5 Keys to Happiness

1. Gratitude.

If you want to be happy today, you must be grateful for what you have right now. It’s that simple. You can’t be happy if you are not satisfied. This doesn’t mean you can’t be striving for more, but you must appreciate and relish the gifts you currently have.

The best book I know on this topic is Follow Your Heart by Andrew Matthews. In chapter 5 of his slim volume, (readable in 2 nites) he describes how “What You Focus on Expands.” Here’s a quote: “As we express gratitude for what we have, so we feel richer, and so more comes our way.”

TO-DO: List out in minute detail all the things you are grateful for. Do this for at least 10-15 minutes. List every person, every skill you have, every blessing you’ve recieved, no matter how small. (if you need more direction, let me know in the comments section)

Flickr photo by Anna Sofya V.

2. Variety

As humans we have a great need for security, which translates into routine, predictability, safety, reliability, comfort, sameness. At the same time, we also need variety which translates into thing being different, random, surprising, new, unpredictable, exciting, scary, and more.

The key to Variety is knowing when to use it. Use it to spice up areas of your life where you have a lot of sameness, but don’t use it where predictability is part of the goodness. For example, try something new in your relationship to add fun like going somewhere new together. But for something like holidays where tradition is what make it good, don’t feel the need to add variety there.

For more information, listen to this short podcast from NPR’s story of the day featuring psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, where he talks about happiness, variety and his book Stumbling on Happiness. I read recently where depression was cured simply by changing a person’s surroundings, rearranging their bedroom!

TO-DO: Identify an area of your life that is boring, always the same. Then make a commitment to try something new. Keep it small and simple. Do this at least once a week. Once you get good at it, think about it once a day in the morning, “What could I do different today?”

3. People

We all need good people in our lives. I’ve heard it said that to be happy you need 2 out of the following 3 to be happy: good family, good friends, good spouse.

The key here is to recognize and focus on the good people you have in your life. Don’t feel like you don’t have what you need if you don’t have a spouse or significant other. What is important is appreciating the support that you do get from the people in your life right now. Here is an article called Social Support: The Hows and Whys of Cultivating a Circle of Friends that you might want to check out. Variety

TO-DO: Identify the supportive and/or loving people in your life. How can you actively and passively appreciate them? Identify gaps in support. If you need better quality people who will support you better, ask yourself, “How can I cultivate meeting such people?” and then take action.

4. Meaningful Work

Do you like your work? Do you feel like it makes a difference for someone in this world? Do you get excited when you tell people what you do for a living? If you don’t, you might want to consider changing what you do. Barbara Sher is the quintessential author of turning your crazy dreams into a real and supremely satisfying career. All her books are great. Her latest is Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams.

When interviewing retirees, “Making a difference” is the number one answer to the question, “What are you most proud of in your career?” It is also the number one answer to “What is your biggest regret?” as in “what do you wish you did more of?”

TO-DO: If you like what you do, great. Find ways to keep alive your connection to the meaning of your work. If you don’t like what you do, take a risk to daydream about what you really would like to do. Then with possibility thinking plan out how you can get there. What can you start on today.

Having Fun

5. Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy diet, exercise, and play(fun, laughter) are critical to being happy. Your body, mind and spirit all need nourishing.

For a diet that provides longevity and health I can recommend the following:

For a sensible excercise program that you can live with for the rest of your life check out:

Here is a fantastic website with tons of examples on Having Fun and How to Have Fun! Check it out!


  • DIET: At the most simple level, commit to eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and the right kinds of fats (canola oil, olive oil).
  • EXERCISE: Commit to 30 minutes daily of brisk exercise (walking is simplest & best), 5-10 minutes/day stretching, and 3 times a week for muscle strengthening. Here is a link to the Real Age group’s recommended exercises for strength called “You: On a Diet: 20-Minute Workout.” It’s online, free and customizable. You can print out tracking sheets too.
  • FUN: Commit to some small fun once a day and some big fun once a week! Check out the Having Fun website for ideas and tips.

Thank you for visiting Life Learning Today. Wishing you much happiness. Please share your comments below and if you found this article helpful please save to delicious or digg. Thank you!


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  1. […] Take  Your Vacation Time.  Try doing something different. If you always go on a trip, try taking a   more local vacation, and really get some good rest time. Or if you always  stay local, try visiting a new place. Variety is one of the keys to happiness. […]