by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 28, 2019 enhancing joy, how to be happy, peak experiences, what is a peak experience0 comments
When was the last time that you peaked? Felt the exaltation of true bliss, the innocent delirium of fulfilling pleasure uplifting your consciousness to a reality shift? A peak experience is the kind of long lasting joy which is available to all of us, when we have our minds right, our goals aligned, and our peace on high priority. It goes something like this, set off for a late spring trek in the forest, you spent weeks researching the best trails in your area, and when the day happens that you experience it the whole day is soberingly magical. From the sunlit sky which illuminates all of the most ethereal mountains you contemplate the echo of time which has carved out these vistas, each vivid magenta blossom unfolding in the balmy breeze surrounding you is subject to your endless curiosity. A part of you falls in love with the panorama around you, you feel your heart rate increase and the energy coursing through your blood in a way that inspires excitement, enthusiasm, and wonder. You have arrived my friend, you are peaking, and even sustaining your life, rewinding your biological clock, and serving yourself for years to come with the newly created memory of this amazing experience. Answer this question, what was your last peak experience?
Having peak experiences are important for longevity, vitality, and bliss. Science backs this up, the field of positive psychology looks at how peak experiences serve us. Originally discussed by Abraham Maslow, he defined peak experiences to be the off shoot of a self-actualized persons capacity for enrichment and joy. Now, science take this a step further to study how they high-jack the layers of our cortex’s capacity for embedding memories and serving as the anchors upon which the healthiest of us define our lifelines. According to research featured in Time Magazine by Beirut neuroscientist Arne Dietrich when experiencing a peak moment, there is a change in the way our brains operate, we gain greater attention and even wonder in exchange for the usually flow of optimal energy.
The very pathway to desiring to go on the exotic trip to Tokyo, getting the MBA, reconnect with the long lost friend begins to create greater joy at the onset of imagining the experience. Unless of course you suffer from myopic thinking as associated with depression, or the motivation dampening effects of anxiety which are illustrated when imagining what it feels like when your imagination wanders to some new experience and you can see only the possible perils or failures, in which case your first step toward bliss might be reaching out to a therapist near you.
When we are peaking, we are as the great spiritual leaders like Buddha encourage us to be, we are not thinking of yesterday or fearing tomorrow, we are in the now, fully within the moment, completely submerged in our attention to what is around us. It is not just an individual journey either, within healthy relationships we notice the tendency for couples to recount the narratives of the last best novel joy that they have experienced together, instead of the counter tendency to rehash the last unprocessed argument.
What are peak experiences but those moments that earmark the years, they define the decades of our one earthly life. It’s the wind whipping in your hair while sailing the boat on the Chesapeake, it’s boldly dashing through the finish line of the Pittsburgh Marathon, its deepening your meditation practice and the upturned moment of full arm suspension in a yoga headstand. While nature is a great ‘one upper’ when it comes to peaking, let’s face it the grandeur of the great outdoors is seldom matched by man made creations, including the benefits of forest bathing, but there are still other ways to get to the top of our emotional climate. Falling in love is often cited as a powerful interpersonal peak experience. The experiences that will lead to a peak are different for everyone. You can find it by asking yourself this, ‘what really makes you feel tuned in?’ Whatever path you take to get to your peak, research recommends that creating more opportunities for peak experiences in our lives leads to enhanced happiness, enthusiasm, and even motivation. Thinking that you do not have time for peak, you have deadlines and day care to get to, well then you my friend, need a peak experience the most. The fact is that by prioritizing meaningful joy, we enhance our energy and motivation to achieve other tasks, remember in the words of Stephen King, ‘All work and no play makes jack a dull, dull, boy.’ The act of striving toward bliss accumulates and accelerates our good vibes as we gear up to approach our experience, then the great act of doing what makes us happy will later become memories which can be relived at leisure. We, as living breathing animals aware of our well-being, require the opportunity to define ourselves by wonder, to celebrate our capacity for joy by honoring our awe over the humdrum monotony of routine, fear, and disappointment.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 9, 2016 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, wellness, wisdom0 comments
“Peace Out Happiness; Why letting go of Happy may make us more Healthy ”
In psychology, in pop culture, in our songs and movies, our social media, we hear words and anthems which suggest that all the world is happy or in search of happy. “Happy” is the new salvation, happiness is quantified, we travel the globe, move our homes and families, friends coach each other through break ups by saying things like “it’s for the best, you weren’t happy.” We take pills, we change directions, we do it all on the quest for the place where we can experience this Holy Grail. Happy is one of those feeling states kind of like love, it means something a slightly different to everyone. What most people mean when they say that they are feeling happy is really more of an ecstatic sensation brought on from external stimulation. We eat, we shop, we serial date, and we orgasm our way into euphoric happy but it’s likely that it’s never enough because this happy is always fleeting leaving us with the notion that something is missing, so begin cycle again, more eating, more shopping, more dating and on and on. Perhaps even most of all, notice the way we judge ourselves or lapse into despair when we inevitably come crashing into the notion that perhaps we are not “happy,” we feel like a failure at life, imagining that everyone else has some secret to being that we have not. Yet maybe, just maybe we are ok just as we are without all of the trappings of that five letter word.
Our proverbial quest changes the moment that we notice that these fleeting sensations are the cheap imitation version of long standing peace. We have been tricked, happiness is a fallacy, balloons bursting, drum roll stopping, external states of joy or daft manic amusements are no place by which to chart the life map. In the misguided journey, happiness will always be a place ahead, sometime in the future looming on a distant horizon. “After the promotion, after the next high dollar sports car, when I graduate school, after we are married, when our first child is born.” Happiness, peace, a space where we can stop and take a breath, the life marker where the “aha’ moment presents itself and the final sense of accomplishment graces our countenance. Be cautious traveler, searching for the treasure trove called happiness will throw off the compass, encouraging the bypassing of eternal states such as peace and serenity which are by far more sustainable emotional destinations.
We can nurture peace when we are living our life in balance, hard things will present themselves but we will assimilate and understands those things and we will allow them to pass by in their right time. Happiness can’t be sustained through the weathers of lost jobs, parking tickets, gossip mongers, accidents and hurtles but serenity, the far more virtuoso milestone can. Yet we know there will be days when happiness will stop by, she will sit down for an afternoon visit, we will always enjoy entertaining her but we know that she must ever move along on her Sunday drive, and we respect this, never demanding that she remain seated for yet another serving of our crumpets, frantic in our fears that the lovely face of happiness may never come again. That which we allow to come and go freely shall remain yet that to which we cling will forever suffocate and seek to escape us.
Our sense of serenity, the little kernel of you which is based upon confidence in personal integrity, the security which knows that whatever may come will be handled with wisdom, we are seasoned captains of our own vessel, when we notice that we have veered into some familiar or odd storm ridden sea which challenges our equilibrium and decimates our sense of peace, fear seizes the cloaked night as we are cradled in the turbulent arms of high winds and sea sprays, white knuckled grasping the helm. The captain allows the winds to die down and high seas ebb away without disturbing his peace.
Storms happen, life happens but peace can remain even in the midst of change, chaos, destruction. Peace is more profound than euphoria, more enduring than pleasure and more tangible than happy. Perhaps the flower children of the 60’s had something right with their peace mantra, maybe we can find a way to come back to that, when we make our life goals, our relationship goals, when we weigh and assess how we are living our life, maybe rather than ask, “am I happy?” or “were we happy together?” “will this new job make me happy?” maybe a better question to ask, “is this allowing me to hold on to my sense of peace?”
Peace and Love…
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Contributed by Stephanie McCracken MSPC
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenDecember 1, 2014 counseling, holidays, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Holidays offer a time to renew hope as we become enamored with the sparkle of the glimmeringly bedecked pines and spruces in all of their exalted luster. The fa,la,la,la of Christmas carols blaring on the radio while baking cookies, pies, and perhaps even a bit of gingerbread to share with loved ones and guests. It’s the time of year when I want to hug a little longer in escape of the winter chill, and most importantly its the time to remember that dreams do come true. Do you want to restore your bounty of belief in magical goodness? This task is simple my friend, stare into the eyes of a young child and ask the age’s old question, “What do you hope that Santa will bring for you this Christmas.” Watch the delight and make a note of what should be placed high upon Santa’s list, maybe now you are beginning to remember that Christmas dreams do have a way of coming true. Beneath the rising crime rates, tendencies of avoiding intimately connecting with others, even deeper than our capacity for fear, we can believe in magic, we are able to be propelled by faith, we can marvel in miracles, we can offer kindness and exude love too. Just give it a try and notice what happens when with wide eyes and voices slightly above a whisper, you say “I think I heard something, is that Santa’s sled?”
We all know about broken hearts, loneliness and only one limited time span of life to live, but once again with the light displays and holiday party’s maybe we can allow ourselves to “catch the Christmas spirit” and drift along on the currents of hope and love for a while. When elves and reindeer whirl about the night air, it is indeed an act of true love to make hundreds of millions of dreams come true. Little ears stretch to listen for the sound of Santa lurching down the chimney or through the front door, only the crumbs are left from the feast of cookies serving as a token of gratitude for Santas affectionately hard work. Remember that feeling, the sheer delight of surprise and wonder as your feet flurried down the stairs on Christmas morning, and the excitement of brightly wrapped presents and piled beneath the tree. Every scrooge can have his day to embrace a little magic, love a little more, recall with a soft smile those early days when anything could happen, those days are now. It’s the day of year when we can eat cookies for breakfast and magic becomes reality. The snowflakes sparkle just a little more or maybe they reflect that twinkle in our eye.
You see, I believe in magic, I know that its as real as you and I for I have seen tear drops evolve into loving and exuberant smiles. I have seen hatred and ferocity in action, upon the news headlines, in the news feed, but I also know of random acts of kindness, a loving hand extended towards our brothers and sisters near and far. I have seen greed and thirst for material objects, tight fists grappling with stacks of paper money but too I have seen boundless generosity and selfless investments of time and care towards the betterment of our human race and the earth. I have seen the dark days and felt the chill of December’s air but I too know the exhilaration of a well-placed ray of sun upon the skin. Maybe too this is what this Christmas time means in its distilled and essential version, all of the gift giving and frenetic purchases, we want to believe. We want to believe in others as pillars of goodness and ourselves as givers of happiness, mounds of good cheer. We want to elevate our neighbors and friends to the fullness of bright smiles, we want to believe in love at first sight, in tradition, in hope, in the birth of merciful demigods, in salvation, for we can see it now, with the coming of the lights and the scent of baking cookies, pine freshened air, it’s with the wrapping of the bows, and the long embrace of hugs, the outstretched warm hands to hold, yes, yes, I remember now, we believe, the Christmas spirit is here…
In Holiday Hope and Love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Couples Therapy
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100