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Are you noticing the good things in life?

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

How what we pay attention to affects our happiness. Introducing Positive Psychology's What-Went-Well activity.

What does it mean to be a Happy Person?

If I had to define this, I would probably start with the emotions you feel. Feeling happy is an obvious one, but thankfully there's more than one positive adjective in my English vocabulary.

I would add being able to live each day experiencing feelings like joy, contentment, warmth, gratitude and purposefulness. These are other very relevant positive emotions, just like being happy is.

Yet we can't experience Positive Emotions all the time right? If that was what it took to be a happy person, then drug addicts would be the happiest people on earth. This, we know is far from true.

We all must invariably experience Negative Emotions in our day-to-day experience. We may feel frustration from dealing with a difficult colleague at work, anxiousness from an upcoming project deadline, or disappointment from a missed career opportunity.

These are entirely natural responses to events in our lives and they are good for us too. It helps us to prepare for something important that's coming up, and also make us learn from our previous mistakes. Negative emotions are totally okay, as long as they don't start to harm and control your life.

At that, we also choose to voluntarily feel a negative emotion, like sadness. It's the reason why we tune in to a sad song, to relive nostalgia over a bittersweet time in our lives, or even watch a depressing Korean drama. It's all part of feeling human.

What's the most important thing in defining a Happy Person though, is whether he or she spends most of their time experiencing Positive Emotions rather than Negative Emotions.

"The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.” William Penn

What affects whether we feel more happy or sad more often? Here's the answer, it's what you pay attention to.

Your attention is like a flashlight that your mind uses. It chooses where to focus your thoughts on inwardly, while outwardly what to look out for in your environment and where you should be concentrating your energy to.