Self + Care

The Surprising Thing Happy People Do Differently + 8 Ways to Boost Your Own Happiness

The Surprising Thing Happy People Do Differently + 8 Ways to Boost Your Own Happiness | The Bold+Balanced Life by Alex Benkast

“Promote what you love; don’t bash what you hate.” —Lilly Singh

If you ever wondered what happy people do differently, here is one thing you might be missing, plus 8 ways to boost your own happiness.

Imagine you’re standing in the grocery store checkout line and your eye catches on a magazine. The cover shows the irritated faces of two uber-famous celebrities with a ragged white line separating them. In big, bright letters the headline reads

SCANDAL: The Secret Child He Tried to Hide
CHEATING RUMORS: She Has All the Dirt on His 12 women!

What’s most likely going through your head:

a) “I can’t believe it! That bastard! I knew they weren’t as happy as they pretended to be. Rich people are all the same.” The story stays on your mind and you might even tell it to your friend.


b) “Huh.” Maybe you give a little shake of your head. “I wonder who comes up with this stuff? Sorry for them. I’m so grateful for my marriage and my privacy.” And you move on with your day.

How do you think happy people react when they come across things they don’t like?

Here’s what they do differently:

They make it a habit not to lash out at all the things that are wrong but instead focus on—and promote—solutions.

Bashing what you hate doesn’t change anything—and happy people know that. At best, it might make you feel better while you’re doing it. But that gratification is short-lived and makes sure everyone around you becomes less happy, too.

In last week’s post, The No. 1 Reason You’re Not Making Progress—And How to Fix It, I talked about how your thoughts create your reality. Happy people aren’t immune to negative thinking, they just make an effort to stop it in its tracks.

I’m currently reading a book one of my mentors recommended called Get Rich, Lucky Bitch! which also highlights the importance of replacing your unhelpful thoughts and spreading love and compassion. The book contains an interesting section on how to become a lucky person but the same can be applied to becoming a happier person.

1. Maximize your opportunities.

Surround yourself with people who are happy, clever, funny, successful, or resourceful. Community support is one of the most overlooked keys to happiness.

Read (or listen to) inspiring stories about people who overcame their struggles and how they built up their confidence and happiness. See if you can apply their lessons to your own life.

2. Listen to your gut.

If you aren’t in the habit of following your intuition, try this the next time you’re faced with a decision. Go somewhere quiet and ponder the situation.

Notice whether your body contracts (not a good sign) or expands (go for it). It might be as subtle as a tiny flutter in your stomach or as obvious as your pulse starting to get quicker.

3. Expect good fortune.

Tell yourself “good things happen to me every day.” Rethink failure and keep going even when the going gets rough.

4. Turn your bad luck into good.

If something bad happens, learn to see the silver lining and assume that it’s ultimately for your highest good. There’s a fantastic Taoist story called Maybe (see below) that made me rethink my “bad fortunes.”

And here are 4 ways that have made me a much happier person:

5. Spend less time in front of a screen.

And instead, spend more time outside in nature and with your family and friends. If you haven’t found like-minded people yet, try

I consciously limit my exposure to news and social media and prefer to consult media outlets that offer thoughtful analysis and propose solutions (e.g. .Mic, TED).

6. Practice gratitude.

If you look close enough, there’s always something to be thankful for: the roof over your head, a kind smile, a sunny day. I take a moment every day to count my blessings.

7. Laugh.

Seriously, laugh until you cry! It’s the best feeling. I could write an entire book about the crazy funny things my friends say.

But if you’re lacking hilarious people in your life, pick a sitcom or stand-up comedy (because I’m a first-time parent, Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife made me laugh-cry) or find a funny YouTube channel (I love Lilly Singh’s Superwoman).

Another great way to make yourself laugh is to do something silly. Like playing Twister or trying to sell your stuff to telemarketers when they call you (bonus points if you don’t take no for an answer).

Believe me, life’s easier when we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

8. Retreat to a “happy place” for a while.

This can either be a physical space (outdoors or at home), a mental image (or a daydream), or a book (e.g. Chicken Soup for the Soul).

Taking regular breaks is vital in a world where everyone is always busy and information floods us at every corner. Being more mindful in everyday life is one of my 7 life-changing habits.

9. Listen to music. (Bonus)

There’s a song for every mood, every experience, and every occasion. I realized this when I named every chapter in my novels after a song that fits what my characters are going through.

Many of my go-to pick-me-up songs are included in my book playlist (see here).

Lastly, what many people get wrong is that happiness is not an absolute. You can be happy despite hardships, illness, and negative thoughts and emotions. It’s your response to those things that matters.

Happiness means trusting the universe isn’t out to get you, but also trusting that whatever happens, you can—and will—handle it.  

What do you do to be happy? Do you have any feel-good songs? Let me know in the comments below.

Maybe (Taoist story)

There once was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.