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Money and happiness

Let's face it. Our generation as a whole has more money and disposable income than any other generation in history. This material progress has not resulted in increased emotional or psychological wellbeing.

Quite the opposite.

We are so rich, in fact, that we have "rich people problems" and our youngsters (not to mention their parents) have managed to catch a brand new virus.

This 'virus' is called the "Affluenza Virus" and it is defined as "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more."

Symptoms of the "Affluenza Virus" include:

- Shopping Fever . . .shopping as entertainment and fulfillment. (Newsflash: Just as "dieting makes you fat" so "retail therapy makes you sad.")

- Chronic Stress . . .

- Hypercommercialism . . . confusing personal identity with the brands you wear

- Believing that "Anti-social behavior in pursuit of a product is a good thing."

- A Rash of Bankruptcies . . . the top 10%...

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Buddha and the farmer with the 83 problems

Sharing a story today that captures the concept of AIMing at happiness that we have been talking about this week. . .

A farmer came to see the Buddha for a solution to the problems in his life.

My first problem is my work, he began:
"I like farming, but sometimes it doesn't rain enough, and my crops fail. Last year we nearly starved. And sometimes it rains too much, so my yields aren't what I'd like them to be."

The Buddha patiently listened to the man. . .

My next problem is my domestic life, he continued:
"I'm married and she's a good wife… I love her, in fact. But sometimes she nags me too much. And sometimes I get tired of her."

The Buddha listened quietly.
"Also, I have kids," said the man. "Good kids, too… but sometimes they don't show me enough respect. And sometimes…"

The man went on like this, laying out all of his difficulties and worries.

Finally he wound down and waited for the Buddha to say the words that would put everything right for him.

Instead,...

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AIM-ing at happiness – what do you remember?

Uncategorized Mar 29, 2017

Human minds are wired to retain more negative memories than positive. There are very good survival reasons for this (which we can get into at another time!)

In order to move beyond survival to self growth and actualization, we need to be intentional in training our brains to remember the good.

How can you do this? So glad you asked because it is actually VERY simple.

When you are having a positive experience (listening to a bird, getting a parking spot, smelling a flower, tasting that chocolate . . .), take a moment to savour it.

Pause. Breathe. Savour.

Take a few moments to enjoy the experience rather than moving onto the next thing.

It takes between 8 – 20 seconds for the pleasant sensations and memory to register in your memory bank and in your cells.

For best results, repeat several times a day!

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AIM-ing at happiness – what is your interpretation?

Uncategorized Mar 28, 2017

It can be really challenging to separate what happens to us from how we interpret it.

When we are in a negative spiral, it can be quite difficult to remember that what happens and how we interpret it are two separate events – one out there and one in our minds.

While we cannot control what happens out there, we can practice coming up with more helpful interpretations for ourselves.

For example, if I did not get invited to my friends birthday dinner, it can be easy to interpret this in a negative way. She does not care about me, I do not matter, she is upset with me, she has found other friends etc etc etc!

It takes much more presence of mind (and creativity!) to come up with interpretations that will not lead to emotional distress.

How many can you think of?

Coming up with helpful interpretations of external events takes intentionality and practice. But it gets sooo much easier with time.

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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.

Really!

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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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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