Happiness is often portrayed as laughter, presents, purchases, true love and being surrounded by people who never upset us. But the reality is, true happiness does not look like this. This is the idealized version of what it means to be happy and believing this version prevents us from achieving true happiness.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in this fantasy world, which we assume others have access to and we are missing out on. But life will throw you curveballs and people will disappoint you. How happy you are depends on the way you respond to it all and how in touch you are with yourself.

Based on research and my personal experience, happiness is the result of the following ten key components.

1. Tolerance

Happiness is correlated both with self-tolerance and social tolerance. So we should strive to treat ourselves and others with respect and accept that we are all imperfect human beings. What works for you may not work for another person and vice versa. Agree to disagree and move on.

2. Patience

We all want things and experiences and we tend to want them right now in order to satisfy our happiness cravings. And when we don’t get them quickly enough we make sure to remind ourselves how we are failing and how unlucky we are. But with a good dose of patience (and hard work) you can achieve almost any goal. So if you want to be happier, learn to be ok with delayed gratification.

3. Self-acceptance

For this one, allow me to take you back to the unhappiest time of my life- my early 20’s when I had such high expectations of myself and consumed way too much celebrity media. My life was a contrast between reality and fantasy and I lived with a constant need for more and better. I thought I needed more stuff, more praise, more attention and better looks. Nothing was ever enough because I didn’t see myself as good enough. Nowadays, I accept myself warts and all and I cannot state enough how detrimental self-acceptance is to your happiness.

4. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to connect with others by feeling with them, caring about their well-being and acting with compassion. It is understanding a situation from the other person’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual perspective and responding accordingly. Empathy will make you a better communicator, it will strengthen your relationships and help you let go of grudges. Which, if you didn’t know, are actually a great source of unhappiness.

5. Close friendships

Did I mention that I had no friends in my early 20’s? That’s right. I had no friends at all and let me tell you, having just one close friendship can drastically change your outlook in life. The simple thought of having someone you can count on when life gets hard, soothes you. There is no replacement for human connection. So do cherish your friends if you want to be happy.

6. Living authentically

As a former people pleaser, I can attest to the fact that living an inauthentic life makes us very unhappy. Now, I know not everyone has the luxury to live authentically for a multitude of reasons. But I’d encourage everyone to make authentic living a goal and work towards achieving it because it is liberating to live a life you’re excited to wake up to everyday.

7. Letting go of perfectionism

Perfectionism is a major cause of unhappiness. It prevents us from doing things, going places, learning and growing as people. The need to be perfect actually makes us more imperfect because we avoid getting better at our craft or acquiring new skills. Challenge yourself to living free of perfectionism for one month and I guarantee you will do everything in your power not to go back to being a perfectionist.

8. Getting outside more

All the happiness research connects more time spent in nature with greater happiness. This is something I need to work on too. I don’t spend as much time outdoors as I’d like to, even though I know how good it feels to be outside  and how energized I feel afterwards. Spending time outdoors should be on everyone’s daily to do list for a happier life.

9. Listening to music

Music got me through so many difficult times in my life. There is something so powerful and soothing about listening to music. It gives us hope, takes us on self-discovery journeys, it allows us to reflect and just be in the moment. It’s no wonder research found that listening to music makes us happier.

10. Feeling all the feelings without judgement

Now this is what happiness looks like… it’s feeling all the feelings while remaining hopeful and patient that life will get better. Sadness, disappointment and difficult times won’t last forever.

As adults, we have the power to decide our path in life. So the catch is, how do you stay happy and hopeful when everything seems to go wrong? Well, you accept what is and remind yourself of what is possible ahead. Wait out the storm… this too shall pass.

Read next: How to Believe in Yourself When No One Believes in You

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