It’s that time of year again and while preparing for Christmas, I couldn’t help but think that the most precious gift we can give to each other is to live our lives with an open heart.

Happiness is a skill we are all born with. Keeping it alive in a society that values achievements, good grades and winning over personal connections and joy, is sometimes not so easy.

As kids our hearts are vibrant and our experiences immediate. If we hurt we cry, if we are angry we scream. I remember how my son told me once that he had locked himself up in a bathroom to cry for an hour because he had so much pain in his heart. He was directing a group of performers at the time and didn’t think anything of it. He felt pressure in his heart and he dealt with it. He was young.

When was the last time you did that?

How do you make your heart glow again?

When your heart is heavy, life seems dull. Judging others and secretly blaming them for what’s happening in your life has become a habit that tightened your senses. You may think this is normal, but honestly, has it always been this way? Can you remember times when you were light and full of joy?

If you want to rekindle your happiness you need to find ways to relax your heart. Being aware of the numbness that has taken hold of you is the first step. Most likely you haven’t even noticed how heaviness crept in; it happened slowly and while you learned to toughen up, worked hard, and got things done, you stopped feeling life.

The good news is that you can learn how to be happy again. It is after all your natural state. Below are a few exercises that can help you in waking up to the ecstasy of being alive:

Allow yourself to cry. Crying is a great way of letting go of the pressures in your body. Stop holding back and go for it: Read a sad book, watch a sad movie and let your feelings flow: Ahh, this is good!
Be aware of your thoughts. They naturally want to tell you that it’s someone’s fault that you are unhappy, that it must have some deep and dirty reason, however, it doesn’t. Cry without attachment or drama. This may take some practice but ultimately it’s a great relief. You can be unhappy (or happy) for no reason.

Practice forgiveness. Feelings of empathy and forgiveness make your heart soft. Holding back your love hurts. Realize how you actively engage in acts of revenge and start practicing forgiveness. Hitting back may feel good at the moment but it will keep you alone and isolated in the long run. If it’s meant to hurt, it will hurt you first.
Write down the arguments you are nursing in your mind. Do they open your heart? Are they creating deeper and more intimate connections? Given the choice, pick forgiveness over revenge any time. Be gentle with yourself and acknowledge every little success along the way.

Let things go and move on … Dwelling on past events, especially painful ones, keeps them fresh and alive. Practice to let things go that you can’t do anything about. This takes concentration. Complaining and blaming are habits that die hard. Angelina Jolie said in an interview once: “I don’t believe in regrets. It’s a dangerous habit to get into — it makes you pause in your life if you start thinking back and questioning yourself.”

Surround yourself with light-hearted people. Have you ever noticed that laughing comes easier with some people than others? Find people that inspire you and that light you up. Stop complaining about your life and don’t allow others to complain about theirs. Kids are bundles of love. If you have kids, spend time with them and drink in their energy. Be careful to keep their lights on.

What has made the biggest difference in my own life have been people who believed in my sweetness rather than my shortcomings. Practice the act of loving attention with yourself and others. Believing in your own goodness and the goodness of the people around you will make the biggest difference and will ultimately let you feel life again with all it’s depth and glory.

Good luck on your journey and Merry Christmas!


Photo Source: Pink Sherbet via Flickr under a Creative Commons License