The Science of Happiness

 When Sadness Is The Leitmotif

The last post was barely published before my heart was assaulted by The Sadness within several friends going through rough times.  Two have died within the last week, another remains on a ventilator after a heart valve replacement surgery, and another remains in a labyrinth of sadness, going on fifty years now.  Yes, there have been some light-hearted times but, even then, the specter of sadness hovered and infused everyone nearby with the anticipation of its imminent descent to dominance once again.  It was during our last 1 – 2 hour visit that I began to question one of the key premises of the last post:  that we all want to be happy and that we have the means to be happy, or at the very least, maximize what we want and minimize what we don’t want.  I had to question this because I cannot remember ever being this closely present with so much profound sadness.  This person absolutely believed that the Brain ruled thoughts and behaviors and that thoughts and behaviors could not change the Brain, and I think the exact opposite.  Maybe I’m being too blithe, or maybe too cryptic about just ‘maximize what we want and minimize what we don’t want’.  Maybe I need to examine this a bit more closely. Can I really influence how happy I am?  This sounds like an adventure. I need to make a plan.

An Audacious Plan                                    WHAT?

Step One is to  know what I want.  This is not a ‘wishing’ exercise. This is a ‘heart hunkering’ exercise. I realized that ‘happiness’ was not appropriate for me, but ‘peace, peaceful, and peacefulness’ are.  Step Two was to identify something in my life that is crowding peacefulness.  Something that, if it were removed, could significantly increase my peacefulness. Something in the equation needs to change. It took a good day or so to do the research and introspection but all signs pointed to Habitual Behaviors as That which, typically, needs to change. This sounds reasonable.  After all, if we keep doing the same thing the same way, then we’re bound to get the same results.  Personally, confronting Habitual Behaviors ranks right up there with poking myself in the eye with a stick for fun.  And it really takes fortitude, effort, and joyful perseverance, and it’s still worth it.  And so I apologize for implying that ‘maximizing what we want and minimizing what we don’t want’ is anything except hard work.  Step Three is to identify which 1 or 2 or 3 habitual behaviors to change. Not to imply that there are ONLY 3 I might change but, rather, that 3 is about what I can handle at any one time.  This is an IMPORTANT concept because when we eliminate something from our routine (habits) something has to replace it – for me, something that increases my peace.  Step Four is to implement the Plan. So far, very good. In fact, I’m shocked.  Yes, there have been times when I’ve found myself taking some very deep breaths to get through the urge to grab onto one of those habitual behaviors, but it’s best to practice a lot, right away, to start changing the equation. And we keep on practicing.

Neuroplasticity:  The Brain’s ability to change as a result of experience; re-organizing and building new neuronal pathways throughout life.

This link is to a 2 minute Youtube video explaining Neuroplasticity.  It’s a whole field of Science, Not that Science knows everything though.  It behooves us to always acknowledge that we might, even, be mistaken.  The Good News is that there is a lot of data indicating how much we can change.

The Social Science and The Science of Happiness

The link here is from my other favorite website www.gratefulness.org, and it’s of a social experiment you may have seen.  If you have, then spend some time with Gratefulness, this has also been shown to increase peace and happiness.   This other link is to an article from the New York Times: More Mindfulness, Less Meditation by Tony Schwartz.  I rarely use ‘Mindful’ references from the popular media sources because the various nuances of Skillful Mindfulness is rarely communicated.  This said, this article is Terrific!  Maybe I’ll even put on the “Resources” page because it’s something I think is Very Worthy of going back to time and again. “The real challenge isn’t what we’re able to do with our eyes closed. It’s to be more self-aware in the crucible of our everyday lives, and to behave better as a result. That’s mindfulness in action.”

So Why Is This Important Again?                                           The Power of The Mind

The ‘Masters’ tell us that if we can skillfully look at ourselves objectively, then we’ve done 50% of the work of living a good life.  This Step by Step Process is a tool for developing the skillfulness needed to really live well, with authenticity.  These are the skills that serve well when facing the obstacles of Life.  Be Audacious. Take that chance and see what your life might be like if you stop doing what you’re doing and do something better instead.  Be generous with considering your ‘heart hunkering want’ you want.  Extra stuff related to ‘what we want’ in the “Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Bad For Our Health”.   There’s a lot here, I know.  Take what’s helpful, leave what’s not.  And for one more bit of encouragement:

I wish you a year of peace, wholeheartedness, increased commitment, strengthening community, shared laughter, new adventures, continual reward, accelerated compassion, faith, and gratitude.  Via “Mr Moses” at www.Gratefulness.org

 

 

 

 

Sgt Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg