4 Things Happy Healthy People Do

Smile_face_white_backHappy people have something in common – happy habits.

Research shows that much of what we do day-to-day is habitual.  And since 40% of happiness is due to intentional activity, we can change our happiness by up to 40% by what we choose to do every day. (1)  

Now about the 4 happy habits.

Happy Habit 1. Keep Focused on Goals

Being committed to goals is not just about achievement, it’s a recipe for happiness.

Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin, found that working hard toward a goal and making progress towards achieving that goal activates positive feelings and suppresses fear and depression.

Jonathan Freedman, a psychologist, suggests that people with the ability to set objectives for themselves – both short-term and long-term- are happier. (2.)     

Happy Habit 2. Work the Body, Ears and Mouth

Exercise, sex, and socializing have a zen-like effect, keeping us present in the moment.  Staying in the moment is a happiness habit.

Eesearch shows that happiness is high during exercise, sex, and socializing, while the mind is focused on the here and now.  At the same time, happiness is low when the mind wanders and when commuting. (3)

Focusing on the here and now is taught around the world in various exercises like mindfulness meditation and breathing practices.  It can also be experienced during physical exercise, like working out.

More about working out

In his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John Ratey discussed two powerful studies about exercise and happiness.

1. In a 2006 study with over 19,000 people, exercisers were found to be more socially outgoing, less neurotic, less depressed, and less anxious.

2. In a 1999 study, John referenced a Finnish study with over 3,400 people, which showed that people who exercise at least 2-3 times per week experience less anger, “cynical distrust”, depression, and stress than those who exercise less or not at all.


Happy Habit 3. Help Others

For thousands of years, various belief and practice systems have emphasized doing good deeds for others.  Whether it is to reveal our “true nature,” discover “our divine Self,” awaken the “authentic self,” etc. helping others is a virtue that makes us feel good and happy; and research suggests that it may be linked with longevity.

From: Howard Friedman’s, The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study (2006):  

Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.  Surprise: our prediction was wrong…

Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age

Happy Habit 4. Find Meaning in Hardship

No matter how rich or poor, young or old, we all face hardships during the course of our lives.  And how we perceive it, affects us deeply.  Research shows a healthy benefit for the “Silver Lining” seekers – happiness.

The Study: Men between the ages of 30 and 60 were interviewed after experiencing a heart attack.  Researchers found that those who perceived benefits in the event seven weeks after it happened (ie. resolved to create less hectic schedules, believed that they had grown and matured as a result, or revalued home life), were more likely to be healthy eight years later, including a lower likelihood of having another heart attack.  On the other hand, men who blamed their own emotions (ie. too stressed), or blamed others for their heart attacks, experienced poorer health eight years later. 

(For more on how to master healthy habits, click here).


1. Set some short-term and long-term goals for yourself. Write them down and keep them visible to stay focused.

2. Commit yourself to some form of exercise 2-3 days a week – any type of exercise.  Find a class, trainer or partner to support your effort.

3. Dedicate at least 5 minutes a day to do an extra something good for some one.  Send a card, text some one a kind word, help a neighbor, leave a loving post-it note for some one you care about…or comment below with more ideas.

4.  Often times how we perceive difficult experiences dictates the emotions that arise when we recount our hardships.  Seek to find meaning when processing or reflecting upon life challenges.


(1.) Lyubomirsky, Sonja, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, 2007.

(2.) (3.) Baucells, Manel, Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life, 2012.


Is Self-Discipline a Key to Happiness?

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About Dave Barnas, M.S., CES, NASM-CPT

Dave is the true health guy. He is the founder and owner of True Health Unlimited, LLC, a personal health and fitness company in Tolland, CT & Wellness Writers, a subscription wellness newsletter service that incorporates live & virtual wellness workshops for companies across New England. Dave earned both a Bachelor's (1998) and Master's Degree (2000) in Nutritional Science from the University of Connecticut, and also holds certifications as a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Group Instructor, and Nutrition Specialist. He's also the lead author for four published works. Dave has over 20 years of combined experience in nutrition counseling, dietary supplement advising, personal training, corrective exercise training, health coaching and public speaking. In addition, he's spent over 25 years studying spirituality, meditation, and personal growth strategies. Dave's clients are all ages: youth, college championship level athletes, folks in their retired years, and everywhere in between. He's worked with three of the nation's leading physicians as a dietary supplement advisor and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University, UConn, St. Joseph College and various church groups, health clubs, and high schools. In 2013, he was invited to Whole Foods Market to share his Real Food Therapy Guide. And in 2015, Dave's funny "Snowga" (yoga in the snow) video caught the attention of The National Weather Channel, who aired it to shake off cabin fever and bring laughter. In 2016, Dave & Hollie (his wife) founded Wellness Writers and deliver evidence-based Wellness E-newsletters to spread a message of health and happiness to various businesses throughout the US. Dave currently serves as a personal trainer in Tolland as well as a wellness coach and writer for several businesses, gyms and wellness facilities throughout the US.

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