“Happy people are happy people because they do what happy people do.”
Those people we know who seem to be the happiest among us are not perfect—not even in their own happiness. No one wears a grin 24-7, after all.
Still, just as success is the byproduct of adopting the commonly shared habits of successful people and avoiding the counterproductive habits of the unsuccessful, so happiness is usually what very naturally happens when we do what happy people do and avoid the behaviors and attitudes of the unhappy.
Certainly not everything happy people do is relevant to their happiness, though. And certainly not everything unhappy people do is a contributing factor to their unhappiness. But learning the differences between the two can still be highly instructive at pointing us down the right path.
This, then, is a post that focuses on the behaviors happy people tend to avoid, the thoughts they almost never harbor, and the attitudes and beliefs that they rarely sustain.
Learning the pitfalls to happiness, after all, can prove extremely useful to your own pursuit of it.
What the Happiest People in the World Almost Never Do
1. Happy People Almost Never Whine
Everyone complains from time to time: Traffic jams, tax hikes, getting overlooked for an expected promotion, discovering you’re out of milk just after pouring a bowl of Cheerios.
But when complaining becomes a chronic way of life, your happiness suffers. How could it be otherwise? To whine, moan and complain about everything is, by definition, the art of focusing your attention on the unhappy parts of living.
Keep in mind that happy people have plenty to complain about—they just tend to make molehills of mountains rather than mountains of small things as they focus on what’s good and praiseworthy.
2. Happy People Almost Never Compare Themselves to Others
Comparisons serve no one. Happy people have role models and people whose lives inspire them like most people do.
But that’s where it stops. They recognize that we are all multifaceted people who live vastly different lives with unique personal histories and are therefore not truly comparable.
They also recognize the futility of birds wishing they were fish or giraffes wishing they were kittens or people wishing they were perfect. Instead, they celebrate their own uniqueness and have a mix of compassion, acceptance and humor for their particular set of goofy, mismatched and idiosyncratic parts.
3. Happy People Almost Never Let Fear Stop Them
That’s certainly not to say that happy people are fearless. They feel what everyone else feels to one degree or another.
They simply refuse to allow their fears the power to dictate their lives. They take massive action toward their goals despite their fears and insecurities.
In other words, they feel their feelings but choose their behavior.
4. Happy People Almost Never Take Themselves Too Seriously
Life is funny. So are we humanoid types! Yeah, sure, so you have a college degree with a lofty title and a respected reputation. You’re important and prestigious and uber-cool. So what! Learn to laugh and laugh regularly at your own missteps, goof-ups and puffed-up sense of self-importance.
That’s what happy people do, anyway. We rarely start a sentence with, “How dare you…”
Why would we? Are we so exalted that another human has no right acting the part of an imperfect human being around us? Just decide once and for all to simply get over yourself long enough to enjoy life and stop making the universe all about you!
5. Happy People Almost Never Hold Grudges
When people in our lives consistently behave so atrociously that letting bygones be bygones is just not an option, happy people tend to let go.
They don’t hug porcupines, put their hands in fire, or allow themselves repeated emotional slaps to their dignity and self-respect either. They do what can be done to address the problem, for sure. But then they leave the unscrupulous to their own devices, to God, the law, or karma without allowing it to fester inside for too long. They readily forgive and let go.
Holding on to grudges, offense or hate is emotional constipation of the worst kind, after all. And happy people tend to avoid such emotional discomforts.
6. Happy People Almost Never Hide from the Truth
Happy people are not self-delusional. They accept reality for what it is. The Truth doesn’t scare them, even if it means they change their mind, position, or ideology.
They are therefore more open to honest feedback because they can handle the criticism (their happiness does not come from others’ acceptance of them) and they actually seek input that can help them improve and grow.
7. Happy People Almost Never Isolate themselves
We know that the happiest people have friends. They interact with others. They belong to communities of people, to clubs or churches or committees or close-knit neighborhoods. Certainly they have quiet time and even enjoy their alone time. That’s not what I’m talking about.
There are unhappy extroverts as there are happy introverts. But happy people of either variety almost never lock their doors, pull the blinds and stay away from others for extended periods of time.
Isolation does not lend itself to happiness, even if it feels comfortable to those who are socially uncomfortable.
8. Happy People Almost Never Take Things for Granted
It’s easy to get accustomed to things that happen regularly. We therefore tend to take so much of life for granted, and even begin to expect them. “Thank you for doing the dishes? Why would I thank you for that?! It’s your job, for crying out loud!”
Happy people seldom think that way. They tend to feel gratitude for the sunrises and little kindnesses and the good people in their lives.
They say thank you, not by habit—even if it may seem that way to the ingrate—but because they truly feel grateful for dishes washed, garbage taken out, children’s smiles and sunrises.
9. Happy People Almost Never Ignore Character
Personality can make people interesting, fun to be around, charismatic. Character makes them good, decent, kind and loving.
Happy people rarely confuse one with the other. Their own character is utmost in their own lives as well. Who they are is much more than personality, fashion or image. And who they are on the inside matters greatly to them.
10. Happy People Almost Never Live Sedentary Lives
The happiest of people spend time outdoors. They go places and do things. Don’t get me wrong, not all happy people would enjoy everything other happy people enjoy. Some may find themselves on the ski slopes or climbing a mountain while other happy people prefer people watching at the mall or reading a thought-provoking book.
But they do get out—to parks, walks around the block, to museums, to stadiums or restaurants or the beach. They play guitar or soccer or work on cars or build models or breed dogs.
The point is that they don’t sit around watching a lot of TV. They actively and enthusiastically live life to its fullest—whatever “full” means to each happy individual.
11. Happy People Almost Never Do Anything to Excess (for too long)
Happy people seldom sleep more than they need to, or eat more than they should. They don’t fly into rages or cuss people out or flip people off. They seldom lose control of their emotions or have affairs or even exercise to the point of not having enough time to spend with their children.
In short, happy people have well-rounded lives. They don’t neglect one part of their lives to dedicate everything to another part.
There are seasons of being off-balance, of course. When work projects are due or graduation is pending or a relationship needs mending, they may focus more on those parts at those times. But in general, they are balanced and happy because of it.
No one perfectly avoids anything on this list. We all have moments when self-control is lost, or too much TV is watched, or we let fear creep in and slow us down. We all have lapses and make mistakes and fall down and get our hearts or our character a bit battered and bruised.
But happy people do well at minimizing such things. They tend to avoid them, seldom engage in them and usually rise to the occasion most of the time. As such, they tend to be happier than those who don’t.
The key to living a happy life, then, is, in part, learning the art of avoiding those things happy people avoid, at least most of the time and on good days.
Challenge: Choose one of the items on the list of behaviors above and go to work minimizing it.
What do you think? What would you have added to the list? Please share in the comments.