The keys to happiness are self-awareness, purpose and connecting

An article appearing in South China Morning Post described how many of us are looking for a magic solution to ensure happiness as though a formula could do the trick.

It’s impossible to define happiness because the term means something different to every person. Unfortunately, too many people equate “happiness” with their current mood. What they are really looking for is joy.

“Being happy is not about having an attitude adjustment or forcing positive emotions while suppressing, ignoring or avoiding negative ones,” wrote the article’s author, Sarah Kuburic, who works as a therapist. Rather, “happiness comes from being self-aware, taking responsibility, making decisions, doing something meaningful, and connecting with ourselves and others.”

Remember, no person or no thing can make you truly happy. It’s unfair to impose that burden on other people, and it’s an unrealistic expectation that outside things are rich enough to bring about permanent happiness.

Our closets, garages and off-site storage centers are crammed full of things that once brought happiness. But, once the joy of acquiring the thing wears off, the object often collects dust on the shelf as we move on toward the next shiny object.

Getting a motorhome several years ago required me to downsize my material possessions to fit the confines of a 400-square-foot space. I could not believe the liberating effect downsizing had on my overall well-being. It was proof positive that things did not bring happiness.

Which bring us to people. We were created for relationship, so being around others is a life-giving endeavor — if you associate with the right people. COVID proved that. Isolation made people less happy, if not downright angry. Just as unloading unwanted trinkets can lighten your load, so can ending unhealthy relationships.

You know the type. They’re always critical, have a negative outlook about life and dwell on the ideas of scarcity and coming tragedy. I have heard researchers say that of the 100 things we worry about, 96 never come to pass and three have a positive outcome in the end.

Like the article notes, “happiness is a reflection of how we choose to live our life. It is not a single event but rather an outcome of all our decisions – big or small.”

That’s why identifying a purpose for your life and taking steps to fulfill that purpose is essential. It really isn’t about “doing more,” but doing the right things that resonates with who you are.

The fastest way to happiness and joy is by serving other people. The act of serving fills you up and fills up other people as well. It’s a win-win situation. The second fastest route to joy is through gratitude for what you already have and for the people in your life.

“Humans tend to feel happy when they feel useful or find their work meaningful,” Sara wrote. “People find it very difficult to be happy if they feel directionless. Learn what to spend your time on, how to protect your energy and how to recharge. It’s difficult to be happy if we are constantly running on empty.”

Sara’s full article is available at