On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you? Some of us don’t even pursue happiness because it either seems too far out of reach or it seems trivial, not worthy of our time and energy. But is that true? Enjoyment generally accelerates productivity and improves the quality of human connection. When we are genuinely happy we are less stressed, more pleasant to be around and respond more effectively to daily frustrations and unexpected challenges. As grown-ups, we tend to focus on being mature and responsible. Sometimes just surviving one’s life can feel challenging, and so actual happiness isn’t even on the radar. Some of us even think happy people are shallow and stupid, and we wouldn’t want to be like THAT. To be clear, I am not talking about that feeling you get when you eat a good meal or see a good movie or win the lottery. I’m talking about the deep joy and serenity associated with true long-term happiness, the mental state that helps us see circumstances in a more positive light and function better.
In any endeavor there are certain elements that need to be present for it to succeed. In a work project, for example, there needs to be a clear goal, a vision, incentives, buy-in from employees, etc. If you are planting a seed you need water, sun and soil. If you don’t have water, all the sun and soil in the world won’t produce a plant. Happiness is similar. There are a gazillion ways to approach the issue of happiness, but these are the basic categories that need to be addressed.
Relationship with Self -- Many of us do not spend any time on this. We are either too busy or so uncomfortable with ourselves that we avoid being alone. Basic well-being also falls in this category. You wouldn’t have a good emotional connection with someone if you treated them badly, viewed them as your last priority, or constantly berated them for errors. The same applies for your relationship with yourself.
Relationship with Others -- This includes having people to love, making time for those people, and being able to express yourself openly and honestly.
Relationship with God/the Universe -- Regardless of religious beliefs, or lack thereof, we all need a sense of connection with something bigger than ourselves. Prayer, meditation, practicing gratitude, writing poetry, admiring art, and many other activities may help us to connect with our humanity, the universe, etc.
Integrity -- There are many definitions of integrity, but the one I like is “having your words, actions and intentions aligned.” There is no judgment here. The only inquiry is about what supports you in achieving your goals. I include in this category everything from keeping your word, to planing your day, to pursuing goals that are in alignment with your values and strengths.
A couple years ago I noticed that I was experiencing a whole new level of joy and satisfaction. So one day I sat down and made a list of the actions I was taking and mental practices I was engaged in that made this level of happiness possible. When I feel myself getting off track I look at the list and start addressing one of those areas. I’ll share my list with you next time. Of course, everyone is a little different. I invite you to think about what actions YOU could take in each of these areas to boost your own happiness level.