In my practice, it is my experience, that one of the goals people hope to achieve is happiness. When I ask them to define what happiness means they struggle - they want something, they themselves, cannot define. It seems it is easier to define what makes us unhappy, and why we want to change that, but don't know what it is that will define us reaching a place in our lives that we would consider ourselves to be feeling happy. Some believe that happiness is only a myth, the emotional pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that you can never actually take hold of but seem to keep pursuing.
"Happiness", according to the dictionary, is defined as the state of being happy. Being "happy" is defined as: characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy", according to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/happy?s=t. However, each individual may have their own definition of what this pleasure, contentment and joy means to them There are times I will recommend that a client actively reflect on their definition of happiness and return with an answer for their next session.
In reading articles on happiness some recommend we should stop doing things that contribute to us being unhappy and others that there are things that we should being doing if we want happiness. Some articles recommended we should be doing or considering some of the following things to ensure happiness:
  1. Understand that we are the source of our happiness, it is not our circumstances or the approval from those external to us that necessarily make us happy. Our thoughts can influence our emotions and so it is possible that thinking about a situation differently can alter how we feel about it. It seems that some of us need to give ourselves permission to be healthy, and be loved, and feel happy.
  2. Loving and accepting ourselves, this is not about considering ourselves perfect, or even that we cease to work on bettering ourselves, but that we have an authentic appreciation for who we are.
  3. Choosing a lifestyle where being outdoors for periods of a day and exercising a number of times a week, these have been shown to boost our sense of well being and happiness.
  4. Being part of a community and connecting with people increases a persons happiness, this can be a religious community or another group of people who have similar interests to you, where friendships are made and support is built.
  5. Finding a way to express yourself creatively - this can provide a release to negative emotions and leave one with a sense of well being. Being creative can be a positive outlet for stress and anxiety. To understand some of the creative outlets one has at their disposal for working through negative emotions you can read a past article on Ethos: http://ethoscounsellors.co.za/neg_emotions.
  6. If our lives are to be meaningful, leading to a sense of contentment, then we need to contribute and not just consume. These acts of contributing need not be great acts performed publicly but can be simple acts of contribution to the world and others around us on a daily basis that contribute to one's sense of self.
The following are few things to consider not doing in order to, again, increase our sense of happiness:
  1. Stop being a people pleaser - this means one has to set personal boundaries and understand when and how to use the word "no" because we understand what our priorities are.
  2. Procrastinating and putting things off until later very often leaves us with a sense of anxiety, certainly not in a place of happiness. We might find that when we confront a thing we would prefer to put off, face it, it is often never as bad or as difficult as we had imagined. We can then let go of the burden it would have become.
  3. Being unable to live in the present, always looking to the past or the future - now is the only time we have to be or do anything and so often we miss the experiences of now by being dragged back to past experiences or by looking ahead and planning a future experience. We miss the "now" of our lives, the joy that can be felt in what is happening right now.
  4. Being a judge of others (and probably your own harsh judge) points to the issue of a possible inferiority complex. That one feel would superior by putting others down. We need to learn to respect others and ourselves for our uniqueness and humanity.
These are but a sample of actions and changes one can begin to implement in our lives in order to begin to feel a sense of contentment and joy that is authentic, not a "painted on" happiness for the sake of appearances. There is certainly a lot of other guidelines and reading material on this matter which would certainly be helpful to those seeking this sense of, feeling of, happiness.