We’ve already talked about how having a positive attitude and cultivating a good environment can affect happiness. Another really important component of being happy is connecting with others, preferably others who are happy too. Who are they? Happy people feel hopeful about the future, they enjoy life for the most part, and they feel they are on par with their fellow man.

Surround yourself with happy people. It makes sense. Your happiness is influenced by the happiness of those around you. It’s not that you or your friends don’t have problems from time to time, but overall, are your friends happy? Those are the people you want to have around you. And the more happy people you have in your social network the more your happiness quotient increases. It’s time to consider if you really need those glass-half-empty, grumpy curmudgeons in your life. At the very least you might want to consider spending a little less time with them.

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Get a dog or cat. Why are people so enamored by kitten and puppy videos on the Internet? They make us happy just to look at them. It’s even better when you have a pet, especially if you feel emotionally close to it. A pet can make you feel loved and supported. On top of that, dog owners get outside in nature to walk their dogs and get some exercise, a bonus of having a pet. Studies show that in general, pet owners are happier, healthier and better adjusted than those who don’t own pets.

You don’t have to be married. Some people think they can’t even begin to be happy until they find the perfect spouse. So they are decidedly unhappy until they do. But the fact is, while many married people are happy, you can be just as happy on your own. And some people have marriages that make them unhappier. So even if you have an unhappy marriage, you can have a rich social network full of happy friends and you can still be happy. If you are already a happy person, marriage in and of itself will not make you much happier.

Be kind to others. Be generous with your time, your money, your support. In fact, just thinking about doing good triggers your brain to feel happy. If you are generous to others, you also reap rewards. And when you make selfish decisions that you think will enhance your well-being, you will not be as happy as people who made generous decisions. You don’t have to give away your savings. Just start small, like saying something nice to a stranger. Volunteer at your local food bank or wherever you think you can help. You’ll feel more satisfaction in life and better all around.

Find a higher purpose. If you’re going to be truly happy, you need to feel like you are making a difference for the better. That your life has meaning. That you are doing something important in the word. You don’t have to discover the cure for cancer. But you do have to occupy yourself with something that makes you feel good. You can find satisfaction in all kinds of work. Janitors in a school can make the environment better for children to learn. Mothers can raise their kids to grow up to be happy, responsible, productive adults. You need to feel you are doing good in this world. And don’t be too hard on yourself in the process. Be at least a nonjudgmental and compassionate with yourself as you are with others.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact