You can tell just by their lifestyle choices.
Happiness is meant to be shared, but sometimes the happiest people are too busy living to tell the rest of the world how they got there. Talking about how great life is can also quickly go past humble to just bragging, especially around others who may not be having the best of times.
Happiness can often look like it is — that it's luck of the draw or the pull of the longest straw. But whatever it looks or feels like for those who have it — contentment, overwhelmingly positive emotions, bluebirds and/or sunshine halos around our heads — there are some specific ways to be happy, even if the most joyful people are too busy digging their lives to talk about it much.
Here's what happy people do (but don't talk about).
1. They practice gratitude.
I'm a gratitude convert who used to think that keeping track of things to be thankful for was a stupid and contrived idea. Because, check it out: I was too unhappy to make my way to grateful. Then, during a very dark time, I agreed to try a daily gratitude list as a way to dig out of it, and it worked.
Almost three years later, focusing on the good things that I always have no matter what may be going wrong helps to keep my perspective clear and my attitude at least partially positive. Research backs up that whether it's expressed just to ourselves for what we have or to others for what they bring to our lives, gratitude makes us happier.
2. They enjoy their own company.
Strong social ties are key to good feelings, but a truly happy person can be comfortable on her own, too. Solitude and down time is a good chance to relax, do the things we like to do alone, and build up energy to go back out and deal with the world and its people again. Alone in healthy doses doesn't have to mean lonely, and if I'm happy on my own and comfortable with myself, I really can be happy anytime.
3. They're honest and tell the truth.
Lying may provide some short-term reward, but it's a complicated and inauthentic (and uncool, let's be honest) way to live on a regular basis. Even the most honest people can lapse from time to time, but a life that includes regular dishonesty breeds stress, the fear of being found out, and the need to keep complicated stories straight as lies inevitably compound.
Honest people benefit from the happiness that comes from being real no matter what, and happier, stronger relationships based on trust and open communication — a way better approach than a string of shady stories.
4. They make time for fun.
One of my friends recently carved out time to ride horses again. Another friend dedicated time and resources to follow her favorite musical artist on tour for a few months this year, and another transports rescued dogs to their new homes. Fun and joy are the bottom line in each of these activities, and the happiness is following.
Work is obviously necessary to life, but the happiest people I know regularly plan and do things just for fun and fulfillment. They make time for hobbies and vocations on their own or with family and friends, and take the time to nurture relationships away from professional obligations and chores.
5. They make sure to get enough sleep.
Sleep is a non-negotiable human need that too many humans try to negotiate. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep each night for health, performance, and safety in daily activities. Lack of sleep can disturb moods, sex drive, memory, weight, and cardiac and vascular conditions, among other things that are intrinsic to health and basic happiness.
It makes sense that rested people are happier people, or at least they're not as edgy as anyone fresh from an all-nighter and way too much caffeine.
6. They practice forgiveness.
Grudges are exhausting and depressing no matter the cause, and moving past them makes wonderful space for freedom and happiness. It isn't always easy to forgive, and it doesn't always mean liking the circumstances of how we were treated. But if there's a way to do it — on your own or with help from other caring people — it can help to leave old hurtful situations behind and open you up to writing a new, happier story.
7. They help others.
Ever notice that those tearjerker Facebook videos that you just "have to watch right now" usually involve someone doing something nice for someone else? Some of the happiest people are focused on helping others. As early as the toddler years, giving and helping are found to increase happiness in the giver as well as the getter.
Helping others is a self-esteem booster; it just feels good to do good. And when the focus is on helping someone else, it's hard to focus on the things that may be bringing us down. Double win.
8. They enjoy their work.
Adults tend to spend a lot of time working. Think of the people you know who really enjoy what they do. Their work likely involves personal strengths and interests, a good indicator of what works for the happiest people. The people who are most miserable at work may talk about it more often, and they need to get that out.
But I really love talking to people who are happy with their careers. It tends to spill over into a happier life. Makes sense.
9. They have good, healthy relationships.
Research shows time and time again that strong personal relationships are a key to happiness — more than income, race, age, or gender. The happiest people have people in their lives — partners, children, friends, colleagues, and extended family — who consistently provide mutual support, companionship, and social activities.
They can avoid loneliness and isolation, and have opportunities for connection and service on a regular basis. Happy people like to hang with happy people, and they can make each other even happier. It would be gross if it weren't so awesome.
10. They believe in something.
The happiest people often have meaning in their lives from a larger purpose than the daily grind. Whether it's a traditional religious practice or a more general spiritual framework for life, time spent in nature, or service to a cause, people with a purpose tend to be happier.
An organization, a faith, or a belief system can provide a support system for a person in stressful times, a daily structure for living, and a broader idea of the purpose of life and her place in it. That's all happy stuff.