Happiness isn’t something that just falls in your lap one day.
It’s a state of being we all have to continuously practice through action.
As someone who used to complain and drown in negativity on a daily basis, I can honestly say that I’ve become so much happier in these past few years that my past self wouldn’t believe me for the life of her.
Through rewiring my brain for optimism, practicing mindfulness, listening to positive affirmations, and working toward my goals, I’ve completely reprogrammed how I approach life – and as a result, I’m happier than ever before.
What about you? Have you mastered the art of happiness? If you recognize these 8 signs, the answer is yes.
1) You don’t dwell on negativity
“Don’t be negative. Move on. Embrace optimism.”
This sounds like cookie-cutter advice, doesn’t it?
But if you’re quite a happy individual, you know that “dwelling on negativity” doesn’t mean you’re never sad or angry.
It just means that once you’ve accepted and processed those feelings, you’re able to move past them and look forward to tomorrow.
This isn’t easy to do, mind you.
Our brains have a negativity bias because that’s how we were wired to survive (you’ll pay more attention to the bear chasing you rather than the fact that the weather’s lovely), which means that we naturally tend to dwell on negative events for much longer than positive ones.
However, it is possible to prime your brain for optimism. In his book Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson, PhD, recommends that we all learn to savor the good things that happen to us.
You might be sunbathing on a beach, petting your dog, or having a fun birthday party – it doesn’t really matter how small or big the positive event is as long as you take the moment to properly take it in.
By intentionally focusing on the good things in life, you’re priming yourself for optimism in the long term.
2) You appreciate the little things in life – even if it’s cliché
A big part of learning to savor happiness is to look for it in the mundane.
Many self-help books out there will tell you to “appreciate the little things in life”, and while it sounds cliché (you might even be rolling your eyes right now), it’s actually true.
And that’s because this is essentially the basis of mindfulness, which has been shown to increase well-being. When you’re mindful, you are:
- Fully in the present moment
- Taking on the role of a compassionate (rather than judgmental) observer
- Noticing and enjoying everyday magic
Some of the happiest moments in my life were as mundane as it gets. I’ve watched birds fly across an orange-streaked sky; I’ve listened to the sound of the sea waves washing over the shore; I’ve looked down from a mountaintop and contemplated the beauty of nature.
If this sounds familiar, congratulations!
There’s a high chance you’ve mastered the art of happiness.
3) You feel like you have a meaning in life
According to the German psychiatrist Viktor Emil Frankl, human happiness revolves around having a purpose in life.
If you don’t have a meaning, you’re just drifting by, unsure of where to go, lost in the great abyss.
Why would you get out of bed in the morning when there’s nothing meaningful for you to do?
This is why having some sense of purpose – what the Japanese refer to as Ikigai – is absolutely vital.
Your purpose may be a career (such as teaching, writing, or having a business), a vocation (charity work or going on a spiritual journey), or a hobby (looking after your pets and garden, for example).
It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as you find it and pursue it.
But I don’t need to tell you that. If you’re quite happy on a daily basis, it means you’re probably already devoting a great deal of time to your Ikigai.
4) You view setbacks as a necessary part of your success story
Happiness doesn’t prevent failure. Even if you’re the biggest optimist who’s ever lived, there will come a time when you’re crying yourself to sleep; when you’re doubting all your decisions; when you don’t know how to move forward in life.
That’s all completely normal.
However, what sets genuinely happy people apart is that they don’t let these setbacks bring them down in the long term. In fact, they know deep down that no matter how difficult life is right now, they will make it through.
What’s more, they also understand that setbacks are a necessary part of growth.
No success story is only positive. You could even say that it is precisely failure that makes success so admirable.
This is why every time I’m down, I remind myself that it’s only temporary and that I’m simply going through a chapter that makes up an important part of my life’s story.
You can’t win the war if you never learn some vital lessons from lost battles.
5) You know when to take charge and when to let go
Uncertainty is terrifying.
It’s also an inevitable part of life.
If you’ve mastered the art of happiness, it means you’ve come to accept that there are things in life beyond your control.
Not every person you love will stay. Not every job will be right for you. Not everything that happens is something you can influence.
At the same time, however, you know that the way you think and act is 100% your responsibility. You may not always be able to control what happens, but you’re always in charge of how you react, and there is some solace in that.
As Frankl once said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Happiness is all about navigating that thin line between taking accountability and letting go.
6) You can balance productivity with rest
When I was younger, my life revolved strictly around productivity. Every time I allowed myself to rest, I had to “earn it”, and even when I did rest as a reward, I still felt guilty.
This meant that I could never really catch a break. I constantly complained because I was rarely kind to myself, and yet I couldn’t figure out why I spent so much of my time feeling tired, annoyed, and emotionally drained.
But then I realized that rest wasn’t the opposite of productivity. It was an essential part of it.
If you don’t properly relax, you won’t be able to function at 100% the next day. If you never show yourself compassion, you will always hold yourself to expectations that are too high to meet.
You’re not a robot. You’re a human being. And humans need rest in the same way that plants need water.
True happiness lies in taking regular breaks from work – with no guilt attached.
7) You surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you
One of the longest studies on happiness ever conducted found out that it is our relationships with others that can make or break the deal.
Of course, we’ve known this for millennia – back in Ancient Greece, the philosopher Aristoteles said that a human was “zoon politicon”, which translates to “political and social animal”.
We all want to exist as part of a community. We all strive to foster deep connections with others. We all feel a need to belong.
If you have a close circle of friends who not only contribute to your sense of belonging but also inspire you to become the best version of yourself…
That’s a recipe for happiness right there.
8) You allow yourself the space to grow as a person
You’re constantly in a state of flux.
The person you were five years ago is an outdated version of who you currently are, and the same applies to the person you’ll become five years from now.
Unfortunately, many of us tend to clothe ourselves in labels that slow our growth. We get so attached to who we think we are that we don’t give ourselves the space to change.
That’s where a growth mindset comes in.
A growth mindset is all about believing that you are fully capable of growth and that the more work you put in, the more you improve.
If you’re impatient, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to have that character trait forever.
If you hide your vulnerabilities behind sarcasm, it doesn’t automatically make you a sarcastic person for life.
The truth is that humans need growth in order to evolve and feel happy. And if you always give yourself the space to do exactly that…
Bingo. You’ve mastered the art of happiness.
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
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With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.