Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happiness Brainstorm

Photo via ehow

Realigning Our Actions
An exercise in rediscovering happiness
Part 1

I think many of us fall victim to the distorted thinking I described in my previous post.  We do things we think will make us happy in the long run, but instead make ourselves miserable in the process.  So instead, let us take a cue from what has worked in the past. 

Think about the last time you felt truly happy in your life.  Not just for a day or moment in time, but a period in your life when you felt happy and fulfilled.  Now, start making a list of all the elements of your life during that period – both big and small.  Do not self-sensor; focus on being open to all of the sensations, memories, and nuances that come to mind. Your list may seem abstract or not make sense to anyone else – this is when you know you are doing it right. The more specific you can be the better. Part of you list might look something like this:

  • Fresh air
  • Walks up the hill
  • Cooking soup
  • Cut grass smell
  • Game nights at Melissa’s
  • Writing slowly
  • Sushi lunches

Once you have really emptied your thoughts onto paper (or screen) it is time to analyze what you brainstormed.  Look beyond the surface of what you have written (perhaps you wrote, I had many friends) and question each item individually (what types of friends did I have at the time? what was it I liked about having these friends? how did they add value to my life? how did this contribute to my happiness?). 

You may discover some interesting things about what brings you happiness!  For example, when I did this exercise I realized it was not just that I had many friends, but rather that I was interacting with interesting people who brought new perspectives to my life every day.  Maybe you will find that it was not your significant other themselves that brought you happiness, but that being in that relationship brought you a sense of purpose and love.  Perhaps you will discover that you miss your fraternity days not just because of the beer pong or the parties, but because you felt a sense of belonging with your brothers and every day was an adventure.

Feel free to take this exercise as deep as you would like.  Maybe it feels right to explore many periods of happiness in your life and find common themes.  This exercise can take as little as a few minutes or as long as you are up for.

Next time I will write about how we can use the results of this brainstorming session to impact our happiness now. For today, however, just enjoy being open to the process of remembering those periods in your life that gave you such fulfillment… and most importantly, be open to the idea that you can attain that same level of satisfaction and happiness in the future. 

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