Welcome to the 26 Days of Happiness! Today is day 23. Please meet featured author Laura Sharon from the soon to be released book: The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care, 25 Tools for Happiness, sharing their inspiring story!
I’m the author of Chapter 4, Opening Your Heart, A Practice to Clear Your Path to Happiness, in the soon-to-be-released Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care: 25 Tools for Happiness where I describe a “Homecoming Inquiry Practice” that focuses on opening your heart.
In this blog post I offer additional steps you can take that will help clear your path to happiness by opening your heart.
As I sat at my desk to write, I did what I often do when I begin writing, I looked up the definition of “happy.” The words “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment” seemed woefully inadequate. So, I did what I often do next. I searched for images of ‘happy,’ and guess what? The image search revealed a variety of mostly yellow smiley face drawings and photographs of people smiling. As I scrolled down the page, I took note of other features depicted in the images, open postures, raised chins, smiling eyes, and outstretched or raised arms. That\’s right, arms wide open. When we combine all these features of happiness, it is clear that the embodiment is a physicality that is open, inviting, warm, pleased, excited, and much, much more.
I’m struck mostly by how images of arms wide open are also accompanied by smiling faces, raised heads, and sometimes closed eyes. And then I think about how vulnerable these beings look. So, although happy looks seem inviting to some of us, it might signal the potential for danger in others.
When we open our arms wide, smile, and look upward, our hearts are exposed. It’s no wonder many of us would rather keep happiness at bay by staying closed and in a more protective physical stance.
As humans, we all have experienced some form of heartbreak. Sometimes its consequences have been big and at other times small. The causes are many and the pain difficult. And so, when our hearts break, it’s natural to want to protect ourselves from experiencing the difficult emotions that come with it. Given all of this, it\’s no wonder that many of us have found happiness elusive.
The work is to allow ourselves to experience and process all emotions as situations occur, and in the difficult moments, to tend to our emotional health so that we can keep our hearts open. Doing this takes a lot of practice and skill to allow the emotions to cycle through us.
Because most of us are not taught to tend to our emotional well-being, much of the time we just close off parts of our hearts to protect them from being hurt again. Many times, we don\’t even know we’re doing this. We just button ourselves up and go on about our life. Our Western culture implores us to do this as well. We minimize: “It’s not a big deal.” We deny: “I am ok” even when we aren’t. We blame: “they were the problem.” And before we know it, our hearts are clogged with emotional “gunk,” and our range of emotions has become stilted. We exist in a world of not too happy, not too sad.
So how do we achieve happiness when life’s challenges have led us to retreat, be afraid, or become cautious of allowing full-on joy for whatever reasons?
Whether you start with the “Homecoming Inquiry Practice” in the book or the practices offered here, rest assured that practicing these steps will lead you to discover how to create lasting happiness. The key is to honor the process and your experience and allow yourself to tap into your inner wisdom, to go inside and clear the path of what’s blocking your way.
1. Get and Stay Curious. When people talk about “doing the work,” a lot remains a mystery about what that means. So, to get started, ask yourself some questions. What is blocking me? How long has it been like this? What am I resisting? What does my heart want to tell me?
Getting and staying curious is a process. Your task here is to ask and listen for the answers without judging. Notice which answers you want to brush aside, or minimize. Invite them in closer. Where do you feel the resistance? What does it look like? What words are coming to you? What colors?
2. Imagine Yourself as a Child. If you have a photograph of yourself as a child, pull it out and look at that little darling. Ask this younger version of yourself what she or he needs? What is keeping you from being happy? Again, your role here is to listen without judgment.
Can you recall a time when you were happiest as a young child? How might you experience that feeling again? What do you need? What is standing in your way?
3. Have Mercy on Yourself. Empathy and self-compassion are keys to resolving old hurts and wounds and to allowing ourselves to tap into our truth. Unfortunately, we often don\’t show ourselves the same kind of empathy and compassion we offer to our friends and loved ones. We tend to be hard on ourselves.
If you want to gain access to lasting happiness, practicing empathy and self-compassion are critical practices to begin right now. Notice how you speak to yourself. Are you critical or loving when you make a mistake? Do you judge yourself harshly? Each time you do this, you put yourself out of your heart.
4. Give Yourself Permission. Write down what you need to give yourself permission for. Like this: “I, __[insert your name]___, give myself permission to _______________. Repeat as often as necessary.
5. Find a Safe Place to Allow the Feelings to Come. Create a physical space for yourself that is safe and nurturing. For some, this will be walking in the woods or being somewhere outside. For others, it will be creating a spot in an existing room. Only you know what you need to feel safe enough to let your emotions go.
If this is your first time thinking about these things, allow yourself to explore. Ask yourself, “what do I need to allow my feelings to come out?” Then start creating that for yourself.
6. Practice Deep Breathing as You Raise Your Chin Toward the Sky While Stretching Out Your Arms. Sometimes allowing our physical bodies to open, creates space for our feelings to surface. Try this position while standing. Plant your feet firmly beneath you. Open your arms wide. Raise your eyes and your chin upward. Notice how this feels. Now add a smile and notice whether anything changes?
Remember that the heart center, right behind your breastbone, is your grief spot. It’s where we often get blocked. So, when you move your body into a position that starts to open your heart, it is common for feelings to emerge. See if you can allow this. And if nothing happens, just try again another time. There is no rush and no timetable. Just clearing and healing.
Let us know in the comments section below what your experience is with any or all of these steps, or if you have a different approach that has helped you clear your path to happiness.
And do be sure to order a copy of The Wellness Guide to Complete Self-Care: 25 Tools for Happiness on February 11th, 2021 so you can learn even more on this important topic from my co-authors.
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I am an executive and life coach and seasoned learning and performance improvement consultant who uses a wholehearted approach to help clients be their best selves in life and work. My superpower is asking wildly open-ended questions that help people get to the heart of what matters most.