What makes you happy?

I’ve thought about this question quite a lot over the last few years. What is that makes a person happy? I’ve heard a lot of answers about long term happiness, but right now I’m more interested in what makes people happy right here and right now. Without trying to make it seem trite, I’d like to know what things can cause an immediate feeling of happiness in a person’s life. It sounds like immediate gratification, but it’s more than that.

A good friend of mine told me recently that it makes her happy to help others. When she’s able to give something of herself or what she has to someone who is in need, it makes her happy. So, I’m thinking about things that we as people do, rather than things that we have.

One reason I’m asking this question is because so many people seem unhappy on a frequent basis. I don’t believe all of them are truly unhappy people, so they must have something in their lives that makes them happy, that keeps them going when times are tough. I read somewhere a question and a suggestion that goes something like this: What would you do if the world would end in 15 minutes? Then do that every day.

I understand the sentiment, but it seems too much like desperation to me. Who wouldn’t hold their loved ones tightly and tell them they love them? Other answers are often just silly. Really, in order to be happy people we have to develop happy habits. We have to have satisfying, fulfilling lives. What is it that you do that makes you happy? I’m looking for as many comments as I can get on this post and then I’d like to discuss the answers in another post.

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8 Responses to What makes you happy?

  1. Steve Leigh says:

    What I would do in 15 minutes is very different from what I would do if I knew I only a few months or a year to live — then I would make some significant choices and changes. If the world’s going to end in 15 minutes, it isn’t enough time to do anything of importance. I’d simply opt for pleasure.

  2. ray says:

    Hi Steve. It’s great to hear from you. I totally agree with you. I think the amount of time is a big factor in our measure of happiness. I might be happy knowing I had one hour out of many thousands of hours that I could spend in any way I wanted.

    In terms of immediate happiness, I might spend that hour playing with my kids, talking to a friend, holding someone special very close to me, or maybe even doing something somewhat less profound, but also happiness-inducing, like smoking a good cigar, sipping fine scotch and staring at the stars on a clear night.

    In fifteen minutes, I guess I might opt for some of the obvious choices. You know, we could make this a little less serious and a maybe a little more fun by starting a discussion of what we could pack into those fifteen minutes…

  3. Marcus says:

    I feel that people have a responsibility to themselves to ensure their own happiness. I refuse to let others affect the way I present myself to the world. If I am unhappy that day it is not because of what somewhat else has done to me and treated me on that particular day, if I am not happy that day it is for reasons that I choose. Letting others affect you that way when you have no vested interested in them shows a definite sign of weakness. I do feel that playing with children or doing other things can improve your mood greatly. I enjoy going to visit my friend and spending time with his children just having fun with them and making them laugh. Letting someone bring you down that you care about is an honest empathetic reaction to their feelings. Letting someone affect you due to their mood, attitude, or actions who is not important to you is letting them an ultimate power over your emotions. So I choose to go through life choosing my own mood based on what truly is my mood and not a result of someone else. As Ray has seen I am generally a happy person rarely filled with hate, angry or spite other than what I feel passionately about. I feel its your responsibility is making sure that you are happy with yourself perhaps thats what truly is the key to being happy not what others who are trivial can cause you. Well enough of my rant and rave. I was going to stop by your office today. I went to room 345 because that is the room listed on your information in your e-mail, but I failed to find you. I hope all is well and I was curious what courses you are teaching next quarter. I look forward to hearing from you.

  4. LearningNerd says:

    I totally agree with Marcus. Of course you can’t always be happy just by “choosing” to be happy, but you can control how you react to things and how you see things to some degree. Even so, I always try to appreciate my other emotions as much as I can — as experiences just for the sake of experience.

    New experiences usually make me happy, along with a ton of other things: helping people (only sometimes, though), thoughtful conversations, pets, and sometimes “quality time” with people that I love. Anything cute or beautiful also makes me happy — cute animals, beautiful artwork, hot guys, etc. 😉

    Oh, and then there’s the stuff that makes me happy like a little kid, like video games, chasing pigeons, dancing, trampolines, swings, opening a new jar of peanut butter (it looks so perfectly smooth!), sugar, chocolate, roller coasters, and shiny objects.

  5. ray says:

    Hey Marcus. How’s it going? I agree with you, too. It really is a choice how we respond to the influences around us in the world. Stephen Covey talks about this in 7 Habits of Highly of Highly Effective People. There’s a moment in which we decide how we’ll respond to stimuli and it’s what we do with that moment that shows who we are. We just have to first realize it’s our own choice and then decide where to go from there. Great point!

    Give me a call or email me and we’ll go have a beer sometime. Thanks for the great comment.

  6. ray says:

    Liz, these are great points, too. These little things in life are what I was thinking about when I wrote this. Maybe a lot of us are searching for the big fix and the instant gratification instead of working toward what will ultimately make us happiest. How can we increase our happiness in increments?

    Yeah, it would be great to be rich and have all sorts of nice things, have all kinds of attention from sexy people, or have the adoration of lots of readers of your books or blogs, but how long will that hold up?

    We have to live each and every moment of each and every day. Can some far-off goal sustain during all that time?

    All those things you listed are great, too, Liz. Thanks for being a part of this discussion!

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  8. Inez says:

    What makes me happy is life itself. When I wake up in the morning I feel I have been blessed, another day of my journey to fulfill. I want to see how many people smile at me in a day, how many people I make smile. I want to know how many good things I can do. I can not let anyone still my joy no matter what. How I praise God for the good and the bad. How I try to be an honest and fair person. How I endure my pain without infecting others. How I deal with my problesm. How many times I can forgive. These are just a few things that make me happy. But I am most happy when I sing prises to the Lord, when I know I can’t hold a tune. All these things make me happy. Especially when people try to tear me down for no reason, and I still stand. This makes me happy. Not knowing what the next second will bring, and have a sense of security and a sense of peace through it all. This makes me very happy. Trusting in God, regardless of what I do. This makes me happy. Ok with looking in the mirrow and happy with who I see. I plan to be happy always regardless!

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