Finding Zen in the City

Honest--and sometimes comical--daily stories of reflection and inspiration.

Five Ways to Feel Happy

How to stop the kvetch.

We all know that life spent navigating the hectic pace of New York City can be overwhelming, even frustrating. I ran into a friend the other day and when I asked how she was doing, I got a shrug and an “Eh…” — like she was some crotchety old grandpa about to tell me about her sciatica. Apparently the city had been wearing on her. But why let it be a buzz kill? Life is way too short to be kvetchy.

If you ask me, Groucho Marx had it right: “Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead; tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

Of course, we’re only human; I, too, get into ruts, succumb to fits of rage and have my fair share of meltdowns. I am Jewish, after all — and I fight my neurotic, negative tendencies every day. I think Moses must have included these lovely traits with the Ten Commandments when he passed them down to my people.

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Here are some techniques that keep me focused on happy, calming thoughts. And yes, unicorns, rainbows and cute little black dresses are included.

Focus on What You’ve Got
You can’t afford your favorite sushi restaurant, the pressure of the holidays is sneaking up on you and the last time you cuddled with someone you liked, Obama was still popular. Well, we all have our share of inconveniences. But what in your life is goingright? When you put your energy toward dwelling on what’s wrong, you get stuck there. Instead, focus on the good things you have going on. Soon you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also draw more good things your way. Having trouble finding a few things to be grateful for? Hot showers and sugared cereal count!

Lose (the Illusion of) Control
Dharma Punx leader Josh Korda once explained to me why we get so down and out in the big city. He said we base our identity on things that are constantly changing: work, friends, our bodies… Everything in life is constantly in motion and out of our control. Korda’s advice? Let it all roll around you, but base your true identity on your deeper self. Really, the only thing you can control is the way you react to the changes around you. So sit back, flow with the chaos around you and don’t let it make you nuts.

Forget Your Goals
We put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best, the smartest and the fastest. When we fall short, boy — do we get cranky. Not even Superman himself could be the perfect hero. Yoga principles teach us to be goal-less, which might make any city-dweller go mad. But what if your goal every day was to feel joy or simply to be content? You might be surprised to find your greatest achievements grow from that peace.

Endorphin It Up
Sure, you can drink and go druggin’ all night, but exercise and yoga give you the same or better effects naturally. Serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, is released in your brain when working out. Yoga shifts life’s energy around in your body so that you’re in balance, which leaves you feeling happy and slightly stoned. Nothing wrong with that! Throw in a little meditation and green juice and you’ve got yourself a lovely, happy-go-lucky cocktail.

Be in the Now
You’ve heard it a million times on Oprah and from Eckhart Tolle, who writes “Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.” We are only stressed when we are thinking about our future and past. If you concentrate on the present, you’re golden! This moment creates the next, then that next moment creates the following one and like a domino effect you’re on the right path.

Life’s too short (or too long, for that matter) to feel miserable. Only you have the power to redirect yourself into the feel-good Now.

 

Ilana Donna Arazie is a video columnist and blogger looking for meaning and zen in New York City.

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