Tag Archives: happiness


Despite this icky cold festering in the back of my sinuses, I have a lot to be grateful for today (and the past several days I took a break from the blog).  Since I’ve already written about libraries, I can’t blog about all the meditation books I found at the Brooklyn Public Library yesterday.  And since I’ve already blogged about baby smiles, I can’t be writing about that, despite the hearty dose of toddler grins on Easter.

So for the April Fool’s Day’s blog, I’m grateful for spontaneity in the form of: an Impromptu Dinner Chinwag (The history of yoga!  A nuclear Japan!  Are publicists evil?  Subject matter to keep the candle burning well into the night …) and an unexpected Trip to the Central Park Zoo (How often does it happen that your best friend from the age of 13 is in the *exact* same neighborhood as you in New Yorkazoid – at the exact same time – with their whole family while visiting from Seattle, without a single shred of a plan?  Synchronicity sure is a theme in my life . . . )

Yes, April Fool’s was all about spontaneity … and for that, I am grateful.  Check out Part 5 in a Psychology Today series on the awesomeness of spontaneity . . .

Published on Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com)

The Wisdom of Spontaneity (Part 5)

By Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D.
Created Apr 22 2009 – 11:02am

 Spontaneity and Happiness

Despite considerable research on the topic, I’ve discovered very little explicitly relating spontaneity to happiness. Admittedly, it’s doubtful that any straightforward, one-to-one correspondence actually exists. Still, what various theorists have said about this ideal state of consciousness suggests that, however indirectly, spontaneity does play a crucial role in its achievement. For whether these writers talk about the importance of living in the moment (or “mindfulness“), liberating oneself from self-consciousness, or even “being in the zone,” the underlying notion of living more spontaneously to foster a greater state of well-being is generally not far below the surface.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has become eminent in the burgeoning field of happiness research for his ideas on “flow,” which he defines as “the psychology of optimal experience.” To the author, an individual “in flow” is so satisfyingly immersed in an activity (mental or physical) that all awareness of space and time simply disappears. Such a state is now commonly recognized as pivotal to a basic understanding of happiness dynamics. And Csikszentmihalyi’s elaborate characterizations of this state reveal much about its essentially uncontrived, unforced nature. Similar to spontaneity and happiness, it can’t be “commandered” into existence–but it can be cultivated, and the author suggests numerous ways of doing so.

jump for joyBy way of qualification, I should mention that our basic personality structure itself partly determines our potential for spontaneity. For example, the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI) posits that there are essentially two ways of orienting toward the outer world. So-called “Judging” (J) types tend to live in a controlled, self-regulated, orderly fashion; more adaptive “Perceiving” (P) types prefer to live in a more flexible, unscheduled–i.e., spontaneous–way. Nonetheless, the very capacity for spontaneity hinges mostly on how much individuals are able to trust themselves. Absent this self-trust, neither a “J” nor “P” is likely to feel comfortable enough to demonstrate much willingness to act extemporaneously. As I’ve already indicated, becoming more self-confident, as well as developing more faith in one’s decision-making, and being prepared to take some risk in this wondrous adventure called “life,” all seem inextricably linked to happiness.

Whether we’re “J’s” or “P’s” on the MBTI, happiness–like spontaneity–is nothing that we can ever take for granted, or directly plan for. Nor is it anything we can contrive, arrange, or manipulate. By its very nature, it’s unforeseen and unpredictable. But although most theorists today have concluded that regularly experiencing this state is at least fifty percent biological, virtually all of these writers also believes (again, like spontaneity) that it can, to a considerable degree, be “courted” or “nurtured” into being.

Much of the abundant literature on Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology, for instance, focuses on helping individuals learn how to increase their odds of attaining happiness. There’s also an increasing amount of literature on such things as volunteer work (and giving to others generally), and embracing an attitude of gratitude–as both these practices can assist us in experiencing an improved sense of well-being. Neither of these behaviors can bring about happiness directly, for (as has already been emphasized) such a mental/emotional/spiritual state doesn’t directly depend on anything, nor does it have any formal prerequisites. But such pro-social, or life-affirming, practices do promote feelings of happiness, even though the state itself always exists in the spontaneous here-and-now.

happiness icon flowers and fruit It might be asked, “How does counseling or therapy relate to all of this?” If most people report feeling happier after undergoing therapy, it’s not simply because they’ve learned new techniques and skills to cope more effectively with their problems. It’s that the process of their self-work has led them to feel better about themselves in general. Liking themselves more, having higher self-esteem, their “enhanced,” more assured sense of self permits them to become less rigid–or more spontaneous–in both word and deed. At the same time, this altered self-image also contributes to a greater sense of well-being. And, too, this new (or at least “restored”) sense of who they are enables them to break free of irrational self-constraints, place more trust in their intuition, and express themselves more freely with others. In short, greater self-acceptance permits greater spontaneity.

Therapy at its best is a liberating experience. And it might be said that, as much as anything else, what is being freed is the individual’s spontaneity. Herein lies the path to that self-actualization which I believe almost everyone implicitly links to happiness. And whether an individual finds this path through therapy, or quite independent of it, it is a path that reflects the ultimate wisdom of spontaneity: the faith and abiding trust in one’s self from which only good things can come.

Note 1: Here are links to Parts 123, and 4 of this extended post.

–I invite readers to follow me on Twitter.



Happiness Recipe

Everyone wants a big bite of that happiness cupcake (or steak, perhaps a “happiness sandwich”) – but what’s the the magic recipe?

Happiness = Being spun around in circles. That is all. 🙂

Maybe it’s different for everyone.  Large quantities of laughter, loved ones and purpose … a splash of physical exercise, a dash of gustatory hedonism, a touch of exploratory travel… throw it all together and stir fry … or does each ingredient come at a particular stage in the whole process?

Does it require silence while it cools?


After a week with family in Chi Town and friends in the Bay, I’m physically exhausted and emotionally rejuvenated all at the same time.  Inspired yet again by my loved ones, I wanted to post a few articles on the happiness I observed:

  • A Happiness Quiz from Web MD (published today).  You’ll find some interesting points on life-work balance and where America is ranked on the global scale of joyful living.  And within the United States, Hawaii residents may live longest, but which general area do you think is happiest (I know I was surprised by the answer!)?  🙂
Nurturing family bonds = :o)

What does “happiness mean to you?



Happiness and Poha

I’m in the process of writing a lengthy (go figure!) article on the ten day silent Vipassana meditation course in Igatpuri.  As I sort through this momentous pile of inspiration and try to find words that give the experience justice … here are a few fabulous videos for your viewing pleasure!

(They’re relevant to the meditation experience via two key words: insightful and food!)

Click here for Srikumar Rao’s insightful TED video on happiness.

Learn how to cook one of my favorite simple Indian dishes, native to Maharastra (the state where my Vipassana course took place)

courtesy About.com
From western India, Poha, made from flattened rice, is an easy-to-cook, nutritious snack. It is often eaten for breakfast or brunch. Add extra zing to Poha by serving it with Mint-Coriander Chutney!


  • 2 cups poha (flattened rice)
  • 2 tbsps vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 2 green chillies slit lengthwise (optional)
  • 1 medium onion chopped fine
  • 1 large/2medium potatoes quartered and sliced very thin
  • Handful of unsalted peanuts (skins removed)
  • Pinch of turmeric powder
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped coriander to garnish


  • Put the poha in a sieve and wash under running water for 2 minutes. Keep aside to drain.
  • Heat the oil in a pan on a medium flame and add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chillies. Fry till the spluttering stops and then add the onion. Fry till soft and translucent.
  • Add the peanuts and potatoes and stirring frequently, cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Drain the poha completely to remove all water and add it to the above mix. Add the turmeric powder and stir well to blend all ingredients.
  • Cook for another minute. Turn off the fire. Pour lime juice over the poha and mix well.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander and serve while hot. Poha tastes great with Mint-Coriander Chutney!

All you need in life, right?  And good food, of course … ;o)