Though many write and sing about it (most recently Pharrell Williams blockbuster “Happy”), happiness doesn’t come naturally to most people – yet it’s within most everyone’s reach. Experts say the key to becoming a happier person is recognizing certain behaviors, thoughts and the mindsets that happy people share. Happy people are not necessarily smarter, better looking, more successful, more physically fit or even living in a sunny climate. The primary thing that distinguishes the happiest people from those who are less happy is outlook on life and approach to adversity.
For the last three years, Gallup has called 1,000 randomly selected American adults each day and asked them about their emotional status, work satisfaction, eating habits, illnesses, stress levels and other indicators of their quality of life. It’s part of an effort to measure the components of “the good life.” The responses are plugged into a formula, called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and then sorted by geographic area and other demographic criteria.
Alvin Wong was recently said to be the happiest man in America according to a Gallup poll. Wong says that having humility is the key to his happiness. “Humility teaches me that I don’t know everything, that I’m not the most important person,” he said. He is polite, restrained and willing to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. “If you don’t listen, you’re not going to learn anything.”
Wong follows the belief system that your heaven or hell is made here on earth by the deeds you do,” he said. “People will miss you or not miss you. Their thoughts about you are how you are remembered. If that doesn’t keep you grounded, I don’t know what will.” Wong’s happiness is grounded in his straightforward but optimistic view of setbacks, from high school breakups to deaths in the family to the time he nearly died as a 6-month-old during the Pearl Harbor attacks. He seldom focuses on negative experiences. “I guess my attitude has always been, you’ve got to go forward,” he said. “When you have a failure, when you have something that happens to you that is traumatic, what you have to do is learn from it, but move on and not let that happen again.”
Wong is a role model for how to live a happy life. You could adopt some of the qualities that Wong and other happy people possess by trying to look at your life from a bit of a distance; Imagine you’re life is a play where they are the director, producer and the leading actor. Each challenge becomes another scene that requires good judgment to ‘play well. ’ You can choose to think and act in any way you want. In this case you’re the protagonist in a life long play where the outcome will depend on your assuming a happy state of mind.
Another key to happiness, according to Wong, is learning to laugh at yourself. “Happiness is, I don’t think of myself too seriously,” he said. “If you can’t laugh at yourself — at all your problems [and] mistakes — then you’re going to go through life a very unhappy person. This has always been my philosophy. Maia Szalavitz, a health writer at Time.com underscores Wong’s explanation of his own happiness in an interesting study on happiness. In the first-ever study of its kind, Ursula Beermann of the University of California, Berkeley, and Willibald Ruch of the University of Zurich studied 70 psychology students to gauge their ability to laugh at themselves. The findings support what has long been believed: that being able to laugh at oneself is not only a distinct trait, but is also linked with having an upbeat personality and good mood and may be the foundation for a good sense of humor. Participants who were able to laugh at themselves more also tended to be more cheerful and less serious overall, and were in better moods on the day of the experiment, the study found. The findings also showed a link between humor and humility.
Some Ideas on How To Become a Happier Person
- Love yourself first
- See your problems as opportunities to grow and become a wiser person
- Seek ways to find creative solutions for your personal challenges
- Compartmentalize your problems
- Learn to laugh at yourself
- Do several acts of kindness each day
- Empathize with others but don’t absorb their problems
- Learn to compartmentalize your most difficult struggles
- Maintain your core values and be confident about adhering to them
- Seek advise but always make your own decisions and be accountable for them
- Know it’s ok to leave a job if there’s an unhealthy corporate culture
- Accept there isn’t a perfect resolution for every conflict and not every conflict warrants indefinite energy to solve
- Seek feedback from a wise mentor
- Embrace your positive traits so you can confidently admit to the negative ones and work at changing them
- Reach out to your network for support and reciprocate support to others
- Let go of a dysfunctional relationships
- Give others the benefit of the doubt
- Surround yourself with other happy people
Drop Unhappy Behaviors
- Don’t think there’s a resolution for every problem or conflict
- Don’t stubbornly persist in a fundamentally dysfunctional relationship
- Don’t deny your core values and submit yourself to someone’s who contradicts yours
- Let go of notion that you can manage and fix everyone else’s problems
- Let go of fake friendships (ones that aren’t reciprocal) or ones that force you to abandon your values
- Don’t assume you’re the only one who has struggles and problems. The closer you look into people’s lives you’ll find that everyone has challenges large and small and they surface at different periods of their lives.
- Don’t hold grudges
- Don’t remain in an unhealthy corporate culture that stifles your creativity
- Don’t allow others who know less than you influence your decisions
- Don’t persist in defending your negative traits or negative thoughts
- Don’t avoid feedback of all kinds
- Don’t decline support from your network
The happiest people commit themselves to caring for themselves and exercising these happy muscles. Happy people are more inclined to balance taking time for themselves and doing for others. They don’t consider themselves martyrs and are willing to accept their imperfections. They tend to let things go more easily than others and take themselves a bit less seriously when they make a mistake. They are able to embrace their limitations and seek help from others for support and counsel on how to address problems. They don’t focus on trying to be perfect or on trying to portray themselves as perfect. They don’t crave attention nor do they need constant approval from others in order to recognize their own self-worth.
The happiest people have good self-esteem, set healthy boundaries with others and focus on what they can change not on what’s outside of their control.
So what are you waiting for, get happy!