Are You Happier Yet? Use Practical Mindfulness Skills
Two recent books offer sound advice about YOU becoming a happier person. L. Cypers Kamen (2017) Are You Happy Yet: Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life. New York: MFJ Books and D. Altman (2016) Cleansing Emotional Clutter... New York: MFJ Books offer practical ways to improve your personal level of happiness. I have revised some skills for practical reasons. Practice the skills and practices noted below. Whatever works for you, practice on a regular basis.
- Suffering is a normal part of life, so make the most out of various opportunities to experience joy and happiness. Do a personal search for safe ways to enjoy life more, and select a few to practice of a regular basis. Changing the brain and body is all about regular practice. Some pathways are very subtle regarding improvements. Be mindful!
- Become your own guide. Once you find a few safe people, places, things and practices that improve your mood – use them. Take full advantage of our biological basis for pleasure (dopamine in our brain reward centers); get into the habit of noticing small improvements in your mood. At the same time do your best to STOP self-medication processes; these behaviors satisfy for a short time, but they always cause more problems in the long-term. You may also seek and give social-emotional support, help others via random acts of kindness, practice compassion, and seek gently a power or cause bigger than yourself. These rewarding practices also trigger dopamine release for pleasure.
- Stop trying to control and change other people. It cannot work. More is not better when it comes to both relationships and wealth. There is ample research showing that these factors alone do not bring lasting, internal happiness. Remember, happiness is an inside job! Poverty and loneliness harm us, but the pure opposites do not always help us. This is especially true when we pursue and experience joy and happiness.
- Practice radical acceptance of things you know you cannot change. Learn and use stress reduction skills and resiliency building practices. Use oppositional self-talk to counter negative self-messages that have been placed in your brain by others; the longer you listen to their unhelpful messages, the longer you will suffer and be trapped in the past. Liberation from past suffering is a core aspect of becoming happier.
- Do emotional clutter house-mind-heart cleaning! Practice self-change by letting go of strong negative messages other have given to you. Be your own message-maker, and be careful of lingering effects from past attachment failures and their associated negative communications. Only you can do practices to overcome this reality.
- Practice good self-care in eating, sleeping, self- kindness, self-compassion, social interactions, countering workaholism, and moving your body-mind (regular meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and exercise). All these practices tend to reduce depression, anxiety, self-medication, emotion dysregulation, and traumatic relapses.
- Use strong intention to improve your psychological and physical health by regular practice of all of the above. Experiment with behaviors noted here, and repeat those that have any positive effects. Make habits of things that make you happier and higher functioning as a person. Have courage and stamina here.
- If you are really motivated for self-change try doing Lectio Divina on a regular basis. This ancient Christian meditation requires effort. Find something spiritual to read; the more spiritual and accepted the passage is, the more power this spiritual learning technique will have. Selecting a spiritual passage to read is very important; it should be something that moves you emotionally within. Read it over and over again, and listen deeply with an open heart. Ask: What have I learned? When something comes up from deep within you, listen to it carefully. Repeat this process over and over again with the same passage. This ancient spiritual method is a little like free association: read the passage over and over again, and ask what am I learning. Pay close attention to your mind-body-heart responses. Try to use the information as guidance for self-improvement.
- Note what Lao Tzu advised: “If you want to become full, let yourself be empty.“
- For more information, refer to the sources noted above.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness