12 Things Happy People Do Differently

12 Things Happy People Do Differently

by Jacob Sokol of Sensophy

“I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed.  I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live – that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.”
-Dan Millman

Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness.  These are things that we can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives.  (Check out her book The How of Happiness.)

I want to honor and discuss each of these 12 points, because no matter what part of life’s path we’re currently traveling on, these ‘happiness habits’ will always be applicable.

  1. Express gratitude. – When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value.  Kinda cool right?  So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness.  And that’s without having to go out and buy anything.  It makes sense.  We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.
  2. Cultivate optimism. – Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism.  No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it.  She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life.  People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.
  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous.  If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority.  Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out!  If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made.  What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place.  If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
  4. Practice acts of kindness. – Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain.  (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.)  Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside.  What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness.  How extraordinary is that?  Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on.  A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin.  Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.
  5. Nurture social relationships. – The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships.  Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely?  WHOA!  There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with.  We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
  6. Develop strategies for coping. – How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character.  Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable.  Forrest Gump knows the deal.  It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan.  It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
  7. Learn to forgive. – Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being.  You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion.  When you ‘hate’ someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system.  You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.
  8. Increase flow experiences. – Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still.  It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task.  Action and awareness are merged.  You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional.  You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing.  Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.
  9. Savor life’s joys. – Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy.  It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences.  When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic.  It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.
  10. Commit to your goals. – Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force.  Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere.  When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing.  Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.
  11. Practice spirituality. – When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us.  We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever.  It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists.  Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”
  12. Take care of your body. – Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be.  If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected.  Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft?  Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.

Jacob Sokol is committed to living an extraordinary life.  Today he released “Living on Purpose – An Uncommon Guide to Finding, Living, and Rocking Your Life’s Purpose.”  He also loves his mom dearly.

Photo by: Aurelio Asiain


  1. Gene says

    Thank you for sharing that information with a nice touch of humor!! Enjoyed your article. Will check out your site.

  2. Emily says

    This is a great post and loved all of the introspective tips provided. I also liked the book. I also just finished reading Unchain The Pain by Bob Livingstone. The book (a nightstand go to) gave me the tools I needed to be less agitated, more aware and simply happy. Thanks for the GREAT tips! :)

  3. says

    Hey ladies and gentleman :)

    Firstly, i wanna thank ALL of you for the incredible feedback. Seeing your comments and watching this article spread like wildfire (to over 100,000 FB shares) let’s me know i’m living on purpose.

    Secondly, i want you to know that there are actionable which you can apply to each of the 12 things. All of the above means nothing if we don’t find ways to apply this wisdom on a regular basis.

    You can see specific steps for applying the 12 things in this sweetly formatted PDF i put together: http://www.sensophy.com/12things

    Enjoy and if you have any questions or just wanna chat, feel free to email me or call my cell. Jacob At Sensophy Dot Com. 347 – 398 – 2814. :)

  4. Kip says

    That’s so funny, I too interpreted it as “compare yourself to a an older version of yourself” which really was a “hook” point for me. Though I loved all the “hooks”in your article, comparing myself to what I would want to be as I aged was just enough of an excellent challenge to take my mind off of all the silliness of camparing myself to my peers.
    I started focusing on being strong, healthy, open minded, flexible, wise, smart….all the traits I want to evolve into . This is probably what I shouldn’t do, but I started looking at older people I admired for some reason or another!

  5. Melanie says

    I would like to add, don’t be a victim to yourself or others. Being “too nice” can really bring you down and lose self-worth. I used to be a doormat, constantly being available and kind to people who didn’t reciprocate. Becoming fair to myself through becoming more assertive has made my life a lot more fulfilling and it’s a lot less repressive.

  6. Bonnie says

    “Savoring life’s joys” is one of the things that has kept me happy for so long! It’s like seeing the world from the mind of your inner child: all is new, and all is exciting.

    Looking wide-eyed at something new isn’t bad or embarrassing, it’s enjoyable!

    Loved this list, I’ve learned from it (and I’ll put it into practice), and I hope other people will, too.


  7. Jasmine says

    I have been reading the articles on your website for awhile now. I just wanted to thank you. They are really inspirational, and I read them anytime I feel low. I went through a very hard time in my life and I did not handle it as well as I could have. Anytime I feel myself straying off the path of happiness, I come here. I have shared it with those I love as well, hoping it helps them just as much.

  8. Ferdinand says

    Thanks for sharing these. I believe life has a purpose and humans of goodwill are somehow connected. I experience growth and realize that we need lots of inspiration through such sharing in order to succeed at our work and also aid others in their desires to overcome challenges in life. Many thanks again.

  9. Shawn says

    This is awesome! I plan on printing this out and keeping it in multiple places as I am committed to being positive and happy with everything that I do in my life. Thanks for this Marc! I am personally going to redistribute this as much as I possibly can!

  10. RYAn says

    I think #11 should just be to realize that the world is bigger than “just you”. Other than that, this is a fantastic article.

  11. Rhonda says

    8 & 9 are the reasons my life is slowing down for the better while the rest of the world exclaims “HOW TIME FLIES!” Thank you for your wonderful blog.

  12. says

    As a response to Troglodyke and those who agreed with her, I think that part of being a “spiritual” person is thinking about the big issues in yourself and in the world. Most of the atheists that I know call themselves atheists not because they just don’t care or that they are against the good qualities that churches (hopefully) promote, but because they have thought about the subject and have come to a different conclusion than those who belong to an organized religion. I respect that choice and agree with many of their conclusions, in spite of the fact that I attend church. I started going when my children were small because I felt that it was a part of their cultural education as well as a way to “fit in,” but when they were old enough to ask questions I was honest about my reservations on the subject. They now choose what they want to do with that upbringing (which is generally to not belong to an organized church), but they have the knowledge to make that decision, as well as comfort in a church setting, which we all have contact with, even if just for weddings and funerals. Not surprisingly, the church I belong to is a place where I feel comfortable talking to the ministers about anything and know that they will not have a knee-jerk reaction to any doubts that I have. One of the main benefits of belonging to a church is the sense of community and belonging it bestows. Studies have shown that people feel more accepted for their flaws (being overweight has been specifically looked at) in a church.

    Unfortunately, there seem to be a large and vocal group of church-goers invading the political arena who want to tell everyone else what they have to believe and do and I think their influence on society is negative. If you actually read the Bible you will find that the Christ came to replace all that came before him, not to promote intolerance and prejudice. Intolerance is not acceptable to me, whether it is based on moral, religious, or personal grounds and any person whose beliefs do not actually infringe on the rights of others is free to believe what they want with my best wishes.

    I enjoyed the article and the discussion – very refreshing to read a civil and reasoned discussion online.

  13. says

    A couple of comments:
    10 . Commit to your goals:
    there is a danger that you become a perfectionist and you may then never be satisfied with the goal which becomes a moving target.
    Sometimes good enough is … perfect

    There is a suggestion from Prof Tal Ben Shahar which goes like this: every evening, think about 5 good things that happened to you during the day.
    Even better, and that’s what I do, share it with your family members over dinner.

  14. Formerly Depressed says

    A lot of these are really good tips, but I’d like to add one. For me what really worked was allowing myself to feel bad. I think we are put under so much pressure in our society to be perfect, not only in what we achieve but also in how we feel. So for me what really worked was giving myself permission to feel like crap some days, to admit that and to not feel like I have to be invincible or pretend that I am.
    I also find it helps to focus on process rather than results – so when applying for a job I gave myself credit for the applications I wrote and firms I researched, instead of focusing on the fact that I hadn’t actually had any interviews. When I looked over all the effort I had made, it was easier to think “the next one’s mine” and keep going.

  15. Jessica says

    Wow, I’ve been looking for a way to feel better from my trapped mind and this has helped me sooo much. Thank you for posting this. I know this can help sooo many people.

  16. Rasonics says

    Great article. Just be smart and open about how you apply #10 regarding goals. Sometimes we just need to let things happen. Acceptance and being mindful is something that compliments what you stated here.

  17. Tra says

    Wonderful! I have had depression most my life, but coping with it in ways like this, For me I had to start loving things I do doing things I love like painting, and now I take fish oil and oilive oil on foods, Its amazing I can always cope now, I wanted to share that omegas have changed my life, and after I started taking better care of that It seems I find it fun to try a little harder to do better on the rest, Its changed my life, wanted to share hoping someone else can see if it helps them, <3 and peace,

  18. Berto Putik says

    This is what I needed to read right now,
    I’ve been very sad and troubled… And then, suddenly I felt I need to pull myself back and start things over.
    Thank you so much!

  19. Bella says

    Thank you Jacob for this incredible list! And thank you Marc for posting it here!

    I came to your blog after having yet another terrible fight with my boyfriend. I am going through some very tough times but I didn’t want to just passively accept the pitfalls of life again. This list really helped me regain a perspective on life. It reminded me I have control over my happiness, no matter what life decides to throw at me.

    Not subjecting to social comparison was especially pertinent to me. In a digital age where Facebook and instagram pervades so many of our lives, sometimes we focus too much on what others have and forget to be grateful for what we do have.

    To those who are hurting in relationships, “never insist yourself to someone who consistently overlooks your worth.” (A memorable quote from another great article on this blog.) It’s hard but sometimes letting go is the right thing to do. This is what I am striving to work on – learning to let go.

    Once again, thank you for the great article. Will definitely share this with loved ones!

  20. Thomas Andrews says

    I love the article, but one thing stood out to and for me. It was the use of the “Kanye West” comment. No less in a subject regarding avoiding comparisons. I was wondering if you personally know Kanye West or if you are using his persona as a way to create a laugh response? Or was the comment made in judgement on the way you see him? I was just curious. I like the bullet points! I like to add to that avoiding criticism and judgment of others. I think when I do that, I am not judging them I am appearing as one who thinks he can judge. That my friend, I am in no position to do! Have a beautiful day!

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