Why you can’t find happiness

Why you can’t find happiness

Published on 28 November 2013

How Self Doubt Serves Us

Happiness is trending right now. It seems every four minutes someone publishes a blog post, article, or book about how to find happiness. The problem is that happiness cannot be found. It must be created.

The “find/discover” language used when discussing happiness is a result of the question social scientists often ask: “what are we all searching/looking for in life?” Thus we give birth to the notion that happiness can be found, stumbled upon the way in which one discovers a quaint new café. It’s a sophism that allows marketers to liken happiness to their products. Coca-Cola’s “open happiness” campaign and the commonly used “happiness in a cup” for coffees and teas are just two explicit examples.

As long as we keep thinking and talking about happiness as something that the lucky amongst us have found—and those that haven’t just need to look harder—the epidemic of consumerism, in terms of food and materials, will only continue to rise. People will continue to purchase products with the subconscious idea that the products will carry them closer to finding happiness. I see that as a real problem, and so I offer a new way of conceptualising happiness as a solution: create it.

Since many of us don’t grow things or craft things in our daily lives, we often forget about our ability to create. If we want tomatoes, what do we do? We don’t plant them (most of us at least), instead we go to the grocery store to buy them. That mentality permeates our thinking across the brain so that whenever the question “What do I want?” is asked, the sequential question becomes “And where can I get it?” Thus, as a culture we need a paradigm shift towards embracing ourselves as creators.

Creating happiness is quite simple. Since myriad research demonstrates that gratitude is a keystone of happiness (there is a separate article focused just on this at the end of the book), start cultivating contentment by growing a garden of gratitude. In every moment that you feel fear or frustration, make a mental list of three things for which to be grateful. This allows bliss to blossom from within. Like all gardens, they need to be watered daily for the seeds of happiness to grow and thrive.

Secondly, change the way you vocalise negativity. Anytime I am experiencing a less than ideal situation—getting in a fender bender, for example—instead of cursing, I’ve taken to saying, “Oh Joy!” This reminds me that no matter what dramas I am experiencing, I still have thousands of reasons to be thankful. Drinking a juicy cup of Oh Joy daily reminds me that I must create and nurture happiness internally, because there’s nothing to be found out there. Internal creates external so if I want a happy life, I must create happiness inside my mind.

Regardless of what happens in life, we get to decide what meaning to ascribe to it. Thus, you create the whole of your reality and you can change any experience by changing what you make it mean. I encourage you to find the meanings that make you feel the way you want to feel. For most of us, that’s joyful. Beginning with awareness of appreciation is a great place to start.

Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the most effective ways of counteracting your brain’s natural negativity bias, re-training it to focus on what’s good. I call it looking for the love instead of looking for the lack. I invite you to take time each day to look for the good, and to never let another week pass without recounting what you’re most grateful for. I know some days this may be a more challenging exercise than on other days, but I guarantee it’s worthwhile.

Continuous usage of a gratitude journal sets up a permanent pattern in your brain so that when you encounter a challenge, you automatically look for the blessing. You can find a gratitude journal here.

What can you be grateful for? When you look for that, you find it.

Author

Divya Darling

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Five Habits Holding You Back From Being Even More Brilliant

Five Habits Holding You Back From Being Even More Brilliant

Published on 17 jan 2014

Five Habits Holding You Back From Being Even More Brilliant

Hi! I’m Divya Darling, Brain Trainer at the Intrinsic Brilliance Institute and I’d love to share with you five unhealthy habits even brilliant people have. Awareness is the first step towards taking new action and so my hope is that by making you aware of these habits you will learn something valuable that will assist you in taking new action. When you change these habits you’ll find yourself more content and living in line with your ideal.

*****

#1: You don’t look for the good in every occurrence.

Looking for the good is a healthy habit to build and like any other strength, it gets better with practice. Looking for the good means focusing on what you have, not what you don’t – what’s right instead of what’s wrong. You can train your brain to look for the good by practicing gratitude every day. The commitment to keeping a gratitude journal helped me learn how to look for the good. Keeping a gratitude journal is a life changing habit because over time it induces a permanent paradigm shift toward seeing the good without having to look very hard.

I rarely used to look for the good, and because of that I didn’t always see it. I wasn’t a glass-half-empty perspective holder, but rather the glass is there and it has some water in it…I considered myself a realist back then. Regardless of what label you choose to identify with, looking for the good is compatible with them all. If you look closely enough, you can always find things to be grateful for, regardless of context. It may take some time if you are new to the practice, but it’s a mistake to not invest that time if you want to lead a life of greater joy and fulfillment.

#2: You don’t regulate your psychology with your physiology.

The brilliance of our brains and bodies is the continuous feedback loop they share with each other. Just as we can change how our bodies appear by the emotions we’re experiencing (smiling when happy, frowning when sad) the opposite holds true.

A University of Kansas experiment found that when participants were smiling in any form (genuine, artificial, and when chopsticks were used to prop participants mouths open into a forced grin) they had lower heart rates when performing stressful tasks.

At the University of Cardiff researchers gave two groups of women questionnaires about their depression and anxiety. One group had Botox and physically couldn’t frown and the other group did not. Even when controlling for perception in attractiveness so that was not a variable that could interfere, the Botox group reported significantly lower depression and anxiety.

Research from Harvard Business School demonstrates that we can feel more confident and capable just by spending two minutes standing in a power pose (think Wonder Woman: feet hip width apart and hands on hips) because it significantly reduces our cortisol levels and increases our testosterone levels.

If you’re feeling insecure, it affects your physiology by making you want to hunch your shoulders and make yourself smaller. It’s a mistake to allow yourself to do that because that just continues to make you feel unsure of yourself, so you want to interrupt that pattern by changing your posture and facial expression. Because you can actually make yourself feel happier by fake smiling when you’re sad, or stressed, it’s a mistake not to, presuming that you actually want to feel good.

#3: You “should” on yourself.

Why should (or shouldn’t) you do anything? And according to whom? I hear people say this word so often that I can’t help but wonder about the thought patterns it reinforces in their brains.

“Should” happens sometimes. I will admit that I catch myself saying it occasionally and when I do, I stop to correct myself. If it doesn’t hold true when I replace “I should…” with “I’d love to…” I realise that it’s not my own true desire and I’ve let myself be compromised by someone else’s ideal. Since I’d much rather act in accordance with my ideal instead of society’s, my family’s, my partner’s, the media’s, etc., I don’t say it unless it works with I’d love to. Example: if I should go to the beach today = I’d love to go to the beach today, then it’s fine. If not, reconsider what it is you really would love to do.

No one deserves to be should on. Life is too short for that. Do what you love.

#4: You spend more time thinking (especially about your shortcomings) than doing.

My brilliant clients will often say that they can’t do or have X, Y, or Z that they want because they need to learn or achieve A, B, C, and D first. At first I thought it made perfect sense, but then I realised the list never seem to end. After they learned those things they decided they needed to know L, M, N, O, P too, and all of these things they need to know before they could take action.

Now I don’t doubt one of the reasons why clients like that flock to me is that for years I thought that I couldn’t do what I most wanted to do until I learned all there is to know about the brain. A bit ambitious of me, huh? No wonder I so often felt overwhelmed and like my dreams were impossibilities.

The truth is that we’ll never be able to learn absolutely everything that we want to study, but we can’t let that hold us back from taking action. When you are so focused on all that you don’t know and what you don’t have, you lose sight of how much you can offer already. Don’t sacrifice your strengths by focusing exclusively on your shortcomings. That’s a terrible mistake to make.

Spend less time thinking and more time doing – that’s the trick. Just keep taking action and small steps eventually turn into big strides.

What’s one action that feels achievable to you right now? Do that.

#5: You are too concerned with being reasonable.

If you’re anything like most of the brilliant people I know, you’re so absorbed with being rational and reasonable that you don’t permit yourself to dream big as big as you can. I’m talking about entertaining those wild and wonderful wouldn’t-it-be-great-if type of dreams that you have in your heart, but that you don’t dare give voice to lest people think that you’ve lost your marbles.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Be unreasonable in your dreams. Dreams like: wouldn’t it be great if we could create a car that runs on poop? How awesome would it be to carry computers in our pockets? I’d love to turn a light on by clapping. Wouldn’t it be lovely to live in a world where mental illness was not stigmatised? Those are the dreams we need to move our world forward.

Quit making the mistake of being so darn reasonable in your thinking and dream bigger. Make your dreams as unreasonable as you can.

*****

Change these habits and your life will change for the better. By learning to look for the good, regulating your emotions with your physiology, removing should from your thoughts, thinking less and doing more, and being more unreasonable you can create a more radiant life than you had previously been able to imagine.

Author

Divya Darling

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Workshop with Words

Workshop with Words

Published on 02 april 2014

Workshop with Words

Last night I attended a Workshop with Words with one of my favorite local wordsmiths: Bravo Child. The workshop was directed towards artists with an interest in poetry, specifically spoken word. I’ve been entertaining the thought of creating and practicing a few spoken word performances pieces after I found myself writing a poem about perfectionism on a plane recently. So I went along, eager to learn as much as I can from a man in pink and orange glasses who has strung words together so beautifully they make my eyes bleed saline.

As with nearly everything Bravo creates, the workshop was focused on playing with words and learning how to have fun with language. In one exercise, we went back and forth and co-wrote a piece to practice improving with what someone else feeds you. He said the piece my partner and I came up with is awesome because we really matched each other’s style and tone.

Be. Believe. Be Live. Be You

Take the time to know yourself

Connect with the voice inside – no, not the critical one – the kind one

Love yourself, heal yourself, trust yourself, and find the power within yourself

Cause if you don’t, it won’t…

Challenge all that you are, fight for the courage, you have in your heart.

Heart. Your heart is a work of art. I love art.

Be. Believe. Be Love. Be You.

;)

Poetic, huh?  Well, even if the language isn’t as artistic as it could be, I reckon it’s brilliant for a first official attempt at a spoken word piece.

Author

Divya Darling

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Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Published on 07 march 2014

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

“It’s no Niagara Falls, but it’s still nice.”

That statement, offered jovially and on some level intended to express appreciation, had the effect of extracting me from the wonder of the moment – the smell of the crisp, clean rainforest air, the sound of the water rushing down the falls, and bright green color of the trees surrounding the falls. With the utterance of that innocuous comment, I was instantly transported from the Blue Mountains in NSW Australia to Canada. Not physically of course (I haven’t figured out how to teleport yet) but mentally. For a just a moment, in my mind’s eye I felt myself standing next to Kevin watching the water gushing down the Niagara Falls at night, as the lights lit the falls neon blue, then pink and green. The thunderous sound of the water crashing interrupted any attempt at conversation, so we watched the falls in silence.

I blinked and found myself back in the Australian sunshine, standing next to Kevin and Lauren, and feeling robbed of the full experience of the waterfall we had hiked 5K through the bush to see. In that moment I experienced the same thing that prompted Teddy Roosevelt to proclaim “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Our brains naturally seek to categorise the world. Imagine a mom scurrying around a young child’s room tidying up, putting the things on the floor away – like with like. Books go on the bookshelf, stuffed animals in the net in the corner, clothes in the hamper in the closet, toys in the brightly colored plastic bins and boxes that are most suitable. That’s what’s happening in our brains automatically when we experience something through our senses. We think, oh this experience is like ____ and then we file them away together, just like how things get filed on a computer hard drive. Kevin couldn’t help make that comment because when he ran the program “waterfall” his brain, advanced operating system that it is, retrieved that file and in it found Niagara Falls. Seeing them side by side, he automatically compared the two.

I’ve been spending copious amounts of time defragmenting my psychology—continuously reminding myself every experience is different. This would not have been an adaptive strategy for my ancestors, because in order to survive they had to learn what was safe and what was dangerous, which meant classifying which sensory experiences are similar to other ones. This saved them from having a stomache ache from potentially poisonous fungi that look alike more than once.

Fortunately, the world we inhabit is every different to the one they did. In our world, with millions of people suffering from anxiety and depression, one of our biggest dangers is our own thoughts. We think we know what an experience is like, so we file it away before we even experience it fully. It’s tragic because when we learn to stay in the present moment, through mindfulness brain training, we begin to find novelty in what we previously assumed was familiar. I’ve discovered this is the path to finding joy in every experience. No, Leura Falls is not Niagara Falls, but it’s still every bit as inspiring. Only when compared against a different version of the same concept can it be found lacking. What a powerfully transformative lesson to experience on that hike! And to think, I just went along because I wanted to see a waterfall…  

I slept through many lessons before realising what a brilliant teacher Life truly is. Are you paying attention right now? Though it may bare a resemblance to others, this blog post is different than any other blog post you have ever read before. In the words of Ram Dass, BE HERE NOW.

Author

Divya Darling

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Try on a Pair of Funglasses

Try on a Pair of Funglasses

Published on 12 april 2014

Try on a Pair of Funglasses

I’ve recently started working with a lovely eleven year old boy. He is pensive, kind, and caught right in the eye of the storm—deciphering his place in the world. His mom reached out to me because he’s mentioned a few times already that he wishes he was dead.

I know what that feels like. I can still remember it clearly.

A couple months ago I attended a talk called The World Becomes What You Teach by Zoe Weil, the President of the Institute for Human Education. I had seen one of Zoe’s TED talks
and was inspired by the manner in which she goes about changing the world. She said something that night that stuck with me and it happened to be a quote from one of my favorite philosophers: Thoreau. “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

That night Zoe planted a quality seed in my mind. I began to see the systemic nature of the problem of mental wellness and resilience and flirt with the idea of switching focus to children and adolescents to more effectively nip the problem in the bud. I ruminated on that for a few days before this woman appeared in my life, hopeful that I could help train her son’s brain to see the world through a more loving lens.

In that first session with him it became apparent to me that he had developed a belief that life is hard. I induced a paradigm shift: anything can be fun if you choose it to be. See, fun is an energy/attitude/intention that you bring to a situation. It doesn’t matter if it’s hard or easy, it can always be fun. I set myself to the task of reprogramming his unconscious pattern of thinking to find the fun. In accordance with that, we came up with a list of ways to make life more fun. The following session, I presented him with special glasses to act as a visual cue to assist in the process.

“They may look like sunglasses,” I warned him, “but they’re definitely not. They’re FUNglasses. You keep these with you and put them on whenever you want to have more fun.” He grinned.

I reckon we could all use a pair of funglasses sometimes, eh?

Author

Divya Darling

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“At the core of your being, you already are all that you seek.”

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