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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.

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Judy Belmont

Mental health author, motivational speaker and psychotherapist

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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