Just to be happy is perhaps everyone’s greatest pursuit in life.
Such a simple thing, yet undeniably tricky to master.
According to research how happy we feel is based on three key things:
- The presence of positive emotions
- The absence of negative emotions
- Life satisfaction
The following daily practices of joyful people aim to help bolster all three.
So let’s dive in.
1. They notice and appreciate the little things
I know you think that a million dollars in the bank would make you happier. I’ll be honest, I do too. But the research says otherwise.
Apparently, money does buy happiness, but far less than we’d think.
But here’s the thing:
I’m pretty sure it would make us happy…for a while.
But then like everything, you get used to it. So you stop paying attention to it. It becomes the new normal.
I think what really makes you happy isn’t actually the money, it’s the appreciation of having it.
That’s what makes you feel (even for a short time) like the luckiest person in the world.
So here’s the bad news:
I can’t give you a million dollars in order to trigger this effect.
But here’s the good news:
We can cultivate those same feelings without the cash by starting a daily gratitude practice.
I can honestly say this is one of the most powerful additions to my self-help tool belt. It gives you instant feel-good feedback.
Studies show that a simple gratitude practice helps you feel more positive emotions, and relish good experiences.
It also improves your health, helps you deal with adversity, and builds strong relationships.
You could say:
It’s not what you have, it’s how well you notice what you do have that really makes you joyful.
2. They create purpose in their life
Notice the particular phrasing here: “they create purpose”.
I’ve put it this way because I often think there’s a lot about finding your purpose out there that can be misleading.
Rather than discover your purpose, I actually believe it’s up to us to create it — often through trial and error.
Ultimately, we are the ones who apply meaning to our life.
Nevertheless, research has shown that feeling purposeful is important to our happiness and well-being.
As author and psychologist Dr. Steven Stosny puts it:
“Meaning and purpose are about motivation: what gets you out of bed in the morning. Meaning and purpose are a way of life, not how you feel. While we’re aware of being happy, meaning and purpose are noticeable only in their absence. It’s impossible to be happy for very long if your life lacks meaning and purpose.”
Rather than following some grand purposeful plan, it’s more about infusing meaning into everything you do daily.
We can do this by:
- Trying to stay more present in every moment rather than rushing through life.
- Trying to live according to our own values.
- Making time to explore our passions.
- Strengthen our relationships with others.
3. They release negative thoughts and emotions
When we try to be constantly happy and joyful all the time, it’s a recipe for toxic positivity.
No matter how happy you are, life is always a mix of light and shade.
Down days and tough times are inevitable.
But rather than eliminating negative emotions or thoughts, it’s about how we deal with them.
Journaling helps you do that in a constructive way.
In the intro, I laid out those three key components of a joyful life. Well, a journaling practice is great at reducing negative emotions.
Journaling reduces stress, improves well-being, and even improves your physical health.
That’s because it helps you to:
- Release and create space around negative thinking.
- Process your emotions.
- Cultivate greater self-awareness and understanding.
- Problem-solve and work out your next steps.
4. They take care of their body
It’s impossible to talk about the daily practices that bring joy without talking about the body.
After all, so much of our mood, and overall well-being comes down to the physical.
That’s why to be joyful we can’t neglect:
I’m not saying your body has to be your temple. But there’s no denying that covering the basics has a drastic impact on how happy you are in daily life.
Being active doesn’t just improve your physical health, it also helps reduce stress and anxiety, as well as boost self-esteem and happiness.
Research has shown a strong link between your well-being and how much sleep you get too. For example, the happiest people in society say they get just over 7 hours of shut-eye a night.
And last but not least, various studies have proven that healthy food choices really are happy food choices. Eating fruits and vegetables has not only physical but also mental health benefits.
5. They look for the good in life to cultivate a more joyful mindset
“What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” — Robin S. Sharma
I’m sure you’ve heard it plenty of times, but happiness really is an inside job.
And the mindset we cultivate is a big part of it all.
Having a positive mindset isn’t about glossing over the bad parts of life. But it is about approaching daily life with an optimistic attitude.
One study even found that optimistic people live up to 15% longer, so clearly it’s a character trait that’s good for you.
But alongside a positive mindset, a growth mindset is just as valuable.
Those of us with a growth mindset are better at taking on challenges and learning from them. And this actually increases both your abilities and your achievements.
6. They don’t neglect the present moment and try to cultivate greater awareness of it
This daily practice all comes down to mindfulness.
It doesn’t matter whether you cultivate it through meditation, breathwork, or various other mindfulness techniques.
What matters is being able to pay attention to the “now”.
It works by managing to induce the brain’s relaxation response. It’s also really good for helping you to snap out of rumination.
Think about it:
I don’t know about you but pretty much all my stress and sadness in life only live in the past and the future.
In this way, the negative emotions we feel are often just stories. Stories about something that’s already happened or is yet to happen.
In the words of spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle:
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all that you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.”
7. They stay in their own lane and avoid comparison
They say that comparison is the thief of joy for good reason.
Sure, a bit of healthy competition can be a great motivator for some. But constantly measuring yourself against others is a recipe for misery.
In a world full of almost 8 billion people, there’s always going to be someone smarter, more successful, better looking, etc.
Is it any wonder then that it eats away at your self-esteem?
That’s why comparison can kill confidence and hold you back.
The less likely you are to compare yourself to others the higher your emotional intelligence.
It all goes back to the first practice on our list— gratitude.
One study found that people who compare themselves don’t appreciate who they are or what they have.
To stay joyful, we’re better off staying in our own lane.
The happiest people realize that they are on their own journey, and focus on their own individual progress.
8. They only focus on what they can control
The root of a lot of anxiety is worrying about things that were never in your control in the first place.
But most of us already know, it’s easier said than done to simply stop this.
That’s why acceptance is an incredibly powerful tool for joyful living (including self-acceptance).
Because perfection doesn’t exist.
Life will always throw us curveballs.
And if our happiness relies on everything going smoothly, we’re constantly thrown into chaos.
Joyful people embrace the mantra “It is what it is” and try not to sweat the small things in life.
Although those out-of-your-control little annoyances may be small, they can still raise your stress hormone levels up to 15% when you agonize over them.
9. They don’t make their life all about themselves, they focus on others
There’s no question, social connections make people happier.
That’s why the most joyful people make their daily lives just as much about others as they do themselves.
They cultivate strong relationships with family and friends. They put time and energy into investing in those bonds.
They also care about giving back.
I don’t necessarily mean with money, but with contribution and kindness.
Altruism makes us feel good. There’s evidence that when you help others, it actually promotes physiological changes in your brain linked with happiness.
So it seems Saint Francis of Assisi was right when he said:
“For it is in giving that we receive“.