Here's an interesting article about the keys to happiness and why it has little to do with wealth. I particularly like Abraham Lincoln's take: "Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be." The article dances around the issue of faith and service to God, but as a Christian I'm of course convinced that those are integral components as well.
Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California at Riverside has discovered that the road toward a more satisfying and meaningful life involves a recipe repeated in schools, churches and synagogues. Make lists of things for which you're grateful in your life, practice random acts of kindness, forgive your enemies, notice life's small pleasures, take care of your health, practice positive thinking, and invest time and energy into friendships and family.
The happiest people have strong friendships, says Ed Diener, a psychologist University of Illinois. Interestingly his research finds that most people are slightly to moderately happy, not unhappy.
And that's one of the reasons I'm nervous about moving to St. Louis... I don't always make friends easily, but I know that my happiness depends on it.
Lethargy holds many people back from doing the things that lead to happiness.
Easterbrook, also a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institute, goes back to Freud, who theorized that unhappiness is a default condition because it takes less effort to be unhappy than to be happy.
"If you are looking for something to complain about, you are absolutely certain to find it," Easterbrook told LiveScience. "It requires some effort to achieve a happy outlook on life, and most people don't make it. Most people take the path of least resistance. Far too many people today don't make the steps to make their life more fulfilling one."
As for Abe Lincoln, I agree, which is why I have little patience for people who are always complaining about unhappiness. Sure, bad stuff happens to everyone, but you can't let your happiness depend on your circumstances. Even though I'm a cynic, I'm a resigned cynic, which means I don't expect much from the world and I'm rarely disappointed. I think some of the most unhappy people I know are idealists who are constantly frustrated that reality will never be what they think it should.