The Instant Pick-me-up
- Sit still somewhere you can be undisturbed for a while, with no music, TV or radio. Sit upright with your hands in your lap and your feet flat on the floor.
- Focus on your breathing – let it become easier and more regular.
- Then focus on how you feel. The easiest place to start is to pay attention to the solar plexus area at the front of your body below your ribcage and above your navel.
- In a calm, gentle voice, describe each of the feelings you experience in your body. For example, ‘I notice a fluttering in my stomach’, ‘I have a soft, tired feeling in my arms’ or ‘I feel the tension in my shoulders melting’. You don’t have to be perfectly accurate, just do the best you can. Don’t try to change it yet, and don’t get carried away. Keep moving your attention from your breathing to your solar plexus and then back to your breathing.
- Do this for just 2 minutes and then take a break.
The Habits of Happiness
- Pay attention to your internal dialogue – the voice you use inside your head to think with.
- Look out for words like ‘can’t’, ‘nothing’, ‘always’, ‘only’, ‘every’, ‘no one’ and ‘never’.
- If you hear any of these words, repeat the sentence in your head and notice if that thought makes you feel bad or limited.
- If so, change it from a general statement to a particular one, for example turn ‘No one understands me’ into ‘Bill did not understand what I said this morning’.
- Now check that there is room for a positive outcome in what you have just said. For example, ‘I will talk to Bill later and this time I will check that he has understood what I said.’
New Routes to Happiness
- Think about the choice you are considering.
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how much good will come if you make this choice and everything works out well?
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how much of a negative impact would you experience if you don’t make this choice or if it doesn’t work out?
- If the answer to 2 is bigger than the answer to 3 it is clear you should go for it. If the second number is bigger than the first, it’s probably best to find another way to proceed!
- If the numbers are the same, ask yourself, ‘What is the smallest, easiest thing I can do to increase the upside?’ If you can find an answer to that, do it and then make your choice. If you can’t then just ask yourself, ‘Do I want to take this risk today?’ If you don’t, ask the question again tomorrow and see what has changed.
The Power of Perspective
- Remember or imagine a situation in which you feel really happy. Imagine looking around and seeing everything bright, clear and colourful. Make sure all the voices you hear sound warm and friendly.
- Now make sure you are inside the scene – seeing things from your own point of view, hearing as though it is all here around you and feeling all the good feelings.
- Now, keeping all these good feelings in this situation, imagine another situation in the future when you are going to feel even better, even happier, even more fulfilled. See that situation as if it is a movie in front of you and make sure you see it bright and clear and colourful. Notice how you look in that future scenario – see the confidence and warmth and happiness in your movements and posture, and the ease and kindness in your face.
- Now imagine stepping from the first scene into yourself into that even happier future and feel how good you feel.
- Let this feeling soak right into you so that you feel it from the centre of your body to your skin, from the tip of your toes to the top of your head.
- Let the imagery fade now but keep this feeling with you and keep remembering it all day long.
The Values of Happiness
- Think of the first of your values that springs to mind and remember or imagine a time when you were experiencing or living by that value, for example, being creative, or giving or receiving love.
- Vividly remember that time like you are back there again now. See what you saw, hear what you heard, feel how good you felt.
- Now go through that memory several times and as you experience the good feeling, press together the middle finger and thumb of one of your hands.
- Choose two more of your values, and one at a time experience the feelings associated with living those values, and press together your finger and thumb again.
- Now remember all three good feelings and press together your finger and thumb as you go through them several times and imagine taking those feelings into your everyday life, spreading them throughout your day.
Friends and Relationships
- Remember a time in the past, as long ago as you wish, when you were struggling or unhappy.
- Picture the scene as an old black and white film on a TV screen and stop the action at the point where your younger self was feeling really bad.
- Now imagine that, just like a special effect in a movie, you can float into the scene and speak directly to your younger self.
- Tell your younger self that you are from the future and that everything is going to be fine.
- Tell your younger self that you love them and value them completely.
- Tell your younger self that you have survived, and anything else you know now about that situation that will help them feel better about it.
- Now vividly imagine reaching out and comforting your younger self by embracing or holding them until you feel really warm and loving for your younger self and you sense that your younger self has felt and accepted your love and appreciation.
- Finally, place your younger self in your heart so you can continue to feel that love.
The Value of Emotions
- Find a place where you can be quiet and undisturbed for 20 minutes.
- Sit down, and relax. Let your shoulders drop and your breathing become calmer and deeper.
- Notice the movement of your breathing and feel your feet on the floor. Feeling your feet and your breathing protects you from being overwhelmed. Keep aware of your feet and your breathing throughout the rest of the exercise.
- Now move your attention through your body scanning it from your toes to the top of your head and notice whatever physical feelings you have. For example, you might just feel a bit lightheaded, or you may have tension in the pit of your stomach or maybe your legs feel very heavy. Whatever you feel, simply notice whatever it is without any judgement.
- Now notice your emotional state. Is there any resistance to what you feel? Or is there some tension around your feeling like a fence trying to keep it under control? If there is any tension or resistance, very slowly and very gently allow it to relax. Allow yourself simply to witness whatever it is without suppressing it or turning away.
- Let yourself wonder, ‘What is this emotion about?’ or ‘Why do I feel like this?’ Even if you think the answer is obvious, let yourself wonder about it a little.
- Now notice whether you are saying anything in your mind that is connected to this feeling. Notice statements such as, ‘It’s not worth it’, ‘I miss my children’ or ‘I don’t know what to do about my debts’. Notice the words, but do not react. Notice any pictures that come to mind. Just notice them, but do not react.
- Still keeping aware of your feet and your breathing, notice any impulses that arise such as wishing to ignore it, to reject it, to blame someone, to despair, to drown it out, to dismiss it. Just notice all those reactions without responding to them.
- Now that you have noticed the reactions all around the emotion, go back to the centre of what you feel physically and emotionally. Let yourself be open to however this emotion moves you. If you want to cry, cry. If you want to laugh, laugh. Welcome any new thoughts or ideas that pop up.
- Just sit with that emotion until you feel tired or bored or it has disappeared. When all the energy has gone from the experience you know that you have done enough for today, so you leave it there, have a stretch and get on with life.
Bringing It All Together
Being happy is simple. Being unhappy is complicated. Happiness teaches us that deep down we are all already connected to each other, and it reminds us to enjoy that.
Happiness reminds us that every day is precious. Not one day of our life will be repeated. Each day we can choose happiness, we can choose to live by our values and we can choose to be grateful for the amazing possibilities we are given.
Over fifty scientific tests have shown that when large groups of people are peaceful and happy there is a measurable reduction in violent crime. Every day you are happy increases the sum total of happiness in the world. When enough of us live happily by our values we actually make a real contribution to everyone’s happiness. So don’t keep your happiness to yourself. Spread it around and it will make you happier still.
There is an old Chinese proverb that I’d like to leave with you:
If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day – go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year – inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime – help someone else.