Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


6 Comments

12 Ways to Wake Up Happier Tomorrow Morning (and Every Morning)

We’d be happier if only things were different, right? If we had more money or a better job or weighed 20 pounds less? With these positivity-boosting strategies, you can be happier right now—no life changes needed.

Set your mind on being happy

Being happy is not about what you have or what happens to you, but how you react to it. In fact, research shows that the way to be happier is by actually trying to be happier. “Happiness is definitely a choice,” says Caroline Adams Miller, a professional coach, speaker, and best-selling author of Your Happiest Life Workbook. “Research on identical and fraternal twins separated at birth, among other studies, shows that at least half of our well-being is directly tied to what we choose to think about and do on a daily basis.” Another study, the Cornell Legacy Project, surveyed “wise elders” to find out their life lessons, one of which was that waiting to become happy doesn’t work. Instead, greeting each day with a good attitude puts us in control of our own positive mindset.

Do something for someone else

Wondering how to make yourself happier? Give back. Studies show that doing something for others is a great way to boost your spirits—and donating time gives a bigger boost than giving money, according to one study. “We did a study in which we asked people to do acts of kindness—one group did acts of kindness for others, another group did acts of kindness for the world such as picking up litter, and a group did things for themselves, like getting a massage or having a nice lunch,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of The How of Happiness. “We found that only doing acts of kindness for others or the world, especially for others, made people happier.” Whether you volunteer formally or simply shovel your elderly neighbor’s driveway, doing things for others gives you perspective on your own life and helps you feel you’re making a difference.

Call a friend

Research shows humans are pro-social beings, so having real, meaningful relationships in life is crucial to feeling happy. Really connecting and conversing deeply with someone has been shown to be more fulfilling than small talk, so make time each day to call or spend time with a friend or family member. “High quality, close relationships are fundamentally important for well being,” says Brett Major, a researcher in the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology (PEP) Laboratory. Plus, feeling we’ve helped out someone we love makes us feel good as well. Studies have shown that parents feel greater fulfillment when their children are happy. Strong ties can also help us feel more secure when something bad happens—research shows those in tight-knit communities fare better when faced with a crisis.

Find meaning in your pursuits

When we think, “once I achieve this goal, I’ll be happy,” we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. With success, it’s the journey, not the destination that’s fulfilling. “People don’t succeed at their goals and then become happy; being happy or emotionally flourishing first is what sets the stage for someone to become successful,” Miller says. “The research shows that when we do things that add meaning, purpose, and even pleasure to our lives, happiness is the by-product that allows us to thrive and grow in positive, proactive ways.” Even just getting caught up in an activity, called “flow” in psychology or being “in the zone,” makes you feel energized and fulfilled, whether you’re painting furniture, writing music, or just going through the junk drawer in the kitchen. “Accomplishing tasks and mastering skills helps people feel more confident in themselves and their abilities, which ultimately fuels well-being,” Major says.

Look back—and forward—with rose-colored glasses

Stewing over something you regret just breeds unhappiness. Instead, research from San Francisco State University shows that focusing on good memories makes us feel more content with our life. “In two minutes, write down every detail you can remember about a meaningful event from the day before,” suggests Michelle Gielan, a former CBS News anchor who’s now a positive psychology expert and the bestselling author of Broadcasting Happiness. “Yesterday’s high points can be today’s fuel for happiness.” This can even have an effect on our overall health: Geilan points to a study that found that patients suffering from chronic pain who did this for six months were able to reduce their pain meds. Finding the good in our past can help us look to the future with hope instead of trepidation.

happiness

Cultivate gratitude

Actively cultivating a feeling of gratefulness is one of the best ways to get happier. “There’s a lot of research on trying to appreciate what’s good about your life rather than focusing on what you don’t have or what other people have and you want,” says Dr. Lyubomirsky. “We have people write gratitude letters to their mother, for example, and not even share them. They write out all the things Mom has done, and just the process alone makes you really appreciate everything.” This can make you feel closer and even improve your bond—especially if you decide to share your gratitude letter. “Genuine expressions of gratitude help build new relationships or strengthen existing ones by demonstrating to others that we appreciate, understand, and care about them,” Major says.

Savor the moment

In the words of Ferris Bueller from the iconic ’80s movie, “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” Savoring positive experiences can help us fully appreciate the world around us. “We are so busy, always focusing on our to-do list, so stopping and smelling the roses is important,” Dr. Lyubomirsky says. The practice of mindfulness can help you be more aware of the moment and the gifts it brings. “It’s really being attuned and paying attention, as opposed to your mind wandering all over the place,” she says.

Get off the couch

It’s no surprise that exercise is good for your body—but it can improve your outlook. Research from the University of Vermont shows that the mood-enhancing benefits of a 20-minute workout last for 12 hours! “Exercise releases endorphins, which activate the body’s ‘reward system,’ basically telling the body ‘you should do this again’ by making a person feel really good, reducing stress, and improving mood,” says Acacia Parks, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Hiram College and the chief scientist of the website happify.com. For an extra bonus, exercise outdoors since being in nature also benefits your mood. Even better, do so in the morning. Geilan says morning exercise is a recipe for “double happiness” because your brain runs on the fuel of “having a win” early in the day.

Choose time over stuff

Easier said than done—but money really can’t buy happiness. Due to something psychologists call hedonic adaptation, we get used to the beautiful, wonderful things we have, so after a short period of time material possessions don’t do much to make us feel happier. If you’re going to spend money, buy experiences, like traveling, which studies have shown to lead to greater fulfillment than objects. The novelty of doing and seeing new things piques our interest and expands our perspective, helping us to better appreciate our own life. Learn the truth behind myths of happiness you’ve convinced yourself are true.

Do what you believe in

Recent research suggests that people are happier when they do the right thing for the good of others—although at the time it might be hard. That might mean missing your favorite TV show so you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, or cutting into your own reading budget so you can contribute books to a school fundraiser. “Following your conscience isn’t always pleasant, so it may not improve a person’s emotional state, but it may improve their evaluation of their life,” Dr. Parks says. Miller says tackling such hard stuff improves your “grit,” or perseverance, which boosts confidence. “People with authentic grit do hard things that build their self-respect and enlarge their vision of what they’re made of,” says Miller, who’s written a book on the topic called Getting Grit. In this way, when you make decisions that affirm your own values, you feel more secure. “People become less defensive and more open to others when they affirm their values,” Lyubomirsky says. “You feel better about yourself and more positive in general.”

Seek out good news

There is so much negativity the second you turn on the morning news shows that it can cast a shadow over your whole day. Instead, try to fill your morning with positivity. “In a study I did with Arianna Huffington and researcher Shawn Achor, we found that watching three minutes of positive, solutions-focused news as compared to negative news in the morning can lead to a 27 percent higher likelihood of reporting your day as a happy one six to eight hours later,” Gielan says. “Start your day with an inspiring story of a person or organization that overcame a challenge, or one that focuses on solutions to create positive change.” Try websites like upworthy.com, humansofnewyork.com, or huffingtonpost.com’s Good News.

Find the get-happy strategy that works for you

Actions you can take to become happier are not one-size-fits-all. If something feels artificial or you don’t identify with it, choose a different strategy. “Everyone needs to study themselves to figure out when they are at their best, and then take care to replicate those actions on a daily basis,” Miller says. Once you decide what works for you, your positivity can help you through even the worst of times. “Positive emotions enable people to build enduring resources—like friends who provide social support, psychological resilience, and new skills and knowledge—that can be helpful in coping with negative experiences,” Major says. And this can make us happier in the long run.

Tina Donvito
source: www.rd.com
Advertisements


6 Comments

6 Ways To Start ‘Living Big’ (And How It Can Change Your Life For The Better)

Are you doing everything you can to achieve your dreams?

“Living Big” is a mindset of living with abundance. Now the abundance is not what you own, or have, it is what you share. There are as many wonderful ways to Living Big as there are water drops in an ocean, needles on an evergreen tree, grains of sand on a beach.Living Big is learning to generously share yourself, your stories, and enjoy the exciting connections that develop. It’s putting yourself out into the world and embracing the things that once scared you. It can change your life and increase your happiness and even your self-assuredness. There are people who are too afraid to put themselves out there, but this is the key to Living Big and making it work for you, so it’s important to learn how to do it!

But what exactly does this concept mean, and how can you use it in your everyday life? Simply put, Living Big means taking every opportunity that comes your way. It means seeing these opportunities and trying your best to make every day another chance for you to succeed and be happy.

You make choices all the time about how you’re going to handle situations or how you’re going to choose to live our lives. Living Big simply means you’re learning to open up to the world and share yourself so that you’re living your best possible life in return!How can you start using Living Big in your life?
Here are 6 ways you can share your talent and amazing self with the world:
1. Shift your focus to positive things.

Human beings are programmed to see the negative in life, and so it can take some time to stop focusing on this when something good happens to you. And it’s important not to dwell on the negative and to instead embrace the positive effects in your life. Focus on being abundant in the areas that count, like generousness, innovation, creativity, resilience, honesty, and happiness.These positive expressions will make sure that you’re living life according to a healthy moral compass and will draw similarly-minded people to you as well. Living Big guarantees that you’re looking at the world in a new light, making certain that you’re noticing the goodness in the world and striving to achieve it in every aspect of your life.

2. Live with humility and gratitude.

Have you taken the time to notice everything life is giving to you, and to be grateful for it? The abundance around you is unimaginably amazing! You live in a fascinating system designed to sustain our lives.

You only need to breathe, eat, drink, sleep, work, and play in order to live in this awesome system. And the miracle of support keeps on happening, every moment of every day. This is whether you are aware of it or not. The greater your awareness, the greater your humility and gratitude.

When you live with humility, you begin to recognize that every morning, you’re given a new chance to make the most out of your life, simply by waking up!

Part of Living Big is in recognizing the areas where you can be grateful and then being grateful for them. You get to pursue many wonderful things in this big, beautiful world, and every day is an opportunity to make certain that you’re in the practice of saying, “Thank you!” whether it’s to ourselves, the people who help you, the planet that supports you, or the universe that sustains you.

3. Appreciate the freedom that you have.

Freedom is not something someone gives you. It is something you take. So how can you truly appreciate this power and the ability you have to pursue the things you want in life?Stop what you’re doing sometimes. Step outdoors and take a deep breath. Smell the fresh air, feel the breeze on your skin, and look at the sky and see its magnificent, ever-changing picture.

It is all here for you. It is always here, nurturing, feeding you. It costs you nothing to appreciate it. You occasionally get so caught up in trying to move forward that you forget the amazing things you already have. It’s really important to literally stop and smell the roses every once in a while, just so you can ground yourself and appreciate your life and the world around you.

Create a commitment and every day, recognize your freedom and embrace your goals. Understand that they are possible, and go for it! Then see how accepting your freedom and your chance to do something wonderful in this world will change your life for the better. When you live enthusiastically with the knowledge that you have choices on how to respond to everything that comes your way, you will be able to see the big picture that you’re striving toward, and you’ll gain some insight into how to bring your passion to life.

And when you need grounding, step back out into the world, breathe in the air, and remember to be thankful for all that you have and all that you’ve worked toward!

GRATITUDE

4. Live your dreams like they’re already happening.

The great American mythologist Joseph Campbell described the importance of “Following your bliss.” Your dreams will take you on a life-changing and ever-evolving journey that will grow and thrive as you do. And as you live big, they will change and become even better, new dreams replacing and building on the dreams you’ve already achieved.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, you learned the importance of staying on your path with friends who love you and fighting for your dreams no matter how hard things get. Living Big encourages you to do the same.

You are all looking for something out in the world that is missing inside of you. Where is the answer? It is inside of everyone. Sometimes, you just haven’t recognized it yet. The more curious you are about your dreams, the more you nurture them to life, and the bigger you’ll live!

5. Living Big will teach you about perseverance and faith in the impossible.
Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why not follow my dreams?
  • Why can’t I make my life the way it most matters to me?
  • Why can’t I be unstoppable?
  • Why can’t failures and mistakes lead me to success?
  • Why can’t I imagine a successful future as though it has already happened?

When you look at closed doors around you as opportunities instead of losses, you’ll start to realize that you’re capable of so much more! Imagine yourself as a successful person who achieved all of their dreams, and then ask these question. Once you’ve pictured yourself where you want to be, work backward to discover what steps you think you needed to take to get there. It is all waiting for you, and it’s possible!

The greater your ability to trust in your dreams, the stronger you are. The greater is your perseverance to achieve your dreams. Remind yourself every day of the abundance around you.

Your dreams are your joyous compass to surrender, to create your success. Living Big is understanding that the world is available for you to thrive no matter what.

6. It will teach you discipline and to love and accept yourself.

Following a structure — any structure — requires discipline. Living Big and looking through the world to see the possibilities will require effort and discipline as well.

And as you practice being grateful for your opportunities and the blessings in your life, you’ll begin to appreciate and love yourself as well. After all, you’re the reason that you’re accomplishing your goals in life!

The more disciplined you are, the greater your self-love and the better the results in your life. Living Big is something everyone wants to achieve. Yet, wanting something is not enough.

Curiosity, self-discipline, and healthy connections bring light into our world. You can use these to overcome the areas where you might need help or are lacking a bit, and still look at the world with a smile and an attitude of thankfulness.

Being disciplined is loving yourself. Living Big is loving yourself with empowerment and sharing this with the world. Enjoy a better life and live big!

You deserve to be happy in life and to have the opportunity to fulfill your dreams. Living Big will help open these options to you and teach you to appreciate everything you have in life, even as you strive for bigger, better things.

Open yourself to possibilities and you can become the change you want to see in your own life!

Suzanne Kyra is a registered clinical counselor, empowerment speaker, and award-winning author. In addition to being an expert in individual, couple, family and professional development, she is an expert in Living Big. Go to her website, SuzanneKyra.com, to learn more about all of her personal and professional development programs, blogs and free information on How To Live Big and Live the Life You Love. 
Suzanne Kyra    June 22, 2018


2 Comments

50 Ways to Have A Happier Life

Most of us want to live a happier life, but we get lost in the daily grind of responsibility and adulthood. While we all have to make sacrifices in life, no one should stay in a situation that makes them perpetually unhappy. On the other hand, you also have to evaluate if it really is the circumstance making you unhappy, or simply your attitude about life. Many people forget that happiness is not a destination, but a choice. If you’ve been searching for more happiness but have come up short, we have a few ideas to put a smile back on your face.

HERE ARE 50 WAYS TO HAVE A HAPPIER LIFE:

1. BUY SOME FLOWERS (OR LOOK AT THEM IN NATURE)
If you have found yourself down in the dumps lately, looking at flowers can make you happier, according to a study done by Harvard. If you want to add more nature into your life, buy some flowers or take the scenic route to work.

2. TAKE A SELFIE
Taking a happy or silly picture can make you happier, according to research published in The Psychology of Well Being. Smiles are contagious, even if you’re just looking at your own happy face!

3. DAYDREAM
If you want to have a happier life, imagining yourself in a different situation could do the trick, says a study published in Frontiers in Psychology. Called “self-guided positive imagery,” this technique can help dispel negative emotions in the short-term and even change the structure of your brain over the long-term.

4. TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA SABBATICAL
People who spend more time on social media are less happy in real life, says a study published in Depression and Anxiety. Don’t aimlessly scroll through your social media feed; instead, only get on when you have something important to update your friends about. This way, you will compare yourself less to others’ “perfect” lives and spend more time living yours.

5. WALK IN NATURE
A study published in Environmental Health and Medicine found that walking through forests increases your health and well-being. So, get outside and explore when you can!

6. MAKE A DECISION
Using your free will, even for a small decision, can make you happier, according to research in Frontiers in Psychology. Yogurt or ice cream? Take your pick!

7. DONATE TO A CHARITY YOU SUPPORT
Giving money or supplies to a cause you truly support can help you live a happier life, according to research done by Harvard Business School.

8. BE THE BEARER OF GOOD NEWS
In a study done by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that sharing even little positive things helped both the sharer and receiver feel happier.

9. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR KIDS
Sure, parenting comes with a lot of challenges, but when things seem tough, remember that your kids will grow up someday. Truly relish the moments you have with them now and don’t take any moment for granted.

10. LEARN ABOUT YOUR HERITAGE
People who know where they come from have a better sense of identity, which promotes feelings of happiness.

11. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE
You’ve heard that happiness is contagious, so having happy friends can boost your mood, say researchers at Harvard’s Medical School.

12. BE INTIMATE WITH YOUR PARTNER
Couples who were intimate at least once a week were happier than those who had less physical contact, but being intimate more frequently didn’t produce any more happiness than once per week contact, according to a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

13. MAKE A CHANGE
Making a positive life change will help you live a happier life due to altering your routine, but remember to appreciate your new life for a while instead of constantly needing a change.

14. CATCH YOUR SMILE IN THE MIRROR
Just like looking at a silly picture of yourself, smiling in the mirror will instantly make you happier.

15. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
If your happiness depends on anything outside yourself, it will never last. Learn to be happy with what you have rather than focusing on all the things you don’t have.

16. REMEMBER TO TAKE BREAKS
To live a happier life, you need to take short breaks to give your mind a rest, according to a study published in Work and Stress.

17. TREAT YOURSELF
Reward your hard work with something you enjoy, such as a cookie or a new pair of shoes. Everyone deserves a treat from time to time.

18. EAT A BALANCED DIET
You can’t feel happy if your brain and body don’t get the nutrition they need to function. Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean meats and dairy if you wish.

19. DON’T WORK TOO HARD
If you make a lot of money but work all the time, you’ll have no time to spend that hard-earned money. Having free time and less money is better than being overstressed and overpaid.

20. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS
Having too much debt can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, so to combat this, try not to buy anything you can’t pay off in a few months. Or, pay down your existing debt faithfully over time without making other large purchases to add on top of it.

21. NURTURE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
A happier life depends on us forming and maintaining connections with others. After all, we need other people to survive, so human connection can’t be emphasized enough.

22. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Accepting and loving yourself as you are right now can make you happier and more confident, say researchers at the University of Hertfordshire.

23. OFFER HELP TO THE HOMELESS
Whether you give someone spare change, a blanket, or a hot meal, you will feel much better caring about the well-being of your community instead of just worrying about your own needs.

24. FIND HAPPINESS IN THE SMALL THINGS
Happiness exists all around you all the time; you just have to remember to open your eyes and notice it. The breeze on your skin, a child laughing at the park, and the sound of the rain are all reasons to smile.

happy

25. MOVE YOUR BODY
The effects of exercise are well-documented, so make sure to add some sort of movement to your daily routine. Exercise doesn’t just affect your physical health; it boosts your mental and emotional health as well.

26. REMEMBER TO BREATHE
Mindful breathing practices, such as Sudarshan Kriya yoga, can help to alleviate severe depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

27. ADD POSITIVE THINKING TO YOUR LIFE
Focus on all the good things in your life instead of ruminating on the bad things. You’ll have a brighter outlook and be able to live a happier life.

28. DON’T BUY THINGS; BUY EXPERIENCES
Studies have shown that experiences, not things, make people happier. While you still have to spend money on experiences, you’ll have memories and connections to show for it instead of just a physical object.

29. LEARN TO SAY NO
You can’t do everything and be everywhere at once, so don’t try. Saying no will free up your schedule and help to eliminate stress, which will bring you more happiness.

30. KEEP AN OPEN HEART
This world can be a scary place, but not everyone has evil intentions. Trust people until they give you a reason not to, because you can’t form any connections in life without some level of trust.

31. EAT YOUR VEGGIES
Eating your fruits and veggies boosts both physical and mental health, says a study published in the American Journal for Public Health. The study found that people felt happier with each serving of fruits and veggies eaten, up to eight per day.

32. GO OUTSIDE
If possible, try to get out into the country every once in a while where the air is purer. Breathe in deeply and enjoy the fresh air in your lungs!

33. HUG SOMEONE!
Physical contact helps promote happiness and releases feel-good hormones such as oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding.

34. GIVE THANKS
Remembering what you’re grateful for will help keep things in perspective and help you stay focused on the positive things in your life.

35. TURN OFF THE TECH
It seems that depression and anxiety are on the rise in part due to the rampant use of technology, according to a study published in Computers in Human Behavior. Take a tech break for a couple hours a day to live a happier life.

36. DO YOGA
Because yoga combines deep breathing, exercise, meditation and stretching, it’s the perfect recipe for happiness.

37. CUT OUT ALCOHOL
Or, try to cut back on it, at least. One drink a day won’t hurt you, but any more than that can cause depression and other health problems in the long run.

38. SPREAD KINDNESS WHENEVER YOU CAN
However, don’t just do it for likes on a video or to brag to your friends. Show people kindness because it’s the right thing to do, and you’ll notice it’s easier to live a happier life.

39. WAKE UP WITH THE SUN
This might be hard for night owls, but not impossible. Getting up earlier will help you accomplish more during the day; it just takes time to establish a routine.

40. GIVE UP SMOKING
Ditching cigarettes improves both your physical and mental health, according to a study published in the Annals of Behavioural Medicine. Two-thirds of people in the study who quit smoking reported having a better mood and fewer episodes of depression.

41. MAKE NEW FRIENDS
Friends are vital for our health, and making new ones can boost happiness levels due to forming bonds and sharing experiences.

42. COOK AT HOME INSTEAD OF EATING OUT
Eating at home is not only healthier for you, but more relaxing as well. You don’t have a bunch of people talking, dishes clattering, and that overall hectic feeling when you dine in at home.

43. FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS INSTEAD OF PROBLEMS
If you wallow in negative thinking, you won’t be able to see the solutions available to you. Acknowledge the problems and then brainstorm ways to solve them so you can live a happier life.

44. PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING
If you want people to listen to you, start listening to them. Don’t just wait to respond so you can make your voice heard; really hear what the other person is saying, because listening is one of the greatest ways to show respect.

45. GIVE AWAY THINGS YOU NO LONGER USE
To live a happier life, try giving away items to the less fortunate. You’ll not only help out other people who can’t afford to buy everything brand new; you’ll also gain physical space and mental freedom.

46. DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF
Everyone makes mistakes in life, so don’t expect perfection from yourself. Embrace your failures and learn the lessons from them. Show yourself compassion and take it one day at a time.

47. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Living a happier life isn’t possible without taking care of your physical body first. Stay hydrated by keeping a reusable bottle with you at all times and filling it up throughout the day.

48. AVOID COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
When you strive to be like others or get jealous of their lives, you fail to see your unique beauty and can’t appreciate your own life. Enjoy what you have and who you are instead of getting sucked into the toxic world of social media comparisons.

49. DO SOMETHING YOU’RE AFRAID OF
Nothing boosts your confidence like conquering a long-time fear! If you’ve always wanted to go skydiving, for instance, but have allowed your fears to stop you, just book an appointment to get the ball rolling! You can always cancel if you truly don’t feel ready, but remember – now is as good a time as any.

50. VISIT YOUR GRANDPARENTS
Older people can get lonely, and nothing makes them happier than to see their grandchildren. Knowing that you have brought a smile to their faces will help you feel good and live a happier life, too.

Final thoughts

Living a happier life comes down to changing your mindset, utilizing positive thinking, and taking care of your mind, body, and soul.


Leave a comment

Science Proves That Gratitude Is Key to Well-Being

Acting happy, coaxes one’s brain toward positive emotions

“Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it,” says Arthur C. Brooks, author of Gross National Happiness, in a column in the New York Times. In the article, from 2015, he argues that “acting grateful can actually make you grateful” and uses science to prove it.

A 2003 study compared the well-being of participants who kept a weekly list of things they were grateful for to participants who kept a list of things that irritated them or neutral things. The researchers showed that the gratitude-focused participants exhibited increased well-being and they concluded that “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”

The participants didn’t begin the study any more grateful or ungrateful than anyone else, and they didn’t change their lives during the study so that they’d have more to be thankful for. They just turned their outlook to one of gratitude, and they were happier for it.

How does gratitude do this? One way is by stimulating two important regions in our brains: the hypothalamus, which regulates stress, and the ventral tegmental area, which plays a significant role in the brain’s reward system that produces feelings of pleasure.

One 1993 study revealed another way to boost happiness even when you’re not feeling happy. Researchers found that both voluntary and involuntary smiling had the same effect on brain activity. You can convince your brain and body that you’re happy even when you’re not just by forcing yourself to smile. “Acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions,” explains Brooks. In other words, “fake it ‘til you make it” works.

In his column, Brooks suggests adopting three strategies to harness the positive health effects of gratitude. One, practice “interior gratitude.” Keep a daily or weekly list of the things you are grateful for. For example, I might write: I am grateful that I have a job that I love and that through my job as a therapist in Santa Monica I get to help people. Two, practice “exterior gratitude.” Write thank-you notes and put your gratitude to others on paper. For example, you could write a thank-you email to your best friend for supporting you through a bad breakup. And three, “be grateful for useless things.” In other words, express thanks for the everyday stuff you usually overlook such as fresh fruit and air-conditioning.

Are you worried that writing a spontaneous thank-you note to a friend will make them feel awkward? Or that it won’t mean much to them?

GRATITUDE

Science says you’re wrong.

A study published in Psychological Science in June 2018 reveals that people often miscalculate how a heartfelt thank-you note will be received. Researchers asked a group of 100 participants to write letters of gratitude to someone whom they were thankful for, like a friend or teacher. While these weren’t just quick “thanks for my Christmas present” notes, researcher Dr. Amit Kumar observed that the gratitude letters took less than five minutes to write.

Participants were then asked to rate how surprised, happy, and awkward they predicted the participant would feel. And finally, the recipients were asked to assess how the letter actually made them feel. It turns out the note writers greatly overestimated how awkward recipients would feel and how insincere the notes would seem, and they greatly underestimated the positive effects they would have. New York Times science reporter Heather Murphy writes, “After receiving thank-you notes and filling out questionnaires about how it felt to get them, many said they were ‘ecstatic,’ scoring the happiness rating at 4 of 5. The senders typically guessed they’d evoke a 3.”

If expressing gratitude even when nothing especially gratefulness-triggering is going on can increase your well-being and help regulate stress, and even a small amount of effort to express gratitude can have a meaningful effect on the recipient of your thanks, why not make gratitude a part of your daily life? Do as the father of positive psychology Martin Seligman recommends in his book Authentic Happiness and write daily letters of gratitude. Spend five minutes every morning or evening writing a gratitude email to a loved one. Science says you’ll feel awkward, and science says to do it anyway.

Jul 30, 2018      Andrea Brandt Ph.D. M.F.T.       Mindful Anger


3 Comments

Connecting the Dots Between Physical and Emotional Health

There’s a link between your emotional health and your physical well-being, so take time to nurture both.

To be completely healthy, you should take care not only of your physical health, but your emotional health, too. If one is neglected, the other will suffer.

What’s the Connection Between Emotional and Physical Health?

There’s a physical connection between what the mind is thinking and those parts of the brain that control bodily functions. According to Charles Goodstein, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine in New York City, the brain is intimately connected to our endocrine system, which secretes hormones that can have a powerful influence on your emotional health. “Thoughts and feelings as they are generated within the mind [can influence] the outpouring of hormones from the endocrine system, which in effect control much of what goes on within the body,” says Dr. Goodstein.

“As a matter of fact, it’s very probable that many patients who go to their physician’s office with physical complaints have underlying depression,” he says. People who visit their doctors reporting symptoms of headache, lethargy, weakness, or vague abdominal symptoms often end up being diagnosed with depression, even though they do not report feelings of depression to their doctors, says Goodstein.

While unhappy or stressed-out thoughts may not directly cause poor physical health, they may be a contributing factor and may explain why one person is suffering physically while someone else is not, Goodstein adds.

stronger

 

How Exactly Does the Mind Affect the Body?

There are many ways in which the mind has a significant impact on the body. Here are a few:

  • Chronic illness and depression Depression has been shown to increase the risk for chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, according to an article published in 2013 in the Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. A review of studies on diabetes and depression, published in August 2015 in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, found that depression put people at a 41 percent higher risk for the condition. Researchers aren’t yet clear on how mental health influences physical health, but according to a study published in September 2017 in the journal Psychiatria Danubina, it may be that depression affects the immune system, and that habits associated with depression, such as poor diet or lack of physical activity, may create conditions for illness to occur.
  • Depression and longevity According to a review published in June 2014 in World Psychiatry, many major mental illnesses are associated with higher rates of death. Another study, published in October 2017 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggests that those with depression may have life spans from about 7 to 18 years shorter than the general population.
  • Physical symptoms of emotional health distress People who are clinically depressed often have physical symptoms, such as constipation, lack of appetite, insomnia, or lethargy, among others.
  • White-coat syndrome This is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure increases the minute they step into a doctor’s office. In white-coat syndrome, anxiety is directly related to physical function — blood pressure. “If you extrapolate from that, you can say, what other kinds of anxieties are these people having that are producing jumps in blood pressure? What is the consequence of repeated stress?” asks Goodstein.

And on the other hand: “Those individuals who have achieved a level of mental health where they can manage better the inevitable conflicts of human life are more likely to prevail in certain kinds of physical illness,” says Goodstein.

How Should You Care for Your Emotional and Physical Well-Being?

It’s hard to do, but slowing down and simplifying routines can go a long way to strengthening your mental and physical health.

  • Eat right. A healthy, regular diet is good for the body and mind.
  • Go to bed on time. Losing sleep is hard on your heart, may increase weight, and definitely cranks up the crankiness meter.
  • If you fall down, get back up. Resilience in the face of adversity is a gift that will keep on giving both mentally and physically.
  • Go out and play. Strike a balance between work and play. Yes, work is a good thing: It pays the bills. However, taking time out for relaxation and socializing is good for your emotional health and your physical health.
  • Exercise. A study published in October 2017 in Reviews in the Neurosciences shows that exercise improves your mood and has comprehensive benefits for your physical health.
  • See the right doctor, regularly. Going to the right doctor can make all the difference in your overall health, especially if you have a complicated condition that requires a specialist. But if your emotions are suffering, be open to seeing a mental health professional, too.

Total health depends on a healthy mind and body. Take time to nurture both.

By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Kathryn Keegan, MD
11/14/2017


9 Comments

The Benefits of Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

We shortchange our well-being by reserving this resource just for Thanksgiving.

“When I look back on the suffering in my life, this may sound really strange, but I see it now as a gift. I would have never asked for it for a second. I hated it while it was happening and I protested as loudly as I could, but suffering happened anyway. Now, in retrospect I see the way in which it deepened my being immeasurably.” ~Ram Dass

It’s that time of year. In addition to providing an opportunity to gather with family and friends to gorge ourselves on food and football, Thanksgiving is an annual culturally compelled celebration of our various blessings—a specific occasion to “give thanks.” As meaningful as this holiday can be and as helpful as it is to have structured encouragement to express gratitude, once a year is quite simply not enough. The bio-psycho-social-spiritual benefits of gratitude are myriad. Cultivating conscious contact with gratitude is a skill, and we can profit immensely by learning and practicing it.

Gratitude is about feeling and expressing appreciation: for all we’ve received, all that we have (however little it may be), and for all that has not befallen us. It functions as an antidote for attachment to what we want but don’t have and aversion to what we have but don’t want. Gratitude is the opposite of being discontented.

It’s valuable to be aware that nearly all experiences have both “positive” and “negative” aspects. Consistent with the above quote from Ram Dass, even circumstances that are brutally physically and/or emotionally painful, often contain considerable psycho-spiritual blessings in the forms of learning, growth, and healing. Sometimes we have to work harder to locate the positive and unearth its gifts (and sometimes these become manifest only in retrospect)—but if we make the time and invest the energy to look closely and search consciously, we will find them. There is always something to be grateful for, no matter how negative or desperate things may seem.

Gratitude changes perspective—it can sweep away most of the petty, day-to-day annoyances on which we focus so much of our attention—the “small stuff” situations that bring up feelings of impatience, intolerance, negative judgment, indignation, anger, or resentment. Gratitude is a vehicle to diffuse self-pity and self-centeredness, increase feelings of well-being, and prompt mindful awareness of that which is beyond oneself—of belonging to a greater whole, and of connection to others, as well as to the world.

gratitude

Over the past decade, numerous scientific studies have documented a wide range of benefits that come with gratitude. These are available to anyone who practices being grateful, even in the midst of adversity, such as elderly people confronting death, those with cancer, people with chronic illness or chronic pain, and those in recovery from addiction. Research-based reasons for practicing gratitude include:

•    Gratitude facilitates contentment. Practicing gratitude is one of the most reliable methods for increasing contentment and life satisfaction. It also improves mood by enhancing feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions. Conversely, gratitude also reduces anxiety and depression.

•    Gratitude promotes physical health. Studies suggest gratitude helps to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, reduce symptoms of illness, and make us less bothered by aches and pains.

•    Gratitude enhances sleep. Grateful people tend to get more sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more rested upon awakening. If you want to sleep more soundly, instead of counting sheep count your blessings.

•    Gratitude strengthens relationships. It makes us feel closer and more connected to friends and intimate partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship.

•    Gratitude encourages “paying it forward.” Grateful people are generally more helpful, generous of spirit, and compassionate. These qualities often spill over onto others.

Two specific ways you can practice the skill of being grateful are by writing gratitude letters and making gratitude lists. A gratitude letter is one you write to someone in your life to express appreciation for ways they have helped you and/or been there for you. Gratitude letters can be about events that have happened in the past or are happening in the present, and often help to strengthen or repair relationships. A gratitude list consists of writing down 3 – 5 things for which you’re grateful every day, each week, at other intervals, or under situation-specific circumstances.

You can test the effectiveness of these methods by tuning in to your current emotion(s), mood, and attitude. Once you’ve done that, take a few minutes and identify 3 things or people that you are grateful for and briefly describe to yourself or in writing the reason(s) for your gratitude. Then notice how the way you feel has shifted after doing this simple brief exercise.

For five years during the 1990s, I was the clinical director of a hospital-based addiction treatment program outside of New York City. I worked closely with the program’s medical director, a psychiatrist who was in recovery for many years through a twelve-step program.

At a conference on addiction he gave a talk that focused on his personal recovery experience. During a powerful and moving presentation, he described being grateful that he was an addict. He went on to say that, in contrast to most people who operate more or less on automatic pilot and effectively sleepwalk through life, embarking on a process of recovery had given him the awareness to live life much more intentionally. As a result, he took little for granted and appreciated much. Although his reasoning made sense, it was difficult for me to comprehend the idea of having such profound gratitude for an experience that involved so much suffering . . . until I found my way to my own recovery.

There are no guarantees of anything and we can take nothing for granted in this life. Every day is a gift; every breath is a gift. What we do with them is a choice.

by Dan Mager, MSW       Nov 18, 2014
Dan Mager, MSW is the author of
Some Assembly Required: A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain.
He received his MSW from Hunter College.
In Print:  Some Assembly Required: A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain
 


Leave a comment

Why ‘2-minute Mornings’ Might Be More Effective Than New Year’s Resolutions

A fool-proof way of sticking to your New Year’s resolution

Author Neil Pasricha takes us through new ways to cultivate happiness and success in 2018.

Neil Pasricha would like to see the end of New Year’s resolutions.

The motivational speaker and bestselling author of “The Book of Awesome” and “The Happiness Equation” says the problem with resolutions is that they tend to be vague and are thus doomed to fail.

“I don’t think resolutions work. I know they don’t work from the research, and I don’t think they’re doing us much good because if you start a resolution and you fail, you just feel worse about yourself,” he told CTV’s Your Morning Wednesday.

The reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail is that they are just goals, not specific plans of action, Pasricha believes. What we need instead are systems that will force us to change our bad behaviours and create new habits.

“Systems beat goals every time,” Pasricha said, and added that if we truly want change, we have to force ourselves to change.

“So if you want to lose 10 pounds, maybe sell your car and walk to work. Now you have no car, so the system is, how will you get to work?” he explained. Any plan that regiments us into new habits will eventually force a shift in behaviour, he said.

One change in habits that Pasricha recently developed for himself is what he calls “two-minute mornings.” Every morning, Pasricha forces himself to take two minutes and “invest” them into reflection and planning out the rest of his day.

“The way I look at it is we are awake for about 1,000 minutes a day. My challenge for myself is to take two minutes to make the other 998 more effective, more productive and more positive,” he explained.

During those two minutes, he forces himself to write out the answers to three prompts: one for looking back; one for being mindful of the right now; and one to look ahead to what’s next. They are:

“I will let go of…”
“I am grateful for…”
“I will focus on…”

The first prompt is a time for some unloading of stress and guilt and a little self-forgiveness– not unlike what Catholics engage in when they step into a confessional.

“We all carry around anxieties and stresses. All of us do. If you think you don’t, you’re lying,” Pasricha said.

By reflecting on what needs to be let go, we can unload some of the stress we needlessly place on ourselves, and perhaps stop comparing ourselves to unfair standards.

The next prompt is designed to move away from guilt, stress and negativity and place the focus on all the things that are good about our lives right now.

Even though we live in a time of great abundance, with longer lifespans than ever, more technology, advanced health care, and less warfare, we’re more stressed and anxious than ever, Pasricha said. By focusing on what we’re grateful for, we can remind ourselves how lucky we are.

“If you focus on the positive, you’ll keep looking for it every day,” Pasricha said.

Finally, he said it’s important to set three small, achievable goals a day. Things such as: calling or emailing a friend; going for an evening walk; being friendly with cashiers and asking them about their day.

The aim is to create bite-sized goals that you then check off as accomplishments at the end of the day

“Take the endless list of things you could do, and narrow it down to three things you will do that day,” Pasricha advised.

Angela Mulholland, Staff writer   @AngeMulholland     December 27, 2017