The Memory of Happiness
There are many choices that we can make towards creating a lifestyle that promotes stress relief and well-being. The more obvious ones are meditation, yoga, exercise and taking time off from work to recharge. These endeavors are our most cherished treasures however they are “activity based” and because of that their benefits wane some time after the activity has ended. Yet there is a secret buried within each of those experiences that we can hook onto, long after the activity is over, to enrich our lives in ways that we have never imagined.
Our innate search for happiness is what motivates us to do everything. It is the underlining goal in our quest for love, to create financial security, to provide community service, to have a family, and practice our spirituality. We often think that the action or result of our actions creates our happiness, but I would like to suggest that it is the complete opposite.
The wealthy have commented time and time again that it is the creation of wealth that brings them the most joy, not the numbers of zeros in their bank accounts. We should believe them on this. “Happiness equals accomplishment,” and “giving is receiving” are just a few sayings that attempt to convey that our choices for activity are merely opportunities to invite happiness to come forth from within us. If people in Africa and Mexico have some of the highest ratings in general happiness, then this is a great indication that joy and well being is part of our make up; an intrinsic part of ourselves waiting siliently to come forward and be expressed.
The peace and calm we feel from yoga, exercise, or just lying on a hammock watching the clouds, is that we have suspended our thinking and judgements for the time being and can allow that peace within us to shine out.
Unfortunately it doesn’t last to long because once the mind kicks in again with judgements and interpretation the door closes again. The mind’s habitual nature returns us to the old interpretations of our life. If we could change these interpretations than we have a chance to maintain our happiness no matter what the circumstances may be; if we are on a beach in Bali or in a hostile business meeting.
So in my model of Sustainable Stress Release there are 3 integrals. They are all necessary and dependent on each other. Briefly, the first is to learn immediate stress relief techniques that work on the spot. The second, which this post would fall into, is making lifestyle changes which enrich our day to day life by nourishing the body, having fun, and staying connected with family and friends. The third and most critical to sustainability is changing our interpretation of the stressors in our lives.
When Ava, my two year old granddaughter comes over to play, we sing, dance and play all day. She loves to sing her favorite songs, again and again, and again. At first I thought alright, she’s learning the song, but once she learned it, she kept wanting to sing it. So I asked myself the question why? Duh!, she loves it, it brings her joy and happiness why wouldn’t she want to do it as much as possible? Wow when did we lose that desire? Who told us to stop because it was boring or annoying?
So here is a fun and wonderful activity that you can try. All you need is to first set some time aside for yourself and second to think back to one of those incredible thing that you just love to do. This activity should be on the level of creating such joy in your being that it stands out from everything else. For example, perhaps there is a song that just puts you in a space, that has just the right sound qualities that it makes you feel free, alive and filled with joy so that, (and this is the necessary ingredient) you could listen to it all day. I think you know where I’m going with this. Now go off by yourself and be a child and enjoy your activity, as much as you want. Allow that child like joy to fill you up. Don’t stop until you want to or you run out of time. Enjoy and remember how happiness is your nature.
In case you don’t have the time to go off right now and be childish (in the greatest of ways) then here is something for you. Search back in your memory when you did have time to be in your favorite activity. Close your eyes, and remember, with all your senses. In that dream like state you will begin to remember and feel the joy of that activity. This may take some practice but it does work. This is due to the brain functioning that scientist call mirror neurons. Mirror neurons allow us to experience memories as if they were real. Working with these new neurons are going to revolutionize stress management theory.