Approaching Happiness with a Gentle Heart
So, what’s the big deal about happiness anyway? You know, that burst of dopamine that reveals itself perhaps as a subtle tingling vibration inside your belly. Happiness prompts us to erupt into laughter, or wear a smile, or maybe just walk around feeling whole. It’s a human experience that is universal and has the power to expand us spiritually.
Happiness synchronizes our entire biological system. Many of us are trying to find it in our daily lives, but don’t know where to start. For me, happiness is a discovery process that unfolds one small step at a time.
The first thing I do to find happiness is allow whatever is negative in my mind and body to be identified, observed and released. The goal is to honor myself in the present and notice whatever I am feeling in the moment. To appreciate being happy, I must first release whatever is toxic and negative that is stuck inside. Happiness is riding out the waves of sorrow that I have weathered through life. It is a process of discovery. Within my discovery, I recall those moments that made me smile, or someone special that made me feel loved. Happiness involves taking stock of what I already have, and enjoying myself in the present moment.
Here are some ways you can discover happiness:
• Keep it simple — The more you keep looking for happiness, the less likely you will be able to find it. Happiness is a raw and organic emotion. Since happiness can be somewhat elusive, try to let happiness find you instead. Participate in a simple and rewarding activity that stimulates your mind, such as taking a brisk walk, or sitting on a bench in the park and participating in some people watching. Research has shown that people respond to one another’s emotions by simply watching and connecting. For example, if you notice someone eating a particularly delicious looking ice-cream cone, your brain may trigger a hunger reaction. This organic reaction is brought to us courtesy of our mirror neurons, which fire within the brain as we observe others.
• Rediscover the past — Start with something that you did in the past and that you enjoyed. Let’s use walking in the park as an example. If you are unable or cannot participate in the activity in the present, connect with a friend who was there during the original experience and talk about that lovely afternoon that seemed perfect in every way. Ask them if they remember the cool breeze, or the beautiful flowers in full bloom. Chances are you will soon be smiling and laughing as if you were actually in the park at this very moment. Browse through old photos or family videos that may trigger feelings of joy. The goal is to remember what brought you that inner spark. By remembering those lovely moments in the past, your present self is likely to gently return to that happy mindset.
• Try something different — Try doing something different that speaks to your heart. Maybe you have been eager to experience it for years, but have been putting it off. Enroll in a crafting class, try an improvisational comedy, or dance class. Attend a weekly study or social group and perhaps try learning a different language. Another option is changing up your daily routine. Try to not be afraid of changing things up a bit. More likely than not, happiness is right around the corner.
Happiness is a larger fully integrated life experience. The most important thing I have learned in my life’s journey is that it is okay to feel sad too, because that is what makes us fully human. We should honor and celebrate our accomplishments and know that we are, and will always be, loved.