11 Characteristics Of Authentically Happy People


Only a third of Americans describe themselves as "very happy."


Perhaps that's why there's such a market for happiness-related wisdom: Amazon has over 64,000 books on happiness ready for your ordering.

But you don't need to read every book to get a survey of the happiness literature. Below, we've combined thoughts from a few insight-packed Quora threads with the latest in psychological research.

1. Happy people savor it. "Old cliches like 'stopping to smell the roses' and 'it's the little things in life'?" asks user Durga Ranjan. "They're true. The happiness researchers call it 'Savoring.'"

Savoring an experience is "mindfully attending to and appreciating a positive stimulus," writes Loyola University-Chicago psychologist Fred B. Bryant. His examples of experiences to savor include "a virtuoso musical performance, eating a gourmet meal, soaking in a warm bath, receiving a compliment, spending time with a good friend, or winning an honor or award."


2. Happy people don't compare themselves to others. "I work in psychiatry and can tell you first-hand that so many seemingly happy and successful people are burning themselves alive on the fire of their inner turmoil," shares user Matthew Manning. "Focus on you."

Indeed, the psych research shows that the way we stand relative to others changes our sense of subjective well-being. It's for this reason that having a higher status than your immediate peers is a better predictor of subjective well-being than getting paid.

3. Happy people are grateful. University of California, Davis, professor Robert Emmons has been studying gratitude for more than a decade. In experiments, he's found that people who are prompted to feel gratitude - for a sunset, a friend, or just being alive - are 25% happier than people who haven't been primed to graciousness. User Ian Vogel likes comedian Louis C.K.'s advice: just appreciate what you got: "People who complain about their cell phone coverage are crazy. Shut up! It's magic! Enjoy it!"

4. Happy people don't rehash the past. Emotionally unstable (previously known as neurotic) people tend to ruminate over the things that have happened to them - rehashing, rehearsing, and reliving slights. This mental habit can damage well-being.

"All those patterns of thought, those stories you anchor your identity to, those stories you tell yourself to tell you who you are, they aren't you," says user Cencio Farre.


5. Happy people meditate. User Konrad Szpirak's advice is simple: "meditate." In the research, folks who learn to meditate report lower levels of rumination and perceived stress. It's powerful stuff: Cancer patients who start meditating experience declines in mood disturbance. If you'd like to learn how, here's a good start.

6. Happy people find their own definitions of happiness. "We don't need to be happy to live our lives," shares user Keinosuke Johan Miyanaga. "But to achieve it, one must seek it first." Lots of philosophers, psychologists, and scientists have tried to sort out that seeking: Joseph Campbell gives one of the most excellent accounts of the search for happiness in his book "Power of Myth."

7. Happy people hang with other happy people. "Find people who are kind and genuinely care about you, whose company you enjoy," writes user Brian Bi. "These are not very easy to find, so make sure you hang on to the ones you do meet."

Like jobs, sickness, and information, happiness travels along the paths of your social bonds. So forming strong friendships with people who care about you will buoy your well-being.

8. Happy people eat well. A third of adult Americans are obese; unsurprisingly, many of them are unhappy. To avoid that fate, start eating cheap, healthy, and delicious meals.


"Constantly monitor what you eat and look for ways to improve," says user Jeff Meyerson. "This becomes enjoyable if you learn to cook."

9. Happy people are funny. But be aware of the contents: self-defeating humor has ill effects on well-being, while self-enhancing humor, naturally, helps you. "Have a sense of humor about everything," writes Barry Purcell. "Especially the disgusting, horrible, and depressing stuff."

10. Happy people earn enough money to absorb unforeseen financial setbacks. Jordan Belfort, the real Wolf of Wall Street, said that "money is a problem that needs to be solved." Or, in the words of Kanye West, "Money's not everything / not having it is." These egomaniacs have a point: People need a base level of income (like $75,000 a year) in order to deal with unforeseen costs and not be exhausted from having to scrutinize every purchase.

11. Happy people get enough sleep. 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder, which is problematic, given that lack of sleeps makes people irritable, impulsive, and stupid. So experiment to find out how many hours of sleep you need - and fit it into your routine, advises user Paul Doran.