Happiness is not something easily measured. After all, it is truly in the eyes of the beholder, and depends so much on our perspective of life. Happiness is not a one-size-fits-all concept!
That being said, there are some common elements of highly happy people. Happy people who have unlocked the secrets of happiness have the seven characteristics below. How many do you have? Take the short quiz at the end to find out!
They understand material things, and even people, could never be the key to their happiness. While they realize the importance of loving and supportive relationships, they never expect to find themselves in someone else, and never lose themselves trying to find someone else. In fact, highly happy people realize that over-dependence on others is actually the fast track to unhappiness and even relationship problems. They know that depending on others for happiness can be the source of unimaginable conflict, bitterness, blame and perpetual disappointment.
Highly happy people also are not fooled that ‘things’ – such as fancy cars, expensive clothes and posh vacations – are the places where true happiness is found. They know all too well that when you base your happiness on mostly outside things, you can still feel empty within.
Happy people have a foundation of self-love. Those who listen to negative messages in their head that they are not “smart enough,” attractive enough,” “lovable enough” and just plain not “good enough” end up spending their lives wanting to be someone else. Rather than be the best they can be, unhappy people spend futile time comparing themselves to others.
On the other hand, happy people would agree that it is wiser to compare themselves only to themselves and measure their progress over where they were yesterday. Yet, they are not unrealistic and expect their self-love to improve in a straight line.
Happy people know that comparing self-worth to others is risky business – there will always be someone wealthier, prettier, more popular, with smarter kids, better jobs and nicer cars. They realize that if you measure yourself against someone else’s yardstick, you will always come up short. Therefore, instead of trying to be like someone they admire, they learn from them.
People who are happy with themselves don’t need power over others to feel good about themselves. They also live by the motto that, “No one has power over you unless you give it to them!”
People who are highly happy don’t expect life to always go smoothly, and realize that life’s happiness does not go on without interruptions: that in fact, a full life has times of great sadness. They are the last people to tell others to, “Get over it,” and are also patient with themselves in navigating through challenging times. They realize that there are some things so terrible in life that the best we can do is get through. They regard life-altering events – such as death of a loved one, a huge failure or career setback, relationship break ups, health challenges and life altering disabilities – as some of the issues that sever life into “before” and “after.” Rather than rail against life’s injustice, highly happy people learn that there still can be beauty and happiness after loss. They refuse to let major setbacks define the rest of their lives, and they find beauty on the other side of even a major trauma and loss. In essence, they deepen rather than weaken.
Highly happy people are not ones to live in denial when things bother them, but rather they are open and honest to themselves and others, and do not hide from themselves or their feelings. They have confidence in themselves that they can make a positive spin on almost anything that happens, without pretending to feel something they don’t. Rather than shrugging their feelings off, or pretending that they don’t care, they address their feelings and thoughts head on. Instead of blocking difficult thoughts and feelings with a ‘don’t worry about it’ mentality, they have faith in themselves to work though difficult feelings and find a lesson or silver lining. They don’t have ‘all or nothing’ thinking where they either gloss over their feelings or judge or berate themselves for feeling down. They focus more on how they get up after falling rather than how they fell down. They tend to ask themselves, “What did I learn?” Rather than, “What was I thinking?”
Humans are social creatures, and happy people tend to have strong bonds of friendship and closeness with family and friends. They seek support in good times and bad. Their network increases with passing years, valuing seasoned relationships while opening themselves up to new ones. They value relationships and do not take them for granted. They find they feel best when helping and giving to others, and allow others to help them, too.
The one thing that highly happy people do not do is to spend much energy trying to protect themselves from being hurt. Rather, they have enough confidence in themselves that looking to others for warmth, comfort and support has more potential to make them stronger, not weaker. They trust others, but realize the foundation for trusting others is trusting themselves. Using the analogy of a being a passenger on a rowboat in the middle of a lake, you will be more likely to trust the person rowing if you can swim.
Realizing the difference between condoning behavior and forgiving it, they don’t hold grudges because bitterness only hurts them – not the other person. They have long accepted the notion that people can only be as healthy as they are inside, and can not give you what they don’t have to give. It’s like expecting a door to be a chair, and expecting to get eggs at a hair salon. It just won’t happen.
They observe too many wasted years that people spend wishing, expecting, condemning and being angry because their loved ones, co-workers, friends and society can’t give them what they want or deserve. Rather than getting caught in the way others and even life itself ‘should’ be, they adjust their expectations, and let go of the rest. Sometimes that entails setting much better limits with toxic people in their lives, and in the case of abuse, to discontinue a relationship altogether.
Highly happy people extend the courtesy of forgiveness also to themselves, and forgive themselves for not knowing then what they do now.
Highly happy people learn from the past, they don’t live in it. They don’t get stuck in ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ thinking. They forgive themselves for not having the foresight to have what is now so obvious in hindsight. Instead of focusing on wondering, “Why,” they focus on, “What’s next?” They also do not live wishing for the ‘good old days’. They are too busy making memories now to live in the old ones, no matter how good they were. Old snapshots have a place in life, but they don’t want to be stuck there. Powered by yesterday, with an eye on the future, today becomes the place to live.
Imagine yourself driving a car. You would not get very far driving through the rear view mirror!
Are you a highly happy person? Below is a quick quiz to see where you are on the continuum from highly miserable to highly happy. The higher the score, the more you are likely to be highly happy. Let us know how you do, and what you have to work on to increase your happiness quotient!
Quiz: Are you highly happy?
Rate each of the seven items on what best characterizes you. The higher you score, the happier you are! Use this quiz often as a way of measuring your ‘happiness quotient’, comparing your score only to your previous scores. If you score on the lower side, be easy on yourself. The idea is to keep moving forward and increasing your happiness quotient!
Not True At All Very True
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1. _____ I don’t look for my inner happiness in outside things.
2. _____ I really love and value myself, and see this as a foundation for really loving others.
3. _____ I regard challenges as opportunities to grow and deepen, and develop resiliency.
4. _____ I stay positive and optimistic, and try to make the best out of even the most troubling situations.
5. _____ I seek and give support to others, and widen my social network as I grow.
6. _____ I am able to forgive and don’t hold grudges, while setting limits on those who treat me poorly.
7. _____ I live life mindfully now, learning from yesterday with an eye towards moving forward into tomorrow.
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