The Art of Happiness
hap·pi·ness | \ ˈha-pē-nəs \
1: a state of well-being and contentment : JOY
2: a pleasurable or satisfying experience
Although we’re only a few weeks from 2022, this past year will go down in history as one of the most challenging years we’ve faced worldwide.
Very few people on the planet have not been impacted physically, psychologically and emotionally from what’s felt like a surreal episode of 1960’s television show, The Twilight Zone.
Growing up, I vividly remember my parents speaking of “the good ol’ days” as if reminiscing about some long-forgotten mythical place where everything and everyone was perfect.
I found myself uttering those words recently when thinking back to the holidays of 2019. Great anticipation for the New Year was palpable and the doorway to a new decade brought a sense of infinite possibilities to life. I was happy, joyful and ready for 2020 to begin!
And then March 2020 showed up. In relatively short order, the country and world began a downward spiral that brought our way of life to a virtual shutdown for the first time since the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918.
Finding happiness in the midst of uncertainty became more pervasive as each passing day reminded me of the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. It was living the same day over and over again until somehow you learn to get it right. The challenge was that it was out of my hands as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Lysol spray disappeared overnight. The world slowly succumbed to disbelief as pandemic numbers rose and mask wearing went from de rigueur to mandatory.
I’d awake each morning with a sense of optimism for turning the corner only to be continually let down and disappointed in media’s reporting and a sense of helplessness of not knowing who or what to believe. Happiness went on vacation and some days the feeling was that she was never coming back!
I envision this as the proverbial roller coaster where you’ve just been strapped into and as it starts slowly making its way toward that first inevitable stomach churning drop, that unknowing (but really knowing intuitive) presence that reminds you (too late now) that you truly wished you hadn’t gotten on the ride in the first place!
I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It comes from the Declaration of Independence that was adopted 245 years ago in 1776. It speaks to these “truths as being self-evident with unalienable Rights” that we all by law are to possess (but know we don’t always have).
On the outside, the pursuit of happiness would have looked very different then as compared to today. When we peer more closely, we know that ‘context’ is relative to the specific moment that an event or occurrence unfolds. This is precisely why the “good ol’ days” is simply an illusion for our parents or grandparents based upon looking back in time with selective memory running the show.
It’s true that ‘Hindsight is 20-20’ when describing lessons learned and how to apply them to mistakes or lapses in judgement in present and future situations.
Happiness on the other hand actually requires practice to produce the desired outcome of joy, gratitude, humor, self-confidence, adaptability, optimism, spiritual foundation, creativity and balanced lives.
I inquired with friends, colleagues and family members as to 3 habits, rituals and/or actions they practice on a daily or regular basis for their happiness. I’ve assembled their responses to showcase that you and I are not alone during these challenging times when happiness has felt out of reach on many days.
1. Get up and do my bar method class
2. Walk/hike a minimum of 8 miles daily
3. Cook/spend time with my family
1. Hike/get out in nature
2. Sit in silence/reverence in my Circle of Trees
3. Watch/take in the Sunset
All while being in Gratitude/Appreciation
1. Smile within myself or at Suzanne
2. Drink 2 cups of water to flush my system and hydrate
3. Pray, ponder and get my spiritual self-ready while stretching to get my physical body ready for the day
1. Connect with nature, even if it’s simply caring for all my plants
2. Connect with myself physically and spiritually through meditation, reading, stretching/exercise
3. Create a mindset of gratitude, including doing things that bring me joy
2. Be Thankful
3. Talking to family
1. Gratitude through meditation
2. Write down goals to ignite the power of manifestation
1. Read the Daily Devotional/Gratitude Journey to the Heart, Melody Beatty
2. Yoga/meditation practice
3. God’s guidance and grace in my life
1. Gratitude meditation and breathing exercise
2. Fast until 2 pm
3. Write in journal for thoughts/ideas
2. Tell my wife and family I love them
3. Say something nice to one new person a day
1. Hike and see the Sun come up to get fresh oxygen to my brain to reflect on how I want the day to be
2. A huge nutritious breakfast to start the day right
3. Veg out at night before bed with mindless TV
1. A daily spiritual practice with 30 minutes of contemplation that consists of sitting in silence and chanting HU (the Sound of Spirit in the religious practice of Eckankar)
2. I give love to my dogs for 10 and 20 minutes every morning to open my heart
3. Every morning before I get out of bed, Deborah and I cuddle each other. It is another aspect of daily entrainment and another way to open my heart
1. Upon rising in the morning, thanking God for 10 things in my life that I’m grateful for
2. I pray before every meal
3. Tell my wife and kids that “I love them” at least once a day
1. Mindset centering (Wim Hof, Breath Work Meditation)
2. Movement exercise (run, hike, Qi-Gong, swim)
3. Growth work (learning, checking in with my Tribe, gratitude work, read, study ancient wisdom, watch a video)
1. Ten (10) "I Am Statements" sent to my phone each morning that I read
2. I refuse to allow others opinions of me to affect my happiness
3. I journal
1. I try to constantly stay present by focusing on my breath or chanting a mantra.
2. Social media detox! I have set hours when I am not allowed to be on the phone
3. Stepping away from Netflix or music and choosing to read self-help or scripture (Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, philosophical) or listening to a TED talk
1. Morning gratitude prayer
2. Some form of outdoor exercise (hike, walk, jog, bike or swim) & strength training 3 days per week
3. Stay involved in serving community and opening my heart daily to ways I can have a positive impact on somebody’s life (including those that cannot repay the favor or service)
1. Every morning before I get out of bed, I ask God to come into my life and release all the dissonance in my entire physical body, emotional body, mental body & spirit level and turn it into coherent energy and optimal functioning. I ask the same for my finances, my career, all my books, my personal development coaching business, my home, my car, my family, my friendships and my soon to be wonderful love life that is currently non-existent.
2. Coffee and read spiritual literature. Lately, I’ve been reading the Bible because I’ve never read it. Sometimes I write messages I hear from God. They are very inspirational and uplifting.
3. I get outside and walk or ride my bike.
1. I drink 24 ounces of room temperature water upon waking
2. Morning creation meditation
3. Bedtime gratitude meditation
Like you, I want to know and feel the state of happiness more often and not have it be conditional upon outside influences or during times of uncertainty. See if any of their actions resonate for you to “try a few on” for a test drive in your own practice to generate happiness in the midst of uncertainty.
A toast to 2022 and for a New Year filled with abundant blessings of health, happiness, peace and prosperity for you, your family, your friends, your colleagues and the World!