7 Ways To Find Happiness Through Simplicity

Find Happiness Through Simplicity

This guest post was written by Dayne, the author of TheHappySelf.com.

Happiness can be elusive when life is too complicated.

As daily commitments multiply, we find ourselves becoming conditioned to shifting between multiple tasks, creating lengthy to-do lists and juggling complicated schedules.  When we’re not overwhelmed, we may feel proud that we can keep up with it all.  It’s all part of making a living, but in the end it can stand in the way of making a life.

Does your schedule leave you time for things that bring true happiness?

These things vary for each of us, but for most people true happiness consists of spending time with loved ones and engaging in activities that reveal the richness and beauty of the world around us.

To get the most out of these activities, you must approach them from a place of stillness, peace and calm.

A busy life can be personally fulfilling, but it may leave you feeling too frazzled to achieve the stillness and peace that will allow you to connect with deep happiness and the underlying beauty of life.  You can’t just walk away from the responsibilities that fracture your time, but you can simplify your life so that your mind is calmer and more open to the hidden treasures in life.

Here are 7 ways to get started with simplifying your life and working towards a more peaceful state of mind.

  1. Question your dependence on material possessions.  Recognize the difference between things you need and things you want.  Our culture bombards us with messages about material things that will make our lives better.  The reality is that most of these things will clutter our lives without bringing true happiness.  Free yourself from the culture of excess and learn to be content with fewer possessions and greater simplicity.
  2. Think for yourself.  If you spend your life playing out a role that society or someone else defines, you’re missing out on the chance to follow your own desires.  Your inner life is diminished when you are limited by conformity.  Why give up your freedom and allow all of your decisions to be defined by what you think you “should” do?  Become a non-conformist and think for yourself, letting your passions be your guide.
  3. Rethink your commitments.  Life is full of opportunities to earn money, give service, learn new skills and make new friends.  Some of us want it all and fill up our calendars with activities and obligations.  Over-committing is the surest way to banish stillness and calm from your life.  Rushing from one activity to another leaves you with no time to slow down, observe and let things happen.  No matter how worthy you think your commitments are, rethink and prioritize them.  Keep the ones that are most important and eliminate the ones that are adding to the hectic pace of your life with little return.
  4. Create more free time.  Once you’ve balanced your commitments, find ways to increase your free time.  Eliminate time wasters and re-evaluate your chores.  If you spend hours each week cleaning house, see if you can do a little less and have more free time.  Eliminating clutter from your home will make it easier to clean.  Once you’ve created more free time, fill it with activities that develop your inner self.  Spend some time alone and spend some with the people you care about most.  Focus on calming activities.
  5. Savor the simple pleasures.  How often do you prepare a healthy and delicious meal and then savor every bite of it?  Instead of rushing through meals, barely tasting what you’re eating, take time to enjoy them.  Invest time in other simple pleasures – work in your garden, take a relaxing soak in a hot tub or bath, bike or hike through a nature preserve.  Unless you’re retired, you probably can’t do these things every day, but fitting them into your schedule even once or twice a week will have a calming effect on your life.
  6. Focus on the present moment.  When you’re over-committed, you can end up rushing from one thing to the next without enjoying or even being very conscious of the world around you.  There’s always the hope that when things slow down you’ll have time to enjoy life.  Maybe you look forward to the weekend or an annual vacation, thinking that you’ll be able to find a way to slow down.  Instead of looking to the future, learn to focus on the present moment.  Enjoy what you’re doing in the here and now.  You can find serenity in even the most mundane task if you really give it your attention and do it mindfully.
  7. Give up some control.  No matter how much we plan, we can never predict what the future will bring.  Trying to exercise too much control can just lead to frustration, in addition to frustrating the people around you.  Since you never know what the future will bring, it’s futile to try to control events.  Instead of attempting to control the outcome of events, learn to relax and enjoy the journey.  Letting go of the need to control will give you more freedom to live in the moment.  By planning less, you’ll be more open to unforeseen opportunities that come your way.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have goals, but that your focus shifts from the ends to the means.

Remember that simplicity is a process, not a destination.

For most of us, there is no escaping the inherent complexity of our lives.  However, by deciding to simplify your life and spend more time seeking true happiness, you’ve started on a road that can lead to profound changes in your life.

There is no final destination at the end of this road.

Because life is forever changing and evolving, and you are evolving along with it, you will never reach a point of perfect simplicity and endless happiness.  But each moment you spend on the path to simplicity does have the potential to bring more serenity and happiness into your life.

“If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap. If you want happiness for a day – go fishing. If you want happiness for a month – get married. If you want happiness for a year – inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime – help someone else.” – Chinese Proverb

This is a guest post written by Dayne from TheHappySelf.com, a fantastic blog about personal transformation and simple self-development. Be sure to check out his blog, or follow him on Twitter. Lastly, don’t forget to download your free ebook Living Naked here.

Photo by: EJP Photo

We Dance Together Even When We
Are Apart

We Dance Together Always

A part of you has grown in me.  And so you see, it’s you and me together forever and never apart.  Maybe in distance, but never in heart.

The Running Soundtrack

For the last several days I’ve had the melody to a song I’ve only heard once or twice repeating over and over in the back of my mind.  I didn’t even know the lyrics, but my mind kept spinning the tune anyways.  This morning when I finally got around to looking up the lyrics, I smiled from ear to ear.  Because the song is perfectly suited to be the soundtrack to the past few wild weeks of my life.

And I think that’s one of the most extraordinary functions of the human brain – it thinks for us even when we’re not consciously thinking.  How is this possible?  Well, the scientific answer – which I’m always curious about – is that our brain is a sophisticated parallel processing system capable of intuitively assessing and reacting to data that our conscious mind is never even aware of.  Tuning into and playing the running soundtrack of our lives is only a small example of our unconscious mind’s true potential.

But despite my love for science, I don’t always want or need a scientific explanation for every little thing that happens in life.  When just the right thing happens at just the right moment, I simply want to believe that it was meant to be.  And even when complications arise, I want to believe that these complications are necessary evils – necessary because they force us to learn, adapt and overcome.  Which is, I think, a big part of why we’re here in the first place.

Distracted

This afternoon I walked to a local park with my laptop to get some work done in the fresh air.  But after a short time, I was distracted by a young boy entertaining himself with nothing more than a wooden stick and his imagination.  And it brought me back to a simpler time.  You know… that time during our youth when we weren’t scared to dream without reason.  Just watching him was a soothing experience – a reminder that we, as adults, occasionally need to overcome the precincts of maturity and just let our imaginations run free.  It was a healthy distraction to say the least.

Anyway, once I became conscious of the fact that I was getting no work done, I walked back home and sat down at my computer desk.  And I suddenly realized the melody that had been spinning in my head like a broken record had finally ceased.  Satisfied by this newfound mental silence, I got to work.  But before long, the absent melody was replaced by an overbearing, mouth watering craving for chocolate cake.  And the weird thing is, I usually don’t eat sweets.

After a few moments of contemplation, I decided that going to the grocery store to get a chocolate cake was a silly idea.  “You can eat chocolate cake later,” I thought to myself.  “But right now, you need to finish your work.”  So I did just that… I got back to work.

Connected

And I had almost completely forgotten about the chocolate cake until Angel came home an hour later with a to-go box from a restaurant.  She placed the to-go box on my desk and said, “Hey sweetie, my coworkers and I went out to lunch this afternoon and my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  So I figured I’d bring the leftovers home for you to snack on.”  I opened the lid of the to-go box to find a quarter of a turkey panini and a small slice of chocolate cake.

I laughed out loud.  Certainly, there are plenty of valid explanations for this kind of synchronicity.  The most basic being that when we are tuned into our feelings (a craving for example) and truly aware of our environment (actually opening the to-go box), these synchronous coincidences will seem to occur more often.  But as I stated earlier, even though I am fascinated by the science, I sometimes prefer to live in a more magical, philosophical world.

So my explanation, which needs no substantiation from any source other than my own life experience, is that when people are connected, I mean truly connected both emotionally and intellectually, the melody to a common soundtrack is always playing in the back of our minds.  And when we choose to listen to the music, and dance, we dance together even when we are apart.

Photo by: Atilla1000

The Productive Art of Positive Thinking

The Productive Art of Positive Thinking

This guest post was written by Nea, author of Self Improvement Saga.

A common misconception I’ve heard repeated over and over is that positive thinking depends on one’s ability to “fool the mind” into believing something is better than it actually is.  For those who hold this belief, positive thinking may seem like a bunch of hogwash.  After all, who wants to waste time with self-induced brainwashing?

If positive thinking was nothing more than a ploy to pull the wool over your own eyes, I wouldn’t bother.  But it is so much more.  So I want to share some facts about the value of deliberately guiding your thoughts and the best way to do so successfully.

What positive thinking is all about

Positive thinking means choosing thoughts that feel good rather than allowing outside elements to control the caliber of our thoughts.

It’s about choosing to look at life experiences from a pleasant perspective and harnessing our power to seize the best in any circumstance.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
– Henri Matisse

What positive thinking is not

Brainwashing is defined as “a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas.”

Unlike brainwashing, having a positive outlook should never make you feel like you’re forcing yourself to believe lies or to give up ideas that are important to you.  The purpose of positive thinking is not to distract you from the truth, but to refocus your attention on beautiful truths that you may often take for granted.

How to effectively apply positive thinking

Our lives are filled with a variety of experiences, circumstances, people and things.   Some trigger pleasing thoughts and feelings within us while others set off a downward spiral of negativity.

You may be wondering how positive thinking can be implemented when faced with something that is undeniably negative.  There are two basic options:  focus elsewhere or focus differently.

1.  Focus elsewhere when you’re able
Focusing elsewhere means you take your attention from the troubling subject to something that feels better.  There are times when this is clearly the best choice.  Here’s an example:

You’re with a group of people who are discussing political hot topics.  The discussion gets extremely heated as everyone defends their views on abortion, health care, prayer in schools, gay marriage, immigration and even President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win.

The tension gets high and the words get ugly.  You feel yourself becoming extremely angry and frustrated with some of the outrageous comments, personal jabs, senseless views and put downs.

In such a situation, you may simply decide not to be a part of the conversation.  Sure, others may take offense or respond negatively if you walk away.  So what!  What’s more important?  Doing what others think you should or doing what you know is best for you?

Bottom line:  If you can’t change the subject of discussion, just leave the room and find something else to do.  Your attention to political differences is unlikely to change someone else’s mind.  So, why bother with something unnecessarily distressing when you can put your focus and energy elsewhere?

2.  Focus differently when you can’t escape the situation
Although it’s not always possible to avoid an unpleasant experience, we can decide to bring our conscious awareness to a different aspect of it.  In other words, we can focus differently.

You don’t have to focus on the clouds just because it’s a rainy day.  You can focus on what the weather was like yesterday or on the day of your wedding or at some other time when you felt it was ideal.  You can even focus on the benefits of the rain and all the purposes it serves.  The flowers, grass and trees are surely pleased to have their thirst quenched.

If you lose your hearing, you can waste your life away feeling sad about the sounds that you’re missing out on.  Or you can celebrate the heightened state of your other senses.  You can appreciate and follow in the footsteps of Ludwig Beethoven, Marlee Matlin, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller and other famous hearing impaired people who achieved great success because they didn’t let their disabilities foil their outlook on the possibilities that lay before them.  Neither positive nor negative thoughts will spontaneously restore your hearing, but one type of thought leads to healthy living, while the other encourages endless misery.

A real world example of positive thinking

Positive thinking is most effective when you choose thoughts that your mind easily accepts as reasonable.  Hearing loss is a bit extreme, so how about a more practical example for using positive thinking in everyday life?

Let’s say your car breaks down.  It is unlikely that any thought will change the fact that the car isn’t working.  So while you could try to imagine that it’s running perfectly, it isn’t a very productive practice unless you have magical genie powers.

So as you put the key in the ignition and notice that the car won’t start, you can be angry, anxious and sad as you focus on how terrible it is that your car is broken.  You can gripe about the money it will cost, the time it will take, the inconvenience it will cause.  You can go on and on like this until you’ve taken on enough stress to raise your blood pressure to stroke level.  None of these thoughts will change the situation, but they will ensure that you feel horrible.

On the other hand, you could choose to think of the sexy (or skilled or nice) mechanic who will get you back on the road.  You can think of how reliable the car has been up to this point, the games you can play on your cell phone as you wait for a tow truck, or the funny hat that the lady is wearing in the car next to you.  None of this changes the fact that the car is not working, but at least you’re choosing to think in a way that is likely to attract an unexpected opportunity rather than a massive coronary.

Conclusion

You see, positive thinking is not about fooling yourself.  It’s about changing your outlook to a different side of reality.  As an avid believer in the Law of Attraction, I apply positive thinking to almost everything.  Notice I said almost, because I have my down-in-the-dumps moments like everyone else.

So, what about you? When you’re faced with something upsetting, do you find comfort in guiding your thoughts to a more positive outlook?  If not, why not?

Nea is the author of the Self Improvement Saga, a blog where she shares her passion for writing and personal development.  Her goal is to help others manifest improvements in both their daily lives and relationships.  If you enjoyed this post then consider subscribing to her RSS feed.

Photo by: Tourist on Earth

When Fairy Tale Characters Come
To Life

Fairy Tale Characters Come To Life

This morning I was writing at my favorite coffee shop when a cute Latin woman with big, bright eyes and rosy cheeks sat down at the table across from me.  She pulled a sketch book out of her backpack and began looking around the room.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her look in my direction, study my posture, smile, and begin sketching.

We sat there next to each other for nearly three hours while she sketched and I wrote.  And as I shifted back and forth, engrossed in thought, I felt a bit self-conscious.  Because I could feel her watching me as she practiced her art.

But I wasn’t too worried because I hadn’t planned on talking to her.  After all, she seemed completely satisfied sketching in silence, and smiling at her sketches and at all of the other people who surrounded us.  I did, however, glance up a few times just to see her smile.  Because her smile expressed a kind of passion I seldom see.

All of the World’s Beauty

A few moments later another customer came into the coffee shop and let a gust of wind in the front door.  The wind blew a completed sketch right off of the Latin woman’s table and onto the floor in front of me.  The sketch was rather amazing.  It perfectly depicted a man who looked a lot like me typing on a laptop computer.

I looked up at the Latin woman and smiled.  “Who’s that sharp-looking guy?”

She giggled and rolled her eyes.  “I don’t know,” she replied.  “He’s just a fairy tale character.”  She then handed me a few of the other sketches she’d been working on.  One of them was of the barista behind the cash register and the others were of other customers in the coffee shop.

“Wow!” I exclaimed.

She sighed, smiled, and said, “Sometimes I wish that I could capture all of the world’s beauty in my sketches, but I’ve come to realize that it’s simply impossible. So capturing still-frames of beautiful moments is what I settle for.”

I told her that all of the world’s beauty actually is captured in every sketch that perceives a moment just as beautiful.  And that her sketches are truly beautiful, just like her smile… because they reveal a gift and a passion to see beauty in common places – a beauty most of us overlook.

Time Ceases

She giggled again and said, “My mother once told me that beauty occurs when time ceases to exist.  And if she’s right, then perhaps my sketches are beautiful.  Because, for me, time ceases when I try to bridge my perceptions with the moments unfolding around me.”

I chuckled aloud and then turned my laptop around so that she could read the words I had written just moments before: “Time ceases to exist when she engages in this moment, because she wants nothing more than the beauty this moment has to offer.”

“Who is she?” she asked.

“She’s just a fairy tale character others will read about… and metaphor for hope to me,” I replied with a wink.

She winked back, as if to prove that she wasn’t just a metaphor.  And before I could even smile, I suddenly sneezed.  She laughed and told me that for just a moment in mid-sneeze I looked like Tarzan, and asked if I could hold that pose so she could sketch me looking like Tarzan.

I told her that I didn’t mind holding a mid-sneeze pose for a few minutes.  Because as she sketched, I got a chance to see the look in her eyes.  You know the look I’m talking about… it’s the look when beauty is perceived, time ceases to exist, and fairy tale characters come to life.

How To Inspire Kids To Save The World

Inspire Kids

My buddy Chad, a 9th grade science teacher, called me at 7AM this morning in a bit of a panic.  “Marc,” he said. “I promised my students I’d have a guest speaker here today, but the speaker just canceled on me at the last minute.  I know you love motivating others, so is there any way you could come in this morning and be our substitute speaker?”

“What’s the topic?” I asked.

“How to save the world,” he replied with a chuckle.  “I’m kidding.  The speaker I had scheduled was from the city waste management counsel.  She was supposed to speak to the kids about the importance of recycling and conserving the environment and so forth.”

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “I don’t really have any…”

“Come on, Marc,” he insisted.  “Please.  Pretty please!  I know it would mean so much to the kids if you came in today.  And I’ve been meaning to ask you to be a guest speaker for awhile now.”

I thought about it for a second.  “Well… okay.  What time do you need me to come in?”

“Yes!  Thank you!  If you could be here at 9AM that would be awesome!”

“Uh, yeah… I’ll see you then,” I replied with a bit of uncertainty in my voice.

Crashing and Burning

I arrived promptly at 9AM.  After a short introduction by Chad, I walked up to the front of the classroom.  I didn’t have any cool props or cue cards.  In fact, I barely had enough time to think about what I was going to say.  But as 42 sets of inquiring eyes stared at me, I knew I only had one shot, just one shot to convince them that they could make a difference in this crazy world.  So I took a deep breath and said:

“What if I told you that you and your immediate family were personally contributing to catastrophic environmental issues around the world?  And what if I told you that it gets even worse?  What if I also told you that you were directly contributing to human starvation, water and energy shortages, widespread health problems, and so much more?”

The kids remained quiet but seemed irritated.  “It’s true,” I continued.  “You might not realize you’re doing these things, but you are…”  And with every word that left my lips, the kids seemed less and less interested in what I had to say.

I wasn’t lying to them.  Because I know for a fact that only a small fraction of American families live sustainable lifestyles.  But I wasn’t winning any friends or influencing a single kid with my approach.  I was actually doing the exact opposite – I was crashing and burning in a big way.

A Second Chance

And just when I started to seriously choke over my words, the fire alarm went off.  It was just a fire drill, but I was so relived because it gave me a chance to regroup and effectively organize my thoughts.  And as we walked back into the classroom, I knew I had less than thirty seconds to recapture the attention of my audience.  So I took another deep breath and said:

“How many of you have ever donated canned goods to the needy?  Wow, almost all of you!  That’s great!  Now, how many of you recycle on a regular basis?”  Everyone in the class raised a hand.  I smiled.  “Oh, this is inspiring!  And how many of you have ever held the door open for someone else behind you?”  Again, almost every kid raised a hand.

“Well, I’m really impressed,” I stated in a sincere tone.  “I’m so sorry.  Please accept my apology.  I was totally wrong about you all.  It appears that we have a whole classroom filled with go-getters who are already practiced in bettering our world.  You should be proud of yourselves.”

Smiles broke out across the classroom.

“Now let’s take a moment and think about something together,” I continued.  What if – without making much more of an effort than we’re making right now – we could join collectively as one and feed every starving person in the world, restore the environment, inspire positive change in the lives of others, and have fun in the process?  Would you do it?  Would you want to learn how?”

“Yeah!”  the kids replied collectively.

Well that too is inspiring!” I shouted.  “Because if we could convince enough people to think the way you do, together we could do all of these things and so much more… together we could save the world.”

Again, big smiles broke out across the classroom.

Conclusion

There are two methods for inspiring positive change in our youth.  The first is to ask them to look in the mirror and see the absolute worst of themselves, and hope that they have enough self-confidence to make a change.  The second is to ask them to look in the mirror and see the absolute best of themselves, which gives them the self-confidence needed to make a change.

Photo by: notsogoodphotography