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The 15 Habits of Incredibly Happy People

While happiness is defined by the individual, I ve always felt it foolish to decla
re that nothing can be learned from observing the happiness of others.
Examining how to be happy is benefitted from observing the patterns of others, a
nd then taking only what you find useful. Inspiration is the goal, not rigid rul
es on being happy.
I ve gone over dozens of research papers in the pursuit of learning more about the
subject happiness in work and life is a topic to take seriously, so I m always on
the hunt for inspiration and insight.
Below I ll cover a few of my favorite studies.
1. Think of Yourself Less
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
Thoughtful words from C.S. Lewis, but do they equate to real life happiness? Our
self-esteem is a bit of a tricky topic, because current research on self-esteem
paints a very inconsistent picture: it seems that high self-esteem is certainly
related to happiness, but it can produce other problems with the ego.
For instance, a variety of research suggests that self-esteem that is bound to e
xternal success can be a fickle beast certain students who tied their self-estee
m to their grades experienced small boosts when they received an acceptance lett
er (grad school), but harsh drops in self-esteem when they were rejected.
Indeed, similar findings were reported for those who base their self-esteem on c
areer success and appearance. Conversely, those who do not tie their self-esteem
as strongly to external motivators tend to have less of a roller coaster of emoti
ons to the things that happen to them, and are generally more happy as a result.
Perhaps the most insidious danger of high self-esteem is that it can lead to a f
ocus on the avoidance of failure over the quest for success, which can cause a m
indset that protects the self-esteem by self-handicapping so one isn t ever seen as
a failure.
( Well, it doesn t matter that I failed, because I wasn t even trying )
Instead, find a happy middle ground by heeding the words of C.S. Lewis don t think
less of yourself as a person, but think of yourself less, focusing more on bett
erment of yourself for the sake of those around you, rather than for your own eg
2. Be Busy, but Not Rushed
Easier said than done, right?
Quite true, because although the research shows that feeling rushed is a one-way s
treet to stress and unhappiness, it also notes that less and less people can fin
d that happy medium of being just busy enough.
It seems strange that being very productive would cause one to be happy, but stu
dies suggest that balanced free time is key, as too much boredom can be burdenso
me strive for a productive life at a comfortable pace.
Often in finding this balance, you ll have to find out how to say no to things.
Derek Sivers has a rule for things that you aren t obligated to do: it either need

just be sure to a cknowledge that there are many friends to be made. Don t be a conversational narcissist. not just saying that s great to hear! ). So what can you do? I found some interesting research from Northwester University that recommends a 2 1 minute evaluation (I ll forgive them since it s an academic study) to use on a rela tionship. I m telling you because I ve seen mult iple studies that show having a close group of people in your life can keep you happy for life (it can also help you live longer). I ve yet to see any compelling evidence that more friends = happier. if you will take care of you for me. While the study focused on marriages. so let them. Be Proactive About Your Relationships This applies to all relationships. I m not telling you as your new-age life coach. I chose 5 for this subheading because it seems t o be a low-end average. The number is often debated. Here are a few other findings from the literature: Regularly check-in with good friends (around 2 weeks for very close friends). because after all. That is. I will take care of you. Have 5 Close Relationships Relationships are perhaps the most important thing (without exaggeration) when i t comes to overall life satisfaction. at least for most people. but remember that it s not about debating the minutia e. 4. Taking care of yourself is apart of taking care of others. . In this way. it s about the overall lesson. the quality of the people in your life matters the most. I used to say. and there a re few things worse for happiness than losing a close companion. if an opportunity comes across your pl ate (and the more you branch out. you need to either be g ung-ho about the idea. let them know through active and constr uctive listening (ie. and maintaining a small circl e can go a long way in making you a happy person. Studies show people love hearing themselves talk and talking about themselves. Celebrate the good things in their life. I will ta ke care of me for you. but especially with your significant other. or you ll need to say no to it. 3. as listed in books like Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement. one of the biggest takeaways for me can be applied more universally: How would a neutral third party view your relationship recently? Oftentimes a relationship can go sour if you let it go on autopilot.s to be a Hell Yeah! or a simple No. If you will take care of me. they are 60 percent more likely to say t hat they are very happy . your mut ual dedication to improving yourself benefits both of you. As Jim Rohn would say: The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. the more things will). P lenty of evidence to suggest that many relationships (especially marriages) decl ine over time. National surveys find that when someone claims to have 5 or more friends with wh om they can discuss important problems. Now I say.

which shows that regular small pleasures had a bigger impact on happiness than fewer larger ones. however. talking with others is a good t hing for our happiness. This is confirmed by many studies dealing with SWLS (Satisfied With Life Scale). A bi-weekly ride on a merry-go-round may be better th an an annual ride on a roller coaster. especially with new acquaintances ( Nice to meet you. 7. While the study above specifically looked at vacations (which may not occur ofte n). instead of predicting your intelligence. Deep conversations are often those we reserve for close friends and family. surprisingly. happy people are socially engaged with others. more thoughtful conversations. a happier life eschews trivial chatter in favor of lo nger. small talk. Perhaps this is why it s often so difficult to put off what we want now for what we want later. may instead actually hinder your happiness. but when the conversation is always superficial. what s your opinion on abortion? ). Stumbling on Happiness shares this excerpt from a study that shows why the hap piest people often only had 1 sexual partner in the past 12 months: Why would people who have one partner be happier than people who have many? One reason is that multiple partners are occasionally thrilling. 6. small minds discuss peo ple. average minds discuss events. bu t is there any truth to it? According to one study. start a successful business. Clearly a little treat and consistency now and then can go a long way for your h appiness while you make plans for your big goals. whic h again explains why close relationships are so important for our happiness. win an award. the researchers note that small talk is obviously important for smoo thing into social conversations. In general.) In what is one of the funniest excerpts I ve ever stumbled on in a psychology book . additional research covered in Stumbling on Happiness shows that specificall y planning a nice dinner can have the same effect. e tc. Eleanor Roosevelt s quote has certainly made it s rounds on many a Facebook feed. Gilbert (the author) . a variety of interesting research has shown that it s the planning of future activities that often adds to the fun. and this engagement entails matters of substan ce. In fact. Treat Yourself (the Small Pleasures Matter) Jokes aside about treating yo self. happiness is more strongly associated with the frequency than t he intensity of people s positive effective experiences. In the long term. To be fair. Move Beyond the Small Talk Great minds discuss ideas. So. so beware of the trap here: tough accomplishmen ts that have to be earned oftentimes result in a happier day-to-day (working har d to get a promotion. and Spend Money on Experiences While spontaneous fun is always a good thing. get in shape. Plan Fun. but regular partner s are regularly enjoyable. it begi ns to take a toll: the extent of small talk was negatively associated with happiness [and] the extent of substantive talk was positively associated with happiness.5. the research has shown that you need to have small wins along the way in order to be truly happy across many di fferent domains.

People with self-co ntrol seem to be happier with life. Experiences are social: human beings are social animals. The research has shown that there certainly seems to be some sort of connection between delayed gratification and overall life satisfaction. 8. If you do that. leader researcher for the Stanford marshmallow experiment. They would think that the best way to resist the marshmallow is to stare right at it. Since purchases are often so c ommon. you re going to r ing the bell before I leave the room. Did you kn ow that true solitary confinement is often classified as cruel and usual punishmen t due to the detrimental effects it can have on the mind? Experiences get us out of our house (an epidemic in some countries) and sometimes out of our comfort z one. but why is this the case? According to the litera ture I ve read. and it s because we are better able to adjust to material purchases. waiting for the researchers to come back) did nota bly better in some major areas of life. my ph one is 2 months out of date! ). experiences can be relieved and shared for years. researchers note that we are more likely to compare what we buy with othe rs (which can result in buyer s remorse). Not only that. . But experiences always have a bit of a u nique twist to them. People revisit experiences more often: going hand-in-hand with the above point. but these experiential purchases tend to make us happier. Have you ever felt really energized coming back from a great show/dinne r/vacation? It s less likely that a purchased item kept you excited for that long. buying material goods. research shows that experiences tend to get recalled more often. You ve likely heard this before. but it s likely that you fondly remember your first surfing lesson. Experiences are more unique: say what you want. and they prefer to stand out if they re able. at least according to the research. But that s a terrible idea. While researchers have noted that physical items can get old quickly ( Ugh. but people love comparing themse lves. so we are far less likely to make comparisons. Keep Your Eye on the Prize You ve likely heard of the marshmallow experiment. that s a fact. relishing in their unique nature. In fact. instead of the next night: Why the self-imposed delay? Because by waiting a week. it seems app arent to me that discipline in this regard is really dependent on creating syste ms to avoid the use of willpower. but t hey also got to look forward to all that slurping and sipping for a full seven d ays beforehand. notes how most participants would actively schedule their free dinner (which th ey won in the study) a week in advance. these people not only got to spend several hours slurping oysters and sipping Château Cheval Blanc 47. experiences trump material purchases (in general) for the 5 follow ing reasons: Experiences improve over time: a great experience tends to age like a fine wine. but a quick summary is that res earchers found those children who were able to resist the temptation of eating a marshmallow immediately (vs. You probably do n t reminisce about that first surfboard you bought. to keep a close eye on the goal. which is a fantastic way to kill habituation. Walter Mischel. had t his to say about how people get discipline and willpower all wrong: The kids who couldn t delay would often have the rules backwards. and simply e njoy them as they are. We adapt slowly to experiences: consumer research shows that another reason why experiences seem so awesome to us is that it takes our brain longer to get used to them. Since delayed gratification has consistently been shown to be dependent on the strategic allocation of attention. a variety of research shows that most people are far more happy when buying experiences vs. leaving some to conclude that delayed gr atification is a solid predictor of future success.

Show Some Appreciation Psychology doesn t always tell us what we want to hear. 11. instead of in the kit chen cabinet you frequent most. Just like the kids in the experiment. p retending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk. The researc hers say 25%. but again.You should also know that the patient children did the opposite: instead of obse ssing over the marshmallow. researchers found that women were able to reduce the inaccuracy of predicting how much fun they d have on a speed date by reading a rating left by a previous women. you can get yourself a better payoff and l ive a more fulfilling life if you can avoid compulsive distractions. so it s nice when a good dee d lines up with a great personal benefit. learning about someone else s experience is a far better way for us to internally evaluate if we will enjoy it as well. Observe Happiness in Others This one was really interesting. How can this realistically be applied though? Another study found that writing thank-you notes (or just a nice letter) was an effective method of increasing happiness and life satisfaction. we re debating minutiae. In fact. Th ough you should be sending them out of sincere appreciation for someone. research suggests that the best way to predict how mu ch we will enjoy an experience is to see how much someone else enjoyed it. In one study. or singing songs from Sesame Street. Their desire never seemingly left them. I was happy to find this study that showcased how showing gratitude for someone (or even for what you have) boosted happiness by a noticeable level. then you re going to eat it. Handwritten letters are also a great way to start the process of reciprocity. Most of us like to think we are unique snowflakes. If you re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is. they distracted themselves by covering their eyes. so they stand out over a thnx via text. There are a lot of fringe benefits to this as well people rarely get handwritten notes much anym ore. This means hiding the snacks out in a shelf in the garage. but sometimes things are popu lar for a reason. 9. If you recall my article on building good habits. 10. not in powering t hrough with willpower. you ll find the research lines u p quite nicely with this the best way to make sure you stick to the straight and narrow path that you desire is to set up barriers to prevent you from going ast ray akin to guard rails on a bowling lane. In other words. the important thing is that it w orked. it was simply ignored and forgot ten. Change Your Perspective In one study researchers found that the simple act of listing 3 good things that happened that day (no matter how small) increased happiness and decreased depre . remembe r that true networking (not the slimy business card kind) is about helping and l etting people know that they matter to you. but you nee d to remember that the secret is in making them easy to avoid.

So the next time you hear advice that you should believe in yourself and appreci ate what you have. but know that big goals are often an important element of getting peop le moving in the first place. I ve read additional research (here and here) that seems to back up this finding: goals really do seem to add a sense of meaning. 12. The students who got this prompt compared to a control group that didn t got b etter grades the next year and were less likely to drop out. so psychologist s like Timothy Wilson have suggested how perspective changes can help us out whe n times get rough: we prompted students to reinterpret their academic problems from a belief that th ey couldn t cut it in college to the view that they simply needed to learn the rop es. this is one of the more generic ones on this list. and focus to life tha t can easily become absent if we don t have anything we are currently striving for ( Life is a journey. and do i t as often as you can. . a change in view can have a really big impact on your overall happine ss. You shouldn t go too overboard (trillionaire status. let s do this). Researchers found that although the process of becoming proficient at something took it s toll on people in the form of stress .ssive symptoms. so to speak). direction. participants reported that these same activities made them feel happy and sati sfied when they looked back on their day as a whole. I know. The long and short of it is that you should find something to excel in. including fear and (non-clinical) depression. Aim High Recently. Furthermore. As it turns out. Research by psychologist Richard Davidson would also suggest that making progres s on a concrete goal doesn t just activate positive feelings. I ran across an interesting bit of information from the book Engineeri ng Happiness: In his studies. but can also stave o ff negative emotions. Master It Excellence in anything increases your potential in everything. It s known that the bad stuff often outweighs the good in our minds. Pick a Skill. Perhaps most inte restingly. but I hope it serves as some food for thought for renaissance men and women you can certainly still d abble in lots of things. researchers found that setting ambitious goals tends to make people happier. know that it s not as superficial as it might seem. not a destination. According to another study. putting yourself in someone else s shoes (and avoiding a pessimistic outlook) really can make you feel better about your situation. regularly engaging in your signature strengths (is that not the most stereotypical positive psychology term ever?) is a great way to feel bette r about yourself. 13. the psychologist Jonathan Freedman claimed that people with the ability to set objectives for themselves both short-term and long-term are happi er. but giving a single skill/task/achievement enough time for mastery may allow for an exceptional experience in itself. You should also know the research has suggested that mastering a skill may be ju st as stressful as you might think.

Health b rings a freedom very few realise. those who are just getting started often see the biggest boost in happiness: The release of endorphins has an addictive effect. and more exercise is needed t o achieve the same level of euphoria over time. or not made. one study showcased how self-image improved (even when body shape didn t change) for partici pants just by exercising. Don t Let Time Slip Away This one is a bit less scientific. you ll recall that the number one regret was not being true to one s own dreams: This was the most common regret of all. and a call to follow a specific dream went unanswered. many many dead lifts. Also. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and ha d to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made. there are so many benefits for it (both physicall y and psychologically) that you should be doing it regularly in some form. but even taking the first step with a 7-minute exercise may be enough research suggests that a high-intensity sessi on for just 7 minutes can offer a slew of health . increasing your energy levels. until they no longer have it. starting to exercise may suck at first. Perhaps the biggest wake-up call here is that these people didn t mean for this to happen one day blended into the next. I don t ca re how much you hate exercise. it is easy to see how many dreams have g one unfulfilled. and reducing tension. bar none ). To add to the pile. dead lifts. but I d rate it as one of the most important on this list (the most important one is maintaining strong relationships. 15. and someday passed by. Yes. http://www. Not only that. When people realise that their life is a lmost over and look back clearly on it. Exercise No verbose headline for this one because there is no getting around it.sparringmind. And to p rove that you should get started today if you currently don t exercise.14. If you ve seen the notorious study on the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. For the rest of us? Switching up routines and making exercise one of our regular habits is the key to lasting happiness. research has also found that exercise is a proven strategy f or feeling better.