Everyone on this planet wants to be happier, but not many people really know how to be happy on a daily basis. Happiness is an emotional state, but it is also a skill that can be learned.
After the recent Ask the Reader article I was increasingly excited to see some trends forming in the comments on how to be happy. It led me to start thinking about the fundamentals of happiness. What are the pillars of happiness? What is it that can create a world of happiness in your life?
What I have been curious about and hence the encouragement of readers everywhere to respond, is what are the pillars of happiness that are global? What fundamentals are borderless? Regardless of your country of origin, no matter your background, race, gender, age, etc, what is it that can be guaranteed to raise your happiness if you work on them?
Surprisingly, it’s actually quite simple.
Sources of Happiness
As I always do, I decided to get into the detail with this stuff and do my research! (you can never learn enough about personal development, wellbeing and happiness!)
So I went straight to the source… the Dalai Lama.
In his book “The Art of Happiness”, the Dalai Lama makes mention of 2 key sources of happiness:
2) Positive Environment (that you create through your behaviours)
Now, I thought this was great. And it is a great starting point. However, I think we can go a bit deeper (not that I’m saying the Dalai Lama doesn’t know what he’s talking about! Quite the opposite, but I like to make sure we have all bases of happiness covered and not just the ‘ideal’ state in which I do sometimes believe the Dalai Lama represents).
DID YOU KNOW? Did you know that the name of this website came about because of the Dalai Lama’s book titled ‘The Art of Happiness’? Unfortunately, the title The Art of Happiness is trademarked, but The Start of Happiness is just even better!
Even you guys feel there are more secret ingredients to building happiness as mentioned in the comments of the last Ask the Reader post. In fact, I think you all summarised it quite nicely!
What do you guys believe is the number one factor for bringing happiness to your life? Let’s see:
Amy: Choose to be happy.
Trevor: The simple things. Gratitude.
Stellar: Clarity and purpose.
Andrea: Achievement, positivity and balance.
Chim: Living your passion.
Rich: Choose to be happy.
Mark: Achievement and fulfilment.
En En: Purpose.
So who is right?
Well, to be honest, everyone is right!
Happiness is individualistic.
The answers to the above question proved this.
However, in saying that, can you see the themes? There are consistent themes across all answers, across all literature and across all scientific research.
In fact, I read over 30 articles, books and research papers and not one of them was the same. And to throw another happiness theory into the mix, I’m about to show you mine (which is an aggregated approach of many models). This, I believe, is much more simplistic.
I’ve tried to summarise these into a neat, little model for you. It’s true… I love models! (both kinds…). In fact, I’ve already developed a Happiness Model that explains how happiness is the start of a fantastic life, not the result of a fantastic life.
This new model goes to explain the fundamentals of happiness… that is, the 6 pillars of happiness.
How to Be Happy: The Six Pillars of Happiness
So let’s take a look at the 6 pillars of happiness.
If you are strong in each of these pillars then I would predict that you would rate yourself quite highly in your overall happiness levels. If you are not so strong in some of these pillars then I would predict that you might rate your happiness levels less. I would be keen to test this theory by hearing your comments.
The above model gives a snapshot of what I’ll take you through next. The thing to remember is that it is your choice to tweak one of the pillars and make a change. This is where it all starts… with the choice to be happy.
Understanding your values and living and breathing them on a daily basis is the first pillar of happiness.
If you were to tell me your values I would be able to tell you who you are.
Your values define you. They are your guiding source for all of your decisions and all of your behaviour. If you have clarity of your values and you act in alignment with your values then you will be feel content, calm and satisfied. However, making decisions and behaving in a way that is not aligned to your values is a sure fire way of increasing stress and uneasiness.
We have previously explored how to elicit your values and I recommend you go through the process here.
Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve in your life and WHY is the second pillar of happiness.
As mentioned by a few of our readers, purpose can actually be the number one factor in increasing happiness to many people. This is why there is so much discussion on ‘finding your purpose in life’, which, by the way has a full module dedicated to just this in our Change Your Life program which I highly recommend.
Having purpose enables someone to set clearer goals and work towards something that has meaning. When you feel like you’re making an impact on this world you feel like your life has more meaning, leading to an increased sense of fulfilment.
Your social network is the third pillar of happiness.
This has 2 areas within it. First, it includes the love and support you receive from those around you. Secondly, it includes the love and support you give to others.
Research continues to show that positive relationships are fundamental to happiness. I suspect that this will never change. However, the way that we develop these relationships may change significantly as we start to move more and more into a virtual world of relationships. Now, small ‘tribes’ are getting together all over the internet to support one another. In fact, The Start of Happiness already has its own tribe of a few thousand members! We’re all here together to support each other in living our best life possible. That’s why I love being part of this!
Interestingly, research on happiness suggests that supporting others can be more valuable to your overall wellbeing then just thinking for yourself. Can you imagine a world where everyone supported each other?
4) Health & Wellbeing
Your general health and wellbeing is the fourth pillar of happiness. Health and wellbeing encompasses both your physical health and your mental wellbeing. Having a positive attitude and an optimistic outlook on life can help in sustaining strong health and wellbeing.
As we’ve previously explored, your health can have an overall impact to your stress levels as well as affect your mood. It might be as simple as changing your diet that can have a huge impact to your overall wellbeing.
Let’s not forget sleep. Sleep plays an important part in your overall health, wellbeing and happiness. Again, widely researched, getting the right amount of sleep can have a huge impact on your level of happiness.
A lot of the research on the link between health & wellbeing and happiness is to do with the chemical reactions of what’s going on inside you.
The rule is simple… eat healthy, think healthy, be healthy, be happy!
Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. One of the most widely recognised skills for being happy. Rightly so, this is the next pillar of happiness.
Gratitude represents your ability to appreciate what you currently have in your life. It takes note of the small and simple things. The fact that you can read this right now is pretty amazing. There are billions of people on this planet that don’t have regular access to a computer, or even a computer at all. The fact that you can educate yourself so readily, so easily and at your own choice is pretty amazing. How about access to water? Your home? Your family? What about appreciating a nice warm cup of coffee in the middle of winter?
Being grateful is about living in the moment. It’s about living for now and enjoying every aspect of life. I’m not surprised that a number of you mentioned that being grateful was the number one factor for creating happiness in your life.
If you can start to worry less about the future, compare yourself less to others and start to create your own reality then you can be sure to raise your levels of happiness.
What are three things you can be grateful for right now?
The sixth pillar of happiness is balance. Everything in this world is good in moderation. There is Ying and there is Yang.
Ensuring that there is balance in your life can make a massive difference to your overall wellbeing.
If you are finding that you are working too much, perhaps even raking in some huge rewards, I would predict that your levels of happiness wont remain high or neutral for long as it starts to have a detrimental effect on some of the other fundamentals listed above.
Similarly, if you were not to be working at all, this might be great for a while, but again I would predict that your levels of happiness will not remain high or neutral for long as stagnation or a lack or purpose starts to kick in.
To help you identify how balanced you currently are in your life I recommend that you complete our Wheel of Life tool. This has to be one of my favourite tools. It takes just 5 minutes to complete!
Choice underpins the whole model.
As I mentioned upfront, your attitude, behaviours and feelings all begin with the simple choice you make in your mind. You need to make a concious decision to want to improve your life to then focus on taking action in the direction of your choice.
By tweaking each of the pillars in the model you might find that you can open up a greater world of happiness. Are there some pillars that need more attention in your life than others? If so, make the choice to work on them.
I could go into so much more detail on each of the above areas, with strategies and techniques to help develop each element (and I will), however I’ll cover these in future posts.
But for now, what are your thoughts on the fundamentals of happiness? Do you think this is a clear and simple model for understanding different areas to help you increase your overall wellbeing? Do you think there is an additional element not covered?
I don’t envisage this to be my final version of this model. I feel it can be further enhanced, developed and simplified.
Great advise here. I’m a big proponent of the balance pillar. I’ve found lately that balance has been a key part of my happiness.
Yep, balance is everything! It’s the key theme across everything about The Start of Happiness and living your best life. Life is all about balance 🙂
What about Awareness? To be truly happy, you have to understand what situation you are in. To really take in what is happening in your environment, to understand the position you are in, and being aware enriches emotion or feeling. And instead of being on cruise control, understanding how special the present is. Being aware definitely heightens the moment. I think this is a good candidate. What do you think?
Good thoughts. In my mind I would capture awareness under gratitude. They are both quite similar. It’s about living in the present, being aware of what you have and being appreciative of those things. Would you agree?
Gratitude is definitely a biggie when you want to be happy! Loved this post – thanks for sharing =)
Glad you got something out of it… Gratitude has been proven over and over again to be one of the most significant factors of influencing happiness.
Interesting post Brendan, I am curious what your thoughts are on the concept of a happiness set point/hedonic treadmill and where you think fits into this framework, (if anywhere)?
Great question! I’m actually typing up an article which talks about this exact concept… the pillars in this model would all need to work in tandem to maintain a good level of happiness. The model does not suggest that you will feel ecstacy 24/7 from living up to each of these pillars, as that is unrealistic. It’s about the consistency and maintaining of a positive state when you’re there.
Fantastic, I look forward to reading the article.
Of course, as you know happiness is cyclical. The way i viewed it was the pillars would help to maintain or potentially even increase ones happiness set point.
However, there is still so many unknowns about the particular concept of a happiness set-with so much more to test and discover, which makes it what makes it so exciting 🙂
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this is really an awesome post!
I was really getting frustrated by my job, since I just wasn’t following my purpose.
After I started my blog and my entrepreneurial journey in internet business I started to get happy again and to enjoy my life 🙂
Your post really sums up, what I’m experiencing right now, you are so right with your six pillars (although I’m working on the wealth pillar 😉 ).
Keep it on 🙂
I LOVE what you are doing!
It’s awesome that you’ve decided to pursue your dream and have TAKEN ACTION! That’s the main part… everything now will be opportunity and excitement..
Let me know how you go with the wealth pillar 🙂 Looking forward to keeping in touch!
Hi Brendan – ace article and spot on – there’s so much research based evidence out there now as to just how and why practicing gratitude, knowing your values (and aligning your actions to them), having a sense of purpose, a good support network etc. helps resilience, increases well-being and of course happiness. The trick for most of us is putting it into practice – which you’ve provided some great tips on too. Thank!
Great to see you here 🙂
I agree… the model works and the research supports this. It’s the implementation that is the hard part… the ‘busy life’ often seems to takeover, however that’s why it’s so important to step back and reflect every now and then.
Awesome blog!! Number 4 is so underestimated its mind boggling. Recently I was forced to pay less attention to my health due to a hectic schedule and it backfired majorly.
Ill try to visit your site and drop some comments more regularly, keep up the stellar job 🙂
Thanks for the input! It’s awesome to have you here 🙂
A hectic schedule is a recipe for disaster… I’ve been on a similar path recently and have had to make conscious effort to restore the health & wellness pillar… it makes a huge difference!
Im resonated with one of the pillars you mentioned in the model, that is gratitude. I remember I kept sending gratitude note to my supporting networks in the beginning of the year, I told myself the dumbest thing I should do is to take things for granted. Gratitude visit or gratitude note really hit the mark.
Then talk about balance, I am sorry I have different view on this part. In my sight, I deem balance as the backbone of the model rather than part of pillars. Coz to me life is a matter of balance. I really love the sentence you mentioned in the article ‘everything in this world is good in moderation.’
Last but not least, may I ask how can I upload my pic?:)
That’s awesome! I’m so glad to hear that you sent a gratitude note to your network… that would mean SO much to those that received it.
I agree with you on balance, and I actually originally had balance as underpinning it all. However, decided to make it a pillar as balance is not the be all and end all… you still need the others.
To upload your pic, head on over to Gravatar.com 🙂
Hey Brendan, you’ve definitely put some real thought into your 6 pillars. Well done.
And it’s interesting to see you listing my examples as an extension of gratitude. I’ve made it pretty clear in my writings that I’m not the biggest fan of the idea of gratitude. At least, not how I commonly see it preached in the personal development industry.
It shows that perception is everything. What you saw in my examples as being grateful for the little pleasures in life, I saw as living in the present. Kinda cool, huh? Perception is reality and there’s truth in both visions.
This was a good read Brendan. And it’s always fun when you get to see your name mentioned on someone else’s blog. Thanks!
Great insight… interesting the difference between the two… living in the moment vs being grateful. I see them as somewhat one and the same as appreciating the things around you that are in your life.
But as you say, perception is everything 🙂 Love the input!
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I simply love this post. I discovered your post via Twitter and have shared it with my FB groups, Twitter, and other online groups. I really enjoy the advice that you have provided. You can’t go wrong by implementing all six pillars for happiness.
To Your Success,
Thanks for joining in the discussion, and thanks for also sharing with your networks! I greatly appreciate it.
All 6 pillars work in unison together so it would be interesting to hear which ones are ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ to change than others. Thoughts?
I appreciate you reply. Out of the six pillars the easiest for me to implement are: 1,2,4,5. I won’t go into why they are easy to me because I think the harder ones should be discussed.
The harder ones for me to implement are: 3,6. I don’t always get support from my friends and family. I find a network of people who do support me.
I were many “hats” in my life. I’m a mom, wife, business owner, friend, acquaintance, daughter, sister, etc. I do my best to find a balance to juggle my life around to find balance.
Thanks for making this a discussion:)
Woman in Leadership Founder
It’s funny that you advocate happiness as being individualistic, yet those six pillars that you provide are pretty spot on, as far as what most people would consider keys to happiness. You’ve definitely offered a great framework for “how to be happy” and I appreciate you doing the research to create this article!
It’s a lot of work but I love doing this… there’s just so much to learn about how us humans operate 🙂
The pillars provide the framework… for each individual, the level to which they live by each of those pillars would have some form of impact on their happiness.
Wooohoo! I see my name!
Like you said, happiness doesn’t have a universal formula and it really is different for everyone. It just happens that for me, I find the most happiness when I am grateful for what I currently have instead of letting my brain wander with desire.
Nice name! ;D
The best thing is is that you know what makes you the most happy.. How do you feel the other pillars fall into the mix?
They all serve a purpose that is for sure, but in terms of individual effect I would then still say gratitude is the biggest pillar for me. Let’s just say if on a scale of 1-10, my gratitude level drops to a 7, it would have more of a ripple than say values would had it dropped down to a 7.
Interesting. I’d be curious to do some kind of survey or analysis and see which pillar most people would rate the highest.