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Start Reaping The Benefits Of Being Happy With These Steps

Research tells us that only 1 in 3 people label themselves “happy.” Happiness seems elusive for many. There is simply too much sadness, stress, pressure and difficulty in relationships for you to be “happy.” Most people are waiting for their happy day to come: “I will win the lottery.” “I will get that new job.” “I will move to a warmer climate.” “I will get rid of this jerk.” The pot of gold is just sitting there waiting, and you only need to catch the rainbow and slide to the bottom to reach it.

It’s likely that you have grabbed the gold one or two times before. There was probably a time when something went really well – you had a good relationship, or a good job, or some money in your pocket, or the promise of something good to come.

Getting the gold didn’t make you permanently happy. It might have given you an upper for the day, week or month, but it didn’t buy you the long-term happiness you are probably seeking. Life is filled with irritants, obstacles, difficulties, unforeseen circumstances and interruptions just waiting for the right time to happen. Big things like death, divorce, loss of a job or home, and little things like bad traffic, a stain on that brand-new shirt, or a vacation that got derailed, can all lead to a dearth on the happiness scale.

Is it possible to just live happy? Can you take some steps to find yourself in the one out of three? Does it mean you have to make millions or become more successful than your most successful friend? No, it doesn’t; but it probably won’t just happen on its own. You might have to make some choices to decide in favor of happiness.

If you are ready to stop moping and complaining, and start reaping the benefits of being happy, here are some steps you can take:

Practice reframing your experiences. You may see an event now and label it “bad” or “unwanted” or “negative.” Instead of reacting to everything with a negative response, choose to reframe the situation in a more objective and neutral manner. This means when the next driver cuts you off, you don’t talk to yourself (or out loud) about all of the terrible drivers out there who are out to get you. You say something like, “It’s a shame more people don’t drive politely. It isn’t worth it to me to get upset about it.” Then turn your attention to something positive. Be sure your speakers (if you are in the car for this example) are broadcasting something good – uplifting music, a positive or spiritual speaker, or a book you enjoy. Turn the volume up if you want, and focus on that instead of that other driver.

Find something that uplifts you. For some people it is positive music, for others it is meditation or yoga, for others it is a warm bath. What puts your mind in its happy place? Have a regular schedule to include whatever it is that is good for you. Don’t find yourself stuck and saying “I need to meditate.” Instead, make it part of your schedule so you are doing it regularly.

Stay away from news that depresses. Of course you shouldn’t hide your head in the sand – you want to be an educated voter, and know what’s happening in the economic markets, or realize what areas of your city have become dangerous at night. You want to be informed, but you don’t want to be inundated. You can get updates or skim the headlines, and then put it away. Some people actually make a diet of negative news. It does nothing but bring you down. Be choosy about how much you allow to sink into your subconscious.

work-life-balance

 

Get rest, relaxation and exercise. The research is clear on how much sleep people need, how important destressing can be, and how much your body is fueled by exercise. Of course, don’t become upset if you aren’t getting these enough; create a working plan for you to get more. It is hard to stay upbeat and happy when you are running on three hours of sleep and too much caffeine, and just taking a walk around the block seems daunting!
Learn to breathe. The mind can’t focus on two things at once. If you are focused on your breath, breathing in and out slowly and thoughtfully, you can’t be focused on something that upsets you. Turn your attention to your breath several times throughout the day, not just in reaction to something negative, but as a practice. Breathe comfortably and easily. Allow your breath to flow in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think about the gift of breath. It’s a natural process most take for granted.

Develop a thankful ritual. Be careful with this – some people do this as a way to say, “It’s bad and I am miserable but look at the things that are going well!” You don’t want to try and fake yourself out; you want to genuinely be thankful for what you have and what’s going well. Make a list of things that really have meaning to you. Read the list out loud and pause at each one. Allow the positive feeling associated with whatever you have listed to permeate you as you read. Smile while you are reading it, and soak yourself in the happy.

Smile more often. Most people have a perpetual scowl on their faces, unless they are smiling in response to someone else. Smile randomly. Pretend you have your own secrets on how great your life is. Smile at the checkout clerk, the gas station attendant and your mother-in-law! Most people smile back in response, so you might make someone else’s day too.

Choose happy. Every second of the day you have a choice about where your mind is focused. You can be sad, mad, irritated, joyful, or whatever emotion you choose. You may think your emotions are in response to your situation, but they aren’t. The sun can be shining, you received a raise, your child got into their coveted school, and you feel happy but then someone’s negative, casual remark comes around and your happiness turns to shreds. Now, instead of your happy day, you are focused on how mean and cruel that person was to you. You do have a choice. Make yours.

Jun 30, 2016      Beverly D. Flaxington     Understand Other People      Choose in Favor of Happy
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How To Master Self-Acceptance

In 1969, the psychiatrist Thomas A. Harris, M.D., wrote a self-help manual called, I’m OK — You’re OK, which became a runaway bestseller and a catch phrase of the 70s.

“OK-ness” is a subjective assessment of the self, based on ideas and feelings — mostly from the past. If I had a family who praised, appreciated, adored and guided me, I’d probably end up feeling “OK” about myself, no matter what happened externally. But if I had parents who ignored, demeaned, shamed, or belittled me and my needs, I’d probably end up feeling bad and not OK about myself, no matter what happened externally.

As a psychotherapist for more than 20 years, I’ve seen supermodels doubt their good looks, and wealthy people feel financially insecure. “OK-ness” or self-esteem is like the rudder of a sailboat: when it’s deep, the vessel can endure huge waves; when it’s shallow or missing, the boat can capsize in puddle-deep water.

The road to mastering self-acceptance is long and winding, but here are four important reminders to help you along the way:

1. Know that whatever has been done can be undone, and vice versa.

I love this sentiment about human freedom, and I love that as a therapist. When I witness someone with an arid past and bad sense of self, recover or discover a fundamental sense of OK-ness, I like it. The hard-earned sense of OK-ness claimed through completing a 12-step program, or therapy, or just plain life-lessons, is so sweet.

Now here’s what I really like — in response to Dr. Harris’ statement, “I’m OK, You’re OK,” psychiatrist Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross came up with this: “I’m not OK, and you’re not OK. But that’s OK.” Now there’s a humanism I can live with! In her model, I don’t even have to be OK to experience OK-ness!

2. Admit your flaws, laugh at your quirks, and know that you will screw up.

Self-acceptance means knowing that it’s not a sin or stupid to not know what you don’t know. Self-acceptance says that maybe you’re not right about something, but you’re right within the core of your being.

How do you come by knowing this “core self,” you ask? In quietude, when the mind finally settles down — when each breath signals, “I am alive,” and you really get it and feel it at full measure. That means taking the time to be quiet, maybe on a regular basis. So yes, even though self-acceptance seems naturally sweet and easily attainable, it still takes effort to be with it. You still have to reach for it.

That’s where the age-old quest for enlightenment comes in; the element we seek out in everything we pursue: aliveness, fun, joy, depth, love and rest.

love-each-other

3. Love and accept other beings.

I see this firsthand in therapy groups week after week: people sharing and accepting the supposedly unacceptable things about each other. That kind of concentrated love and support can bust through years of wall-building, through negativity and self-condemnation. That kind of kindness that heals hearts and lives fully. When others reach out to us with unconditional acceptance, it helps us reach in and find it there, too.

Outside love from others can help, but is not the final measure of successful self-acceptance. The true flower of self-acceptance grows in a deeper garden, in a place inside of us beyond any layers of holding back or hiding out. It’s a precious flower planted long ago, when we were innocent and original. All we have to do to find our way back there is to become as simple and guileless as we once were.

To rediscover our innocence and reclaim it as our core — that is a solid foundation for full self-acceptance.

4. Accept the dark side, too.

Goodness and light are easy to accept because, well, they’re good, and it’s easier to feel good about goodness than it is to feel good about badness. We humans collectively honor goodness and dislike the dark side. But every yin has its yang. Every good thing about us and in us, casts a shadow, and we need to reckon with it and yes, make peace with it, to round out the self-acceptance picture. The Dark Side is important, and ignoring it can lead to problems.

For instance, did you know that Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi was far from the divine and perfect being we often look up to? In his autobiography, he fully confessed that he not only contained the seeds of violence within himself, but also acted on them in his life.

I honor the man who admits his to dark side, and then transforms it into humility and determination to be non-violent. I accept Gandhi as my hero because he kept on going beyond his mistakes. He continued to work on perfecting himself, flaws and all. He didn’t hide his imperfections, but challenged himself with them to reach new depths of personhood. Heck, if it turns out that not even Gandhi is OK, then that must really be OK!

by Andy Bernay-Roman     March 18, 2015


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The One False Belief Holding You Back

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

This summer I was in one of those tourist traps that sell insipid signs like, “I’m on Lake Time” or “Love You More.”  They also had one I’ve never seen before, and it has stuck with me ever since. It said, “Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone.”

Damn right.

The one false belief holding you back is that you think that your past determines who you are. If that were true, no one would ever overcome adversity, benefit from a second chance, or improve themselves through education, self-discipline, or perseverance.

Your past actions, good and bad, can be judged by you and by others. You can learn from your errors as well as your successes. Others can think what they will, but neither your reflections on your past nor others’ opinions of you determine who you are now or in the future.

comfortzone

Believing that your past defines who you are is a toxic fallacy. Consider a circus elephant chained by one leg to a stake in the ground: Why doesn’t the elephant just pull the stake loose and wander away? Because it couldn’t do so when it was young. And so the adult elephant is still restrained—not by the chain, but by its past, or rather, the learned associations from its past (Chain around leg means “can’t walk”).

Cognitive dissonance is the culprit that motivates us to maintain the belief that what we were in the past is all that we ever will be. Leon Festinger originated the concept back in the 1950s. He also proposed the principle of cognitive consistency—that is, that we seek to maintain mental and emotional balance by thinking and acting in compliance with who we think we are. And who do we think we are? The same person we have always been. And so when we attempt to think and act differently, cognitive dissonance sets in.

Here’s the trick— metacognition. That simply means being able to observe one’s own thinking and feelings objectively and unemotionally, so that one can assess what may be “pushing our buttons.” If you want to change but experience cognitive dissonance in the process, metacognition can help you identify dissonance as a normal but unhelpful reaction. With effort you can then master the dissonance and proceed with the changes you want to make, until those changes become the new normal.

Are you chained to the past? If so, that chain exists only in your mind. You can remember and reflect on the past without being defined and limited by it.

What’s stopping you? Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Dale Hartley Ph.D., MBA     Machiavellians: Gulling the Rubes     Aug 08, 2016
 


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What Are the Building Blocks of a Good Life?

These 5 elements can change your life for the better.

I spent years studying damage, deficit and dysfunction in the human mind. I don’t remember once in my training hearing the words “joy,” “awe” or “wellbeing.” We talked about “happiness” but only in a negative sense. During a manic phase of bipolar illness, patients may experience excessive happiness. The diagnostic criterion of mania includes a persistently elevated or expansive mood and inflated self-esteem. This is a bad thing. It has negative consequences like irresponsible spending or reckless sexual behavior.

Genuine happiness is not given much thought in the training of psychologists and psychiatrists. The goal of treatment is to get a patient “back to baseline” (not clinically sick) and the goal of most research is to gain a better understanding of mental disorders.

Studying what people are like at their best has not received much attention until recently. In 1998, Martin Seligman was the President of the American Psychological Association. He had a successful career studying depression and was known for his work on the theory of “learned helplessness” as a model for depression. Yet the singular focus on illness troubled him:

Psychologists (and psychiatrists) have scant knowledge of what makes life worth living. They have come to understand quite a bit about how people survive and endure under conditions of adversity. However, psychologists (and psychiatrists) know very little about how normal people flourish…

Seligman set out to change that. He broke new ground by founding the modern field of Positive Psychology.

Positive psychology proposes to correct this imbalance by focusing on strengths as well as weaknesses, on building the best things in life as well as repairing the worst. It asserts that human goodness and excellence is just as authentic as distress and disorder, that life entails more than the undoing of problems.

Positive psychology has flourished over the past two decades, leading to a greater understanding of optimal human functioning and resilience.

Seligman’s life changing book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, outlines his groundbreaking theory of wellbeing known as the PERMA model. The theory holds that the following five elements are the building blocks of a good life:

1. Positive Emotion (P)

Positive emotion such as peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, awe and love are life enhancing. A “dose” of positive emotion creates an upward spiral of positivity.

upwardspiral

 

2. Engagement (E)

When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow: time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present.

3. Positive Relationships (R)

We are “social beings,” and good relationships are essential for wellbeing. Strong social connections are linked with good physical and mental health and are also protective against stressors.

downwardspiral

 

4. Meaning (M)

Meaning comes from serving something larger than ourselves. It puts life in perspective. It may be a religion, a cause, or an overriding sense of purpose that we belong to something bigger.

5. Accomplishment/Achievement (A)

Mastering a skill, achieving one’s goal and living life in concert with one’s values is important for wellbeing. Working towards a goal is rewarding in itself.

The good news is that all five elements of PERMA can be cultivated.


Your assignment: get more PERMA in your life today.

 
Samantha Boardman, M.D       Aug 01, 2016
Samantha Boardman, M.D., is a clinical instructor in psychiatry 
and assistant attending psychiatrist at Weill-Cornell Medical College.
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10 Ways Mentally Strong People Handle Stress

Handling stress poorly can negatively affect your well-being, but the good news is that you can learn the 10 ways that mentally strong people deal with stress and start using these techniques today.

Stress that is unmanaged can lead to physical health problems like high blood pressure, but can chronic stress can also develop into depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Rather than continue to handle stress poorly, let’s look at the 10 ways that mentally strong people handle stress effectively.

10 WAYS MENTALLY STRONG PEOPLE HANDLE STRESS

1. ACCEPT THAT STRESSFUL EVENTS WILL HAPPEN
We all know that things are bound to happen to upset even the most planned out day, but mentally strong people acknowledge this up front. There is going to be something unplanned for that happens to you, but you can begin planning for it now. Tell yourself now that although you know something stressful may happen today, you are prepared to handle it.

2. USE MULTIPLE STRESS MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Researchers in the Journal of Occupational Medicine studied workplace stress management programs and found that one that included goal setting, problem solving, identifying and questioning negative thoughts, relaxation, and time management was helpful for people to handle stress effectively. This strategy of using multiple techniques to handle stress is one that mentally strong people employ all the time.

3. TAKE CONTROL
Mentally strong people look at what is causing the stress and look for ways to prevent it from happening again. By making changes in their environment, they can avoid or reduce causes of stress.

4. AFFIRMATIONS
Use positive self-talk to remind yourself of just how capable you are when stressful situations come up. For example, say ‘I’ve handled situations like this before and I know I can handle this just fine too.’

5. TIME MANAGEMENT
Much of our perceived stress comes from not having enough time to get done what we want to get done. By planning ahead for lost time, we can make sure that we have enough time in the day for everything, without being stressed when something does inevitably delay us.

For example, if you have a full schedule and worry about being late to your next appointment, next time book your day with 20-30 minute gaps of time in between appointments. That way if there is too much traffic, the delay won’t seem as stressful to you due to the extra time that you planned in to your day.

Stress

Stress

6. SOCIAL SUPPORT
Researchers studying how people handle stress found that a strong social support network was linked to mental well-being. Some people find it challenging to ask for help because they like to be self-reliant. We all need help at some point, so being able to recognize when you have reached a significant stress-level and ask for help to get yourself back to a calm state is an excellent skill that mentally strong people use to handle stress.

7. THEY DO NOT AVOID STRESS
The same study that showed that social support helped mentally strong people to handle stress found that if they used the technique of avoiding things that they thought of as stressful, their mental well-being decreased significantly.

Avoiding is just a way of delaying handling stress. Running away from a problem never solved anything so choosing to face your worries and acknowledge the uncomfortable feelings while using another coping strategy is better for your mental strength.

8. SEE THOUGHTS ABOUT STRESS AS TEMPORARY
Thoughts come and go and some are terribly negative. Our awareness of our negative thoughts about stress is an excellent skill to have. This mindfulness can then be taken to the next level. Rather than avoid or repress negative thoughts about stress, see them as temporary mental events that will be gone fairly soon.

This is a strategy called ‘decentering’ by psychologists, where we challenge negative thoughts. We can choose to accept our negative thoughts as fact, or we can acknowledge that we were making a bigger deal than we needed to about the stressful event, and allow that thought to pass away from our minds like a cloud.

9. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
This one stressful event is not going to change the course of your life all by itself. You are still a fantastically talented, creative and intelligent person who just had a negative experience. Mentally strong people know that although the surface of the ocean is turbulent, deep down it is calm.

10. THEY FIND WAYS TO ADD JOY
Adding a few moments of laughter to a stressful day can be all it takes to handles stress well. Even in the midst of a crisis, being able to laugh at yourself for how you overreact or misjudge something is a way to shift from a negative mindset to a positive one. For example you might say, ‘Well that was silly of me to forget my wallet, but hey, at least I noticed it before I was at the cash register with a full shopping cart.’

JUNE 28, 2016      source: www.powerofpositivity.com


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Research Examines Social Benefits of Getting Into Someone Else’s Head

Desire to understand other people’s perspectives has implications for teamwork, relationships

June 1, 2016   Source: University at Buffalo

Summary:
Do you often wonder what the person next to you is thinking? You might be high in mind-reading motivation (MRM), a newly coined term for the practice of observing and interpreting bits of social information, like whether the person next to you is rhythmically drumming his fingers because he’s anxious or if someone is preoccupied because she’s gazing off into the distance.

Do you often wonder what the person next to you is thinking?

You might be high in mind-reading motivation (MRM), a newly coined term for the practice of observing and interpreting bits of social information, like whether the person next to you is rhythmically drumming his fingers because he’s anxious or if someone is preoccupied because she’s gazing off into the distance.

MRM is the tendency to engage with the mental states and perspectives of others. But it’s much more than just a means of passing idle time. Being high in MRM leads to many social benefits, including better teamwork, according to Melanie Green, an associate professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Communication and corresponding author of the groundbreaking new study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion.

“We’re not talking about the psychic phenomenon or anything like that, but simply using cues from other people’s behavior, their non-verbal signals, to try to figure out what they’re thinking,” says Green.

MRM is an entirely new construct – developed by Green and her coauthors Jordan M. Carpenter at the University of Pennsylvania and Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk at Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley – which also has implications for advertising and relationships.

Individuals high in MRM enjoy speculating on others’ thoughts based on the potentially hundreds of social cues they might receive. Those low in MRM dislike or have no interest in doing so. MRM is about the motivation to engage with other minds, and is distinct from the ability to accurately interpret others’ cues.

“We didn’t measure ability directly in our study of teamwork, but the research suggests that just the motivation to understand others, and presumably the behaviors that go along with that motivation, appear to lead to benefits,” says Green.

mind-reading

In addition to facilitating cooperation and better teamwork, people high in MRM also consider people in great detail and have a nuanced understanding of those around them.

“Those high in MRM seem to develop richer psychological portraits of those around them,” says Green. “It’s the difference between saying ‘this person strives for success, but is afraid of achieving it’ as opposed to ‘this person is a great cook.'”

The relevance of those portraits also appears to have implications for advertising and the salience of certain messages.

“High MRM people are more drawn to and pay more attention to messages with an identifiable source – a spokesperson or an ad focusing on company values – that is, someone whose perspective they can try to understand.” says Green. “On the other hand, low MRM people seem to pay more attention to ads that are more impersonal, like those that just discuss the product – a message that does not appear to come from a particular person or group.”

Although there is no previous research in MRM, there is a long history of studies on perspective taking. But much of that research has focused on situations where perspective taking, in a sense, is required.

“Think about seeing some kind of trouble and trying to figure out what’s wrong,” she says. “Or noticing your partner is upset and you try to figure out what they’re thinking.”

Green and her colleagues thought there might be a difference in how much people enjoy or were motivated to speculate on people’s thoughts in situations where there was no situational need or institutional pressure. It could be as simple as a bus passenger considering the thoughts of those across the aisle.

“This hadn’t been previously considered from the standpoint of individual differences,” says Green.
“That’s where this research is something new.”

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University at Buffalo. The original item was written by Bert Gambini. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Journal Reference:
Jordan M. Carpenter, Melanie C. Green, Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk. Beyond perspective-taking: Mind-reading motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 2016; 40 (3): 358 DOI: 10.1007/s11031-016-9544-z


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7 Ways Mentally Strong People Deal With Stress

Jul 27, 2015   Amy Morin     What Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

While stress causes some people to crumble, mentally strong people are able to thrive despite added tension. In fact, they view adversity as an opportunity for growth. Whether they’re dealing with financial setbacks, health problems, or workplace difficulties, mentally strong people don’t let stress drag them down.

Here are 7 ways mentally strong people handle stress effectively:

1. They accept that stress is part of life.

While some people waste time and energy thinking things like, “I shouldn’t have to deal with this,” mentally strong people know that setbacks, problems, and hardships are inevitable. When stressful situations arise, they devote their efforts into doing what they can to move forward. Even when they can’t change the circumstances, they know they can always take steps to improve their lives.

2. They keep problems in proper perspective.

Rather than think that a flat tire has the power to ruin their whole day, mentally strong people keep inconveniences in proper perspective. When tempted to catastrophize a minor event — such as thinking one mistake could ruin their whole career — they respond by reframing the message they give themselves, and refuse to allow a pessimistic inner monologue to take hold.

mental strength

3. They take care of their physical health.

Mentally strong people recognize the importance of keeping their bodies in smooth operating condition. They recognize they won’t be able to combat stress if they’re worn out and running on empty. They exercise, get plenty of sleep, and maintain a diet that keeps them healthy.

4. They choose healthy coping skills.

While some people turn to alcohol, junk food, or other unhealthy vices to help them escape stress, mentally strong people cope with discomfort in a productive manner. They allow themselves to feel uncomfortable emotions like anxiety, fear, and sadness head-on. They use healthy activities, like going for a walk or participating in a hobby, to cope with emotional pain.

5. They balance social activity with solitude.

Sometimes, in an attempt to avoid facing problems, people fill their schedules with social activities. Others deal with stress by withdrawing from friends and family. Mentally strong people strike a balance: They maintain a healthy social life even when they’re stressed, but they also reserve time to be alone with their thoughts.

6.They acknowledge their choices.

Stress can cause people to feel like victims of bad circumstances. Mentally strong people acknowledge that everything they do, from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep, is a choice. They’re willing to say no to things they don’t want to do and they accept responsibility for their behavior.

7. They look for the silver lining.

Mentally strong people don’t necessarily see the world through rose-colored glasses—they have a realistic outlook—but they do look for the silver lining in tough circumstances. They recognize that good things can come from stressful situations. Rather than allowing hardship to turn them into bitter people or helpless victims, they choose to use stressful circumstances to become stronger and better.

Amy Morin, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.     What Mentally Strong People Don’t Do    Training your brain for happiness and success