7 Steps Toward A Happier You

 

7 Steps Toward A Happier You

Posted by Michael Kimmel in Columns 16 Mar 2015

blog-0065713001376524372I am always interested in learning something new about how to have a happier, healthier, more peaceful and prosperous life. As a psychotherapist, I share these ideas and techniques with my clients and now I’d like to share some of them with you:

Step 1: Letting go of our stories: Our words are very powerful. What we tell ourselves is amazingly self-fulfilling. If we keep telling ourselves the same stories over-and-over, we are pretty much doomed to keep having the same experiences over-and-over. Our stories create our self-image. If you are willing to release your old stories about yourself, who you are and who done you wrong, you are opening the door to new experiences. It is simple, but not easy. Begin the process by noticing the stories you tell yourself about who you are, who hurt or betrayed you, what you think about men/women/relationships/money, and start to notice what you are perpetuating in your life.

Step 2: Forgiving people: I wish this weren’t true, but holding grudges against people ultimately harms only you. I have held a lot of grudges in my time, and none of them did me any good. While I was angry at people who I thought treated me badly and should be “punished”, these people were off with other people having a great time. Who suffered? Me. I know that forgiveness is hard, but start here: be willing to forgive. It will start the ball rolling.

Step 3: Embracing peace and releasing drama. For some people, drama gives the illusion of feeling “alive”. These people are confused (or very, very young). Drama is not aliveness, it is a substitute for aliveness. Aliveness is a life full of opportunity and new possibilities. Drama sucks the energy out of you. Aliveness gives you energy. Drama is often a diversion from looking at the deep (old) pain in your life. Face your pain, clean it up and reduce your drama.

Step 4: Embracing more sophisticated ways of functioning. Are you doing the same old shit over-and-over? Is it working? I didn’t think so. As we age, the Universe/God keeps showing us what we need to let go of in order to embrace something better. It’s like the Buddist idea of the empty rice bowl: if you’re holding on to stale old rice in your bowl, there’s no room for fresh, new delicious rice. You’ve got to dump that stale, moldy old rice so there’s room for something new and wonderful. Scary? Sure. Productive? Absolutely.

Step 5: Polishing your rough edges: We all have areas where we’re not so smooth or high functioning; start to notice them. If you really want to discover your “rough” spots, ask people who know you. They probably see them much more clearly than you. And don’t beat yourself up for them, instead, just notice them and be willing to change. Start with compassion – not punishment – for yourself.

Step 6: Emptying yourself. Try saying some version of “I am empty” meaning, I am open, I am willing to let go of preconceived ideas. It’s a really interesting phrase that I’ve been working with, and it is quite helpful at letting go of upset and feeling calm and spacious. Often our mind feels so full of thoughts that we can’t let go. These thoughts can keep us from falling asleep or enjoying time with our loved ones. Emptying yourself lets you dump all that junk and see how you feel without it. Try quietly and peacefully telling yourself, “I am empty” and see where it takes you.

Step 7: “I don’t need to know”. This is another phrase that I frequently tell myself. So many of us think that more information will bring us happiness. Usually, it doesn’t. In fact, you will be happier if you can let go of having to “know” and “be right”. Information is useful, but only if you use it in a way that works for you and those you love. Too much information can actually be unhelpful.  Try saying “I don’t need to know.” And feel how freeing it is. You may be surprised to find out that it’s true.

P.S. The photo is of me and my colleague Dr. Vincentia Schroeder dancing at a recent professional conference. We were definitely happy . . . and expressing it.