Tag Archives: happiness

Happiness Revisited

 

 

Happiness

This is a topic that I have blogged about before, but I feel like a more personal touch is necessary this time around. I have recently listened to a few podcasts (links below) which have focused on what the latest research on Happiness shows. Incidentally, the last major research on Happiness was conducted by Psychologists in 2009. Here are a few ways that we approach happiness and my personal views on each. 

Money-centric

Buying Items vs. Buying Experiences

Research has shown that when we purchase items we often experience momentary fleeting happiness. This causes us to get onto what is called the Hedonic Treadmill, the tendency of people to continuously buy items to get their “fix” of happiness. I have definitely been victim to this; I have bought books which I have not read, bought shoes which I end up feeling “meh” over, and bought gym memberships which I have not used. We all have been there. But that initial step makes us feel good. We need to actually stop purchasing items and purchase experiences.

An experience is much more long-lasting. When reading a book, playing with a football, or going to the amusement park, we accumulate new experiences which allow us to create new memories and have enjoyable experiences over a longer period of time. In many ways, in the above examples, I was attempting to purchase experiences, such as with the gym membership and the books, but I needed to follow through with them as well. Consider recently, I began reading a book which I had purchased a while back, Elizabeth Sims’ You’ve Got A Book In You, to help me with my writing. It has certainly put me back on the path of trying to write a novel, and I am very happy with that. I get in the zone when writing, which, when I am flowing, allows me to experience a Zen-like nothingness, and actually makes me happy. Of course, a word of caution: I also experience downs, like when writer’s block hits. Just because you are purchasing an experience to make yourself happy does not mean that you will always be happy during that experience (especially if it’s something you’re passionate about!)

Education

Learning something new and being proud of your achievement

Ever try a How-To project by yourself or take a course for something that you always wanted to learn? I recently braved the website KhanAcademy.com to teach myself some long-forgotten basic high school math. Pre-Algebra and Algebra. I must say, I remember more than I thought I would. But I have also forgotten a lot, too. But once again, being in that Zen state, and learning and relearning stuff that I found torturous in school has its rewards. Go learn something new today!

Reading books

An interesting note on the study of happiness: if you wait a while before using your purchase you will find much more satisfaction from it. As I stated in the Buying Items vs. Experiences paragraph, I began to read a book which I had purchased at least 4 months ago. But I am glad that I picked it up. Reading is a great way to unwind and mentally stimulate yourself–not to mention, in many cases either learn something new or be entertained by a great story. 

Mind-Body connection

Exercise

The Mind is typically seen as the one that controls the body; but the body’s health often has an effect on the mind. Exercise is a great way to keep fit (whatever your method of exercise may be), and be more energetic throughout the day. Eating healthier is another great trick to aid in this. 

Meditation

Yoga and other forms of relaxation are linked to lower levels of stress hormones. Consider picking up a meditation or Yoga exercise DVD or join your local gym for classes. Om to the next point! Haha… get it? Sorry. Please keep reading…

Hiking/nature walks

A good hike combines physical activity and meditation into one relaxing day in nature. Human beings, as resourceful as we have evolved to be are not meant to stay cooped up indoors all the time. Talk a stroll down your local trails, or go a little out of your way to a national park for a weekend camping trip! 

Community Service

Another form of a quick pick me up is to help pick others up! Getting involved in the community could mean working at a soup kitchen, at your local school (teachers always need all the help they can get!), at a rec centre… so many possibilities of giving back! 

Social

Friends, Family, and Lovers are a great sources of happiness. These relationships of course require give and take and you might not always find happiness from the same person from day to day. But they are there as a source of comfort, peace, and support. And if someone from one of these circles is not providing that, talk to them about what you feel is lacking; maybe there is a genuine misunderstanding between the two of you, or maybe you need to find better people!

Reflection

Different from meditation, this is taking taking inventory of either daily or monthly or even yearly achievements. If we actually track how we are growing over the long term, we can truly appreciate ourselves.

(Not Really) Last Thoughts

We can conclude that happiness is not a sustained emotion, but rather a very fleeting state of being. many of these strategies are to help us maximize our rate of encountering it. I must also emphasize that these are my personal experiences; perhaps for you, buying items makes you happier than purchasing experience. We’re all unique and what works for one will not necessarily work for another. The important thing is that we continuously monitor our own levels of contentment and prioritize them; think about what hobbies you like to engage in and see how the above list can foster those hobbies. We will never be always happy all the time. That’s why we pursue it. But we can certainly be happy as often as possible. 

Sources:

Stuff You Should Know Podcast: Do Objects or Experiences Make us Happier. http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/objects-experiences-happier/

Stuff to Blow Your Mind: The Mathematics of Happiness. http://www.stufftoblowyourmind.com/podcasts/the-mathematics-of-happiness/

 

 

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Why Robin Williams’ Passing is a Lesson for us all

As a new blogger, one of my biggest hurdles to face is my own personal demons as I write each post. I get to touch upon some aspect of what makes me happy, sad, angry, bitter, content, excited, and all sorts of other human emotions. It is an emotional outlet for me.

Some people turn to family, friends, sports… whatever makes them at ease. Sometimes, these vices are overtly self-destructive and hazardous; drug and alcohol abuse is an overt expression of unhealthy ways to deal with emotion. But, strangely enough, these vices are likely less destructive than what, according to a recent Cracked.com article states is behind the death of Robin Williams, and so many others who seem happy-go-lucky: being funny.

It seems really counter-intuitive. Happy, humorous, socially adept people have for time immemorial, suffered from strong, devastating bouts of depression. 

On the surface, we can understand the irony of the situation, and perhaps even be initially confused by the seemingly contradictory emotions being present in one and the same person. After all, if you spent much of your childhood in the late 80s and early 90s, like myself, you can recall movies like Mrs Doubtfire, Hook, and Dead Poets Society, where Robin Williams plays a relatively chipper character. 

His Inside the Actors Studio interview was simultaneously the most entertaining and the most frustrating one I have ever watched. One anticipates James Lipton just about to burst saying “Damn it, man! Why must you torture me thus!” 

And yet, considering what has transpired, it isn’t surprising to see that even on a television show where actors are required to bare themselves he was still “on”.

And this brings us to the issue at hand, which is such a convincing case brought to us by Cracked.com: he used humor, or legalized insanity, as Williams put it, to deflect personal issues from being raised. Comics, alongside many people who have been praised for their strong artistic or academic skills, have used their gift–in this case, humor–to push people away. 

The scariest thing about this article, and what raises alarm bells, is that many of the funniest people in our own lives, past or present, are using these very same techniques to keep us at bay. We may think that some have their life figured out when in fact they are just at the brink of their own breaking point. They hide it because they are afraid of others’ reactions to their condition.

However, if you are one of those people who using humor to deflect, please talk to someone. Do not shrug it off or laugh it off. You, just like any other human being on this crazy planet, are not alone in your anguish; many times we feel like the victims, or make ourselves the martyrs for a greater cause (in Williams’ case, his depression stemming from perhaps the Parkinson’s that was debilitating him… or some other deep-seeded reason). 

Williams was a beloved actor, writer and comedian; but he was human. He was prone to the same shortcomings that we all are. Let’s remember to good he did, but not forget why he passed away, nor lose sight of the lesson his passing can impart on us. 

I am not someone who believe that everything happens for a greater good; but I do feel that we can make good out of a poor situation depending on the narrative we tell ourselves. Make it a point to reach out and talk to someone who keeps themselves guarded: and damn well be prepared for them when they open themselves up! 

When asked about death

16. Apps and Infographs

Today I am going to bring you all an interactive resource and some fascinating information on how to raise happier children.

Thankfully, they are both at the same site!

The first is an app, called Happify designed to inspire and persuade you  to make yourself actively happy. I have been trying it, here and there, and am somewhat noncommittal, but the site does have inspiring testimonials which (though not scientific) are motivating enough to at least give it a go.

The second is an infographic presented by Happify for raising happier children. It goes into detail about the importance of parenting, how much does resilience count for despite broken homes, and how to properly praise a child. Enjoy the double-whammy!

8. Prioritizing Your Happiness (hint: Prioritize Yourself!)

Teacher’s Perspective

As I stated, I have worked as a high school teacher; it’s a rewarding and challenging career path. However, one of the greatest challenges that came with it was getting students to focus on what was important! They tend to focus on the immediate gratification of hanging out with friends, rather than focusing on future-oriented thinking. There is actually a lot of science to back up this point, and more can be read at How Stuff Works.

There was a speaker who had come in to one of the schools I was working at and for the life of me I cannot remember his name right now. But his speech to the kids was to prioritize their lives. He wanted them to make decisions which would be beneficial to them in the long run. I paraphrase “When your friends ask you to go to the cafeteria, but you want to go try out for the dance club… make your own decision and don’t be swayed by your peers.”

I appreciate the sentiment behind these words, and hopefully some of them did listen. But let’s face it… you don’t have to be a teenager to realize how strong social pressure can be when it comes to decision making when peer pressure is involved. Decision making can also be tough when it comes to choosing between something hard (like working out) vs something easy (staying sedentary). How can we get past these issues?

Goal Setting

An important part of making decisions is setting your goals and your purpose for achieving those goals. In Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours she talks about core competencies, things which we are inherently good at, and how to use these to establish our goals. Perhaps you are a good writer, and you wish to write a book; great! Goals and core competencies should go hand in hand if you wish for results relatively quickly. What is important to you?

However, let’s say you wish to learn Mandarin and you are now 26 years old and have never spoken a lick of any other language other than English. This is still possible. Even if language learning is not your core competency, the growth mindset, as discussed in Carol Dweck’s Mindset, is a great tool to achieve it.

I have discussed these tools and techniques in previous posts, hyperlinked in this article, but if you have not read them, please do take a moment! I have tried to scaffold my blog so as to talk about these issues in a step-by-step manner.

Ultimately, the goals you set should be meaningful to your life, putting yourself first. I discussed in my previous post the importance of making yourself a priority. In order to truly achieve a goal, you have to constantly remind yourself “Is this in MY best interest?”

How to Prioritize Happiness

Along with asking yourself if something is in your best interest, you should ask yourself another question when you make a decision. “Do I love myself enough to do this for me?”

Here’s poet Ashley Wylde, on YouTube, who did a spoken word session about how to love oneself. Her technique is to look in the mirror, and as awkwardly but meaningfully connect with yourself and say “I love you.” She explains how the exercise over the course of months became natural, meaningful, and sincere.

We should all care about ourselves, and often we think we do. But take a look at the decisions you are making. Are you really in control of them? Or are you letting yourself be controlled by those around us? Make happiness a goal!

“Do I love myself enough to do this for me?”

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6. Procrastination and Time Management

In my previous post, I mentioned how one of symptoms of the fixed mindset is perfectionism which can lead to procrastination. It’s one thing to tell yourself that you are now adopting a growth mindset but quite another thing to actually follow through with it. The best method of adopting a growth mindset is to allow yourself to grow into it. You need not be perfect. Rejection Therapy is an excellent way to get used to being rejected.
One of the ways in which Jason Comely recommends we practice Rejection Therapy is through the Rejection Game. The object of the game is to get rejected. That’s how you win! It doesn’t have to be huge. Check out my second blog post again if you need tips on how to go about doing this.
I know I sound like a bit of a broken record, so here are some new tips on how to beat procrastination. One of the excuses that many people make when it comes to getting stuff done is lack of time. The old “if only there were more hours in a days” cliché is a variation of this sort of thinking. In her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam, the myth of being too busy is scrutinized. Turns out many of us aren’t using our time as wisely as we could be. So that whole “who has time to hit the gym” or “I have no time for side projects, I’m way too busy” is shown to be entirely bogus. In her book, she suggests a subtle but powerful paradigm shift: instead of thinking we only have 24 hours in a day, prioritize your work week and say think that we have 168 hours in the week. It might not seem like much on the surface, but putting it into practice shows it to be quite powerful. She has activity sheets on her website, one of which records our every action every half an hour for a full week. Are you really using your time wisely? Or are internet cats taking up way too much time in your daily life?
Why am I talking about time management when all I have talked about lately is rejection? Because all those projects and hobbies that you keep putting off in your life can lead to happiness and satisfaction in life.

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