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Posts Tagged ‘HAPPINESS’

Since January 19th, in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of my Enviroart blog on WordPress, I have been publishing essays that I first posted 10 years ago. This is the last of such postings for now.

This is a portrait of my daughter at 4 years old I painted some years ago when I was studying classical portraiture.

 

Petite Rebelle
©Suzanne Bélair
Oil on Canvas 24 X 20 in

 

Everything is as it should

February 7, 2008 by Enviroart

 

I feel like saying today that everything is as it should. We work so hard to find a purpose for our life sometimes, struggle to get out of problems and bad situations when all there is to do is stop and listen. Open yourself up to the wisdom of the universe. Meditate and listen. Ask a question before going to sleep at night and trust that the answer will come the next morning and it will. Inspiration… It is talked about in the Tao and a lot of spiritual leaders talk about it also. The Dalai Lama said that  “The purpose of life is to be happy”.

 

But happiness does not come from material possessions it comes from within. It is not easy when other people make demands on us. When we think we are not important enough to give ourselves peace of mind and happiness.  WE must work to achieve this.

 

Depressed or felling abandoned? You are part of a whole. We are all alone in our search for the truth but at the same time we are all part of a whole. You think you don’t matter? That your life makes no difference? Well, you are wrong because your life does make a difference. You are important, be it to teach someone something, be it to learn something from a life teacher you will meet or have already met. Only by letting go and accepting, by opening your eyes and your ears to receive the truth will you find peace.

 

I know I sound like a philosopher today but this is the truth I found. Try to live more by intuition. Try to follow your inner light even if it feels pretty dimmed. You might not feel it right now, you might even think there is none inside of you, but there is. Unfortunately, most of us have a hard time following what Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe once said “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least”. And this is sad most people let them.

 

I have been reading the Tao Te Ching lately and I find it very difficult to understand the subtlety of its wisdom. I know it is hard to accept that things are as it should  when you look at the world, pollution, violence, hunger. All this unfairness! Why is this? We think it is worse now than before but it is not really. There has always been wars and violence, unevenness. Nothing is thrown our way that we cannot handle. We must go forward and find the courage to go on, to learn from it.

 

We hear a lot about suicide lately. The new thing is to try to see the early warning signs and influence the person to stay alive. But the truth is only that person is walking in her shoes. Only this person must find his or her own truth. All we can do is spark something. Each person must be ready to receive the truth before they are able to accept it.

 

When you are really discouraged, just remember that all things are temporary in life. Nothing is forever. It will pass. All you have to do is hang on for now and receive the lesson. Tomorrow will be better, even if tomorrow takes a few weeks, months, years, it will come. And remember your uniqueness makes you important. There is only one “You” and you are important. You don’t need to try to be happy, it cannot be forced especially if you have certain ideas about happiness, especially if you think you don’t know what will make you happy, or if you think you will never be happy. You will be happy again. You will. Life is a wheel turning, changing all the time. When you’re down, there is nowhere to go but up. A good way to improve your life is to find something to do for someone else and try to focus outside yourself. Everything is as it should and you too can bring something worthwhile to someone’s life, indeed to the world.

 

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Since January 19th and until the end of February, I am publishing essays that I first posted 10 years ago. The Pareto law can be observed in every aspect of our life. Reading these posts brings home the importance of taking some time for ourselves to reflect every now and then, our happiness depends on it!

 

 

The Pareto law or the 80/20 principle in everyday life

February 15, 2008 by Enviroart

 

I have been reading about the 80/20 principle lately. Over the years, it had never really caught my attention but here it is now. I find it intriguing because of the fact that it can be applied to everything in life, whether business, economics or relationships and material possessions. It first caught my attention while I was listening to a conference about the Tao Te Ching, the ancient wisdom brought to us by Lao-Tzu 2500 years ago. One of the verses talks about decreasing instead of accumulating. The 48th verse says that “Learning consists of daily accumulating, The practice of the Tao consists of daily diminishing” It also says: ”True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. It cannot be gained by interfering”. How does this link with the 80/20 principle?

 

When we really see that we end up using only 20% of our possessions, we should be able to get rid of 80% of what clutters our closets and our homes. Think about it, are you really using 100% of what you possess? Probably not. So why not get rid of some of it and donate them to people that would use them? It is important for material possessions to be in circulation, to flow. They are at our service and we should not be slaves to them. If you own a home and are enjoying it, that is good. But if it becomes a burden of payments you have problems meeting, work and maintenance you do not enjoy doing, if it causes you stress and worries, then it is not worth it. The same is true of all our material possessions that must be dusted, washed, moved and so on. If something brings true enjoyment, it is all worth it but the minute it doesn’t anymore, get rid of it.

 

The 80/20 principle is also interesting when applied to business. If 20% of your products bring in 80% of the profits, if 20% of your employees produce 80% of the work, if 20% of your efforts bring about 80% of the results, it is clear that there needs to be a shift in working habits and a profound analysis of the employees strengths and weaknesses in order to render the whole thing more efficient. Because the opposite is also true: 80% of the products bring in only 20% of the profits, 80% of your employees don’t produce more than 20% of the work and 80% of the efforts bring only 20% results.

 

And what about relationships?  Are we spending 80% of our time on the 20% that doesn’t count instead of spending the bulk of our time with the 20% of our relationships that are important to us, to our well-being?  Does that make sense? There needs to be a shift to bring together our true values with our actions. The goal should always be to align these two realities, our spiritual authenticity and our material reality. The 80/20 principle brings this to light. I myself have realized that I was spending pretty much 80% of my time on things that didn’t really matter to me. I have been trying to re-align this.

 

You get caught up in life and outside demands and one day you realize that somebody else or something has taken over your life (80% of it at least) and that you are not doing what you want, with the people you want and are not where you want to be. When this happens, it is important to ask yourself what is important. What is the 20% you enjoy? What is the 20% you are good at? Take that 20% and increase its importance in your life by cutting out the things you don’t enjoy. Start with things you feel you are not good at (unless you think it is important to develop a particular skill).

 

If you don’t enjoy something and on top of it you are no good at it, why are you doing it? Replace these by things you feel you are good at. After a while it will become easier to identify and eliminate what should not be part of your life. After all, it is YOUR life. It should be YOUR choice.

 

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Because I have been blogging for 10 years, I decided to share some of my posts from that time as a celebration. After all, ten years is a decent time and I am very proud of it! Here is one about self-knowledge and acceptance, a difficult accomplishment!

Self-knowledge and self-acceptance

July 16, 2008 by Enviroart

Our Self-image is hard to control. Self-knowledge and self-acceptance are two important concepts that are sometimes difficult to grasp. Self-knowledge especially is an interesting concept that is not only difficult to grasp but also a dilemma. Do we really want to fully know ourselves? Do we want to see our flaws or do we want to perceive ourselves like others do when this is not positive. Do we really want to see in every corner of our soul and discover the nitty-gritty workings of our inner thoughts?

 

There are many obstacles to self-knowledge, particularly when you spend a lot of time with others. After all, our society often demands that we act in certain ways that are quite often contrary to our core self. Quite interestingly, we sometimes chose to be part of a group because we think we are going to enjoy it, or simply to find out if we are going to enjoy it. After all, our main motivation always remains to experience pleasure and happiness. When this doesn’t work out, we are surprised, disappointed, alienated from ourselves and wonder how come we didn’t know this in advance. This is self-discovery.

 

Everything we do, each decision, is to bring relief from unhappiness or to experience pleasure. We want to feel happy, loved, vindicated, right, acknowledged, useful and appreciated. This is the main motivation for most of what we do and decide. Some decisions, sometimes taken with this in mind, do not bring us to where we are trying to go but put us in a situation of stagnation.

 

It is important to remember that what drives our behaviours, indeed our lives is not business-like decision making or rational planning but the need to avoid pain and gain pleasure. This is an instinctive reaction driven by childhood experiences, what happened last month or yesterday, what your parents or peers told you over the years, what you learned through your various experiences and the conclusions you arrived to when you experienced these things. Even if we want to be rational, which often we think we are, we often end up doing things that only repeat a past pattern even if we know it won’t bring us to where we want to go.

 

It is very difficult to override the system and change a behaviour that has been embedded in ourselves for many years even if we know deep down it won’t bring us happiness. Short term pleasure and short term vision are often what rules our behaviour, indeed the world as we can acknowledge where we are environmental-wise.

 

Which is why often, self-knowledge goes out the window. Do we really want to know that deep down, our heart is not as good as we would like? That we are not perfect, that we don’t really do our best in certain circumstances, or rather, that we don’t really do our best in certain circumstances according to other people’s standards? Because, basically, we are all trying to do our best with what we are dealt in life. For example, even if some people are perceived as ”bad”, they are trying their very best to reach this pleasure/happy state. It is difficult to comprehend and accept that even a “bad” person, a criminal would be doing his best. It is difficult to accept that the murderer is only trying his best to reach a state of non-pain if not of pleasure and happiness. Maybe they just gave up because it seems less painful than trying again to “fit in”.  It is easier to accept life and its bad elements when you see that we are all part of a whole and that each and every one of us is trying his/her best to survive.

 

It is difficult to cope with a bad and obnoxious neighbour, a drunk driver, a criminal, and it should not be said that we should be accepting of behaviour that goes against other people’s right and well-being, that cause pain or even destroy life. Your freedom stops where the other person’s starts, as they say. But is also possible to look upon these bad elements with some compassion. For the person that is acting bad is unhappy. Somehow, what kind of education makes it OK to destroy other people’s property or other people’s peace of mind? If the education is not faulty, it could be a brain malfunction, a condition that forbids normal thinking and sends the person in a spiral of wrong decisions and behaviours. And to come back to self-knowledge and self-acceptance, how do these people come to accept that they are not able to function like everybody else and must choose a parallel lifestyle? The general consensus is that we don’t want these people in our lives and they must know it, I suppose. We know they are part of society but they must be controlled.

 

I think it is important to self-discover in order to improve ourselves and our lives but also, to examine what drives our decisions. The main goal to reach happiness needs to be defined and separated from the vision of avoiding short-term pain, of reaching short-term pleasure. We need to discover what will bring us happiness and in order to do so, we must experience different circumstances and situations until we get there. We must accept ourselves and learn from our reactions to the circumstances and situations we are thrown into. Because, we might think that something will bring us happiness when in fact it will leave us cold once we get it.

©Suzanne Bélair

 

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A few days after mothers day, add to this the excellent blog from Upwitscreek https://upwitscreek.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/swinging-the-bat/

and this morning the non-fiction prompt from “The Time is Now” ‏coming into my in-box with this statement:
In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde remarks, “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

 Noel 1978-2crop

It then goes on to ask us to think and write about some reminiscent traits (patterns of behaviour or little quirks reminding us of our parents or guardians) that still impact who we are today.

I have decided to write about my mother. I must say that as much as I never wanted to be like my mother while growing up, rejecting her lifestyle, her devotion to my father, her obsession with cleanliness and order, I changed my mind and tried to be exactly like her once my children came into my life. I always thought she was just perfect especially because of her happiness and acceptance of who she was ! Optimist, loving, always in a good mood! A super housekeeper with a perfect routine she was able to stick to, our house was always in perfect order and “spic and span”. Secretly, I envied the life she and my father had built, the way they seemed so in love even after 25-30 years of marriage.

Growing up, she was able to build a perfect nest of love and comfort, where you could always turn and feel safe, for my sister and I. I loved my mother with all my heart. At adolescence, I revolted against her agreeable disposition, of what I perceived as weakness, of the way she would shy away from any argument, preferring to keep peace with everyone. But it was hard to stay upset with someone that could give you everything and accept everything I did.

When I had children of my own, I tried to be perfect like I thought she had been with us. I loved, cared and fought for my children’s wellbeing fiercely, shielding them from the things I judged as bad in life for as long as possible, also creating a world, a nest of as perfect a love I could give them.

I admired my mother very much and no matter how hard I tried, I never felt I was quite as good as her. For one, I went back to work after my first child. Thirty years ago, this meant I wanted to be at home when I was at work and at work when I was at home, the guilty feelings slowly eating away at me.

I was not able to keep up the house like she used to, bake pies and cakes, nor did I want to really, but I thought I should and could not make my days longer than they were. I was not able to feel and stay joyous, to start singing while I cleaned, to smile all the time, more guilty feelings. I wanted to be perfect for my family. I was missing the crucial element of self-acceptance.

Is our happiness and our sense of accomplishment as mothers linked to our perception of how perfect or imperfect our mothers were? As a young mother, my aim was to become my mother in the eyes of my children and my failure to attain this goal left me feeling inadequate and depressed me. I totally refused to consider I was different and could not, really, become like her. This feeling stayed with me for many years, I am sure affecting how I treated my own children and influencing how they perceived me while growing up. I asked a psychologist one time if it was bad for my children that I was unable to be joyous and happy deep down inside, to be able to transmit optimism and love of life like I thought I should. She suggested I go into therapy which I didn’t do at the time.

My mother, as much as she listened to us and opened her arms to envelope us with love every time we needed it, did not share a lot of herself, her deeper self with us, at least I don’t remember it. It was always about others for her. She was a very giving person and when we started school she threw herself into volunteer work with the same enthusiasm she had displayed at keeping up her love nest, and still kept it up too.

Still today, more than 30 years after her death, I miss my mother, I miss her unconditional love, her wisdom, her optimism, her reliability, her voice.

http://www.suzannebelair.com

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Yesterday, I outlined the way overthinking and ruminating could take over our life sometimes, and why it just doesn’t work to find a solution to any problem.

Thinker by Rodin Photo©SuzanneBélair

 

Rumination can be very gripping and when we are in its web, it manipulates our thinking one way and the other. We feel stuck and compelled to continue in order to figure things out and find a solution but evidence proves the opposite happens. When we feel distressed, stressed out, no insight can be gained from ruminating. On the contrary, things get worse and we can start a downward spiral. So how do we break this habit once we realise that no good can come of it?

 

In the book “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky, some strategies are outlined. I started putting some into practice and, to my surprise, they work:

 

1- Distract yourself- break the pattern. It sounds simple but it is very effective when you remember to use it. As soon as you realise you are overthinking, engage in an activity that usually makes you feel good and absorbed like a sport. Move, read something funny, go for a walk with music you like and listen to the words.

 

2- Say to yourself, even shout “Stop” or “No” or “Enough already” and go on to something else you need or want to do. In other words, force yourself to snap out of it and find something else to think about.

 

3- Set aside some specific and limited time everyday, say 30 minutes, to ruminate and refuse to engage in overthinking except in that time slot. Chances are when the time comes, you won’t be able to ruminate.

 

Also proposed are talking to a sympathetic friend and writing. Personally, I don’t feel this would work as well. The friend might not be available at the time you need to talk and some fragile feelings of low self-worth or even shame might interfere with anything positive the friend would have to say. Writing ruminations down only makes them more real, it is rumination in the written form and will likely bring a feeling of helplessness when you re-read them later and are in the grips of it once again, thinking, Oh No !  I am still at the same point 5 years later !
In practice, each person does what works for them but the important thing is to stop the pattern before it gets too far.

 

Other actions to take are:

Put your hand in front of your face. Look at it. This is real. Your thought pattern is interrupted.

 

Take one step towards solving your issue. When you act and feel proactive about straightening out a problem, you won’t need to ruminate so much, and it will feel like you are going in the right direction, moving forward.

 

One thing I do sometimes is project myself in the future, “next year, next month, next week, it will be behind me”. Will this be important in 5-10 years from now?”

 

When I read the book, I felt I could let go of all my ruminating because it became very clear to me that no good can come of it. Rethinking decisions that have been made in the past, reliving sad moments or failures, imagining all kinds of negative things (even if it seems real), does not get us anywhere but down. I am working hard on freeing myself from this habit since I read about it. We need to move forward and realize that we do not control everything.

 

Better to use some of these strategies to stop overthinking in its tracks. I can say I am now a recent ex-ruminator. Like any habit breaking, it gets easier with time but awareness is important and remember, it does not mean you don’t care about the past, the future, someone else’s well-being, or have no problems, it only means you care enough about yourself to see that this is going nowhere, that it is only a big waste of time that could be put to better use.

 

Try the strategies, you’ll surprise yourself !

 

 

(1) Lyubomirsky S., 2007,The How of Happiness, The Penguin Press, New-York, London.

 

http://www.suzannebelair.com

©2014 Suzanne Bélair

 

 

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After a lot of internal complaining and feeling sorry for myself one day, I opened the “How of happiness”, a wonderful book by Sonja Lyubomirsky, that I recommend to everybody. I found myself at the chapter talking about “ruminations”. I must admit I am an expert ruminator and have been all my life.

 

I remember my mother telling me that ruminating was for cows- “Stop ruminating”, she would say. But despite this, my whole life sometimes seems like a giant rumination. Turning around and around in my head everything I don’t like. Have you noticed that overthinking is rarely about what is right in your life or what you are happy about?  We ruminate our problems and situations because we think that somehow, the more we think about it, the more we’ll find some insight that will give us the solution, the “key” to our own happiness.

 

The thinker by Rodin

The thinker by Rodin Photo©SuzanneBélair

But scientific research shows that it is the opposite that takes place. People that ruminate are generally unhappy and suffer feelings of distress and anxiety. (1) The author talks about rumination like a bad habit that needs breaking if one is to find some happiness. She gives tools to stop rumination when it starts, or as soon as we are aware that we started doing it. Although ruminators think that the more they think about their problem or issue, the more insight they’ll discover  into their own personality and solutions to their problems, or find the answer as to why something is not working, the opposite happens: Ruminators go deeper into their problem and their personal distress, bringing a lot of negative consequences to their life.

 

Sadness is enhanced and sustained, the overthinker becomes biased and doesn’t see reality as it actually is, it becomes a vicious circle. If we are ruminating on a problem, it impairs our ability to find a viable solution because our mind is being taken over by negative feelings, it saps motivation and often provokes a “victims” mentality where we find ourselves in a situation where we don’t see any solutions. It also interferes with concentration and stops us from taking any initiative.
So instead of gaining insight into ourselves and our problems, we gain a “distorted and pessimistic perspective” on our lives. If there is already a tendency to negative mood, the combination of ruminating and negative mood is toxic. Overthinking and ruminating will eventually take a significant toll on us and on our relationships if it hasn’t already.

 

I like that the ruminating is presented as a habit that it is possible to break. According to the author, becoming happier means taking the decision to break free from overthinking about both major or minor negative experiences, it is about learning not to pay attention to every bump in the road whether small or big, and not let them affect how we feel about ourselves and our life as a whole.

 

There is a real sentiment of freedom once we realise that no good can come out of overthinking and ruminating. It is the first step to recovery and seeing our lives clearly and finding happiness.
Tomorrow I will post some strategies to overcome this bad habit.

 

 

(1) Lyubomirsky S., 2007,The How of Happiness, The Penguin Press, New-York, London.

 

http://www.suzannebelair.com

©2014 Suzanne Bélair

 

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Today is one of my favourite days of the year. This passage from old to new, this moment when time stops and we realise we are now entering the next year, one always full of hope and possibilities, the new beginning to the rest of our life.

Since I sometimes have a hard time living in the present moment and enjoying life without worrying about expectations and commitments or what I could have done better, I thought of writing about the importance of this today, but it will have to wait. Because on December 31st, when the clock strikes midnight, this moment it is all about hope, the future, the coming year, and the events that will surprise us along the way.

I see the beginning of the New Year as a promise of an expansion of the self, more growing, more learning, more steps on the road to life, a new adventure, cheerful anticipation.

On a more global note, I am still hoping for world peace and the waking up of our governments as well as individuals to act in a more responsible way to save our environment and our children’s future.

I love to take a moment to reflect back on the past year and take note of everything good that happened, the new friendships, the strengthening of some bonds, all the new ideas that were triggered by the many encounters that took place in the last 12 months.

Happy New Year 2014 to all, may life bless you with Love, Joy, Health, prosperity, Happiness and lots and lots of creativity!

Blog-MomentPrésentEnergieEnSM

I really enjoyed painting these two small artworks. They represent the present moment when it is literally bursting with energy, when it wants to break free, when it is out of control, life, birth, the other side of tranquillity, creation and letting go.

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