If there's one desire that humans universally share, it's happiness. For Americans, "the pursuit of happiness" is even written into the Declaration of Independence.
But the results of that pursuit vary greatly. Some people remain sunny even in the worst of circumstances; others are unhappy despite being surrounded by blessings. Part of that difference is genetic predisposition, but it's estimated that up to 40 percent of our happiness depends on actions and thoughts we can control.
So what do the happiest people do to foster that happiness?
1. They smell the roses. Those who are happiest know how to stop and be present in the moment. They slow down and pay attention and don't live inside their screens. They know that each moment matters, and they savor all the experiences of life. Even in hard times, they don't try to escape but instead find something beautiful or positive to focus on.
2. They don't sweat the small stuff. The happiest people focus their efforts only on things that meet two tests: It has to be truly important, and it has to be within their control. Learning to ignore things you can't do anything about, or that aren't a good use of your time, is one of the surest ways to being happy.
3. They persist in challenging times. Happy people thrive on challenges. They see failure not as a bad ending but as the setup to trying again, to a new and better-informed effort. They understand that difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. Those who can move past, let go, and work with what they have turn out to be not only the happiest people but also the most successful, because they know how to persist in challenging times.
4. They commit to their goals and visions. Those who are happiest dream big, then turn their dreams into goals and get to work achieving them. They understand that either of these elements without the other is cause for frustration and dissatisfaction. You have to first determine what it is you want and why you want it, then commit everything you have to attaining it.
5. They surround themselves with happy people. Happy people know that the company you choose has a huge impact on how you feel, what you think, and how you act. Being around positive people gives you a positive outlook, and negative people are just as infectious. It may not be possible to completely avoid exposure to negative and chronically unhappy people, but you can minimize the effects by refusing to engage in their patterns of thinking.
6. They take care of their bodies. The body and the mind are connected, so if you don't take care of your physical energy, your mental energy cannot flourish. When you nourish your body with sound sleep, good food, and exercise, you nurture your soul.
7. They develop coping strategies. Our characters are shaped by how we react to circumstances--especially when things go bad. A strong arsenal of coping strategies lets happy people deal positively with challenges. Being prepared for tough times keeps life's problems from becoming overwhelming, and good management of bad experiences leads to growth and happiness.
8. They give more than they take. The happiest people prefer giving to receiving. They know the more they give, the more they have. Generosity and a commitment to helping others generates happiness and drives success. The very best way to be happy is to lose yourself in giving to others.
9. They stand at the edge of discomfort. Achievement doesn't happen without taking risks, and the happiest people are never content to hang around where they're comfortable. They don't wait for the perfect moment--they make the moment perfect with their willingness to be uncomfortable.
10. They nurture their relationships. It is almost impossible to be happy in the absence of deep meaningful relationships. Connection with others fosters happiness, and nurturing relationships in a way that builds deep connection--allowing people into your life--allows them to accept your past, support your present, and encourage your future.
If you want to be happier--and really, who doesn't want to be happier?--measure yourself against these 10 habits, pick a starting place, and get to work. The payoff is tremendous.