Tag Archives | happiness

Can the Truth Really Set You Free?

Photo courtesy of Tiago Pinheiro

Do you feel like you’re on a search for truth as you make your way through the world, dodging hyperbole as you go?  For a long time it was the opposite for me. I felt like I was blatantly avoiding some hard truths in my own life. I buried my head in the sand, thinking that avoidance would keep me safe and help me hide from the truth.

Looking back, I thought I knew my own truth for a very long time, but only on a subconscious level. Knowing your truth and acting on it are two very different concepts, because when you finally begin to share your truth with others, they will react accordingly. Those who have different truths and beliefs will potentially be hurt or offended.

Staying silent when you know your own truth is perhaps one of the most detrimental forms of dishonesty. It has been called the ‘Disease to Please’ and curing yourself can be quite difficult. If you question your own truth, you may end up trying to please others forever.

But here’s some food for thought – some people who are convinced that they know their own truths may actually be wrong.

Is it possible to be wrong about your own truth?

People in the public eye are the most notorious of all for not living truthfully – we see examples of this in the news, in Hollywood, in politics and in professional sports. Our society seems to be riddled with untruths everywhere we turn. If everybody’s doing it, then why can’t we?

Should we give up on honesty and truth?

We should not give up on truth! It is empowering and liberating, even while it may be complicated. Living untruthfully can ruin just about anything - including your health, according to recent research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention.

In order for you to live a truly authentic and (mostly) truthful life, you’ve got to really get in touch with yourself. Having the confidence to live a truthful life is never easy, because it means taking responsibility for all of your actions and decisions. Be able to answer for yourself with self-assurance. What you know to be true for you may not sit well with others, but what matters is that it works for you, and that you feel good about your decisions.

As important as it is to live your truth, remember that others around you are attempting the same thing, and their truth may not look like truth at all to you. Only when you can learn to accept other people as they present you with their truths is when the truth really will set you free.

I’d like to leave you with an open-ended, thought provoking concept today.

Does absolute truth exist?

If everyone’s versions of the truth are ’right’, even if only for them (I imagine Hitler thought his truth was ‘absolute truth’), what then?

My truth, your truth, we all fall down?

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11 Ways To Do More of What You Love This Year

Photo courtesy of Mohamed Malik

“This year is the year I’m going to make myself a priority.”

That is what I said to myself last year at this time, and the most important thing I did after that was follow through on my promise to myself. This year, you can do it too, no matter what difficult situation(s) you’re dealing with at the moment. It is extremely important to find ways to do more of what you love, and you can start by using the list below as a guide. I promise you that you won’t regret it.

  1. Create “Me” time. Make a conscious decision to schedule time that is specifically designated to doing things that you enjoy. To ensure that your “Me” time activities are honored, put them on any calendars that you share with your significant other or family members who require prior knowledge of what you’ll be doing in the near future.
  2. Participate in activities that feed your soul. Take some time to analyze what things give you the most enjoyment. If you’re finding that you don’t seem to have enough time to do all the fun things you used to do – prioritize. Quality really does win over quantity in this case.
  3. Live in the now. Putting mindfulness practices into action in your life will increase the number of things that give you intense pleasure. When you get good enough at mindful living, even the simplest activities will bliss you out.
  4. Love the one you’re with. Simply put, look for the happiness that already exists in your day-to-day life. Falling in love with your spouse all over again or getting to know your children on a deeper level are two examples of finding joy right in your own home.
  5. Get proactive about being productive. Train your brain so that you have the most effectual habits and productive routines, leaving you with more free time for leisure activities.
  6. Learn to let the word ‘no’ come more easily. Saying ‘no’ can be quite a challenge for some people, but consistently saying ‘yes’ to everyone’s needs but your own will leave you overscheduled and overstressed.
  7. If you were dealt a bad hand, trade in your cards. If too many things are making you unhappy in life, you’re highly unlikely to derive much pleasure out of anything. It’s never too late to make changes – even significant ones.
  8. Share your enthusiasm with your loved ones. Try to get your family members excited about the things you love doing. If you can get them on board, you’ll get less complaints and demands for your time.
  9. Ask, and ye shall receive. Sometimes, you simply have to ask for time to do the things you love. Try it and see what happens.
  10. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. As I recently told my son, “Never give up on something you really want.”
  11. Read This Year I Will… This book will help you follow through on your promises to yourself, giving you the skills you need to attend to your happiness.

In an ideal world, you’d be doing what you love and loving what you do every day. However, if you can’t do both (all of the time, anyway), take action to ensure that you spend time doing what you love as often as you possibly can.

 

 

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How to Turn off Auto-Pilot and Live Your Life to the Fullest

Photo courtesy of Bing Ramos

On the journey toward living with mindfulness and balance, it’s important not to slip into auto-pilot too often.  Much like arriving at a familiar destination in your car and having no idea how you got there, living life on auto-pilot steals moments right out from under you. It’s so easy to zone out, and it’s ok to let it happen once in awhile, but for the most part, living mindfully means paying attention to every moment we are lucky enough to experience.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time creating effectual habits in order to become more productive, and that type of automated thinking, in the appropriate settings, is actually good for my brain and allows me to function better professionally. Habitual thinking occurs when the brain becomes so accustomed to certain tasks that performing them becomes automatic, leaving us able to concentrate on more important things. Examples of beneficial habits include exercising, flossing your teeth, and taking your vitamins every day.

A problem arisis when the brain slips into automatic mode too often, leading to lost life experiences. In order to use your inner capacities for awareness and insight, it’s important to focus on “being” rather than “doing.” Living mindfully means letting your mind rest in each moment as it comes, watching your thoughts and reactions to all that life has to offer.

If you’re finding it difficult to shut off auto-pilot and be more present in your life, here are ten simple things you can do to get started:

1. Appreciate the things others do for you. Start taking notice of the small favors people do for you. By telling my husband how much I appreciate what he does, I’m more in tune with how happy he makes me feel.

2. Start listening. Admit it: when your kids (or sometimes your friends) launch into a long story, it’s easy to stop paying attention. Instead of formulating your response, sit back, watch the person’s body language, and listen.

3. Sit with your body; quiet your mind. You can do this at any point during the day. Take a break from what you’re doing, feel the space your body is taking up, and think only of your breathing.

4. Be more aware of your posture. Becoming more attuned to where your body is in space can turn a slouch into a ramrod straight spine. I have personally grown a full inch since posture became a priority.

5. Think of those who are less fortunate. When you’re facing a hurdle, take a moment to imagine how it would feel to be homeless or seriously disabled. Then turn your focus back to your life, and grasp the full greatness of what you do have.

6. Practice progressive relaxation. You can combine this with #3 when you have time. Lie down in a comfortable position. Tighten and then systematically relax each muscle group.

7. Eat slowly. Allow your food to sit on your tongue longer; put your fork down in between bites. Enjoy the way your food tastes, feels, and smells.

8. Drive under the speed limit. By making a concious effort to move more slowly, you’ll realize that life doesn’t have to be so fast paced, leaving you more capable of enjoying the scenery.

9. Recognize that answering your cell phone is a choice. So many people answer calls, text, or read facebook updates while engaging in face-to-face interactions with other people! Put your phone down, turn it off, and focus on the real people around you.

10. Do things that make you feel good. You have the power to say yes and no. Utilize that power according to your happiness requirements. Simply: participate in activities that you enjoy, and avoid situations and people that cause your happiness level to suffer.

Simply because Ford predicts that cars will soon be equipped with nearly complete auto-pilot capabilities doesn’t mean that humans should follow their lead. On the road of life, you’re the one navigating. Choose your destination, feel the wind in your hair, and stop often along the way.

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Should There be a Real Life ‘Unfriend’ Button?

Photo courtesy of Silly Lil’ Doe

One summer, while working in a mall boutique to make extra money, I met a girl who I thought might have real potential to become more than just a co-worker. I saw her a few times a week when we shared shifts, but not often enough to really get to know her.

The summer ended, along with my job, but our friendship continued. Soon she was visiting me often and calling me many times a day, leaving multiple voice mails on my phone. When I did spend time with her, the conversations were one-sided and I could never get a word in edge-wise. My frustration with her grew until one day I found myself ducking behind a display when I saw her at the grocery store. I realized I would be happy if I never saw her again.

Some friendships shift, fade, or simply turn out to be something you weren’t expecting. And now that we are all digitally connected via facebook and Twitter, ditching someone can be infinitely more difficult than it used to be.

So, can you get out of a friendship with someone who’s toxic or is just generally driving you crazy? And is it possible that your life would be drama-free if you could?

Actually, it’s quite likely that you’ll create more drama by carrying out some elaborate “break-up” plan with a friend. Unless things are really, dramatically awful (as in, this person is making your life completely, 100% miserable), you probably don’t need to sit them down and give them the ”We’re Not Friends” speech.  Although many of us probably have at least one or two people we fantasize about saying that to - in reality, it’s just not that simple, especially if you share friends who may feel forced to take sides. Also, once you say those words, they can’t be taken back, and you will have drawn a very distinct line in the sand.

That being said, continually exposing yourself to someone who really rubs you the wrong way can create a stumbling block on your path toward acknowledging your self-worth and value. Try to institute what author and psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior calls “The Slow Fade.” In her book “The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up with Your Friends,” Dr. Bonior explains The Slow Fade as only seeing the person when you have to, in groups of friends. Begin to let all other contact with him or her fade into an acquaintance-type of friendship. Often this set-up is much easier to bear, even with the most agonizing of personalities. It can backfire, though, if your withdrawal only fuels your friend to seek you out with more determination. In that case, you may need to make a clean break.

Ultimately, you’ll have to do what feels right, based on the level of stress this petulant person is causing you, the number of friends you have in common, and his or her reaction to the new state of your friendship. While it might be easy to “ignore” someone’s online friendship request or “unfriend” your neighbor’s boyfriend’s cousin because her constant photo posts are clogging up your news feed, breaking up in real life really is hard to do.

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12 Things Guaranteed to Improve Your Life (So Start Doing Them!)

Photo courtesy of kalyan02

We’ve talked about the top twelve things that could be making your life hell and why you should stop doing them immediately. So, now that we’re potentially doing twelve LESS things every day - it seems that our schedules should be opening up a bit.

In an effort to stay away from those nasty habits that do nothing but drag us down, let’s try replacing them with twelve things that will only have positive effects on our lives:

  1. Laugh – I’m naturally a pokerface kind of gal – most of my friends will tell you it takes a lot to really make me laugh, but, based on the fact that the Mayo Clinic says laughing a lot relieves pain among many other things, consider me a crack up from this day forward.
  2. Say nice things about others – Remember when your mother used to tell you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything?” Unless it’s constructive criticism, focus on the good things about other people, or better yet, don’t worry so much about everyone else!
  3. See the glass as half full – Even if you’re missing both legs and an arm, you’ve still got a beating heart, a working brain, and a WHOLE OTHER ARM! ‘When you focus on what you do have, you will always have plenty.’ - Gillian MacBeth
  4. Meditate – By taking the time to regularly limit the stimulation on your nervous system, you can increase your powers of awareness, which will allow you to fully engage in and enjoy your life experiences.
  5. Appreciate the joy that comes from small pleasures – After all, life’s big pleasures (vacations, birthdays, holidays) only come around once in awhile. A happy life is made up of small pleasures. Listen for and see all of the small beauties and pleasures that are all around us.
  6. Take credit for being awesome – Accept compliments and own your accomplishments. If you deserve credit, TAKE IT. You’ll become more self-assured, which will actually impress people even more.
  7. Choose friends who are positive thinkers – Because we eventually pick up the habits and attitudes of those we spend the most time with, spend the majority of your time with the people who make you feel like the best version of yourself.
  8. Show gratitude – Being thankful for all of the good in our lives only perpetuates good feelings all around.  And be sure to tell those around you how much you appreciate all that they bring to your life.
  9. Help someone else  – The happier you become, the more you feel like helping other people. Why not see if it works in reverse? Lending someone a hand gives you a feeling of satisfaction and can even make you start to see your own faults in a more positive light.
  10. Do what you enjoy - You never have to do something – you choose to.  If you’re spending a lot of time doing something you don’t enjoy, ask yourself why and start choosing differently.
  11. Project confidence – In order to get what you want, approach situations in a relaxed manner. Speak clearly, make eye contact, and smile.
  12. Say “yes” – When you’re invited to take part in something, whether it’s listening to your nephew’s fourth grade play or going to an independent film festival, get into the habit of saying YES!

If you’re working toward creating a better version of your life, remember that reactions only happen with actions. Don’t just wait for a better life – make one.

 

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Are You Being Selfish….Enough?


Photo courtesy of Randy Willis PhotosThroughout my life, whenever I was told I was being selfish, I immediately felt shameful and tried to amend my behavior accordingly. What I didn’t realize until very recently is that selfishness can be used for good, and trying to beat all sense of selfishness out of someone could be detrimental to their future happiness.

I have fought against a lot of my natural instincts throughout my life because of societal expectations. I tried to refrain from saying exactly what was on my mind when I was told that I was too bold. For many years, I tried to keep my dry, sardonic humor at bay,  feeling that I may be more accepted by others if I portrayed my role as “female”  in a more socially acceptable manner. And, even though I had an inner desire to stop making so many sacrifices for other people so that I could further my own goals, I continued to follow the herd.

Perhaps many people have a misunderstanding of what it is to be selfish.  Selfishness does not suggest  that we think only of ourselves with no regard to others.  To do so would be egomaniacal and self-absorbed. I have no desire to hurt other people, and I get a great deal of satisfaction out of helping others.  The difference between Present Me and Past Me is that now I tend to help myself first.

Naturally there are exceptions to this rule, as I am a wife, daughter, and mother to 2 children, and if they are in need, I push the hold button on my own needs indefinitely.

Finding out what makes you fulfilled and happy and then moving forward with your happiness as your priorty, is the kind of selfishness that makes the world go round. Forge ahead toward your goals, remaining steadfast until you realize them. Reach for success and don’t waver when people try to get in your way.  Many people who have achieved success did so because they were selfish enough to care about what would make them happy and then they persevered until they reached their goals!

The weirdest thing happens when you begin to embrace selfishness. Once you are able to stop sacrificing your own happiness, you will finally reach a genuine Place of Yes, where you can help others because you want to, not because you’re expected to.

Happiness isn’t going to fall on your lap, or magically appear one day because you’ve helped so many other people. If you want to experience true happiness, make yourself a priority and go out there and get it.

After all, “Nothing resembles selfishness more closely than self-respect.”

~George Sand

 

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You Can’t Keep a Bad Day Down. Or Can You?

Photo courtesy of Roy Costello
For me, today was one of those days where it felt like no matter what I did, the world was conspiring against me. I felt almost invisible and powerless to stop the cascading negative events that just kept coming. Now it is nearing evening and I am going to attempt to change course in order to end on a good note. I’m not sure if it’s going to work, but I am really, really hoping it does, mostly because I like feeling happy, but also because I like to feel in control of how my day plays out, and not the other way around.

Let’s face it: for some of us – having a bad day can easily affect our motivation and drive. It’s all too easy to throw in the towel and let one bad day snowball into a serious setback. Without making a conscious effort to pull ourselves out of the funk, the quicksand-like pull of the blahs can easily suck us into an endless case of the drearies. I know some people who never seem to get downhearted, no matter what life throws at them, but I am not so lucky. When I have a crap-tastic day, I need to work hard to improve my mood in order to stop the negative domino effect from ruining an entire week or more.

Over the years, I have developed strategies for rescuing myself from the quicksand before it gets a secure hold on me.  Sometimes, it’s hard to recognize that you’re having a bad day until you’re at your boiling point and about to scream.  Ideally, we want to have enough self-awareness to note that the day is quickly deteriorating, and take steps to improve it before it is a lost cause. Some of the things I do in an attempt to maintain a semblance of sanity might also work for you.

  •  Give yourself a break.
    When good days go bad, don’t expect anything too demanding from yourself, and ask for some time alone if possible.
  • Think about how much worse it could be.
     Picture yourself in a much more hopeless situation, and try to remind yourself that your day really wasn’t a total disaster, and that there are people suffering from much more significant problems than the not-so-awesome day you are having.
  • Don’t rehash.
    Instead of repeating the ill-fated events over and over again, stay in the present.  Try enjoying that time alone I mentioned above without stewing about all of the things that put you in this mood.  If you need to vent, choose one person, let it all out, and then stop talking about it.
  • Release.
    Pay particular attention to your thought process during this time; recognize troubling thoughts as you have them, and simply release them. Tell them they can go away now; you are done with them and they don’t affect you anymore.

It helps to have a plan in place that you can refer to during difficult times.  Try writing down the above steps and anything additional that helps you personally when you’re feeling desperate. On bad days,  consciously take yourself through each step, making a real effort to be mindful of the fact that the person ultimately controlling your mood is you.

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Do You Take Responsibility for Your Own Happiness?


Photo courtesy of Zanatox
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
-Oscar Wilde

As I continue to forge ahead through my 30s, edging closer and closer to the big 4-0, I have become increasingly aware of the significance of my sense of self-awareness and self appreciation. Truly accepting myself as I am, both physically and intellectually, has been a slow process that began 17 years ago when I first realized that I could make a big impact on my own happiness. Over the past decade and a half, I have slowly familiarized myself with the concept of unconditional self-love. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been enlightening.

So many times in life, we willingly criticize ourselves and publicly announce our faults and flaws in front of others. “Look how fat I’ve gotten!” or “I am such an idiot!” are exclamations heard all too often among our family, friends and coworkers. Why are we so hard on ourselves? One theory is that our feelings of self-worth are a reflection of our relationships with our parents during our formative years. Another possibility is a need for forgiveness or feelings of guilt that have yet to be addressed properly. When I began my self-reflection journey, I noted that my relationship with my parents was pretty decent when I was a child. I began earnestly digging to find the source of my feelings of unworthiness, ultimately improving my overall feelings of self-appreciation and allowing me to finally be truly happy.

Many of us spend a lot of time expecting someone else to take the blame for everything that is wrong in our lives. We tend to shift the responsibility of our satisfaction onto others, unconsciously always looking for the perfect scapegoat. However, the realization of true happiness has nothing to do with anyone but ourselves. The process begins with forgiving ourselves and acknowledging that we are doing the best that we can. Letting go of unrealistic, self-imposed ideals is the first step on the road to increased self-confidence and the ability to love deeply. Expending some of our misdirected energy toward nurturing our own self-image means we don’t have to wait around for validation from others! By relying on ourselves for a sense of happiness and love, we can create an inner security that is far more fulfilling than anything external.

Start taking steps to make yourself a priority today. Don’t put off any longer the small changes that could bring about a significantly positive improvement in your sense of well-being and your ability to love unconditionally. Your own happiness depends on it.

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Leave the Past Alone and Make the Present Perfect


Photo courtesy of TooFarNorth
I spent a great deal of my twenties and early thirties dwelling on the past - thinking about what I should have done differently or wishing I could go back and choose an alternate ending like in those Choose Your Own Adventure books. I’ve spent hours embroiled in bitter ruminations about how my life might have turned out if I hadn’t acted a certain way at what I considered (in hindsight) to be critical turning points in my life story.  Truth be told, for many years, I spent more time in the past than I did in the present.

I was the antithesis of the person who lives her life with “No regrets.” I had more regrets than I knew what to do with. I was literally obsessed with my actions in the past that I had no way of rectifying. When a friend of mine urged me to explain why I was filled with so much remorse about situations that had absolutely no real bearing on my present life, I had an ‘a-ha’ moment. By spending so much time in the past, I had forgotten that what I do have control over is the present.

It’s ok to feel bad about something you did or didn’t do years ago that perhaps you might do differently if given a second chance, like lying to a friend or not helping someone when you should have. But if you’re finding yourself haunted by the Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda about life-changing choices, here’s the thing: there is definitely something amiss, but to find the solution, you’re going to have to start looking in the present instead of the past.

Regardless of whether you’re living in the past, future or in an alternate universe altogether – ask yourself why you aren’t living in the now. Instead of looking backward or forward or at the greener grass on the other side of the fence, look in the mirror. Re-evaluate your life and re-configure your plans so that you can start enjoying every minute as it comes. Determine what you want your life to look like and make a plan to get there. If your present isn’t perfect, do some conjugation until your life is in exactly the right tense.

Find out what other obstacles might be impeding your present happiness with a great book by David Viscott - Emotionally Free – Letting Go of the Past to Live in the Moment.

 

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Why Life Is So Much More Than a Paycheck

book
Photo courtesy of Colton Witt

I recently jumped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon; it was inevitable, really. As a fan of other epic fantasy works, like Tolkien’s Middle-earth, I was surprised to find there was a whole unexplored mythology from the mind of writer George R. R. Martin that covered a disturbingly gritty place unlike other fantasy worlds. After watching the first season of the excellent HBO TV series, I delved right into Martin’s books. For those who aren’t familiar with the Song of Ice and Fire series, these books (or which A Game of Thrones is the first) are huge, sometimes spanning over a thousand pages, so I was aware that they were going to cut into my already busy schedule quite a bit.

After reading through a hundred or so pages of the first book, I realized I was hooked. I’d become so drawn into Martin’s writing – the despicable characters and harsh, bloody settings – that I was trying to find little pockets of time here and there between working hours to fit in extra reading sessions. I also couldn’t stop telling people about it. It was probably quite annoying, but I wanted to share how thrilling the journey had been for me so far. I told my friends and siblings—basically, anybody I knew to have a preexisting interest in large fantasy works.

When I told one of my closest friends about the TV show and books, he was clearly excited by the concept and said that it reminded him of when he was a child and read the entire Lord of the Rings series. Because of this interest, I offered to loan him one of the Game of Thrones books, and his expression suddenly changed. “I could never get into this – how would I get anything else done?” he told me. After thinking about this for a moment, I asked him if he was reading anything else at the moment, or tuning in to watch a TV show on a regular basis. He admitted that he used to do these things, but that his work was now taking up too much of his time, and when he returns home from work each evening, he’s too tired to focus on anything.

For me, this was a bit of an eye-opener. My friend was basically denying himself things he agreed he would enjoy simply because of his work schedule. In addition, he thought that if he found something he truly enjoyed, he wouldn’t have the restraint to plan his work hours around it. I think a lot of people have this view of things that are deemed “less important” than making a living. They neglect small pleasures because they are too focused on working, and can’t find the time to enjoy themselves. I’m not saying that people should cut back on work in order to have fun, but with a little forethought there is room for both.

People spend plenty of time scheduling their work lives so that any time that is left over for personal things like reading a book or going for a mountain hike gets almost no thought at all. Planning out your personal time with as much detail as you use to plan out your work hours could offer you far more fulfilling opportunities in the future. Life is not all about working to make a living, so make use of the little spaces in-between.

If you gave yourself more time to indulge in a personal hobby, what activity would you choose?

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