Tag: Happiness

How to Make Now the Best Time of Your Life

On understanding the best ways to consciously create more happiness and fulfillment.

“If happiness is the goal of life, it’s surprising how much more attention people pay to the things they “have” to do versus the experiences that make them happy.” Deepak Chopra MD

“Happiness is largely passive: the good times come and go; we cope as best we can; we feel grateful when life gives us more than our share of fulfillment. But this isn’t the same as understanding the best ways to consciously create more happiness and fulfillment.

To begin, every day is a series of experiences, and there is only so much time in which to have them. If you can maximize your personal time to bring fulfillment and happiness, this is the primary way to have a happy life, according to the positive psychology movement. Yet without consciously trying to undermine their happiness, millions of people don’t direct their personal time to become happier and more fulfilled. Instead, they do the following:

·   Spend hours with distractions like TV, the Internet, and video games.

·   Focus on work obsessively, to the point of filling large amounts of time with work brought home from the office.

·   Worry about the future.

·   Pursue surrogates for happiness like money, status, and possessions.

·   Repeat the same relationship and family problems over and over without resolution.

No one can be happy and fulfilled when time is wasted on these things, and although people will say that TV and video games make them happy, distractions are really about temporary pleasure. The world’s wisdom traditions look at happiness from the inside, and the first thing they say is that nothing is real except the present moment, the now. All experiences happen in the now, not in anticipating the future or reliving the past.

This fact may sound obvious, but all of us revisit the past and give it a kind of second life when we repeat old habits, beliefs, attitudes, wishes, and fears. Gaining access to the present moment requires a new ability, the ability to stay present. If you can do this, then life itself unfolds before you, here and now. This may be a strange or even frightening prospect. Being here now sounds uncertain and insecure compared with the safety of repeating familiar habits and routines. When we take an honest look at ourselves, we know that old habits and routines offer a false security. They are about remaining stuck, not safe—and certainly not happy.

In the now, life renews itself and fresh possibilities break through. To experience this every day is true happiness. One person may find new possibilities in loving relationships, another in creative expression. Appreciating other people, being immersed in the beauty of nature, contemplating the infinite expanse of consciousness at play—any and all outlets are available.

So how do we begin to live in the present creatively and fully? Since the now is always before us, there’s nowhere to go. Instead, a shift in awareness is required. This shift brings you back to being present when you see that you are not present. The signs aren’t mysterious. You stop being present whenever you:

·   Repeat yourself

·   Tune out

·   Daydream

·   Feel fear or anger

·   Experience depression

·   Fall into outworn routines

·   Wish you were somewhere else

·   Pretend to feel something you don’t actually feel

·   Go numb

·   Act on mindless impulse

·   Get caught up in arguments

·   Put up resistance

·   Refuse to listen

·   Feel stressed or under pressure

Being on the lookout for these things as they occur gives you the instant opportunity to become present again. There’s a great value in practicing the simple act of noticing when you have checked out. More than half of what is called mindfulness consists of catching yourself being mindless.

The other half consists of returning to the present. This can be easy or hard, depending on the situation. It’s relatively easy to say, “Sorry, can you repeat that? I tuned out for a second,” and much harder to pull away from an argument, remain calm under stress, and stop worrying if you are in the habit of worrying. Returning to the present is actually a special skill, a skill in awareness.

Awareness is malleable; it can be shaped by attention and intention. In meditation one experiences awareness in its settled state, which is centered, calm, untroubled, and alert. This experience is easy to have, and once you have learned to recognize it, you can develop the ability to return there at will. All it takes is a few moments alone, some deep breaths, and centering yourself back in your body in a comfortable way. Those things can be done right now, without the experience of meditation. But it is likely that the next distraction or stress will quickly throw you out of the present moment.

With dedication to meditation, yoga, and contemplative technique like mindfulness, the skill in remaining present—which is the same as being aware—becomes easier and the results deeper and longer lasting. This is the path of happiness and fulfillment according to the world’s wisdom traditions. The rush and pressure of modern life pulls us out of the present moment time and again, but the possibility of being present is always available. Everyone is in a position to say that now is the best time in their lives, as it always has been. If you would like to learn how to integrate these concepts of finding fulfillment in your present life, I invite you to participate in the free 21-Day Meditation Experience, Making Every Moment Matter, to help you find more joy, ease, acceptance, and grace in each moment.”

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology, and Metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Timesbestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos. Other recent books include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicinewww.deepakchopra.com 

How To Intentionally Design A Happier Life

This blog published on my birthday by by Elizabeth Seagram, is a great read about an interesting scholar: Paul Dolan, a leading happiness scholar, who here offers strategies for identifying what really makes you happy and doing more of those things.

“Most people assume that they know whether they are happy or not, but in reality, judging our own happiness can be very difficult. There is often a disconnect between what our brains are telling us and what we actually feel. “We tell stories about the things we think should make us happy, but sometimes, when we look a bit closer, we’re not really that happy at all,” says Paul Dolan, a professor at the London School of Economics, a government policy advisor and one of the world’s leading happiness scholars.

This blog published on my birthday by Elizabeth Seagram, is a great read about an interesting scholar: Paul Dolan, a leading happiness scholar, who here offers strategies for identifying what really makes you happy and doing more of those things.

“Most people assume that they know whether they are happy or not, but in reality, judging our own happiness can be very difficult. There is often a disconnect between what our brains are telling us and what we actually feel. “We tell stories about the things we think should make us happy, but sometimes, when we look a bit closer, we’re not really that happy at all,” says Paul Dolan, a professor at the London School of Economics, a government policy advisor and one of the world’s leading happiness scholars.

Perhaps you think you’re happy because you’ve landed your dream job, but in practice, you’re tired from the commute, your coworkers are unfriendly and you’re spending less time with your kids. Or maybe you’ve just gotten engaged and in the flurry of congratulations, it may not register to you that you’re anxious about moving in with your partner. Dolan has concluded that thoughtful, driven people spend so long reflecting about what makes a meaningful life, they sometimes lose sight of what actually feels good to them on a daily basis. “I think we should be paying attention to how we feel day-to-day and moment-to-moment,” he tells Fast Company.

After decades of studying happiness, Dolan has developed a happiness formula. He says that happy people pay attention to the everyday experiences that give them pleasure and purpose, then organise their lives so that they are doing more of those things. It sounds obvious, right? Sure, but the problem is that we spend so much of our lives on autopilot instead of consciously focusing on doing things that make us happy.

“We are creatures of habit and we automate processes very quickly,” Dolan says. “We do a lot of what we do because we’ve always done it, not because it is good for us or because we enjoy it.” The good news, however, is that Dolan offers two tangible ways for us create more happy moments in our lives. The first is creating a mental habit of paying attention to what makes us happy and the second is designing our lives so it is easier to do those things.

DO A HAPPINESS AUDIT

It takes a lot of energy to be constantly thinking about whether or not you are happy. This is why most of us adopt a philosophy about what goes into meaningful life—such as finding satisfying work, getting married, having kids—then we stop wondering whether we are happy. Dolan does not recommend fixating on your daily happiness levels, but rather taking one day a week or month to observe yourself.

“It’s about tuning in to what you are doing, who you are doing it with and how it makes you feel,” Dolan says. “How much worry, stress, anger, joy or contentment do you experience on a given day?” In doing one of these audits himself, Dolan noticed that he got more pleasure out of listening to music on his commute than hearing a podcast, checking his email, or reading. This was not obvious to him until he paid attention to it, but now, he sets off to work with a playlist loaded on his phone.

This was a relatively small fix, but some changes are bigger in scale. In fact, it can be hard to be honest about what truly makes us happy because the answer might involve altering important parts of your life. For instance, if you scrutinize your relationship and realize that you are unhappy, it might seem overwhelming to think about leaving your partner. Or if you determine that your job is making you miserable, you might not relish the idea of looking for a new career.

Dolan says that it is worth confronting these realities because escaping unhappy situations can have an enormously positive impact on your mood and your health in the long term, even though the short term transition might be painful. The key is to be gentle with yourself and not rush into major life changes.

DESIGN YOUR LIFE FOR HAPPINESS

One of the most interesting questions to Dolan is why we fail to do things that make us happy. Sometimes, it comes down to not perceiving what really makes us happy, which is why a happiness audit is so valuable. But often, even when we know that certain activities make us happy, our ingrained habits sabotage our efforts to do them. We might realize that taking an afternoon walk lifts our mood, but because we’re so used to working at our desk all day, it takes effort to pull ourselves away. We might feel better when we sleep earlier, but it might be hard to break the habit of watching TV late into the night.

THERE’S THIS BELIEF THAT ANYTHING WORTH HAVING HAS TO BE EFFORTFUL, BUT REALLY THE OPPOSITE IT TRUE. JUST MAKE HAPPINESS AS EASY AS POSSIBLE.

The solution, according to Dolan, is to deliberately make it very easy to do the things that make us happy. If an action seems difficult or hard, our brains will be inclined to avoid it. But if it seems easy, it takes less willpower to do them. If you love spending time with a certain friend, you could set up a standing weekly or monthly date with that person, so it isn’t a hassle to keep scheduling time to meet. If you want to take that daily afternoon walk, put it on your calendar for all to see. If you fill your kitchen with healthier foods, eating better will take less mental energy. If you enjoy going to the gym, find the closest gym to your house and make friends with the people that hang out there, so you cannot make up excuses not to go.

Dolan believes we can structure our time and design our surroundings in such a way that we can quickly make a habit out of doing things that make us happy. These changes are small and incremental, but this is precisely why he thinks they work so well. “People think that we need big solutions to do the issue of happiness justice,” he says. “There’s this belief that anything worth having has to be effortful, but really the opposite it true. Just make happiness as easy as possible.”

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her work has been published in The Atlantic, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs and The Nation.

Choosing the Right Kind of happiness

The field of positive psychology took a step forward with a new finding about happiness and our genes. In the past, genes were considered to be stable and fixed in how they affect the body, but now that the human genome has been mapped, this view has radically changed. The chemical activity of genes, known as genetic expression, is altered by many factors. It’s highly likely that genes are so fluid, in fact, that genetic expression changes according to a person’s thoughts, feelings, and moods. If that’s true, then saying something as basic as “I’m happy” could need genetic verification. Words are just words, but your genetic-expression profile is a fact.

This was underlined by the first ever study of genes and happiness. Researchers from UCLA and the University of North Carolina discovered that the genetic link to happiness cuts two ways. People who are happy because they have a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives showed positive gene expression in their immune cells, especially as it affected inflammation and antiviral response. This kind of happiness was labeled “eudaimonic well being,” from the Greek word for happiness, eudaimon. By contrast, people whose happiness depends on consumerism and bursts of pleasure actually fared worse than unhappy people in the genetic expression of their immune cells, showing a tendency toward inflammation and decreased ability to fight viruses. This kind of happiness was labeled “hedonic well being” from the Greek for pleasure, hedone.

What’s fascinating is that both kinds of well being subjectively feel the same. As one researcher commented, “Both seemed to have the same high levels of positive emotion. However, their genomes were responding very differently.” We can fool ourselves that we are happy, but our genes know better. Inflammation has been connected to a wide range of disorders from heart disease to cancer and is now a leading suspect in chronic illness in general, so this new finding isn’t incidental. Long before genetic studies arose, the Indian spiritual tradition described two paths to well being, the path of wisdom and the path of pleasure, with the second being inferior. Aristotle was the first thinker in the West to delve into the roots of happiness, which he associated with a life well lived. For him, a life well lived implied virtuous action, which is very close to the notion of living with purpose and meaning.

Aristotle also made the point that defining happiness isn’t an abstract pursuit; it affects the things we do every day. All told, genetics and philosophy seem to converge on the conclusion that happiness involves conscious activity guided by principles. Simply hanging out in a good mood isn’t the same as well being. Backing away to take a larger view, it’s evident that modern life is largely based on hedonism and consumerism. People feel good when they buy a bigger flat screen television, play video games, move into a bigger house, and so on. Developing countries are moving swiftly toward this mode of living, and as a species we are so addicted to consumerism that saving the planet from ecological disaster comes second. No one wants to give up their shot at the good life no matter how much the use of fossil fuels and the depredation of the environment accelerates.

It will be challenging to take a turn away from hedonic well being to the better kind, yet the purpose we should be living for is crystal clear: Saving the planet and insuring a future for coming generations. At the root of the Greek word for happiness is the concept of “thriving” or “flourishing.” A dying planet isn’t thriving, and if the carefully amassed data of the Gallup organization is correct, less than a third of people in even the most prosperous societies describe themselves as thriving. As the thriving index falls, it is also noted that the tendency toward rebellion and social unrest rises.

In short, happiness is just as crucial for human existence as it was thousands of years ago. A single genetic study isn’t enough to make us re-examine the pursuit of happiness. But at least it confirms that the world’s wisdom traditions knew what they were talking about.

D
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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