The Link Between Success and Happiness

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How many times have you told yourself the “When I…” story?

When I get a better job I will be happy. When I meet the right person I will be happy. When I live in my dream home I will be happy. When I have more money in the bank I will be happy. 

We generally believe that happiness increases in direct correlation to the increase in our success, health, or material possessions. Perhaps it does to a certain extent, if you already have the right attitude and are fundamentally happy to begin with.

Things like success, health and material possessions are more prevalent now than in any other time in human history. We have the fewest numbers of people dying from disease and war, life expectancy is higher than ever before, technology allows us to learn and connect with people all over the globe, and we generally have more daily conveniences than other generations.

When I think of where we are in society, we should be happier than ever! So why is stress, burnout, anxiety and depression more prevalent than ever?

Believing that happiness follows success is a broken paradigm. Success is a moving target. Once we hit success, our idea of what success is moves up to the next level and it’s easy to feel like it’s not good enough because our own mental bar rises.

So when we experience any advancement in our lives (whether personally or culturally) our expectations change. Aside from the fact that our technological advancements also come with an assumption that we will be superhuman and achieve ten times more in our day than previous generations, we are faced with a new phenomenon I like to call comparison living.

Comparison living: Judging your life in comparison to people who have (or appear to have) more than you.

Recipe for disaster.

This unfortunately is easier now more than ever with things like Instagram, Facebook, celebrity magazines and tv shows glamorizing the lives of the rich and famous, and the internet in general. We are constantly bombarded with what I like to call “brag media.” Let’s face it, very few people are posting pictures or statuses about a major fuck-ups in their life. Which overall is a good thing, because I like to keep things on social media positive. But as a result, we see all of the great vacations and perfect life moments of others, and every time you see this there’s something in you that goes “I want that.”

Here’s the truth my friends: Happiness levels don’t rise with success or external stuff. 

There are many people who have a good home, a family, food on their table, clothes in their closet and yet they are not happy. It is your own choice to focus on the good, or focus on the bad. Nothing in your external life has to change to be a happier person, and that is what so many people unfortunately fail grasp.

There are people who have terminal diseases and are happier than people who have everything in the world. What’s the difference you ask? Gratitude. Being happy for what you do have. Unless you are dead I bet there’s something you can find to be grateful for. I’ve been to parts of the world that are devastating to see as a “first worlder.” Yet what I’ve noticed time and again is that there are many people who have very little and are still fundamentally happy.

 

Gratitude

So let’s get practical. What can you do to increase your happiness in your life?

  • Every time you hear yourself go “When I have…” or “Why don’t I have…” STOP yourself right there and immediately list 3 things you’re grateful for right now.
  • Attach the practice of gratitude to something you already are in the habit of doing. The best one I can think of is brushing your teeth. If you think of all things you are grateful for when you brush your teeth, then you’ve practiced gratitude for a couple of minutes every day and it didn’t take you any extra time.
  • Other times you can do this are when you are waiting in line at the grocery store or at the doctor’s office- or any time you are waiting for something. It’s the universe giving you a couple of free minutes. Spend them mindfully.

When we get still we intuitively know that there is more to life than waking up, going to work every day and accumulating stuff. There is a deeper meaning in life and people feel a yearning to understand it and experience it. People are starving for something they think they don’t have; but we all have it in us to be happy.

 

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Mindfulness: How to Improve Every Minute of Your Day

3 simple steps to mindfulness

I find it really interesting that 10 or 20 years ago this topic was rarely discussed publicly. Now, “mindful” is a buzzword being discussed by major publications and figures like The Huffington Post and Oprah. I feel like there is a shift happening with the collective consciousness of the population. Open-mindedness and acceptance have become more valued in our society as we are fighting against discrimination and intolerance openly on social media. While our new technologies have revolutionized how we socialize, work and live, it can also be burdensome when over-consumed. As we increase our connection with others on the outside we tend to lose connection with ourselves. Incorporating a mindful practice into your daily life, can get you back to yourself and feel connected to what’s real and what matters.

Think back to the last time you were driving, folding laundry, or eating. Where was your mind during those times? The majority of the time you are, like me,  probably thinking about something that has already happened, maybe imagining a bad moment over and over again beating yourself up over it, or something in the future that you wish to happen, need to do, or are worrying about. In that moment your mind was not with your body, it was elsewhere. This is what happens to us too much, and it disconnects us from our present reality.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being fully in the present, focusing on your awareness of sensations, feelings and experiences; observing and accepting what is happening at the present moment, without judgement. Mindfulness is used in many places as a therapeutic technique for relieving chronic pain, anxiety and depression.

How do we cultivate mindfulness?

For some, the idea of sitting down for 20 minutes a day and meditating is overwhelming, and puts on too much pressure. Your life can be one great big meditation practice if you are willing to be in the present moment.

Here are some steps toward living mindfully:

1). Pay attention to what you are doing right now, on purpose. Not because it’s a mindless activity, but because you are practicing awareness. It’s doing what you’re doing, and knowing you’re doing it. Take a walk without your headphones and listen to the sounds that are around you, look carefully at everything you see, feel the ground under your feet. When you find yourself thinking about the past or the future, don’t judge yourself, just bring it back to right now.

2). Observe your thoughts without judgement. When you realize that you are not your thoughts, you can separate yourself from them and they can’t get ahold of you anymore. Emotions and thoughts are always popping up at the worst times right? Part of the cycle is that we are too hard on ourselves for our bad thoughts. We like to punish ourselves. How many times have you said to yourself  “that was so stupid, why did you do that?”  If a feeling comes up, acknowledge that feeling but don’t judge yourself for it.

3). Observe your physical sensations. The the weight of your body on the ground. If you’re sitting in a chair, where do you feel the pressure of the chair on your body? The texture of the seat you’re in, the temperature of the room. The feeling of your shoes on your feet. Are you hungry, are you in pain, are you sleepy? If you are eating something, what is the taste and texture? Tune in to what your body is feeling everywhere.

While these steps are simple and do not take any extra time out of your day the way traditional meditation does, it’s not easy to remember to be mindful. The more you practice being mindful the more it becomes a habit. Start out by picking one or two activities throughout the day during which you will practice mindfulness. It could be cooking, cleaning, eating or anything that you can devote your full attention to that maybe you usualy don’t. In the comments section below, share how you practice mindfulness, or plan to begin a practice. I would love to hear all of your wonderful ideas!!!

Mindfulness quote

Beginning a Meditaiton Practice

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In our western culture we value to-do lists, productivity and outcomes. Our success is based on how much we have achieved, and how jam packed our days are. Pridefully leaving a trail of tasks checked off our list in a wake behind us like “look as all this shit I’ve done today!” The most common question that gets asked is “What do you do?” implying what we do with our time is more important than who we are.  For many, including yours truly, this existence leaves us tired, stressed, and yearning for more meaning in our lives.

I know for me when I feel bored, mentally craving something else, or the urge to fill some void, I jump onto pinterest or instagram or the many awesome blogs I follow, thinking I’ll see something that gives me that fix. But like sugar and alcohol, repeated use can become addictive yet still unsatisfying. Empty information like empty calories. I know there’s something better I can do with my time to feel less chaos in my brain.

So I’ve begun turning inward, yea I know it sounds hokey but go with me on this for a sec. I find that consistent practice even if it’s 5 minutes each day before making breakfast is a great way to start the day with positive intentions. My brain is still to much of a Chatty Cathy, so I like to use guided meditations so I can focus on someone else’s voice and know what I should be thinking about. Reciting matras are really great too. In another blog post I will go into more detail about different ways to meditate and how to incorporate a meditation practice into your routine, but for now here are some reasons to start thinking about it.

Benefits of Meditation

  • reduces racing thoughts
  • reduces anxiety
  • reduces depression
  • reduces blood pressure
  • improves sleep
  • improves concentration, mental clarity and productivity
  • improves emotional balance
  • improves self-esteem, confidence and gratitude
  • improves the immune response for fighting off illness
  • improves energy
  • improves athletic performance
  • improves spiritual connection

I could go on. There are some fascinating studies on the power of meditation on the body as well as the mind and spirit. So if you are looking to enhance your productivity and focus at work, reduce negative thoughts resulting from anxiety/depression, or expand your spiritual practice, meditation is worth a try.

If there was a pill that contained all the benefits of meditation and no side effects, everybody would be on it immediately. But because it’s something that takes time and focus, it’s just not worth it to some people. Being too busy to meditate is like saying “I’m too hungry to eat.” It’s the reason you SHOULD!

One note of importance is that meditation is about letting go of outcomes, and releasing the need to be doing something. Which is not easy at first, that’s why it’s called a meditation practice. Don’t expect to be a new person in a few days. When you release the need to get something out of it, you will find that it gets easier, and you will crave the time you spend in silence.

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day- unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

                           -Zen Proverb