When was the last time you felt happy? Most people will tell you they aren't sure. Yes, they remember times of joy, satisfaction and great pleasure but were they happy too? How can you tell? After all it was for such a short time or so long ago, wasn't it?

The truth is, very few of us really know what happiness feels like. Some of us think it is a sense of excitement over something, some believe it means enjoying a good meal, the company of someone we like, a nice trip abroad or a brand new
car. Others believe it's just a sense of contentment. But who really knows?

The notion of happiness is so vague and confusing that many people doubt it exists at all. "Happiness is a good bank account, a good cook and good digestion", said Jean Jacques Rousseau, a French philosopher who lived in the 18th century. More than a century later, Albert Schweitzer, a German physician and Nobel Prize winner didn't have a much better description of our ability to be happy. "Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory", he concluded.

Happiness does exist, but too many times we fail to identify it for what it really is. Happiness is aspiring to have a healthy state of mind. The trouble is that we identify happiness with pleasure, which is a completely different thing. And pleasure is definitely overrated.

Pleasure is what we experience when we get a new car, eat a great meal or wear beautiful new clothes. These elated feelings we experience are usually short-lived and therefore disappointing. Once these feeling subside, we look for the next thing to make us feel this pleasurable sensation again. Happiness, on the other hand, is not short lived. Actually, once we understand what it takes to be happy, it can stay with us for the rest of our lives.

So, how do we become happy? We apply three basic components to our lives: Peace of mind, a passion for what we choose to do, and self acceptance. Once we learn how to bring these three traits into our lives, we are bound to experience long-lasting happiness.

Here is what it takes:

Develop your peace of mind: Peace of mind is the result of developing a positive perspective towards the future, with anticipation rather then fear and anxiety. This doesn't mean we have to be optimistic all the time but we'd better learn to relax, to trust ourselves and the universe, and not get worried and focused on the outcome or the future.

Develop your passion: Having passion for what we do or want in our lives motivates us to move ahead, to create new things and to achieve new goals. When we have passion, our lives seem to matter. The things we do feel important and our entire existence becomes meaningful.

Develop your ability to accept yourself and others: In order to experience true happiness, we must learn to accept ourselves and others as we are, without judgment. It is also important to learn to be compassionate and loving toward ourselves and others.

Once we develop these three traits and learn to master them - learning to bring peace of mind, passion, and acceptance of ourselves for who we are into our lives - our road to happiness is open.

Author's Bio: 

Ilana Shoval is a single mother who became a journalist and editor-in-chief in two leading Israeli newspapers. Three years ago she became a web entrepreneur and advisor. She has written many articles about life coaching, self improvement and how to lead a successful life. Her website, life-coach-magazine.com, is aimed towards people who want to make life changes, and those in the process of transforming the way they think and take action in their lives.