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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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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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Can you control your happiness?

Through studies with identical twins separated at birth, scientists have discovered that about 50% of our happiness is determined by our genetics and that we have a "happiness set point"—a level of happiness we tend to gravitate toward.

What this means is that when good or bad things happen to people, they tend to get back to their "happiness set point" quite quickly after the happy or sad event.

Surprising right?

Another 10% (ONLY!!) of our happiness is determined by our life circumstances. Most of us spend so much energy on trying to change our life circumstances but research shows that increasing our wealth, living situation etc. etc. and stuff like that has both a negligible and a temporary impact on our well-being. WOW!

What about the rest of the 40%?

Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the most respected researchers in this field and the author of the brilliant book, The How of Happiness believes that a full 40% of our happiness is fully within our control and depends upon how we...

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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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Please stop trying

family self development Mar 15, 2017

When you request someone to do something and they say "I'll try", do you count on that person to fulfill that request? Probably not, right? You may think that they are hedging their bets, that they are not really committing to anything.

IF and only if everything magically works out, and the stars align, they MIGHT fulfill your request . . . if nothing better comes along AND if they are in the mood . . .

Not a great model for commitment or action is it?

And yet we tell ourselves the same thing all the time.

"I will try"

These words have so much hesitancy and lack of commitment built in, that what you "try" will almost never happen.

Here is a little gem I came across on the internet today:


People who try . . .
T alk about their challenges
R ationalize their circumstances
Y ield to defeat

People who do . . .

D on't accept excuses
O vercome with action

As Jedi Master Yoda says: "No, try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

So how about stop "trying" and start committing to take action?

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Think its too difficult?

Have you noticed, , that the hard and difficult stuff only ever seemed hard and difficult before you began it?

One of the easiest ways to get over overwhelm is to start taking action.

It really IS that simple.

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Name it to tame it

Berne Brown, the world famous researcher on shame and vulnerability says that a way to tame your inner critic is to giver her a name and begin to understand her as an entity.

Because the critic thrives on secrecy, silence and the perception of judgment, giving her a name and calling her out on her tactics weakens her power considerably.

Brown calls her critic "Gremlin", but personally, I'd like to think of something nastier. I have tried various names for my inner critic and these days I am calling her "Ms. Blah Blah".

I can always count on Ms. Blah Blah to let me know why what I set out to do is not a good idea or that it is not a good time to do it.

When I wanted to start the Daily Wisdom project, for example, Ms. Blah-blah gave me a hundred excuses why I could not – or should not -do this.

Here are only a few of them:

  1. You are not consistent – you will start and then it will fizzle out
  2. It is too big of a commitment – you don't have the time
  3. You are NOT a good...
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