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
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.
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?
Posted in Positive Thinking, Random
Tagged affection, beauty, culture, dance, family, food, friendship, gratitude, happiness, inspiration, languages, laughter, life, living, love, memories, music, nature, passion, presence, simplicity, singing, sunshine, travel, writing
Recently, a friend asked if I wanted to join her in giving gifts to the homeless for Christmas. As soon as she suggested it, I knew that this would be my priority for the day.
I bought socks, hats, gloves, scarves and chocolates and we set out one cold, windy evening. I hoped that the heavy rain would disappear before we wandered around the city but then I realised that this was just one evening out of my life, unlike every evening that the homeless had to endure. The following Feed the World lyrics came to mind: “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”
For the next couple of hours, we handed presents to the homeless. We were greeted with smiles and thank you’s. One man was so surprised, he continued to shout his thanks long after we’d left. It broke my heart and opened it in one fell swoop.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes about the Win/Win Paradigm of Human Interaction. This is the mindset that sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. It’s based on the principle that there is plenty for everyone, that one person’s success isn’t achieved at the expense of others. “It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.”
Many people have become jaded with the ways of our world. There is war and violence, theft and abuse. There is illness and death, grief and sorrow. But there is also love, connection and altruism. There is laughter, joy and sharing. The opening speech of Love Actually says it so perfectly:
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
What if it’s not you versus me, and us versus them? What if we came together, helped one another, and recognised that we are part of the same whole? What if we gave love to ourselves and others? And accepted the love that is all around?
Last night, I attended an amazing gig – Paddy Casey and The Secret Light Orchestra featuring the Shannon and Dublin Gospel Choir. The song Paddy started with was There is Light. I’ll finish with his beautiful words:
“We are everything, we are everything. And we have wild and precious songs to sing. We are lights that shine, throughout all time. We have all of this and more to bring… And the love that moves between us all knows we are the same.”
Posted in Love, Modern Society, Spirituality
Tagged 9/11, abundance, abuse, africa, airport, altruism, beauty, christmas, competition, connection, cooperation, death, dublin gospel choir, earth, evil, feed the world, gifts, god, greed, grief, hatred, help, homeless, illness, joy, laughter, life, love, love actually, lyrics, music, one, oneness, paddy casey, plenty, scarcity, shannon gospel choir, sharing, songs, sorrow, spirituality, starving, stephen covey, success, the secret light orchestra, the seven habits of highly effective people, theft, there is light, twin towers, universe, vicar street, violence, war, win/win paradigm of human interaction, world
The other day, I was complaining about how long it takes to blow-dry my hair. My mother informed me that, when she was a child, she had to towel-dry hers. I felt grateful for the invention of hair dryers. A couple of my friends then told me that they wish they had thick hair like mine. Again, I had to be grateful for what I was lucky enough to have.
This quote comes to mind: “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
Gratitude is something I practice every single day. It instantly lifts my mood and brings enjoyment to all the little (and the big) things that I have in my wonderful life.
I would like to own my own house some day but, right now, I give gratitude for the lovely little flat I’m living in. It’s cosy and central and I have it all to myself.
Yesterday, I met a woman who has been through cancer twice. She lifted her shirt to show us the scars from her double mastectomy. A wave of gratitude and admiration for this brave woman enveloped me.
She spoke of the fun she used to have with the fellow patients in the hospital. She remembered how the nurses would bring her tea and toast at 2am if she couldn’t sleep. “They didn’t have to do that,” she added. In the face of such a huge challenge, this lady was still able to express gratitude. She is an inspiration.
If you’re experiencing dissatisfaction, envy, frustration or a feeling of lack, try replacing it with gratitude. Think of a few things that are grateful for today. What you focus upon multiplies. And soon, you’ll marvel at the sheer abundance in your life.
Posted in Health, Positive Thinking
Tagged abundance, admiration, beauty, bravery, cancer, challenges, complaints, courage, dissatisfaction, energy, envy, fear, frustration, fun, gratitude, humour, i cried because i had no shoes until i met a man who had no feet, inspiration, lack, laughter, law of attraction, life, mastectomy, mood, need, want
Have you ever read something that’s changed your life? I have. After bawling my eyes out at Tuesdays With Morrie, a moving memoir about a dying professor and the important life lessons he shares with author Mitch Albom, I vowed to do one thing each day that makes me feel alive. I even purchased a colourful journal that I have dedicated to writing about all the wonderful things that fill me with energy and enthusiasm.
This doesn’t mean that I complete daily bungee jumps or declare my lust for every passing handsome stranger. But what it has done is push me to seize new opportunities, try different and exciting things, and appreciate the present moment. It has also made me more aware of the things, places and people that spark something electric inside of me as I go about my day-to-day activities.
Today, I flick through my handwritten recordings. Here is a sample of the delights that have jazzed up my days so far:
- The sounds and smells of the countryside as I freewheel past giant trees.
- How my entire body tingles as I speak to my Positive Living group about something particularly inspiring.
- That pleasant surprise when a random man tells me how gorgeous I am.
- Driving in the sunshine, windows down, stereo turned up loud.
- A sudden, heavy downpour as I race home, feeling fit and strong (and completely drenched!)
- Roaring laughing when a friend or family member says something that really tickles me.
- Ducking head first into a crashing wave.
- A procession of ants. Butterflies. Grazing sheep. Gangly calves. And how my heart melts when a dog looks up at me with his hopeful, brown eyes.
- Twin babies chuckling and gurgling in a language only they understand.
Reading back on these entries, I realise that nature features strongly. There is just something about the miracle of nature that stirs the life force that inhabits my body. Physical activity also plays a huge part in what makes me feel alive. And connecting with animals and other human beings reminds me that I am alive and part of something bigger. Something incredible.
Another thing I observe is that I struggle to come up with reasons to feel super charged on the days when I’m tired. This has shown me the importance of rest so that I can enjoy life to the fullest.
I set down the journal. The sun is shining so I lie on the grass, amongst daisies and buttercups, and gaze up at the sky. The clouds sail swiftly towards one another, joining to blot out the sun. Instead of cursing them, I am amazed at this spectacle that I am privileged to witness.
Recently, I came across the Rocking Chair Test. I remember it now as I stretch beneath the clouds… Imagine that you’re old and frail. You’re sitting on your well-worn rocking chair, pondering the span of your long life. Are you happy with all that you’ve experienced? Or are there still things you wish you had done? The beauty of this exercise is that you still have time. Time to really live. Time to fulfil your potential and follow your dreams. Time to live each moment in gratitude and aliveness.
What makes you feel alive? Could you commit to doing one thing each day that gives you that feeling? Try it for a week. I’d be delighted to hear how you get on.
Posted in Health, Positive Thinking
Tagged aliveness, animals, appreciation, awareness, beauty, body, change, dreams, enjoyment, enthusiasm, exercise, family, friendship, gratitude, health, journalling, laughter, life, living, love, miracle, mitch albom, nature, opportunity, outdoors, positive living group, potential, rejuvenation, relationships, relaxation, rest, rocking chair test, tuesdays with morrie, zest
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
|On Sunday, I put my back out at the gym. For the rest of the day, I was in a considerable amount of pain and could hardly move. I felt rather sorry for myself as I lay in bed. I was cranky and bored. I realised that I don’t make a very good patient. In fact, I am incredibly impatient because I want to get better quickly so that I can do all the things I had planned.
Last night, I went to see The Sessions in The Riverbank Arts Centre. The movie is based on a man with polio who was mostly paralysed from the neck down. He was a poet and a journalist with a great sense of humour. Despite his predicament, he was able to reach out to experience life and love.
This morning, I sipped a soy latte in the Keadeen Hotel while a large group of deaf people laughed and signed excitedly beside me. They were full of fun and togetherness.
And I just watched a clip from The Saturday Night Show with 16-year-old Donal Walsh who is terminally ill with cancer. This brave, inspiring young man spoke out about suicide and how he is grateful for every extra day he has to live. He hopes that his death will make people appreciate life more. He is sad to be leaving behind all the beautiful things of this world. Since his prognosis, he has given up school, travelled, and raised over €50,000 for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.
It was as though I was being constantly reminded of how lucky I am and how I need to put things into perspective. A healthy or seemingly perfect life may not be as rich as the lives of some of these so-called dying or disabled people. If you are able to open yourself to love, able to share and enjoy the wonderful moments of life with family and friends, able to laugh and learn and experience, and able to really live life, then you are truly blessed. It is then that you are really alive.
Posted in Health
Tagged acceptance, back pain, boredom, cancer, charity, deaf, depression, disabled, divine timing, donal walsh, enjoyment, gratitude, gym, health, illness, impatience, iron lung, joy, laughter, life, living, love, mental illness, openness, paralysis, patience, polio, positivity, relationships, suicide, surrender, terminal illness, the riverbank arts centre, the saturday night show, the sessions
There is no better spiritual practice than doing the things that make you happy. Happiness is your meditation, your mantra, your prayer. Laughter is your therapy, your medicine, your exercise. Self-love is the only diet you need, the best relationship you can have, and the greatest education you can undertake.
You don’t need rules, regulations and hardship to achieve happiness. Do what you love. Live your joy, your enthusiasm, your inspiration. Anita Moorjani tells us to be ourselves, recognise our magnificence, and live our lives fearlessly. There is no better message. It is so simple. If we understood this on a deep level and really believed it, we would never need another self-help book.
Robert Holden said: “You will never become happy. You can only be happy.” Stop striving for happiness. Be it. Don’t wait until you’re on holiday or in a relationship or earning enough money before you’ll allow yourself to feel happy. As the old adage goes, “There’s no time like the present.” I say, There’s no time but the present. So give yourself the gift of happiness right now.
Life doesn’t have to be as difficult as we make it out to be. If your raw food diet is making you miserable, the thought of meditating for an hour is bringing you out in a sweat, your stack of still-to-read self-help books is putting you under pressure, and the gym is about as alluring as a garlic-smothered crucifix would be to a vampire, give yourself a break.
Wander around the library and treat yourself to that novel everyone’s been raving about. Bake carrot cake muffins. Dance. Sing. Paint. Swim in the river and feast your eyes on the ocean. Travel to foreign cities and sample their culture, their language, their cafés. Give someone a hug. A real hug. Spend time with friends and be present with them. Laugh. Cry. Play with your children. Light a fire and watch a wonderful movie with a sweet mug of tea. Go hiking in the mountains. This is your life. Be yourself and do it your way. Love it. Live it. Do it now.
Posted in Spirituality, Uncategorized
Tagged anita moorjani, being present, diet, family, friends, fun, happiness, hardship, health, laughter, life, love, meditation, robert holden, self-help, self-love, spirituality
As babies, we know what we want and we aren’t afraid to ask for it. People around us care for us and love us unconditionally. As toddlers, we don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow. We are completely present as we absorb ourselves in play, touch and laughter. We believe that the universe revolves around us. As children, we understand our perfection. We give love and affection freely and know that we deserve nothing less in return. Nature is our playground. Life is simple and to be enjoyed.
What happened? We were born with all the secrets we need for happiness. We just misplaced them or buried them along the way. Now, we have to find, polish and treasure them forever. How about, this weekend, we spend some quality time with our inner children? Talk to them, be gentle with them, love them, and let them out to play. Have fun!
Posted in Modern Society, Personal development
Tagged affection, carefree, children, fun, future, inner child, laughter, love, nature, past, perfection, play, present, secret to happiness, self-worth, unconditional love, worry