Dharma arrived, as always, with little or no fanfare. And after a quick meal, I told him what was bothering me. He listened intently and then thought for a moment before replying, "Irwin, a frog's happiness does not simply happen. He has to choose it...today and every day. Tadpole, you can't let outside circumstances affect your happiness. You can remain happy and still have empathy for those who are being attacked by all the ugliness that seems rampant these days. Happiness requires work...and conscious effort. It doesn't just happen by accident. I can show you how to choose happiness. Are you ready, Little One, to begin your happiness journey?" "Yes, Sir", I replied. "I truly am." And with that, my friend and mentor laid out a plan for finding true happiness. This is the way, he told me, to start the journey off on the right foot...or flipper as the case may be.
Researchers have found that some happiness habits are easier to build and cultivate than others. Frogs, and humans too, who start their journey with more positive emotions report having greater results at the end. So that's why it's important to learn fun and easy happiness habits, first, Dharma told me. What are those easy habits to cultivate? The first one is learning to savor the good things in your life. It's as easy as paying attention to all the small, and big, things that happen in your life.. Things like, friends and family, your annual vacation trip, the concert you've been dying to attend and finally got tickets to...watching your kids at play, or spending quality time with your significant other. Reflect on these good times, if they've already happened, or wait for them with eager anticipation, if they haven't. Find joy in your life. There's plenty of it if you simply look. Another easy way to start being happier is to find activities that are aligned with your beliefs and values. Love the environment? Find a group to join that supports this work. Can't find a group to join? Start one! Plan it, and they will come. Dharma reminded me that even though we should start off with easy and fun happiness habits, we shouldn't neglect the harder ones, either. They're just as important even if they do require more work.
It makes sense that some happiness habits are easier to cultivate than others. What Dharma as well as a few scientific studies have found, is that developing and cultivating more positive feelings of self is more closely linked to true happiness than many of the other habits we can and should learn. It has been suggested, too, that adopting a healthy lifestyle can lead to more happiness, as well. Exercise improves well-being, even among those individuals who have a harder time with other happiness habits. A health enhancement program can actually alleviate depression and increase life satisfaction faster than a mindfulness program can among those who have been diagnosed with depression. Both programs can be effective in the long-term, though. Frogs, and humans, who engage in a wide variety of happiness habits seem to show the most benefits of all. Everything helps.
As Dharma began wrapping up my lesson, he asked me if I was feeling any better. I had to think about it a little but as it turns out I was, indeed, feeling much more optimistic. It's good to know that I can be in charge of my own happiness. That outside influences don't have to make me sad. Rather, they can act as a catalyst to propel me even farther along my happiness path. I can think of these negative events as a call to action. They can spur me on to do good, not only for me but for others, too.
After Dharma left my lily pad this morning, I made a few phone calls. A bunch of my friends and I are getting together this afternoon to form a plan on how we can help to combat hate, bigotry, and racism. It feels good to be doing something positive. And I don't feel sad and helpless anymore. Yippee! But first, I need to go for my morning hop. The exercise will do me good...in more ways than one.
Peace everyone. And please let love be your prevailing force.