Happiness For Dummies
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These four ingredients are essential if your goal is happiness. Without any single ingredient, you will find yourself feeling down, depressed; certainly, absent of happiness. The foundation for true happiness consists of these basic ingredients:

  • A feeling of safety

  • A sense of satiation

  • A sense of perspective

  • Quietude

Safety and happiness

Not everyone lives in a safe world. There are unsafe neighborhoods, where crime is rampant and all the windows have bars. There are unsafe relationships, where a person’s odds of being harmed — physically and/or emotionally — are exceedingly high. And, not everyone has a safety net when it comes to financial problems. Feeling unsafe carries with it fear, uncertainty, and bodily tension — hardly a context that fosters happiness.

How safe do you feel? If you don’t feel safe, you’re not happy.

Satiation to be happy

In simple terms, satiation means being full. A happy person is someone who, at least at this moment, is full. She has had enough of something (or things) she values.

You may be asking yourself, “But who decides when you have enough of something?” You do. It’s just that simple. You, and only you, are the arbiter of how much is enough. If nothing is ever enough for you, your search for happiness is one without end!

Seeking happiness can be like walking on a treadmill. You tell yourself, “If only I had a boyfriend, I’d be happy.” Then, after you get the boyfriend, you find yourself thinking, “If only we were married, I’d be happy.” After you get married, you think, “If only I had kids, I’d be happy.” In other words, happiness is always one step away from where you’re standing.

Take a minute and ask yourself this question: Which of the things I value in life do I have enough of and which do I not?

No one has everything he wants. You may have enough money, but not enough friends. You may have plenty of friends, but not enough money. You can be happy even if your life isn’t 100 percent “full,” but you can’t be happy if your life is empty.

Happiness through perspective

Finding happiness requires that you take a step back from life and reflect on the bigger picture of what your life is all about. That’s called perspective — and, in today’s hectic world, not many of people have it!

Happiness, after all, is not about what you’re doing at the moment — it’s about the impact of what you’re doing on your life, positive or negative. If the impact is positive, happiness follows. If it’s negative, unhappiness follows.

Achieve happiness through quietude

Happiness finds you when you’re in a quiet place or circumstance. You need a place where you can get in touch with the other three basic elements of achieving happiness, someplace where you can appreciate how safe you feel, where you can see how satiated you are, and where it’s not so difficult to achieve some perspective. Get off the proverbial treadmill of daily life.

You may be able to find quietude in the following places:

  • In a library

  • In the sanctuary of a church, cathedral, synagogue, temple, or mosque

  • On a walking trail through the forest

  • At an out-of-the-way table in a small, quiet restaurant

  • By the pool, when no one else is around

  • On the beach, early in the morning or late in the day

  • On the drive home after a long, hard day at the office

  • On a long road trip

  • In a lovely garden

Here are places where you likely won’t find quietude:

  • In a noisy restaurant

  • At a popular bar

  • In the middle of a college football stadium on Saturday afternoon

  • At a wedding

  • In a place where you’re competing with others

  • At your office

  • Running from place to place in a busy airport

  • Fighting to maintain your place in line for coveted concert tickets

  • In a car with hyperactive kids

What you’re looking for is a place where you can hear yourself think, free of distractions or responsibilities. Ideally, you want to be able to spend at least 20 minutes a day in quietude. You can practice anywhere. The important thing isn’t where you find the quietude, it’s that you find it in the first place, because, without it, you’ll have trouble being happy.

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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