Twelve Things Happy People Do Differently

By Jacob Sokol

“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.”

-Dan Millman

Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness.   These are things that we can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives.   (Check out her book  The How of Happiness.)

I want to honor and discuss each of these 12 points, because no matter what part of life’s path we’re currently traveling on, these ‘happiness habits’ will always be applicable.

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 yourself.

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? Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on. A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin. Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.

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 eating away at your immune system. 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 experience them.

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 self-worth.

Updated August 2014

About the Author

Jacob Sokol is committed to living an extraordinary life. He has released a book “Living on Purpose – An Uncommon Guide to Finding, Living, and Rocking Your Life’s Purpose.”   He also loves his mom dearly.


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Share your thoughts by adding your comments below.

  • http://Website qurgh

    All of these are great except for number 11. I would not recommend religion to a person, as all that really ends up doing is separating them from people who don’t follow that religion and brings discourse and hatred into the universe.

    I would have replaced it with “Practice self reflection: Take a few moments out of the day to reflect on yourself and your position in the universe. Recognize that the universe is bigger than us, but that everything in it started out in one place together. Remember that everything is connected to everything else and all life is related. Realize you are part of a greater whole and every time you help someone, not only do you help them directly but you help bring positivity and goodness into the universe which helps everyone.”

    • http://Website Ha

      Sounds like a nice religion to me :-)

    • http://Website Lightguide

      I can see where you’re coming from, many religions (god worshipping religions, that is) have only seperated people from their unity.

      Though, those god-outside-of-themselves worshippers shouldn’t actually call themselves a religion, merely a cult, division or whatever.

      See, the word religion comes from the latin word ‘Ligare’, which translates to ‘connect’, so the actual meaning basically comes down to reconnect, reconnecting people with themselves, (inner child) and the universe, actually very much like you say.

      And the time we’re in now really has the potential and the process power to comprehend this, is these terms that you bring it, it’s just that in older times people weren’t as fast with those realisations like we are now.

      Much light and wisdom! :)

  • http://Website John Halford

    In regards to gurgh and #11: Religion and spirituality are two different things. They CAN be merged, but one can feel connected with something greater than one’s self without being religious.

  • Jambo

    #11. Practice spirituality does not mean necessarily belonging to a church, although it can. When people are open to other faiths (ideas) as well as their own, then they grow. When people allow a church to dictate and demand that they follow certain beliefs, their spirits are corrupted. That type of church is driving out the young people. But we need guidelines, too. That is why the church is important to me. It is a place to share ideas, to grow spiritually and help those less fortunate. I belong to a church that is open and affirming. All are welcome.

  • whiteleyphd

    Whoa..:-) “religion” is not the same as “spirituality”…as religion are conforming laws and rules, mandates, decrees, rigid practices, etc. whereas spirituality is being connected to a higher Being, usually in the form of …our Holy Deity-Trinity vs selfishly being focused on one’s “self-deity” re: me, myself and I vs the Higher Deity-Trinity: Holy Almighty God-Father-Trinity, the Holy Son, Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit..:-)

  • http://Website Patricia Ryan Madson

    I’m afraid that a number of your readers seem to have gotten distracted by a single mildly controversial point. I am struck by the deep common sense of your advice. There appear to be two themes: Focusing on the positive, especially all that we are receiving and secondly, on behavoirs that are life affirming, like practicing acts of kindness and taking care of the body. I was struck by one of the points I had not considered: Develop strategies for coping. Clearly we will all face some unhappy experiences. What we do with these is critical for well being. This was a great article and I plan to share it widely. Thanks for the wisdom.

  • http://Website therunciblespoon

    Yes, but I don’t believe that there’s some greater force or being controlling our lives. I don’t believe that we are destined or fated for anything. It’s not very nice to call people who don’t believe in religion or spirituality ‘silly’.

    Great points until 11.

  • http://Website Cassandra

    I was going to comment also on No. 11 .. I see others flagged it to! “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.” – Life isn’t bigger than us, it IS us, and we are life. Each and every one of us is the mightiest thing ever. … There are definitely some wonderful other points in this article, though. Thank you.

  • http://Website Stella

    …and, since we can’t change other people but
    They do have an effect on our life, # 13 would
    Be don’t get involved with the selfish, with losers,
    People who’s baggage and crazy families won’t even
    Fit thru the door, and with douchebaGs.

  • http://www.raysender.com/trachealresonance.html Ramon

    All good advice, but I’ve discovered that if my body is blissed-out, then my emotions and mind follow along like happy puppies. Some body practices such as hatha yoga and Tai Chi require practice, but it’s easy just to purr in and out for a few minutes now and then. The tracheal resonance triggered by purring resonates throughout the body, all the way to the fingers and toes! Ahhhhh!