Winter: A Happiness Experiment

“Happiness does not come automatically. It is not a gift that good fortune bestows upon us and a reversal of fortune takes back. It depends on us alone. One does not become happy overnight, but with patient labor, day after day. Happiness is constructed, and that requires effort and time. In order to become happy, we have to learn how to change ourselves”—Luca and Francesco Cavalli-Sforza

We last connected at the beginning of summer, which seemed to fly by in a blink. And now the mountain landscape outside my window is morphing from the last remnants of glorious amber-gold into a backdrop of white, white, and more white. For some reason I have settled in an alpine environment despite my lifelong intolerance to temperatures that fall below sixty degrees. Maybe I have some hidden fondness for perpetual cold, snowy, conditions when the sun rises over the mountain at ten a.m. and falls behind its shadow at three o’clock. This predicament allows for little more than five hours of full-on sunlight (assuming the sun is shining that day). And, winter here is definitely not a short season. It can sometimes last from the end of October to the middle of June. So how could it be that I have chosen to dwell in this tiny town nestled high in the mountains—currently all a twitter with talk of skiing and snowmobiling and sledding and whatever all else that folks do to create frolic and folly in a winter-resort-world (while I am daydreaming about the Caribbean)?

Having exhausted a good portion of my earlier life living quite a bit below neutral when it comes to the happiness quotient, I have spent most of my adult years in pursuit of a more friendly and comfortable way to live. i.e. way above neutral well into the happiness zone. And despite what may have appeared to be a genetic and conditioned propensity toward the negative, I am delighted to report at this writing that I have made considerable progress—though admittedly my improved state of mind did not occur “overnight.” Rather it has come with extensive “effort and time” and a desire to “change.” Now I wouldn’t call any of this “effort, time,” and desire to “change” business necessarily noble, and that is for a very simple reason. I had only two options. I could stay mired in a state of recycling misery, or choose to do something different. Fortunately, I selected the latter alternative.

“Psychologists who study emotions from the evolutionary angle believe that they have evolved on the basis of their usefulness to our survival through their capacity to see us through life’s major exercises: reproduction, care for offspring, and relations with competitors and predators (Matthieu Ricard, Happiness, 2006).” And some theorists believe that our current consciousness (including the emotional state) has its roots in the Pleistocene period. This age was a time of catastrophic climatic change, which included tsunamis, earthquakes, ferocious flooding, and dramatic temperature fluctuations. In addition, saber tooth tigers, wooly mammoth, and other terrifying creatures freely roamed the planet back then. Therefore, it is speculated that our brains and emotions were originally trained and conditioned for catastrophe, or to be persuaded toward the worst case scenario so that our chances for survival would increase. And since the Pleistocene era prevailed roughly 10,000 to one million years ago—in the grand scheme of things (assuming everything got started about a few billion years ago), that phase really isn’t as far removed from us as it might appear.

Good news. My research over the last twenty years (including recent scientific studies) on the development of human consciousness and the possibility for homo-sapiens moving into an “enlightened” state where suffering is transcended—has brought me to one significant conclusion. Humans are hardwired for happiness. It’s just that we have to participate in “lighting up” this wiring of ours, since it has been mostly dormant throughout human history due to the heavy usage of our “survival brain.” I believe that we are meant to live our lives in a state of peace and happiness, both of which are always available to us. Now granted, our programming is firmly rooted in the below neutral range due to our catastrophic conditioning, which is why our negativity perseveres. (Recall what was going on in political campaigns prior to the Nov 2 election as an example.) Nonetheless, regardless of the persistent menace in our heads attempting to persuade us toward the worst case scenario, it is possible to see life through a more optimistic lens. And since we no longer have to focus on fighting off the saber tooth tigers, or looking for a brute to help us in our defense, we can shift our time and attention to using the upgrade that supports us in having a brighter perspective. How do I know this “upgrade” is possible? Because I am witness to many others who are choosing to go there rather than into the dramatic negative. Further, I am delighted to report at this writing, that I actually believe I am among them –well…most of the time J.

As many of you know, I have spent the past ten years of my life with a specific focus on this happiness project which has resulted in a 12 chapter book, Happily Ever After…Right Now. The book has recently been published and is currently available for purchase through my website ( as well as Explore Booksellers in Aspen, Colorado (, go to “purchase book”). I will advise when it can be obtained on Amazon and at Barnes and Nobles.

My utmost desire is to support you from this work in creating a foundation for cracking your own code to unraveling the patterns, habits, and cycles, which have held you captive and kept you from reaching your very best destiny in this life form. Yes there will be a need for some effort, focus, and tenacity in your desire to move into the happiness zone—though it need not be a struggle if you are willing to discipline yourself in committing to making the changes necessary that will help you in your “happiness upgrade.”

The material in Happily Ever After…Right Now will support you in creating your own “happiness formula.” It provides basic scientific and philosophical information while motivating a depth of spiritual inquiry. The book has a three part focus: Education—to offer a fundamental historical and scientific perspective on why you repeat certain behavioral patterns, even if they don’t serve you or your growth. Awareness—to support you in being aware of what you are doing, so that you can strengthen the behaviors of your choosing, while letting go of all that no longer serves your growth and highest potential, and Transformation—to offer tools for completely transcending your outdated ways of operating while moving fully into your happily ever after…right now.

Oh, yes and about my living in this Colorado mountain town currently launching into a full-on-winter- deep- freeze. When I moved here nearly nine years ago, I was frequently prone to discouragement when it came time for the approaching snow. Maybe without knowing it, living here has been an integral part of my own “happiness experiment.” For even though, admittedly, I am much more enthusiastic about spring, I now know and can actually feel, that happiness is an inside job—where the embers of my heart will always keep things warm no matter what—blizzards and all!

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t you will leak away your contentment.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love.

Enjoy the “consequences of your personal effort” toward accessing and “insisting upon” your own happiness quotient. Going into the cozy womb of winter will be a good time to practice, don’t you think?

And if you happen to be in Aspen, Colorado on the 30th of December, 5:00 p.m., please stop by for the launching and first book signing of Happily Ever After…Right Now, at Explore Book Sellers, 221 East Main Street! I look forward to seeing you there!

Loving you. Luann

December, 2010