Everyone talks about happiness, and everyone has their own ideas about what will bring us more of it. I think that there are four key principles that together, can create significantly more happiness for ourselves, as well as for those around us.
I call these principles the "four pillars of happiness," and they're really quite simple. They all involve being open in some way; open to the truth, to love, to ourselves and to others.
Pillar #1: Open heart. In order to be happy, we must have an open heart. We need to love and accept ourselves, just as we are, and we need to give love to those around us, and let in love from others as well.
Self-love and self-compassion create inner peace, which directly leads to happiness. Having an open heart makes us feel the attachments that exist between all living beings; it give us a deep sense of belonging. Instead of the pain of alienation, we feel the comfort and reassurance of connection.
Pillar #2: Open mind. For true happiness, we need to let go of our unnecessary mental baggage, including hurtful prejudices, false beliefs, incorrect attitudes, inappropriate expectations and unrealistic fears.
If we want to be happy, we need mental flexibility; the capacity to learn, change our minds and to see things from a different perspective. Mental rigidity creates suffering, but an open mind allows us to truly be in the flow.
Pillar #3: Open eyes. We need to face the truth about our past and also see what's in front of us, right now. We must let go of our counterproductive habits of denial, rewriting history and wishful thinking and instead, be fully present and engaged in our lives.
Being able to face the truth of our past and present enables us to live our lives to the fullest. Instead of creating an unhappy future based on hopeful fantasy, habitual thinking patterns or avoidance, we can create a happier life based on realistic, meaningful choices.
Pillar #4: Open arms. Selfishness has become far too popular these days, and it's a big reason why we're unhappy and feel so empty and frustrated. The answer to happiness isn't in accumulating more money or stuff, nor in becoming more famous or exerting more influence.
The answer to happiness is in sharing what we have with others; recognizing the truth of our interdependence and being generous and altruistic with our fellow human beings.
Studies have shown that we experience much more happiness from giving to others than from taking. When we open our arms, it satisfies one of our deepest needs: the need to give of ourselves.
Aside from being good for others, being generous feeds our soul and inspires those around us to be more altruistic. In that way, it creates happiness for everyone.
Try practicing these four pillars of happiness. I guarantee that your life will dramatically change for the better, and at the same time, you'll be making others happy too.
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"Work makes you happier. It provides routine, structure and self-worth. Make sure you are in a job you enjoy. If you are not, make finding one that you do a priority for this year."
"Personal control in work makes you happier; there is better life satisfaction for those earning less but in control of their working practice than those who are richer but have less control."
"Those with close relationships are happiest – try to see friends and family more in the New Year. Research shows the closer people live to their friends, the happier they are – make new friends close to where you live. Get to know your neighbours better, try joining sports groups or taking up a hobby close to your home."
"Identifying your strengths and focus on developing these, either in work or a hobby. This will encourage you to become immersed in what you do and find life more gratifying."
"Altruism is proven to help focus beyond ourselves and enable us to be more connected with the world around us. In 2015, find local charities, sports clubs or community organisations where you can donate your time - you might even start new friendships with local people."
"Set yourself a weekly target for acts of kindness for friends, family, colleagues and strangers on the street. This will further increase your connection to the outside world."
"Improving happiness levels can depend on how we focus our attention – being attentive and focusing on one positive task helps us to enjoy the moment."
"Those who are happier remember bad events in a more positive light – it is possible to focus on particular aspects of a memory to notice the positives more than negatives."
"You can retrain your mind to focus on the good things that happen rather than the bad. Stop taking your blessings for granted by keeping a gratitude diary. Every day for 6 weeks jot down 5 things that happened that day for which you are grateful."
"Regular meditation can help with positive mental health."
"Expressing your gratitude for someone’s actions is the single most effective exercise in positive psychology. Saying thank you to even small acts and gestures will help improve gratitude levels."
"The less time you spend on using technology, the more you can carry out activities that help you engage with the world around you.”
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