Are you truly happy? Is happiness a passing feeling or a state of being for you?
Tons of articles (and books) have been written about how to be happy, and there is some good information out there. I have read and synthesized hundreds of hours of research and experiments here for you, in this action-driven article.
What you will find is some deep, life-changing stuff (if you are looking for some “quick tips” instead, check out this post).
If you think that all talk about “how to be happy” is fluffy material and common sense, you are in it for a change.
There is a theory in Psychology called the hedonic treadmill, which says that great events (like winning a lottery) and terrible events (like losing a leg) can happen in your life, but after a while you are always back to your “baseline happiness”. If that is true, then more important than trying to change your external life is to actually improve your baseline happiness. This is the focus of this article – and not “feel happy” strategies.
Each item here is concluded with a suggested action step. And at the end of the post you will find a link to download a PDF with all of them.
Jump to section
- Understanding what authentic happiness is
- Part 1 – THE ESSENTIAL
- 1. Discover your true values
- 2. The secret to a happy life: alignement to your values
- 3. Leave aside the unessential – the art of saying “no”
- 4. Act based on creative freedom – not conditioning
- 5. Live the present, but don’t hunt the short-term
- 6. Don’t chase extrinsic values
- 7. Be careful how you feed your senses
- 8. Find a place of Flow
- 9. Nurture your Spirituality
- 10. Master your mind
- PART 2 – MINDSET & ATTITUDES
- 11. Face everything as an opportunity to grow.
- 12. Expectation creates disappointment
- 13. Yesterday is graveyard… How to forget the past and reinvent your history
- 14. Accept the things you cannot control or change
- 15. Move in the direction of your fears
- 16. Embrace impermanence
- 17. Happy thoughts – choosing optimism, choosing happiness
- 18. Be wrong
- 19. Have some trust
- 20. Dare to disagree
- 21. Money matters, but not really
- 22. Do your inner work (Bonus)
Understanding what authentic happiness is
Is happiness a feeling or a state of being? What is its nature, and what are its causes?
Wikipedia defines happiness as “a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”. There can never be, any objective measurement of happiness based on external achievements. It is an interpretation of reality, and not a result of reality.
Actually, happiness is such a loaded term, that I wonder if it is the right one for what we are truly seeking. I personally prefer to speak of fulfillment, contentment, and well-being. The greeks, on the other hand, spoke of eudamonia, the “well-lived life”
The problem seems to be understanding what causes human beings to continually experience this state. My research and self-experiments have led me to believe (that) there are three “kinds” of happiness: personal, transpersonal, (and) transcendental.
Personal happiness. Most people live by the belief that happiness is simply the result of accumulating as many pleasurable moments as possible, and of fulfilling one’s desires. Money, possessions, food, fun, sex, fame, power. Here is both the trap of “living as if there is no tomorrow” (the hedonistic blind focus in the present) and “living in hope of a better tomorrow” (putting off happiness to the achievement of a future goal).
The problem with this is that the pursuit of these pleasures and achievements can often be a painful and frustrating process (that is, an unhappy process). Besides, the happy-feeling resulting from these achievements is short-lived and usually less glorious than the promise (see Havard psychologist Daniel Gilbert on “miswanting” ). On top of that, in many cases we must fight hard to keep what was gained. Finally, even if we are those rare beings that can always easily get and keep what we want, without much pain associate(d) with it, the inevitable result after a while is boredom and indifference. Not really the definition of a fulfilled life, right? Sounds more like an ocean of trouble, with some islands of happy feelings.
The verbs for personal happiness are: “to get”, “to feel”, “to achieve”.
Transpersonal happiness. Scientific research in the field of positive psychology, pioneered by Dr. Martin Seligman, PhD, proposes that a higher “zone” of happiness is to use one’s unique qualities and perspective in the service of something larger than oneself. This “higher cause” can revolve around family, community, science, art, world reform, spiritual transformation, etc.Here, happiness is more of a process, a continuum. A path, rather than an event. And because its cause is larger than one’s ego, so is the resulting joy.
Have a look at the PERMA Model of happiness to learn more.
The verbs for transpersonal happiness are: “to do”, “to grow”, “to impact”