Happiness… An inside Job

In the pursuit of happiness, one of the hardest concepts to get our head around is the fact that happiness is an inside job, with the sole responsibility of happiness is within us rather than dependent on other people or external factors.

I know people say ‘happiness is a choice’, but how many of us really chose to be happy? Isn’t it easier to blame others/ events / weather for our unhappiness rather than admit we are unhappy because we choose to be?!

For me, it was one thing knowing that whether I am happy or sad depended entirely on me and actually doing something about it! Doing something about it, turns out to be quite simple; and it was all in my head!

  • Positive reframing

Every day we come to face to face with many events and circumstances that affect our emotions negatively. Everything from arguments, bad days at work, tantrum throwing children (or adults for that matter!) to cancelled trains and unfair parking tickets test your emotions and feelings to the limit.

Whatever the situation maybe, one of the main things to remember is that there is something between the situation and you, and that is your thoughts about the situation. By changing the thoughts can completely change the way you feel about the situation; you can go from feeling completely awful to something resembling happiness and the power to make this change is entirely up to you.

In psychology, this is called positive reframing; a way of trying to reconsider the things and events in a more positive light. Positive reframing doesn’t change a situation, but it changes the way you feel about it by putting a positive perspective to it, finding the ‘sliver- lining’ in every situation.

Example diagram

There isn’t always an easy option, but there is always a silver-lining if you look hard enough for it. One of my all-time favourite quotes is ‘this too shall pass’ and whatever situation you find yourself, whether positive or negative, it too will come to pass so ride out the negatives and savour the positives.

  • Make Gratitude your attitude

Cultivating gratitude is one of the best ways to be in a state of happiness. By focusing more and more on what you are grateful for, the more you start seeing life in a completely new frame of mind. This is also one of the key tools in using law of attraction to your vantage; what you focus on you attract – so by focusing on what you are grateful for you are more likely to attract it into your life.

How does gratitude help you to be happier person? First of all, being grateful for things you have make you count your blessings and this has an impact of our mood and emotional well-being and this is backed up several studies (including C.Watkins et al (Berkeley)) . Other positive psychology studies have shown that practicing gratitude consistency leads to not only to positive emotions, but to positive experiences, improved health, stronger relationships and resilience to adversity.

Most of us have something to be grateful for; food on our plates, a shelter to stay warm; someone to call a friend or a family and if you are reading this, then a smart phone or a computer at your fingertips to access abundance of information. There is always something to be grateful for, in any situation if you look hard enough.

  • Live in the moment

One of the fundamental things to remember is that the only reality we have is this moment in time is the present while the past and future does not exist outside of our mind! So if we focus on the present moment, rather than worry about the past or be anxious about the future, we are on the road to living a happier life.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy” – unknown

In does take some practice to be present in the moment but when you start living this way, you can learn to appreciate the beauty of the moment and live a fuller life. Here are few techniques that you can use to stay in the moment.

Breathe: One of the best ways to do this is simply be and focus on this present moment. Turn off your smart phone / computer or whatever distraction you have around you and focus on your breath and stay present to the moment.

Notice small things: Another exercise to stay in the moment is to notice what happening around you without judgment and notice the small things; sound of a clock ticking, bird song in the garden; light flickering on your phone; vapors rising out of a hot cup of tea.

Meditate: Of course one of the ultimate ways to be present in the moment is to practice meditation. There are many meditative techniques and teachings out there, but the main thing with meditation is patience as sometimes it will take time to train your mind.

  • Good relationships

I recently watched a TED talk by Robert Waldinger on a 75 years study into true happiness and satisfaction, based on Harvard study in America. Since the 1930’s, this study followed over 3000-odd adults in America, ranging from Harvard graduates to deprived inner city Boston young adults, to understand what really makes people truly happy and not surprisingly, one single reason that stood out as vital for happiness is good relationships and social connections.

However, in the first instance, fostering good relationships seems to be at odds with the concept of inner happiness. If your happiness is driven by your inner most thoughts and feelings, why should a good relationship matter? First of all, we humans are social animals and we thrive at best in groups and when we are connected to others. So we can be happy on our own, but we are much happier when we are connected to someone else.

But even far more fundamental point is that people who have inner happiness are much better at relationships than those who rely on other people to drive their happiness. Those who have found inner happiness are usually whole and secure and they do not need other people to fill in their happiness, instead their own happiness flows into the relationship, flourishing the relationship.

“Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life” – Mandy Hale

Advertisements

Happiness… An inside Job

In the pursuit of happiness, one of the hardest concepts to get our head around is the fact that happiness is an inside job, with the sole responsibility of happiness is within us rather than dependent on other people or external factors.

I know people say ‘happiness is a choice’, but how many of us really chose to be happy? Isn’t it easier to blame others/ events / weather for our unhappiness rather than admit we are unhappy because we choose to be?!

For me, it was one thing knowing that whether I am happy or sad depended entirely on me and actually doing something about it! Doing something about it, turns out to be quite simple; and it was all in my head!

  • Positive reframing

Every day we come to face to face with many events and circumstances that affect our emotions negatively. Everything from arguments, bad days at work, tantrum throwing children (or adults for that matter!) to cancelled trains and unfair parking tickets test your emotions and feelings to the limit.

Whatever the situation maybe, one of the main things to remember is that there is something between the situation and you, and that is your thoughts about the situation. By changing the thoughts can completely change the way you feel about the situation; you can go from feeling completely awful to something resembling happiness and the power to make this change is entirely up to you.

In psychology, this is called positive reframing; a way of trying to reconsider the things and events in a more positive light. Positive reframing doesn’t change a situation, but it changes the way you feel about it by putting a positive perspective to it, finding the ‘sliver- lining’ in every situation.

Example diagram

There isn’t always an easy option, but there is always a silver-lining if you look hard enough for it. One of my all-time favourite quotes is ‘this too shall pass’ and whatever situation you find yourself, whether positive or negative, it too will come to pass so ride out the negatives and savour the positives.

  • Make Gratitude your attitude

Cultivating gratitude is one of the best ways to be in a state of happiness. By focusing more and more on what you are grateful for, the more you start seeing life in a completely new frame of mind. This is also one of the key tools in using law of attraction to your vantage; what you focus on you attract – so by focusing on what you are grateful for you are more likely to attract it into your life.

How does gratitude help you to be happier person? First of all, being grateful for things you have make you count your blessings and this has an impact of our mood and emotional well-being and this is backed up several studies (including C.Watkins et al (Berkeley)) . Other positive psychology studies have shown that practicing gratitude consistency leads to not only to positive emotions, but to positive experiences, improved health, stronger relationships and resilience to adversity.

Most of us have something to be grateful for; food on our plates, a shelter to stay warm; someone to call a friend or a family and if you are reading this, then a smart phone or a computer at your fingertips to access abundance of information. There is always something to be grateful for, in any situation if you look hard enough.

  • Live in the moment

One of the fundamental things to remember is that the only reality we have is this moment in time is the present while the past and future does not exist outside of our mind! So if we focus on the present moment, rather than worry about the past or be anxious about the future, we are on the road to living a happier life.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy” – unknown

In does take some practice to be present in the moment but when you start living this way, you can learn to appreciate the beauty of the moment and live a fuller life. Here are few techniques that you can use to stay in the moment.

Breathe: One of the best ways to do this is simply be and focus on this present moment. Turn off your smart phone / computer or whatever distraction you have around you and focus on your breath and stay present to the moment.

Notice small things: Another exercise to stay in the moment is to notice what happening around you without judgment and notice the small things; sound of a clock ticking, bird song in the garden; light flickering on your phone; vapors rising out of a hot cup of tea.

Meditate: Of course one of the ultimate ways to be present in the moment is to practice meditation. There are many meditative techniques and teachings out there, but the main thing with meditation is patience as sometimes it will take time to train your mind.

  • Good relationships

I recently watched a TED talk by Robert Waldinger on a 75 years study into true happiness and satisfaction, based on Harvard study in America. Since the 1930’s, this study followed over 3000-odd adults in America, ranging from Harvard graduates to deprived inner city Boston young adults, to understand what really makes people truly happy and not surprisingly, one single reason that stood out as vital for happiness is good relationships and social connections.

However, in the first instance, fostering good relationships seems to be at odds with the concept of inner happiness. If your happiness is driven by your inner most thoughts and feelings, why should a good relationship matter? First of all, we humans are social animals and we thrive at best in groups and when we are connected to others. So we can be happy on our own, but we are much happier when we are connected to someone else.

But even far more fundamental point is that people who have inner happiness are much better at relationships than those who rely on other people to drive their happiness. Those who have found inner happiness are usually whole and secure and they do not need other people to fill in their happiness, instead their own happiness flows into the relationship, flourishing the relationship.

“Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life” – Mandy Hale

 

 

 

A Letter of Thanks… to the Universe…

As we begin a new year, I have realised I have a lot of things to be grateful for in 2015, things that in the past I might not have even acknowledged as significant enough to be thankful for, but my new found awareness made me realise how wonderful life truly is and to understand true happiness, you need to constantly look at the world with awe every waking moment.

So this in mind, I have written a letter of thanks, to the universe never-the-less, that I wanted to share with you all, my wonderful blog readers, the critics and the supporters, without you, I may not have the motivation to keep writing….so thank you…

 

‘Dear Universe,

Thank you.. Thank you… Thank you….for my wonderful life experiences in the year 2015.

I have many significant things in my life I am grateful for and I thank every day for having them in my life; daughter, husband, parents, cats, extended families, friends, beautiful house to call a home, a slightly dented car, a career, charity work, my blog, my health, my wealth and my happiness!

This year, I am particularly grateful the small things I have discovered as I go through my journey of life and living a life of more awareness. I am ever grateful the small things in life:

  • the sun-rays that come though my window in the morning which brings me light and a sense of wakefulness
  • my morning routine which gives me a sense of purpose, from brushing my teeth to spending 5 minutes setting out my intensions before I walk out of the house
  • my daily commute which love so much which gives me time to think, listen to books, and even time to mediate at times when I get a seat!
  • my coffee breaks and my tasty morning coffee
  • my lunchtime walks
  • my nutritious food
  • the one hour so I get when I get back from work to spend with my daughter, preparing for her bedtime, filled with play, stories, TV programmes, laughter and even some tears.
  • the times I got to spend with my husband watching a movie and times we spent having dinner with parents
  • the times I got to play with my cats, even when one of them is asking for seconds or third helpings of dinner
  • my night-time reading
  • my comfy bed and wonderful nights of sleep
  • and loads of other things I am grateful for including weekends, walks in the park, autumn leaves, spring flowers, festive lights, my herbal teas, chocolate and even the scary movie my husband made me watch!

Above all, I am grateful for the little lesson that I have learned this year that joy and happiness exists in every single moment and all I need to do is be aware of it. Even in the not so great moments of 2015, when I had the phone that told me I didn’t get my dream job or the moment when I had a confrontational conversation at work, I know I can find something positive to reflect on, even if it is after the moment had past. I know I didn’t get that job for a reason, as something better has come along for me career-wise and I know that conversation had something to teach me in terms of how I relate to others at work, so all in all, I know can find something positive, if not joyous, about every moment of my life.

Finally I am grateful for me; for me just being me!

Thank you.. Thank you… Thank you….

Loads of Love,

Me’

DSC_0571.JPG

 

Hardest lesson of all… Patience…

  
I have recently become a hot yoga junkie and over the weekend one of the things my yoga teacher said struck a chord with me. I was in the middle of the Fixed Firm pose ( you sit on your knees, compressing the knee joints) which is often my most difficult pose, one that always find it difficult to practice, let alone master, so at this point I often give up and sit down. At this point, my yoga teacher said ‘ you have built up resistance over 30 years in your knees and it may take couple of years for your knees to let it go, so be patient, if you don’t get it immediately’.  That’s when it stuck me; our minds are the same, we have build up years of habits and certain level of resistance to change, but once we made up our minds to change, we expect results almost immediately. When results don’t know up immediately we get disheartened and give up. 

Nowadays I try to challenge myself  when I am at the point of giving up; when what I desire doesn’t happen, even though I am doing all the positive thinking in the world and using all the tools that I know of, I think to myself,’patience’.

At the very least, next time I do yoga, I am going to give the Fixed Firm pose a real go and be patient with myself if I can’t master it; it will come to me over time. On the same basis, I know I can manifest what I want in my life, but I shouldn’t expect a neat timetable. Somethings show up in my life a lot quickly than others. The things that are slow to show up often means that there in a mental block in my subconscious, it’s just going to take a little bit of time to get around the block! 

“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to to keep a good attitude while waiting” – Joyce Meyer 

 

Law of Attraction – Back to Basics

Law of attraction is the notion that we live in an energy based universe and universe works on the basis of ‘like attracts like’ and therefore working of our inner mind or our sub-conscious (energy we project out) has a direct impact on the working of the universe (energy we receive back). So if our thoughts, feelings and general attitudes are positive, i.e. we are sending out positive vibes to the universe, we will attract more positive experiences in our life. This also works vice versa, i.e. you send out negative vibes and you attract more negative experiences.

A universe that responds to our thoughts may sound far-fetched but some of the recent scientific discoveries in quantum physics and cosmology are by far stranger. The double slit experiment in particle physics tells us that at a sub-atomic level, the act of observation makes the particles behave differently (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc – DR Quantum’s version of the experiment).  While in cosmology, Cosmologists have theorised that 95% of the universe is made up of dark energy and dark matter which by far has stranger properties that matter, which is the only thing we know a little about (http://hubblesite.org/hubble_discoveries/dark_energy/de-what_is_dark_energy.php).

Although, phenomenon like double slit experiment or dark energy does not necessarily prove the existence of a universe which is influenced by our sub-conscious mind, but it has certainly encouraged me to be more opened minded as there is a lot of things in the universe that we do not understand yet.

With an open mind if we accept that the law of attraction exists, then we must accept that we are creating our own reality. I don’t mean that in a metaphorical ‘motivational-quote’ kind of a way, but in a literal way. If our thoughts are influencing the universe (by default that means the environment around us), then we are creating the circumstances in our life with our thoughts, intentionally or not. Welcome to your own personal Matrix world!

Law of Attraction – Mind Tools

There are many leading thought experts and facilitators out there who devise new tools and techniques to harness this knowledge so that as individuals and as a society we can live a life for the better. Here are some of the techniques used:

  • Creative visualisation – This essentially focuses our minds to create picture of our ideal future and imagine living it at the present moment.
  • Living life though Gratitude – being thankful for what you have and by doing so attracting more situations and circumstances that we will have to be grateful for.
  • Affirmation statements – stating exactly what you want in life but using present tense so your inner mind knows exactly what you want
  • Mirror work – what does a mirror do? It reflects; a bit like the Law Of universe. So mirror work essentially an opportunity to work on yourself and your thoughts in front of a mirror.
  • Practicing Mindfulness – Being aware of our thoughts and feelings (without judgement) is the first step in understanding and controlling our minds. By practicing mindfulness you get to know your thought patterns and so that any negative patterns can be changed.
  • Practicing Meditation – Similar to mindfulness, practicing mediation, we are able to quieten our minds and able to observe our thoughts. Additionally in a meditative state, we are more likely to access our sub-conscious mind and therefore able to influence our thoughts at a deeper level.

Law of Attraction – Resistance is Futile

There are loads of reasons why many people feel that law of attraction tools don’t work; or law of attraction does not work entirely. The problem is that if you think law of attraction doesn’t exist, well then the chances are that all the circumstances that show up in your life will convince you that it doesn’t exist. So to a certain extent, a leap of faith is needed; hence why law of attraction is often thought of as a spiritual practice.

Another pitfall is that your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes must be aligned to what you are trying to attract in your life. For example, you are trying to attract wealth in your life, but in the back of your mind you think money is the root of all evil, so it is very likely you will not succeed, after all you don’t want evil in your life do you?! This is where psychology techniques come into play to have self-awareness; know yourself and know what feels right and what doesn’t.  When you want to attract something that you fully believe in then it will come naturally, it will not be a struggle.

The classic reason why law of attraction doesn’t work for people is fear. We as human being are driven and to some extent protected by fear; it comes to us as naturally as love does. Problem is when you are fearful that you are not going to get what you desire more than the love you feel for your desire then it is likely that the fear will win out. You will not get what your heart desires. Let go of that fear, especially in the manifesting process; believe you will get what you want and believe it with your whole heart and mind.

As a Practitioner of law of attraction for many years (some intentionally and some unintentionally!), knowing the law and applying it are two different things. I still suffer from resistance when I am trying to attract things I want in my life, but it is getting easier to work out what my resistance is. It does take time for you to work out what you really want and sometimes it feels like it takes time for the universe to deliver your want and you know what, that is okay! Time gives you that chance to reflect and really work out what you want.  Sometimes it turns out that something that you wanted for a long time is not something that you actually needed. So that’s where the saying come from; ‘be careful what you wish for’; because your wishes do come true!

Practical Mind Tools: Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness has taken off in a big way in recent years from medical psychology field as part of mental wellbeing therapies including mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to the corporate world, where numerous mindfulness based courses are popping up to improve productivity and enhance business success. What is mindfulness and how can it be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to wellness and success?

For me the elegance of mindfulness is the simplicity of the concept; paying attention to the current moment.  That means switching off from your ‘auto-pilot’ mode and paying attention to your current thoughts, feelings, or the world around you without judgement. Although mindfulness goes in hand in hand with meditation, unlike meditation, the beauty of mindfulness is that it can be practiced at any time by anyone and without any prior knowledge or skill set.

IMG_6621

Mindfulness example: Mindful showering

Next time you take a shower, pay full attention to taking a shower and try and use all your senses to pay attention; feel the water on your skin; sense the temperature of the water; smell the soap or shampoo; hear the water trickle down and watch the lather of the soap. Whatever you do, pay full attention to having the shower. Chances are half way though your mind will start to wonder and think about plans for the rest of the day or the chores that you need to get done still, but try to gently bring it back to the present moment and focus once again on your senses and paying attention to what you are doing.

Mindfulness is not actually a new concept; along with meditation practices it is rooted in two and half thousand year old eastern traditions. The reason for recent popularity is perhaps due to numerous medical and psychology studies into the practice which has shown benefits for those suffering with mental ailments including stress, anxiety, depression and medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and chronic pain. By practicing mindfulness on a regular basis, you can improve your stress levels (mindfulness has shown to decrease the levels of the stress hormone cortisol), improve attention span, memory, mental reliance and much more as it has even proven to change the actual structure of your brain.

Mindfulness example: Mindful eating

By far this is one of my favourite mindfulness exercises and this is to eat a chocolate mindfully! Pick your favourite bar of chocolate and aim is to savour it and eat it mindfully as you can. Look very closely at the wrapper in your hand as you open it; smell the chocolate; feel the texture of the chocolate in your hand; feel the texture as it melts; take a small bite and savour it in your mouth; try and taste all the subtle notes of the chocolate from the sweetness to the slight bitterness of the chocolate. The more time you take to eat the chocolate, the better.

Of course, one of the most popular methods of practicing mindfulness is mindful-meditation and there are loads of good books, websites, blogs,  and even mediation apps that take you through this practice. Some of my favourite are:

  • BOOK: Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world – by Prof Mark Williams (Author) and Dr Danny Penman (Author)
  • APP: Headspace Meditation App

Having read about mindfulness and meditation about 10 years or so ago, I have only been getting to grips with mindfulness in the last few years. One of the reasons for my slow uptake is the fact that even though mindfulness is the easiest concept to understand, it is the hardest concept to put in practice, but like anything in life, it becomes easier with practice and the more you practice the better you will become to paying attention to your life. After all practice makes ‘profound changes’! (see previous post!)

“You learn something every day if you pay attention” Ray LeBlond

Practice makes Perfect…Should I say practice makes profound changes….

Since I have started writing this blog, I have noticed quite profound changes in my life. Yet if you ask those around me what has changed for me, well, answer is likely to be Nothing! At least nothing physically profound anyway. My changes have been more internal, I am happier and more than that I know that being happy inside comes first, and external happiness such as wealth, relationships, successes are BY-PRODUCTS of my inner happiness!

So what has bought about this change for me? For a start, there is the concept of practicing what you preach! By writing down these positive psychology and law of attraction principles, I am putting more of the theories into practice than I have done so. In the past, all the self-help theories and ideas I have read has remained as theories and ideas in MY HEAD!

The thing about self-help and all of those self-improvement theories is that the most effective ones are the most simplest and often nothing new, just a bit of a common sense! In most cases, its something we were aware of, but being put to us in a slightly different context. For example, I always knew having a positive attitude equates to being more happier (pre-LOA belief!) and I think most of you guys would agree with that. Yet, knowing the theory does not mean that we always carry a positive attitude with us, in most cases, we park the theory somewhere in the back of our mind and just get on with it! Fall back to our fail-safe attitude, our set-point, whatever that may be.

So how does a theory or an idea become part of our lives? especially when we are talking about workings of the mind,  I really think a lot is to do with putting theory into practice and by practicing often, it becomes habitual, part of a routine. Classic example for me is the theory of mindfulness. I have been aware of people taking about mindfulness for a long time now, from psychology to spirituality, mindfulness seems to be everywhere. I still remember reading Paul McKenna’s ‘I can make you thin’ where he talks about mindful eating (and how that will make you thin!) and here we are 10 years down line, I still haven’t mastered mindful eating. Actually I think my mind is in a place where I see food, I sense a 5 minute timer where I need to scoffle down my food or I will die of starvation! ( okay slight exaggeration, but you get my point)

Mindfulness is probably the one of the most easiest theory to understand, it is simply being mindful or paying attention to your mind, yet it is one of the most difficult theory to put into practice! Try sitting quietly for 5 minutes and paying attention to thoughts and feelings, without judgement and accepting whatever sensation that comes to you. Chances are, unless of course, you are a master meditator, your attention will waver after the first 2 minutes. Afterall, according to Buddha, we all have monkey minds, untamed and running around wildly.

As time goes by and I do practice mindfulness more and more, it does get easier, I have my ‘off’ moments, but overall it is much easier than when I started. For me, rather than practice makes perfect, its more of a practice makes changes, SLOWLY. I think I am far from perfect  in terms of getting to grips with mindfulness, but I am better! Over the months, I have  come to pay  better attention to  what thoughts  my monkey mind is running away with! And this in turn has helped me to be a happier person and making law of attraction work in my favor by attracting the things I want.

In the ether of internet and social media and even in books, the law of attraction is sold as a magic formula, to fix everything in your life, almost in an instant, just by understanding the ‘secret’.  The reality is that understanding and believing in law of attraction is one thing, but controlling your mind is the real ‘secret’ and from my experience, controlling your mind comes with practice and changing your habits! And yes, I do believe in the magic of law of attraction, but it is a magic that only works when the main magician is working, your mind!

light_background_2-wide