How To Get A Hold On Happiness
By Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel
"It’s raining again… What happened to spring? Before you know it, the weather will be brutally hot and humid! Summer is so short and then winter!” Obviously you can’t win with people…
The other day I read an article in a popular magazine about people taking all sorts of drugs (and even using their friends’ prescriptions), like Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax, Klonopin, Celexa, Ritalin, Viagra, Ambien and Valium to experience life with less anxiety, unhappiness and tension. The goal is to work hard, concentrate better, play harder, relax faster and sleep easier. Why does everyone need all these designer prescription drugs to get through the day and night?
Negativity has invaded our consciousness, making it acceptable to be dissatisfied and shocking to be cheerful: “I want whatever you are on.” Everyone wears a look of boredom and anxiety, except for babies and young children. The slightest glitch in our daily routines makes us feel irritable, aggressive, or angry. While the medical community usually studies pathology, the anatomy of disease, more attention should be paid to the anatomy of well being, to those who are happy, cured or healthy. Recently two US universities have claimed that Buddhists because of their conscientious practices such as meditation are happier than other people. When Buddhists’ brains were scanned, the left prefrontal lobes, linked to good moods, were always lit up even when they were not meditating. The happy Buddhist lifestyle may be summed up as: actively calm and calmly active.
We can learn a great deal from happy people. Happiness is about perception, for it comes from within. If you choose to be happy, no one can ever take happiness away from you. We can also learn a great deal from so-called initially unhappy people, for example those afflicted with cancer. In many of my workshops cancer survivors have openly shared, “I am lucky that I got cancer, or I am happy that I got cancer, because now I appreciate every little thing. Life is sweeter and to be treasured. Before I worried and stewed about stupid things. Now I let things slide.”
How you perceive the world emanates from inside you. So, it’s been raining almost every weekend this spring. Notice how the grass has become greener. Because of the cool weather, the cherry blossoms have held on longer. Bring the sunshine into your house with plants and bright colors. Play joyous music. Prepare colorful spring salads and rainbow foods. Remember what you did as a child on rainy days. Spread a blanket on the ground and open a beach umbrella. Get a pail and shovel, blow up your beach ball and get a good book to read…
Experience your world with the enthusiasm of a child, as though you were seeing everything for the first time. Examine people, situations and surroundings with fresh new vibrant insights. See them from a distance to get a different more unusual perspective.
Next appreciate what you have and here’s the hard part: want what you have. Many of us suffer by wanting what we don’t have. We are envious of what others possess. However, let that envy spur you on to accomplishing and competing in a healthy way—to be the best that you can be, to try harder or strive more creatively. The problem is that affluence breeds discontent. If we are lucky enough to accumulate one million dollars, we soon want two million. We amass more possessions, but our hearts are still empty. Interestingly enough we are not interested in becoming more spiritual. We are not even the least bit envious of other people’s spirituality. Most of us don’t go around saying, “I wish I were more humble, or I wish I could give more of myself to serve others…”
So how do I change my perception to want what I have? Try…
• Plain old regular meditation
• Inspirational readings
• Thinking outside the box
• Expressing your true feelings
• Cultivating a sense of humor
• Associating with positive people
If all the above fail to help you live in the moment joyously, then go do volunteer work. Acting compassionately (not merely feeling compassion) will help you to feel empowered and loved. When you see yourself benevolently reflected in someone else’s eyes, you feel beautiful. When you help someone who is suffering, you grow and strip away the inessentials in your personality.
Finally, one of the greatest impediments to happiness is guilt. Many of us accept pain and disappointment more readily than joy. Listen to the words we say: “I’m so happy, I can’t stand it!” There is a great deal of truth in that idiom. And what about, “There will be hell to pay for this!” Basically, we feel guilty about: having fun, eating food, indulging in pleasure, being lazy in the sun…It all began in the Garden of Eden when we were set up. “You can eat everything in this garden, except for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.” Any parent knows that the innocent child is just going to have to eat that particular fruit. Why issue an impossible commandment in the first place? And what has changed before and after eating the apple? Nothing, except for perception. Suddenly, Adam and Eve, our ancestors, felt ashamed and vulnerable, particularly about the way they looked. Since that first disobedience most women do not like the way they look, ever! In the Garden, guilt, not sin, but guilt, reared its ugly head. We have never been the same since then, always looking and wishing to return to Eden where we were not satisfied either. However, Eden is here and now—within.
Your life journey nudges you to move beyond personal doubts and fears through positive perception. Free yourself from the past story, for it is over and done with. Instead create the present story with you as the hero living happily ever after…
Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Brooklyn College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIR 92.7 FM in New York City and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com