Proverbs and sayings are popular nuggets of wisdom, often in circulation for centuries and even millenniums. This post contains proverbs and sayings on happiness, divided into nine categories.
If you’re looking for more proverbs and sayings, you can find plenty of them in the resource below. It contains proverbs on topics such as life, family, friends, love, health, happiness, money, hard work, time, time management, teamwork, leadership, business, education & learning, and more.
1. Self-love and body positivity
Loving yourself despite what others think about you is a must for happiness. What’s important is who you are as a person and not what you look like or what your background is.
Comparisons are odious.
Don’t compare yourself with others. It can harm one or both the parties by lowering self-esteem. Remember, everyone’s situation is different. You may have things that others don’t, and vice versa. Moreover, when you compare, you may seek happiness in misfortunes of the person whom you compare yourself with. This breeds disliking and mistrust among people.
Example: Tom: My classmates are far better placed in their lives than I am. Jerry: Comparisons are odious. Everyone’s situation is different.
Outside noisy, inside empty.
People may have busy and sought-after life, but many of them are empty and unhappy from inside.
Example: Many rich and famous lead a glitzy and busy life, but they also face tremendous pressure to perform and maintain their lifestyle, and they’ve few real friends. Outside noisy, inside empty.
Write Sentences Like in Newspapers and Books
Step-by-step process. Little grammar. Real-world examples.
A tree is known by its fruit.
Like a tree is known by the fruit it bears, a person is known by his character and actions (and not by his appearance).
Example: I see that you avoid him just because he isn’t good looking. Remember, a tree is known by its fruit.
Please your eye and plague your heart.
Those who decide their partners mainly on looks suffer later. Character, qualities, and values matter a lot.
Example: It was love at first sight and a quick marriage, but it didn’t last. They should have considered things beyond just physical attractiveness. Please your eye and plague your heart.
Beauty is but skin deep.
We can’t judge people only by their looks. A beautiful face my conceal a bad character.
Example: Don’t get taken in by his beautiful face because beauty is but skin deep.
Men are not to be measured in inches.
Greatness or value of a person can’t be measured by his stature.
Example: Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist and a philanthropist, was just 5’2”. Men are not to be measured in inches.
The crow that mimics a cormorant is drowned.
A Japanese proverb. Don’t copy others to fit into what others want to see. People will see through the facade you’re putting up and not respect you. Authenticity (projecting who you actually are) is valued a lot, and it’s an extremely rare quality.
Example: He tried to look cool by dressing in a different way and smoking, but to his dismay, people were amused. The crow that mimics a cormorant is drowned.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
What is beautiful to one person may not be beautiful to another. So, even an average-looking person will be considered beautiful by someone.
Example: You shouldn’t be disappointed at all. You’ll surely find a better person because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
2. Live in the present
Unless we’re deeply engaged in something, we spend our time reminiscing past or planning for future. But life is in the present. Happiness is in savouring what’s around.
While the grass grows, the horse starves.
We wait for the grass to grow to certain length before feeding it to the horse, and the horse starves to death waiting. This situation is not uncommon in our lives. We wait for certain events to happen before we enjoy life or do what we like, but we waste so much time waiting that those expectations are never met.
Example: My friend postponed his dream vacation till his promotion. While the grass grows, the horse starves.
One today is worth two tomorrows.
Many live in the future, making plans, seeing them fulfilled, and fantasizing about creature comforts. But this is all in dreams, and we don’t experience dreams and hence time dreaming is lost every day from our lives. We experience reality. So, live in the present. That’s where experience is, life is.
Example: When I’m not focusing on something, I get lost in thoughts, past or future. I rarely utilize such free moments to absorb what’s happening around. I need to change this as one today is worth two tomorrows.
Take things as they come.
Don’t stress too much thinking over things that haven’t yet happened. Live in the present and take them as they come.
Example: Don’t stress yourself out thinking over how your children’s career path will shape up. They’re still 0-2 years from college. Take things as they come.
Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it.
Similar to the last one
You don’t shit where you eat.
You can reduce stress and strife by not mixing different parts (work, leisure, family, etc.) of your life.
Example: I avoid checking work emails at home. You don’t shit where you eat.
The golden age was never the present age.
The golden age of a country, culture, or kingdom always refers to a period in the past, not in the present. Howsoever well we may live or achievements we may make now, we’ll not think the current period to be golden, and, instead, long for the past. Live in the present.
Example: Few centuries into future, people will look back at our age and may probably call it golden age. But we won’t call it such because the golden age was never the present age.
Take time to smell the roses.
Past is gone. Future is not yet here. The only thing you’ve is present. So, learn to live and enjoy the present. Slow down, observe things around, and experience them.
Example: That day when I looked at things around in the park unrushed, I felt so calm and found the bounties of nature such a precious gift. I think I had become a robot, and I need to change. I need to take time to smell the roses to feel happy again.
Haste makes waste.
Work done in haste stresses you, and the effort may even be wasted because of subpar quality.
Example: In hurry to finish the exam, I failed to grasp the instructions in multiple-choice question section and marked only one answer as correct. The questions, however, could have more than one answer. Haste makes waste.
Success is a journey, not a destination.
While traveling, you enjoy not just your destination but also other places and experiences, little or big, on the way. Similarly, in life’s journey don’t be obsessed with the final reward, which may come after many months or years or may not come at all, but enjoy little achievements and experiences every day. Many set the precondition of arriving at the destination before they enjoy life, and for them, life just slips away without happiness.
Example: Tom: I’ll go on an international vacation every six months if I get this promotion. Jerry: You can afford it even now, at least once a year. Why set such pre-condition and stop living life? You won’t regain lost years. Success is a journey, not a destination.
Expectation is better than realization.
The expectation of achieving a desired goal is often more satisfying than the feeling we have when the goal is achieved. We all have taken exams, often spread over several days. The expectation of exams ending in few days and all the freedom and relaxation you’ll enjoy is often better than the feeling you’ve when the exams end.
Example: Thinking and planning about the safari trip to Kenya and Tanzania was more enjoyable than the feeling I had when I reached there. Expectation is better than realization.
3. Desire has no limit
Wants have no limits. You get a shiny toy. Now, you want a shinier toy. Wants under control will reduce your misery.
The more you have, the more you want.
When you’ve little wealth, you’re not happy. You think if you reach certain level, you’ll be happy. You work hard, make sacrifices, and reach the level you aspired. However, your level shifts upwards now, and, guess what, you’re still not happy. Your expectation keeps shifting upwards in a never-ending cycle, and happiness continues to elude you despite material wealth.
Example: I had regular furniture in my house, and then I decided to replace it with bespoke one. Let’s see how long I stick with the new furniture. The more you have, the more you want.
Enough is as good as a feast.
What’s enough (food, drink, or other material things) for you is already excess. You don’t need more.
Example: You own quite a comfortable car, which is adequate for you. Why do you want to replace it with twice as expensive a car? Enough is as good as a feast.
Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
If you keep your expectations in check, you would be disappointed much less. Quite a few scriptures tell us that path to happiness is working without expecting because unmet expectations lead to disappointment and misery.
Example: I prepared for the exam and wrote it to the best of my ability but didn’t hold any expectations of high or low marks. When the results were announced, I fared just average, but I wasn’t overly unhappy, unlike few friends who had high expectations. Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
Monkey see, monkey do.
People copy others mindlessly. It’s common to see people buy expensive items just because their neighbour or relative bought it. They too want to show off. Such envy and competitive acquisition without need has no end and often leads to unhappiness.
Example: I recently moved to a two-bedroom apartment, but after visiting my friend’s place, I’m considering moving to a more spacious apartment. Monkey see, monkey do.
Better a little fire to warm us than a great one to burn us.
Having moderate amount of something may be beneficial than having excess which may be harmful.
Example: We don’t get the range of latest food fads in our home, and I believe this drawing of line on consumption has done good to our health. Better a little fire to warm us, than a great one to burn us.
There is measure in all things.
Do things in moderation.
Example: Your overindulgence in food & drink and mobile entertainment will affect your health and happiness. There should be measure in all things.
A person with too much ambition cannot sleep in peace.
Over-ambition can lead to stress and work-life imbalance, common reasons for unhappiness.
Example: Since his promotion is due this year, he is slogging hard to bag few more deals for his division, which is clearly affecting his wellbeing. A person with too much ambition cannot sleep in peace.
4. Help others
If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap. If you want happiness for a day – go fishing. If you want happiness for a month – get married. If you want happiness for a year – inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime – help someone else.
If you want lasting happiness, help others. Research has clearly established the role of helping others in enhancing own happiness.
Example: Philanthropists are often one of the happiest persons. If you want happiness for an hour… help someone else.
Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns.
If you’re kind to others, kindness will return to you directly or indirectly. Don’t be transactional in relationships, genuinely help others to the extent you can, and see the magic of positive things returning to you. (This topic has been covered extensively in the book Give and Take.)
Example: I try to help people as much as I can, and I’ve largely been helped by people in times of need. Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns.
Help a lame dog over a stile.
Help those in difficulty.
Example: My organization donates to a charity that provides shelter to homeless during winter. Help a lame dog over a stile.
A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
You don’t lose anything by helping others, making a small chat, cheering some up, giving a hug, listening to someone patiently, and other small acts of kindness. Such acts bring happiness, in whatever little way, to others.
Example: Today, I chatted with my colleague, who is going through tough time after loss of a family member, to divert his attention from the sad event and cheer him up. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
5. Show gratitude for what you have
Expressing gratitude for what we have teaches us contentment, an oft-practiced way to achieve happiness.
Think not on what you lack as much as on what you have.
Instead of cribbing about what you don’t have, think of what you have and be grateful for it. You should count your blessings and not what you lack.
Example: Although I’m disappointed with how my business has fared recently, it is at least bringing in steady income, which helps me put food on the table every day. Think not on what you lack as much as on what you have.
Better a small fish than an empty dish.
We should be thankful for whatever little we have. It’s better than not having anything. Be content.
Example: The government contract I’ve landed is small and is unlikely to extend beyond 18 months. But there have also been times when I had no work for months. Better a small fish than an empty dish.
Half a loaf is better than no bread.
Similar in meaning to the last one
6. Accept what can’t be changed
What can’t be cured must be endured.
If a situation can’t be remedied, be patient and endure it. For example, learn to accept events such as financial loss, breakup, illness, and death where things are beyond your control.
Example: I’ve been stuck at home for several months now because of the lockdown, but there is little I can do. What can’t be cured must be endured.
If you don’t like it, you may lump it.
If you don’t like something unavoidable, you’ve no option but to put up with it.
Example: Tom: The air-conditioning isn’t working and is not expected to be up again till tomorrow. How will I survive? Jerry: If you don’t like it, you may lump it.
Even the best dancer on the stage must retire some time.
An African proverb. Most things such as career and youth in our lives will eventually decline, a reality we should accept.
Example: I’ve come across many who look longingly at their younger self and refuse to accept that they’ve grown old. Even the best dancer on the stage must retire sometime.
7. Be financially independent
Money can’t buy happiness, but you need a minimum level of financial assets to stay financially independent and happy.
First secure an independent income, then practice virtue.
A Greek proverb. If you depend on others for your income, you can be manipulated to tread on a path you don’t like, making you unhappy.
Example: My journalist friend has to sometimes cover stories that are against his values, but he has little option as he is still building a career, and there aren’t many options out there in his industry. First secure an independent income, then practice virtue.
Who depends on another man’s table often dines late.
An Italian proverb. If you depend on others for money and other resources, the day is not far when you’ll get step-brotherly treatment.
Example: My friend, who was jobless and was staying with his brother’s family then, wasn’t sometimes invited to exclusive events in the city. Who depends on another man’s table often dines late.
8. You don’t need to know everything
Perfection is an enemy of happiness. It’s fine to aspire for and work towards perfection, but cogitating over yours and frowning over others’ imperfections can stress you needlessly.
What the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over.
A Jewish proverb. What we don’t see doesn’t perturb us. This proverb is an ideal fit for today’s digital world. These days, we consume excessive information over social media and other platforms on the internet, and often stumble on something unpleasant that disturbs us. If we hadn’t come across it, we would have been in a better state of mind.
Example: While going through my Facebook feed, I came across a disturbing photo, and it kept bothering me for at least few days. I wish I hadn’t seen it. What the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over.
Where ignorance is bliss, it’s a folly to be wise.
Ignorance can be good sometimes.
Example: I didn’t try to find out how my interview might pan out, and I was glad I didn’t because that would have made me unduly anxious. With no anxiety and meeting the questions with an open mind, I did well in the interview.
There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.
This proverb provides a 30,000-feet look at happiness.
We all want peace and happiness in life, and there are multiple ways of achieving this goal. However, many get so tunnel-focused that they fail to see paths other than their current job, which may ironically be hurting their pursuit of happiness. So, once in a while, take a step back and reflect.
Example: You’re overworked and stressed in your current job. I would suggest you explore other options, for there are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.
The best ground bears weeds as well as flowers.
Even the most well-kept ground grows weeds as well as flowers. Even the best lives have happiness as well as sorrow.
Example: Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and multi-billionaire, died of cancer at a relatively young age of 65. The best ground bears weeds as well as flowers.
Being happy is better than being king.
You may have all the riches and power of the world, but it’s not of much use if you’re still unhappy. Some don’t realize but it’s true that money, fame, and power do not necessarily bring happiness.
Example: The popular movie star recently committed suicide. He had a flourishing career, wealth, and millions of fans. Yet…. I would say being happy is better than being king.
Happiness is the best cosmetic.
If you’re happy, it’ll show on your face. You’ll glow.
Example: You look fresh and glowing because you’re mostly happy. I guess, happiness is the best cosmetic which everyone should aspire to use.
Age may wrinkle the face, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
We’ll look old with age, but we can remain young at heart and in spirit if we maintain our enthusiasm for work and life. By the same token, young people may look young outwardly but will be old at heart and in spirit if they lack enthusiasm.
Example: Tom: You look healthy and energetic despite your age. Jerry: That’s probably because of my interest in my yoga business and gardening. I look forward to them every morning. Age may wrinkle the face, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.