Thursday, March 7, 2013

Delving Into Happiness

I'm seriously excited to be sharing this post written by Jay Morgan especially for us here at The Beetle Shack. Jay is a father to two adult children, a husband and an author. He has 28 years experience working as a counsellor and physiologist with children, teens and families and has recently written the book 'Finger Painting in Psych Class' - a resource for parents, teachers, therapists and other adults who want to work effectively with children of all ages.

I'll be honest, I'm a huge fan of the 'self help' book. At various times in my life i've found myself reading everything from 'The Dance of Connection' to 'Raising your Spirited Child' to that age old classic The Bible. Each and every time, I find solace in the letters forming words on those pages. I find myself learning, thinking, praying and growing.

Lately, I've been getting into bed early with a cup of tea and an already tattered copy of 'Finger Painting in Psych Class' (it's a handbag book- one that comes with me everywhere). I'm over half way through but keep finding myself referring back to Jay Morgans thoughts about Happiness. They are practical, sensible, grounded and true.

I went out on a limb and asked him if he would be willing to write a guest post for us here, he agreed and his entry is below.


A family can join the local church and become Baptists or Presbyterians. They can all give their time and become volunteers, helping out in the community. They can even all get bikes and become cyclists… But it’s not that easy to become happy… You can’t just sign up for happiness or buy an apparatus that will make you happy. Being happy is more complicated and involves a formula—things you do and things you don’t do to increase the likelihood that happiness will come for a visit… and maybe hang around for a while…

Everyone’s “formula for happiness” will be a bit different, but let’s look at some commonalities that would be found in most of all of these formulas:
1)   Engage in healthy activities and try not to engage in any unhealthy activities. Healthy activities generate good feelings in us— feelings like happiness, contentment, and satisfaction. But unhealthy activities cancel out the good feelings, or create feelings that are not so good, like guilt or regret.

2)   Find work or a hobby you love. Then throw yourself into it… Find individual, as well as family activities, that all will enjoy.a.     Work hard— then play. It would seem that playing first and working later would keep happiness around. But really it is only “pleasurable distraction” that quickly evaporates when the unfinished work comes due.
b.     If you have work to do that you don’t enjoy, don’t think about it and procrastinate. Just do it. And decide to do it well with lots of conscious attention. Then look for at least one positive thing in the activity. It will usually be hiding behind all the negative things you were mentally anticipating.

3)   Spend time in stillness and silence. This will serve as a counter balance against all the loudness and busyness in the world.
a.     Only when you are still and quiet, can you begin to break away from “automatic living”— saying and doing thing reflexively—and begin to find your way on the path to Conscious living—acting with intent.b.     When you are still and quiet you are able to discover your own inner energy and aliveness… a state characterized by peace, contentment and joy. This state is not dependent on other people or an outer set of circumstances. Happiness just periodically bubbles up from deep inside you.
4)   Cultivate present moment awareness. The past is only fading memories. The future is a concept to keep civilization running smoothly. When you notice you are mentally caught in the past… when you notice you are mentally chasing some future event… come back to the Now moment. How? Go to any one of your five senses, or take one slow, conscious breath. Okay, you’re back!
5)   If you have a partner, do not neglect that relationship. If you do, your interactions with your children might become out of balance… or you might look for fulfillment elsewhere—through work, friends, or leisure activities.
6)   And finally, remember this: You always need a reason to be UNhappy. But contrary to conventional wisdom, you do not need a reason to be happy. It is our normal state and birthright. So why aren’t more people happy? Because the egoic mind has convinced us we have to have a reason to be happy— that we have to sort out our past, achieve something, have a relationship, or engage in some lengthy discipline or practice. For this reason, some people catch themselves laughing too hard for little to no reason, aand self-consciousness overtakes them over, stifling their laugh and wiping the smile right off their face. They then compose themselves and look around as if to say, “Sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”
Instead of pulling away from happiness, roll out the red carpet. Be light-heartedly confident that happiness will pay you a visit. Be your own one-person welcoming committee…

In conclusion, but hopefully not to conclude, work on your own personal happiness formula. Pick healthy. Do what you love. Practice stillness. Don’t forget your mate. Be here now. Then don’t worry. Happiness will follow… And don’t forget to bring the kids along… J

If you would like to hear more from Jay, you can purchase his book here. I can also highly recommend 'liking' his Facebook page 'Conscious Parenting'. There you will find daily insights about how to engage with your children in a positive and conscious manner - bite size golden nuggets, if you will. Seriously, do it.

So friends, I'd love to know - do you have a formula for happiness? If so, what is it?

If not, what will you include in yours? 


  1. Wow! Big thanks to you Em and Jay for this timely post! xx

  2. Em I am all for the good self-help book/blogger! We don't have children yet - but I still got a lot out of this article. Really well-written, truthful and a great guest post. I don't know if I have worked out my own formula for happiness yet - but I have learned, particularly in this past year, that sometimes I need to realise that I can't take on and say yes to everything, else I go bonkers and slowly become miserable. So learning to say goodbye to things that no longer serve me, or that I don't enjoy, that drain my time and energy, is a big one for me at the moment.

  3. Such sensible words. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I am currently reading this book too :) I bought this book to help me support our family's positive parenting approach. So far I am certainly gaining a great deal from the book in regard to our parenting journey but at the same time the more I get stuck into it I am learning more about myself and how my mind (my often overcrowded, stressed mind) works and how I can calm my thoughts and focus on what is real, what will give me purpose and what will make me happy.
    For me I'm always working on my formula. It doesn't come easy for me but bit by bit I am getting there. The big one for me at the moment is seeking and highlighting what I am grateful for when I start to let negativity bog me down. Just today I was looking at all the areas of our house that need to be fixed (hello leaky pipes in our bathroom!) and I found myself getting so frustrated and questioing why these things just can get done around here. I stopped and reminded myself and told myself "take a moment and appreciate that we OWN this home. It is ours. Ours. It's not perfect but that's ok." Gee it made a difference.

    Great post Em and Jay. Thank you.

  5. oh em thank you, i am going to print this out, buy the book and like the page! I needed this! thank you Jay xxxxxx oh and by the way em, your pregnancy shots this week in all that pattern and colour....just so very very very beautiful xxxx

  6. What a great post Em. I am going to add this book to my 'must' buy list.
    For our family it is about connection, communication and compromise. X

  7. This is all such great advice- number 2 is spot on for me because organising everything seems so overwhelming that I avoid it- making it worse of course!I'm going to use that advice about just doing it anyway and finding something to like about it. Thank you!! (And also I LOVE art therapy, I'm studying it a little right now and that book you pictured looks great x)

  8. This was a really great read, thanks to you both. You've inspired me to not only think about, but actually write down, a family formula for happiness... Maybe display it on the fridge? Certainly we know that music and dancing together often, plenty of walks and outdoors time, and regular "dates" help : - )

  9. I totally needed this right now... I feel like I've been too hard on the happiness expectation, kind of doing what he says in #6, expecting that if everything is not smooth than I can't possibly be truly happy, when if I stop & don't overthink things every once in a great while I realize that happiness has not eluded me, I have just chosen to focus on what I don't have rather than what I do. As for a happiness formula... hmmm...For me it's staying positive, doing what I know to be right and filling myself with loving feelings towards myself & others. Man, I need to take a big gulp of this "Formula" this instant!


Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em