Happiness. Genuine, effortless, unencumbered happiness. It’s the Holy Grail of our pursuits, the quest of our madness in a world bent on having more, more, more. We work harder, condense the contents of time, and speed up the hamster wheel with every step. All in an effort to be genuinely happy.
Every year, on the International Day of Happiness, the World Happiness Report is released. It ranks countries based on their residents’ life satisfaction, rated on a scale of 1-10.
The telling results? Negative feelings – anger, sadness, worry – have significantly increased over the past decade.
And, for all the bragging rights beheld by “America,” the United States doesn’t even make the top 10. Not even close. (Top honors go to the northern European countries.) Seems there is more to being genuinely happy than “living the American dream.”
So, what is it that all happy people know about being genuinely happy? If nationality, income, social status, and even health status aren’t assured predictors of happiness, what are the predictors?
One thing’s for sure when it comes to the secrets to happiness: Being genuinely happy is a choice…and an inside job.
Here are 9 things that all happy people know about being genuinely happy:
1. Happy people have a positive outlook.
There is an inherent truth in that great perspective your elders used to counter your childhood complaints: There are always going to be people better off and worse off than you.
Happy people know that there are always going to be situations that don’t elicit a “yippee” from their attitude. Everyone suffers loss, everyone experiences personal injustice, and everyone has more than a welcomed share of “those days.”
But when a $6 latte spills down the front of her favorite designer dress, the happy person knows how to choose her response. “Dang it! Well, how fortunate I am that I can afford this coffee and nice clothes to wear.”
2. Happy people are grateful for what they have.
This doesn’t mean they have no ambition to improve their lives. It simply means genuinely happy people are focused on what they do have, not on what they don’t have.
Happy people are more likely to see possessions as fluid than as property that must be hoarded and guarded with their lives. (Yup, even with recent the fears of COVID-19.) They are as happy to share as they are to receive.
And, even as they strive to improve their lives, they are fully satisfied with (and grateful for) what they have.
3. Happy people are happy for others’ success.
We all know what the tug of jealousy feels like. Someone else gets something you’ve always wanted or believe you deserve, and your first thought is, “But I want to win Powerball!”
Happy people know there’s always enough for everyone. Enough success. Enough love. Enough happiness. They also know that pinning others down with jealousy only serves to suppress themselves – and their relationships.
And they don’t fake their excitement for others. It’s genuine. It’s also contagious. Inevitably success finds them, and all that goodwill comes pouring back to them.
4. Happy people don’t compare themselves to others.
There is always that fine line between comparing to get a gauge for progress and comparing as a gauge for the ego.
Genuinely happy people aren’t preoccupied with “keeping up with the Joneses.” They may observe some of the Joneses’ behaviors and decide they are worth emulating. But they don’t attach their self-worth to having the same possessions, titles, or successes.
Comparisons are only for self-improvement, not for competition.
5. Happy people take risks and confront their fears.
We all know someone who’s always the first in line for life’s tallest roller coaster. And they sit in the front seat with their hands in the air and a smile on their faces. It can be downright maddening and intimidating to watch!
Happy people aren’t reckless with their lives, but they don’t let fear stop them from living.
When Eleanor Roosevelt wisely counseled that we should all do something every day that frightens us, she knew something about happiness. Turns out that leaning into the sources of our stress and fear unleashes creativity, increases productivity, and prepares us to handle change and adversity.
6. Happy people cherish and nurture their relationships.
We’ve all heard the adage that, if you finish this life with a handful of good friends, you have been blessed. Genuinely happy people know this in spades, and they are mindful to take good care of those relationships. They lead with kindness and compassion, no matter what the relationship.
They understand that you get out of relationships what you put into them. And they know there is no price you can place on the treasure of a good friend or beloved family member.
7. Happy people forgive.
Happiness is a light, elevating emotion. It can’t lift you if your life is weighed down by grudges and the daily ruminating of past hurts.
Happy people, as part of choosing happiness, choose forgiveness as a conduit to being liberated from negativity.
8. Happy people laugh.
Laughter is such good medicine – physically, emotionally, socially – that happy people won’t live without it. They know how to laugh at themselves and the ironies of life without laughing at the expense of others.
Because they don’t take themselves too seriously, they’re able to let go and experience the lightness and sparkling brightness of laughter.
9. Happy people keep their childlike wonder.
Having a sense of awe is an expression of humility – a sense of being small in a huge, wondrous world.
Happy people hold onto that capacity to be awed. They know it connects them to the world and to all forms of life that inhabit it. It makes life more enjoyable and less stressful, and it increases cognition while decreasing materialism.
And that is totally awesome!
Perhaps no one summed up the secret to happiness better than Abraham Lincoln: Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
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