Learning to Be Happy

Knowing intellectually that happiness isn’t easy doesn’t take away our deep faith that it should be.  We look around for someone to blame for this state of affairs, and 90 percent of us will settle on the usual suspect:  ourselves.  We all have a secret list of things we feel guilty and shameful about, parts of our character that we believe are weak, fearful, needy, selfish, lazy—the list can go on and on.  Each time we struggle with these things, we only make them stronger, because we can only struggle in the same old self-defeating ways we know, and we are doomed to lose the battle.  I strongly advocate learning a new skill to help us put our shameful secrets in a different perspective that removes their power.  That skill is mindfulness.

Mindfulness, to me, means using your mind in a new way, consciously and deliberately.  It’s turning the observational powers of the mind on itself, looking with compassion and curiosity at what’s going on inside the head, and then turning the same skills on the world.  It means becoming more observant and deliberate; more thoughtful about reacting to emotions and impulses; more curious, more ready to look beneath the surface, not so hasty about jumping to conclusions; kinder, more patient, more tolerant of ourselves and others.  Mindfulness actually removes the need for defenses, because we learn to face our feelings head on.  There are many ways to learn mindfulness, and I teach the most effective ones here.

With mindfulness practice we really do rewire the brain; practice results in an increase in activity in the prefrontal cortex, where the brain processes positive feelings and controls negative feelings, where the brain can control the automatic messages of fear and anger.  With practice we develop what I call a new pilot, a new, more objective, less easily influenced orientation toward society, the whims of our brains, the automatic responses of our minds; a sense of confidence in ourselves, a belief that we can figure out where we have to go.

Besides learning to be mindful, many of have to learn how to feel again…

One comment

  1. I’m reading the articles on your website with interest and gratitude! I’ve been practicing mindfulness deliberately and consistently now for about 3 years. I had dabbled a bit since the 90’s, but DBT training through my PPO gave me a deeper practice that I’ve continued.

    I had a childhood filled with abuse and terror. I coped with self-destructive, ineffective strategies for years, but underneath my behaviors and chronic depression were painful buried feelings.

    Using mindfulness and loving kindness/self-compassion practices, my self-destructive behaviors (primarily bulimia and anorexia) slowly disappeared. I was able to get off my medications and begin to work with and through the buried memories and emotions I’d carried for so long.

    I’m happier and freer of depression than I’ve ever been. My grief is very painful but I feel alive and grateful for every day. I feel confident that I can handle whatever disturbing material surfaces from my unconscious. Your website is such an affirmation of what I’ve found to be true and effective in my own life.

    I will be reading your books with interest and returning often to this site. Thank you for this website and for your work. Very grateful to have found this material!

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