The Alphabet of Happiness: "E"

Happiness can be found everywhere, if you know how to look. By spending some time focusing on the ways happiness can show up in your life, you train your brain to see more of it. By increasing your "happiness vocabulary" your capacity for happiness expands. Here are a few ways to tap into your happiness now, using the letter "E."

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever been so excited about something or someone that you could barely contain your enthusiasm? Do you remember being greeted by a dog's yelps of sheer glee when you walked through the front door? How about a baby's smile when they open their eyes to see you there, or the sudden blossoming of a tree bursting forth after winter's sleep? Enthusiasm is part of happiness, and it is everywhere, if we just notice it.

Whenever you have a goal, it is enthusiasm that is the fuel of your dreams. It engages your will, and lifts you past the obstacles. When your ideas align with your intention, it is your enthusiasm that makes dreams into reality, like a power plant for the soul.

Emotions are the carriers of enthusiasm, evident in the twinkle of an eye, the bounce in a step, or the energy of a smile. Enthusiasm leans in -- it reaches towards another, inviting affinity, engagement and connection. What engages you fully? What incites your enthusiasm? Project it, catch it, and spread it around!

Let each man exercise the art he knows. -- Aristophanes

It's no secret that exercise releases stress, engages endorphins and just plain makes us feel better. If our rational mind understands that exercise makes us happy, it begs the big question: Why then can exercise feel like such chore? Here are a few workarounds to reframe your motivation.

Find the internal inclination to exercise. The idea of losing weight may lose urgency, but planning to be healthy enough to be there for the people you love can have real staying power. And while you're at it, why not do it in a way that grabs you and inspires you into the "flow" zone? Check out activities that crank up your heart rate while simultaneously providing a creative or playful outlet, such as hiking or dancing full out. Changing it up from time to time keeps it new. What does it for you?

When combining exercise with the thrill of meeting a goal, and mixing in a friendly social side, force turns into fun. Consider rock climbing with friends; training for a half-marathon; or doing a walk for a cause you wish to help. Working out with a friend keeps you both going when other priorities loom. Exercise + Goal + Friends = Motivation! Use your creativity to find your own best motivation mix.

The definition of exercise is "something done or performed as a means of practice or training." Along with exercising the body, you can also can exercise your mind, exercise your rights, exercise your will, exercise your judgment, exercise your choice, or exercise your influence. What quality would you like to exercise? The good news is that the more you practice, the more empowered you become. It's inevitable. I love the quote by Peggy Fleming, "I think exercise tests us in so many ways, our skills, our hearts, our ability to bounce back after setbacks." Whatever you choose to exercise, what if you could view it as a way of discovering your strengths, accessing your happiness and claiming who you really are?

The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy. -- Meryl Streep

Empathy is the feeling of walking in another person's shoes, and seeing through their eyes. It has the power to blast your heart open and broaden your horizons in unexpected ways. It reveals the truth about our human connection and makes strangers want to reach out and help one another. Empathy has the ability to reduce prejudice and bullying by cutting to the core of our humanity. By sensing another's emotions and imagining what they might be feeling, by noticing their body language not just their words, we gain a deeper understanding of their perspective, intention and needs. No matter what the situation, it always helps to know where people are coming from!

Empathy does not mean that you are over involved with the emotions of the other person. To be a "good" person, you do not have to go into empathy overload. It is not "I feel what you feel, and I am lost in your pain." Rather, it is more an expression that "I sense what you are feeling, can help you and maintain my own feelings." Empathy builds bridges between two perspectives, connects us to the "other," and moves us forward towards something better for all.

How does it feel when someone has empathy for you? What was a memorable time when you demonstrated empathy for another?