Contrary to what advertisers would have us believe, what makes people happy does not come from getting more things, perennial youth, extra income or drinking a certain brand of beer. According to massive research done in the new field of positive psychology, authentic happiness (the kind that doesn't fade or change with circumstances) comes from within ourselves in the forms of self-esteem, social interactions, humor, free time and giving ourselves in service work or volunteering. These "drivers of happiness" are inherent qualities within our psyches and can be developed to produce tangible results; not only of greater happiness but also the trickle-down benefits of greater productivity, longevity, health and personal fulfillment in remarkably short periods of time. Happiness doesn't arrive by adding more possessions or events to our lives, rather it's the product of our mindset; it's the meaning we give events, what we choose to focus on, what beliefs we choose to embrace, how we react to daily challenges all play significant roles in determining our base level of happiness. Everything we need to increase our happiness is readily available to us - there is no need to "get" anything more to be happy now.

The science of happiness is now providing us with volumes of outstanding empirical data that supports the outlook of the mystics, sages and saints of the ages - that happiness comes first, and having the mindset and experiences of happiness is what creates the conditions that will attract the external "things" we want and think will make us happy. It's not the other way around.

Most of us are in the habit of delaying our happiness, thinking that when we have the ideal partner, income, physique etc., then we'll be happy... at the same time, we mistakenly assume that the state of happiness is a luxury item and not a necessity. As an example, when under the stress of time constraints at work or school, one of our first reactions is to jettison time spent with family and friends and to hunker down in isolation to get the job done - a reaction that would seem to increase available time and attention to spend on the problem before us. In fact, this reaction contributes to feelings of being alone, isolated and helpless; we become unhappy and stressed out and because we've removed ourselves from one of our most substantial happiness boosters, our social support group, we greatly diminish our problem solving abilities. Not the happy solution we would like!

Three key findings in the science of happiness as defined by Dr. Dan Gilbert of This Emotional Life are:

a) We can't be happy alone
b) We can't be happy all the time, and
c) We can be happier than we currently are

With these findings, we can now embrace new habits that will help us thrive and experience greater happiness by fostering 1) a greater social support network 2) developing greater acceptance and fewer rules about how life should be 3) deciding that our happiness gets top priority! Here are a few ideas to help with developing these new habits:

1) If we can't be happy alone, then we simply must be the one to take the initiative in nurturing new and existing relationships - you can't wait for people to come to you. Our personal and professional lives give us ample opportunity to sincerely connect with others on a common ground - we all want greater happiness. On a daily basis, take a moment to appreciate what others do for you and let them know; a simple thank you, an email or phone call to say "Thanks, I like what you do, how you make me feel, the results you produce ..." is always appreciated! If you're too shy to initiate an exchange, join a support group and meet new people there. Volunteering and service work are outstanding means to make new contacts, and it also gets us out of our own stuff.

2) We can't be happy all the time does not mean we have to suffer when we're not happy. When things happen that aren't to our liking, instead of wasting time and energy struggling with internal dialogues about how things "should" be or the "right" way for someone to behave, let go of the mental efforts to try to fit the world to suit your opinions. You can't change the past. And if you aren't happy now, what makes you qualified to tell others how to live? Start to challenge your beliefs about how things "should" be; are these really your beliefs or hand-me-downs from childhood? Give some attention to the assumptions and rules your life operates under - write them out and if they're outdated (as most will be), get rid of them and develop new ideas, beliefs and habits to better suit who you are today and where you want to be tomorrow.

3) We can be happier than we currently are is wonderful news! Our brains remain plastic as we age and we can learn new tricks, develop new habits and stimulate new neural synapses to increase our daily happiness. Of course, no one is going to do this for us, we must do the work ourselves - and our personal happiness has to start getting a higher ranking on our priority lists. A simple way to do this is by becoming more aware of how much we already have to be grateful for; every night journal about three new things you feel grateful for and why you're grateful for them. By writing out the "why" you'll connect to your motivating emotions and as you get juiced up about how these things make you feel, you'll naturally increase your personal resonance levels; like attracts like. The better you feel, the more you'll focus on what makes you feel good, and an increase in what makes you feel good will be the end result.

Learning to increase our happiness levels requires the same commitment, vision and dedication to repetition as developing any skill - make practicing these new habits easier by reducing your resistance. As you prepare for bed, set your intentions for tomorrow and get clear on what actions you'll take on these three key findings into what makes people happy; be specific on how you intend to expand your social support network, to release beliefs and conditions that unnecessarily restrict you and to develop an attitude of gratitude. Write out your happiness goals and review them often, and remember that the greatest return on happiness is received when we help others to be happier in life.

Author's Bio: 

Are you still allowing events from the past to limit your confidence and seemingly make you feel helpless? Natural Confidence is an easy and elegant program that will eliminate your beliefs and conditioning, for good, and allow you to switch your identity from that of a victim to that of a powerhouse - click here now to live your life on YOUR terms.

Lorna M. Atkinson is a writer and advocate of reclaiming personal power through the alignment of personality and soul and is dedicated to freeing the mind from limitations learned in the past.