Over the past fifteen years, a new, forward-thinking branch of psychology has emerged. In a radical break with traditional psychology, it has chosen to focus not on problems and how to “fix” them, but instead on what makes us happy and how we can bring more happiness into our lives. It’s called positive psychology, and you can put it to work in your life.

The five elements of happiness

Positive psychology says there are five key elements necessary to a happy, satisfied life. We need them all, and the more we have of each the happier we will be. The less we have, the less satisfied we are, and if we’re missing any element completely then we will most likely be unhappy. These five elements are:

  • Positive emotions of all varieties. Not just happiness, but excitement. Pride. Satisfaction. Any and every positive feeling is beneficial.
     
  • Engagement with what we are doing and our surroundings. Too often we cruise through life on auto pilot, and the more truly engaged we are, the more likely we are to be satisfied and content.
     
  • (Positive) relationships—and not just of the romantic variety. Relationships of all kinds contribute to our happiness levels: relationships with parents, children, friends, co-workers. The more positive relationships in our lives, the more happiness we obtain.
     
  • Meaning. When we don’t feel like our lives have meaning, we are unlikely to be truly happy. The more meaningful we feel our existence is, the greater our happiness and the more positive the other areas of our lives.
     
  • Accomplishments. Like meaning, we need to feel like we are accomplishing something. We need goals to work toward. Even if we don’t achieve them, the act of striving toward them helps give our lives meaning.

Manifesting happiness in your life

How do to cultivate these positive elements?

  • Look for the silver lining, and avoid negative situations when possible
  • Practice mindfulness. Be present and engaged in whatever you are doing
  • Cut out negative relationships and focus on the positive ones instead.
  • Set goals with a purpose, and do your best to achieve them. And if you fall short, don’t beat yourself up—cheer yourself on for having tried.

The five elements of happiness are interconnected, and each tends to spill over into the others. When you improve one area, it automatically affects the others till eventually happiness spills over and nourishes your whole life.