Understanding ourselves is at the heart of being able to be happy but how to we do that? Do we sit in a dark room and relax? Do we practice meditation, or visit a therapist? We could do these things and maybe we will derive benefit but there are simple approaches we can take for ourselves.
We all know people who are highly successful but miss out in the happiness stakes. Often they don't know what makes them happy.
To be happy, we need to be engaged in those activities which support and develop our values and our personality and so we need to understand which activities give us pleasure. All of our activities give us a variety of responses from other people but we feel some are overwhelmingly positive. We could simply focus on those things we enjoy but there is a deeper lesson to be learned.
Thinking a little about why we enjoy those activities, can help us make a little more explicit, the values that are supported, the emotions elicited, the depth of feeling. We can think a little about why that activity makes us feel better. Was it the social contact, that particular group of people, the meaning of the activity, what it symbolised, the lack of stress, the camaraderie, the social value, the act of giving? Understanding how the activity supports our own values lets us understand ourselves on a deeper level.
But life is not all plain sailing. Sometimes we meet conflict and have to deal with it. Whether it is emotional or even physical, it takes its toll and one way or another we deal with it. Just how exactly do we deal with it? Does it leave us cringing and feeling worthless and insecure, or does it draw out aspects of our character we didn't know we had? Learning how to deal with life's conflicts can give us a broader range of responses so that we suffer less of the negative effects.
The understanding and control of our emotional responses means learning about our particular "buttons", those triggers that spark a reaction. We don't want to suppress our emotions or regiment our behaviour but by better understanding when we are likely to react badly, we can pre-empt the negative and steer ourselves to better outcomes. Less stress, less aggression, less anxiety, leads to more happiness.
As we develop a deeper knowledge of ourselves, we built up emotional independence and resilience, that essential skill in dealing with other people. We learn to empathise and sympathise with other people making us better able to relate to others. And we also gain in confidence and the clarity of knowing what makes us happy.
We all have different personalities and different needs and knowing ourselves, we can take more control over our lives and develop and protect our happiness.