Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

5 Ways to Beat Loneliness

Loneliness can affect us all at different times, in different ways. Whether it’s a fleeting feeling or a constant state of disconnection, here are five ways to beat loneliness

From time to time, we all experience the odd bout of loneliness. Sometimes it can creep up on us during periods of change (like a move or the end of a relationship, for example), and leave us feeling physically or emotionally distanced from other people. Loneliness doesn’t just strike when we’re by ourselves, either. It can be just as easy to feel lonely in a throng of people when you’re feeling disconnected.

For some people, however, loneliness is more than a fleeting feeling. It can be a near steady state with long-term consequences. “I’d say it was a persistent sense of marginalization and exclusion, and a lack of intimacy,’ says Emily White, who experienced a four-year period of loneliness in her early thirties while working as an environmental lawyer in Toronto. ‘I felt a persistent sense of insufficiency’of not having enough people close to me, and that in turn led to a feeling of anxious aloneness.’

White, who recently described her experience in a book called Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude, says the prolonged loneliness eventually began to have physical effects, disrupting her sleep and her health. ‘I started daydreaming a lot,’ she recalls, ‘and I wasn’t as sharp cognitively. Loneliness started to have an effect on me that was real and observable. It took me some time to figure out how deeply it was affecting me.’

According to White, roughly 10 percent of North Americans struggle with chronic loneliness‘a condition more prevalent than depression (and, it’s important to note, different from depression), though harder to understand and less frequently talked about.

‘It’s a common problem,’ agrees Toronto-based counsellor and psychotherapist, Lesli Musicar, who says that many people don’t admit they suffer from loneliness. ‘A lot of people who feel lonely, you’d never suspect in a million years,’ she says. ‘They might go out a lot, or be highly social, but their interactions stay mainly on the surface. So even though they may give the impression of being popular, those people may be feeling very lonely underneath it all because they aren’t letting people get close to them.’

lonliness

While some people may be more predisposed to chronic loneliness than others, it can be overcome. Keep loneliness at bay with these tips:

1. Don’t isolate

When you’re feeling lonely already, it can be hard to think about trying to engage with other people, but keeping your own company may only make the problem worse. ‘Loneliness comes from people not feeling comfortable letting other people close to them,’ says Musicar, explaining that if you have a negative self-image, you may be afraid to let others get to know you for fear they might not like what they find. ‘If you can’t let people close to you, however, you are going to feel alone.’ The problem, she explains, is that when you isolate, there’s nobody around to challenge your negative self-image. ‘You have no reality checks’you only have your own view of yourself.’

2. Keep busy

Though it may be the last thing you want to do if you’re feeling isolated, Musicar suggests joining an group‘a book club, a sports team, choir or a gardening group, for example’where you can meet people who share you own interests. ‘If you join a group where the activity is meaningful for you, and you enjoy it, chances are it will bring out the best in you. And if you feel good while you’re engaged in that activity, it will help you feel more connected to the people around you because you have this one thing in common.’

3. Be kind to yourself

If you’re chronically lonely, you may be fearful of letting people get close. First, learn to love yourself! Fixing a negative view of yourself takes a lot of gentle self-care and nurturing. ‘The first relationship you need to work on is your relationship with yourself,’ says Musicar’and that may mean gently corrected ways of thinking you learned as a child. ‘If you were neglected or criticized,’ she explains, ‘you need to turn that around. You need to start treating yourself differently. The biggest challenge is to treat yourself well when you aren’t feeling good about yourself.’ Being happier with yourself will make it easier to reach out to others.

4. Get educated

Emily White started writing her book on loneliness because she was curious to know more about her condition. Her research actually helped her to feel less lonely by making it less mysterious, which made it easier to deal with. ‘The more you learn about loneliness and how common it is, the less alone you feel,’ she explains. ‘It’s hard to be lonely, but it’s harder when you don’t understand it or you feel alone in your loneliness.’

5. Find someone to reach out to

Whether it’s a friend, a family member or a therapist, finding someone to talk to about your situation can make a huge difference. ‘It’s the biggest challenge,’ says Musicar, ‘but it’s the most healing thing you can do for yourself. Our cultural stigma around loneliness makes the condition hard to talk about, but keeping your feelings hidden may leave you feeling worse. ‘When you feel bad about yourself,’ says Musicar, ‘that’s when you need to hear a different message about yourself. You need to hear from someone else that you matter and that you are worthy.’

BY BEST HEALTH  Web exclusive, June 2010


Leave a comment

Why High School Stays With us Forever

We believe in the free flow of information. We use a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives licence, so you can republish our articles for free, online or in print.

For better or worse, many of us never forget high school: the unrequited romantic crushes, chronic embarrassment, desperate struggles for popularity, sexual awakening, parental pressure and, above all else, competition – social, athletic, academic.

There’s even an entire genre of entertainment that revolves around high school. “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Mean Girls,” “Heathers,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” all revisit the conflict and angst of these years.

What is it about this period of our lives that makes it seem more meaningful and memorable than any other?

My research experience as an evolutionary psychologist leads me to believe that many factors interact to make our teenage memories so vivid. But the main driver is the collision between the hardwiring of our brains that took place across several million of years of evolution and the odd social bubble created by high school, which poses an unprecedented social challenge to our prehistoric minds.

In other words, the world that we evolved to be successful in (a small, stable group of interrelated people of various ages) is very different from the holding pen full of teenagers brimming with hormones that populate our world during the high school years.

‘The reminiscence bump’

Some look back on high school as the best time of their life and pine for those “good old days.” Whether or not this was actually the case, it turns out there may have been some evolutionary advantages to having a rosy view of the past.

But most of us remember high school with an emotional mixture of longing, regret, joy and embarrassment. And strong emotions equal strong memories; even the music from those years gets imprinted on our brain like nothing that comes later.

Memory researchers have, in fact, identified something called “the reminiscence bump,” which shows that our strongest memories come from things that happened to us between the ages of 10 and 30.

What is it about this time of life that makes it stand out from the rest of our years? Part of it is undoubtedly due to changes in the brain’s sensitivity to certain types of information during adolescence. Emotions signal the brain that important events are happening, and the teen years are chock full of important social feedback about one’s skills, attractiveness, status and desirability as a mate. This is precisely the stuff we need to pay attention to in order to successfully play the cards we have been dealt and to become socially and reproductively successful.

A dog-eat-dog world

Memory research may offer hints about why the mental snapshots of our high school years remain so vivid even decades later. But evolutionary psychology can also help explain why so much meaning is attached to these years and why they play such an important role in who we become.

For example, there’s a reason teenagers often strive to be popular.

As far as scientists can tell, our prehistoric forebears lived in relatively small groups. Most people would live out their entire life in this group, and one’s social standing within it was determined during adolescence. How much one was admired as a warrior or hunter, how desirable one was perceived to be as a mate and how much trust and esteem was accorded to one by others – all of this was sorted out in young adulthood. A person deemed to be a loser at 18 was unlikely to rise to a position of prominence at 40. Thus, from an evolutionary perspective, the competition of the teen years had lifelong repercussions.

Of course, today, those who have unsavory high school experiences can move to new places after graduation and start over. However, even though we may be consciously aware of this (to the extent that we are consciously aware of anything when we are teenagers), the psychological buttons that get pushed in the adolescent brain make us become consumed with our social lives during this period.

Popularity can become an obsession, since you’ll be ranked against the people in your own age cohort for the rest of your life. After all, your status as an adult primarily depends upon how you stack up compared with them, not with others.

Also, strong pressures to conform ensure that you do not stray too far from a friend group’s values. Ostracism from the group in prehistoric times was tantamount to a death sentence.

june75
Sometimes, conformity can lead to
cringeworthy moments – bad hairstyles among them.

It all requires forging alliances and demonstrating loyalty to others. The result is a splintering of the social world into competing cliques that grind each other up in the gears of the social hierarchy.

Mom, stop bugging me!

Back home, conflict with parents is usually inevitable. Parents want their children to succeed, but they usually have a more long-term perspective than that of their teen.

So the things that the parent thinks that the child should be concerned with (preparing for a career and developing important life skills) and the things that the child is emotionally driven to actually be concerned with (being popular and having fun) are often at odds. Parents usually realize where the parent-offspring tension comes from. Kids don’t.

Meanwhile, hormones fuel the sort of “showing off” that would have increased one’s attractiveness in early societies. In young men we still reward, to some extent, the things that would have been essential for success in hunting and combat thousands of years ago: the willingness to take risks, fighting ability, speed and the ability to throw with velocity and accuracy. Young women will showcase their youth and fertility. Beauty, unfortunately, continues to be a significant criterion by which they are judged.

Reunion angst

In earlier times, because you had a personal connection with nearly everyone in your group, the ability to remember details about the temperament, predictability and past behavior of peers had a huge payoff. There would have been little use for a mind designed to engage in abstract statistical thinking about large numbers of strangers.

In today’s world, while it is still important to keep tabs on known individuals, we also face new challenges. We interact with strangers on a daily basis, so there’s a need to predict how they’ll behave: will this person try to swindle me or can he or she be trusted? Is this someone important that I should get to know or a nobody that I can safely ignore?

It’s a task many of us find difficult because our brains weren’t really wired to do this, and we fall back on cognitive shortcuts, such as stereotyping, as a way to cope.

Natural selection instead shaped an innate curiosity about specific people – and a memory to store this information. We needed to remember who treated us well and who didn’t, and the more emotional the memory, the less likely we are to forget it. It’s tough to forget when the person you thought of as a close friend publicly snubbed you, or the time that you caught another trusted friend flirting with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

The result is a strong propensity for holding grudges. It protects us from being taken advantage of again but can also make for some uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing moments at high school reunions.

To further complicate things, high school is probably the last time in life when people of all sorts are thrown together for no other reason than they are the same age and live in the same area. Yes, high schools are often segregated by economic background and race. But most high schoolers will still encounter more day-to-day diversity than they will later in life.

After high school, studies have shown that people begin to sort themselves out according to intelligence, political values, occupational interests and a wide range of other social screening devices.

At the same time, however, the people you knew in high school remain your default group for engaging in social comparison.

According to “Social Comparison Theory,” we figure out how good we are and develop a sense of personal worth by comparing ourselves with others; the more similar those others are, the better we can gauge our own strengths and weaknesses. Because your high school classmates will always be the same age as you – and because they started out in the same place – there’s inherently a degree of interest in finding out what happened to them later in life, if for no other reason than to see how your own life stacks up.

Given all this, it’s no wonder that the English Romantic poet Robert Southey once wrote that the “the first 20 years are the longest half of your life, no matter how long you might live.”

June 1, 2016        Frank T. McAndrew Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology, Knox College


2 Comments

13 Incredibly Smart Tips To Be Happier From Mental Health Experts

Genius tips from people whose job it is to make you feel better.

Jul. 9, 2015      Anna Borges

It’s pretty safe to assume that you want to be happy, because…well, who doesn’t? But how to actually make that happen is a little more elusive. BuzzFeed Life talked to a bunch of experts to get their best tips.

Of course, everyone brings their own set of experiences to the table and some people might be living with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety that make things more complicated. But hopefully you might be able to find a few pieces of advice here that can help life feel a little easier.
Heads up: Responses were edited for length.

1. Realize that happiness doesn’t mean having everything you want and being problem-free all the time.

“We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can choose how we respond. When we respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and adopt a victim mentality, we suffer. When we choose to respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening for me and what can I learn?’ then we feel a lot more empowered, which impacts our mental state positively.
The biggest misconception about happiness is that we can outsource it — that something external is going to make us happy. Happiness is NOT a constant state. As humans we experience and grow through a variety of emotions. The expectation that we should be happy all the time will leave anyone with an expectation hangover. What we can be is grateful.”

—Christine Hassler, empowerment coach and author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life

2. Cut “should” from your vocabulary, because it basically guarantees whatever you think “should” happen, won’t.

“When we use the word ‘should,’ it’s like this big, judgmental finger wagging at yourself. ‘I should work out more, I should be happier, I should be more grateful.’ It causes us to feel guilt and shame. It depletes our happiness. It causes us to engage in behaviors that are completely against what we want.
Instead, replace ‘should’ with ‘I would like.’ For example, ‘I’d like to lose weight, because I want to have more energy and be a role model.’ That is more motivational, it’s more based on passion rather than the fear and judgment of ourselves that prevents us from being the people that we want to be.”

—Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

3. Remember that your negative thoughts are not true. They’re just thoughts.

“Sadly, many people make the mistake of believing the negative things that their ‘inner voice’ tells them, often without even being aware of their right to question whether these things are accurate! When it comes to mental health care, many people still think you will need to spend years exploring your childhood or past in order to get better. That’s simply not the case nowadays. Catch, challenge, and change negative thoughts.”

—Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York

4. Start your day by reminding yourself one positive thing about your life.

“This can be a small observation like enjoying beautiful weather or something more profound like recognizing you have achieved one step towards a life goal (working in the industry you always dreamt of, have a best friend who you are grateful for, etc). We tend to hold onto negatives a lot stronger than positives so this can be a small way to give yourself a moment to check in with the ‘happier’ thoughts and realities.”

—Jess Allen, LMSW, ACT, NYC-based cognitive behavioral therapist

5. Anyone can benefit from therapy, so consider making an appointment for a checkup.

“There is a stereotype that many people have about the unique person who chooses to see a therapist. ‘They must be an emotional wreck,’ or ‘they can’t take care of their own problems,’ or ‘they must be crazy.’ That last one is probably the most popular and worst misconception of them all!
It takes a lot of insight and emotional awareness to realize that you want to enlist the services of a trained mental health therapist to get the right help you need. Yes, there are some clients who seek therapy when they are at the absolute lowest emotional point in their lives, but there are also just as many who simply want to become emotionally healthier people to enhance their work and intimate relationships. No problem is too small or large when you come to see one of us. It’s all welcomed because our job is to meet you where you are at in life, not where we or anyone else thinks you should be.”

—Gabriela Parra, LCSW, California-based counselor

woman-talking-with-therapist

 

6. Don’t think about your work responsibilities at home, and vice versa.

“Be present when present, which requires dropping the guilt. Guilt has no benefits for anyone. When you are at work, stay focused, when you are home, give [it] your undivided attention. Doing your best in each place will keep you sane and feeling good about your output.”

—Samantha Ettus, work-life balance expert

7. Stop checking your smartphone randomly. Instead, give yourself specific times to catch up on social media and email.

“Most people would be happier (and less stressed) if they checked their phone less. A study of college students at Kent State University found that people who check their phones frequently tend to experience higher levels of distress during their leisure time (when they intend to relax!).
Instead of willing ourselves to just check less often, we can configure our devices and work time so that we are tempted less often. The goal is to check email, social media, and messages on your phone just a few times a day — intentionally, not impulsively. Our devices are thus returned to their status as tools we use strategically — not slot machines that randomly demand our energy and attention.”

—Christine Carter, Ph.D., happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work

8. Make keeping up with your friendships a priority.

“People think that when work or school or family responsibilities get busy, then hanging out with your friends becomes a luxury that has to be cut. It’s often the first thing to go, even if people are still going to the gym or binge-watching whatever’s new on Netflix. In reality, making sure to spend time with your friends has enormous mental health benefits, and keeps your stress level in check. It’s a great coping mechanism and a necessity for your health that should not be cut when things get tough — on the contrary, you need it more then than ever.”

—Andrea Bonior, Ph.D, clinical psychologist

9. Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

“A lot of people rush around without devoting a few minutes each week to reflecting and strategizing. We may all recognize we’ve periodically contemplated signing up to volunteer at Big Brother Big Sister, then totally forget. Or we mean to switch jobs and then procrastinate, [then] we’re facing our second year in a position we planned to quickly exit.
As Greg McKeown notes in his book, Essentialism, ‘When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and times, other people — our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families — will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.’
Spend time each week planning ahead — plan activities you may enjoy in the moment and also think bigger, considering what you want long term.”

—Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D., clinical psychologist

10. Treat yourself with compassion and lots of love.

“People believe that self-care is selfish, so they avoid doing things that are actually necessities. Self-love, self-care, and self-fulfillment. It’s a lot of self, because happiness starts from within. Self-love includes eliminating negative self-talk and accepting yourself, flaws and all. Self-care means setting boundaries and taking time to refill your energy. Self-fulfillment is all about living your values and having authentic relationships.”

—Rachel DeAlto, communications and relationship expert

11. Don’t forget that your physical health has an impact on your mental health, too.

“Some physical things you can do to create a habit of happiness:
—Honor your circadian rhythm by waking shortly after sunrise and going to sleep a few hours after sunset. Not only do we need seven to nine hours of sleep in order to be happy, but our brain functions better by sharing the rhythm of the sun.
—Incorporate play into your life: Some easy ways to this are when you exercise, do something that makes you laugh, like a dance class, jumping on a trampoline, or playing a group sport.
—Meditate. This can be as simple as an app [like] Headspace.”

—Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., clinical psychologist

12. Several times throughout your day, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is OK. Eventually, your brain will get the memo.

“The bills may be piling up with you having no idea of how they are going to get paid. Your mother may have Alzheimer’s, and dealing with that is wearing you out. You may be starting to wonder if there really is someone out there for you. BUT in this moment, your heart is beating, you’re breathing, and you have food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Underneath all the circumstances, desires, and wants, you’re OK. While fixing dinner, walking through the grocery store, driving to work, or reading emails, come into the present moment and remind your brain, ‘I’m all right, right now.’
Over time with repetition, learning to come into the present and calming your brain and body will actually change the neural pathways in your brain — a scientific truth called neuroplasticity — so that this becomes the norm for you.”

—Debbie Hampton, founder of The Best Brain Possible and author of Beat Depression and Anxiety By Changing Your Brain

13. Make a conscious effort to take care of your mental health the same way you would your physical health.

“Too many people neglect to make their mental health a priority! And so it gets forgotten about and put in the ‘too-hard’ or ‘too-busy.’ But just like physical health, mental health really should be considered non-negotiable because without it, we have nothing else.
If I had to limit the key ingredients to happiness and good mental health to just a few I’d say good quality relationships and connectedness, good physical health and well-being, living a life with meaning and purpose, loving oneself and others, and having a sense of hope and optimism for the future.”

—Timothy Sharp, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of 100 Ways To Happiness: A Guide for Busy People.


1 Comment

10 Relaxation Techniques That Zap Stress Fast

By Jeannette Moninger       WebMD Feature Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

Relax. You deserve it, it’s good for you, and it takes less time than you think.

You don’t need a spa weekend or a retreat. Each of these stress-relieving tips can get you from OMG to om in less than 15 minutes.

1. Meditate

A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.

It’s simple. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting — out loud or silently — a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.

2. Breathe Deeply

Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.

“Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, says. She’s a certified life coach in Rome, GA.

3. Be Present

Slow down.

“Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness,” Tutin says. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food.

When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.

4. Reach Out

Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others – preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what’s going on. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection strong.

dv419022a

dv419022a

5. Tune In to Your Body

Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels.

“Simply be aware of places you feel tight or loose without trying to change anything,” Tutin says. For 1 to 2 minutes, imagine each deep breath flowing to that body part. Repeat this process as you move your focus up your body, paying close attention to sensations you feel in each body part.

6. Decompress

Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest, and back muscles. Remove the wrap, and use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage away tension.

“Place the ball between your back and the wall. Lean into the ball, and hold gentle pressure for up to 15 seconds. Then move the ball to another spot, and apply pressure,” says Cathy Benninger, a nurse practitioner and assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

7. Laugh Out Loud

A good belly laugh doesn’t just lighten the load mentally. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help your mood. Lighten up by tuning in to your favorite sitcom or video, reading the comics, or chatting with someone who makes you smile.

8. Crank Up the Tunes

Research shows that listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety. “Create a playlist of songs or nature sounds (the ocean, a bubbling brook, birds chirping), and allow your mind to focus on the different melodies, instruments, or singers in the piece,” Benninger says. You also can blow off steam by rocking out to more upbeat tunes — or singing at the top of your lungs!

9. Get Moving

You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs.

10. Be Grateful

Keep a gratitude journal or several (one by your bed, one in your purse, and one at work) to help you remember all the things that are good in your life.

“Being grateful for your blessings cancels out negative thoughts and worries,” says Joni Emmerling, a wellness coach in Greenville, NC.

Use these journals to savor good experiences like a child’s smile, a sunshine-filled day, and good health. Don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments like mastering a new task at work or a new hobby.

When you start feeling stressed, spend a few minutes looking through your notes to remind yourself what really matters.

SOURCES:
American Psychological Association: “Exercise fuels the brain’s stress buffers.”
Bennett, M. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, March 2008.
Bennett, M. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2003.
Cathy Benninger, RN, CNP, MS, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Joni Emmerling, wellness coach, Greenville, NC.
Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, clinical psychologist, health and wellness coach; founder and owner, Centered Coaching, Chicago.
Harvard Health Publications: “In Brief: Sing along for health.”
Koelsch, S. Frontiers in Psychology, June 2011.
Judith Tutin, PhD, psychologist, life coach, Rome, GA. 
Ozbay, F. Psychiatry, May 2007.
Reviewed on September 14, 2015

source: WebMD


1 Comment

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy

Daily habits can affect our well-being. Here are 10 simple actions that research has shown make people feel good.

By Jen Angel / YES! Magazine February 23, 2015

In the last few years, psychologists and researchers have been digging up hard data on a question previously left to philosophers: What makes us happy? Researchers like the father-son team Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, Stanford psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, and ethicist Stephen Post have studied people all over the world to find out how things like money, attitude, culture, memory, health, altruism, and our day-to-day habits affect our well-being. The emerging field of positive psychology is bursting with new findings that suggest your actions can have a significant effect on your happiness and satisfaction with life. Here are 10 scientifically proven strategies for getting happy.

1. Savor Everyday Moments

Pause now and then to smell a rose or watch children at play. Study participants who took time to “savor” ordinary events that they normally hurried through, or to think back on pleasant moments from their day, “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression,” says psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.

2. Avoid Comparisons

While keeping up with the Joneses is part of American culture, comparing ourselves with others can be damaging to happiness and self-esteem. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, focusing on our own personal achievement leads to greater satisfaction, according to Lyubomirsky.

3. Put Money Low on the List

People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, according to researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan. Their findings hold true across nations and cultures. “The more we seek satisfactions in material goods, the less we find them there,” Ryan says. “The satisfaction has a short half-life — it’s very fleeting.” Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization.

4. Have Meaningful Goals

“People who strive for something significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations,” say Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener. “As humans, we actually require a sense of meaning to thrive.” Harvard’s resident happiness professor, Tal Ben-Shahar, agrees, “Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable.”

goals

5. Take Initiative at Work

How happy you are at work depends in part on how much initiative you take. Researcher Amy Wrzesniewski says that when we express creativity, help others, suggest improvements, or do additional tasks on the job, we make our work more rewarding and feel more in control.

6. Make Friends, Treasure Family

Happier people tend to have good families, friends, and supportive relationships, say Diener and Biswas-Diener. But it’s not enough to be the life of the party if you’re surrounded by shallow acquaintances. “We don’t just need relationships, we need close ones” that involve understanding and caring.

7. Smile Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

It sounds simple, but it works. “Happy people…see possibilities, opportunities, and success. When they think of the future, they are optimistic, and when they review the past, they tend to savor the high points,” say Diener and Biswas-Diener. Even if you weren’t born looking at the glass as half-full, with practice, a positive outlook can become a habit.

8. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals, according to author Robert Emmons. Research by Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology, revealed that people who write “gratitude letters” to someone who made a difference in their lives score higher on happiness, and lower on depression — and the effect lasts for weeks.

9. Get Out and Exercise

A Duke University study shows that exercise may be just as effective as drugs in treating depression, without all the side effects and expense. Other research shows that in addition to health benefits, regular exercise offers a sense of accomplishment and opportunity for social interaction, releases feel-good endorphins, and boosts self-esteem.

10. Give It Away, Give It Away Now!

Make altruism and giving part of your life, and be purposeful about it. Researcher Stephen Post says helping a neighbor, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise or quitting smoking. Listening to a friend, passing on your skills, celebrating others’ successes, and forgiveness also contribute to happiness, he says. Researcher Elizabeth Dunn found that those who spend money on others reported much greater happiness than those who spend it on themselves.


2 Comments

11 Life Changing Lessons to Learn from Buddha

1. Thoughts and words have power. They can either hurt or heal. Choose wisely.

“Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.”

– Buddha

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”

– Buddha

“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”

– Buddha

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”

– Buddha

“All wrong-doing arises because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?”

– Buddha

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”- Buddha

“He is able who thinks he is able.”

– Buddha

2. There is an abundance for all. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

– Buddha

3. Let go of fear.

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”

– Buddha

4. The truth will always be revealed. Always believe your own truth.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”

– Buddha

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

– Buddha

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

– Buddha

5. You, yourself, deserves your love and affection. Self love is the most deserving love.

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

– Buddha

6. We are all spiritual beings in need of a spiritual life that nourishes the soul.

“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.”

– Buddha

“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”

– Buddha

“To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others.”

– Buddha

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.”

– Buddha

mind

7. True peace comes from within. Peace is the answer.

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

– Buddha

“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”

– Buddha

“Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.”

– Buddha

8. Choose friends wisely.

“An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.”

– Buddha

“A good friend who points out mistakes and imperfections and rebukes evil is to be respected as if he reveals a secret of hidden treasure.”

-Buddha

9. Remove separation and give up labels. We are all ONE.

“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”

– Buddha

“Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two.”

– Buddha“He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye.”

– Buddha

10. Happiness is the journey, not the destination. Enjoy the journey.

“There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.”

– Buddha

“A jug fills drop by drop.”

– Buddha

“It is better to travel well than to arrive.”

– Buddha

11. Health is Wealth!

“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”

– Buddha

“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

– Buddha

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”

– Buddha

BONUS: Replace hate or jealousy with love and admiration.

“Do not be jealous of others’ good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself.”

– Buddha

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

– Buddha

 


1 Comment

9 Ways To Become A Better, More Positive You

BY BELINDA ANDERSON    DECEMBER 8, 2013 

Our lives are often filled with challenges, which can sometimes make it very difficult to be positive. However, I know that choosing to be positive has helped me turn my life around and become a better me.

I find myself seeing the positive much more than the negative, which is a vast contrast from my earlier years! But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy-peasy, because it’s not.

Here are nine steps I’ve taken that have helped me see the positive more than the negative in life:

1. Say affirmations every day until they sink in and resonate within every cell of your being.

Sure, they may sound ridiculous initially, but overcome this and keep saying them until you absolutely believe them to be true! Every day I tell myself that “I am healthy, happy and energized; my mind is peaceful; my heart is full of love. I attract positivity, success, and abundance into my life.” This is a habit worth keeping!

2. Use visualizations to get clear on what you want.

Become a productive daydreamer — let your imagination become your best friend. When you add feeling to your visualizations (really believe it and feel it), you create positive energy, which helps produce positive changes in your life.

3. Create a vision board and place it where you can see it regularly.

In BIG writing, put the words “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You” on it to show the universe that you’re thankful for everything you have, and for everything that’s coming your way!

4. Practice expressing an attitude of gratitude for all that you have in your life.

Gratitude allows us to participate more in life; it allows us to reshape the meaning of any situation. You notice and appreciate the positives more than the negatives, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life.

gratitude

5. Listen to joyful music.

Music can energize or relax you, and experiencing inspiring audio can encourage you to be the best you can be.

6. Read motivational books.

These make you feel empowered and excited about your personal growth journey.

7. Put inspiring quotes around everywhere for you to see.

It’s the same as above — if you surround yourself with inspiration, you’re bound to be inspired!

8. Surround yourself with people who lift you up.

Finding the right people to share your life with is one of the most difficult areas of life, but if you make an effort to surround yourself with positive, uplifting people, you’ll begin to feel the effects quite quickly.

9. Practice meditation.

Meditation will bring you peace in daily life and make you more conscious, aware and mindful — a huge relief in the midst of our chaotic, multitasking lives.

Do as much as you can every day to become a better and more positive you. Take notice of all the beautiful things around you, as opposed to being blinded by the chaos in your life. You’ll be amazed at the positive feelings you will experience in your mind and body. The more intentional you are about thinking positively, despite the negativity you face, the more you will experience life in its true light. And thanks to you, the world will also be a better place because of your positive attitude and energy.