15 Quotes About What It Really Means to Be Happy

Clinically Reviewed by Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R
dog lying in grass with his tongue out

When I was younger, I thought being happy was something I could will myself to do — that all I had to do was think positively, slap a grin on my face, and hope for the best. As I got older, I realized that happiness is…well, a little more complicated than that.

It takes work, it takes intention — and for anyone who battles mental illness or faces difficult life circumstances, experiencing happiness may require therapy, counseling, lifestyle changes, and sometimes medication.

In other words, there is no one quick and easy answer to living a happy life, and how to get there looks different for different people. One of the things I’ve learned over the years, though, is that there is a lot to be learned from how others’ have found happiness, and the wisdom they’ve gained along the way.

Here are 15 quotes about happiness to inspire you, motivate you, lift your spirits, and show you that happiness is not a one-size-fits all approach.

15 Quotes About Happiness

  1. “The only thing that will make you happy is being happy with who you are, and not who people think you are.” — Goldie Hawn
  2. “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” — Helen Keller
  3. “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” — Lucille Ball
  4. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
  5. “If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.” — Lao Tzu
  6. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” — Dalai Lama
  7. “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” — Mahatma Gandhi
  8. “Accentuate the positive, not the negative. It sounds so trite, but a lot of people will pick out something to complain about, rather than say, ‘Hey, that was great!’ It’s not hard to find great stuff if you look.” — Betty White
  9. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery — air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’” ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
  10. “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” — Anna Quindlen
  11. “There’s nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons.” ― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  12. “Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.” ― John Lennon
  13. “Happiness is a warm puppy.” ― Charles M. Schulz
  14. “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer
  15. “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature, and God. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, then there will be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.” — Anne Frank

Beyond the Page

I don’t know about you, but reading through these quotes just added a little more light, a little more optimism, and a little more joy to my day. And maybe that’s what it’s all about — carving out moments in life to sit with the idea of happiness — whether it be through the written word, a book, a movie, or a conversation with a good friend. In many ways, happiness is about connection, with ourselves and others. It’s there for the taking, if you look for it — and you make time for it.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Even the most well-intentioned of us experience times where the darkness in our lives is just too much, and no amount of quote-reading, conversations with loved ones, bubble baths, or other self-care techniques do the trick.

Remember that happiness is not something you are meant to pursue alone. Sometimes finding happiness requires professional help. A good therapist or online counselor can help you understand what it is that is making happiness unattainable for you right now, and what treatment options are out there for you to feel better. With help, happiness is something we can all experience — it’s certainly something we all deserve.

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