Monday, February 14, 2011

Happiness is an Inside Job

Have you checked your happiness quotient lately? 

How happy are you—really?

I like to imagine that on any given day, I can stop, take a pause, and check my happiness level—an inner barometer with a contentment range of 1 to 10. Today, I’d say I’m at a 9. You?

I firmly believe that happiness is an inside job. Sure, it’s nice to have creature comforts, but these can be fleeting. Real, lasting happiness comes and stays as a welcome guest when my mind and heart are pleased and satisfied.

If your happiness quotient is low today, I’d like to invite you to consider two very important principles—and their supporting practices. They can boost your happiness barometer to enjoyable new heights.

Your Most Predominant Thought

What do you think about most often? When you stop and take a moment to notice your thinking, what preoccupies you?

If you are like most people, your mind may be focusing on what is wrong. That’s the nature of the human mind. Its “default setting” is negative. It naturally drifts off to troublesome scenarios. It scans your horizon, seeking security and comfort; noticing what it doesn’t like or wants to be different. As a result, we easily find ourselves lost in thoughts of worry or regret, fear or anxiety.

Doesn’t it make sense that if we’re spending much of our time focused on what’s wrong—albeit, unconsciously—that we might feel unhappy or discontent? It does to me, and I know for a fact that this is how my mind responds to life—if I don’t do something about it.

If we want to feel happier, we’ll need to practice shifting our attention toward what feels good, right, or true. The mind is quiet elastic, trainable, and we can literally point it towards something new. With time and practice, focus and concentration, we can retrain our brain!

Begin by stopping yourself, at regular intervals throughout the day, to notice what you are thinking. Stop, look, listen and feel. Then consciously choose to think about something else—something positive, hopeful, appreciative, or joyful. Notice how different this makes you feel.

We will need to engage in this process again and again for the mind to catch on. Give it at least 21 days of practice. What we focus on expands. Patiently, we retrain ourselves, and how we respond to life. We’re switching our mind’s default setting to “Happiness”!

Your Most Predominant Mind Pattern

Each of us has very specific ways in which our mind works. We have deeply embedded patterns, story lines, likely sourced in childhood events, that have become habituated ways of thinking—and they tend to run us. And they cause undue stress.

For example, many women have “worry mind.” We incessantly mull over what might happen in the future to ourselves, or to our loved ones. Another pattern is “busy mind.” With the frenetic pace of our lives, this is not surprising. The faster we go, the busier our minds get. “Busy mind” can cause anxiety levels to escalate. Both of these mind patterns can be extremely debilitating, causing severe stress, culminating in poor health.

One of my predominant mind patterns is “planning mind.” Being a teacher by training and calling, I often find myself lost in thought, creating lesson plans for an online class I teach, blog posts, or simply planning out my life months ahead of time. I seem to think that allowing my mind to behave in this way will bring peace of mind. In reality, it often creates feelings of anxiousness or overwhelm.

What would be one of yours?

No matter which one you have you can work with it successfully. And please know this: there is no shame in having a particular “kind” of mind. It is simply a result of being human!

Use the “Stop, Look, Listen, and Feel” process with your predominant mind pattern too. Simply notice it, name it, and with the assistance of some deep breaths—let it go. Turn your attention to something else. In time, you can “rewire” your thinking to be less rigid, more flexible, workable.

Choice by choice, we can shift how we respond to our minds. We do not have to be run ragged by pesky thoughts or mind patterns. Infuse yourself with passion to be happier and you can. Take good care of your mind and I’m confident you’ll feel happier in no time—from the inside out!


 What's Happening This Week at Dharma Sisters Circle?

Self-compassion practices for the woman who pushes herself too hard and gets easily overwhelmed or exhausted  ...

Mindful eating practices for healthy weight loss, healing body image, and eating disorders with Jean Fain, author of the Self-Compassion Diet.

Breath meditation and "Sacred Writing" exercises in our Khanti ("patient endurance") Healing Circle, for women with chronic health conditions, injury, or pain.

Lively discussion of creativity as sacred effort in the "Art Walk," including a new exhibit on prayer bead making. Display your art, too!

Forums, book discussions, and so much more for the mindful, compassionate woman!  

 If you are a woman who wants to experience inner calm, to let go of drama, and connect with the wisest part of yourself, please join us at Dharma Sisters Circle.

 It's my new, interspiritual membership community for women like you, like me, who are finally ready to live in a bold new way—with truth—"dharma."
Only $15.95 per month for full benefits, membership in all special interest Groups, enlightened (and private) social networking, and more. Includes your seminar with a Guest Teacher!  

Go month to month. Cancel easily at any time. Try it for a month and see if you like it!  

Get ready for the warmest of welcomes. Hospitality is our trademark. All are welcome here!

Coming March 1: Sylvia Boorstein

"The Four Foundations of Mindfulness."
Learn from one of the West's most beloved teachers in a completely private practice community! Safe, secure, nurturing ...

Elegant   ∞   Warm   ∞   Inspiring

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