How to achieve authentic happiness

In an increasingly materialistic culture, where achieving happiness seems to be connected to obtaining material possessions and climbing the career ladder, it is unsurprising that people are paying the price emotionally and spiritually. When searching for tips on how to be happy, there is a great deal of advice online that aims at improving your diet, health and lifestyle choices so that you can achieve a happy life.

However, what makes you happy is a personal experience and dependent on what matters most to you. Unfortunately, most of us spend our lives bombarded by messages about what happiness should look like, but drift further away from what is meaningful to you as an individual.

1. Evaluate what matters most to you…

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. (Mahatma Ghandi).

Often, work can contribute towards a positive sense of self-worth and give you a sense of achievement. However, if you’re feeling more than a little underwhelmed by your working environment, it might be the case that your values and your organisation’s values are misaligned. Ask yourself, what are my three most important values? Once you have taken some time to consider what is really meaningful to you, reflect on what messages the company you work for conveys. When most of your waking hours are spent working, ensuring that your values match up to your company values is essential in order to live an authentic and fulfilling life.

2. What makes you happy?

Sometimes, it is difficult to pinpoint what really makes us happy. When searching for tips on how to achieve a happier lifestyle, the advice available often points in the direction of what you should be doing i.e. you should exercise 3x a week because this ‘increases your endorphins’ etc. etc. This can feel as though there is a one size fits all approach to achieving authentic happiness. Although running on the treadmill three times a week might make one person happier, another person may feel mindlessly bored by the mere prospect of visiting a gym. If running makes you happy, then it’s important to keep doing the things you love. Otherwise, it is important not to judge yourself too harshly for not doing what you think you ‘should’ do in regards to achieving happiness. Finding out what makes you happy is about trying new things and seeing what works for you.

3. You can choose to be happy

Learning ways to become a happier person takes time. It is important not to get too focussed or wrapped up in the goal of being happy. Instead, try to look for the little things that make you happy today. It could be as simple as being able to sleep in for a couple of extra hours or treating yourself to something special. Being aware of negative thoughts is often helpful because you are becoming more aware of what you don’t want to experience. If you can, try to replace these inner criticisms with happy thoughts. Identify which negative thoughts are the most bothersome and find some positive affirmations to counter what you’re thinking e.g. if you’re disappointed with the way you handled a situation at work. Instead of berating yourself for the incident, tell yourself that it was a learning experience and you’re getting better at deal with these situations every day. You don’t have to do this with every negative thought. Just focussing on a few criticisms and replacing them with happy thoughts can transform the way you think.

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