5 Secret Qualities of Happy People

If there's one thing that we all seek - it's happiness. I've never met a person who has told me they didn't want to be happy, have you? When I do individual therapy, I have the opportunity to sit down with people as they present their concerns to me - whatever they may be. They usually seek therapy because they're experiencing some level of emotional distress - and are fundamentally unhappy. I've noticed that a number of things come up over and over for people as reasons why this is so. There are certain things they either have - or don't have - and with this information I've been able to come to an understanding of a question posed by many:

"What makes people happy?"

What do they have that others don't? What's their secret?

The following are my 5 secret qualities of happy people, in no particular order:

1) Absence of Toxic Shame: In the book, "Healing the Shame That Binds You," John Bradshaw describes the difference between healthy vs toxic shame in that, "Healthy shame is an emotion which signals us about our limits...and keeps us grounded," where "Toxic shame is experienced as the all-pervasive sense that I am flawed and defective as a human being." Truly happy people have a strong sense of themselves and their value, in other words, an absence of toxic shame. This usually comes from a nurturing, loving and supportive experience in their families of origin. There are many reasons why people struggle with toxic shame. I find it often lies at the core of some depression, anxiety and perfectionism.

2) Absence of Resentment: Really happy people seem to be more successful at forgiveness. In addition, they often haven't personalized the experience to the degree that others do. When you are good at letting things go - you don't drag the burden of resentment around with you. Those who hold onto anger or grudges towards others for long periods of time can experience internal emotional distress that leads to bitterness, frustration and often health problems. They can also struggle with depression and excessive anger.

3) Living their Passion: People who are doing work that is satisfying to them, whether they simply enjoy showing up every day - or is more rewarding on a deeper level - tend to be happier. The same applies to those who have found a hobby or cause that brings them joy, whether it's associated with work or not. Those who dislike their jobs and truly hate getting up every day to go to work tend to have an underlying baseline of life dissatisfaction that can lead to unhappiness. This is particularly true if they're not engaging in something outside of work that touches that energizing place inside of them - which could atleast partially offset the impact of their unrewarding job.

4) Dreams for future: Those who have hopes, plans and excitement for the future are typically happier. They believe they can carry out their dreams - and can actually visualize them coming true. People who struggle with imagining what their futures might hold often don't really believe that good things could actually happen for them. It's possible their past or present have been so dismal that they're unable to project positive things for the future. This is a very common belief of those struggling with depression. They may believe, "I can't," or "I don't deserve."

5) Connections to People: Happy people usually are connected to other people by supportive and loving relationships, no matter whether a few or many. There could be an argument that there are exceptions to this, but by and large, people need other people. From the time we are born, we seek to form attachments to our primary caregivers. Depending on the quality of these attachments, we will usually seek to form friendships and then - intimate partnerships. I've found that many unhappy people feel disconnected in some way to others - which can be very painful. Sometimes they are afraid to connect and other times their behavior is disconnecting. Regardless, for those who believe they need other people - and feel alone - a deep sense of unhappiness is common.

Like I mentioned previously, no matter who or where we are in this world, one of the ties that binds us together is the desire for happiness. Many of us know someone who seems to be a truly happy person. There's something almost magical about them, their level of serenity, joy and state of "knowing" that everything will work out. And if doesn't, it will still eventually be ok. I imagine that this person likely has all of the 5 happiness qualities I mentioned above. There are so many things that influence our emotional and psychological development. I believe that barring environmental chaos, (war, poverty, etc) we all have the ability to be "happy."

It can require a bit of work to tackle the things that might be blocking us from that very achievable goal - shame, resentment, lack of dreams, isolation and/or lack of a life passion. The great news is I've seen it done enough times in my work as a therapist to know - it's absolutely possible.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

2/27/2008 8:00:00 AM
Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT
Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of LoveAndLifeToolbox.com, author of Therapy-At-Home Workbooks® and has a therapy practice working with individuals and couples in Marin County, CA. She also offers video conference and phone therapy to residents of California. Lisa is a frequent consultant for the media having a...
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Yes! You've learned that it ultimately comes from an internal - vs an external place. You are indeed fortunate to have figured that out. I myself took a total about-face in my career when I went from film/tv production to therapy. For me it was part of the journey (which continues) towards happiness. I feel very fortunate to have found work that is so fulfilling to me. Thank you for sharing your story. Lisa
Posted by Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT
Yes, we all seek happiness. I've been on a path to healing myself for the past year. Actually, my awakening started when my father died in May 2004. It was as if the light bulb went on in my head, and I finally realized that life is too short! I quit my accounting job and pursued a graphic design certification. I love the arts! I found a job straight-away as a graphic designer, but that did not solve the problem. I thought I would find happiness in my new career, but that was an illusion. I pursued and received a MSM degree and still did not have happiness in my life. After I finished my MSM degree, I realized that I had to change from the inside. At that time I did not realize that I would be on a "soulful" journey. Since then, I've read countless books by Debbie Ford, Louise Hay, Sonia Choquette, and others. I just finished Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" and it really resonated with me. I finally realized that happiness comes from within a person. Recognition, a great job, or material items, will fill the void temporarily before you move onto something else. It's up to the individual to choose happiness! Happiness is a state of being. Rebecca
Posted by raszz19
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