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Happiness: How Do You Define It?

happinessHappiness means something different to every person. But it’s not often that we actually sit down and define what it means for us. How can we become happy if we don’t even know what happiness looks like? To capitalize on the momentum of happiness or to fight the drain of negativity, it is crucial to log your emotions. Read more about this technique from Mo Gawdat, and learn other ways to bring real and lasting happiness into your life in Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy.


I started by simply documenting every instance when I felt happy. I called it my Happy List. You might want to do the same thing. In fact, why not take a moment right now, pull out a pencil and a piece of paper, and jot down some of the things that make you happy. As assignments go, this one’s not too tough. The list can be nothing more than a string of short, declarative sentences that get right to the point and complete the phrase “I feel happy when ________________________ .”

Don’t be shy. There’s no reason to feel inhibited because no one ever has to see your list. You can include the obvious stuff, like scratching your dog under her chin or watching a beautiful sunset, and simple things like talking to your friends or eating scrambled eggs. There are no wrong answers. Write as many as you can think of.

When you’re done, at least for the first pass, go back and highlight a few items that, if you were forced to set priorities, would be at the top of the list of things that make you happiest. Those will make for a valuable short list that will prove useful in our later discussions.

Here’s some good news already: the very act of creating your Happy List makes for a very happy experience, so much so that, when you’re finished, you should feel energetic and refreshed. I work on my list at least once a week, adding new things. Not only does it put a smile on my face, but it helps me cultivate something that psychologists say contributes to happiness over the long haul: an attitude of gratitude, which happens when you acknowledge the truth about our modern lives and the fact that there is plenty to be happy about after all.

Go forth and start your own Happy List. Not sure what to put on it? While we hope this is never the case, here are some tips on how to find your happy.


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