1. Researcher Matt Killingsworth said that to "focus on the moment and not to mind wander" is the key to happiness. I instantly thought of Eckhart Tolle's books "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth", which basically claim the same:
Only when you align yourself with the present moment do you have access to that power. Or it may be more true to say that it then has access to you and through you to this world. Jesus was referring to this power when he said, “it is not I but the Father within me who does the works.” And “I can of my own self do nothing.”
Anxiety, stress, and negativity cut you off from that power. The illusion that you are separate from the power that runs the universe returns. You feel yourself to be alone again, struggling against something or trying to achieve this or that. But why did anxiety, stress or negativity arise? Because you turned away from the present moment. And why did you do that? You thought something else was more important. You forgot your main purpose (=inner purpose). One small error, one misperception, creates a world of suffering.
Through the present moment, you have access to the power of life itself, that which has traditionally been called “God”. As soon as you turn away from it, God ceases to be a reality in your life, and all you are left with is the mental concept of God, which some people believe in and others deny. Even belief in God is only a poor substitute for the living reality of God manifesting every moment of your life.
Whatever your outer purpose might be, you have to bring it in alignment with your main that is your inner purpose: be present.
2. Journalist Carl Honore claims that the key to happiness is to "slow down". I was reminded of a Austrian public radio program about the comedian Roland Dueringer's latest project "Gültige Stimme", in which he e.g. describes how much time he won by taking public transport from his home to Vienna instead of driving the car. I did the same starting in January 2013 and it freed me to such an extent that I don't want to drive at all - not even on weekends. Slowing down definitely works in many aspects of our modern lives.
The great Chinese scholar Lin Yutang wrote a book titled "The Importance of Living" where he describes in great detail how Chinese used and still use to slow down to balance the business of life.
3. Author Graham Hill tells his TED audience and radiohour host Guy Ruz to have less stuff. Listening to that part of the program I instantly compared to Erich Fromm's great little book "To Have or to Be". Without doubt, having to much can be a burden that deprives us from being in the moment, therefore this guideline is closely connected to #1 don't mind wander. But I would add that there are different attitudes to having; one can own without being obsessed with the possession.
4. Psychologist Dan Gilbert elaborates that the pre-frontal cortex is an experience simulator "that got our species out of the trees and down into the shopping malls". It differentiates us from all other species and makes us what we are: human. But it is also the cause of un-happiness. We project in the pre-frontal cortex our thoughts into the future and build up desires, dreams, wishes, ... which eventually might not materialize, and thus cause us to be frustrated and sad. I have recognized this mechanism over and over by living in China and being frustrated with my Western expectations of e.g. weekend trip into the mountains or a simple cup of coffee.
Mr. Gilbert continues that resilient individuals who live more in reality than in their dream world turn out to be happier than those individuals who are stuck in their visions. In other words, the key to happiness is to focus on what is, not on what could be. This might sound like a fatal blow to all creative people, but it shall rather make understand that dreams are great as long as we don't depend on them, as Gilbert put it "we should have preferences over others, but if we overrate our preferences we are at risk" and for whatever experience we chose "we have the capacity to manufacture the commodity we are chasing after". Happiness is created by putting some "religious" effort into something or someone for a prolonged period of time, the best example might be raising a child. This made me recall another work by Erich Fromm "The Art of Loving" which is not about Kamasutra practices, but about the varieties of love and the unifying principle that all true love comes from a prolonged effort attached to someone or somebody.
I also had to think of Joseph Murphy's "The Power of your Subconscious Mind", because it explains so impressively clear that all our thoughts are projected into deeds and thus reality. The more we understand how to controll this process, the better we can control the direction our life takes. What Dr. Murphy missed in his work is supplemented by William James' "The Varieties of Religious Experiences" in which he portrays multiple characters and their religiousness. In spite of Mr. Gilbert's theory that all people are "hard-wired" for happiness, the father of Western psychology says that there are those who are religious by birth and those who need to be reborn - interestingly in his view true happiness and religiousness go together. Why is it then that psychologist Paul Watzlavick describes in his amusing and thoughful little book "Anleitung zum Ungluecklichsein" (Manual for Un-Happiness) that some people are doomed to be unhappy? Because they are not religious? If your subconsciousness messes up your life, because it projects thoughts into reality that you are not aware of, being religious does not necessarily have a positive effect.
5. The last speaker, Brother David Steindl-Rast, teaches how to learn to be grateful. He tells us that the key to happiness is to become aware that every moment is a gift. How? Stop, look and go! I always knew that Helmi was my true guru. He sang in the 80ies "Augen auf, Ohren auf. Schau links, schau rechts bevor du gehst" (Open your eyes, open your ears, look right, look left, before you walk).
All these keys to happiness hold unarguably some truth and can definitely guide to happiness. If they are the ultimate answer, I am not sure about. The comedian Bill Cosby is supposed to have once said "I don't know the key to success, but I know that always trying to please others is the key to failure." I guess this advice is also relevant as a guide to happiness.
We live in a work focuses world. If you meet a person the first question would be "What's your name?" There is a 99% probability that the second question will be "What do you do?". Spending most of our wake time in and on work. there can't be put enough emphasis on that realm of our live. The prolific entrepreneur and author Tim Ferris made in his best selling book "The 4 Hour Week" an interesting observation in regard to happiness that is well worth to be make the final line in this text:
What is the opposite of happiness? Sadness? No. Just as love and hate are two sides of the same coin, so are happiness and sadness. Crying out of happiness is a perfect illustration of this. The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is—here’s the clincher—boredom.
Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all. When people suggest you follow your “passion” or your “bliss,” I propose that they are, in fact, referring to the same singular concept: excitement. This brings us full circle. The question you should be asking isn’t, “What do I want?” or “What are my goals?” but “What would excite me?”
Continue to read on the Adventure Deficit Disorder in his book, if you want to have some more practical guidance to happiness.