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

A happy woman.

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.”

“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 cliched 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.”

“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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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 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

    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

    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

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