Over the last year I have written about books on the subject of human happiness. I wrote about Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd Gilbert, a psychological and medical attempt to track happiness. Basically, as the title implies, one stumbles upon happiness; it cannot be predicted nor can one actively plan to be happy; but rather it is a matter of being receptive and stumbling upon it. Rather discouraging, I thought.
In January of this year, I wrote about Tony Hsieh’s inspiring book, Delivering Happiness, in which he describes efforts to bring happiness to the workplace and to clients. I was so struck by the results Mr. Hsieh brought to his co-workers in serving clients, and making them happy, that I joined the “Delivering Happiness” website. [You will perhaps note that in my October 2010 post I also briefly mentioned one of many books I read last year on servant leadership. The thread of thought is harmonious: service to others, co-workers and others leads to real happiness.
I’ll just add here that if you are interested in developing your happiness and your strengths, and those of your co-workers, you may find books by Tom Rath superb sources for detailing how to bring natural talents to the fore resulting in well-being for oneself and others. I may write later in another post about one or more of Tom Rath’s books.
But for now, I want to focus on two books that have come to my attention this year, each giving more clues for bringing happiness into our lives.
First, The Ultimate Happiness Prescription: 7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra. Quickly, here are the seven keys: [Most of my notes are Chopra's words or my thoughts and summaries as I read through the book.]
1. Be aware of your body; in Hindu concepts practicing this awareness leads to Sat, Chit, Ananda, or in English, Truth, Being, and Bliss.
2. Find true self-esteem: This refers not to self-image or others’ view of you, but a connection within to All That Is. The qualities identifying self-esteem include being creative, fearless, and experiencing an unlimited connection to life that is enhanced by synchronistic and serendipitous activities and events, an effortless connection to the flow of life.
3. Detoxify your life, not just your body, your life: take responsibility. Release and forgive, and love.
4. Give up being right: [In my notes I find the following:] “Ask, ‘Am I awake? My goal is to be happy rather than being stuck on being right.'”
5. Focus on the present: Constant renewal. In timelessness is True Self. Again, Am I awake? Bliss. Things change, yet I AM remains. [My collection of Eckhart Tolle recordings comes strongly to mind.]
6. See the world in yourself: loving kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, and beholding the wellness & success of others.
7. Live for enlightenment: “A human being is a creature who has received the order to become God.” –St. Basil
Here are some summary notes from Chopra’s description of someone living a happy life: Life flows; love motivates; your are creative and imaginative; you are guided; your choices benefit all.
The Purpose of Life: Expansion of happiness, the goal of very other goal.
Chopra gives us a formula: H = S+C=V which translates to Happiness equals your set point plus conditions of living plus voluntary activities.
I leave it to you to locate this book and give it the thoughtfulness it deserves. In most all cases, the books I describe can be found in your local library.
The second book I want to discuss is Happiness Genes: Unlock the Positive Potential Hidden in Your DNA, but James D. Baird, with Laurie Nadel. In this book we return to a medical investigation of happiness, and one that is a delight to read. Let me start out with this phrase from the book: “Ask yourself how good can it get?”
The authors lead us to understand that rather than being at the mercy of a more or less whimsical chance at happiness, indeed we can actively cultivate happiness. You will read that emotions are stored as molecules in the limbic system and you can cultivate new thinking and acting that will elevate your baseline emotional state. p.71
For those interested in the scientific details of our genomes in relation to environmental impact, and our experience of happiness, you will find this book a treasure. As you progress in reading about the blueprint of our genes, to the cultural medium of our blood, to the “central voice” of our mind, and the magnetic field of the heart, I promise that you will think differently about happiness and your capacity to nurture it.
As a start to building one’s happiness, it is helpful to learn that a Mayo Clinic study concluded: “Those activities you choose intentionally, mindfully, and proactively, are likely to improve your baseline happiness…” p.58
I felt that sense of recognition one experiences of knowing the words are true as I was reading this: “Happiness is the word most frequently associated with unconditional love and compassion.” And, though no one finds it easy to live in dire poverty or illness, at the bottom of the Maslow hierarchy, after basics are met happiness is not reserved for the rich: “Sense of well-being is not likely to change much with a higher standard of living.” p. 111
“…love, compassion, and a universal sense of responsibility are the source of peace and happiness.” Dalai Lama p.118
The authors include a 28-day program to promote natural happiness that can be summarized with these key words: Release, Reboot, Relax, and Rejoice.
After reviewing Maslow’s hierarchy, the authors list characteristics of the peak experience, a state of transcendence, to remind us what is our potential: unconditional compassion; unconditional love; inner peace; detachment; living in the moment; peak experiences; universal unity.
Sounds good to me.
Reminds me again of those Eckart Tolle purchases I made and why I need to revisit them.