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A reader recently asked me what I thought the key ingredients to happiness were. This is a great, meaty question that people have been wondering for ages. Happiness is more than just the absence of stress, though the two can be related. Philosophers have commented that the very act of chasing happiness as an end can make it more elusive, or that noticing when you're happy can sometimes disrupt the flow of what was making you happy in the first place. Though the question has been examined for quite a while now, a clear consensus hasn't begun to emerge until recently. Fortunately for those happiness-seekers out there (and doesn't that include all of us?), researchers from the relatively new field of positive psychology have finally begun to really explore what makes people happy, so we can know what choices to make in our lives. One thing that's been striking to me is that many of the things found to promote happiness are things that have also been found to relieve stress. Here are a few:

Gratitude
Happiness in life is linked to the comparisons we make. If you're always comparing what you have to the holdings of those who have more, you'll feel lacking; if you compare yourself to those less fortunate, you'll have a sense of abundance. Being grateful for what you have can definitely promote happiness, and it can also relieve stress. If you focus on how things could be better--how things should be better, you will likely have a much more intense experience of stress when facing challenges in your daily life. These challenges could be experienced as less stressful if you focused on how much more challenging they could be, comparing yourself to those who have it harder than you.

Cultivating Relationships
Happy people tend to have strong relationships and a sense of belonging to a group. Close friends and family can share in your joy and help you shoulder the burden of sorrow. They also help with stress relief, offering a supportive ear when you need one, or practical support when you need a helping hand. (They also offer the opportunity to return the favor, which is good for all of us.) Investing in close relationships with friends and family, and weeding out the 'toxic people', pays off in the long run.

And Several Other Things
Here's a list of several other factors that play into both happiness and stress relief. Each item on the list will lead you to a further explanation of how it relieves stress and promotes happiness, so you can skim the list as a whole, and decide how much you want to know about each item. Enjoy!

More Happiness Resources from Elizabeth Scott:

  • Quiz: How Happy Are You?

  • Happiness and Health

  • Happiness Research: Recent Studies On Stress And Happiness

  • How To Be Happy in 5 Simple Steps

  • Shortcuts to Happiness
  • I'd like to hear from YOU! What makes you happy? What relieves your stress? Are they the same things? Post your answers in the comments, or on the Facebook Page About Stress Management. Ongoing Stress Reduction Resources - Follow Me on Twitter - Subscribe to the Newsletter

    Comments
    September 21, 2008 at 1:34 am
    (1) Carrie Tucker says:

    Yes, choosing happiness is a great place to start isn’t it.

    Many blessings and less stress:)

    September 30, 2008 at 10:02 pm
    (2) Jay Hall says:

    I have friends that need to read this article. Good information here.

    May 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm
    (3) Somalia Newmann says:

    I was wondering what makes a depressed person happy? These ideas are all relevant to what makes us even “more” happier. What is the basis of happiness?

    September 7, 2011 at 12:24 am
    (4) alagiri sami rajah says:

    you are fantastic after reading your articles im relevied and happy may your time and effort helps millions of people long life my dear Elizabeth god bless you

    November 26, 2011 at 6:42 am
    (5) flaubert says:

    i just recently reads your articles”it really helps a lot to other people’,and for me’,as well…whose now encountering a lot of stress and depression this past few months”….it helps me boast my guts to regain it”….when i read about your articles here”,it relieves all my innermost&outmost loneliness deep-inside of me”..thank you and more power to u,ms.elizabeth…godblz!

    August 16, 2012 at 11:49 pm
    (6) Ayman says:

    Well, I totally agree with you, but in my own opinion i think inorder for a person to be happy, A person needs to ask him/her self a few questions Why am I here on earth? Where did I come from? What am I worth? Do I have any intrinsic value? Do I serve a purpose? These are all fundamental questions

    Why Am I Here? – The Atheistic Worldview
    Why I am here? Well, if God doesn’t exist, that means that life must have come about through some natural impersonal, unintelligent, and ultimately purposeless process. That means we’re ultimately as purposeless as the very process which brought us into existence. Life’s just an accident and so are you. You can find short term reasons for living like you’re here because your parents wanted to have children, etc., but ultimately you’re just an accident and so are your parents. Life is one big accident. You serve no purpose, you’ll cause no lasting effect, and in the grand scheme of things your life is utterly meaningless. Without a Creator in the beginning, there was nobody around to put you here on purpose which means you aren’t here for a reason. It’s that simple.

    The point is, if God really does exist, terms like “justice,” “purpose,” and “morality” aren’t abstract notions: God has a purpose for you (that’s why He made you), He’s the one who instituted morality, and in the end He’ll see that justice prevails. That’s a comforting thought to some, but it’s terrifying to others.

    regards…..Ayman

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