What do happy people have in common?
The truth is there are a number of shared psychological traits that happy people display.
Here’s a look at what these are and how to develop and foster these happy characteristics.
1. They use humor to lift others up
Every happy person is different, but they have certain traits in common.
One of the top personality traits of happy people is that they have what’s called an “affiliative” sense of humor.
This means that they use humor to joke, make friends and bring people together.
That might make it hard to have a career in modern comedy, but it turns out this trait of lifting people up with your humor is one of the big traits that makes you a more contented and fulfilled person.
“People who have an affiliative humor style use humor to attain interpersonal or social rewards. They use humor to entertain others in order to enrich the quality of social relationships.”
2. They keep expectations low
Having goals and a mission in life is wonderful, but high expectations can end up being a diving board above an empty concrete pool.
Researchers have found that one trait many happy people have in common is that they don’t expect everything to go their way.
They fully know and expect that many things in life are outside their control, and they never blame or hate themselves for what’s goes wrong that’s outside of their control.
The happy individual focuses on what’s in their locus of control, rather than everything which can and does go wrong which isn’t their fault.
Psychology professors and researchers David Myers and Ed Diener in their influential 1995 study published at Psychological Science, found that “extraversion, locus of control, self-esteem and optimism” are the four crucial traits of those who are happiest in life.
Having a locus of control means that while disappointments affect you just like anyone else, you never let them define you.
3. They know their own value
Another of the crucial personality traits of happy people is that they know their own value.
This is the self-esteem that Mysers and Diener refer to.
Self-esteem goes far deeper than just positive self-talk or thinking you’re decent looking.
It’s about your primal relation to the world, your sense of self, and your subconscious feeling of value to yourself and others.
Happy people have bad days just like anyone else.
But at a profound level, they know that they are a valuable human being with a place in this world regardless of what anyone else says.
4. They stay busy and active
We all need time to relax, but psychologists have found that not doing enough is actually a recipe for depression and poor levels of fulfillment.
In fact, the happiest people tend to be busy and actively pursuing their goals and hobbies.
They get out in the world, meet people and live their lives.
Plus if you think about it, being busy just makes those moments of downtime all the sweeter!
“Contrary to the stereotype of happiness producing ‘contented cows,’ happy people appear to be actively engaged in life.”
This leads directly to the next point:
5. Happy people are more extroverted
Are there happy introverts? Absolutely.
But psychological research has found that more extroverted individuals tend to be happier on average.
One of the common traits that people report with higher levels of life satisfaction is that they are more sociable, extroverted and get out more.
In their paper on the “Study of the Relationship between Happiness and Dimensions of Psychosis, Neurosis and Personality Extraversion,” Professors Sousan Salary and Muhammad Reza Shaieri take a closer look at this.
As they found in an analysis of the happiness level of 150 students:
“The results of the present study showed that there is a positive and significant relationship between extroversion and happiness; in other words, by increasing the amount of extroversion, happiness will also be increased.”
6. Happy people have more financial security
Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
When you’re worried about money or under significant financial stress it can be like a dark cloud hanging over your head.
That’s why having fewer financial worries is one of the leading indicators of happiness.
Being rich won’t make you happy, but having enough money coming in so as not to always worry about money is one of the common traits that many happy people have.
In their publication in the journal for Social Indicators Research, Professors Kenneth O. Doyle & Seounmi Youn found that happy people have less financial anxiety and worries.
7. Happy people are curious
We all have varying levels of curiosity about the people and world around us.
One of the more surprising personality traits of happy people is that they are very curious.
They love to learn more and find out new things.
They love to meet people from different walks of life, different religions, different cultures and different passions.
They want to find out new information, explore creative ideas, learn about subjects they’ve previously not heard of and stumble across new jobs and projects.
As Professors Nansook Park, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman found in their 2005 study “Strengths of Character and Well-Being” published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, happy people are curious about life and want to learn more all the time.
8. They have good intentions
Does everyone have good intentions?
I used to think so, but more time in foreign conflict zones, politics, and using online dating sites has given me a new perspective!
I think that good intentions come and go, and some people are quite lost on the path of life (myself included, at times!)
But if you want to do what the happy people do, it’s a good idea to more or less wish the world and other folks well.
There’s so much drama out there, but psychologists confirm that having good intentions and a benevolent approach to life tends to make you much happier.
As various psychological studies confirm, people with good intentions and a more benevolent approach to life tend to be happier.
9. They cherish companionship and love
Happy people come in all relationship statuses, including lifelong bachelor.
But in general, people are happier who recognize and cherish close relationships.
This doesn’t have to be romantic or sexual connections, but any kind of relationships that bring people together and bond them in trust and affection are enormously beneficial to our sense of wellbeing.
“That shows up most obviously in surveys, which tell us that married people are usually happier than unmarried people,” notes psychiatrist R. Murali Krishna at Psych Central.
“But it’s not a question of marriage; close, trusting relationships of any kind tend to help people be happy more readily than they would be without.”
10. They find happiness within
Perhaps most of all when it comes to the personality traits of happy people (according to psychological studies) is the ability to find happiness within.
We all have hopes, dreams, desires, and fears about life.
But the common characteristic that seems to tie happy people together most of all is that they never base their well-being fully on the external.
Shit happens, but the happy person always maintains some inner sense of rooted identity and strength.
They won’t allow things out of their control to control them.
“Data supports the age-old wisdom that the source of happiness lies within,” notes Psychology Today.
For example, one influential 2008 study by Professors Piers Steel, Joseph Schmidt and Jonas Shultz “reports that personality traits—our habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving—account for 63 percent of the subjective well-being differences between people.”
Happy people come in all shapes and sizes. They may be rich, poor, tall or short.
Or they may just be a guy mowing his lawn in Melbourne and having a beer.
But as this list demonstrates, happy people tend to share a number of traits:
- They bring people together with humor and jokes
- They don’t expect too much from the world or other people
- They know their value and anchor their foundation in themselves
- They’re busy and active both physically and in their activities and interests
- They like to meet new people and try new things
- They aren’t as worried about money
- They’re curious about the world and those around them
- They want to at least try to do good for the people and planet around them
- They value relationships and the people who come into their lives, including friends, family and romantic connections
- They find happiness within and don’t expect the outside world to provide a miracle or all the answers.
Happy people look for win-win situations. They accept life’s downsides while celebrating its upsides and finding some meaning and purpose in the chaos.
Best of all:
Happy people make other people happy!
As the band Little Big Town sings in their 2017 song “Happy People”:
“If you wanna know the secret
Can’t buy it, gotta make it
You ain’t ever gonna be it
By takin’ someone else’s away.”