Think of the happiest people you know. Do you find yourself often wondering what they are doing to maintain a general level of joy? There has been a lot of discussion in the scientific world about whether our overall levels of happiness are the result of a genetic lottery that leads to a “set point” that people tend to default to. If that’s the case, then is there any way that you can “level up” in the happiness game?
There is significant evidence that suggests that some people are simply happier than others due to certain mechanisms that they tend to employ which keeps their baseline happiness relatively constant. However, don’t despair, some habits can affect how happy people are, so just because some people are more genetically disposed towards happiness doesn’t mean that your happiness is out of your hands. Here are three habits of especially happy people.
Set the right type of goals
The kinds of goals you pursue certainly affect your long-term happiness. The happiest people tend to pursue goals that connect them to others. For example, those who see their careers as part of a broader purpose that involves helping other people are often happier in their professional lives, which generally lifts your overall happiness.
To get more specific, happy people set goals that are cooperative rather than competitive or comparative. A comparative goal is one where you want to see yourself do better in comparison with others, whereas a cooperative goal is one where you strive for the success of your friends, family, neighborhood, and community. This allows those who engage in cooperative goals to celebrate their own success, as well as the success of those around them.
Accentuate the positive
As the saying goes, life isn’t black and white. Most experiences have pros and cons. Happier people will choose to focus on the more positive aspects of any given situation, making the negative aspects less noticeable as they fade into the background.
Focusing on the positive has two benefits for well-being. Firstly, the perception of each experience is more enjoyable because the focus is on the good. Secondly, focusing on the good parts of any experience at the moment will translate into your memories (because the information that you focus on is what stays in the memory), so when you look back on the experience, you’ll perceive it as a happy memory, which in turn will boost your overall happiness.
No one is perfect, which means that even the people you hold most dear will likely do something to offend you. Happy people forgive others well, which enables them to forget the irksome details of what people have done to upset them in the first place. As a result, you won’t be reminded of those negative things when you see or think about the offender in the future.
On the other hand, those who do not forgive others end up holding on to negative feelings and perceptions of those who have wronged them. Social pain tends to stick around longer than physical pain because simply remembering an event or experience can regenerate feelings of anger, shame, or embarrassment.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you’re letting them off the hook, or that you must continue spending time with them—forgiveness simply lets you move past unpleasant interactions without holding on to negative feelings that will drag down your mood and ultimately mess with your happiness.