Several Sound Sources of Happiness
Bill Cottringer

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. ~Mahatma Gandhi.

Unhappiness is easy to have, but having authentic happiness is one of life’s greatest challenges because of the many adversities that inevitably occur in our lives. In this article we will first go for the low hanging fruit and then work our way through the weeds to explore the more complicated ways to be happy. Happiness can simply be defined as what you get from what you are doing to get it.

Happiness and problem-solving seem to be intricately intertwined. Two keys of successful problem resolution are to: (a) understand the real problem and its real causes, and (b) varying your approach until you get the right results .Here we go on the pursuit of happiness that lasts a lifetime:

Dealing with Unhappiness

Our first point of departure on this journey is to clearly identify, understand, and do something about the things in life that make us most unhappy. This isn’t quite so easy as it sounds though because it takes honest introspection to uncover core causes of our unhappiness. More importantly, it requires frank ownership of our role in contributing to the things that help create an unhappy state of mind. Exposing this vulnerability takes courage and trust about where life is taking us. Ironically, some of the causes of our unhappiness are the cures to it, as shown below.

Fun and Enjoyment

There are several simple and easy ways to have fun and enjoyment and be happy. Just a few of these include:

• Nature • Meditation
• Music • TV
• Movies • Reading
• Writing • Arts
• Sporting activities • Cooking
• Hobbies • Gardening
• Travel
• Helping others
• Good conversations • Other recreation
• Being with family and friends

Physical Health.

Now let’s move on to the paths that take more effort to navigate. Physical illnesses, pain and injuries often encourage us to drift into a serious state of depression, anxiety, and unhappiness, which we have to overcome to have enough happiness from these other sources. To a large extend good health depends upon genetics, a little luck, and a whole lot of healthy living with proper diet, regular exercise, stress-reducing hobbies, and temperance in substance use.

The greatest challenge in life seems to be how to grow old gracefully, especially when the annoying limitations start showing up. This is where you have to step up to the plate and become the person you have been pretending to be all along. The challenge here is to separate those things you can and can’t change with the right timing, resources, and effort. At the end of the day, this often turns out to be our reactions to the things that happen to us. This translates to the mantra of “control the controllables and let go of the rest.”

Personal Development.

Personal development is a life-long journey of learning, growing, and improving into our best self, which is a process of climbing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from safety and security to belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. Life has many roadblocks to personal development, and these mainly involve trying to resolve three main conflicts that continually confront us—us vs. life, us vs. others, and us vs. ourselves.

Like all these other sources of happiness, a positive or negative approach has the corresponding outcome, and so progress or regression, comes from all the input from these other sources. Mindfulness, or staying present in the now moment and controlling mind wandering back to past memories or future expectations is a useful skill to help advance personal development. As well as all these other happiness sources.

Mental and Emotional Health.

Good mental health is basically like Mark Twain’s definition of common sense, or seeing reality as it is and doing something in the way it needs to be done, with smart thinking. It also involves learning how to see past the compelling illusions in life such as time, self, and certainty, in order to free ourselves from the constraints which the illusions usually bring with them. And emotional intelligence can overcome a shortage of IQ points, with the diligent effort to increase self-awareness, empathy, self-management, social skills, and intrinsic motivation.

Mental health and emotional intelligence are a major part of personal and professional development, which can also help develop healthy and satisfying relationships. But then again, so is spiritual development. Also having beliefs that benefit us more than having harmful disadvantages, is a good idea to consider. Oddly, it is the strength of our feeling about the truth of our belief, rather than the facts that support it, which drives our behavior. If we don’t like the consequences of our behavior, then the belief that is part of it may need challenging.

Professional Development.

A significant source of happiness in most of our lives comes from finding our unique vocational purpose and then developing our special gifts to achieve competence in our chosen profession. This applies to being a waitress, single parent, teacher, doctor, athlete, factory worker, or president of a country. Having a sense of making progress at our career quest to make a difference, can result in much happiness as do failures in building up unhappiness.

Efforts towards professional competency and confidence of purpose is very much intertwined with growing these other happiness sources. Sometimes you can find this purpose by asking yourself what you do best and have the most fun doing or asking trusted others about this. Financial stability is another big part of professional development and depends on working towards a balance between income, spending, and saving. Seeking free or at least inexpensive fun, is the safety valve here.

Social Skills.

Social skills are needed to do something we must all do to be happy and that is getting along with other people. The main social skills include developing our likeability, improving our communication skills, and increasing empathy of others’ perspectives. Likeability means being positive, a good listener, trustworthy, accepting, agreeable, humorous, real, and humble.

The best communication usually occurs by intentionally avoiding defensiveness in creating a supportive tone by conveying the important qualities of equality, acceptance, sensitivity, tentativeness, freedom, and spontaneity. Empathy is having a genuine connection with other people to see the value of, understand, and accept their different perspectives from our own.

Satisfying Relationships.

Much happiness can come from having enjoyable relationships with family, friends, and domestic partners. And of course, the opposite causes serious unhappiness. But satisfying relationships don’t happen by chance. They take a lot of hard work, flexibility, mutual trust, and commitments to grow and improve together in resolving the inevitable conflicts that occur when building the relationship.

And relationships can flourish when all these other sources of happiness are tapped individually or collectively. Good communication is also a key to having good relationships. What is required most is active listening to understand, rather than just to respond. And sometimes men need to control their need to fix things and just listen, while women may need to learn to live with the limitation that you can’t always have your cake and eat it too.

Spiritual Health.

Spiritual growth is a life-long process in growing your sense of belonging, obedience to a higher power, ability to love unconditionally and understanding and acceptance of what appears to be unacceptable. More than anything it is achieving a healthy balance between managing your ego and being humbly appreciative. This arduous path also involves embracing the only universal moral imperative there is, and that is to do good and avoid doing harm.

Spiritual growth also requires an openness to experience without giving into the temptation of making judgments which hide the interconnectedness of things. Life is made up of polar opposites that we have to learn not to further divide into artificial opposite qualities like good vs. bad, desirable vs. undesirable or true or false. Again, the moral principle behind spiritual health is a consistent effort to do good and avoid doing harm.

The good news is that all these sources of happiness interact with each other to compound and grow happiness. The bad news is that the same is true for unhappiness. For example, personal relationships can be greatly improved when we strive to achieve better personal development, social skills, and spiritual health. But unhappy relationships can quickly happen with physical or mental health problems, career difficulties or poor use of social skills.

Now there is one important caveat that applies to all this happiness prescription. This is the realization that some conditions in life are impervious to changing. These are the few things that we have to struggle to accept and understand, in order to reduce the negative impact which they inevitably have on us. Accepting that you can’t accept the unacceptable is the light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, Be happy!

Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be. ~Abraham Lincoln.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is retired Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, but still teaches criminal justice classes and practices business success coaching and sport psychology. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Because Organization, an intervention program in human trafficking, the King County Sheriff’s Community Advisory Board, and involved with volunteer work in several veteran’s groups and the horse therapy program at NWNHC Family Fund. Bill is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Critical Thinking (Authorsden); Thoughts on Happiness, Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale, and Christian Psychology (Covenant Books, Inc.). Coming soon: Reality Repair Rx + and Dog Logic. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (206)-914-1863 or