How to be happy Image

I’m a big believer in following in the footsteps of successful people.  One of my strategies for success and happiness is to find an appropriate mentor and learn from their victories – and their failures.   There are many factors, environmental and biological that may effect our quality of life but if you’re like me, and tend to lean towards a “glass half-empty” mindset, you know that making the conscious choice to stay positive is one of the greatest tools we have to enjoy life to the fullest in the here and now.

This article by  Justine van der Leun that appeared on AOL Health reinforces my belief that happiness is a skill that can improve with practice.  Don’t take it from me, though.  Take it from Matthieu Ricard – the man scientists say is the happiest person on Earth. 

matthieu ricardBuddhist monk Matthieu Ricard claims you can practice your way to happiness, and he should know: After MRI scans showed that he experienced extreme levels of positive emotions and few negative ones, he became known as “the happiest man in the world.” Trained as a cell biologist in France, Ricard moved to the Himalayas in 1972 to study Buddhism. He’s now a translator, a photographer and the Dalai Lama’s French interpreter. His books — the proceeds of which go to 41 humanitarian projects in the remote Himalayas — include “The Monk and the Philosopher” (a dialogue with his father, a famed philosopher), “Happiness: a Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill,” and, most recently, “Why Meditate?” AOL Health spoke with Ricard about the cultivation of happiness, the benefits of altruism and how 30 silent minutes a day can change your life.

Do you think you’re the happiest man in the world?
It’s better than the unhappiest person in the world. It was a cover line on a Buddhist independent journal. Of course it’s cute, but it doesn’t rest on scientific evidence. I took part in some ongoing studies on compassion. It’s a jump to say my results mean that.

What is happiness?
Happiness is a way of being rather than an endless search for experiences. Pleasure is fine but depends on things that are subject to change: people, places, things. Something tastes good; fire warms you when you’re cold. But then this experience turns neutral or averse: Even the most beautiful music is unpleasant after 24 straight hours. But happiness is a more durable state. It’s a cluster of basic human qualities that nurture a state of fulfillment, flourishing, of appreciating your life. It’s inner freedom, inner strength, inner peace. These are the resources to deal with the struggles of life. The more you experience happiness, the deeper and more stable it becomes.

Set yourself up for success.

Glass Half Full Image

IT’S AN AGE-OLD BATTLE. Pessimists think optimists are foolish, optimists think pessimists make themselves unnecessarily miserable. A lot of research has been done on this issue in the last 30 years. Have we answered the question yet? Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania found that optimistic people are happier than pessimists. When something bad happens, optimists think of it as temporary, limited in its effect, and not entirely their fault.

Pessimists do the opposite. They consider the setback to be permanent, far-reaching and all their fault. There are varying degrees of this, of course; it’s not black or white. Most people fall somewhere between the two extremes.

The main difference between optimists and pessimists is how they explain setbacks to themselves.

Using these definitions, researchers find that optimism contributes to good health and pessimism contributes to illness.

Practice Loving Kindness Image

Practicing loving kindness in our daily lives is the easiest gift we can give to one another that always comes back to us.   Here’s a great article I found at the Huffington Post:

by Mindful living advocate Marguerite Manteau-Rao.

I remember the first time I was introduced to loving kindness, during a weeklong retreat with Jack Kornfield at Joshua Tree. That was many years ago. Back then, Jack’s sweet words were met with a categorical refusal on my part, and a string of dismissive thoughts:

Don’t ask me to be kind.
This is not how I feel.
This is stupid.

Fast forward 15 years later. Loving kindness has become an integral part of my daily life — a practice I routinely call upon when the emotions get to be too much, or when my heart aches for another person.

Feeling fear, I relax into the arms of loving kindness. May I be at peace, may I be at ease, may I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from fear …

Feeling anger, I whisper those same words in the privacy of my mind and heart. May I have compassion for myself. May I suffuse that anger inside with love. May I free myself from it.

Feeling worry, I calm myself down, and bring myself back to the present moment, gently. May I be free of worry, may I be at peace.

Feeling grief, I soothe myself. May I be at peace, may I be at ease. May all beings be at peace.

Feeling the anguish of loved ones or people I hardly know, I write them lovingly kind words. A quick email, a tweet, or a private thought. May you be free from suffering, may you be at peace, may you be at ease.

Same with those who are difficult, and cause me to pause. May you be free from suffering, may you find peace, my heart is with you.

Steps to Becomming a Happier Person Image

The greatest compliment I ever received was when a person who knew me less than a year remarked that I wouldn’t understand his troubles because I was such a “happy and positive” person. I had to laugh inside thinking, “if he only knew!” I am a person who tends towards depression and spent many years being knee-jerk negative. I was fortunate enough to have a moment of clarity where I realized I actually wanted to be happy and realized that focusing on the negative wasn’t helping that goal one bit. Like a muscle in desperate need of exercise, I begun working on my happiness and just like a physical muscle it got stronger over time. Now, I generally have a better outlook and, in turn, enjoy my life more. That’s the point, isn’t it?

To that end, I am always scouring the Internet for articles and tips on maintaining that higher life condition. Here’s a great article I found on Web MD with some good tips to help improve your general happiness level. Remember, like all tools, nothing gets built unless you actually pick them up and put them to work! These are some good suggestions, though. Give yourself a break and put them into action and see what happens! You may be pleasantly surprised when you suddenly realize you’re in a good mood! Check it out:

I Myself am Good Fortune Image

Like most human beings, I was born to be a positive person.  In the midst of my years of struggle with depression, addiction and negativity, my family often mused about what a happy baby I had been – as if to say, “what happened?”

I had the good fortune to recognize in a moment of clarity that negativity was an acquired point of view that I wore like a shield that kept happiness away.  I had suffered a long time in this destructive mindset until I understood that my negativity was not inherent.  If I could acquire it, I could also lose it.

I thus employed a plan of action to tune out the negativity and turn up the positivity. Nothing in my life actually changed but the way I perceived at it.