Ways To Tell If You're Really Happy

It doesn't matter who you are. Happiness is something we're all after. Sometimes it's easy and natural, and other times it's a total struggle. "Happiness is one of those words that we are chasing after and desire, but we're not sure how to truly get it or achieve it," Katie Kozlowski, self love and mindfulness coach, told me.

Not sure if your happiness level is normal? I spoke with some of the leading mental health and happiness experts to learn what happiness really looks like and how to achieve it.

You enjoy the lifestyle you've created

You and I are in the life situations we are today because of choices we've made. We each have the chance to create our own lifestyles, and if you've done so with love and intention, you're probably a pretty happy person.

"Overall, a happy lifestyle can be defined as a genuine feeling of peace and fulfillment within yourself," licensed clinical professional counselor Jasmine Menser-Lust told me. "Life can be complicated due to constant changes and demands, but if at the end of the day you feel at peace with how you handled life's demands and that your day-to-day actions fulfill your purpose in life, you're on the right track."

You can cope with setbacks

Gabriel Smith, health and wellness expert with mattress.com, believes that our setbacks can reveal how happy we are. "I believe happiness can be defined as the collaboration of our thoughts and emotions towards our projected potential," Smith told me. "Ways to tell if you are truly happy can be assessed by your ability to reach your projected potential and objectives that you have set forth in your life."

Take a look at a recent disappointment or setback and notice what feelings came up for you. "One of the best ways to tell if you are truly happy is to assess your emotions around failure and underachievement," shared Smith. "Are you paralyzed or taken off track by these times or situation in your life? This may indicate that you may not be truly happy with the holistic view of your life."

However, if you were able to move past the disappointment and weather the storm, then odds are you're living a happy life. "You know you're truly happy when you can face even the most challenging of situations and still accept it and find joy," explained Kozlowski.

You speak your truth

This is one characteristic that kept coming up when I spoke with the happiness experts. The more comfortable you are with yourself and your own opinions, the happier you will be. Happy people don't tend to get bogged down with other people's opinions of them.

"Happy people feel confident in themselves and are not too worried about what other people think about them," Natalie Moore, a Los Angeles-based therapist, told me. "This frees them up to be open, honest, and vulnerable with others in their life."

Happy people are also brave enough to say what they're truly feeling. "Express your feelings in the moment. Do not allow anger and disappointment to build up inside you," Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, told me. "Say what you feel clearly and respectfully. It will free you."

You pursue your passions

When you're not consumed with worrying about what others think of you, you have a lot more time for the things that matter to you. Happy people use that time to pursue the activities they love.

"People who are truly happy are not held back by the expectations set forth by society or family members," explained Moore. "They feel empowered to go after their dreams, no matter what obstacles are in their way."

You can create your own joy

Being a happy person does not mean you feel happy 24 hours per day. That's impossible and competely unnatural. However, happy people do know how to bounce back and find the joy in every situation. "Happy people are well aware that happiness doesn't come out of nowhere! They understand that happiness is result of seeking joy in their work, their hobbies, and their relationships," Moore told me. "This means they pursue a career that is fulfilling to them, they make time for their hobbies, and they connect deeply with the people they care about." Sounds pretty good to me!

You reach out for help when you need it

Happy people are not immune from life's hardships. They go through rough waters like everyone else. However, happy people know when to reach out and ask for help. "Even happy people have difficulties and struggles in life," said Moore. "What separates happy people from the rest of the pack? They talk about what's bothering them and seek social support wherever they can."

You prioritize your own well being

You can't be happy if you burn yourself out. Constantly pushing and striving may help you reach your goals, but if you don't get the chance to enjoy them, what's the point? It is crucial to prioritize self-care. "Happy folks take great care of themselves," shared Moore. "Whether it be through healthy eating, exercising, meditating, or all of the above, and this shows up in their upbeat mood."

You accept yourself as is

This is a big one. It would be impossible to be truly happy but beat yourself up for not looking or acting a certain way. Happy people are the ones who have been able to let most of those insecurities go and just enjoy being themselves. "True happiness is when you accept yourself exactly as you are, where you are. It exists in the present moment and is not based on the words 'if,' 'when,' or 'should,'" Kozlowski told me. "If you find your happiness is based on those words, it can clue you into whether your happiness is true or based on circumstances beyond your control."

One way to know if you have truly accepted yourself, warts and all, is to just sit alone with your thoughts. "Self-acceptance is ultimately the gateway to a happy life," Menser-Lust told me. "I typically ask my clients, how are you with sitting alone with yourself? Alone with your thoughts and feelings? Being able to sit with your emotions and come out the other side with a positive view of yourself means that you truly are happy, because you accept who you are, flaws and all."

You enjoy your work

Finding passion and meaning in your work is crucial for happy people. Career counselor and coach Lynn Berger told me that you know you're happy "if you truly are looking forward to the majority of your work and responsibilities."

Sure, we'd all rather be sipping a margarita on the beach than be at work, but if you can get up each morning feeling excited about your role, you're off to a great start.

You have strong social connections

We humans are social creatures, and we need true connections to feel happy and fulfilled. "Our lives intersect with hundreds if not thousands of people per day, be it on our commute to work, at the gym, or online. Look at how you approach these interactions with others," Menser-Lust told me. "Do you approach these opportunities with enthusiasm or indifference? If you find that you are more open to engaging with others, you are more likely to have positive connections and thus feel increased happiness." So next time you're standing in line at your favorite coffee shop, strike up a conversation with the person behind you. Chances are you'll both walk away feeling better (and more caffeinated!).

You've experienced true intimacy

Small talk with acquaintances is great for creating connections, but to be truly happy, you need deeper relationships. "Intimacy isn't just in romantic relationships; this also includes the people in your life that you love and feel connected to. Intimate relationships are usually the ones that are the most challenging. However, we need this level of connection in our lives to thrive," explained Menser-Lust. "Successful relationships are those that have mutual acceptance and respect outweighing times of criticism and contempt."

You can separate work and personal life

While it is important to have meaningful work that you are excited about, don't let it take over your entire life. A healthy work-life balance will keep you rejuvenated and happy.

"Whether you work for yourself or have an employer, you are bound to spend a significant amount of your time working. Feeling enriched and empowered at the end of your workday is a strong indicator that you have a positive attitude towards your job," Menser-Lust told me. "However, there are those that feel indifferent or burdened by their positions. It is possible to hate your job and still be happy in life. The issue arises when your identity is directly connected to your job." Make sure that you are nurturing passions and relationships outside the office as well.

"You are more than just your job. I typically see this come up as an issue when people leave a job in hopes that the next one will make them happier, and it doesn't," shared Menser-Lust. "The common denominator is you."

You have strong values

Happy people are comfortable with themselves and their own values. "Values are essentially characteristics that we hold as a priority and help to navigate our life decisions. Living aligned to your values means that you experience satisfaction with your daily tasks and what you chose to spend your time on for the day," said Menser-Lust. "For example, if I value family, I've attributed a portion of my time to family. Understanding your values means you know what makes you happy and what doesn't." Take a look at your day-to-day schedule. Does it reflect your real values?

"It also can alert you to what you need to prioritize so that you can feel happier," said Menser-Lust. "If I value family, but did not have significant time with them this week, chances are I feel dissonance between who I am and who I want to be. Our values are essentially our internal compass to happiness."

You prioritize time with yourself

Happy people make time for their values, and one of those values has to be yourself. Take a look at your weekly schedule and make sure you've given yourself some alone time to regroup and check in. "Give yourself special time. Take 10 to 15 minutes each day to be with yourself and chill," advised Dr. Walfish. "You'd be surprised how challenging this is when you have a spouse and children tugging at you constantly. Give yourself short, undivided, positive attention each day to nourish and fortify yourself."

What to do if you're not sure if you're happy

So what if you've read through this list and are not practicing these happy habits? First of all, don't panic. "When we aren't truly happy, this is not to imply that we are full-blown depressed," Jessica Meiman, psychotherapist in New York City, told me. "More often than not, it's a feeling of unrest and a general lack of motivation that are signs of not being truly happy with where you are."

Meiman recommended asking yourself some questions. Are you prioritizing your own health with enough sleep and good food? Are you making time for the things that really matter to you? Do you have hobbies or interests that you enjoy? What are your first thoughts when you wake up each morning?

If you've been feeling down and just can't shake it, reach out to your doctor or mental health provider for support.

Happy people don't feel happy all the time

Happy people are happy most of the time, but don't pressure yourself to feel good all day, every day. Challenges and disappointments come up, and it's not healthy to just gloss over them without feeling the emotions that come up.

"In order to be truly happy, feelings of sadness and other uncomfortable emotions cannot be excluded. Life is not a cakewalk. Happiness cannot look like rainbows and flowers and sunshine at all times. That is not realistic, and ultimately those expectations will leave you truly unhappy," explained Meiman. "Those who are truly happy are able to sit with discomfort. They feel their feelings as they come up, without judgment or shame. True happiness should be in your control; no one person or thing should determine whether or not you are truly happy."