As you find yourself in the thick of New Year’s Resolutions time, how about stepping back and looking not at dropping pounds or meeting the person of your dreams, but rather, simply at achieving happiness. That’s right, just aiming to be happy. For many people, happiness eludes them. It often feels out of reach and unattainable.
Most people have something that gnaws at them at night, a problem or unrealized dream somewhere in their lives that causes them to feel incomplete, dissatisfied, and unhappy. For them, happiness feels like an impossibility. However, by thinking about things a bit differently, this leads to the awareness that happiness is within reach and can be obtained by making some simple changes.
Below are the habits of happy people that I’ve gleaned from some of the happiest people I know, as well as former clients who have gone on to lead fulfilling and satisfying lives.
1. Maintain a positive and optimistic outlook. Encountering negative events in life is normal. Understand that they don’t define you; do your best to find the silver lining, and counter negative thoughts with positive ones. Further, change the way you think by nixing your negative thinking and seeing problems as challenges and opportunities to learn something new. Think what’s possible, not what’s impossible.
2. Focus on what you can control. So many people worry about what is beyond their control. “What if I get a dreadful disease?” or “What if I lose my job?” are two of the most common anxiety-filled statements I hear from patients. This exhaustive thinking saps people of any energy to be positive and happy. Next time you catch yourself thinking this way, turn it around and think about what you can control. Take action rather than being a victim of circumstance and your own negative thinking. For the two examples above, one has control over leading a healthy lifestyle to prevent bad health, and working hard and reviewing performance with their supervisor to ensure job security.
3. Surround yourself with happy people. Happy people tend to be supportive, warm and giving. These qualities will encourage you to be happy too. Conversely, hanging out with miserable and unhappy people will weigh you down and won’t allow you to focus on your own well-being and goals.
4. Enjoy your work. Most people spend one-third of their day working. Those who enjoy their jobs and find it stimulating and meaningful look forward to going to work every day rather than dreading it. Find a career that will allow you to do the same and pay the bills.
5. Have a life outside of work and change how you view money. That’s right, be less focused on money and more on time. Many executives have sat on my couch after being handed bad health news. It wasn’t more money that they wanted at the moment, rather it was time. Value it and strike a healthy balance between work and the other parts of your life.
6. Be flexible. Know that even the best laid plans sometimes don’t always go as hoped. Being able to adjust to change will help prevent disappointment.
7. Sleep healthy, eat healthy and move. Sleep restores vital bodily functions; eating provides nutrients that keep the body and mind functioning; and moving keeps us in shape and releases key endorphins that ease depression and enhance mood.
8. Let go of grudges. Holding them allows anger and resentment to fester and prevents happiness from flourishing.
9. Cultivate and nurture social relationships. People derive great pleasure and delight from others.
10. Experience life. Do you remember material items you had years ago or things you experienced? My guess is the latter. It’s these that have a lasting place in our memories, not material items. Value them because they’re much more likely to lead to happiness than possessions ever could. Go out there and experience many things: trips, activities, people, classes, learning, food, culture and whatever adventures you can create.
For more tips on happiness check out my book: Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.
Jonathan Alpert, Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert
Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan.
As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention.
Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis.
With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his Inc.com, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns.