Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Want to be happy? Watch your language!

Speaking in language that keeps us focused on what isn't going right, comes in the form of words like never and always.  "I never get what I want."  "This always happens to me."  The words always and never mean 100% and nothing happens 100% of the time.  Using the word unfair and looking for all the unfair things that happen in life also keeps us wanting and unhappy.  So when the bad things in life happen, acknowledge that whatever it is has happened and then move on.  Easier said than done you say?  Yes, this change in language takes time to develop.  We have already had years of practice speaking negatively and focusing on what is unfair. That is why it comes so easily.  We have brainwashed ourselves negatively so we can brainwash ourselves positively with practice.

If we practice changing the way we describe situations we can decrease the length of time spent in an unhappy state.  When something bad happens we can say, "This is bad! I hate that this happened!"  We can spend some time being irritated, angry, sad, embarrassed.  Then it is time to move into problem solving.  We ask ourselves, "What can I do about this situation?"  The answer to this question leads us to action steps for moving on from the negative situation.  Try it because just stewing in the negative situation doesn't change it or help us feel better. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Money Can't Buy You Happiness

Like the Beatles' song, Money Can't Buy You Love, money can't buy you happiness.  So about now you're thinking, "Yeah, right!"  If I only had more money, a nicer car, a better job, I would be happy.  Studies conducted on happiness indicate this is the case only on a temporary basis.  Initially, when you get a raise, win money or buy something new there is a spike in happiness.  Then it drops off and you return to your usual level of happiness.  So if all the things you think will make you happy, won't do that for the long haul,  what will?

For happiness that lasts try helping others.  If you commit random acts of kindness your mood will lift.  Finding small ways of helping others is easy in daily life.  Keep your eyes open.  Hold the door open for someone, help someone with carrying groceries or picking up something they dropped.  Challenge yourself to find a small way to help someone everyday.  If you find a way to help that is a grand gesture that is great,  but you only have to help in some small way to benefit.  Observe somone else helping and your mood will also benefit from observing kind acts.  These are lessons from the happiness research.  Let me know what you have done to help someone, send in your comments.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy and Mindful

Finding happiness is as easy as thinking back to times in our life when we felt happy.  Search your memories, close your eyes and experience the happiness.  This is the practice known as mindfulness.  To be mindful of an experience we need to be present focused.  We attend to everything about the experience.  For example, think about sitting by the ocean on a summer day. Close your eyes.  Picture the ocean, the colors of green and blue, the white caps of the waves.  Hear the sounds of the waves coming in, the seagulls over head, far off voices, the laughter of children.  Smell the clean air, the scent of suntan lotion.  Feel the sun warming your skin, followed by the cool breeze from the water.  Taste the salty air on your lips.  This is the experience of mindfulness.

We can be mindful of pleasurable aspects of our daily life by reminding ourselves to stay present in the moment.  This creates happy memories to draw on.  Spend some time with babies or toddlers in play.  They experience life in the moment, not plagued by regrets about the past or anxieties about the future.  When we participate in a happy experience, fully participate, we are making a deposit in our emotional bank account.  We can then draw on this account when extra emotional resources are needed.  Practice mindfulness once a day.  We can do this with even simple tasks such as eating a meal or washing our hands.  Notice everything about the experience, the way it looks, feels, sounds, smells.  For more information read Mindfulness for Beginners  by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Let me know of your experiences with mindfulness! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Is there a secret to happiness?

Happiness, everyone wants it and it seems so elusive to many.  People who report they are happy only think about it when asked the question; Are you happy?  People who report they are unhappy think about it much more, sometimes weekly, sometimes daily. The unhappy are obsessed with happiness and the fact that they do not have it.  Here is the truth.  No one is happy all the time.
Unhappy people have the notion that others are happy all the time. They observe people around them and come to the conclusion that "everyone is happy but me."  When we see others in day to day activitites, we see only a moment in their life. Its like watching a movie trailer. Sometimes the trailer gives a good idea of the movie and how good it is and other times we can be fooled by the trailer. It can have us believe we must see this movie!  But the movie turns out to be a dud.  This is what it is like when we see others and conclude they are happier than us.
So the question is, "What are we to do to avoid the everyone is happy but me trap?"  Do this.  Focus on what is going right instead of what is going wrong.  Everyday we need to list at least three things that went right.  Some days it may be as basic as getting to work with no car problems or really enjoying lunch or dinner.  It is possible to find three things that went right in a 24 hour period. Try it and let me know what went right for you.