Frequently Asked Questions
Jump to: What is Happiness | What is Peace of Mind | What is Spirituality | What is Emotional Health
is a ‘state of mind’ associated
with feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to
bliss and intense joy.. (from Wickipedia).
It is my firm belief that people can learn to be
happy and that it is our God given right to be happy, healthy
and live life to the fullest. There is a current movement,
called Positive Psychology, which was started by Martin Seligman
in 1998. Seligman points out how the last fifty years of psychology
has been primarily dedicated to addressing mental illness rather
than mental "wellness." He urges psychologists to continue
the earlier mission of psychology to nurture talent and improve
normal life. Positive psychology “studies the strengths
and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive." Positive
psychologists seek "to find and
nurture genius and talent," and "to make normal life more fulfilling," not to cure mental illness. Compton, William C, (2005) An Introduction to Positive Psychology. Wadsworth Publishing, 1-22.
Shimoff of Chicken
Soup for a Woman’s
Soul fame (also featured in The Secret) has just
written a book called Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps
to Being Happy from the Inside Out.
It is a wonderful book in which she features 100 happy people
whose stories she relates. She also shares numerous exercises
and a lot of reference to more information about any given
topic. It is a very user friendly.
Here are some other references on happiness:
Happiness Formula – BBC's comprehensive
look at the science of happiness.
Happiness – Comprehensive research & questionnaires
Gilbert – Do people & experiences
make you happiest?
Happiness Diet – Could 8 min. a day make
- Money & Happiness – What to watch out
- Science of Happiness – Time magazine cover story (PDF).
From my experience, finding peace of mind starts with Stress Management.
I have taught Stress Management for Kaiser Permanante
Northern California for 10 years, along with Assertiveness.
Both are extraordinary tools in helping to achieve peace
of mind, and often, health as well. Stress is mediated through
what is called the HPA-axis (Hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal).
The adrenals are the endocrine glands that produce adrenaline
and cortisol, for instance, that figure so largely in
the stress response. As a result of more of these hormones
coursing through the bloodstream, the effects of stress
are experienced by individuals. Unfortunately, much
of what we see today as an epidemic of obesity, hormonal
imbalance and Diabetes is related to increased stress
levels. Treatment can help all of these conditions,
as well as the level of stress. It can involve not only diet,
exercise and stress management techniques, but herbal
and supplemental support of the HPA-axis.
Since Stress is such an all pervasive experience in modern
life, and is such a major component of dis-ease, it needs
to be addressed by every individual.
An extension of Stress Management, and closely allied with it, is finding peace of mind through “going within”. This can involve many forms of meditation and meditative type activities (Yoga, Tai Chi, other martial arts, etc.). It is closely allied with mindfulness and living in the ‘now.’ Eckhart Tolle's non-fiction bestseller The Power of Now emphasizes the importance of being aware of the present moment as a way of not being caught up in thoughts of the past and future.
His later book A New Earth further explores the structure of the human ego and how this acts to distract people from their present experience of the world. It is the feeding of the human ego that is thought to be the source of inner and outer conflict. Only in examining one's ego, may people begin to see beyond it and obtain a sense of spiritual enlightening. In his view, the present is the gateway to a heightened sense of peace. He states that "being in the now" brings about an awareness that is beyond the mind, an awareness which helps in transcending the ego. The ego means here the false identification with forms and labels: body, mind, thoughts, memories, social roles, life-story, opinions, emotions, material possessions, name, nationality, religion, likes and dislikes, desires, fears etc.
If you are present, you recognize yourself as the space of consciousness in which the thought or impulse arises, you don’t lose yourself in thought, you don’t become the impulse. Being present is being the space, rather than what happens. He says that we should use the mind as a tool, and not let the mind use us. (from Wickipedia)
The realm of spirituality lies outside what is considered traditional religious belief. Currently in the United States many people consider themselves to be spiritual and not religious.
Spirituality, in a narrow sense, concerns itself
with matters of the spirit, a concept closely tied to religious
belief and faith, a transcendent reality, and one or more deities.
Spiritual matters are thus those matters regarding humankind's
ultimate nature and purpose, not only as material biological
organisms, but as beings with a unique relationship to that
which is perceived to be beyond both time and the material
As such, the spiritual is traditionally contrasted
with the material, the temporal and the worldly. A perceived
sense of connection forms a central defining characteristic
of spirituality — connection
to a metaphysical reality greater than oneself, which may
include an emotional experience of religious awe and reverence,
or such states as satori or Nirvana. Equally importantly, spirituality
relates to matters of sanity and of psychological health.
Spirituality is the personal, subjective dimension of religion,
particularly that which pertains to liberation or salvation.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Spiritual issues can be addressed only after one has addressed the issues below the level of spirit (Self-actualization).
The above diagram shows Maslow's hierarchy of needs,
represented as a pyramid with the more primitive needs at the bottom.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often depicted as
a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels
are grouped together as being associated with Physiological
needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated
with psychological needs. Deficiency needs must be met first.
Once these are met, seeking to satisfy growth needs drives
personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come
into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are satisfied.
Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs
in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower
set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily
re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled
needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.
For instance, a businessman at the esteem level who is diagnosed
with cancer will spend a great deal of time concentrating
on his health (physiological needs), but will continue to
value his work performance (esteem needs) and will likely
return to work during periods of remission.
The first four layers of the pyramid are what Maslow
needs" or "D-needs": if they are not met,
the body gives no indication of it physically, but the individual
feels anxious and tense. The deficiency needs are: survival
needs, safety and security, love and belonging, and esteem.
Stress Management techniques, Assertiveness and other vehicles leading to increased effectiveness and decreased ego state can help boost one to the level of personal growth and into spiritual pursuits (presuming the D-needs are being met). Growth groups of the 70’s (EST, Life Spring, Silva Mind Control, etc.) are prime examples of other vehicles. Currently many churches have picked up the moniker and have spiritually oriented groups within their own purview.
Closely tied in with the above sections is emotional health. Emotional health is a function of constitution, family background, life experiences, thoughts and exposure to/use of various tools. Some cultures tend to be “more emotional” than others: think Italian vs. Scandinavian. This is not related to emotional health however; emotional health relates to reactivity. That is, how much we react to situations in the real world i.e. criticism, loss, grief or general upset. It relates also to our level of defensiveness, ability to be vulnerable, ability to handle anger and criticism and level of training or ability in communication. Assertiveness training is one example of useful training to improve emotional and therefore physical health.
There are, in addition, many other avenues of complementary medical treatment. The choice of many homeopathic medicines, for instance, is based on emotional upset or symptoms ‘made worse’ by a certain emotional state, like anger. Bach flowers and other flower essences deal almost exclusively with the emotional realm. Also, nutritional status, lifestyle considerations, and level of supplementation can play into emotional health status and be optimized through appropriate treatment.