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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 June 15, 2018

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

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Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

    Sit Properly

    If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

    Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

      Credit: StayWow

      Stand Up More

      Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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      Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

      Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

      Or get a standing desk.

      One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

      Exercise for Lower Back Pain

      Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

      But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

      The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

      Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

      Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

      This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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      Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

      Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

      There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

      Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

      I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

      Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

      If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

      Where to Start

      The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

      Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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      If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

      Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

      Keep a straight back.

      Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

      Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

      I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

      If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

      Stay Away From the Back Pain League

      Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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