Happiness is something we all strive for in our lives, but what exactly is happiness? You’ll likely know what it feels like and what it means to you.
Researchers at The Greater Good Science Center describe happiness as: “a range of positive emotions, including joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude.”
As well as making us feel good, happiness also has a range of other benefits including:
- Being good for our health
- Promoting happier, healthier relationships with others
- Helping us to be more productive
- Aiding us in being successful at work
- Better equipping us to deal with stress
- Helping us to have a clearer perspective
- Allowing us to be more creative
In any crowd or group of people, some people are happier than others. It’s natural to wonder: what makes them so happy?
Let’s take a look at the common traits of a happy person that you could apply to your own life to increase your happiness (if you don’t already have them).
1. Being Optimistic
Happy people are more optimistic, meaning they look at things from a positive perspective rather than a negative one. They’re more hopeful and expect things to go well, rather than assuming bad outcomes.
Research shows that optimism is related to greater happiness and overall life satisfaction. Optimistic people tend to be more able to cope with challenges and face problems head-on, which in turn contributes to their happiness.
2. Being Grateful
People who are happy tend to be more grateful for who and what they have in their life. They’re more likely to openly express that gratitude to those around them.
For example, they may tell those they love how glad they are to have them in their lives. They might express thanks for what loved ones do to support them.
Being grateful for your life isn’t about your life being perfect. Instead, it’s about appreciating the good things you have, rather than focusing on what you don’t have.
Studies show that looking back at your past and being grateful for the progress you’ve made can positively impact your happiness in the present and increase a sense of hope for the future.
Recent research shows that the “cultivation of gratitude” (simply meaning actively learning to be more grateful) can increase your happiness. So you can learn to look at your life from a more grateful perspective.
3. Being Kind to Others
When we’re kind to others, we get that warm feeling inside and we feel happier. Helping others and spreading kindness makes you feel good, no matter how big the act of kindness is.
A study asking participants to perform seven days of kind actions found that their level of happiness was markedly increased by the end of the experiment. If we were all kinder to one another, the world would be a happier place.
4. Being Self-Confident
Happy people tend to be more confident within themselves. They view themselves in a more positive light and generally feel good about themselves.
In general, those who are extroverted and are more social are likely to feel happier. They’re more likely to make connections with others and enjoy being around other people.
5. Practicing Self-Compassion
It’s so important that we’re kind to ourselves and treat ourselves with the same compassion with which we treat other people. It’s all too easy to be hard on ourselves, but happy people practice self-compassion.
Evidence shows that self-compassion not only enhances our happiness and sense of wellbeing, it also helps us to cope with struggles more effectively.
We’re more likely to support and encourage ourselves through hard times when we’re self-compassionate.
6. Setting Goals for the Future
Happy people plan for their future and set goals for their life. Whether they’re firm goals you have written out and planned, or more vague goals you know you’d like to achieve, having goals is a sign of happiness and hope.
Setting goals can also help to increase your happiness by motivating you to work towards what you really want in your life. Don’t be afraid to dream big!
7. Doing Things They Enjoy
People who are happy make time to do things they enjoy, even if they have busy lives. They have hobbies and passions that they invest time in.
We’re all individuals, so the activities we enjoy will vary. I love to exercise and be outdoors; it makes me feel happy and relaxed. Someone else might enjoy making art, traveling, or spending time with friends.
Research emphasizes that figuring out what works for you and doing activities that bring you joy is key for your happiness.
8. Managing Their Time Effectively
Most of us are busy and have a lot to get done each day. However, overloading your schedule and not making time for yourself causes stress and other negative emotions.
Happy people tend to manage their time effectively, having a routine that provides a good balance between working hard and having time to rest.
9. Making Time for Self-Care
Speaking of making time for yourself, happy people consistently make time for self-care.
Self-care refers to any action you take to look after your physical and mental health. This can include things like exercising, having a regular sleep schedule, eating well, staying hydrated, and keeping up with personal hygiene.
Science has consistently proven that sleep impacts our mood. When we don’t sleep well, we’re less happy and more stressed. When we get enough sleep, we’re likely to be happier and healthier.
A study by psychologist Daniel Kahneman found that getting just one extra hour of sleep per night might have a greater effect on happiness than a significant raise at work.
Regular exercise reduces stress, improves our mood, and improves our self-esteem.
A good diet and drinking plenty of water ensures you give your body the fuel it needs to thrive. It’s all about looking after yourself.
10. Talking About Their Feelings Openly
Bottling things up can amplify them, making you feel alone and stressed. It’s much harder to cope with things alone.
People who are happy tend to talk about their feelings with loved ones, getting things off their chest rather than dwelling on them.
This enables them to deal with problems effectively and ask for help when they need it, rather than feeling stuck and frustrated.
11. Being Open to New Experiences
Happy people are willing and open to experiencing what life has to offer. They’re willing to try new things and are open to opportunities.
Although getting out of your comfort zone can be frightening, it’s how you experience more of the world and grow as a person.
12. Surrounding Themselves With Positive People
It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that who you surround yourself with in life impacts your happiness.
If you’re around people who are negative or who don’t treat you well, you’re going to feel less happy. If you surround yourself with people who are positive, supportive, and kind, you’re likely to feel happier.
Research shows that positivity and happiness are like a chain reaction, influenced by who you spend time with.
13. Finding Humor Even in Hard Times
Having a good sense of humor can enhance our happiness through good times and help us cope with hard times.
A study on the topic discovered that happy people are skilled at using positive humor to “frame or appraise life events to form positive, self-affirming views of the self”.
They use humor to reframe stressful situations and look at things in a more light-hearted way.
I personally find humor is an excellent coping strategy and it’s one that I use daily to help me through life.
Being able to laugh even when faced with challenges enables me to feel more positive, allows me to experience moments of joy, and brings me hope.
14. Being Open to Change
Change can be worrying and stressful, especially unplanned changes. Yet they’re an inevitable part of life.
Trying to avoid or resist change can increase stress and make things much harder. Happier people are generally more flexible and willing to ‘go with the flow’. They’re open to change, understanding that it’s a necessary part of life.
Happy people tend to look at the positives that can come from change and figure out ways to make changes work for them. They’re also more willing to look at their life and figure out how to proactively make changes that will benefit them and help them reach their goals.
Being happy isn’t about reaching a specific set of ‘ideals’ or everything being ‘perfect’ in your life. It’s about being happy within yourself and living in the present, appreciating what you already have and finding ways to experience joy.
Even if you aren’t happy right now, don’t lose hope. By adopting some of these traits you can find the happiness you deserve.