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Much of this post is excerpted from the book I’m writing:
Live Life Well
And the WHY behind the WHAT of Simple Pleasures Everyday Love (there’s more to “It’s Happy in Here” than meets the eye).
Hello & Welcome!
I'm Cindy & so very delighted
to make your online acquaintance.
People ask me all the time why — out of all of my various interests — I chose Simple Pleasures Everyday Love as the focus of my blog. And my clients want to know why, when there’s a waiting list for my services; I spend my time writing a non-monetized blog.
The answer is simple, really: Because I want to elevate my happiness.
And because I want to elevate yours too.
In fact, I want us to be the happiest people we know.
My mission is to turn our most ordinary, everyday situations into sacred celebrations. (I say mission, because it’s often easier to be a critic than a celebrator.) To create meaning & joy from the peanut butter & jellyness of daily life.
The mission includes zeroing in on (everyday) love: the definitive solution to fear.
"Fear is the cheapest room in the house...
I'd like to see you in better living conditions."
As most of you know, there was a season on my journey when my happiness plummeted into borderless despair: death of a dream, career crisis, chronic sickness & financial disaster.
I had to find a way back. To absorb the crucial lessons a broken heart teaches. To flip my perceptions to see beauty in place of smoldering ashes.
It was during that dark night of the soul I learned to employ happiness strategies (a phrase coined by Sonja Lyubomirsky) as if my life depended on it.
I became fascinated with (some say obsessed by) bridging science & spirit, understanding the physiological reasons behind spiritual practices.
Because understanding “the why” behind “the what” fortified my resolve to practice them every day. Practice is always better than theory, because it closes the gap between knowing & doing.
Now when I speak of happiness, I’m not necessarily referring to a cheerful mood or positive emotion alone, as Flourish author Martin E.P. Seligan says, they are “the rock bottom meaning of happiness,” but to “wellbeing & flourishing, engagement & meaning”.
According to Michelle Gielan, founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research “we often overestimate the impact life circumstances have on our happiness. New research shows 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted not by our external circumstance but how we process the world around us.”
You may have heard about the studies that document how the happiness levels of people who fall in love or win the lottery increase for only a year or two before reverting back to their previous levels.
It’s hard to wrap our heads around that slight, sustained increases in our happiness levels are more significant in the long run than dramatic life events. But it’s been proven that when we find small things that make us feel good & exercise them regularly, our level of happiness is greater in the end than if we win the jackpot.
Since research proves that our happiness is predicted better by the details of our everyday lives than it is by our overall life circumstances, we can actively increase our happiness by noticing & savoring the simple pleasures of life.
We have within us the capacity to manufacture the
very quality we are constantly chasing.
Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling On Happiness
Philippians 4:17 clues us in on the sure-fire strategy to develop our “muscle” of attention & amplify happiness:
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."
Simple Pleasures Everyday Love (SPEL) is a unique community of smart, funny, deep-thinking people proactive about increasing the depth & fulfillment we get from life.
It's a renewable source of things we all just seem to love: life's little joys, charmed moments, and everyday epiphanies that strike a chord.
SPEL's also a happiness-enhancing strategy, a continual reminder to notice & relish ordinary, everyday experiences. (And luscious details matter.)
Join over 2,500 SPELers for highly-classified happiness secrets here.
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This is your life.
If not now, then when?
If not you, then who?
The Nuptial Journey
(Reflections on 30 years of marriage)
Laugh Lines are Sexy
The Dalai Palma
When Nature Pulls a Fast One
A Mulligan (Life's Second Chances)
The Kindness of a Stranger
Making Uncertainty an Ally
Lovin' the Town You're With
Being Part of Someone's First
The Beauty of Imperfection
THE STORY OF A
"An Amazing Life Story..."
Words that Live On
Cindy O'Krepki , Freelance Writer
Social Media Curation & Mgmt
Content Consultation & Creation
Writing & Creativity Coaching
Copywriting | Ghostwriting
And as the famous moralist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, put it “The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere.”
In the book, Flourish, author Martin E.P. Seligan writes, “We think too much about what goes wrong & not enough about what goes right in our lives. So to overcome our brains’ natural catastrophic bent, we need to work on & practice this skill of thinking about what went well.”
So happiness is not something that happens to us. It is something we do.
Joy is a craft, a learnable, trackable skill. It’s empowering to know that happiness can be intentionally & systematically cultivated through practice.
It is our work alone to master our attention through the deliberate, conscious control of our focus rather than asking someone to do something different or some situation to change to make us feel better.
Finding joy in joyless scenarios is a conscious choice. And the more we practice, the less power we give away to others & to circumstances.
But if focusing on the good was easy, everyone would be doing it, right?
“It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”
That’s why Bono refers to joy as an act of defiance.
It’s all too easy to be swept up by the influence of that which surrounds & bombards us. Without being truly conscious of it, we spend a lot of time immersed in negativity.
So cultivating what I call unconditional happiness—a happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens—is hard (at first), but being tossed to & fro on the waves of life is harder (indefinitely). And in the long run, the rewards are inexpressibly wonderful.
It is possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis.
Yet bucking the curmudgeon trend is not always popular. Some trivialize positivity & purport pessimism as a sign of intelligence, savvy, even sophistication. But we’re not talking Pollyanna platitudes here; it’s the smart, mentally-tough & spiritually-deliberate folks who discipline their minds to see good everywhere.
There’s a large audience in the blogosphere for anyone who writes about what a struggle life is. In fact, I’ve lost readers along the way who prefer that conversation.
I understand. There’s magic in the words “Me too!” Knowing that we’re not alone, that we all face the same challenges in life is comforting. And in some ways it feels easier to struggle & say things are hard than to intentionally choose where to focus our awareness & actively participate in creating our own LIFE BUZZ.
But life is meant to be much more than just a weary slog.
So for me, it’s as important to be as honest & open about the solutions as we are the challenges. To expand the conversation from “Why are we unhappy?” to “How can we be more happy?” One helps us feel better temporarily; the other helps us be better permanently.
Our Minds on a Mission
Neuroscientists tell us that the brain receives & sifts through millions of bits of information per second to pick which to “see” & perceive.
Our minds are so powerful that we can set off the stress response just by imagining ourselves in a threatening situation or set up the relaxation response by imagining ourselves in a happy place.
How we choose to pay attention shapes our experience of the world & forecasts whether we'll languish or flourish.
“The art of seeing has to be learned.”
Our minds have a job to do. And it’s up to us to give our brains their marching orders to bypass the firewall of existential negativity.
We can learn the skills to amplify positive emotion & turn our brains into guided missiles, devoting ourselves to look for the positive aspects of every circumstance & every person.
Habit of thought, fueled by emotion & repetition, is the key to neural conditioning & sticking power.
In case you underestimate this as a valid happiness-enhancing strategy, here’s the science to back it up. When we have the intention to consciously look for everything good around us: any good thing we taste, feel, see, hear & smell activates the reticular activating system (RAS), a group of cells at the base of our brain stem responsible for sorting through an enormous amount information & bringing anything important to our attention. (This explains why we notice the make of our new car everywhere after a purchase.)
We can use this neural phenomenon to be happier.
For better or for worse, it guarantees that whatever we seek, we find. Changing what we look for, radically changes what shows up in our world. When we look for the positive, our RAS makes sure that it alerts us to the beauty & positivity all around.
When, by default (through our natural catastrophic bent), we focus on the negative, we find that too. Hence, both pessimists & optimists are right about life. It’s a question of which reality we’d rather live from.
“One of our major flaws, & causes of unhappiness, is that we
find it hard to take note of what is always around us.
We suffer because we lose sight of the value of
what is before us & yearn, often unfairly,
for the imagined attraction elsewhere.”
Alain de Botton
And when we look at the sunny side of everything, we give more opportunity for our optimism to come true. In fact, our success depends on it. Researches claim that optimizing happiness & gratitude routines automates success.
“Do you know someone who seems to always be lucky or turn anything they do into a success? The reality is that opportunities present themselves all the time to all of us, but that does not mean our brain is prepared to recognize & seize them. Scientifically speaking, our brain can limit its own potential.
Yet exciting new research shows us there are ways we can retrain our brain to see & capitalize on opportunities. … scientifically-based strategies that rewire the brain to see more potential, increase the chances of being in the 'right place at the right time,' and turn encounters & connections into a new level of professional success.”
Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
And then there are the psychoneuroimmunology (how psychological events influence immune events) benefits. When we are happier, we become healthier.
“Focus on your mind, because your
biochemistry matches your perceptions.”
Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.
“…optimism has clear benefits in the present. Hope keeps our minds at ease, lowers stress & improves physical health. This is probably the most surprising benefit of optimism. All else being equal, optimists are healthier & live longer. It is not just that healthy people are more optimistic, but optimism can enhance health. Expecting our future to be good reduces stress & anxiety, which is good for our health.”
Tali Sharot, Ph.D, The Science of Optimism
Strategy in Action
Since I know you are ALREADY DOING ENOUGH – too much, likely, this is where being a SPEL enthusiast has its advantages.
With every weekday Facebook update (& bi-monthly post), I highlight small snippets of goodness as a way for us to incline our minds toward joy & subtlety shift our energy, like a gift, rather than another obligation. In the midst of duties & deadlines, it’s provides a quick moment to stop, drop & savor.
Savoring life in all its juiciness is a technique useful to increase the intensity & duration of a positive emotion. To get the most bang for our happiness buck, so to speak.
The basic idea is simple. We reshape our cognizance by reminders, environmental cues & gratitude prompts. Repetition eventually causes the new internal disposition (positivity) to become genuine & self-activating (effortless).
Thanks to neuroscience research, we know that when we stay with a good moment for long enough—12 or more seconds— it transfers from short-term memory to long-term storage in our brains. Nothing dramatic, time-consuming or overwhelming—just about the time it takes to absorb a FB post.
By doing this throughout the day, Rick Hanson, Ph.D., author of Hardwiring Happiness, tells us, you “encourage the encoding process that will translate that ordinary positive experience into a bit of lasting neural structure & gradually weave these positive resources into the fabric of your brain.”
We all have the power to turn optimism on & off for ourselves. Moment by moment, our daily positivity adds up, & according to research, there is a tipping point.
"If you make a conscious effort to do this several times a day, it will become habit, Sonja Lyubomirsky, M.D., author of The How of Happiness says, and your optimism will build & carry over to the big stuff. "
When we pay attention to the little things that make us feel good & systematically include them in our daily routine, we also elevate our serotonin —the brain’s “happy” messenger & boost other feel-good chemicals in the brain like endorphins & dopamine.
And when we develop an extraordinary sensitivity to the beauty of life, we feel more alive & our world becomes more vivid, often breathtakingly lovely.
"When you seek beauty in all people & all things,
you will not only find it; you’ll become it."
When we focus our attention, we re-see the magic in our familiar surroundings, adding an element of awareness to our daily routine that otherwise might slip by as too ordinary for attention. Little things that taste good, smell good, or delight the senses like a sunset, a spear of asparagus, the smell of fresh rosemary.
"There are two ways to live: you can live as if
nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle."
It’s the mindfulness practice of letting ourselves be enchanted in continuous small ways that slowly rewires our brains until patterns of happiness become habitual. (The fancy pants term for this is Neuro-Linguistic Programming).
“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”
Henry Ward Beecher
Thanks to our trusty RAS, we can green up our grass & make real life all the rage.
Where joy begets joy.
And living intentional lives of love begets love.
The more you love, for the fewest of reasons, the more reasons there'll be.
You know, life, another, yourself, people, mornings, French toast, sunshine, rain... everything.
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It's Happy in Here (TM) (Series) | How to Be Happy: 22 Tips to Everyday Bliss by Cindy O'Krepki Published by Words That Live On, LLC © 2012-2014 All Rights Reserved.
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