Disclaimer: This is not a guide to finding the love of your life.
On Happiness, Chocolate and Smiles
It’s (almost) Valentine’s Day and hearts and chocolates are popping up everywhere you look. But what if you don’t have that one sweetheart? How to feel the love? Well, it doesn’t have to be romantic love and really it’s the non-romantic, unconditional love that gives true and lasting happiness. So, perhaps it’s a good idea to develop it so that you can reap the benefits of being happy.
BTW, if you’re into the history of St. Valentine’s Day you might want to know that “During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the (…) Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.” (see History of Valentine’s Day for more fun facts and a video). Maybe you don’t have to be a mating bird to feel love…
The kind of love that makes you truly happy, the unconditional love, kindness and open-heartedness towards yourself and others. Could this be equated to the feeling of happiness?
What is happiness?
Do we know what REAL happiness is? I’m not being very original writing about this. Wise and learned people have written and spoken about happiness. The Dalai Lama (I think he is a universally known happiness authority), says that happiness is a feeling of being satisfied or content, not a sensual pleasurable experience. He talks about the peace of mind that comes from warm-heartedness… He says thinking of yourself as a certain type of person boxes you in, closes you, you think you’re different from others. He then goes on to prove that he’s the same as all the other 7 billion people on this planet. You have to watch the video to find out. (trigger warning: this video may cause laughter and a feeling of warmth in your heart). Follow @dalailama for more wisdom.
So, how do you feel the love if you’re not a mating bird? I recommend:
Making healthy chocolate is super easy and you can make it exactly the way you want it – intensely or mildly chocolaty, with goji berries or hazelnuts, with peppermint oil or chai spices. You can add coffee for the additional kick or spirulina if you’re weird like me.
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup cocoa butter
- 1 cup (or less depending on how intense a chocolate you want) cocoa powder. I like to use Dutch processed or alkalized cocoa powder that is less acidic and darker.
- 1/2 cup raw honey (or less or more depending on how sweet a chocolate you like). You may also use maple syrup or stevia powder.
- Additional/optional: anything you like in your chocolate – almond bits, coffee grounds, raisins, orange flavour etc.
Melt the cocoa butter in a small pan or pot. Once fully melted remove from the heat and add your other ingredients. Mix thoroughly and pour into molds or parchment paper lined plate. You can use baking sheet or a glass baking pan or any other container. Let it sit until it hardens or put in the fridge to speed up the process. Enjoy!
Don’t wait for Thanksgiving! There are many benefits of gratitude practice; physical, psychological, social and others. If you need research to prove you know what to do (Google is your friend). For your convenience here is one of many: Why Gratitude is Good. It has some tips and links to helpful tools as well.
If you haven’t done any gratitude practice before you should aim at a short daily practice. Every morning or evening (or any time of the day that works for you) set aside a few moments to write down or at least think of 3 things you’re grateful for right now. Today. Tonight. This morning.
You can just do it in your mind but there is something powerful about writing it down and seeing your growing list of the things you are blessed with. You can make notes on your smart phone or on your computer or write it down on a piece of paper and stick it on your fridge. Why not tweet it? Or post on Facebook or other social media (if you’re comfortable with sharing this way). It may inspire others to be grateful for what they have.
It doesn’t have to be big. It can be anything – what counts is the thought of appreciation and realizing that we take so much for granted… and the softening of the heart that ensues. My three-item list for today is:
- I am grateful for being able to bike to work today
- I am grateful for working with respectful and talented people
- I am grateful for Snapchats with Sonkaponka ♥
See something nice in everyone
It’s very easy to find faults in others (and ourselves) and this just reinforces the pattern of aversion, fear and hatred in our minds. You can consciously train your mind to change this habit and here is how you can do it.
Notice when you are mentally commenting on yourself or someone else, your friend, partner or that slow old lady in front of you. As soon as you notice this thought pattern – change it. Change it into love and kindness. Look at the person anew and find something positive – how well this colour suits your friend, how nice it is of your mother to care about you, how brave that elderly lady is to venture out to shovel the snow and to refuse when you offer help.
You will have to be diligent to change the pattern of your thoughts. It doesn’t happen in a day. Keep at it and you will see the results – a more positive, happy you.
Another simple way to feel the love is – to smile. Try it. Right now. It’s magical.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh