Have you ever wondered what it is that those people who always seem to be happy have in common? What characteristics or habits do they share - and how can you get them? Online and in books a thousand gurus offer their own ways for you to find happiness. But how do we know which of them works? The scientific method is probably best. We have seen an upsurge in scientific studies on positive psychology and the science of happiness or, to put it simply, discovering what makes happy people happy.
Fortunately, many of these studies point to specific ways of thinking and acting that can strongly impact our happiness and reading through articles, such as "10 Keys to Happier Living" from Action for Happiness, indicates that there are five things that stand out and are in common amongst those happy people.
People who have one or more close friendships appear to be happier. It doesn't seem to matter if we have a large network of close relationships or not. What seems to make a difference is if and how often we cooperate in activities and share our personal feelings with a friend or relative. Simply put, it's not the quantity of our relationships, but the quality that matters.
People who volunteer or simply care for others on a consistent basis seem to be happier and less depressed. Although caring can involve volunteering as part of an organised group or club, it can be as simple as reaching out to a colleague or classmate who looks lonely or is struggling with an issue.
Strengths and Virtues
Studies by experts such as Martin Seligman in the field of positive psychology show that the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths (such as persistence and critical thinking) and virtues (such as humanity) and use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goals.
Of all the areas studied gratitude has perhaps received the most attention. Grateful people have been shown to have greater positive emotion, a greater sense of belonging, and lower incidence of depression and stress.
Regular exercise has been associated with improved mental well-being and a lower incidence of depression. The Cochrane Review (the most influential medical review of its kind in the world) has produced a landmark analysis of 23 studies on exercise and depression. One of the major conclusions was that exercise had a "large clinical impact."
So now you know the habits, it's time to start adopting them for yourselves to see if you too can lead a happier and more grateful life. Enjoy.