Want to be happier? Steal a page from the perennial optimist's playbook.
As a therapist-turned-entrepreneur (kinda), I have helped lots of people fight myriad mental and emotional setbacks.
Over time, I have learned that the skill set that helps you avoid depression or anxiety is not the same skill set that helps you experience a joyful, meaningful, and connected life. If you want to be truly happy, you need a new playbook.
Here's a page from that playbook. It contains eight ways that happy people are different than everyone else.
They are resilient.
Happy people bounce back, often quickly, from setbacks. Rather than see life's adversities as destructive and rigid roadblocks that they must quash in order to be happy, they see adverse situations as manageable and temporary fixtures in a pretty good life--the price they pay for renting space on the planet.
They are optimistic.
You know this to be true--most people want to talk about their problems and what's not going right. Happy people have the same problems that everyone else does, they are just solution-focused and get bored and irritated talking about problems all the time. They have an uncanny skill for finding solutions where there seem to be none. There's a time and place for venting, but when you're ready for a solution, ask an optimist.
They experience a wide-range of emotions.
While happy people have more positive emotions than negative ones--three times as many, in fact--they do experience negative emotions just like everyone else. However, they experience them differently. They don't squelch negative emotions. They face them head on in order to learn from them. They let negative emotions guide them into changing a behavior, self-examining, or getting out of a bad relationship. They see negative emotions as an internal wake-up call to change course or re-evaluate.
They savor things that most people take for granted or overlook.
Happy people are masters at the art of savoring. They joyfully anticipate events, stay present during events, and reminisce after events. They do this because they tend to keep the end in mind. They know that kids grow up, time passes, and we all die. Happy people live by a carpe diem philosophy, never needing a reason to celebrate.
They seek constant challenge and mastery.
Happy people continually look for ways to challenge themselves and develop or master a skill. Rarely complacent, they have an idea of what personal success looks like and use healthy doses of self-criticism to achieve their goals. They don't self-loathe, but they are realistic with themselves and their deficiencies. They seek out people, hobbies, professions, or ideas that challenge them and their stale self-concepts.
They spend lots of time with people they like.
Happy people know that relationships are essential to living a good life. Humans aren't meant to live in isolation. When we do, loneliness sets in, depression ensues, and we find ourselves in a downward spiral of negativity and withdrawal. Relationships are critical to happy people. The key is spending time with people you like and want to be with. Not just any warm body will do.
They are quick to forgive.
Forgiving a wrongdoing isn't easy. It almost feels good to harbor a grudge or pass judgment, producing the mild comfort of self-righteousness. But happy people choose forgiveness. They see the larger context of forgiveness--it allows both the offender and the offended a chance to move on. Happy people know that their inability to forgive someone doesn't hurt that person or "show them up," it only hurts them.
They serve a purpose bigger than themselves.
Happy people live out their values in tangible ways. They are eager to connect to something meaningful--a cause, purpose, or belief that is bigger than them. Human existence has two aims: to make a contribution to humanity and to have a purpose for living. Happy people spend a lot of time making sure they get these two right.