Life can be tough, can’t it?
We all face challenges, yet some people always seem to smile. They weather life’s storms with grace and joy.
What’s their secret?
It’s not magic or luck — it’s a set of habits. Habits that you can learn, too.
I realized that the happiest people I know all practice these, and when I started adopting them, I felt a noticeable difference too.
So let’s explore 8 simple, powerful habits that can help you find happiness, even when times are hard.
1) They stay active
Oh no, not another article telling you it’s healthy to work out!
Well, it’s true. And it’s also the first habit of people who are always happy, even when times are rough.
Because when you exercise, you release chemicals called endorphins. These are your body’s feel-good chemicals. A good workout session can lift your mood for a good chunk of the day.
And if you exercise regularly, you’ll find this habit creating a foundation of happiness on a deep, cellular level.
I have to admit, I’ve never been one for the gym. So this habit was tough for me to implement — until I realized there’s more than one way to move.
I started taking short walks every day, and then put on some music and dance in my living room.
Find a way to practice this habit that works for you and your schedule. The most important thing is that you do it.
2) They practice gratitude
Gratitude is another habit you probably hear touted by every Instagram guru and their grandma. But there’s good reason for that — gratitude is like a gentle hug for the soul.
Before, I didn’t think gratitude would make much of a difference, so I never bothered to take it seriously. But one day, my partner convinced me to try a 30 day challenge with him.
So every night, we each wrote down 3 nice things that we appreciated about the day. They were usually very small things — a laugh with a friend, a tasty meal, and the comfortable couch.
And you know what happened? After a few days, I actually started looking for things to be grateful for throughout my day, thinking about what I would write down that evening.
I was priming my brain to look for the positive — and when you look for it, you can find it everywhere. Even bad days didn’t look so bad to me anymore.
You can do this with your partner or with a friend, like me, or even by yourself — with a pen and paper or a gratitude app on your phone. Watch how it changes you and fills your heart with warmth.
3) They connect with others
I’m a little embarrassed to admit it now, but I remember a time when my life was consumed by work, chores, and errands.
I didn’t spend much time or attention on the people in my life, because I was always thinking about the next thing I had to do, and that seemed the most important to me.
And the funny thing is, if you had asked me, I would have said I was connected to people plenty enough — I had thousands of friends on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms, and spent hours every day interacting with them.
But I know now that those are not the connections that matter. It took a friend in need reaching out to make me realize this.
We spent time talking, crying, and laughing. I felt something awaken inside me that I hadn’t felt in a long time. And even though it was a very challenging time for her, she looks back at that conversation with great fondness.
From that moment on, I made a conscious effort to make time for friends, family, and even neighbors. I began to listen more, share my thoughts, and genuinely connect.
4) They give to others
If you got an extra $20, do you think you would be happier spending it on yourself or on someone else?
If you’re like most people, you might think it’s the first option. But science has proven that giving to others makes us much happier — whether it’s a friend or a stranger.
And this doesn’t have to be just money or a gift. Giving also includes help, time, advice, and even small everyday acts of kindness that can make a world of difference.
You can even give to the environment through volunteer work cleaning up your area, or give to your colleagues by offering a helping hand when they’re overloaded with work.
What’s important is that you give without expecting anything in return. Just the fulfillment from having made someone’s day a little brighter is the best gift of all.
5) They don’t cling tightly to expectations
Life, as they say, has a funny way of throwing curveballs.
And while it’s natural to have hopes and dreams, clinging too tightly to specific expectations can be a one-way ticket to disappointment. This was a lesson I learned the hard way.
I had always pictured my life going a certain way: graduate by a particular age, have a specific job, and maybe even start a family by the time the big 3-0 rolled around.
But when things didn’t go exactly as planned, I found myself spiraling into a pit of unhappiness and frustration. It felt like the world was against me.
I didn’t want to feel like I had wasted 30 years of my life, so I got to work on my mindset, and started looking for fulfillment and meaning in my experiences thus far.
And once I fully let go of my expectations, I was able to start living life the way we are meant to — going to the flow, adapting to what comes, and finding joy in what we have rather than trying to mold reality to our idea of what happiness is.
6) They set realistic goals
Since you’re obviously someone focused on personal development, you probably already set goals.
And you might think that these goals make you happier — as long as you achieve them.
But science has found something that may surprise you. Goals do indeed make you happier — but not depending on whether or not you achieve them.
In fact, what’s most important is whether or not you see your goals as achievable, or in other words realistic.
If you do, you’ll feel happier even if you don’t actually achieve those goals!
Now, this is not a free pass to stop putting in any effort or not do any real work. Of course you should always follow up on your goals so you can work towards your vision for your life.
But, as far as your happiness goes, make sure you choose your goals carefully according to what you genuinely believe is possible for you.
7) They adopt a growth mindset
You may have already heard of the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset, as explained by Dr. Carol Dweck.
Essentially, people with a fixed mindset believe that their skills and qualities are fixed, and cannot be improved.
Therefore, every challenging situation that happens to you is like a test that shows you whether you’re good or bad at something.
On the other hand, people with the growth mindset see challenges as learning opportunities, and believe they can always get better at anything through effort.
I’m sure you can see the huge impact this could have on your happiness. Tough times may still feel unpleasant, but they are also something that helps you move forward on your journey.
8) They avoid negative influences
We often underestimate the impact of our surroundings on our mental well-being. In a world riddled with comparison culture, pessimistic news cycles, and naysayers, it’s easy to succumb to a bleak perspective on life.
But the happiest people consciously curate their surroundings.
Back when I used to spend a ton of time on social media, I used to be surrounded by negative posts and comment arguments.
And though it took me a while to understand, I realized this atmosphere was heavily impacting my own outlook on life.
So when I started prioritizing my happiness and wellbeing, I started decluttering my social media feeds, unfollowing any accounts that weren’t actually adding to my vision for my life.
You might have negative influences online, but also in person — in that case, you can start by having a conversation with the person about how their negativity is impacting you.
And if they can’t change, it may be good to distance yourself from them or even go your separate ways.
It’s sad that some friendships have to come to and end, but remember that nothing is worth more than your happiness.
Becoming your happiest self
You’ve just read 8 habits of people who are always happy, even during tough times.
There’s a good chance you already follow one or several of these in your life — if so, that’s fantastic!
But no matter how many of these habits you check off already, remember that it’s never too late to start focusing more on being happy.
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