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Practicing Happiness

Practicing Happiness

Most of us share a common misconception about happiness.  We expect to identify it through our feeling state rather than viewing it as the perceptual frame of reference that it is. Oddly you could be quite happy at a work task and not feel happy at the moment at all: satisfied with your effort and persistence but frustrated by the problem-solving that most projects demand may well be happiness but doesn’t make you smile.

It is understandable that we mistake the daily work of thriving for happiness. Advertising consistently misrepresents happiness as bliss. Real happiness we think is smiling and laughing together with other like-minded attractive people in nice cars and clothing. In actuality bliss, like acute anxiety or deep sadness, is a rare moment in the texture of our daily lives. Intense emotions whether positive or negative are the threads in the complex and mysterious fabric of life. They teach us how to find center and provide a guide by which to navigate.

In truth, our ability to be happy  should be compared to our capacity for health and  fitness. Regardless of where you start out, with clear aspirations and a decent work ethic, anyone can get more positive, just as they can become more physically well. Although attending to one’s physical well being is highly correlated with a more positive mindset,  developing the trait of positive thinking is a work out of its own.

Creating and working at a positive frame of reference requires the same work and commitment as body building.  Anyone who has successfully lost weight and has maintained their new found physical strength will attest to the fact that the work doesn’t end when you meet you goal. Instead the work becomes a set of eating and movement habits that reform your life. The same is true about replacing negative thinking patterns with positive ones,  slowly the work becomes new mind habits that require practice like any habits.

Hundreds of studies correlate this frame of reference with greater personal creativity and productivity. Cultivating a positive world view gives you an edge in relationships too. The core of a functional relationship is an inside job and when you are constantly working on your own happiness perspective you don’t rely on your partner to offer it.  In fact, the opposite is true. Your own positive mind sets the bar for people you love.

Our attitudes are more contagious than the worst colds and when each person in a partnership comes whole to the work of relating, not needing to be filled up, often in ways that they can’t even name, gives the relationship the space and time it needs to grow into something that can hold both of you. Too often we expect our relationships to do something for us that we don’t realize that only we can offer ourselves.

It took me 38 days  of vigilant attention to stop saying negative things and another 42 to stop thinking them. Slowly  this negative space that I didn’t often even recognize evaporated enough  to be replaced with equally true thoughts that supported me in the life I wanted. My business was reinvented and began to thrive in this positive glow as did all of my family relationships and my marriage. When I think about my work or my future, my primary daily commitment is to learn more about and live more deeply in  my positive frame of reference.  The rest will take care of itself.

Read more: Ask the Loveologist, Inspiration, Love, Making Love Sustainable, Mental Wellness, Relationships, Sex, Spirit,

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.


+ add your own
12:43PM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Wonderful ideas.

3:41AM PDT on Jul 8, 2013


12:11AM PDT on Jun 12, 2012

Thanks so much for this great article, it was so interesting.

8:50AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

thank you for this article. i like that it presents happiness not just as a feeling, but more as a frame of mind, a choice, a practice. i think that if you strengthen your "happy muscles", the feelings that we associate with being happy will follow.

8:29AM PST on Jan 23, 2012

Nice article, thanks.

11:41AM PST on Feb 1, 2011

Healthy mind; healthy body...

5:36AM PST on Jan 26, 2011

thanks.. this is definately one thing i need to work on ;)

1:49PM PST on Jan 25, 2011

I like the idea of having to "work at" happiness. Anything worth having is worth working for, right?

11:47AM PST on Jan 25, 2011

Thank you - good article. :)

What had helped me in the past was using little cue cards of positive affirmations. I'd make them bright & cute - putting them on the bathroom mirror or fridge (to help reduce weight).

It helped to reframe my thinking to positive so I started thinking then acting differently because you're challenging yourself to stop the negative habits that are so engrained and becoming a happier person in the process.

7:04PM PST on Jan 24, 2011

thanks for sharing.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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