Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gratitude and Optimism

One of the wonderful outcomes in the practice of Happiness or being joyful is that when one sets the intention to practice being happy and takes a few steps in the practice the level of happiness rises exponentially.  (you can check out some of the stats in Robert Holden's book Be Happy)  Needless to say as I have started some work on Gratitude and Optimism I am at least starting to feel a little happier.  Or maybe I should say I am starting to feel a little more in focus and learning that I have power over my emotions.  

So this week I am working on being intentional about letting people know I appreciate them.  I have been writing notes, giving gifts (which seems a little more simple since it is the Holiday season) making sure to stop and smile.  I also have been keeping a gratitude journal (like Oprah recommenced a few years back).  In addition to the gratitude, I have been working on optimism.  This is one I am really good at, the challenge is for me to stay there - and stay there realistically.

There is an old Cherokee Legend called "The Wolves Within" that I have been reminded of a lot lately as I am more intentional on this path of being a happier person.  

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.  But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times." 

He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?" 

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed."

Which one are you feeding?  And what do you feed it?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Practicing Happiness

My husband is a perpetually happy guy.  There is not much that gets him down and his happiness seems so effortless.  Although I treasure my vast array of emotions there are most definitely times when I long to have that effortless "happy" feeling.  I believe that happiness is not an end goal, but something that we experience in moments, great and small, throughout life.  I also believe that happiness is a practice that we can put into place and the more we live into our happiness the more it becomes ingrained in who we are.

I ran across an article earlier this week 12 Things to Make you Happy.  As I read through it I thought that these would be some great practices to put to work now through the holidays and continue through the new year. (here is the short form)

  1. Express gratitude.
  2. Cultivate optimism. 
  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. 
  4. Practice acts of kindness. 
  5. Nurture social relationships.
  6. Develop strategies for coping. 
  7. Learn to forgive. 
  8. Increase flow experiences. 
  9. Savor life’s joys. 
  10. Commit to your goals. 
  11. Practice spirituality.
  12. Take care of your body.
Although we may all order these differently since our personalities/values/priorities are so very different I invite you to join me in this journey of discovery and practicing happiness.  Pick one or two to start with and enjoy the experience.