Nutrition expert Dr Michael Sharon says he has discovered the secret of happiness.
Michael Sharon is a happy man. He is not happy just because he is financially well off, although he is. He is 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 Self-Acceptance.
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 life-long 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