Happiness or Contentment? Let’s find out!
As a transpersonal life and career coach, I deal with a number of clients with varying needs, from lapses in self-confidence and financial concerns to creative frustration. The one question I’m asked by all, however, is this: “How do I achieve happiness?”
It’s a loaded question, ripe with implications. Unbridled joy happens, but it occurs in fleeting moments—and it’s not entirely sustainable, nor should it be, in that we should have access to other states of mind that will in the end foster wholeness. Also, every individual has a different notion of happiness—what brings delight to one person might evoke displeasure in another.
Our aim then should not be ephemeral pleasure but long-lasting, profound peace and contentment. Despite how dark some of our days appear to be, harmony and serenity are attainable—and we all possess the tools to find and uphold these states of mind. Here are a few key practices to harness happiness and hold onto it:
1) Visualization. Engaging your senses and imagining yourself in a brighter, clearer place—physically, mentally, emotionally—will aid you in reaching your goals, in that you have a precise idea of where you want to be. Athletes have used this practice for years to succeed. As Angie LeVan points out in her article, “Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualization,” Muhammad Ali utilized “several mental practices to enhance his performance in the ring such as: ‘affirmation; visualization; mental rehearsal; self-confirmation;’ and perhaps the most powerful epigram of personal worth ever uttered: ‘I am the greatest.’” You, too, can employ these tactics to stimulate happiness and achieve success by setting your intentions every morning before rising. Envision how you would like your day to play out, and picture how you will react when things don’t go your way. You’ll be surprised by the benefits this simple exercise will provide.
2) Discipline. One could argue that living a happy life is a talent, and, like all skills, must be practiced and nourished in order to last. It’s seductive—and easy—to give into feelings of despair and powerlessness. With discipline, you can keep yourself from falling down rabbit holes that ultimately sabotage you. Train yourself to focus on the positive, and happiness will find you.
3) Staying Mindful of the Power of the Word: As shamanic teacher and healer Don Miguel Ruiz points out in his influential book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, every word you utter has a consequence; every word creates a vibration, a reality. Think about it: When you fall into the habit of complaining about what’s around you rather than changing what’s around you for the better, negativity diminishes your handle on the positive aspects the world has to offer. Eliminating judgment, staying away from gossip, and refraining from griping—externally and internally—will bring you closer to optimism. By maintaining the integrity of your words and speaking encouragingly and constructively, you will have the power to recreate your reality and refocus your desires.
4) Overcoming Overthinking: Analysis is critical, but overanalyzing a thought, a decision, or an occurrence can lead you into sinister patterns of thinking. Real answers reside in the heart, and happiness can be found when you trust your intuition rather than relying solely on your intellect. Spontaneity spawns joy, while overthinking breeds discontent.
5) Maintaining Physical Health: This may seem obvious to some but it’s simple to forget that your body is your most trustworthy barometer. The demands made of us on a daily basis lead to sedentary lifestyles that weigh us down physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually: We skip a workout to meet a deadline; we head to the drive-through to save time; we forgo meditation because our minds are locked on the next item on our to-do list. The results are immediate: Emotional distress manifests in physical symptoms, from elevated blood pressure and upset stomachs to weight gain or loss. It’s vital that you remain alert to what your body requires to operate on an optimal level. Utilize it to produce creative, restorative energy and to cope with stress, and happiness is prone to arrive.
Prozac aside, there is no panacea for despondency. Following these five accessible steps, however, will promote well-being—both now and in the long run.
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