The Happiness Project is devoted to helping others find happiness. There are many links to visit and things to read. Here is one article:
10 Keys to Large Amounts of Happiness!
1. Look for happiness!
Perception is a choice! Who is right, the cynic or the optimist? Do you think the cynic is right? Or will you vote for the optimist? The point is, the cynic and the optimist are both right! Perception is a choice. Be careful what you look for because you will find it! Perception is projection: you see what you want to see. If you are looking for one more reason why you’re in the wrong job, you’ll find it. If you’re looking for one more reason why the world is out to get you, you’ll find it. Similarly, if you look for happiness, happiness finds you.
Choose consciously what you are looking for today. You will see a difference if you are willing to see things differently. Outlook determines outcome.
2. Celebrate the “GOOD NEWS”
Judging by our day-to-day conversations with friends, family and colleagues, no one is happy, no one is successful and no one is having a good time. “How are you?” we ask, when we greet one another. The replies arrive thick and fast: “Not bad”, “Not so bad”, and “Not too bad”. Some people, more creative, say,
“Could be better”
“Could be worse”
“Fair to middling”
“Hanging in there”
How about that! I call this type of inane conversation “Not-so-badder-itis”. It is like a “near-life experience”, as opposed to a “near-death experience”, in that there is no happiness, no sadness, no commitment, no nothing. In our fast and furious world, where no one appears to have the time to engage in mindful conversations, “Not so bad” has become a learned response, a type of social shorthand. It’s quick, its easy, and we have no idea what you are talking about!
Celebrate the “good news”. Sit down, right now, and make a list of ten “successes” you have had in the last week. Yes, ten! They are there if you look for them. For the next seven days, I want you to sit down each evening and make a list of 5 successes you have had for each day. Affirm and acknowledge your successes, your joy, your good fortune.
3. Remember what’s IMPORTANT!
Do you remember the Monty Python Sketch about the “Silly Olympics”, called the “100 Meters Dash for People With a Poor Sense of Direction”? Well, the gun goes off, and pretty soon the athletes are running backwards, sideways and nowhere. They are running very fast, but they have no direction. This morning, your alarm clock went off, and you too started to run – it’s another busy day, auto-pilot kicks in (thank God!), and you dash from bed to bathroom, have breakfast on the run, tackle the traffic, negotiate the road-rage, and frantically you consult the personal organiser for “What first?”, “What next?” and “What now?” Do you know where you are running to? Are you on track? Is there any finishing line in sight?
Decide who and what is important to you and give, wholeheartedly of your time, your energy and your attention. People get ill and unhappy because, 1) they forget what is important; 2) they know what is important but their time, energy and attention is spent elsewhere. Do not let details eclipse what is important.
Exercise: write down 10 things you love to do, and then write down next to each of these activities the date you last did it; write down 10 people that you love to spend “quality time” with, and again write down the date you last spent “quality time” with each person. Are you still on track? Have you got enough time to do this exercise?
4. What did you decide today?
Take your mind back to first thing this morning. Would you describe the way you woke up today as a beautiful performance, or, more simply, a performance! Was it peaceful, or were you in pieces? Did you rise and shine, or, rise and whine? Did you wake up fresh, or, on auto? Do you ever find that the effort of waking actually exhausts you for the rest of the day?
How did you greet this new day? Are you, for instance, the sort of person who wakes up in the morning and says, “Good morning, God”, or, swears, “Good God, morning!”? Maybe you like to start the day with a smile, to get it over with! How do you prepare for each new day?
Try to recall specific decisions you made during the very first hour of today. Your first decision may have been to hit the “Snooze” button on your alarm clock! What then? A fast coffee, maybe? Hit the shower. A cigarette. A search for socks. New underwear. Yesterday’s underwear. Hurry the children along. Make-up. Breakfast on the run. Catch the news headlines Hunt for your wallet. The “find the keys” game. Walk the dog. A quick jog?
Most early morning decisions are about showers, make-up, clothes, children, food, time and transport perhaps. They are “doing decisions”, as opposed to “being decisions”. What I am most interested in is not your “to do” list, but your “to be” list. In other words, did you make any conscious decisions about how you wanted to be today? To put it another way, what sort of a day did you decide to have today?
Percentage wise, how much time did you spend preparing your body for today, i.e. washing, feeding and clothing, as opposed to how much time spent preparing your mind for today? What was the split? Body 95%; Mind 5%, perhaps? Body 25%; Mind 75%, perhaps? Generally speaking, how do you like to prepare yourself mentally and spiritually for each new day of your life?
Your first hour on waking is like the rudder of a ship in that it serves to steer a course for the rest of your day. More specifically, it is during this time that you make up your mind exactly what sort of a day you will have. In other words, you set your intention for the day, unconsciously and consciously. So, once again, think back to first thing this morning and ask yourself, how did you decide to be today? What sort of a day have you already decided to have?
Decision is power! Decision, above circumstance, is the key to happiness NOW. Know, therefore, that your decision counts. You really can decide what sort of a day to have today. In fact, you already have. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can happen without your decision.
5. To be or not to be?
Did anyone tell you when you were growing up, you can be what you want? Hopefully, if you were fortunate, there was at least one person in your life who encouraged you to dream, to dare and to be? The words, you can be what you want, sound so positive, hopeful and affirming. They are also a statement of truth, for they illustrate a very important principle of being. This principle is outlined in a poem of affirmation I wrote called “You Can Be What You Want!”. It reads,
If you would want love, be loving.
If you would want care, be caring.
You can be what you want.
If you would want joy, be joyful.
If you would want peace, be peaceful.
You can be what you want.
If you would want happiness, be happy.
If you would want kindness, be kindly.
You can be what you want.
If you would want forgiveness, be forgiving.
If you would want acceptance, be accepting.
You can be what you want.
Being is proactive. It is literally being what you want. It is also about being first, e.g. if you want honesty, be honest first; if you want loyalty, be loyal first; if you want trust, be trusting first; if you want enthusiasm, be enthusiastic first; if you want courage, be courageous first; if you want inspiration, be a Light first! Be what you want, and stick to it! Your courage will be rewarded.
6. Work, Rest and Play!
According to the world ethic, happiness is not natural – happiness is a pay-packet you earn for putting in the hours. There are, in particular, four erroneous, fearful beliefs about happiness that help make up the work ethic, and they are,
* Happiness has to be deserved
* Happiness has to be worked for
* Happiness has to be earned
* Happiness has to be paid for
The work ethic is all about labour: birth is labour, life is labour, love is labour, happiness is labour, work is labour, death is rest. We labour, not for the joy of it, but because we have learned to believe we must. The purpose of the work ethic is to work hard so as to atone for your guilt and unworthiness and thereby “deserve happiness” once more.
“Workaholism” is endemic, and for many of us our life is governed entirely by work. Once upon a time, we worked to live; now, we live to work. Any “life” we do have is merely recovery from work. We work, recover from work, and then work again. We go to the office to work.
After work, we bring home some work with us. For rest, we go tot he gym for a work-out. Totally exhausted, we go to therapy to work through our problems – “I’ve done a lot of work on myself,” we say. After all that, there’s the house-work! Finally, we hit the sack, too tired to be happy, but our mind is still working and we cannot sleep. No problem! Insomnia is a wonderful chance to get more work done!
The work ethic is motivated by the belief that anything worthwhile requires great work, effort and labour. According to the work ethic: creativity is not inspiration; it’s perspiration; love is a labour, not a joy; success is a fight, it never comes easily; health is about a “no pain, no gain” attitude; salvation is hardest of all – it is a wrestling match with the angels – just ask Jacob. Nothing comes easily according to the work ethic.
We are too busy working to be happy, to be happy. In the last ten years, the average working week has increased by over ten hours to nearly 50 hours a week; the lunch break faces extinction; 6 out of 10 men and 4 out of 10 women work Saturdays; Sundays are now a workday for many. To cap it all, when we dare leave the office at 5pm, there is always one sad, brainless colleague who shouts out, “Part timer”, or, “Only doing a half day?” Guilt ensues.
As a society we spend more and more time as a human doing and less and less time as a human being. Indeed, the work ethic despises rest and play. We hardly ever go out to play anymore; instead we go for cardiovascular workouts, business lunches and corporate away days. According to the work ethic, rest is “downtime” – nothing useful is happening. Too much rest and you lose your edge!
Kick the work ethic into touch! When you are relaxed and happy, you perform brilliantly. Remember the old saying: “you do not stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing”. Work is an attitude. So too is play. Go out to play!
7. Laugh your head off!
How wonderful it is to laugh! Instinctively, we know that there is something magical, nourishing and uplifting about laughter, particularly the warm, whole-hearted laughter that arises spontaneously between friends, loved ones and even occasionally a stranger. The entertainer, Victor Borge, once commented, “laughter is the shortest distance between two people”.
In September 1991, I opened the doors to Britain’s first NHS Laughter Clinic off a road in Handsworth, Birmingham where as “Life” would have it (I don’t believe in luck), there had been large-scale rioting the night before. To my astonishment and wonder we had a near full house for our first event – looking back, there was something poetic about our meeting, something so hopeful, loving and life-affirming. We were united in laughter.
Physicians, philosophers and priests of all cultures have forever acknowledged the healing properties of laughter, a happy frame of mind and a joyful heart. In the Bible, for instance, it is written, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). I like the words, in particular of Jonathan Swift who wrote, “The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet and Doctor Merryman”.
Two thoughts: 1) “The most wasted day is that in which we have not laughed, 2) “Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they will never cease to be amused”. The greatest happiness of all is to know that happiness needs no reason. Indeed,
“Laughter needs no reason.
A smile needs no reason.
Love needs no reason.
Kindness needs no reason.
They are gifts for free –
life’s true treasures.”
Can you remember a time in your life when you were happy for no reason at all? All of a sudden you were surprised by joy. It bubbled up as if from nowhere. Your smile was almost too big for your face, your heart wanted to leap out of your chest, and your whole body rung like a bell. “I’m happy!” you cried. “I wonder why?” you thought. “I must know why?” you demanded. And just then, the joy appeared to die.
Children are often happy without reason – it is a part of their charm. Often you can catch a child laughing for the fun of laughing, smiling for the sake of smiling, playing happily with happiness. It both amuses and saddens me to think that, when a child laughs for no reason at all we think it wonderful, but when an adult laughs for no reason at all we immediately fear for his or her health! The point is, who ever said happiness needs a reason?
Give up all thoughts that happiness needs a reason. Practise “unreasonable happiness.” Laugh for no reason – it will entertain everyone! Smile for no reason – smiling always triggers curiosity.
8. Give What you Want!
One of the healing processes I use on my workshops that I most enjoy is called “Complementary Medicine Therapy”. This process acknowledges the enormous healing potential of kind, loving and encouraging words of complement.
These are three stages to “Complementary Medicine Therapy”. You might want to try each stage for yourself. The first stage is to write down five complements you would most like to receive from anybody. These complements may highlight a particular quality, talent, skill or value that is dear to you. Once written, I ask participants to repeat these complements out loud to themselves. Why? Because, often what you want to hear from others is what you are currently not saying to yourself.
Other people can complement you a thousand times over, but you will only truly hear (i.e. receive) as many complements from others as you are willing to give yourself. Thus, giving to yourself can help you to receive from others. Keep your list of complements on hand. Read them not just once, but three times a day, for seven days minimum.
The second stage of “Complementary Medicine Therapy” is to think of someone in your life who is perhaps overdue a sincere complement from you. The name or face of this person will appear almost instantly. Think carefully now what it is you would most like to complement them for. Why do this? First, because being loving is fulfilling your purpose; second, it’s great fun; third, whatever you complement in another person you are strengthening in yourself also.
Complements are affirmations. Like sacred greetings, they bless both the receiver and the giver. A good way to strengthen any joyful quality in yourself is to first spot it in others. What you spot in others, you give life to in yourself. The Buddhists refer to this practice as, sympathetic joy. The ego, born of lack, cannot afford to be this generous; but you can! Remember, giving is a gain; not a loss.
The third stage is to think of a person whom you feel is overdue in giving you a loving complement. Once again, the name or face of this person will appear almost instantly. Think for a moment, what would you most like them to say to you? Next, make contact with this person and give to them the complement you would most like to receive from them? Give what you want? Why? Because, often what you are not getting may be what you are withholding.
Other people are you! They are your mirrors! And just as it would be entirely unreasonable to stand before a mirror and demand to see something you are not presenting, so too, it is unreasonable to expect from someone something you are not willing to give. Many people have experienced great breakthroughs in their relationships (with both the living and dead) during this third stage.
For the next seven days, sit down each evening and write down ten things you are grateful for for each day. Better still, do this with your partner or a friend. Before we practise gratitude, we are in the dark and there appears to be very little to be grateful for. Once we begin, a new light dawns, sometimes a brilliant light, a light as bright as heaven itself.
To whom are you grateful to in your life? Do these people know the full extent of your gratitude? Do you realise how grateful they will be when you tell them? Gratitude is more than an attitude; gratitude is a philosophy. The philosophy of gratitude begins as a hope, grows into a belief, and, finally, becomes an absolute knowing. It is a knowing that within any given situation – peaceful or painful, beautiful or ugly – there is always a gift waiting, wanting for you to see.
If it appears you have nothing to be grateful for, it is because you are not allowing yourself to receive. Just because you do not receive does not mean there is nothing to receive. On the contrary, there is always something to receive, and so there is always a reason to be grateful. Pray, “Dear God, teach me I am worthy to receive, teach me how to receive, teach me gratitude”. Gratitude is good medicine. One single serving of gratitude is often enough to open the heart, energise the body, warm the bones, make your hair curl, put a spring in your step, start you humming, and make you smile like a baby!
10. Make Happiness A Way of Travelling!
After years of studying stress, I have concluded that one of the biggest causes of stress is that we wait for happiness to happen! We think happiness is not for now; rather, we see it as a reward we work to, struggle after and suffer for in the hopes that one day it will happen. Following this erroneous train of thought, today becomes a day for well-behaved hardship, noble suffering, mild martyrdom and quiet desperation; and tomorrow, maybe, we might be happy.
Well, it’s official. The news is out: “There is no future!” Please understand, this is not a message of despair; it is simply a statement of truth. I repeat, “There is no future”! Save not, therefore, your best for the future. Do not WAIT to give your best to the next job, the next time, the next person, or, the next opportunity. Give your best NOW!
Some things never change: your greatest opportunity for happiness has been, will be, and still is, NOW! Unfortunately, you are often too busy “pasturising” and “futurising” to see that everything is here already right now. Give up the past, give up the future, and give in to happiness NOW! It really is all here. It must be, because you are here.
The one piece of good news that is true forever is, The present is here, now!
When in search of wisdom, linguists often refer to roots and connections of words from pre-historic civilisations. They explore ancient languages like Sanskrit, Aramaic and Latin, for instance, to unearth forgotten gems of wisdom. Well, much closer to home and to present time, it is helpful to note that in the English language, the word “present” has three distinct meanings: “here”, “now” and “a gift”.
Is this only a coincidence, or could it be that, the greatest gifts of life are always available to you here and now! The word “present” also links to “presence”, “being” and “being present”. Here is another clue. Give yourself to NOW! The future is not your answer – it has no true power. Now – right here – is good enough for you. All you need remember is, nothing is missing within you and nothing is missing here now.
One final thought: At the Happiness Project, we celebrate the idea of happiness as a gift in this statement:
It is because the world is so full of suffering,
that your happiness is a gift.
It is because the world is so full of poverty,
that your wealth is a gift.
It is because the world is so unfriendly,
that your smile is a gift.
It is because the world is so full of war,
that your peace of mind is a gift.
It is because the world is in such despair,
that your hope and optimism is a gift.
It is because the world is so afraid,
that your love is a gift.
Extract from Happiness NOW , article by Robert Holden