Depression

5 Science-Based Practices for Daily Happiness

Most people I've met, if not all, would try like to be happy. There are all kinds of books on happiness, courses on happiness, and documentaries on happiness. So why aren't we all just happier? If we're approaching happiness as some goal to achieve, we're almost always going to reinforce that something is wrong with us and fall short. If we see it as an unfolding process of learning, we will most likely be able to be more grateful for the good times and more graceful during the more difficult times.
Be Mindful
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Addiction

Smart Phones, Stupid Choices and Alone Together

It’s one of the most pervasive issues in our culture today that’s off and on in the media, but no one talks about in their personal lives – our relationships with our phones.

Not long ago author Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs wrote a blog that really caught my eye. He essentially made the argument that our addictive behaviors are driven more from loneliness or a longing to bond and connect than anything else.

Larry Rosen, Professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills and author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us has studied our relationships with our phones and shows that our compulsions with our phones are a result of anxiety that we are missing out on something.
However, our phones are also inherently devices that have intermittent reinforcement so in some degree they work like the addictive slot machines.

We are living in an age that is more connected than ever, but also seems to be less intimate than ever. People lives are more public and so in some way the intimacy gets diluted and therefore less potent. We are looking into each other’s less and making physical contact less.

The lonelier and less intimate we feel life is, the more we long for it, so the more we turn to our devices as an addictive path toward connection.

More and more these days people are finding themselves checking their devices during any time they are alone. If you’re eating alone you’ll check it, if you’re waiting in a checkout line, you’ll check it, if you’re walking on the way to the bathroom, you’ll check it and if you’re in the car alone, you’ll check it (even though the stats show an increase in fatality rates).

Sherry Turkle is an MIT Professor who wrote,
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compassion

Happiness Means Looking Beyond the Body and Seeing the Person

As soon as we open up our eyes in the morning, stories are running in our minds that influence the way we see people. We have preconceptions about who our wife, husband, kid, roommate or partners are. When we walk out the door, we already have ideas about who the neighbors, baristas, grocery store clerk, colleagues, and even strangers who are walking up the street are. We are wired to sum up whether someone is beautiful simply upon a surface glance of their body.

So the question is: Do we actually even see the person behind our conceptions of who they are? Most of the time the answer is a resounding no.

Mother Teresa said, "The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of not belonging."

We live on auto-pilot in our every day relationships and our ability to automatically interpret the world can lead to disconnection, dis-ease and unhappiness in life.

It's that simple.

Here is a four step practice to try out today with anyone you come in contact with to help your eyes look beyond the body and see the person. As we intentionally practice and repeat looking beyond the body, we create connection which is an essential ingredient for a more enduring happiness.

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compassion

The Secrets to Wiring a Happier Brain

One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic.

Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. The fact is, we all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that influence states of unhappiness or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain.

To help us really get to the root of all the elements necessary to make happiness a practice, I did my research. I interviewed over 20 highly respected and accomplished people in the field of happiness and well-being like Sharon Salzberg, Byron Katie, Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Dan Harris, Kelly McGonigal and so many more. I wanted to hear what their definition of happiness was and discover the practical ways we can make it come alive.

This is the online Uncovering Happiness Symposium and it's live daily right now through July 3rd.

For now, here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the Daily Now Moments that many people receive in their inbox:
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compassion

Be Mindful of Music – Science Says It’s Good for Your Heart (and Mind)

When people think of mindfulness, they often think that it means "being present," but everyone has a different idea of what you "should" be being present to. For example, I was at a friend's house the other day and some wonderful music was playing and I was "being present" to it. However, apparently he was talking to me and I wasn't paying attention to him. So he said, because he thinks of me as the mindfulness guy, "you're not being very present are you."

The fact is, I was being present, just present to what I felt was most important in that moment, the music.

As it turns out, certain music is being found to be good not only for our mental health, but also for our physical health.

Take a moment to listen to this and see what you notice:

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Depression

Watch a Time-Lapsed Video of the Northern Lights for Three Wondrous Minutes

If you've followed my writing or heard me speak you may have heard me quote Philosopher and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel saying, "Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder."

Our brains are wired toward routine and we absolutely lose our sense of wonder in every day life. Yet wonder is a natural anti-depressant.

When we pause, have a moment of mindfulness and open our senses, the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and feeling of things comes alive.

There are so many wonders all around us that can bring alive the magic of the world. I wanted to share one of them with you put out by filmmaker Alexis Coram in National Geographic who films the "auroras" of the Northern Lights.

Take 3 minutes and treat this as a mindful experiment. As you watch, what do you notice. See if you become aware of the fact that here we are sitting on a spinning planet in the middle of space. Look at this beauty, what comes alive in you?

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Addiction

10 Seconds to Less Stress

Most people I meet would like to be calmer and more focused on what matters in the moments of their lives. But the more stressed we are, the less open we are to creative ideas and the more prone we are to procrastination.

Here is a 10-second practice that I challenge you to practice a few times a day and realize its power to help you focus on what matters moment-to-moment. Inevitably, as you practice and repeat this, you'll become more of a PRO at life.
The Be a PRO Practice

P - Pause - This is the initial step that helps break the auto-pilot stress cycle.
R - Relax your body - When we're stressed, our muscles get tight which sends signals back to the brain to fight, flee or freeze, making thoughts more distracted and chaotic. Relaxing the body, does the opposite, it begins to open the mind again, making it easier to focus.
O - Open to what matters in the moment - As the body is relaxed we have a greater chance to be more aware of creative ideas or simply the ability to focus on the task at hand.

Here are 10 really good places where practicing being a PRO at life can come in handy:

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compassion

How to Practice Forgiving Yourself

Self-blame is a human dilemma. We may blame ourselves for shouting at our kids or not protecting our siblings from abusive parents when we were young, or hating ourselves for something we wish we hadn't said. But blame creates a destructive amount of continual stress that holds us back from learning from our mistakes and also uncovering a real happiness.

So, assuming many of us agree that forgiving ourselves and learning from past mistakes is important for our health and well-being, the next question is how do we actually go about forgiving ourselves?
Know that you are not the first or the last
One of the first things to do is understand that you are not the first person who has made this mistake; it has likely been made thousands if not millions of times before you by other people. I am not condoning the action, but simply letting you know that you are not alone and that many people have made this mistake in the face of common human challenges. One of the common things we do as humans is taking things personally to a fault. When we come to understand that no one is immune from being unskillful, we can begin to take it a little less personally. This helps us in the process of forgiveness.
Understand that it's in the past
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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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