Happiness interview: Agapi Stassinopoulos.
Through a mutual friend, I e-met Agapi Stassinopoulos. She has a new book that's just hitting the bookstores, Unbinding the Heart. She grapples with the question of how we can "unbind our hearts" better to experience playfulness, connection, self-expression, and joy. Clearly happiness is at the heart of this challenge.
Gretchen: What's a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Agapi: Getting together with the people I care for and having an intimate time, where we lovingly share and listen to each other in a safe haven, recharges me and fills my heart. It beats any good therapist! After all, it's a Greek tradition that around the kitchen table, through food, laughter, and a little bit of wine, all sorts of problems can get resolved. Your heart gets nurtured and your spirit gets lifted.
What's something you know now about happiness that you didn't know when you were 18 years old?
Now I know that my happiness is generated from inside myself. My happiness is not dependent on what I get from the outside world, but more about what I can bring to the world.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
The two main things that get most in my way of happiness are worrying and pressure. Sometimes, I start to worry about the outcome of things, rather than projecting positively into the future, and finding happiness in the present. It's a terrible habit that I catch myself doing, and I try to course correct the moment I recognize it. Other times, I pressure myself to do more, to be more…It's the "more" obsession. There is only one remedy, which is to call myself back into the present and to be grateful.
Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you've found very helpful? (E.g., I remind myself, "No calculation.") Or a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?
My mantra is "I am fully present with myself wherever I am." Like my mother used to say, "give your full attention to whatever it is you are doing."
If you're feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost?
I light some candles, get cozy in bed with my favorite comforter. I read anything I want to, listen to audio books or spiritual seminars, talk to my friends on the phone, or watch movies. There's nothing like the comfort of my bed and my fluffy pillows to restore me to my happiness.
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
I think what detracts from a lot of people's happiness is that they separate from each other and shut down, instead of opening up and embracing each other.
Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
My remedy for my happiness is to listen to myself. If I'm too tired, I put myself to bed. If I'm hungry, I make sure I eat the things that are nurturing for me. If somebody I am talking to is depleting my energy, I stay away from that person. I try to keep the people who are nurturing and uplifting close to me. I freely express feelings and do not censor myself. Definitely sharing the joy and the light randomly with people brings me a lot of happiness. All these are factors that contribute to a high level of taking care of myself, so I can then contribute more to other people's happiness. Attending to myself is something that I have worked hard at over time to make into a positive habit.
* I had fun checking out the site Yasiv. You enter the name of a book in the Search bar at the top, and the site generates results based on Amazon's "also bought" feature.
* Are you reading The Happiness Project in your book group? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like the 1-page discussion guide. Or if you're reading it in your spirituality book group, Bible study group, or the like, email me at email@example.com for the 1-page spirituality discussion guide.