Happiness Hacks: Compassion

“Happiness Hacks”  are quick and easy ways, based on scientific research, to lift your mood. We are compiling them into a book, but want to share them here with you.

Compassion makes you feel better.  I saw this first hand when I worked in an outpatient program with people diagnosed with severe psychiatric disorders – schizophrenia, manic depressive disorder and major depression.  Many had been hospitalized more than once.

My goal was to help patients manage their illness, so they could stay out of the hospital  and live a more normal life. Besides many of the things the program offered to help them, including medication, I believed if I could help them be happier, have more positives in their lives, some of the stressors they felt would be offset and help them stay well.

Acts of Kindness by Peggy

I had read a research project using compassion exercises and decided to try it. It worked well in the research and I hoped it worked for the patients. Here’s what I did:

Week 1: I asked the patients to spend an hour being really good to themselves, something to pamper themselves. It didn’t matter what they chose as long as they personally enjoyed it.  When they shared everyone expressed liking their experiences and felt happy they participated.

Week 2: The patients were to take the same amount of time – an hour – and do something nice for somebody else, something to brighten someone else’s day.  It didn’t matter who they chose or what they did as long as it was something kind and giving.  When they shared this experience they were even happier!  All reported they felt better doing something nice for somebody else for an hour than doing something for themselves.

Caring for others, having compassion, can make you happier. You don’t have to wait weeks between.  Do something nice for yourself for an hour one day.  The next day do something nice for another person.  It doesn’t even have to be for an hour.  Try it and see for yourself.  And let us know how it goes.

Compassion Hack

According to brain science Buddhist monks are some of the happiest people in the  world.  They are don’t leave their monasteries and do things for others, but meditate on compassion.  Research shows compassion meditation changes the brain and makes it happier!

Don’t have an hour to do something nice for someone else?  Spend 10 – 20 minutes and meditate on compassion . . . Remember – It’s a hack NOT a substitution for the real thing.

 (PW)

Judy’s “Psycho-Logical” Mind – How to live in the present moment

I always smile when people tell me they want to figure out how to live in the present moment.  My response is – it’s impossible not to live in the present moment, the present is all there is . . . this very nano-second in time.   

Full Disclosure

I’m simultaneously blessed and cursed.  I remember very little of my past (including yesterday) and have difficulty thinking about the future. I have to concentrate to plan ahead, only have goals if they have been imposed and my sense of time is . . . if it weren’t for the sun or the clock I’d have no sense of time . . .

My brain doesn’t “think” whole thoughts but rather gathers impressions, patterns, concepts.  When whole thoughts, words, come out of my mouth (or the computer keyboard) it’s the first time I’ve heard them.

It’s not that I practice living in the present moment . . . it’s simply how my brain is hard-wired.  If your brain is similarly hard-wired you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If your brain is wired differently you may be goal-oriented, remember details about your childhood, even be prone to anxiety and stymied about what I’m trying to describe.

Why it’s called “peace of MIND”

It’s our THINKING that focuses on the past or the future.  The measure of our peace of MIND is determined by how much we are able to focus our thinking in the present.

That’s largely why meditation, reading, sewing, exercise, painting . . . doing anything that captures your attention as you experience it creates the “flow” where past and future are not in your thoughts.

 Every time we think “should have”, “could have”, or “would have” we are THINKING about past experience. Every time we become anxious or fearful we are THINKING about a future, which may or may not happen. 

Maybe your reaction is . . .  that doesn’t make sense, for someone who spent decades as a psychotherapist analyzing, dissecting, bisecting life’s experiences, expectations and beliefs.   

“One hours reflection is worth 70 years of pious worship”

Because we are a composite of all our past choices and experiences, thinking, reflecting on the past is important IF our focus is to learn and grow.  Reflection about our past or future, without learning, is not usually helpful when we stay stuck in  “shoulds”, “coulds”, “woulds” or “what if’s”.

Irrespective of what happened yesterday or last year and what may or may not happen tomorrow, the present moment is all you have, however, your brain is wired. 

Reflect on that.

How to Be Mindful While Eating Chocolate (Parenthetically Speaking)

Chocolate Meditation by Peggy

“Mindful eating is eating with intention, attention and awareness. The purpose of eating chocolate is pleasure. So when you are eating what you love, give it your full attention and love what you eat.” 

  1. Become aware of any feelings of guilt. (If you dwell on guilt when it comes to chocolate please skip this meditation and see a therapist).  
  2. Sit down to savor your chocolate choice without distractions.
  3. As you unwrap the chocolate, listen to the sounds and notice the aroma. (If you are an experienced meditator, buy a bag of unwrapped chocolate to go directly to the heart of the meditation)
  4. Take a small bite, then pause. Become aware of the textures and flavors on your tongue. (After the small bite, eat  the entire bag and focus on the subtle differences between gourmet and gourmond).
  5. As you begin to chew, notice how the flavors, textures and aromas change.
  6. Notice pleasure.
  7. When you have fully experienced your bite, swallow, then pause to notice how long the flavor lingers. (If you’ve already swallowed in step #4 return to step #1.)
  8. Slowly repeat steps #4 through #7 until your treat is finished.
  9. (Next,  make a batch of homemade dark chocolate for tomorrow – for optimal results meditate every day.)

Peta, a Green Global Trekker, shared her easy recipe for healthy chocolate.
www.greenglobaltrek.com

“Add just enough coconut oil to get the cacao to being liquid. Approximately 2 tablespoons of oil to each cup of cacao, but as with the maple syrup it’s definitely trial and error and according to taste with the maple syrup. Can you tell I’m not the measuring type?”
  1. Raw cacao powder mixed with organic coconut oil. (approximately 2 tablespoons of oil to each cup of cacao)
  2. Add a pinch of salt.
  3. Add organic honey or maple syrup, to taste.
  4. Use freezer trays – put an almond, a piece of date, a cranberry, whatever you fancy, in your chocolate, then spread the liquid mix over the top.
  5. Freeze and pop chocolates out, “eat right away as they do melt quickly.”

Any questions . . . ask PETA!

www.greenglobaltrek.com

Peta and Ben in Goa, India . Check out their travels.  It’s a great blog

Ben and “not Peta”

Peta Kaplan

Peta was born in South Africa and Ben was born in France. After twenty plus years living in the U.S., when their four sons finished high school and left home for college, they quit their jobs, sold most of their possessions and launched Green Global Trek adventure.

Peta is a painter, yogini and animal activist.  Ben is a strategist, personal and corporate “trajectory consultant” and sculptor.  Both are both committed environmentalists and increasingly focused on discovering solutions and advocating for climate adaptation.

FAITHfully Yours – Reflect on this

One hour’s reflection is preferable to seventy years of pious worship

Baha’u’llah, Baha’i World Faith

Refection, Woofer Sitting Pretty by judy

A Morsel of Baha’i

Baha’is follow the teachings of Baha’u’llah, (the Glory of God) who proclaimed the Baha’i Faith during the middle of the 19th Century, and who taught world peace, the oneness of all humanity and the essential unity of all religions.

http://bahaiteachings.org/bahai-faith

www.bahai.org/

During the month of November, Baha’i Blogging is hosting a post-a-day (or so) something related to or inspired by Baha’i Faith.  Because so many of you follow both this blog and CATNIPblog Peggy & I will post our “dailies” here and Sunday “retrospectives” on CATNIPblog.com

the hashtag #bahaiblogging

Amusingly Mindful Meditative Amusement – with Stroppy

I fall asleep when I try to meditate. Doesn’t matter what type of meditation, I fall asleep.  So I’m now practicing my own form: “Meditative Amusement” (or should I call it “Amusing Meditation” or “Mindful Amusement”?).    

Focusing on amusing myself matches the conventional definition of meditation* (AND makes me smile which is therapeutic in itself), don’t you think? 

Here’s what led me to Amusing Meditation:   Jacqui Murray who has an excellent writing blog – Word Dreams (among many other blogs) introduced me to Esther Newton, a British author, who has a weekly writing challenge . . . 

This week’s challenge is to write a 20-word story, using the words, ‘fairy’, ‘tomato’, ‘stroppy’, ‘nuzzling’ and ‘astronaut’

alien Stroppy

alien Stroppy by j

My 20-word story:

Nuzzling the alien Stroppy, the lonely astronaut watched the tomato-earth rise. Stroppy comforted him. It’s no fairy-tale in space.

Try mindfully amusing yourself – having your own Stroppy is optional.

*”A practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stresspromote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth.”