happiness

Engineering happiness

Our happiness and health arises out of the choices we make and the actions we take on a daily basis. But where do our actions and choices come from?  

It all stems from your mindset.  

If you have a horror movie playing on your internal projector, you can't expect there to be a rom-com on the screen. If you want to change your life, you need to start with your thoughts.  

I've been playing with this practice lately after listening to a podcast with Tony Robbins. In it he mentioned that he recently made a choice to no longer suffer. In any moment we can choose what to focus on. If I found myself in a funk, I decided to drop into the present, to focus on what was beautiful about the moment, and put my attention there instead. As a result I could change my state in an instant.  

Happiness resides inside of us. The problem is, we often get sucked into thinking it's on the other side of some other person, place or thing. We might believe that when we achieve a certain goal, or when we have more time to focus on our hobbies, when we move to a nicer house, or when we find a perfect partner THEN we'll achieve happiness. If we don't know how to access our internal stores of bliss, we will always think that happiness is found somewhere else.  

The yoga teachings tells us that the truth of our consciousness is bliss.  

So how do you connect to your inner bliss? There are several ways we can shift our state in the moment (I've listed them below), but before we can even have that kind of control over our minds, we need the ability to direct and focus our attention.  

It was not until I started a daily meditation practice that I felt I could influence my thoughts. My morning meditation makes the difference between feeling stressed, overwhelmed and annoyed to feeling calm, patient and at ease. Without daily practices that cultivate our desired state, we're really at the whim of our external circumstances. While we can't always control what happens on the outside, we have so much leverage on our internal experience. So in order to be able to create our desired state – we need habits and routines that lead us there.  

So how do you want to feel? What internal state do you desire? Do you have routines and habits that get you there? The way we experience our lives is a result of our mindset and our actions. To empower ourselves to live with joy and happiness, we need disciplined habits that move us in that direction.  

Below are 5 ways we can engineer our happiness. We can choose not to suffer. We can live with more joy and ease. It all comes down to what we think and what we do.  

  1. At the top of the list is gratitude. There is no better strategy for shifting a negative state. Make it a daily habit and you will steep yourself in appreciation and make it your default setting. 
  2. Let go. I can't improve on this perfect list. What are you holding on to that's keeping you unhappy? 

  3. Be present. Get in your body. Feel the sensations that are present. Notice your environment. Happiness is found in the moment. Until we can learn to drop in, we won't have access to it. Hone this skill with a daily meditation practice. 

  4. Shape shift to state shift. Move your body. Get upside down. What we do with our body has a huge impact on how we feel. Move your body with breath every morning and set yourself up for a beautiful day. 

  5. Find time for joy and relaxation. I have a strict policy that I stop working after 4pm. Gone are the days where I work late into the night. In Ayurveda, the evening hours are governed by the elements of earth and water – the slowest and heaviest of all the elements. It's a time to slow down, have fun and connect with loved ones. If we don't align with this natural pull towards slowing down and relaxing, we're missing out on an opportunity to connect to bliss. 

In my 10 week course Align and Thrive, we cultivate the daily habits that create the conditions for bliss, joy and ease to naturally arise. We look at where we're sabotaging ourselves and creating unnecessary suffering. We learn how to shift our mindset and design a daily routine to create the way we want to feel. Join me and transform your day to change your life!  We start October 3rd and there's only a few spots left!

I would love to talk to you about your goals and desires for your health and happiness. I'm offering free 30 minutes strategy sessions to create an action plan to help you get there.  

Coffee and Tapas

Two months ago I gave up coffee after being a lifelong (well, since adolescence) coffee drinker. When I started studying Ayurveda I learned that coffee might not be the best thing for my fiery nature. In Ayurveda the basic principle is like increases like, and opposites balance. Adding coffee (a stimulant) to my already stimulated life is a recipe for burnout. Not to mention I like my coffee with chocolate almond milk (another stimulant), which meant I basically started the day with sugar which would guarantee I would have cravings throughout the day. So after three years of thinking about quitting, I finally did. So last week my husband showed me this NY Times article about the benefits of coffee and how there's no scientific proof that it's bad for you. But I knew, deep down, that it's not good for ME. But the article was compelling and I entertained the possibility of indulging every once in a while.

A few days later I went to the farmers market and there was the cutest little coffee truck with specialty coffees such as Nitro cold-brewed coffee and other enticing choices. I paused and read the menu, seriously considering this might be a good time for one of those "once-in-a-while" indulgences. But I hesitated. I decided I would make my rounds at the market and circle back a second time and make my choice. So a few minutes later I returned to the truck, a stood in front contemplating my decision. I'm proud to say that this time, I walked away.

Let me be clear that before I go any further I don't always make the best decisions. However, I was very proud of myself for aligning with my highest self  in that particular moment.

There's this cool word in Ayurveda that means "crimes against wisdom". Prajnaparadha is when we do something against our better judgment and do things even when we know they aren't good for us (like eating or drinking things that aren't good for us). According to Ayurveda, going against your intuition and common sense is the root of all disease, sickness and imbalance.

So why do we continue to make bad choices?

Basically there are five reasons (let me know if you can think of any others!):

  1. discipline
  2. commitment
  3. lack of structure or plan of action
  4. motivation
  5. lack of community support.

Tapas (not the Spanish word for small plate kind) is a Sanskrit word that means "fiery discipline". It's the inner motivation that keeps us focused on what is important and the fire that fuels our desire for change. It's our intense determination and burning yearning for transformation.

To tap into tapas, we have to know the "why" behind our desire to change. I gave up coffee because I want to be as healthy as I can and feel as good as possible. Our intention is everything. When we're clear about why we're doing something, we can always come back to it when we're in a crux time (like my moment in front of the coffee truck).

We all want to be happy and healthy. We are want to feel good and on purpose. When we realize that this is dependent on our ability to be disciplined to make the highest choice - in every moment, we might be inspired to cultivate some discipline.

Here's the thing. We have a zillion choices to make each day. It could get quite exhausting to ask ourselves, with every decision: "Does this bring me closer to where I want to go or take me further away? Is this choice in alignment with my highest self, or my patterned, egoic self?".

I don't know about you, but wherever I can streamline my life so I can free up brain space is incredibly valuable for me. The solution - create healthier habits. When we automatically eat better food, do our daily mindfulness practices, exercise and take care of our bodies, we are not only healthier - but we don't have to consciously make those kind of decisions - we just do them.

Now creating healthier habits - that's a whole other ballgame. The conundrum - starting a habit takes some tapas. The upside - keeping the fire of tapas burning once it's started requires much less effort.

Habit change is now the focus of my work (both personal and professional). If you want to talk to me about how to create healthier habits, I would love to hear about your highest aspirations for health and wellbeing. Set up a free 30 minute strategy phone session with me here.