Read an Excerpt
Better Than Sex
Chocolate Principles to Live By
By Theresa Cheung
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2005 Theresa Cheung
All rights reserved.
Discover the Sweet Center
ABOUT CHOCOLATE: Choose your favorite filled chocolate or truffle. Let the chocolate sit in your mouth for a few seconds to release its wonderful flavors and aromas. Then, chew slowly to discover the center. Take your time, and allow the union of chocolate and center to melt slowly in your mouth. Delicious!
ABOUT LIFE: Positive change takes place from the inside out.
Open a box of assorted chocolates, and you see before you a microcosm of life. There is pleasure to be found, but you may have to experiment until you find it. (Why else would they include centers like pineapple cream or lime nougat?) It's much more satisfying when you know what's inside before you make a choice. It's much the same in life. If you want to lead a happy, contented life, you need to know what's going on inside you. You need to know what you like and what you don't like.
Finding Out What's Inside
If you don't know what makes you feel good, how can you make positive changes? The first chocolate principle is about discovering your center, getting to know yourself better. And the way to do this is by developing your self-awareness. This means looking deep within at the way you think and feel about yourself and your life.
Are you happy with your life? What is important to you? What makes you feel sad? What makes you feel good?
Don't worry if you don't know the answers to these questions. The important thing is that you start asking them and get into the habit of reflecting on why you think and feel the way you do. Each time you pause a moment to notice yourself doing the things you do or wonder why you feel the way you do, you will be getting to know yourself a little better, and this is the first step on the road toward a happier life. Self-knowledge is, after all, the beginning of wisdom
Take a Good Long Look at Yourself
Take a good long look at the way you lead your life. What things drag you down? What things, apart from chocolate, lift you up?
It might help to act as an observer on your own life. Step outside yourself for a moment and just observe what you think, feel, say, and do. Observing yourself is a well-known technique for improving self-awareness. Watching yourself can help you separate what you think and feel from who you are. You will see that throughout your day, thoughts and feelings constantly flow through you. You will see that as powerful as these feelings and thoughts are, they are separate from you. You are the one who allows yourself to experience them. You are the one in charge.
As you get to know yourself better, you will start to recognize events, patterns of behavior, responses, or attitudes that make you unhappy. Perhaps your job is making you feel stressed or your relationship isn't as fulfilling as it could be or you are doing things because you feel pressured by friends and family, or perhaps you just feel low and don't know why. Whatever the reason, once you are able to identify and acknowledge that you aren't as happy as you could be, you can start thinking about ways to make positive changes. You can only change what you acknowledge.
All Change Starts with You
But how do you begin making changes? Simple. You begin with YOU.
Once you have recognized the need to make a positive change, the place to begin is with yourself—not your partner, your children, your family, your friends, your wardrobe, your weight, or your work. Everything starts with you. Positive change always begins on the inside.
You can immediately begin to feel happier about yourself and your life by changing the way you feel about yourself. When you feel good about yourself, you feel calm, confident, and in control. When you don't feel good about yourself, everything starts to go wrong. Getting chocolate with an unpleasant-tasting center is a big disappointment for a chocoholic. Don't let that happen in your life too. That's why changing from the inside out—making sure that you feel good about yourself or have good self-esteem—is the first chocolate principle to master.
Do You Feel Good about Yourself?
To find out, you need to ask yourself certain questions:
* Do I like myself?
* Do I think I'm a good human being?
* Do I deserve to be loved?
* Do I deserve to be happy?
* Do I really feel that I'm an okay person?
If you find it hard to answer yes to all the questions, then negative feelings about yourself are limiting your chances of happiness. Furthermore, you are probably giving out signals that you don't really love, like, and value yourself, which makes it harder for other people to love, like, and value you too.
Feeling Good on the Inside
Feeling good about yourself is a lifelong goal. Don't expect it to happen overnight. Chocolate is one tried and trusted way to lift your spirits, but however wonderful and satisfying the chocolate boost is, it's still a short-term fix. Below you'll find more lasting ways to help you feel good on the inside. Try them and see what an immediate difference they make. Then, turn to Principle #2 to see how you can transform this new awareness into positive change.
Let Yourself Off the Hook
Forgive yourself when you mess up. Let yourself off the hook. Taking out the whips and beating yourself up for the things that went wrong will do little to improve the way you feel about yourself. It's like kicking a horse that can't keep up. The horse is going to start thinking, "Why should I bother going anywhere? I can't go as fast as you want me to, so I may as well sit down and not move at all."
When things go wrong and you do something really stupid, be kinder to yourself. Watch the way you speak to yourself. Don't put yourself down, but instead speak to yourself gently— as if you were a small child with an opportunity to learn something. Use respectful self-talk instead of berating yourself. Shift your tone and choice of words. Use neutral words instead of charged negative ones. For example, "that's too bad" instead of "that's horrible," "didn't work this time" instead of "complete failure," and so on. Take a deep breath and calm down before launching into action or self-criticism.
Each time things don't go according to plan, remind yourself that it could always be worse. For example, you've lost a job—but you haven't lost your skills or your experience. You've gained ten unwanted pounds—but you haven't gained even more. You ate two more chocolate bars than you should have— but you didn't eat three. This will help swing your mind back to a more hopeful place, recognizing that you do have strengths. From that awareness, focus on how you can put them to work more effectively.
Don't forget that "to err is human," and most of us learn by getting things wrong before we get them right. So stop beating yourself up. Blaming yourself or others for things that went wrong in your life won't accomplish anything and will only make you feel powerless. The past is just that—the past. Learn what went wrong and why. Make amends if you need to, focus on what you did that was positive, and move on. You can't change what you did in the past. Let it go. "One of the keys to happiness," said writer Rita Mae Brown, "is a bad memory."
Remind yourself that you did the best that you could do, and now focus on the present moment. Accept responsibility, learn from your mistakes, and turn any regret you may have into resolve to make a positive difference from this day forward.
Use Your Intuition
We understand each other, chocolate and I. My husband says I can hear chocolate.
—Maria Heatter, cookbook author
If you want to find happiness you need to be true to yourself. You need to follow your instincts. This means working with your intuition. What do we mean by intuition? Webster's Dictionary defines it as gaining knowledge without reasoning or deduction. It's your gateway to a wisdom that is deeper and broader than your mind.
Intuition is being aware of something without being aware of how you know it. Intuition is our inner wisdom, and it plays a key role in our success. Some people are more intuitive than others, but there is growing evidence that we all possess this ability to some degree.
Wouldn't it be great if we could always rely on our intuition to guide us safely through life and stop us from making mistakes or taking wrong turns? Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Intuitive powers aren't always easy to read or summon at will. Intuition is mysterious and elusive, but one thing we do know: intuition tends to come to us when we are in a relaxed state of mind.
Ever remember thinking, "It's right on the tip of my tongue," but however hard you try you couldn't quite recall it? Then, you get on with your day, and later, seemingly from nowhere, the answer popped into your head. Intuition works in a similar way. Say that you are facing a problem, maybe at work or in your personal life. You have turned the matter over in your head, and when a solution won't present itself, you let go of it and stop thinking about it. You relax and turn your attention to something else. The problem slips into your subconscious mind, and your intuition gets to work scanning all the information you have stored and making connections. Then right out of the blue, an answer comes to you.
Intuition works better when you feel relaxed. The most favorable conditions for receiving intuitive messages are times of quiet and serenity, when your logical mind is subdued or shut down. If your life is busy and cluttered with constant to-dos, the distractions will be so loud that your intuition won't be able to make itself heard. Activities designed to calm the mind, such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi, might help, and you can do a lot of other things to encourage your intuition to bubble toward the surface.
Take some time for yourself away from distractions such as TV, radio, and noisy kids, and use the time to think, imagine, and dream. You may use this time to take a relaxing bath or walk or listen to music or stare out the window at the sky. The next time you enjoy your chocolate, just let your worries and fears melt away. Simply enjoy the delicious taste, and take that laid-back feeling with you into your daily routine. It doesn't matter what you do as long as you allow all directed thought to leave your mind and let your intuition take center stage. Then, when you least expect it, flashes of inspiration may come. Set aside time each day for a break of some kind, and this will make all the difference in connecting with your intuitive powers.
Your intuition may come to you clearly first thing in the morning, or it may come to you in a meaningful dream. Why not keep a notebook and record your dreams? Don't worry about books that interpret dreams; what matters is how YOU interpret the images. You may find that your body sends you a message from your intuition—a headache when you feel stressed, for example. Or things that have special meaning to you, such as a song or a food, may pop into your mind at a time when you need to feel supported, giving you peace of mind and courage. Your intuition may also speak to you in sections—a bit now, a bit later—and it is only when you have all the pieces of the puzzle that things become clear.
But how can you tell when your intuition is speaking? After all, our heads are always full of thoughts and voices telling us things.
When you know something intuitively, you just know it. There is a quiet and calm about it that is very different from the noisiness of fear. If the thoughts in your head are full of shame, fear, guilt, anxiety, and judgment, this isn't your intuition talking; your intuition tends to be warmer, gentler, kinder, and nonjudgmental. However, your intuition might tell you that something doesn't feel right or that this isn't right for you and it's time to move on or change direction and find something that works better. There may be no words at all, just a gut feeling that this isn't right for you.
If you want to lead a happy, fulfilled life, trust your instincts more. Let your intuition work for you. Get into the habit of carrying a pen and paper around or taking note of any thoughts that come to you randomly that sound like your intuition talking. They don't have to be earth-shattering, just simple thoughts you have as you go about your routine. At the end of the day, review what you have written, and see if a pattern emerges in the days and weeks that follow. Don't try to force the process. Instead, be patient and trust yourself to know what is best for you. Start listening to your hunches more, and see your life change for the better.
How do you feel when you've had a really good laugh? You feel good all over—cleaned out and ready to start afresh. Laughing and smiling actually have great health benefits. They stimulate the production of endorphins (your body's natural painkillers), which produce a natural high. When you see the funny side of life, you are more able to put things in perspective; it's easier to ask yourself if your problem really does matter so much.
What incredible benefits! However fed up you feel, it surely is worth trying to find something to laugh about. If you put a smile on your face, people are more likely to smile back at you, and that will make you feel good. Seek out what makes you laugh—a book, a video, a friend, an activity. Go for laughter; it still is the best medicine. It's hard to feel bad about yourself and your life when you are having a really good laugh.
Sweet Like Chocolate
When you feel low, one of the best tonics is to do something for someone else. Why? Because it's hard to feel bad about yourself when you're busy thinking of other people. Ironically, a by-product of helping others is feeling wonderful yourself.
So why not go out of your way to make everybody's life, including your own, a bit sweeter today? Say hello to some-one who is lonely, hold the door open or give up your seat to someone else, volunteer for a good cause, pick up trash, wash the dirty dishes, be kind, or just smile. There are so many ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the process feel better about yourself.
Center Your Life on Values
Now that you are beginning to discover more about yourself and to think about ways to feel good, let's get to the core of the matter and find out what is really inside you. Is your center rich and rewarding, or is it bland and disappointing?
Feeling rich from the inside out means centering your life not on people or things such as work, money, or appearance, but on deeply held values and principles. Centering your life on anything else but positive values is a recipe for disaster. If all you think about is work, then an upset is going to send you into meltdown. If all you think about is your partner, then your life won't be as fulfilling as it could be. If the opinions of your friends are all that matter to you, you will feel vulnerable when those friends move on or let you down. But if you base your life on your values, you will have the inner strength and resolve you need.
What are values? Values are things like honesty, respect, love, loyalty, generosity, humility, reliability, and responsibility. There are many more, and your heart will easily recognize them. To grasp why positive values matter so much, imagine your life based on the opposites. It's impossible to be happy through hate, deception, or anger.
Living according to your values and principles is not easy, especially if those around you aren't doing it. But as the saying goes, "My strength is the strength of ten because my heart is pure." Honesty, sticking to your commitments, keeping promises to yourself and others, doing what you believe is right, and being true to yourself are always the best policies, even if they are not the trend. Trying to be something you are not is guaranteed to make you feel unsure of yourself. Judy Garland put it brilliantly when she said, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else."
Be Your Own Best Friend
Hopefully, you are beginning to get the picture by now. Principle #1 is all about discovering your center and being true to yourself. This sounds much easier than it is, so don't panic if you don't always feel good on the inside; just keep working at it. Whenever you start to feel bad about yourself, try this exercise.
Imagine that you have stepped outside yourself and are standing beside yourself. Become your own best friend. What would you say that would be reassuring, supportive, and comforting? How would you encourage yourself to feel good about yourself? Would you give yourself a hug? Would you tell yourself that you are doing okay and you appreciate how tough life can get, but you think you are terrific and coping really well?
Excerpted from Better Than Sex by Theresa Cheung. Copyright © 2005 Theresa Cheung. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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