If you have ever battled depression – deep depression – you know that happiness is not to be taken for granted.
If you have had the experience of ever struggling to pull yourself out of bed and go through the song and dance of getting yourself together, you may analyze the days when you feel good. You think about what you did, what you ate, where you went, who you were with. You think about the conversations that rejuvenated you and those that seemed to zap the life right out of you. You study these things like you are completing a research project.
You understand that one day, perhaps one day not in the distant future, you will need to retrace your path and duplicate the very things that at one time brought you joy.
If this is you, or someone you know, this article is for you.
Many of us spend a considerable chunk of our lives on a happiness journey. We search for happiness thinking we’ll find it in relationships, in our kids, in our careers, in our life experiences, in our social media connections, in status, even in our homes and in our material possessions.
But happiness is so much bigger than our latest conquest or accomplishment. Happiness is a deep sense of ease and comfort. It is joy, and joy that isn’t fueled by external motivators.
In an interview with Business Insider’s Jacqui Frank and Sara Silverstein, Deepak Chopra said this in reference to happiness:
“Social scientists say that happiness depends on lots of factors, the first is do you look at the world as a problem, or as an opportunity? Basically your attitude toward life. Secondly depends on your financial resources, because lot of people are, these days anyway, very scared about health insurance, about retirement benefits, about their future. But that adds about 10-12%. Your attitude determines 50%. And then the last part, which determines 40% of your daily happiness and experiences, do you have the ability to make other people happy? That’s the fastest way to be happy.”
I loved the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” because it documented, for me, the journey to happiness and peace. Because I have been on my own journey to find happiness and some measure of success. I have reflected on when I am at my happiest. I have also studied people who appeared to be genuinely happy and successful to understand what they do and why.
Through this research and years of self-work, I have come to believe that happy and successful people maintain 16 habits that perhaps we should all consider.
1. They Have a Positive Outlook.
As Chopra inferred in the Business Insider article, people who have a positive outlook view the world as full of possibility and opportunity. Their inherent attitude toward life is one of possibility.
Cultivating positivity is then linked to happiness. And happy people, according to Chopra and others, are optimistic.
2. They Know Themselves.
Happy people may enjoy other people, but they have also spent a considerable amount of time getting to know themselves. They know what makes them upset, and they know what brings them happiness. They know what they like and dislike.
Happy people, and successful people, are in tune with themselves.
3. They Rest.
I’m convinced that rest is an undervalued superpower. It is what enables us to heal and recover, yet many of us fill our lives with so many obligations that rest becomes illusive.
Even when we lie down to rest, our minds are racing with the commitments we have for the following day or the things we were unable to accomplish earlier in the day. This can lead to restless nights and an inability to get deep sleep.
But happy people and successful people value rest as much as they do productivity. They understand that they cannot bring their best selves to the work if they are tired, worn down and exhausted.
4. They Are Content.
When I was a kid, my father would say, “Jennifer, do you want to know how to save money? Learn contentment.” It was a marvelously simple explanation.
Being content solves a multitude of problems. It can help you save money by ceasing from continually wanting the next best thing. It can also help you to enjoy where you are at any given point in your life.
Content people are present. They do not live in search of the next big thing. They celebrate what they have and take pleasure in the here and now.
5. They Embrace Self-Compassion.
Happy people have learned the difference between guilt, shame and blame. They understand that the key to their happiness is being gentle and compassionate with themselves. They offer themselves the grace they would extend to a close friend.
When they make mistakes, as each of us do, they respond with compassion and grace.
6. They Silence Their Inner Judge.
I once had a friend who was extremely difficult to please professionally. She seemed to find fault in everything.
As I got curious about how to please her, I committed to really listen to what she was saying and what was left unsaid. I learned that this person was highly critical of herself. She judged herself harshly, and therefore judging others harshly was second nature.
I learned, then, that judgmental people judge themselves first and others second. This is counterproductive and incompatible with happiness.
To be happy, we must silence our inner critic. One way to do this is to give our inner critic a name. When we hear the critic rising up to condemn us or others, we can call that part of ourselves by the name we’ve chosen and gently thank it and ask it to have a seat.
Another way to silence the inner critic is to develop as much self-love and compassion as possible. When we practice self-love, the love we give to ourselves will gradually extend to others. And when we walk through life without the need to judge ourselves or others, we can and will experience emotional freedom and happiness.
7. They Feel Their Emotions.
Happy and successful people understand that being present in their physical bodies includes being able to experience the range of emotions that come with the human experience.
Rather than running from unpleasant emotions and feelings, they allow themselves to experience and feel emotions. They give name to their emotions, and most importantly, they don’t judge themselves for feeling anger, sadness and hurt.
8. They Realize Their Chief Competitor Is Themselves.
Happy and successful people are narrowly focused on their own growth and development. Rather than focusing on others’ accomplishments, they focus on what they want and lean into that desire.
They are inspired by their peers, but they hold themselves to standards that they themselves create.
9. They Care About Their Mental Health.
Happy and successful people ideally understand that health is bigger than one’s physical body. It also includes the mind. They understand that they cannot give what they do not have, and they take time to care for their mental well-being. This includes going to therapy or counseling, and it also includes ridding themselves of toxic people and situations.
Caring for one’s mental health also means examining harmful thought patterns and working to develop a healthier worldview. It’s important to note that happy and successful people can still experience depression, anxiety and mental health disorders.
The difference is that they have a plan to combat those emotions and work through them. They are not passive passengers when it comes to their mental health. They are working a plan and committing to continue investing in their mental well-being.
10. They Care About Their Physical Health.
Happy and successful people understand that they have one body and one life to live. While they may be on a journey to optimal health, they are mindful of the need to care for their physical health. This looks like making and keeping dental, doctor and mental health appointments. It looks like exercising, and it also entails a healthy and nutritious diet.
Happy and successful people aren’t chasing an ideal body but rather aiming for developing an ideal body for them. This means they are less concerned about beauty standards and more concerned about what they must do to look and feel good internally.
11. They Understand What Brings Them Joy.
If I am sad, I have learned that there are fail-safe things that I can do to get into a better mood. I have learned that being outdoors, namely being on a trail or someplace in nature, will automatically bring me joy. The smell, the terrain, the beauty of parks and trails conspire to snap me out of my circumstance and into a place of possibility.
Happy people have taken the time to research what brings them joy. They understand what activities bring happiness, and they make time to invest in those activities. They do regular internal work to understand how to be their happiest selves, and equipped with this knowledge, they make a plan to do more of what lights their souls on fire.
12. They Invest in Themselves.
Happy and successful people refuse to live their lives pouring into others without taking the time to pour into themselves. They know that with investment, they can be better and do better.
They make time to invest in themselves by returning to school, taking courses to learn or enhance a skill, learning a new language, taking a cooking class or engaging in a sporting interest.
13. They Disconnect.
Happy people and successful people are able to disconnect from social media and other distractions. They can focus intensively on their work, families and commitments and regularly take breaks from social media. They are not glued to their phones, iPads or other communications devices.
Citing a happiness study from Kent University,
“Excessive use of even the best technologies reduces our happiness in meaningful ways.”
14. They Help Others.
One of the most rewarding activities is being in service to others. Years ago, as a noncustodial mom, I decided that when I would get down about not seeing my son on a daily basis, I would help my nieces, whose mom was a single mother. I would pick them up, take them shopping or out to eat or otherwise spend the day with them. Before long, the sadness I’d felt would dissipate.
In serving and helping others, I am, in a sense, helping myself.
The same is true today. Happy people understand that giving is its own reward.
15. They Seek Help.
While happiness is elusive, it is indeed possible. The great news is you don’t need to have all the answers, you only need to know where to turn.
Therapy is an excellent resource along your journey to live a happier life. A therapist can help you get unstuck and discover strategies for living a happier more fulfilling life.
If you aren’t sure where to turn, start with a search on Psychology Today. If the cost of therapy is prohibitive, consider speaking with a counselor, faith leader or trusted friend.
16. They Live with Gratitude.
When you practice gratitude, you create a habit of identifying and celebrating the good. You train your brain to look for the positive.
An undeniable habit of happy and successful people is gratitude. They practice it daily, and the practice brings them happiness.
One of the biggest myths about change is that it is possible or impossible depending on your age. With age, it is thought that people are less capable of change. Alternatively, if you have lived with a condition for an extended period of time, it may be easy to assume that change is impossible.
Fortunately, anyone can change.
As Dr. Laurie Santos, professor of Yale University’s most popular class, “The Science of Well-being” and host of the new podcast, “The Happiness Lab,” said,
“Happiness is possible, even for people in serious psychological distress.”
More on Living a Successful Life
- How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life
- 12 Weekend Habits of Highly Successful People
- How to Change Your Mindset for a Happy And Successful Life
Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com
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