We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails
Choosing happiness instead of being miserable is one of the wisest attitudes we humans can choose. It’s pretty strange that happiness is often perceived as something that not everyone can have and it’s only for the lucky ones. Truth is, that happiness is an inside job. It’s not dependent on what we have or don’t have in life, it’s a mindset, an attitude and has very little to do with genetics. Happiness is for some reason so much harder for people strive for, than the negative and heavy stuff, quite odd right?
Just try to have a look around you, both privately and at work, or check your Facebook and other social media accounts. How many people are pessimistic, heavy, sad, and blame everything around them including themselves? Quite a few right? Sometimes I wonder, when it became fashionable to be a pessimist, negative and unhappy. These days it seems like it’s more rare to find positive, truly happy and optimistic people. It takes a little inner work and energy to be cheerful, so most people choose not to spend their energy here, even though it’s good for their health.
In 2013 Gallup made a study in the workforce, asking more than 180 million people about their level of happiness. Only 13% considered themselves happily engaged at work. 36% of those who considered themselves happy were more motivated, six times more energized and twice as productive than their unhappy colleagues. Imagine if the 13% happy people became the 51%, what a change in environment, productivity and happiness, which could influence the rest of the world.
Positive people are awesome. Happy people are even more awesome, and they literally change the energy around them and who doesn’t want to be around a truly happy person? Likes attract likes, so you won’t see the happy people mingling with the unhappy ones, they are too smart for that. Take a moment to think of the happy people you know. Those whose days seem a little brighter, their footprint a little lighter, their stories and interactions a little more positive – do you know any? Are they your close friends? Well, reality is that you can be one of them and the benefits start flowing when you decide that you are happy.
Happiness is a skill, and it’s highly influenced by EQ (emotional intelligence). The higher EQ the greater the chances are that you are a happy person. Just know that suffering doesn’t skip over happy people. They’re not wealthier, better looking, happily married, in perfect health or any of the things we think that generates happiness, they just decide to have a different state of mind.
So what makes the happy people tick? What critical skills do they have? Let me share my thought on this.
10 things happy people do differently
- Happy people have made a decision to be happy at all times. They also know you have two choices in any dead-end job: find another one or make the most of the one you’re stuck with. Either way, your happiness is up to you and no one else. This is something to remind yourself of when you feel stuck.
- They don’t invite the negatives in. They loose the complainers and the ungrateful. They disconnect with love and move on. Complainers and negative people are bad news because they keep on babbling about their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spirals. You can avoid getting drawn in only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with negative people. A great way to set limits is to ask them how they intend to fix their problems. The complainer will then either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction or find someone else who will listen to their pity.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude – It’s too easy to get caught up in things that could have been different or didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to. Sometimes the best way is to pull your mind away from the negative and contemplate on what you are grateful for. Someone else somewhere in the world is always worse off than you. Taking time to reflect on the good in your life improves your mood, your energy and physical well-being. The stress hormone cortisol is reduced by 23% when thinking positive thoughts.
- Their self talk is kind, uplifting and positive. Listen to your own self talk for 24 hours and write what story you are telling yourself, or what words and labels you put on yourself. Whenever you say something less positive, stop yourself and decide that you are your own best friend.
- Laugh at yourself – When you take yourself too seriously your happiness and performance suffer. Don’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability. Something as simple as laughing at yourself draws people to you because it shows them that you’re humble and grounded (it also keeps them from laughing behind your back). Happy people balance their self-confidence with a good sense of humor and humility.
- Happy people live in the now. They don’t live in the past, nor in the future. Look at kids and animals, they are a great example of living in the moment. Happy people don’t spend hours talking about their ex, their boring job or friends, while drinking wine.
- Don’t obsess over things you can’t control. There’s a big difference between understanding what’s going on in the world and how it may affect your life, than focus on it and becoming anxious about everything. Happy people are ready and informed, they plan, expect good results (and are more likely to get them) and they don’t allow themselves to fret over things that are beyond their power.
- They know themselves and what serves them best. They know when to say yes and when no is the best answer. Their decisions are based on their needs and goals.
- Happy people don’t strive to be perfectionists. Perfectionism is impossible, because excellence is possible and happy people know the difference.
- Don’t compare yourself to other people. When your sense of fulfillment and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When you feel good about something you have done, don’t allow anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from you. Only you are walking your path, it’s your life, own it and feel motivated to get the most out of it. Self-worth comes from within and not from other people’s opinions – you will never be as good or as bad as other people say you are.
- They know how to communicate effectively. They ask for what they want and they know they deserve it.
- Happy people work with passion. The amount of work or the standards you put into whatever you do in life, is an expression of who you are. Working with love and passion is the greatest joy to experience.
- Happy people forgive. They know that forgiveness is a cornerstone to a happy life. Forgive and forget is trademark of happy people.
- Stay true to yourself – Knowing your values will help you throughout life. Having a compass of your standards and moral values will help you secure your boundaries, as a person and in areas you work with. When you stay true to yourself, you will avoid violations from other people and help you stand your ground in things that matter to you. Take some time out to define your values in life
- Don’t judge and gossip – Judging other people and speaking poorly of them is a lot like overindulging in any area in life. It feels good while you’re doing it, but afterwards, you feel guilty and sick. When you’re tempted to speak of someone else in a way that is negative, just ask yourself if you would want someone saying the same about you.
- Happy people give themselves permission to be happy. They don’t carry on a load of guilt and feeling less than. Success is a moving target, and trusting the path and enjoying each step is key to being a happy person. Everything is happening in time and when it’s supposed to happen.
- Happy people believe the best is yet to come – Don’t just tell yourself that the best is yet to come—believe it. Having a positive, optimistic outlook on the future doesn’t just make you happier; it also improves your performance by increasing your sense of self-efficacy. The mind has a tendency to magnify past pleasure to such a great degree that the present pales in comparison. This can make you lose faith in the power of the future and to outdo what you have already experienced. Don’t be fooled. Believe in the great things the future has in store for you.
- Choose your battles – Emotionally intelligent people know how important it is to live to fight another day. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged and unhappy for some time. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.
- Exercise several times a week – Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases endorphins and GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric acid), a soothing neurotransmitter that also limits impulsivity. Studies have shown that people who exercise daily or several times a week, have a better mood, higher performance, better time management and are more productive than people who do little or no exercise.
- Smile and laugh more – A German study have shown that we can manipulate your emotions by changing our facial expressions. If you are unhappy about something, stop for a moment, change your focus, smile and even better laugh (watch a funny you tube video). A laugh or smile can be a life changer throughout your day.
- Get into the state of flow – Flow is the state of mind in which you find yourself completely absorbed in a project or task, and you lose awareness of time and other external distractions. Does this ever happen to you? Flow is often described as an exhilarating state in which you feel euphoria and mastery simultaneously. Productivity and happiness are reached when a person is in flow.
- Reward yourself – Working hard is important, but never allowing yourself to take a break is harmful to your happiness. A Cornell study found that small rewards make people more generous, friendly, and happy. These small “thrills” also made people more productive and accurate in their work. Rewards activate the pleasure pathway in your brain, even if they are self-induced. Effective rewards can be small things such as taking a walk, meditating, getting fresh air, exercising or eating a snack.
So this was a few ideas to what makes the happy people tick. What else have you noticed about happy people? Do they do other things differently?
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