12 Things I See Happy People Do (that unhappy people do not)

I have been thinking a lot about happiness of late, partially because so many people seem unhappy.  I think that was my first epiphany upon entering the world of Social Media; people are unhappy and there are a lot of them.  Now don’t get me wrong, we all know some people who wouldn’t be happy, were they not unhappy but I am not talking about them.  We will just let them be.  I am also not thinking theologically here (i.e. juxtaposing happiness and joy), today I am going to err on the practical and pragmatic side of things.  With that being said, let’s get going.

I think most people want to be happy; they are just not quite sure how to get there from their present location.  Many people honestly believe that happiness is a lucky bounce; a sunny disposition or favorable circumstances but I disagree.  Happiness is a choice.  I believe the best route to happiness is found by following the footsteps of those who have already arrived.

Here are my observations on the topic that have been formed by watching happy people for decades.

  1. Focus on what you have and not on what you don’t Unhappy people are unthankful people. The practice of counting your blessings is a great start.  Get out a legal pad and write down all the good things in your life.  Often unhappiness sneaks in when we lose sight of all the good things in our life and become focused on one or two difficult things.
  2. Question the sources of your expectations Most unhappy people want things they don’t have…and they want them bad. Are these expectations realistic?  Who is selling them to you?  I hope not the media.  Having a miserable existence because you are not living into a pipe dream, is really tragic.
  3. Be Generous Study after study has come to the same conclusion. Selfish people are miserable.  Happy people give of their time and resources to a cause greater than themselves.
  4. Remember happiness is not a destination The happiest people I know are those least conscious of their own happiness. Happiness is learning to enjoy the ride, not reaching your destination.
  5. If you don’t like your life, change it Take control of your own life. Do want to learn to play the piano?  Take lessons!  Do you regret not getting a college degree?  Get one.  Do you want to improve your spiritual life?  Start going to church.  There is really no one holding you back but you.
  6. Slow down You just can’t smell the roses at a full sprint! If you, like me, are a workaholic type, build time into your Outlook to do nothing.  Get a hobby.  Enjoy your friends and family.  Happy people have learned how to occasionally chill.
  7. Realize there are no shortcuts If you were honestly disappointed you didn’t win the billion dollar Power Ball, you are not getting it. Getting your education, working hard, putting in the hours, pursuing your dreams, saving and giving are always in style.
  8. Stop feeling entitled No one owes you anything. Just assume you are not going to get any help, that you will receive no inheritance and that no one is going to give you a break.  Now go make your life happen!  If anything else comes (and it probably will), it is all bonus!
  9. Think significance Significance is achieved by leaving the world better than you found it. People who feel their lives really matter are the happiest people of all!
  10. Forgive Forgiving those who have hurt you, breaks their power over you.  Forgiving yourself for your failures, frees you for future success.  Ask God to forgive you.  Ask those you have hurt to forgive you.  Make restitution where you can.  Move on.
  11. A great attitude is a choice, not a disposition We can control our feelings or we can be controlled by them.  Happy people CHOOSE to have great attitudes.
  12. Speak life When you speak, choose words that uplift, encourage and bring positive energy into every situation.  My mom was right, “If you don’t have something nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.”  People who speak life are like human air fresheners.

As you begin a new week, you have an opportunity to invest in your own happiness or to make yourself miserable.  If you choose the former, you will make others happy as well.  If you choose the latter…well, you know.

Shane Memphis

 -Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois and the author of the new book “Love God. Love People. Don’t Do Dumb Crap.” available on Amazon and Kindle. 


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10 Game Changing Choices You Can Make in 2020

Published by Rev. Shane L. Bishop

Senior Pastor of Christ Church, Fairview Heights, IL since 1997. I am an orthodox Christian but I am not in a bad mood about it. A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church.

250 thoughts on “12 Things I See Happy People Do (that unhappy people do not)

  1. I love that you posted this. There are a few people that i work with that are always negative about everything in their life and it makes the rest of us stressed out. I am 34 years old and have always said “if you dont have nothing nice to say, dont say anthing at all”. Great message God bless you!

  2. I’m happy most of the time. But not ALL the time but that can be expected. I like your article. Too many people have “eye- I” problems. God doesn’t promise is happiness here just in the hereafter.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I have come to believe that thinking happiness is a natural state of being and that expectation can lead us astray. It is a choice and it should not be the goal but often is the result of following the guiding principles you outline. 🙏🏻

  4. WOW!!! I cannot thank you enough for this perfect organization of my words, opinion, ethics and defined realization!!! I think I might be in love with your skill to organize words in a way ANYONE can understand if they have the WILL to do so! Speakers of the soul are hard to find so readily available are the naysayers and disevolved antisocialites. I would consider it a pleasure and honor to add your messages to my daily routine! I have struggled with happiness and being content in a world I have learned is unhealthy, detrimental and toxic. I have been systematically removing all forms of negative energy and influences to nurture my own happiness to share with others. In my less than perfect lyrical linguistics, I attempt to enlighten those around to the blessing that are so abundant and readily available to all those willing to try. Thank you for organizing my “church” as I have yet to find another word for this imperfect happiness.

  5. Oh yes, and one more thing: Your insightful list has nothing on Jesus Christ… a man of sorrows. What part does sorrow play. Some have heard and heeded and lived these insights, and are still struggling because of the death of a young (23) friend. There’s no guarantee. Help; wisdom; insight…yes. Maybe the hurt see life through the lens of hurt till the healing sticks.

  6. Wow. That was fantastic and you really did hit all the bases! I agree 100%. Whenever I feel down, I just start thanking the Lord by naming everything I have to be thankful for, at first it is forced, as we don’t like to break out of our anger/ self pity. But as I start listing them out, those feelings change into ones of thankfulness and humbleness. Then, I feel better!
    Another thing that helps is when I listen to another’s problems and be the encourager for them, often praying with them. No one has ever said no when asked “can I pray with you?”.

  7. Great advice…generally I follow just about everything you suggest. I’m most happy that I have so many wonderful friends, a great family, good family upbringing (though I didn’t always listen.) And when all else fails I read a good book…like the movie, The Jerk, this is all I need…oh and maybe a couple glasses of wine before bed, and a good night’s sleep….that’s all I need…oh, and a great movie and dancing, and music..that’s all I need.

  8. A comparison in Scripture of happiness and contentment is I think a worthy effort. Scripture says a good bit more about Christians being content than it does about being happy.

    “My crown is in my heart, not on my head;…..my crown called content; a crown it is that seldom kings enjoy.” — Shakespeare’s Henry VI

  9. Yes…and I almost think that the most important one on the list is forgiveness. It gives one an opportunity to move on from some of the old baggage to truly living our lives. Even if we might not have a chance to speak with those that might have hurt us. Sometimes it is better to just let go.

  10. Wonderful advice –
    not only do you give other people the warmth of your sunshine but you also bathe in it on a daily basis.

  11. Wise and thoughtful words. I am going to add your comments to all my graduation cards. Thanks.

  12. Hi Rev’, great article. I agree 100%; One addition would be…..your thoughts determine your reality. If you allow yourself to think negatively, you shall attract more of that and wonder why you just seem to be wheel-spinning through life. With continued effort we can convert that choice into a HABIT – happiness is a SKILLSET. Too many people regard happiness as a by-product of something material; happiness is not an entitlement as you correctly mention. Adopting an attitude of GRATITUDE on a daily basis affords real returns.

  13. One last thing, it is advisable to stop controlling our effort. Oftentimes, things don’t work out for a reason. It is not meant to be at that point in time….if we hand our will and our lives over to HIM, and accept life on life’s terms, we rid ourselves of fear and anxiety…..we gotta have FAITH!

  14. Love this! I’m going to use it for a Communion service I do at. An assisted living facility. Thank you! Shirley

  15. Buddha says happiness comes from giving to others. i always add give to others wisely it can get complicated.

  16. Very cool info. So easy to say so hard to live i have beautiful things around me children happiness and good life. I can do all things for them but i forget me.

  17. I believe that your Attitude is 99% of your life, the other 1% is humility. Be very Thankful for all those people and things you have in your life to make it easier to live each day to its fullest. Live within your means and save for those things that you would love to have in your life. Share with others that are less fortunate than you, and give of your time to help those in need. Expect the unexpected things to happen, but they are only road blocks to be overcome in time and effort on your part. Try to fulfill your dreams only as you can and have the money or time to do so. Never stress or worry as that only causes you health problems. Let things roll off your back or shoulders and move on. Agree to disagree and move on in life as it’s to short to augury over and over, but agree to part your ways as friends. Give your life to God and he will guide your way in life and change your directions to success. Earn your way and you will be happier in your on skin. Choices are made every day, try to choose the right way not the wrong way, focus on your goals in life and go forth and achieve those goal one step at a time, try to avoid those pitfalls, but climb your way out of them if you happen to fall, never give up. Respect yourself as well as Respecting others, be accountable, and responsible for you own action, don’t blame others for what you did or created yourself.
    Disable MCPO Navy retired 1966-1996.

  18. I’m a preacher in Malawi. I enjoyed perusing the happiness principles. The best act to help renew my life. Thanks.

  19. All points are true. I just needed the reminder..thank you for this! I am starting a new day with all of this in mind.

  20. You have so accurately pinpointed the practice of being happy. Your words are so profound, I found myself “screenshotting” ( if that’s even a word!) each line so I can rehearse each fundamental. Sometimes life comes like a huge eraser to wipe the mind of the things we think we know but upon hearing we remember we forgot what we knew. Some things you listed build tension in me but only in that I recognize the ” incompleteness” of my own thoughts in the matter. What you have written has impacted me and I thank you for it!!

  21. I read this to my children and husband…this was wonderful and meaningful to us. Thank you for sharing!

  22. Thanks for your clarity – these are reminders of what I need to see in myself every day.

  23. Everything you said is so true……..it is the life I try to live. Not always successful but always trying to be better. Thank you for your message…I am a 74 year old woman who has known and loved Jesus since I was a small child …praying “Now I lay me down to sleep” one of my first memories.

  24. Well said-a sound blueprint. I would add: like yourself. Thanks reading your words on an almost sunny day at our cottage in NH where the only sounds are of birds and loons.

  25. I just wanted to say BRAVO on a beautifully written article that I agree wholeheartedly with! I run a Facebook group called “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain” which is a gratitude-based, complaining-free zone for people (like me!) who live with chronic pain. A member posted a link to your article in our group and I just finished reading it and loved all of your points. I literally said “yup!” after each one.

    I also have a personal website called Gratitude Addict (www.gratitudeaddict.com) that is basically about what you wrote about – finding happiness in these lives we lead. I did a gratitude project for the entire year of 2016 which led me to making the site and writing a book based on it.

    Thank you, Reverend, for a wonderful article and great insight. I want more people to be happy and it makes me sad that we seem to be getting sadder and sadder. Keep up the good work and spreading the good word.

    Blessings,
    Lauren Zalewski

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