Have you heard of HONY? It stands for Humans of New York.
The concept is quite simple. Photographer Brandon Stanton walks the streets of New York City and asks some of the city’s 8.337 million people if he can photograph them. During the shoot, he asks them questions about their life, and posts the most memorable quotes or aspect of the conversation with one of the photographs. The photo, and the quote then becomes a Humans of New York post. This particular one really caught my attention.
It shows a 35-year-old woman sitting on the side-walk with the quote, “When I was 20, I made a plan to get a good job and be secure. Now I’m 35 and I need a plan to be happy.”
Her message couldn’t be any clearer: having a good job and security does not lead to happiness.
The Insane Pursuit of Happiness
We all long to be happy. I do. You do. We all do. This is just part of the human condition. When I look at my life, I know that everything I’ve ever done has come from the belief, or the thought, that it would make me – or another person – happy. But, when you we fail to understand that happiness is an inside job, and not something ‘out there’, and we make our jobs, careers, money, friends, our partners the source of our happiness, joy, love, or security, we give up our personal freedom to choose our own emotional states and lose ourselves in the process. This inevitably leads to experiencing feelings of stress, fear and anxiety.
Turn off Stress and Deal with Anxiety
The key to reclaiming your freedom to experience happiness, joy, or love – regardless of what your current external condition might be – lies in learning how you can create space each day to connect with your own inner source of happiness and wellbeing.
To help you achieve this, it’s important you first embrace these four key ideas:
Idea #1: Getting stressed out is a choice
In essence, stress is a physical and emotional response to a real or imaginary threat in our environment. How we perceive this threat is a choice. As the old saying goes, one man’s food is another man’s poison.
Idea #2: You can generate your own positive emotions
Emotional states can be self-generated. Our feelings are a direct result to the thoughts we hold in our minds and the beliefs we have. Basically, when you think happy thoughts, you feel good. When you think about what could possibly go wrong, you feel bad.
Idea #3: You can create a daily plan for happiness
Happiness is not something just for the lucky ones, or the ones in a happy relationships. You can create your own plan designed specifically to help you generate recurring feelings of joy, love, creativity and freedom. In many ways, happiness, more than just a feeling, is something you can plan, and practice.
Idea #4: It is not success that leads to happiness, but happiness that leads to success
Like the girl in the picture above affirms, having success without happiness is no success at all. I don’t about you, but I know many successful people with lots of money, who are never happy. And I know many people who are flat broke, and couldn’t be any happier.
How to Create a plan for Happiness
I spent much of my adult life in stress and anxiety because I did not know how to generate my own positive feelings and emotions. As a result, I relied on external influences such as food, drugs, sex, entertainment, work, achievements, relationships, etc, to feel happy. I was at the mercy of my environment and others. But each night, as I went to sleep, I felt a deep void in my heart, as if something was missing.
The practice I am going to discuss now, has been an absolute game changer for me. It has allowed me to become more emotionally resilient, and increased my connection with my inner source of happiness. If you were to hire me as your Heart Intelligence Coach, it would be a practice I recommend you follow for a minimum of 30 days.
The underlying principle behind it, is that the human heart is more than just a pump or a muscle. In fact, your heart is an information processing center, which is constantly sending information to the rest of your body. Your heart is the seat of not just of your emotions, but also serves a key role in harmonizing all other systems that give you access to higher states of creativity, wisdom, intelligence, and higher order of thinking. It is so powerful, it can broadcast your emotions to the environment, affecting people, animals, and objects around you. This is one of the reasons why most of us feel drawn towards people who are genuinely happy.
Here’s the practice. You can think of it as your daily plan for happiness:
1. Before you begin your day
Before you even start-up your computer, cellphone, or television, take a few moments to connect with your heart, and inner source of love, joy, and happiness. You do this by focusing on the heart, then breathing rhythmically into it. You can imagine that a Greater kind of love from God, Spirit, the Universe or Source, is entering your heart. Then, bring to mind something or someone who inspires the feelings of love and appreciation, and radiate these feelings to the rest of your body, and to the people, animals and objects around you. This doesn’t need to take more than 5 minutes at first. With time, you can increase it to 20 minutes if you like.
2. During the day, practice one-minute sessions of ‘heartfulness’
These are a mini-version of the previous practice, with the only difference that you’re going to follow them up with an activity that will include sound, movement, or touch. Examples of these could be: singing or humming a song, dancing, moving your body in a way that feels good, playing your guitar or with your dog, going on a short walk, and touching someone either with a hug, or by doing something that will boost your connection with them. Basically, anything that will make your heart sing!
3. At the end of each day
Before going to bed at night, take an inventory of your day by spending a few moments appreciating your successes, giving thanks for the blessings in your life, and forgiving yourself for anything that did not go well. Ask yourself, “what did I learned from this experience?” Then, just like at the beginning of your day, focus and breathe it all into your heart, letting it all dissolve away, as you allow the feeling of love, gratitude and appreciation guide you into visions of your future goals, or desires you wish to see manifested in your life.
The benefits of doing this simple daily, happiness practice are exponential:
- Increased levels of DHEA hormone = Lowered stress.
- Quickly rebalance your mind, body and emotions, shutting down your stress response
- Increased ability to think clearer, be more intuitive, and make better decisions, especially under pressure.
- Improves health, increase resilience and wellbeing. It helps keep up your personal balance.
- Decreases stress and burnout in chaotic and changing environments.
- Maximizes creativity and innovation.
- Boosts performance and overall intelligence.
Personally, I like to combine this daily practice with HeartMath’s EmWave2 biofeedback device. This device, which can be accessed directly with your iPhone, will help you track your heart rate variability or HRV, so that you get instant bio-feedback on your progress. I also recommend you listen to iAwake’s revolutionary HeartWave Meditation Music.