Happiness

Enjoy the things you have now

I used to save things for another day. A better day. Like fancy bottles of wine and champagne. Like perfume.  As a kid it was stickers. I would find beautiful illustrations, logos, typography and burrow these treasures away. Years would roll by. I’d routinely clean my room and see these stickers over and over again. Unused, while I still waited for their “right” home. In a conversation with Ghostpatrol, he told me that he uses his stickers. I guess that’s the point of stickers. They’re not meant to last forever. And they’re not meant go unused.

In one of my catch-ups with friend, Jonni Pollard (meditation teacher, founder of the 1 Giant Mind app & regular contributor to this blog) I gave him a hug. He smelt nice. He told me he always wears this Jasmine perfume, which is quite expensive on the scale of perfume prices. I questioned why he used it every day because it was so expensive. He replied with a smile “Nah, I use everything I love now, there’s no need to wait for a special occasion, every day is a special occasion.”

Since then I’ve used everything that I would have normally saved for another time. Beautiful candles, certain clothes and shoes, stationary, body creams and aroma therapy. And those fancy bottles are being popped. There’s no need to wait.

 

Written: My home in LA

Listening to: Ambient noise and Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake "Brand New" on repeat in my head

 

(Image by the amazing Margaret Zhang)

Quality friendships

Over the past four years I’ve had to start building friendships from scratch again. A necessity that came about from my frequent travels and my gradual move to to America.

The quote, "your life is a reflection of your thoughts" rings true. Through our thoughts, we build our environment around us.

I thought this was a topic worth writing about because friendships are something we all have. I hope my words aren't too "fru-fru" (that's my made up word for being super soft). But hey, fru-fru or not, enriching friendships are the ones we all deserve.

My environment is golden. It took a lot of living, self awareness, and refining my behaviour to come to this state that I can speak so proudly of.  Being naturally wired for happiness means the friendships are tops.

I can pinpoint three behaviours and attitudes that have gotten me to my ‘golden’ state: being positive, being generous, and being a good listener.

I see these qualities embodied by three of my friends, and have had a huge impact on all of my other friendships in my life, both existing and new.

One of my friendships forged in Melbourne taught me about positivity and generosity in huge proportions. She’s generous without any expectation for it to be returned.

By generous I don’t necessarily mean in giving gifts. I mean she’s generous in sharing her time with others, and making that time quality.  She’s uses kind words about herself and of other people.

She sees each day and the world differently to how I used to. Things that used to make me feel “ugh” or have fear over, she would be there to listen and then to point out the silver lining, or possible solutions.

Another good friend of mine from Sydney who also carries a positive disposition, in his own style. He’s the person that taught me that life is about creating beautiful experiences every day.

And then there is Phil, who is a relationship counsellor. I remember a conversation we once had when Phil was talking about the value of being a good listener. It woke me up. And I’ve applied his simple words to all kinds of relationships.

Even if we haven’t fine tuned the listening part, like I hadn't for so long, it can really come down to how we feel. How we feel about ourselves and then with others.

Deep down inside we all know what’s good and what isn’t. 

So last year, what would have once been a daunting move to America became a move filled with so much opportunity. I was completely aware that great friendships would only come if I made the effort.

I started treating myself with more kindness, more positivity. And acting that way to others - being open, and generous with time, experiences and conversations. Listening, especially early on, to be aware if our energies matched.

These kinds of friendships are genuinely supportive and uplifting. We share knowledge, our interests. And just like the first friend I mentioned, our words are kind.

The friends I am talking of don’t divulge information to me about others that they shouldn’t. There’s no room for gossip or unhealthy social comparisons. And I feel safe in sharing my goals and ideas with them to not be shot down, and goodness, hopefully they do too.

 

Written in: one of my favourite secret cafes in Hollywood, and my LA Home

Listening to: the following tracks on Pandora after entering “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young:

Going to California (BBC Live) - Led Zeppelin , Out on the Weekend - Neil Young, Wild Horses - The Rolling Stones, Razor Love - Neil Young, Beast of Burden - The Rolling Stones, Tupelo Honey - Van Morrison , Old Man - Neil Young, Helplessly Hoping - Crosby, Stills and Nash, Ventura Highway - America,  Amie - Pure Prairie League , And it Stoned me - Van Morrisson , Can’t Find My Way Home - Alison Krauss , Roll On Babe - Vetiver , Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd, In My Life - The Beatles, For What it’s Worth - Buffalo Springfield, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight - Bob Dylan, Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World - Israel ‘IZ’ Kamakawiwo’ole

What you wanted to do as a kid

I spent some time upright in my bed last week and thought about some of my earliest childhood memories. To me, between the ages of 3 and 6, I felt I was really clear with what I liked and what I didn’t. An age where I wasn’t  influenced or persuaded to think differently. This connection to what feels good has really shaped the way I live.

As a child I loved nature, especially being in my grandparent’s garden. We lived on a huge block of land in Melbourne where my grandparent’s grew veggies, fruits, nuts and had chickens. Now I live in a place in Los Angeles where I’m surrounded by wildlife. Instead of hens there are hummingbirds, eagles and owls; instead of almond and fig trees there’s eucalyptus and bamboo.

I've loved music ever since I can remember. No surprise really that my career and life has always been intertwined with music. I loved television and the places it could take me. Hence, career in media.

Another one of my fondest memories were my family dinners, which is why I go to effort to create meals for friends here in LA and wherever I travel to. I’ve talked before about the memorable experiences that you can create over a great meal.

This way of living all came from the sparks I got as a child. I followed what felt right.

Yet in my stillness I remembered something that I loved but didn’t entirely get to weave into my life. And that is Art.

One of the art classes I enjoyed the most during school was ceramics. The spark came from turning clay into something that would be useful and beautiful to me.

I connected this thought with my recent move to LA. My move has meant starting anew with everything. And that means buying new items, like ceramics.

You may be thinking, they’re just plates and bowls, Faustina. Who cares? Just buy them.

Well, instead of buying a set over Amazon or at Bed Bath and Beyond, why not follow that spark and at least try and make my own?

They may not look incredible to begin with. I'll probably knock clay off the spinning wheel on numerous occasions, collapse the soft clay when trying to make a bowl. But the spark will keep me on my seat.

And my logic says that the cost of a single awesome plate would be the same cost of an introductory lesson to ceramics. The knowledge and skills to create my own - BOOM!

So I booked myself into a one-on-one intro ceramics class. I start tomorrow. Yes to the kid in me! Follow the kid within. 

Written in: My favourite secret cafe in LA

Listening to: General noise

How meditation helped me sleep

I used to not sleep well. In fact, most of my life I don’t think I’ve ever really slept as consistently well as I have for the couple of years.

I would stress and over-think. Sometimes the thinking was useful, cool ideas for creative projects, but most of the time I would worry about the next day ahead, what could possibly go wrong, what wouldn’t go the way I wanted it to, and then recount all the things I wish would have turned out better in life.

Sometimes I would grind my teeth to the point that my jaw would ache. Then my exhaustion would carry into the next day.

And then there’s that feeling like you’ve never slept, even though you clocked the hours? HELL.

That was part of the numerous reasons why I was curious about meditation.

I’d often hear that a person’s mind could be clear. Really? You could consciously control your thoughts, and quiet your worries and stress?

That was the lure.

As soon as I picked up meditation 4 years ago I noticed things shift. Regular practice helped me ‘not think’ for periods of time.

Yes, thoughts still come to mind but they drift away and I’m back in my zone, where -can I quote the LEGO movie right here?- “Everything is awesome!” I had to.

Some may think when you get to that, “Everything is awesome” state you go back to the stress of every day life when the meditation is over. Not really. What I found is that meditation allowed me to respond to the day better, in a more relaxed, logical state. 

I curbed worrying before I fell asleep for good when I consulted Tim Sharp (AKA Dr. Happy- now also a regular contributor on this blog) on my anxiety around transition. These issues in many ways were intertwined.

Dr. Happy taught me to allocate a certain time of the day as “worry time”. That way, I trained my brain to not delve into thoughts when my head hit the pillow. I opted for the middle of the day.

I would write all my thoughts down for a few minutes and analyse them. And when I looked at what I had written, I would realise how unhelpful all these worries were. And if there were legitimate concerns I would work out ways to logically find solutions.

Now the habit or clear, logical thinking works on an almost instantaneous basis. No more harbouring worries.

Now my time to sleep is completely mine. As it should be.

 

Written in: One of my favourite secret cafes in Hollywood

Listening to: General noise and DCUP’s Someone Told Me

Dr. Happy: It's not just the thought that counts

If you’ve ever been told that “it’s the thought that counts” then with all due respect to your advisor, I believe he/she was only half right! Thoughts obviously do count; I’ve written many times about the benefits of optimism and the importance of developing a positive and constructive attitude for happiness and success.

But intentions without congruent action can be (and often are) near useless. Many of us when at school “meant” to do our homework but that didn’t ever satisfy our teachers. Similarly, many of us have considered exercising more and/or eating less but continue to engage in bad habits that do little to enhance our health and wellbeing.

John F. Kennedy once said…

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.

And just as notably, Gandhi has been quoted as saying…

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

What these two memorable quotes recommend to us is the importance of character – or the willingness to do the right thing at the right time (no matter how difficult it might be or seem to be at the time). There’s no doubt this isn’t always easy; but there’s also no doubt, as hinted at by JFK, that the alternative’s not much better (and often, far worse in the long run).

So if you’ve ever experienced the sting of regret (and let’s face it, who hasn’t?) give some serious consideration to putting these tips into practice to ensure that you don’t just think about living a good life but more importantly, you actually and actively love living your best life:

• Regularly schedule pleasurable activities in your life because fun and positive emotions are important • But also, regularly schedule satisfying activities into your life because the sense of achievement that comes from accomplishing something challenging and meaningful, even if not fun, is highly valuable • Be really clear about your values (e.g. honesty, fairness, altruism, courage, courtesy, dignity, excellence, growth, relationships, justice, kindness, modesty, temperance etc.) and do your best to behave consistently with these as often as you can • When faced with difficult decisions, weigh up the pros and cons and ask yourself, honestly, “what’s the RIGHT thing to do?”

And finally, don’t ever forget these final two tips…

Remember, firstly, to always acknowledge to yourself when you’ve done the right thing; too often we discount our achievements believing we’re avoiding arrogance but this false modesty can just undermine future attempts to act positively.

And don’t ever forget…actions speak louder than words!

 

University of Technology Sydney

Dr. Timothy Sharp is a clinical and coaching psychologist who’s sometimes known as Dr. Happy! He’s the Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute and you can find him regularly tweeting at @drhappy.

 

(Image Credit: 750 year old Sequoia trees in California, photo by Michael Nichols)