happyWhat makes a person happy? 350 million people live with depression according to the World Health Organization. Sixteen million adults in the United States have an episode with depression each year. That’s 6.9% of the population living in an unhappy state of being.

Let’s define depression.

Depression: (n) State of unhappiness. A period of time without joy. A loss of interest in things that used to bring pleasure.

That’s not a clinical definition, but it makes sense.  

Is there a science and psychology to happiness or is it a temporary state of being? Sunshine makes me happy. It makes me warm and joyful. It’s a topical application that doesn’t fit everyone. If happiness is contingent on sunshine, how does a person find happiness on cloudy days? Does it depend on what kind of person I am?

Probably not. We’ll get to that soon, but if you want to know what kind of person you are see these ways to type your personality.

Personality types-happiness

Myers Briggs is well known for typing a person’s personality–breaking down a person’s personality profile into one of 16 types for better understanding. I am familiar with this test but had to re-take it to remember and better understand my personality. I am an INFP-T. That means I am an introverted, feelings, perceiving kind of person with a turbulent flair.

If that’s too much analysis for your liking here’s a simpler analysis with a five-factor result. The result brings a chuckle because I’m an introverted, conscientious person, who isn’t very open or agreeable and has an average dose of neuroticism. Feel free to analyze the result in the comments.

Does the kind of person I am determine my happiness or is happiness something I can change? Can we choose to be happy despite our individual makeup? I think so.

We can choose happiness in spite of our circumstances. It can be difficult to do, but happy people have common characteristics and behaviors.

Live in accordance with your values-discover/live strengths

Truly happy people understand they have certain gifts. Simply, they are better at some things than others and they focus their behaviors and professions around those gifts. As a result, they shine. They discover and use their strengths and aren’t afraid to test their boundaries to grow. Being comfortable being uncomfortable is part of the process to test and try new things. Some things work and other things do not, and a happy person learns from the process while honing skills along the way. Stephen Covey refers to this as sharpening your saw in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Positive thinking, smile

Create an avatar of happiness you can tap into for strength. Writers are familiar with the idea of avatars and this works for everyone. Use your mind’s eye to picture a place or an activity that makes you happy and go to your happy place. Invoke your senses and basque in the sounds, feelings, smells, touch, and taste of happiness.

Print a picture and tape it near your computer or hang it on the wall. Tuck it into your purse or wallet so it is readily available for a dose of happiness.

Smile. It’s contagious and science says it really works. It’s more difficult to be sad or mad when your inner person is happy. Schedule happiness. Block periods of time to do things that make you happy regularly. Put it on the calendar so it doesn’t fall through the gaps.

Try wearing silly socks.

Time beats money

Don’t stay in a job you hate, especially if it’s for a high paying salary alone. If you’re thinking money will make you happy, it won’t always work. A Purdue University study suggests a single person is happy earning $95 K. That sounds like a lot of money. Good thing emotional happiness is much cheaper, between $60-$70K annually. People earning in excess of this potential are actually less happy than their peers. Having more time and less responsibility makes people happier.

My friend Tom Kuegler visits the Philippines, a third world country, and finds people there are a much happier people. He tweets about the experience: 

Exercise/diet/well-being = happy

Exercise is associated with a natural endorphin release and feelings of happiness. A well-balanced diet helps the body perform better longer and a body in a healthy state produces lower incidences of depression.

Think young. You are as young as you think you are and it promotes a happier state of mind and physical performance. And, make sure you get a little nookie on occasion. Sex makes people happy. If you’ve felt sexual tension you get the idea.

Give/volunteer–but not until it hurts…

Cultivate kindness. Volunteer, mentor, create an act of service in an enjoyable way. Mentor a child by being a Big Brother or Big Sister. Helping others is a proven source of happiness. Do good for someone else and receive happiness in return.

A caution not to give until it hurts. Overdoing giving to the point of being tired, stressed, and short-tempered can result in being resentful and stressed. Being a martyr is bad for your health. A good general rule is a few hours a week.

Have you discovered the source of happiness in your life? Share in the comments what makes you happy and if you know someone who needs a smile won’t you share this?