Why are some people happier 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 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 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 seven habits of authentically happy people.
1) They have at least five close relationships
So, how many friends?
About 5 close relationships, 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’.”
2) Buy experiences, not things.
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has been researching the affect of money on happiness for two decades. Gilovich says, “one of the enemies of happiness is adaptation. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”
If you feel the urge to spend money, spend money on experiences. Go see the world. Live your life on planes and trains and in the car on the road to nowhere.
According to Gilovich, “our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
3) They exercise
Research suggests that physical stress can relieve mental stress.
The Harvard Health Blog says that aerobic exercise is key for your head, just as it is for your heart:
“Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.”
4) Learn about themselves
Happy people don’t just appear; they are made. You need to make yourself into a happier person.
But that can take work. And the work you do doesn’t always mean that you will find out things you like about yourself.
According to Niia Nikolova, a Postdoctoral Researcher of Psychology, knowing ourselves is the first step in breaking negative thought patterns:
“Recognising true emotions can help us to intervene in the space between feelings and actions – knowing your emotions is the first step to being in control of them, breaking negative thought patterns. Understanding our own emotions and thinking patterns can also help us more easily empathise with others.”
(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).
5) Look for good in other people
Being happy doesn’t mean you’ll be happy all of the time. Happiness is a state of mind, not a state of being.
You will experience difficulties along the way, and you will encounter people who rub you the wrong way, make you feel irritated and who just down right annoy you.
When you see the bad in people, you tend to hold grudges.
However, the negative emotions associated with grudes eventually give way to resenment. In turn, this leaves little room to be happy, according to Mayo Clinic.
6) They don’t ignore negative emotions
Yes, it’s common for most of us to resist emotions like sadness. But the truth is, 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.”
(If you’re looking for techniques to learn how to accept your emotions and let go of negative attachments, check out my new eBook: The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy for a Better Life)
7) They are busy, but not rushed
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you can’t see the beauty if you are rushing through life.
Research suggests that being “rushed” can make you miserable.
Yet on the other hand, some studies suggest that have nothing to do can also take its toll on you.
However, the balance is just right when you’re living a productive life in a comfortable place.
Therefore, it’s important to have goals, but we don’t need to be in a hurry all the time to get things done. It leaves so much wasted time on the journey not soaking in life.
Happy people feel their way through life and they allow the good and the bad to penetrate into them so they can have the full human experience.
Stop and smell the roses isn’t just some old-time advice that sounds nice, it’s real-life advice that can help you be happier.
Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails
Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.