Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Happiness Habit.

Be happy! by Robert Snache -

Practice makes perfect. . .or so the saying goes. Like many quotes we hear repeated over and over, there is truth to this statement. The more you practice something, the more skilled you become. Whether you are training to be a better ballerina, or are learning to control your anger, the more you repeat an experience, the more you learn and grow.

That’s why I like the idea that happiness is a skill. I firmly believe this it to be true. I first came to hear about the idea after spending time reading some books and teachings by the Dalai Lama, including his book “The Art of Happiness. As I learned about Buddhism, I discovered that scientific evidence had been found which showed that the brain could and does grow new neural pathways. MRI’s revealed areas of the brain which were different in monks who practice meditation and prayer every day. The longer they meditate, the more pronounced the changes in the brain.

There is also evidence that relaxation is a learned response. Many books and articles have been written on relaxation techniques. One of my favorites is the muscle relaxation, in which you lay in bed and take deep calming breathes as you imagine your muscles as knotted ropes which you mentally untie so you can “un-wind.” You can also mentally send energy to sore spots in your body, or “breathe into the muscle,” to add oxygen to your body. These techniques get easier with practice and bring tranquility and peace after a hard day.

Therefore it simply stands to reason that happiness is simply one more habit to practice. Happiness is so much more than a good mood and a positive outlook. It is going through your day with the fully-intended purpose of adding more comfort, joy, excitement, peace and love to your day. All the various and extensive things that make you happy.

Happiness is many things. It is an attitude, a perspective, an understanding, a pursuit, a discovery, a skill, an action, and a plan. It can make you happy to be at the bedside of a very ill person. Being with them may be upsetting and depressing, but knowing through words or gestures that your presence brightens the day of someone in pain can be very fulfilling. Sharing love is a huge part of happiness.

Happiness as an attitude includes the ability to see positive moments in a negative event. Perhaps you are stuck in a long checkout line at the supermarket, impatiently waiting to pay. As you are standing there you look at the magazine rack and see Mickey Mouse ears on a celebrity’s child in Disney World. It makes you smile and laugh. You start looking for other funny pictures and before you know it the line is moving forward.

Happiness is relaxing and comfortable. It is those little touches that soothe your body and mind, brining a sense of peace and security. A mug of hot tea on a rainy day. Putting your feet up after a long day of work. Thick fluffy pillows and a soft mattress at night. Paying attention to these small details can bring a warm, cozy feeling to your home making it a sanctuary from daily stress.

As with any other skill, making happiness a habit will increase your chances at success. Practicing happiness habits on a daily basis will improve your overall sense of well being so that when life’s inevitable problems occur, you will be more resilient and able to recover more quickly.

Here are a few happiness ideas to practice:

  1. Find your joy. Whatever makes you happy, from coaching Little League to growing prize-winning peanuts. Make time for pet projects. They’ll add zest to your life.
  2. Enjoy some blessed silence. A little bit of quiet time goes a long way. Even just 5 or 10 minutes of quiet can calm your mind and body and bring peace.
  3. Spend time with positive people. Being around grouchy, irritated and negative people can affect your mood. Seek out optimistic enthusiastic friends and coworkers.
  4. Get up and move. Whether you stretch, run, dance or take the dog for a walk, exercise helps energize and invigorate.
  5. Share your love. Hug the dog, kiss the cat, give your spouse a love poem. Expressing your love freely will bring more awareness of the joy you already possess.
  6. Be playful. Wear polka dot socks with your suit. Run through the sprinklers with the kids. Let loose and have fun.
  7. Practice gratitude. Give thanks for the beautiful treasures in your life. Count your blessings and watch them add up.
  8. Keep learning. Find a subject that fascinates you and learn more about it. Pirates, ancient cultures, or the habits of porcupines. New ideas will widen your perspective on life and make things more interesting.
  9. Relax. Read a book, listen to music, walk, or put on a comedy. Get comfy and let your stress melt away for a while. Your body and mind will thank you.
  10. Live in the moment. Stop worrying about past things you can’t change, and future events that haven’t happened. The present moment will give you more than enough to focus on.

Check out these sites for more info:

The Happiness Institute

The Happiness Project

52 Happiness Tips – Zen Habits

100 Ways to Keep Yourself Happy

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