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
I showed one of my Positive Living groups the following videos. For those who’ve already seen (or couldn’t be bothered watching) them, the first one is about how we perceive ourselves, how we hone in our flaws and imperfections, and how we don’t see the beauty that other people see in us.
The second is a spoof on the first and I cried actual tears, it was so funny.
Afterwards, we drew pictures of how our souls might look like. I instructed the class not to think too much, to just go with the feeling. Below is a picture of my soul, drawn my me.
Then, I told the class to draw a picture of how they feel the soul of the person sitting beside them might appear. I reminded them not to worry about it being a work of art, to simply allow it to flow. Because I was teaching, I was sitting at the top of the room so there was no way my partner could have seen the picture I had just drawn of my own soul. Five minutes later, I was presented with this.
We squealed in disbelief and hugged. We had drawn almost the same image of my soul, except she had made it bigger, more vibrant and even more beautiful. And it’s not unlike the Sacred Heart, which is regularly depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light. Maybe it’s not so unusual to imagine a glowing heart when connecting with one’s soul but nobody else in the class drew a heart for themselves or for anybody else.
This was a great exercise and I thoroughly enjoyed drawing like a little kid, totally absorbed in colour, connection and creation. Why don’t you try it with your children, partners or friends? You’ll be amazed at what manifests.
Posted in Random, Spirituality
Tagged art, beauty, body image, children, classes, coincidence, colour, comedy, connection, creativity, dove real beauty sketches, dove real beauty sketches - men, drawing, imperfections, inner child, laughter, positive living group, self-criticism, self-love, soul, spoof, synchronicity, teaching
Life is miraculous. From pregnancy to childbirth; fingernails and eyelashes, involuntary muscle action and the healing process; sleep and dreams, tears and laughter, memory and pain, pleasure and love…
Miracles abound in plant life and in the world beneath the ocean; from sleeping flowers to deep-sea bioluminescence. In the moon’s effects on the tides. In the stars and the planets that glow. In the ever-changing, ever-moving clouds and the simple strangeness of a rainbow. In rivers and mountains and volcanoes. In the mere 62 miles from here to outer space.
Miracles can be sensed in the steady growth of a seed, in the sweet scent of yellow furze, in a silent snowfall. A miracle can be witnessed in every lamb, lion, peacock and panther. In every earthworm, elephant, foal and firefly. In the astonishing metamorphosis of frogspawn, caterpillars and eggs to frogs, butterflies and soaring eagles. In the transformation of chunks of wood to keening violins, the deep tones of a cello, the heartbreaking ambience of a piano and the flamenco dancers invigorated by the passionate plucking of guitar strings.
Miracles can be felt in the beauty that arises from sweeping paintbrushes, from words that tumble from vision to feeling to pen to paper, from a voice that channels raw emotions. Miracles can be found in mathematical genius, geometry and quantum physics. In spirituality, creation, destruction and creator.
A miracle is born with every breath and birdsong; when the leaves dance in the wind, the weeping willow sways and the cherry blossoms fall. Miracles rejoice in the delightful chuckle of an infant, in a lover’s touch, in the awe-struck appreciation of a sunset…
The miracle of life is found in the searching, in the connection, in the bliss and in the discovery of self. In the present moment, in the here and now, in the being beyond language and analysis and definition, in the space between everything else; this is where magic happens. This is life as miracle.
Posted in Spirituality
Tagged amelie soundtrack, animals, art, beauty, being, birth, bliss, comptine d'un autre ete, connection, creation, creator, destruction, discovery, emotion, flowers, growth, life, love, magic, mathematics, miracle, music, nature, now, pain, plants, pleasure, present moment, quantum physics, science, searching, self, spirituality, yann tierson
The other night, I watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – a film based on a memoir written by a man suffering from Locked-in syndrome. Locked-in syndrome is a condition in which a patient has full awareness but cannot move due to complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes.
At the age of 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of fashion magazine Elle, had a massive stroke. He woke up 20 days later to discover that he was almost completely paralysed. The determined French journalist wrote his memoir by memorising what he wanted to say then dictating the text to a transcriber by blinking his one functioning eyelid (a system known as partner assisted scanning). It took him 10 months (at an average of four hours a day). He died two days after its publication.
I don’t know whether I felt depressed or inspired after watching the movie. This man had everything taken from him – his career, his partner (who abandoned him after the stroke), his health, his speech, and his independence. Understandably, he expressed his desire to die. But then he realised that, apart from his left eye, two other things were not paralysed – his memory and his imagination. He went on to write a bestseller and set up a Locked-in syndrome association. He had lost so much but the spirit within him was still able to create something extraordinary. And then he passed away.
Our mortality is something we are born with. Sometimes, I think we ignore the fact that this lifetime will not last forever. We get so caught up in routine and obligation that we are often oblivious to the beauty and wonder of the world around us. We become disheartened and apathetic, or frustrated and angry, so gratitude and appreciation seem irrelevant.
Life is short. So, we should do the things that make us feel thankful to be alive. Last week, I took my mother to see the New York Spirit of Gospel. The vocalists astounded us with their talent. They encouraged us to shake off our self-consciousness, get up off our seats and dance, clap and sing along. The performance was all the better because we joined in.
We spend so much time passively watching the world do its thing. But it’s only when we actively participate that we come alive. So, get out there and really live. Life is a gift if that’s how you choose to see it.
The world is full of miracles and adventure, blessings and delight. And there are so many ways to acknowledge this. Money or mobility don’t have to be an issue. You can travel to foreign lands or visit spectacular spots within your own country. You could walk through whispering forests and across the backs of ancient mountains. Or simply allow the deep tones of a cello to awaken your senses.
Embrace life and each other. Laugh long and hard and often. Learn how to surf or bake or speak Spanish. Tell someone you love them. Admit to your fears and share your passions. Swim in lakes and oceans. Feel the earth’s water on your naked skin. Dance. Cry. Sing. Love. Live.
Images: http://favim.com/image/31398/; http://xaxor.com/photography/25467-appreciating-life-photography.html
Posted in Modern Society, Personal development, Spirituality
Tagged appreciation, art, book, coma, death, depression, elle, experience, expression, film, gratitude, jean-dominique bauby, laughter, life, living, locked-in syndrome, love, magazine, memoir, mortality, movie, music, new york spirit of gospel, paralysis, participation, passion, song, soul, spirit, suicidal, the diving bell and the butterfly, travel
Why is dreaming big so frowned upon? When a child announces that he’s going to be a dancer, his parents and teachers hope he’ll grow out of it. Why is it more acceptable to say you want to be a doctor or a teacher, rather than a playwright or a photographer?
Simple. It’s because the people who care about you want to protect you from disappointment and hardship. Because your talent, no matter how much you and your loved ones appreciate it, might not be to everyone’s taste. Because so few people blessed / cursed with creativity “make it”. Because “struggling” is the most common adjective to describe “artist” or “actor” or “writer”. Because they want you to be safe and get a “real” job – one that comes with a company car and a pension. So, you’re advised to just be realistic.
But what’s realistic is acknowledging your gifts and doing something with them. What’s realistic is at least giving it a shot. What’s realistic is wanting to live a happy life doing something you’re passionate about.
Of course, it’s easier to live a normal life. Sharing your creativity means baring your soul. It means lifting the comfortable veil that most of us wear. There can be no secrets when you allow others to glimpse the depths of your emotion, the shades of your pain, the hidden creases of your heart, and the crevices of your imagination.
Sadly, many people don’t even try to pursue their passion. They know they’ve got something special but they’ve given up on it before they’ve even started. Or they’ve never had the time or space to explore their creativity. There are too many bored secretaries, frustrated sales reps and depressed accountants. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning these occupations. Creativity manifests in many forms. I’d just hope that if you work at one of these professions, it’s because order or commerce or numbers are your passion. And if not, that you’d at least humour your creative side on the weekends.
Without dreamers, the world would be a very dull place. We would never have even heard of music, poetry, theatre or literature. If nobody took a chance on their dreams, there would be no Harry Potter or Bilbo Baggins, Dracula or Holly Golightly. We wouldn’t be able to talk on the phone or fly to another continent. Andrea Bocelli would be just another blind Italian. And we wouldn’t have the likes of this.
Starry Night - Vincent van Gogh
Featured Image: Painting by Georgia O’Keeffe – http://www.artchive.com/artchive/O/okeefe.html
Other Images: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amandamabel/5597604359/;
Posted in Modern Society
Tagged actor, andrea bocelli, art, artist, belief, bilbo baggins, blind, career, child, company car, creativity, dance, dance of the sugar plum fairy, doctor, dracula, dreams, emotion, fight, georgia o'keeffe, harry potter, heart, holly golightly, imagination, italian, job, led zeppelin, money, music, occupation, pain, painting, parent, passion, pension, playwright, poetry, poverty, profession, salary, self-belief, singer, soul, stairway to heaven, starry night, struggles, success, tchaikovsky, teacher, theatre, vincent van gogh, writer
We all have something that causes the passion to bubble up within us. Be it writing or photography, health or healing, art or literature, dance or travel, nature or sport, film or fashion, justice or love.
When someone takes that passion and uses it for the higher good, it can be translated into something beautiful. And if it fills just one heart with joy; if it resonates with at least one other human being and makes them feel that they are not alone; if it helps even one person live a better life, then that is a passion worth sharing.
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela
If you have something that awakens some little bit of a sparkle within you, don’t be afraid to blow on its embers. Set the world alight with your passion. Not only will you be doing a service to all those who witness what you have to offer, but it will make you feel alive.
Images: http://ellenzee.tumblr.com/post/13470021301; http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=182031355225303&set=a.152032604891845.34642.152012388227200&type=1&permPage=1;; http://barfotabarn.blogg.se/
Posted in Personal development, Random
Tagged art, beauty, dance, film, healing, health, helping others, higher good, human beings, humanity, life, literature, loneliness, love, meaning, movies, nature, nelson mandela, passion, photography, sharing, sport, talent, travel, work, writing