In this holiday season, many people find themselves happier than usual, but some do not.

Their expectations are not met because the past seems better than the present. It’s good to be reminded how to get back on track, how to get happier.

Harry Hoover’s little book, GET GLAD, is indeed a “practical guide to a happier life.”

 
 

Aim for Happier, not Happy

Aiming for happiness, Hoover writes, is frustrating, as happiness is often ill-defined. Where can it be found? How happy do you have to be to have achieved your goal? Easier, and much more practical, is to aim to be happier. What do you enjoy? Do more of it. What do you dislike? Do less.

The Attitude of Gratitude

One key to being happier is being grateful. Hoover’s book’s dedication to his parents for their genes (nature) and their care (nurture) and to his wife shows he practices the giving thanks that he preaches. He even found a way to appreciate something about his father’s premature death, in that his dad was memorialized by family and acquaintances in a way that inspired Harry himself.

In this book, Hoover lists hundreds of things we might well be grateful for. Do you need a list? Create your own, counting your blessings.

Top Seven Reasons People Are Not Happy

Although about half the people Hoover polled considered themselves “always happy” or “mostly happy,” and another 39% “sometimes happy.” There were 9% who are “never happy.” Their reasons?

Worry, often about money: How much is enough? Researchers have found that in the U.S., those with higher incomes tended to be only slightly happier and generally somewhat tenser.

Lack of focus: Less happy people tend to let their minds wander into negativity.

Inability to accept responsibility: Feeling victimized is not a key to solving your problems.

Belief that things can make you happy: Materialism is shallow; its pleasures short-lived.

Comparing yourself to others: Be happy for the good fortune of others, rather than being envious. Investigate how they did it!

Seeking perfection: Yes, the best is the enemy of the good, and completion usually trumps perfection. Seek being satisfied.

Not liking yourself: Appreciate your strengths and work to diminish your shortcomings.

Three Quick Pick-Me-Ups

Get enough sleep, “Even a nap can turn your day around.”

Exercise: do gentle yoga, kettlebells, walking, swimming. Whatever. Move.

Eat frequently, in small amounts: “Science tells us we should eat every four hours or so.” We don’t want to go against science, do we? I do find my own mood improves after a snack, a “medicinal munch.”

Three Profound Changes

Be grateful: Hoover cites studies that support his belief that “Gratitude is the shortest path to happiness.” I know it works for me. He lists 25 ways you can practice being grateful, from journal writing and turning off negative news – disasters are not appreciated! – to giving compliments and appreciating nature and friendships.

Be a friend: Personal experience, and science, shows that “good relationships keep us happier and healthier.” To have a friend, one must be a friend, however. Karma, etc.

Be Mindful: Be alert, be aware, and consider meditating.

The Power of Purpose

You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going. While “happy” may be vague, there are goals that are more clear-cut. Mine have to do with my family, for example. Hoover suggests asking yourself these questions to clarify your own goals:

What are my unique gifts and talents?

What do I do best?

How much time do I spend doing what I do best?

What do I want to achieve in my life?

Who are the most important people in my life?

What makes me really happy?

How do I want to be remembered?

How can I make a difference in the world?

What’s most important in my life?

Having sorted these out, decide on your purpose and then commit to it. Commitment is rare and powerful. Commit to being happy. You’ll be glad you did.

Thanksgiving

This holiday in the U.S. has just ended, and Christmas and Hanukah are next. Giving, sharing, and accepting with gratitude are part of the holiday season, and keys to becoming even happier in the new year to come. Be glad you are you, here, now.

How are you able to be happy during the holiday season? What do you appreciate the most? Do you have resolutions to be happier in the new year? How will these suggestions help? Please join the conversation.

Douglas Winslow CooperDouglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D. is a former Harvard science professor. He still publishes and helps others write and publish their books, via http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com. Douglas’ life’s central theme has been a half-century romance with his wife Tina Su Cooper, now quadriplegic due to multiple sclerosis and receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, as discussed at their website here.

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