SEVEN HABITS OF HAPPY PEOPLE
When we think of happy people, we tend to assume that their happiness comes naturally. Although it is theorised that 60% of our happiness can be determined by our genetics and environment, Martin Seligman (the father of ‘positive psychology’) points out that 40% of our potential happiness remains within our own control.
If someone told you that you could improve something by 40%, would you not want to take control and work on those habits?
What follows are seven scientifically proven happiness-boosting habits that, just like any skill, some people will be innately better at than others, but we can all improve through conscious practice.
Find out what you can do to get those gains and live your best happy life!
1. Surround yourself with happy people!
In a decades-long study, it was found that the quality relationships you enjoy will be the most significant influencer on your long-term health and happiness. The Harvard study followed 2nd-year undergraduate students from 1936 for nearly 80 years, and rather than money, career, or possessions, it was those who had the strongest positive relationships who were not only healthier but happier in their lifetime.
It is not about quantity, instead, it is quality. The saying goes that misery loves company – the converse also applies. Happy people will attract other happy people and spread their happiness to others.
Happy people have strong support networks, individuals they trust and can turn to if things are not going well. However, the love they have for these people is not solely contingent on what that person can provide for them. They will also be willing to give back to those who are supportive, cultivate the relationship, invest time in meeting and share experiences.
2. Practice being happy!
Like many things, happiness takes practice. Whether it is expressing gratitude for the things (and people) that you have, savouring positive experiences (however mundane), or replacing negative thoughts and self-talk with positive affirmations, all of these things can take effort to do. Yet happy people tend to practice them more often than not – they will find the time!
Gratitude can benefit our happiness by grounding us in the here and now, reminding us of what we currently have in our lives as against what we wish to have in the future or feel we have lost from our past. Gratitude has been scientifically shown to have a positive impact on our happiness, both immediately and long term. Expressing our gratitude to others can also increase their feelings of happiness.
People are encouraged to practice their gratitude at the end of the day or every couple of days so that you can almost recount the good things in your life and rest easy.
Another positive habit of happy people is that they savour their experiences. In other words, they take the time to fully appreciate and feel the joy of a happy experience. Being conscious of the good in that moment, recalling the happiness a moment brought or acting out what you know you will be grateful for later, with intention.
Happy people will also engage in positive self-talk and affirmations. The internal conversation that we have every day can be susceptible to negativity. We can be our own worst critic which can be exacerbated by the fact that we have grown up in a society that celebrates modesty and comes with the phrase “self-praise is no praise”. That is not to say that you should be cocky, rather you are allowed to talk to yourself in a positive way, using positive affirmations. These positive affirmations can positively impact our wellbeing. We are our own most regular audience; we can cut the heckling and ramp up the applause.
3. Be optimistic!
Optimism is the generalised belief that good things will happen to us in our future. Research has shown that optimists are better able to make and keep connections and relationships – people are drawn to those who have a sunny outlook, optimists will recover better from illness, injury and setback, and in general, optimists will live longer.
Happy people will have a realistic level of optimism – they will not ignore warning signs, but they will believe that even in the darkest of times, things will get better. By being optimistic, happy people will be looking forward to their future and actively work towards their goals, by being hopeful about what may come, they are more satisfied, excited, and motivated.
4. Exercise and spend time in nature.
Happy people will understand and therefore reap the benefits of being physically active. Research has shown that exercise contributes to better mental health. It can release endorphins, short walks can boost mood, whilst also increasing focus and creativity.
Regular exercise also increases energy, lengthens life span, contributes to better sleep, self-confidence, and perception. Exercise has also been shown to decrease anxiety and depression and in general, makes people happier.
Did you know that being in natural space can also make us happier? Research is continuing to emerge about the time we spend in nature and its link to our wellbeing. Spending time in nature has been shown to increase people’s mood as well as decrease negative thoughts.
Happy people will also appreciate what is known as “green exercise” sometimes dubbed exercise squared, where they ensure to combine exercise with being in natural green or blue space. By exercising outdoors, they are boosting the positive effects of both regular exercise and being in the outdoors.
5. Know when to swtich-off!
Happy people will know when and how to switch off. When it comes to their work, they will know how to leave the office at the end of the day and even how to take regular, if even small breaks throughout their day. These breaks make people more creative and boost productivity.
Happy people will know how to unwind. And will potentially do this by practicing mindfulness which is being present in the moment, being aware of one’s thoughts and mood but in a non-judgemental way. Mindfulness has the proven benefit of increasing personal awareness – learning the how and why of our emotions can enable us to take greater control of our mental wellbeing. Other known benefits include stress and anxiety reduction, decreases in anger and negativity, boosting the immune systems, and making people happier and more satisfied. Mindfulness is a skill that someone can practice and get better at but does take a bit more effort.
Happy people will also look after themselves in other ways, by practicing self-care and ensuring they get enough sleep. Self-care can take the form of many things, but for it to truly work, it needs to be something that you enjoy doing. It could be taking a bath, going for a massage, practicing an instrument, art, or other recreational physical activity. Anything that can break the routine and is personally viewed as switching off or being a treat.
Happy people will also get enough sleep (for adults that’s 7-9 hours a night) and practice good sleep hygiene.
6. Build up your resilience!
Building resilience can result in a happier life. Learning how to face adversity, everyday stressors and life’s setbacks mean that even in the bad times you can improve your chances of feeling good again.
Happy people will know that resilience is a skill that can be improved. When you are resilient in one area of your life, chances are it will flow over into another area, however, this is not automatic, it can be practiced, and with intention can become better over time.
Happy people know that not every day is going to be a good day, that they do not have to be positive and upbeat all the time, but they do not give up or lay down defeated, they rise to the challenge, dust themselves off and try again.
7. Be Kind!
Happy people are kind to others, whether through volunteering, dedicating themselves to a cause or being helpful to family and friends. They are open-minded and not afraid to change their opinion or learn from others.
Importantly, they are also kind to themselves. The saying goes – you cannot pour from an empty cup. Happy people know that it is not selfish to look after yourself and put your emotional needs first. This may include saying “no” or turning certain things down, but if this is something that is necessary for their wellbeing, happy people know that other opportunities will come along.
All these habits are like any skill that a person possesses, there will be times when practice comes easier than others. Innate ability to execute these skills may also be higher in some people, but that does not mean that we cannot all benefit from putting in a little effort towards improving these habits.