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Who Is Happy?
Advice from 25 years of asking that question.


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Dennis Prager

People who have close friends.

Close friends not only prolong people’s lives, but on a day-to-day basis they contribute more to most adults’ happiness than even their children do. From their teenage years on, children are considerably more capable of causing parents unhappiness than bringing them happiness. That is one reason parents who rely on their children for happiness make both their children and themselves miserable.

People who are in a good marriage.

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A good marriage — having a real partner in life — is so contributive to happiness that it is almost enough. Almost.

People who act happy.

A fundamental rule of life is that the deed shapes feelings more than feelings shape deeds. We feel what we act. Act loving — you’ll feel loving. Act happy — you’ll feel happy, or at least much happier than if you don’t act happy. The notion that acting happy when we don’t feel happy is “inauthentic” is foolish.

People who aren’t envious.

No matter how little or how much one has, envy destroys happiness. We naturally envy those who have more money or a nicer home, and those we think have better kids, better spouses, or better jobs. But the fact is that we almost never know the pain and suffering of anyone we envy. As a wise woman said to me when I was in high school, “The only happy people I know are people I don’t know well.” The next time you envy another person’s life, just remember that you don’t know anything about their inner demons, their childhood, their battles with life. Even friends often know little about their friends’ marital problems. The unhappy think that those who walk around with a happy disposition have had less pain than they. They’re almost always wrong.

People who don’t have high self-esteem.

Low self-esteem doesn’t contribute to happiness, and some self-esteem can add to one’s happiness. But high self-esteem contributes to unhappiness. People with high self-esteem rarely have close friends. First, almost no one is good enough for them. Second, such people are usually insufferable, and while they attract sycophants, they repel friends. Self-respect, not self-esteem, should be the goal.

People who have few expectations.

The more we expect, the less happy we will be — because the more we expect, the less grateful we are for what we receive. And ingratitude is the mother of unhappiness.

People who are grateful.

Gratitude is the mother of happiness.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio-talk-show host and columnist. He may be contacted through his website, dennisprager.com.



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