The 11 Habits of Happy People

Editors note: This is a guest post written by Judy Belmont ( a mental health and wellness media expert, author and speaker.

“True wealth comes not from having more but in wanting less.” – The Augusta Chronicle

“When I finish school I’ll be happy.”

“When I get married I’ll be happy.”

“When I get divorced I’ll be happy.”

“When I move I’ll be happy.”

“When I’ll get a new job I’ll be happy.”

“When my kids finally get settled I’ll be happy.”

The list goes on and on. There is no shortage of enticements that give us the illusion that our happiness depends on something outside of ourselves.

We are constantly barraged by advertisements and commercials that support the notion we need what they have to be more popular, prettier, cooler, and successful. It seems as if our happiness depends on it!

The irony is that we are all too often looking for happiness in all the wrong places, just as singer Kenny Rodgers laments that we do for love.

In fact studies have shown that people are notoriously bad at predicting what makes them happy.  After the initial “high” of having achieved what they thought would bring them happiness, the level of satisfaction levels off when they become habituated to the new norm.

While many of us can not help but be tempted to look outwardly for our happiness, hinging so much on money, success, status and acquisitions, research has repeatedly shown that as long as basic needs for food, shelter, and loving relationships exist, happiness depends more on what goes on between our ears than anything else.

So, instead of looking “out there” for positive feelings start looking at what’s going on “in here,” between your own two ears.

One way to do this is to learn some common habits of happy people.

Here are the lessons we can learn from the healthy habits of happy people:

1. Have a sense of control

They focus more on changing what they can rather than feeling stuck and immobilized trying to change the things they can’t.  Rather than being like a fly banging repeatedly against a closed window, they accept what can’t be changed and focus more on what they can do about it. They refuse to live in the land of “If Onlys,”  What ifs,” and “Woudla Coulda Shouldas.”

2. Be optimistic

Happy people are optimistic.  They do not defeat themselves with exaggerated or irrational thinking habits that immobilize less healthy people.  They stick more to the facts, and less to interpretations and judgments that lead to self-labeling with derogatory terms, such as “loser” “lazy” “bad” or ”selfish.”

3. Be a “victor” not a “victim”

They have healthy self-talk, and think in “victor” language and not “victim “ language. Instead of blaming others for “pushing their buttons” they take responsibility for their own reactions and realize their buttons are their own business and in their control.

4. Build and Grow Social Connections

As they age, happy people widen their social network instead of having it shrink. They continue to meet new people, make new friends, share interests with others, experience new things, and reach out to others for support. As people in their life fade and transition, they never stop making new connections and opportunities for sharing. They refuse to be “rocks” or “islands” separate from others.

5. Live in the moment

Happy people tend to be present focused. They are mindful of life around them in the present, and do not live in their yesterdays or hold out for a better tomorrow. They learn from the past, and use it as a guidepost and not a hitching post. They know what is done is done, and reworking the past will not change the outcome. They prefer to focus on making today count.

6. Accept what cannot be changed

Happy people accept the fact that life is not fair. They realize that no one ever promised them a rose garden, and if they did, they were wrong. Instead, they focus in sowing the seeds of their own happiness without a sense of entitlement.

7. Seek out meaning and purpose

The habit of proactivity, rather than reactivity, sets the stage for an involved life in which happy people feel a sense of importance and commitment to things outside of themselves. They want to help the world be a better place and don’t leave it up to chance or  “wishing and hoping” to make a difference in the world.

8. Forgive and let go of negativity

There is no place for bitterness and grudges in the habits of happy people. They realize that forgiveness is a gift they give to themselves by not having negativity and bitterness take hold of their attitudes. They love themselves too much to want to be harboring such negativity.

9. Have respect and compassion for self and others

Happy people tend to be self-confident and communicate tactfully and assertively. They express their feelings and thoughts honestly without undue fear of being critiqued or being judged as “wrong.” They respect themselves and others, and their goal is not to change others, just themselves.

10. Know you are worthy of happiness

Happy people like themselves. They feel good about themselves, are proud of who they are and accept themselves, flaws and all. They are not too embarrassed to think of themselves as just totally awesome and remarkable.

11. Be hopeful and resilient

Happy people keep hope alive. Rather than be defined by their mistakes, failures and disappointments, they hold hope that they can learn from these setbacks and do not keep their negative thoughts on life support. No matter what, there is hope for a better day. They make every day a new beginning and a fresh start, using lessons learned to start anew, wiser than the day before.

What about you? How many of these habits do you have? I would love to hear! Do you possess these habits of happy people? The more of these habits you have, the more you will find happiness in your life! 

This is a guest post written by Judy Belmont (Twitter @judybelmont). Judy is a mental health and wellness media expert, author and speaker.  She is a licensed psychotherapist and the co-author of the newly released “The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life!” On she offers tips and resources for creating a positive life, including original pictorial quotes called Daily Positive Inspirations.

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  • Betsy at Zen Mama

    These are great tips!  I practice most of these but I find that living in the moment is the most productive one.  And I would add gratitude.  When I appreciate the blessings in my life, everything other problem seems to fall by the wayside.
    Great post!!

  • Betsy at Zen Mama

     PS Just realized this was a guest post!  Judy, I really enjoyed and will check out your website.

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  • Judy Belmont

    Thank you Betsy for your thoughtful comment – i absolutely agree that gratitude is so important – we will make that number 12!

  • Judy Belmont

    Thanks Betsy – I just checked out your site – lovely!  Love your mother’s Day thoughts! 

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  • Vidya Sury

    Great thoughts and am happy to think I practice most of them. Each experience as we go through life, teaches us something new and we have the choice to get inspired or get … um…not inspired :D I personally believe that happiness is a DIY project, a progressive one. When we practice happiness regularly through the little things in life, it becomes a habit – one that is fulfilling for us and others. So I might add “Practice Happiness”.

    This is a wonderful post, Judy. Love your site. And also loved your post at Nea’s earlier this week. I am about to go read the others.

    Thank you, Joe! Always great stuff here.

  • Judy Belmont

    Thanks so much – I appreciate your comments and reading the posts -I will also check out your site.  I think the “Practice Happiness” is a great phrase and great habit.  It certainly is something that might not come easy and needs work!  Especially during times that are tough.  Thanks.  

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Vidya,

    Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate you adding your wisdom to the post and always enjoy the insight and inspiration at your site as well!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Betsy, I really appreciate the comment and you taking time to offer your insight!

    And Judy, thanks again for providing this wonderful content! It’s much appreciated and I know the readers here are enjoying it.

  • Cathy | Treatment Talk

    Hi Joe and Judy,

    Great list of tips on how to be happy. When we have that inner joy, we can let life’s ups and downs be temporary situations. All are great but I always like this one – “Accept what cannot be changed.” This is one that we should all remember.  It is a shortcut to happiness. Thanks, wonderful post.

  • Judy Belmont

    Thanks Cathy for reading – I certainly agree that acceptance is key to happiness. Sounds simple but it is not – I just saw your site and Facebook, etc.  Great work you do!  Glad to connect.  

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  • David Hamilton | Everlution

    Yep, yep, yep!  All great points.  I love the point about giving up the grudges and moving in.  Lately been reading stuff about successful entrepreneurs too, where they often could sue and get their “just desserts” but instead of fighting, they let it go, and move onto being creative and contributing, rather than getting stuck in a deadlock.  I think a great concept is “giving up being right”, something I went through yesterday, where I could have argued my point, because this person was looking to argue and continue a fight, but I just let it go.  Once I did that, the resistance dropped and I got to feel alive again. :)

  • Judybelmont

    Thanks for the great comment and example of a situation from your own life.  The more we look inside for our self esteem the more we will not need to “prove ourselves.”  Thanks!

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