There seems to be no foolproof formula for finding happiness, or even defining exactly what it is.

We all know that one person who’s always joyous despite what curve balls life might be throwing at them, and we also all know that other person who’s miserable despite having all they could want in life (on the face of it).

This may be because happiness is mostly, if not completely, subjective. We decide for ourselves what makes us happy.

There are the things that society tells us we should have to be happy. A good job, a faithful partner, a family, religion, money, success, going out and getting plastered on a Saturday night, the list goes on. Will having just one of these things make you happy? If you obtain all of them, are you guaranteed happiness for the rest of your life, or as long as you can keep them?

The crux of it is, that you are the master of your own happiness. You have control of whether you are content and joyous or discontent and unsatisfied.

Here are a few traits that happier people sometimes tend to have and simple, practical methods to figure out what happiness might mean to you.

1. They Choose Whether to See Things Positively or Negatively
Ok, so this is just a fancy way of saying ‘focus on the positive’ — a massive cliché, yes, but somehow always rings true. We’re a product of our thoughts (as Gandhi famously quoted) and we become what we think. Everything in life has both positive and negative aspects — with a constantly negative outlook, misfortune is sure to follow because that’s what you’re focusing on.

Say you make a mistake at work which is seen by your boss and everyone else. You have a choice; you either focus on your perceived failure and potential embarrassment (to err is human) which will pull you down into misery, or you can focus on the fact that you can learn something and grow from it. You won’t make the same mistake again; you’re wiser, stronger, and better because of it.

Whether you look at something positively or negatively is purely down to you.

2. They Live in the Moment
In the scenario above you actually have a third option and that’s not to think about it at all. This is the essence of living in the moment. Not thinking about what has been and what will be, instead focusing your entire being on the present.

We’ve all had those times where we’ve been having so much fun without any flicker of thought about the past or the future, the only thing that exists is you at the moment.

Then, you start thinking about how long the moment’s going to last. Conscious of the fun ending, you start looking at the time or worrying about what might or might not be. Taking your focus from the present to the what-ifs of the future has a real dampening effect on your happiness. Enjoy something while it’s happening by focusing purely on what you’re doing and feeling everything it has to offer in its entirety.

That being said, no one person lives in the moment 100% of the time. If we all did then no one would get anywhere in life. It’s only wise to think about our education, careers, love lives and so forth. If we lived entirely in the present, these things wouldn’t cross our minds and who knows where we’d be then?

Living in the moment is great, but is best done in moderation. Balance is key.

3. They Try To Define Their Own Meaning in Life
This is a huge step towards happiness but also the most difficult and monumental. Very few people know what they want from life with 100% certainty.

What we want tends to change as we grow older and reach the goals we set for ourselves — having a focus you’re passionate about is a powerful tool for providing yourself with purpose. The fulfilment of your purpose brings you contentment.

Your purpose, meaning or desire is not a set thing. It’s very much fluid and will morph and change throughout your life as you experience more and more and continually learn about yourself and others.

Work will take up the majority of your life. Most of us average about 10–12 hours a day working (including travel time, getting ready etc), 5 days a week, from your early twenties to your mid-sixties. That’s an awful lot of time, if you’re not doing something you’re passionate about, or can at least tolerate, each day will seem very long indeed.

4. They Know How Much Money They Need
We’ve all heard that money can’t buy happiness. We’re social creatures by nature, having all the money in the world but living alone on your $ 1 billion private island won’t result in much joy.

Material goods can give you happiness for a short amount of time, however, humans always want more, it’s important to know when enough is enough. How much do you actually need to survive and thrive, and how much would be excessive and pointless?

The upshot is, that we need money to survive. Money cannot buy you happiness but it can buy you food and a place to sleep. As much as it pains me to quote Kanye West, in this instance I must; ‘having money’s not everything, not having it is.

5. They Focus On People’s Good Traits, Not Their Bad Ones
We all have good points and bad points, no one person is perfect (perfection — a subjective concept if there ever was one). Do you know someone who talks too much? Someone else that’s always boasting? Another person who’s just a bit too sarcastic?

These people’s 1 or 2 specific character traits don’t define who they are, they’re merely part of their being, just as one single character trait doesn’t define you.

Focusing on a person’s negative aspects will only serve to amplify those characteristics in your eyes. Focus instead on a good part of their personality; they’ll be much more likely to display that trait if because your focus will elicit that behaviour from them.

Failing this, just do your best to avoid them.

6. They Do Nice Things For Other People
Helping another living thing without expecting anything in return is a feeling unlike any other. It’s been scientifically documented that there’s a link between generosity and happiness, and even promising or intending to be generous, even just a bit, can make a person happier.

There is no satisfaction like the one you get from helping someone else and making their day a little bit better. Like helping an old lady across the road, lending an ear to someone in need or buying groceries for someone who can’t afford them.

Altruism is built into us. We need others to survive and helping a fellow human gives us a dopamine hit because it’s pro-social. It’s like Phoebe said in one episode of Friends, there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed. The feeling we get from helping is unlike any other and this is a key to happiness.

7. They Love, Laugh, Forgive & Appreciate
This one’s important. We only get one shot at life, we’re on this planet once, for a finite amount of time. Do as much as you can of what makes you happy.

Love fully and completely, don’t hold back your love for fear of getting hurt, you’ll only stunt your own experience. Laugh as much as you can (studies show it’s good for your health). Learn as much as possible. Travel as much as you can. There’s too much to know and experience to ever be bored. Forgive easily. We, humans, are imperfect creatures and everyone makes mistakes. We’re built for affection, not hate — love is natural, hate is learnt.

Appreciate what you already have. Always wanting more shifts your focus to what you don’t have rather than what you do. Focusing on appreciation and gratitude really does shift perspective into the positive.

Happiness is a journey rather than a destination. It’s found in the doing, not in the obtaining. When you’re gone, you’re gone, why not spend your time on planet Earth doing what you enjoy, enjoying what you already have and doing what makes other people smile?

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay