Archives for Gratitude


Happiness: It’s Like This…and This Too

Ajahn Chah was the spiritual teacher to many leading mindfulness teachers. He had a wonderful saying when it comes to being present in life, "It's like this." This saying always stuck with me as a great truth and a way to bring me back to the moment when my mind was spinning due to something stressful or difficult. In 2011, I realized that not only is "it like this," but my mind would quickly begin swimming again and I would then say, "ah, and this too." When I said, "and this too," it brought me back once again to being here.

However, recently I found a new, practical and powerful use for the phrase, "It's like this...and this too" that has everything to do with cultivating perspective and happiness.

It's like this...

There's nothing like the uncomfortable emotion of negative stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, shame, guilt or disgust to get the head spinning. It's natural, the brain is trying to figure out how to balance us. So it jumps to the future thinking of worst case scenarios so we can be prepared, or it ruminates on all the negative facts of the past so we can use our history to mine for optimal decisions. At best, this auto-pilot mental looping keeps us stuck and at worst exacerbates the difficulty.

In that moment, when we say, "It's like this," this moment is exactly like this, we're pausing to see the mental looping, the emotion, the physical sensation, the urge to engage in this destructive behavior. Neuroscience shows that when we note things it down-regulates the amygala or alarm center of the brain and brings activity back to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the emotional regulator.

So at that point the body starts calming down a bit, we're no longer in the throws of the mental and emotional looping and have widened the
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Four Questions to Happiness (And Video Interview with Byron Katie)

A while back I decided to try an experiment.

I interviewed over 20 top leading experts in the field of happiness to ask them what that word actually meant and in their professional experience, what are some practical ways to begin making it a reality.

This was called the Uncovering Happiness Symposium and some of the people interviewed included Sharon Salzberg, Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, Dan Harris, Kelly McGonigal, Tara Brach, Byron Katie and more. Byron Katie struggled throughout her life with deep deep depression and ultimately found a path that led her to a simple way to break free from the internal negativity and into greater states of freedom.

She defined this as happiness.

Here are the four questions to ask ourselves to help challenge compelling negative thoughts:

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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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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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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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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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Baby Steps to an Anti-Depressant Brain

Let’s keep this simple.

You may or may not have heard by now that our brain is wired to pay attention more frequently, and with great veracity, to what’s negative. This doesn't mean that the good moments in life aren't happening, we’re just not wired to pay attention to them.


Because as a human race, we’re wired to survive, not be happy.


I have a theory that in this moment in time we’re going through an evolution as a species where because of the overabundance of things pulling our attention, we’re being thrusted into growing our awareness – the kind of awareness that breeds balance, well-being and a greater sense of what matters.

So people are being turned onto mindfulness more. More spaces are offering it, more institutions are studying it and there’s greater media to
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Top 5 Myths about Mindfulness Meditation

Do you know the myths about mindfulness and what is true or false about this swelling revolution? Take a look at what I think are the top five myths about mindfulness.

Note: There are plenty more, but I thought these top the charts.

Myth #1: Mindfulness if for taking a time-out from life, quieting the mind and reducing stress.

Truth: I think this is the #1 myth out there because it’s my experience that this is how people initially experience the practice. One of the greatest entry points to mindfulness in the West is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This is a fantastic program with wonderful science behind it, but the name is just for marketing. The ultimate goal isn’t meant to be stress reduction. The goal of mindfulness and MBSR is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional and physical processes, recognize the connectedness between people and operate in the world with greater self-compassion and compassion.

However, the initial practices can often give people sense of relief from a busy mind and can then be equated with a mental break. While there’s nothing wrong with using it this way, it also minimizes the power of mindfulness.

The paradox here is when we’re able to do just be present to our minds, emotions and bodies, the stressful relationship tends to quiet down, but when we try and quiet the mind down, we often add fuel to the fire.

Myth #2: You need to carve out plenty of time in a serene “mindful” space.

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Use Your Difficult Emotions to Gain Emotional Freedom

For a number of months now hundreds of people have been taking the Basics in Mindfulness Meditation: 28 day program challenge to bring more mindfulness, self-compassion, compassion and balance into their lives. Throughout the course questions are asked that I field and one came in recently that I thought important to bring to all people as it is a seminar question of our time.

Here is the question

Hi Elisha, Thank you for this very helpful course. I notice that my thoughts start whirring around in my head when I have had an emotional encounter. I try to accept the thoughts, acknowledge it being there, then focus on breathing or the body scan but my mind races back to that emotion I experience of sadness. How can I pull myself into the moment when this happens? Will appreciate your advice.

Here is an answer

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