Happiness of the Heart

by Mary Cook, MA, Psychology 
Addictions Treatment Counselor
(Contributing Writer)

Photo Terrance ChangePhoto: Terence Chang


True happiness comes from the heart, not the mind.

Our mind typically judges, compares, and places conditions on happiness, pointing out what’s wrong or missing even in the best of circumstances. In the midst of a wondrous experience, for example, the mind may remind us that a certain person is not present to share the wonder, and thus happiness is diminished. Yet the mind tells us that when we receive abundant gratification of a desire, we’ll be happy. It might be success, sex, money, power, leisure time, a partner, alcohol, food, or other drugs.

When we’re chasing after happiness, we’re also running away from problems, trauma, shame, loss, and pain. And the mind tells us that these troubles will continue or reoccur at any moment.

So we’d better capture and control the objects of our happiness. Addictions and compulsions are practiced with the intent to distract us from pain and stress and artificially induce euphoria or relief. This keeps the false self dominant rather than the spiritual self. This separation from an active conscious relationship with our Higher Power means that no amount of anything we desire can lead to true happiness, for we have disconnected from the source of pure love, truth, and joy. Only unhappiness comes from this illusion of separation. Fear and attempts to control and possess what we desire, removes the very possibility of happiness.

Real happiness is not dependent upon anything. It is our true nature.

We can see it in young children before we teach them otherwise. They amuse and entertain themselves. They are sensitive and empathic. They love without fear, biases, and prejudices. They experience joy watching a caterpillar, looking at ribbons of light coming through the trees, playing with dad’s fingers, babbling to mom, and jumping up and down. Young children can experience more happiness from a box than the gift within it. A box after all, can be a hat, a boat, a drum, or a house.

Young children can remind us of what we have forgotten.

Happiness is right now, it’s free, it’s within us, it gives and shares, it’s outside of time, space, distance, and conditions. It’s creative, uplifting, and contagious. Having a sense of lightness, playfulness and humor about ourselves and life, contributes to heartfelt happiness and reconnects us to our true selves, others and life. It also gives us resilience, adaptability, hope, courage, and strength in times of trouble.

Happiness arises from relaxing and surrendering mental focus, and allowing our hearts to open and expand for no reason.

In this place we can remember that we were created whole and holy and that we are interconnected with all of life. Correct bowing places the heart higher than the head. Rather than our minds’ aspirations, it is humility and faith that leads us to our highest happiness. Feeling united with a healthy, loving Higher Power allows us to experience the power within our heart. A bedridden patient in pain can forget his suffering when a beloved child visits. All of a sudden we’re not sick when someone needs us. An arthritic man, unable to move, can lose all symptoms of disease when playing the piano because of his happiness in doing so. A petite, frail mother can lift heavy objects off her child to save her in an accident. Spontaneous acts of heroism, altruism, and love spring from the heart, whereas the mind would say this is impossible or problematic.

Allowing our attention to be in the present moment appreciating what exists right now, counting our blessings, being in loving service, enjoying nature, music, art, people, animals, and seeing beauty around us, is happiness.

We can have a daily practice of identifying and surrendering to our Higher Power our small minded selfishness, harmfulness, willfulness and defensiveness, and ask for divine will to work through us. We can hold compassionate space for suffering and painful emotions to be expressed and released. We can begin this process by feeling compassion for ourselves and loved ones. We can accept our ignorance and transgressions, and honor our desire for redemption and transformation. Then we can practice feeling compassion and acceptance for strangers and for those who are harmful in the world, believing that goodness exists in the soul despite human expression. In most situations as adults, safe boundaries, straightforward assertiveness, and healthy behaviors on our part suffice to protect us from those who might harm us. Forgiveness is an emotion of the heart that releases trapped toxic energies within us, creating greater space for serenity, freedom, and joy. This is a rejuvenating practice and additionally helpful in placing more positive energy into the world.

It is vital to demonstrate principles that reinforce our spiritual nature, and to strengthen our faith when we are feeling lost and confused.

We experience an even higher level and depth of happiness when we’re able to identify what goodness and joy exists in difficult circumstances, what opportunities for growth, character development, unselfish demonstrations of love, spiritual evolution and unity with the God of our understanding are present in trials and tribulations.

Long ago I visited a poor village and asked the elder if he was happy with his life. He replied that yes, he was very happy. In some years, he explained, there is abundant food and no children die. And so we sing, dance and rejoice. In other years there is not enough to eat, and sickness and death visit us. In those years our love expands, we become closer and give our hearts to one another, for that is all we have. So, yes, we are very happy all the time. This village elder was abundantly rich with happiness of the heart, and this is a magnificent model for all of us.

 


Mary Cook  is the author of “Grace Lost and Found: From Addictions and Compulsions to Satisfaction and Serenity”  She has a Master’s degree in psychology and is a certified addictions treatment counselor in private practice in Los Angeles, California. She has 42 years of clinical and teaching experience.

Visit Mary Cook’s website for more articles or go to Amazon to purchase her book.

 

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Live Life Forward

by Catherine DeAngelis

Life can only be understood backwards,
but it must be lived forwards. Kierkegaard ~

A New Year has arrived – a chance for brand new starts.  Many of us may think it’s just another day or for some a time to introduce
life changing events into our world.

If we are the one, over holiday social moments, who listens intently and likely hears snippets of chatter about making New Year’s Resolutions, we may have heard plans that include eating less sugar, cutting out coffee, going vegan, losing weight, visiting the gym (more often) and less of or about time to be quitting smoking and drinking altogether.

Five Easy Steps to Achieve Your New Year’s Goals

Psychologist Richard Wiseman examines the quirky science of everyday life on his website “Quirkology.” Of the 5,000 people he studied, that attempted to make their new year’s resolution, he found most failed, but 10% did meet their aims and ambitions. He learned the 10% who succeeded were working on 5 simple principles that allowed them to achieve their goals. Here’s what the successful group did:

  1. Broke goals into a series of smaller steps.
  2. Told family and friends what they were trying to achieve.
  3. Reminded themselves of the benefit of attaining their goal.
  4. Gave themselves a small reward each time they attained one of their small steps.
  5. Mapped out their progress either in a spreadsheet, on the fridge door or in a journal so they knew exactly where they were.

Behavioral Change Requires Sustained Effort and Commitment

There are many practical steps written to help us make New Year’s resolutions.  Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. in her article How to make New Year’s Resolutions Stick, she explains the reason people abandon their resolutions is that they become discouraged when results don’t come quickly enough, or when they find that they are not necessarily happier because of them. Behavioral change requires sustained effort and commitment.

Healthy Emotional Goals and better Mental Health for the New Year

Rarely do we go after attaining healthy emotional goals and make sure that we have an effective approach to create a goal for better mental health for ourselves or for the roles we partake in our community.

It is integral during the making of New Year’s Resolutions that we include better Mental Health as one of our goals.

Mental Health is the capacity for each of us to feel, think and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. We need to promote mental health in the way that we do our caretaking as friends, family, siblings, parenting or work that we do. We can even go further by helping to enhance the capacity of people and communities to take control over their lives and improve their mental health.

Setting New Year’s Resolutions are often thought of as personal, but youth, adults and seniors can work toward making themselves emotionally and mentally healthier.

Emotionally aware people experience greater success in their careers and a greater sense of well-being in their personal lives. Studies have shown that success doesn’t lead to emotional health and happiness, but rather the other way around. The emotionally healthy experience positive moods, feel more confidant, more optimistic, more energetic, and more sociable. These factors lead to greater success in many aspects of life. Source (APA): American Psychological Association

SENIORS – According to The Public Health Agency of Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on The State of Public Health in Canada 2010 positive mental health can help seniors cope with many difficult issues and life events, such as chronic illness or the loss of partners and friends. For seniors who may have poor mental health or mental illness, the negative impacts are far-reaching. Mental health issues can affect physical health, emotional and social well-being, and quality of life.

ADULTS – As we continue with more studies around mind, body and health, we are learning more about the connection between good mental health and good physical health. Psychological studies show that your mind and your body are strongly linked. As your mental health declines, your physical health can wear down, and if your physical health declines, it can make you feel mentally “down.” A positive outlook can help keep you healthy. Studies show 80% of Americans during the past few years have become more aware of how their mental health and emotions can affect their physical health (APA 2005) .

YOUTH – According to The Public Health Agency of Canada, Emotional Health Among Canadian Youth, is a critical part of young people’s  well-being. Research has shown that many youth who experience mental health problems continue to have these problems in adulthood and may suffer personal costs, including limited employment opportunities, reduced access to housing and strained family relationships. If poor emotional health develops into mental illness, personal costs can include poverty, homelessness and social exclusion, which may ultimately be life-threatening. Therefore, it is essential to recognize and respond to early indications of emotional health difficulties.

Remember to include emotional and mental well-being as one of your New Year’s Resolutions.  Read more >> Improving Emotional Health – Strategies & Tips for Good Mental Health.

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