Happiness — as a concept, you may find it laughable; elusive to the point of hilarity. But what if we have it all wrong? What if we regularly confuse perceived perfection with happiness, rendering it inherently unattainable? That would explain a lot about perceived unhappiness, wouldn’t it? So, if happiness is attainable after all, what’s the secret?
Martin Seligman, the originator of positive psychology, posits that 60% of the happiness equation is determined by genetics and environment, and 40% by our personal attitudes and approaches. Sounds like a solid theory to me.
Here are 6 daily habits of the supremely happy among us:
1. Spending time with other happy people
As human animals, we possess the rare ability to seek and find hell or heaven in other people. The many types of toxic relationships that drag us down into the depths are oh-so-easy to come by, so it follows that the best antidote to a whole lot of potential unhappiness is surrounding oneself with positive people. Doing so has been linked to higher confidence, creativity, and straight-up fun. Joy is contagious, after all.
Researchers who studied the proliferation of happiness over 20 years found those surrounded by happy people more likely to be happy in the future. Think of it as an investment in yourself, then— a retirement fund of sorts.
2. Taking time to celebrate the good stuff
The importance of celebrating victories, particularly small ones, is often understated in the pursuit of always-greater ambitions. Unsurprisingly, many happy people take time to appreciate everything that goes well, which can be very rewarding and mood-boosting.
Choosing to see the silver lining offers health benefits too, like reduced stress, less pain, and longevity among those with heart disease. Happy people know how important it is to be present, appreciating a good meal, a deep connection, or a sunny day. Just as negative thoughts are often self-fulfilling, so too are positive ones!
3. Exercising the power to give
Even the smallest of good deeds — like buying a friend an art piece or book — can do wonders for your happiness. Helping others not only makes them happy, but also triggers a surge of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine in the giver, all of which instigate decidedly happy feelings.
Research project Americans’ Changing Lives found people of all ages who volunteered were happier and healthier physically, experiencing what is known as the “helper’s high,” a euphoric state often experienced by people who give of their time, energy, or money.
4. Taking time to listen — in person, when possible
According to David Mezzapelle, author of Contagious Optimism, “When you listen you open up your ability to take in more knowledge versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts.”
A person who knows how to listen often leaves a conversation feeling purposeful. In this vein, one study found those who take part in more substantive conversation (as opposed to small talk) feel more satisfied.
Additionally, having in-person interactions with friends — rather than online ones — cultivates pleasant feelings and reduces anxiety.
5. Smiling shamelessly
No one, and I mean no one, wakes up feeling happy every day. But some people really work at it. Even if you’re not feeling positive, seeking a happy thought within yourself, and then summoning a genuine smile in response to it can boost your happiness levels and make you more productive.
It’s as shockingly simple as it seems: the mere act of trying to be happy is tantamount to choosing to be happy, and it very often works.
6. Cultivating resilience
According to psychologist Peter Kramer, resilience — rather than happiness — is the opposite of depression. Developing a thick skin and knowing how to recover and bounce back after a failure is key to succeeding at life, and therefore integral to happiness, which should be our chief success indicator.
As the great Johnny Cash once said, “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone… You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”