What is happiness? It’s a subject that has intrigued humans for millennia. Ask a dozen people what makes them happy and you’re likely to get a dozen different answers. Yet elusive as it may be, happiness is so important to life that Thomas Jefferson even incorporated it into the U.S. Declaration of Independence, naming the “pursuit of happiness” an “unalienable right” along with life and liberty.
What it takes to create a happy life isn’t just a philosophical question, though. It’s one behavioral scientists are equally interested in exploring. “Positive psychology” is a relatively recent field of study focused on understanding the positive emotions and healthy character traits necessary for humans to flourish, and some universities now offer courses in the science of happiness.
Of course, you don’t need to be a scholar to consider what happiness means to you. The quotes below offer an abundance of advice and insight about cultivating joy, and living a happy and meaningful life.
Things look different when seen in a different light. So look at them in the light of happiness. Don’t confuse good and bad.Baltasar Gracián, writer and philosopher (source: “The Art of Worldly Wisdom”)
I never will believe that our youngest days are our happiest. What a miserable augury for the progress of the race and the destination of the individual, if the more matured and enlightened state is the less happy one!George Eliot, author
Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.Elizabeth Gilbert
Be happy for this moment — it is all life is.Omar Khayyam, Islamic scholar
There are only two roads that lead to something like human happiness. They are marked by the words: love and achievement.Theodor Reik, psychoanalyst
I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.Joseph Campbell, author
I shall take the heart… for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.L. Frank Baum
Enjoy life. Accentuate the positive, not the negative. It sounds so trite, but a lot of people will pick out something to complain about, rather than say, “Hey, that was great!” It’s not hard to find great stuff if you look.Betty White
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.Thích Nhất Hạnh
Happiness is not an end — it is only a means, and adjunct, a consequence.Dinah Craik
Whatever creates or increases happiness or some part of happiness, we ought to do; whatever destroys or hampers happiness, or gives rise to its opposite, we ought not to do.Aristotle
Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.Anne Frank
But also I say this: that light / is an invitation / to happiness, / and that happiness, / when it’s done right, / is a kind of holiness, / palpable and redemptive.Mary Oliver, poet
Reason, Observation, and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so.Robert Green Ingersoll, writer and orator
There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.George Sand, author
Here’s a little song I wrote / You might want to sing it note for note / Don’t worry, be happyBobby McFerrin
One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats, and if some of these can be inexpensive and quickly procured so much the better.Iris Murdoch, author
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.Mahatma Gandhi
I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do.Roger Ebert
The bottom line is that becoming happy is up to you. No one else can make you happy. And true happiness can never be built at the expense of others.Tina Turner
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