Happiness Hack: Today’s Good Happenings

We’re excited to let you know that we are compiling all the Happiness Hacks we’ve posted. This one was on Catnip as:

“Research shows you will be happier for 3 months – Music to my ears”

I played violin in the high school orchestra. It was enjoyable and got me out of physical education class. Practicing was another matter.  Practicing the violin was excruciating for me. It was solely focused on doing weird, complicated, boring scales over and over and over . . . no melody, NO FUN.   I would set a timer for 1 hour: polish my violin for 10 minutes; resin the bow for 5; tune the strings for 15 and; laboriously do scales for the rest of the time. I did get better.

If only I had known that I could have practiced being in a good mood while I was practicing scales.

Yup, research now shows the more you practice being in a good mood the better you get at keeping a good mood.

Our brains seek out familiar patterns. The more we consciously focus on positive thoughts the easier it is for our brain to access those thoughts and find positive patterns in other areas.  (Of course, there is a corollary  – focus on the negative and your brain will look for more negative connections).  So the more you think about the positive things in your life, the easier it is to think of good things in your life. 

Start at any time.  Like now. Think about something “positive/good” . . . a time you had fun or laughed at a joke or a childhood celebration.  It doesn’t even have to be about you or your life . . .  something “positive” you’ve witnessed, read about or even imagined.  Share it with someone and notice feeling happier.

The more you practice the easier it will be for your brain to access the positive and lift your mood.  

Here’s an easy practice session.

   Maui Practicing, not judy, by Peggy

Pawsitive Exercise

Each day for a week, at the end of the day, write down 3 good or positive things that have happened to you that day and why they happened. 

They can be:

  • BIG things (became a grandma, bought a Maserati, won the lottery)
  • Small things (took a nice shower, ate breakfast, paid the water bill on time).
  • The same things repeated each day or different things/events listed.

When you write down why they happened give yourself credit:

  • I won the lottery because I bought a ticket
  • I took a nice hot shower because I paid the water bill on time
  • I became a grandma because I became a mother because I have kept a good relationship with my daughter because I called her and had a positive conversation.

You don’t need a fancy journal –

a notebook, post-it-notes, napkins will work.

Just do this for one week.

Research shows you will be happier for 3 months!

My violin “practice” list would have looked like this:

  • I managed to get through another violin practice session without dying of boredom.
  • I played in tune, 75% of the time
  • I polished my violin and it’s shiny.

(jw)

Reference:  Seligman, M. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410

Happiness – how our remembering self hijacks our experiencing self

I tend to live in the present moment – not because I am centered nor have I perfected mindfulness.  It’s because I  have a very lousy long-term memory.   You can tell me the same joke over and over and I’ll laugh every time because I never remember the punch line.  I don’t remember having already seen a movie or read a book until I get to the end.  Details of my life elude me.  Turns out I’m blessed by a forgetful remembering-self.

LISTEN to this!!!!!!!! –  How we determine what is a painful experience or a pleasurable one; How we create the story of our life.

Happy is as Happy Does! – Jump’n for JOY

Can’t stop smiling when I see this video of pure excitement!

“The video, posted to YouTube by Kevin Clancy, shows an adorable puppy showing off its cute little dance moves.”

“The dog broke into dance and then literally started jumping for joy when its owner came to take the little pup home from what appears to be a doggie day care.”

 

Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth

Human tsunami

Joy! Let it rain! Let it pour!

Monsoons of movement

 Don’t miss this WONDERFUL video!

“What are these humans doing? Dancing. Many humans on Earth exhibit periods of happiness, and one method of displaying happiness is dancing. Happiness and dancing transcend political boundaries and occur in practically every human society. Above, Matt Harding traveled through many nations on Earth, planned on dancing, and filmed the result. The above video, the latest in a series of similar videos, is perhaps a dramatic example that humans from all over planet Earth feel a common bond as part of a single species. Happiness is frequently contagious — few people are able to watch the above video without smiling.”

Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth
Video Credit: Matt Harding & Melissa Nixon; Music: Trip the Light

Rain comes dribbling down

or torrents blown from the sky

either way it’s wet

 

Thank you Margo for sending such joy!

Happiness Research & Wendy

Happy Thoughts by Wendy Holcomb

For a young woman with a myriad of health issues Wendy Holcomb is one of the most spunky, positive people I’ve encountered on the blog-o-sphere. In her own words:

I have a few chronic illnesses that are a part of my life: Meniere’s Disease (this has caused severe hearing loss), Gluten Intolerance, Fructose Malabsorption, chronic migraines, Hypothyroidism, Hypoglycemia, chronic pelvic pain, Bi-Polar II Disorder and chronic hip trouble. However, I’m determined to
find a way to live an active, useful, and happy life!

How does Wendy remain so positive?  What makes us happy?  What makes us unhappy?  All the psychology research FINALLY being done on happiness (instead of despair, decay and decadence) appears to have common threads.

University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky finds that  “. . .practicing acts of kindness both random (let that harried mom go ahead of you in the checkout line) and systematic (bring Sunday supper to an elderly neighbor) triggers a cascade of positive [neurochemical] effects—it makes you feel generous and capable, gives you a greater sense of connection with others and wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindness—all happiness boosters.”

Psychologist Martin Seligman provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology’s correlational findings: Humans seem happiest when they have

  1. Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths, etc.)
  2. Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity)
  3. Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness)
  4. Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger)
  5. Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).

There is also a growing body of evidence that correlates “contentment” with just three things:

  • A sense of belonging (a community, faith group, family)
  • The ability to contribute artistically (self-expression in any form)
  • Service (to others).
Personally I will take the 3.  For me it seems that the 3 encompass just about everything else. 

What do you think?

Check out Wendy’s blogs:

CreatetoHeal    PicnicWithAnts   WendyCooks (gluten free recipes)

Happy Test Revisited. Important Questions to Ask Yourself

At the risk of being much too serious and fracturing your image of me, I invite you to read some wonderfully thought-provoking comments from the post yesterday on the “Satisfaction with your Life Test”.    Take a look at three comments.  I believe that each person brought up what is essential to how we view and experience this thing called “our life”

I’ve posted some questions for you to ponder after each.  

I wonder Judy. I remember having written recently.. if there is pain in my heart doesn’t mean I am not happy.. so is it with satisfaction… does dissatisfaction mean unhappiness… I am not sure.. and one more thing.. the moment I sit to do a test to check if I am happy means that I am not…indeed that’s my perception..and I am no authority..to make a statement.. I am just a simple student of moments..and what feelings those moments bring….. well I am at this moment feeling happy to be here…on your page. Posted by Ramesh Sood

  • If you carry pain about some loss does that mean you can’t be happy?
  • How are your dissatisfaction about specific things in your life affect your happiness?

Hi Judith,
Given the title of the test; “how happy are you”, implies to me that happiness is something that can be measured by degrees. I disagree with that premise. Happiness is a state of being, perfect unto itself. I am happy because I am happy and nothing added would make me any happier…regardless of what is added, I will still be happy. Since happiness is a state of being, it can not have an opposite. A person can’t be unhappy. He can be sad, upset, angry, disappointed, etc. but any of those feelings, thoughts and emotions do not make for an “un” status.

The universe, however it was created, is a positive reality. An “un” positive reality can not exist in the same realm. I’ll avoid the question of “G-D” as a factor and just go with any theory for the beginning of life. If the big bang happened, it happened. It didn’t “un”happen. If we evolved from slime, then we evolved not “un”evolved. I’m making this point and opening it to discussion.
posted by Rabbi Dr. Dan S.Wiko

  • Do you think about your own happiness as a state of being rather than something that you measure?
  • If your happiness is a state of being what do you do to fully experience it?  
  • What do you do to deny your own state of happiness?

“When human’s are happy there is no impetus for personal growth, change or bettering the world.”
This is a statement which is fundamentally flawed and as it is foundational to the proposition, we can’t help but get faulty answers.
To illustrate, I am an extremely happy person – happier than most anyone I know, and my happiness comes from learning, growing, challenging what is considered normal, challenging my own thoughts and beliefs and actions and seeking to better the world through bettering myself.
Now if you were to use “satisfied” or “content” instead of happy…
I can still be happy while not being satisfied. I’m not satisfied with my financial situation but since money does not govern my happiness – I am happy.
I also agree with The Rabbi – happiness is a state of being which comes from within, and not from external factors.
Posted by John H.

  • Do you think satisfied/content on the same continuum as happy  (Satisfied____________Happy______________Ecstatic)?  or
  • A state of being not connected to other emotions?
  • Do you experience your happiness coming from internal or external factors?

Take the Test. How Happy Are You?

Let it Roll, Journal Page

I was thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions. I wondered if  the real message behind New Year’s Resolutions is that if I reach them I will be happier with my life.

And, of course when I don’t reach my goals there is no satisfaction in failure.  Having no goals certainly takes care of that.

Now, I don’t believe that happiness should be measured by satisfaction or success or failure.  I don’t believe that happiness as a life-long state of being is attainable. My happiness comes in fits and starts, bits and pieces, tiny moments.

 I, also, don’t believe that a constant state of happiness is actually desirable. Why?  Because happiness breeds status quo.  When human’s are happy there is no impetus for personal growth, change or bettering the world.  Now I certainly am not for despair or misery. But dissatisfaction is not a bad thing.

So! How happy are you? This quick test will help you keep score. The Satisfaction with Life Scale was devised in 1980 by University of Illinois psychologist Edward Diener, a founding father of happiness research. Since then the scale has been used by researchers around the world.

Read the following five statements. Then use a 1-to-7 scale to rate your level of agreement.

1                     2                     3                     4                     5                     6                     7

1=Not at all true               4=Moderately true               7=Absolutely true

_____1    In most ways my life is close to my ideal.

_____2    The conditions of my life are excellent.

_____3    I am satisfied with my life.

_____4    So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.

_____5    If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

_____Total score
Scoring:

  • 31 to 35: you are extremely satisfied with your life
  • 26 to 30: very satisfied
  • 21 to 25: slightly satisfied
  • 20 is the neutral point
  • 15 to 19: slightly dissatisfied
  • 10 to 14: dissatisfied
  • 5 to 9: extremely dissatisfied
  • I took a minute to think about my overall score.  
  • Then I identified areas of my life that were at or above the neutral point
  • Then I identified areas of my life that were at or below the neutral point
Here’s what I asked myself:
  • In areas of my life that are above the neutral point, how motivated am I  to risk changing them and grow?
  • In the areas of my life that are below the neutral point, how stuck am I or reluctant to change and grow?

I think my answers – which I ain’t going to tell you – were verrrrrrrrrry interesting.  All I’ll say is I need to be less happy and more dissatisfied in all the areas of my New Year’s Resolutions!

https://judithwesterfield.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/recycling-resolves-resolutions/

Is It the MOST Wonderful Time of the Year?

A client came into my office today with a wry smile having had just heard Andy Williams singing in the hallway (on the intercom).

Many  people I know would say that it’s one of the most painful times of the year.  Painful because of who is not here to share it with or painful because of who IS here with demands, expectations, pressures.  

Most of all, the fantasies of HOW IT SHOULD BE and the fantasies that EVERYONE else is happy fuel our discontent, disappointment and dissatisfaction (Three “d” words, pretty clever, eh? – ah but I digress into my own ego-fueled fog)

Happiness is probably the most misunderstood concept of the Western World. (Can’t speak for the Eastern, Southern or Northern Worlds so those of you who live there please let me know)

Advertising tells us that happiness is only a purchase away. This is part of living in a society that is driven by goals and outcomes, and in which happiness is something that can be pursued and acquired.

 We look for that perfect “soul mate” who will “complete me”.  We meditate, inebriate, medicate, vegetate, procreate and levitate (had to find another “tate” word) searching for an imagined state of happy bliss.

I was reading a Bahai blog post by Preethi (don’t know who Preethi is but the posts are always well written and thought-provoking).  S/He begins:

On average, the population of today’s world live with more material comfort, less illness, greater equality and far more opportunities than people who lived at any other time in history. In spite of this, the World Health Organization has estimated that by the year 2030, depression will be the most prevalent and debilitating illness in the world – in both rich and poor nations.

Judging from the number of bestselling self-help books out there on how to achieve happiness in life, this question seems to be a pretty big one for a lot of people. It seems that many people acknowledge that in spite of being financially comfortable, having a good job and an active social life, true happiness remains out of reach.

Fifteen minutes on Facebook can often leave us feeling that the happiest people out there are the ones who have an endless number of friends, the ones who go on great adventures overseas and the ones who have amazing jobs. Focusing on the things that other people have that we might not have can easily lead us to believe that our happiness is dependent upon our life being exactly the way we’d like it to be.

So it’s interesting to see what the Baha’i writings have to say on the topic. ‘Abdu’l Baha talks about two kinds of happiness –”

“Happiness consists of two kinds: physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. It has no result. Spiritual happiness is eternal and unfathomable. This kind of happiness appeareth in one’s soul with the love of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Therefore, endeavour as much as thou art able in order to illumine the lamp of thy heart by the light of love.”

Whatever your beliefs (or disbelief) I agree with Preethi that this pinpoints the fundamental flaw in our understanding of happiness and why we are left frustrated and lost:

Happiness is an attitude we foster rather than something we possess.

Happiness is a condition of being rather than of having.

What are your thoughts on finding “true happiness” at this MOST Wonderful Time of the Year?

The State of Happiness

A huge part of my job as a therapist is to help people learn that emotional states which are out of proportion in intensity or duration of time to the actual in-the-moment circumstances are what are called emotional memory from experiences that happened in the past.

 It’s rarely prudent or wise to behave/react based on emotional memory.  In a later post I’ll explain more of what I mean.

 In the meantime, Laurie Fessler puts what I struggle to teach in a simple, direct and wise way.  Here’s her post:

The Absence Of Happiness
By hibernationnow

http://hibernationnow.wordpress.com/

I used to think you were either happy or sad but I’ve discovered a secret. The absence of happiness does not necessarily mean sadness. There are many things in between this range of emotions. Contentment is one of them, so is acceptance; not swinging too high for expectations or too low for disappointment like trapeze artists in the circus. Life, if you choose it, can be one continuous ride, gently swaying back and forth, back and forth as if you were sitting on an old, white porch swing. Things can change around you but they do not necessarily need to change you within.

It doesn’t mean you have to live without emotions nor does it mean you have to feel overly anxious, happy, too sad or very depressed. It means accepting what comes your way and not fighting like a roaring, clawing tiger but also, NOT laying limply against a rock, waiting to die.

It’s a state of mind that is hard to describe but delicious to live through. I sat on a chair in a lobby yesterday and learned a great deal from an older gentlemen that I did not know. It’s listening more than talking. It’s not overreacting like every nerve ending is set on fire. This man talked in hushed whispers all about his experiences as a young man. He spoke to my dog like he was Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer, noting her behavior, her adoration, her anxiety, her love.

Try and stay in the shadows of your emotions, step back in your mind, reach for the neutral button or better yet, the pause button. Reach out to others with kindness, honesty and inspiration. You will find what you are looking for more from leaning back to listen than leaning forward to interject. Kindness is here, believe in it. Lessons can be learned from everyone and every thing. Wait for it, with patience, it will come.

Searches:

Fish – 14  on Sunday Oct

Fish – 19 Monday

Epiglottitis – 0


Are you satisfied with job, family, love, leisure, standard of living, sex, and self?

Having heart problems and the fact that more women & men die from heart disease than cancer, articles about heart health get my attention.  This posting from RealAge.com made me stop and think.

Here it is with some editing for length:

 “New British research has found that the more satisfied you are with your life, the lower your danger of coronary heart disease.”

Happy Life, Happy Heart
“While it’s long been known that negative emotions such as depression and anxiety put you at risk for heart disease, there’s been surprisingly little research on whether positive emotions prevent coronary trouble. To find out, scientists asked nearly 8,000 people to rate their satisfaction in seven key areas of life: jobs, family, love, leisure, standard of living, sex, and self. Those who scored higher than average satisfaction in all categories had up to 13 percent less risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and angina. That’s major.”

“People who were happier in four areas — jobs, families, sex lives, and selves — also had healthier hearts. But feeling contented in just the other three areas — leisure activities, love relationships, and standard of living — didn’t have a significant impact.”

C’mon, Get Happy
“While it’s not yet clear exactly how feeling good about your life helps your heart, it’s well established that happiness is vital to your health. Studies have repeatedly found that happy people produce fewer stress-related hormones, have stronger immune systems, and live longer. Now it’s clear that one reason is their hearts.

  • Talk nice to yourself. Is your inner voice quick to snap out things like, “How could you forget that, you idiot?” Trade put-downs for encouraging words; they set you up for success.
  • Connect. Talk — really talk — to people you care about; you’ll both benefit by connecting. Get physical, too; hugs stimulate oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” spreading a feel-good boost. Lovemaking does, too, in steady relationships (those couples report the highest happiness levels).
  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Don’t sit around. Physical activity is a significant happiness booster. Get moving for 30 minutes a day
  • Meditate. It eases stress, improves sleep, strengthens immunity, and measurably increases happiness (in one study, by 20 points on a scale of 100).
  • Help others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, hospital, or shelter. Giving back adds more meaning which is essential to happiness in your life.
  • Go outside. Spending time with nature makes you feel alert, enthusiastic, energetic, and, simply happy.”
Am I satisfied with my life?  I’ve never thought about in those 7 categories. There’s a tendency for me, to believe that “the grass is greener on the other side”, there’s a tendency to want more, want better, longer, stronger.  
The actual survey wasn’t posted so I just thought about those 7 areas.  Satisfaction is hard to define but I think I am only satisfied in 3 areas.  Gulp!