The Seven traits of happy people are:
• They have high self-esteem. (This, however, is true only for individualistic societies such as ours.)
• They are optimistic, outgoing and agreeable.
• They feel in control of their lives.
• They have close friends or a satisfying marriage.
• Their work and leisure activities are engaging.
• They have a meaningful religious faith or spirituality, one that is full of hope and that provides a supportive community.
• They exercise and get enough sleep.
Source: David Myers, social psychologist and author of "Pursuit of Happiness"
"People tend to take for granted what they have and want more," Inglehart said, explaining why bling doesn't equal smiles. For the past half century, experts have noticed an increase in anxiety and depression in America. Ed Diener, a psychology professor with the University of Illinois, has linked those trends with a societal drop in trust and connectedness.
Relationships matter. But that's not the only secret to paradise. Happy people are those who experience personal growth, who have high self-esteem and who accept themselves for who they are. It's not something you can put on like a new coat," McNees said. Happiness is attained by nurturing the inner self.
One might do that by helping a person in need or by strengthening bonds within the community. But this poses challenges for some modern Americans. Never has a culture existed that so greatly encouraged the greediness and lustiness of humans as our society," said Tim Kasser, associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.
This insatiable desire for material goods isn't entirely society's fault. Many experts believe it is human nature to want more. Survival among primitive man would have depended upon his willingness to search for more wood and better animal skins.
In modern man, the wealthier he becomes, the wealthier he expects to be, explained social psychologist and happiness expert David Myers. Eventually, expectations can't be met, and disappointment sets in. So the growing materialism and individualism that loomed large in post 1960-America fueled divorce, overspending and depression, said Myers, who teaches at Hope College in Holland. He called it "me thinking as opposed to we thinking."
Not even religious devotion can bring happiness to the self-centered. Experts say spirituality helps only when it fosters a sense of community, friendship or personal growth. Myers has compiled a list of tips for people who seek happiness:
• Improve your self-esteem.
• Seek out activities that offer personal growth.
• Build a support network of people to embrace you during times of trouble.
• Get plenty of sleep.
• Exercise regularly.
Myers also suggests people keep a gratitude journal to remind themselves of how good life is.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook the simple joys in a day.