Six areas that really impact your happiness level: How to be happy with yourself.
I just finished reading an amazing book called Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar that really had me thinking about happiness and on such a deeper level. (He also teaches a popular and life-changing course on happiness at Harvard.)
When I finished reading the book, I scoured through other books on happiness looking for patterns - not only did I find a few, but they all seemed to connect and overlap.
I think that happiness comes down to the Self: it's a quest for a deeper connection to who we are, and who we are connected to. (Relationships do play a big part in happiness, but my deep dive was more of an inner journey.)
Here are some of my favorite quotes and takeaways:
How to be Happy:
1. Be present
2. Control your thoughts
3. Know you
4. Live your passion and be on purpose
5. Enjoy the journey
6. Connect to something bigger than yourself.
How are you with each of those areas? Which area, if improved, do you think would make the biggest impact on your happiness level?
I'm always working on each of these areas, but I think controlling my thoughts and being present are my two big weaknesses. I will say this though, after all this research, one thing is for sure:
Happiness is more of an art than a science.
1. Being present
• How present are you?
• Did you see the beautiful flower that bloomed in the crack of the sidewalk?
• How often do you noticing new and different things?
In his book Do You!, Russell Simmons writes: “…operating outside the present is actually what separates all of us from the happiness we desire. We talk about living for the here and now, but in reality, we’re much more comfortable avoiding it.”
He continues to say, "the world is so loud that we almost forget that we're capable of being present. We forget that we can experience seconds when we feel truly alive." It's in each and every second, not the minutes, which really determines whether or not we’re living in the present.
On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett, is a very inspirational podcast that explores the questions of life. She interviewed Ellen Langer, the “Mother of Mindfulness,” who is a social psychologist and professor.
She said that you can’t make a decision to be present, but if you were to actively notice people or things around you, then they would come alive to you. The act of noticing will instantly put you in the present - but, it's a daily, moment to moment, practice.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, talks about being present as a miracle: “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”
Marianne Williamson writes in A return to love, that our “capacity is expressed in the present….The difference between those people living their potential and those who don’t, is not the amount of potential itself, but the amount of permission they give themselves to live in the present…. we must give ourselves permission to shine, to blossom fully, to show up powerfully in the present without fear that we’re not good enough.”
When you learn how to use your attention and access the present, you will enter through the door to the quantum field, where all potentials exist. - Dr. Joe Dispenza
I couldn't forget the wisdom of Eckhart Tolle and his book, The Power of Now “To stay present in everyday life, it helps to be deeply rooted within yourself; otherwise, the mind, which has incredible momentum, will drag you along like a wild river... To always have some of your attention in the inner energy field of your body. To feel the body from within, so to speak. Body awareness keeps you present. It anchors you in the Now."
So, it seems that being present is probably the most important factor in increasing your level of happiness. Taking a minute to breathe, to ground yourself, and notice your surroundings, can instantly bring you into the present. The more you're able to do that throughout your day, the easier it becomes and the happier you'll be.
2. Your thoughts: They hold the key. What are you thinking?
As Shakespeare wrote so long ago, “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “To different minds, the same world is a hell and a heaven,” and more recently, Wayne Dyer was famous for saying, “Change your thoughts, change your life.”
• Are you aware of your thoughts or are you on autopilot?
• Do you allow just any thought in - both the good and the bad?
• Can you control your thoughts or do you allow them to run rampant?
Your thoughts have the power to strengthen or weaken you! So, it's a good habit to notice the type of thoughts you have on a regular basis - you're in the driver's seat, not them. You decide what's allowed and not allowed.
If you have a thought or two that you no longer want hanging around, especially the kind that seems like their on a loop, you can start taking control by shining some light on them. If you can become aware of when and why they appear, you can begin to dismantle them. (This actually brings us back to living in the present!)
But, if those thoughts have been allowed to set up camp for years, then you're probably in need of a software upgrade. For that, I suggest reading: Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dizpensa.
You are the driver, not the car. Don't identify with the car. - Marianne Williamson
From Awakened Imagination by Neville: “Nothing is more important to you than the ideas on which you feed, and you feed on the ideas from which you think….the ideas and moods to which you constantly return define the state with which you are fused.” Yikes!
And ponder this one: “Alter your inner speech and your perceptual world changes. Whenever inner speech and desire are in conflict, inner speech invariably wins.
Esther Hicks and Abraham in the book Money, and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Wealth, Health, and Happiness: “You have the ability to focus your thoughts - about yourself, about your body, and about the things that matter to you - in a different direction from only what is happening right now. You have the ability to imagine things that are coming or to remember things that have happened before, and when you do so with the deliberate intent of finding good-feeling things to think and speak about, you can quickly change your patterns of thought, and therefore your vibration, and eventually…your life experience.”
In the book Abraham says :
"When you first awaken in the morning, after a few hours of sleep, you are in your most positive vibrational state. If you would begin your day, even before you get out of bed, by looking for a handful of positive aspects in your life, you will begin your day in a more positive vein, and the thoughts that the law of attraction will now provide as your springboard into each day will be much better feeling and beneficial. In other words, every morning you have an opportunity to establish another vibrational basis (a sort of set-point) that sets the general tone of your thoughts for the rest of the day." - Abraham.
The whole Law of Attraction thing is actually about your vibrational frequency and the type of energy that you're sending out. The energy from your thoughts, emotions and your body create a vibration - and that's the type of energy you attract: it's the same vibration you're sending out.
People that have issues with the Law of Attraction are usually not aware that there are more layers involved. It's not just about thinking "positive thoughts" in order to attract what you want, because the thought behind the thought (your subconscious) also counts. You can think amazing and inspiring thoughts till the cows come home, but it's what you really believe - that's what you will attract. In order to create change, you must think, feel and believe the same thing - you must be one hundred percent in alignment.
You attract the predominant thoughts that you’re holding in your awareness, whether those thoughts are conscious or unconscious. That's the rub. - Michael Bernard Beckwith
So, what to do? BE AT THE HELM AT ALL TIMES!
Don't allow those negative thoughts to take over - become the gatekeeper. If negative thoughts come in, and they will handle them because you are not your thoughts!
Did you know that an easy way to change your mood is to actually make yourself smile?
It works because the action of smiling relaxes hundreds of muscles in your body, which then affects your nervous system - which is connected to joy. It actually creates a change in your brain and a positive feedback loop that alters your mood.
Try it out and feel the difference.
3. How well do you know YOU? Do you know your, "Zone of Me?"
I’ve gotten into the habit of asking myself: What would make me happy right now? Not, what makes me happy, but what would make me happy at this very moment? I find this instantly puts me in the zone - I like to call it, "THE ZONE OF ME."
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin dedicated an entire year to finding happiness. She had an epiphany one rainy afternoon on a city bus where she thought “the days are long but the years are short…Time is passing and I’m not focusing on the things that really matter.” At that moment she decided to study and find happiness.
She charted out her year, with each month focusing on a different subject. She started with a set of resolutions or principles to help her throughout the year and created her own twelve commandments. Her first commandment was “Be Gretchen”.
I love what she wrote here:
“With each passing month, too, I realized the importance of my First Commandment, ‘Be Gretchen.’ As great minds throughout the ages have pointed out, one of our most pressing concerns should be to discover the laws of our own nature. I had to build my happiness on the foundation of my character; I had to acknowledge what really made me happy, not what I wished made me happy. One of the biggest surprises of the happiness project was just how hard it was to know myself. I’d always been slightly exasperated by philosophers’ constant emphasis on what seemed to me to be a fairly obvious question, but in the end I realized that I would spend my whole life grappling with the question of how to be Gretchen.”
Recently, she was interviewed on one of my favorite podcasts, The Unmistakable Creative, and she said, “We can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own interests, our own values, our own temperament, and so the more you know yourself, the more your life reflects that.”
Michael Bernard Beckwith in Spiritual Liberation wrote, "There is a cosmic magnet drawing each of us into an intimate exploration of the dimensions of our being. And yet, few of us have responded to this magnetic pull and intimately communed with our deepest Self."
Bottom line here: We are ultimately the ones responsible for rowing our own boat.
Russell Simmons from Do You!: “Always try to be yourself. Even though that sounds very simple, it’s actually one of the most difficult laws to follow. The first step is knowing yourself - who you are and what you stand for. And the only way to do that is to be in touch with that higher voice inside you. To be present and at one with who you are.”
In 1873, Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher, wrote about the path to finding ourselves in, Schopenhauer as Educator translation by Daniel Pellerin:
"Let the young soul survey its own life with a view of the following question: "What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?" Assemble these revered objects in a row before you and perhaps they will reveal a law by their nature and their order: the fundamental law of your very self. Compare these objects, see how they complement, enlarge, outdo, transfigure one another; how they form a ladder on whose steps you have been climbing up to yourself so far; for your true self does not lie buried deep within you, but rather rises immeasurably high above you, or at least above what you commonly take to be your I."
It’s important to try and figure out what makes you tick. To ask the questions, to dig deep, to listen to yourself and find out what you need. Whatever it takes - you gotta do it!
While listening to Agape's Live Streaming on Sunday, Michael Beckwith asked everyone to yell out: I give myself permission to be me! I love that, I think that's something that we should all say out loud, as often as possible!
Do you spend time doing what you’re passionate about? Is it only after your to-do list is checked off that you get to it? Do you leave your own happiness - sitting on the shelf for... never?!
4. Find your passion and be on purpose!
• When was the last time you did something that made your soul sing?
• When do you feel like you're just rockin’ it? Like you're plugged in and on fire?
• What seems so easy and fun to you?
Passion will always move you in the direction of your authentic self. - Danielle LaPorte
Be open to your own genius - your ideas, flashes of insight, what you're curious about and what you love: Be open to YOU! What pulls you? Literally, where do you feel your energy being pulled? Go and follow that!
In meditation, I’m often reminded, “Don’t push. Be pulled.” Those four words keep me aligned and connected throughout my day. They keep me pointed in the right direction and doing what I'm passionate about. You can feel the difference.
My favorite quote about passion is from Joseph Campbell :
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn't know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else.
― Joseph Campbell
Russell Simmons in Do YOU!: “When you allow yourself to be swept up by your ideas and follow them wherever they lead, your life will immediately become richer and more rewarding…. God has blessed all of us with a purpose in life, and when you use prayer and meditation to realize that purpose, you'll have the energy and confidence to start working on it immediately.”
Tal Ben-Shahar from Happier: “Happiness perception is about recognizing that happiness is the ultimate currency, the end which all other goals lead.” He says that there’s a much higher likelihood that you will find the ultimate currency, and your calling if you can answer these three questions and find where they overlap.
In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson wrote: “It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
• What would make you jump out of bed in the morning psyched to grab your coffee and start your day?
• What would wake you up in the middle of the night - so many ideas swirling around your head that you have to write them down?
5. Enjoying the journey is what it’s all about!
I fell into the trap for years of chasing happiness and not enjoying the journey. I moved all over the freakin' U.S. looking for happiness. It was always in the future, in the next big city I moved to, but it was always elusive.
I couldn’t enjoy the journey. If you play the game that way, you lose. As someone once said, “If you’re in the rat race, and even if you win - in the end - you’re still a rat.”
In Happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar refers to the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. In it Pirsig mentions how a group of elderly monks were hiking the Himalayas and how they were able to effortlessly ascend the peak; they had focused on the peak only as a means to staying on course, and therefore, enjoyed every step. He, on the other hand, only focused on the goal of reaching the peak, so he became overwhelmed by the daunting task and lost his desire and strength to carry on and so gave up.
In his book, Tal Ben-Shahar broke down the different archetypes for his happiness model. Where do you fall on the chart? Which journey are you on?
Basically, the rat racer is a slave to the future, while the hedonist is a slave to the moment and the nihilist is a slave to the past.
The objective, he says, "is to spend as much time as possible engaged in activities that provide both a present and future benefit."
"Happiness perception is about recognizing that happiness is the ultimate currency, the end toward which all other goals lead…When the questions that guide our life are about finding more meaning and pleasure rather than how we can acquire more money and more possessions, we are much more likely to derive benefit from the journey as well as the destination." - Tal Ben-Shahar
I've learned a lot from attending and listening to Agape for the past fifteen or so years. Michael Beckwith talks often about moving from what you want, to what you want to be.
He says it's important to become more and more yourself - to anchor your presence through your giftedness and to hold on to that vibration. It's about "becoming a stronger spiritual being, becoming aware of your mission and submitting to your journey."
6. Stay connected to something bigger
The happiness revolution is about creating a society-wide paradigm shift to a higher level of consciousness, a higher plane of existence - to happiness perception. - Tal Ben-Shahar
You must tap into something greater - the mystics, the great artists and scientists, they all knew they were tapping into something bigger. They didn’t take all the credit for it. They opened themselves up and connected to a higher power.
Albert Einstein called it his “thought experiments” - he tapped into the ether to work out his complex ideas. They all lived in what’s real and what’s emerging and opened themselves up to allow for it to happen.
“Your insights are divinely inspired. Your creative mind is how your higher self vibrates harmoniously with the field of intention.” - Wayne Dyer
During an interview, Pharrell Williams was asked about his talents, his incredible success, and others who were talented enough to have reached such heights:
“...those are the most tragic stories. The most gifted people who start to believe it’s really all them. It’s not all you. It can’t be all you. Just like you need air to fly a kite. It's not the kite. It’s the air!”
I just love that! He really nailed it. And, it's only fitting that he wrote and sang the oh-so-fun and amazing hit song, "Happy" - For a great happiness pick-me-up, watch Pharrell's "Happy" video!
There is a song in your secret soul that cannot be silenced. It sings its existential, unceasing melody within you. Then the day comes when through your inner work you hear and feel the vibration of its cosmic rhythm. - Michael Bernard Beckwith
In Spiritual Liberation, Michael Beckwith writes that we are co-creative agents with spirit, "Pain pushes us until a higher vision for our life pulls us into creative self-expression."
He speaks about the importance of staying connected so that what needs to show up in your life, can show up. That once you’re connected, you begin to align, synchronicities happen, and your vibrational frequency shifts.
A transformation can then begin to take place and bring you to the next step on your journey - where you can activate your potential and connect to your higher self. But, he says, "you must be connected."
"Genuine happiness begins when we become conscious that we are co-creators of our destiny with life's source, whether we call it God, the Universal One, or no name at all. Authentic happiness does not come from outer sources; it comes from an inner realization of the Self. Our soulware for happiness is downloaded through meditation, prayer, study, visioning, contemplation, and service. These practices re-groove our habitual thought patterns and enable us to make wisdom-guided, happiness-producing choices. - Michael Bernard Beckwith
Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love, wrote: "Optimism and happiness are the results of spiritual work…Spiritual practice supports the development of personal power."
The bottom line: Find the ways to be happy with yourself and live the good life!
To recap, these are the six areas that you should always be working on:
1. Be present: This is the starting point for everything else and where you can begin to truly tune in to life. Action: Notice five new things each day.
2. Control your thoughts: They're mighty powerful and changing your thoughts can change your vibration and what you attract. Action: Be aware of your thoughts throughout your day and make sure they're serving you.
3. Know yourself: Learn YOU - become self-aware. Action: Find your "Zone of Me."
4. Live your passion and be on purpose: Figure out what makes you come alive and what makes it all worth it. Action: Don't push, Be pulled.
5. Enjoy the journey: It's what it's all about, each and every step. Action: Be in the journey, not the climb. Enjoy it.
6. Connect to something bigger than yourself: Tap in and let the universe, source energy, whatever you want to call it, assist you. Action: Begin a practice such as meditation or find other ways to connect to something bigger and to higher vibrational frequencies.