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The 7 Secrets of Highly Happy People

The 7 Secrets of Highly Happy People

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! 

Secret #1 Highly happy people stop looking on the outside for what they need to find within.

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.

Secret #2 Highly happy people really, really like themselves.

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.

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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!”

Secret #3 Highly happy people fully realize that there are some things they will never get over.

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.

Secret #4 Highly happy people know the difference between ‘denial’ and ‘optimism’.

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?” 

Secret #5 Highly happy people realize the importance of being open to others rather than shutting down.

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.

Secret #6 Highly happy people are not bitter, but get better by forgiving.

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.

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Highly happy people extend the courtesy of forgiveness also to themselves, and forgive themselves for not knowing then what they do now.  

Secret #7 Highly happy people live life looking and moving forward, not backwards.

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!

So how about you?

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!

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Not True At All                                                                  Very True

____________________________________________________________________________________

1                       2                       3                     4                     5

 

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.

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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.

More by this author

Judy Belmont

Mental health author, motivational speaker and psychotherapist

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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