The Three Sources of Happiness


A couple of years ago I started on a journey to understand happiness. It’s a concept that has been well studied in the past fifteen years. Social scientists have learned a lot about the mental strategies of happy people, strategies which can be used by anyone who wants to increase their happiness and well-being.

In particular, I recommend the work of Martin Seligman (https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/home) and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania if you want to explore lots of resources to help you become happier. As I studied the topic, I became aware of three patterns or sources of happiness. By the way, this is just my take on the field, one man’s perspective. I call them the ABCs of happiness. Here they are:

Appreciating (rather than complaining or resisting)

Appreciating is a mindset, a way of looking at the world. It is many things—seeing the good (abundance) of life, counting blessings, expressing thanks to someone who has made a difference to you, looking on the bright side of a setback, finding reasons to be glad, taking time to savor the simple pleasures of life, not taking things for granted. In essence, it is a deep sense of wonder and appreciation for life. It is so powerful that it is considered a mega-strategy for happiness and an antidote to negative emotions of envy, irritation, resentment, and worry.  People who cultivate appreciation and gratitude, consistently, are more hopeful, confident, energetic and happier.

Becoming (rather than accumulating)

Becoming is about pursuing inner goals and meaning over extrinsic goals. Research shows that people who develop internal qualities such as compassion and meaningful relationships are much happier than those who pursue such external goals as a wealth, a big house, or job title. Becoming has to do with discovering your life’s purpose, connecting to something larger than yourself. It is about knowing and using your talents on a daily basis, getting into flow (challenging activities in which you become totally consumed, losing your sense of time and self). It also includes engaging in practices (meditation, yoga, worship, scripture reading) which deepen your spirituality and connection to God or the cosmos.  People who make becoming more important than achieving external goals are universally happier than those who do not.

Caring (rather than isolating)

Caring is about developing quality relationships. The literature is clear that the happiest people in the world are those who have the best relationships. This is not surprising. We’re social creatures and our need for connection and love is as real as our need for food and shelter. Societies that emphasize community (Denmark) are much happier than those who emphasize achievement and getting ahead (Japan). Caring people are exceptionally good at building friendships and/or loving relationships within their families. They are givers more than takers. They are positive in their comments to build others up and more regularly perform service and even random acts of kindness. Research shows that there may not be a more important pursuit in our quest for happiness than cultivating good relationships with friends and family.

So, what do you think? What is your experience? Do any of these themes resonate for you? Could you increase your happiness by cultivating more of these practices? What would it take to do so? What would you gain?


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

2 responses to “The Three Sources of Happiness”

  1. Maria Zink says:

    Thank you for your generous writings. They are very helpful and wise!! I attended a seminar of yours once and found if very helpful and interesting. I did read your book The Heroes Choice and found it very helpful and will reread it! It was very effective to write a story to teach concepts rather than just share concepts. You do much good. Thank you and all the best to you.

    • Roger Allen says:

      Thanks, Maria. Good to hear from you and I wish the best to you, as well. Roger

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