A brain researcher’s findings on happiness

This is a great article from a brain researcher on happiness. Read it here: A brain researcher’s findings on happiness

Here’s what he says in summary:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label those negative emotions. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of ‘best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.010

 

Is lowering our expectations the answer?

The Daily Telegraph reported a year ago* that keeping expectations low may be the key to happiness – according to researchers at University College London.

“It is often said that you will be happier if your expectations are lower,” said lead author, Dr Robb Rutledge. “We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness.”

But the team also found that positive expectations can influence happiness before the outcome.

“If you have plans to meet a friend at your favourite restaurant, those positive expectations may increase your happiness as soon as you make the plan,” said Dr Rutledge. But the team found that visiting a favourite restaurant could actually make people unhappy because their expectations are so high that it would not take much for them to be disappointed.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

They researched that! Nothing new here surely?

Are they saying you’re happier having your low expectations proven wrong or when you enjoy the anticipation of a looked-forward-to event? Surely all they ‘discovered’ is that both are true.

eeyoreThe problem with low expectations is that all sounds a bit like scarcity thinking to me. Remember Eeyore from the Winnie the Poo stories? His is not a joyful life! If your predilection is to ‘thinking the worst’ then you’re wasting valuable moments of your life sitting under a rain cloud when the odds are equally stacked that the outcome will be a good one.

In a 50-50 chance of good or bad outcome surely the enjoyment of the anticipation of something far outweighs any temporary disappointment that might occur?

AND ANYWAY…..remember Law of Attraction? What you pay attention to grows.

Think something will go wrong? It probably will!

Enjoy the anticipation of a great result? Bottom dollar you’ll get that too.

What do you choose?

 

* http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11010871/Lowering-expectations-is-key-to-happiness.html

 

15 powerful things happy people do differently

Here’s a great post from Purpose Fairy (www.purposefairy.com)- well worth a read:

 

What are the differences between happy people and unhappy people? Of course, it should be very obvious:happy people are happy while  unhappy people are unhappy, right? Well, that is correct.But, we want to know what happy people do differently, so I have put together a list of things that happy people do differently than unhappy people.

1. Love vs. Fear

Well, I can tell you for sure that those people who are really happy, fear less and love a lot more. They see each moment, each challenge, each person as an opportunity to discover more about themselves and the world around them.

2. Acceptance vs. Resistance 

Happy people understand that you can’t really change a situation by resisting it, but you can definitely change it by accepting that it is there and by understanding that there might be a reason for its existence.

When something unpleasant happens to them, they don’t try to fight it (they know that this will make the situation even worse), but they ask themselves questions like: What can I learn from this? How can I make this better? And then they focus on the positive, rather than on the negative. They always seem to see the glass half full, no matter what happens to them.

3. Forgiveness vs. Unforgiveness

Really happy people know that it’s not healthy to hold on to anger. They choose to forgive and forget, understanding that forgiveness is  a gift they give to themselves first and foremost.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. ~Buddha

4. Trust vs. Doubt

They trust themselves and they trust the people around them. Whether they are talking to the cleaning lady or the C.E.O. of a billion-dollar company, somehow they always seem make the person they are interacting with feel that there is something unique and special about them. They understand that beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies.

Because of that, they make sure to treat everyone with love, dignity and respect, and make no distinction between age, sex, social status, color, religion or race. These are the great men that Mark Twain was talking about: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

5. Meaning vs. Ambition

They do the things they do because of the meaning it brings into their lives and because it gives their lives a sense of purpose.  They understand that “Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life” as Wayne Dyer says.

And they care more about living a life full of meaningthan what, in our modern society we would call, living a successful life. The irony here is that most of the time they get both success and meaning because they choose to focus on doing the things they love the most and they always pursue their heart‘s desires. They are not motivated by money; they want to make a difference in the lives of those around them and in the world.

6. Praising vs. Criticizing

Happy people would probably agree with Carl’s Jung theory on resistance: “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”  They don’t criticize the absence of the behavior they want to reinforce, ratherthey know by praising the person and the behavior they wish to reinforce (even if it’s not often), they will actually encourage the positive behavior.

When a parent wants to make sure their 7 year old boy will learn to always put the toys back in the box after he’s done playing with them, they make sure not to focus on the many times the child didn’t do it, criticizing him and his behavior, but every time the little boy does put the toys back, the parent praises him and his behavior and that is exactly how they reinforce the positive behavior, and in the end get the wanted results.

7. Challenges vs. Problems

Happy people will see problems as challenges, as opportunities to explore new ways of doing things, expressing their gratitude for them, understanding that underneath them all lay many opportunities that will allow them to expand and to grow.

8. Selflessness vs, Selfishness

They do what they do not for themselves, but for the good of others, making sure that they bring meaning, empowerment and happiness to the lives of many. They look for ways to give and to share the best of themselves with the world and to make other people happy.

Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy; while giving, the mind of the giver is made peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted. ~Buddha

9. Abundance vs. Lack/ Poverty 

They have an abundant mindset, living a balanced life, achieving abundance in all areas of life.

10. Dreaming Big vs. Being Realistic 

These people don’t really care about being realistic. They love and dare to dream big, they always listen to their heart and intuition and the greatness of their accomplishments scares many of us.

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men. ~Goethe

11. Kindness vs. Cruelty

They are kind to themselves and others and they understand the power of self-love, self-forgiveness and self-acceptance.

12. Gratitude vs. Ingratitude

No matter where they look, no matter where they are or who they are with, they have the capacity to see beauty where most of us would only see ugliness, opportunities where most of us would only see struggles, abundance where most of us would only see lack and they express their gratitude for all of it.

13. Presence/ Engagement vs. Disengagement 

They know how to live in the present moment, appreciating what they have and where they are, while still dreaming big dreams about the future.

When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. The mind in itself is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek yourself in it and mistake it for who you are. ~Eckhart Tolle

14. Positivity vs. Negativity

No matter what happens to them, they always keep a positive perspective on everything and by doing so, they tend irritate a lot of negative and “realistic” people.

15. Taking Responsibility vs. Blaming 

They take full ownership over their lives and they rarely use excuses. Happy people understand that the moment you choose to blame some outside force for whatever is happening to you, you are in fact giving all your power away. They choose to keep their power and take responsibility for everything that happens to them.

How many of these things are you doing in order to become a happier person? Share your insights by commenting below or by leaving your feedback on the PurposeFairy Facebook Page.

 

With all my love,

 

A beautiful passing

I saw death this week and it has made a big impression. A beautiful, graceful and loving lady – a neighbour and aquaintance of mine, – “H” – died last week of breast cancer. She was in her early fifties and has left behind 3 amazing children and her loving husband.

Yesterday was her funeral. It was easily the most beautiful send-off I have ever witnessed. Friends and family reminisced about treasured moments in H’s life. Many songs were sung. At one poignant moment H’s husband sang with a quartet in his wonderful bass voice. The choir from the children’s school sang H’s favourite song.

I saw H for the final time that morning in her open coffin made entirely of beautiful cream felt with embroidered flowers on top. No longer H. really – just her earthly container – but an honour to be a witness to this most touching of passings.

Later, H.’s closed felt coffin was placed in a circle of flowers in the woods and we all wrote notes on paper leaves and hung them to a tree.

The subject of death for many is something to be avoided, feared and endured. Being at this inspiring event has made me realise once again how consciousness – the art of paying careful attention in a loving, open-hearted way, can facilitate a kind of magic. The magic of connection. H. had the time and, more importantly an incredible  generosity of spirit, to whole-heartedly plan all the details of her funeral with her family. It seemed as if everything was anticipated with an eye to what we as the mourners needed – honouring, celebrating, laughter, song, ritual, beauty and community. We all shared an inspired few hours together and it is typical of H. that she should facilitate this because she, of course, is all of those things.

Farewell sweet H. you will live on forever in so many people’s hearts.

 

 

How to Uncover Your Greatest Value

I loved this post by Leadership Freak – sometimes we don’t really understand our true value. What do others say are your strong points? Listen to these – they’re what make us unique and what we have to offer the world: How to Uncover Your Greatest Value.

 
This also ties in with this great TED video by Simon Sinek which urges us to start with ‘Why?’ and not ‘What?’

 

 

Drawing meditation

As I explore the art of paying attention I have just become  aware of Mandalas. I tried one today for the first time and here’s my very modest result.

 

Mandalas are rooted in the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and Native American spirituality. Modern psychologists also use mandalas to have patients explore their inner sense of self.

 Why not give it a go? It’s very soothing and your inner child will have a ball at the same time!

Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to do it.

 

 

How to be creative

Just came across this from Neale Donald Walsch about creativity and consciousness – very apropos at the moment!

Creation is the highest form of Divinity, and your birthright. Truth is, you are creating all the time. The central question in your life is whether you are doing this consciously or unconsciously.
I’m enjoying my new Artist’s Way workshop immensely. Just by being on the course we are all paying more attention to how creative we are allowing ourselves to be.
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Here’s another wonderful piece on creativity this time by Sark. I’ll be handing out copies of this to my participants tomorrow.
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HOW TO BE CREATIVE

 Stay loose.

Learn to watch snails.

Plant impossible gardens.

Invite someone dangerous to tea.

Make little signs that say YES and post them all over your house.

 Make friends with freedom and uncertainty.

Dare to dream. Cry during movies.

Swing as high as you can on a swing.

Cultivate moods.

Refuse to be responsible for a day.

Do something for love.

Take a nap in the sun. Give money away.

Believe in magic.

Laugh. Celebrate every gorgeous moment.

Take moonbaths. Have wild imaginings.

Draw on the walls.

Giggle.

Open up.

Bless yourself.

 Get wet.

Hug a tree.

Write a love letter: to yourself.

-Sark-

www.planetsark.com

Keep your loved-one on a pedestal

Now that I’ve started running my Artist’s Way workshops again I’m going to be much more conscious about doing Artist’s Dates. These are basically about taking yourself off for about an hour a week just to have fun with you and you. They are meant to be playful, nurturing and fun – as if you were taking a child out on an outing.

My Artist’s Date today is probably no surprise for many of you – I took myself to the cinema – my favourite ‘me’ thing to do! The movie was “Hope Springs” and it struck me how well my new consciousness theme is embodied in it. The story basically follows a couple going through hard times and having therapy. (It’s a real testament to the screenwriter and the actors that they could make such a potentially agonising situation so poignant and funny). But the point is it highlights that the trouble with this older couple, who have been married for 31 years is that they have become UNCONSCIOUS of each other. Here’s a clip:

 

Long ago I realised something in my marriage: I must always do my damndest to keep Guy on a pedestal. What I mean by this is that I must do what it takes to take my gaze off the strange bathroom habits, the forgetfulness of conversations held only an hour ago, the constant losing of keys etc. etc. and focus resolutely on what makes him special – his handsome face, his humour, his love of his family, all the hard work he does on our behalf and so on. I know his faults (as he knows mine) so it’s not about ignoring them so much as saying: “that’s part of the package but I choose to make a conscious effort to keep my line of vision on the pedestal – because if I don’t, then smelly socks can take on way more significance than they should!

 

How conscious do I dare to be?

So, it’s now Year Two of this Happiness blog and, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve taken on the fresh challenge (hence my new tagline) of daring to be more conscious. This is why….

Reality – the ‘what’s-so’ of things has always appeared to me as a bit of an inconvenience – something to be tolerated whilst I get on with the more serious business of dreaming my life into existence. I’ve shied away from anything that smacks of that ghastly word ‘discipline’ because I have a rebellious-child’s resistance to it. Why should I do anything that feels like a ‘should’  – surely I’m the one in charge of my own life?

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Julia Cameron’s work ‘The Artist’s Way(and in fact I run workshops on it). Well now she has a new book out called ‘The Prosperous Heart‘ and in it she asks you to count evey penny you spend and receive in a little book. “What? No way! I don’t want to be wading around in the mud of my finances. And surely that’s all rather anal and sad?” I’ve also thought that in Law of Attraction terms this kind of attention to the minutae of things is misdirected – keeping your life small.

I’m realising now that I may have been missing a trick or two.

  • My weight and health have always been best when I’ve been counting what I eat and how I exercise.
  • I am very disciplined around organising my children’s school life, feeding the family, running my workshops, working with my clients etc. – it’s just I dont see it as discipline.

Abraham-Hicks talk about the importance of “loving what-is whilst reaching for more”. I’ve always read this as being OK with things not going the way I want whilst dreaming big. Not quite. I see now it’s about really meeting my reality honestly – i.e. not avoiding it – interacting with it, whilst maintaining a full expectation of growing into my desired future.

By avoiding the tricky subject of money and body weight in the name of attracting better things I was in fact only keeping resistance in place.

So now I am resolved to spend a year exploring this new concept of consciousness – being with what-is – even though I sometimes want to fight it in the name of positive thinking.

The name of the game is to ENJOY being with how things really are. I’m not embarking on this exercise of counting everything I eat and every penny I spend as a way of wallowing in lack and self-loathing – on the contrary I’m doing it to say: “This is worth paying attention to. This matters to me and I value my relationship with it.”

My very wise friend and coach Karen Hood-Caddy said to me this week: “It’s all about understanding how things work and then working inside of that.”

Yes! I think I’m starting to get it. Money, body weight etc. operate in a certain way. When I pay attention to that and work inside the parameters of that I, paradoxically, experience much greater control and therefore greater freedom.

I’m reminded of Stephen Fry’s great descripton of poetry. It is not, he argues, a restrictive form. When you write a novel you have so much choice about how you structure and shape it, it can be utterly overwhelming to begin; but with a poem the rules (mostly) are laid out and, now that you don’t have to worry about the structure of it, you can enjoy the freedom of playing with it as you will.

So constriction, discipline – whatever you want to call it – can be freeing. Yet more evidence of the Universe’s love of Paradox – (my favourite being: in order to have something you have to let it go). Paradox is everywhere and that makes being a human being so fascinating and wondrous.

I embark on this year’s challenge with excitement!