The 7 Happiness Habits For A Super Happy Life

Updated: 7 days ago

How to create sustained happiness with The Happiness Framework. Includes a curated companion reading list.


Achieving moments of happiness isn’t difficult. In fact, I and the vast majority of us, have experienced many moments of happiness in our lives. We’ve even turned unhappy occurrences into happier ones by simply choosing to be happy, even if for the moment.


Living in New York, I realized that while I was very happy living in my dream city, where I'd always wanted to live since I was six years old, owning and running a business that I loved, and living an extraordinarily high quality of life, there was an element of fulfillment that was missing in my life.


Although I was very happy where I was, and I had fought through some very difficult times to get there, my life wasn't moving forward. I wasn't moving forward.


My happiness was incomplete.


That hit me like a rock. I was shocked to realize that while all was good, and I was deeply happy with some areas of my life, it suddenly became clear that there was more for me to do, more for me to experience, more for me to achieve, and more for me to contribute.


Ever feel like that?


I wasn't sure exactly what it would entail, but I had to get my sexy back and I knew what I needed to do. I needed to create a more fulfilling life that included more of who I was and who I’d become over the last several years.


I had to rediscover myself.


One of the questions I asked myself was, what do I need to do to live a happy and fulfilling life every day--for the rest of my life?


I knew from past experience that I needed to go outside of my own paradigm of the world so I started with the basics and what was most readily available. I began reading scientific articles and books on the topics of happiness, life, and growth on a daily basis.


This one simple habit changed everything for me. It was the beginning of my new path and my new life.


I quickly discovered that there is tons of research on the topic of happiness and well-being by positive psychology experts, professors, and researchers.


There is so much in fact, that I was finding it difficult to remember all of the amazing information I was being given in these 300-plus page books. I would get very excited about something I had read about, but after a few days of real life, I would have a hard time remembering it, much less applying what I had read.


I’m a practical person. So I needed a solution.


To help me organize the key points I was learning about from the happiness experts, I created topline categories from the array of information and tidbits I was getting through my reading and research.


These then became the 7 happiness habits I will share with you.

  1. Goals

  2. Gratitude

  3. Give

  4. Get Moving

  5. Grace

  6. Grow

  7. Get Present


As a whole, I call them The Happiness Framework. And, you'll notice that love is at the center of it all.





Why? Because love is at the center of a truly happy life. I am not making this up. It's science-based. According to George E. Vaillant, M.D, "Happiness Equals Love--Full Stop".


Dr. Vaillant studied adult development, including the lives of 800+ men and women for over 60 years as a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in the longest running study of its kind.

While Dr. Valillant is referring to relationships, I am proposing applying it to all 7 pillars.


The key thing about this or any framework is using it in our everyday life.


When I started my journey I knew that to move forward, I had to take action and consistently apply what I learned. But I have a lot of things I need to remember--as I'm sure you do, too.


I have my own business which keeps me quite busy and intellectually engaged so I needed to make sure that I would be able to remember the pillars even when they’re not in front of me--without taking too much bandwidth.


To do that, I chose to use a mnemonic device—in this case, I chose the letter G—to help me recall the framework on demand.


And G is the seventh letter of the alphabet and there are seven pillars! And it just kind of clicked.


The universe works in magical ways, doesn’t it?



Happiness Habit #1: Goals


Setting goals that inspire and motivate is the starting point to achieving happiness and fulfillment.


A life without goals can seem directionless, lack purpose, and be devoid of the satisfaction of achieving what you have set out to do.


If you’re not going somewhere, you’re going nowhere. I don’t know who said that but it’s absolutely true in the literal and figurative sense.

Research has consistently shown that setting and pursuing goals gives us purpose and direction. They help us move forward in life toward a vision we have created for ourselves.


Each benchmark we achieve along the way helps build our confidence, boosts our self-esteem, and contributes to our sense of fulfillment.




In addition, once we set a goal, we typically develop a plan which provides structure, a map of sorts—even if mentally—of how we are going to achieve our goals.


But, we don’t need research to tell us that achieving our goals contributes to our happiness. We’ve experienced it ourselves.


Recall a time—maybe even recently—when you’ve set a goal and have been determined to achieve it.


While there have undoubtedly been many ups and downs along the way, you start to see the progress and know you are on your way to achieving something you want to achieve and going where you want to go.


I can relate.


When actively pursuing my goals, I've felt purposeful, focused, and I've experienced an underlying sense of contentment that boosts my overall happiness.


Oftentimes, however, we don't notice the small steps we take and benchmarks we achieve toward our goals in our day-to-day lives.


While we often hear that we should write down our goals, we rarely hear about celebrating our achievements on our journey toward accomplishing our ultimate objective.


Celebrating our achievements on our journey toward our ultimate objective is even more important than waiting to celebrate our end goal.


Celebrating our achievements on our journey toward our ultimate objective is even more important than waiting to celebrate our end goal.

Why?


By celebrating our achievements along the way, we acknowledge and reward ourselves for the work we are doing today. This contributes to a greater sense of fulfillment and boosts our self-esteem--both of which augment our happiness.


In addition, it gives us an opportunity to get present (Happiness Habit #7) to our growth (Happiness Habit #6), reflect on our work, and consider our next milestone.


I have found that the easiest way to do that for me is to write down my goals--one per page--and then add milestones to achieving that goal. I added checkboxes for each milestone so I can acknowledge and celebrate each!


By the time you reach your end goal, it's just icing on the cake you've enjoyed with each and every bite!


One important note is to love what your goal is meant to achieve. The most fulfilling goals are those that are driven by love.


The most fulfilling goals are those that are driven by love.

This is because if you love what your goal is meant to achieve, you will love that you are on the journey, regardless of the guaranteed ups and downs.


You will also minimize regrets because whether you achieve your goal or not, you went after something you loved and you were true to yourself, and that--in and of itself--will light up your soul.



Practical Living Application:
What love-driven goals are you actively working toward right now? 


Happiness Habit #2: Gratitude


Now that you have your goals clear, you can be thankful that you’re on this journey with Happiness Habit #2...gratitude.


Gratitude feeds your happiness, fuels the universe, & nurtures your soul.


In her book, The How of Happiness, best-selling author and University of California professor

of psychology, Sonja Lyubomirsky says it best, “The expression of gratitude is a kind of meta-strategy for achieving happiness.”






According to Harvard Medical School, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”


So what is this magical meta-strategy of gratitude...exactly?


There are many ways to define and express gratitude, but I personally like the definition offered by Harvard Health Publishing:


Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”


If you don’t already have one, developing a gratitude practice will change your life.


If you don’t already have one, developing a gratitude practice will change your life.

A gratitude practice can be structured and made a part of your agenda—such as choosing one day a week to give thanks, or it can be unstructured where you give thanks in a more spontaneous way.


Research has shown that there are significant benefits to both, but the key thing is to be mindful when you are giving thanks—making sure it is not just a checklist, but that you are really taking the moment to appreciate what you are expressing gratitude for.


In my practice, I infuse my gratitude with love, and that love fuels my gratitude.


I think of the love I have for my family, my friends, my life, my business, and even New York City! I just let the love pour into my gratitude and not only do I experience gratitude to the next level but it cleanses my soul.


I just let the love pour into my gratitude and not only do I experience gratitude to the next level but it cleanses my soul.

Practical Living Application: 
What are you thankful for? How can you implement a love-fueled gratitude practice in your life?


Happiness Habit #3: Give


Giving isn’t only about giving money. In fact, giving can take on a variety of forms including giving kindness, support, and help in myriad ways.


In The How of Happiness, Lyubomirsky notes that an experiment conducted by her lab showed that people could actually create a strategy to increase kind behavior as an effective way to elevate happiness. (Flip to page 128 in her book)


In Lyubomirsky’s study, participants were divided into two groups that were instructed to perform five acts of kindness a week. One group was instructed to distribute their acts of kindness throughout the week, while the other was told to concentrate their acts of kindness in one single day.


You’ll be surprised at what the study found!



As could reasonably be expected, being generous and considerate boosted people’s happiness. No surprise there!


The surprise was that only one of the two groups reported feeling an elevation in their happiness!


Can you guess which one?


The group who concentrated their acts of kindness into one day reported an increase in their happiness levels while the group who spread their acts of kindness throughout the week did not!


Why?


Lyubomirsky and her colleagues speculate that this may be because spreading the acts throughout the week decreases their conspicuousness and prominence making them less “distinguishable from the participants’ habitual kind behavior.


I scheduled my five framework acts of kindness for Sunday. Of course, I still perform others during the week, but similar to the study participants I simply remember them much better when I have the five concentrated on one day! And they make me smile and happier because I can remember them better!


Practical Living Application: 
What love-infused acts of kindness can you implement one day a week?


Happiness Habit #4: Get Moving


Get up! Get out! Get going! Physical exercise is essential to our well-being and happiness. Plus, it makes us feel good!


Developing and sticking to an exercise program helps us create regular daily or weekly goals, and when we keep them, we feel a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem on a regular basis. This, on its own, contributes to our happiness.


A 2016 study showed that regular physical activity was directly and indirectly associated with self-esteem concluding that both moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity are important for physical and mental health.


Self-esteem, physical health, and mental well-being are essential happiness components.


Self-esteem, physical health, and mental well-being are essential happiness components.

In addition, regular exercise helps reduce anxiety, bolsters your overall health, and boosts energy. Plus, if you’re exercising with a group or participating in team activities (keep social distancing and safety measures in mind!), you can make new friends and benefit from the social aspects as well—which will also contribute to your overall happiness.


According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of The Joy of Movement, via a conversation she had with Mercey Livingston for Cnet, exercise increases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline, and endocannabinoid—brain chemicals that contribute to feeling happy, confident, less anxious, and even less physical pain.



We can all agree that exercising can sometimes be challenging, especially when you just don't want to.


My favorite Get Moving activity is running. I love it.


I recently noticed that when I'm in New York, going out for my run to Central Park is effortless. All I have to do is walk out the door of my building and run to the park!


I cannot wait to get out and go for my run.


Not only do I love running, but I love New York City. It's been 13 years and I'm still not tired of it. I love every single minute of being there and I love running, and how I feel after my run. I need zero motivation to get out.


But, in Miami. There are days that I truly don't want to go out. It's. A. Chore.


This is because I often have to drive to my running destination. I haven't found a place I love running in that is within non-driving distance. It's at least 30 minutes of traffic to get to my running destination, and then 30 minutes of driving back.


The drudgery of the drive outweighs my thoughts about running.


So, I started focusing on how I feel after my run--I love the exhilaration and sense of satisfaction I get after running in the hot Miami weather--and that has gotten me out there when all I could see was the drudgery of the drive.


By focusing on my love for running and the city in New York and loving how I feel after my run in Miami, I'm able to get myself out there more consistently. So, the run, how I feel after my run, and accomplishing my objective of getting out there all contribute to my happiness!


Practical Living Application:
What kind of movement/exercise do you love?


Happiness Habit #5: Grace


There are many definitions of the word grace. The ones we are referring to here are from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency,” and “the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.


Living with grace as a guiding principle brings peace, further fortifies your strength, and it nurtures your soul. Without peace, it is difficult to be happy.




Without peace, it is difficult to be happy.

The commitment to live in and with grace requires daily reminding.


It’s easy to forget to be courteous when someone is rude, considerate when someone cuts you off in line, and thoughtful when you’d really like to give someone a piece of your mind.


One way to approach living with grace can begin with learning to respond rather than react in challenging situations.


One way to approach living with grace can begin with learning to respond rather than react in challenging situations.

What’s the difference?


When we react, it’s knee-jerk—hence the saying, “a knee-jerk reaction”. It is instant, driven by the unconscious mind, hidden beliefs, and subliminal narratives. It is also done without thinking, consideration of our own values, and thought given to the potential long-term effects.


When we respond, it is thought out and considered. A response weighs the impact on ourselves, others, and the effect it will have in the long-term. More importantly, a response is typically more in alignment with our values.


I found that one of the most important aspects of being able to respond rather than react to others and the circumstances is to act with grace toward myself first.


By being kind, forgiving, and thoughtful toward myself, I started accepting myself more and my own humanity at a deeper level. This was my first step toward more profoundly accepting the humanity in others--the first step toward truer kindness, consideration, and love.


If we aren't able to accept our own humanity, how willing will we be to accept the humanity in others--consciously or unconsciously?


By beginning with ourselves, grace brings peace and an expansion of our individual and collective foundation for happiness.


Grace brings peace and an expansion of our individual and collective foundation for happiness.

Practical Living Application:
Are you willing to be kinder, more forgiving, and thoughtful toward yourself first starting right now? What is one past thing you can forgive yourself for?


Happiness Habit # 6: Grow


To grow is the sixth happiness habit. But, what does grow or growth actually mean?


To grow can mean a number of different things, but within the scope of creating a happier life, we’re going to take a holistic approach that looks at the whole person and the growth and expansion of the mind and spirit. For growth in your physical self see Happiness Habit #4: Get Moving and Happiness Habit #7: Get Present.

We can grow and expand our Mind through:

  • Reading

  • Listening to audiobooks and podcasts

  • Watching documentaries

  • Traveling

  • Talking to new people, old friends, strangers, etc.

  • Having new experiences

  • Exploring new hobbies or diving deeper into existing ones

  • Watching videos that teach you something new

  • Scientific experiments and research studies

  • Writing, meditation, studying, teaching others...the list is endless!


The more we know, the more we’ll grow. This growth will increase our happiness.


According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist, distinguished professor, author, and researcher who identified and named the concept of flow in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance, The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.


The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”--Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi




Growing and expanding our spirit is also an essential part of this habit. We can grow our Spirit through:


  • Social connections and engagement

Studies have shown that social engagement including building and having a strong social circle, embracing community, and nurturing a network of friends, are some of the most powerful contributors to personal happiness.


Proving the point is none other than one of the world’s longest and most comprehensive studies of adult life, the Harvard Study of Adult Development.


The study, which was started in 1938 and has continued for over 80 years, found thatclose relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.”


Developing close relationships is essential to our happiness but it's important to keep in mind that it's not the only component to our happiness, which is why the framework is so key. We could, for example, have many close relationships but not have goals that move us forward or be growing as people. This would limit our happiness which is why social engagement is one component--albeit an essential one--of Happiness Habit #6: Grow.


  • Spiritual practice

Spiritual practice can include going to church, meditation, praying, present moment awareness, chanting, breathing work, and so much more. Having a spiritual practice allows our soul to breathe, rest, and be nurtured. Our consciousness is expanded and awakened.


According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance, “A person can make themselves happy or miserable regardless of what is actually happening “outside” just by changing the contents of consciousness”


“A person can make themselves happy or miserable regardless of what is actually happening “outside” just by changing the contents of consciousness”--Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

  • Positive emotions

Choosing to experience positive emotions in our lives, such as happiness, joy, love, fulfillment, satisfaction, peace, and forgiveness, among many other positive emotions, is life-changing.


This doesn’t mean we shouldn't experience sadness, grief, anger, dissatisfaction, etc. All emotions are valid and have a place in our personal growth.


If and when we want to, however, we can consciously choose to turn anger into happiness, sadness into joy, hatred into forgiveness. This emotional transmutation allows us to choose our experience, to grow, and expand the room for happiness in our spirit and lives.


  • Optimism

Optimism, across the board, leads to actions that typically enhance happiness.


Why?


Because optimism is a mindset and a way to view the world with hope and confidence about the future, an outcome, or a situation.


According to Psychology Today, “Optimists have healthier outlooks and tend to live longer than their more pessimistic counterparts; they also are less susceptible to the negative effects of illness, fatigue, and depression.

Optimists have healthier outlooks and tend to live longer than their more pessimistic counterparts; they also are less susceptible to the negative effects of illness, fatigue, and depression.” — Psychology Today

Practical Living Application:
How can you seamlessly implement mind and spiritual growth practices in your life? 


Happiness Habit # 7: Get Present


Enhancing our awareness of and getting present to the moment, people, gifts, our health, opportunities, love, and our life right now will enhance our happiness—regardless of the circumstances.


Why?


Because every single moment of our lives is truly a gift. Neither you nor I will ever have another moment like this one. Or this one. Or even this one—ever again.



Every moment with our loved ones—our family, friends, spouse, partner, mom, dad, dog, cat, etc.,—and, every moment we have on this earth is absolutely precious.


Getting present enhances our appreciation for the people around us, ourselves, and our lives, and as a result, it enhances our happiness exponentially.


Getting present enhances our appreciation for the people around us, ourselves, and our lives, and as a result, it enhances our happiness exponentially.

So join me in savoring everything we can—our food, the breeze, our partner’s laugh, our mother’s food, our father’s dad jokes, our brother’s harmless pranks, our sister’s companionship, our best friend’s humor, our partner’s love.


This task may prove to be challenging, but the best way to make it a practice is to start with getting present to ourselves. Our life. Our corny jokes. Our love handles. Our smile. Our beauty. Our heart. Our hands. Our thoughts. Our amazingness.


The Get Present happiness habit is also where meditation comes in. Meditation is both the ultimate getting present and happiness habit.


Research has shown that monks who practiced meditation experienced significantly greater gamma brain wave activity, in comparison to those who didn’t practice meditation, in areas of the brain associated with learning and happiness.


And the good news is that you don’t need anything to start meditating except the willingness to begin. For those of you who think you might want a little support, there are tons of starter apps out there that you can use to start your meditation practice such as Headspace and Calm, among others.


You can also sign up to receive our free smiling meditation audio at TheSmilingMeditation.com.


While these 7 happiness habits in The Happiness Framework may seem like a lot of work, they can actually be streamlined quite easily.


I found that the best way to incorporate them into my life is to do just that, incorporate them into my life by scheduling them in. Here’s how I approached it:


  1. Gratitude on Sundays

  2. Get moving by running on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and walking every other day

  3. Grace—all the time and especially when called for

  4. Give on Sundays

  5. Get present daily after dinner with an after-dinner meditation

  6. Goals—throughout the week, review on Sundays

  7. Grow—daily at breakfast, after dinner, when picking up around the house and when driving. I chose to schedule in listening to Audiobooks as I found it has the most impact for me. All other growing activities are more spontaneous.

If I miss a running day or skip a day of listening to my audiobook, I show grace toward myself and keep going.


Be guided by love and happiness.

Be guided by love and happiness. If an activity isn’t being driven or guided by love and not bringing you happiness, consider reevaluating it. And remember to show grace toward yourself throughout this process!




READING LIST


1. The How of Happiness: A New Approach To Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky


2. The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal, PhD


3. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi





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