Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Finding True Happiness

Yesterday, I watched Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul Sunday with Shawn Achor, author of four books, two most recent publications being The Happiness Advantage and his latest, Before Happiness.  Achor is a graduate of Harvard University, and a leading researcher in Positive Psychology.  Both of these hour-long programs were powerful, uplifting and spoke to me in a way I have never thought about happiness before. I will be re-watching them again and again.  Hooray for TiVo! 

This is rather a long-winded post, but it is important, at least to me, to share this information, and to help you help yourselves.  I am sharing my happiness and this lesson so that you, too, can find this for yourself.

Achor says that the ancient Greeks defined happiness as "The joy that we feel striving for our potential."  And we tend to search for happiness in all the wrong ways.  Happiness tied to tangible things is fleeting. For instance -- if we "just get that raise" or "make that sale" or get "that promotion" - the momentary feeling of happiness is great and wonderful, but dissipates quickly.  True feelings of happiness has to be defined to the way we live our lives.  The true feelings of happiness come from our external circumstances, how we live our lives, how we interact with others, how we spread the joy and happiness around us.  Success and wealth does not always lead to happiness. Optimism is the key.   How we live our lives, how we interact with others, how we share with the world links us inextricably to happiness.

During the course of Oprah's interview, Achor says it doesn't matter if you were born predisposed to being happy or not. It matters not whether you see the glass as half full or half empty, because the "pitcher" is right there, available for you to fill up your glass, and the glass of others at any time.  If we choose to create positive habits in our lives, happiness becomes easier and easier.  The more we connect to other people fills up our glass, and by doing so, it fills the glass of others around us, allowing them to see happiness and be happy too.   And happiness can be a learned condition.  By reinforcing the positive things in your life and being happy, you radiate this happiness to others, helping them choose to be happier.  Choosing to make happiness for ourselves in the present, we make it possible for others to do the same.  You are continually filling your glass. It matters not how you perceive it.  Change your life by choosing happiness

5 habits of "happiness hygiene" were identified.  Everyone has a "happiness bar" -- that level where you feel happiness, joy and contentment.  But you can easily raise the bar by developing happiness habits over a 21 day period of "habit forming."  Remember, we already talked about developing good habits, like writing in  your journal every day.  At the end of the 21 day exercise, you will have formed a habit of gratitude, thankfulness and improved your happiness bar. Keep it up, and keep raising that bar and turning your life to full-on happiness.

1.  Every morning, list three (3) new things you are grateful for.  Put them in your journal; say them out loud to yourself.  Smile more. It changes your brain chemistry, and according to Ophrah, "gratitude can change your vibrational frequency in the world." Gratitude changes what is drawn to you, and shows your mind that your behavior matters.
2.  Identify one (1) meaningful experience that occurred over the last 24 hours. Journal about this experience in full detail, reinforcing how it was meaningful, why it was meaningful and how it made you feel. Do this for 21 days.  Simple changes in our outlook have the power to make us happier.
3.  Write a 2-minute email or message thanking or praising someone. By phone or in person is even better.  Choose a different person every day for 21 days.  You are extending gratitude and happiness to others, and the impact on you and your life are measurably improved by it.
4.  Exercise - by exercising at least 15 minutes a day, you signal your brain that your behavior matters. You free your mind from unnecessary life noise and the endorphins experienced during exercise lighten your mood.  Do something cardio in nature -- even just a simple 15 minute walk.
5.  Meditation - the more time you can spend in stillness or silence reaps exponential benefit.  If you are like me and many others -- your mind won't settle down and is all over the place when trying to "meditate" -- spend 2 minutes watching your breath go in and out.  Your mind and your body will relax.  Again you are reinforcing good body behavior to your brain.

All of these five habits create a positive ripple effect to the people around you and to whom you are connected.

Identify and cultivate parts of your life that are meaningful.  For instance, if you have only one thing in your life that is meaningful (ie your child, your job, a sale, a simple 'thing'), then you are in a very fragile place.  If you have more meaningful parts of your life, you can be buoyed by them and not hit rock bottom when the one singular thing you hold meaningful falls apart.  You can still feel meaning so you can keep moving forward in your life.  You can use these multiple meaningful points to work on the area that is frustrating.  These multiple meaningful areas of your life sustain you with hope, promise and gratitude, to see you through the rough times.

Achor also believes that spirituality is tied directly to happiness. And there are immeasurable avenues for you to explore your spiritual past and your own spirituality.  Spirituality is a way of BEING - not necessarily a way of faith or worship.  It is a way of living. A way of doing. A way of living your life. Your own spirituality will guide you to happiness.  In giving an example based on Romans 2:12, Achor quoted: "No longer conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind ... "  There are many versions and translations of this verse in many cultures worldwide, but the thought is the same.  You can change your mind from what is learned from the world, to find good, joy and happiness through study, practice and implementation.  We can learn to be happy, despite the world around us.

Life in our world is bombarded by our hyper-connectivity, making our lives and our brains exceptionally noisy.  Eliminating this "noise" is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to being happy according to Achor.  Our minds are huge noisemakers in our lives. It's that EGO, the constant chatter in our heads that cause us to doubt, fear, and make bad choices.  All that noise is deafening, blocking out the positive signals that are always around us, which blocks us from true happiness.  Clearing your mind of the noise, the worry (which is brain noise) and seeking the quiet time for ourselves, achieved during meditation or quiet reflection, will free us from the negative noise and allow positive thoughts and energy into our brains.  Worry eats away at people's happiness -- and it gets in the way. The brain processes "noise" first (the negative), and then it processes the meaning.  If your brain has a lot of "noise" it never gets the meaning or gratitude in your life.  If you don't block out the noise, this also will up the stress levels of your life,  By decreasing the amount of external noise or information coming into our brains, we can find quiet meaning and a sense of worth and gratitude.

We all know that the world is mostly negative.  The more you "study" the negative and reinforce it, you become it, absorbing that noise.  If you're late for a meeting, you constantly look at your watch, reinforcing the negative. Look for something positive in the face of negativity and negative impacts in your life.  You can always use a mantra as a "noise" canceller.  Quit feeding the noise and focus the brain on things on things to move you forward.

Making us happy right now ...

If you fully visualize something you are looking forward to, a vacation, a special engagement, by living the event fully before it happens, with all the joy and anticipation of feeling 'happy' -- your brain doesn't know the difference between visualization and actual experience.  So if you are visualizing something positive that is going to happen in the future, you are literally doubling the positive effect on your life, causing you to not only feel it when it happens, but helping you to feel it now.  So in effect, that future positive event if affecting and shaping how you feel when you wake up in the morning, and the way you interact with others.

Recognize that happy moments show up in your life for a reason. 
Use random acts of kindness as a happiness multiplier.  We have the power to change the reality around us, by helping others choose happiness.

Happiness requires openness.
  This feeling of happiness is a perception you have to be open to receiving.  You deserve to be happy.  Stop hoping for a singular thing to make you happy. It won't. Create your own happiness by receiving it, creating it for others, being receptive to the moments, the lifestyle and the feeling of gratitude and meaning.  By changing your thought processes to a more positive self image and self awareness, you affect the world around you.

By figuring out what happiness really is, you will redefine what happiness is to you.  Find joy in the every day, the moments, the special people in your lives.  Choose to be happy. Choose to be grateful. Choose to spread happiness out into the world, making your own life more joyful.

I choose these things.  Go forth and be happy.


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  1. Very nice post Betty! Food for thought.

  2. I loved reading this post Betty...it speaks to the heart and gives solutions to having a more calm, joyful life. I really liked the "5 habits of happiness" list also, some thing we all can do. Romans 2:12 is one of my favorite Bible verses because when you renew your mind with the Word of God it can change the trajectory of your life. Great post, thank you for sharing with us. :)

  3. I started to read.this the other day but didn't make it very far. I was able to read the entire post this morning. Wonderful! So much good spiritual food! I just journaled on Romans 12:2 as part if my entry on my word for the year"Seek". I am concentrating on seeking Him first in everything and it would begin in my mind, my thoughts. Thank you for sharing this with us. So much information to improve ourselves.


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