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.
Posted in Personal development, Positive Thinking
Tagged abundance, adventure, ageing, altruism, appreciation, art, beauty, bhutan, challenges, change, charity, comfort zone, compassion, connection, cooking, creativity, dopamine, eating, emotion, energy, exercise, feelings, flow, friendship, generosity, gratitude, gross national happiness, happiness, happy, hobbies, holistic, homeless, humanity, joy, laughter, life, living, love, meetup, money, mood, music, nature, painting, passion, presence, psychology, purpose, random acts of kindness, rich, sex, sport, the color run, upcycling, workout
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.
Posted in Modern Society, Personal development, Positive Thinking
Tagged acceptance, addiction, analysing, anticipation, assumptions, beliefs, boredom, complaining, concentration, drama, energy, enjoyment, excitement, expectations, future, gossiping, imagination, internal dialogue, life, life coaching, living, meditation, mindfulness, negativity, optimism, past, positivity, presence, resistance, self-fulfilling prophecy, simplicity, struggle, suffering, tapping, thinking, thoughts, worry, writing
Do you ever feel lost? Unsure of your next step? Hesitant about which direction you’re going to take?
Will you move house, emigrate or travel the world? Would it be more sensible to start your own business or remain an employee? Should you go after this guy or that girl or concentrate on your own growth?
Well, I’m feeling pretty lost right now. I’m all over the place. And I’m angry with myself for thinking so hard and not being present.
I’m impatient too. I want to find all the answers immediately. I need to make decisions. And I worry that I don’t have the luxury of time.
But I’m afraid. Should I take the risks and trust that it’ll all work out? That it’s already unfolding exactly as it’s meant to? That I’m okay just as I am?
Today, I opened up to a friend about all this. She reminded me to tell myself that even though I don’t know what to do, I love and accept myself. Even though I feel shame and embarrassment, fear and anxiety, anger and annoyance, sadness and grief, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. She got me to tap on the feelings that arose as I spoke these words. As I tapped, I remembered this quote:
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
I can find beauty and despair anywhere. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Ireland or Greece, Thailand or Australia, if I’m in my current flat or a quiet house in the countryside, if I’m loved up or single (I can be loved up and single too of course).
All I have to work on is myself. Once I feel inner peace, everything else will fall into place. I must raise my own energy and the right path will beckon.
Right now, I feel vulnerable. Shaky. Part of me is too proud to admit this. To show my weaknesses and risk disapproval. But I’m doing it anyway.
Here I am in all my naked glory. I’m not perfect. I feel scared and uncertain. And that’s okay.
I could ask friends and family for advice. I could make an appointment with a life coach. I could listen to my acupuncturist’s words of wisdom. And I’m tempted to do all of those things. But I know that I have the answers. I need to take time out, switch off my phone, be in nature, sit in stillness and listen…
I still don’t feel good. But these emotions, events, deadlines and ultimatums are mirrors that are reflecting back to me the things I need to look at. They’re presenting me with an opportunity to make changes for the better. And I’m grateful for that.
It might seem like doors are closing but that shouldn’t limit me if I see the world as my playground. So instead of shutting down and resisting, I’m unlocking and allowing.
I have cracked open and that doesn’t feel safe. But it feels right.
Posted in Modern Society, Personal development
Tagged acceptance, acupuncture, adventure, advice, allowing, anaïs nin, anger, answers, anxiety, approval, beauty, bereavement, business, challenges, change, choice, codependency, comfort zone, courage, death, despair, doubt, eft, ego, emigration, emotional freedom technique, emotions, energy, fear, feelings, friendship, gratitude, grief, imperfection, inner peace, life, life coaching, living, loss, love, meditation, mindfulness, mirrors, nature, now, open, opportunity, patience, peace, presence, pride, relationships, resistance, risk, sadness, safety, self-acceptance, self-development, self-employment, self-love, shame, single, stillness, tapping, the tapping solution, time, travel, uncertainty, vibration, vulnerability, weakness, wherever you go there you are, work, world
As I climb into bed, various opinions and pieces of advice that people have given me over the years flash into my mind. I recall their musings on my life and on what I should and shouldn’t be doing.
After bulldozing in with their tuppence worth, these supposed do-gooders continued on with their lives without a second thought. Meanwhile, I attached more value to their throwaway comments than to my own lifetime experience of being me.
I’ve spent long enough caring about how others perceive me. I’ve winced at their judgements, flinched at their criticism, basked in their compliments, and hoped for their approval.
Before taking action, I presumed how other people would react. This ineffective technique of mind-reading actually influenced how I was feeling and the choices I made.
Now in my thirty-fifth year on this planet, I’m finally getting sense. I understand that anything anyone says is coming from their perspective. People dish out suggestions that are based on a minuscule snapshot of my life. And even that tiny glimpse is filtered through the lens of their own history and beliefs.
Last night, as I walked alongside my sister, I was tempted to ask for her thoughts on something I’d spoken about earlier. But I realised that I would be doing it out of habit. It didn’t really matter what she thought about this subject. Getting her to advise me would be a waste of her energy because I knew that I would go with my gut anyway. And I mightn’t even want to hear what she had to say.
Not many people enjoy being told what to do. Nobody likes feeling judged either. And how can anyone know with absolute certainty what’s right for another person? By doling out our opinions and “friendly” advice, we run the risk of blocking the flow of communication.
All we have to do is be there for one another. We don’t have to stress about giving the right guidance. What a relief not to have to be responsible for coming up with the answers or fixing everyone else’s problems.
Instead of handing out answers, start asking questions. This will facilitate lateral thinking, which will enable the other person to open up to previously unexplored options.
Support your friends/family/partners/clients in whatever course of action they decide to take. Listen to them. And more importantly, really hear what they’re expressing.
All we really want is for someone to just be with us and really hear what it is we’re saying. Because when we are heard, we feel understood. And when we feel understood by another human being, that is the beauty of true connection.
Posted in Personal development
Tagged acceptance, action, active listening, advice, approval, awareness, beauty, beliefs, blocks, choice, clients, co-dependecy, communication, connection, ease, empathic listening, energy, family, fears, flow, friendship, guidance, habit, history, insight, judgement, life, life coaching, listening, living, love, now, open, opinions, past, perception, presence, problems, questions, reactions, realisations, relationships, responsibility, self, self-esteem, sense, stephen covey, stress, trust, unconditional love, understanding
In order to wind down for the evening, I stick on an episode of The Mentalist. After about five minutes, I switch it off. I sigh. There’s nothing happening on Facebook. Nobody’s texting me. I don’t feel like reading. I self-diagnose “boredom”.
I take out my iPod, turn off the light and lie there listening to a Sleepy Time playlist I compiled a few years ago. A recent conversation with a friend comes to mind. She spoke about feeling that she has to be doing all the time. When she’s doing nothing, she gets into a bad mood. “Why can’t I just be,” she asks rhetorically.
I become aware that, right now, there is a need in me for excitement. I’m not being present. I’m wishing and longing for action, for something more. With this realisation, comes a feeling of space and acceptance and gratitude for what I do have.
I notice the beauty of this moment. The darkness of the room. The feeling of the bed beneath me. The lamplight pooling underneath the curtains. The music with its keening harmonica and evocative expression of passion. And the energy that I feel coursing through my body.
I don’t have to wait for something big to happen so that I can relish the moment. Every single moment is an opportunity to be present to it, to welcome it, to expand into it, and to be all that I am.
Posted in Personal development
Tagged acceptance, action, awake, awareness, beauty, being, body, boredom, doing, emotions, energy, evocative, excitement, expansion, expression, facebook, feelings, friendship, growth, insight, insomnia, longing, love, mindfulness, moods, music, needs, negativity, night, now, passion, positivity, present, realisation, relationships, sleep, space, technology, the mentalist, thinking, thoughts
I’m chatting with someone who admits to having unkind thoughts about people. “I’m so angry with myself for being like this,” she cries. As I move to embrace her, something comes to me. I explain:
“We have everything inside of us. Hatred, anger, envy, love, compassion, darkness, light, ugliness and beauty. And we move into whatever we need at that time. But we can get stuck in one energy or emotion and it affects us negatively. Then we attract more and more of the same. All you have to do now is get unstuck. Even talking about it is unsticking you. Letting go of your resistance to this will unstick you. Could you bring acceptance to how you’re feeling?”
She nods thoughtfully. As I am speaking, I have another realisation: “When we’re happy, we’re happy for other people to be happy. When we’re not, we’re not. So all we have to do is make ourselves happy.”
And that’s just what I have been doing lately. Instead of dwelling on the argument or the rejection and rather than worrying about the future or wishing things were different, I’m choosing to make myself happy.
I’m making sure to live a balanced life. I’m appreciating friends and family. I’m enjoying my work and my writing. I’m singing while driving and relishing in the sound of tyres on tarmac. I’m basking in the breathtaking sunset as I jog across the Curragh plains. I’m doing what I love and being in the flow and amazing things are arising out of it.
Do you need unsticking? What would shift that energy for you? Can you bring acceptance to how you’re feeling? Are you doing things that you love? What are you grateful for? Make yourself happy and the world will open up to you like a flower tilted towards the sun.
Posted in Personal development
Tagged acceptance, anger, balance, beauty, compassion, darkness, emotion, energy, enjoyment, envy, family, feelings, flow, friends, gratitude, greed, happiness, hatred, life, light, love, nature, now, possibility, present, question, rejection, resistance, sadness, thinking, thoughts, ugliness, work, worry, writing