By Marci Shimoff
"Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness;
it is generally the by-product of other activities"- Aldous Huxley
"How can I be happy when the economy is tanking?" It's a question I hear a lot lately. It seems that as the financial picture becomes more depressed, so do we. That's why now, more than ever, we need to learn to be happy from the inside out - no matter what's going on in our lives.
What would it take to make you happy? A fulfilling career? A big bank account? The perfect mate?
What if it didn't take anything to make you happy?
Well, it's possible.
Doing the research for my book, Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy From the Inside Out, I interviewed scores of scientists, as well as 100 unconditionally happy people. And I discovered a way to experience a state of inner peace and well-being that isn't dependent on external circumstances.
When you're Happy for No Reason, you don't need to manipulate the world around you to make yourself happy. You bring happiness to your everyday experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them.
Here are a few strategies you can use to become happier - and stay that way:
1. People who are Happy for No Reason incline their minds toward joy.
Have you noticed that your mind tends to register the negative events in your life more than the positive? If you get 10 compliments in a day and one criticism, what do you remember? For most people, it's the criticism. Scientists call this "negativity bias" - primitive survival wiring that causes us to pay more attention to the negative than the positive.
To reverse this bias, get into the habit of consciously registering the positive around you: the sun on your skin, the taste of a favorite food, a smile or kind word from a co-worker or friend. Then take a moment to savor it deeply and feel it. Make it more than a brief mental observation. Spend 20 seconds soaking up the happiness you feel.
2. People who are Happy for No Reason trust in a friendly universe.
Happy people believe that this is a friendly universe. When things don't seem to be going their way, instead of feeling like a victim, they look for the lesson and the gift in the situation.
Try it: The next time you face a challenge, take a moment to reflect silently, asking yourself, "If this were happening for a higher purpose, what would it be?"
3. People who are Happy for No Reason let love lead in their life.
One way to power up your heart's flow is by conveying a feeling of loving kindness to your friends and family, as well as strangers you pass on the street.
When you're waiting for the elevator, stuck in a checkout line, or caught in traffic, send a silent wish to the people you see for their happiness and health. Simply wishing others well switches on the "pump" in your own heart that generates a strong current of happiness.
4. People who are Happy for No Reason make the cells in their body happy.
Your brain produces a veritable pharmacopeia of natural happiness-enhancing neurochemicals - endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine - just waiting to be released to every organ and cell in your body. The way you eat, move, and rest, and even your facial expression, can shift the balance of your body's feel-good chemicals in your favor.
To dispense some extra Joy Juice - smile. Scientists have discovered that smiling decreases stress hormones and boosts happiness chemicals, which increase the body's T-cells, reduce pain, and enhance relaxation. You may not feel like it, but smiling - even artificially to begin with - starts the ball rolling. It will turn into a real smile in short order.
5. People who are Happy for No Reason surround themselves with support.
We catch the emotions of those around us just like we catch their colds. It's called emotional contagion. So it's important to make wise choices about the company you keep.
Establish appropriate boundaries with emotional bullies and "happiness vampires" who suck the life out of you. Develop your happiness "dream team" - a mastermind or support group you meet with regularly to keep you steadily on the happiness path.
"Happily ever after" isn't just for fairy tales or the lucky few. Imagine experiencing inner peace and well-being as the backdrop for everything else in your life. When you're Happy for No Reason, it's not that your life always looks perfect - it's that however it looks, you're still happy!
[Ed. Note: Marci Shimoff is the author of the New York Times bestseller Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out, a revolutionary approach to experiencing deep and lasting happiness. As the woman's face of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and a featured teacher in The Secret, Marci is an authority on success, happiness, and the law of attraction. To order Happy for No Reason, newly released in paperback, and receive free bonus gifts, go to www.happyfornoreason.com/home.asp.
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