10 often overlooked traits of genuinely happy people

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Happiness is elusive. We all want it, but it seems to slip through our fingers no matter how hard we chase it.

But what if we’re looking for happiness in all the wrong places?

What if the key to true happiness is not in grandiose, Instagram-worthy moments, but in the small, everyday signs that we’re actually, genuinely happy?

In this article, we’re going to cut through the noise and get real about happiness.

We’ll explore 10 overlooked signs of genuine happiness that you can use to gauge your own level of happiness and maybe, just maybe, find a way to hold on to it.

1) Gratitude 

Some people are so entitled that they forget to say even a single thank you for simple favors.

But one thing I noticed about truly happy people is that they say thank you more often, even for the tiniest act of goodness such as opening the door for them.

There’s this girl from work that I offered a ride home one late evening. The next day, she came with a cup of coffee and a thank you note for bringing her a lift home.

People who are truly happy know how to feel and express their gratitude.

They have this pure appreciation for all things in life

The way that these people focus on what they have instead of what they lack is where their authentic happiness is mostly rooted from.

In fact, a white paper by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkely says that people who consciously count what they’re grateful for may have better physical and mental health:

“Research suggests that gratitude may be associated with many benefits for individuals, including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased materialism, and more.”

Sure, you might hate your job, but at least you have a job. Taking a different outlook on your situation will help you see that you already have so much to be happy about.

2) Appreciative Of The Present Moment

Truly happy people don’t like living with regrets. To be truly happy, they let go of the past and worry less about the future.

They understand that what’s most important is the here and the now, which is the one thing that they have control over.

Growing up, we are programmed to be overly forward-looking, and sometimes this trait gets out of hand.

Because of this, people end up being more regretful as they miss out on so many memories and possible new experiences.

Eckhart Tolle says in his book The Power of Now that living in the moment allows you to let go of your mind and develop a sense of true peace: 

“When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. The realm of Being, which had been obscured by the mind, then opens up. Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you, an unfathomable sense of peace. And within that peace, there is great joy. And within that joy, there is love. And at the innermost core, there is the sacred, the immeasurable, That which cannot be named.”

I always tell the youth members in my organization that if they want to be happy, there is no better moment to work on their happiness than the present moment.

The past is like spilled milk, it’s a piece of irreversible excess baggage if they keep holding on to it.

The future, on the other hand, depends on what you do in the future. Postponing doing important things now would result in them wasting away their youth.

3) They’re Mentally Agile

According to Psychology Today, a key component of happy people is “psychological flexibility”.

This is “mental shifting between pleasure and pain, the ability to modify behavior to match a situation’s demands”.

This is important because you can’t control everything in life. There are always going to be situations and challenges that pop up out of nowhere.

Happy people are not afraid to take risks and try new things, they don’t get stuck in rigid thinking patterns, and they’re able to adapt to life’s changes with grace.

They can tolerate discomfort and uncertainty, knowing that it’s a part of life and that it’s temporary.

They’re able to change their perspective when needed and see things from different angles. 

As the Dalai Lama says, “happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events.”

This is why happy people are able to navigate life’s challenges with an open mind and a willingness to adapt.

4) Good Listeners

Another overlooked trait of truly happy people is their capacity to be at peace because of their capability of communicating effectively.

They take the time and effort to comprehend verbal and non-verbal messages that people are sending them.

Aside from that, they’re also open-minded individuals who acknowledge the significance of having different perspectives on an issue.

In social gatherings, it’s easy for me to spot people who are genuinely happy versus those who are simply trying to convince themselves and everyone around them that they are indeed happy.

Truly happy people listen more than they talk. They’re interested in what the other person has to share and they also contribute to the conversation.

It’s the people who try to convince people that they’re happy that really drain the energy out of me.

They talk endlessly, as if in a monologue, bragging about the good things in their lives.

Truly happy people are more interested in learning about valuable things that they could add to their lives so they prefer to listen more than talk.

5) Self-Accepting

Happy people don’t just appear; they are made. You need to make yourself into a happier person.

But that can take work. And the work you do doesn’t always mean that you will find out things you like about yourself.

According to Niia Nikolova, a Postdoctoral Researcher of Psychology, knowing ourselves is the first step in breaking negative thought patterns:

“Recognising true emotions can help us to intervene in the space between feelings and actions – knowing your emotions is the first step to being in control of them, breaking negative thought patterns. Understanding our own emotions and thinking patterns can also help us more easily empathise with others.”

Learning about yourself is a tough road to walk down, but the happiest people in the world don’t live in oblivion.

They are authentic and authentic to themselves. The only way to become authentic is to face the music.

Happy people are able to face their own flaws and weaknesses without being consumed by them.

They’re able to accept themselves as they are, and work on improving themselves without feeling like they’re not good enough.

They don’t compare themselves to others constantly, and they don’t base their self-worth on external validation.

6) Buy experiences, not things.

You might be inclined to head to your local shopping center when life is getting hard; a little retail therapy never hurt anyone, after all.

But does it really make people happy?

Sure, you might get a quick fix of pleasure, but you know as well as anyone that the happiness derived from buying things doesn’t last.

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has been researching the effect of money on happiness for two decades. Gilovich says, “one of the enemies of happiness is adaptation. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

If you feel the urge to spend money, spend money on experiences. Go see the world. Live your life on planes and trains and in the car on the road to nowhere.

According to Gilovich, “our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

7) They Serve Others.

There is a Chinese saying that goes:

“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

For years, some of the greatest thinkers have suggested that happiness is found in helping others.

Research is also suggesting that this is the case. A summary of existing data on altruism and its relation to physical and mental health had this to say in its conclusion:

“The essential conclusion of this article is that a strong correlation exists between the well-being, happiness, health, and longevity of people who are emotionally kind and compassionate in their charitable helping activities—as long as they are not overwhelmed, and here world view may come into play.”

We often look inward for our own happiness meters, but often serving the needs of other people is enough to make us feel happy in an outward way.

If you turn your attention to helping someone else, a friend or family member perhaps, then you take the burden of happiness away from yourself and try to make someone else’s life better.

In turn, you get to feel pleasure from helping them and they get to feel happier from your help. It’s a win-win.

Yet, more and more people are focusing on how to make themselves happy without regard for how they can help bring happiness into the lives of others; missing the opportunity to indirectly make themselves happy.

8) They’re Collaborative

People who are authentically happy tend to prefer collaboration over competition. They believe in compromise, and they always want to arrive in a point of equilibrium where everyone gets to engage in a win-win situation.

Aside from that, truly happy people know when to ask for help.

They humbly accept their weaknesses and acknowledge other people’s strengths, as well as the value they could contribute to each other when they collaborate.

Additionally, they thrive in teams and they find fulfillment in knowing that their victory is shared with other people.

According to the book, Happiness: Unlocking the Myseries of Psychological Wealth, “study after study…the happiness people reap the most benefits where friendship is concerned. In research from many countries emplying longitudinal designs (in which people are measured over time), those who are “extremely happy” are more likely to be in long-term relationships and involved in volunteer activities. Happy people like and trust others more, and are liked more in return.”

9) Enthusiastic Of Others’ Success

Truly happy people are empathetic and compassionate so they care about other people’s feelings.

Consequently, they share their excitement and happiness when other people become successful in their endeavors.

Honestly, I don’t really understand what most people think they’ll get from sourgraping and gloating.

Instead of being jealous, the world would be a better place if people know how to be happy for other people.

It’s something most people can learn from truly happy people.

Happy people accept themselves for who they are and don’t try to one-up other people to make themselves look good. 

10) They Look for the Good in People

Being happy doesn’t mean you’ll be happy all of the time. Happiness is a state of mind, not a state of being.

You will experience difficulties along the way, and you will encounter people who rub you the wrong way, make you feel irritated and who just down right annoy you.

When you see the bad in people, you tend to hold grudges.

However, the negative emotions associated with grudes eventually give way to resenment. In turn, this leaves little room to be happy, according to Mayo Clinic.

Letting go of grudges and see the best people has been linked to less psychological stress and a longer life.

There’s no way of knowing what people mean to say or do, so the best thing you can do is when you feel like you have been hurt or wronged is to take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings and to see the good in their intentions.

While others may hurt us, most people don’t mean to: it’s how we react that causes us hurt and anger.

Happy people know that others can’t make them feel anything.

Our thoughts guide our feelings. So look for the good in people and then look for the problem you have with the situation and fix it from within. These things will help make you happier. Other people won’t.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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