One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
Some people associate happiness with a lack of intellectual rigor, like the man who said to Samuel Johnson, “You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but I don’t know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in.” Creativity, authenticity, or discernment, some folks argue, is incompatible with the bourgeois complacency of happiness. But although somber, pessimistic people might seem smarter, research shows that happiness and intelligence are essentially unrelated.
Of course, it’s cooler not to be happy. There’s a goofiness to happiness, an innocence, a readiness to be pleased. Zest and enthusiasm take energy, humility, and engagement; taking refuge in irony, exercising destructive criticism, or assuming an air of philosophical ennui is less taxing. Also, irony and world-weariness allow people a level of detachment from their choices: fast food, a country club membership, a gas-guzzling SUV, reality TV…
The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy.
Some people are unhappy because they won’t take the trouble to be happy. Happiness takes energy and discipline. It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light.