Are You Happy?

by | Sep 27, 2020 | Well-Being | 4 comments

I’m curious…Are you happy? This question has been on my mind quite a bit lately. My birthday was in September and with the realization that my life is more than half over, I’m taking a closer look at a lot of areas. I know for sure that I can’t answer the “are you happy” question with a confident and resounding YES. Having said this, I’m working on different things that make me happy because I believe happiness is a choice!


Happy – “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.”
Happiness – “the state of being happy.”

“Being happy” has been important to me for as long as I can remember, but I admit I’ve struggled with it. I can look back on my life and recall happy moments much more than I can recall stretches of time when I was happy. When I hear people say “I’m so happy” I am a little envious, because I truly want this for myself!

Deepak Chopra’s Book on Happiness

Happiness has been studied for thousands of years. It’s a popular topic in positive psychology, and a formula was created: H = S + C + V
Happiness = Set Point + Conditions of Living + Voluntary Activities
In his book The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, Deepak Chopra discounts the effectiveness of this formula in uncovering the secret of happiness.
Instead, he offers the Seven Keys to Happiness:
Be Aware of Your Body
Find True Self-Esteem
Detoxify Your Life
Give Up Being Right
Focus on the Present
See the World In Yourself
Live For Enlightenment
Before Audible, I used to buy books on CD and listen to them on road trips. I remember listening to this book on a trip from Virginia Beach to North Carolina to visit my sister for Thanksgiving. It’s been a long time, so I plan to reread this book.

Shawn Achor’s Book on Happiness

I was introduced to psychologist and Harvard researcher Shawn Achor on Oprah. I immediately bought his book The Happiness Advantage and even bought his online course. The Happiness Advantage was the second book I read on the topic. It offers seven principles for success and performance at work. He reminds us that what we’ve been taught to live by is inaccurate: “if you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy.” I grew up believing this, for sure! Shawn says happiness comes before success. Performance and achievement are fueled by happiness and optimism, and this gives a competitive edge (the Happiness Advantage). He has written several other books and I need to reread them all.

Gretchen Rubin’s Book on Happiness

Although it was first published in 2009, I didn’t read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project until August 2020. This is another book I wish I’d been introduced to this book when it first came out, but we’ve all heard the saying “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” In a recent social media post, I asked for book recommendation and a friend shared this title. I hadn’t heard of the book before. It is by far my favorite book on happiness, and I highly recommend it. Gretchen Rubin spent twelve months from January to December doing different things each month in the hopes it would make her happier. She assigned a different theme to each month, and then set resolutions she intended to follow throughout the month. I won’t spoil the conclusion in case you want to read it. This idea spoke to me so much I plan to start my own happiness project – not sure when.

Can Gratitude Make You Happy?

Gratitude provides many physical and psychological benefits, such as happiness. Grateful people are 25% happier, according to one study. When you focus on something for which you’re grateful, your perspective is positive rather than negative. Some people keep a gratitude journal and write every day three to five things they’re grateful for. Shawn Achor suggests adding WHY you’re grateful for each person or thing as you write in your gratitude journal. You can also train your brain to focus on the good in your life by talking about what you’re grateful for. Having a daily habit of journaling your gratitude or talking about it is a simple but effective way of improving your happiness and overall well-being.

My Happiness Quest

Since I’m on my own personal quest for happiness, I started consciously thinking about what makes me happy. William Arthur Ward said “Happiness is an inside job” which means we should take responsibility for our attitudes and emotions and understand that no one else can make us happy. This is something I work on through my spiritual practice, meditation and journaling. Even though this may be considered “outside” myself, I must say that my friendships and relationships make me happy. I have an amazing group of friends – my oldest and dearest friend came to my very first “aerobics” class in December of 1988 at Bally’s in Charlottesville, Virginia. I don’t remember the class itself, but I can imagine it was pretty bad. We’ve lived in the same city at different times in our lives, but she’s now in Miami and I’m in San Diego. We try to talk as often as we can – at least once a month, but we text and support each other between calls. In the last two years, I’ve met amazing new friends in the Canfield community and in Marie Forleo’s B-School community. I live by the motto “we make time for people and things that are important to us” so I connect with my friends regularly. I want them to know they’re important to me. I’m old school in that I love sending greeting cards on birthdays and holidays. I joked once that I wish I’d bought stock in Hallmark a long time ago!

Exercising outside makes me happy. This is the reason I moved to San Diego – so I could be outside year round walking, hiking and biking. One of my all time favorite things to do is to walk on the beach. The sound of the ocean is my favorite sound. I live five miles from Del Mar beach, but I used to walk the beach very infrequently. When I realized how much walking Del Mar beach made me happy, I decided to walk the beach every Saturday. I’ve only missed my beach walk when I was out of town. I plan to continue walking Del Mar beach on Saturdays indefinitely.

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen identifies that an “atmosphere of growth” is essential to happiness, and until I read that in the book, I hadn’t thought much about my growth contributing to my happiness. Since reading it, I’ve thought about it much more and I agree wholeheartedly. Personal and professional growth are incredibly important to me, and I’m always working towards achieving goals I’ve set for myself, in addition to taking courses. I’m consciously linking this important aspect of my life with my happiness – which I hadn’t done before. Gretchen also discusses that having a sense of control in one’s life is a contributor to happiness. Another A-HA for me.

When was the last time you thought about what makes you happy and whether or not you consider yourself to be happy? If you think about it all the time, great! If it’s been awhile, I challenge you to pull out a notebook or journal 📒 and make a list of things that make you happy. A few more things that make me happy: spending time with friends (COVID has really put a damper on that one, huh?); reading a great novel 📚 (message me if you’d like a suggestion); listening to my playlists (I’ve made a playlist for every year starting in 2003!) and music 🎶 in general; riding my bike 🚴; doing yoga 🕉; going to concerts – especially outside; and watching movies 🎟 – especially in a theater like Cinepolis with reclining, comfy chairs. After making my list, I consciously decided to do more things that make me happy, because I have more years behind me than I have in front of me and I want to BE HAPPIER! This is my choice.

I’d love to hear your answer to the question “Are you happy?” in the comments, and please share a thing or two from your list that makes YOU happy!

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  1. Cynthia

    Hi Susan,

    Great blog post! I consider myself a happy person and a few of the things which attribute to this are being healthy enough to run and feel the “aliveness” of it. Reading Stephanie Plum bounty hunter books, buttery popcorn at the theatre, a really great song, beautiful cello music, Wednesday nights, coaching calls, waking up to a text from my mom, seeing a note from my husband (we collect them), the colour purple, the smell of roses, taking a selfie with Greg in the middle of a ride or run. So many moments and I also am very happy to have met you! Thank you.

    • Susan Barr

      Hi Cynthia,
      Thank YOU so much for reading my blog and sharing some of the amazing things that make you happy. I LOVE THEM! I’m incredibly grateful to have met you in B-School and I look forward to many years of friendship!

  2. Anna

    I loved Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, too! Shawn Achor’s book has been on my list for a while now. I think I started it but didn’t finish it before I had to return it turn the library. Reading is also something that makes me happy. Especially reading a fiction novel for pure enjoyment.

    Dancing makes me happy, so it’s nice to be able to join my dance classes again, even if they are virtual still. Chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee or tea makes me happy, too!

    My Law of Attraction Planner has a spot for reflection each week, which is very helpful for remembering gratitude, but it also has two spots at the beginning of each week. One of the questions is “What will I do to feel good?” That is not something I used to take time to think about. But when I do, the week is always better.

    • Susan Barr

      Thanks for sharing, Anna! I love learning new things about you – I didn’t know you danced! I hope you’ll share what kind. Reading makes me happy, too! I need to get that LOA planner. 🙂


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