18 Therapists Reveal Their Secret to Happiness

Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Here's what Americans know about happiness: We have the right to pursue it, but it comes from within. Also, it's a warm gun. Got it?

Neither does anyone else, not even Harvard scientists. Fortunately, there are thousands of counselors, social workers, psychotherapists, and other licensed mental health workers who make their livings by helping people solve problems in their lives to get happy. Or happier, at least. Surely, one of these professionals knows the secret of happiness. So we queried 18 of them. Just to brighten your day.

Happiness comes from following your intuition

"The biggest secret is to follow your gut. … Really skilled therapists listen for what you say, and they listen for what you don't say. In other words, they hear their clients' genuine, authentic, personal truths, and they reflect that back to them. A lot of times, when people feel stuck or are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression, it means they are not adhering to their truest desires." -- Alena Gerst, LCSW

"Following your intuition or your gut feeling is the secret to happiness. Stay true to who you are and what you want by not giving into guilt, shame, or another's wishes. You will find that while it may be uncomfortable at first, after a while you stay more grounded and centered when you take care of yourself first." -- Sara Sedlik, MA, LMFT

Happiness comes from relationships

"Having multiple genuine relationships with friends and family; consistent journaling; and eating dinner frequently at night with your family are not celebrated by society as much as making money and owning a big home. But those are the things that permanently improve happiness." -- Chris Cutter, MSW

"My patients would agree that the key to happiness is finding safe, intimate relationships within themselves and with others. If they quiet the voices of self-condemnation and shame and instead practice empathy, kindness, and compassion, their hearts open up to happiness and joy." -- Kirstin Naumann, MACP, MATC, LMHC

"What makes people happy (and healthy, by the way) is quality relationships with friends and spouses. Happiness, over time, is all about personal connections and community. Invest in those." -- Dr. Deborah Offner

"In our final hours, we want to know that we loved deeply and were deeply loved. So, in order to create happiness in your life, pay attention to how you talk both to yourself and others. Nurture your relationships with clean, clear, compassionate, and courageous conversations. Prioritize the relationships that are most important to you, and don't put yourself at the bottom of your to-do list." -- Sage B. Hobbs, MSC

Happiness is a choice

"Happiness comes from making an active choice to be happy, rather than depending on external things to make you happy. And the more that we look for it as if it is a treasure we will find, the less we feed the happiness that is inside of us. While we often don't have control over situations in our life, we always have control over our response to them." -- Alyssa Yeo, LPC, CYT

"Happiness is a choice and does not need to be dictated by circumstance. There are laws of physics that dictate things, like what goes up must come down, but there are no laws that dictate happiness. Happiness is where I decide it is, regardless of the circumstances." -- Monte Drenner, LMHC, CAP

Happiness is a lifestyle that takes work

"About 50% of our overall happiness level is genetically determined. About 8-20% is determined by life circumstances. The rest of what determines happiness is purposeful activity. That is the good news." -- Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC

"Happiness isn't a secret; it's simply the byproduct of certain lifestyle choices. They include being part of a community of friends and family, being of service regularly, and promptly repairing the mistakes we make along the way." -- Kansas Cafferty, MA, LMFT, MCA, CATC, NCAAC

"It's no secret, as far as I'm concerned. It's that people don't want to do the work to get it." -- Leah Benson, LMHC  

Happiness is purpose

"The secret of happiness is living life in a way that ultimately lets you look back and say, 'I did it my way!' It's being brave and adventuresome in pursuing your dream, and proud of all your accomplishments along the way." -- Dr. Carole Lieberman

"Determine the purpose of your life for yourself and then commit to it. That's when your story becomes your own." -- Thomas Fewer, LPC

Happiness comes from embracing other emotions

"I'm not saying that you shouldn't continue to strive toward happiness, but recognize it's only one part of the emotional experience you're going to face. By lowering our standards, our expectation that we 'should' be happy all of the time, paradoxically we can increase our sense of overall well-being and contentment." -- Annie Wright, LMFT

"We would not know what happiness was if we didn't experience sadness and a full range of emotions. The secret to happiness is to openly embrace unhappiness and whatever other emotions come your way. By taking good care of all of the feelings we experience in life, we can gain wisdom, love ourselves, and create the conditions for happiness." -- Nicole Amesbury, MS, LMHC

"Happiness is just a glimpse of a feeling within a brief moment. Don't get caught up when it fades away. Just keep designing an authentic, meaningful life and happiness will have more living space when it comes back to visit." -- Ryan G. Beale, MA, TLLP

You already have happiness, if you know where to look

"Happiness is a state of mind. The best way to achieve is is through meaningful relationships, success in personal endeavors, good fortune, and fulfillment in the world of work." -- Moses Kranzler, Ed.D

"We get in touch with happiness as we release things that block it (fear, judgment, etc.). Happiness is in the present moment. It isn't in the future or the past. Learning to orient the mind to the present through practices like mindfulness can help us connect with our happiness." -- Corinne Zupko, LPC

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Missy Wilkinson would like to know, are you happy now? How is it now? Are you happy now? Wait, those are No Doubt lyrics. Follow her on Instagram @nowlistenmissy or Twitter @missy_wilkinson.