Happy

Yesterday evening, I watched a documentary called Happy. This film explores what makes people happy. It was a welcome reminder of what happiness really is and all the ways we can work on and maintain happiness in our lives.

Interestingly, our genetic makeup determines 50 per cent of our happiness. Some of us are just born happier! Circumstance (where we live, our job, life events) only contributes 10 per cent towards our happiness. So we have a whole 40 per cent to work with. We have the power to boost our own happiness. It’s a personal choice. And one well worth making.

So because it’s always good to be reminded of how to be happy, and especially coming up to Christmas, I’m going to share a few of the best ways to promote happiness.

1. Gratitude: Recalling all the things you’re grateful for really makes you appreciate all you have. I’m currently keeping a 30-day gratitude journal where I write 10 things each day that I’m grateful for and the reasons why. Afterwards, I read them aloud. So by day 30, I’ll have 300 wonderful things to read. I’m only on Day 6 but already I’m feeling the change in my mood and my energy. And it’s making me more aware of the abundance of things I have to be grateful for as I go about my days.

2. Compassion: Caring for others is guaranteed to make you feel good too. Try completing a random act of kindness. Give a stranger a free parking ticket, donate clothes to the homeless or volunteer to work with the ill or the elderly. Helping others unites you with your fellow man. Doing meaningful things with your time fills you with a sense of purpose and pride. Another way of bringing compassion into your life is to do a Loving-Kindness meditation where you focus on sending love and kindness to yourself and to others. This form of meditation has even been known to help with depression.

3. Flow: Do things that bring you into a state of flow. When you’re in flow, you’re totally in tune with what you’re doing. You’re present. Time stands still. For some people, this could be painting or playing piano. It could be scuba diving or upcycling, surfing or sewing. Uncover your passion, get your creative juices bubbling and enter the flow.

4. Dopamine: Dopamine is a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In simple terms, it’s a feel-good chemical. We release this chemical when we perform rewarding activities like eating and having sex. However as we age, this hormone is produced less and less. The good news is that the more we show our bodies that we need this chemical, the more our bodies will continue to make it. It’s like a muscle that gets bigger the more we exercise it. Aerobic activity is great for stimulating dopamine release. Interestingly, if we work out in novel ways, even more dopamine is released. So instead of your usual jog, sign up for The Color Run. Rather than hitting the gym, go rock climbing or white water rafting. Replace walking around the estates with a hike to a spectacular location.

5. Mix it Up: Following on from the previous tip, another way to prevent yourself from sliding into monotony is to change things around. Take an alternate route when you’re walking your dog. Try out a different café. Attempt a fresh recipe from that book that’s been collecting dust ever since you received it three Christmasses ago. Join an adventure club. Attend a Meetup outing and make new friends. Travel to a destination on the opposite side of the map. After watching Happy, Bhutan is now on my bucket-list. Bhutan is a place located on the slopes of the Himalayas that officially uses Gross National Happiness as an indicator to measure quality of life in holistic and psychological terms. Now that’s my kinda country!

As you can see from the list above, the road to happiness is simple. And it’s free. In fact, once our basic needs are met, money does very little to increase happiness.

Happiness is sharing a meal with your loved ones. Happiness is laughing over a latte with friends. Happiness is being present with your children. Happiness is being astonished by the beauty of nature and the miracle of life. Happiness is when you realise  just how rich you really are.

Whirlwind

The last couple of months have been challenging. A whirlwind of emotion has been spinning forcefully within me. The intensity of these feelings has scared me. I’ve fumed with anger, cracked under pressure, retreated in fear, and battled against exhaustion.

Today, a dear friend sent me this passage written by spiritual teacher and author Jeff Foster:

Your feelings, the energies alive in your body right now, were not ’caused’ by anyone else, and nobody else can take them away.

Nobody else is responsible for your feelings. This realisation can end the blame game once and for all, and leave you standing in your true place of power – the present moment.

Making others responsible for how we feel is the beginning of all violence, both internal and external, all conflict between people, and ultimately all wars between nations.

Let others off the hook. Honour what is alive in you right now. Learn to hold your own feelings like beloved children, however intensely they burn and scream for attention. Celebrate the aliveness in your hurt, the vibrancy of your disappointment, the electricity of your sadness. Kneel before the power in your anger, honour its burning creativity.

From this place of deep acceptance, you do not become weak and passive. Quite the opposite. You simply enter the world from a place of nonviolence, and therefore immense creative power, and you are open to the possibility of deep listening, honest dialogue, and unexpected change.

In suffering you become small. In love, anything is possible.

Of course, I knew these words were true. But I also felt strangely annoyed by them. Because I can’t hold anybody else responsible for how I’m feeling. I am not a victim.

Blaming other people or situations may seem like the easy option. It can be comforting to be able to vent to a friend. And it can feel nice to have somebody take your side, bestow you with sympathy, and agree that the other person is wrong. After all, the ego loves to be right.

I had convinced myself that I can’t be at peace until this problem is resolved. That I can’t be happy unless he/she changes. And that I can’t go after what I want in life when I’m trapped by this situation. Hip-high in resistance, I’ve been wading against the flow of life.

However, today’s message has hit home for me. I’ve realised that if I keep raging and complaining, I’ll only be stoking the fires of this energy. I’ll become a casualty of my ego. A slave to circumstance.

Tonight, as I lay my head on the pillow, thoughts of my current predicament come to mind. A swirl of emotion begins to rise up in me. Then, I remember Jeff Foster’s words. Blame nobody.

There may be a whirlwind howling right outside my door. But I am not the whirlwind. And I am not in the whirlwind. I can see it and hear it and it scares me senseless on occasion. But it’s not to blame. It’s a whirlwind. And whirlwinds do as whirlwinds do.

And when the whirlwind spins a destructive path across my world, I’ll join the dance. When it rips things apart and flings them aside, I’ll bow down in gratitude. Because those things to which I’ve formed deep attachments actually need to be destroyed.

So I close my eyes and listen to it howl.

weheartit,com

weheartit.com

Laugh Yer Ass Off

Yesterday, I took part in teaching a class. I prepared what I would speak about, dressed up for the occasion, and delivered my presentation. I received excellent feedback and felt I was behaving quite professionally.

After the lunch break, everybody was sitting and waiting for class to resume. I sat down and, right in front of everyone, I fell right through the chair, landing on my ass. We all laughed, my cheeks reddened (the ones on my face!) and we continued on.

As I sat there, trying not to guffaw, I realised that this was a hilarious lesson on not taking myself too seriously. I’d had an emotional week and I’d been feeling tired and fed up. It all felt like hard work. But I was proud of myself for getting through it and doing my best. And then I fell, bum in the air, in front of a room full of people.

Last night, I drank a glass of wine with my mother, watched ridiculous YouTube clips with my sister, and smashed open a coconut like I used to as a child on Hallowe’en. I slept in my childhood bed and didn’t get up until almost midday, skipping an all-day workshop that I could have attended.

If yesterday’s incident has taught me anything, it’s that I need to lighten up, have fun and enjoy life for what it is, instead of attempting to control everything and be perfect.

The funny thing is that, even if I do wind up bum in the air in front of everyone, we can all laugh about it, and the show still goes on.

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Jigsaw Girl

What does the little girl do

when she’s broken

How does the little girl learn

who to be

Why does the little girl choose

all the wrong things

When will the little girl know

that she’s free?

                

Who does the little girl love

and feel loved by

Where does the little girl go

when she cries

Why does the little girl keep

seeing monsters

Because this little girl doesn’t

know how to fly.

                

Once

upon a day

in a rainbow

the little girl opens her heart

All the sparkle and colour

the sun and the moon

light her up

as it was from the start.

                

This time, this last time, this good time

the little girl sees and she knows

She feels and she is and she dances

and everything in her

it glows.

vk.com

vk.com

Feeling Alive

Last weekend, sitting in front of a roaring fire and feasting on cheese and red wine, I asked my friend: “What fills you with passion?”

“What do you mean exactly,” he wondered.

“What makes you feel totally alive,” I rephrased.

He paused before answering then turned the question back to me. Images of myself in various scenarios flashed before me. I listed them.

“Getting lost in music. Dancing alone in my apartment. Singing while driving.

Nature. Swimming in the ocean and marvelling at the panoramic scenery.

Writing. When I’m inspired, nothing can stop me from putting pen to paper. Time stands still.

Sunshine. Travel. Experiencing different cultures, foods, languages and landscapes.

Belly laughing with friends and family. Deep conversations.

Bear hugs.”

Writing them down now makes me smile. It stirs something inside of me. This is what living is all about.

The simple yet show-stopping moments. Points of pure presence. These times to be truly thankful for.

What fills you with passion and gratitude? And how do you feel when you remember these wonderful things?

favim.com

favim.com

No More Drama

These past few days, I’ve been questioning whether I’m holding the belief that good things don’t last. It’s like I dare not presume that it’ll all work out. I’ve been almost expecting things to go wrong.

I certainly don’t want to think this way and I’m afraid that this type of thinking will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But how do I shake such a belief? On the one hand, I’ve managed to become much more positive in many areas of my life. I often go back to the mantra: If one can, everyone can. But I haven’t yet integrated this optimism into all aspects of my life.

As I drive to work today, I tell myself that I’m going to have to shift this. And soon. But how? Do I need to do more tapping and thinking? Should I book in with an energy therapist or a Life Coach?

And then it dawns on me. I don’t have to do anything at all. I just have to stay present. It’s so simple that I might actually have to stop struggling.

What would I do with all the time and energy if I’m not worrying, resisting and analysing? I might have nothing left to write about.

Earlier today, I was speaking to someone about setting up a mindfulness evening. I remarked: “Some people might find the idea of a mindfulness evening boring. We’re so addicted to drama.”

And we are. We get caught up in the highs and lows of life. We love to complain and gossip, fantasise and catastrophise, daydream and reminisce. The thought of sitting in meditation and being present, without constantly narrating or being entertained by our loquacious imaginations, isn’t all that appealing.

My friend told me how beneficial he finds practising mindfulness. He pointed out that the more we sit in meditation, the more automatic mindfulness becomes in our day-to-day lives. It’s no longer such an effort to stay present. It just is. And we just are. He adds:

“And one day, a cup of tea is enough to bring you into total presence.”

I thank him for this beautiful reminder, then go right back to trying to decide what to do tonight. Should I stay in or go to that party? If I go out, will I enjoy it? Will I be too tired at class tomorrow?

I listen to this internal dialogue and bring myself back to the present. I don’t have to decide anything right now. I can see what I feel like doing when it’s time to do it. And I can enjoy this moment because I’m in it.

It really is that easy. No fuss. Just presence.

Well, that was an anti-climax.

unrealitymag.com

unrealitymag.com

Giving Up

This morning, I received some news that I really didn’t want to hear. I felt disappointed, upset, and even a little angry. I also felt foolish for putting myself in this position… again! I should have known this would happen. 

I cried and talked it out with a friend. She assured me that it’s best to find out one way or another sooner rather than later. She suggested that I’m better off without this particular situation in my life.

My friend’s advice made perfect sense. In the past, I’ve often been grateful when certain things were removed from my path (much to my dismay at the time) because they just weren’t right for me and they made room for more amazing things to enter my life.

Yes, I got my hopes up and they’ve been dashed yet again. And yes, it’s tempting to shut myself off in order to protect myself. I’ll never allow this to happen again. I’ll show them! But who suffers then? It would be quite sad to live that way.

Isn’t it better to be open to life and to love? To allow yourself to be vulnerable and to relate to other human beings with honesty and a welcoming heart? To be accessible to all the good stuff that life has to offer?

Of course, I do wind up getting hurt now and again. But it doesn’t affect me as badly any more. And I get over things much quicker. I can see the lessons in everything. I cry and moan, then learn and grow, and move on.

learning

This evening, as I practise yoga, the tears spill down my cheeks. Why am I so upset, I wonder. Am I really that cut up over this particular loss? Or is it because I’m losing hope? Is it because I’m believing thoughts that are laden with always and nevers? Or is it simply because I’m not getting what I want?

It’s probably a combination of all of the above. I got a taste of something that I liked and I want more. Is it okay to want? Or should I just be present with what is? Because this present moment is actually fine.

It is my mind that’s steeping me in sorrow. My thoughts are making me wallow. I’m dwelling on the if-onlys and what-if-I-nevers. And I’m beating myself up for not having moved past all of this when I really thought that I had.

As I complete my yoga sequence in corpse pose, I realise that it’s okay to take action and go after what I desire but it’s the attachment to the outcome that’s causing me to suffer. This attachment will raise me with elation when I perceive that I have what I want and it will fling me into devastation when it’s taken away.

I have to be okay with who I am, where I am, and how I am, no matter what. Right now, I’m feeling beaten down. I don’t have all the answers. And I feel like giving up.

But I know, deep down, that I am not these transient feelings. They are just visiting. However, I can take the time and space to sit with them and allow them to speak to me. I know that I’ll learn from this experience and the emotions that have arisen from it.

I lie here in corpse pose and I give up. I’m not running away from the pain and I’m not running forward to fix it or to feel better. I give up. I give up the need to know what’s going to happen and why. I give up control and expectations. I give up blaming and victimising. I give it all up.

And when I get up, I feel lighter.

thompsonblogs.org

thompsonblogs.org