Science of Happiness

Chapter 43 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan

HAPPY PEOPLE HAVE something in common. It's not money and it's not fame. According to researchers David G. Myers, professor of psychology at Hope College, and Ed Diener, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, happy people are healthier and share the following four traits:

  1. They like themselves.
  2. They have a high degree of personal control.
  3. They are optimistic.
  4. They are extroverts.

The good news is that none of these are fixed - each can be cultivated. If you are weak in any of these four traits, you can become happier by strengthening it.

  1. Like yourself more by doing better. Improve your ethics - when you stop fudging on something, you stop beating yourself up for fudging. Increase your ability - when you are more skilled at something, you admire yourself more, both for your new ability and for the perseverance it took to attain it. Treat people better - because we're social animals, when we help others like themselves more, it comes around and helps us like ourselves more too
  2. Gain more control of your time by directly seeking it. This includes reading time-management books and applying what you learn. But keep this in mind: No matter how good you are, if you keep increasing the number of pans in the fire, at some point you'll start to lose control. Decrease the number of pans until you have good control. With practice you may be able to increase that number. But maintain control in the meantime.
  3. Be more optimistic by studying Martin Seligman's work and the attitude section of this book. In his book Learned Optimism, Seligman outlines the three key areas where a change will make a difference and shows you exactly how to make those changes.
  4. Become more extroverted by studying and practicing the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and the people section of this book. It helps to begin with the supposition that introversion is simply a lack of ability to deal with people. Then, remedy that lack. Carnegie's book is still on the bookshelves after all these years because it's the best collection of information about how to deal with people that has ever been written.


No matter how happy or unhappy you are now, you can make your life a happier one, and you can do it one small step at a time.

To become happier:
Strengthen your integrity, get better control of your time, become more optimistic, and practice good human relations.

A simple change in perspective can make you feel better and can also make you more effective at dealing with the situation. Here's one way to change your perspective.

What if maximizing your full potential was bad for you?
Be All You Can Be

This is a simple technique for reducing a little of the stress you feel day to day. Its biggest advantage is you can use it while you work.
Rx to Relax

Why are some people interested in life and others bored?
Find out here.
Interest is Life

Self-esteem should be intimately tied to integrity.
If it isn't, the self-esteem is a farce.
How to Like Yourself More

Why do people in general (and you in particular) not feel happier than our grandparents felt when they had far fewer possessions and conveniences than we now have?
We've Been Duped

next: A Slave to His Destiny

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, October 27). Science of Happiness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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