Happiness For Dummies
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Your emotions, including your happiness, are affected by the world you live in — your physical and social surroundings. If you’re in sync with that world, you have a much better chance of achieving happiness.

Where do you stand when it comes to being in sync with your surroundings? Would you describe your relationship with the world around you as a tight fit, a loose fit, or no fit at all?

It’s not essential that you be in sync with all aspects of your everyday surroundings — place, people, activities, motivation — in order to experience happiness. But, obviously, the more in sync you are, the happier you’ll be.

Happiness is a sign that you’re in the right place

Physical surroundings are more important than most people realize. The notion that a person can be happy anywhere if he wants to simply isn’t true. Place matters. Consider things such as:
  • The country you live in

  • The region you live in (if you live in the United States, this includes the South, the Midwest, the East Coast, the Pacific Northwest, and so on)

  • The climate

  • The size of the community

  • The architecture

  • The terrain (for example, mountains, beaches, desert)

  • The amount of sunlight you’re exposed to

  • How close you are to your neighbors

  • The type of housing you have (for example, apartment, house, cottage, loft)

  • How much noise there is

  • How “green” the surroundings are (for example, a concrete jungle or a place with lots of trees and parks)

Think about where you currently live. Now, ask yourself whether you’re living in a place where you can be happy. If the answer is yes, then you know that your environment is not the root of your unhappiness. If the answer is no, it might be. If that’s the case, you may consider a “geographic cure."

Happiness is a sign that you’re with the right people

Happiness is also a by-product of the social world in which you live — the people who surround you. Do you need to live close to family in order to be happy? Do you need to live around people your own age? Are you around enough people day in and day out? Are these people supportive?

Do the people you spend most of your time with share your interests — cycling, sports, the arts? Are you in sync intellectually with those around you? Are you a single person in a world where everyone you know seems to be married? The answers to these questions may have a lot to do with how happy you are.

Think about the people who are around you — your neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends. Are you living around people who make you happy? If so, then you know for sure that people aren’t the reason you’re unhappy. If not, try making some new friends or looking for happiness outside of work or your neighborhood. There’s no law that says you can’t move back closer to your family.

Happiness is a sign that you’re doing the right thing

Another part of your surroundings has to do with the activities you engage in every day. These include domestic activities, employment activities, and community activities.

Think about how you spend your time throughout the course of a week. Generally speaking, are you active enough? Do you find what you do at work meaningful or are you just in it for the paycheck? If you have children, how involved are you in raising them? Do you provide any type of community service?

For example, building houses with Habitat for Humanity, helping out in a soup kitchen, or working as a volunteer for the Salvation Army? Do you do things on a regular basis to help your neighbors? Or do you spend the majority of your time sitting at home, watching television, and heading to the kitchen every 30 minutes for another beer or bag of chips?

Ask yourself whether you’re doing things that make you happy. If you answered yes, then it’s a no-brainer: Keep doing those things. If you answered no, try out some new activities.

Happiness is a sign that you’re doing things for the right reasons

In order to be happy, you not only have to be doing the right things, in the right place, with the right people — you also have to have the right motives. If the only reason you play golf with friends from work is so you can show them that your game is superior to theirs, then you’ll probably win, but winning won’t make you happy.

Look at what you’re doing — all the activities of your life (from work to fun and everything in between) — and ask yourself, “Why?” Are you doing things with and for other people for the right reasons? If you answered yes, there’s nothing to change. And if you answered no, you need to come up with another reason for doing the same thing.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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