What Makes People Happy? 5 Traits of Authentic Happiness

By Val Silver

What makes people happy? Not usually what they think! We may get a rush of excitement when buying a new toy or something we think we have to have, but that fleeting emotion quickly wears off.

Authentic happiness goes deeper. What most of us really want are not just those fun at times high moments, but rather a deep sense of joy and contentment that is part of our being.

This feeling is more like an inner gift waiting to be opened. It is not something that comes from outside ourselves. It comes with meeting the needs of our hearts as well as our biochemistry.

Understanding this and designing your life this way is a big secret to living happy.

Often when people say, "I want to be happy", they are not satisfied with life. They may be suffering from the grass is always greener on the other side syndrome. They make their happiness contingent on other people meeting their needs and on acquiring things outside themselves.

Buying into this myth is a big reason so many people are not satisfied with life.

This is no surprise since advertisers and well-meaning others condition us to believe that in order to live happy lives means we need more stuff and more money.

This belief plays into our hard-wiring. Your brain rewards you for acquiring things with a hit of feel good dopamine to encourage you to go out and acquire more.

Acquiring is a primal hard-wired way of making ourselves 'bigger'. It is a way to define ourselves. Once we possess something, even as just an idea, our brains don't like to let it go.

Things don't make people happy for long.

When the excitement of the 'hunt' is over, we are left with more items to store, pay for and maintain. Once the temporary thrill of acquiring wears off, we aren't much happier than before. So the cycle begins again.

My boys illustrated this truth perfectly when they were young. I'll never forget how excited they would be for weeks anticipating the purchase of their next 'must have' toy. As they held those treasures in their hands on the drive home,, all they could talk about was the next item they wanted. This happened again and again.

This truth is also illustrated in statistics that show rates of divorce, teen suicide and depression doubling since the 1950's, along with family income. One out of five women now takes anti-depressants.

Obviously, what makes people happy over time isn't stuff, financial abundance, or hinging our happiness star to others, but what is inside us.

happiness dwells in the soul

As for money, research does show that being able to provide for your survival needs does buy a measure of contentment.  It offers sense of control of control over your life, which raises self-esteem and optimism, and makes you less reactive to the physical and mental health effects of stress.

Having plenty of money also frees you up to 'follow your bliss', allowing you more time in meaningful activities that foster happiness.

However, lack of excess financial resources is no reason to limit blissful moments in your life.

Authentic Happiness Traits

Research shows that it is easier to live happy lives than many people think. The good news is that you don't have to look beyond yourself to experience contentment. The seeds of authentic happiness lie within you, waiting to be given what they need to grow and flourish.

If you are not satisfied with life, or you just want to raise your happiness quotient, see how many of the the following traits you have in common with happy people.

Happy people enjoy connections with other people.

Spending lots of quality time with loved ones is what makes people happy. Happy people nurture relationships with friends, family, colleagues, pets, nature, and the Divine. They seek relationships with people that support and inspire them.

 family happiness

Many children naturally demonstrate authentic happiness. Their faces shine with joy at the simplest things, especially when shared with their family and friends.

They want nothing more than the significant grown-ups in their lives to read to them, play with them, and listen to them. They spend much time playing and talking with friends.

If you want to raise well-adjusted children (or grandchildren) who grow up to live happy healthy lives, the greatest gifts you can give them are your time and attention. Truth be told, adult relationships would benefit as well.

Happy people nurture their relationships by being kind to others, even when that kindness appears to be undeserved. They forgive readily and are thankful for who they are and what they have.

Happy people have a higher happiness potential.

What makes people happy isn't totally within their control. You may have heard of the weight set point. We have a happiness set point as well.

It may not seem fair but some people are genetically blessed with a higher happiness set point than others. Your genes are responsible for half of your natural happiness potential.

That leaves the other half (or more) within your control. Of this, 10% is attributed to circumstances and 40% to your thoughts. When you take responsibility for your happiness, develop the traits of happy people, and use the happiness keys, your set point and overall happiness potential will rise.

Happy people don't try to keep up with others.

Happy people emphasize their own strengths and talents. They pursue personal growth and use their own yardstick to evaluate themselves rather than comparing themselves and what they have or don't have with others.

These folks trust their higher self and their intuition, not the voice of the conditioned self that tells them their needs and wants aren't important. They understand that nurturing their dreams and goals is vital to contentment. Engaging in meaningful activities, connecting with loved ones, and savoring life's simple pleasures is a priority.

what makes people happy

Happy people get absorbed in meaningful activities.

Creative, meaningful activities make people happy when they produce something tangible and visible or provide learning. Because the human brain is hard-wired for survival, it is programmed to desire and reward us for producing things and acquiring resources for survival. It rewards you for learning and having 'aha moments' with a release of feel-good chemicals.

Studies from the UCLA’s Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the University of North Carolina show that eudaimonic well-being is good for your health, too. People who feel happiness related to a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life exhibit favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. Their antibody and antiviral gene expression is strong and inflammation expression is low. 

However, the opposite showed true for people whith high levels of happiness coming from consummatory self-gratification. 

The scientists looked at gene expression in blood samples of 80 healthy adults who were assessed for eudaimonic and hedonic well-being, as well as potentially confounding negative psychological and behavioral factors, in a first of its kind study nearly a decade ago.

Both types of individuals had similarly high levels of positive emotions, yet their bodies were responding very differently.

“What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion." ~senior author Steven Cole, journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

When you are absorbed in a favorite activity, you are 'in the flow'. The flow is a lightly hypnotic meditative alpha state that is so focused you tune out everything except what you are doing

People who are content with their lives keep meaningless busywork to a minimum and prioritize enjoyable activities that are important to them and fulfill their life purposes. 

Happy people are resilient.

They accept that sometimes life throws a curve ball and adapt in the face of adversity, believing 'this too shall pass.'

Happy people take full responsibility for their responses and actions. They release themselves from the grip of past unhappiness and devote their energies to the present. They accept, forgive, find something to be grateful for, and then move on to the next thing. They understand that what makes people happy is their mindset and their emotional state, not their circumstances.

 The keys to what makes people happy 

If you are saying to your unhappy self, "I want to be happy", know that contentment is possible. 

Cultivate the mindset and habits that bring you joy and a deep sense of life purpose. Make time for meaningful relationships and for what makes you happy. Make a life, not just a living. Embrace new experiences. Learn and keep growing. Happiness isn't the end goal. It's your state of mind as you live an authentic, meaningful life. 

Continue Reading: Ten Keys to Creating a Happy Life

Source: Be happy: Your genes may thank you for it

What makes people happy page updated 08/2022

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For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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