Friday, August 3, 2007
It can be so easy to get caught up in the rigors of modern life that we tend to forget that happiness need not come with stipulations. Happiness becomes something we must schedule and strive for—a hard-won emotion—and then only when we have no worries to occupy our thoughts. In reality, overwhelming joy is not the exclusive province of those with unlimited time and no troubles to speak of. Many of the happiest people on earth are also those coping with the most serious challenges. They have learned to make time for those simple yet superb pleasures that can be enjoyed quickly and easily. Cultivating a happy heart takes no more than five minutes. The resultant delight will be neither complex nor complicated, but it will be profound and will serve as a reminder that there is always a reason to smile.
So much that is ecstasy-inducing can be accomplished in five minutes. Alone, we can enjoy an aromatic cup of our favorite tea, take a stroll through the garden we have created, write about the day's events in a journal, doodle while daydreaming, or breathe deeply while we listen to the silence around us. In the company of a good friend or treasured relative, we can share a few silly jokes, enjoy a waltz around the room, play a fast-paced hand of cards, or reconnect through lighthearted conversation. The key is to first identify what makes us dizzyingly happy. If we do only what we believe should bring us contentment, our five minutes will not be particularly satisfying. When we allow ourselves the freedom to do whatever brings us pleasure, five minutes out of 14 wakeful hours can brighten our lives immeasurably.
It is often when we have the least free time or energy to devote to joy that we need to unwind and enjoy ourselves the most. Making happiness a priority will help you find five minutes every day to indulge in the things that inspire elation within you. Eventually, your happiness breaks will become an established part of your routine. If you start by pursuing activities you already enjoy and then gradually think up new and different ways to fill your daily five minutes of happiness, you will never be without something to smile about.
The time we are blessed with is limited and tends to be used up all too quickly. How we utilize that time is consequently one of the most important decisions we make. Yet it is far too easy to put off until tomorrow what we are dreaming of today. The hectic pace of modern existence affords us an easy out; we shelve our aspirations so we can cope more effectively with the challenges of the present, ostensibly to have more time and leisure to realize our purpose in the future. Or we tell ourselves that we will chase our dreams someday once we have accomplished other lesser goals. In truth, it is our fear that keeps us from seeking fulfillment in the here and now—because we view failure as a possibility, our reasons for delaying our inevitable success seem sound and rational. If we ask ourselves what we are really waiting for, however, we discover that there is no truly compelling reason why we should put off the pursuit of the dreams that sustain us.
When regarded as a question, "Why not now?" drains us of our power to realize our ambitions. We are so concerned with the notion that we are somehow undeserving of happiness that we cannot see that there is much we can do in the present to begin courting it. Yet when we look decisively at our existence and state, "Why not now, indeed!" we are empowered to begin changing our lives this very moment. We procrastinate for many reasons, from a perceived lack of time to a legitimate lack of self-belief, but the truth of the matter is that there is no time like the present and no time but the present. Whatever we aim to accomplish, we will achieve it more quickly and with a greater degree of efficiency when we seize the day and make the most of the resources we have at our disposal presently.
All the joy, passion, and contentment you can envision can be yours right now, rather than in some far-flung point in time. You need only remind yourself that there is nothing standing between you and fulfillment. If you decide that today is the day you will take your destiny into your hands, you will soon discover that you hold the keys of fate.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
DEAR A.J.: I'm glad you asked. Allow me to offer a few suggestions:
(1) Stop and consider what caused your negative self-image. Then begin taking positive steps to improve your body, soul and intellect.
(2) If you feel yourself reverting to a poor self-image, remind yourself of what you are doing and why.
(3) Reach out and do something for someone who is less fortunate than you are. It's a guaranteed upper.
(4) Avoid people who make themselves feel better by making others feel less so.
(5) Count your blessings every single day, and make up your mind to be happy. People are usually as happy as they are determined to be.