Shortcut to Happiness

what makes you happy

If the title of this blog sucked you in, I apologize…, well kind of. It was a harmless little piece of deceptive flim-flam to get your attention. There is NO shortcut to happiness. However, here are six quick sign posts that have served me well in adding more “happy” to my days.

* THE NOW – There is no happiness to be found behind you or located with any certainty at a future time. Happiness can exist only in the present moment and no other. Savor it.

* THE PAST – What has happened in your life previously is a recollection that is somewhere between partially accurate and delusional. What you recall did not happen exactly the way you remember. Let go thinking your memory is accurate.

* THE FUTURE – The only certainty about what’s ahead is it will NOT wholly unfold as you imagine it might or hope it will. Some things will. A lot will not. Plan; hope; pray; dream. BUT leave life plenty of room to just happen.

* FORGIVE – Let go of finger-pointing and holding on to ill feelings; most of all those you hold against yourself. Mistakes and the trespasses are the greatest teachers, but only when seen through a rear view mirror. Screw up. Size up what happened and move on.

* SLOW DOWN – One can not be present in the now, if most of life is spent moving from one point or another. Yes, almost all of us are dementedly busy, but everyone can grab a few minutes to top and take stock. Taste and savor being alive.

* IT WILL END – Everything ends; pain or changes or both; good times, struggle, joy and even life. What does not end, changes. Gratitude unlocks the “sweet jelly” in the hard roll of life and allows adjustment to “what is”. Thankfulness is the sweetener of existence.

Buddhism and psychoanalysis teach us that the very ways we seek happiness actually block us from finding it. Our first mistake is in trying to wipe out all sources of displeasure and search for a perennial state of well-being that, for most of us in our deepest fantasies, resembles nothing so much as a prolonged erotic reverie.

The root cause of our unhappiness is our inability to observe ourselves properly. We are caught in our own perspective, unable to appreciate the many perspectives of those around us. And we are unaware of how insistently this way of perceiving drives us. Only through the uprooting of our own self-centeredness can we find the key to happiness. Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D. Psychology Today

Eventually when I was able to truly accept disappointment, heartache and grief as a natural part of life, I became changed for the better.  Just as light and dark work together to make a beautiful world, life’s good and bad strike a balance. Only by living in harmony ‘tween the two does happiness become possible.

If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day — go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.
Chinese Proverb

Sexy Character Traits of Happy People


In an era of public booty-bouncing and other ubiquitous in-your-face expressions of sensuality, it’s about time we had a new standard of sexy. Real sexiness is so much more than physical shape and form. It’s more than style and wardrobe, attitude and visible swag. The most enduring form of sexiness is the most endearing trait and the clearest mirror of the human soul: happiness. It’s time we elevate happiness to its proper place in the sexiness pantheon by learning and applying these seven character traits of happiness (and therefore sexiness):

1. Moral Courage: Happy people stand up for what’s right and don’t get pushed around by peer pressure into the newest fad or trend. They have the courage, conviction and inner strength to do what’s right even while others reshape themselves into ever-shifting expressions of someone else’s standards, becoming shadows of other’s values.

2. Self-Confidence: Happiness requires a degree of confidence that allows us to believe we have value, that we are worthy of love and friendship and success. Happy people have faith in themselves and in their ability to develop the skills and qualities needed to become highly competent at living life well. Not much is sexier than someone who humbly exudes self-confidence.

3. Thoughtfulness: They say nice people finish last, but that’s just not true. As a matter of fact, jerks are never completely trusted or respected by people who respect themselves. Happy people are thoughtful people. They consider the needs of others. Making a difference, in fact, takes center stage in their lives; it’s an important part of their self-identity. …just ask anyone in a loving relationship with a few years under their belt how sexy thoughtfulness is to them and how thoroughly unsexy its opposite is.

4. Passion: Happiness at its highest level includes living a life of passion and purpose. Happy lives are directed lives, pointed at something deeply meaningful. The happiest amongst us are excited about living because every day offers them another opportunity to do what they love, because truly passionate people have many interests, they are rarely bored, adrift or indolent. Sexy people love life and love people and love what they spend their time doing.

5. Self-Responsible: Have you ever met a happy person who regularly evades responsibility, blames and points fingers and makes excuses for their unsatisfying lives? Me either. Happy people accept responsibility for how their lives unfold. They believe their own happiness is a byproduct of their own thinking, beliefs, attitudes, character and behavior.

6. Honest: Liars hide from the truth. They lack the courage to stand up to the reality of their lives. They hide behind words and camouflage – their hidden agenda behind a web of stories and verbal slights of hand. Happy people don’t live that way. Honesty is a hallmark of the happiest amongst us. It is also a characteristic of the dangerously sexy.

7. Self-accepting: Happy people are authentic. They are real and know who they are and what they like. They are in touch with their feelings and spend time learning and growing and developing. Self-accepting people may forgive themselves of their own shortcomings, but they don’t excuse them. They look their weaknesses square in the eye, accept them as they are, then go to work growing and improving and transforming them into strengths. Taken from writing by Ken Wert

It’s been a year and a half since an epiphany stopped me dead in my tracks while watching a movie ( ). It was then my heart truly opened and allowed me to see beauty in shapes and sizes I had always missed before. That moment has since lead me to a whole new happiness I never knew was possible before. I am deeply grateful.

Sexiness is a state of mind –
a comfortable state of being.
Halle Berry

I’m Happy


An interesting personal phenomena is the happier I have become, the more I understand what makes me happy. Living for years with a somewhat disgruntled attitude while searching for happiness never brought me closer to being happy. Only deep personal growth and an altered view of life allowed me to find it.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have tracked identical twins who were separated as infants and raised by separate families. As genetic carbon copies brought up in different environments, these twins are a social scientist’s dream, helping us disentangle nature from nurture. These researchers found that we inherit a surprising proportion of our happiness at any given moment — around 48 percent.

If about half of our happiness is hard-wired in our genes, what about the other half? It’s tempting to assume that one-time events — like getting a dream job or an Ivy League acceptance letter — will permanently bring the happiness we seek. And studies suggest that isolated events do control a big fraction of our happiness — up to 40 percent at any given time.

But while one-off events do govern a fair amount of our happiness, each event’s impact proves remarkably short-lived. People assume that major changes like moving to California or getting a big raise will make them permanently better off. They won’t. Huge goals may take years of hard work to meet, and the striving itself may be worthwhile, but the happiness they create dissipates after just a few months. So don’t bet your well-being on big one-off events. The big brass ring is not the secret to lasting happiness.

That leaves just about 12 percent. That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way. The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking. Few dying patients regret over-investing in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys.

Work, though, seems less intuitive. Popular culture insists our jobs are drudgery, and one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged; that is praised, encouraged, cared for and several other gauges seemingly aimed at measuring how transcendently fulfilled one is at work.

More than 50 percent of Americans say they are “completely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their work. This rises to over 80 percent when we include “fairly satisfied.” This shouldn’t shock us. Vocation is central to the American ideal, the root of the aphorism that we “live to work” while others “work to live.” When Frederick Douglass rhapsodized about “patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work, into which the whole heart is put,” he struck the bedrock of our culture and character. From an article by Arthur C. Brooks

With great gratitude I can say, “I’m happy”. While there are purely joyous moments now, I don’t exist in a constantly blissful bubble. Instead, I simply choose not to have “bad days” any more. Difficult ones certainly, but never a “bad one”. Any day alive is a “good day”. The best lives ever lived contained “a great deal of joy and happiness with a lot of heartache and grief mixed in”. Coming to see the wisdom of that statement and living it has been life changing.

The difference between a Good day and a Bad day
has less to do with the circumstances
than the power we have over our thoughts.
Neil Sutton

What Is Gratitude?


…a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received; thankfulness.
From Midieval Latin gratitudo from Classical Latin gratus, pleasing: grace.

Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components, which he describes in a Greater Good essay, “Why Gratitude Is Good.”

“First,” he writes, “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”

In the second part of gratitude, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Over the past decade, hundreds of studies have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude.

Gratitude brings us happiness: gratitude has proven to be one of the most reliable methods for increasing happiness and life satisfaction; it also boosts feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions. On the flip side, gratitude also reduces anxiety and depression.

Gratitude is good for our bodies: …gratitude strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and makes us less bothered by aches and pains. It also encourages us to exercise more and take better care of our health.

Grateful people sleep better: They get more hours of sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon awakening.

Gratitude makes us more resilient: It has been found to help people recover from traumatic events, including… veterans with PTSD.

Gratitude strengthens relationships: It makes us feel closer and more committed to friends and romantic partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship. Taken from an article found at

Living in my own self-made twisted version of life, I made my way slowly through a maze of heartache, grief and sorrow that was often self-induced. But that is behind me now and I can attest strongly to anyone who will listen: gratefulness is life changing. The difference is not swift, but it is certain and sure when practiced long-term. Today I am grateful for my gratitude that made me whole, taught me how to love and brought happiness to my life.

The miracle of gratitude
is that is shifts your perception
to such an extent
that it changes the world you see.
Dr. Robert Holden

Dandelion Growing Out of a Crack


Suddenly I realized that I wanted everything to be as it was when I was younger. When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the sidewalk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your parent was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer you. Lullabies for Little Criminals Heather O’Neill

When I tell people I was ten years-old before I lived in a house with an indoor toilet most don’t believe me, at least not at first. I cared little about that fact before adolescence when I began not sharing it. That was a long time ago and I have come to know that experience was one of many which taught me great gratitude for things as simple as a bathroom. Doing without makes one appreciate what they have a lot more.

Happiness cannot be traveled to,
owned, earned, worn or consumed.
Happiness is the spiritual experience
of living every minute with
love, grace, and gratitude.
Denis Waitley

The How of Happiness


Being happy has not been a natural occurrence in my life.  It is something I have had to work at. It surprised up on me when about two years ago in a group of people the words “I’m happy’ came from my lips. Frankly, it startled me at the time. Without a doubt the statement rang true when the words were first formed in my mouth and continue (at least the vast majority of the time). My adopted motto “every day is a good day, some are just better than others” is a truthful statement whenever I speak it (which is often!) although it confounds some people.

Every moment of my life is not spent in some sort of frolic in bliss. Outside of fantasy, delusion or a drug induced state I don’t believe that is possible for anyone.  What changed about my level of happiness from what used to be is inside me. My external circumstances actually became more challenging with much pain and heartache to wade through. Through hard work, intention, help of others, study and understanding I allowed happiness to arrive in my life in spite of what was going on around me.

“The How of Happiness:  A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want” is the title of a book by Sonja Lyubomirsky PhD, a professor at the University of  California-Riverside. In it her research indicates that around 50% of my happiness comes from a generically determined “set point”.  She explains:   The set point for happiness is similar to the set point for weight.  Some people are blessed with skinny dispositions: Even when they’re not trying, they easily maintain their weight.  By contrast, others have to work extraordinarily hard to keep their weight at a desirable level, and the moment they slack off even a bit, the pounds creep back on.

Where I got lost previously was the belief that changing my external situation and location could change my level of happiness.  In her book, Lyubomirsky indicates only about 10% of my level of happiness can be explained by differences in life circumstance or situation.  Of small consequence are conditions such as rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, married or divorced and so on.  It is humbling to realize decades spent attempting to be happier through changes in my external life at best barely had any affect.  I moved all over the country and even to a foreign land, changed wives, lovers, jobs, homes, cars, etc. and none of it had more than a temporary effect.

Sonja Lyubomirsky explains:  One of the great ironies of our quest to become happier is that so many of us focus on changing the circumstances of our lives in the misguided hope that those changes will deliver happiness…  An impressive body of research now shows that trying to be happy by changing our life situations ultimately will not work. 

If we observe genuinely happy people, we shall find that they do not just sit around being contented.  They make things happen.  They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings.   If an unhappy person wants to experience interest, enthusiasm, contentment, peace and joy, he or she can make it happen by learning the habits of a happy person. 

In other words, I learned to finally be happy by getting off my butt and seriously working at it instead of searching to find it like a prospector looks for gold.

Gratitude beyond explanation sings in my heart and mind to be where I am today.  To everyone and everything that helped me get here… THANK YOU!

The Constitution only guarantees
the American people
the right to pursue happiness.
You have to catch it yourself.
Benjamin Franklin

Taken from a post from September 30, 2011

Gratefulness Is Happiness

gratitude and happiness

Surprise, surprise: gratitude actually feels good. Yet only 20% of Americans rate gratitude as a positive and constructive emotion (compared to 50% of Europeans). According to gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, gratitude is just happiness that we recognize after-the fact to have been caused by the kindness of others. Gratitude doesn’t just make us happier, it is happiness in and of itself!

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but if you’re unhappy a good bit of the cause is a lack of gratitude. Being focused on what one wishes was different brings nothing but turmoil and dissatisfaction.

So you want to be happier? Then look deeper into life and see all you have to be grateful for. Over time I have seen the truth of how gratefulness brings IS happiness. What a life changer!

Do not spoil what you have
by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have
was once among the things
you only hoped for.