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I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

This week we are continuing with our series which is inspired by the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. This book by Bronnie Ware, the palliative care nurse who took care of patients in their last three to twelve weeks of life, is about the stories and confessions from people at the end of their life and talks about the regrets people had for how they wished they had made different choices in life.

One of the top regrets of the dying, Ware found, was not making the time for important friendships. Many found that in the busyness of life, they tended to let go of relationships until they fell out of touch with once-good-friends.

She writes, "Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving...

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Let’s talk about the ‘D’ word

family spirituality Apr 17, 2017

Let's talk about the 'D' word.

Death.

What every one of us will face and what few of us like to think or talk about. Some of us might even believe that thinking about death and dying is morose and depressing.

While spiritual traditions, including Islam and Buddhism have advocated reflecting on the temporary nature of life in this existence as a path to virtue and salvation/bliss, it is fairly recently that secular psychologists have affirmed the benefits of thinking about death.

Kenneth Vail of the University of Missouri, headed a study about 'death awareness' and said, "There has been very little integrative understanding of how subtle, day-to-day, death awareness might be capable of motivating attitudes and behaviors that can minimize harm to oneself and others, and can promote well-being."

Vall specifically mentions three ways consciousness of death can improve our lives:

1) Thinking about death helps us prioritize our goals and get in touch with what we truly value

2) Just...

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Be creative with your interpretations

Continuing with our series on the timeless wisdom of Imam Ali (as), the quote for today is: "Do not think of anyone's statements as evil if you can find it capable of bearing good".

It is clear that what people say to us and how we interpret their statements are two distinct parts of each communication.

When our emotional bank account with a person is low, it is easy to interpret what they say more negatively than they intend. We can pause, notice this tendency and choose to give it a positive interpretation. Give them the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.

Being creative and positive with our interpretations of another's words and actions takes intentionality and practice. Over time, it can become a habit.

A habit that brings more positivity into our lives and improves our relationships.

Worth a try, don't you think?

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Be open to influence

Continuing with our series on the timeless wisdom of Imam Ali (as), the quote for today is: "One who is headstrong and opinionated perishes, while one who seeks the advice of others becomes a partner in their understanding".

When we are highly protective and defensive of our opinions, it is usually a sign of fear, insecurity and a lack of confidence. It also leaves us little room for growth, reflection or expansion of wisdom.

So the next time someone offers us a suggestion or a piece of advice, lets pause before automatically dismissing it. Just fully consider it before making a decision either way. Considering something does not mean agreeing. Listening to a point of view with an open mind does not meant that you automatically accept it.

Listening with an open mind leaves the opportunity open, though, to grow in understanding and insight and to become a 'partner in their understanding'.

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4 ways money can make you happy

family self awareness Apr 03, 2017

We have all heard the phrase, "money cannot buy happiness".

This is true.

But can we use our money in ways that are likely to bring us more happiness and contentment as opposed to stress and dissatisfaction?

Sonja Lyubomirsky in her interesting book The Myths of Happiness gives us four principles that psychological science suggests we live by if we want to optimally enjoy our money.

Here is the first principle:

Don't spend money on "stuff"— you will get used to it ("hedonically adapt" to use the technical term).

Moreover, she writes that "A mountain of research has shown that materialism depletes happiness, threatens satisfaction with our relationships, harms the environment, renders us less friendly, likable, and empathetic, and makes us less likely to help others and contribute to our communities. . .". These are just some of the negative effects of unbridled consumerism.

Lyubomirsky suggests that in order to counteract this happiness killer, spend money on experiences and...

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Practice emodiversity

family parenting Mar 23, 2017

Psychologists agree that emotional well-being isn't about being cheerful all the time and avoiding sadness at all costs.

Studies that show over-pursuing the overtly cheerful kind of happiness actually may be detrimental to your mental and physical health.

Recent research in Europe found that people who have "emodiversity"—meaning they experience and express a full range of emotions including anger, worry and sadness—are actually physically and emotionally healthier than those whose range tends to be mostly on the positive side.

Of the 1,300 participants in this study, the more emodiverse ones had less medication use, lower government health care costs, and fewer doctor visits and days in the hospital. They also had better diet, exercise, and smoking habits.

Quite a relief, right, to learn that worry, anger, disappointment and sadness are all normal and vital emotions that we *need* to experience at times and that we don't have to whistle while we work EVERY SINGLE DAY!

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The Happiness Equation

In the book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, Diener and Biswas-Diener explain the connection between income and happiness.

What they found was that the amount of money a person earned only modestly predicted whether or not they were satisfied with their income. Their studies found that some people with a lot of money could not meet their desires, and others with little money were able to do so.

Based on this research, the authors explain that happiness from one's income boils down to a simple formula – "the happiness equation" – which is:

Happiness = What we (actually) have / what we want (what we aspire to have).

Even those of us with basic math can figure out that according to this equation, as our wants increase, our satisfaction with what we have decreases in comparison and this results in a reduction in our overall happiness level.

So a simple way to increase our life satisfaction, or happiness, it seems, is to keep our wants and desires...

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Make happy choices

family self reflection Mar 21, 2017

In the book Happiness by Diener and Biswas-Diener, the authors write about Barry Schwartz, a psychologist at Swarthmore College, who has identified two decision-making styles: "satisficing" and "maximizing".

Satisficers, they explain, are people who have a minimum threshold for what is acceptable to them. They are happy with 'good enough' rather than perfect. Maximizers, on the other hand, are people who strive to get the very best out of every decision. Good enough is NOT good enough for them.

It sounds rather appealing being a maximizer – wanting to make the 'best possible' decision, doesn't it?

However, it turns out that maximizers are never happy with their choices. They tend to second guess themselves and are always wondering if they could have done even better.

So, although maximizers might achieve more, they are rarely happy with their achievements. They are also less likely to be happy, optimistic or have high self esteem. They are more susceptible to regret and...

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Happy World Happiness Day!

family relationships Mar 20, 2017

Did you know that happiness has its own holiday?

Five years ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed March 20 to be the International Day of Happiness.

You might be wondering why on earth do we need a day to celebrate happiness? Isn't it quite hokey and mushy for a world organization like the UN to talk about a personal and emotional concept such as happiness?

It turns out that personal happiness has a significant impact on the larger society.

Research shows that happy people are healthier; they get sick less often and live longer. Happy people are more likely to get married and have fulfilling marriages, and they have more friends. They make more money and are more productive at work.

Based on decades of research, therefore, it has become clear that happiness is not just a personal issue; it's a matter of public health, global economics, and national well-being.

In light of this, it is not surprising that governments and national organizations are taking personal...

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Do you envy your neighbor’s lawn?

I have a confession.

As soon as summer starts, I look at the beautiful gardens in my neighborhood and am frankly quite envious of the thick, green, golf course-quality grass and the neatly laid out, lush flower beds that surround our somewhat neglected backyard.

I begin to believe that the grass is, indeed, "greener on the other side of the fence".

It seems so unfair. I, too, want green grass and a beautiful garden.

And then I notice that while I am lazing around in the spring, sipping tea and gazing longingly at their gardens and wishing I had the same . . . the neighbors are out whatever the weather. They are tending to their garden, watering the lawn and weeding and feeding the flower beds.

I realize that it is not unfair after all. Nature, it seems, rewards effort. The grass, it turns out, is greener where it is watered and cared for.

So instead of wasting time and energy on envying the neighbors this summer, I plan to start watering the grass on our side of the fence and work...

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