Keys to Happiness

KeyHow are you feeling? Do you feel lonely? Do you feel great? Do you feel bored because you’re certain you know everything I’m going to write?

Right now, I’d like you to take a look at your emotional climate and rate yourself on a happiness scale of one to ten. Whatever your score, wherever you are, you are in the right place for using a spiritual approach for increasing your happiness.

Even if you gave yourself a ten on the happiness scale, there is more possible. If  you gave yourself a lower number, don’t be discouraged, or ashamed. There are spiritual tools you can use that will make your life easier and more pleasant.

Of course, no one is ecstatic all the time. There will always be ups and downs and some days are always going to be better than others. We all have a right to pursue happiness. What’s more, it is a spiritual quest for humans.

When we begin the search for happiness, we may believe another person, money, or achievements will be the magic key. Actually, it takes more than outside events to attract joy. It takes more than “stuff’ to make us happy. I believe a spiritual connection is a very important ingredient.

You and I are spiritual beings having a human experience and the more we can feel our connection to our spiritual nature, the more apt we are to be happy. That’s why so many studies show that people who follow a spiritual path are happier than people who do not.

When you understand that happiness depends less on outside events than on your reaction to them, you have an important key to your quest. The simple truth is that you do not need to react to life, you need to act.

You have free will, and that means you always have choices. You can choose actions that create happiness, no matter what is going on. With attention and spiritual practice, you can learn to make the right choices about your prevailing belief system.

The Truth shall set you free. One Truth that frees us is the fact that we can use our ability to make choices to increase our happiness. It is important to remember that you don’t have to wait for your mood to shift. You can shift your attitude when you become conscious that you need to change.

Science of Mind students know that life is not something that happens to us. We happen to life. We make choices that are going to improve our lives and if we make a mistake, we learn from that mistake. We never give up; we make new choices that work better.

When we seek happiness, we must open ourselves up to more light, more love, and more joy. We must release the thoughts and actions that don’t serve us and make room for happiness.

Sometimes people think they cannot be happy until a certain problem is solved. That is probably not true but it is always good to take a look at the problem and understand what can be done.

The first tool I go to when I am unhappy about any issue is the Serenity Prayer. God grant me the courage the change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot and the wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer helps me sort out my situation and my potential responses. I am quickly reminded that there is no sense worrying about the past. That eliminates hours of useless stewing of the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” variety.

Once I give up on rewriting the past, the Serenity Prayer helps me move on and design a sensible new plan. For example, I don’t bother wishing I had started saving money at age 21. The past is gone forever so I have to deal with my current finances as they are today.

I know a person who is very sorry he dropped out of college at age 23 and he talks about it a lot. He could go back and get his degree at night school now. It’s true he will be over 40 when he finishes, (as he says) but he will be over 40 whether he has a diploma or not. The Serenity Prayer helps people look at things sensibly and offers a plan of action.

Another tool that works very well when people want to be happier is to take action. It is not a good idea to mull over an idea forever and let fear of failure immobilize you. Fear will paralyze you. Guilt or other negative opinions will also freeze you into failure. Action heals!

If you aren’t certain what to do, take a risk and take some small steps in the direction that looks best to you. After a fair trial, reassess your progress. Should you stay on course or stop? Either way, you will be better off. If you have to switch course, you will have more information. If your chosen path is working, then you are already on your way.

Whenever you are confronting an issue, the key is to let the past go and take sensible steps in the direction of your dreams. Be prepared to change your plan if you need to, but by all means, keep moving.

Just about any kind of problem can make you unhappy if you allow it . Many of us find relationships especially perplexing. One important key to happy relationships is to look on the bright side and remain optimistic while you set boundaries that work.

On the other hand, the key to relationship misery is to try to make other people be what you think they ought to be. Good relationships include a healthy dose of compromise and acceptance.

Over the years I’ve learned to release a lot of my desire to control others. Instead of playing the part of Control Freak, I now try to adjust and adapt to situations.

These days, when things aren‘t going my way, I remind myself of the rules. God lives in me but I am not God. I cannot write a script and make everyone say their lines exactly the way I want. I’m in relationship with other spiritual beings who are also having a human experience.

Once I recognize that they are just as unique and individualized expressions of Spirit as I am, I must recognize their right to their own choices. Love only works when it is grounded in acceptance and respect. People don’t own other people. While people can change, they do not change for others successfully. People pleasing won’t work.

It is actually much easier to live in happiness than in struggle. Using tools like the Serenity Prayer, releasing the past, direct action, compromise and acceptance helps. Try it and enjoy the results.

Ask yourself

Do I want more happiness?

What tools can I use?

How will I try to add to my happiness?

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Happiness Teachers

Yay“I’m not so interested in stuff anymore. These days, I’m after experiences,” she said.

 When I heard my friend speaking, I thought she was expressing  wisdom  that usually comes with age. Eventually, most of us  do learn that happiness comes from the inside.

Plenty of studies  show older people are happier than youthful ones and I can see it is true for many of my friends. I’m certainly happier than I was when I was seventeen. Aren’t you?

Do you remember the desperate search for happiness you went through in high school? If you look backward for a moment, you may very well discover you are happier now than ever before.  We don’t have to wait until a certain age or go through troubles, but we do need to understand happiness is an inside job.,

You can be cheerful at thirty or sixty as well as ninety. Most of us learn things as we travel through life and, if we are observant, we learn that happiness doesn’t depend on what we have. It depends on our inner wisdom, love, and strength. If we are lucky, we encounter a Happiness Teacher early who helps but that’s not as common as wish it were. 

Most of us learn  as we experiment with getting what we think we want. We figure it out alone. Our journey probably includes  letting go of false idols; popularity, success, romance, beauty, social status, recognition, and money. Even good health isn’t  the complete answer. The answer lies within our thinking and understanding.

Somewhere along the way, we stop putting our faith in appearances and begin cultivating other, less tangible, but more important values. Look around at your friends and you will  see the happiest ones aren’t the ones with the most stuff. Pretty houses and fancy cars are fine but they don’t delight for long. Happiness is based on who we are, rather than what we have.

You don’t have to be any particular age to learn to be happy. Happiness is based on deeper, long lasting values  that give us a sense of control over our lives. While it is true that nothing is permanent, the love you feel always stays with you. So does your satisfaction if you choose work you love.  So do qualities such as a good sense of humor and curiosity about life.

These ideas are not secret. You don’t need a special guru, a secret code, or a million bucks to grasp the key to happiness. People who learn to savor the moment and feel grateful  know everything they need to know to keep on the sunny side of the street. Happiness is a gift and it depends on skills just about anyone can learn.  Gratitude and appreciating the moment are two wonderful tools. So is letting go of the need for other people’s approval.

Most of us have to learn these lessons as we go along and we can do it faster if we find genuine Happiness Teachers to help us by demonstrating.  Our parents taught us what they knew but many did not know how to be happy. They meant well, but they couldn’t teach what they didn’t know.

Happiness Teachers are all around us. Some are neighbors and some, like Maya Angelou, are on TV.  Others, like me, write books and blogs. You can recognize them by the wisdom they share and the fact they aren’t selling you “stuff”. They are happy themselves and they are happy sharing what they know.

If you are happy most of the time, you are a Happiness Teacher yourself. You know how to be content and that is what most people hunger for. Others can learn from you, just as you can learn from others. It’s that simple.

We humans learn naturally from one and another. Look around at your happiest pals. You will probably see they have developed the ability to live mostly in the present moment. You will probably notice how often they express gratitude.

We can all be happier if we pay attention. Some of this extra happiness will be based on a loss of innocence. There comes a day when we must stop believing that a new shampoo or a different mustache brush will make people love us more.

When we stop being true believers in the great American Consumer Creed, we will be happier. When we stop believing the high priests of products and start selecting activities and relationships that are joyful, we will be happier.  When we begin to  look within for our Love and Light, we will be happier.

I have many friends and the one I quoted at the beginning is an outstanding Happiness Teacher. She doesn’ t offer classes or advice but I’ve learned  by observing her.  My friend is not a wealthy woman but she has a busy and fulfilling life. She learns new things, meets interesting people and has a lot of fun. She always seems to be happy.

She chooses experiences that keep her interested in life without requiring fancy clothes or expensive tickets. Her life is valuable to others and it suits her well. I admire her intelligence, her resourcefulness, and her creativity. I have learned a lot about available community resources from her. She lives alone, far from family, but she is never lonely.

Two organizations provide the basics for her lifestyle – AA and our church. These two groups provide the spiritual and social backbones for her rich lifestyle. Not only does she meet wonderful people but also she is steeped in the spiritual teachings of gratitude and mindfulness.

Alcoholics Anonymous teaches us to be consistently grateful for the many blessings we receive. . The Spiritual Living Center also values gratitude. The Law of Attraction is a spiritual principle that describes a process for attracting more good. For example, if I desire more friends, I don’t complain. I give thanks for the friends I have. God responds to my gratitude by sending me more friends.You can observe this law in action in your own life if you experiment.

My friend is happy with AA and the church but she doesn’t stop there. Our local library is a place for gentle yoga, interesting lectures and her book club.  She not only finds free books but she enjoys a variety of lectures, workshops and classes. The library is a rich source of great experiences. There are many other venues she knows about because she is awake too opportunities. She never complains about lack of any sort. She is busy and happy on a limited budget.

Her life demonstrates how wisdom grows and opens us up. When we stop yearning for things and begin to appreciate what we have, we can achieve happiness. She looks inside for guidance and strength, and makes happy choices.  I’m grateful for her because she teaches me how to live well.

Ask Yourself

Are you as happy as you want to be?

Is there a Happiness Teacher in your life?

Are you a Happiness Teacher  to anyone?

Do you have a plan for more happiness?


Successful Second Marriages

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Many years ago, I sold a book idea on successful second marriages and I did all the research. I talked with over 200 people and learned some secrets about being happily married. I also learned what my friends and I were doing wrong.

The book was never published because of editorial staff changes but I got to keep my generous advance and I felt the research brought me new understanding.   I’ve always wanted to share what I learned and today is the day.

I started out interviewing about 200 subjects of different ages who came from a wide variety of places. Each one had a unique story but there were common elements. No matter who they were, the happiness of their marriage seemed to depend at least partly on acceptance of themselves and their partners.

The marriages were not so much about romantic love as about gratitude and togetherness. Fewer second marriages end in divorce and second marriages are happier, according to many studies. I think it is because they are less tormented by dreams of Prince Charming or Princess Precious.

I talked to a dance teacher in her 70’s whose husband died, so she married the surviving spouse of her best friend right away. They were lonely and they knew they liked each other so the got married. Made sense to them.

I talked to a young woman with three kids and no support. She married her older boss who was happy to take her and her family on. He wasn’t the best looking or smoothest guy she could have had but she was glad to be with him and they seemed very affectionate together.

Generally, the people who made successful marriages knew what would and would not work for them. One Virginia woman who a good job in Washington DC was suddenly left  alone with small kids and little money. The next month she went to Parents Without Partners, “to see what was out there.” She dated professional men with larger salaries but she said, “I like “good old boys” She chose a man with a service station and a truck. They hunt on weekends.

I talked to one engineer whose wife left him. He seemed bewildered, “She said she wanted more.” A neighbor lady  invited him for dinner and  they married when his divorce was final. I asked him if he’d dated other women. He answered, “Why? She was a nice woman”.

By design, none of the subjects were my immediate friends. As talked to the my subjects, I realized my friends were usually unhappily married or in tortured relationships. Birds of a feather flock together because I wasn’t very happy either.

I’d been widowed twice. I spent ten years between first and second marriage feeling sorry for myself and acting in self-destructive ways. At the time I was writing this book, I was desperately in love with a married man. All I really needed to do was read Dear Abby to figure out where that was going.

Researching the book helped me understand that I said I wanted to remarry but it wasn’t really true. My subjects were people who suffered a loss and then successfully pursued second chances. That didn’t describe me.

Here are some things I think are worth passing on to readers who seek a perfect right partner…

I learned that a partnership can’t be all about you. If you are not emotionally healthy it won’t work. People who have serious addictions or mental problems are not ready to look for a marriage.

I also learned that there is no perfect right partner. Anyone who believes the junk dialog in romantic movies like “You complete me,” is in for trouble. Love is wonderful and it cements a marriage. But marriage is also a partnership that needs to be comfortable. That means you have to be willing to solve some of your own stuff even if you have a helpmate.

I learned something else that was very important to me personally and led me to write books like Wise Women and Science of Mind Skills. Help is on bookstore shelves! Now it is also available for your Kindle.

Until  I researched my unpublished book, I didn’t understand how much self-help books serve people as guides for moving forward with their lives. Time after time, I interviewed someone who said, “And then I read, How To Be Your Own Best Friend and I did just what it said to do”. It was a long time ago and that’s the title I remember but there were others that were just as effective. There are even more now. The trick is to follow their lead.

I also discovered that church singles groups are good places to meet men who are candidates for settling down. I’d once attended a Unitarian singles group for a few weeks and pronounced everyone losers but I was wrong. Lots of perfectly nice people meet each other in those groups. Previously, I’d met my men in college classrooms or bars. The ones I met in classes were the better candidates for marriage.

The people I interviewed knew what they wanted and they went where their prospective partners were. They were direct and open to compromise. They seemed to understand that they wouldn’t get everything they wanted in one package.

For years, I’d looked at marriages from the outside and wondered how some of them could stand each other. I also wondered why some seemed so happy with each other. In many cases, the happy couples seemed to genuinely like each other rather than being madly in love.

After over a year of interviewing 200 people, I saw that they considered marriage a comfortable and normal way to live and they wanted that. They weren’t ambivalent, or ashamed to go after they wanted, they weren’t drunk on drama, or too self-centered to really look at the other person.

They were straight-forward, good people who would rather be married than single. They understood that it would mean making room for another person in their lives. They understood that the excitement of romance wouldn’t be always so strong. They understood they would actually be living, sharing, loving, and supporting another person if they married.

I took an inventory of myself after that research and stopped complaining about being alone. I admitted I prefer solitude and independence most of the time.  I have now been happily single for many years.

I believe that happiness is a choice. It doesn’t depend on your marital status or any other “fact”. You make your happiness happen. If you want a happy marriage, go for it and don’t waffle. Go straight for your goal.. You can go for it in your current marriage by modifying your behavior, and creating a win-win situation. You can also go for it by looking around for the perfect right partner – just make sure that you see him or her when you are looking in the mirror, as well.

Ask Yourself

What do I want to change?

How might I try to change it?

Anything in this article make me think?