I've been thinking about happiness a lot lately. What truly makes us happy, what we think will make us happy, why we resist happiness (we all do sometimes, you know); the topic of happiness has popped up for me in unexpected ways, and when I notice a theme I like to pay attention.
When this blog post by author and teacher of all things rich-life related Ramit Sethi popped into my inbox, it lit something up for me, so much so that I wrote him back.
In his post, Ramit talks about what he calls the "secret scents of success" - deliberate behaviors that successful people cultivate that land them in the stratosphere of a skillset, whatever that may be. He talks about things like remembering names, having a 6-pack, and being a killer bee (a champion speller, that is). He talks about the stuff people don't see when they observe someone doing something effortlessly - the conscious intention and behavioral shifts it took that person to achieve that effortlessness.
Here's what I wrote:
"I would add being happy to that list. It's a choice, over and over, to do the things and think the thoughts that make us happy. It's a practice. Most people just...don't. And then they wonder why they're not happy.
They think happiness is something that either happens to them or not. It isn't.
Or that it's contingent upon their circumstances. It's not.
Being happy is the result of a thought structure that 1. allows you to inhabit happy moments easily, and B. the resilience to experience unhappiness and then move through it and return to joy/love/peace whatever you want to call it. It's also a result of setting up your daily life so that it includes the things that lead to true, lasting happiness - good self-care, creativity, gratitude, helping others, connection with people, etc - all the stuff that gets labeled as touchy-feely (as if that's a bad thing)."
Let's look at those a little more closely.
- Align with happiness. Easier said than done, right? And yet, that's the foundation. Practice being happy. Take some time to notice what pure happiness feels like (no fake it 'til you make it here, really pay attention to your happy-meter). Cement that feeling in your brain so that it gets easier and easier for you to follow that neural pathway (talk about a cosmic homework assignment).
- Cultivate resilience. Be fully present for whatever you're experiencing or feeling (because we all know that ignoring or stuffing feelings away doesn't really clear them, right?). And when the moment for sadness, pain, fear, anger, whatever has passed, let it go. Step into the next present moment, don't stay in the one that's over. Don't keep recreating the picture on an endless loop, cycling through misery even though - and here's the tough love - the moment for misery has passed.
- Commit to joy. You get one life (one at a time, anyway). Every day, just like you brush your teeth, do something that makes you happy. Not something you think will make you happy, like buying a new iPhone or eating a chocolate cake - do something that is scientifically proven to light up the dopamine receptors in your brain. No, not heroin. The touchy-feely stuff. Lock eyes with someone and smile. Hold a door for someone. Treat your body extraordinarily well. Make list of things you're thankful for (yes, it really affects your brain).
Want to be happy? Make happiness a habit. Practice it like you would any other thing you want to get good at.
And notice what happens.
ps - if you want help with cultivating resilience and other happiness-builders (being in the moment, letting things go, etc), our AMP (Active Meditation Practice) Program has techniques that do that (start with the center of head and creating & destroying recordings).