How to Find Happiness: 7 Timeless Tips from the Last 2500 Years

by Henrik Edberg

What do you want?

A great job?

A fulfilling relationship?

Go sailing around the Pacific for a few years in your very own luxurious boat?

Or just to get along better with yourself?

Perhaps you want one of more of those things. But beneath those and many common wishes, if you take it a step further, often lies a wish to find happiness.

One good way to find a few useful, life-improving and time-tested tips is to look back. To look way back through history. To find ideas that have arisen in minds over and over the last few thousand years. Here are seven such ideas about how you can find happiness. Maybe you´ll find them helpful.

And if you want to learn much more about inner happiness then have a look at my 12-week Self-Esteem Course.

1. You choose.

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

The world of those who are happy is different from the world of those who are not.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

How your view yourself and your world are conscious choices and habits. The lens you choose to view everything through determines how you will interpret what is happening. And from your interpretation you act. And all of this becomes your life.

You can choose to find happiness in small, everyday things. You can choose to interpret what happens in a positive way. Or in a negative way.

And your choices controls much of how much happiness your will find and create in your life.

2. Focus on the present, not yesterday or tomorrow.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.
Helen Keller

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

You only have now. And now. And now. Yesterday is a memory and you cannot change it. Tomorrow is just a fantasy in your mind right now. So live more in the now, focus on the present moment and today. Think and worry less about yesterday and tomorrow. Otherwise you might miss a great deal of happiness that is available to you right now.

3. Don’t forget to be grateful.

Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it.
Fyodor Dostoevsky

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.
Frederick Keonig

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
Marcel Proust

One of the simplest and quickest ways to turn a negative and sour mood into a more positive one is to be grateful.

A few things you can feel gratitude for are for instance: The sunshine and the weather. Your roof. Your health. A good TV-show, a movie or a song. Your friends, family, co-workers and just about anyone walking down the street.

Just try if for a minute and see how it changes how you feel. And it’s a win/win solution. You feel great because you are grateful about your world and the people you are grateful for feel great too because they feel appreciated. So don´t forget about gratitude or you may forget about the happiness that is already in your life.

4. Help someone else find happiness.

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
Buddha

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

Happiness is like a kiss. You must share it to enjoy it.
Bernard Meltzer

This is certainly one of the most popular ideas I’ve found about happiness. And it might sound clichéd and empty. But it works very well. When you make someone else happy – by, for example, helping them with something – you can sense, see, feel and hear it. And that happy feeling flows back to you. And then, if you’d like, you can boost you own ego by thinking something like: ”Wow, I really made him/her happy!”.

And since the Law of Reciprocity is strong there is another upside. People will feel like giving back to you. Or they might feel like helping/sharing it with someone else. And so the two – or more – of you keep spreading the happiness.

5. Get rid of a couple of your less valuable desires.

If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.
Epicurus

You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.
Eric Hoffer

That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.
Henry David Thoreau

If you want less instead of more, more, more then your desires are more likely to be fulfilled. And if you throw away a few of those desires that you may not really want or need that much anyway you’ll probably start to feel less stressed and worried. This is a calmer and better place to be to enjoy your day (tip #2) and to take the time discover the happiness that is already in your life (tip #3).

6. Do what you like to do.

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
Albert Schweitzer

Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

A pretty obvious one. But it’s still easy to trap yourself into doing what you don’t want to for many, many hours. And seldom do what you really love to do. And I guess this one ties into tip #1. You may not be able to choose to do what you want to do right now. Or for many hours each day or week. But you almost always have a choice to do more of what you really want to do. There is always time. Or time you can free up. You have a choice.

7. Or at least do something.

Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.
Benjamin Disraeli

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain

One of the best ways to not find happiness is just to hold yourself back and do nothing. Seldom show up. Paralyze yourself through over analysis. It’s not always easy to take action, it can be scary and hard and difficult. But if you don’t take action you’ll be missing out on a lot. Including many moments, people and experiences that can bring you a lot of happiness.

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{ 92 comments }

Jake's smile April 20, 2009 at 7:51 pm

:-)

Maya April 29, 2009 at 3:38 am

I was thinking about the post about going to work, home, having things but shy and didn’t know what to say, so didn’t know how to go about getting what was wanted most… love and friendship I suppose… Anyway… I thought about that a lot and remembered how many older people LOVE to tell their story. There are assisted living facilities and homes, even hospitals, where an older person would love to have someone there who cared enough to just listen to their “story”… that might be a start… just being a good listener to someone who needs someone to tell their story to.

Dan May 12, 2009 at 3:25 am

Happiness lies within ourselves.Through Life society shapes our expectations and moulds our gauge of what is happy. We alone have the power to change our thinking. Stop and look at things around us and appreciate. Some people can be around people yet feel alone, allow yourself to interact and open up yourself. Most people, when you get to know them are worthwhile.
Sorry if I am writing nonsense. :)

Diana May 22, 2010 at 4:38 am

This is a very nice thought. I find making people laugh ,makes me happy.

Brandon June 5, 2009 at 7:07 am

This has been so eye opening. I just stopped for a second, and tried to reverse my thinking to think about the good things i do have. I almost instantly felt a little happier. Before i read this article i was aggravated with my dad. Then i read that section about appreciating what you do have, like family, and now i’m pretty much over it. Everything in this article makes sense, if you just sit back and think about it. I would recommend this article to anyone.

Thank you so much,
Brandon

Business Monk June 24, 2009 at 4:48 am

These suggestions are great. They do energize me for a day or for a week. For some people, the effect may be longer or shorter. The challenge is however, to make this condition permanent. In fact, this is the real challenge.

Judi June 30, 2009 at 4:05 pm

My Husband of thirty-eight years died and I don,t think I will ever be HAPPY again

rye November 13, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Sorry to hear that. But it is up to you to decide if you want to continue living your life with a frown or with a smile. Best of wishes! I hope you decide to live life to the fullest with a smile. =)

molly April 8, 2010 at 12:43 am

To Judy, It is OK to be sad. These ideas are wonderful, but happiness may take time to shine through again. Think of what your husband would want for you–I bet he loved you, either way you feel. Take care of yourself, and I hope you can find some happy moments, looking at the stars, seeing a beautiful butterfly or playing with a child or a puppy… as for the big ‘happiness’–heck, we’re all still searching for that ;-) You’ll find a different kind of happiness and when it comes, it will come.

mike July 3, 2009 at 3:17 am

That was very enlightening thanks

julie August 19, 2009 at 12:26 am

I hope you are feeling a little bit better, it must be very hard and you will miss him so much, but little bits of happiness will come your way as time passes and you grieve, god bless and good luck xx

julie August 19, 2009 at 12:31 am

I am in a work situation where I feel I have to leave because my new manager thinks it is nice to be important, I believe it’s more important to be nice, so im going to be jobless next week, worried about what happens next but totally believe happiness will come my way again, I know for sure if i stay there I will be miserable so I’m off, life to short to allow someone else to make you unhappy.

Larry Danks September 5, 2009 at 12:58 pm

This is an excellent post. I enjoyed it. It touches on the highlights of finding happiness in a succinct way. A few months ago, I finished a book about finding happiness and improved self-esteem through kindness called “Your Unfinished Life”. It’s premise is that we make ourselves a whole lot happier thinking less about ourselves, our egos and our own problems and staying alert for others to help instead. It’s not as popular of a goal, but it’s far more effective – for others and for ourselves. The author of this blog post, Henrik Edberg, has used many highly appropriate quotations to support the major premises of finding happiness. I used dozens of inspiring quotes too from people as diverse as Mother Teresa and George Foreman to Walt Whitman and Yung. “Your Unfinished Life: The Classic and Timeless Guide To Finding Happiness and Success Through Kindness” has had highly positive reviews on Amazon from Kirkus and others. If you like reading about happiness and are looking to be happier in your own life, or trying to help someone else be, you might wish to look on the book’s website for excerpts from each chapter: http://www.YourUnfinishedLife.com. The greatest value of it is that it can help provide revealing insights to lead you to your highest self. And as I tell my students, that is a far better and higher place than we might imagine and a place we should all strive to be.

Sue September 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Yesterday I stood in my mother’s kitchen listening to my sister yell over and over and over again, that I just needed to “Get over it”, “stop wallowing in my anger and grief”. I walked out.

Driving home I knew she was right and that I do need to let go of my anger and grief. So today, on the internet of all places, I thought to type in “finding happiness” and came upon this blog. All seven items are relevant to me. I am not sure if just reading these points day after day will be enough to bolster my happiness, but they might help. Anger, like weight comes on quickly, and is hard to lose. I am ready to go on a diet.

Niko September 30, 2009 at 5:34 am

This post made my day.

Chami October 21, 2009 at 6:26 am

nice comments

leigh November 2, 2009 at 7:01 am

i like the comment about anger coming on slowly, like weight, and its hard to lose. i got divorced over 5 yrs ago and its still tough to be alone, imagining a lifetime of that.

BunnygotBlog November 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm

These are all very beautiful quotes.
Thank you

Claudes November 10, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Happiness is very complex concept. It really depends from the point of view where you stand. It is for me for sure a spiritual dimmension first before it surround the physical , emotional and moral aspect of its reality

irena November 20, 2009 at 9:57 am

very true!!!!

kc November 23, 2009 at 3:19 am

pain is inevitable, suffering is optional…

john November 23, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I really like these quotes. Many of these ideas are also in a video I created about how to be happier: http://happyshirts.org/video/video.html

debbie December 16, 2009 at 10:54 pm

I wish my family lived by this . love it.

Shannon January 2, 2010 at 7:06 am

Nice quotes! Thanks for the inspiration.

Jesus January 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm

ITS ALL IN THE MIND… ITS ALL IN THE MIND. YOU ARE BUT WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE…..

Kim McGinnis January 9, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Great thoughts to focus on – and ACT upon to create more happiness. The trick is to practice these wonderful steps when things are aren’t going well – you lose your job – or your own your own business and your clients can no longer pay you, you get sick, your spouse leaves you, etc., etc…Our greatest challenges really are opportunities to raise ourselves to the next level of happiness. I find contemplation really helpful to get me through these times. In contemplation I am able to use my imagination and calm my mind and transport myself to a place that shows me why ‘my challenge’ is a blessing. From here I get a better job, that ‘dream client,’ I will finally have time to take long healing walks in nature, and I will have a chance to spend some time alone – getting to know what makes me happy.

I recently read a book by a man named Andy Feld. He explained all these points in an amazing way. For anyone that starts off with good intentions but needs help in their follow-through, I highly recommend this read.

Thanks for listening,
Kim

Andy Feld January 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Kim, thanks for sharing this great site! I believe strongly that happiness can be learned and practiced, but we must make it or priority. Here is a daily 5 step approach which works great for me.
1)Smile early and often
2)Apprciate all the wonderful little things in our lives. Even make an appreciation list and watch it grow
3)Forgive everybody and start with yourself
4)Allow everyone to be who they are
5)Watch and listen to less of the daily news

Best to all, Andy

Charlie February 7, 2010 at 12:29 am

Thanks, i found all the quotes useful and i hope to never forget them

Beth February 24, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I’m glad I found your site. I like the quotes — they are inspirational. Thanks for sharing them.

Bree March 16, 2010 at 8:53 pm

This is true. However, it is not all that realistic is it?? I mean come on!! If we did all of these things on a daily basis, we wouldn’t have time for anything else!! I mean trust me I want to be happy just like everyone else, but we need to be realistic. Happiness is a journey, not just an emotion or a way of life.

Debbie@happymaker March 26, 2010 at 8:08 pm

If you can’t change what you are doing right now, learn to enjoy what you have to do in the present. Happiness is a state of mind and you have some great tips here.
Many people are so busy looking for happiness that they forget it is their back yard.

Debbie

Susan Whitbourne April 3, 2010 at 12:11 am

A happy outlook can also help you live longer, as I report in my Psych Today blog: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201003/long-term-happiness-and-longevity-is-it-all-in-the-telomeres
I welcome your comments!

Mark April 18, 2010 at 2:05 am

I loved it but find it hard when you have so much anger in you, I live in hope that i can find that place called happy.

Getting An Ex Back May 14, 2010 at 12:13 am

I am not much into reading, but somehow I got to study lots of articles on your weblog. Its amazing how interesting it’s for me to visit you very often.

sam May 22, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Hi ,
My name is sam, i red couple of stuff in this site and i liked it, yet the implimentation is hard, i broke up reciently from my girl friend, i feel sad all time, cant appreciate the birds in the morning, cant appreciate the new house i bought and what makes things harder is that i immigrated to another country 2 years ago and hardly got friends as most of my mates are back home and as an immigrent, its hard to make friends when u look differnt, that is true. so i am stuck with my lonliness, i am living with my parents, yet my circle ends as i leave the door, the world outside is not friendly with me, im trying to be happy, words r so easy

tracy May 26, 2010 at 6:34 pm

hi
@sam. hi sam
i kind off understand what u mean, but you don’t need other people to make you happy, i hardly got any friends. cause i’ve been betrayed by most of them.so i’m tyring to do things that makes me happy not other people. cause most people doesn’t like to see u happy.u lucky to have your family around you, thats all that matters.when u look for it too much you wouldn’t find it. just be yourself. and go out there and have fun.i feel lonely as well most of the time. i feel that am alone in this world. but i pray for god to keep me strong.the more you don’t have that much people in your life believe me your life is better.just give it time. and lives life as it comes. and keep that smile on your face. first impression plays alot .there’s a time for everything. we just have to wait sumtimes for our time to come.. hope that helps .

Evans May 26, 2010 at 11:16 am

Hi,
My name is Evans,am so happy to be part of your articule.
I will say its kind of difficults to be happy,but after going through ur articule,being happy begin to make sense to me.
Right now in my life,am going through lots of challenges which has made happiness meaningless to me.
So started to browse through ur website’which i must say has given me the reason to be happy no matter what. Thank you so much

ismaili alaoui May 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Thank you, for the quotes, it helped me to over come my issues, those days i felt so unpleased and unhappy, but this article helped me, and it makes me feel the hope, thanks you

happiness July 6, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Great synopsis, I especially love the bit about altruism and happiness. Some folks think it’s our evolutionary structure that enables us to benefit from giving to others. Whatever it is, giving is good for the health and the happiness levels. Love the quotes, too- One of my favorite quotes in regards to connection and light is a little similar. I’m paraphrasing, so I may get it wrong; you can either be the candle or the mirror that reflects it- Edith Wharton. Once again, thanks for the post.

Glenda July 14, 2010 at 4:14 am

True happiness comes from the holy spirit. People should look to the Lord when they are feeling down and lonely. If you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then he will be there for you through everything. It may feel like you are alone at times, but he will always be right there with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. During your toughest times don’t give up because he will pull you through it, and bring you out better off than you were before. Keep your faith in the Lord. He is the only true friend you can depend on, that will never disappoint you. You can talk to him any time of the day, and he will be there to listen. When times seem to be the hardest, pull your BIBLE out, and ask God to speak to you. There is no other happiness that can compare to the LOVE of God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous August 12, 2010 at 1:50 am

I believe that spirituality plays a very major role in the pursuit of happiness. Sometimes we can be fooled into thinking we are complete and sound in emotion but often times we can be deceived because we have never tasted happiness in the first place. We cannot recognize it because we dont know what it is. True happiness comes from recognizing a spiritual need and nourishing that hunger with truth. A man named Jesus mentioned happiness on the Sermon On The Mount. He taught how to find it and make it grow in our hearts and minds. One of the most fundamental points brought out was the need for a reconciliation with our creator, the life giver. A disease of the mind and heart afflicts mankind, a spiritual disease, however Jesus came to heal us of our afflictions and show us the way to an approved relationship with our father. He truly is our father and we owe him so much for everything that he has given mankind and the things he will continue to give us into the future forever.

sarah September 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm

hi.your site is wonderfull.I could underestand how to be happy.

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