Think your­self happy

Nu­tri­tion ex­pert Dr Michael Sharon says he has dis­cov­ered the se­cret of hap­pi­ness. He shares it with Si­monRound

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES -

MICHAEL SHARON is a happy man. He is not happy just be­cause he is fi­nanc i a l l y wel l off, al­though he i s . He i s not happy just be­cause he has a lov­ing re­la­tion­ship with his part­ner, al­though he has one. And al­though he is happy that his new book is be­ing pub­lished, his hap­pi­ness in not just about that.

Dr Sharon is happy is be­cause he feels he has dis­cov­ered the one thing we all crave more than any­thing else — the se­cret of how to achieve hap­pi­ness. It took him a long time to work it out, but now that he has, he wants to share it with the rest of us. This is why he has writ­ten a book en­ti­tled The Magic of Self­Ac­cep­tance.

Dr Sharon, an Is­raeli who now lives in this coun­try, cer­tainly looks re­mark­ably con­tent as he sits sip­ping a cof­fee in Sel­fridges, just a short walk from his Cen­tral Lon­don home. He reck­ons he can sum up the en­tire mes­sage of his book in one sen­tence. “I have dis­cov­ered that the way we think about our­selves af­fects ev­ery as­pect of our lives. That is the essence of ev­ery­thing I am try­ing to say. I have re­alised that what you think and say ac­tu­ally cre­ates your re­al­ity.

“Very few peo­ple truly ac­cept them­selves. You have to un­der­stand that you are not a vic­tim. You are a child of God who de­serves good things. You can­not af­ford the lux­ury of neg­a­tive think­ing be­cause life is con­stantly mir­ror­ing back your thoughts and your re­al­ity is shaped by ev­ery­thing you think or say. To re­fine your think­ing is a lot of work. Ac­cept­ing your­self is not some­thing you can ever say you have reached or at­tained. It is a life­long goal.”

He may be happy now, but Dr Sharon has not led a charmed life. He left Is­rael to study nu­tri­tion in Cal­i­for­nia — he has a PhD in the sub­ject — and founded a health food com­pany which ex­panded and grew. Then, for no rea­son he could un­der­stand, the busi­ness col­lapsed. At around the same time, his mar­riage fell apart as well.

Dr Sharon re­calls: “For me it was like the end of the world. We have a say­ing in He­brew which trans­lates as ‘trou­bles come in bun­dles’. Well, mine cer­tainly did. But I wouldn’t change any­thing. When I look back it was a bless­ing in dis­guise. I read a lot of self-help books and I saw that many au­thors men­tion self-love. But they just men­tion it. I re­alised that was the main is­sue.”

How do we go about ac­cept­ing our­selves? Pos­i­tive think­ing is the key, says Sharon.

“You must learn to ac­cept your­self as you are right now, not the way you might be in the fu­ture. If you can do that, all those bad habits of yours are go­ing to shrink away.

“An im­por­tant part of self-love is self-for­give­ness. It is the ba­sis of both Chris­tian­ity and Ju­daism. Some­one once wrote, if you don’t feel well, look around you and see ex­actly who it is you need to for­give. If you are hold­ing a grudge, that grudge is go­ing to make you sick. If you don’t for­give your­self for the bad things you have done, you are stuck. You can’t move ahead if your sense of guilt is pulling you down.”

While Dr Sharon is adamant that any­one who fol­lows any of the main reli­gions can ben­e­fit from his the­o­ries, but he is not so sure that con­firmed athe­ists will get it. “Athe­ists are a prob­lem. They don’t be­lieve in a higher power or a higher wis­dom. They found them­selves here but have no idea how they got here. They are lim­ited in their think­ing. This book is all about hav­ing faith; not blind faith, but you have to be­lieve.”

He does not, how­ever, see him­self as a re­li­gious per­son. “I am spir­i­tual. For me a re­li­gious per­son needs to go to syn­a­gogue to feel close to God. I don’t need an in­ter­me­di­ary like a rabbi. When I need to feel close to God I go the park. I feel closer to Him there than in a syn­a­gogue.”

Cen­tral to self-ac­cep­tance is the abil­ity to hear your “in­ner voice”, as Sharon de­scribes it. This is the part of self-ac­cep­tance which needs prac­tice. To hear that voice, you will need to med­i­tate, says Dr Sharon. But, he adds hur­riedly, you do not have to achieve the lo­tus po­si­tion or feel obliged to chant to feel the ben­e­fit of med­i­ta­tion.

“We all have a source of in­fi­nite wis­dom inside us. Some peo­ple call it the sub­con­scious or the un­con­scious but the way to es­tab­lish a con­nec­tion with it is by re­lax­ing or med­i­tat­ing. Take a long walk in the woods. Re­lax in the park. You can even do it while you wash the dishes. You just have to qui­eten the ‘mind chat­ter’ which ob­scures this voice. The in­ner wis­dom comes in the gaps be­tween our con­scious thoughts.”

Dr Sharon ac­knowl­edges that in our hec­tic lives the abil­ity to put in long hours is much prized by em­ploy­ers. But for him, the key to hap­pi­ness lies in do­ing less, not more. You should vi­su­alise what you want and con­cen­trate on it but not nec­es­sar­ily feel you need do any­thing about it — not in the short term any­way.

“The whole point is you shouldn’t think you have to do any­thing. For­get about the ‘go get it’ approach. In our cul­ture if you are not a hard work­ing per­son you are lazy — some­thing’s wrong with you. But if you look at re­ally suc­cess­ful peo­ple they don’t seem to be do­ing much, whereas poor peo­ple seem to be work­ing hard all the time.

“I don’t have any­thing against hard work — I used to be a worka­holic my­self — but when you work hard you leave no time for med­i­ta­tion. By tak­ing time out to do noth­ing, you will get a lot of won­der­ful ideas that will make you more ef­fi­cient.”

Dr Sharon also in­cludes chap­ters about how to be pros­per­ous. He leans over and di­vulges al­most apolo­get­i­cally that mak­ing money is eas­ier than you might think if you use your power to at­tract it.

“When you are suc­cess­ful fi­nan­cially all you do is man­i­fest the riches of the uni­verse. If you look around you, the uni­verse is so boun­ti­ful, so plen­ti­ful, so end­lessly abun­dant, why should you limit your­self? Peo­ple who think in terms of scarcity, at­tract scarcity. So think about abun­dance and you will at­tract abun­dance.”

Dr Sharon goes along with for­mer US Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt’s as­ser­tion that we have noth­ing to fear but fear it­self. “If you are scared of cross­ing a busy road be­cause of fast-mov­ing traf­fic, that is a le­git­i­mate fear. If you scared to start a busi­ness be­cause you are scared to fail, that is prob­a­bly the voice of your ego. The trick is learn­ing which voice to lis­ten to.” The Magic of Self-Ac­cep­tance is pub­lished by Book Guild Pub­lish­ing at £9.99

If you prac­tise self-for­give­ness, you will feel this good about your­self, says Dr Michael Sharon

Dr Sharon, hap­pi­ness guru

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