I recently invited each of us to “Let Nothing Keep You from Your Happiness.” Let’s continue that exploration with a few questions and some skills that can help you actually enjoy greater happiness every day.
Science is showing us that when we are consumed with negative thoughts, when we perseverate about things from the past or worry about what might happen in the future, those thoughts are coming from the past. They are part of an old program put in place to help us stay safe and survive in our early lives. Most of these negative thoughts are not only not useful now, they are detrimental to staying cool, calm and connected and growing our Window of Presence. Every moment we spend time in negative, anxious thinking, we are creating a negative future and we are not feeling the happiness that is our birthright.
The feelings of happiness, contentment and joy produce hundreds of different hormones in the body that are responsible for feelings of safety, calmness and the ability to connect with others. Among these hormones are dopamine, the pleasure giving, “reward molecule,” oxytocin, “the love hormone,” endorphin, “the pain-killing molecule,” and serotonin, often used in anti-depressants, that gives us self-confidence and a sense of belonging.
Practices that will help us move toward greater happiness serve us in every area of our lives and, the more happiness we experience, the more happiness we can experience. There is no limit!
Let’s explore some simple processes that can help you begin to experience greater levels of happiness and reap the many, many benefits.
First, let’s look at the status quo, then we’ll lay out some practices that are guaranteed to help raise your genuine Happiness Quotient.
1. Have your journal handy and do one of the following: Sit quietly for 5 minutes and simply watch your thoughts, noticing how you’re feeling. Are you breathing fully? How relaxed are you able to be? Or, if it seems more doable, simply recall your thoughts since you got up this morning. Make some notes about the following before reading Exercise 2 below.
- What are you telling yourself?
- What are you concerned about?
- What worries are on your mind?
- What are your frustrations towards others?
2. As you look at your list, check which of these things:
- Involve your expectations of someone else?
- Involve you feeling bad, guilty, remorseful about something that happened or didn’t happen in the past?
- Create anxiety, tension, frustration, a feeling of exhaustion and/or overwhelm?
3. Take a breath and ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing here?” and make a note. The most important thing(s) may include: Health, the ability to feel calm, connected and/or creative, your relationships, the creative project you are working on, etc.
4. Think about this, the REAL Truth:
- I cannot change another person.
- No one can cause me to feel or act a certain way. I create my feelings.
- I cannot change the past. Being angry, frustrated or upset about something that is already done keeps us stuck and makes us sick.
- Feeling guilty also keeps us stuck in the past. Feelings of guilt keep us from being present and changing what we can change now.
- When I experience feelings about things in the past and/or concerns about the future I am actually living from an old protective program in the brain, not in current reality, at all.
5. Ask yourself: “How would I feel, how would I behave, how would this relationship be if I shifted those thoughts, even slightly?” Before you go into, “Yes, but…” let yourself notice what it would be like without those feelings and thoughts.
6. Ask yourself, “What is really TRUE right now in this moment?” Are you basically okay? You are safe in this moment. You are basically a good person. You are capable.
7. What is working well right now? Make some notes about your answers. Perhaps you are healthy; your basic needs are met; you have a friend you can count on, etc.
8. This leads us to the magic doorway to happiness, “What can I be grateful for right now?” Begin to list even the smallest things. I’m alive. I’m mobile. I can enjoy the sunshine. See how many things you can list. Can you list 25? 50? 100?
Gratitude creates feelings of happiness. Gratitude enhances self-love and empathy. Experiences of gratitude produce serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of happiness. Feelings of gratitude strengthen the immune system, help us lower feelings of stress and physical pain, produce optimal blood pressure and cardiac functioning and better sleep. And, our interactions with others become easier and more satisfying. We become better listeners, have greater empathy and more meaningful connections and deeper relationships.
9. When you awaken in the morning, recall at least three things you are grateful for. While you wait for your coffee, think of three more. On your way to work, notice a few more. Throughout your day, begin to notice the simplest things you are grateful for.
I am often grateful for the work someone else is doing, grateful that I don’t have to do that. Things like the person repairing the road I travel to work, the fact that my computer is behaving today, and I was able to bring my favorite lunch to work. Your thoughts of gratitude can be large or small, it does not matter. What matters is that you implement a practice of the “Gratitude Attitude.”
These simple practices, especially the last one, can and will grow your Happiness Quotient. You are worth it. You are safe now. You are home. You are loved. You can enjoy greater and greater happiness! Let’s discuss what you discover in this process.
This article was written by Marti Glenn, Ph.D., Ryzio Clinical Director