The Secrets to Happiness From an Older Guy Who Knows Stuff

Secrets to Happiness and How to Put Them in Action

Come on get happy!. Getty Images

Dr. Landry is the award-winning author of Live Long, Die Short: A Guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging

I recently read that people in later years are happier than when they were younger and you might ask? Why should they be? Don’t they have more aches and pains? Haven’t they lost friends, and muscle tone, and visibility? Aren’t they closer to the end of days? Why should they be so happy? Are they maybe a little, you know, OFF?

Well, first of all, some of those assumptions might be true and even will be true if we don’t pay attention and continue to grow, and move, and learn, and have a reason for getting up in the morning. Writing the book, Live Long, Die Short made it crystal clear to me that we’re all in the driver’s seat on how we age. But, what I’ve learned about being happy; however, comes from just paying attention to what’s been happening as I age. I don’t think I have to turn in my Older Guy’s card if I tell you the secrets I’ve learned, so here goes.

WARNING: Reading further will require that you DO share these secrets with others. Do not burn after reading.

The Secrets to Happiness

1)    If you want to be unhappy, think about yourself. If you want to be happy, think of others. As we age, most of us learn what REALLY matters. In short, people and other living things matter … that’s it. We’ve outgrown vanity or fear of failure or bragging rights as reasons for what we do.


2)    Real happiness is joy, and comes from within. Pleasure comes from the outside, from possessions, awards, and pleasurable experiences; but like all such things, there is the downside when those things end, as they always do. Joy is from within us and is durable. 

3)    We choose to be happy. We choose by focusing on gratitude, on others, and embracing the life’s view of Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” … and choosing the miracle.

Choosing the miracle view is being mindful of what’s around us: people, flowers, wildlife, weather, silence, dogs, and sunrise … and paying attention.   We learn that a chattering mind is toxic to our soul, and although a to-do list, being on time, checking our texts or emails happens to all of us, it cannot rule us.  Such things should be our slave, not vice versa.  

4)    Expectations kill joy. When we set unrealistic goals, or expect certain things to happen (e.g. “I will lose 20 pounds by March.” Or, “My daughter will get a promotion.”) we program ourselves for disappointment. So, even if you lose 10 pounds or your daughter gets a raise but no promotion, you are unhappy.  This is not to say we shouldn’t hope for good things to happen, or even take small steps toward the change we want in our lives, but to rigidly expect that these things will happen is folly and a formula for disappointment.

Happiness in Practice

I’ve given you the secrets. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to act like you know stuff that older people know.

Make sure your actions reflect this new knowledge. Here are a few suggestions that might sound like rainbows and unicorns, but believe me, it’s the family jewels of how to be happy.

·      When you wake in the morning, make sure those first thoughts are of what you’re grateful for. Pay attention to your breathing for a few breaths. Realize your very life is a miracle and what you do this day should reflect that.

·      If you can make someone smile today, if you can make someone happy … do it.  Don’t hold back. Think of each of the people you encounter during your day and what their lives might be like, and what you can do to make this day a little special for them.

·      Don’t complain. Not about anything. Complaining is not accepting things as they are and essentially fighting reality. This is a stress generator.  Sure, maybe you can eventually think of ways to fix what’s wrong, or walk away from it, or better, accept it. But first, we must accept things as they are. All else is madness.

·      Find your purpose. Why are you still walking the earth? Realize that a lasting, resilient, and life-altering purpose will be about others not yourself. Forget the Nobel Prize or the gold medal. Think about making someone smile. 

As you think about 2015 and who you’ll be, think about these secrets and how to make them part of life. Those around you will wonder how such a young person has such older person wisdom. Just tell you know an old guy who knows stuff.



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