12 Things Happy People Do Differently — And Why I Started Doing Them
By, Jacob Sokol
Posted on: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-sokol-/things-happy-
A lot of people have midlife crises. Me, I had a quarter-life crisis a few years
ago, when I turned 24. There was no impulse purchase involving a red
Mustang or electric guitar, but as my iPhone alarm woke me up bright
and early for work one morning in my two-bedroom NYC apartment,
I pondered, “Do I have everything — or nothing at all?”
My gut said that there had to be more to life than the rat race of what I
was doing (IT consulting). But I just wasn’t sure what it was or who
I could turn to for wisdom outside of “the Matrix.”
I decided to embark on a journey to find out. I quit my job, minimized
my expenses, went to Hawaii and got very serious (in a wild sort of way)
about discovering what made me tick. I found out there are a lot of people
like me — young, energetic, intense, purpose-driven, but frustrated with the
status quo and a little freaked out about our prospects for the future. I
decided to dedicate my life to seeking out the wisdom we need to create
extraordinary lives with a deep sense of purpose in a world of immense
Early on, I stumbled across this quote from Dan Millman :
I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were
my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as
time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live –
that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had
to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.
That about summed up where I was and what I was discovering. I couldn’t
just wait for happiness and satisfaction to find me; I was going to have to
make my own. So I’ve been doing that and coaching others on how to do
the same ever since.
One of the coolest things I found early on is that studies conducted by
positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy
people do differently to increase their levels of happiness. Here are a
dozen things that any of us — at any age or stage of life — can start doing
today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives .
1. Express gratitude. — When you appreciate what you have, what you
have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful
for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper
sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything.
It makes sense. We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t
thankful for what we already have.
2. Cultivate optimism. — Winners have the ability to manufacture their own
optimism. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who
will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think
optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times .
3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. — Comparing yourself to
someone else can be poisonous. If we’re somehow “better” than the person
that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of
superiority. Our ego inflates — KABOOM — our inner Kanye West comes
out! If we’re “worse” than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we
usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress
that we’ve made. What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type
of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to
compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of
4. Practice acts of kindness. — Performing an act of kindness releases
serotonin in your brain. (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS
health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.) Selflessly helping
someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. What’s even cooler
about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will
people watching the act of kindness. How extraordinary is that? A side
note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin.
5. Nurture social relationships. — The happiest people on the planet are the
ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show
that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely? WHOA!
There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of
good friends who you can share your experiences with. We feel connected
and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
6. Develop strategies for coping. — How you respond to the “craptastic”
moments is what shapes your character. Sometimes crap happens — it’s
inevitable. Forrest Gump knows the deal. It can be hard to come up with
creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward
the fan. It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call,
and in your arsenal at your disposal.
7. Learn to forgive. — Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your
well-being. You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past
and present emotion. When you “hate” someone, and you’re continuously
thinking about it, those negative emotions are toxic for your well-being.
You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with
you throughout your day.
8. Increase flow experiences. — Flow is a state in which it feels like time
stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you
become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You’re not
hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity
that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.
9. Savor life’s joys. — Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down
to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent
movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we
neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple
things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully
10. Commit to your goals. — Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing
something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things
start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have
no choice but to do that thing. Counter-intuitively, having no option –
where you can’t change your mind — subconsciously makes humans
happier because they know part of their purpose.
11. Practice spirituality. — When we practice spirituality or religion,
we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that
we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of
all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists.
Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing
work they’re “called to do.”
12. Take care of your body. — Taking care of your body is crucial to being
the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in
good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy
(your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be
negatively affected . Did you know that studies conducted on people who
were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness
levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here’s the double whammy…
Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to
relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and
So there you have it. No new flashy car or leather jacket needed — just
simple, scientifically-grounded wisdom for long-term happiness. These
are all things you can start implementing today — with or without a career
change — so I hope you pick one thing and commit to rocking it.
In my upcoming blogs, I’ll share more wisdom on all these topics and more.
In the meantime, you can come see how my own wisdom-seeking efforts
(and those of some other really cool purpose-driven peeps) are proceeding
Millman, D. Way of the Peaceful Warrier. H.J.KRAMER, 1984. Print.
Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to
Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Print.
Tiger, Lionel. Optimism: The Biology of Hope. New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1979. Print.
Loehr, James E, and Tony Schwartz. The Power of Full Engagement:
Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal
Renewal. New York: Free Press, 2003. Print.