I consider myself to be one of those people.
I haven't always been this way. I struggled with depression and anxiety in adolescence and my early 20s, and I had a hard time learning to be optimistic and happy. I looked at other people and wondered how they did it. How could they be happy, with seemingly no effort whatsoever? I thought they must have had perfect lives--so unlike mine. How could I possibly be happy when all these things kept happening to me?
Later I learned that being happy takes work, but the work is worth it. Just as I didn't lose 50 pounds overnight, I certainly didn't change my mindset immediately. I worked on it, setting goals and changing behaviors. These days, I'm happy to say that I, too, am now a happy person. And I'm not afraid to say that it still takes work to feel that way.
Despite my rosy outlook, my life is not all kittens, rainbows and sunshine—nor should anyone expect a "happy" life to be that way all the time. Positive thinking doesn't mean you'll have endless cheer or optimism, but rather that you've shifted your behavior and your perspective. Since taking up a yoga practice in 2006 and especially since becoming a yoga teacher in 2009, I've done a lot of reading (and thinking) about happiness. What makes a person happy? What makes me happy? How can I help others be happy? And what is happiness, really?
Happiness research has become a popular area of psychology in the last 20 years, and today positive psychology is among the most popular classes at Harvard University. Experts agree that there are several things happy people have in common. These aren't inherent traits that you were either born with or not. They are habits that you can begin to integrate into your life. Here are 51 habits of happy people, gleaned from experts and experience.
1. Believe they can be happy. About 40% of our happiness is based on intentional behavior.
2. Change up their routine to consciously vary what they do. Though some people do thrive on routine, it can lead to monotony and boredom, whereas variety and novelty can lead to greater happiness.
3. Don't blame genetics. Only 50% of our happiness is linked to our genes.
4. Accept that change is imminent and one of the only certainties in life.
5. Exercise! Cardiovascular activity is among the best releasers of dopamine, the "happy hormone." They have fun while they exercise, too.
6. Spend time in "real life," and they keep their online "life" in perspective. They take time to cultivate relationships outside of social media.
7. Recognize that you can get "stuck" in positive habits, just as you can in negative ones. Whether you struggle with emotional eating, fat talk or a general sense of pessimism, you can change your habits and increase your happiness.
8. Accept that building happier habits takes time. William James, the renowned Harvard University psychology professor, said that it takes 21 days to create a habit for life.
9. Understand that joy—from adopting a new puppy, reaching a goal weight or getting a raise—eventually dissipates, but it can be renewed again and again.
10. Accept that bad things happen, but bad things won't affect their lives for as long as they think they will. Happy people know that no matter what happens in their lives, they will survive and thrive. Continued ›
51 Things Happy People Do Differently
How to Become a Happier Person
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