5 Habits for Happiness

By Michael Dangovian

October 6, 2017

The simple truth is this: Happiness is a choice. And your health depends on how you choose. [Watch the video version of this post right here!]

Very few people set out in their lives to be miserable. There are exceptions to every rule, but in general, people would choose to be happy over being unhappy.

So, it’s surprising that so many people in this world are just so miserable. It’s amazing. I’m fairly confident that you could walk into any random fast food restaurant anywhere, and find no small percentage of people currently there actively hating their lives.

I’m not talking about real tragedies. There’s real pain in the world, and I’m not being dismissive of that in any way.

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I’m talking about the difference between miserable, toxic grumps and people that just radiate with a love of life that attracts others toward them. Because you could be either one.

Here are five habits to build to put—and keep—you on the positive, happy side of the equation.

It’s a Choice

Happiness isn’t some state of being. It’s also not something that you just have or don’t have.

Instead, it’s all about perspectives.

For example: Let’s say someone cuts you off in morning traffic, causing you to crash into a ditch. You have a choice between two equal but opposite reactions to that situation once the adrenaline dies down. You can spend the rest of the day fixating on the jerk who caused the accident. On how you’re now going to be without a vehicle for the next week. On how you’d like to give him a piece of your mind because your insurance rates are going to skyrocket now, all thanks to that little so-and-so who needs to go back to driving school…

Or, you can look around, take a deep breath, and be thankful that a ditch stopped your forward momentum instead of, say, a 100-foot drop or a group of kindergarteners.

Same event, two very different responses. It’s your choice.


Being thankful for things makes you healthier. Psychologically, sure. But also, physically. Science says so.

The best way to build a habit of gratitude is starting one of these.

Being grateful makes you happier. Why? There are a lot of theories, but most distill it into the fact that when you feel thankful for something, you understand on a molecular level that you weren’t the first cause. It was something or someone who provided that for you.

So, you feel a little bit of psychic debt. Not in a bad way, of course, but it takes your eyes and pulls it away from your own naval and shifts your gaze—your attention—out into the world. Away from yourself. Toward the rest of the universe. And, for whatever reason, that makes us feel small, but also amazingly vital. And safe. And that’s the nature of happiness, I think. Knowing who you are, understanding your limits, but also understanding that you are part of something way bigger than yourself. Something amazing. Something that pulls you closer to every past, present, and future soul on earth.

Surround Yourself With Positive People

I’ve mentioned this in earlier blogs, but it still holds true. Your mom was right: Be careful who you befriend.

The science is clear on this: Positivity and negativity are contagious.

Hang out with a bunch of angry bums, and you’ll assimilate. Hang out with people who are positive, supportive, and who love life, and you’re more likely than not to catch a serious case of the smiles.

Happy people don’t hang out with unhappy people. At least not by choice. And even then, not for long.

Don’t Live Your Life Out of Fear

This one is a hard for some people. I realize that. It’s easier for some of us to maintain a defensive stance toward life, to react to what comes at us and pivot where needed after the attack has come.

But, I will say that you can learn to shed the fear and move instead toward a braver, more proactive attitude towards the challenges of life.

When I first opened my cardiology practice, I’ll admit that most of the decisions I made were in response to the image of my lawyer sitting on my shoulder shaking his head and admonishing me to make sure I didn’t get sued. That was my main fear at the time. Sure, I wanted to help people. But if you get sued for a trillion dollars, not only is that a bad thing for you as doctor personally, it’s also bad for your current or prospective clients.

It took some time, but as I kind of let go a little and trusted my knowledge and experience—along with my heart of hearts—I was able to shift that focus from fear of losing my practice to digging in and proactively working to help my patients, no matter what that might involve.

And, oh yeah: I was tons happier for it.

There’s Enough Happiness for Everyone

Happiness is not a zero-sum game. Meaning that your happiness never has to interfere with someone else’s ability to be happy. (And if it doesn’t, I would question if what you’re pursuing is happiness at all and not something more destructive.) This idea is even more important now, I think, given the current political and social climate.

Happiness, because it’s a chosen state of being, never infringes. Everyone can potentially be happy, and no one would be left out in the dark.


These are five great places to start. Again, all of it starts with the first one. Happiness isn’t something you achieve. It’s not the other thing on the other side of a winning lotto ticket. It doesn’t live solely in the world of your next job promotion. No, it’s the journey itself. It’s something you choose. It’s a lens you use to view the world. Happiness is a choice.

Sure, bad things happen. But that should just make the great stuff all that much better.

So, you have a choice today—and every day forward. What’s it going to be?

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