds in history say about being happy. I went through hundreds of quotes on being happy and extracted the best lessons out of them. Not only are these lessons useful, they are also timeless in nature.

Here I’d like to share what I learned with you. Without further ado, here are 17 timeless secrets of happy people:

1. Forget the past

One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.
Rita Mae Brown

You won’t be happy if you carry the burden of the past. Did you make mistakes? Did you have terrible experiences? Whatever they are, you should let them go. There’s nothing you can do about the past, so you’d better let them go and focus your energy on the present.

2. Take responsibility for your life

The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage.

To be happy you should have freedom and the most essential freedom is the freedom to choose. No matter how bad a situation is, you can always choose how you respond to it. People can annoy you, but it’s up to you whether or not you will resent.

But, as the quote above says, freedom takes courage. Freedom to choose requires the courage to take responsibility for your life. You shouldn’t blame someone else when something goes wrong. Take the responsibility and you have the power to choose.

3. Build relationships

Life’s truest happiness is found in friendships we make along the way.

Relationships is where we can get true happiness in life. The reason is simple: only through relationships can we love and be loved. Make relationships your top priority and you are on your way to true happiness.

4. Develop multiple passions

The more passions and desires one has, the more ways one has of being happy.

Passions lead you to happiness. So not only should you discover your multiple passions, you should also expand yourself to new passions. This way you will create new ways to happiness.

The key to expanding to new passions is curiosity. If you are curious, you will have an endless stream of exciting things waiting for you.

5. Build your character

Character is the basis of happiness and happiness the sanction of character.
George Santayana

Building your character is essential for happiness. When you are true to yourself and others, you will be in peace.

The way to start building character is by making promises and keeping them. For example, you make promise to yourself that you won’t smoke. When you keep it, you are building your character. Or you make promise to others to be punctual. When you keep it, you build your character.

6. Be who you are

The summit of happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is.
Desiderius Erasmus

You can only be happy if you become who you are. Don’t live other people’s life by trying to meet their expectations. People may expect you to have certain job or certain way of living but don’t be intimidated by them. Find who you are and be yourself.

7. Live your life purpose

The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.
William Cowper

To have a fulfilling life, you should find your life purpose and follow it faithfully. Find what matters to you and build the courage to follow it. Having a one-liner will help you internalize and communicate your mission.

8. Count your blessings

Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have.

Being happy is easy if we are grateful. Unfortunately, seeing what we don’t have is often easier than seeing what we have. Sometimes we need to experience loss before appreciating what we have. So don’t take things for granted. Look at what you have and soon you will have plenty of reasons to be happy. You may start with these simple things.

9. Have positive mind

It is not the place, nor the condition, but the mind alone that can make anyone happy or miserable.
Roger L’Estrange

Happy people know how to control their mind. They don’t let negative thoughts come in. While a situation may seem bad to others, happy people look at them in a positive way. They always believe that no matter how bad a situation seems, there is always something positive to take from it. Your mind can make or break you, so guard it well.

10. Work creatively

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

When you work creatively on something you will find happiness. There is a well-known phenomenon regarding this called flow. When you are in the state of flow, you are fully focused on the task at hand that you no longer realize the passage of time. This state of flow allows you to achieve high productivity and being happy at the same time. Here are some tips to achieve it.

11. Start with what you have

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.
James Oppenheim

Happy people don’t need something they don’t have to be happy. They don’t need certain job or certain level of income. Instead, they learn to be happy with what they already have. They have learned the art of contentment. Be content with what you have and you will be happy.

12. Change

They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.

Being happy requires you to constantly grow. In fact, the process of learning itself is essential for happiness. Have you ever felt the excitement of being enlightened about something? Have you ever felt the excitement of achieving a new level in life? Top 10 Things You Should Change in Your Life gives you some practical tips on changing your life.

13. Use your talents

True happiness involves the full use of one’s power and talents.
Douglas Pagels

There are two lessons to take from this quote. First, you should find your talents and second, you should use them to the fullest. Working in your talents is a sure way to enjoy your work because it’s something you are “hardwired” to do. Using your talents fully will make you even happier because of the satisfaction of doing your best.

14. Beware of small things

The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.
Ernest Dimnet

This is very true. Often it’s not big things that ruin your happiness. It’s the small things that do. Perhaps you don’t like someone or break some “small” promises. But even small leaks can sink your ship of happiness, so beware of them.

15. Distill your ambitions

Where ambition ends happiness begins.
Author Unknown

While wanting to achieve more in your life is good, being obsessed by it is not. Do your best to improve yourself but don’t be obsessed by it.

16. Make others happy

Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is my favorite secret of happiness. The way to being happy is to make others happy first. The more you help other people and make them happy, the more you will be happy. Happiness doesn’t come through selfishness but through selflessness. You reap what you sow.

17. Practice compassion

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
The Dalai Lama

Compassion is perhaps the highest level of selflessness we could have. As this quote aptly says, practicing compassion can make both others and you happy.

But of course, it requires practice. Start with thinking about the people around you. Look at their needs and find ways to meet them. Even if you don’t do it out of compassion in the beginning, your compassion will grow over time.


All in all, this quote by Aristotle can summarize the lessons above:

Happiness depends upon ourselves.

It’s you who decide whether or not you are happy in life.

I choose to be happy. What about you?

See also: Being Happy: How Not to Love Stuff

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This article is part of July 2008 theme: Happiness

Categories: Attitude, Purpose

Please use your real name and note that I reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

119 Responses so far.

  1. Youdish says:

    thank you! i needed this!

  2. Amanda says:

    Thank you for such a positive article! I will be re-reading this a few more times… I have been struggling with “happiness” for a while now, and having the wisdom of this article is a blessing!

  3. Arfain says:

    I refuse the 16 quote its not true its my own experience Dont make anyone happy because “The person who makes other peoples happy is the most LONELYEST person always”so think about yourself first then others Because they will think about you.

    • fred says:

      I agree totally, no one can make you happy but yourself + doing for people is not a good advice. I think it will be wise to say that you should give according to your capacities because it does not mean that the receiver will see your act as compasionate and loving. To my opinion happiness can be define by each one of us…finding yourself will lead you to be who you are and have activities that you love and be surrounded by ppl that you appreciate means that you will be happy….just love yourself n never give up.

  4. Sara says:

    Happiness is so much more complicated than this. There are certain factors that can destroy happiness. As someone who has had depression most of my life, (family genes) I understand chemicals in the brain can do some crazy things on your outlook. I will say, once you learn a few of these, mainly breaking the negative feedback loop in your head, it is much easier. But that takes a lot of work and time and someone who is in the grip of clinical depression without these tools, it can seem an insurmountable task that will (and it might) kill you.

    I agree that these are a good starting point, but these take a lot of time to learn and it may be needed to use the help and guidance of a therapist to help build those pathways.

  5. mohamed says:

    yeah and also one of the most reasons that can lead us to happy and also success is the good communication with other people and happy is being happy in my life that i share it with other people

    • John says:

      Mohammed is bang on! Communication is essential to happiness so good for you Mohammed. Best wife is one who you just love hearing her heart when she talks while also picking her brain however, that is the exception anymore than the rule as middle aged women are extremely hard to please as Independence is their favourite word along with Travel.

  6. berta says:

    I want to forget all bad memories in the past happens … and try being happy but what when all bad things same continue happening in my life….Sometimes things i wanna forget comes back to me after all moments i try happy to be :)… For me is stop to smile because after this i get cry … but I wanna cry, at least at day I smile… Smile is what makes me happy no matter what happens after that… be happy … LIKE this Website

  7. John says:

    I am naturally happy but I find most people aren’t so they try to bring me down by not laughing with me at things I see as pretty funny but, my energy is higher than most people because of (get this people) DIET! Diet can make a big difference in how happy you are. The lady below some ways down is right about chemistry of the body dictating to a large extent happiness and we are what we eat. Eating natural foods as raw as possible makes people more energized due to more hormones therefore euphoria. People in the west at least eat poor diets, are over weight, and lack that energy. This doesn’t mean that all fat over weight people of which most are, don’t lol! But it sure helps to keep fit. Also LADIES … many of U R over weight early in life and wonder why sex doesn’t matter anymore well, the excess weight suppresses hormone production. Over all good article and BTW, I am the same weight I was when 20 and no sagging at 61 years old. The worse thing one can do is over eat.

  8. Volet Hermosa Pacres says:

    as was written in the scriptures:

    Isaiah 40:31 ESV / 64 helpful votes

    But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint