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11 Habits of Happy People

As Black women, we know that finding daily joy is a necessity. With these tips from mental health pros, I’m adding more delight to my life.

“I just want to be happy.” I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said something similar to that line.

Unfortunately, like many people, I once thought happiness was based on having certain favorable life circumstances: being financially secure; being attractive; and having a great career, good relationships and little or no stress. In my mind, true happiness was something that just happened for the lucky folks.

I was so wrong.

“Happiness comes to those people who are cultivating it themselves, and it’s not about their external circumstances,” says Rhonda Mattox, M.D., a psychiatrist in Little Rock, Arkansas. In other words, if someone wants to be happy, they have to put in the work. Small changes in our thoughts, decisions and behaviors can increase our happiness.

These are some of the habits of the happiest people. Make them your own so you, too, can live a happy (or happier) life.

They learn themselves. “Happy people seek to know themselves authentically, so they have a better understanding of the things that will bring them happiness,” says Jamila Jones, a licensed clinical professional counselor and owner of Reclaiming Minds Therapy and Wellness in Chicago. They work to identify their likes, desires, hobbies and passions, and the relationships that bring pleasure to their life.

Happy people have goals. Working to achieve a goal — big or small — gives a sense of purpose and boosts confidence.

They enjoy life right now. Blissful people don’t hold off on their happiness. “They’re seeing the joy in everyday moments and not waiting until …” Jones says. Meaning they don’t wait until they’ve lost weight, gotten a better job or found a partner to be happy. “They appreciate the journey and aren’t just focused on the destination,” Jones says.

Happy people are optimistic. You know how most of us are taught to hope for the best but expect the worst? “It’s almost as if people who are innately happy live in reverse of that, where they expect the best but know they have the ability to cope with the worst if it were to happen,” Jones says.

Their bounce-back game is superb. Speaking of the worst happening, happy people experience difficulties just like everybody else. However, their outlook is different. They don’t get stuck in unhappiness during the lows. “The happiest people realize, ‘If I don’t like a situation, rather than complain and whine about it, let me think about how I can contribute to making this better,’ or, ‘Do I need to remove myself from the scenario?’ ” Dr. Mattox says. They’re resilient and put in the effort to recover from setbacks.

They learn from their mistakes too. When things go wrong, happy people ask themselves, “How would you handle this situation differently so you can have a better outcome?” Dr. Mattox says. Rather than beating themselves up about what’s already happened, they learn the lesson so they don’t have to repeat it, she says.

They’re appreciative. People who regularly practice gratitude tend to have more feelings of joy, optimism and happiness.

They’re socially connected. According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, close relationships with family, friends and the community keep people happier (and healthier) throughout life. But it’s not just about having a large circle. Quality matters. People who are satisfied in their relationships tend to be happier.

Happy people surround themselves with other happy people. And when they’re in a space with people who aren’t so cheerful, they try to uplift them (but know when to quit), Dr. Mattox says.

They stay active. A study of healthy adults published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed physically active people experienced more happiness and life satisfaction.

They give back. Whether it’s by volunteering, making charitable donations of money or goods, donating blood, being a mentor or offering random acts of kindness, the happiest folks find a way to positively impact the world.

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