The secret to happiness


It’s not destiny that decides you’ll be a sour face. Hap-py people work towards being that. Here’s how to do itIf you’re happy and you know it…goes an old chil-dren’s ditty. But are you? The pursuit of happiness isn’t easy — materialistic goodies do not guarantee a good life; close relationships, work satisfaction and working towards greater good do.Studies have shown that the tendency to be happy is an inherited trait. Not everyone has a sunny disposi-tion, but experts say we can all learn to bring more joy into our lives.Sophie Keller, author of the How Happy series, says the secret to happiness is knowing you are already happy. “We’re human ‘beings’, not human ‘doings’ or ‘havings’, so happiness needs to be a ‘being state,” she says.Here’s a simple break-up offered by writer Sonja Ly-ubomirsky in The How of Happiness: 50 per cent of our happiness levels are genetically determined, 10 per cent are affected by circumstances while the remaining 40 per cent is subject to self-control.So how do you get happy? Here’s a don’t-do list to set you on the path to happiness.Don’t look outwards: Seeking external sources of hap-piness can sabotage your peace. San Francisco-based sustainable happiness expert Dr Aymee Coget suggests, “Focus on controlling your emotional state by choosing happiness and adopting positive psychology principles, build your resilience, follow your heart and meditate into the greatest states of bliss.”Don’t hold a grudge: American writer Rita Mae Brown said it right when she wrote, “One of the keys to happi-ness is a bad memory.” Forgiveness doesn’t come easy, but is key; anger, antagonism and resentment are det-rimental to your self. Dr Vandana Tara, a Delhi-based clinical psychologist, says, “In all probability, the person concerned will go on with life while you nurture ill-will. This bitterness could leave you physically and mentally ill.”Don’t mistreat yourself: Happy people know the im-portance of looking after themselves — they eat healthy, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Exercise keeps you fit, lets you relax, boosts brain power and improves your body image. Sound sleep lets you focus and increases productivity. Sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, but are good at recalling glum moments.Don’t neglect family and pals: Studies have consist-ently proven that spending time with close ones im-pacts our happiness quotient. Harvard happiness expert and author of Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert sums up: “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” Also, make time only for those who matter; superficial relation-ships sap mirth.Don’t compare: Keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t help the happiness cause. Constant comparisons with people who are smarter, more at-tractive or successful leads to resentment. “Compar-ing is a battle, a fight. If you were to look back on your life, you don’t want to think you’ve wasted your time on it,” Keller says. Tara says the way out is to compete with yourself. “Easier said than done, but every indi-vidual is unique. Another person’s weakness might be your asset.”Don’t be self-centred: Doing good makes us feel good. Research indicates that helping others ups our sense of self-esteem, setting us on the path to real and rewarding happiness. University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, says, scientists “have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in wellbe-ing of any exercise we have tested”.