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12 Habits of Highly Happy People

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Let's talk about happiness! Who doesn't want to be happy?

People believe that happiness is all about happy faces and dancing unicorns, they believe that begin happy means not having any problem or struggles, having a big house and a great car, for some they think is about a tittle or a position. I believe that happiness has nothing to do with the material thing or the money you have, but rather how you feel. Happiness is a feeling.

I don't believe either that happiness is the absence of problems and challenges, but rather having made it through those tough situations. I don't believe happiness is something that happens to you but rather I believe happiness is a choice. Happy people create their own happiness – from the inside out. That means that we get to choose to be happy every day.

If you have been reading my articles you know that I am keen on habits. So you are not getting away without hearing me talk about habits one more time. Today I am going to share the 12 habits of happy people. All of these take a change in perspective so read through with an open mind; they are all choices we can and have to make to achieve happiness, so be ready to make yours.

If you like to listed to podcast better than reading, don't miss Episode 21 of the Leading Yourself Podcast.

Here are the 12 habits of Highly Happy People:

1. They practice gratitude

Gratitude is a game changer. It moves you from looking at problems to searching for solutions; from looking at the cup half empty to seeing the cup half full. Happy people focus on what they have vs what they don't and they find the bright side on every situation. Happy people actively pursue joy every day; they look for blessings around them.

I've talked about this many time, you probably might be thinking I sound like a broken record, but I have to say it again. Since I introduced gratitude as part of my morning routine, I am more present, more mindful, more intentional about looking and pursuing joy. I am happier.

Many of the things I write down in my gratitude journal are not new, I am just paying more attention to them. Yesterday for example, I wrote down in my journal "My husband made me dinner". It wasn't the first time, is not like he never cooks, he actually cooks often, and he is good at it. In the past I would not give major attention to the fact that he cooked dinner, but because I have shifted my mindset to one of gratitude, I am more mindful to the small things. Noticing it makes me express my gratitude to him which contributes to nourish our relationship, and all that makes me happy.

2. They let go of control

This is a control freak talking right now. I totally hate to generalize but I am going to today. Hope no one gets offended. I feel there are two types of people that are more susceptible to want to control everything. Those are type A personalities and women. I am both!

For those type A personalities out there, I am sure you can relate. Type A personalities are characterized by begin ambitious, hardworking, determined to succeed and very result or goal oriented. Those who have a type "A" personality like to be in charge and be in control of their environment and their lives.

Women on the other hand, we believe that good enough is never good enough. We tend to be perfectionists. We are more in tune with the emotional side of things in general. We, many times, believe that in order to be happy we need to be in control.

The times I have let go of control I have felt the most empower, free and happy. And when you let go of the control you empower others as well, which helps them grow and develop and there nothing more fulfilling than seeing those you are about develop and grow as a result of your decisions.

3. They take risks and follow their heart

Happy people are not afraid of failure. On the contrary, they see failure as part of life, as a milestone to success, as an opportunity. Because they are not afraid of failure, they take more risk so they live with no regrets or "what ifs". They name decisions following their hearts vs overthinking them. I am more of a logical decision maker. I like to look at data and take that in account when making decisions. That doesn't mean I can't follow my heart. Just saying in case, you are like me a logical decision maker. Let me give you an example on what I am referring to when I say highly happy people follow their hearts. Listen to episode 21 of the Leading Yourself podcast for an example that explains what I exactly mean.

4. They are personally accountable

Unhappy people go through life feeling as the victims. Everything seems to happen to them. It was never something that they did; they are simply unlucky. If they are not accountable, if it is not their fault – then they have not failed, life failed them.

Accountability tends to have a negative connotation. Happy people though see accountability as a positive thing, they look at accountability as a medium to achieve happiness.

Personal accountability is the belief that you are fully responsible for your own actions and consequences.

Happy people realize that they can’t change the behavior of others, you can only truly change themselves. They believe that believe that it is impossible to achieve anything worthwhile in life without becoming personally accountable.

5. They surround themselves with the right people

Someone once said that we are the average of the five people you spend most time with.

Surround yourself with happy people, surround yourself by people that live these 12 habits, people that are better than you, people you admire. I truly believe happiness is contagious. That goes both ways. Not only by surrounding yourself with happy people you can become happier, but you also have the power to influence others around you.

Take an inventory of the people you spend most time with. I have created this template to help you take inventory. This is in summary how it works:

  • Think about the 5 people you spend most time with. These might be people you know, people close to you like family members, friends or colleagues; or could be people you have not meet in person before, for me these are book authors, podcast

  • Take a few minutes to visualize the best, happiest version of yourself. How does he / she look like. What are the top 5 words that describe that happiest version of yourself? Write down those 5 words on the top of the template.

  • Now you have a grid so it's time to evaluate every person against those attributes form 1-10, where 1 is they are the opposite and 10 is they are the perfect role model.

  • If there is one word / attribute that everyone or most rank low, think about someone who you admire because they possess that characteristic and invite him/her to your inner circle.

6. The enjoy the present

Happy people don't get stuck on their past. They have the ability to let go of the past and enjoy and live in the present. They are not consumed by what the future may bring, especially not by the challenges that they might face. They don't get overwhelmed thinking about things that may or may not happen before they actually happen.

There have been studies done around this that confirm that people who live in the present are more satisfied with life on average, the opposite seems to be true for those who dwell on the past. Specifically, the study found that people with more depressive symptoms and higher levels of anxiety tended to be more focused on the past and to have a more fatalistic view of the present. When you think about the fact that rumination can be a big part of both anxiety and depression, this finding starts to make sense.

7. They focus on personal growth

Happy people have a growth mindset and they continuously focus on personal growth. They find joy in personal growth. Happy people refuse to stay stagnant.

Happy people push themselves outside their comfort zone, they explore new things and look to experience new things. Growth does not have to be this exponential, apparent to everyone thing. The truth is it can be something small and unperceptive to the eyes of others.

Some ways to intentionally grow include:

  • Traveling

  • Reading

  • Listening to podcasts

  • Self-reflection

Personally, this particular habit has had a big impact in my level of personal fulfillment and sense of happiness. I have always been a learner, I have already found joy in learning but in recent years I have been more intentional about it. These days I intentionally build 60 minutes of learning in my day, every day. I always get the same questions, how do it fit one hour of learning a day?! maybe this is topic for a future podcast episode but short version:

  • I am international about it. I make it a priority

  • I leverage my commute time. I used to hate my commute, I saw it as waste, now I am looking forward to it because is the time I listen to audio books and podcast.

  • I leverage my morning and evening routines to add self-reflection. In my opinion self-reflection is one of the most effective way to learn and grow.

8. They give and are of service to others

Happy people are givers. When we think about giving the first, we think about is money, but it can be anything: your time, your ideas, your knowledge, your wisdom, the information and insights you have, your talents, etc. Volunteering to non-profits, mentoring someone, sharing your good practices or your talents to help others.

Happy people actively seek for opportunities to share, they do it naturally and experience joy in giving. Highly happy people give without expect anything in return. They truly give. Do you remember that last time you give your time volunteering to a non-profit organization, or the last time your brought snacks to pass at the office or when you helped someone solve that problem they had? Think about how you felt. I am very confident to say that probably remember that moment brought a smile to your face, because you remember the joy you experienced, how happy you felt when you gave to others.

9. They find purpose and pursue it consistently

The most highly happy people have a clear purpose and they actively live their purpose.

Purpose relays in the intersection of the answers to these four questions:

1. What do I love? (your passion)

2. What am I good at? (your vocation)

3. What can I be paid for now ? (your profession)

4. What does the world need? (your mission)

If you don’t have passion in your career or balance in your life, you’ll never be consistently happy.

Happy people are intentional about staying in the space where these four aspects overlap.

10. They give grace to themselves and others

Giving grace to yourself looks like not being hard with yourself for not being "perfect” and allow yourself to fail and make mistakes. I have found that when I am not practicing grace to myself, I feel unhappy, incomplete, like nothing I do is enough or good enough because I can clearly see what went wrong, what I missed vs the things I did right,

We are not robots, we are human. We are not meant to be perfect. Happy people realize this, they strive for progress vs perfection. They don't allow themselves to feel bad when they make mistakes, they give themselves permission to not to it all, because they realize is not possible to do it all. In the same way they give grace to themselves, they also give grace to others. They learn to forget and forgive and let go of things.

11. They smile, laugh and giggle often

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.

If I would ask you to visualize an image that represents happiness, I bet many of you would think of someone smiling or even laughing or giggling. I truly believe that we need to act as we want to feel.

12. They see the bigger picture

Happy people know that trials will end, and they can see the bigger picture. They don’t get caught up in little things that don’t matter, because in the grand scheme of life, there other things that are just more important. They’re confident in their role in life and know that ‘this too shall pass when facing challenging times. Having the ability to see the bigger pictures allows them to not get stuck in the losses, rather they are able to move on from problems and challenges and instead of only seeing and living in the challenges they are facing they rather focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you want to get more insights and examples of these habits, don't miss episode 21 of the Leading Yourself Podcast.

Happy people

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