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The Secret to Happiness

There's a secret to happiness and I'm going to share it with you!


Instead of patterning the same thoughts of "I'm unhappy" or "I knew this would happen, what next?" We can actually turn that frown upside down and cultivate our own happiness. Could be easier said than done, but it can be as simple as that cup of coffee in the morning.


Before I continue, I want to mention this isn't to replace sitting with your thoughts and feelings if you are needing to process a situation. It isn't always possible to walk in the light when the dark needs tending. However, this is to address that we have the power to pull ourselves out of that mindset if it feels like we're stuck or burned out.


In the past I took a course called the Science of Wellbeing - there's benefit of sharing some of that information while also tying in some teachings from shamanism that parallel nicely.


Let's first touch on why we're generally stuck in the mindset of being "unhappy."


As a society, we tend to judge things based off of whether we think it is relative to our perspective and how it relates to our perspective on other things in our world. If someone or something doesn't act in a way we deem necessary we cancel them. Often times without the research to back it up, but it's a natural reaction when one experiences any kind of cognitive dissonance. Our ego's tend to rush to our rescue and hit back with defense, reactivity and even mocking.


What could it look like if society could become conscious to one's own thinking patterns and conditioning; to remove the expectations from life and just experience things as they go in order to see the joy and be PRESENT?

 

Let's use Olympic medalists as an example. The mind does not work in terms of absolutes; even though we may think that we will be happy, just placing on the podium for instance, that is not always the case. The mind thinks in terms of reference points - WE ARE ALWAYS COMPARING. And not always in a relevant way.

Olympic medalists

Science of Wellbeing uses this example - if we look at Michael Phelps placing first we see how happy he is. But if we look to his right, at Laszlo Cseh, he does not appear to be as pleased to have placed second. Furthermore, to his left, we see Ryan Lochte - he appears to be just as pleased to have placed despite being third. So if we think of it in terms of reference - the enjoyment aspect of it depends on a person's outlook of the situation - the judgement of the reference point.


Often times, one can get so caught up in the situation itself and feel the need to instantly react that we can blow things out of proportion. If one can take an extra moment to consciously observe the situation and become present the reference point can change entirely.


I could perceive a situation entirely different than another experiencing that same situation with me. We all have a certain lens we experience life through - it is happening to you or for you?

 

If we go a little further into one's perceptions - we will find we are always being bombarded with some kind of stimulus. But we end up getting used to it over time and it does not have the same effect - this is something called Hedonic Adaptation. It's essentially saying we are always in these awesome situations, but we just don't see the awesome in it. I'm sure this thought process can also be reversed to survival/victimhood mentality, but that's a topic for another day.


That new car you just bought - the newness and excitement wears off. Your boyfriend or girlfriend - they stick around and maybe it's no longer as exciting as it used to be once the honeymoon stage wears off.


It becomes our new normal. It no longer brings you the happiness or joy you thought it would because you're using it for a reference point in the past or looking at it as a point in the future. RARELY, as a society, are we conscious of our true thoughts and actions. PRESENT.


When something reoccurs it's just simply not as exciting as the first time or we seek to pull experience's from our past to confirm this, in fact would happen. WILD, but the body does keep the score even if it seems like our brain has forgotten. The shine wears off otherwise and it's important to remember the grass is green where you water it.


Along with this, we end up in this situation of 'miswanting;' how much we want and will like something in the future. For example, if we get the new job & income, we find that later on the shine wears off. We're not making enough, x person makes more than me, etc. It's been proven that no matter what we do we will always be left wanting more, despite having gotten to that place we thought would make us happy.


Social Comparison - evaluating our own salary/status/job/possessions relative to someone else's.


We are absolutely bombarded with this every time we open social media, but we will see pictures of people's cars, their nights out with friends, their boyfriend/girlfriend, marriage, new baby, house, etc. and we begin to compare our lives' to theirs. We are subjectively lowering our self-esteem in the process.


I'm going to use the situation we are all facing right now:


The world truly seems to be coming to some end timey-times - we're nearing the end of a 250 year civilization as we know it. We could see this as time that the world is burning, there's wars, trafficking & MMIW - it is stressful and taxing. Let's not negate that, but referring to that previous lens I spoke of...


I've been taught by my teachers/elders that what we have no control over can be a huge loss of energy and although it can be worrisome we could see it as time to focus on ourselves and things we have control over: YOU. Remember this, we cannot control anything or anyone else, but ourselves. Catch up on our rest, work on other things you maybe didn't have time for and get CREATIVE. Create some joy and spread it with others; I will get to that explanation shortly, but I digress.


This is Hedonic Adaptation at work, we end up getting these awesome things we've been wanting or distracting ourselves with, but with the availability of the constant stimulus we take these things for granted and do not see them for what they are as a vice or coping mechanism. I understand this can be a very hard time for us - but if we try and switch our perspective we may get a little more light out of the dark!


"Wonderful things are especially wonderful the first time they happen, but their wonderfulness wanes with repetition" - Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness.
 

These are just some of the things that were touched on in the wellbeing course, but how do we combat these feelings and create that different perspective?


1. Kindness - the act of giving to another person simply enhances our mood and social connection with another being.


I know a lot of us are stuck in the mindset that: I'm going to stop giving to others because I simply never get anything or enough back in return. While that's a valid thought, it simply will just decrease our happiness. I know that has been the case for myself. I'm very much so the type of person that is always wanting to help out wherever I can, but I also get burnt along the way.


Feelings of lack of reciprocation make me feel as though giving isn't really worth it, but that's just my expectations coming into play. If we practice kindness we will get an instant mood boost. Sometimes the simplest act of kindness can look like smiling at a stranger.


2. Experience > Material. Instead of purchasing material things - try to experience. Whether that's a walk in nature, camping, an expensive vacation, a ski trip, going for dinner. It's the act of building those memories and having something to treasure; rather than going out and purchasing something of equal material value that we will not value as highly even a month later.


"A new car sticks around to disappoint you. But a trip to Europe is over. It evaporates. It has the good sense to go away, and you are left with nothing but a wonderful memory." - Dan Gilbert

It is not always just about consuming things - it's about taking the time to experience what life has to offer. Being present.


3. Savouring - be fully present in those moments. This will allow you to take everything in and practice being grateful for that experience. You will then be able to share those feelings and experience with others - enriching their lives too.


4. Gratitude - practicing being grateful for things - writing down or saying aloud something that you are happy to have or to have experienced will create a greater sense of wellbeing.


This isn't something that only gets practiced during colonial holidays of giving thanks - it's important to recognize being grateful is stopping to smell the roses.


5. Negative Visualization - if we take the time to look at things from the perspective of 'what if this never happened' we can then in turn be happier with what we have. Brainstorming what things you value most in your life and then imagining losing those things. It invites you to look at it from the perspective of being grateful for what we have as well because we could easily not have it.


6. Sleep & Exercise - Making sure that we are getting enough rest (at least 7 hours) & at least 30 minutes of exercise a day will greatly improve our happiness levels as well as the general physical benefits!


Now that I've covered the basics of creating your own happiness from a more clinical perspective, I want to share a shamanic perspective.

 

Causes of Pleasure (Toltec teaching)


When you begin to heal you will find the lower "pains" no longer show themselves because of how you've raised your vibration. Pleasure is always an excitation that causes a relaxation & surrender. Tension & letting go. The key is allowing that pleasure to build that feeling of pleasure and then allowing the physical body to relax and let the feeling of pleasure flood your body.


Pleasure causes and promotes an increase of joy & happiness while decreasing stress, negative emotions, muscular tension, and even depression. Stimulating the para-sympathetic nervous system. Pleasure must be cultivated.


The physical body is happiest and most in homeostasis when it experiences the vitality and satisfaction of a relaxed state. "Loving being in one's own skin."


Pain causes contraction in the body and armouring via holding patterns in an attempt to lessen or numb the intensity. Pleasure does the exact opposite; it's how the body functions in its natural state. Resulting in greater levels of happiness, health, and vibration.


When a spirit determines to be excellent, it has decided that enlightenment is a possibility. When a body accepts excellence it means that immortality is possible. When the heart accepts excellence it means you understand you must become love and have no attachment to anyone else being able to perceive that. When a mind accepts excellence it means that you do not believe in anything. You have accepted your connecting link to the Great Spirit. You will not deny yourself any pleasure. However, you will not hurt others in your pursuit of pleasure.

This isn't about avoiding bad things, but transcending it - "lighten up or leave."


Below is a medicine wheel that shows the ways in which we can create pleasure in our life and where the sources are:

Causes of pleasure medicine wheel
 
  1. Self-Expression as pleasure is the ability to communicate and express your own ideas, emotions, and individuality though an action or activity that creates satisfaction. Your own self-direction & knowing

  2. Connection is the pleasure derived from contact with another person with deep rapport. It may also include connecting to nature or participating in an activity where your total attention is involved.

  3. Exploration refers to the investigation, discovery, and experience of something completely new to you. Exploration as pleasure is an adventure into a new arena of experience that infuses the body with excitement - even if you may feel a little fearful.

  4. Autonomy refers to having the will, freedom, and personal responsibility to make informed and un-coerced decisions for oneself. It is self-direction with moral independence.

  5. Ingenuity as pleasure is the ability to use your resourcefulness, initiative, and originality to create something new. The process creates excitement and joy.

  6. Creativity is the ability to bring something into existence using your imagination and often involves discovering something about yourself in the process.

  7. Attainment as pleasure it is the ability to achieve and accomplish a goal through your effort and diligence.

  8. Individuality refers to those unique characteristics that a person possesses that allows them to seek their own way, their own pursuits, and their own pleasure. They walk "to the beat of their own drum."

  9. Harmony is the synchronization of elements that creates flow and effortless movement. Pleasure is effortless if you cultivate it and you can find it in almost all activities if you seek it.

 

We have covered the causes of pleasure, but haven't covered how to cultivate it quite yet. Before I continue, here's an exercise to try:


Grab yourself a piece of paper and title it 100 Things That Give You Pleasure


Now write out 100 individual things that give you pleasure.


It could be something as little as that cup of coffee in the morning or the sunset in the evening.


It could be putting on that face mask or hopping into a warm bath after a long day.


Do you love getting into a bed with fresh linens? How about that sensual massage or the big 'O'?


The possibilities are endless, but take a few moments to see what you consider a pleasure before we move on to cultivating it!

 

Cultivating Pleasure


Here we will assess how one can cultivate said pleasure. As we go over the domains in which we can cultivate our pleasure, I would invite you too look at which domain some of your list lies in.


  1. Attraction Domain - what in your environment captures your attention and causes a feeling of pleasure? This can be as simple as looking at a photo or looking out into nature. Focusing on your breath while inhaling and exhaling. Singing a song or a good stretch. The key to the attraction domain is to know what simple thing you can do with little or no effort to cause a feeling of pleasure to move through your body. Often pleasure will travel up the body first and if you relax and exhale it will also move the pleasure into the lower body. These simple things can give you many moments of pleasure every day and will allow a consistent stream of pleasure throughout your day. The more you feel the more your body will relax and be present.

  2. Elemental Domain - looking at the wheel above, what are some of your every day actions that cause you to feel pleasure? It might be journaling, spending time with friends/family, using natural creativity, and accomplishing things (even accomplishment can be pleasure if you allow yourself to feel the satisfaction of it).

  3. Essential Domain - this encompasses what pleasure is for you. You actually create your life in a way that allows you to pursue, engage and have these pleasures in your life. Examples include: living in a nature setting, walking in nature, hobbies like painting, exercising, reading, learning, intimacy, etc.

  4. Resoluteness Domain - looking at the above 3 domains what are the top 4 most important ways you derive pleasure? You have to have these 4 in your life and you know you will make space for it. The quality of your life is better for it.

  5. Discernment Domain - is about seeing what other possible pleasures you can begin to explore and allow more pleasure in your life. Looking at the above wheel, could more creativity bring you pleasure? How about adventure and exploring new environments? Would greater self-expression promote pleasure? Does doing something you've never done before allow a possibility of pleasure?

  6. Creativity Domain - finding creative pursuits and new possible pleasures you haven't had before. Do you have secret desires? Do you have any pleasurable adventures you have been putting off? This arena is about attempting something new in order to expand your ability to feel and experience.

  7. Liberty Domain - choosing daily pleasures as part of your every day life. This means at the beginning of the day, during, and the end - you're being flexible and building a daily life of pleasure.

  8. Discipline Domain - is about the willingness to allow and develop a pleasurable lifestyle by taking the time each day to feel the body; allowing pleasure through each inhalation and exhalation and feeling the body energized by breath alone. It also means being disciplined enough to make sure you have enough pleasurable moments each day. Are you waking up and listening to what your body needs? Self-care? Alone time?


The more pleasure we let in, the more willing we are to heal and find that happiness; not momentarily, but regularly.


We give away our power when we decide it can be taken from us.



Putting the power back in your hands,


waterfalldancer




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