• Category Archives simple happiness
  • Breathe in Beauty

    If you have ever tried to meditate, you have probably experienced the difficulty of controlling, or even slowing down, your thoughts. Your mind races like a wild monkey, gathering ideas here and memories there, all the while leaving a nagging sense that you should be able to direct your thoughts, but can’t.

    While it may be difficult to control your actual thoughts, you can have complete control over the tone and tenor of your thoughts.

    Consider this:  Do you generally think kind, affirming, uplifting and expansive thoughts? Or do your thoughts tend to be of a more negative, critical and contractive nature? I would like to suggest that we are happier when we think positive thoughts, and less happy when we think negative thoughts.

    And what is the easiest way to flip the switch from negative to positive thinking?

    This can be answered in three words: Breathe in beauty.

    Let me explain.

    When our thoughts are spiraling down a path of negativity, they will continue in this direction because it is the path of least resistance. Months or years of pessimistic thinking create grooves in the neural pathways of the brain. The result: the more frequently a thought pattern is repeated, the more likely it is to be repeated in the future.

    Breaking this unwanted pattern requires an active shift of focus. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to think of something beautiful.

    For example, think of a dramatic golden sunset. Or imagine the sound of your child’s merry giggle. Or remember the feeling of delight when you lost yourself in creating art or solving an equation or playing a song on a musical instrument.

    Do you feel better?

    The point here is that you can’t think negative thoughts and beautiful thoughts at the same time. Nope, it can’t be done.

    So, begin to retrain your brain. Breathe in beauty. The next time you catch yourself with a negative or worrisome thought, try one of the following:

    • Look at something beautiful
    • Smell something wonderful
    • Listen to something inspiring
    • Recall something delightful

    Close your eyes. Take a slow, deep inhalation, and breathe in that beauty.

    Repeat. As needed. Allow this way of thinking to become your new  normal — your new neural path of least resistance. And see if you don’t feel happier, and perhaps even calmer, than you did before.

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  • Hard-Wired for Happiness

    Carnival ride“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” ~ Epictetus

    Happiness is one of my favorite subjects. I think most of us would like to experience more happiness and less unhappiness in our lives. But we’re not always sure how to do this.

    Srikumar S. Rao, Ph.D., is an expert in the fields of happiness and flourishing. His work was first brought to my attention via Jonathan Fields’ blog, awake@the wheel. In his book, Are you Ready to Succeed?, Dr. Rao asserts that happiness does not come to us as a result of circumstances or acquisitions. Rather,

    …happiness is already a part of your innate nature. There is nothing you have to do or get in order to be happy. All you have to do is allow it to surface.

    The problem, he suggests, is that we think that if we get/obtain/have something, then we will be happy. For instance, “If I get the promotion, then I will be happy,” or “If I move to Bali, then I will be content.”

    There are two obvious problems with this line of thinking. First, the “if” is always changing. As soon as we reach one goal, we may be momentarily satisfied, but the inner craving for “more” inevitably rears its head. Second, this model implies an external source of happiness, which, by definition, is outside of our control.

    The solution, according to Dr. Rao, is to set goals and strive to make improvements in your life and in the world. Do so, however, with the understanding that you should focus on the process (over which you have some control) rather than the outcome (which you cannot control). In other words,

    Act with the full acceptance that what you do is somewhat within your control, but the results are not.

    This subtle shift in thinking can have a profound impact on your sense of well-being and happiness. Lately, I have been trying to focus on the process while releasing the need for things to turn out a specific way. It’s not that I am not interested in the outcome. Rather, I realize that I only have control over that which I can actually control. I have noticed that I am much happier when I remember to do this.

    The results of any endeavor will be what they will be. And this zen-like detachment can lead to a much greater level of peace and contentment.

    Has this been your experience?

    Below is a 9.5-minute video of Dr. Rao discussing these concepts at a “Happiness at Work” conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

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