After years of traveling, I’ve met a lot of people from all corners of the world. Some young, some old, some poor, some rich. And among all types of people, I’ve met a lot of amazing, happy and fulfilled people – as well as unhappy and pessimistic people. I’ve met people from all walks of life, on all the 4 continents I’ve been on the past year. And it’s interesting to see that the happy people all have similar characteristics and traits in common. Whether poor or wealthy, all the genuinely happy people I’ve met have a certain way of thinking and behaving towards other people – and do what pessimistic and unhappy people simply don’t. What I’ve also realized, is that simply following these pretty basic guidelines improves your overall happiness extremely quickly.
Let’s have a look at 10 of the common traits I’ve seen among happy people from all over the world.
1. They live in the present
Happy people are not too hung up in the past, nor worrying too much about the future. They live in the present, enjoying it fully, while at the same time being grateful for the past, and being excited for what future has to offer. Staying in the present moment lowers stress, increases appreciation and gratefulness, heightens creativity and social skills, and leads to less over thinking and worrying. Buddha said it pretty well: “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
2. They see opportunities instead of problems
When problems arise, happy people don’t drown themselves in all the potential negative outcomes, but rather see opportunities in the challenges they face. Happy people usually accept that life won’t be easy at all times, and use challenges and setbacks as a way to grow stronger than before. They are able to see something positive in everything that happens to them.
3. They find happiness in the small things
While a lot of people tend to seek happiness in bigger wins and gains, happy people tend to find pleasure and happiness in the small things in their daily life. It might be the sun on your face as you wake up, fresh clothes from the dryer, spending time with a good friend, the smell of newly cut grass, a fresh cup of coffee, or eating a good meal. Studies has shown that it’s not the larger and predictable milestones in life that generate happiness, like a big job promotion, but the appreciation of the small, unexpected joys that makes up most of our time on the earth.
4. They don’t have a materialistic focus
Happy people tend to not constantly seek happiness from external, materialistic things. They are not only chasing the dream of a big house and car, thinking that alone will make them happy. They are focusing on internal sources of happiness caused by experiences, relationships and small things in life rather than materialistic things alone.
5. They are grateful
They are grateful and appreciate what they already have, instead of continuously wishing for more and more and more, never getting fully satisfied. I’ve seen happy people from all standards of life, but sometimes seemingly more in places where people have less materialistic things. They are grateful for everything they have, seeing the positive and the beauty in every aspect of their life, in the relationships with people around them, good experiences, and not only in the value of their physical possessions or financial situation.
6. They praise and give compliments
People who are happy and at peace with themselves will usually be quick to praise and compliment things about people, and support and help instead of wanting everybody to only acknowledge how great they are themselves. Happy people tend to show sincere appreciation, be humble and ask questions instead of attacking and insulting people, trying to put themselves in a better light than everybody else. Giving compliments has a long list of positive effects. It motivates people, spreads love, creates a positive atmosphere, and boosts others well-being and even your own self-esteem. On top of it all, it makes people genuinely want to be nice and kind to you, making good things happen in the future. Plus, it’s totally free and virtually effortless.
7. They move on and don’t get stuck when shit happens
Life’s not always easy, bad stuff happens – sometimes really bad stuff. But that applies to everybody, without exceptions. It’s not that happy people have found a way to avoid bad things happening to them, it’s just that they have a different way of reacting to and dealing with them when they happen. Instead of beating themselves up and complaining and feeling sorry for themselves for endless amounts of time, happy people accept that what happened has happened, and the only thing they can control is how they deal with it. They usually allow themselves to feel their feelings, but quickly move on, accepting the current situation and trying to make the best out of it, focusing on the present and not dwelling in future or the past.
8. They give and share generously
Unhappy people are often greedy, selfish and not too willing to share, while happier people are generous to others. Happy people find pleasure and fulfillment in sharing, giving, and making other people smile, something that follows the less materialistic ways of thinking we’ve discussed earlier.
Studies have shown that the act of giving and sharing activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, trust and social connections, giving people a genuine sense of happiness. Giving has also proven to have physical health benefits, while strengthening social bonds and trust between people, which in turn leads to more good things happening in the future. Studies has also shown that giving away money to other ends than their own results in higher happiness, than actually spending it on yourself and your own ends.
9. They don’t speak badly about people behind their backs
Rather, they praise people, see the good in them and don’t accentuate all the negative things. They have realized that talking badly about somebody behind their backs never brings any positive outcomes. In fact, the more you speak badly about others, the more you are emphasizing the flaws of your own. Whenever you speak ill about somebody behind their back, you are showing people that you are not trustworthy and hypocritical, showcasing your insecurities, and you might even be starting a wave of negative consequences that might be long lasting. Eleanor Roosevelt said “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discusses events. Small minds discuss people.”
10. They don’t blame others for their mistakes
Less happy people always have someone to blame, either for their mistakes or their current situation in life, be that health or financial. It might be the government, society, their family, their teachers or anything else. Happy people on the other hand, accept that they are responsible for their own actions and their current situation in life. Instead of constantly trying to find somebody to blame, they take action to change their own life for the better, whatever aspect it is. They know that no matter how much they are blaming people and making excuses, the only person in the world who can make a change in their lives are themselves.
These are ten of the common things I’ve seen in happy people everywhere I’ve traveled. Something that’s interesting is that a lot of these traits are common among successful people as well, either in business, fitness of social life. Simply trying to incorporate these traits in your daily life, will quickly improve your happiness and sense of fulfillment. Try it out, and see how it affects your thoughts, life and how your relations to people around you change in the long term for the better.