As my friends and those who read my blog (my nearest and dearest!) know, I am a bit of a self-development geek.
If there's a new book claiming to bring you peace and love and happiness I'm on it, if there's a new MBS (Mind, Body, Spirit) class at my local gym, I'll be in there contorting myself in to weird positions and if there are new people in the self-development / business efficiency field, I'll be scouring their websites and buying their books up.
However, it wasn't until recently that I finally started putting things together. I had a 'light bulb moment'.
I'd often seem similarities in a lot of the material I'd read and courses I'd been on, but there was always a unique way of spinning it, something which made it stand out and sound moreintriguing than the last thing (obviously, otherwise people like me wouldn't pay for it, would they?).
I think actually this is just our subconscious playing avoidance tactics with us; always striving to find happiness outside of ourselves, not wanting to have to look closer to home and realise that all the answers lie within us (there's a famous quote there somewhere!).
In such a materialistic age, it's so easy to decide to reach spiritual enlightenment and untold success and happiness, simply by following instructions in a book. Let someone else do the hard work, why not?
Why on earth would we want to put in all the time and effort and hardship when so many other people have done it for us - that's what a credit card is for - to buy stuff that saves you time and effort.
So I bought and bought, and read and read, but being a (fairly) committed yogi I knew I had to look closer to home if I were to find the answers, so I started making notes of what worked and where the common themes lay.
The results of my findings were surprising, although not remotely scientific. There are really only three things that truly affect your happiness on a deep level (light bulb moment!).
Now, no way is right for everyone, so if you were just to read the rest of this article and take one small thing from it, that would be enough to make a change in your perception of the world and your happiness in relation to it.
Disclaimer - These 3 things aren't new or big or exciting. They're not a major new breakthrough in self-development. They're three common themes in the wisdom of the ages, and they might just help you smile a bit more.
Now I also know you'll probably read these and think 'I knew that', but, if you knew it, are you doing it? Are you consciously acting on these 3 things daily?
1. Treat others who you would want to be treated
This is a biggy. No matter which religion you might follow, or if you're not religious at all, someone will have told you this as a child. Kindness engenders kindness.
No matter who you are, or what you do, treating others with kindness and respect, the sort of kindness and respect you would appreciate, will be gratefully received.
Even those who don't show their appreciation straight away will eventually crack and return the favour, and doesn't it feel good to be the bigger person?
2. Be honest with yourself
About everything. Face the hard things head on. Address your fears and your weaknesses. Know what they are and accept them. Develop your strengths. Ask for help when you need it.
It's amazing how many times people I work with come to me blaming others for their problems,'This person's so mean', 'She makes me so angry'.
More often than not those traits you see in others are traits you don't like about yourself. Take a moment and reflect next time someone annoys you - do you ever act in the same way? Be honest.
3. Be aware of your thoughts
Your thoughts are a powerful tool.
'The Secret' brought to light what many sages in many religions had been saying for years. Prayer works. Your thoughts create your reality.
If you focus on needing something or a lack of something, you'll attract more lack and more needing. Being grateful for what you have and using creative visualisation for what you'd like, imagining it already having happened, has amazing results (I can only comment anecdotally, as stated, my findings aren't scientific but there have been studies - google it or better yet, try it yourself).
Another aspect of being aware of your thoughts is the concept of mindfulness.
It seems to be all the rage at the moment. It's actually an ancient Buddhist concept whereby focusing all your attention on the present moment releases you from worrying about the future or lamenting about the past. It allows you to be present in the here and now and enjoy life.
Why not try some of these things for yourself. Like I said, it's just what's worked for me, and I'm pretty darn happy at the moment I must say.
These three things seem to be common in a vast majority of self-development literature, so maybe I'm saving you some time.
Try the 3 things for 3 weeks - see what happens.