To mark the international day of happiness (20 March), empowerment and personal performance coach Maria O’Meara, discusses some of the misconceptions about the notions of happiness and how these may be detrimental to us in achieving our goals. Happiness is said to be the ultimate goal and life’s true purpose, but it’s not uncommon to be unsure of how to get there. Maria therefore addresses the behavioural-strategies and key steps towards achieving long-lasting happiness.
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” – Dalai Lama. A beautiful notion, however like so many of life’s fundamental necessities, long-lasting happiness proves to be elusive for many. We all have a good idea of what it means to be happy and we can see happiness in others but understanding what actually makes us happy is far from simple. The motivation behind most of what we do is the pursuit of happiness, which was deemed to be so fundamental to the wellbeing of American citizens that ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’ was written into the United States Declaration of Independence. The importance of happiness is accepted by most across the globe; however, the million-dollar questions remain, ‘What is happiness and how can it be achieved?’
I advise my clients that the state of happiness is unique to the individual. Most will agree that happiness can easily be defined as an experience of euphoria. Nevertheless, such intense experiences are all too often short-lived. To enjoy a continuous state of true happiness – albeit fluctuating – we need to address all aspects of our existence and establish which areas of our life need addressing the most. By doing so, we can incorporate behavioural strategies that will ensure success.
Genetics play a significant role in our capacity and potential for experiencing happiness. We all know that individual who consistently enjoys an elevated state of happiness. The good news is that research conducted by Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky, from the University of California, Riverside, has determined that we can actually raise our happiness baseline. Putting genetics and external circumstances aside, it is believed that we can actually influence our happiness by as much as 40% through our actions and thoughts. A fact that I – through my practice – can testify to first-hand.
Before the pursuit of happiness can commence, it is of paramount importance to establish what constitutes long-lasting happiness for you, the individual. I work very closely with my clients in order to establish not only what will promote happiness for them but equally, what is preventing the existence of their happiness.
Contrary to popular belief, Britons are deemed to be some of the happiest people in the world and getting happier. The seventh annual ‘World Happiness Report’ placed the UK 15th in the 156-country ranking, just ahead of Ireland. Given that the nations ranked at the bottom of this list are typically affected by a combination of economic, political and social stresses, gratitude for the great standard of living that we enjoy could unleash a wealth of happiness.
All too often we focus on a goal, believing that when we achieve goal attainment we will be elevated to a new and improved state of happiness that we have yet to experience. The goal may well be legitimate and worthy of such a reward, however without ensuring that all other aspects of our existence are addressed, such rewards are likely to be short-lived. A balanced and inclusive approach must be adopted. Nurturing loving relationships, improving our physiological condition and having a cause in our life are just a few of the fundamental elements that can significantly contribute towards long-lasting happiness.
Happiness is not an illusion; you simply have to give it permission to exist. Gratitude and awareness are a great place to start. Unlike the United States Declaration of Independence, the right to pursue happiness is not written into the British constitution. That is not to suggest however, that what is necessary for us to be happy is not available to us, we simply need to know and address the changes which are needed for happiness to flourish.