The Habits of Happy People
Americans feel a certain pressure to be happy. How could we not when the pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the Constitution? The problem for many of us, though, given this mandate, is that true happiness always seems to be just beyond the rainbow: “When I have X (a spouse, a child, a job, a house, a car)I’ll be happy.” But academic experts in this burgeoning field say chasing happiness doesn’t work. Happiness is more of an attitude. And the happier you are, the likelier you are to be successful in all spheres of life.
What makes us happy?
Let’s get money out of the way first. It does have an influence. David Myers, a professor of psychology at Hope College and author of The Pursuit of Happiness: Who is Happy, and Why? says, “There is some correlation [between money and happiness], but it tapers off once you reach a middle income standard of living that affords some control over your life circumstances.” In other words, as soon as we have enough money to take care of our basic needs such as food, clothing and housing, the amount of money we have no longer affects our happiness levels.
“We’re twice as rich as we were 50 years ago, but we’re not happier at all,” he continues. That said, a 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center showed half of the wealthiest respondents described themselves as “very happy” compared to 30 percent of those with family incomes of less than $30,000 a year.
The most important influencer of happiness, Myers says, is other people. “We’re social animals,” he says. “We come with a deep need to belong. So people who have close, supportive, intimate relationships with others are more likely to report themselves as really happy people.”
|12 tips for a happier lifeHappy people tend to pay attention to the things they can control and not worry about the rest. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, shares the following tips about how to become happier.|
|1 Count your blessings. Be aware of all the good things in your life and express gratitude for what you have.2 Cultivate optimism. Make an effort to see the upside of a situation and surround yourself with positive people.
3 Avoid social comparison. This is a tough one in our aspirational culture, but Lyubomirsky says it’s well worth cutting down on how often you dwell on your problems and compare yourself to others.
4 Practice acts of kindness toward friends and strangers.
5 Nurture your relationships. Don’t take your friends and family for granted.
6 Do more activities that really engage you. This increases what psychologists call the “flow” state where you’re totally absorbed in what you’re doing.
|7 Savor life’s joys. Go over them either by writing them down or thinking and talking about them.8 Commit to your goals. Pick at least one significant goal and devote time and effort to pursuing it.
9 Develop coping strategies. Practice ways to get through or get over stress or trauma.
10 Learn to forgive. Letting go of old hurts and resentments frees your mind and heart.
11 Practice religion or spirituality. Research shows people who do so are happier.
12 Take care of your body. Exercise, meditation and laughing all count
Top 10 Barriers To Self-growth – Xiomara A. Sosa
1 ) Fear: Sounds like a no-brainer that fear would be number one on the list but many people don’t experience it that way. They may rationalize their reluctance to make changes by interpreting their excuses as valid reasons. It is often only through taking an honest personal inventory or thorough self-examination that a person realizes that his fears have been driving him. 2 ) Denial: Others may have suggested that you need to change (maybe you’re too angry or stubborn) but you are not hearing it. You prefer living in your own world of fiction despite what people close to you (and even, perhaps the little voice inside your head) have said. Personal growth will not be possible if you think it is unnecessary for you. 3 ) Pride: There’s nothing wrong with being proud, as in being proud of your accomplishments. However when someone has an inordinate opinion of his own importance and carries a sense of superiority over others, it will prevent him/her from keeping an open mind about change and growth. Pride sometimes prevents people from being willing to admit they made a mistake, thereby learning from the experience. 4 ) Defensiveness: Being overly defensive is a signal to others of your insecurity. A person who is excessively concerned with guarding himself against real or imagined criticism is not able to grow. His defensiveness closes him down and he becomes a prisoner. 5 ) Not taking responsibility: Repeatedly blaming others or circumstances for what happens in your life is a way of avoiding your own responsibility. To experience self-growth you have to be ready to take the heat. Blaming others can create the conflict you need to deflect the focus away from you and onto someone else. 6 ) Lack of self-discipline: If you have lofty ideas about the things you would like to achieve and the person you would like to become but lack the self-discipline to accomplish those things, you will always be disappointed in yourself. There is no reaching the top if you are not willing to make the climb. 7 ) Lack of motivation: It is easy to say that you would like to do something (for example: exercise, learn a language or get better at being in a relationship) but until you understand why you want to do something you will likely not accomplish it. Being truly motivated creates a powerful force or drive that can propel you to achieve what you want. Many people just think they should want something and create a fantasy around the thought. Try answering this: What do you want that you really cannot live without? (See my Newsletter on Motivation) 8 ) Lack of goals: It is the old story of: “If you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there?” To achieve growth you need to know what you want and map out a course to get it. Many people resist creating and writing down goals often because they have simply not gotten into the habit. Start small and build your goal setting skills. 9 ) Negative/Pessimistic attitude: This is not the same as having healthy skepticism. Having a negative/pessimistic attitude creates an internal state where few, if any, options exist. Expectations of only the worst sort of outcomes cloud the mind and hamper the possibilities of growth. The spirit is drained of inspiration and the person is stuck. (See my article on Attitude). 10 ) Lack of support: If you surround yourself with negative/pessimistic people you are unlikely to achieve personal growth. If you do not have a good support system you should try to develop one. It is hard to go it alone. To achieve good and great things in your life you need the support of good and great people.
Dr. Stan Hyman
A Secret to Happiness: Einstein
Xiomara A. Sosa
It seems like an increasing phenomenon that a number of individuals are finding themselves with a psychic emptiness at some point in life. There is some kind of dissatisfaction, an uncertainty as to why they feel so unhappy and what will help them feel more complete. This runs rampant with people who have acquired some kind of success in life and find their minds saying, now what?
Some people call this a mid-life crisis, but it can happen at all different times of life. What’s missing?
Albert Einstein once said:
“Try not to become a man of success but rather a man of value.”
Today we’re driving our kids more than ever to be “successful.” But what does this really mean? Somewhere along the line we’ve become confused as a culture and lost sight of what really matters. The test is simple, what makes us feel good? Not in a hedonistic way, but more in line with the Greek term eudaimonia. This can be translated more as a meaningful happiness.
So what’s missing? An understanding of personal values. The key question is: What do you believe is important in life? Is it helping other people, being honest, working hard, being compassionate, spending time with family or people in your community, or maybe being mindful?
This isn’t just a cursory question, it’s one to take seriously and then take an inventory of your life seeing where it lives and where it’s missing.
What would your life look like if you were actually living in accordance with what you valued? Visualize this and let it be your guide toward a happier life.
Sometimes life can truly be that simple.
Sometimes you’re living your values and not even taking a moment to be mindful of it. Think about where in your day to day you are actually living in the way you think is most important.
Right now, stop what you’re doing and take a minute to look forward toward the rest of the day. Where are you living your values? Where is an opportunity to stop in line with them more?
Take this moment to live as if it mattered.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Einstein’s formula photo available from Shutterstock
A Simple Way to Have A Happy Brain
A positive outlook can have a strong positive effect on your brain and body. Studies have shown that having a positive attitude and feelings of thankfulness show beneficial effects on multiple body and brain systems. “Those include mood neurotransmitters… reproductive hormones… cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters… immune system… stress hormones” and blood pressure.
The brain’s “fundamental organizing principle” in life is to avoid threats and maximize rewards. “The brain’s primary reward chemical is called dopamine”. However we cannot feel rewards and threats unless we focus our attention on them, after an event comes to our attention, we then get neurotransmitters released that makes us feel good or bad. The fascinating thing is that the brain cannot tell the difference between reality and fiction, that is why you feel scared while watching horror movies, or you feel an adrenaline rush when you are watching an intense, fast pace, car chase scene. In the same way, feeling thankful and expressing positive feelings act as a “mental movie”. The brain releases dopamine, which, in turn, has a positive effect on mood and emotional well-being.
Showing gratitude helps us focus in on the “good stuff” that happens in our lives. On our new community site (www.amensolution.com ), we ask you to keep a journal every day, including 5 things you are grateful for. This has been shown in research to increase your level of happiness in just 3 weeks.
Xiomara A. Sosa
10 Ways to Have a Happier Life
1. Exercise: Human bodies are designed for regular physical activity. The sedentary nature of much of modern life probably plays a significant role in the epidemic incidence of depression today. Many studies show that depressed patients who stick to a regimen of aerobic exercise improve as much as those treated with medication. Exercise also appears to prevent depression and improve mood in healthy people. Many exercise forms — aerobic, yoga, weights, walking and more — have been shown to benefit mood.
Typical therapeutic exercise programs last for eight to 14 weeks. You should have 3 to 4 sessions per week, of at least 20 minutes each. For treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, activities of moderate intensity, like brisk walking, are more successful than very vigorous activity.
I am a particular fan of integrative exercise — that is, exercise that occurs in the course of doing some productive activity such as gardening, bicycling to work, doing home improvement projects and so on. Many people find it far easier to stick to activities like this than to lifting weights or running on a treadmill.
2. Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Normally, inflammation occurs in response to injury and attack by germs. It is marked by local heat, redness, swelling and pain, and is the body’s way of getting more nourishment and more immune activity to the affected area. But inflammation also has destructive potential. We see this when the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissues in such autoimmune diseases as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Excessive inflammation also plays a causative role in heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as other age-related disorders, including cancer. More recent research indicates that inappropriate inflammation may also underlie depression — so controlling it is key to both physical and mental health.
Perhaps the most powerful way to control inflammation is via diet. My anti-inflammatory diet consists of whole, unprocessed foods that are especially selected to reduce inappropriate inflammation, as well as provide abundant vitamins, minerals and fiber. It consists of fruits and vegetables, fatty cold-water fish, healthy whole grains, olive oil and other foods that have been shown to help keep inflammation in check. For details, see the anti-inflammatory food pyramid at my website.
3. Take Fish Oil and Vitamin D: Adequate blood levels of these nutrients has been strongly tied to emotional health. They are so necessary and deficiencies are so common in the developed world that I believe everyone, depressed or not, should take them. Take up to three grams of a quality, molecularly distilled fish oil supplement daily — look for one that provides both EPA and DHA in a ratio of about three or four to one. I also recommend 2,000 IU of vitamin D each day.
4. Take Depression-Specific Herbs: Specifically for those with mild to moderate depression, I suggest trying:
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): This European plant appears to work well for those affected by low mood. Look for tablets or capsules standardized to 0.3 percent hypericin that also list content of hyperforin. The usual dose is 300 milligrams three times a day. You may have to wait two months to get the full benefit of this treatment.
- SAMe (S-adenosy-L-methionine): A naturally-occurring molecule found throughout the body, SAMe (pronounced “sammy”) has been extensively studied as an antidepressant and treatment for the pain of osteoarthritis. Look for products that provide the butanedisulfonate form in enteric-coated tablets. The usual dosage is 400 to 1,600 milligrams a day, taken on an empty stomach. Take lower doses (under 800 milligrams) once a day, a half hour before the morning meal; split higher doses, taking the second a half hour before lunch.
- Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): A relative of the jade plant native to the high northern latitudes, it appears to improve mood and memory. Look for 100-milligram tablets or capsules containing extracts standardized to three percent rosavins and one percent salidroside. The dosage is one or two tablets or capsules a day, one in the morning or one in the morning and another in early afternoon. This can be increased to 200 milligrams up to three times a day if needed.
5. Do Breathing Exercises: Conscious breath control a useful tool for achieving a relaxed, clear state of mind. One of my favorite breathing exercises is the 4-7-8 (or Relaxing) Breath. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward. Then:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply. This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.
Click for more in 10 Ways to Have a Happier Life, Part Two.
Andrew Weil, M.D., is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the editorial director of www.DrWeil.com. Become a fan on Facebook, follow Dr. Weil on Twitter, and check out his Daily Health Tips Blog.
Living with truth and love is radical now. Perhaps it’s always been so.
But the damaging effects of hatred are so powerful that they erode the human spirit as powerfully as any chemical toxin.
The effects of hatred among religious fundamentalists and warriors are well known and documented throughout history. Tyrants and dictators, fascists and dominating factions of oppression have always haunted our lives, our grandparents’ lives, and have been the reason we have immigrated, migrated, developed, and reinvented ourselves.
But what about the subtle hatred, the insidious negativity that poisons children in a family or workers in an office? The rejecting glances, the off-color comments, the divisive, manipulative behavior of bosses and co-workers, the back stabbing, the gossiping, the rumors of high school, the bullying of middle school? What about the yearning for acceptance and petty, life destroying, soul destroying games that people play to end up a winner?
It’s so difficult for people to be positive and supportive toward one another that more people are suffering from hurt feelings and a strong sense of not fitting in, not belonging, or not being good enough for their own family members, their “friends,” their neighbors or co-workers, their bosses and mates, than can possibly be expressed.
We are mammals, after all; a strange and confusing hybrid of territorial creature and higher ordered thinking being, capable of love, acceptance and mercy.
But if someone has a choice, why do they so often choose insulting, negative language over kind, accepting language?
Is it evolutionarily programmed into us as a way of regaining territory, regaining control, or, to use a phrase I detest, being a “winner?” After all, the most scathing cliques at high school and at the workplace are not full of armed soldiers, they are usually rampant with armed tongues, fiery tempers, and flaring words.
Kindness is so often perceived as weakness that we continually imagine “standing up” to our spouse, significant other, parent, co-worker, boss, as if the technique of turning the other cheek or not fighting fire with fire are somehow something quite less than heroic. We long for the bar brawl, the frenzy, the “coming to blows.” For what?
Mental Health Professionals Take Lead to Remove Stigma of Sexual Orientation
Although the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association no longer consider homosexuality to be a mental disorder, some individuals still harbor this belief.
The American Psychological Association took an even stronger stand and adopted an official policy statement that “homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities” and indicated that mental health professionals should take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations.
A number of studies (Berube, 1990; Gonsiorek, 1982; Hooker, 1957; Reiss, 1980) have demonstrated few adjustment differences between individuals with a homosexual or heterosexual orientation. As one researcher concluded, “Homosexuality in and of itself is unrelated to psychological disturbance or maladjustment. Homosexuals, as a group, are not more psychologically disturbed on account of their homosexuality” (Gonsiorek, 1982, p. 74).
However, exposure to societal discrimination may be responsible for the recent findings that lesbian and gay youth report elevated rates of Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and substance abuse. Gay men also reported high rates of major depression. Lesbians appear to fare better and re ported mental health equal to that of their heterosexual counterparts.
Individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered are at higher risk for substance and alcohol related problems. Compared to heterosexuals, GLBT individuals are more likely to have been abused as children and adults. Sexual assaults in adulthood were reported by 11.6 percent of gay men, 13.2 per- cent of bisexual men, and 1.6 percent of heterosexual men. Among women, the rates of sexual assault were 15.5 percent of lesbians, 16.9 percent of bisexual women, and 7.5 percent of heterosexual women.
Gender identity issues and cross-dressing can be characterized as mental disorders according to the mental health organizations. However, transgender individuals are hoping that they can follow the success and path taken by the gay liberation movement and eliminate the classification as a mental disorder.
(Sue, Derald Wing. Counseling the Culturally Diverse, 5th Edition. John Wiley & Sons (P&T) 446).