If you search on Amazon for books related to “happiness,” you will see page after page of titles claiming to have the secret to finding it. Why the obsession with happiness? Maybe the better question is, why does happiness seem to elude so many?

A long time ago, we were too busy running from Saber Tooth tigers and searching for food to be concerned with whether or not we were happy. But thanks to drive-thru windows, modern medicine, and the internet, we have extended our mortality. Now we have time to focus on things like personal development and self-growth.

Research suggests that happiness doesn’t just feel good, it is also linked to many other benefits such as an improved immune system, reduced risk of disease, a healthy heart, increased life span, and higher financial earnings. No wonder so many of us crave it.

But what exactly is happiness? We feel happy when we are with people we love. We feel happy when are watching a funny movie or eating our favorite comfort food. But happiness seems more than just an emotion because emotions are fleeting and transient.

So, what is it then?

Happiness is a state of mind, and as such, it can be intentional and strategic. This is good news because it means we can intentionally make choices that lead to a positive state of mind – happiness. A close examination of people who seem naturally happy reveal some noteworthy qualities.

Here are three of them.

They Understand Growth Is Painful 

Many people play life safe. They eat at the same restaurants, vacation at the same place every year and spend time with the same people. But sustained happiness is not about being safe and settled. It’s about discovery and growth, which require a life lived outside of your comfort zone. People who are naturally happy expect and prepare for failure. The highly successful ones determine the worst that can happen with particular risks, and come up with a plan.

They Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

People who are regularly happy don’t sweat the small stuff and they are not perfectionists. Instead, they possess a devil-may-care attitude about their performance. Studies indicate that the happiest people typically don’t perform as well as moderately happy people on accomplishments such as grades, class attendance or work salaries.

Of course, this isn’t to say that we should stop trying our best. However, it does suggest that maybe it’s OK to sacrifice some degree of achievement if it means we don’t freak out about the little things and worry ourselves into unnecessary anxiety and stress.

They Feel Their Feelings  

One might think that really happy people are happy all the time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Psychologically healthy people are those that understand the importance of letting some things roll off their back as well as feeling their genuine emotions deeply. Happy people don’t deny unpleasant or uncomfortable emotions by sweeping them under the rug. Instead, they use their negative emotions as an indication they may need to make different choices. This is a vital part of personal growth and development. Coincidentally, this is almost always a trait exhibited by emotionally intelligent people.

For example, a happy person may feel jealous because a coworker received a promotion they wanted. Happy people don’t wallow in their feelings of jealousy. Rather, they recognize this emotion as a signal that maybe they could have done something differently to achieve the desired outcome. Highly successful people, use this information to create a plan, implement that plan and then execute it.

If you don’t think you are as happy as you should be, try to take more risks, don’t sweat the little things, and really focus on feeling your feelings while exploring ways to make better choices.

If you’re someone who is accustomed to avoiding unpleasant feelings, it may be difficult to feel your feelings at first. A well-trained therapist can help you get acquainted with your emotional life and offer tools to navigate your emotions more effectively  to achieve the results you want from your life.


James Killian, LPC is an anxiety therapist in Woodbridge, CT who helps individuals and couples find their happy! He is also the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling is now accepting new clients in office and online for Connecticut and Arizona residents. Contact us today for a free minute consultation.