3 Easy Steps to a Lifetime of Happiness

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
3 Easy Steps to a Lifetime of Happiness

You really thought you could be forever happy in just three easy steps? At the very least, that means you’ve been reading way too much pop psychology. Seriously, for millennia our species managed to survive without magazine articles and self-help books promising that you can fix up your own life — or your children’s lives — without following a step-by-step repair manual. We seemed to have been able to raise children just fine before we were taught to live in mortal fear of our children getting a boo-boo, striking out, or experiencing the nightmare of getting bad grades.

The reason my new book is called The Wisdom We’re Born With is because, deep down, you know your truth already. And the advice that touches your heart is not new information, it just awakens the wisdom that was dozing somewhere inside.

But if you’re still looking for steps, try these:

Step One:

Never, ever read anything that begins with: “[X-number] of Steps to…” This whole thing about numbers and steps has gotten out of control. We’re inundated with step-by-step advice on how to achieve just about everything. If you followed all the steps, I don’t think you would become enlightened; you would just find yourself schlepping around from step to step.

Okay, I don’t want to go to extremes. There are certain steps I believe in. Twelve-Step programs for alcoholism and addiction are, for example, very helpful for lots of people. But if you think about it carefully, there is no endpoint to the 12 steps, and the people who participate and believe in these programs are very aware of that. At no point does someone say, “Okay, I’ve completed steps one through 12, and now I am healthy.” The steps are a guide and a process.

The only other steps I really believe in are for cooking, baking and learning how to tie a bow tie.

Okay, time to move to…

Step Two:

Most of these step articles imply that there really is a there there, so when you get there, you stay there. Sounds great, but nothing stays the same.

When I was a boy, I had a cowlick in the back of my head. That little patch of hair had a mind of its own. Its reason for being was to embarrass me — especially when I hit adolescence. I used everything known to keep that damn thing flat, but nothing worked. I thought I was doomed to have that cowlick forever. Then, some time in high school, without any action on my part, that cowlick got tired and lay down. I was so happy, thinking, “I will finally have the good hair I’ve always wanted!” What a relief!

But… five years later, that cowlick fell out. And then all of its cousins fell out. Now that I am bald, I miss that cowlick. How could I have foreseen that there would come a day when I would gladly have a cowlick?

That’s the way it so often goes. By the time we get what we want, or what we thought we wanted, we are different from what we once were.

In my humble opinion, there is only one thing that is lasting. And that gets us to

Step Three: The Happiness Part

In his best-selling book Stumbling on Happiness (not a book with numbered steps), psychologist Daniel Gilbert teaches us that there are all kinds of happiness. And its sources — all the things that people associate with feelings of happiness — are infinitely wide-ranging. It could be an ice cream sundae. Watching a child graduate from college. Falling in love. In other words, we don’t quite know what happiness is, but we do know this: When it happens, it’s wonderful. And it doesn’t last.

So what do we really want? I’ve given lectures on the concept of dis-ease. Dis-ease is what you feel when anything interferes with your overall well-being, comfort, and ability to give and receive love.

If you are striving for happiness — or striving to be a better parent, employer, employee, spouse, or lover — I have one tiny piece of advice. Stop striving! Striving itself is a form of dis-ease.

Instead, hang out with someone you really like hanging out with. Have fun every day. And forget about pursuing happiness: You are not going to make it permanent, no matter how many steps you follow.

What you are going to do is look in that mirror tomorrow and see the same person you’ve always seen. But when you do look in that mirror, look in the eyes of that person looking back at you. Look at the playful child you once were, and the adolescent who was working so hard to fit in, and the young adult or the adult you are now who has been knocked down and gotten up each time. Look at that person in the mirror with great love and compassion.

Love is the one thing that you are born with and that you can cultivate over a lifetime. It is the only thing permanent in life. The more you love, the better you love, the more people you love, the more you will contribute to making the world a better place. And, who knows, that might even make you happy!

Gourami, aka Kissing Fish: New York City, April, 2010

I’m staying in my Aunt Janet’s place on the upper west side while on a job in New York It’s a classic old apartment that my late Uncle Jim’s parents first moved into in the 1930s. Many family gatherings happened here over the years, but now it’s quiet. Heading to the kitchen for a late night snack, I see the aquarium sitting on top of the dryer in the laundry room, its new home since the kitchen was remodeled a couple of years ago. I hear the pump’s whir and see the Gourami suspended motionless, eyes open, in soft aquarium light.

As I move my face to the aquarium side for a closer look, the Gourami stirs from its stillness, swims around for a bit, slowing down to observe me while making the kissing motion with its mouth for which it is named. Earlier, Janet told me she’s had the Gourami for eighteen years, since 1992. I ponder the history that has gone before its unclosing eyes and in its lifetime. In 1992 Uncle Jim was alive. Grandma Evelyn was alive. So was Aunt Ruth, Aunt Terry, Cousin Joey, Dad and his wife, Sara; my step-dad, Harry; our friend Maureen and many others. Patti could still walk then, although with increasing difficulty, and I was over a decade away from my own current neuropathy and gait issues.

I stay there for a while, watching and being watched, bid the Gourami good night, go to the kitchen for a drink, then head toward my room, passing the old barometer on the wall that used to be in Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment when I was a kid, with the arrow still pointing to fair weather ahead.


5 Things Dogs Teach You About Life
2014-02-13-Chet.pngThis is Chet. He is my 3-and-a-half-year-old rescue dog, the light of my life and the bane of my existence. What he lacks in good behavior (hint: a lot) he makes up for in being the cutest, funniest and most loving little dog in the whole wide world. He has also taught me a lot about life.

Almost any other dog owner you ask would say the same thing about their own canine companion, and they would genuinely mean it. Dogs may eat food off of the ground, go to the bathroom outside and say “hello” by sniffing behinds, but we’re the ones who have a lot to learn.

1. Actions speak louder than words.
Dogs can’t talk, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. A wag of the tail or a quick look into your eyes will tell you everything you need to know. If subtle isn’t your pooch’s style, they’ll find a more expressive (ever heard of an on-purpose accident?) way to get their point across.

2. Go with your gut.
If you’re nervous, excited or otherwise, own it. Let it out. Act on it. People are inclined to suppress their instincts for the sake of rationality, but dogs don’t care enough to keep things bottled up. No, the mailman hasn’t tried to murder us yet. He hasn’t really done anything that justifies a full-on door-rushing frenzy every single afternoon. But we’re keeping an eye on him, just in case.

3. Never underestimate yourself.
Unlike people, dogs don’t let their fear of failure hold them back. This confidence, though occasionally inflated and misguided, is what keeps our canine counterparts tirelessly trying to lick whatever is on our plates, climb trees in search of squirrels and dig holes that lead to goodness knows where.

4. Don’t take the little things for granted.
As humans, we not only fail to appreciate but have a tendency to complicate the simplest of things. Dogs, however, couldn’t be more different. They are content with a calendar solely dedicated to napping, taking walks, playing and indulging in the occasional belly rub.

5. Love like crazy.
Is there anything better than coming home from the grocery store and being greeted like a war hero returning from active duty? Dogs love unconditionally and, even better, unapologetically.

The ABCs of Stress Reduction
Stress. We see it in others. It can affect our appetite. We talk about it. Heck, we even smell it. But for all these physical symptoms, stress is still lumped into the category of the psychological instead of the physical. Combating something internal, something you think you can’t see or touch, may seem like a daunting task, so let’s flip that idea of stress on its head. When you break a bone, what do you do? You notice the symptoms, assess them, and put a cast on the break to heal. A stressful situation can be unnecessarily exacerbated simply because nothing was done to help it heal, no “cast” put on it. If you can associate a physical symptom to your stress, you can work from the outside in, making your outside feel better first, which will then help you internally and reduce your stress.

Think carefully about your body’s first reactions to stress. Headaches? A rush of heat? Quickened breath? When your mind is racing, be aware of what your body is doing. Connect to just one of the physical symptoms and make a choice to reduce it. You’ll begin to feel better or at least think more clearly. I offer you these ABCs of stress symptoms in hopes that you can use them at the onset of anxiety to identify a problem, and thus, a solution!

1. Appetite
It may be the first on our list, but this physical manifestation of stress is often the last on our minds! Think on your last week. Have you been eating as you normally do? Have you been consistently overeating/undereating? Maybe you all of a sudden can’t leave the house without an “emergency” bag of Skittles. Your body is telling you something. It’s time to listen.

2. Breath
I’m always reminding my clients to connect to their breath, and I often have to remind myself to do the same in times of stress. Your breath could quicken, or it could become shallow, causing even more physical tension. Try to take three deep, even breaths. Whether you can/can’t, or whether it makes you feel significantly better is information you need to combat your stressful situation!

3. Can’t Sleep
Does your body crave rest, but your mind won’t let you relax? Racing thoughts may be a mental symptom, but even your exhausted body can be preventing your rest. You might be jittery, have a crunched up neck or even a headache. And any of those symptoms combined with, for example, any of the appetite symptoms above could be setting you up for a rough week!

4. Discipline
No, not the “slap on the wrist” kind of discipline. I’m talking about your own self-discipline. We all have it to some degree. Under times of stress, you may find your routine gets out of whack. Your typical early bird nature falls to the wayside, as you hit the snooze button with increasing frequency. Or maybe you’ve been surfing the web more often at work and are barely making (or missing!) your deadlines, which then causes you to work late and you miss more than a few of the regular family dinners. Yikes! This domino effect needs to be curtailed.

5. Environment
I live in New York City (where this has been particularly true this year), but I think I can speak for most of the country when I say that this winter has been a little wild! And as a result, it’s so easy to fall into the “trap” of going to work and going straight home to get cozy and warm. That lack of fresh air (and likely exercise) could be contributing to your stressed out state. It’s time to beat the winter blues and get outside.

How many of the above symptoms apply to you? Whether you’re at just 1 or 2, or feel like you could add an “F, G, H, I, J, and K” onto the list, there’s always tricks for stress reduction. The first step is in stopping a negative feedback system from forming. For example: You’re overeating, so you feel gross; you feel gross so you don’t go out; you stay home, which makes you feel lazy, and feeling lazy kills your motivation to work out. All of these combined cause you anxiety. Wow. Feeling better may seem like a giant task, but if you eliminate just one factor from that system and replace it with another, you’ll see immediate results.

Connect to your body to ease your mind. Based on the symptoms you tracked in the above “stress alphabet,” choose one of the following to start heading in the right direction. Commit to a healthy breakfast that will jump start your day. Take a five-minute mini-meditation to regulate your breath and thoughts. Learn a basic yoga sun salutation to stretch out your aching muscles. Get outside for at least 15 minutes a day (even if it means picking up your dinner instead of having it delivered!). You’ll likely notice a chain reaction: Your body feels better, your thoughts are more clear, and your stress reduces. Just like you fix that broken bone, building an awareness of your body and treating a physical symptom of anxiety can be the “cast” that heals your mind.

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