How to find lasting happiness

I spent this weekend reading Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness. Seligman believes that we have spent the last few decades focussing so much on what is wrong with a person,  that we haven’t paid as much attention to finding out what makes people happy or fulfilled.

The author spends quite a bit of time examining the body of research we have on the conventional factors thought to make us happy, such as money – materialistic people are not happy – something the Dalai Lama also pointed out to those of us who were in the audience when he spoke in Ireland last month.

How character leads to happiness

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved ~Helen Keller

Despite the easy availability of pleasures in modern life, our lives are no happier,  chiefly because availing freely of these pleasures demands zero growth of us as a person. Seligman believes that genuine happiness comes through the slow development of something we don’t hear about enough anymore ‘character’. Character is made up of universal virtues such as wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity. We can achieve these virtues by cultivating and nurturing personal strengths, such as courage, integrity, kindness, love and compassion. Compassion was another thing the Dalai Lama spoke a lot about and how important it is to cultivate it in our lives.

As I go through all kinds of feelings and experiences in my journey through life — delight, surprise, chagrin, dismay — I hold this question as a guiding light: “What do I really need right now to be happy?” What I come to over and over again is that only qualities as vast and deep as love, connection and kindness will really make me happy in any sort of enduring way. – Sharon Salzberg

Gratitude leads to happiness

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have

~ Frederick Keonig

Seligman emphasises the path of gratitude as a route to happiness.  He recounts a ‘Gratitude Night’ in which his students invited someone along they wanted to thank for what they’ve done for them – in front of everyone. People involved were generally on a high for days or weeks afterwards.

Happiness is a choice

Happiness is something we develop over time. Happiness doesn’t just happen by chance. We have to choose happiness and keep on choosing it.Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections and choose to find happiness anyway.

Martine Brennan, author of Happiness It’s Just a Habit, is offering a free happiness webinar, details of which you will find on her website.

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