50 shortcuts to happiness

A few years ago I read The Right to Write by Julia Cameron, a book designed to help you unblock the barriers to your productivity and success in creative endeavours.

One of the passages talks about unlocking creativity by focusing on positive thoughts (just like the power that positive messages have to inspire action, which Niki talks about in her book Psychology for a Better World). Julia advocates seeking happiness as a stepping stone to success in the writing life but I think her advice is just as appropriate for those of us who want to create positive social change – often a slow and frustrating task that can get you down if you’re not careful. Julia explains how to create your own personal shortcut to happiness:

Happiness is not only a mood. It is a decision. Writing our list of happinesses causes us to see how simple some forms of joy are, how we can make ourselves happy in simple ways. When the blues set in, the simple act of listing joys can help elicit some.

1. A pohutukawa tree in full bloom

So, if we want to spread a little joy in the world, let’s start with our own lives.

Here’s my list of things that make me happy:

  1. A pohutukawa in full bloom
  2. Travel documentaries
  3. Jane Austen novels
  4. Writing
  5. Xanadu (still the best film I have ever seen, by far)
  6. Walking in the fresh air
  7. My friends and family
  8. Mangos
  9. Singing along when Dad plays the guitar
  10. Places with a heavy sense of history
  11. People with hidden talents
  12. The Blue Bird Cafe in Auckland’s Dominion Road
  13. Free summer concerts in parks
  14. Laughing so much my belly aches
  15. Wes Anderson films (for example, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)

    28. David Bowie

  16. Finding toast left over from breakfast in the afternoon – mmmm, the strange deliciousness of cold toast
  17. Kicking a rugby ball around in the park with friends
  18. Achievable busy-ness
  19. Inspirational quotes
  20. Bold, colourful tattoos
  21. Soft rain – the kind that moistens your skin without getting you wet
  22. The smell of sunblock on your skin
  23. Playing pool with my grandfather in his snooker room
  24. Vintage clothes
  25. Seeing people in love
  26. Receiving old-fashioned, snail-mail letters
  27. The smell of Queen of the Night
  28. David Bowie
  29. A strong, black coffee in the early morning
  30. Dancing Salsa and Bachata (I only wish I could dance like the guys in those videos can)
  31. Intimate conversations with strangers you meet while travelling
  32. Having a job that makes a positive difference in the world
  33. Pasteles en Hoja and mango milkshakes at Amable Restaurant in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic
  34. Short stories by Jorge Luis Borges
  35. Antique photos of strangers
  36. Monkeys
  37. Latin America and the Caribbean
  38. Avocado and tomato on 5-grain toast

    49. Jump photography

  39. Happy Endings TV show (a very guilty pleasure)
  40. Dancing in the streets
  41. Riding in the back of pick-up trucks
  42. Children
  43. Ideas that almost hurt your brain to think about
  44. Buddhist philosophy
  45. Modern dance
  46. Connecting with kindred spirits
  47. Perfect, shining moments when you feel you might pop just at the thrill of being alive
  48. Vegan carrot cake
  49. Jump photography
  50. The number eleven

It really works! I feel better just thinking about those things. What would be on your own list of happy things?


About Cassandra

Hi, I'm Cassandra. I work in fundraising, love travelling, and am fascinated by how we can inspire one another to greatness and spread human kindness. Connect with me on twitter @cassandra_nz


  1. 18. “Achievable busy-ness”- LOVE this.
    19. 31. 38. 42. 44. You must be my mind-twin.

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