What makes us truly happy?

As today is the UN International Day of Happiness, I have spent more time than usual pondering my favourite subject - happiness. If you're looking for a quick fix, silver bullet or the route to happiness in three easy steps, I'm afraid you've come to the wrong place, but if you'd like to know what makes me a generally happy person, please read on.

If there is one golden rule to finding happiness, then it is that it lies within. Happiness is an attitude, a way of being and it is available to us all. Although external conditions can make life more comfortable or pleasurable, they do not make you fundamentally happy, because when those conditions change, which they invariably will, what you're left with is you, so if you are happy within yourself, then you'll be happy whatever. That's the easy part. How you get to said state of happiness on the other hand, takes time, dedication, courage and commitment.

As real happiness lies within, instead of constantly looking outward to find the next big thing, we need to look inward, to our inner worlds, and if you've not been in there much of late, you may have to do a rather hefty spring clean. That is, you'll need to find a way to figure out what really matters to you and let go of the rest. Trust me. It's an incredibly liberating experience and well worth the effort.

I dealt with my lot with a mix of meditation, Buddhist psychotherapy and biodynamic craniosacral therapy, but you'll need to find what works for you. I expect that most folk didn't have as wonky a childhood as I did, so spending time meditating will probably do the trick, but first it may be helpful to ask yourself what makes you truly happy.

Just quickly write down the first ten things that come to mind. Over-analysing it will lead to too much thought and not enough feeling. It needs to come from the heart. Once written, you'll find that the list becomes a reminder of how you want to live your life and you'll probably also find that it doesn't focus on material things or status, but on the moments of your life when your inner and outer worlds were in harmony, when you felt connected to another being, nature or the universe, when you helped another who was struggling, when you felt truly understood, when you were living in accord with your values, when you were just you.

We live in a world where material wealth and the acquisition of more stuff - usually stuff that we don't really need - is valued above all else and where the true causes and conditions of happiness are not, and this needs to change. So, in honour of the International Day of Happiness, why not take the time to figure out what makes you truly happy and resign yourself to making it a reality?

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