In times of transition and stress, we look to each other for comfort, reassurance or simply a good laugh. A crisis draws people together. We may find sheer pleasure, enjoyment and sense of meaning through being more open and available to each other.
You may have come to depend on what you can buy for your happiness - movies, meals out, new clothes, cars or holidays. Less affluent need not mean less happy. The reverse might be true. What if you could be even happier, through your greater connections with others, close to you or further away?
"Happiness is like a butterfly: if you try to pursue it, it will elude you. While you are actively engaged in, and entranced by, your own pursuits, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder." From Superlove: The Guide To Happiness In Personal Relationships
I have learned that no one else can make me happy. Happiness is in my hands, and within my reach. Explore these suggestions for connecting to greater happiness:
1. Intention and Focus
What is your intention for greater happiness? Connect inwardly with your vision by seeing, feeling, hearing yourself happier. Have photos around you of your happy moments; smile to yourself when you are walking or driving; nurture happy thoughts.
Know your needs for connection with others. Do you see enough of those you care for the most? What about more casual friends and acquaintances? Are you someone who likes time alone? We are each different. Our needs may change at different times in life.
"Whatever good things we build end up building us." Jim Rohn
2. Be happier with you
Listening to an interview with John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I learned he had been a monk for 9 years. During that time, he was primarily relating, and learning to be happy, with himself. This discipline gave him the foundation for subsequently guiding others in relationships, and for his bestselling books.
Connect with, accept and appreciate the best in yourself. Connect with your wisdom and natural joy. Look for and praise the good that you are, and the good that you do. Learn how to respond constructively when negative emotions arise.
"The loftier the building, the deeper must the foundation be laid." Thomas Kempis
3. Expand your capacity for happiness
We can educate and train ourselves away from the high peaks of excitement and the lows of depression and despondency.
Watch South African Bruce Muzik describing staying in the middle zone of our emotions - using chopsticks and a napkin. In this zone, we are better able to attract and connect with others.
4. Enrich your connections with family and close friends
Have you found that you cannot change those closest to you - parents, children, spouse - a co-worker? You can accept and appreciate them just as they are. You can potentially change your attitude towards them.
The closer you are to someone, the riskier it is to be as honest, open and authentic as you might be - and the more rewarding when you are.
"True education is concerned not only with practical goals but also with values. Our aims assure of us of our material life, our values make possible our spiritual life."
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
We make connections through our feelings and emotions. Touching others with our understanding and empathy, through careful listening and gentle eye contact, awakens the happiness of love.
On two separate occasions, I have seen young French mothers caressing their infants' faces and watched their babies bathing in serenity and happiness. Try gently caressing your own face during a tiring day, breathing deeply as you do so.
Do you get enough hugs? As adults we thrive on the unspoken connection that a warm hug gives to us. Be willing to ask for hugs, or offer them as this man did in Australia:
6. Casual Connections
Social Networking is in vogue. I call it "contact without consequence". Clearly it has value because so many are using it, and around the world.
If Social Networking is not for you, how about making contact with people locally? A word exchanged on a park bench, in a supermarket line or walking your dog can enrich your sense of community and feeling at one with your world.
"Kind words are a creative force, a power that concurs in the building up of all that is good, and energy that showers blessings upon the world." Lawrence G. Lovasik
7. Reach out
If you have been laid off or left full-time work, you may wish to replace the casual contact you had when employed. Find an interest you can learn or share with others in your community. Singing in a choir, oil painting, acting, salsa dancing, mountain biking or hiking for example.
Give some of your time and talents for those in need. In giving, allow yourself to receive the joy of the connection. John Morton's article: Balancing Giving and Receiving speaks to this.
8. Laughter connects
Have you ever been doubled up with laughter, reduced to a helpless heap with pure joy - for no reason at all? Like in church, for example, when everything is very serious and laughter is, well, just not appropriate? The more you try to stop laughing, the less you can.
Watch how one man transformed a journey on the metro for his fellow passengers. Notice the connections being made.
Bodhisattva in metro