Tag Archives: Happiness

Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that we possess…

I have been thinking about happiness a lot recently, especially this past week.  Everywhere I have looked there have been articles and posters about how gratitude is the successful attitude, about how happiness is essential for stress free living, all sorts of things like that.  And today, on my Flipboard App on my phone, there was an amazing article about the 5 skills you need to increase your happiness.  Okay, thought I, I am giving in to the signals I am being sent.  Here is a blog post all about happiness and getting more of it.

happiness 2

So, according to this article that I read this morning, the first skill you need in order to increase your grin quotient is the ability to savour things.  If you savour a meal, you take your time over it, you enjoy the flavours, the textures, the time and energy which it has taken to prepare and cook the food.   You linger, you prolong the experience and you intensify your enjoyment of the moment, making it last for as long as possible.   You should do the same in your everyday life.  You can savour the past, by reminiscing.  You can savour the future with positive anticipation of what might happen.  You can also savour the present moment – by using that often trotted out modern phrase, mindfulness.  Apparently, savouring life boosts optimism, reduces stress and gets rid of a whole lot of negative emotions, making you happier, more optimistic and more satisfied with life.   And the more you recognise the good stuff, the more good stuff you see.

thank you

The second skill which is required to increase happiness is to say thank you.  This is the attitude of gratitude writ large. If you can identify and appreciate the things people do for you, and the things themselves, and then say thank you… well, the result is sheer magic.  Not only does it increase your optimism and self confidence, but it has also been shown to dampen your desire for more “stuff” all the time (well, why do you need the newest and latest gadget when you are really thankful for the one you have in front of you?  Makes sense to me!).  Of course being sincerely thankful for the people in your life as well means that you can have a deeper relationship with them.  That is always worth it.  According to research, it can also give you longer and better quality sleep.  I am soooo up for some of that!!

goal quote

The third skill we need is to aspire.  This is a bit trickier – but basically it boils down to having a reason for being, a sense of purpose and to be hopeful.  It enable you to be optimistic about the future.  People who have created meaning in their lives are generally happier and more satisfied.  If you have ever experienced genuine (and not forced and false) optimism, you will know that you are drawn to them like a moth to a flame.  It is a magnet almost.  When you have that sense of purpose and a goal to aim towards, it makes goals seem attainable and challenges are easier to overcome.  You will feel more successful, and you will be more successful!  Also, if you use the skills you have in every day life, all the time, you will increase your self esteem, curb stress and increase your vitality.  So, if you have a skill, show it off!  And smile about it!

giving

The fourth thing to do to increase you happiness, and arguably, it is the one which ought to come first in this list, is giving.  Of course the person you are giving to will reap a reward, but did you know that the giver gets one too?  This is one of the reasons that every major faith has an aspect of charity to it.  Habitual givers have less stress, less isolation and less anger.  When you see what your gift can do for someone else, that makes you happier, more connected to the world and more open to new experiences.

compassion

Finally, happiness can be increased with the use of empathy.  Empathy is the ability to care about others.  If you can imagine and understand the thoughts, behaviours or ideas of other people, then congratulations, you are empathetic.  It is easier for some people than it is for others, but the good news is that compassion can be taught.  Empathy means that you will feel less judgemental, less frustrated, less angry and less disappointed about people.  Apparently it helps you to develop patience (Umm… I am very empathetic… I am just extremely impatient as well!).  Empathy also helps to solidify bonds between human beings, which is essential to the building and maintaining happy and healthy relationships.  This compassion needn’t just be for others though.  You need to be compassionate to yourself as well – the old “cut yourself some slack” argument.

I am definitely going to take up these five practices to increase the happiness in my life.  I could do with the extra boost, and especially if there is an upswing in the amount of patience that I might have.  To finish, I want to leave you with a quote from Terry Prince which I found on my Facebook timeline this morning…

“Your life is your Garden,

Your thoughts are the seeds,

If your life isn’t awesome,

You’ve been watering the weeds”

Here’s to happiness folks!

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Happiness and how to get it…

I have been thinking a lot about happiness recently.  It has been on my mind for a while and combined with the wedding of a friend of mine on Friday, Valentine’s Day on Saturday and an excellent weekend all round, I want to be able to recreate this recipe whenever I want it.  So, what are it’s ingredients?  How can I give all of my readers, friends and family the prescription?

happiness 2

Considering that happiness is one of those things that a lot of people quest after for most of their lives, there is surprisingly small amounts of scientific data about what happiness actually is.  Generally it is considered a warm fuzzy sort of feeling and when you experience it, then you know it. That is not very helpful if we want to repeat the feeling.   From my research though the area of psychology and philosophy are fruitful sources of definitions.  I could go through each and every one I have ever read about, but to be honest, I am just going to take you through the theory of happiness that I like best.  Hey, it’s my blog.  I can do what I want!

positivity

Attitude of mind is essential when it comes to being happy.  If you are in a negative thought pattern, or indeed have a negative outlook on life, you are not going to be happy.  Take it from me.  I used to be that negative person.  Life is tough when you are convinced that the light at the end of the tunnel is the train that will eventually squish you on the tracks.  Or worse, you are sure that at any moment the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off!

But being positive, changing the way you think about things can revolutionise how you feel.  When I began to change my thought patterns I began to notice the little things.  The flowers springing from the dormant winter ground, the blackbirds chattering in the trees, a bullfinch coming to roost on the hedge in the back garden and using a roosting pocket I had put out there last year,  a robin sitting on the holly tree and telling me off for being in his territory, the dog and the cat getting on famously together, the recipe that I tried which came together with absolute ease and tasted fabulous.  These things made me smile.  Smiling can actually have  huge impact on your own physical and mental health.  It boosts your mood, it boosts your immune system, the act of smiling actually relieves stress, smiles are contagious and they need to be passed on to people, and smiling is actually an instinct we are born with.  So smile, dammit.  Smile!!

smile

Psychologist Martin Seligman thinks that happiness is not just about momentary external pleasures.  He uses the acronym PERMA to provide a list of things which he thinks creates happiness.

P stands for Pleasure.  Things that give you pleasure will make you happy.  Makes sense.  I like to throw the ball for my dog and she loves to chase it.  Watching her frolic in the garden and act like a puppy makes me happy.  E stands for Engagement.  Seligman thinks that you need to be engaged with someone or something else to be truly happy.  I can see his point; with the above example, I would be engaging with the dog… but what about those of us who are true introverts?  Sometimes the total lack of engagement with anyone else is what is the best thing!  R is for relationships.  Seligman reckons you need them, and okay, yes, I can see his point.  I like being married and I like having friends and being adored by the dog and tolerated by the cats, but I am still in the corner rooting for introverts though.  M stands for meaning.  If you are doing something and that something has a reason for being done, that can be very satisfying.  I can testify to the satisfaction of reconciling a financial account right to the penny.  (I am a recovering accountant… sometimes it still sneaks out there occasionally!)  And then the A in PERMA is for Accomplishment.  I can completely testify to that… and it is more than half of the reason I am a listaholic!!

gardening fun

So, looking back on my weekend, did it stack up to the PERMA test?  Yes, it did actually.  My husband and I tackled a few jobs in the garden together.  We really made a start in changing things around and making the space work for us.  We spent 3 or 4 hours together in the garden, helping each other weed, dig things up, replant stuff.  We are putting the hard and heavy work in at this end of the year so that we can appreciate it during the summer.  We managed to achieve all of the jobs we set out to complete as well.  Yup.  All the areas of PERMA ticked off.

I am still going to keep to my positive mental attitude and smiling often as well though.  Happiness is as contagious as smiles are.

How to stay happy through the gloom…

In the UK, we have just moved our clocks back and we are once again on Greenwich Mean Time.  It means, of course, darker mornings, the evenings drawing in, the cold months of the year are here in some parts and on the way in others.  For some people, it also heralds the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

clocks changing

SAD is more than just feeling a little gloomy when the days are short.  It is actually a recognised depressive illness.  If you feel you have the symptoms of depression, which have started since the clocks went back then I would urge you to get in touch with your health professional and get some help.  In the meantime, if you think it is merely low mood you are suffering, I might be able to provide some help for you with this blog post.

Yesterday I ventured into a local health food shop.  I don’t do this very often because invariably I walk out with lots of stuff.  It was no different yesterday and I came out with some Light Tahini Paste (my home made hummus is going to taste AWESOME), two boxes of herbal tea (Echinacea and Cranberry and Apple and Cinnamon), two bottles of Bach Rescue Remedy Night (I need something to help me sleep through) and a copy of the Health Food Chain’s Magazine.  In that, I noted an article about how to “Stay Summer Happy”.  Before I tell you about it, I want you to know that this is NOT going to be a cure for SAD if that is what you have.  But if you are feeling glum, lethargic and a little blue, then these tips might just help you.

autumn

The basic gist of the article is that although everyone feels better in the summer than they do in the autumn and winter, everyone’s mood takes a bit of a dip at this time of year.  It is fine for that to happen.  In fact, it is natural to happen.  If you think about it, a tree losing its leaves is a change, and that happens naturally at this time of year.  However, instead of resigning ourselves to feeling morose from October to March, it is important to inject some joy into the darker months of the year.  We need to make a conscious decision to get into the swing of the new season.  The article quotes Psychologist Ingrid Collins, who says;

“Autumn is a time to review and reflect: to build on the work you have done so far this year, now that you’re recharged after a summer break; and to plan for the coming year”

reflecting

Now, that struck a chord with me.  This is what I am doing with planning the garden and with Operation Chrysalis as well.  The article goes on to give 5 tips to embrace year round well being.

The first is exercise outdoors.  Luckily, I have a dog who needs walks, and a big garden to attend to (with lots of work to do in it into the bargain), so that isn’t so hard for me.  Even if you just take a quick promenade round the block, getting out of the centrally heated house will help you feel invigorated.  Exposure to sunlight, even through cloud, is better than being stuck in an artificially lighted environment.  30 minutes per day is ideal, but start small and build it up if you can.

Taking a vitamin D supplement might also help matters.  The body requires sunshine to make vitamin D, and if the weather is awful, then taking a supplement might help you improve your mood.

staying social

Another mood lightener is staying social.  Plan getting together with friends and family (if you get on with them), hunt out a book club, join a crafting circle, go for coffee with a good friend.  In some ways it is easier to be social in these months than it is to be social at any other time of the year.  Holidays are great, but they can totally mess with the schedule!  Don’t forget exercise classes.  You will have a social experiences, and will feel better from the endorphins into the bargain.

If you are suffering from SAD, you might need to use a Light Box.  It mimics sunlight and has been shown to be effective in relieving symptoms in 85% of sufferers.  You need one of 5000 lux (which is a unit of illuminance apparently) and ideally, it needs to be used for an hour a day.

Their final tip was to set goals.  You can use getting to the goal as a kind of marker for getting through the season and if gives you a focus for the period of the year as well.  My goals are to be nifty and thrifty for Christmas this year, and of course, Operation Chrysalis as well.

I hope these help you… but please, please remember… if your mood is lower than “just a bit glum”, please go and seek help from your preferred medical professional.

Giving myself a kick in the pants…

This is not only anatomically impossible, but figuratively quite difficult into the bargain.  However, it is important that I do something to get myself out of my current period of doldrums.  So, self administered bahookie kicking is prescribed.  Let me tell you why.

martyr

I have found myself, in the past few weeks, getting into the martyr groove.  You know the one.  The “Oh woe is me, my life is so hard, waah, waah, waah” groove.  The course of thinking which makes you feel like you have the most difficult life in the world ever and that you are put upon and generally not considered and not loved and everything sucks.  Even though the objective evidence is entirely to the contrary.  This has to stop.  Partly because it seriously irritates everyone around me, and partly because it is beginning to hack me off as well.

blessings

Here is the empirical truth.  I live in a gorgeous house, with a rain proof roof, stout walls and a central heating system.  Our fridge is working and is full of food.  I have a well stocked pantry and my health along with more energy than I can usually expend in one day.  I live with my life partner and best friend, my husband, who puts up with my crazy moods and my irritating habits and in turn, I put up with his.  I have a big garden that is ripe for change and amendment.  We are in the process of adopting a child/children which will make my dear wish to be a Mother come true.  I have a very supportive network very close around me (Mother and Father in law at the bottom of the garden and my Mum next door but three, to say nothing of my husband’s extended family who I know would pitch in if we hollered for help).  My husband adores me.  I have a car that works and gets me places.  We even have a bit of money in the bank.  Not loads.  But a bit.  Enough.

It is all good.  I am in a better position that the vast majority of the humans on this planet.  I should count myself lucky and appreciate it.

coffee life

Yes, there are little parts of that life that niggle.  There are even parts of life that can leave something of a scab and irritate even more.  But you know what?  Sometimes you need to stop navel gazing and look up at the world.  My life totally rocks.  So I need to appreciate it, grab it by the lapels and drag it as far as I can.  Life is to be lived.  Not moaned and complained over while nursing a cup of dodgy coffee.  If you are going to drug yourself with caffeine (and oh, I really, really do!) make sure it is the best sort of stuff you can get.  Live your life with that attitude to everything.

In this newly dug up spirit of optimism, my to do list at home has changed rather significantly.  After I have posted this blog, I am going to do a couple of my Herbalism study lessons.  It has been a long time since I did one, and I need to get back to doing them regularly.  Then I am going to write some more of my story (well, probably rewrite it.  It would appear that I am deeply in love with adverbs when I write fiction.  I need to stop it and try something else…!), and then if it hasn’t rained by then, I will pop into the garden and rake up some leaves.  Rake up lots of leaves.  I might even pile them all up somewhere and leap into them.  But probably not.  I am feeling optimistic… not masochistic!!

pile of leaves

Then later, I am going to assess the work that needs to be done in the house and come up with a plan to get it all done before the weekends so Hubby and I can arrange time to do fun stuff together… like bake and cook (it is so nice to have a kitchen big enough that we can both be in the same room at the same time!), take the dog on a long country walk, have friends over for a relaxed afternoon and evening, do some gardening together.  You know, the stuff that makes life totally worth living.

What are your plans for making your life brighter?  Let’s all go out there and live the life we have with energy and dynamism.  And if that feels a little tough for you right now… just plaster a smile on your face.  Fake it till you make it people!

Have a great weekend.

Knuts about Knitting…

My husband suggested a post about this topic, because he found an article on http://www.treehugger.com all about knitting and its health benefits.  He read it, and said that he sort of understands why I keep doing it and amassing crazy amounts of wool into the bargain.  According to the latest research, Knitting keeps you healthy.

knitting granny

Knitting is often used for therapy, mainly as a distractant.  This is especially useful in managing long term physical pain patients.  It has also been shown to help people with depression.  It builds confidence and can also mean that the knitter is engaged in conversation with interested onlookers without having to have constant eye contact.

knitting cables

Knitting is relaxing.  I would argue that attempting to do cable knitting is the exception to prove this rule (cable knitting is the work of Satan.  No.  It really is.) but apparently, all knitting is relaxing.  People have had measured decreases in heart rate, muscle tension and blood pressure.  I have certainly found that if I am tense, I have to force myself to relax in order to successfully knit my current project, whatever that may be.

Knitting connects people.  It may be the connection through what you are knitting and who it is for (Godson, friend) or indeed a link with who has knitted before you, but also there are lots of knitting groups popping up.  Knitting in a group is fantastic fun.  And great therapy in and of itself.

knitting 2

Knitting improves concentration, and that goes for all ages.   It has proved to be particularly useful for children with excessive energy.  In older people it has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia and for those of us between those two extremes, it offers a break from our busy schedules and provides a detox from the technology saturated world.

knitting 1

But best of all?  It makes people happy.  Both those knitting and those receiving the knitted items.  That has got to be a good thing!  So, this weekend, are you going to search out your knitting needles and have a go?  I probably won’t.  I will crochet instead.  But that has the same benefits.  I prefer crochet but that is just because you have half the implements and go twice the speed!

Enjoy your weekend, whatever you get up to.

Celebrating Milestones…

Today is my 11th Wedding Anniversary.  May I take this opportunity to wish my lovely husband a Happy Anniversary and to thank him for being a very strong support in all that I do, as well as my best friend.

Anniversary

I love to think back to the day I got married.  I clearly remember the day in detail, thanks to a very wise bit of advice from a family friend.  She said, every hour, take five minutes out to look at your guests and remember the details.  Otherwise, it will pass by in a flash and you will not be able to recall the happiest day of your life.  As with any wedding day, there were stresses involved, but the most important thing was that my Husband and I exchanged our vows before God and our friends and family.  We also had a FABULOUS party, and I drank a lot of Vodka and Lemonade in various forms!

This milestone, the steel wedding anniversary if you are interested, got me thinking about celebrating milestones, and whether or not this actually has any mental health benefits.  It has taken quite a lot of research but there does not appear to much written about whether celebrating big birthdays or significant things is a good thing or a bad thing.  So this blog is going to be mostly supposition and perhaps a bit of guesswork!

happy

I think a big indicator is your own attitude and outlook.  I personally LOVE birthdays and if I could I would even celebrate my half birthday; I also love reasons to celebrate.  It makes me happy, it increases my positivity generally, and better yet, it makes me smile.

So, is the key a positive mental attitude and happiness?  We already know that positivity, well being and contentment are good for you.  They raise the levels of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins in your blood stream.  This, in turn, reduces the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your blood.  Cortisol is linked to so many diseases and complaints, that anything you can do to reduce it is a great idea.  Celebrate those milestones, do what makes you happy, and smile for goodness sake!

happiness quote

One thing that sang out from my research online, is that there is no proof that happiness creates health.  There is equally no proof that happier people are just healthier.  However, I will take my chances and continue celebrating every milestone I can get my hands on!