Readers Forum :: What Makes You Happy?

Photo by Birgit Carlsson

The Winter 2009 issue of YES! investigates how to be happy… sustainably.

Our readers helped us think about this issue, sharing their secrets to happiness …

We'd love to hear your comments too. Please email us.

What's the secret to your happiness?
What are you most grateful for in your life?

Happiness is the pursuit of a worthwhile goal. In many cases the journey is more rewarding than the end.
Lloyd Anderson

I am more grateful for family and friends and the opportunity to create, and less grateful for consumption.
Eileen Hanna

The secret to my happiness is in a constant striving to create peace within myself, and in turn reflect it onto the world.

The secret to my happiness is to be continuously creative. It doesn't matter whether I get paid for it, though having enough to get by, living a simple, frugal lifestyle, is important. But most important is always having a creative task before me, writing and/or performing.


Sustainable Happiness:

Make a friend happy!

I am most happy digging in the dirt, growing edible plants and modeling sustainability for my 5 year old son. I am self employed so that I have time flexibility and also working towards things I am passionate about. I truly am happiest when I am being of service to others. I am grateful to have created a community of yogi's in a small agricultural town inhabited by a majority of conservatives.

People make people happy. I know less from experience than I do observation, because I feel like I've grown up in an environment that's pretty typical of the "isolated-American-suburbia" idea. However, after spending a month in Cambodia with some of the poorest people in the country (and probably the world), it's really apparent that what made them happy was the people they lived with, whether it be their family or other orphans etc. There's a pretty strong correlation between poverty and happiness, and I think it's simply because when you don't have the pressure to find happiness outside the realm of pure human interaction, you actually HAVE that interaction and it's a lot more gratifying. People work together, grow from each other, instead of isolating themselves by surrounding their lives with useless property.

My secret, I love life itself, I am sincere and harm no one or anything, I plan to leave the earth as intact as possible before I leave it, as it is only on loan to me. I only take from it what is necessary to survive happily and put back twice as much, I avoid excesses at all cost. I am most grateful for family and friends in my life. "YES" it made me happy to write this. Thank you to the folks at YES for all you do.
Freddie Kirchner

Gratitude is the secret to happiness. Be grateful for whatever you have rather than wanting things or conditions that you don't have. This is a simple practice that can be cultivated each day. You can even be thankful for "bad" things because often they lead to something positive through learning, changing and growing.

The greatest happiness comes with the feeling you have some control over your life and that it is adequate. It doesn't mean having wealth and what wealth brings. Being able to reach out to family, friends, neighbors, community and see they all run smoothly with your help, that all you really need.
Kathleen Diehl

Preparing and eating meals together, all the while sharing stories from the day laughing.

Service to others. It is the one thing guaranteed to get you to quit thinking about yourself. I am most grateful for my health and the ecological health of my community.

The secret to happiness is having your basic physical needs sustainably met for health (warmth, clean air, clean water, nutritious food, rest and movement, and a variety of interesting things to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch), having the freedom to make your own decisions about your life, having a healthy, supportive, welcoming community to live/work/play in, and having the opportunity to lead others towards a shared goal. This is essentially Maslow's hierarchy of needs... As for me, I'm most grateful for the ability to learn and grow!

The secret to happiness IS gratitude. For everything!

Humility, giving without taking credit, respect for others, standing up against the bad guys. I'm most grateful for my family, my country.
Marty Marion

The secret to my happiness is riding my bike to work. Spending time in nature on a daily basis is important. It keeps me connected to the world around me. On my ride there is a portion of the bike trail that passes through a wetland. I have seen owls, hawks, turtles, skunks, carp, beaver, kestrel, and a plethora of other things. When work becomes mundane and repetitive, I look forward to what I might see or hear on my commute. A little bit of adventure every day... that's the key.
Calan Taylor

I'm fond of what Sir Laurens Van der Post said about happiness. This wisdom came out of his incarceration in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Java in WWII. Even under dire circumstances he was instrumental in inspiring his fellow prisoners to not give up their humanity and a life with meaning. He said, "There's nothing wrong with searching for happiness, but we are using happiness here in a term as if it were the ultimate in human striving . . . And what gives far greater comfort to the soul is meaning, because meaning transfigures all; and once what you are living and what you are doing has meaning for you, it is irrelevant whether you are happy or unhappy. You are content. You're not alone in your spirit. You belong." I so agree with this statement. And I believe a life with meaning leads to happiness. A life filled with meaning often entails serving others in some way that has meaning for us and for them. In these stressed-filled times our tendency may be to go into isolation. More than ever, I believe we must take great strides to connect with others rather than isolate ourselves. This will give our lives meaning, deep comfort, and a sense of belonging.
Justine Willis Toms co-founder New Dimensions Media and author of Small Pleasures: Finding Grace in a Chaotic World.

What make me happy?
my religious life
I am grateful for my wife in my life
Artur J

Secret to my happiness: knowing myself through daily meditation in my “prayer chair” and accepting the person I am and continue to become.
Grateful for: all those who have helped me along this journey of getting to know myself
Margie Goulden

My secret to happiness if following my heart on a day by day, minute by minute basis. I am most grateful for my wonderful friends, family, and boyfriend. It's relationships that make the world go 'round.
Erin Deasy

I am married to my best friend, a second marriage for us both, and have two wonderful kids, both are currently in college. My husband and I left our high dollar white collar slave shop jobs in Information Technology to pursue careers we felt meant something to us. He is currently teaching at the local university and I am a consultant providing low cost websites to small businesses and local merchants and political candidates. Although we remain extremely busy our efforts are goings towards things we believe in and not just to keep stock holders pleased. He is helping to educate people and I am providing a web presence for those who can not afford high dollar development. Because we are more satisfied with the work we are doing, our time away from work is more relaxing. We are both in our 40's and hope to have much success in our new careers.
Burl Schultz

Human contact, meaningful relationships, strong community support and network, good health.

Happiness is an inner state of being fired by the warmth of love for all things.(detached love, not the physical kind)When we feel this we wish to give, not receive. Material objects can amuse for a time with their novelty, but quickly need replacing with something else. Hence the need to earn ever more money to buy larger and larger novelties, disappointment follows if this proves to be un-obtainable. The Poorest peoples are freed from this cycle, taking joy from the simplest of pleasures. It has also been my experience that these people are also the most generous. I am most greatful in my life for the love others show me.

I think I'm happy because, I've learned to roll with the punches, I try to do a mix of helping others and keeping things beautiful around me. As a retired teacher, I volunteer one morning a week at my neighborhood school and one morning to deliver MOW. Since I can't run anymore I walk wherever I can, somethime even to get yogurt. I grow vegetables and flowers in my garden and try to stay connected to my church (UCC) even though I don't go every week. Thanks for your magazine, I have given a subscription to my church and my local library.
Una Marie

Integrity makes me happy.
I can respect myself and hold my head high.
It increases my self esteem, something that can be so volatile in a culture as ours.
It means having my actions be consistent with my belief system.
It is putting my money where my mouth is.
I guess it is what makes principles feel so good.
Thank you for asking.
Gloria Peterson

The secret to my happiness is embracing every moment. I am most grateful for my family - my husband, daughter and son. They bring me great joy. I have been married for 27 years and our oldest is 24 and youngest 20. Yes, answering made me happier.
Julie Wiley

I am grateful to be on a path that weaves all of my interests together. A place where my heart and head balance, where my political, social, spiritual and design values can merge. I am grateful for the people who have and are supporting me in this as they have the faith in me I at times lose right of.
Now it appears that some seeds are growing. The Fashion College of London invited me to attend the Fashioning the Future Summit 2008 this October 27 and 28th which is linked to their Sustainable Fashion curriculum. That this is worthy of its own arena shows how far this hydra of commerce has advanced. As the focus of my work for years...first in design and custom apparel and now as a teacher of recyCouture and director of fashionRIP….its a thrill...
I am hoping to hear from interested others to help support and spread the news of this stylish diplomacy. Fashion was the leader in planned obsolescence according to Vance Packard in the Waste Makers so it is right and fitting that it is the standard that drives off the monster of mass consumption!
In deciding what question I had answered I realized it was a combo and that did make me happy!

Happiness is the serene certainty that ALL people are the children of an all loving God who rules this universe by laws that we all can learn, know and use to create whatever life our consciousness is prepared to accept. Happiness is knowing the whole universe supports our desires when we allow the Universe to operate as it is designed and allow our ego minds to sit in the back seat rather than drive the car....
Herb Hierson

The secret of my happiness is finding joy in every day. I'm most grateful for my family and friends.
Susan G

Tis a gift to be simple. Tis a gift to be loved. Tis a gift to be aware. Gratitude for all.
Chuck Manske

Hanging in there to really forgive and be present to people...while remembering that I am not a doormat..juggling those two perspectives means the people I meet and know reallyintersect and interact...and it becames a more real relationship...

The quality and diversity of my close friends. At this time a roof over my head. Yes answering this question made me happier.
Debra Rasmussen

Secret to my happiness: daily gratitude practice as part of daily meditation and prayer. With attention on and gratitude for ongoing abundant blessings, one cannot be other than happy. Great quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.

My son.
Frances G.

Happiness is being greatful for what you have in life and not wanting what others tell you you need in life.
Jeff S.

The secret to my happiness is trying to live in the moment. I try to be present in all things. There is nothing to be worryed about or nothing to regretwhen I am in the present. I am able to take all the essence of my surroundings in. I am gratefrul for all the experiences that I have; for they are teaching me about my strengths and weaknesses.
Diane K.

I am fortunate to live my passion. My passion is environmental protection and I've devoted my life to trying to achieve environmental protection progress. I have been lucky to have been able to get jobs in that field for the last 22 years.
Richard W.

Wanting what I already have.
Laurel Kilgour

A few years ago I went through a traumatic loss when my husband of nine years disappeared and was never seen again. I was heart broken, in financial peril and completely in shock.
During that time and for the next several years all the people I love most, my two sons who were 18 and 20, my siblings and other family member as well as close friends came to my aid in so many ways. I don't know how I could have recovered without them. They made a point of spending time with me, offering their moral support and physical help with the the legal, emotional and material changes that resulted from this. That loss created conditions that allowed me to witness the love and support that I have all the time, but amplified. This is the gift of trauma that I am deeply grateful for - the loving kindness and devotion of family and friends. Lucky me!
Lucy Garrick
Million Ideas for Peace

My secret to happiness is to try to find something pleasing in every day. I take it one day at a time and I try to individually name a bunch of things that I am thankful for in my life.
I am most grateful for my children, my loving and giving friends, and a smart, funny, and loving partner. I am grateful for being a home owner and for having a job that pays me enough to make my monthly payments

I'm watching through my window while writing on my laptop, and I see the sun shining on the leaves of the trees in my yard, and the flowers still blooming, and I know there are still raspberries and some strawberries out there, even if it's october and I live in Michigan. (I also know the squirrels will probably pick them before I'll be able to.)
We moved here from Italy two years ago, as my husband got an offer for the job he was dreaming for, and we had to reinvent our lives. At 39, all the things I used to take for granted just disappeared. The good and the bad ones together... I realized (was forced to realize) that the future is not set. We have the power to change our circumstances, if we are committed to it. And sometimes the circumstances force us to change, and this is a big opportunity to see what's really important in our lives, and go for it. I'm learning to appreciate the beauty and the opportunity of the moment, and to remember it will not last, so the time to enjoy it is right now. I'm trying to teach our kid to love and respect the soil we live on, to grow some food, to know the plants and the animals that live around us (btw.: the abundance of wildlife a simple suburban yard can attract here in the US is just amazing. You don't see that anywhere in Italy.) We are still discovering our new home, and meeting new people, and making new friends. It is not easy, but we're doing it, and we're happy.
erica giorda
troy, mi

I am most grateful for my wonderful daughters. They cheer me up when I'm down. They delight me with their laughter and innocence. They keep me focused on the possibilities of the future instead of the failures of the past. The challenge me to think and do new things. Every night when I go to bed I say thank you for another day with them.

that I recognize love

I'd like to respond to your question on how I regard the secret of happiness. First of all, I don't think it's a secret, but rather the natural, Divinely energized way to go. And that is a growing consciousness of oneness--all that is, is One. This consciousness is reached bit by bit through my meditation, self-reflection and self-knowledge. As I get older and become more focused on this call, I am happier, feel more energized in my present work (educating myself and others about relating to Earth in a mutually enhancing way), more and more compassionate and somehow freer to be who I am called to be at any given moment. I haven't arrived...there is no arrival point, but only an expansion. And I am grateful to know of this way and treasure those with whom I am privileged to walk on this spiritual journey.
Suzanne Moynihan, SSND
SUNSEED Eco-Education Center
Education Coordinator

Secret to my happines, I believe this is something that only yourself can define what happiness is. For me, is my children they are indeed the very essence of my life. I begin and end my days with them. Its a feeling of complete that nothing in this life can measure up to it. Knowing that they love me and I love makes my world the happiest and I need nothing else in this life. Most grateful that I am able to wake up every morning and know that I myself is among many that are able to see a new day. Having the chance to stumble and feel my way through during my life challenges is a beauty that we overlook at times. Just having each moment to live to its fullest is something I try to do everyday.

snapshot of October 2008 Newsletter

The Readers Comments above were made in response to our October 2008 email newsletter

Read the newsletter: Better than a Bailout, 10 Signs of Hope, Conversations Across the Divide

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