The idea that you can learn how to be happy simply by adopting healthy habits sounds ludicrous. Maybe even impossible. And yet, it’s important to realise that happiness is a habit that we all have to learn.
Of course, some of us have to work a lot harder to find and maintain happiness. Adopting healthy habits alone isn’t going to magically cure your depression. However, the ultimate truth is that the ability to be happy lies entirely in our own hands.
While that dream job, fancy car or new relationship may initially spike feelings of elation, we will always revert back to our base levels of happiness. That’s because true happiness doesn’t originate from material objects or external circumstances. Happiness derives from self-love, acceptance and inner peace.
We alone have the power to unlock it – but how?
Every single day, our thoughts and behaviours directly influence our potential for happiness. The habits that we incorporate into our daily lives greatly impact our mood, self-perception and outlook on the world. Just as bad habits and unhealthy coping mechanisms make depression worse, healthy habits can reduce stress, depression and negative self-perceptions.
Happy People Don’t Dwell On Their Negative Thoughts
Negative thinking and rumination are behaviours that fuel and perpetuate sadness. In my post about how to stop negative thinking, I explained how it often becomes a bad habit for us to dwell on our past mistakes, missed opportunities and embarrassing moments.
A lot of the time, we’re hardly aware we’re doing it! But when we fall down that rabbit hole of negative thoughts, it does nothing but fuel our sadness.
Regardless of mental health illnesses, everyone suffers from negative thoughts. However, what happy people don’t do is allow themselves to become overwhelmed by them. Instead, they either challenge, transform or simply distract themselves from these negative thoughts, which promotes positive thinking practises.
Of all the habits of happy people, this is the one that is most combative against stress, worry and persistent sadness. Learn more about how to stop negative thoughts here.
Happy People Set and Work Towards Goals
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.”Andrew Carnegie
Research shows that people who strive towards personal goals are happier than those who lack ambition or drive. This is because goals give our lives purpose.
Our aspirations motivate us to get out of bed and inspire us to work hard. They positively align our mindset by encouraging growth, drive and self-confidence. Whether you want to get far in your career, raise a family or write a novel, having goals to work towards, no matter how big or small, is fundamental for a happy life.
Happy People Are Less Judgemental
Over on The Positivity Solution, Shola talks about how our judgements of others are a reflection of our own insecurities. They reveal our soft spots and weaknesses, saying a lot more about ourselves than the person we’re criticising.
Of course, everyone is guilty of passing unfair judgement. Just the other day, I was in a supermarket queue and the lady in front of me had very obvious unshaven legs. My first thought was something like “why on earth would she leave the house like that?” before I very quickly realised that I wasn’t judging her because I had a problem with her hairy legs.
I was judging her because there was no way in hell that I’d have the confidence to do the same thing!
Jealousy and judgemental attitudes stem from our own insecurities. Happy people aren’t as judgemental because they are more secure in themselves and their values. They are accepting of other people’s differences because they are comfortable with their own.
Happy People Smile More!
Did you know that you can make yourself happier simply by smiling more?
The relationship between our mind and our body is intrinsic, which is why learning how to be happy involves so much physical self-care. Studies show that our facial expressions alone can influence our emotions. Just as frowning can make you angrier, smiling can spark positive emotions!
Smiling releases dopamine and serotonin, the feel-good hormones that increase our feelings of happiness. By making a conscious effort to smile more, we can begin to learn how to manipulate our emotions to our advantage.
It’s important not to force your smile too hard though – forcing a smile when you’re particularly depressed can sometimes make your mood worse. This is sometimes called ‘smiling depression’.
Happy People Enjoy The Little Moments of Happiness
I’ve talked before about how grandiose, overly-ambitious perceptions of happiness can lead to and worsen depression.
When you have depression, you imagine happiness to be this divine, all-encompassing entity that leaves you forever immune to negative feelings. These high expectations make it difficult for you to appreciate true happiness, which is a much simpler, quieter feeling.
Happy people are more susceptible to these fleeting feelings of joy because they have made it a habit to appreciate the little things in life. They find happiness in things as simple as watching the sunset or eating a nice meal.
A healthy mind isn’t giddy with joy all the time, either. In fact, if you ask the average person how they’re doing, their most likely answer will be – “Fine.” So learn how to be happier by taking the time to appreciate the simple things in life!
Happy People Plan More To Increase Productivity
I’m not talking about ruminating, which is usually unproductive and depression-inducing. One habit of happy people that kept coming up during my research was the importance of to-do-lists, action-plans and preparation.
Planning has been proven to reduce worry and stress. Psychologist Dr David Cohen supposes that to-do-lists have three emotional benefits: they reduce anxiety about the ‘what if’s’ of life; they provide us with the structure that our mind’s crave; and proof of our achievements promotes positive feelings of satisfaction, confidence and pride.
And it isn’t only the big things that happy people plan! Simple things like meal-prepping for the week or ironing your clothes for the next day are really effective ways to feel accomplished and stress-free.
Make planning a habit by creating a to-do-list! With my free anxiety workbook, you get a self-care tracker that helps you keep track of your self-care goals!
Happy People Also Make Fun Plans For The Future
There is plenty of research that shows how planning for the future, whether it be booking a vacation, moving house or simply going out for a nice meal, can increase feelings of happiness. This is because anticipation of an event is a fundamental part of your overall experience. In fact, the anticipation is sometimes better than the event itself!
Happy people tend to always have something to look forward to and they enjoy the boosts of happiness that they get from their excitement. So take the time to plan something fun for the future – you deserve it!
Happy People Are More Physically Active
You knew it was going to be here.
Exercise is one of the most psychologically beneficial habits of happy people. There have been countless studies linking daily exercise to positive mental health. It has been proven to clear your mind from negative thoughts and reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, stress and anger.
Just twenty minutes of exercise can improve your mood for up to 12 hours, and as you incorporate exercise into your weekly routine, you will reap the benefits of a gradual increase of base-level happiness. Some GPs even prescribe exercise as a form of treatment for mild-moderate depression.
I used to hate exercising (okay, I still hate exercising), but the clear-headed triumph that I get after going for a run is worth the red-faced wheezing and extra laundry. In fact, the release of endorphins that I get from exercise is pretty addictive, which helps me fight off the temptation to indulge in other, not-so-healthy addictive behaviours.
Also now that it’s a habit of mine, I feel strange (and even slightly guilty) if I don’t exercise. So there’s that.
Happy People Practise Gratitude
Having a grateful outlook on life is a beautiful thing that really opens your eyes to all of the love and kindness in the world. This study explores the relationship between gratitude and happiness, concluding that a conscious focus on blessings can positively improve emotional and interpersonal wellbeing.
Write down a list of all the things you are grateful for and look at it every day to remind yourself of your blessings. When you have depression, practising gratitude can be a struggle because not only can the dark cloud make us unintentionally self-absorbed, but it prevents us from seeing the compassion and generosity around us.
You can even practise gratitude by sending thank you letters or doing something nice for someone you love. Gratitude is one of the most perception-altering habits of happy people because it gives you a positive outlook on the world, encouraging kindness, humility and love.
Happy People Make Time To Do The Things They Love
I know how it feels when depression sucks the joy out of everything you love. However, taking time out to do the little things you enjoy is a fundamental self-care need – and one of the habits of happy people that I’ve actually always tried to do.
Admittedly it sometimes comes at the expense of productivity, but it’s still an achievement, right?
Get some inspiration with these 8 Life-Changing Hobbies for Depression.
Happy People Don’t Care About What Others Think Of Them
A big part of learning how to be happy is about learning how to love yourself. It is about learning to value your own opinions above anyone else’s and accept the fact that not everyone is going to agree with them.
Happy people have learnt one of the most essential tricks to being happy – they have learnt how to stop caring about what people think and are comfortable with being their authentic self.
Learn more about how to stop caring about what people think of you here – excellent tips for overcoming social anxiety and increasing happiness!
Remember, it takes on average 66 days for you to develop a habit so you may not feel the benefits straight away. However, eventually these habits will become second-nature, which is when you’ll see a significant improvement in your mental health.
Are there any other habits of happy people that you think I should know about? Maybe you have personally overcome depression by adopting a healthy habit? Please share your story below and let me know if you liked the post!