We talk about happiness all the time but do we really understand what it is? We're trying so hard to find it but often, it remains just out of our grasp. It seems that we've gotten off track and that we're looking for happiness where it will never be found.
The two most important things to know about happiness are that it can't be achieved through the pursuit of money, objects, power or fame, and that it isn't a permanent state but something that comes and goes, waxes and wanes.
When we're clear about where to find happiness, we can make the kinds of choices that will maximize our chances of having more of it. Here's a list of ingredients that you can combine in your own way to move toward greater happiness:
1: Self-Acceptance: There's no happiness if you're not OK with who you are. Accepting yourself as you are now is the best motivation for you to work harder at having a better life.
2: Consciousness: Happiness is more likely when you see the truth about people and things, when you have your priorities straight and give up the false, "quick and easy" solutions to your problems.
3: Kindness: When you open your heart to the needs and feelings of others, it simultaneously fills your heart. When you can give freely and let go of greedy consumerism, the happier and more fulfilled you'll be.
4: Patience: If you must have everything immediately, it creates anxiety and stress. When you can wait for things to evolve and trust the process, happiness is more likely to find you.
5: Freedom: Happiness goes hand-in-hand with letting go of whatever or whoever isn't helpful to you or causes you pain. When you're attached to hurtful people, false beliefs, obsessive thinking or compulsive behaviours, happiness will never arrive.
6: Balance: It's important to have a balanced attitude and a balanced life, with both seriousness and fun, work and play, striving and rest. When the yin and the yang are in harmony, happiness is possible.
7: Meaning: The pursuit of money, power or fame for their own sake creates an empty, meaningless existence, but making a contribution to your family, community or society will lead to happiness.
8: Purpose: Being aimless leads to an empty life and creates alienation. Having a purpose in life gives it focus and direction. When you have something to live for, you have a good life.
9: Love and Connection: The quality of your connections with others is responsible for much of your happiness, as healthy attachments create a fulfilling and reassuring sense of belonging. Happiness can come from any form of love, be it romantic, familial or platonic, but the one form you can't live without is self-love.
10: Authenticity: Presenting a false self is exhausting and demoralizing. It disconnects you from others, because they don't know the real you and it disconnects you from yourself so that you lose touch with who you are and what you really want. This creates alienation and suffering.
11: Creativity: Making things, generating new ideas, solving complex problems and being so focused on something that everything else fades into the background are all conducive to great happiness.
12: Commitment: Being fully committed to something (whether a project or a relationship) means that you're fully invested in it; you're able to reap the most benefit and gain the greatest satisfaction from it.
13: Wholeness: Happiness comes from body, mind, spirit and emotions being integrated. When all your parts are working together instead of at odds with one-another you experience inner peace, which is a close relative of happiness.
14: Mastery: Meeting challenges head-on, learning new skills, overcoming obstacles and achieving your goals all give you a sense of accomplishment, confidence and pride in yourself.
15: Fun and play: The ability to engage in joyful play makes for a happy existence. When you can explore, be silly, forget yourself and let go of your concerns for a moment, happiness shows up.
16: Self-trust: It's impossible to be really happy when you feel unsafe, anxious or insecure. Trusting yourself to deal effectively with life's challenges will give you the inner sense of security you need in order to be happy.
17: Curiosity and Learning: Being curious about ideas, people and the world around you engages you more deeply with everything and leads to a life-long experience of learning. You have a constant source of enrichment, stimulation and adventure.
18: Optimism: Having a positive attitude is conducive to happiness, but holding on to false hope will only bring frustration. Optimism tempered with a realistic attitude is the way to achieve real happiness.
19: Passion: The more you invest in life, the more you get out of it. When you live fully and love deeply life has more riches to offer. Going for it with all your heart can't help but make you happy.
20: Ruthless Compassion: When you take responsibility for your own healing, fulfillment and success and refuse to tolerate disrespect, happiness will find you. When you give up being a people-pleaser or a perfectionist, acknowledge your accomplishments and use your experiences to grow from, happiness will surely arise.
Follow Marcia Sirota on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rcinstitute