A few weeks ago, I read an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald about happiness and also listened to a talk by the abbess of the Nan Tien Buddhist temple near Wollongong. These have merged together in my mind as they covered a lot of the same ground. I'm going to summarise the points that seemed important to me, and also include my own take on some of the ideas.
A mental approach
* If you're happy, and your emotions are generally well balanced, you enjoy life more, other people enjoy your company more, and you're more productive.
* Happiness is only in the mind.
* In your life, there's a lot of things that happen to you. Some of these improve your life and some of them negatively effect you. There's a lot of chance involved that you can't control.
* Therefore, if you want to be happy, you can't rely on external events to make you happy.
* However, your mind is your own, and it is the organ through which you interpret everything.
* Since you are in control of your mind, you are in control of your interpretation of the events that happen to you.
* Therefore, by actively shaping your own interpretation and view of the events that happen to you in your life, you can choose to achieve happiness.
Completing goals makes you feel good.. for a little while. But there is always more to achieve. This means that you spend almost all your time trying to achieve, and the actual time after achieving is in fact very short before you need to rush on to the next task. Therefore, you've got to enjoy the path, not just the goal. Thus, see the mental approach above.
Ways that don't work
* Achieving happiness through possessing things never works. No matter how much you have, you always get used to that amount, and want more. This means you're always seeking, and the achievement is almost an anti-climax.
* No use comparing yourself with others to feel superior. Even if you are the "best" in your circle of acquaintances, it won't be long before you find someone who is "better". They'll always be people who are richer, faster, smarter or better than you in a particular area, so this approach will only lead to disappointment.
Since happiness is only in the mind, the reality of your situation is completely irrelevant. If you feel like you are in control of your life, you think you are achieving your goals and you think you are doing well, then you are.