30 habits that set truly happy people apart from the rest

Disclosure: this page may contain affiliate links to select partners. We receive a commission should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on them. Read our affiliate disclosure.

In any group of people – be it friends or family – there always seem to be those who are genuinely happier than others.

If you’ve ever looked at these people and wondered what they do that makes them so happy, here are some ideas for you (and if you haven’t, then you are probably the happy person that everyone else is looking at).

The truly and deeply happy people among us probably have many or all of these habits in their lives, and by understanding each of them, you can start implementing them in your own life.

1. They Don’t Make Happiness Their Goal

It was Viktor Frankl who wrote, in his book Man’s Search For Ultimate Meaning, that

“happiness must ensue. It cannot be pursued. It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness. The more one makes happiness an aim, the more he misses the aim.”

In other words, you cannot simply wake up one day and tell yourself that in a week’s, month’s, or year’s time, you’ll be a happy person. Happiness is a by-product of the people and events in your life, so when you focus on these, the happiness with occur by itself.

2. They Embrace The Uncertainty Of Life

We can’t ever accurately predict the future and facing unexpected events is an unavoidable part of life. The way in which we approach these unforeseen circumstances, however, does impact our enjoyment of them.

By accepting the uncertainty of life, when we encounter such events, we are better prepared to go with the flow, rather than trying to ignore them or push them away.

When you embrace the situation you find yourself in, however unexpected, it reduces stress levels, heightens awareness, and leaves you able to find comfort and peace regardless of whether things are good or bad.

3. They Appreciate The Abundance In Their Lives

Happy people are more likely to have a ‘glass half full’ kind of attitude towards life and are able to truly appreciate the things that they DO have instead of lusting after the things they DON’T have.

If you only ever think about all the things that you’d like to have, how are you ever meant to enjoy the things in your life right now? The truth is that you can’t, because no matter what you achieve or gain, you’ll be forever wanting more.

4. They Accept Past Events Rather Than Dwell On Them

One of the greatest fallacies of the human mind is the belief that you can change the past. While it should be clear to people that this is not possible, there is a large proportion of the population who really struggle to grasp what this means.

Happy people get it on a fundamental level; they understand that what’s happened has happened so you might as well accept it and let go. You can’t live in the past, so while it makes sense to remember it in a factual ‘this is how it happened’ way, there is no point in expending energy on it in the form of regret, anger, or sadness.

5. They Learn From Their Mistakes

It was novelist Paulo Coelho who said something along the lines of “a mistake repeated more than once is a decision” and happy people understand the truth in this.

When a happy person identifies that they’ve made a mistake with something, they try their best to understand what the mistake was and how it was made. They do this so that they can avoid making the same mistake again.

Too many people find themselves making the same mistake over and over again and each time it brings further misery. If they could attach an attitude of learning to each mistake they make, they would be better placed to avoid such a vicious cycle.

6. They Ask For Help When They Need It

To many people, the idea of asking for help is something that fills them with anxiety and dread. They equate it with exhibiting weakness and they believe it runs the risk of going down in the opinions of others.

What these people don’t realize, but happy people are better at understanding, is that asking for help is actually a sign of strength. It shows that you have recognized a weakness and are prepared to receive the assistance of another.

What’s more, the very act of asking for help can bring two people closer together. The person being asked often feels flattered that you have turned to them in your moment of need and there is an underlying appreciation too. And when you face a struggle with the help of someone else, the bond between you is likely to grow stronger, perhaps even more than you thought possible.

7. They Choose The Right People To Spend Time With

As we move through life, the type of people that we most closely relate to and enjoy spending time with changes. And yet many of us will try to cling on to old friendships purely because of familiarity and shared experience.

If you should ever reach a stage where you realize that you no longer enjoy the company of a particular person, it isn’t wise to try and maintain the connection with them from a purely etiquette-driven position.

Happy people tend to be better at relinquishing bonds that have grown weak over time so that they can concentrate more of their time and energy on the people with whom they currently have a strong relationship and in whose company they feel most free.

8. They Regularly Re-evaluate Their Goals

Achieving a goal is only a success if your heart is still wholly invested in it, so happy people will take the time to look again at the goals they have made to ensure that they still resonate with the person they are now.

So you might well have planned to be a homeowner by the time of your 30th birthday, but if, at the age of 27, you are content with your current living conditions and the pressure of having to save up to buy somewhere would cause you unnecessary stress, either do away with the goal or adjust it to better fit your lifestyle and desires.

While setting goals can be an effective way to achieve the things you want to achieve in life, don’t be sucked into the illusion that, once written down, a goal cannot be changed. It is futile to attempt to chase a goal that would no longer lead to optimum happiness.

9. They Don’t Feel A Sense Of Entitlement

You could say that other than a safe place to rest our heads, adequate food and water on the table, and fair treatment as a human being, nobody is entitled to anything. But in the modern world, we have become accustomed to receiving much more besides this.

While education, healthcare and other life-improving services could rightly be added to the above essentials, many of us expect further benefits too. But once you feel entitled to something, as long as you continue not to receive it, you will feel aggrieved.

Instead, a happy person naturally accepts the things that enter their life without accusing the world of not providing their every want and desire. They understand that they are already blessed and that anything more requires effort on their part.

10. They Don’t Compare Themselves To Everyone Else

Part of the above point about entitlement exists because the human mind is all too quick to compare itself to others. If you perceive someone else to have been dealt a better hand in life, then you will never feel entirely happy with what you have as a person.

If you are going to compare yourself to anyone, make it those who are less fortunate than yourself; those living in poverty or with other issues or ailments. At least this way you can give thanks for that which you do have.

The best approach, however, is to try not to make comparisons with anybody else regardless of whether you consider them to be better or worse off. Happiness is not dependent on financial wealth, physical strength, beauty, or any other such things that you can see on the surface of other people. Happiness exists within.

11. They Are Open-Minded And Non Judgemental

Conflict between two people will only ever result in negative feelings, which is why happy people endeavor to keep an open mind. With such an approach, they may well disagree with the views of another person, but they neither judge them nor consider their views as a personal attack.

If you have a closed mind, on the other hand, then you might find that conflict is a more present feature in your life and the negative emotions that are triggered by this will suppress happiness and joy and stop them from reaching the surface.

It is best to remember that there is almost always no wrong and no right, and that the thoughts and opinions of others do not prevent you from enjoying their company or even calling them a friend.

12. They Practice Forgiveness When They Have Been Wronged

While opinions may differ as we discussed above, there are times when another person will cause you harm, either intentionally or by accident. Too often, these wrongs are held over that person and your negative feelings towards them fester and spread. These feelings can change your world view for the worse and reduce your available capacity to love other human beings.

For everyone’s sake, the better approach is to try and forgive that person and understand that what they did to you does not have to define you or them. Forgiveness is a healing process that can take time, but every effort that you put into it will be returned many-fold.

13. They Don’t Try To Please Everybody

We are beings with limited amounts of time and energy and we sometimes forget this when we try to please all the parties present in our lives. Being everything to everybody is a fruitless enterprise in life and it typically leads to exhaustion, frustration, and a sense of being overwhelmed.

Instead, happy people will understand the importance of saying no from time to time. No matter how much you believe someone is relying on you, it is not up to you to carry the burden of that responsibility. By all means help when you genuinely feel able to, but don’t feel trapped by the requests made by others.

Similarly, you shouldn’t feel required to change yourself to fulfil the whims of another; as much as you try, if you are not being true to yourself, it will become apparent to everyone sooner or later, so what’s the point in expending energy trying?

14. They Celebrate The Success Of Others

When you see someone else succeeding, you can either begrudge them or you can congratulate them; the latter is the path that a happy person will choose every time.

When you celebrate the achievements of a friend – or even someone you don’t really know that well – you are grounding yourself in the positive, whereas envy for their success will only lessen the opinion you have or yourself and harbor bad feelings towards them.

It goes back to the point above about making comparisons with others and the final realization that your happiness is not reduced by the happiness of others. In fact, the opposite is true, when the people in your life are happy, you will find more happiness too.

15. They Seek The Silver Linings From The Bad

No life is free from its ups and downs, but when the bad times hit, the person who is able to look for and find the good in a situation is the one who will be most at ease and most happy.

So while it may be all too easy to fall into despair or have some other negative reaction to an event, if you can uncover some crumbs of good that might come out of it, you can more quickly find peace with what has happened.

16. They Don’t Avoid Issues When They Arise

Sticking with the times when life presents us with an issue or some other unwelcome event, there is little happiness to be found in avoiding it or skirting round the edges. Very few issues will resolve themselves without some action on your part, and when you refuse to take this action, the associated clouds of negativity will remain hanging above you.

A happy person will face an issue with a determination to find a resolution to it, knowing that once it has been dealt with, the weight it carries will be lifted and happiness will once again ensue.

17. They Don’t Fear Or Resist Natural Change

We, as human beings, are not fixed identities. Instead, we are ever evolving in terms of our physical, mental, and spiritual characteristics. If you try to resist this change or live in fear of it, your happiness will be stifled.

But, if you accept and even embrace this natural process – as happy people have a tendency to do – then you release yourself from the underlying anxiety that uncertainty over the future may bring.

One thing that you have to remember is that even when change seems bad, it is quite often good; it only appears bad because it is unfamiliar to you.

18. They Find Wonder In The Little Things

Life may seem mundane to many, with the somewhat repetitive nature of our everyday lives filling our time and our minds. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll come across moments and things that can fill anyone with a sense of wonder and awe.

Forging a habit whereby you actively seek out these little things is something that comes naturally to happy people.

19. They Take Note Of The Signs Telling Them To Slow Down

Sometimes we all take on a little more than we should do and it’s common to feel a sense of dread at the prospect of trying to meet all of your commitments. While some people will try to persevere and battle through to completion, a happy person will observe their body and mind and listen to what it is saying.

If the signs are telling them that they risk a burnout then they will act upon these and scale back their obligations and find a balance in their life. One way they do this is to ask for help which, as we talked about above, is a sign of mental strength. What they don’t do, however, is ignore the symptoms of overwork as this rarely ever promotes good mental health.

20. They Are Patient

‘Good things come to those who wait’ is a variation on an old English saying, most famously used by Heinz to advertise their ketchup, but there is certainly some truth in it.

Being patient is something that can have a dramatic effect on the pleasure and happiness you receive from an item or event. Delayed gratification is one embodiment of this premise and there is abundant scientific literature to support the claims that showing patience by passing up smaller wins now for the prospect of bigger wins later is linked to many positive physical and psychological outcomes.

That’s not to say that good things will always come to those who simply wait for them to happen. Instead, good things most often come to those who lay the foundations with specific groundwork and planning. When they then reap the rewards of this, they will experience even greater joy than those who receive the same reward without putting in the equivalent level of work.

21. They Don’t Apportion Blame To Others

When things do go awry, a happy person will not seek to blame other people for it. They know that if they want to take the plaudits when good things come their way, they also have to take responsibility when they have acted in a manner that has seen them, or someone else, come to harm.

Laying the blame at another’s door is an act that very much comes from the ego, while accepting the consequences of one’s actions shows a maturity that naturally comes from the higher self.

22. They Don’t Try To Save Or Change Other People

Regardless of the good intentions involved, when you attempt to change another person, the result will rarely be one of happiness on either your part or theirs. In your mind, you may be trying to save them from a situation they find themselves in, but unless they, too, believe there is a problem, they may well end up resenting your actions.

Sometimes you may be trying to help someone just because they do not meet your expectations. If you want to nurture yours and their happiness, you should keep the previous advice about choosing who you spend time with in mind and think carefully about your future relationship.

Happy people realize that you can only live the life you have been given and not those of others.

It is, of course, a different matter if someone asks for your help because they have reached the point at which they admit to themselves that they need it; at this point you can counsel them. You may even benefit from the stronger bond that we discussed earlier.

23. They Don’t Overthink Things

The moments and events that happen throughout our lives exist in a reality that is quite different to the ones that we are often guilty of creating in our minds. So many of us suffer from busy mind syndrome and this causes us to corrupt the past and present with thoughts that are fabricated entirely from thin air.

Overthinking is a vicious plague that has infected much of the population and it can be difficult to free the mind from. Happy people tend not to suffer it quite so much.

24. They Have People Or Passions That They Cherish

We once more turn to the work of Viktor Frankl to discuss the importance of having people to love or causes that you are passionate about in your life. According to Frankl, these are the two primary routes to finding meaning which will directly impact your underlying sense of happiness.

Without a sense of meaning, you are more likely to face regular bouts of unhappiness, so finding a source of meaning that you can tap into is a sure fire way to provoke positive feelings.

25. They Practice Acts Of Kindness

There is a virtuous circle linking happiness and kindness and it’s one that has been shown in more than one scientific experiment. You may think that being happy makes you more kind and this is true, but the causality can go both ways. In other words, being kind can make you happier.

If you can uncover the chance to perform one act of kindness each day, then regardless of how big or small they may be, it can leave you feeling more buoyant about life in general. Try it out and see the difference it makes.

26. They Acknowledge That They Are Precisely Where They Ought To Be On Life’s Journey

When we think about the future, we typically consider our expectations of life in the next month, year, decade, or even longer. But when that future becomes the present and our expectations have not been met, the response is usually to berate life and claim an injustice.

Happy people, on the other hand, are more flexible in their expectations – one might not even call them expectations at all, but rather wishes or dreams. When things don’t turn out as they had wanted, they don’t feel that wrong has been done by them. Instead, they realize that wherever they are on life’s long journey, it is the place they need to be at this time, for good or bad.

27. They Don’t Carry A Self Image Around With Them

Many of us are so concerned with what other people think that we hide behind a fictional image of our self that we carry around and project whenever we are in the company of others. It might seem like a sensible approach; after all, it’s much harder to feel hurt when you are putting on an act.

The downsides of portraying this fake self, however, are much more damaging to your overall happiness. Pretending to be someone else requires large amounts of energy, it prevents closeness, it suffocates creativity, it prevents natural instances of joy, and much more besides. Happy people forego the mask and are willing to just be themselves and accept that they won’t be to everybody’s liking.

28. They Are Honest With Themselves

Along with not projecting a fake image of themselves to the world, happy people tend not to try and fool themselves, but are, instead, honest about the their thoughts and feelings.

When you try to pull the wool over your own eyes, the delusion does not create the necessary conditions in which true, long-lasting happiness can thrive. Instead, you have to fight to repress things and this eats away at any happiness that does manage to grow.

29. They Have Strategies And Support Networks For The Hard Times

Happy people face dark times in their lives too, but one thing they also do is prepare for them. Not only will they build a network of people and organizations to which they know they can turn, they prepare mentally too by learning some of the most effective coping strategies.

This proactive approach is in stark contrast to those of us who fall upon hard times without any forethought about how we might turn things around. Again, it partly comes back to being willing to ask for help, but there is also an element of acceptance that bad things do happen and that it is naive not to have some sort of plan for them.

30. They Are Generally Upbeat About Everything

While optimism and pessimism may seem like characteristics of our personalities that are relatively fixed, there is growing evidence to suggest that you can change where you sit on the scale through concerted effort.

Optimistic people tend to be happier people in the long run, so if you can adjust your outlook on life to one that is generally more positive, then you will be better placed to nurture happiness.

You may also like:

About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.