The greatest secret to happiness is having communal friendships. Individuals in communal friendships have no expectations about the giving and taking that goes on within these friendships. Most friendships are not communal, but instead are reciprocal with individuals expecting equal amounts of giving and taking in their friendships. Communal friendships are driven by empathy, which allows a person to experience another person’s emotions. For example, if you are having a good day and feeling happy about it and you talk with a friend who is also having a good day and feeling happy about it; with empathy, you will feel twice as happy as you did when you were by yourself.
The second secret to happiness is social relationships. Social relationships can be communal but are best defined as the reciprocal relationships in our lives: family, business partners, work colleagues, Facebook friends, acquaintances, neighbors, fellow church/synagogue/mosque worshipers, classmates, fellow sports fans… None of these social relationships is necessarily more important for happiness than any other. The importance of these social relationships is its diversity and total number. Simply put, happy people have more opportunities for social interactions than unhappy people do.
The third secret to happiness is extraversion, your ability and, in some ways, your energy to put yourself into a social setting. Happy people have higher levels of extraversion than unhappy people do.
The fourth secret to happiness is optimism, your ability to put a positive light onto ambiguous and negative life situations. Happy people have higher levels of optimism than unhappy people do. The prototypical example of optimism—the optimist answering, “half full” to the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?”—tells only a part of the story on how optimism is associated with happiness. The true measure of optimism and its association with happiness comes when situations are in-fact, negative. This is when the optimist’s attitude serves as a motivator to keep moving forward.
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