We’ve all heard the aphorism, “Happiness is an inside job.” But what does that truly mean in a world where you are striving to make a difference… have aspirations for achieving your heart’s desires in 2014… have made commitments to follow the CHEK foundation principles… are dialing in on your work-in practice… and all while probably trying to give up a few things this year too? Is happiness about reducing stress or having a dream? Do we become happy by doing or being?
Happiness is a state of being. A healthy body is a happy body. A happy body generally means that the mind is happy – we reflect what we are. We really can’t tease the two apart; you can’t split the body-mind as it is a unified whole. Although we can’t control what goes on outside of ourselves, there are some general tips to help you enjoy your life journey and experience genuine happiness along the way.
- Understand your perceptions.
Diversity makes life interesting and when we harbor judgments about ourselves or other people we tend to think in terms of good and bad. We give power to the inner critic and measure our lives by what we believe. One of the best resources raising your awareness for understanding your perceptions derives from The Work by Byron Katie. She teaches that we can ask ourselves four essential questions to get to the heart of our perceptions: Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it is true? How does it make you feel when you think that thought? Who would you be without the thought? You get to decide whether your story is more important than your happiness!
- Spend time in silence regularly.
We tend to spend most of our daily hours filled with some sort of human sound – talking, listening to music, and if you live in a city, the hustle and bustle of traffic is loud and noisy. For many, the space of silence feels awkward. Silence is a gift of the soul and meditation is a direct path. The emotional effects of sitting quietly and going within are profound. As we make friends with silence, we let go of the conditioned beliefs and accumulated physical and mental toxicity that cloud our perceptions and muddle our minds. We may enter an expanded state of awareness and discover our own inner fountain of joy, a source of happiness that isn’t dependent on anyone or anything.
- Listen to your body’s wisdom.
That wisdom expresses itself through signals of comfort and discomfort. Your body-mind is a miracle! Your body is more than a life-support system. It is the vehicle that will carry you on the journey of your evolution. We must stop pretending that we know what is best for us and ask our bodies to guide and help us. When choosing a certain behavior, ask your body, “How do you feel about this?” If your body sends a signal of physical or emotional distress, watch out. If your body sends a signal of comfort and eagerness, proceed. Your body is incredibly happy to communicate with you, we just need to remember to slow down and make it a priority to listen.
- Nurture self-acceptance, just as you are.
Embrace the fact that you aren’t perfect and neither is anyone else. Trade your shame and guilt for acceptance, cultivate forgiveness instead of blame, and importantly, share empathy and compassion – for yourself and others. When we stop fighting ourselves and open to the possibility of “Yes!” to what is, this is real vulnerability. It may feel uncomfortable but it is an invitation to practice authenticity. The more self-acceptance you have, the more authentic your happiness.
- Foster creativity and curiosity.
Everyone has the potential for a creative life, and yet, external demands and internal obstacles exhaust the energy required to develop and express your full creative capacity. Creativity isn’t just about making things, it’s also about being curious. Although there is no concrete definition of creativity, most experts agree it’s got something to do with the ability to think outside the box, to come up with new ideas, new links between ideas and novel solutions to problems and suggests that curiosity is the key to creativity. This boosts our resilience and our satisfaction with life – both part of the equation for overall happiness.
- Cultivate positive habits.
Stephen Covey suggests in his classic 7 Habits for Highly Successful People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change that the key to happiness is cultivating personal integrity through establishing and living these seven habits: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first-things first, think win-win, seek first to understand, then to be understood, synergize, and sharpen the saw. I have found that these habits produce lasting happiness results.
- Practice gratitude in moments of hardship, uncertainty and fear (and every day!).
People who are grateful are likely to be happier, hopeful and energetic. They possess positive emotions more frequently, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
- Take time for unbound play!
There is no quicker transport to the experiential realm and full engagement than through play. Play is 100-percent experience. It’s done for the intrinsic pleasure, for the participation, with no judgment or outcomes needed. Play grounds you in the here and now and satisfies core needs, such as autonomy and competence, connecting with your spirit to explore and challenge yourself. And when you do, you’ll find that you are laughing and smiling more – a reflection of your inner state of happiness
- Surround yourself with supportive, caring people who love, nourish, and encourage you.
We are social creatures and it is unnatural to live in isolation. All of us need other people in order to be well and thrive. People who believe in you and your dreams will lift you higher. We feel better just being around other people, and we need close relationships in order to be happy.
Happiness starts with being happy first with you – not as something to accomplish but rather as an experience to be cherished and lived. After all, you are the hub of your life’s wheel. We are all teachers to each other and happiness never decreases by being shared, be that light for others.