Operation Affirmation – Day 29

Affirmations are a way for us to harness the mind’s power by directing your intentions toward our best selves and our happiest lives.

Say this phrase to yourself all day long. Write it down, email it to yourself, and post it where you will see it all day.

Love your day, love yourself, love your life!

Like this affirmation?
Get it on something you will see every day!

Operation Affirmation – Day 9

Affirmations are a way for us to harness the mind’s power by directing your intentions toward our best selves and our happiest lives.

Say this phrase to yourself all day long. Write it down, email it to yourself, and post it where you will see it all day.

Love your day, love yourself, love your life!

Like this affirmation?
Get it on something you will see every day!

I Couldn’t Be Happier!

smile-happy-yellow-faceWhen was the last time you said, “I couldn’t be happier…”? Happiness can be elusive. It can be fleeting. Too often, it can be lost in our modern world’s swirl of stress, multitasking, and 24/7 news. Today you are already thinking about tomorrow.

Positive Psychology, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, is a “how to” guide to greater personal happiness. It will show you how you can surmount the obstacles that disrupt and diminish your ability to enjoy life to its fullest, with awareness and connection.

We all know money can’t buy happiness. So, how do we get it? Current research is confirming what many of us heard from our elders and spiritual leaders: satisfaction comes with being engaged, doing good, and focusing on the present.

In this report, you’ll see how positive psychology is helping men and women use their psychological strengths to increase attentiveness and concern, and draw greater fulfillment from each day’s experiences.

Positive Psychology will help you identify your unique strong points. You’ll gain an important understanding of the role of gratitude and how it can be successfully cultivated and employed. You’ll learn the keys to “going with the flow” — becoming more at one with whatever you are doing. The report will also give you practical strategies for maximizing concentration and eliminating distractions.

girl-happyYou’ll read about the key role of mindfulness, the ability to “live in the moment” fully and without judgment. You’ll be introduced to techniques for savoring life’s pleasures, large and small, with equal enthusiasm and enjoyment.

The report offers helpful guidance on using positive psychology techniques to develop the resilience to handle difficulties more easily. Plus, you’ll read about the significant effect positive emotions have on health and longevity, how positive psychology’s principles can enhance personal relationships, and much more.

Order your copy of Positive Psychology now. You’ll be happy you did!

To your good health,

Anthony Komaroff, M.D.
Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Senior Physician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Publications

Bliss Myths

Want more happiness in your life? And who wouldn’t?

The first step may be to change your views about what happiness really is…

Myth 1: Either you have it or you don’t.

There’s evidence that suggests genetics contributes to about 50% of your happiness set point — the level of happiness that seems most normal for you.

But that’s a far cry from 100%, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want and professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

“If you do the work,” Lyubomirsky says, “research shows you can become happier, no matter what your set point is. You probably won’t go from a one to a 10, but you can become happier. It just takes commitment and effort as with any meaningful goal in life.”

Not only can you become happier, she says, but it gets easier over time. Work on nurturing relationships, writing in a gratitude journal, committing random acts of kindness, or developing a program of morning meditation or exercise.

make-happiness-a-habitChanges like these (proven methods for enhancing happiness) can become habits after a while, which means they eventually take less effort.  Have a look at yesterday’s The Pursuit of Happyness.

Myth 2: Happiness is a destination.

Happiness_journeyMany people think of happiness as a destination or acquisition – whether it’s a diagnosis, money, or a new medication. Sure, things like these can contribute to happiness, but not as much as you might think, Lyubomirsky says. They account for only about 10% of your whole happiness picture.

donutIf you’ve done the math, you now realize that about 40% of your happiness is in your hands. Lasting happiness has more to do with how you behave and think – things you control – than with many of life’s circumstances.

Robert Biswas-Diener, co-author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, agrees.

“Happiness isn’t the emotional finish line in the race of life,” he says. It’s a process and a resource. Biswas-Diener says there’s a mountain of data showing that when people are happier, they become healthier and more curious, sociable, helpful, creative, and willing to try new things.

“Happiness is not just an emotional flight of fancy,” he says. “It’s beneficial for the long run, serving a real function in our lives.”

In psychological lingo, this is called the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, says Michael A. Cohn, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher with the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Cohn recently conducted a study with 86 college students who submitted daily emotion reports. The researchers measured the students’ ability to flexibly respond to challenging and shifting circumstances and used a scale to assess life satisfaction. The study showed that positive emotions increased resilience – skills for identifying opportunities and bouncing back from adversity – as well as life satisfaction.

Myth 3: You always adapt to your happiness set point.

It’s true that people tend to adapt fairly quickly to positive changes in their lives, Lyubomirsky says. In fact, adaptation is one of the big obstacles to becoming happier. The new doctor, approval for Disability, friends’ support – all can bring a temporary boost but then recede into the background over time.

But why? One reason, Lyubomirsky says, is that we evolved to pay more attention to novelty. For our ancestors, novelty signalled either danger or opportunity – a chance for a new mate or food, for example. We’re attuned to contrasts, not sameness. But that also means we readily adapt to positive experiences that happen to us, Lyubomirsky says.

“I argue that you can thwart adaptation, slow it down, or prevent it with active ways of thinking or behaving,” says Lyubomirsky, who, after moving to Santa Monica, Calif., found herself adapting to her beautiful surroundings. To counteract this trend, she put effort into appreciating the view she saw when running on a path overlooking the ocean. She says she now savours that view every day, trying to see it “through the eyes of a tourist.”

To help thwart adaptation, you can also use novelty to your advantage. For instance, if your home has become a little ho-hum, you might try rearranging furniture or hosting parties for a variety of friends. Voluntary activities like these are most effective because they require you to pay attention, Lyubomirsky notes.

Myth 4: Negative emotions always outweigh the positive ones.

For quite some time, research has indicated that negative emotions are more powerful than positive ones, Cohn says. For example, studies show that people don’t have equal reactions to winning $3 and losing $3, he says. The loss tends to have a stronger effect than the gain.

Negative emotions might edge out positive emotions in the moment, Cohn says, because they’re telling you to find a problem and fix it. But positive emotions appear to win out over time because they let you build on what you have, a finding reinforced by Cohn’s recent study.

“We found that as positive emotions go up, there comes a point where negative emotions no longer have a significant negative impact on building resources or changing life satisfaction,” Cohn says. “Positive emotions won’t protect you from feeling bad about things, nor should they. But over time, they can protect you from the consequences of negative emotions.”

This may not be true for people with depression or other serious disorders, although they do show benefits when positive emotions are added to conventional psychotherapy, Cohn notes.

Myth 5: Happiness is all about hedonism.

There’s more to happiness than racking up pleasurable experiences. In fact, helping others (the opposite of hedonism) may be the most direct route to happiness, notes Stephen G. Post, PhD. Post is co-author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Exciting New Research That Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life.

“When people help others through formal volunteering or generous actions, about half report feeling a ‘helper’s high,’ and 13% even experience alleviation of aches and pains,” says Post, professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y.

“For most people, a pretty low threshold of activity practiced well makes a difference,” Post says. This might involve volunteering just one or two hours each week or doing five generous things weekly (activities that are above and beyond what you normally do).

First documented in the 1990s, mood elevation from helping is associated with a release of serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin, a “compassion hormone” that reinforces even more helping behaviour, Post says.

Could compassion be rooted in our neurobiology? A National Academy of Sciences study showed that simply thinking about contributing to a charity of choice activates a part of the brain called the mesolimbic pathway, the brain’s reward centre, which is associated with feelings of joy.

“Although just thinking about giving or writing a check can increase our levels of happiness, face-to-face interactions seem to have a higher impact,” Post says. “I think that’s because they engage the [brain’s] agents of giving more fully through tone of voice, facial expression, and the whole body.”

Myth 6: One size fits all.

If you’re seeking a magic bullet or mystical elixir to enhance your happiness, you’re bound to be sorely disappointed. There is no “one size fits all” for happiness. Instead, there are many ways to boost your happiness. Here are options to try:

  • how-to-follow-your-bliss-inspirational-imagePick an activity that is meaningful to you, Cohn says. Whether you choose an activity that promotes a sense of gratitude, connectedness, forgiveness, or optimism, you’ll be most successful if your choices are personally relevant to you. And, he adds, this may also keep you from adapting to them too quickly.
  • Assess your strengths and develop practices that best use these gifts, Post suggests. Are you a good cook? Deliver a meal to a shut-in. A retired teacher? Consider tutoring a child. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
  • Vary your activities because promoting happiness is largely a question of finding a good fit, Lyubomirsky says. To that end, she helped Signal Patterns develop a “Live Happy” iPhone application that starts with a short survey to identify the happiness strategies that you’re suited to, such as journaling or calling someone to express gratitude. “You can lose your will [to do those activities] if it’s not a good fit,” Lyubomirsky says.

responsible-happiness-blogAnd when it comes to happiness, maintaining your will (and acting on it) might just put a pleasurable, meaningful life well within reach.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, or money. (We would still have FM if we were rich!) Rather, it comes from within. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

The question is: how do they do that?

It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do things differently. Ask any happy person, and they will tell you that they …

1. Don’t hold grudges.

Easier said than done, right? Happy people understand that it’s better to forgive and forget than to let their negative feelings crowd out their positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on your wellbeing, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress – something we definitely do not need more of! Why let anyone who has wronged you have power over you? If you let go of all your grudges, you’ll gain a clear conscience and enough energy to enjoy the good things in life.

2. Treat everyone with kindness.

Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that being kind makes you happier? Every time you perform a selfless act, your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that most of us seem to need more of. Not only that, but treating people with love, dignity, and respect also allows you to build stronger relationships.

3. See problems as challenges.

The word “problem” is never part of a happy person’s vocabulary. A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge. Yes, we have a lot of challenges in our lives – but together we can meet them.

4. Express gratitude for what they already have.

There’s a popular saying that goes something like this: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.” You will have a deeper sense of contentment if you count your blessings instead of yearning for what you don’t have.

5. Dream big.

People who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t. If you dare to dream big, your mind will put itself in a focused and positive state.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Happy people ask themselves, “Will this problem matter a year from now?” They understand that life’s too short to get worked up over trivial situations. Letting things roll off your back will definitely put you at ease to enjoy the more important things in life.

7. Speak well of others.

Being nice feels better than being mean. Saying nice things about other people encourages you to think positive, non-judgmental thoughts.

8. Never make excuses.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. Instead, they own up to their mistakes and, by doing so, they learn and proactively try to change for the better.

9. Get absorbed into the present.

Happy people don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They savour the present. They let themselves get immersed in whatever they’re doing at the moment. Stop and smell the (purple) roses.

10. Avoid social comparison.

Everyone works at his own pace, so why compare yourself to others? My father used to quote Desiderata* to me: If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter…If you think you’re better than someone else, you gain an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you think someone else is better than you, you end up feeling bad about yourself. You’ll be happier if you focus on your own progress and praise others on theirs.

11. Choose friends wisely.

Misery loves company. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with optimistic people who will encourage you to achieve your goals. The more positive energy you have around you, the better you will feel about yourself.

12. Never seek approval from others.

Happy people don’t care what others think of them. They follow their own hearts without letting naysayers discourage them. They understand that it is impossible to please everyone. Listen to what people have to say, but never seek anyone’s approval but your own.

13. Take the time to listen.

Talk less; listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdoms and outlooks on the world. The more intensely you listen, the quieter your mind gets, and the more content you feel.

14. Nurture social relationships.

A lonely person is a miserable person. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong, healthy relationships. Yes, it can be harder for us than others; but, try to take the time to see and talk to your family, friends, or significant other.

15. Meditate.

Meditating silences your mind and helps you find inner peace. You don’t have to be a zen master to pull it off. Happy people know how to silence their minds anywhere and anytime they need to calm their nerves.

16. Eat well.

Junk food makes you sluggish, and it’s difficult to be happy when you’re in that kind of state. Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. Be sure to eat foods that will keep your mind and body in good shape.

17. Exercise.

Studies have shown that exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft does. So just think how good you will feel if you’re taking your anti-depressants AND exercising! Exercising also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a higher sense of self-accomplishment.

18. Tell the truth.

Lying stresses you out, corrodes your self-esteem, and makes you unlikeable. The truth will set you free. Being honest improves your mental health and builds others’ trust in you. Always be truthful, and never apologize for it.

19. Establish personal control.

Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. They don’t let others tell them how they should live their lives. Being in complete control of one’s own life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self-worth. Be your own advocate. Figure out what really works for YOU. Learn how to manage YOUR own FM. There are on-line tools (such as FibroTrack) that can help you work out a structured plan and let you regain control!

20. Accept what cannot be changed.

Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.

 

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.