A recent Psychology Today article identified a number of unusual factors that are characteristic of happy people.

Curiosity and risk

There are certainly times where doing what you already know is necessary to create comfort in stressful situations. However, studies show that pushing outside one’s comfort zone to explore/ seek new circumstances or activities, even if it causes discomfort in the short term, actually contributes to higher psychological peaks.

Big picture thinking

While being detail-oriented is helpful when negotiating complex situations, it seems the happiest people are not necessarily sweating the details.   People who are “dispositionally” happy tend to be less skeptical and more open to strangers and new situations.

Celebrating others’ wins

Intuitively, we think of friends being there for us in bad times.  However, the reverse is even more true.  Celebrating and being there for friends who are on the good side of fortune contributes both to cementing their positivity and increasing our own. In partnerships, couples that celebrate each other’s ‘wins’ are more likely to remain together.

Flexible responses to circumstances

The happiest people don’t hide their feelings, but they’re also able to switch their feelings on/off depending on circumstances and who they’re around.  Tolerating frustration without immediately acting out, or choosing to save sharing a traumatic experience until you’re with a trusted confidante is not just a sign of emotional maturity.  It’s also a way to be happier in the long run.

Focusing on long term goals, vs. momentary pleasures

While everyone occasionally needs to take a break or slack off, studies show people who take steps towards their goals feel more engaged, purposeful, and able to tolerate negative feelings, even when things aren’t going their way.

Realizing happiness is not always the “be-all and end-all”

A well-lived life does not necessarily include 24-hour/7 day week happiness.  Some studies show people who value happiness above all else tend to be lonelier than others.  Develop and trust your own definition of well-being, and know that it may shift during your life.

Well-being for a student usually looks and feels different than well-being for a new parent, and empty nester, or retiree.

Some people value developing mastery of skills while others need social belonging.  In short aligning your actions with your personal values is the simplest way to attain your own version of happiness.

May we pursue our path, creating our own happiness and well-being,

Best wishes,

Elizabeth