"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude."
Happiness truly is at the root of every single one of our actions. Whether directly or indirectly, long-term or short-term, immediate or delayed, we all go about each day with this goal in mind.
Most people know the standard ways to increase overall happiness - eat well, exercise, get a lot of sleep, have a good social network, don't stress too much, etc. Those are pretty straightforward steps to take, and certainly effective. But what matters the most comes from within and is a little less routine. Study after study pegs gratitude - being thankful - as an essential cause of happiness.
"Gratitude opens the door to ... the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe." - Deepak Chopra
I listened to a TED Talk the other day on happiness. The speaker said that after years of data collection and research to determine the "secret" to happiness, it became clear that people were happiest when they were in the moment - appreciating their present situation (even if it was something unpleasant, like sitting in traffic) as opposed to analyzing their past or anticipating their future.
It's a pretty cool concept - even if the present moment is not the most exciting, it's possible to find gratitude in it, and thus happiness. As I'm typing this, I'm pulling myself into the present and raising my awareness about what's around me - the soft morning sunlight, my warm cup of coffee, a body without pain, a safe place to work. Just acknowledging these things elicits gratitude and happiness.
This practice is something I aim to do as frequently as possible, pulling myself out of my whirling thoughts and into the present moment, where I know I will find something to be grateful for.