People say: “Don’t mess with happiness.” And: “Don’t try to get happier than happy.” (Who says these things? Colin Cowherd. We’re mainly thinking of Colin Cowherd.) But before you can do that, first you’ve gotta know whether you’re actually happy. Which can sometimes be difficult. (Especially if your Zoloft prescription has expired.) So here are 11 signs of that glorious emotional state. If you exhibit a majority of these behaviors, then congrats: there’s a strong chance you’re feeling pretty good about life, amigo. If not, try them out and watch your mood change.
1. You Make a Lot of Eye Contact
According to a study in the British Journal of Psychology, happy people actively seek eye contact. Whereas sad people avoid the eyes. So if you’re “checking in” with everybody you see, you might be happy. (Or you could just be Jeff Goldblum.)
2. You’re 95 Years Old
“Do these hats make us look old?”
Happy people live longer, according to a study from the University of Illinois. The Midwest researchers essentially showed that happiness causes better health and longevity. So if Willard Scott announces your birthday every year, you’re in good shape. Provided someone is around to change your diaper.
3. You’re Kind, Selfless and Empathetic
“Happier people tend to be more interested in the problems of other people,” says Gretchen Rubin, author of the book and blog The Happiness Project. “If you’re less happy, you’re going to be more self-absorbed and preoccupied with your own problems. Happier people don’t think of themselves as much. And they’re more likely to intervene to help other people.” So if you help ladies cross the street, you’re probably doing so with a smile on your face.
4. You’re Distracted
Happiness causes increased distractibility, according to a study at the Dresden University of Technology. So if you’re always saying, “Where was I again?” it might actually be because you’re happy. Or it could just be because you’re trying to have a conversation with someone while texting. In which case, stop doing that, jerk.
5. You’re Generous… and Laid Back
“Happy people give away more money,” says Rubin. “They volunteer more. It’s a very nice aspect of human nature. In fact, one of the reasons I started my Happiness Project is because I figured if I were happier, I would behave myself better. And it’s definitely true. I’m way more patient, more lighthearted, and I don’t take offense as easily. That’s another good sign that you’re happy—you’re not as prickly.”
6. You’re Healthy
“Well, my kids are lousy at wearing helmets, but at least my wife’s hot!”
Research shows that happiness correlates with a variety of health benefits, such as increased longevity (see Sign No. 2), less experience of pain, lower incidence of stroke and even fewer symptoms of the common cold. (That last one’s courtesy of Cohen, Doyle, Turner, Alper & Skoner, FYI.) Happy people are able to cope more effectively with stressful events and don’t get sick from them. Which explains why Paul Pfeiffer in The Wonder Years always seemed miserable… and sneezy.
7. You’re Not Addicted to Anything
“If you’re happy, you’re probably doing less self-medication,” says Rubin. “Through food, retail therapy, drinking, smoking, playing video games, reading celebrity gossip, whatever.” But these behaviors depend heavily on the context. So you should frequently ask yourself if you’re happy—and why you’re doing what you’re doing. “Are you buying a bunch of stuff because you’re going to have a party and that’s great, or are you buying a bunch of stuff because that’s the only thing that can make you feel better?” Ideally it’s the former.
8. You’re Successful
Why is this man smiling? We’re going with “Stacy Keibler.”
There’s a strong link between success and happiness. And according to a study at the University of California-Riverside, success doesn’t just make people happy. Happiness actually leads to success. So if you’ve got an awesome wife, great friends, cool hobbies and a dream job, you’re probably happy. And vice versa.
9. You’re Excited About the Future
“If you’re unhappy, there’s really nothing that you look forward to,” says Rubin. “Like, if you look at your calendar and it’s just a bunch of things that you dread, that’s a sign of unhappiness. Happy people look forward to things. They anticipate pleasure.”
10. Your Trust “Radar” Is Sharp
Here’s a quirky one. According to a study at The Ohio State University, happy people are better at trusting people who deserve to be trusted, and better at distrusting people who shouldn’t be trusted. In other words, if you’re loving life, you’re more likely to lend cash to a friend who’s good for it, and less likely to buy “magazine subscriptions” from some dude who’s just going to use the money to score blow.
11. You’re Breathing
“It turns out, most people all around the world say they’re either pretty happy or very happy,” says Rubin. And like we said at the top, if you’re not, try some of this stuff out. Seriously. You might be amazed at how much better you’ll feel. Like the poet once said: fake it till you make it.