Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peace On Earth

Snowy christmas trees
Originally uploaded by xtremepeaks
For a moment, stop thinking about shopping, baking, decorating, rushing, finishing up work projects, sending out cards, or attending parties. For a moment, put down your pen, your phone, your credit card, and dwell on peace. Whatever peace means to you, close your eyes and think about it, visualize it. Will you do that now?

Today translate those thoughts and the feelings behind them into all of your interactions and spoken words. Make peace the theme for your day. Isn't that all we can do?

In a world that is broken by war, violence, sadness, and hatred, all you can do is bring peace to your own day. One person at a time.

One of my favorite songs (sung at nearly every Unity church) is Let There Be Peace On Earth by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller. Unity has chaned the lyrics slightly, but I like their version very much.

Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.

With God as our father,
Brothers all are we.
Let us walk with our brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now;
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow:

To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Wishing you a peaceful and joyous Christmas and holiday season.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Happiness Pie

Spread Happiness
Originally uploaded by beforethecoffee
Stop reading this right now, and ask yourself, "Are you happy?" If not, why are you unhappy? If so, to what do you attribute your happiness? For most people, happiness or unhappiness hinges on something outside of us -- how we look, how much money we have, what kind of relationship we are in, our job, our boss, our stuff, our power. Is that you?

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychologist who has spent the majority of her research career studying happiness and whether a person's happiness can be measurably increased. She's even written a book about it called The How of Happiness. If you look at your state of happiness as a pie, fifty percent of the happiness pie is set by your genes. Some people are just predisposed to being happier than others. As for the other half, just ten percent of one's happiness can be attributed to something outside of us. Getting married, having wealth, buying a new car, getting a facelift, buying a new dress. All of these things bring us a temporary boost in happiness, but then we fall back to our "set point." It's a wonder that we spend 99% of our effort on pursuits that affect our happiness by just ten percent. And that boost doesn't even last very long. Yet we keep spinning our wheels chasing stuff and people and money.

Ah, but there is that remaining forty percent. Here's what Dr. Luybomirsky suggests about the rest of the pie. "My colleagues and I believe that sustainable increases in happiness are possible through the practice of intentional cognitive, motivational, and behavioral activities that are feasible to deploy but require daily and concerted effort and commitment."

So what are these magical activities? Well, they are things your mom or grandmother probably told you. You've seen them on bumper stickers, posters with furry kittens, and refrigerator magnets. You've probably blown them off as trite and cliche, but you are wrong. Done regularly and with intention, research has proven that these activities can raise your level of happiness by forty percent.

First, count your blessings. Yep, regularly set aside time to express gratitude through reflection, a journal, or letter writing.

Second, think positively. Focus your thoughts on happy times and goals for the future.

Third, practice kindness. Commit to acts of kindness and altruism on a regular basis.

Dr. Luybomirsky recommends that you mix things up a bit to keep it interesting. Don't practice the exact same thoughts or activities in the same way every day. Otherwise you'll get bored and the work will become meaningless. But do one of these activities every single day.

If you find yourself sinking into a bad mood or having negative thoughts, in your mind scream, "STOP". Force yourself to shift to positive memories or reflection. Reach out to someone else and be kind to them. Write down a list of all of the things in life for which you are grateful. Then enjoy a big slice of happiness pie!