What does it mean to have a good life?
With my birthday just around the corner, I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately.
We can all recognize the obvious signs.
Being reasonably healthy, having rewarding relationships, financial stability, a decent work-life balance.
But are there more subtle indicators you’re on the right track, even if it doesn’t feel like it?
I decided to do a little digging.
Here are 8 unexpected signs you’re living your life right, according to experts.
Turns out, contentment comes from within.
1) You have goals
Everyone seems to agree about the importance of having goals.
It makes sense. If you have goals, you have something to look forward to.
Something to work towards.
You have a purpose.
Goals provide clarity about what you want to achieve.
They also help you identify your priorities and allocate time and energy to live in accordance with them.
You’d be surprised, but many people stop dreaming after a certain point.
They experience life’s celebrated milestones like graduation, getting a job, starting a family.
Then, they become complacent.
They do the same thing day after day, year after year, without challenging themselves in any way.
Eventually, they realize that life passed them by, and they got so caught up in the minutiae of everyday existence they forgot to make the most of it.
(Sorry to be a bummer; getting older puts me in a gloomy mood.)
You know these people. You’ve seen them around growing up.
I certainly have, and I’ve wondered why they have this deep sadness in their eyes.
It’s because they gave up on yearning for more.
If you have goals, you’re doing something right.
And if you don’t, set some.
They can be as mundane as running a 5K, keeping a plant alive for more than a month, or reading every book mentioned in Gilmore Girls.
Having a reason to get out of bed in the morning is incredibly motivating.
2) You’re interested in developing new skills
Did you stop learning once you were out of school?
It’s time to sharpen that beautiful brain of yours once more.
Science proves that continuous learning has tremendous benefits on your health and overall life satisfaction.
It drives you, boosts self-confidence, and broadens your perspective.
It may also benefit your career, helping you stay relevant in the age of speed and information.
While taking a course or going back to school are great options, there are other (more pleasant?) ways to integrate learning into your life:
- Install Duolingo and learn a new language
- Travel to learn more about different cultures
- Read voraciously about anything you find interesting
- Explore a new hobby (painting, gardening, coding, and so on)
- Engage in online groups that cater to your intellectual interests
- Check out educational apps
- Watch documentaries
Whatever you do, never stop learning.
3) You practice mindfulness
If you’re one of those people who meditate regularly, congrats!
According to experts, meditation supports healthy aging, among many other good things it does to your brain and body.
It improves your focus and sleep, lowers blood pressure, keeps your stress under control.
And it only takes up 5 or 10 minutes of your day.
I could never get into it. I downloaded apps and set reminders, but failed every time I gave it a go.
I either fell asleep or let my anxious thoughts get the best of me.
I was convinced I would never be able to master it, but I was going about it the wrong way.
Active meditation, as I discovered, is more up my alley.
In excellent news for people who find stillness unbearable, you can meditate while you do any repetitive, mind-numbing task like walking or cleaning.
I meditate when I do the dishes and find the practice incredibly soothing.
You might, too.
4) You cultivate resilience
There are people who manage to go through life with a big smile on their faces, even when they encounter obstacles or fail at whatever they put their minds to.
Contrary to popular belief, they’re not ignorant or foolish.
According to experts, resilient individuals bounce back from stressful experiences more effectively.
Hence, their quality of life is far superior to that of someone who mopes around whenever the universe throws a curveball their way.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to think the glass is half-full, you know what I’m talking about.
Resilient people don’t catastrophize and manage to see the bigger picture.
I am not one of those people, so I naturally wondered if there are any ways to cultivate resilience. There are:
- Build a robust support system of loved ones you can rely on when times get tough
- Learn to see failures as opportunities for growth
- Take on manageable challenges regularly (they boost confidence in your ability to cope with bigger difficulties)
- Practice gratitude to maintain a more positive outlook on life
Be right back, I need to figure out what’s the next small thing I want to fail at.
5) You perform acts of kindness
Performing acts of kindness improves mental health symptoms, research suggests.
When you’re engaged in doing things for other people, you focus less on your problems, which brightens your mood.
All in all, if you’re a do-gooder, you’re living your life right.
These acts don’t have to be monumental.
Participants in the study baked cookies for friends, shoveled snow for neighbors, and bought coffee for strangers.
They do need to benefit others, though, at some cost to your time or resources.
So, the next time a friend asks you to pick them up at the airport or help them move, enthusiastically accept.
Hold the door for someone. Give a stranger directions. Teach your elderly co-worker how to video call.
By helping others, you help yourself.
6) You have a diverse social circle
According to experts, relational diversity in social portfolios predicts well-being.
In simpler terms, having a diverse social circle ensures you’re living your life right.
While having regular interactions with family, your partner, and friends is great, even sparking a connection with a stranger benefits your mental health.
I have this friend who has acquaintances for everything.
She has a gym friend, a work friend, a going-out friend.
She always has someone to call when she wants to hang out – and seems that much happier for it.
(I am the friend she sees every two or three months for deep talks and delicious lunches.)
Moving forward, don’t ditch your existing friends, but focus on diversifying your social interactions.
You’ll be able to reap the wellness benefits while getting to know people from various backgrounds.
It’s a fun way to expand your mind.
7) You take time to relax
You probably know how important it is to take breaks.
However, you might be surprised to find out that too much free time can be a bad thing and that how you spend those breaks is equally as important as taking them.
For instance, scrolling social media for hours doesn’t improve your quality of life.
Moving your body, being in nature, focusing on hobbies, and absorbing art are all activities that actually replenish your soul and energy levels.
Next time you get a couple of free hours, go for a walk in the park and leave your phone behind.
You might even connect with someone, checking two things off the happy list in one go.
8) You feel younger than you are
Your inner age doesn’t always match your chronological age.
For instance, I’m in my mid-thirties but still feel twentysomething at heart.
I used to believe that this was a bad thing and that I should learn to be more responsible, wear sensible blouses rather than tees, yada yada yada.
Then, I discovered that feeling younger than you are can be good for your health.
Science says that people who feel young at heart may live longer and experience more life satisfaction.
Otherwise put, if you’re years younger on the inside than on the outside, you’re living your life right.
And if you don’t, age is a state of mind.
There are ways to trick yourself into believing you have the stamina of a younger person:
- Stay physically active to maintain your vitality and energy
- Get enough sleep (7-9 hours per night)
- Laugh often and stop taking life so seriously
- Spend time with younger people
- Take care of your appearance to keep your confidence up
Living your life right is about more than wealth or power.
These unexpected signs can serve as guiding posts to help you feel more fulfilled and less anxious about whatever the future may bring.
Trust the experts.
They know what they’re talking about.