Highly Sensitive Refuge
an empath finds happiness in life

14 Things Empaths Need in Life to Be Happy

Today, I experienced a full spectrum of emotions — only some of which came from myself. 

This morning, I cried watching a video of a 17-year-old shelter dog who was saved and lived his last year happy and loved. A little while later, I messaged with a friend who is having a hard time. Although it felt good to listen and support her, I spent the afternoon trying to work through the darkness and anxiety I was feeling after the conversation. It took a while to get back to “normal.”

And just now, I made the mistake of going online and reading through a thread of angry people arguing about something political. Before clicking away, I realized my breath was shallow, I was getting progressively upset — and it had nothing to do with me.

Being an empath comes with some amazing qualities, but it can also make life feel like a lot. Since we take on the emotions others feel, it can be exhausting. That’s why empaths must take care of themselves and be able to live in a way that lets them thrive — rather than collapse under all the emotions they absorb. 

In other words, there are just some things we need in our lives to be happy. Here are 14 of them.

What Empaths Need in Life to Be Happy

1. Plenty of alone time (to center and recharge)

Empaths are often also highly sensitive people (HSPs) with reactive nervous systems, meaning the outer world can overwhelm us easily. We also need time to contemplate and think about life — otherwise, we can feel flustered and unsettled. We’re the people looking for excuses to drive alone or curl up in a quiet place with a book.

Peace is difficult to find when surrounded by other people, sounds, and various stimuli. So, empaths need regular alone time and mini-breaks throughout the day to refocus and recharge. It’s not just about being alone — it’s about self-preservation and self-care.

2. Routine nature therapy

Many empaths enjoy being around nature and soaking in its healing qualities. It helps them take a break from modern life and be present with the natural beauty and the gentle sounds of the earth — such as a light summer breeze, flowing water, or chirping birds. 

3. Deep, meaningful conversations

Empaths aren’t necessarily introverts, but similar to introverts, they hate small talk. Instead, they thrive in discussions about important, meaningful topics. When you’re empathic, you think deeply about everything going on in this world — and in your own head. Empaths need conversations about things that really matter to them, otherwise they can feel isolated and lonely without getting to discuss the deeper meaning of life and their experiences.

4. Limited time with draining people

You know the types of people I’m talking about. They’re often referred to as “energy vampires” — those who ask for the world and leave you feeling sapped of peace and energy. 

Empaths have huge hearts and want to help heal others. The problem is we also take on that suffering as our own. When we encounter people who use our empathy to their advantage, it can become toxic quickly. We need clear boundaries with those who drain us. As they say, “No” is a complete sentence!

5. When in a relationship, empaths need partners who understand

While empaths are good at loving others, the closeness of an intimate relationship can be difficult. We can be easily overloaded by our partner’s energy and feel like we’re losing our time to decompress. Empaths need to be with people who understand this and are okay redefining physical and personal boundaries.

6. Daily mindfulness practices

Before my day even starts, I can be overloaded by thoughts and emotions that make it hard to cope. Mindfulness is a must for getting out of my head and calming my mind and body. For some, mindfulness might be daily guided meditations. For others, it might be journaling, deep breathing, or walks in nature. 

7. Peace and quiet from loud noises

The phrase “I can’t hear myself think” is spot-on for empaths. Loud music, yelling, and other sudden or repetitive sounds can get overwhelming quickly. We need environments where we can have quiet moments often.

8. The ability to receive (rather than always giving)

Empaths love to give, especially when we know it will make others feel good. We also don’t like feeling like a burden, which can make it difficult to accept help or ask for support. But a balance of giving and receiving is part of healthy relationships — and emotional health.

9. Emotional release from past traumas

According to Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist and empath herself who has written extensively on the topic, both HSPs and empaths are prone to various forms of post-traumatic stress. Because we feel everything so deeply, we often grow up not knowing how to handle the sensory overload. In addition, we might experience physical or emotional abuse, neglect, bullying, familial chaos, or simply have people in our lives who didn’t understand our sensitive natures. 

Our past traumas can be carried into adulthood if we don’t know how to work through them and release them. In Thriving as an Empath, Dr. Orloff recommends these seven strategies for empaths healing from past trauma:

  1. Journaling about your early traumas
  2. “Going back” in your mind and removing your inner child from the situation
  3. Feeling and expressing emotions that surface (which can often be done with a good therapist)
  4. Setting clear boundaries with people
  5. Taking a few slow, deep breaths before responding to triggers
  6. Meditating 
  7. Practicing self-compassion

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10. Freedom from carrying other people’s burdens

Because empaths sense others’ emotions so easily, we can feel like it’s our job to heal other people’s pain. But we must remember that it is not. We can be a listening ear and check in with others, but it’s not our responsibility to fix them. Recognizing this is key for empaths to thrive.

11. A comfortable work environment

We spend so many hours at our workspaces. As empaths, the energy of our work environments can have an outsized impact on how we feel. Finding a job and physical work area that fit our energy is key.

12. Fun hobbies or projects

I write for a living, working from home, which is a great career choice for my highly sensitive and empathic brain. But even with a job that allows me to be creative, I need projects that take me outside of work and allow me to express the many thoughts and feelings floating around my brain. I think it’s good for all of us to make time for things that have no purpose other than to play, and empaths are no exception.

Some of my favorite creative hobbies include writing poems, making scrapbooks, doing puzzles, learning piano, and playing video games. The time I have for these types of things varies, but I consider making time for them a form of self-care.

13. Self-compassion… so much self-compassion

The act of self-compassion is vital for empaths. We are used to thinking we’re “too sensitive” or making a mountain out of a molehill. Many of us are accustomed to beating ourselves up for feeling things we can’t change. 

Self-compassion is the answer. That means practicing recognizing our own suffering, knowing that it is valid, and comforting ourselves as we would a child or dear friend.

14. People who don’t try to change us (because it’s just who we are!)

Many empaths are used to being told they’re “too sensitive” or need to stop taking things so personally. But we can’t change who we are — and we shouldn’t be made to believe that we should. 

Empaths need to be around people who accept their beautifully in-tune nature instead of trying to change them. Those people see how giving, open, and caring empaths are. They recognize that empaths can be amazing friends, partners, and confidants, and they don’t take that for granted.

What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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