Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


1 Comment

9 Small Choices That’ll Make Every Day Happier

by Vishnu Subramaniam    April 21, 2016 

You don’t have to travel around the world or spend years in a monastery to find happiness. Happiness is all around us—within us. That means it isn’t some far-off, unimaginable destination. It’s something you can cultivate through small, consistent actions.

These nine small adjustments will help you tap into happiness more and more with every passing day.

“Happiness is not ready-made.
It comes from your own actions.”
—The Dalai Lama 

1. Choose to appreciate rather than to complain.

You can complain until you’re blue in the face. You can complain that you’re reading this article, that it’s too cold outside, that life isn’t fair. But it’s a surefire way to feel lousy about yourself and everything around you.

When you have the option of complaining—don’t. Instead, ask yourself, “What can I appreciate about the circumstances in front of me? What is good about my work or where I live?” Refrain from complaining and spend more time in gratitude for the many good things in your life.

Appreciation is happiness at your fingertips.

2. Choose people over things.

How much of your day do you spend focused on things? How much of your time is spent earning more money to pay for cars, houses and shopping? Having more stuff seldom makes us happy.

Saying “hello” to a coworker, neighbor, or grocery store clerk, on the other hand, will help you connect with others and spark a moment of humanity and cheer.

3. Choose compassion over judgment.

Think about how many judgments you make each day. Next time you find yourself judging, flip the judgment to compassion. Instead of condemning with your mind, see if you can find the good. Can you help? Can you uplift? Can you understand?

4. Choose generosity over selfishness.

In an all-about-me culture, doing something selfless for someone else is an instant mood-booster.

If you’re feeling down, help a coworker. Let someone cut in line, say hello to a stranger, or give your afternoon snack to the homeless veteran.

Any time you give, you get happiness in return. Give without expectations.

happiness

5. Choose to focus on solutions rather than problems.

You can focus on failure, roadblocks, etc., or you can look for answers, find solutions, and overcome the obstacle in front of you. When you look for solutions, you’re being proactive and optimistic. That always encourages happiness.

6. Choose acceptance over resistance.

If you go around resisting everything that comes into your life, you’ll always be angry and frustrated.

Accept that things won’t always go your way. Deal with the disappointment and then try again. If you resist pain, you can’t deal with it. If you accept it first, you can find a way through it.

7. Choose the high road rather than being petty.

Someone cuts you off on the road or takes your leftover sandwich from the fridge. Let go of grudges. Forgive quickly and choose the high road. When you don’t respond to snarky emails in kind, or treat rude waiters with condescension, you’ll feel happier quickly, and might even be able to perk up the people who upset you.

The high road always wins when it comes to happiness.

8. Choose your truth over society’s demands.

The easiest way to feel unhappy and frustrated with life is to play by life’s rules, follow and do what everyone else is doing—just because they’re doing it.

As years go by, the more you conform and blindly follow society’s lead, the more miserable you’ll be.

Choose to live your truth; follow your heart’s lead, bow out of unwanted obligations and live the life you desire. Ignore cultural noise, or demands for you to conform.

9. Choose to take achievable daily actions rather than make grandiose bucket lists.

Bucket lists are where dreams go to die. You may put your most-wanted dreams on your bucket list, but don’t put off your happiness till some future experience is realized.

Pick a few small things you really want to change or do and start taking the steps toward making that happen today. Save up for that trip, start on that passion project, write that book. By the time you’re ready to dive into your bucket list, you might not be here!

Working on your most treasured dreams today is maybe the best way I know to be happier immediately, and every day.

Advertisements


1 Comment

Three Strategies For Bringing More Kindness Into Your Life

Countless studies link kindness and generosity to greater life satisfaction.

Greater Good Science Center    By Juliana Breines, Ph.D.    10/04/2015 

One of the best ways to increase our own happiness is to do things that make other people happy. In countless studies, kindness and generosity have been linked to greater life satisfaction, stronger relationships, and better mental and physical health—generous people even live longer.

What’s more, the happiness people derive from giving to others creates a positive feedback loop: The positive feelings inspire further generosity—which, in turn, fuels greater happiness. And research suggests that kindness is truly contagious: Those who witness and benefit from others’ acts of kindness are more likely to be kind themselves; a single act of kindness spreads through social networks by three degrees of separation, from person to person to person to person.

But just because we have the capacity for kindness, and reap real benefits from it, doesn’t mean that we always act with kindness. We may be too busy, distracted, or wrapped up in our own concerns to pay close attention to others’ needs or actively seek out opportunities to help. Or we’re just out of practice: Researchers have argued that kindness is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened through repeated use.

How do we strengthen kindness? Researchers have identified a number of effective exercises, and many of them are collected on the Greater Good Science Center’s new website, Greater Good in Action (GGIA), which features the top research-based activities for fostering happiness, kindness, connection, and resilience.

Here I highlight GGIA’s 10 core kindness practices, grouped into three broad categories.

1. How to Cultivate Feelings of Kindness

Kind behavior comes more naturally when we’re feeling a sense of compassion and connection with others. This first set of practices focuses on cultivating these feelings.

The Feeling Connected practice involves thinking about a time when you felt a strong connection to another person—through a meaningful conversation, say, or by experiencing a great loss or success or historic event together—and describing that experience in writing. A 2011 study led by researcher Louisa Pavey in the United Kingdom found that participants who completed this exercise reported increases in feelings of concern for others and stronger intentions to carry out a number of generous acts over the next six weeks, such as giving money to charity and helping a stranger in need.

How does this practice increase kindness? Research suggests that feeling connected to others satisfies a fundamental psychological need to belong; when this need is unmet, people are more likely to focus on their own needs rather than caring for others.

Similar to Feeling Connected is the Feeling Supported practice, which involves thinking about the qualities of the people you turn to when you’re distressed, then recalling a time when you were comforted by one of them. A 2005 study led by Mario Mikulincer, dean of the school of psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, found that people who completed this writing exercise, compared with those who wrote more generically about a colleague or acquaintance, subsequently reported greater compassion and willingness to help a person in distress. This simple practice is powerful because it increases “attachment security,” a state that involves feelings of trust and comfort and is especially helpful when we’re feeling threatened or insecure. It can also remind us of the kinds of qualities we want to embody when kindly supporting others.

Another excellent way to tap into feelings of compassion and concern for others is to take an Awe Walk, which involves going for a stroll somewhere that seems vast and perspective-shifting, and makes us feel connected to something greater than ourselves. In a 2015 study led by Paul Piff, then a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, some participants stood in a grove of towering eucalyptus trees and gazed up for just one minute; other participants looked away from the trees, at a building. The tree gazers were subsequently more likely to help someone in need and less likely to feel that they were superior to others.

Finally, you can try a Compassion Meditation. This simple—though not necessarily easy—technique involves paying attention to your breathing as you extend feelings of goodwill toward a loved one, yourself, a neutral person, and even an enemy. Results of a 2013 study led by Helen Weng, then at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, showed that participants who performed the compassion meditation for two weeks demonstrated more generous behavior, donating more money to a victim of unfair treatment, and they also showed greater activity in brain regions associated with understanding the suffering of others and regulating emotions in response to pictures of suffering. (You can find audio of a guided compassion meditation on the GGIA website, along with the script for this meditation.)

kindness_wisdom

 

2. How to Boost the Happiness We Get from Kindness

Another way to increase the amount of kindness we perform over the long terms sounds simple: make a concerted effort to perform more kind and generous acts in the short term.

Intentionally practicing kindness in our everyday lives, even on days when we’re not in a particularly generous mood, can go a long way toward turning kindness into a habit. That’s largely because of the way kindness breeds happiness: The good feelings serve to reinforce our kind acts and make us more likely to want to perform them in the future.

Practicing Random Acts of Kindness is a good place to start. This practice involves performing five acts of kindness in one day and then writing about the experience. They can be anything from bringing a meal to a sick friend to giving up your seat on the bus to donating blood to buying a coffee for the person in line behind you at a cafe. For ideas, consider acts of kindness that you’ve witnessed or received in the past, and check out this Buzzfeed list of 101 suggestions. Random acts of kindness not only lift our spirits in the moment; they also have the potential to alter the way we feel about ourselves and increase healthy forms of self-esteem.

Research suggests that not all acts of kindness are created equal, however. Many factors can influence whether and how these acts bring us psychological benefits. The Making Giving Feel Good practice outlines three strategies that can maximize the positive effects of generosity.

The first strategy is to make giving a choice. Research suggests that when we feel obligated to give—such as when we feel cornered by an aggressive request—we are less likely to enjoy it. It’s important to give yourself the option to say no, and to give others the same option when requesting help. The second strategy is to make a connection with the recipient of your kindness—for example by taking a colleague out to lunch rather than just giving a gift certificate. The third strategy is to take the initiative to learn about the impact of your generosity, which can elicit contagious feelings of joy. For example, see this video of a bone marrow donor meeting the little girl whose life he saved.

3. How to Inspire Kindness in Others

It’s important to find ways to boost your own kindness. But arguably the greatest good we can do in the world comes from finding ways to increase kindness in others. That’s what the next set of practices are designed to do.

On GGIA, we provide three research-based strategies for educators, parents, and leaders of all kinds to help others overcome barriers to kindness and generosity. The first is to create Reminders of Connectedness in a home, office, or classroom. These reminders can be something as simple as a quote evoking shared goals, words like “community,” or a picture conveying warmth or friendships.

The second involves Putting a Human Face on Suffering: Being able to identify distinct, specific victims of a problem—and learning about their personal stories—can make that problem more vivid, strike an emotional chord, and thus motivate people to help.

The third, Shared Identity, involves forging a sense of common humanity across group boundaries. Reminding people to see the basic humanity that they share with those who might seem different from them can help overcome fear and distrust and promote cooperation. Even small similarities, like appreciating sports, can foster a greater sense of kinship. (An overview of these three strategies is also provided in the Eliciting Altruism practice.)

Finally, the practice for Encouraging Kindness in Kids offers four specific techniques to bring out children’s natural propensity for kindness and generosity. These techniques include avoiding external rewards for kind behavior, so that kids get to experience the feeling that kindness is its own reward, praising kids’ character instead of their behavior so they come to see kindness as an essential part of who they are, and modeling kindness in your own behavior, since actions tend to speak louder than words when it comes to nurturing generosity.

Becoming a kinder person—and nurturing kindness in your children and students—isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes practice to turn your best intentions into concrete actions. We hope the kindness exercises on Greater Good in Action provide an effective way to start building that habit today.

Juliana Breines, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow at Brandeis University. 

This article first appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. In November, GGSC is hosting a summit on Mindfulness and Well-Being at Work; find out more here.


Leave a comment

Why This Beautiful Human Behaviour is Highly Infectious

The wonderful human behaviour that elevates all our morals.

Acts of kindness can spread surprisingly easily between people — just by observing someone else being generous.


They activate parts of the brain involved in motivating action and of social engagement, a new study finds.


In turn we are also more likely to ‘pay it forward’.

Scientists call this the ‘moral elevation’ effect.

The first evidence from the lab of this effect was found in 2010.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Harvard demonstrated moral elevation by having people playing a simple ‘giving’ game in the lab.


When people gave selflessly to others, researchers could see this act of kindness spreading from person to person.


One act of kindness was ultimately tripled in value by people subsequently giving more and more.


Dr James Fowler, one of the study’s authors, said:

“Though the multiplier in the real world may be higher or lower than what we’ve found in the lab, personally it’s very exciting to learn that kindness spreads to people I don’t know or have never met.We have direct experience of giving and seeing people’s immediate reactions, but we don’t typically see how our generosity cascades through the social network to affect the lives of dozens or maybe hundreds of other people.”

kindness


Now neuroscience has given us an insight into what is happening in the brain when we see an act of kindness.


Researchers scanned people’s brains while they watched videos showing heroic acts of kindness.


They found that areas of the brain involved in arousal and those involved in social engagement were activated at the same time.


Professor Nicholas Christakis, one of the 2010 study’s authors, said:

“Our work over the past few years, examining the function of human social networks and their genetic origins, has led us to conclude that there is a deep and fundamental connection between social networks and goodness.The flow of good and desirable properties like ideas, love and kindness is required for human social networks to endure, and, in turn, networks are required for such properties to spread.Humans form social networks because the benefits of a connected life outweigh the costs.”

The original study was published in PNAS and the latest study was published in the journal Biological Psychology (Fowler et al., 2010; Piper et al., 2015).

source: Psyblog


Leave a comment

13 Small Choices That Can Change Your Life In Great Ways

By   Dr. Jon Lieff   October 29, 2013 

We know that food is our medicine. But movement is also our medicine. We have tremendous power to create health and cure disease through how we move in our bodies, all day, every day. Read

While practicing neuropsychiatry and studying neuroscience for 40 years, my interest expanded from the human brain to include evidence of mind throughout nature—in animals, plants, microbes, and other cells. Amazingly, even plants and cells have intelligence, which means that science isn’t all we’ve been taught to believe.

From my decades of research, there are simple important things that I wish everyone knew. Some of these small choices and new ways of looking at the world could change your life in great ways.

1. Get plenty of sleep.

Sleep is more important than most people realize. During sleep, the brain cleans debris between cells and memory is increased. This is why, when studying, it’s not useful to pull all nighters. Instead, study intensely and then sleep some. (Otherwise your brain won’t be able to retain the information.) In our 24/7 culture, it’s critical for brain health to average a good amount of sleep each night.

2. Take naps.

Napping can increase memory and creativity. It allows a break to any creative logjams, new ideas, and consolidation of learning. If you don’t have time to doze at your desk, daydreaming can also lead to increased creativity.

3. Choose to change your memories.

Memory is not fixed. It changes each time we re-remember some event. Therefore, the emotional impact of traumatic memories can be altered with positive input during the 24-hour window that “reloads” the memory. This period of time after remembering an event should be used to bring some compassion to the painful subject. How can you do this? When re-remembering the event, try to also focus on the feeling of your own self worth and others’ love.

4. Get regular exercise.

If there is one magic bullet for increased body and brain health, including increased memory, it is sensible regular exercise. Too much or too little exercise can be harmful, but a moderate amount is critical for brain function. Although it has been known for some time that exercise increases brain connections and new brain cells, recently, a direct chemical link was found to explain this. Turns out the brain is especially available for new learning and positive new ideas in the hours immediately following exercise.

5. Food can have major effects on brain health, so eat whole foods.

When eating certain foods (including processed foods, sugar, and unnatural ingredients), our hormones and neurons react strongly, as if exposed to a drug. When strong reactions are triggered, the metabolism and brain can become imbalanced. Many fruits and vegetables (such as berries) have very beneficial effects in helping to clean debris from the brain.

6. What we think and what we focus on can actually change our brain.

For a long time, scientists believed that the brain was static after childhood. It was also believed that genetics was destiny. While most of our DNA stays the same during out lives, the networks that determine which DNA is used are completely altered by experience—by our perceptions and choices.

Neuroplasticity is the word for dramatic brain changes in the synapses of neurons, new brain cells, and changes in other supportive brain cells. These changes occur each day with modification and pruning each night during sleep. How we use our brain—what we think, what we learn, what we focus on, and what we do—will actually change brain structures for the future.

Certain activities have much stronger effects on stimulating neuroplasticity, such as music training, which increases the capacities for even other types of learning.

7. Loneliness is terrible for your immune system, so nurture your relationships.

Short-term stress is useful for learning and does not harm the immune system, but long-term stress can cause inflammation and illness. Isolation and loneliness have a negative effect on the immune system including increased inflammation.

Surprisingly, people who are imprisoned and secluded, but still feel close to someone, did not suffer negative consequences to their immune system. In other words: just caring about another person can have strong benefits.

8. For the sake of your immune system, be generous and support your community.

Generosity and community service have positive effects on the immune system. Research shows that generosity and concern for people, not objects, helps positive immune response. Recently, a study showed that community service increased happiness, which in turn decreased factors related to inflammation. These benefits were not associated with other happiness-inducing activities, such as shopping, or travel, for example.

9. Believe in your capacity for extraordinary experiences and talents.

Recent research showed that out-of-body experiences could be triggered in normal people using virtual reality equipment. Other research shows that religious/spiritual experiences can, also, be triggered in many people by many different means. Surprisingly, the capabilities of savants—who display advanced mathematical, memory, artistic and music capabilities without training—can be triggered in ordinary people who have brain injury or with magnetic/electric brain stimulation. This appears to work because one brain region suppresses another and, when unsuppressed, it releases these abilities. These talents are not manufactured, but exist and need to be released. The takeaway? Don’t limit yourself.

10. Know that animals are far more intelligent than most scientists realize.

Those who know animals understand this. Evidence shows very advanced cognition in animals even with very small brains. Birds and lizards are, in fact, extremely intelligent—with advanced memory, planning, social intelligence and tool use. Birds also use syntax, learn singing as a language, and show mourning behavior. Perhaps most extraordinary are bees (and other social insects) who, with tiny brains, have symbolic language, abstract concepts, self medication, advanced mathematical problem solving, and kaleidoscopic visual memory.

Knowing how intelligent animals are, hopefully, could make us more compassionate and empathetic to all animals and, especially, those that depend upon us. Perhaps with this knowledge the ways we utilize and kill animals can change.

11. You can find intelligence throughout nature in all organisms—animals, plants, even cells and microbes.

Plants show advanced decision-making, complex communication, future planning, and even mathematical abilities. Realizing that even plants are highly intelligent, perhaps, we can appreciate the wisdom of Chief Seattle—that nature around us is our family. Perhaps it will make us treat our environment with more compassion and intelligence.

12. Make time to walk in nature.

Walking in nature has positive effects on the brain and our health. Research shows that just being in nature is like mental cleansing or fasting.

13. We’ve got free will, so use it!

Free will and consciousness must be exercised. Most of what occurs in the brain and mind is unconscious, with the brain unconsciously regulating our body at all times. Many do not make the effort to be conscious; and many scientists want us to believe human brains are robots and computers.

Each person is bombarded by huge amounts of suggestions from media and other people in our 24/7 environments. It is difficult not to fall prey to random suggestions and believe and act upon them. Untrue gossip can totally affect how we feel about someone. Random suggestions create negative thinking and cause immune problems. This is unconscious behavior.

Conscious free will does exist, but must be found and exercised. It is like training a new muscle. The choices we make have dramatic effects on the growth and health of our future brain. Practices like meditation increase the ability to use conscious choice and, also have many positive effects on physical and mental health. By utilizing conscious will in exercises, it becomes stronger and we become more able to make good choices.