A Little Happier: A Reminder about Happiness from 1662.

Here’s the passage that I read:

“This day by God’s mercy I am 29 years of age, and in very good health, and like to live and get an estate; and if I have a heart to be contented, I think I may reckon myself as happy a man as any is in the world, for which God be praised. So to prayers and to bed.”

Diary of Samuel Pepys, February 1662

(That phrase “And so to bed” was a signature sign-off for Pepys, a seventeenth-century version of Cronkite’s “And that’s the way it is” or Ryan Seacrest’s “Seacrest…out!” or my “Onward and upward” at the end of each episode of the Happier podcast.)

I love this passage, and it inspired the resolutions for the month of November in The Happiness Project. I resolved to “Keep a contented heart,” because I realized that no matter what’s happening in my life, I’m going to be happy only if I “have a heart to be contented.”

One of my most frequent faults is fretfulness — annoyance and complaints about minor inconveniences or little mistakes or oversights by others.

One of my main aims is to remember how happy I already am. Do you struggle with this?

I have Eight Splendid Truths about happiness, and the Fourth is: You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.

Of course, many argue the opposite case. John Stuart Mill, for example, wrote, “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” I disagree; I think most of us don’t spend enough time thinking how whether we’re happy or how we could be happier (at least I never did, which is why I wrote The Happiness Project). What do you think?

Check out Yogi Tea. When it comes to enjoying life, little moments — like drinking a delicious cup of tea — can make a big difference.

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Happier listening!

  • Mimi Gregor

    I think that it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” So true. So many people seem to choose misery by focusing on the negative. We forget that we have a choice as to what we pay attention to… what we tell ourselves… what we look at and read.

  • Elizabeth

    Gretchen, have you read Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle? The books are fantastic, and Pepys is one of the characters.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’ve read some Stephenson, but not those! Will check them out.

  • ChrisD

    It’s so true that we decide if we can be happy with what we have. I’ve had some building work done recently and I was talking to a friend and moaning about the radiators being installed late (I took an afternoon off in August to chose them and they got them in for December) but then decided to look on the bright side: did you know the plasterer walks on stilts to plaster the ceiling, and did a really great job. The late radiators (only one week late, and ultimately just on time) were more present to me than the perfect plastering, until I made an effort to notice the latter.

    • ChrisD

      P.S. I was in the Royal Society this evening and saw Pepys’ portrait there.