Sat, 29 August 2015
When have you been at your happiest? Do our happiness levels change throughout our life? Does happiness depend on your age?
This week we’re talking about the link between happiness and age and thinking about how happy we are at different stages of our live, does it change and what does it mean for us.
When have you been at your happiest?
When you look back are there times when you felt really happy?
Was it your childhood, first love, student days, staring out with your career or family, or maybe getting a big promotion.
We tend to look back at happier times, which might make us think we were happier when we were younger, and our carefree school days or at least the long summer school holidays were a time of happiness.
We didn’t have to worry about paying the mortgage or bills but there were probably other insecurities, maybe a worry about what others thought and wanting to fit in, not to mention the pressure of homework and exams.
Whilst for those who couldn’t wait to become an adult, the happy times began with leaving home and starting out on your own.
Age as a happiness factor
Although individual circumstances vary, according to research our happiness levels change throughout our lives, so how happy you feel could also be influenced by your age.
According to a by Dr Hannes Schwandt of Princeton University for the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, we’re happiest at 23 and 69, and unhappiest in our mid 50s.
Our happiness levels are U shaped throughout our life.
The optimism of youth and looking forward to future achievement accounts for a peak of happiness at 23. But the other happiest age of 69 is more surprising.
Life is exciting in our twenties and thirties, getting on at work, maybe meeting a partner and starting a family.
And then you get into your 40s and 50s and the pressures started building. You’re getting higher up in your career with more responsibility, or re-entering the workforce after having a family. Your children are getting older, bringing different pressures to bear on you from one end, whilst aging parents present another dimension of worry and potential stress. You’re caught somewhere in the middle.
The LSE study was based on a study of a panel 132,609 life satisfaction expectations matched with subsequent realisations. And one of the striking things about their findings is that there was little variance between socio economic or culturally diverse groups or genders.
And this U shaped pattern of happiness over the life span (high during youth and old age, low during midlife) has been observed in other studies also. It seems to hold around the world and has been documented in more than 70 countries, in surveys of more than 500,000 people in both developing and developed countries, according to a paper by David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswold of Warwick University,Is Well-being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle?
The researchers in the LSC paper measured people’s expected life satisfaction and actual life satisfaction, and it basically showed that we aren’t very good at estimating how happy we will be in the future.
Why? Because we all tend to overestimate the likelihood of positive events and underestimate the likelihood of negative events. This is the optimism bias. So e.g. we tend to expect to be healthy in spite of an unhealthy lifestyle.
According to neuroscientific research this ‘optimism bias’ is due to the selective processing of negative and positive information in the frontal brain and this is what which allows us to hang on to our biased expectations even when confronted with evidence to the contrary.
Basically we’re not very good at estimating how happy we’ll be as a young or older person - but there’s a difference in the reason why.
Young people tend to overestimate their future life satisfaction or future happiness while older people underestimate it.
So as young people we expect to be happier in the future whilst we’re young but expect to be less happy as we get older.
But this isn’t what actually happens.
One of the reasons is we overestimate the impact future changes will have on our happiness. This is because we don’t realise how quickly we adapt to life changes such as changes in income. We think earning more money will have a bigger longer lasting effect on our life than it actually does, because we very quickly adapt to the new situation and become used to it.
At the other end of the spectrum, we anticipate a drop in income when we become elderly and we think this will have a big negative impact on our happiness levels and satisfaction with life. Once again we overestimate the impact this will have because we adapt to it quickly.
That explains the high points, but what happens in the middle at the bottom or low point of the happiness age bias U shape.
The researchers put the midlife dip in wellbeing down to unmet expectations.
When we’re young we have high expectations but as we get into middle age we realise we’re not going to achieve everything we thought we would or wanted to, and we start to abandon our higher unmet expectations.
Then as we get older we have less expectation of doing so much and become more accepting of our situation or as the researchers say – we experience less regret. So from our late 50s wellbeing starts to increase again.
According to an article in the Huffington post – it keeps rising until we’re 85 – which is good news because it was also found that those who stay positive live 7.5 years longer.
Other reasons why people get happier as they get older are that happy people live longer and it has been found that as people age they enjoy "ordinary" experiences more.
People become more satisfied with their life through family, health, and home, and have more time and energy for hobbies and interests.
What does this mean for us – is there anything we can learn from this?
It means you’re fine if you’re 23 or 69 – because they’re your happiest times of life.
Of course academic studies don’t directly reflect our experience on an individual level in this way really. But there are some general points we can take away.
Firstly to be aware of what these studies about happiness and age tell us:
And finally just because it looks like 69 and thereabouts might be a high point, happiness isn’t something to wait until you’re 69 to experience.
The Changeability Podcast Episode 57
Hear us discuss all of this and more in episode 57 of the Changeability Podcast including:
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Sat, 22 August 2015
We all want to be happy, but what is happiness; is it a skill we can learn, and what does neuroscience have to say about it?
What is happiness?
What do you want in life? To be happy?
That’s what most of us want -but what is happiness and how do we get it?
The dictionary definition of happiness is
But surely there’s more to happiness than a fleeting feeling.
Whilst happiness is relative as it means different things to different people depending on circumstance and interest, it would seem there are two distinct types of happiness.
Two types of happiness
There’s things that make us feel happy, the experiences of things we love doing and we want more of.
This is hedonia – pleasure and fun. It’s transitory, in the moment – it happens, it makes us feel happy, and then it’s gone and the moment’s passed.
Then there’s a more fundamental type of happiness. The sort of happiness which ideally underlies or underpins our lives.
It’s a state of being that comes with being content with yourself without relying on other people or external props.
This is wellbeing or ‘eudaimonia’ which captures the idea of living a meaningful life as first described by Aristotle.
This sort of happiness is more enduring.
Happiness and Brilliant Living
When we were thinking about the characteristics of brilliant living, we kept coming back to ideas about happiness because the characteristics of brilliant living equally apply to wellbeing and happiness. This is what we came up with for starters:
The neuroscience of happiness
Is there a scientific basis for understanding what makes you happy?
There’s been a lot of scientific interest over the past 10 years into what’s going on in our brains when we experience emotions such as happiness.
Developments in neuroimaging have greatly assisted this, as scientists can monitor reactions in the brain in real time.
Richard J. Davidson and Brianna S. Schuyler in an article on The Neuroscience of Happiness highlight four constituents or elements of happiness and wellbeing.
Happiness and wellbeing levels are higher when people are better able to sustain positive emotion; recover more quickly from negative experiences; engage in empathic and altruistic acts; and express high levels of mindfulness.
Results of a study by Killingsworth and Gilbert where 2000 people recorded on a phone app how frequently their minds wandered and how happy or unhappy they felt at that moment, showed their minds wandered 47% of the time and they experienced significantly more unhappiness than when they were focussed on an activity – almost any activity!
Mindfulness meditation training results in a decrease in what is activated in our brains during mind wandering.
One of the most significant findings of the neuroscientifc evidence is these 4 constituents of wellbeing all exhibit plasticity. Which is a huge finding because it means with training and practice we can develop and transform these behaviours and ways of being.
Now that is significant for all of us. We can actually increase our happiness by learning how to grow it effectively and enhance it through training. It ultimately means happiness is a skill we can train for, practice and get more of.
Episode 56 of the Changeability Podcast
Links mentioned in episode 56
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Sat, 15 August 2015
We all feel overwhelmed at times. Seemingly insignificant circumstances can tip us over the edge into feelings of overwhelm that on other occasions wouldn’t bother us at all.
What one person finds overwhelming, others cope with comfortably or even thrive on.
People have different thresholds and causes, but we all experience it and it’s not nice or good for us.
So what is it, what causes it and how can we go about dealing with overwhelm?
What is overwhelm?
Overwhelm according to psychologist Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, is what happens when we’re ‘feeling completely overcome in mind or emotion…When we think a stressor is too great for us to manage, we feel overwhelmed.’
We experience it in our emotions – feeling anxiety, anger or irritability; in our thoughts as worry, helplessness and doubt and in behaviour like crying or panic.
Causes of overwhelm
The list is endless and personal to you but here are 9 common causes.
Dealing with overwhelm
Be realistic about the commitments you take on and how long something will really take to do.
Give up multi-tasking (it’s a myth anyway).
Learn to say no
If you think you can’t do it well or don’t have time to do it or just don’t want to do it – if there is any element of choice – learn to say no.
Many of us find it hard to say no to requests for our time and attention because we think people wont think so much of us or like us if we say no to their request. Practice saying no. Avoid saying yes straight away by developing a tactic to give you a chance to reflect, like checking your calendar.
Take control or give up control
Find a way to seize an element of control in an overwhelming situation.
E.g. if you’re finances are overwhelming you – start organising them, get familiar with them – face up to it and start taking some control.
If you’ve taken on too much because you want to be in control then it’s about giving up control – letting others in to play their part. Ask for help and accept it.
Keep things in perspective
Does it really matter that much if it doesn’t get done, or it’s late?
Why are you getting worked up about it – are you worried about what others will think. Notice your underlying self- beliefs.
Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen.
Change your energy
Do something to dissipate the negative energy building up and change it to a more positive energy like get up or go out and do something physical – walk, jump, dance.
Break the cycle and put a bit of distance between you and the situation that’s causing you overwhelm by doing an activity you enjoy and can immerse yourself in.
Break a downward spiral of thought by finding a small slightly more positive thought connected to the situation that give you a small nudge from negative towards the positive, and then another so you gradually pivot.
Find something to be thankful or appreciative or grateful for.
Look at your priorities – and prioritise them. Don’t try and do everything because no-one can.
Set boundaries for yourself – around your time and activities..
Take a few moments a step back physically and mentally and slow down your mind – focusing on the present moment – not worrying about the future – even the near future and everything you have to do – not worrying about the past and what you didn’t get done – but spending a few moments in the here and now in a non-critical non-judgemental way.
Affirmations and visualisation
Affirm the behaviour you want to have and visualise the person you want to be.
The Changeability Podcast episode 55
Hear us talk about all of this and more in episode 55 of The Changeability Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or the podcast player at the top of this page.
Links mentioned on the show this week:
Sat, 8 August 2015
1 year of podcasting
It’s celebrations all round at Brilliant Living HQ as we celebrate the first birthday of our offspring – the Changeability Podcast.
Podcast Award Finalists
Plus a massive bonus celebration. We’re thrilled the Changeability Podcast has been nominated as a finalist for the UK Top Self–Help Podcast Award. How wonderful is that
A huge heartfelt thank you all you marvellous people who nominated the Changeability Podcast.
And if you want to be totally fabulous all over again you can vote one more time for us until the end of August. Only one vote per IP address is allowed. Click and vote via FB, Twitter, G+ or anonymously. It’s really quick and easy!
The award ceremony will take place at New Media Europe – an amazing conference for anyone interested in digital media, podcasting, blogging, social media, business and the internet.
10 mind management techniques on the Changeability Podcast
In our first year and 53 episodes of the Changeability Podcast the theme’s been how we can manage our minds to make changes in life and be happier. We’ve looked at it through the 10 mind management techniques featured in the book, Changeability: Manage your mind - change your life.
In episode 53 of the Changeability Podcast we take a quick romp through these 10 techniques – to remind you and give you a quick overview and to share snippets from some of the shows.
Starting with this great quote – which sort of sums up the notion of change.
The idea behind mind management is we can use our minds to help make changes or have more success. If left to their own devices, our conscious and particularly subconscious minds can sabotage our best intentions and efforts.
1. Vision setting.
Get clear about your aspirations, dreams and goals, so you know where you're going.
What do you want to change, achieve, have more of, improve or do differently from now? This is the vision of your changed life and the milestone goals to get you there.
Step back to your starting point and look at what holds you back from changing what you want to change and being the person you want to be.
These are your limiting beliefs, negative self–talk and inner dialogue.
3. Clearing the ground
Having identified your limiting unhelpful beliefs, it’s time to examine and release these disempowering thoughts.
4. Empowering positive affirmations
Replace negative self-beliefs with empowering positive thoughts and affirmations, to affirm how you want to be.
Imagine or visualise the outcome you want. Whatever you want to change – see it in your mind’s eye as if the changes are in place – and importantly, how you got there.
Place yourself in the here and now by appreciating what you have now, on route to your changed self.
Practice appreciation to make it a daily habit, and train yourself to look for more to appreciate - you’ll find it.
7. Mindfulness Meditation
Practice mindfulness to notice being in the present moment on purpose, without judgement or criticism.
Experience the benefits of Mindfulness meditation in return for a simple focus on your breathing for a few minutes every day.
This is where mindset meets actions and stuff happens, based on the previous techniques. Take your vision and milestone goals and break them down into actions and trigger actions, so you know what to do, can fight procrastination and build momentum.
If you want to achieve your goals and boost your success, make yourself accountable because:
10. Reflection and celebration
Learn from your experiences and find and take every opportunity to celebrate your successes – however small.
Episode 54 links and resources
Listen to episode 54 to hear more about the 10 techniques with excerpts for previous shows – including some of our favourite bits.
What to do next
Thank you for reading and listening. Please vote for the Changeability Podcast before 31st August 2015.
Sat, 1 August 2015
We all like celebrating don’t we? But do we do enough of it.
There’s lots of reasons to celebrate – sporting victories, birthdays, weddings, new job, and ways of doing it – party, slap-up meal, presents – and so the list could go on and on.
Important and great as all of those are, that’s not the sort of celebration we’re talking about here. Because we’re interested in why and how celebrating can help us make changes in life and business and achieve our goals. it all comes down to 6 reasons why you should celebrate success.
All too often this side of review and evaluation gets missed. We focus on what’s not working so we can change it and forget to recognise what’s gone well and to purposefully stop and celebrate it.
And not just in passing but – but also to recognise it and do something positive about it – in other words to celebrate it – on purpose.
We’ve got lots to celebrate this week
These are all special occasions but what about the more everyday things we do – especially around achieving our goals, making changes, and getting more success.
Why should we celebrate?
So that’s all nice and lovely but what’s the big deal with celebrating our achievements and successes – is there an actual reason why we should do it. In other words how will it help our changeability.
You wont be surprised to hear that there is?
1. To learn and adapt
To recognize what’s working well and why, and if there’s is something you can take from it to inspire or replicate in other actions and goals. So basically you can do more of it.
And what about from a mind management perspective?
2. Developing a success mindset
Whatever we want to change, achieve or have more of – be it money, health, fitness, romance, happiness – success lies at the heart of it.
A large part of success is about your state of mind – so it’s about having a success mindset.
And this success mindset requires cultivation.
Focus on what you’ve accomplished, rather than a long overwhelming list of what you’ve still got to do. Celebrate every success, no matter how small the win, to cultivate your success mindset.
By telling yourself ‘I am successful’ or ‘I can succeed because I’ve succeeded before’ you build up your self-belief and success attitude.
Conversely by not noticing or downplaying your success, or thinking it’s down to luck or others, you may be telling yourself you haven’t done enough to be proud of, or you don’t deserve to celebrate.
Whereas when you notice and celebrate your successes you then start to see yourself as someone who is successful rather than someone who’s trying to become successful.
Motivation is also connected to mindset - because we are motivated by our successes. So give yourself as many opportunities to be successful as you can.
Notice the small wins along the way. If you break your goals down into milestones, actions, and trigger actions, each give you the chance to mark up a success and reinforce the changes you’re making.
This can have a cumulative effect leading to the magic of momentum.
4. Feeling good
One of the best reasons to celebrate success is simply that it feels good.
Feeling good is what it’s all about after all, isn’t it? We’re driven to make changes in our lives because we want to feel better, be happier and feel good.
Or as Esther Hicks puts it, ‘There’s nothing more important than that you feel good’.
5. Happy chemicals
There’s a reason why it feels good when we celebrate success and it’s to do with the neurohappy chemicals in our brain.
Dopamine is released into our brain when we anticipate achieving something or we achieve it - and it feels good, so we want more of it.
We also get it from not such healthy pursuits, so why not build lots of opportunities for that dopamine rush into what we do, like setting small goals so we have lots of chances to celebrate success.
6. Sharing success
Celebrating success isn’t necessarily just about you. It might be, but it can also give others the chance to join in with your celebration, be motivated and have a share in your success.
And a good point to remember is you have to recognise your own success if you want other people to as well.
How you do it is up to you – but just do it and have some fun.
Episode 53 of The Changeability Podcast
Links mentioned in episode 53
Thank you for reading or listening
We’re celebrating you today for reading this and listening to us and for generally being amazing.
So what about you – what are you going to celebrate achieving today and how? Let us know in the comments below.
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