AIM-ing at happiness – where is your attention?

What you put your attention on will determine what you see and how happy you will be.


Your world, like mine, is full of beauty, compassion, kindness and heroism.

It is also full of cruelty, evil, disparity, disease and distress.

Where is your attention?

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AIM-ing at happiness

We often say and hear the phrase "have a positive attitude" to be happy.

But do we understand what exactly having a positive attitude means and how do we practice having this positive attitude?

Ed Diener & Robert Biswas-Diener in their book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, also reiterate the necessity of a positive attitude in life as central to personal happiness and life satisfaction.

The authors use the acronym AIM to represent the basic components of a positive attitude that are necessary for happiness:

A: Attention
I: Interpretation
M: Memory

So, this week, let us work at improving our AIM at happiness.

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Do what you need to do

Did you know that many people who are the *best* at what they do also have a critic inside their heads?

Bill Russell, for example, one of the great names in basketball ... the only athlete to ever win an NCAA Championship, an Olympic Gold Medal, and a professional championship all in the same year—1956... had one small problem: He used to get so nervous that he threw up before every game.

So it turns out that he too, had a strong inner critic telling him what could go wrong and making him so nervous that he would throw up.

How did he become one of the great names in his sport?

He simply learnt to ignore the critic and do what he needed to do.

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What is your critic saying?

We all have that critical inner voice – the one that specializes in giving a running (mostly negative) commentary in our heads. Creating self doubt, telling us off and breaking our confidence.

Sometimes, we just accept this commentary without challenge.

"You look so tired/fat/ugly/stupid", "You can't do this." "You're such a mess." "What's the matter with you?", "What's WRONG with you, you still don't have it together".

So how do we continue to live our best selves' moment to moment while this critic is having a field day inside our heads?

The very first step is to become aware of this narrator/critic/commentator. Just by recognizing the existence of this critic, we begin to loosen her hold on our life.

By noticing the script that s/he is playing, we begin to recognize that these statements are NOT a reflection of reality.

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The Magic Ratio

One of Dr. Gottman's biggest research findings is the 5:1 rule.

Dr. Gottman has found that for the emotional climate of a relationship to be positive, the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions between the spouses has to be greater than 5:1. This is because negative experiences have a much bigger impact on the human brain than positive ones (something we will talk about in the future inshallah)

Simply put, this means that for every negative interaction you have with your spouse (even happy couples have negative interactions) you need to have at least 5 times as many positive ones to keep the relationship happy.

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Create conflict free times and zones

Let's face it. If you are in a long term relationship, chances are that is at least some conflict in your relationship. This is normal and even healthy.

The 'masters of relationships' also have many areas of conflict in their lives but they manage to keep conflict in its place.

One way to 'keep conflict in its place' is to declare some times and zones in your life as conflict free. This means you will not let conflict intrude into these times and places.

It is a good idea, for example, to declare the bedroom and the dining table as sacred, conflict free zones. When you and your spouse are there, it is a time of amnesty, so to speak. You leave conflict out of these areas. You focus on things in your life other than conflict talk.

It may also be useful to declare early morning, late night and the first few minutes when you meet after a day apart as conflict free times.

After all, you did not get together with your spouse just to deal with conflict, did you?

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It’s all in your head

family positive thinking Feb 08, 2017

How and what we think about often has an impact on our relationships in addition to what we say or do.

What we think about day in and day out subtly influences how we approach our spouse and in turn influences how they will respond.

The decision to improve our relationship, therefore, begins in our mind.

So, choose to extend loving thoughts to your spouse throughout the day today, even (and especially) when they are not around.

Intentionally bring to mind something you like about them, some kindness or love that they have shown you or some pleasant interaction that you may have had in the past.

Hold that thought for at least 15 seconds. (This is the time it takes for a thought to begin to change our brain chemistry)

Soften and allow yourself to smile at the memory or the thought.

Repeat often for best results :)

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Do you know what it takes to make a relationship work?

Many of us grow up receiving all sorts of relationship advice.

Especially when we are getting married, well meaning aunties, uncles and married peers are ever ready to dish out their view of what we must to make our marriage work.

But how many of us go beyond this advice to explore what it takes to make a relationship work, especially in the 21st century?

Leo Buscaglia in his great book, Love writes: "If he desired to know about automobiles, he would, without question, study diligently about automobiles. If his wife desired to be a gourmet cook, she'd certainly study the art of cooking, perhaps even attending a cooking class. Yet, it never seems as obvious to him that if he wants to live in love, he must spend at least as much time as the auto mechanic or the gourmet in studying love."
Well, lucky for us, the science of relationships has grown up in the last couple of decades and we now have solid research to tell us exactly what makes or breaks a relationship. We can actually study...

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Let’s talk about love

Its that time of the year again. The time of the year when Hallmark and Facebook start talking about romantic love and force us to confront the reality of the state of our own unions.

So let's talk about love.

How do you think about love? Is love a noun or a verb for you?

The idea that we have in our heads about what love is, and what it takes to have a loving relationship greatly impacts our experience of it.

So, how do you think about love? Is love a noun? Something that happens to you, do you think people fall in and out of love?

Or is love a verb for you, it is love something that you practice, by acting in loving ways?

Through out the month of February, we will explore the idea of love in relationships and talk about simple but powerful ways to improve the relationships in our lives.

Although the focus in on romantic relationships, the principles of relationships are remarkably similar whether they be with our spouses, our children, our family of origin or our friends.


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Give yourself permission to have a bad day

Some days no matter how hard we try we just cannot seem to get it together, live our purpose, be our best selves, be productive, get over a bad mood . . .

One option on days such as these is to simply accept it as an off day. Have some compassion for ourselves and recognize that this too shall pass.

Tomorrow is another day and another chance to get back on track. Inshallah.

I am often surprised that such phases end quicker than when I try to resist them and make myself wrong for having an off day.

So go on. Next time you are having a bad day, be kind to yourself and take it easy.

Just try and stay out of other people's way ;)

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