Column: Don't worry, be happy

Sep. 20, 2013 @ 04:22 PM

We all know happy people. They are people who in good times or bad are fundamentally happy people. They are the people who most of us want to be around.

So why are some people usually happy, while others are usually grumpy. I’m not talking about when someone faces a devastating loss. Of course no one is happy then. But I’m talking day to day, when we all face the normal stress of working, raising children, school, taking care of an aging parent and a leaky roof. Why do some people handle it better than others?

I read an interesting article by guru Martin Seligman. He says happiness is 60 percent genetics and 40 percent environment. It means we choose in many cases to be happy or sad. He also says that there are three types of happy. There is pleasant (and it’s based on what we have and doesn’t build long-term happiness), engagement (work, parenting, love and leisure) and meaningful (which is the highest level).

In his article he says there are actually 17 factors. I found them quite interesting.

Happy people surround themselves with happy people, and they smile when they mean it. (Who can resist smiling when we encounter a smiling person?) They cultivate resilience, and they try to be happy. They appreciate simple pleasures, and they devote some of their time to giving (everyone has time to do something).

Happy people let themselves lose track of time, and they know when to unplug and get adequate rest. They are mindful of the good that surrounds us. They get spiritual, whether it’s going to church or meditating at home or in the mountains.

They walk the walk. Seligman had a three-minute walking drill. Walk with head up, shoulders back, swinging arms and see how much better you feel.

Happy people make exercise a priority, and they get outside (or do both together).

They look on the bright side. (Remember the old question, “Is the glass half-full or half-empty?”)

Happy people cherish in-person connections. (So disconnect from your Facebook and text-messaging and sit down and talk to someone.) And they like a deeper conversation as opposed to small talk. No surprise here, they also listen.

Happy people listen to a good mix tape. (Music is good for the soul. Right now my favorite mix tape that I listen to almost daily is one my daughter and her husband made last month for their wedding. It’s all of their favorite love songs, and it’s really quite nice.)

Happy people are gifters. They like to spend money on other people. (Don’t have money? Do something for other people.)

Are you a happy person? Want to be a happier person? Try his list for a month and see what happens.