What makes us happy?
It’s a difficult question, but according to the longest-ever study on happiness, it’s not what many of us might expect.
It’s not career success. It’s not money or fame. It’s not free time or pursuing our passions. It’s not a six-pack or a shiny new car.
No, according to this study conducted by Harvard researchers, it’s people. They found that positive relationships are the best predictor of our happiness and even our health. These relationships were found to be a better predictor of how long we will live than cholesterol in middle age!
But what does “ positive relationships” mean?
Well, according to the study director Robert Waldinger, it means being able “to count on” someone. When talking about how positive relationships can affect our brains (in a good way), he said:
“they don’t have to be smooth all the time. Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.”
Needless to say, having people we can count on in our lives is important. Maybe the most important thing in terms of our happiness. But how can we identify such people?
Well, they often have these five traits.
1) They are empathetic
We often discuss empathy here at Hack Spirit, and it’s with good reason. Empathy is not just a nice-to-have trait; it’s the cornerstone of meaningful and supportive relationships.
Empathy’s significance is echoed by experts and great thinkers. Some researchers even classified it as a core component of being a “good person,” but its importance is perhaps best summarised by psychiatrist Bruce D. Perry. He tells us:
“Empathy underlies virtually everything that makes society work—like trust, altruism, collaboration, love, charity. Failure to empathize is a key part of most social problems—crime, violence, war, racism, child abuse, and inequity, to name just a few.”
But why does empathy suggest that people will be there for you?
Simply put, empathy allows individuals to understand and feel what they are experiencing. When we struggle, an empathetic person can sense our distress, comprehend our situation, and offer support. This understanding is crucial for someone to be truly present for us in times of need.
How can you know that someone is empathetic?
For a detailed guide on that, you can check out our post 10 habits that indicate an exceptionally high level of empathy …but come back to it later because you’ll want to know about this next sign.
2) They do what they say they will (always)
Do you know someone who always follows through on their promises, no matter how big or small?
This is a clear-cut trait of individuals who you can count on. People who consistently do what they say they will are not just talkers; they’re doers, and their actions align with their words.
Imagine you’re moving to a new apartment, and a friend offers to help. A friend who does what they say will be there, right on time, ready to help you pack and move. They won’t make excuses or bail out at the last minute.
Or consider a scenario where you’re going through a tough time, and a friend says they’ll call to check in on you. That call will come, not because they have to, but because they said they would.
In the words of former first lady Michelle Obama, “your word is your bond; that you do what you say you’re going to do.”
People you can count on live by this.
3) They remember the little things
Picture this: You’re catching up with a friend after a long time. As you talk, they ask specific questions about your recent job promotion that you mentioned in passing months ago.
Or, they recall that quirky story about your childhood pet you once shared. This isn’t just good memory at play; it’s a sign of someone who genuinely values you and your experiences.
People who remember the details show that they listen actively and care deeply. It’s not just about remembering your birthday or your favorite food; it’s about noting the little things that matter to you.
This attentiveness is a subtle yet powerful way of showing love and respect.
Whether it’s acknowledging your coffee preference or asking about a family member’s health, pay attention to the people who are really listening to what you say. These are the ones you can probably count on when you really need them.
4) They respect boundaries
Another defining trait of people who consistently show up when you need them is their respect for boundaries.
This respect is integral because it demonstrates an understanding of when to step in and when to give space, which is crucial in any supportive relationship.
Imagine you’re going through a tough time and need some space to process your feelings. A person who respects your boundaries will give you the room you need without making you feel guilty or neglected. They understand that sometimes, being there for someone means stepping back and allowing them the time and space to heal.
They know that, renowned author Brené Brown put it:
“Boundaries are a prerequisite for compassion and empathy. We can’t connect with someone unless we’re clear about where we end and they begin. If there’s no autonomy between people, then there’s no compassion or empathy, just enmeshment”
When you’re ready to talk or seek support, these individuals are there without hesitation, offering a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on.
This understanding of boundaries by those who are consistently there for us is what makes their presence so valuable. They recognize and honor the lines between personal space and support, ensuring that their involvement in our lives is both respectful and helpful.
Alright, the next trait is the final one and it’s a big one.
5) They show CONSISTENT support and encouragement
This is the last point in our list but is by no means the least important.
One of the most significant traits of people who consistently show up when you need them is their unwavering support and encouragement. Take note of “unwavering”.
This consistent backing is what often sets these individuals apart as pillars in our lives.
These are the people who not only cheer you on during your successes but also lift you up when life isn’t going your way. They’re the ones who see your potential even when you’re doubting yourself and encourage you to keep going.
Their support isn’t just a fair-weather friendship; it’s a steadfast presence through all seasons of life.
Theodore Roosevelt, once said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” People who are consistently supportive embody this sentiment. They instill a sense of belief and confidence in us, which is often the boost we need to overcome obstacles and pursue our goals.
Whether it’s celebrating your smallest victories or standing beside you through your toughest times, their encouragement can be a powerful motivator. It’s not just about the words they say; it’s about the genuine belief they have in you and your capabilities.
The bottom line
Having people in our lives who embody these traits isn’t just a blessing; it’s essential for our happiness and well-being.
They are the ones who make life’s journey more meaningful and manageable.
So, cherish them, and strive to be such a person for others.
Until next time.
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