Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, theorizes that 60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment and the remaining 40 percent is how we choose to respond.
In his TED talk, he summarized fulfillment and happiness as “consisting of knowing what your highest strengths are and using them to belong to, and in the service of, something larger than you are.”
There are dozens of researchers like Seligman who have studied the art and science of happiness. I’ve dived into the most interesting habits of the happiest people in the world and decided to share them with you here.
1. They enjoy the moment
It turns out that taking the time to “smell the roses” truly does enhance happiness in life. When you enjoy the small moments- good or bad- you’re more aware of what’s happening around you.
The happiest people focus on what they can control and it’s possible to choose happiness in the moment, no matter the struggles you may be going through.
2. They have a growth mindset
In the book Mindset, Carol Dweck explains that the most successful and happy people have what she calls a “growth mindset” compared to a “fixed mindset.” A fixed mindset seeks success as affirmation of intelligence or worth; a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence or unworthiness but as a catalyst for growth and stretching beyond existing abilities.
After twenty years of research, Dweck concluded that those with a growth mindset had happier relationships, achieved more success in the classroom, and were much more persistent through challenges.
3. They surround themselves with other happy people
As Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people around you.”
Who we surround ourselves with has a huge impact on how we think, feel, and what direction we head in life. It may sound harsh, but cutting out the negative people in your life is necessary if you want to be happier.
You won’t have to confront them personally about this; it could just mean spending less time with them gradually so you can focus on improving yourself.
4. They have a dream
Without a future to look towards, the past is the only thing we can look back on.
Whether your dream is to travel the world, start your own business, or learn a new language, having a dream is one of the most important things in remaining optimistic when things get tough.
This concept of having a purpose is especially prevalent in Eastern Asia. In Japan, there’s an actual term called ‘ikigai’, which is translated as “the reason you wake up in the morning.” When some of the happiest and longest-living people were studied, they all had such a reason.
5. They can wait
The bigger the dream you have, the more patience you have to practice.
Happy people are willing to wait for the rewards and focus on the journey, how far they’ve come, and what’s ahead for them.
They understand that the best things in life come to those who are patient and can stick it out for the long run, whether that’s a job promotion, relationship, or a new skill they’re learning.
6. They schedule “me” time into their day
Saying “yes” to everything puts you on the fast track to being miserable.
Giving is important, but if that means taking up “your” time to relax, wind down, and learn new things, then you’ll have nothing to give over time.
You can’t always be agreeable; that’s how people take advantage of you. You have to set clear boundaries.
7. They spend money on experiences- not material things
That car that you just bought diminished in value the moment you drove it off the lot, but experiences are memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
The happiest people would rather go on a backpacking trip around Asia instead of buying a flat-screen TV that they’ll seldom use. According to Marc and Angel:
“Experiential purchases tend to make us happier for two key reasons: 1. Great experiences improve over time when we reminisce about them. 2. Experiences are often social events that get us out of our house and interacting with people we care about.”
8. They give more than they take
Since happy people live in a world of abundance where there’s always more opportunities to be had, more money to be made, and more love to share, they’re always giving when they can.
From raising money for a charity they care about, offering a dollar to a talented artist playing in the subway, to giving their precious time to mentor a mentee, they’re always giving.
As ironic as it may sound, happy people understand that this will actually make them happier in the end.
9. They embrace discomfort
According to psychologist Peter Kramer, resilience is the opposite of depression. Happy people know how to bounce back from failure. Resilience is a padding for the inevitable hardship human beings are bound to face. As the Japanese proverb goes, “Fall seven times and stand up eight.”
10. They are always learning
Despite his ASL, Stephen Hawking has made prominent scientific discoveries. What is more, he has found the words to tell the world about his findings.
Like Hawking, the happiest people all have one thing in common. They are lifelong learners, constantly reading new books, exploring other cultures,learning new languages, etc. It is an ongoing process because without growth there’s no life.