Don’t judge a book by its title – “Happy for No Reason”

We can never obtain peace in the outer world
until we make peace with ourselves.

~ His Holiness the  Dalai Lama ~

I recently came across a book I would have never picked up myself due to its title “Happy for No Reason” by Marci Shimoff. As I mentioned in a previous blog (Happy life, the ultimate goal?) and during several discussions  with friends I am not a big fan of the ‘happiness’ talk. I am more looking at being content, experiencing joy, feeling at ease, etc.

Now, I understand that all these can all be words that do describe “happiness” but to me this “happy” sounds on the one hand too superficial and on the other hand it can put a lot of pressure onto a person. All this talk we “we have to live a happy life”. Then again, perhaps it is just me that has an issue with the happiness talk?!

But – I am getting away from the topic here, back to the book. Overlooking the title the book intrigued me as the subtitle reads “7 steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out”. So what is it that we can find or change inside us that can lead to more happiness?

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The book is structured into three sections. The first part explores “the paradigm of true happiness” that the author classes “Happy for no Reason”. Within the second part you get a step-by-step guidance on “how to raise your happiness level”. And leaving you in the third part with some “direction about how to put the Happiness Habits into practise every day”.

Setting myself up to read this without any higher expectations and expecting too much “happiness talk” I was surprised. And while the title did not sit with me, most of the content did. Some great research information gave me surprises, confirmation, ideas and food for thought throughout the reading!

I learned for example that we all have a happiness set point; so “that no matter what happens in our life” we “tend to return to a fixed range of happiness.” And this “happiness set-point will remain the same unless you make a concerted effort to change it.” And this was undermined even more by going into details that in fact  “50% of our happiness comes from our genetics”, 10 percent are determined “by circumstances such as our level of wealth, martial status, and job.” And a whooping 40 percent are “determined by our habitual thoughts, feelings, words, and actions”!

We then indeed have an explanation why some are happy more easily than others, but that at the same time we all have a rather big chunk on ourselves to decided how happy we want to be in our situation!  And we can change or improve our habits to get to a higher level of happiness as “we all have the right to practice happiness, not chase after it”!

So, it is a lot about changing habits. And I had to laugh as it shows again that somehow everything around us is linked together. And not only because I recently read the book about habit changes.

As mentioned, the second part goes deeper into practices and it was enlightening to read parts of it and I will for sure take some of them into my day to day life. I won’t go into details as I think everybody needs to find his/her own way and has his/her own focus points. But just to give a little idea, think about how often we all tend to complain about something or somebody every single day, how we blame others and may feel shame. We have to start with ourselves instead of looking to the outside! Just go and try do not complain about anything at all for a whole day? Sounds easy? Then try it!

Same counts for our thoughts. After all they are just thoughts, not the truth. Yet their impact on how they make us feel is scary! And we are kind of programmed to focus more on the negative around us, then paying more focus on all the good. Perhaps it is really time to change this, what do you think? Let the positive linger longer than the negative?! Sounds good to me.

Forgiveness was as well an important part that got to me. And I was grateful that it was not just brushed of to simply forgive the other person but instead to focus on ourselves. “It is ok if you still feel angry; the purpose […] is to begin to release the pain in your heart, not to excuse others for their actions.”

And obviously our diet, sleeping-, exercise- and relaxation habits, or let`s just say our own personal wellbeing regime are points within ourselves that can contribute in increasing or reducing our “happiness level”.

And so do people around us. Have you ever noticed how you sometimes pick up the same moods or emotions of some people around you? Yes, moods and emotions can be “contagious”. “When you surround yourself with relationships that support you, your energy expands. When you have a lot of toxic people in your life, your energy contracts. […] Think about the people in your life. Do you want to “catch their emotions”?” Or do you have “happiness vampires” around you? But be as well aware to not take the “people who mean the most to” you for granted. Make sure you acknowledge them more!

This leaves me with part three in the book which gives a great short overview of all the steps mentioned on how to “take ownership of your happiness” and leaves you with additional ideas on how to move forward.

Coming to an end, I must say it was a much better and insightful read than I expected and I do recommend reading it. A bit too many “happiness” words but I guess that comes with the title.

And for me personally it was great to see yet again how all the things around me do not stand on single pillars but all are connected; may it be habit changes, being more mindful, finding passion and inspiration, to simply being more content or at ease in life. One does not happen without the other, but it all starts from within us!

So, how “happy” do you want to be?

Have a lovely day,

AK

 

S.T.O.P. practice

We all know those moments when we feel upset, pressured, overwhelmed or uncomfortable. Especially in such situations we tend to become disconnected to what is actually happening around us. Here comes a little awareness exercise I got to know during my mindfulness course. It may come in helpful to be be more “there”, in the present moment, to get out of the auto-pilot and disconnection we may experience.

But it can as well be an interesting practise to try when we experience something positive, or something neutral as it brings back awareness to what we actually do and experience at that moment.

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S– Stop; Pause – Check in with your thoughts / feelings / sensations. Even if uncomfortable, acknowledge your experience.

T – Take a deep breath in, exhale with awareness. Use the breath as an anchor

O – Observe; Look – notice what is happening around and within you, bring awareness to your body, your posture and facial expressions (head, heart, body)

P – Proceed; Continue; Participate explore your options, how does it feel to respond mindfully rather than to react mechanically? Make a choice of action.

Sometimes a quick halt in what we are doing can go a long way to find the balance back!

Have a lovely day,

AK

Enough…

A while ago I came across this article (https://freefromtoxic.com/2015/06/16/the-8-most-common-narc-sadistic-conversation-control-tactics/) and shared it on Facebook. And quite few came back and thanked me for sharing. It seems the article struck a chord with some people out there.

The above link gives a great description of narcissistic behaviours and I won’t go into that any further. But what I would like to share is what I learned for myself of having had a few of these “experiences”; afterall they taught me some life lessons. Perhaps you can relate or even get ideas on how you can change this exposure into something better for yourself.

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Looking back, perhaps I should be kind of thankful that I had the “pleasure” of having had them in my life. It was hard at times to come to terms and realise that I had those personalities close to me and I got burned deeply. We may want to help some people around us, make them see situations in a different light but certain personalities are not cut that way.

Narcissist are often dominant personalities, verbally/rhetorically very strong and they often “go for it”. And let’s be honest, at least some of their “trademarks” we could use at times. But we should “go for it” in a different, more approachable way and definitely with more awareness.

I think partly by being exposed to their direct and strong approaches I got encouraged to get out of myself more, too! After all, it was only me, myself, who allowed those personalities to fully overrun me, made me doubt myself, made me question what I said, leaving me deflated at times. I came to a point where I had enough of that feeling and I started to show more confidence. Let’s say it brought a lot of awareness to myself.

  • I stand up more and more for myself and for what I believe in.
  • I make sure I have a voice when needed.
  • I wont let myself be undermined anymore, believing it was/is all my fault.
  • I want at least be able to have an honest discussion where one can always “agree to disagree” in a respectful way. If not it is not worth the effort to even talk. Let the other one do the talking.
  • I learned awareness and ways on how I can handle them differently by noticing my trigger points. Narcissists seem to have a good feeling on how to “trigger”.
  • I found a way to to ease or kind of ground myself when being confronted with such strong personalities. This helps me to not get all that flustered again.

On a down side I got as well more cautious around people. I still have to overcome that unsettling feeling of mistrust that somehow got planted within me. But for now I just simply give more time and space to myself and others.

Having said all this this, it took quite a while until I reached this point. I struggled deeply by feeling misunderstood, overlooked, taken advantage of and being used by people close and dear to me. But I had enough. After all life and people are never easy, are they? And no matter what age we are at life will always teach us – the good and not so good lessons – but

what I make out of it at the end of the day is my own life!
What do you make out of yours? 

AK

The Guest House

This week something a little bit different – a poem.

It seems to be a well know poem within mindfulness courses and when I listened to it this week I understood why. Will  you feel the same?!
Sit down, relax and simply be while reading this one.

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The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

 

Nothing more to add for today but to wish you

a lovely day

AK

Sunshine and Anchor

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I used to think that mindfulness was meant to focus more on the happier moments in life, so it was enlightening to realise that that is not what mindfulness is really about.

Like the the rays of the sun does mindfulness shine and spread equally onto all areas of life, the positive, the neutral and the negative. It is not about judging or changing our feelings, emotions, sensations but to ‘simply notice’ them. To train the mind on an equal awareness on whatever we may feel exposed to in that moment; and to allow ourselves to feel that way!

Perhaps we can compare it like training muscles during sports
Mindfulness trains the “muscles of awareness, of the present” –
in a non judgemental way.

And for me a focus on the breathing can help especially during tougher moments. The breath can be seen as an anchor to support us to come back to the present moment. Similar like the boat anchor! The boat can float around, stand still in calm waters, can be pushed around in stormy weather yet the anchor takes the boat back to its place. We can train our breath to help us the same way, to embrace the good and happy moments and to still be able to feel anchored and save when we face stormy situations.

Stay at ease and aware

Have a lovely day

AK

Thoughts and Bubbles

I already wrote a bit about Mindfulness on some previous blogs, and over the next few weeks I will go a bit deeper. Firstly, I do believe that we all can and should be more aware in our day to day life to get out of the ‘stress treadmill’ we often find ourselves in. Secondly, I started a Mindfulness Course and would love to share my main “take-aways” with you. Quick and easy food for thought that can be used by everybody.

So for today, let’s have a quick look into thoughts and what they mean for a mindfulness meditation.

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Would you agree that most of us tend to think that meditation often means to not have any thoughts at all, to have a stillness in our mind?! But that is not how our mind works, it is trained to think! So if you go into mindfulness meditation

the goal is not to be relaxed, thought-free but
to be fully aware of what is happening in that precise moment!

As per Jon Kabat-Zinn (*) mindfulness is

  • Paying attention
  • On Purpose
  • In the present moment
  • Non judgemental

That counts for our thoughts, emotions and body sensations. After all they are all linked, connected and influence one another! The good and the bad, the happy and the sad ones.

What we should avoid during meditation is to follow through on any thoughts, we should acknowledge them for what they are and then let them go. Think of thoughts like a soap bubble. See the bubble coming, acknowledge it and then pop it. And when a bubble floats back into the mind again acknowledge it and then pop it and so on.

Those “thought bubbles” will always come but by time and on certain days the stillness in between them may get longer. And this stillness, this awareness is what brings us really back to the present moment.

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Have a nice day and
Hopefully nice thoughts

AK

(*) Jon Kabat-Zinn is internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. Founder of MBSR ( mindfulness-based stress reduction).

More than “just” a rainy day…

Today we have one of those days – non stop rain. But there is a special beauty in nature when the raindrops fall, don`t you agree?

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So don’t just put it away as a rainy day instead

  • listen to the soothing sound of the raindrops falling
  • follow the raindrops as they make their path down heavy leaves and flowers
  • watch the circles the raindrops make in the puddles and let it calm your mind
  • observe the small “rivers” the rain creates along the streets and sidewalks
  • smell the clean fresh air
  • notice how the world around you seems to slow down a bit
  • enjoy the special light of candles when it is dark and grey outside

Don’t just put it of as a rainy day and
wait for the sun to shine;
a rainy day can be so much more! 

Have a lovely (rainy) day,

AK