Why are some people more happy than others? It looks like they’ve found what they love to do and have a consistent sense of peace and happiness. They see positive opportunities when most people see closed doors. They handle failures and setbacks with grace and confidently continue moving in their desired direction.
Don’t worry if you think this doesn’t sound like you. The good news is, you can be one of those people. Those characteristics are largely learned. I know this from personal experience. I’ve seen people go through hardships and depression and yet turn their life around purely through their actions and attitude.
Being happy is possible, no matter how dark your days are. Contrary to popular belief, being happy really doesn’t have much to do with “positive thinking”. It’s about cultivating a realistic attitude that embraces life as it is.
Finding lasting happiness is a lot like physical fitness. You have to work your muscles daily if you want to see results over time. So, if you’re looking for a nudge to get the ball rolling, here are 7 habits of authentically happy people.
1) They have at least 5 close relationships
Did you know that the longest Harvard study ever on happiness found that healthy relationships were the most consistent predictor of a happy person? Having a few close relationships has also been found to help us live a longer, higher quality life. True friends really are worth their weight in gold.
But why five relationships?
This has been found to be an acceptable average from a variety of studies. According to the book Finding Flow:
“National surveys find that when someone claims to have 5 or more friends with whom they can discuss important problems, they are 60 percent more likely to say that they are ‘very happy’.”
However keep in mind that the actual number doesn’t necessarily matter that much, it is the effort you put into your relationships that matters.
2) They don’t tie your happiness to external events
A variety of research says that self-esteem that is bound to external success can be quite fickle. For example, if you tie your self-esteem to getting that job promotion, you’ll experience a small boost when you get it, but it won’t last long.
Tying your happiness to external events can also lead to behaviour which avoids failure. The key may be to think of yourself less as this C.W Lewis quote says to avoid the trap of tying your self-worth to external signals.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” – C.W. Lewis
3) They exercise
It’s been proven over and over. Exercise will make you feel better if you stick with it. Body image improves as a result of exercise and eventually you’ll begin to experience that “exercise high” thanks to the release of endorphins. It doesn’t matter which physical activity you do, just as long as you do something.
4) They become good at something
Happy people generally have something that they’re “good at”. A skill they’ve honed over the years. People report that even though it may have been tough to improve their skills at something, they are satisfied with themselves when they look back.
The rewards of becoming great at something far outweigh the short-term discomfort.
5) They spend more money on experiences
According to a fair amount of research, experiential purchases tend to make us happier than spending money on material goods. This could be because experiences are something you’ll remember forever, they’re social and they’re unique. Nobody in the world will have the same exact experience you had.
6) They don’t ignore negative emotions
Yes, it’s common for most of us to resist emotions like sadness. But the truth you need sadness if you’re going to have happiness. And resisting these emotions will only turn into something more ugly down the road. Perhaps master Buddhist Pema Chödrön says it best:
“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
7) They are busy, but not rushed
Research shows that if you constantly feel rushed, then you’ll feel miserable. On the other hand, studies suggest that have nothing to do can also takes its toll.
The best is when you’re living a productive life but at a comfortable pace. Meaning: You should be expanding your comfort zone, but not so much that you feel overwhelmed. The best advice here is to say no to things that you’re not excited about, and yes to things that you can say “hell yeah!” to.