How To Be Happy


You know I like to read, right? Well, I was reading Skeptic magazine last week when I ran across this paragraph, which blew my mind:

Sonja Lyubomrisky is a social psychologist who has compiled extensive data on what makes people happy: expressing gratitude, cultivating optimism, avoiding overthinking and social comparison, practicing acts of kindness, nurturing social relationships, developing strategies for coping, learning to forgive, increasing flow experiences where one is absorbed in activity, savoring life’s joys, committing to your goals, practicing religion and taking care of your body through physical activity.

Read that again.

Do you go out of your way to make sure that each man who goes out with you has a positive experience? Do you make men feel good about themselves when they take you out?

It’s like a one-paragraph blueprint on how to be happy. I swear.

And if you filter this thru the prism of dating and relationships, you can see for yourself whether you’re doing your part to maximize your own happiness:

Cultivating optimism: Do you dread the entire dating process because it takes time and frustrates you? Do you take long breaks between dates and boyfriends because you just can’t handle another heartbreak? Do you believe the worst in men instead of the best in men?

Avoiding overthinking: Do you agonize about “what it means” when he calls/doesn’t call/texts/doesn’t text/says he loves you/doesn’t say he loves you/commits/doesn’t commit? Do you obsess about the status of a new relationship? Dissect his every move with your girlfriends? Worry about the future before there’s a present?

Avoiding social comparison: Are you concerned what other people will say about your partner? Do you think about what others will say about you if you remain single? Do you envy friends who have what you don’t?

Practicing acts of kindness: Do you go out of your way to make sure that each man who goes out with you has a positive experience? Do you make men feel good about themselves when they take you out?

We can go on, but this list is masterful. I would highly encourage you to look at each and every thing on it and ask yourself if you’re effectively practicing happiness.

Because if there’s one thing I know about happiness, it’s this:

If there’s one thing I know about happiness, it’s this:

People fall in love with happy people.

People fall in love with happy people.

I had one girlfriend dump me in 2004 because I wasn’t happy enough.

I’ve broken up with a number of women who, despite being attractive and intelligent, were fundamentally negative people who didn’t like their parents, their work, their friends, themselves, or, frankly, me.

My wife is a happy person. It’s probably her greatest characteristic, one that comes to her effortlessly.

She doesn’t need a promotion or a raise or a fancier car. She doesn’t care about status symbols or name-dropping. She’s largely apolitical. She has faith in a higher power but doesn’t fault those who don’t. She loves meeting new people, traveling, eating, drinking, laughing, and spending time with friends and family.

As long as we do those very basic things, she’s happy. And, as the saying goes, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Last year was the happiest year of my life for a number of reasons, but mostly because I was able to share it with the best person I know, a woman who makes me smile every day, a woman who has taught me more about kindness than everyone else I’ve ever met. Of course, I’m also talking about a woman I easily might have overlooked because she didn’t fit my paradigm of what I was looking for. I’ve shared this story with you 100 times before.

So please, take a look at that list and ask yourself if you’re a happy person and if you generally choose to date happy people.

You may not be able to make yourself happy if that’s not your disposition, but then, finding a partner who IS happy should be all the more imperative to you.

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  1. 1

    Evan, this is good.   Here’s my question.   I’ve read some of your articles that seem to basically state that we should believe the negatives we see in some guys, when we date.   So how does this marry up with cultivating optimism?  

    I’ve taken that advice to heart, believing the negatives and not listening to the voice that says, “But, but, he’s cute, he seems nice….”   It’s kept me out of MUCHO trouble.   And it’s helping me keep a saner head about guys in general.

    I’m not trying to be snarky or sarcastic, I’m just trying to figure out how to do both.

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Good question, Heather. When I say “believe the negatives”, I mean the things that he shows you and tells you. He says, “I’m not ready for a relationship”? Believe that he’s not a long term prospect. He doesn’t call you for a week to set up plans? Believe that he’s pretty indifferent about you and is weighing other options.

      None of this contradicts any of the above content about appreciating men’s good qualities. Men do want to be appreciated and there are great rewards for that. But who’s to say that you can’t appreciate a cute, smart guy and in the same breath, tell him, “Yeah, this just isn’t working for me. I’m looking for a boyfriend, not a booty call. Best of luck.”

  2. 2

    I want to tattoo this list to my arm (like answers to a test).   I know when i am more positive and express gratitude, I just am happier.   That is enough reason to do it.

  3. 3

    To me, being optimistic is treating each new date as a new person who “could be the one” even if I have had some bad experiences.   For example, I don’t assume the man I am meeting for the first time is a “player” and anxiously look for “signs” just because the last one was.   My boyfriend is transparent and the antithesis of a player, but if I started off being overly suspicious he probably would have “disappeared”

    I like Sonja’s book because she helps you prioritize where to start in the process of getting happier

  4. 4

    Happiness comes in waves and moments in life. It should be based on one individuals feelings about himself and not based on a situational circumstance because those are subject to change in an instant.

  5. 5

    Evan, thanks for clarifying.   That makes sense.   I’ve had a few guys approach me who were just that.   Cute and not boyfriend material.   Trying to be positive can be kind of hard here in DC where everyone seems to come for work, not love, and the first question out of people’s mouths is, “what do you do?”, but keeping hope alive is worth it.   I was just about to give up hope, get a dog, and call it quits, when I met my current boyfriend, so call me a believer!

  6. 6

    I would agree with this article; it’s a good prescription for living  a happy life.  Emotionally healthy individuals have always been drawn to happy people.

  7. 7

    M and Amy should pay attention to this list : )   Honestly, I think I do all of these.   It’s hard, though… in my early 40s, I find that so many guys of my age are extremely negative.   I go on dates and stay positive, kind and fun while they mope and whine about their ex-wives and alimony payments.   And how about all the men I meet who make plays for manipulative, shallow women (ignoring the nice girls who pay their own bills and possess a modicum of integrity), then whinge about how North American women are spoiled and how they’ll have to find wives overseas in 2nd or 3rd world countries.   The good thing about being happy in myself is that, whether or not I end up with a great guy, I truly am confident that I’m going to continue to have a great life… alone or in a couple.   It really is that simple.

  8. 8

    This is such excellent advice! I think far too many daters think that finding the “right” person is what will make them happy. The fact is, if you are an unhappy, negative person, the odds of a relationship suddenly making you happy aren’t very good. You might feel pretty good during the first few months of limerence, but that will pass, and you’ll be back to dealing with all of the things that made you unhappy before.

    There’s no question that sharing your life with the right person can make it a LOT better; just don’t expect miracles if you don’t already have the capacity to be optimistic and cheerful.  

  9. 9

    Awesome!   Love the research summary and the application to dating.
    Case in point:   I’ve seen men whom I initially thought were too unattractive to date become very appealing because they did these things and were happy people.   The nice thing about hanging around people who cultivate happiness is that their habits tend to rub off on you.   I am extremely appreciative of those friends who influence me in this way.

  10. 10


    Picking up on what you were saying. You can’t have your cake etc.

    Studies show that pessimists are far better at telling whether someone is lying or not. They have a more realistic view of the world.
    Optimists can be manipulated. Just think Dodo.

    Those that are rich, are far more likely to have been those that were very unhappy being poor.
    Those that are attached are far more likely to have been unhappy being single.
    That is because these are the people who are highly motivated to change their condition.
    Those that are ever aware of the dangers that lie ahead, are the ones most likely to avoid them.

    I used to believe women were gentle, beautiful creatures. The more I study, the more I am aware how deeply flawed they are.  

    And then there is the proverb    “Where  ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise”

    So, totally agree on the points about happiness, but wisdom allows us to see the  awful  tragedy of the human condition, and just perhaps give us the motivation to change it.

  11. 11

    Zaq wrote: “I used to believe women were gentle, beautiful creatures. The more I study, the more I am aware how deeply flawed they are.”

    EVERYONE is deeply flawed, not just women. Get that into your head for a first step toward wisdom.

    “…wisdom allows us to see the awful tragedy of the human condition, and just perhaps give us the motivation to change it.”

    Wisdom would allow you to see that the only person you can change is yourself.  

  12. 12


    Oh I agree.   After my ex husband verbally and physically abused me, and being mistreated by a couple of men post-divorce, I became much more aware that it’s better to watch my step.

    I used to be horrible about not being able to tell if someone was lying, but since I was lied to alot, well, now I know better.   I watch very carefully.   If I think a guy is feeding me a line, well he is sent packing.   And usually sent packing with a few “choice” words from me, LOL.   Can’t help but speak up for myself and let him know that being a jerk isn’t attractive.

    It is true that it’s good to be wise, and careful.   I’ve also learned that no matter whether I end up marrying the guy I’m with, or end up with a dog, well, I’m going to be happy.   I don’t need anyone to make me happy.   I’m pretty content all by myself.   At least then, I don’t have to share the DVR or ice cream, heehee. 😉

  13. 13

    Helen, this is not an attack on women.
    The point I was trying to get across was, is it better to see the opposite sex through rose tinted spectacles, or see them for the flawed creatures they are ?

    Do women want to be told they are beautiful, or that they are best that the guy could find that would have him. How important is truth ?

    Those that seek truth will probably lose faith in God.

    I have struggled with this topic, because it appears   that through understanding, we do not achieve happiness, although we are more likely to avoid sorrow caused by others.

    Many think that the best we can hope for is contentment, but true happiness will always be fleeting.

  14. 14

    Do you have the link to this piece?

  15. 15
    Saint Stephen

    Zaq Said: (#14)
    Those that seek truth will probably lose faith in God.    

    Why would seeking the truth makes someone lose faith in God???  

  16. 16

    @Saint Stephen
    Yes thought someone would question that statement.

    I read somewhere that 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences are atheists.
    97% of the members of the Royal Society (the British science organisation formally headed by Sir Issac Newton) do not believe in God.
    Those people whose job it is to question how things work, overwhelmingly reject religion  

  17. 17

    Zaq, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a God. It could mean that these various scientists have over intellectualized the notion until they will simply not allow themselves to believe in the truth.

  18. 18

    Do you go out of your way to make sure that each man who goes out with you has a positive experience?
    I know from experience that some women definitely don’t practice this one.   Some are just real ball-busters doing some annoying things to get a rise out of a man apparently to test his reaction.   I once went out with a girl who took me to a bar on the third date and then left to go grind on some guy.   I thought this was very disrespectful and I essentially told her that it was rude and if she ever pulled anything like that again, that would be it.   Of course, she responded that I was being unreasonable and that she had not done anything wrong.   The crazy thing is that she wanted me even more after I put her in her place and actually started saying we would get married, which seemed like a nutty thing to say on a third date.   However, I was disgusted that she had out me in a position where I had to call her out, and so I never asked her out her again.   She should have followed Evan’s advice to make dating a more positive experience.

  19. 19


    You cannot over intellectualize truth. Science works on evidence. Confidence is gained in ideas (postulates, theories) by their ability to make predictions.
    If “x” exists then you would expect to see “y”.
    That is why science is so successful.

    An idea cannot be true just because you want it to be.

  20. 20
    Katarina Phang

    Spot on, Evan!   I wrote about how men fall in love and commit to happy women as well.

    My ex told everyone he fell in love and married me because I always woke up happy.   And we went through a rough patch because mainly he wasn’t a happy person in general.   Unhappy people bring you down.

    The guy I’m dating tells everyone that I’m the easiest woman a guy will ever meet.   Always upbeat and positive and easy going.   After two months he just told me he loved me last week.   So being happy pays!

    I’m the happiest in my life these days and it brings about more happiness.   Happiness is contagious.   Try it.  

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