compassion

The Simplest Happiness Tip

At the root of it all we want to feel a sense of safety and security. We want to feel a sense of belonging and that we're connected to something greater than ourselves.

In an upcoming online symposium on Uncovering Happiness that includes people like Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Dan Harris and others, you'll see and hear Byron Katie talk about an essential truth saying, "If you have something valuable, you must give it away."

This can be seen as a fairly extreme statement, but if we unpack it, what's the potential net effect?

When we give things away, we're reminding brain that we're not alone and that we're connected to others. And when we give things away to those in need, we recognize that we have the power to make a positive impact on other people's lives.

We are not islands, we are not alone and there's a sense of purpose. Feeling a sense of purpose is an essential ingredient to our well-being.

One of the simplest happiness tips around is to make giving a part of your daily life.

It doesn't necessarily come naturally to give since life is routine and many of us are often self-focused, so that becomes the routine. So we need to set a daily intention.
Just in case you are stuck on ways to give, here are 10 ways to give:

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Addiction

The Key Mindset that Can Never Lose

Life is full of ups and downs and often times because our brains our wired to pay attention to the negative more, the losses are magnified, rehashed and fertile ground for self-criticism. Maybe you fall short on a test, don't get the feedback you were expecting from a work project, end an intimate relationship, keep falling into bad habits or continue falling into bouts of stress, anxiety or depression. We see all of these as negatives in life.

But the key mindset that turns on this on it's head and catalyzes growth and happiness is the learning mindset.

This is a single thread that weaves throughout Uncovering Happiness and also the newest release MBSR Every Day: Daily Practices from the Heart of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. 

Every single experience in life contains information to help us get better and better with our intentions in life.

If you've followed my writings you know I'm a big fan of a short phrase to help us grow from the inevitable obstacles of life:
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Addiction

What Does It Mean to Let Go?

In this human life we get our share of joys and our share of sorrows. The brain is wired to hang onto the fears and sorrows more than the joys so that it guard against what's uncomfortable and keep us safe. However, in doing this we have the experience of holding onto the difficult in our lives and many of us would enjoy the ability to "let go" a little easier.

One of my favorite paths in teaching isn't through the intellect, but through poetry which can reach beyond the rational brain and more directly to the emotional brain where our decision making and "holding" lies.

Here is a poem that speaks directly to the possibility of letting go.
Pause...Take a Breath...Read...See What Arises
She let go
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
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Addiction

Learn to Forgive Others No Matter What

A little while ago I wrote a post around the importance of learning how to practice self-forgiveness. In that same vein it is essential to learn how to practice forgiveness no matter what. This may sound extreme, but let me explain. Forgiveness, as you may have heard or experienced, is simply the act of letting go of the burden that you carry from another person who has hurt you out of their own pain, ignorance or confusion. It's a practice of freeing up your energy to focus on things that incline toward your own health and well-being or the health and well-being of others.

There's a saying:

"Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get hurt or die."

The reality is holding onto resentment, literally keeps our cortisol running and makes us sick.

The wonderful thing about forgiveness is it really only takes one to tango. You only need one person to forgive - you! You don't even need the offender.

Right now, if you have someone you're holding a grudge against or are resenting, imagine the two of you tied together in a tug of war and imagine the cord being cut...you no longer have the tension of the rope, you are free!

Of course it's not often this easy and it's a practice to forgive, but what else is there to do? Hold onto the resentment so we continue to suffer? We've already been hurt, why continue to inflict further suffering on ourselves?
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”—Paul Boese
If you are open to letting go of the resentment-habit and opening up to a better future, play with the following short forgiveness practice from The Now Effect:
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compassion

Give a Power Boost to Your Gratitude Practice

In Uncovering Happiness I talk about how the #1 bad habit that most people have can be surprising - our thinking. Before we fall into procrastination, stress eating, isolating, habitually engaging our Smartphones or any other addictive behavior there's a thought. The thought is something like, I need to get away from something uncomfortable that's here or at times, I want to elate the good feeling that's here.

One of the most powerful ways I have found to change the atmosphere of the mind is a very simple gratitude practice (but with a power boost).

Now, before your eyes roll you need to know this, thoughts may be arising in your mind right now such as, "not this gratitude stuff again, I've read this in a thousand places." If you notice this thought ask yourself, what is the net effect of this thought here. Does it incline you to move toward this practice that you've heard about a thousand times or away from it?

The answer is most likely that it inclines you away from it.

If we all know it's a supportive practice, why does the mind do this? Because the brain is wired to habituate to things. This is the classic top-down processing in effect. You
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Addiction

Learn to Forgive Yourself No Matter What

One of the greatest, most unproductive and destructive mind traps many of us face is self-blame. It's as if the brain doesn't know what to do with the uncomfortable feeling that's there and it projects it inward. I've never seen a single example where self-blame is constructive. We all make mistakes in life, some greater than others. But there is a simple truth in life that is worth understanding, we all do the best we can with what we know in any given time.

It could never be any other way.

There's a simple thing to practice that can bring us back to our senses with a bit more self-compassion. This inevitably will lead to greater ease, understanding and refocus us on a more constructive path of health and well-being sooner. Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn't know before you learned it.

No matter what you've done, it doesn't serve you or anyone else to stew in self-blame. What would serve yourself and others more is     moving into a place of understanding and making peace with yourself. From this space you are better able to more constructively serve yourself and others.

In Uncovering Happiness I share a very personal story where in my twenties I was incredibly destructive to my mind and body. I would be constantly caught in a web of blaming myself for the things I would do - only to do them again.

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Anxiety

The Powerful (Happiness) Side Effects of Self-Compassion

Sometimes the most profound statements come out of children’s books. One of my favorite Dr Seuss books is Oh, The Places You'll Go! It seems to tell the story of what it is like to be human. It brings you through all the experiences in life: the triumphs, the doubts, the confusions, the depressions, the fearful moments and the moments you stare your difficulties in the face and overcome them.

Another fantastic book that goes straight to the truth of it all is We're Going on a Bear Hunt. 

If you haven't read it, it's a picture book where a family goes on a bear hunt and they keep coming across these obstacles from tall grass, to swamp, to spooky forest, etc.. and each time they say, "You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you’ve got to go through it."

This is life.

As it's said, life is full of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. Try as we might to avoid those sorrows, we often have to allow them to pass through. Optimally we do this as a training ground to build the muscle of self-compassion.

Here are some powerful anti-depressant and anti-anxiety (and happiness) side effects of Self-Compassion:
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Gratitude

How Gratitude Helps Us Uncover Happiness (Video)

In my personal practice of uncovering happiness and in my research behind the science of it, one wonderful thing I’ve found is the incredible power of gratitude. This word gets thrown around quite a because our brains are wired to automatize things, our perception of its power in everyday life can dim. But allow this to be a moment to revitalize it.

I’m going to share some brief science behind gratitude and then show you a short TED Talk that allows you to realize it in this present moment.

One of the cornerstone studies on gratutide was by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough that had a group of students spend 9 weeks recounting things that they were grateful for, another spending that time reflecting on hassles and yet another reflecting on neutral activities. The students who reflected on gratitude felt better about their life as a whole, increased optimism and had less physical complaints. They uncovered a little happiness.

Other studies have found a practice of gratitude boosts romantic relationships, supports happiness in early adolescence, and sustains positive emotions. 

In Uncovering Happiness I write about the science and practices that have been found to be natural anti-depressants. As we bring more mindfulness and compassion into our lives, gratitude
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Interviews

Living Through Life’s Challenges: An Interview with a Ninja Black Belt

Life is full of ups and downs. Yes, this is absolutely true. But the question is what can help us live through the difficulties with greater ease and even find the joy in everyday life. Mindfulness is one of those tools, but how about zen practice or ninja training? Dr. Richard Sears is full-time core faculty member of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Union Institute & University, and is the Director of the Center for Clinical Mindfulness and Meditation. He also has a fifth degree black belt in ninjitsu and once serve as a personal protective agent for the Dalai Lama. He's author of many books and most recently Mindfulness: Living Through Challenges and Enriching Your Life In This Moment.

You can see maybe why I wanted to bring him here today to talk about why mindfulness is helpful for our present day maladies, a helpful tool from Zen practice, and what we can learn from ninja training to get out of our heads and into our lives.

Elisha: Why is mindfulness so effective in working with our personal mental, emotional and physical maladies?

Richard: I begin to feel like a snake oil salesman when I talk about all the research demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness, but the key factor is awareness. By paying more attention to how
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Altruism

Train a Compassionate Brain with 21 Days of Purpose!

I've been in the midst of developing the new free e-Course 21 Days of Purpose that is meant to support a key and radically important natural anti-depressant from Uncovering Happiness - Purpose/Compassion. Creating purpose is a process of understanding your personal personal values and how to put them into action in ways that serve something greater than yourself. In developing this 21 day course and starting to go through it, really amazing things have happened for me, the primary one being that this awareness and motivation to live with purpose and compassion is often on my mind.

I love this, it's really amazing how having giving on your mind creates a feeling of empowerment, connection and happiness.

I've been developing an online symposium on Uncovering Happiness where I'm interviewing a number of different people, for example, Byron Katie, Rick Hanson, Dan Harris, Dan Siegel, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach and so many others. I'll launch this sometime in April or May (I hope).

During an interview with Byron Katie she said, "If you have something valuable, you have to give it away, you just have to."

We can allow our minds to pick that statement apart (and they'll want to) to find the holes in it, but if you just take a moment and lean into what she is saying here, where do you notice this is true?

How would you feel if you started giving a little more?

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