This week’s Chopra Center series begins with bringing awareness to all the choices we make on a daily, hourly basis. Researchers have found that while eating your favorite meal, enjoying a glass of wine, going shopping , etc. can increase our happiness, it only lasts for a few hours or a day or two at most. The things that bring us true, lasting happiness however are the things that allow us to express our creativity or bring happiness to another person. If you want instant happiness, the secret is to open your heart and give unconditionally, and without any expectations. But how can we do that in every encounter?
Researchers have found that what really brings people happiness is:
When we give our attention (listen), we are completely present and open as we focus on understanding another person’s perspective – even when we don’t agree with it. We don’t give advice (unless the other person directly asks for it) and we don’t interrupt or try to get someone to hurry up and “get to the point.” Simply by listening attentively to someone, we are actually helping to calm their brain and reduce their stress, which has many benefits for physical and emotional wellbeing.
Appreciation is letting someone know that you value them and are grateful they are in your life. You notice the qualities you love about a person and share your appreciation for who they are, their unique gifts, and the ways in which their presence and actions creates more peace, joy, and fun in your life.
Affection is deep caring. We express our affection through our words, physical touch, and other actions, letting someone know that we are there for them. Loving touch is particularly vital to health and happiness. It releases a shower of natural pain-relieving and mood-elevating chemicals throughout the body, calming the mind’s busy chatter and promoting feelings of safety, comfort, and relaxation. While technology allows us to see and hear each other from a distance, it can’t create the true connection and fulfillment that comes from loving touch.
One of the deepest human needs is acceptance . . . that feeling of being completely seen and accepted, even with all of our weaknesses, inconsistencies, and shortcomings.
Research has also shown that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional well being and physical health than those who don’t. So if you want more happiness, joy, and energy, gratitude is clearly a crucial quality to cultivate and express.
Here are three practices you can begin using this week to open your heart to gratitude and love.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal – Each day list at least five things for which you are grateful. Challenge yourself by not repeating items from the previous days, for this will make you look more deeply at all the “little” things
- Write a Thank-you Letter – Make a list of at least five people who have had a profound impact on your life. Choose one and write a thank you letter expressing gratitude for all the gifts you’ve received from that person. If possible, deliver your gratitude letter in person.
- Take a Gratitude Walk – Set aside twenty minutes (or longer if you can) and walk somewhere in nature. Pay attention to your senses and see how many things you can find to feel grateful for. This is a powerful way to shift your mood and open to the flow of abundance that always surrounds you.
How will you open your heart this week?
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