“I will be happy when…” now finish off that sentence for yourself. What about – “When I win the lotto…” or “When the children are grown up and leave home…” or “When my partner…”
You know, the most damaging word is in that first sentence – “when”. So many of us put the responsibility of our feelings and wellbeing in the hands of other people or circumstances. The secret to happiness is to live now, to take personal responsibility. The secret is in ourselves.

We all have a residual level of joy in us – I call it our baseline of joy. For some it is very high, for some, very low. Regardless of what happens to us in our lives, research has proven that after a while (sometimes even after a very short period), we will return to this baseline.

Winning the lottery will increase our happiness – for a while. Falling in love and starting a new relationship, having children, moving into a new house, having a successful cropping season, getting a new car – all these life events will increase our level of happiness in the short term – but eventually we will return to our baseline of joy.

That’s great news if your baseline is high – you will be joyful and happy regardless of your life events.

What happens if your baseline of joy is low? Perhaps after every life event you return to feelings of emptiness, waiting for the next big thing to come along and off you go again. Unfortunately, we may do dumb things in search of that next big event that could destroy any chance of happiness.

Can we increase our baseline? Well, I would like to think so, but it takes continuous effort. You must take responsibility for looking after yourself.

Let me give you four words to base your strategy around to increase your baseline..
Appreciation, gratitude, variety and love.

Appreciate what you have – don’t grieve for what you don’t have. I think this is one the great lessons of travel. The simple act of turning on a tap to have some drinking water is a gift denied to a majority of people in this world. Yet we do it without thinking. What other things do you appreciate?

What are you grateful for in your world and how do you express that gratitude – through words or action? Stop right now and list the things in your world that you are grateful for and celebrate it. Do you share this gratitude? Life’s about giving – not taking.

Include variety in your life as part of your plan to increase your baseline of joy. We all have our routines around favourite meals, coffee haunts, venues to visit which is all well and good. Just don’t let those routines get you into a “rut”. Ruts create boredom and boredom is a threat to our joy.

And Love – unconditional love – the secret ingredient to it all. Love your partner, your family, your community and your world. Most importantly, love yourself unconditionally – regardless of your faults, fears and misgivings.

These four words through action will keep your baseline of joy high. And what a joyous thing that would be.