Today marks the United Nations International Day of Happiness. This event is recognised every year on March 20th, with all UN member states adopting a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority.
Happiness is a profound topic. Essentially, it’s what we all seek – a state of wellbeing and joy, peace and contentment. Being happy boosts our physical and mental health and improves longevity, fosters resilience and brings meaning to our lives. Cultivating happiness is an essential practice that helps us to live with greater purpose and peace.
Yet in a complex and challenging world, happiness can seem elusive. As we ride the waves of existence, happiness often feels like it comes and goes. Our individual lives, and those of the wider world, are filled with ups and downs, light and shadow, ecstasy and suffering. And at times we get caught up in pain and difficulties, or even just the demands and distractions of everyday life, and lose connection with what brings us joy.
So, amidst it all, how do we find and maintain happiness? It’s a question that has occupied philosophers and scientists, theologians and thinkers across the globe for thousands of years. While there is no single definitive answer, there are many learnings that can support us in cultivating happiness.
Seek happiness within
Many of us relate happiness to our external circumstances. Yet, while it’s natural to be affected by what’s happening around us, true happiness is all about our inner state. We can’t always change or control what’s happening around us, but we can take care of our inner world. By cultivating internal balance and wellbeing through practices such as mindfulness and meditation, we find a deeper happiness that isn’t dependent on our outer circumstances – and equip ourselves to meet life with greater tranquillity and strength.
Honour the light and the dark
Life contains many moments of heartache as well as great joy. Happiness isn’t about blocking out and ignoring its difficulties. Instead, it’s about recognising that light and dark are always intertwined, and learning to hold with all that life brings. It’s important to acknowledge and make space for difficult emotions and circumstances. And at the same time, it’s vital that we also orient to the light and cultivate hope. From inner practices to connecting to loved ones and spending time doing what brings you joy and fulfilment, find ways to connect with and appreciate the beauty and preciousness of life.
Expand your view of happiness
We often associate happiness with feelings of blissful jubilation. This can make it seem harder to feel like we regularly experience happiness in our everyday lives. Yet happiness consists of many levels of emotion, from pleasant satisfaction to exhilarating joy. By expanding our view of happiness and attuning to subtler states of contentment, peace and ease throughout our day, we experience a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing.
Practicing gratitude is a proven way to boost our happiness and support our mental and physical wellbeing. By orienting us to the positive and helping us to appreciate what we have, gratitude supports us to feel more joyful and satisfied with our lives. Taking a few moments each day to feel what you are grateful for is a wonderful practice for shifting your mindset and enhancing happiness.
No matter how big or small, the things we do and say have an impact, creating a ripple effect in the community around us. Sharing kindness helps us to build a brighter future, and to actively create the world we want to live in. Doing good for others is also proven to boost our own emotional wellbeing, creating a virtuous circle. Whether it’s volunteering, helping a neighbour or friend, or simply offering a smile and a compassionate response, there are many ways we can uplift ourselves and those around us, helping to create a kinder and happier world.