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I’m thinking HAPPINESS! The summer sunshine must have something to do with it! Like me, do you get happy when you see the sun rise, or when you feel its warmth on your body? Things seem to slow just enough during the summer, kicking up my HQ, or Happiness Quotient! But when there’s no sunshine (literally or otherwise) what happens? 
 
Today, my thoughts are on happiness. What does being “happy” really mean and how can we be happy more often? In fact, how can we be conscious enough to know exactly when we need to turn it up and make it more present? After lots of thought, including looking deeply at my own happiness patterns, I believe it is possible to switch it on at a moments notice. (I don’t know that I’m capable of believing otherwise, but many of you probably know that about me by now! 🙂 )

So, what are those things that tend to turn down our happiness or keep it at bay? There are certain “buttons” that may be unique for each of us, but for the most part, these may be some of the culprits:

  • Stress
  • Conflict
  • Overwhelm
  • Sudden change
  • Loneliness
  • Loss or grief
  • Poor health
  • Financial distress

You get the picture, and I’m sure you can add more items to this list. The specifics behind the culprit may not even be that drastic and yet still can bring us into a state of unhappiness. I’ve written many times about moments when little things threw me way off, like a silly comment by someone. Perhaps my HQ was a 10 before that comment, but suddenly fell to a 4! My mind chatter grew stronger and stronger as I realized how I let that comment drown my sunshine—my happiness!

So, in moments like that, or even heavier ones, how do we pick ourselves up quickly and turn up our HQ? Well, here’s a simple to remember tool that I whipped up that may work for you. And, it happens to be called “H.A.P.P.Y”!  Ask yourself one or more of the following questions when you feel your HQ dropping quickly, and see it rise just in time to put you back into an optimal state.

 

H – (Hope) – How can I be hopeful right now?

When we feel frazzled and unhappy, most of the time our mind chatter spirals down into dark, negative thoughts. For example, if the state of your home is drowning your HQ, instead of thinking, “There is no hope for this house today. My weekend will be ruined because I’m going to have to spend all my time cleaning, and then I’ll be exhausted and will have no energy to do anything!”….we should instead question—“Where’s the hope in this situation? It looks like I will need to do the dishes, wash a few loads of laundry, and organize the toys. If I break up these tasks throughout the weekend, including getting one out of the way right now, I should be able have the kind of weekend I envisioned!” See the difference? The moment you shift your thoughts from despair to hope, your feelings follow right along and pick you up.
 

A – Acceptance – How can accepting this situation help me?

In Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, Tolle explains the power of “awakened doing”, that is, being fully engaged (conscious) in what we are doing. According to Tolle there are three modalities of awakened doing: (1) acceptance, (2) enjoyment, and (3) enthusiasm. Each one represents a certain vibrational frequency of consciousness. In essence, at least one of these needs to be operating at all times whenever we are engaged in doing anything. If not, then we are most likely creating suffering for ourselves and others, or unhappiness. Tolle concludes this idea by saying that, “On the surface, acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it is active and creative because it brings something entirely new into the world”—peace, subtle energy and surrendered action.So, in moments where we have no desire to be joyful or enthusiastic, we can employ acceptance and we’ll be bringing peace and surrender to the situation.

P – (Patience) – How can I bring patience to the situation?

Is it realistic to drive up our emotions when some things are not within our control? With regard to the house chores, I could ponder if I need to do everything right now? What can wait? Is my need to ‘do it all now’ typically lower my HQ? An important question I could ask and see if there is a pattern within that need.

Using a new example, let’s say you had an argument with your significant other and are very eager to state your feelings and get the conflict resolved. If you are angry in the moment, how do you think the conversation will go? Would it be better to create some space between your intended discussion to think of what and how you will communicate to him/her? Patience provides this space, and most of the time, a more positive outcome.

 

P – (Perseverance) – How can I persist; rise above?

Some situations that keep us from feeling happy are difficult and may not be resolved as quickly as we’d like. For example, perhaps we are dealing with a very sick relative and we are anticipating their loss. The feeling of loss is one that can easily permeate throughout all areas of our life. Understanding what healing we can bring to the situation and creating within us a feeling of fight and survival can really pull us through. We may not know what the outcome will be, but wouldn’t it feel better to intend for a positive result? Perseverance can lift our spirits, and therefore our HQ, because we are fighting for something that is worth our time and attention, regardless of how negative it may seem in the moment. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

 

Y – (You!) – How are YOU responsible for your unhappiness?

This is my favorite. The key to happiness is within each of us…its power is within YOU! We have all heard this before, but it is always worth repeating and believing it—the only person that can make you happy is YOU. We must take personal responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions. Understanding how our thoughts often sink us is important. YOU create your thoughts…so create powerful and empowering thoughts in every moment for many happy moments!

Interestingly enough, we also can do something as simple as smiling to lift our spirits. In an article I once read in Oprah, the author explains how when we smile, or even sigh (release), our Vagus nerve is working behind the scenes to reduce our heart rate and calm our immune response. Cool! No wonder smiling feels good.

Additionally, the article sites the importance of the hormone, Oxytocin, which releases when we do things like watch sentimental commercials, or laugh at funny tv shows. It is the hormone that uplifts us. Ahh! Evidence that we simply could sit on the couch, eat popcorn, and watch funny movies, or cry at heart tugging commercials!

So, although happiness can be explained scientifically (via the Vagus Nerve and the creation of Oxytocin) and we can cause it by smiling and laughing, we also can drive happiness in our lives by paying close attention to our thoughts— changing them, and acting upon our new, powerful thoughts.

What new thoughts and actions will you create to shift up your HQ? I’d love to hear from you!

In closing, here’s a great quote that is woven into a beautiful dish towel that my wonderful friend Lou gifted to me a while back—“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself!”

Now, smile, laugh, and go create your fabulous, HAPPY life! 

Monique

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Think Big & Make Magic.

February 15, 2010

If this is your first time visiting my blog, you’ll notice that I’m currently blogging about some great books—books that inspire and teach us how to improve our lives in many ways. This month we’re talking about Happiness. Enjoy….

Making time for friends is such a huge part of my life. I realized long ago how connecting with my very close friends (even in small ways, like a weekly email or a Facebook post) and being open to new friendships brings me so much joy. This is why I love Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project goals for June, which include remembering birthdays, being generous, showing up, not gossiping, and making new friends. According to Rubin’s research the most meaningful contributor to happiness is having strong social bonds.

Taking this further, Rubin’s research showed that being generous (or providing support to others) strengthens the bonds of friendship and simply, makes us feel good. However, since she couldn’t (or didn’t want to) add more tasks to her day, whether they were the feel good type or not, she did realize that helping people think big and bringing people together were a few of the ways that she demonstrated generosity. These resonate very strongly with me, and when I explored my own “generous” actions, the same seemed to be true for me. I always seek creative/idea-building environments and thrive in them. And, as a professional development guru, I simply LOVE brainstorming with colleagues,  friends, and clients and watching them follow through on their magnificent, happiness-creating goals. The same goes with introducing one person to another, who together can create magic in some way. In business, we call them “referrals,” although now I’d rather call them “gifts.” When I do these things well, I definitely feel a surge of happy energy.

Here’s Rubin in her own words:

“I’d had a wonderful experience helping people think big myself. After Eliza started kindergarten, her nursery school arranged a reunion for all the children who had ‘graduated.’ While the children played with their former classmates, the nursery school directors, Nancy and Ellen, led a parent discussion about the kindergarten transition. As always, their insights were extremely helpful. When I stood up to leave I thought, ‘These two should write a book.’ I was immediately convinced that this was the greatest idea ever. I suggested it to them on the spot…I put them in touch with my agent…In a flash they had a book contract, and now Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum’s Practical Wisdom for Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years is on the shelves. Knowing that I played a small role in their achievement made me intensely happy.”

How cool is that? To be able to help them think big and make one of their dreams come true…I’ll take that kind of happiness any day.

How do you help others think big?

What people can you bring together to create make some magic?

So, yes, as Rubin understood about herself during her Happiness Project, there are so many ways we can be generous, but they don’t always have to take up too much time or money or make us go out of our way. We can identify ways of being generous that are genuinely a part of who we are and what we already do.

Here’s a take-away…look for those “generous acts” in your life that are already present that you can turn up a notch to create more happiness in your life.

Let me know what you find.

-Monique


“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,

and the life of the candle will not be shortened.

Happiness never decreases by being shared.” –Buddha

My Relaxed Book Club will discuss selections from books I feel help high-achieving professionals continue to develop themselves and work on their personal leadership leading to more fulfilled, balanced and successful lives and careers.

Turn up the Happiness!

April 13, 2009

This month I’ve been pondering happiness. What does being “happy” really mean and how can we be happy more often? In fact, how can we be conscious enough to know exactly when we need to turn it up and make it more present? After lots of thought, including looking at my own happiness patterns, I believe it is possible to switch it on at a moments notice. (I don’t know that I’m capable of believing otherwise, but many of you probably know that about me by now! 🙂 )

So, what are those things that tend to turn down our happiness or keep it at bay? There are certain things that may be unique for each of us, but for the most part, these may be some of the culprits:

·        Stress

·        Conflict

·        Overwhelm

·        Sudden change

·        Loneliness

·        Loss or grief

·        Poor health

·        Financial distress

You get the picture, and I’m sure you can add more items to this list. The specifics behind the culprit may not even be that drastic and yet still can bring us into a state of unhappiness. For example, today I woke up feeling a bit under the weather. It took every ounce of energy I had to force myself to get to work. Needless to say, by the time I got home with my energetic four year old, I was a bit frazzled and ready for a break. On a scale from 1 to 10, one being the weakest and 10 the strongest, my “Happy Quotient” (HQ) was about a 6. When I stood in silence for a brief moment to observe the state of my home (the cleaning lady could not come today!!) and how I was feeling, I about lost it. My mind chatter grew stronger and stronger as I realized how chaotic my environment was and how much work I would need to put into my home to get it back to a normal enough state where I could relax and enjoy my time with my daughter and later with my son and husband. My HQ quickly dropped to about a 4. I was upset, not feeling up to par, and not wanting (at all!) to clean up and organize.

How do we pick ourselves up quickly and turn up our HQ? Well, here’s a simple to remember tool that I whipped up that may work for you. And, it happens to be called “H.A.P.P.Y”!  Ask yourself one or more of the following questions when you feel your HQ dropping quickly, and see it rise just in time to put you back into an optimal state.

HopeHow can I be hopeful right now? When we feel frazzled and unhappy, most of the time our mind chatter spirals down into dark, negative thoughts. Instead of thinking “There is no hope for this house today. My weekend will be ruined because I’m going to have to spend all my time cleaning, and then I’ll be exhausted and will have no energy to do anything!”….we should instead question—“Where’s the hope in this situation? It looks like I will need to do the dishes, wash a few loads of laundry, and organize the toys. If I break up these tasks throughout the weekend, including getting one out of the way right now, I should be able have the kind of weekend I envisioned!” See the difference? The moment you shift your thoughts from despair to hope, your feelings follow right along and pick you up.

Acceptance & AppreciationHow can accepting this situation help me? What about this situation can I be grateful for? I threw in two “A”s for this one, because I feel they are equally important. In Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, Tolle explains the power of “awakened doing”, that is, being fully engaged (conscious) in what you are doing. According to Tolle there are three modalities of awakened doing: (1) acceptance, (2) enjoyment, and (3) enthusiasm. Each one represents a certain vibrational frequency of consciousness. In essence, at least one of these needs to be operating at all times whenever you are engaged in doing anything. If not, then we are most likely creating suffering for ourselves and others, or unhappiness. Tolle concludes this idea by saying that “On the surface, acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it is active and creative because it brings something entirely new into the world”—peace, subtle energy and surrendered action. So, in moments where you have no desire to be joyful or enthusiastic, employ acceptance and you’ll be bringing peace and surrender to the situation.

Here’s another example to make this more clear. Let’s say I decided that doing the dishes would alleviate some of my stress. So, instead of cursing the act of doing the dishes, therefore adding more negativity to my mood, I can accept the chore and bring more peace to myself and the situation. Make sense? Please comment if it doesn’t and we can chat more about this.

What about appreciation? There is an opportunity in everything—both good and bad. Ponder upon what’s conflicting you and brainstorm about what good can come from it, or what learning may be behind it. I challenge you to find the opportunities behind these issues that bring you down. Using the same example, I realized that my problem seemed much larger than it was because I was not feeling well. I also became very grateful for the dirty dishes and laundry because I knew that many others didn’t even have a home in which to live. Grateful I became quickly!

PatienceHow can I bring patience to the situation? Is it realistic to drive up your emotions when some things are not within your control? In my case, do I need to do everything right now? What can wait? Feeling sick was not within my control, and therefore, it may suit me (and everyone in my family!) to get some rest before tackling these tasks.

Let’s say you had an argument with your significant other and are very eager to state your feelings and get the conflict resolved. If you are angry in the moment, how do you think the conversation will go? Would it be better to create some space between your intended discussion to think of what and how you will communicate to him/her? Patience provides this space, and most of the time, a more positive outcome.

PerseveranceHow can I persist; rise above? Some situations that keep us from feeling happy are difficult and may not be resolved as quickly as we’d like. For example, perhaps you are dealing with a very sick relative and you are anticipating their loss. The feeling of loss is one that can easily permeate throughout all areas of your life. Understanding what healing you can bring to the situation and creating within you a feeling of fight and survival can really pull you through. We may not know what the outcome will be, but wouldn’t it feel better to intend a positive result? Perseverance can lift our spirits, and therefore our HQ, because we are fighting for something that is worth our time and attention, regardless of how negative it may seem in the moment. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

You!How are YOU responsible for your unhappiness? This is my favorite. The key to happiness is within each of us…its power is within YOU! We have all heard this before, but it is always worth repeating and believing it—the only person that can make you happy is YOU. We must take personal responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions. Understanding how our thoughts often sink us is important. YOU create your thoughts…so create powerful and empowering thoughts in every moment for many happy moments!

Interestingly enough, you also can do something as simple as smiling to lift your spirits. Oprah magazine (May 2009) has a great article about happiness. In it, the author explains how when we smile or even sigh (release), our Vagus nerve is working behind the scenes to reduce our heart rate and calm our immune response. Cool! No wonder smiling feels good.

Additionally, the article sites the importance of the hormone Oxytocin, which releases when we do things like watch sentimental commercials or laugh at funny tv shows. It is the hormone that uplifts us. Ahh! Evidence that we can do nothing— sit on the couch, eat popcorn, and watch funny movies ,or cry at heart tugging commercials! 

So, although happiness can be explained scientifically (via the Vagus Nerve and the creation of Oxytocin) and we can cause it by smiling and laughing, we also can drive happiness in our lives by paying close attention to our thoughts— changing them, and acting upon our new, powerful thoughts.

What new thoughts and actions will you create for your life today? I’d love to hear from you!

In closing, here’s a great quote that is woven into a beautiful dish towel that my amazing friend Lou gifted to me recently—“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself!”

Now, smile, laugh, and go create your fabulous, HAPPY life!

Monique