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

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 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, 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

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

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

  • Bree

    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.

  • 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.


  • A happy outlook can also help you live longer, as I report in my Psych Today blog:
    I welcome your comments!

  • Mark

    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.

  • 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

    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

      @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 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

    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

  • 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