What Do Happy People Know?

I was skimming Dan Baker’s What Happy People Know tonight and ran across this passage: “In childhood, our spirits were unbridled and unbroken…As we get older, though, and have to solve all our own problems, we become increasingly obsessed with what it takes to survive in this world. Our basic balance begins to shift–from spirit to survival–and we lose our love for life.”

Baker’s solution? Cultivating what he calls the “12 Qualities of Happiness,” which are:

  • Love
  • Optimism
  • Courage
  • A sense of freedom
  • Proactivity
  • Security
  • Health
  • Spirituality
  • Altruism
  • Perspective
  • Humor
  • Purpose

Baker describes these attributes in more detail, but it struck me as I was reading that the late Roger Ebert possessed many, if not all, of these qualities. Despite illnesses and physical limitations, he retained his sense of humor, wonder, and purpose in life. As this lovely Slate article by Dana Stevens mentioned, “Ebert [responded] to Siskel’s criticism that he tends to go too easy on “cheap exploitative schlock” like The Players Club with this telling reply: “I also have the greatest respect for you, Gene, but if you have a flaw, it is that you are parsimonious with your enjoyment, parceling it out as if you are afraid you will prematurely expend your lifetime share.” Joy—in movies, in conversation, in language, in life—was not something that Roger Ebert meted out parsimoniously. He had more than enough to last a lifetime, and now that he’s gone, he’s left so much behind.”

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