Monday, 9 January 2017

3 Steps to a Happier Life: Interview with Kristi Ling and Book Giveaway

Girl and a rainbow

People often tell us we have to choose to be happy, but what they don’t always tell us is how.

How do we choose happiness when we’re dealing with life’s everyday struggles and devastating traumas and tragedies?

How can we choose happiness when we’re grappling with persistent negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions?

What exactly do we need to do—or not do—to overcome our challenges and demons and experience more joy in our daily lives?

Tiny Buddha contributor Kristi Ling, a renowned happiness strategist and life coach, has created an amazing resource that answers those questions.

In her book Operation Happiness: The 3-Step Plan to Creating a Life of Lasting Joy, Abundant Energy, and Radical Bliss, Kristi shares how she rebounded from a long-term illness, a divorce, and the sudden deaths of loved ones.

Part memoir and part how-to guide, Operation Happiness blends personal storytelling, powerful insights, and practical tools and tips to help us live happier lives.

I’m grateful that Kristi took the time to answer some questions about her book, and also that she’s provided two free copies for Tiny Buddha readers.

Operation Happiness CoverThe Giveaway

To enter to win one of two free copies of Operation Happiness:

  • Leave a comment below. You don’t have to share anything specific; “count me in” is enough. But if you feel inclined, share something that always makes you happy.
  • For an extra entry, share this interview on one of your social media pages and include the link in a second comment.

You can enter until midnight PST on Sunday, January 15th.

The Interview

1. Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to write this book.

I’d always struggled trying to be happy until my early thirties. Then, there was a point when I became so stressed, unhappy, and unwell that I hit a wall. I knew if I didn’t do something to change, I’d stay caught in that downward spiral. So, I quit my job at that point and went on a mission to decode happiness and change my life. That mission lasted several years.

When I finally experienced a huge positive shift after discovering that happiness is actually a skill we can learn to do, rather than just something we feel, I knew that idea needed to be shared far and wide.

Happiness really wasn’t being talked about in this way. So, that turned into to blogging, coaching, and public speaking. Things kept expanding to the point where I knew it needed to be a book, which lead to writing Operation Happiness.

2. In your book, you wrote that happiness is a skill—something that can be learned, improved upon, and even mastered. Do you believe anyone can master this skill, even those struggling with depression and anxiety?

Absolutely. Just as those who are suffering from depression and anxiety can learn to play a musical instrument if they dedicate themselves, they can also learn and become better at the skill of happiness through a series of new habits, mindset shifts, and practice.

I suffered from depression and anxiety on and off all through my twenties and early thirites. I tried everything from medical treatment to yoga retreats. Some of it helped temporarily, but nothing offered the sustainable sense of happiness and wellbeing I was seeking.

A drastic, determined, permanent change to the way I approach, view, and do life on a daily basis is what finally created the change.

3. Why do you think depression and anxiety have been on the rise in recent years?

Truthfully, I think in part it has to do with social media and electronic overwhelm. We’re vulnerable to more negativity, comparison, and fear energy than ever before. Not to mention hundreds of emails a week, texts, and voicemails claiming our attention and focus.

It’s all robbing our minds of the chance to have open space. I talk quite a bit in the book about how to reduce that and turn social media and media in general into a more positive experience. Having a practice such as meditation to allow your mind time to rest and clear is more important than ever.

I also believe the economy has been a factor these past few years. There are real struggles going on for many people. I’ve found being willing to take on some positive new habits and simple supportive shifts can be truly helpful, even in the middle of a storm.

Happiness is always there for us, it just takes extra effort to tap into it during the tough times. Nobody wants to say that sometimes we actually have to fight for happiness, but it’s true. And, it’s worth fighting for.

4. In your TEDx Talk, you share the story of how an illness helped you to finally find the answers you were looking for when it came to the keys for creating lasting, sustainable happiness. What was it that you discovered?

There were two key things that created a massive shift. One, as I mentioned, is that happiness is a skill.

Aristotle said, “Happiness is a state of activity.” That is so true! I get a little irked when I hear the saying, “Happiness is a choice,” because I think it sends the wrong message to people who feel like they’re choosing happiness but it’s still not happening. It’s not a choice, it only begins with one—the rest involves taking action.

The second key is the power we have to change the neuropathways in our brain to re-wire ourselves for more happiness, positivity, and self-love.

Through focusing on and practicing these things for an extended period of time, we can literally train our minds to work that way naturally. This is called neuroplasticity, and it’s a surprisingly simple, incredible process that anyone can do.

5. Some people make happiness look easy. Do you think some people are just naturally happy? Is it possible to become naturally happy?

I do think some people are naturally happy, but it has much to do with lifestyle and outlook. People who are naturally optimistic are generally happier. People who meditate and exercise regularly are naturally happier.

The good news is that by creating deliberate, positive shifts in our lives and forming habits that support happiness, we can become naturally happier.

That’s not to say we’ll all be happy 24/7, because then we’d be robots. Even the happiest people experience sad days and occasional hard times, but the way they think about them is a bit different. They’ve developed skills to bounce back in healthy ways.

6. Can you talk a little about the link between mindfulness and happiness?

There is such a strong connection here. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment and paying attention to life. Noticing all that’s around us, and choosing a lens of love. Happiness is much the same.

I truly believe that becoming more mindful is one of the most important bricks in the foundation of a happy life. There are studies that show that the quality of our consciousness and ability to be present in the moment are directly linked to the levels of happiness we feel.

We also have the ability to choose our thoughts deliberately, and this is also part of mindfulness. Choosing positive thoughts can produce great results both physically and emotionally.

7. You’ve experienced some major transitions in your life over the past few years, including a divorce. What do you think is the most important thing to remember when it comes to finding light during the dark times?

That our happiness is always there for us, even under layers of darkness.

A while back while going through a hard time, I received a fortune in a fortune cookie that said, “The cloud will rain success upon you.” This is so powerful if you think about it; because it’s not saying when the cloud is gone you’ll feel good again. It’s literally saying it will rain success upon you—while you’re under it!

It’s about being willing to see, seek, and receive goodness when it’s still raining, even when it feels impossible. Willingness to open our hearts to love and joy when we are at our lowest points can be so supportive. It can create miraculous shifts, really. I write about this quite a bit in Operation Happiness.

8. I think a lot of us assume if we’re feeling unhappy it means we’re doing something wrong—or that we need to change something, and fast. Do you think it’s possible to be happy all the time?

Nobody but a cartoon character is happy all the time, and I’d even question that. I still have difficult times and even sad-for-no-reason days now and then. But, there are subtle differences for me now.

For example, I used to feel depressed on days where I was feeling reflective. Now I feel peaceful and even joyful, because I understand the need for reflection and how important it is to examine life in order to grow. So, I embrace and honor it.

It is true that sometimes sadness is there to tell us something important. Ignoring something that needs to be changed can sometimes bring sadness, as well as anxiety, and so can neglecting our self-care.

I’ve learned to pay close attention to sadness when it appears. I’ve found that simply allowing myself to feel that way sometimes for short periods, rather than trying to fight it, allows it to serve its purpose and to pass. If it doesn’t pass fairly quickly, I remember what Aristotle said about happiness being an activity, and I start to take action.

9. What would you say are the top three habits that compromise our happiness?

This is a great question. One is looking for external things to bring happiness without first doing the work within. Yes, external things can sometimes contribute to happiness, but it’s only temporary unless we’re at peace and emotionally fit within, so this is where to focus.

I’d say another is overlooking gratitude for what is. Gratitude is a huge source of joy, and when we’re too focused on the next accomplishment or thing, we lose out on the happiness we can feel in this moment by simply feeling grateful for what we already have. It’s very powerful.

Finally, I’d say to take a look at your eating habits. Crappy food doesn’t just lead to feeling crappy physically, but emotionally as well.

What we eat is directly linked to our happiness. Foods have the power to affect our brain chemistry as well as physical energy. I think this is so important that I included an entire chapter on it in my book. When we learn which foods help boost happiness and make us feel better across the board, it makes a huge difference. And, it becomes so much easier to say no to the junk.

10. If someone is looking to be happier in his or her life, where is the first place to begin creating change?

I think we’ve covered quite a bit here, but I’d say the best place to begin is with your mornings. The way we experience our mornings is the way we will experience life. So, focusing on those first couple hours of the day and making them positive and healthy will support you in feeling great for the rest of the day.

Also, just focusing on those first couple of hours seems so doable, right? I love the simplicity in this concept. For me, changing my mornings truly did change my life. And, it’s something anyone can do.

You can learn more about Operation Happiness and grab a copy on Amazon here.

FTC Disclosure: I receive complimentary books for reviews and interviews on tinybuddha.com, but I am not compensated for writing or obligated to write anything specific. I am an Amazon affiliate, meaning I earn a percentage of all books purchased through the links I provide on this site. 

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About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. To strengthen your relationships, get her new book, Tiny Buddha's 365 Tiny Love Challenges. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter & Facebook.

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