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Happiness Doesn’t Just Happen: Top Habits to be Happier

22 May

My 30 Day Happiness Project has come to a close, and signing off I would like to share the best happiness principles and habits that I have found along the way. Before that, however, I wonder if you’d like to take a little quiz to rate your personal level of happiness? There’s one here at the Oprah Network – it’s good for helping to identify the areas of joy and contentment where you are strongest, and those you could use work on. Afterwards, you can check out the Happiness Plan page, for lots more great habits and resources!

In The Art of Happiness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama puts forth 3 steps to a happiness transformation. Under each of the 3 steps, I have listed my best findings for happiness habits and practices. Continue reading

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Do you Deserve to be Happy? (and 6 other dangerous happiness myths)

18 May

“The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” ~Benjamin Franklin

It’s been a recurring theme in this Happiness Project: We have to choose happiness, to cultivate happiness habits, and to be mindful and in the present moment to recognize and enjoy it since NOW is all we have. As the Buddha said, with our thoughts we create our world – and I believe this couldn’t be more true when it comes to real internal happiness. I think we also have to decide that it’s okay to be happy, that we believe in happiness enough to let ourselves actually be happy.

As I browsed the bookstore for a few books on this subject, one caught my eye. It was a book called Addicted to Unhappiness. The title alone was jarring, and somehow really sad. Yet, haven’t we all known people who seem to actually want to be unhappy, who seem to thrive on the problems and drama and negativity? Continue reading

False Happiness (or, don’t believe American television)

15 May

“Happiness is not something ready made.
It comes from your own actions.” ~The Dalai Lama

The word “happy” is derived from the Icelandic word happ, which means luck or chance. True to its origins, many people seem to go through life waiting to stumble onto happiness, for it to find them, or to catch their lucky break. But rather than happiness being some mysterious thing that we have no control over, the reality is that we are usually about as happy as we make up our minds to be.

In my reading, practicing and asking other people about happiness, the converse also interested me: what doesn’t make us happy? I’m not talking about the everyday frustrations of life, and certainly not the true, huge tragedies that greatly affect us and which we can’t help but be sad or angry about at the time. I was more interested in finding out what we learn about happiness as we go through life – what we thought would make us happy that didn’t, and how we cultivate happiness as we journey and grow. Continue reading

Can we Train our Minds for Happiness?

11 May

A lot of people seem to think so – that much the same way we can train our bodies to perform better in sports or playing an instrument, or the way we can teach our mind languages or math, we can also create patterns and habits in our brain that lead to greater happiness.

Alexandra Stoddard says in her book, Choosing Happiness, that we can vastly improve our happiness by studying it, examining ourselves, and taking action based on our thinking. And that to sustain long-term happiness it must become a habit –  a way of looking at life, a door we are always opening to a richer and more satisfying experience moment by moment. Continue reading

Wherever you Go, There you Are

2 May

Last week I wrote about aspects of happiness that are hard, that require work or temporary difficulties to obtain. I promised to follow that up with Happiness the Easy Way so to speak.

To me, this is the aspect of happiness that simply requires being. That philosophy of letting go of the striving, to simply be in the present moment. To enjoy right now, and let happiness and contentment come to us. So often, in our busy world and lives, we are constantly functioning in a planning state of mind – always thinking about our to-do list, the next thing on our agenda, problems to solve and stuff to do. In this way, we are really living in future moments – not being really present in this moment, experiencing it fully and mindfully. I wrote about this in my Meditation Project; this is why meditation helps with this. Continue reading

Is it Selfish to Pursue Happiness?

27 Apr

Seeking our own personal happiness may feel, sometimes, as if we are being completely self-absorbed. Is focusing on being happy a selfish act, even self-indulgent?

The Dalai Lama doesn’t think so – he says:

The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness.

Wow. Aristotle said happiness is the meaning and purpose of life. Psychological research shows, in fact, that unhappy people tend to be the most self-focused and are often socially withdrawn, brooding and even antagonistic. Happy people, in contrast, are generally more sociable, flexible, generous, forgiving and creative; they are also able to tolerate life’s daily frustrations more easily. So perhaps being happy isn’t so selfish; it not only improves our own life, but those around us. Continue reading

Is it Hard to be Happy?

24 Apr
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is
just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit
quietly, may alight upon you.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Does it require work and effort to make ourselves happy? Or is it like Hawthorne says, something that will manifest itself if we are just still enough to let contentment find us?

In my personal journey and experience, I’ve found that it’s both. I think there are two different elements to creating happiness for ourselves: an easy way and a hard way – and they both play a role in our lives.

I’ll talk about the hard way first, and leave the easy one for the next post, because the hard way is the one that I experienced first, on Day Two of this project. The more difficult, conscious, striving way toward happiness is the one we have to work at: being introspective so that we truly get to know ourselves and figure ourselves out; making a real and continued effort to communicate with those close to us and improve our relationships; exploring and strengthening our own psyche to create our path in life. Continue reading