How to Be Happy: My Takeaways from the 2019 World Happiness Summit in Miami

You want to be happy, right? I sure do. My clients tell me they do. And I constantly say to my children, Cairo and Moxie, "I want two things for you. I want you to be happy, and I want you to be good people."

How much of your time and resources do you devote to making sure that you and your loved ones actually are happy? 

Last weekend I put my money where my mouth is. I attended the third annual World Happiness Summit in Miami. A thousand people came together to soak in the knowledge and wisdom of luminaries in the fields of positive psychology and happiness science. Some of the featured thinkers were Tal Ben-Shahar, Laurie Santos, Mo Gawdat, Maria Sirois, and Michelle Gielan. Here's what I learned from them:

  • The number-one way to be happy is to create positive social connections. Our relationships and communities help us feel like we belong and we matter.

  • Happy people help others. They volunteer. They are generous and kind.

  • Happy people are grateful for what they have.

  • Happy people live in the present moment. They take time to enjoy what they're doing right now. For example, when they eat an ice cream cone, they pause and savor every bite.

  • Happy people are physically healthy. They exercise, eat nutritious food, and get enough sleep.

  • Happy people are wealthy in time—not necessarily in money. They understand that nothing is more valuable than having the time to do what they most enjoy. This concept is called time affluence.

  • Happy people are aligned with their values. They know their top values, live according to those values, and help others live according to their values.

  • Happy people focus on and invest in their strengths. They also focus on and invest in others' strengths.

  • Happy people do not avoid a storm. Instead, they walk toward and through the storm, like bison do (Gopi Kallayil). If you walk toward and through a storm, it'll go faster than if you wait for it, stay still in it, or hide from it.

  • Happy people are hospitable and welcoming. They invite people into their lives—even strangers—and break bread with them. 

  • Happy people are resilient. They resist black and white thinking. Instead, they are comfortable living within paradox (source for list below: Maria Sirois):

    • "I am imperfect and magnificent."

    • "I am falling apart and growing."

    • "I am vulnerable and brave."

    • "I am sad and hopeful."

    • "I am broken and whole."

  • These are very effective tools for increasing happiness: 

    • Writing daily or weekly gratitude lists 

    • Sending weekly gratitude emails or cards to people who have helped you at some point in your life

    • Meditating

    • Engaging in a variety of spontaneous acts of kindness

Now I’d love to ask you: What do you think of these takeaways? Do these research-based conclusions jive with the way you think about happiness? What, for you, are the keys to happiness? These keys could be psychological, cultural, social, political, material, and so on.

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