I recently read an interview of a man named James Roberts who is the author of a new book entitled, Shiny Objects—Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have In Search Of Happiness We Can’t Buy. It’s a great title and I’m sure there are very few people who would disagree with what it says. But while we may agree with that statement, most people continue to try to buy happiness every single day. Not only do a large number of people spend money trying to buy stuff they don’t need or oftentimes even use, many actually go into debt in the process. Others spend money so indiscriminately they might as well throw it out of a speeding car window. So, what’s the deal with money? And what are we searching for that we think money can buy?
What did you notice when you woke up this morning and started your day? Was it beauty? If you’re anything like me, you might not see much of anything until after a cup of coffee. But once my eyes begin to focus, I attempt to make a regular habit of looking at the beauty I see all around me. Actually, I believe that seeing beauty all around us is a habit we can all develop to create a happier life.
One of the best-known quotes about happiness comes from President Abraham Lincoln. He said, “A person is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” That’s right, Lincoln, who was said to be the most respected and loved of any American President basically implied that my happiness, and your happiness, is up to us. But why don’t more of us accept that as true?
Yesterday evening Carlsbad, California began its Annual Music Festival with a free Village Music Walk. Similar to free art walks held regularly in cities around the county, the music walk was an introduction to the music to be performed at different venues over the weekend—and just like most art walks—it was absolutely free. Now, most of us know deep down that the best things in life aren’t “things.” But until we stop, think about it and then start enjoying the many free experiences that bring us joy, we might be missing out on the good right in front of us.
We are all creatures of habit. Don’t believe me? This morning Facebook came out with yet another change to its layout and the comments are: “If I was Facebook’s mom I would ground it for a month.” Or: “HATE: the new Facebook Newsfeed,” or “How do you like the new Facebook layout? So far I can’t stand it! Boooo Hiss Facebook, Boooo Hiss!” Unfortunately, while habits can make our lives easier in many cases, it is also a recipe for a life of boredom, routine and a diminished creativity and brain capacity. When you know the facts, you might consider that Facebook is doing us all a favor.
There is an old Zen story that uses the comments, “Where are you going? Don’t know,” to make its point. For those who may not know, Zen is an ancient spiritual practice related to Buddhism that frequently uses stories, parables or “koans” to explain and deepen its teachings among followers. Many koans are paradoxical and used to shock the mind into enlightenment. So, when you hear a Zen Koan for the first time, it may not make any sense at all. However, at exactly the right time and place, the truth behind it suddenly becomes clear. That’s what happened for me after a few recent events.
Most of us are drama queens—yes, even you, my macho friends! While it is pleasant to hear good news from others, most of us are more easily sucked into situations where something unusual and oftentimes dreadful occurs. Psychologists say that urge comes from an inborn biological imperative in place designed to keep us safe and constantly on the look out of danger. But for most of us, our lives are routinely safe and secure. So, instead of looking out for lions and tigers and bears, we are drawn into the dramas around us with amazing fascination. And instead of choosing something saner or more helpful, we frequently pass it on to others rather than taking the high road and doing otherwise. That’s why it is SMART to let go of your inner drama queen and instead become a queen of calm.
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” –Buddha
Do you realize how much power you possess every time you open your mouth? Or what about when you post something on Facebook or send out that email? Every communication we have with others carries with it the ability to bring a smile to someone’s face and potentially lift one’s spirit. Or, we simultaneously have the power to create fear, doubt, or even worse. While we usually can’t turn another person’s life around without their cooperation, we can, with the simple words we say or write, instantly shift the energy in a person or in a room. Let’s start remembering that the words we share with others are like a wand bestowing blessings or curses.
“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” ~E.B. White
A few weeks ago I posted about how it was “SMART to Spend Time in Nature.” That’s because there are dozens of scientific studies that now prove that not only is it healing for the body, it is also extremely good for our mental health to experience time in the great outdoors. Since writing that blog, I have since discovered that not only is it good for us physically and mentally—spending time in nature also makes us nicer and more generous people.
“Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don’t just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings,” Richard Ryan.
As some of our friends and family know, Thom and I have been renting a house for a month every summer up in Idyllwild for around 17 years. Idyllwild is a very small mountain town, (less than 2,000 permanent residents) about an hour from our home in the desert. Back in 1993 we did it for the first time because, quite frankly, we couldn’t afford any other type of vacation. It seemed like a good way to escape the desert heat and was a great bargain as well. Little did we know back then that the experience would be so rewarding, that we would still be doing it 17 years later. Now, not only do we consider it still an amazing vacation value, we are living examples of the restorative power of spending time in nature. [Read more…]