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How To Find Happiness Within Yourself: A Rough Guide

The quest of finding happiness is possibly the only goal shared among all human beings – past, present or future. Who doesn’t want to find happiness in his or her life? It’s a silent goal nonetheless. We don’t mutter much about it and most of the time it lurks in the deep inner workings of our minds. Curious isn’t it?

The odd fact is we spend billions of research dollars & euros into treating mental illnesses with drugs, but not much effort goes into understanding the science of happiness or mental well-being. This fact alone compels me to write about the subject.

The title of this article is in itself revealing – “how to find happiness within yourself” suggests from the outset that you should look for happiness within yourself and that happiness is general to be found within. This is also a very curious thing to me. Why are we always trying to find happiness in all kinds of places but hardly ever attempt to find happiness within?

Harry is 67. He lost his wife to cancer almost three years ago now. He saw his daughter pass through a marriage breakdown and divorce. He hardly gets to see his grandchildren because his daughter moved to another city after her divorce. He misses the fishing trips with his brother Joe who also passed away recently. He is relating less and less to a changing hostile world where he is constantly reminded he is an unwanted burden.

Yet there is one major twist to the story. Harry is happy, radiantly happy. How can this happen? I mean if there are people who have passed through all sorts of heartbreaking episodes and hardships but are happy, what’s their story? Conversely, if there are people (and lots of them) who have acquired all sorts of merit, possessions, and good fortune yet is deeply unhappy, what does this say about finding happiness?

Finding happiness by losing old mental models:

One major flaw in the way we live our lives is that we have learned how to be unhappy rather than how to be happy. We have built certain mental models of our reality and these limit us or lead us astray from finding real happiness. Naturally this leads us to the understanding that finding happiness requires us to unlearn certain things and look for it in different pathways. It requires us to look into flaws in our belief system and change them.

One of these mental models we adopt is the belief that we need to reach a certain goal or outcome to be happy, the so-called ‘if-then model’ (if this happens then I will be happy). For example that we should get a better income, financial freedom, recognition of our work, sexier bodies, satisfying relationships and so on. It’s always something around the corner which needs to happen first before we reach happiness.

I know you have many times got to the realization yourself that it just doesn’t work that way. Once you reach that corner there is always another corner to reach. Happiness is not found in anything outside ourselves. We already have all the material at hand to be happy. It’s a matter of shifting our perspective and beliefs completely.

Some mental models to take note of and debunk:

• Happiness is the pleasure: No. Pleasure is instant gratification – physical or mental. Happiness is knowing that you are where you should be or accepting that you are not and doing your best while you’re there.

• Happiness is comfort or security: We live most of our lives in constant security threats – our jobs, our children out at night, our health, etc. The truth is that security or lack of it is based on perception. Happiness is living well in a very unstable world.

• I don’t deserve happiness: Yeah, says who? Another human quirk – self-inflicted limitation. Happiness is for everyone, wherever you come from, whatever you did and no matter what’s your idea. Happiness is open-source.

• It’s impossible to find happiness in this world: Another example of self-limiting beliefs. Wrong. Happiness is as possible to find as unhappiness.

• People who reached their goals are invariably happy: Again, says who? People who reached their goals are not happy because they reached their goals. On the contrary, some are eternally dissatisfied and keep on seeking, other goals in life – a real source of unhappiness. But yes some people found happiness while reaching those goals since they were living their true purpose and enjoying every moment of it. Their eyes were on the doing and not on the reaching.

Finding Inner Happiness Through Finding Inner Peace

So many stories around us, like that of Harry, seem to point at the overlooked obvious – that you will only find happiness within yourself. Well, that’s very good news since you don’t need to look far away to find happiness – like for example running after expensive, energy-consuming and ultimately unsatisfying goals. It’s there right within you. As scientist Zen Buddhist Jon Kabat-Zinn perfectly immortalized in one of his book titles: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

When life rocks your boat to the point of wrecking it or when the proverbial crap hits the ceiling fan you will reach a y-point which will either make you or break you. So many people like Harry managed to find happiness & inner peace through the most turbulent and upsetting moments of their lives by making use of their internal resources, by finding happiness within rather than in external points of reference.

The key to happiness, or, in other words, that of finding true inner happiness, is by finding your inner peace – that center of calm inner knowing which is the real source of your being rather than those mental projections or models imposed by your social background.

There are many pathways to find your inner peace but before I start sounding too metaphysical I’d reckon that the greatest and shortest path is that of acceptance. Let go of your expectations, inner struggle, and frustrations when things don’t turn out exactly, the way you want them. Acceptance is an extremely powerful tool to finding inner happiness. It shouldn’t be confused with resignation or passiveness.

We often fail to understand the power of acceptance because it comes from the heart, not the mind. Its power, in fact, comes from transcending the resistance and inner currents of the restless mind which are often the source of our anxieties, stress, and inner conflict.

Acceptance is when we drop all, our mental models (like the if-then model), often in a moment of clarity or awareness where we become conscious that there is another life outside this madness, outside this huffing and puffing trying to acquire one goal after the other in the wrong belief that there is an ultimate goal post called happiness somewhere on the finishing line.

Ask yourself – how much of what’s going on in your life do you accept? Are you constantly feeling you should be at some other point in your life? Or do you somehow feel at peace with all aspects of your life and make use of them with all their limitations?

Other pathways to inner peace:

• Compassion: Some people admirably manage to find the time and energy to help other even when they are facing rough seas themselves. Even though this comes out from an act of compassion and selflessness, it is also a doorway to their own inner peace. In fact although it seems quite hard to do in moments when we are down and out, giving attention to others’ needs is a way of getting ‘out of your head’ which, ironic as it sounds, is a fast remedy to unhappiness.

• Seek the support of others: Well, it works both ways too. Helping others is a way to shift your center of attention away from your ailments. However seeking any form of support from others is a way of finding reinforcement and encouragement and is highly recommendable.

• Be grateful to everything around you: Because we so often forget of the little miracles happening around us on a daily basis. We only think about what’s missing instead of counting our blessings. Being thankful to life is not some wishy-washy magical spell that washes away all your troubles. Rather it is an exercise in which you become aware of the positive and meaningful things happening in your life, a real booster.

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What It Really Means To Be In Love

How to get past your own defenses and learn to build a real relationship?

While many of us may have sensed it intuitively, there is now science behind the statement that “Love is all you need.” A 75-year longitudinal study by Harvard researchers suggests that love is indeed a key to a happy and fulfilling life.

While love seems to be a universally valued attribute, defining it in behavioral terms can be a challenge. As the Harvard study’s lead researcher, Dr. George Vaillant, wrote of his team’s findings, two essential ingredients are proven to correlate with a happy existence: “One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

While many of us believe we would like to be in love, we face many hurdles in taking the actions that allow love to flow freely throughout our lives and relationships. We have many ways of defending ourselves against love and can struggle to give and receive love with ease, openness, and vulnerability.

With love being so closely connected to meaning and fulfillment, it’s valuable for each of us to define love as an action or series of actions we can take to bring us closer to the people we value. In a romantic context, some essential characteristics that fit the description of a loving relationship include:

• Expressions of affection, both physical and emotional.
• A wish to offer pleasure and satisfaction to another.
• Tenderness, compassion, and sensitivity to the needs of the other.
• A desire for shared activities and pursuits.
• An appropriate level of sharing of possessions.
• An ongoing, honest exchange of personal feelings.
• The process of offering concern, comfort, and outward assistance for the loved one’s aspirations.

Love includes feeling for the other that goes beyond any selfishness or self-interest on the part of the loved one. As such, love nurtures and has a positive effect on each person’s self-esteem and sense of well-being. Love never involves deception, because misleading another person fractures his or her sense of reality.

So how well do we meet these standards for being loving? When we think about a relationship that is meaningful to us, we have to ask:

• Do we both behave in ways that nurture each other?
• Do we take actions to make the other person feel good?
• Do we consider what lights that person up, separate from our own interests?

Too often, we think of love as an almost passive state of being, as opposed to a conscious choice we make. When we regard love as something we simply fall into, we can easily slip into routines with the person we value or lose a sense of separateness and respect. Instead, we view that person as a part of us. We then run the risk of creating a fantasy bond, an illusion of fusion in which real feelings of fondness and attraction are replaced by the form of being in a relationship. In other words, we come to see ourselves and our partner as a single unit. We then fall into roles rather than appreciating each other as individuals and experiencing the exciting, loving feelings that result.

A fantasy bond offers a false sense of security—the illusion that we are no longer alone. However, when we connect to someone in this way, we lose our sense of vitality, and we give up significant aspects of our relationship. The behavioral operations of love are replaced with a fantasy of being in love, which does not nurture either partner.

Relationships tend to go south when we stop taking actions that our partner would perceive as loving and instead start looking to our partner solely to meet our own needs. It’s important to distinguish emotional hunger from real love. Have you ever witnessed a parent hugging a child and wondered whether the hug was intended to comfort the child, offering reassurance and care, or to soothe the parent, taking something from the child? When we reach out to our partner, it can be valuable to examine whether our behaviors are for them or for ourselves. Are we looking to them to fulfill us in some way that is unfair to them? Are we hoping they will make up for an emptiness or hurt from our past?

A couple I’ve worked with recently recognized an example of this dynamic. The wife would often compliment her husband, but he rarely felt acknowledged by her words. When she recounted some of the recent comments she made, she noticed that they were less of a reflection of him and more a reflection on her. Statements like: “Aren’t I married to such a handsome, well-put-together man?” Or: “Haven’t I picked a winner?” didn’t capture qualities that were important to him. They were traits she valued in a partner that reconfirmed her own self-esteem and sense of worth.

Love should never be an act of manipulation. It is not a mark of ownership over another person, but the exact opposite—a genuine appreciation of a person as a separate individual. When we see a person this way, we allow ourselves to fully value them for who they are and for the happiness they bring to our lives. We are driven to be generous toward the person, to show compassion and kindness in a way that both they and the outside world would view as loving.

Of course, there are many barriers we put in place that not only keep us from finding this type of relationship but from achieving it with the person we love. One reason we wind up in less-than-loving relationships is the ways we were treated in our past. We may have become familiar with family dynamics in which we were rejected or intruded on, in which case we tend to seek out or recreate these same dynamics in our adult relationships. To become more loving thus means recognizing ways we self-sabotage: How are we recreating past hurts in our current relationships?

As we reflect on these behaviors, we learn a lot, not only about how we interfere with our naturally loving feelings for others but about the negative ways we feel about ourselves. It’s difficult to express love outwardly when we don’t feel our own sense of self-worth. One of the biggest reasons we shut out love is because we feel unworthy or self-denying. Therefore, to have a loving relationship, we must challenge our negative self-concept or critical inner voice. When we do this and take the loving actions that contradict our critical self-image, we enhance our own sense of worth and are able to get closer to the people we love.

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7 Tips Getting Over A Break Up

1. Letting Go.

What would you do if your house was burnt to the ground, and everything you owned was destroyed? I’m sure you’d be frustrated and angry at first, but at the same time, no amount of anger will undo what has been done. It is what it is. Your best bet is to begin moving on, and working towards creating a new home.

Similarly, when a relationship ends, you’ll want to practice letting go and allowing the healing process to begin quickly.

If you were on the receiving end of a breakup, do not dwell on whether the person will come back or not, if they broke up with you at one point, chances are, something is wrong with the fit of your partnership, and you’ll be better appreciated elsewhere, with someone else. Even if you and the ex get back together, it is unlikely to last.

Trust that everything in the Universe happens for a reason, and it benefits everyone involved in the long run, even if the benefits are not yet clear. Trust that this is the best possible thing to happen to you right now, and the reasons will become clear in the future.

2. Release Tension and Bundled Up Energy.

We all have the need to be understood and heard. Whether we’re on the receiving end or the initiating end of a breakup, we often carry with us the tension and any unexpressed emotions. We can release this extra energy by:

  • Talking about it with a friend.
  • Voicing our opinions honestly and openly with our ex-partner, which have been bottled up in the past.
  • Punching a pillow and crying freely for 10 minutes.
  • Screaming out aloud and imagining unwanted energy being released with your voice (seriously, I’ve done a meditation that incorporated this, and I instantly felt better).
  • Writing in a journal (more on this later).
  • Exercise and body movement.
  • Meditating.

3. Love Yourself.

The practice of loving yourself is the most important aspect on the road to personal happiness and emotional stability. I’ve personally had my most valuable personal growth spurts during the period when I vigorously worked on this aspect of my life.

I did everything from cooking myself fancy dinners, to spending every Sunday on my own doing the things that I loved, to taking myself to Symphonies, to taking overseas trips on my own. Each one had its own challenges and confronted my beliefs about loneliness. Through overcoming the fear of loneliness, I experienced deep joy all by myself. It was so gratifying, refreshing and empowering.

Here are some ideas to cultivate the art of loving yourself:

  • Take yourself on romantic dates as if you were on a date with another person. Put on nice clothes, maybe buy yourself flowers, treat yourself to something delicious, and take long walks under the stars. Whatever your idea of a romantic date is.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror. Look yourself in the eyes. Smile slightly with your eyes. Practice giving gratitude to what you see. You don’t need words. Just send out the intent of giving an abundance of love to the eyes that you see, and feel the feelings of love within you. As you are looking into your eyes, look for something you admire about your eyes – maybe the color, the shape, the depth, the exoticness, or even the length of your eye lashes. This will be a little weird and uncomfortable at first, but just trust me, and continue with it. Do this for a few minutes every day.
  • Sit or stand in front of a mirror, or sit somewhere comfortable (mix it up, and do both on different days), put both hands on your chest and say to yourself, “I love you, <insert your name>”. Repeat a few times, slowly. Continue with qualities you like about yourself, or things you are good at. Be generous and list many, even if they sound silly. Example, “I love that you always know how to make your salads so colorful and appetizing.”, “I love that you have the discipline to go to the gym regularly, and you really take care of your body.”, “I love that you are so neat, and can keep your desk so organized.”
  • Practice doing things on your own to challenge your fear of being alone. For example, if you have a fear of eating alone in a restaurant, go out to a restaurant on your own. Your mission is to find the joy within that experience.

4. Love Your Ex-Partner.

Allow the love within you to flow. Try practicing forgiveness and open up your heart.

Over the past few months, my friend and I have been chatting about the topic of overcoming breakups. He had been married for 2 years and went through a divorce that took him 2 years to emotionally recover from. When asked about how he got over his ex-wife, he had a few snippets of wisdom to convey:

  • “I let myself love her. Even when it felt like my heart was going to break. He says something amazing – when people say, ‘My heart feels like it is going to break.’ He says, ‘Let it break. If you let it really break – really, really break, it will transform you.’”
  • “LET YOUR HEART BREAK WIDE OPEN. Let go of every possible belief or thought that says your ex is anything other than the most incredible, amazing, wonderful person in the Universe. You gotta love them and open your broken heart, WIDE OPEN! That’s how to get over a break-up, really get over it. Anything short of that is not gonna do it.”
  • “The key for me was getting utterly clear: we are apart, and the Universe never makes mistakes. We are over. And I can still love her. That was HUGE. I can love her with all my heart and soul and we never have to be together. And when I realized that, I felt amazing. And still do. The freedom was great. I could finally own-up to how much I wanted out of our relationship. All the hurt and anger disappeared. I was free.”

The underlying message of love in my friend’s words is pretty clear and powerful.

5. Give it Time.

It takes time to heal. Be patient. Give it more time. I promise the storm will end, and the sun will peak through the clouds.

6. Journal Your Experience.

Spend some quality time in a comfortable chair, at your desk or at a café, and write your thoughts and feelings on paper. No, not typing on a laptop, writing on paper with a pen. Follow your heart and flow freely, but if you’re stuck, here are some writing exercises you can do:

  • Drill into the why – Start with a question or statement, and continue to drill into why you feel that way until you have a truthful and satisfying reason. The exercise isn’t to issue blame or blow off steam at someone else. It’s meant to gain clarity and understanding into how you feel, so you can alleviate unnecessary pain. For example, you might start with the statement, “I am in a lot of pain, ouch!”, and your why might be “because she left me”. Now ask yourself, “why does that hurt so much?”, and one possible why might be, “because I feel abandoned”. The following why to “why does feeling abandoned hurt so much?”, “because it makes me feel alone”, etc. More than likely, the real reason has something to do with our own insecurities or fears.
  • Finding the Lessons – What did you learn from the relationship? What did you learn from the other person? How is your life better because of it? How will your future relationships be better because of it?

7. Read Something Inspirational.

Books that deal with our emotions and ego are incredible tools at a time of healing. They help to enlighten our understanding of ourselves and our experiences.

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11 Ways to Make Someone Smile and Brighten Their Whole Day.

Has a stranger ever done something that made your whole day look brighter? Perhaps they opened the door at the bank for you or let you go ahead of them in the queue? Remember how good it made you feel?

Making someone smile and brightening their day is one of the most generous things you can do. It has a ripple effect that touches the whole community; if you are nice to someone it is likely they will be nice to someone as well.

So we know that making someone smile can change the whole community. But what else can it do? Why else should we bother trying to make people smile? Well there are a lot of reasons actually.

– Firstly, it makes you feel good about yourself. When you make someone happy you really feel like you have done something good. So making other people happy makes you happier.

– Secondly, it is healthy. If you smile at someone and make them smile you are actively causing chemicals to be released in to your body that battle stress and cause feelings of joy. This is good. Making other people smile benefits both yourself and others.

It’s all about putting them before you. When you engage in this type or practice (and it is a practice) you also develop positive qualities in your mind like patience and kindness. But the main quality that you will develop is generosity. If you go out everyday and try to make the people around you smile you will develop the inner qualities of a very generous person. This is one of the most respectable and admirable qualities a person can posses.

When you smile at someone or brighten their day you give something of yourself. You are putting aside your own selfish needs and wants for a moment to make someone else feel good.

And this is extremely generous.

Here are some simple and easy ways to make the people around you smile or brighten their day. They are small acts that have big effects.

1. Smile first.
The easiest and possibly the most effective way to get someone to smile is to smile at them first. If you smile at someone first they will almost always smile back and walk away feeling happier.

2. Be chivalrous. 
Chivalry is a term dating back to the medieval knights and their values of honor, courtesy and good manners. It is a very simple practice where you endeavor to behave in a kind and courteous way to the people around you and especially to members of the opposite sex. A typical example would be holding the door open for someone or standing up to greet someone when they meet you for lunch. Again, it is easy to do but makes people feel really good.

3. Be self deprecating.
Self deprecation is one of the best ways to make friends and make people smile. People love it when someone makes self deprecating jokes because it makes them seem less arrogant and more approachable. The best comedians are those who use this style of self deprecation to interact with the audience.

But remember, this is supposed to make people smile, not make them feel sorry for you. It is about being able to make fun of yourself and take yourself a little less seriously. For example, if you slip over at a restaurant and make a big mess you might make a quick joke like “…it was like that when I got here…” instead of getting all angry and serious and trying to blame someone or something around you. People hate that.

4. Listen.
When someone is talking to you listen to them. Don’t just sit there waiting for your turn to talk. Actually listen. This is one of the best ways to make people feel good about themselves.

The classic book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” talks about how important it is to be genuinely interested in people if you want them to like you. The reason this makes people like you is because it makes them feel good about themselves. The book talks about how people perceive someone as interesting if they sit there and listen to you talk.

5. Surprise someone.
Have you ever brought flowers home for your wife or girlfriend because it was a Wednesday? Not Valentine’s Day that fell on a Wednesday, just because it was Wednesday? Surprising someone for no particular reason other than to make the person smile is a fantastic way to brighten someone’s day.

6. Take on some work.
Quite often the reason someone is angry is because of their work. It might be a deadline at the office or it might be the pile of dirty clothes in the laundry. And quite often you can reverse that person’s mood and make them smile by taking on some of their work.

If you have a few spare minutes at the office you might want to volunteer to run some errands for a person who is struggling. Or you might want to do the dishes even though it is not your turn. A little extra work can often really brighten someone’s day.

7. Be humble.
I am always shocked at how much a truly humble person can improve my day. Their inner warmth seems to radiate outwards and makes you feel protected and comfortable. Humility is truly a great quality. Let me give you an example:

The other day I went to the shop to buy a coffee and the man serving me was extremely humble. He asked about my day, thanked me for my business and took my money with two hands. I was dressed up in my pretty and costly clothes and was walking around feeling pretty good about myself. Then I met this humble man and was brought back down to Earth. He was quite old and had obviously had a hard day’s work. But he treated me with respect, as I imagine he does with all his valued customers.

The man’s humility really touched me and reminded me that clothes and big business doesn’t mean anything if you don’t treat people with love and respect. When you are humble you are more likely to treat people well and this makes them smile.

8. Make eye contact.
Looking people in the eyes is a good habit to develop. It shows trust and demonstrates that you are truly trying to engage the person. When you show someone that you are trustworthy you make them feel good. This is particularly true of business related meetings. People want to know that they are dealing with a trustworthy person and as such looking someone in the eyes will improve their day.

9. Offer a random compliment.
This seems like a pretty obvious thing to do but it actually takes a lot more guts than people think. Compliments are a sure-fire way to make someone smile but quite often they are hard to deliver. It takes bravery.

For example, you might see a beautiful woman who looks sad and depressed. A simple, “your hair looks amazing” would go a long way but it is a pretty daunting thing to do. My advice is to just let it rip without thinking about it too much. If your intentions are to cheer her up then she will usually be receptive.

10. Ask people their name.
My father taught me this trick for business relationships and it is also mentioned in the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. People love hearing their name. They love knowing that someone cares enough to remember it. And you can take this theory one step further by actually asking the person what their name is. It is a very powerful tool for cheering people up and making new friends.

11. Shake hands, hug or physically interact.
The final thing I am going to offer is one of the most powerful. It is physical interaction. This is a truly wonderful way to cheer someone up and brighten their day.

Humans are sensual creatures. Their lives are dictated by smells, sights, tastes and sounds. But of all of these senses it seems that the most powerful way to interact with another human is by touch. A shake of the hand or a hug is a big thing because it forces both people to be open to anything. Hugging and touching goes against a lot of our basic survival instincts and that is why, when it is done properly, it is so wonderful.

If you really want to make someone smile give them a hug when you say hello. If you don’t want to hug strangers (I don’t recommend hugging strangers by the way) then shake their hands when you meet them.

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