Time For Happiness

Life can seem to move so fast, can’t it?  The list of things you have to do each day seems to grow by the minute.  You are swamped at work; there never seems to be enough money to . . .; the kids need . . . ; your significant other needs . . . ; you want . . . .  To be happy?

It seems like there is just not enough time for it all.  You know that you want to calm your mind. You know that you want, perhaps more than anything, to be happy.  You know that your spirit is restless and needs attention.  But there are so many other things and so many other people who need something from you too.

Do you have time to tend to your own happiness and well-being?  Are you willing to make the time to create your happiness?

If I told you that you could find happiness in just thirty minutes, would your eyes light up with excitement?

If I told you that you could find the peace that has eluded you for so long in just thirty minutes, would that pique your interest?

If I told you that, absent a “vision” or “near-death experience,” you probably cannot change your whole life and find lasting happiness in just thirty minutes but you can start changing your mind and start the process that leads to peace and happiness in just thirty minutes a day, would you keep reading?

Good, you’re still with me.

When we are truly unhappy, completely stressed out, upset much of the time and numb at others, there simply is no quick-fix or magic fairy dust that will make all things good and right in just thirty minutes.   There are, however, many ways to increase your happiness by spending thirty minutes a day focusing on what makes you feel happy and giving happiness your full attention.

There is one person and one person only who holds the key to your peace and happiness.  It is you.  No other person in the world can create peace and happiness for you (or give it to you) because the answers to all the many questions that start with “Why?,” “How?,” and “What?” lie within YOU.  And you are not going to figure out what brings you peace or how to choose to be happy if you do not take the time to look for it.  If you do not seek, you will not find.  If you do not knock, the door cannot be opened.

If you truly want happiness, you will need to love yourself enough to give yourself the gift of time – a gift you so freely give to others.  Make an agreement with yourself that you will take thirty minutes a day to stop and think about happiness.   You do not have to spend the thirty minutes all at once, if you do not want to.  You can give yourself fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening (less than that will still be helpful but not as productive).  What you will be doing by dedicating a specific amount of time each day to focusing your attention on your happiness is training your brain to change your mind.

The details of how you can get the most out of that thirty minutes a day are up to you.  We focus on anything more easily when we are not distracted.  As such, I recommend putting yourself in what I call a “Safe Place.”

A Safe Place is a place where you feel comfortable, there are no other humans or animals present, no phones, no outside interference and no threat of it.  There is no harsh light, no abrasive sound, and the temperature is comfortable.  It is a place where your brain knows that it will not need your basic survival instincts for a while because you are safe.  If you live with other people, choosing a time of day when your “Safe Place” is really safe may take a little creativity; but it can be done.

Using your thirty minutes a day in a Safe Place is preferable, but if you cannot bring yourself to make that happen yet, start out by spending the thirty minutes you have agreed to give yourself each day as you see fit, wherever you want.  The real goal here is to get your attention focused on happiness – not how to make it happen – just happiness, in general.

What does happiness really mean to you?

What feelings give rise to happiness for you?

What experiences do you enjoy most?

FOCUSING YOUR ATTENTION ON YOUR HAPPINESS

No One Else Is Invited (Figuratively).  Human interaction (such as friendship, familial relations, and romantic love) is an important part of life.  Very few people live in complete isolation; and that is a good thing.  But the agreement you have made is to spend time thinking about your happiness – a happiness that is not dependent upon what anyone else in the world is doing or not doing.  Stay focused on you – your thoughts, your feelings.

Forget About Negative “If” Statements:   “If” is the biggest obstacle standing between you and happiness.

So often, we think about happiness by negative implication – “I would be happy if I weren’t so broke;” “I would be happy if the kids weren’t screaming all of the time;” “I would be happy if my significant other wouldn’t [insert the list here].”  These thoughts, in and of themselves, contribute to unhappiness because of where the focus of attention is being placed – on something that you believe is making you unhappy.  Do not focus your attention on negative “if” statements.

Think About What The Feeling Of Happiness Means To You:  As I have shared previously, happiness to me is a concept that is interchangeable with peace.  I know that having a calm mind and a positive attitude are what create happiness in my life.  That is, however, my life; and I am no longer in the persuasion business.   You can decide for yourself what the feeling of happiness means to you, once you stop and think about it.

Think About Experiences That Make You Feel Happy:  Are you a nature lover?  Do you hunger for the bright lights and big city?  What kind of experiences are happy experiences for you?

Think About What The Term “Positive” Means To You: It is very difficult to focus on positive thoughts, positive emotions, or positive experiences when you have no idea what “positive” means to you.  A “free thinking” exercise can be helpful here.  Free thinking is not the same thing as brain storming.  When we are brain storming, we are deliberately trying to create a certain type of thought about a certain subject matter or problem.  Free thinking is much more relaxed, not as deliberate.  Automatic writing is an excellent free thinking exercise.  Simply put a pen in your hand and paper in front of you and start writing.  Think the word “positive” and start pushing the pen.  See where it goes.  You can go back later and try to analyze what you wrote, if you want; but, for now, just let the writing flow.

ONE MORE THING

The power of thought is undeniable; and it is the focus of much of my writing.  However, I want to share with you that it is also important to learn how to stop thinking – when you so choose.   Meditations designed to empty our minds of thought are useful and important because they connect us to the Divine in ways we can feel, very purely.  These meditations, along with mindfulness meditations (also extremely beneficial), originated in the East.

Eastern philosophy has been integrated into much of the peace and happiness movement in the West (thankfully).  But our culture is not the same culture as that of India or China.  Our social norms, societal mores, and environmental influences are different.  These cultural and environmental differences affect everything from our unconscious content to what we will encounter on our way to work in the morning.  Pretending that we can transmute ourselves into thinking and feeling exactly like those Himalayan monks I keep talking about, while at the same time rushing to conduct a business meeting via smart phone on the way to soccer practice, is probably not realistic.  There is a middle ground that is, in my humble opinion, the place where Eastern philosophy can meet Western culture in a way that brings a Twenty-First Century Sense of Balance to our lives.

Adaptation is a survival skill too; and we can enjoy peace and happiness in the West, as much as anyone else anywhere in the world.   We may just need to go about it a little differently.

© 02/08/12

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