Your Quick Guide to Personal Happiness - 5 Happiness Habits

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

For many years I have been fascinated by the concept of happiness. Part of my fascination was personal, and the other was professional. I was seeing so many patients who were deeply unhappy and the interesting thing to me was that when I asked them what would make them happy, most of them had no idea. For many, it seemed to be the first time they had given the idea any thought at all. So, what is happiness? And why is it so elusive?

What is Happiness?

For something that we all seem to be after, happiness seems to be largely misunderstood and pretty difficult to come by for a lot of people. And when it comes to a definition of happiness, well I imagine that would be very different depending on who you asked. For our purposes, I will define it as a general feeling of well-being and joy about the totality of your life - not necessarily the details as those will be constantly fluctuating, but a general sense of wellbeing about your existence. If I were to ask you what would it take for you to be happy? Maybe a better question is - what does your life look like where you imagine your happiest self? This is an interesting intellectual exercise for sure, and one I often ask my patients to do to help them clarify what this scenario would look like for them.

In my experience, I see what happiness isn't. It is not something that can be acquired, some kind of external thing that one must chase after and get a hold of, never letting go. External things don't give you happiness, at least not a happiness that is grounded, meaningful and lasting. The way to happiness is within. And I think this is one of the reasons that we as a species, are largely so unhappy right now. We are taught, from a very young age, to seek everything we need in our lives - "out there". All the things we need to be complete, happy beings are out there in the external world. Good education, a better job, good relationship, nice house, fancy car - and so forth. These seem to be the benchmarks for success and happiness for many of us. But this is changing. There is a movement of young people growing up now who realize that those things often have nothing to do with true happiness and are seeking happiness, fulfillment, and connectedness within. And that is where we will all find it. There has been an explosion of interest in things like yoga, meditation, ayahuasca, etc... to more deeply understand ourselves and our world.

The Chinese Medicine Angle

In Chinese medicine, our ability to feel joy is seen to be an expression of our heart energies. But joy is only one part of overall happiness. In Chinese medicine, how you feel is an important part of your health. Each of the organs has an emotion associated with it to help determine which organ (or emotion) might be out of balance at any one time. If you are overwhelmed by anger and frustration, the liver is the culprit, if sadness is predominant then the lungs are to blame, or if fear and anxieties are making life uncomfortable then we must look at the kidneys for their role in these feelings. I believe that for a feeling of overall happiness and wellbeing that so many of us are striving for is to be achieved, it is balance that we must seek. And there is no better system to teach us to balance ourselves, our bodies, our emotions and our spirits, than Chinese medicine.

The emotions are a more ephemeral and therefore often more difficult thing to contend with, especially in our society with its emphasis on the physical and tangible especially when it comes to health and healing. Because of this, tools we can use to help us manage difficult emotional states or patterns are difficult to come by. Thankfully, Chinese medicine offers many ways in which we can both identify as well as manage and resolve our emotional hardships. Each organ's energies are at their peak in a specific season, so taking care of both the organ, its corresponding emotion and changing our behaviours depending on the time of year are some of the ways we can help to keep ourselves balanced. Changing the foods that we eat according to the seasons and our physical predispositions is another good way to stay in harmony, as well as some basic things like listening to our bodies - as they tend to tell us in subtle ways when something is wrong - taking care of ourselves on all levels, being kind, loving and nurturing to ourselves and others and working on self-awareness is especially important when it comes to dealing with emotions. So much of our demons and the things that hurt us are unknown to us. If we are really willing to do the work to discover our hurts and sorrows, that is the first step in shining a light on them and being able to process them and letting them go.

5 Happiness Habits

Below are some of the most powerful habits that, if you incorporate them into your life, will help you to have a happier experience and feel more joyful overall.

Gratitude

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Some interesting studies have taught us that so much of our ability to feel happiness is in our attitude. Many highly spiritual beings know this too. One way that we can really help to change our attitudes so that we may attract more positivity into our lives is by being grateful. Taking some time every day to focus on the things that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small, will help to literally rewire your brain, making it easier to think about and feel those feelings of gratitude in the future. A helpful exercise that will help you to literally rewire your brain (plasticity) is to take time every day to think of three things that you are grateful for. In doing this, your brain starts to retain the pattern of scanning the world not for negative things, but positive ones, helping to keep you in a state of positivity.

Positivity


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Scientific studies have shown that the brain works better when we are in a state of positivity giving us a happiness advantage. Here are some statistics from Shawn Achor's TED talk (which is embedded below):

  • When we are in a positive state the brain performs better in terms of intelligence, creativity and our energy increases
  • Positive brains are 31% more productive than brains that are negative, neutral or stressed
  • When we are positive, our brains are 37% better at sales
  • When in a positive state, doctors are 31% faster and more accurate at coming up with correct diagnosis

An activity to help you to become more positive is to journal about one positive thing that happened to you (or that you witnessed) that day. Writing about the experience allows your brain to relive it, and releases powerful hormones like dopamine, which not only makes us feel good, but also turns on all the learning centres in the brain.

Conscious Acts of Kindness

Another exercise that you can work into your daily routine is to reach out to one person in your social network and tell them that you appreciate them and why. This only compounds the exercise above and will help not only you to feel grateful, but also spread the goodness around by making the person or people you reach out to feel grateful as well.

Meditation

Meditation has so many benefits to our health and wellbeing, that it is something I would recommend for absolutely everyone, especially living in our hectic culture. Meditation allows us to slow down, relax and reconnect with ourselves in a way that many of us have forgotten. Giving that time to yourself as a way to pull yourself out of the chaos that often predominates modern life and to just sit and listen has so many positive effects that will not only make you feel better, they will ripple out into every aspect of your life and ultimately benefit not only you, but the people around you.

Self Awareness

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

From the years of treating patients, one of the things that I really believe is a huge contributor to our physical health as well as our mental health is dealing with our demons. I use the word demons, because that is what they can become, haunting us and making us miserable. Everyone has difficult, painful and traumatic experiences in their lives. But the way to have a happy life I believe is not to wish for an easy existence, but to learn how to handle difficulties when they arise so that they can be processed appropriately and let go so that they do not become demons from our past that haunt us in our present.

This ability to really look at ourselves and self reflect is not easy, and this important work is not something that is taught to us as children in schools, so finding a way to work through these difficult experiences can be daunting. The tools that will work will not be the same for everyone, but this is some of the most important work we can do in our lives and the work that will help us to be happier beings and enjoy our time on this beautiful planet.

 

Sources

This excellent (and hilarious) video from Shawn Achor speaking at TED about happiness and our brains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M

 


How to Get Healthy in 2017 with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Another year is upon us! The arrival of the new year always causes me to reflect, and think about what I would like to improve upon in the coming year. Health, happiness and well-being are always top of the list, so here is a list of some things that we can all do to be a little healthier and happier in 2017.

Take Time for Yourself

this beautiful image from 68.media.tumblr.com

This is a hard one. Our lives seem to get busier and busier and we all seem to be working more and sleeping less which means less time for, well, us. Even though taking time out for ourselves is often not easy, it is an important part of our health. Psychologically, it is you caring about yourself enough to take the time to do something that feeds you, whatever that may be. Go for a walk, read a new book you've been meaning to start, have a bubble bath, start a new art project... do something that feeds your soul. Your whole body, mind, and spirit will thank you for it.

Meditate

this relaxing image from www.chatelaine.com

Now I know the thought of meditating is scary for a lot of people, especially if you have never done it before. But meditation doesn't have to mean spending hours on a mountainside in complete seclusion. If you are new to it, start slow. Spent ten minutes a day, either when you get up in the morning (the energy of the day is so calm and lovely at this time), or if it is easier, at the end of the day before you go to bed. Just sit or lie quietly without distractions (the TV, your phone, computer, etc..) and just relax. For the first many times you do this, your mind will no doubt be racing and it might not feel relaxing at all, but if you think about it, you never just "let your mind go" like this. We are always forcing our minds into doing things, like work, cooking, driving or what-have-you. Your mind also needs time to empty itself out, but once it does and goes quiet... it is wonderful. With some practice, you will be able to drop into a quiet meditation easily, and your body and mind will crave it because it is so nourishing to every part of you. I find that the benefits of a little daily meditation spill out into the rest of my life causing me to be calmer, more patient and generally happier which is a wonderful thing.

Find a Local Farmer

this image from larahudson.com

Reconnect with your food. Food does not arrive at the grocery store wrapped in cellophane and politely organized and placed onto carts. That food is grown and tended by farmers - people who have one of the most important jobs on the planet - feeding us. Our food is the medicine we use every day to keep us healthy, and many of us have lost our connection to where it comes from. If you are able to, find a local farm where you are able to visit and buy fresh, organic (if possible) foods for your family. If this is not possible, then find a local farmers market and meet the farmers there. This will give you a new appreciation for where your food is coming from, who is growing it and in turn, you will be eating local (very good in terms of Chinese medicine) and supporting your local farmers - who absolutely need and deserve the support of their communities. Farmers markets are also a wonderful place to meet other local, health conscious people, eat local treats and reconnect with your community. Win-win!

Reconnect with Nature

this lovely image from www.drjimtaylor.com

I know I say this one a lot, but it is so imperative to health on every level. One of the reasons we see disease on such an unprecedented scale is that we have lost our connection to nature. We live in huge cities where we spend our days behind desks in buildings under florescent lights instead of in forests and jungles, which is where we belong. We were not designed to live this, well, unnaturally. Obviously, it is not feasible to go completely wild and live in forests (unless you are really hardcore) but in Chinese medicine, we are always striving for balance. So, even if you work in an office or a factory and sit behind a desk or stand on an assembly line, eat your lunch outside. Take off your shoes and put your feet in the grass. Feel the earth, it is talking to you in a language you have probably forgotten. It is feeding you in a way you desperately need to be fed. When you have time off, go for a walk in a forest, swim in a lake or ocean, or instead of working out at the gym, go for a run outside. Our connection to the planet feeds us as much as what we eat and drink, so think of your time outside as food for your body and soul. You will notice how much better you feel, inside and out.

Zoom Out

this magnificent image from youtube.com

I love this one, and doing it helps your mental state more than you can imagine. Zooming out just basically means, keeping things in perspective. When you are having a problem or something disastrous is happening in your life, just take a moment and back up. Zoom out of your situation. Zoom out of the building, the street, the neighbourhood, the city, the country, the continent, the planet, and so on. The farther out you go, the better you will feel. It is so easy for our lives to become very small. Problems become huge and often seem insurmountable, but zooming out will help to keep things in perspective. Think to yourself... in the grand scheme of things, does this really matter? In a week, will I be thinking about this at all? Zooming out is a sort of meditation, and one I do often if I am struggling with something. Instead of feeling small, I am always trying to be as big, as expansive with my mind and my awareness as possible. Not always easily done, and certainly takes practice.

Be Grateful

Gratitude is something I try to practice every day. It has been one of the most beneficial practices that I have in my life, and I am so grateful for it. Ha. Being grateful doesn't mean that life is not going to present challenges. Life is full of them. But spending some time each day to consciously think about what in your life you are grateful for will put you in a happy, loving state of mind, which will attract more happy, loving energy to your experience. This energy will help you to cope when difficult situations arise and help you to fully appreciate all the wonderful things/people that you have in your life. Absolutely everyone has things that they can be grateful for, and focusing on this positivity will only draw more of it into your life and that is a wonderful thing.

Unplug

this image from gameacademy.com

We are all connected, and now this is even more true with the advent of the internet and the miracle of cell phones which allow us to communicate with one another from almost anywhere on the planet. This wonderful technology has allowed access to information by millions of people who would otherwise not be able to benefit from it. There are so many positive aspects to our ability to connect, but there are drawbacks too. The pendulum seems to have swung quite far in that direction so that in our attempt to stay technologically connected to each other, we have lost our human connections. I see groups of teenagers sitting together, each looking at their cell phones, instead of talking to each other. People live is vast cities, crammed into apartment buildings, but never interact with each other. As with all things, we are going for balance. Many people could not live without the internet of god forbid, their cell phone, but trying to unplug, at least for parts of the day or week is a good way to bring about that balance. Call a friend, then go and meet with them. Have a coffee and a conversation. We are social animals (not social media animals, although sometimes it seems we certainly are) and human contact is good for us and we NEED it.

Be of Service

A part of being human, and one of the reasons that I think we are here, is to serve our fellow human. This doesn't have to mean volounteering in a cancer ward or an old age home (as these are big commitments - but wonderful things to do), it may be as simple as helping someone struggling with their groceries, opening the door for someone with their arms full, giving someone directions when they ask you on the street. These small things make a huge impact. No one makes it through life alone. We all need each other, and by being kind, generous and helpful with our fellow human being is the glue that holds us all together. In a time where there is so much divisiveness in the world, it seems there are so many reasons for us to fear and hate each other, all it takes is the conscious effort to not let in that darkness and to treat each person with love and compassion, just as you would like to be treated. It will go a long way to healing the negativity on this planet and it happens to feel really good too. <3

How to Get Healthy in 2017 with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


Inspiration : Train Commuters Sing Along to Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Train Commuters Sing Along to Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Original article here: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/morning-train-commuters-sing-along-to-somewhere-over-the-rainbow-watch/

Remember in October when we showed you a viral video of a dance party launched on a commuter train in Perth, Australia?

The same group who danced their way into the hearts of 40 million YouTube viewers has just followed up with shenanigans on another commuter train–this time a singalong.

On a wintery run of the 7:51 express train, they led passengers in a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow in a bold attempt to chase away the Monday morning blues with a ukulele player keeping time.

Peter Sharp, the founder of the participatory arts group called it, “Easily one of the most uplifting experiences we’ve ever helped create.”singing at the gas pump-Tonight Show

Hilarious Couple Sing Karaoke at the Gas Pump on Hidden Tonight Show Camera (WATCH)

The Liberators, as they call themselves–named for the sense of freedom they want people to feel when expressing themselves in public–have coordinated five different experiences on trains from story telling, to dancing, and singing.

“This is my full time job,” Sharp told the Good News Network. “I am able to get paid doing DJ gigs that combine these acts of freedom at music festivals & family festivals and working with businesses to create interesting and ethically driven video content.”

They recruited some of their own people to ride the train and help get the singalong started, but reported that around 60 percent of those on board were actual commuters.

Read more about their mission, and a crowd-funding campaign to bring their antics to trains in Europe on their blog.

(WATCH the heart-warming moments below)