9 habits that separate the happiest people from the rest

It’s a common misconception that the happiest people are those who have everything – money, their dream job, a perfect family, and all that. But the truth is, happiness doesn’t have anything to do with circumstance. 

Being (and staying) happy is a mindset. And just like any mindset, it can be developed if you’ve got the right habits. These are what separate the happiest people from the rest.

What are these habits? And how can we do them ourselves? Let’s check them out!

1) They practice gratitude 

I’ve got to start with the biggest thing I’ve noticed that the happiest people in my life do. No matter what happens, they have the ability to stay thankful. That’s a tall order in itself, even more so when the chips are down!

I once met a woman with an incredible life journey. She had two sons, but when the older one was about 25 years old, he had a rare blood disease that eventually ended his life. Two years later, her younger son passed away from the same disease. 

With two sons of my own, her story hit me hard. I couldn’t imagine how I would deal if that happened to me. 

But this woman was a masterclass in gratitude. According to her, she was just so grateful to be given the time she had with them, even if it was short. She felt so honored to have been given the task of mothering them. 

I mean, that’s an incredible perspective, right? And it showed me how the right outlook, how an attitude of gratitude, can spell the difference between misery and healing. 

Looking to up your gratitude meter? Here are some ways to do that: 

  • Start a gratitude journal – write three things you’re thankful for each morning or evening.
  • Express appreciation to your friends, family, and colleagues. 
  • Make a gratitude jar, where you write down something you’re grateful for each day and drop it in the jar.

However, cultivating a grateful heart also means you’ll need to be mindful. Otherwise, how can you notice the good stuff around you? 

2) They practice mindfulness 

Learning how to be mindful is one of the best lessons I’ve learned in life. It has taken me from being such a self-absorbed and overthinking person to being more present and attentive. 

In effect, I notice not only the good stuff, but also my own thought processes. 

How does that make me a happier person? Well, because self-awareness is another key to happiness. 

The more attuned you are to how you feel and what you think, the better you can develop strategies to combat negative thoughts. You can even rewire your brain and change your old negative thinking patterns into positive ones!

If you want to be more mindful, here are some ways to work it into your daily routine: 

  • Engage in mindful eating. Savor each bite and focus on the flavors and textures of your food. 
  • Practice body scans. Direct your attention to various parts of your body and observe any sensations you experience. 
  • Do mindful movement exercises like yoga or tai chi to connect with your body and bring awareness to the present moment.
  • Meditate. Focus on your breath, a mantra, or a physical sensation. This helps heighten self-awareness. 

3) They maintain a positive attitude

As I mentioned earlier, mindfulness can turn you from a Negative Nancy to an Optimistic Ollie. 

The happiest people can attest to that!

Aside from practicing mindfulness, they also surround themselves with positivity. They engage with uplifting content, whether it’s books, podcasts, affirmations, or movies. They are intentional in seeking inspiration and motivation. 

That extends to the company they keep. After all, energy is contagious, and it’s hard to stay positive when you’re surrounded by Negative Nancies!

However, that doesn’t mean they go overboard with optimism – they are careful not to engage in toxic positivity. It simply means that when they encounter negative emotions, they acknowledge them, and then move on to focusing on solutions. 

Because if there’s another thing the happiest people know, it’s the importance of protecting their mental and spiritual health. 

4) They prioritize self-care 

Self-care goes beyond just physical health. It encompasses our emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being, too. 

Happy people know this, so they construct their life in such a way that every aspect is healthy. Not only do they maintain good habits like proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise, but they also pursue activities that make their heart sing. 

That said, they also know what to cut out – and that includes anything that doesn’t serve them, like toxic friends or people who disrespect their boundaries. 

If I had to put it in a nutshell, it’s all about actively seeking balance and harmony. 

5) They build strong relationships 

This is one of the areas where happy people excel. They prioritize relationships. 

In her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Australian nurse Bonnie Ware lays out some valuable life lessons. I’ll share three of those regrets here: 

  • “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
  • “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
  • “I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.”

Notice how they are related to relationships? 

Sometimes, we get caught up in pursuing our goals that we neglect our biggest treasures – the people in our lives. 

Or sometimes, we put up too high a wall around us for fear of getting hurt or rejected. 

As a result, we’re never able to share our real selves with others, and all we get are shallow and tenuous connections. We never experience the joy of being loved for who we are. 

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty sad life for me. 

So again, it all comes down to priorities. The happiest people in the world have strong relationships because they know how precious those are. 

6) They give back

Happy people aren’t just grateful for what they get in life. They also know how to give back! 

It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? You would think, for example, that when you receive a big bonus, you’d be so much happier if you bought whatever you want – the latest iPhone, a designer bag, a luxurious meal – than if you spent the money on others.

Right? 

Wrong. 

Studies show that people who spend money to treat or help out others have better moods than those who spend money only on themselves. 

That’s because the act of giving literally activates the reward area of the brain. I mean, literally. No wonder giving feels so good! 

And it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can do acts of service like volunteering or simple acts of kindness. 

In fact, just a listening ear would mean so much to someone who needs it. And you’ll be happier, too! 

7) They have a sense of purpose and clear goals

This is closely connected to my point above. Helping others gives us a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. More specifically, it helps give us a sense of purpose. 

Think about it – why do many people wander through life aimlessly? Why do they wake up in the mornings with no excitement and spend the rest of the day on autopilot? 

I’ll tell you why. They don’t know what it is they want out of life. 

A sense of purpose is crucial to a meaningful and happy life. When we set meaningful goals and work towards them, there’s always something to look forward to. 

And you feel like what you do matters – it’s not just a series of meaningless actions that disappear in the ether. 

So take the time to think about what you want in life. Then set goals to help you get it. You’ll feel like, hey, I’m no longer meandering…I’m on a real journey, and I’m loving it!

8) They embrace change 

That journey isn’t going to be straight and narrow, though. Oh no, it’s going to be littered with roadbumps, sometimes it will even be chaotic! 

But if you embrace the idea that change is inevitable, you’ll be fine. That’s what happy people do. 

They have a flexible mindset and approach life without a set of rigid expectations. That way, when things get off-kilter, they can easily adapt. 

To embrace change,  first practice acceptance. Then lean into your curious side…surely, you’ve got tons of questions swirling in your head? 

Follow that instinct and step out of your comfort zone. You’ll be surprised how life suddenly seems like a wonderful adventure instead of a scary road with lots of twists and turns! 

And you know what helps ease that journey? This one…

9) They laugh and have fun 

I’m a steadfast believer in the power of humor to grease the wheels of life. 

Be like the happiest people – they are once again intentional here, in their pursuit of laughter and fun. 

They do activities that bring them joy, like playing board games with friends, watching funny shows, or sharing funny stories with others. More importantly, they seek out humor in everyday situations. 

Remember, life is meant to be enjoyed, so make time for laughter and fun. Not only will your days feel lighter, but you’ll also bounce back faster from your problems!

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