7 habits of people who stay happy, even when life gets hard

Nobody is immune to life. We can all get floored by things that happen. But when things do go wrong, some people seem to deal with it a lot better than others.

So what’s their secret? The secret to holding on to happiness, even when life gets hard?

It lies in cultivating certain habits that will help us to keep our peace of mind, even in the most trying of times.

1) They accept their negative emotions

Let’s get one thing clear:

Staying upbeat in the face of adversity is not about “positive vibes only”. That’s impossible. When shit happens, it’s bound to hurt.

It turns into toxic positivity when we try to ignore perfectly normal human emotions.

Whether we like it or not, life is a mixture of ups and downs.

We will all experience sadness, pain, anger, and a wide range of uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings.

Glossing over the downs is just denial. It’s healthier to acknowledge them rather than push them away.

That can mean we process our feelings through:

  • Talking to a friend or loved one about it
  • Journalling our thoughts and feelings
  • Having a cry — it releases endorphins that make you feel better
  • Releasing pent-up energy by punching a pillow, exercising, or even screaming

But acknowledging your feelings doesn’t mean we need to wallow in them either.

People who manage to keep hold of their positivity allow themselves to feel and express their emotions, without getting stuck in them.

It certainly helps if you can find a constructive outlet to help you do that, as we’ll see next.

2) They lean on positive habits rather than turn to destructive ones

When struggle shows up in our lives, that’s when we really need to take care of ourselves.

It can be tempting to hide in distractions that ultimately don’t do us any good.

For example, we might want to stay in bed all day or numb the pain with alcohol, food or other substances.

But during the worst times is when we need to lean on basic good habits that can support the body and mind.

They may not seem like much, but things like…

  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Trying to eat a healthy diet
  • Meditation and mindful practices
  • Going for a walk or getting into nature
  • Leaning on routine

…these can have a stabilizing effect and calm your nervous system when you need it most.

When I’m dealing with something difficult and choosing what to do I try to ask myself:

  • Will this help to heal me, or harm me in the long run?

Taking positive steps is going to help you feel more in control.

3) They take control to get back their power

It’s easy to feel at the mercy of life. Random events seemingly conspire to throw you a curveball.

Or the actions of someone else can quickly turn your life upside down, without you having a say.

But happy people feel in the driving seat of their own lives. So they don’t fall into victim mode when something goes wrong.

The process starts with accepting what already is.

Acceptance isn’t about making friends with hard times. But it is about refusing to create more suffering for yourself by resisting what you cannot change.

Rather than waste energy and make yourself miserable by playing the past over and over in your head, you focus on the present and where you are now.

Taking action has a way of reducing our anxiety and stress. We feel like we are being proactive and that has a soothing effect.

It gives us something positive to focus on.

It’s about asking:

  • What action can I take to help my situation?

There is always something that can be done. Even if that is working on your own emotions and questioning:

  • What can I do now to make myself feel better?

4) They remember to look on the bright side and savor the small things

I’ll admit that being told to look on the bright side when times are tough can be really annoying.

But the reality is that mindset makes the biggest difference in how you feel. Far more than circumstances.

You can be a miserable millionaire or a happy pauper. Because in many ways our entire world begins and ends within our own minds.

The framework from which we see and evaluate everything is ultimately an internal one.

When we remember this we see that it’s down to us. Oddly, no matter what is happening, happiness then becomes a choice.

That’s not to say it’s an easy one. Telling yourself “be happy” is clearly an oversimplification. But with consistent work, you can train yourself (and your brain) to take a more positive approach.

When we feel like everything is wrong, it pays to go searching for what is right.

Gratitude can work wonders for this reason.

It teaches our mind to focus on the good. It’s been proven to increase self-esteem, boost your immunity, decrease depression, and even help manage chronic pain.

Starting a gratitude practice is like giving yourself a shot of positive emotions and helps us shake off our negative feelings.

Try focusing on the smallest of pleasures:

  • The feel of sunlight on your skin
  • The taste of your food as you eat
  • The sound of bird song in the trees

As twee as it may sound, life does dish out plenty of blessings that we often overlook.

5) They watch their internal dialogue

When a friend is going through a tough time, most of us shower them with kind words and encouragement.

But we need to get into the habit of doing the same to ourselves.

Most of us live with a constant stream of commentary within our minds. If that commentary is negative, it is going to get you down.

When we notice ourselves falling into negative self-talk we can choose to change the channel.

Happy people tune into something more motivational. Tell yourself loving, and upbeat things.

It can feel forced in the beginning. But over time, this then becomes a habit, as we are literally rewiring our brains.

In essence: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Your brain can get caught up in negative circuits and reach for negative narratives without being conscious of it.

But if you repeatedly tell yourself better-feeling thoughts, your brain eventually gets the message.

6) They build their resilience to reassure themselves that they will bounce back

Think back to your very first heartbreak. Chances are it stung like no other since.

They say that the first cut is the deepest, and there’s a good reason why.

Pain sucks. There is no getting around it. But it also makes us stronger. It toughens us up.

We live, and we learn. And in the process, we get wiser. Isn’t that the whole point of life?

I know we all want fluffy positive experiences all the time. Who wouldn’t?!

But if we’re super honest, I suspect we realize that often it’s the hard lessons that leave the biggest impact.

During bad times we can ask ourselves some poignant questions:

  • What have I learned?
  • If anything, what would I do differently in the future?
  • What good could ultimately come from this?

The truth is that there is lots of potential growth and progress to be found in tough times.

The most resilient people in life don’t naturally have thicker skin. They have earned their armor through plenty of hard-fought battles.

In the words of the Japanese proverb “Nana korobi, ya oki’:

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

Happy people never give up hope, and that gives them the strength to get back up again.

7) They remind themselves that this too shall pass

Life is constantly changing. Absolutely nothing is permanent.

Sometimes it feels like everything sucks. No matter how much you try it’s difficult to stay positive.

And the truth is that we don’t always need to. We just need to ride it out.

Because that’s the thing about life, nothing lasts forever.

That can be a disappointing realization when it comes to holding on to the things we love. But it can give us solace when we’re in moments of distress.

Telling yourself that “this too shall pass” is the certain light at the end of the tunnel that you just cannot see yet.

It is an irrefutable fact that nothing in life lasts forever, and that goes for your troubles too.

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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