Happiness Formula Spillover

After writing last week's blog post, inspiration after inspiration came to me of additional tricks, spells, formulas, and practices for enhancing one's internal feeling state and overall life satisfaction.  (Honestly, I don't actually love the word 'hack'!)  I feel moved to add that we are not all starting from the same place, and that this kind of offering may not be the ideal medicine for every person at every moment.  When we are in the depths of despair, for example, all we need is another presence, another solitude guarding our own.  And for a caring other to present 'happiness formulas' at such a time in one's life would probably feel dismissive at best, downright abhorrent at worst.  Happiness formulas are great medicine for people who feel they are doing "all around okay, except for ________".  I still find it so important to write about and encapsulate some of this stuff as 'air conditioning for the mind,' if you will.  You can do whatever you want to try to control your external environment, but if you haven't started on the inside, you might still find yourself miserable.  It seems smart to work on creating a golden meditation room inside first, yes? So on to the trucos! #11: Gratitude Yeah, I said it.  Try keeping a gratitude journal.  Believe it or not, a gratitude practice can utterly transform your experience of life.  Really dig deep and expand your concept of what you have to be grateful for.  Be grateful that you can feel.  If you have access to running water, be grateful for that.  Say, and feel the essence of the words, "Thank you," every time you turn on the tap.  Be grateful for the people whose work contributed to items you rely on or use daily, and grateful for the life's work of everyone who has ever inspired you or added to your education, in whatever form it takes.  Sometimes I visualize gratitude as a sparkling light with which I infuse my food, a sparkling light that fills rooms into which friends, clients or loved ones are about to walk.  All of us will have some pain at some point, maybe a lot, maybe for a long time.  If you don't have much now, it's a great thing, that!  You could practice writing five things to feel grateful for each morning.  There is actual science behind this, folks.  I'm just too lazy to cite it right now. #12: The Final Year . . . Here I go with my morbid shite again.  I'm sure you're sick of hearing YOLO.  Sometimes, this kind of live-today-because-you-may-die-tomorrow has a slight edge of shallow-feel to it.  I mean, nothing could be more true.  You could die tomorrow.  But I find that the practice that really drives this home and creates lasting change is 'The Final Year' practice. Look at the calendar.  What is today's date?  I am very sorry to tell you, but in one year from today, you will be dead.  I'm going to give you a moment to process that . . .     Well, no moment could really suffice.  (This is why Tibetan Buddhism focuses so heavily on spending your entire life preparing for death.)  Knowing that this is your final year, what will you do?  What will you cut out, what will you add, and what will you do differently?  What experiences will you allow yourself?  What will you say, and to whom?  What do you need to create?  Commit to living the next 365 days in this way.  And, if you're lucky enough to still be alive at the end of those 365 days, start all over again. #13: Some Dr. Joe Dispenza Wisdom I am not Dr. Joe Dispenza, so I can't say this as well as he could, but practicing fun-feeling, good-feeling thoughts regularly can actually alter the structure of your brain.  And then those kinds of thoughts spontaneously arise in you more readily, more regularly.  You can create a brain that spins off mostly adaptive, supportive, alright-feeling (at least), and self-compassionate thoughts. Have you heard the expression, The neurons that fire together wire together?  Well, now you have.  During each new experience, our brain is making new neural connections, and studies continue to suggest that our brains actually continue to create new neurons into our old age.  So, just visualize those little brain cell dendrite-arms, reaching out and branching out like little trees and touching the dendrite-arms of more and more of their neighbors, allowing more and more information to pass through along trusty neuronal lines, paved through regular thought habits, and/or forged and strengthened through a disciplined learning practice.  Unfortunately, the potential for this brain magic to work against us is equal to its potential to work in our favor. The brain of a depressed individual would show strong, deep, thick connections related to thoughts and beliefs that don't feel so good.  This is not to say that it is wrong to sometimes feel sad or depressed.  The great humanitarian and writer Marianne Williamson once quipped, in an interview, that if you're not feeling depressed, then you're not really looking at the current state of the world.  My point here is that a consistent practice, or habit, of bad-feeling thoughts, actually creates and strengthens neuronal connections and networks related to those bad-feeling thought and belief patterns.  So this kind of habit is literally building a brain, at an actual, structural level, that is likely to continue spinning off bad-feeling thoughts.  It turns into a self-perpetuating feedback loop. Good news!  It works in just the same way with good-feeling thoughts.  This brings me to #14: #14: Affirmations Write them on your hand, post them on your bathroom mirror, tattoo them across your belly, make them into your damn password.  They can be as simple as, "I am enough," or as elaborate as, "I am fucking phenomenal at what I do, I am happy, healthy, harmonious, loving, whole, abundant and free."  Whatever you want.  Have fun with it.  If you're having a bad moment, check in with yourself.  What kind of thoughts do you have going on?  Flip those into their reverse and you have your own perfect affirmative medicine.  Example: Someone took a dump on my weekend, I'm feeling overwhelmed, and the thought is, No one will ever respect me.  Okay, flip that around.  Something like, I respect myself, I am worthy of respect, and people sense that in my presence.  The psychedelic thing about reality is that no one really knows what's true.  Not reallyI am an asshole is just as "true" as I am a great soul.  If you're really in a bad spot, start with something neutral, like, I am okay.  Something flaming like, I am a golden goddess might feel a little too far away and like an insult to your intelligence. #15: Focus Wheels Alright, yes, I did steal this from Esther Hicks.  What kinds of things fill you with the warm and fuzzies when you see them or think about them?  What do you want to go towards with your ineluctable, glorious, life-giving desire?  What would you be thrilled to create?  Put it on your focus wheel.  Or vision board. You can do whatever youuuuu liiiiikkkkeee.  Then, look at that sucker.  Look at it in the morning, look at it in the noontime, look at it when the sun goes down.  Waiting in line for the water closet?  Hmmm, what shall I think about?  I know!!  My FOCUS wheel! #16: "Guilty" Pleasures What kind of music did you reeeee-he-he-heaaally want to listen to in high school, but you knew your cool friends would drop you like a hot potato?  Listen to that.  Who honestly cares?  Play it loud.  If this creates a problem with your neighbors, you can cross that bridge when you get to it.  (P.S. . .  This does not only apply to music.  This is radical permission.  What is "cool" anyway?  Kurt Cobain once said, I'd rather be dead than cool.  There's a paradoxical truth hidden in this.  Those who want to be cool look at those who are as if they possess this elusive, and ever-coveted quality, and some care a lot about getting some of that for themselves.  The secret is to stop caring.  Then you'll really be cool.  Get your ego out of your own way, and great forces will come to join you.) #17: Meditation Again, people, there is science behind this.  Studies strongly suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) combined with 10 minutes of meditation per day, or mindfulness-based CBT is just as effective as anti-depressants in treating and preventing a relapse of depression.  I actually looked that one up for y'all. #18: Rage Channels You heard me.  Channel your damn rage.  Break some plates from Good Will.  Drive somewhere and scream.  You deserve it.  Better yet, channel it into creative work and/or activism.  Lots of people, especially women, repress their rage.  It hurts you on the inside.  Channel it. #19: Find Your Spirituality There's a funk-ton that I could write here.  Suffice it to say that most people already kind of know what their spirituality is, but it lives in a very deep, somatic, un-articulated, secret place.  How would you articulate it to yourself, in secret?  It could just be, I don't fucking know.  It's all a mystery.  Holy Mystery.  Great Mystery.  That's it.  Great.  If you have zero spirituality, that's cool too.  You can skip this truco. #20: The Hard is What Makes it Great Don't get mad at yourself or think that you're messing up because things got hard, or because they feel hard right now.  Don't think you messed up in general if the journey feels hard.  Just watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndL7y0MIRE4   During a particularly difficult phase of my life, while I was living alone in a rough neighborhood and working my behind off, feeling burnt out and exhausted, and my whole body hurt every time my alarm went off before sunrise, I purposefully moved my alarm into the bathroom so that I would be forced to get up in order to turn it off.  And I posted a sign right above my iPhone charging station so that it would be the very first thing I would see every single morning during that difficult time in my life.  At the moment when I would turn my alarm off and my whole body would be screaming to get back into bed, I would bend over the sink and then look up at that sign, which read: The hard is what makes it great.  Folks, I have so much 'Happiness Formula Spillover' that this blog series literally just became a book.  Look out for more.  And click here to schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation if you're interested in finding help putting any of this stuff into practice.  I know lots of great therapists in the Bay Area as well and I always refer out for best match when necessary.  Be well :)