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They walk among us and we all know them.
Who are these smiling, carefree creatures and why do they look like they’re hiding some big secret?
I’ll tell you who they are: happy people!
The pursuit of happiness appears to be the human journey. If we’re not seeking happiness, why the heck are we here?
As we trudge along, correct our wrongs, crave a degree of validation, and try to find delight in our lives, we are also often thwarted by circumstances and our own bad decisions. Rinse, lather, repeat. Getting to that magical place of contentment is what being human is all about (for most of us).
If contentment is the goal (the divine place of well-being) how do we get there?
I’ve studied happy people. Per my observations from the field, here are 10 authentic attributes they seem to share:
1. Being alone isn’t lonely.
Doing things and going places solo isn’t an issue. Happy people enjoy friends, for sure, but they like being by themselves, in their own skin, too. They go on bike rides, they shop and cook, go out to dinner, or watch a movie comfortably without the company of others. It’s not that they prefer being alone (though some do), they just don’t mind it. They reach out and connect when they can or want to, but they often disconnect and unplug too. Prioritizing alone time appears to be the way happy people stay balanced.
2. They whistle while they walk, or work.
They hum along to the beat of their own song. And speaking of songs, they tend to sing out loud. In the shower, outside, at the store. Spontaneous dancing occurs often because they just can’t keep the good vibes inside. Also, not surprisingly, they laugh contagiously. These were my most important findings.
3. They are grateful for small things and small moments.
They are thrilled by raw, real, free beauty. No money spent, no bank account cleaned out. They may have watched the sun set a thousand times, yet still, it’s a marvel worth mentioning. They stop for rivers and mountains, and lakes, and flowers, and trails, and little birds. They find joy in the not-so-small wonder that is a well-made lasagna, or a perfectly placed pitch that strikes out the side by some little league ball player making her big debut on the mound. Happy people love the small stuff and they are sure to notice it.
4. They have a few goals in life, but they do not pine for big, faraway “things.”
They don’t covet grand vacation homes with big empty rooms, or material items they can’t take to the grave. They appreciate these lovely things, and wouldn’t “turn them down,” but they can certainly live without excess because they know that no “thing” can truly fill a body’s soul. Experiences do.
5. They know when to leave things alone.
“Let a sleeping dog lie” as they say. They know when to leave, or when to back away. Knowing boundaries and limits, happy people stick to their true selves in most situations. Overdoing anything leads to burn out, remorse, and desensitization. They are good at letting go, and letting be all the stuff in life they cannot control. What they do control is their own time and emotional energy.
6. They’ve learned to embrace change.
Change can be scary, but the only way around or out of it is through. Change can be exhilarating, though, and surrendering to the process instead of becoming agitated or disengaged, is how most happy people seem to handle the curve balls that come with it. And, they are not afraid to make changes within themselves because they know that in order to grow, they must do things differently.
7. Along the same theme, they also know how to pause inside their discomfort.
If it’s the burden of carrying grocery bags for too long, or a baby’s incessant crying, happy people seem to understand that the feeling will pass, and getting worked up doesn’t solve the problem. Enduring the discomfort does. Remaining patient and empathetic does. This works for long, annoying lines, a boring speech, traffic, low feelings, and so on. Discomfort is often temporary. Happy people know how to process negative energy without dwelling inside it forever.
8. They acknowledge, validate, and clap for others, without making it about them.
No story topping, no added words of wisdom, no relatable anecdote. They simply share in the triumph of another’s person’s accomplishment or story to tell, and let it stand alone on its own little pedestal (where it should be).
9. They do not seek recognition for good deeds.
Happy people do for others without seeking credit or witness.
10. They let discipline take over when motivation fails to show up.
This includes self-care, frequent physical exercise, being organized, going to the doctor, and getting the chores of life completed so that other activities are more enjoyable. Staying healthy and balanced includes time management. Happy people are not often overscheduled.
Think about the happy people you know. Are they kind, patient, and grateful? Do they practice self-care and clap for others?
Happy people do not lament their woes and worries regularly, because they tend to process the present moment instead of dwelling in their past or pining for their future.
They fully understand the “let go” philosophy and have embraced it as a doctrine for a happy life.
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