The Concept of Happiness and Mindfulness

Happiness has been a topic of interest for thousands of years, from the ancient Greek philosophers to modern-day psychologists and neuroscientists, and the eternal question ‘What constitutes a happy life?’ continues to be explored. To help you address this question for yourself, you need to clarify your own ideas about happiness by answering a few questions and then thinking about what your answers mean for you.

To help discover what’s important to you, answer and think about the following questions:

  • Generally speaking, how happy are you?

  • What sorts of activities make you feel happier?

  • How important is happiness in your life?

  • How important is money as a factor for your happiness?

  • How important are relationships with friends, family or a partner for happiness?

  • If you were to describe your ideal life that would lead you to feel very happy, what would that consist of?

Having reflected on the preceding questions and your answers, now consider the following statement:

A life of wellbeing is not about doing one thing; it’s about a range of different things that together lead to a life of wellbeing. When you’re cooking a meal, you don’t just have one ingredient, you have a whole load of different foods that make up the meal — that’s what makes the meal tasty, nutritious and balanced. In the same way, a life of wellbeing consists of a range of different elements that work together for you.

In a moment you will list your typical elements, but to get your creative juices flowing, here are some ideas:

  • Meditation and yoga.

  • Being grateful for what you have in life.

  • Spending time with friends and having fun.

  • Exercising and keeping a healthy diet.

  • Letting go of things that don’t really matter.

  • Doing work that you enjoy and having goals, but not getting too concerned if you don’t achieve those goals on time.

  • Laughing at yourself and not taking yourself too seriously.

  • Being a good, supportive friend.

  • Helping others who need it.

  • Convulsive giggling.

Your list may well be very different. For example, if you have a family, the time you spend with them may be important for you. Or you may have particular hobbies that you really enjoy.

Now make your own list of about 10 elements. Ask yourself whether you give enough time and attention to these different areas. If not, take a small step today, for just one of those elements, to help it grow.

Consider the following list. Which of the items do you think would make you happier in the long term? Prepare to be surprised:

  • A relationship.

  • More time off from work or more money.

  • Having a baby.

  • Losing weight.

  • Knowing what you want to do with your life.

  • Ending a physical disability.

Amazingly, according to findings from years of careful scientific research, none of these outer circumstances would make you significantly happier. In fact, changes in outer circumstances result only in a maximum of a 10 percent increase in wellbeing.

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In addition, 50 percent of your happiness is fixed by your genes. But you can determine the rest, a massive 40 percent, by your inner attitude and chosen activities. In other words, making the right choices allows you to boost your long-term wellbeing.

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