Practical Happiness

I created the Practical Happiness Principles after a TV reporter, Sean Giggy, from WFAA in Dallas-Fort Worth, interviewed me when the Society of Happy People turned twenty.

He asked, “What have you learned about happiness in the past twenty years?”

When I thought about the past twenty years, a few important insights stood out.

Some people assume that I’m happy all the time. But, no one, including the founder of the Society of
Happy People, is happy all the time.

Like, you, I experience all of the usual happiness zappers that are part of life:

  • The loss of people I’ve loved
  • Disappointments in relationships and careers
  • Health challenges
  • Money frustrations
  • Responsibilities of adulthood
  • Days everything seemed to go wrong
  • Not meeting personal goals

The chaos and stress of life impact even the happiest people.

However, I’ve always been naturally optimistic. I believed everything—the good and the bad—happened for a reason, so I tried to learn the lessons from both.

However, I also knew that it wasn’t my experiences that determined my inner happiness, although sometimes they impacted it. Instead, it was what I learned from those experiences that defined my happiness and the person I’d become as a result of them.

Often, our biggest choice is how we react to our experiences.

Long after Sean asked me that question, I kept thinking about it.

I re-read things I wrote from when the Society started to the present. There was an ongoing theme: I always wanted people to experience more, yet realistic happiness, and that didn’t mean pretending happiness zappers didn’t happen or that we could wish them away. It did mean thinking differently about happiness.

When I summarized what I’d written and talked about over the Society’s first twenty years, I came up with these Practical Happiness Principles:

  • Happiness Zappers Can be Managed
  • Happiness is Personal
  • Happiness Changes as You Change
  • Happiness is Bigger Than You Think

Looking back, I realized that these Practical Happiness Principles defined my happiness mindset.

Whatever the word practical lacks in excitement, it makes up for in reality.

A practical approach makes something obtainable and realistic.

So, what is practical happiness?

It’s realistic happiness. It’s managing your happiness zappers. It’s understanding that happiness is fluid. It’s recognizing happiness includes the rush of excitement, but also the serenity of contentment, and the many types of happiness in between.


Since the Society started in 1998, there has been an increase in the study of the science of happiness.

While it’s good to know that happiness has a scientific foundation, it’s my experience that happiness begins with a mindset.

Your happy mindset comes from your happiness philosophy. Happiness can defy science, or even a step-by-step process when you have a happy mindset.

As the founder of the Society of Happy People, I’ve interacted with thousands of happy people and happiness seekers. I’ve learned from them that without the correct mindset, you probably won’t find much happiness.

How can the Practical Happiness Principles help you?

They provide a foundation for your happiness philosophy.

The Practical Happiness Principles are your happiness mindset.

These principles have helped me live a mostly happy life, and I’m sure they can do the same for you.

Happiness Zappers Are Manageable

Studies show that people who consider themselves mostly happy, and those who consider themselves mostly unhappy, experience a similar number of unpleasant experiences. So, what’s the difference in how happy and unhappy people rate their happiness? It’s how they react to their happiness zappers.

Therefore, our first practical happiness principle is: Happiness Zappers Can be Managed

Happiness Is Personal

A friend of mine was going through one of those abundantly stressful times. She had lots of big life changes happening all at once — job, marriage, and parental caretaking. When big things change, related things also change. She was a ball of stress, and there wasn’t much she could do other than manage it while the stress-makers resolved themselves.

Naturally, I wanted to help, so I suggested several times that she try using a lavender essential oil. I even quoted studies showing it helped reduce stress. I offered her some of mine, but she’d never try it. She’s the type of person who never wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, but finally she told me, “The smell of lavender makes me want to throw up.”

I chuckled when she said that. Obviously, anything that makes you want to throw up won’t reduce your stress—let alone give you a smile.

Therefore, our second practical happiness principle is: Happiness Is Personal

Happiness Changes As We Change

We know that our happiness changes as we change, but we usually don’t think about happiness that way.

It’s easy to understand that the act of walking no longer gives us the same exuberance it did the first time we tried it. But imagine how happy we’d be if we valued every step we took with even half the excitement that we did when we took our first steps.

Age, experience and unexpected events are usually the catalysts that redefine what makes us happy.

Therefore, our third practical happiness principle is: Happiness Changes As We Change

Happiness Is Bigger Than You Think

When I started the Secret Society of Happy People, over two decades ago, our original slogan was, “Are You Happier Than You Admit You Are?” The Society wanted people to pay attention to what they were talking about.

For example, were they talking about their happy moments as much as they did their unhappy ones? Did they do it with the same zest and enthusiasm they talked about their happiness zappers with?

One day, it occurred to me that if I wanted people to talk more about happiness, they first needed to recognize more happiness.

Therefore, our fourth practical happiness principle is: Happiness Is Bigger Than You Think

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