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Sad? Depressed? Understanding What Makes People Happy Can Help You Stop Living An Unhappy Life

Updated on February 3, 2010

Are you often sad or depressed? If you're like most people who are living an unhappy life, you probably do not know what makes people happy. If this applies to you, it's going to be difficult to create happiness for yourself.

This hub is not about clinical depression, which requires professional help. This is for people who would like to be happier, but they do not really understand what is causing their unhappiness.

Warning: If you’re always sad or depressed, you may have clinical depression which requires medical attention. If you have clinical depression, the extreme opposite of happiness, this causes important changes in your brain chemistry and can lead to serious problems. Getting help from your physician or mental health professional — for example, by getting medication or therapy — can relieve some of the clinical depression symptoms and help you feel better. Your physician or therapist can also offer you some guidance on how to be happy after your clinical depression is managed.

The popular Happy Meal and happy hour do not bring happiness for many sad and depressed Americans...

It's shocking that in a place where the Happy Meal and happy hour are so popular, millions of Americans are often feeling sad and depressed. They do not know what makes people happy -- and they do not know how to be happy.

Most people are often miserable and unhappy... and they usually don’t do anything to find a solution for their unhappiness. Most unhappy people hope that they will be happy someday — they will be happy when they find their ideal soul mate… they will be happy vwhen they finish school and start their dream career… they will be happy when they land their perfect job… they will be happy when they make a lot of money… and so on.

Why are so many people living a miserable and unhappy life?

The truth is that most people just don’t know how to be happy. They don’t know how to take simple pleasures in everyday life.

Most people know how to entertain and amuse themselves — they know how to have fun... they know how to go to parties… they know how to go to the best shows — but, they don’t know how to be happy.

Most people know how to achieve their career goals and succeed — they know how to move up the corporate ladder... they know how to build a successful business... they know how to achieve incredible things in their careers — they expect and hope to find happiness *after* they achieve their financial and career goals, but they usually still end up being miserable.

Most people know how to create wealth, but they don’t know how to create happiness. Most people know how to have fun on dates, but they don’t know how to be happy in their relationships.

Sadly, you can learn almost anything at school — except how to be happy.

Most parents teach their children valuable skills in life, but they usually don’t teach their children how to be happy. Quite often, the reason is that they can not teach what they do not know.

Why is happiness such an elusive concept for most people? Happiness is not something that we can pursue directly — it’s usually the by-product of doing things we love to do.

What makes people happy?

Most happy people are passionate about various things — they are happy when they are doing the work they love… they are happy when they are spending time with their family and friends… they are happy when they’re enjoying art or music… they are happy when they’re walking in the park… they are happy when they’re dancing or just reading quietly.

Most happy people find happiness just by enjoying the process of living and doing the things they love.

How do you increase your happiness?

According to Martin E. P. Seligman, author of “Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment,” the best strategy for increasing your level of happiness involves working on the three components of happiness:

  • Meaning — You can find a sense of purpose in your life. You can find ways to make your life more meaningful.
  • Engagement — You can become more engaged in what you do. You can increase the depth of your involvement with your friends, family and other relationships as well as your work, hobbies and play.
  • Pleasure — You can savor more sensory experiences and get more pleasure out of life.

In addition to having more fun and getting more pleasure out of life, you can focus on improving the components of happiness that can provide the biggest and most lasting payoff – engagement and meaning.

The most fundamental finding from studies on the psychology of happiness is that being with other people makes people happy. The “need to belong” is important in life satisfaction. So, it’s important to work on improving your social skills in order to build social support and closer connections with others. In turn, this can lead to greater happiness and satisfaction in life.

Some people want to choose happiness in life, but they have more difficulty making positive changes. If this applies to you, some of your habits may be getting in the way of finding happiness.

By applying the new findings in brain plasticity, you can have a better chance of breaking unhealthy habits permanently and improving your life. You can overcome roadblocks that may have kept you from living your best life. By changing your brain, you can change your life. Instead of feeling sad and depressed, you can live a happier and more satisfying life.

Instead of living an unhappy life, you can find happiness just by enjoying the process of living — by being yourself and doing the things you love. The most important question isn't what makes other people happy, but what makes you happy.

By understanding yourself and knowing what makes you truly happy, you can follow your bliss wherever it leads you

Living An Unhappy Life? Learn How to Increase Your Happiness, Instead of Feeling Sad and Depressed

What do you think? Please share your comments.

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    • profile image

      Mr.Smith 6 years ago

      All great coments, but, for some that understand happiness, I could not ever have guessed this by looking at Allie's picture. It seems rather depressed ;-)

    • profile image

      The_Idea_Gal 6 years ago

      I think happiness is knowing what you want out of life and sometimes we have to try new and diffent things to figure that out. In the meantime, keeping an open mind to all your possibilities will help bring you closer to happiness.

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 7 years ago

      Allie, you seem so young to have so much "togetherness' , what a great hub and being so helpful too.Thank you for great ideas.....

    • allie8020 profile image

      Allie Mendoza 8 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Hi Cassy,

      Thanks for your comments. I have to finish packing soon, but I thought I'd reply to some comments before I turn off the computer.

      I think being close to my grandmother and other "oldies" made a difference in my life, too. I think it's about learning from wiser people that helps a lot.

      Enjoy your pancakes! I'll touch base with you when I get back. Take care!

      :) Allie

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      I think the "oldies" make a big difference in my life. I grew up around lots of old people. Maybe there's something in that? Like a hub? Heh!

      Yes, I am a pancake fiend! Some things like banana pancakes in maple syrup just have to be tried! Mmmh! Darn it, Allie - I'm getting hungry again! LOL!

    • allie8020 profile image

      Allie Mendoza 8 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Hi Cassy,

      That's a huge compliment for your friends to consider you an "at-peace" kind of person. I definitely sense that you're emotionally intelligent and empowered.

      You're right! I didn't think about the grandparent's effect, but maybe that's an important contributing factor. Having wise mentors help a lot in terms of our choices, happiness and life satisfaction.

      I was very close to my grandma and brothers. We had lots of talks about life and they helped me a lot make better choices in life.

      Anyway... I think that sooo sweet that you make dinner and breakfast (she mentioned pancakes in one of her comments) for Cathy.


      :) Allie

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      Gosh, thanks for that! This is bolstering my confidence here no end! *chuckles* Every one of my friends says that about me, that I am an "at-peace" kind of person. I probably owe it to my grandparents because they are so old and see the world through a lense of much experience and wisdom. I know some of it is rubbing off on me. Well, that's my theory, anyway. Ok, gotta go and make the dinner cos Cathy is on the way home! It's always good to see your comments! Take care always - Allie. : )


    • allie8020 profile image

      Allie Mendoza 8 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Hi Cassy!

      I think contentment is difficult for many people to achieve. It probably requires greater emotional and spiritual intelligence. I like feeling content, too. Somehow, it involves having inner peace and serenity.

      You probably have greater depth than most people. Otherwise, you wouldn't have all these wonderful ideas about happiness and related mental states.

      I do love the way you think!

      :) Allie

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      Aw, wow! What a great hub on happiness. I equate some words with happiness. Freedom. Fulfillment. Passion. Knowing oneself. Contentment. Love. I'd rather be content than totally happy. Happiness is like a new pair of Shoes. I wear the other lesser ones more often. I don't wear the prize ones too much. The lesser ones are like contentment. I get to be content much more than totally happy. That way, I don't wear Happiness out too much and ruin it.

      That's my skewed weird theory on Happiness. I got plenty more where they came from! LOL!

    • allie8020 profile image

      Allie Mendoza 8 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      You're welcome and thank you for your comments, Tim-tim!

      Yes, it takes self-awareness to be happy. It also takes emotional intelligence to make better choices and correct mistakes in life.

      Most importantly, it take courage to be happy and to love people. Love and happiness are closely intertwined.

      A common mistake is that people do things for happiness and love as if they're bargaining tools. If I do this, how much happiness or love will it bring me? If I love you this much, would you love me more or less? There is no rate of return (ROI) on love and happiness -- but, there are potential ripple effects for the rest of your life.

      It's better to love... without expectations. It's better to be happy... for no reason at all.

      :) Allie

    • tim-tim profile image

      Priscilla Chan 8 years ago from Normal, Illinois

      If only one can tell what makes him/her happy, that would be a great start. Sometimes people are living just going through the motions to live, not knowing what makes him/her happy. When he/she knows, does not know how to start correcting it either. Thanks for the informative hub.

    • allie8020 profile image

      Allie Mendoza 8 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Thank you for your comments and your kind words, James!

      Yes, people should read and educate themselves more about happiness.

      I do think that people's unhappiness in life can contribute to alcohol and drug use. Of course, some people have genetic predisposition for unhealthy lifestyle. But, so many people just want a quick fix for how they feel.

      Happiness seems like a simple thing to achieve, but it's a difficult problem for millions of people. The biggest roadblock is that it requires emotional intelligence to deal with happiness issues. And people who are often unhappy lack sufficient emotional intelligence to overcome their unhappiness.

      :) Allie

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you very much for expressing the truth so cogently. I must say this article is outstanding in its truths and its delivery. This deserves to be widely read.

    • allie8020 profile image

      Allie Mendoza 8 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Thanks for your comments, A M Werner! You're right! Many people are depressed or unhappy because they do not focus on things that matters most. However, I do not think this is always intentional. Many people are not emotionally intelligent because they they do not have good role models for being happy about simple things in life. It's a shame, but our society values money, power, status and material things a little bit too much. And so many people are willing to pay such a high price to achieve these things. Some choose to do it, but others just do not know how to change their thinking in order to transform their lives.

    • A M Werner profile image

      Allen Werner 8 years ago from West Allis

      allie8020, I'm a big believer in living day by day. There are plenty of things to focus on and work on today. It is true that there are some who have chemical imbalances that require special attention, but I truly believe the majority of people in Western civilization bring depression on themselves by their own focus. The light of the body is the eye - and if it be single - or focused on the task at hand - there's no room for darkness. Peace.