While there is no magic bullet for the perfect relationship, and no one is happy every single day of their life, there are definitely good character traits that happier people share that help them lead fulfilling lives and sustain healthier relationships.
Here are 5 such traits that form a solid foundation on which happiness and good relationships can grow:
1. They Are Self-Confident
Walking into the boardroom “like a boss” and swaggering around the office, barking orders, and acting like you own the place isn’t self confidence. Neither is putting others down to make yourself look good.
That’s arrogance, and there is a marked difference.
People who belittle others, or need to make grandiose claims about how good they are, how much money they have, or impress their importance upon others, are actually insecure, and deep down, extremely unhappy. Yes, you read that right, they’re not confident, they scared and miserable.
Happy people don’t do these things. They don’t need to shout from the rooftops about what they’ve done or what they have. They have a quiet self confidence that comes in the form of helping others without needing to be recognized, and not being afraid to help others out at the risk of being overshadowed.
They trust in their abilities, and lift others up instead of tearing them down. They know who they are and don’t need to put on a fake persona to get ahead or make people like them.
Because they are comfortable in their own skin, they don’t view everyone as a potential competitor. People are drawn to them. As a result, they have healthier relationships that aren’t clouded by jealousy or bitterness, because they come into them as themselves, lumps, bumps and all.
They don’t need to compare themselves to everyone else. Being confident in yourself and your abilities will attract happiness, happier people around you, and healthier relationships.
2. They See The Silver Lining
Notice that I didn’t say “positivity.” That’s a loaded word that people assume magically brings happiness like some sort of fairy dust. You sprinkle it on as you walk out the door in the morning and boom! you’re set for the day. That’s not how it works.
Many people also think that you have to be grinning like a fool at every passer-by, and pretend that every horrible thing that happens to you is perfectly OK. That’s not positivity, or happiness; that’s a mask. Take the mask off.
Happy people don’t run around pretending to enjoy every crappy thing that happens to them. They don’t like every person they meet, and surprise! they have their share of bad days too. The difference is that when happy people fail, or encounter obstacles, they don’t allow those failures to thwart them.
They see the silver lining.
They acknowledge the bad things, but they also look for the message, lesson, or opportunity in those roadblocks. They view setbacks as challenges from which they can grow.
They also don’t take their misfortunes out on people. They don’t take others down with them. They can sit with disappointment, accept the misstep, and move on. This coping mechanism makes them happier in the long run because it prevents them from staying stuck, and from hurting others.
3. They Are Open To Forming Connections
Whoever is happy will make others happy – Anne Frank
Wise words from a fifteen-year-old girl. But Anne Frank was right. Happiness is infectious and makes others happier.
People can smell a fake. Inauthentic behavior breeds distrust. You’ve probably seen this situation before: that guy at a party who smiles at everyone, laughs at all the right places, and is the life of the party, yet feels “off”?
You instantly dislike him, but you can’t put your finger on why. You change your behavior, put up your guard, and watch him with suspicion. Why? He hasn’t done or said anything wrong.
It’s because he isn’t presenting his authentic self. He isn’t genuinely connecting with people. He is giving them what he believes they want to hear, or see, in order to make a connection, but it has the exact opposite effect.
A Harvard University study examined what makes us happy and one of the common factors was: good relationships keep us healthy and happy. Fostering quality connections and nurturing relationships, helps us live happier and longer lives.
People who are happy are not afraid of connecting, showing their vulnerability, and being authentic around others. By being themselves, they create a space for others to be themselves, and connect with them.
4. They Value People And Experiences, Not Things
The saying ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ has some truth to it. While, yes, nobody is going to say no to a million dollars or a new sports car, at the end of the day, the happiest people are not made happier by amassing things, they collect life experiences and surround themselves with quality relationships.
People often conflate happiness with money, but what they are really talking about is choice, i.e. money gives you the freedom to choose: you can go to the movies with your $20, or you can stay home, but in that moment, you have the choice to spend that $20 or not.
There is power in being able to decide your next move unhindered. When people don’t have money, this narrows their options and the lack of this self-determination often leads to feelings of unhappiness.
Having said that, many wealthy people have money, and many choices, but are perpetually unhappy, believing houses, cars and clothes will bring them joy. While a shopping trip provides a brief boost (studies have shown that the anticipation of buying stuff releases dopamine to the brain) by making the shopper initially “happy,” that happiness is short-lived.
How many times have you seen the tags on clothes, hanging in your closet months later? Can you say that shirt brought you the same joy as spending a night out with close friends? Which is likely to bring more happiness? Exactly, the memory of the experience with your friends will always bring a smile to your face, while that shirt with the tag still on it sits forgotten in your closet.
Spending time with friends and family, doing something you really love, such as a walk on a sunny day, playing with your dog, or coming over to a friend’s house for a chat and a cup of coffee, are experiences and moments that cost nothing and will bring you happiness when you think back on them for years to come.
Happy people know this, so even if they have tons of money, they don’t rely on it to fulfill them.
Happy people leave their egos at the door. They try to understand what motivates other people’s actions before jumping to conclusions about why they behave a certain way.
Even when they are criticized, or make a mistake, they take something away from it (there’s those silver linings again) and understand that not everything is about them. They realize that we’re all human and we all inevitably screw up at some point. The key is not to allow that to take over your life.
People who are overly defensive, and who believe the world is out to get them at every turn, are rarely, if ever, happy. They spend their time searching for enemies where there are none, and see sinister motives behind every word and deed. This is exhausting, pushes people away, and prevents the formation of meaningful relationships (those connections we spoke about earlier).
People who are happier and have better relationships with others are those that don’t take everything personally. They have the emotional maturity to see what others are going through, how their actions will impact them, and then adapt their behavior accordingly. They have empathy, and are not afraid to apologize. They don’t believe saying sorry is losing face, but see it as part of growing and becoming a better person.
We are all capable of possessing these good character traits, we just have to keep trying. Happiness isn’t an end game, it’s a life long journey. Enjoy your adventure!