31 Ways to Beat The January Blues

A happiness tip-a-day keeps the blues away…

Happiness expert Andy Cope, author of The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence offers 31 brilliant tips to keep us thinking positively as 2017 begins…

  1. Mondays are bad and Fridays good. Really? The average life span is 4000 weeks and a seventh of your life is spent on Mondays. Flip your thinking. Friday is, in fact, another week closer to death, while Monday is an opportunity to make a dent in the universe. Mondays…. bring ‘em on!
  1. Upgrade your knickers so every bit of underwear oozes confidence. Stop saving your special pants for a special occasion and wake up to the fact that life is the ultimate special occasion.
  1. Be a hugger. The average hug lasts 2.1 seconds but for the love to transfer a hug needs to last 7 seconds or longer (but warned, counting out loud spoils the effect).
  1. Be a lover not a hater. It’s so easy to be negative, and join in the barrage of hate on social media. Go with Michelle Obama; ‘when they go low, you go high’
  1. Do an act of kindness for someone else. This can be as simple as letting someone out in the traffic or buying flowers for the bus driver.
  1. If you have small children practice what Gretchen Rubin calls ‘gazing lovingly’. This means downing tools at the end of the evening and standing at your children’s bedroom door, watching them sleep (the modern world dictates that you only ever do this with your own kids and there is an age limit of 10. After that, the general rule is that you NEVER go in your kids’ bedrooms, just in case!)
  1. Practice the 10/5 principle; smile at everyone who comes within 10 feet of you and make eye contact & say ‘hi’ to everyone within 5 feet.
  1. Say nice things about people behind their back. This is a double-whammy because it gets back to them plus people think you’re a lovely person (which, of course, you are).
  1. Write a list of 10 things you really appreciate but take for granted. ‘Health’ and ‘relationships’ will almost certainly be on there. Stop taking them for granted!
  1. Every morning, appreciate that you don’t have toothache and that your kidneys are working. Being able to get out of bed is the best thing ever (linked to point 9).
  1. Write a list of the top 10 happiest moments of your life and you’ll realize that most of the things on the list are ‘experiences’ rather than ‘products’. Set a goal to have more experiences.
  1. Think of someone who has really helped you (given you time or supported you). Write them a letter, from the heart, that says how wonderful they are and what they mean to you. Read it to them.
  1. Instead of asking your partner/kids ‘how was your day?’ change the words and ask (with enthusiasm), ‘what was the highlight of your day?’ Then listen with genuine enthusiasm.
  1. Walk tall and put a smile on your face (not an inane grin, you will scare people!) Your brain will immediately think you are happy and you’ll feel a whole lot better.
  1. Change your aim. Stop setting your sights on ‘getting through the week’ or ‘surviving until my next holiday’. Raise your game. Set your aim to ‘enjoy the week’ or ‘to inspire people.’
  1. Write down your top 5 personal strengths. Be aware of them and start seeing opportunities to play to them more often.
  1. Reduce your moaning and always remind yourself it’s a 1st world problem.
  1. Watch out for the 90/10 principle. This states that 10% of your happiness depends on things that happen to you while a whopping 90% depends on how you react to these events. Make a conscious choice to be positive.
  1. When setbacks occur, ask yourself, where is this issue on a scale of 1 – 10 (where 10 is death). If it is death, you are allowed to feel down. Anything else, get over it.
  1. Most people have an internal voice that is very critical. Challenge it. When your inner voice is telling you you’re an idiot, firmly disagree. Find a positive inner voice (note, this conflict is best done in silence in your head. And if you have lots of inner voices, you need to see your GP).
  1. Spend less time on electronic friends and more time with real flesh and blood ones.
  1. Praise your children for effort rather than ability. For example, if they get a good grade in Math, don’t say ‘Genius, you are the next Einstein.’ Do say, ‘Brilliant! That shows what you can achieve with hard work.’
  1. Practice the 4-minute rule; that is, be your best self for the first 4 minutes of arriving at work, being in a meeting, getting home, etc. Your brilliance is infectious.
  1. Lose the word ‘try’. Instead of setting a resolution of ‘I’m going to try and lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to try and get a bit fitter,’ go with ‘I’m going to lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to get fitter.’ Yoda was spot on when he said, ‘Do or do not, there is no ‘try.’
  1. Appreciate that your happiness is bigger than you. It has a ripple effect and infects people 3 degrees removed from you.
  1. Read a bedtime story to your kids like it was the most exciting book in the world (note, it is doubly important for sons to see their dads reading books).
  1. Reframe situations. For example, a leaking gutter means you have a house; paying tax means you have some income; your teenage son spending hours on his X-Box means he’s not wandering the streets, etc. However, don’t overdo reframing otherwise you become Pollyanna; ‘Whoopee, grandma’s dead, what a fabulous opportunity for a funeral and some lovely sandwiches.’
  1. Rather than a New Year’s resolution, set yourself a HUGG (huge unbelievably great goal); this is something that is massive and that inspires you (to write your novel, to run a marathon, to be the best Mom in the world, etc).
  1. Ask yourself, if there was a version of you sitting on a cloud, watching you go about your tasks today, what advice would the ‘cloud you’ give the ‘earthly you’? How would they say you should walk, talk, think and behave? Take that advice.
  1. Be genuinely interested in other people (ask loads of questions about them). In a bizarre twist of quantum psychology, people will find you insanely interesting.
  1. Make sure that you use more positive than negative language. The ratio needs to be about 5 positives for every negative, so catch people doing things well and tell them.

 

 

One New Year’s Resolution That Creates Lasting Change

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” ~Jack Dixon

I originally started to write a post offering tons of different New Year’s resolutions and tips to stick to them to create lasting change.

After all, that’s what we bloggers do around the end of the year: share our best practices for improving our lives as December rolls into January; compile well-researched suggestions to change, and do it consistently, despite knowing most people give up on resolutions within weeks of setting them.

Then I realized that didn’t feel authentic to me.

I don’t actually believe New Year’s Day is any different than any other day. I don’t believe a random point in the time measurement system we’ve created requires us to make a laundry list of things we need to change or improve.

New Year’s Eve is, in fact, just another day, and the next day is one, as well.

I don’t mean to minimize the excitement of the New Year, or any of the days we’ve chosen to celebrate for religious or honorary reasons. I love a big event as much as the next person; in fact, I sometimes bust out the champagne for parallel parking well or using a really big word in a sentence.

What I’m saying is that New Year’s resolutions often fail for a reason, and it’s only slightly related to intention or discipline.

Resolutions fail because they don’t emerge from true breakthroughs. They’re calendar-driven obligations. and they often address the symptoms, not the cause of our unhappiness.

Some resolutions are smart for our physical and emotional health and well-being. Quitting smoking, losing weight, managing stress better—these are all healthy things.

But if we don’t address what underlies our needs to light up, order double bacon cheeseburgers, and worry ourselves into frenzies, will it really help to vow on one arbitrary day to give up everything that helps us pretend we’re fine?

It’s almost like we set ourselves up for failure to avoid addressing the messy stuff.

Why We’re Really Unhappy

I can’t say this is true for everyone, but my experience has shown me that my unhappiness—and my need for coping mechanisms—come from several different places:

  • I’m dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future.
  • I’m comparing myself to everyone else—their accomplishments, the respect and the attention they garner, and their apparently perfect lives.
  • I’m feeling dissatisfied with how I’m spending my time and the impact I’m making on the world.
  • I’ve lost hope in my potential.
  • I’m expecting and finding the worst in people.
  • I’m turning myself into a victim or a martyr, blaming everyone else.
  • I’m spiraling into negative thinking, seeing everything as a sign of doom and hopelessness
  • I’m assuming there should be a point in time when none of the above happens anymore.

The last one, I believe, is the worst cause of unhappiness. All those other things I mentioned are human, whether we experience them persistently or occasionally.

We’ll do these things from time to time, and they’ll hurt. In the aftermath, we’ll want to do all those different things that every year we promise to give up.

We’ll want to eat, drink, or smoke away our feelings. Or we’ll want to work away our nagging sense of inadequacy. Or we’ll judge whether or not we’re really enjoying life enough, and in the very act of judging detract from that enjoyment.

So, perhaps the best resolution has nothing to do with giving up all those not-so-healthy things and everything to do with adopting a new mindset that will make it less tempting to turn to them.

An Alternative to Resolutions

Maybe instead of trying to trim away all the symptoms of our dissatisfaction, we can accept that what we really want is happiness—and that true happiness comes and goes. We can never trap it like a butterfly in a jar.

No amount of medication or meditation can change the fact that we will sometimes get caught up in thoughts and emotions.

What we can do is work to improve the ratio of happy-to-unhappy moments. We can learn to identify when we’re spiraling and pull ourselves back with the things we enjoy and want to do in this world.

Instead of scolding ourselves for all the things we’re doing wrong and making long to-do lists to stop doing them, we can focus on doing the things that feel right to us.

This may sound familiar if you’ve read about positive psychology.

I’m no posi-psy expert, and to my knowledge no one is since the industry is unregulated. But it doesn’t take an expert to know it feels a lot better to choose to nurture positive moments than it does to berate myself for things I’ve done that might seem negative—all while plotting to give them all up when the clock strikes tabula rasa.

4 Simple Steps to Increase Your Happiness Ratio

This is something I’ve been working on for years, so it comes from my personal experience. As I have worked to increase my levels of satisfaction, meaning, and happiness, I have given up a number of unhealthy habits, including smoking, overeating, and chronically dwelling and complaining.

That all required deliberate intention, but it was impossible until I addressed the underlying feelings. I still have some unhealthy habits, but I know releasing them starts with understanding why I turn to them. Starting today, and every day, regardless of the calendar:

1. Recognize the places where you feel helpless…

…the housing situation, the job, the relationship, that sense of meaningless. Then plan to do something small to change that starting right now. Acknowledge that you have the power to do at least one small thing to empower yourself.

Don’t commit to major outcomes just yet. Just find the confidence and courage to take one small step knowing that you’ll learn as you go where it’s heading. As you add up little successes, the bigger picture will become clearer. This isn’t major transformation over a night. It’s a small seed of change that can grow.

2. Identify the different events that lead to feelings that seem negative.

Like gossiping with your coworker, overextending yourself at work, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much.

Whatever it is that generally leaves you with unhappy feelings, note it down. Work to reduce these, making a conscious effort to do them on one fewer day per week, then two, and then three. The key isn’t to completely cut out these things, but rather to minimize their occurrence.

3. Identify the things that create positive feelings.

Like going to the park, painting, looking at photo albums, or singing. Whatever creates feel-good chemicals in your head, note them down and make a promise to yourself to integrate them into your day. As you feel your way through your joy, add to this. Learn the formula for your bliss.

Know that these moments of joy are a priority, and you deserve to receive them. When you’re fully immersed within a happy moment of your own choosing, you’re a lot less likely to get lost dwelling, obsessing, comparing, judging, and wishing you were better.

4. Stay mindful of the ratio.

If you’ve had an entire week that’s been overwhelming, dark, or negative, instead of getting down on yourself for falling that low, remind yourself that only your kindness can pull you out. Tell yourself that you deserve to restore a sense of balance—to maintain a healthy ratio.

Then give yourself what you need. Take a personal day at work and take a day trip. Go to the park to relax and reflect. Remind yourself only you can let go of what’s been and come back to what can be.

It’s not about perfection or a complete release from all the causes of unhappiness. It’s about accepting that being human involves a little unhappiness—but how often it consumes us is up to us.

This might not be a lengthy list of unhealthy behaviors you can give up, and how, or a long list of suggestions for adventure and excitement in the new year. But all those things mean nothing if you’re not in the right head space to release the bad and enjoy the good.

Resolve what you will this year, but know that happiness is the ultimate goal. It starts in daily choices, not lofty resolutions—on any day you decide to start.

Article written by: Lori Deschene from Tiny Buddha

Coping with the Holidays…

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings.  If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out.  If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic.  The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences.  Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget.  Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.
  1. Plan ahead.  Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  2. Learn to say no.  Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  3. Don’t abandon healthy habits.  Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  1. Take a breather.  Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Some options may include:

  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Reading a book.
  1. Seek professional help if you need it.  Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Article written by: The Mayo Clinic Staff

 

 

Four Things That Can Destroy Relationships

According to John Gottman, Ph.D., “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are behaviors that, if they occur regularly, are very good predictors of either a failed or a terminally unhappy relationship. If you discover that any of these occur often in your relationship, you and your partner are most likely heading for trouble. The “Four Horsemen” are:

  1. Criticism versus Complaint. A complaint addresses only the specific action at which your partner has failed. A criticism is global. It attacks the matefs character or personality. Here is an example: Complaint: “There is no gas in the car. I’m aggravated that you didn’t fill it up like you said you would.” Criticism: “You never remember anything! You can’t be counted on for your word!”
  2. Contempt. Contempt is composed of a set of behaviors that communicate disgust. It includes, but is not limited to: sneering, sarcasm, name calling, eye rolling, mockery, hostile humor and condescension. It is primarily transmitted through non-verbal behaviors. It does not move toward reconciliation and inevitably increases the conflict. It is always disrespectful. Research shows couples that display contempt for each other suffer more illnesses and diseases than respectful couples.
  3. Defensiveness. These behaviors convey the message, “The problem is not me. It’s you.” From this position you imply that, because your partner threw the first stone, they are responsible for the entire conflict. You avoid taking responsibility for your own behavior by pointing to something they did prior to their complaint about you. You do not acknowledge that which is true in what they are saying about your behavior.
  4. Stonewalling. In relationships where intense arguments break out suddenly, and where criticism and contempt lead to defensiveness, and where more contempt leads to more defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out. This is the beginning of stonewalling. The stonewaller acts as if he (research indicates that 85% of stonewallers in marriages are husbands) couldn’t care less about what the partner is saying or doing. He (sometimes she) turns away from conflict and from the relationship. Any form of disengagement can be stonewalling.

If either you or your partner regularly engages in any of these behaviors during fights, you have some work to do. The Four Horsemen corrode the love that is at the core of an intimate relationship.

What are the antidotes for these problem behaviors? There are many! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Learn how to mirror your partner’s complaints.
  2. Scan for whatever is valid in your partner’s complaint and address that.
  3. Speak respectfully even when angry.
  4. Practice holding yourself and your partner in warm regard, even when feeling distant or during a fight.
  5. Learn the skills of repairing damage in the relationship.
  6. Always live up to your agreements (or renegotiate if you can’t.)
  7. Make all requests of your partner clear, simple and specific.
  8. Practice sharing compliments, appreciations and praise daily.

If you and your partner find it difficult to replace the Four Horsemen with more loving behaviors, therapy can help.  I am an expert at coaching couples in how to re-establish intimacy in damaged relationships. Please contact me if you have questions or would like to schedule an initial consultation for you and your partner.

The Importance of Expressing Gratitude

With Thanksgiving just behind us, the Holiday season has officially began.  Giving thanks for what we have can be the best gift that we can provide ourselves.  This article is an excellent reminder of how expressing gratitude can truly change your life.

 

Monday Motivation…

“You have this one life. How do you want to spend it? Apologizing? Regretting? Questioning? Hating yourself? Dieting? Running after people who don’t see you? Be brave. Believe in yourself. Do what feels good. Take risks. You have this one life. Make yourself proud.”

-Beardsley Jones

What is Healthy Eating?

Healthy Eating is about Freedom. It is about whether you feel free to choose what you are going to eat, how much, and when.

Healthy Eating is about feeling great, having energy, and keeping yourself in a “healthy” state of mind and body.

Healthy Eating is about giving yourself permission to eat because the food “tastes” good and to continue eating until you feel satisfied.

Healthy Eating is eating three meals a day plus snacks or perhaps choosing to munch along. It is having two cookies and making a free and conscious decision to eat a third for any reason—because they taste good, because they are freshly baked, how rarely you have them, or it is leaving more cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow.

Healthy Eating is being able to choose foods that provide your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs—for ENERGY, but not being so restrictive that you miss out on pleasurable foods.

Healthy Eating is allowing yourself to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, bored, or because it just feels good—and not beating yourself up afterwards.

Healthy Eating is overeating at times: feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. It is also under eating at times and wishing you had more.

Healthy Eating is trusting that your body will BALANCE everything out.

Healthy Eating may take some time and energy, but it should only be one small component of your life.

Ultimately, Healthy Eating is not about strict nutrition philosophies. It should be flexible, changing in response to your hunger, your emotions, your schedule and your proximity to food.

 

Saying “Oh, I’ve already ruined my good eating today; I’ll just eat crap” is like saying, “Oh, I dropped my phone on the floor; I’ll just smash it until it breaks.”

Do Introverts Need Help?

Many of us are quieter types who keep to ourselves, preferring not to socialize too much. We can feel quite uncomfortable in large crowds, preferring small groups and intimate settings. We have a rich internal world that we find very satisfying.  Although, we feel strongly about what makes us uncomfortable, we can also feel that there is something a bit wrong with us when we do.

One difficulty that commonly arises, is that introverts are often drawn to extroverts and can end up in relationships with them. This is pretty understandable – all of us seek out people who seem to have qualities we don’t have, but some extroverts have a very difficult time understanding introverts. Because extroverts like to be outgoing and social (and less focused on their interior worlds) it can sometimes be difficult for them to understand the world of the introvert, who doesn’t like to do these things. As is often the case, when we don’t understand something it can start seem like an aberration.

If you’re an introvert you might be getting the message from an extrovert close to you that there is something wrong with you and you need to go to therapy to sort yourself out. You may have been hearing this for a while and are starting to wonder if it is true. If so, I’d suggest reading this article with your extroverted partner to help make sense of your differences: http://holykaw.alltop.com/understanding-your-introvert-chart?tu2=1

Ultimately, people are frequently unaware that they’re introverts -– especially if they’re not shy — because they may not realize that being an introvert is about more than just cultivating time alone. Instead, it can be more instructive to pay attention to whether you’re losing or gaining energy from being around others, even if the company of friends gives you pleasure.

Let’s embrace who we are, not what people expect us to be…and appreciate each other’s differences.

Be yourself, because an original is worth more than a copy.

– Unknown

How Practicing Mindfulness for Just 5 Minutes a Day Can Improve Health…

Practicing mindfulness has been shown to have numerous positive effects on well-being. Decades of research supports what has been known for thousands of years by cultures that practice mindfulness. Engaging in a practice even for just a few minutes a day can lower stress and anxiety, relieve feelings of depression and pain, and boost the immune system. Cultivating mindfulness helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, which promotes emotional balance and self-awareness.

Here are some great online resources for guided meditations.  They’re a great place to start if you want to try out meditation for the first time, or if you’re an experienced practitioner and enjoy guided meditations.

Feel the feeling, but don’t become the emotion.  Witness it.  Allow it.  Release it.

-Buddhist quote, Anonymous