A program director at the BBC asked Adam Khan, "What are the basic principles of your work?" Khan's answer was the following:
Human beings need a sense of purpose to be happy, just as we need Vitamin C to be healthy. The higher quality the purpose, the more it will contribute to happiness. By high quality, I mean it should be something you personally feel is important and valuable or enjoyable, and something you feel confident you can accomplish.
Simplicity of purpose is important too: There is a kind of greed that is natural in people. We want more. And so we keep adding goals to our lives until it starts to stress us out. You have to constantly prune away the least important goals to keep a sense of purpose in your life, but not so much you get up into overwhelm. Read Why a Goal is Good.
If you're trying to be happy, it really helps to exercise. I see a lot or articles about how walking the dog and gardening can be considered exercise, but in my experience, working up a real sweat and breathing hard has a much more dramatic impact on a general feeling of well-being.
Eating right is also important. Taking care of your body. It is easier to be happy when the body is healthy. Read Administration of Food and Drink and Where to Tap.
EXPLANATIONS OF SETBACKS
Some ways of explaining setbacks can cause unnecessary negative emotions that spoil happiness. Specifically, it is important to train yourself to explain setbacks accurately. You do this by imposing the discipline of checking your explanations for mistakes: overgeneralizations, exaggerations, hasty assumptions, etc.
Sometimes you will find your explanations are neither true or false. Then the explanation needs to be assessed for its helpfulness.
This area is my hot spot. There has been a lot of research about it, showing how your explanations can affect your health and your ability to succeed. I have a few chapters on that in my book. The chapter called Fighting Spirit tells of an interesting study Seligman did on the Berkeley swim team. And another chapter, Optimism is Healthy, talks a little about the research on your explanations' impact on your health. Read more about how to change your explanations to improve your persistence: Antivirus for Your Mind.
INTERACTIONS WITH PEOPLE
One third of my book is on dealing with people. It is so important for happiness. It may be the most important. Conducting your relationships with openness, fairness, loyalty, etc., and choosing a few good people to bond with really makes a difference in how happy you will be. An alignment of purpose is also important. Conducting your relationships with deceitfulness will definitely reduce your personal happiness in the long run. Read Deep Honesty.
Advertisers are of course interested in promoting the worldview that happiness comes from acquiring things. And I think humans have a built-in tendency to want to accumulate possessions. But this drive can be curbed, and it contributes to happiness to curb it, because the time and effort it takes to accumulate a lot of stuff could be better used if what you want is happiness. Read We've Been Duped.
Being true to yourself, learning to trust yourself, doing what you feel is right, not doing what you feel is wrong, speaking honestly: All these are important contributors to happiness. They help you like yourself, they make a big difference in the quality of your relations with others, and they will reduce stress in the long run. Read How to Like Yourself More.
Getting enough time away from other people is very important. It is calming, it brings sanity and clarity, and it is essential for the development of integrity. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to know what is really right for you, and what you really think and feel about something important, when you are in the presence of other people. We're social animals, and we are naturally and strongly influenced by the opinions of those around us. Going for walks by yourself, and spending time alone and thinking will make your long term happiness more likely. Read Solitude and Time.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.