Sat, 26 September 2015
Dalai Lama XIV
According to neuroscientist and psychologists, one of the significant aspects happiness is it can be a learned response because the characteristics of happiness exhibit plasticity.
Yes, this means we can take specific actions to make us feel happier. And when we when we practice or repeat them they build up into a habit.
You know this from your own family, friends and colleagues that some people seem naturally happier than others, but this doesn’t mean your happiness level is a pre-determined given. Because what we’re talking about here means that we can develop and build up a happiness habit over time.
Another key finding is happiness is the sum of lots of small actions and happenings rather than one big event. So it’s better for our happiness level to do lots of daily little things like kissing your loved one, enjoying a laugh, or eating something you like, rather than one big thing.
All of which is brilliant news for brilliant living because we can do something about it.
Following on from last week’s article and episode 60 of the Changeability Podcast, 10 ways to be happy here are 10 more ways to be happier.
Every night before you go to bed write down three things you appreciate in your life in an appreciation, gratitude or thankfulness notebook - Big or small things about your day, about you and others or the world.
Date it and think about them as you go to sleep – and finish your day in the most positive of mind-sets.
2.Step out into nature
Get out into nature and daylight.
Immersing our senses in the natural environment stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, which makes us feel happier by heightening our mood and gives us a dose of vitamin D.
This also gives you a fractal hit. Fractals are naturally occurring patterns that are pleasing to us – and nature is full of them everywhere you look. You might not be aware of it but subconsciously you love them and nature is the the place to soak them up.
Be interested – whatever your age and circumstance.
Don’t you think that the most interesting people are those who are interested in others and the world?
They take a wide view – not small or narrow minded but always wanting to know about people and the world.
It’s easy to get in a rut with work, where we live, the people we know, and what we do for fun. Travel and holidays are great for experiencing new things and meeting new people, but we don’t need to travel to do this.
Staying curious is the opposite of being cynical and small-minded – it’s being interested and big-minded. Learning something new, which boosts our self-esteem, gives us a sense of accomplishment and leads to us feeing happier.
4. Give up complaining
This is a real challenge - give up complaining – about anything.
Try it starting today and see how long you can last.
It probably wont be long. Because like so many things we do, think and say - complaining is a habit and breaking this habit will make you happier.
Every time you're tempted to say something negative, notice it, stop and don’t say anything at all, or find another way to frame what you want to say in a positive light. We didn’t say it would be easy (we’re still working on this big time) but even being aware and reducing it will decrease negativity.
5. Be purposeful – have purpose
This is about intention and purpose - and having some!
Think about the things that give you purpose in life, these are motivation behind what you do.
It could be something significant like how you want to live or achieve this year, month, week and why.
It’s not necessarily about one overriding purpose – but finding the purpose in the multiple ways we spend our time.
We can find purpose in almost anything we do.
6. Find your strengths and values
Find and focus on using your strengths and values. The research of positive psychologists like Martin Seligman show the happiest people recognise and use their character strengths and virtues.
Character strengths include things like persistence, hope, critical thinking, zest, gratitude and virtues like humanity or justice.
What are yours? Think about when achieved something you’re proud of – what personal qualities allowed you to accomplish it.
You can measure your strengths through questionnaires. The University of Pennsylvania’s VIA survey of character strengths will determine your top 3 signature strengths. It’s free but you need to register.
We value our relationships, job, and interests more when they’re in alignment with our personal strengths and virtues.
Research shows that one of the best ways to boost long-term happiness is to use our strengths in new ways and situations, stretching ourselves a little (but not too much) rather than focusing on our weaknesses.
7. Take control and change what you don’t like
This is a big one, and ties in with purpose and intention, and living to your strengths and in alignment. Because if your life is full of things you want to change then it makes it tougher to live in alignment and be happy.
This doesn’t mean we want perfect lives – we’re not going to get that. But there may be certain things that you really don’t like about your life, or you want to improve or have more of – if that’s the case, and it’s something that can be changed, then you need to change it.
If you want to change what you don’t like to what you do like, you can start today with our Changeability Starter Kit. This free mini-course of 7 videos, mind work and practical actions, helps you kick-start change and make the fist crucial steps towards the changed life you want.
One of the big benefits of getting the Changeability Starter Kit or making the decision to change is you start to take action and control.
A sense of control over the parts of our lives we can have control over is an essential ingredient for happiness.
This is self-efficacy, feeling that what you do makes a difference – that you are at the centre of your actions rather than things happening to you.
8. Be Social – Relationships
This funny quote is not necessarily true because our relationships and being social might be the most important ingredient of all when it comes to happiness.
When asked about the causes of happiness in an Harvard Business Review interview, the Harvard Psychology professor Daniel Gilbert said if he “had to summarize all the scientific literature on the causes of human happiness in one word, that word would be “social…If I wanted to predict your happiness, and I could know only one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know your gender, religion, health, or income. I’d want to know about your social network—about your friends and family and the strength of your bonds with them.”
Find ways to nurture the love, friendships and relationships in your life – we all take them for granted at times but relationships really are the most important thing in our lives.
9. Find your spirituality
There seems to be a link between religion or spirituality and happiness.
Psychologists think that religion and spirituality may make us happier for several reasons.
The social aspect and support of being part of a community of like-minded people.
A belief in something bigger than ourselves can give people a sense of hope and meaning to life and provide solace, support and resilience in times of trouble.
The link between spiritual practices like prayer and the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, like a reduction in stress and anxiety and increase in calmness and positive thinking.
This is one of the key findings in the book by neuroscientist Andre Newberg and therapist Mark Waldman called ‘How God Changes Your Brain’
But you don’t have to be involved with organised religion to benefit from this. It’s about finding a way to connect with your spiritual side and make time for sacred moments.
10. Laugh and smile
Smile and laugh a lot – every day.
Even when you don’t feel like it – it will still do you good and make you happier.
Try it now – make a great big smile.
If you’ve ever heard ‘The Laughing Policemen’ you’ll know that laughter is contagious, but it’s also good for us.
According to the Mayo clinic in - Stress relief from laughter – it’s no joke – laughter is not a cure-all but does have a positive effect on us mentally and physically.
When we laugh we take in more oxygen-rich air, our heart, lungs and muscles are stimulated and endorphins released by our brain. Our stress response is activated and relieved and our heart rate and blood pressure increased all of which makes us feel more relaxed.
There may also be longer term benefits to our immune system and improvements in our mood.
Best of all, laughter is fun, free, and easy to use. So smile more and find things to make you laugh.
If you remember nothing else from this, keep in mind this final thought - If you think you’re happy – you are!
Episode 61 of the Changeability Podcast
Listen to episode 61 of the Changeability Podcast to hear us talk about all of this and much more – including Julian’s impersonation of the Laughing Policeman and keep listening for the real thing!
What to do next?
Links mentioned in episode 61
Sat, 19 September 2015
The amazing thing about happiness is it’s a skill we can learn and practice and make into a habit.
As mentioned in What is happiness and the Neuroscience Behind It, four of the key characteristics of happiness exhibit plasticity, which means we can do something about it, we can grow and develop more happiness.
There’s nothing lucky about being happy. Happiness isn’t down to our circumstances, luck, money, career, success, talent, education, weight, looks or age.
The good news is there are simple actions we can take to make us happier. It turns out that simple actions are exactly what it takes to be happier, because the fascinating thing about happiness according to psychologist Ed Diener is that the frequency of positive experiences is more important for your happiness than their intensity. This means we’re more likely to be happier if we have lots of rather nice small things happen in a day rather than one amazing thing.
In other words as Daniel Gilbert, author of the 2006 best seller, Stumbling on Happiness noted in an interview for the Harvard Business Review,
Here are our first 10 ways to be happy. This is the small stuff, the actions we can do everyday to make us happier and hone our happiness habit.
Most of them don’t take long, and are free.
1. Choose happiness
Make the decision to be happy.
Say out loud ‘I choose happiness’. It sounds ridiculously simple and it is – but ultimately being happy is a personal choice.
Being happy is about attitude and the approach we take. Happiness is a skill we can learn and a habit we can foster, and it all starts with the decision to be happy.
2. Look up
It doesn’t need to be complicated. Here’s one of the simplest quickest ways to feel happier.
Go outside and look up at the sky. Stand up straight, put your shoulders down. Take in the vastness of the sky and know that you are an integral part of this amazing universe.
3. Be kind and spread the love
Say or do something nice for someone today. It will make you both feel good and especially you.
If you want to feel good – do good!
It’s not just about money, it could be giving time or skills, or just helping someone out with a random act of kindness.
Even a kind word or smile can make a difference to someone’s day.
Try going around smiling at people – it does make you feel good.
4. Move it
Get moving - dance, walk, jump, run, skip, swim, gym – however you choose to do it, get some exercise and release your happy hormones.
Research into the link between depression and exercise shows exercise improves our mood and makes us feel happier.
5. Be positive
Think positive thoughts and experience positive emotions.
Positive emotions help us become more perceptive and open to the world, and flexible and creative in our thinking. Which in turn helps us be happier.
Thinking positive thoughts means being aware of your thoughts and the self-talk when it veers into the negative and replacing them with more positive empowering thoughts. One great way of doing this is through affirmations.
6. Cultivate optimism
Is your glass half full or half empty? It might be a cliché but it nicely demonstrates the different way in which optimistic and the opposite of optimistic – pessimistic, people view the world. The same events and circumstances elicit very different responses based on our attitude.
It sort of stands to reason that optimistic people are happier because they’re not looking for the negative in a situation or others. But there is research to show optimism has other benefits as it’s linked to life longevity and other health benefits like improvements to your immune system and being better able to cope with illness with quicker recovery.
7. Look after yourself
The body and mind intimately connected. One influences the other so it’s not just about looking after your mind, happiness is about your relationship with your body.
Boost your energy, enhance your mood and optimise brain function through eating healthy food (most of the time), drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep.
8 hours often cited as optimal but it varies a lot person to person – something we need to work on!
But fact is that it’s harder to be happy if you’re tired, hungry and dehydrated.
8. Be mindful of the present moment
Be mindful of the present moment and notice what’s going on around you. Stop and look and make an effort to do it rather than rushing around not seeing what’s around us. Be mindful about what you’re doing like how you eat or how you interact with the important people in your life.
Try Mindfulness Meditation – being intentionally and non-critically aware of the present moment. Sit quietly with closed eyes. Focus on your breath and don’t ponder the past or future but experience the present moment – on purpose and without judgement. Just ‘be’ for a few minutes.
Find out more with our Beginners Guide to Mindfulness Meditation.
9. Get in the flow
Alternatively do something that concentrates your attention on the here and now in a way that gets you in the flow.
This is that state of being when you can get lost in or caught up with something you’re doing. You become so completely immersed in what you’re doing that you lose track of time. You suddenly realise an hour has passed.
It might be a physical or mental activity like singing, practicing an instrument, being creative, playing a sport or dancing.
It’s when you become totally absorbed in concentrating of something.
A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that flow is highly correlated with happiness.
10. Do something new
Do something fun, try a new experience, take new opportunities, try a new sport, interest or hobby. Do at least one of these every day to feel more alive, keep your plasticity going and make you feel good.
Episode 60 of the Changeability Podcast
Hear us talk about all of this and more in episode 60 of the Changeability Podcast including:
What to do next?
Sat, 12 September 2015
‘Being happy is something you have to learn. I often surprise myself by saying “Wow, this is it. I guess I’m happy. I got a home I love. A career that I love. I’m even feeling more and more at peace with myself.” If there’s something else to happiness, let me know. I’m ambitious for that, too.’ Harrison Ford
How happy are you? This begs the question – how do you know how happy you are?
Is it something you can measure?
Is it something we should measure – and at what level can we measure it or could we measure it, if it’s possible.
At an individual level or what about something bigger, like a county or state level or even a national level.
How do you know how happy you are?
That’s a bit of tricky question isn’t it?
Because we don’t really go around measuring how happy we are - do we?
We sort of know it don’t we, that’s even if we stop and think about it which we don’t do most of the time. We just get on with going about our lives until something notable, good or bad happens, or maybe we plan something so we’re looking forward to it and thinking about it makes us feel happy.
Happiness is something we have a feeling for.
Websters describes it as a "a state of well-being and contentment."
We all know the physical effects of happiness; like smiling and laughing. And there’s also physiological reactions when we’re happy, like increased activity in the brain's left prefrontal lobe and decreased amounts of the stress hormone cortisol in our bloodstream.
We often think about happiness in terms of the negative or in retrospect.
We realise when we’re not feeling happy. Something happens to make us sad and we look back and think that we were happy then, even if we didn’t necessarily think about it at the time.
How happy we feel can frequently change depending on the context. As we talked about in episode 56 on ‘What is Happiness?’, this is reflected by the different types of happiness. The short lived experiential happiness of doing things that make us happy and the longer term underlying sense of wellbeing.
So you could have a different answer for ‘am I feeling happy today’ to ‘am I happy with my life’.
If we stop and think about it, we sort of know if we’re happy in the moment or not, or with our overall sense of wellbeing – but is there a way to measure happiness for ourselves and wider communities?
How to measure happiness
It turns out there are lots of ways to measure happiness and quite a lot of psychologists are doing it.
In an interview with the Harvard Business Review Harvard, psychology professor Daniel Gilbert said:
Measuring happiness is mostly done through happiness surveys where people are asked to rate their satisfaction with aspects of their lives. For example, one of the most critical questions asked in the World Values Survey is:
This enables comparisons between sections of the population and internationally such as the sophisticated broad ranging survey measuring subjective well being carried out by the OECD, the Better Life Initiative. The OECD survey acknowledges there’s more to life than the cold numbers of GDP and economic statistics. So they created an index which lets you compare well-being across countries, based on 11 topics they identified as essential in material living conditions and quality of life.
More than 60,000 users of the Better Life Index around the world have shared their views on what makes for a better life and you can share your own index on what makes for a better life and see how you score on it.
In the UK the ONS Office for National Statistics has developed new measures of national well-being, to provide a fuller picture of how society is doing by supplementing existing economic, social and environmental measures. Measuring National Well-Being: Life in the UK March 2015 and another one on International Comparisons, provide a snapshot of life in the UK today across the 10 domains of national well-being. It’s the third annual summary to be delivered by the Measuring National Well-being programme.
The tiny country of Bhutan is a champion of measuring national progress not only through gross domestic product, as economists do, but through tracking Gross National Happiness. The Bhutanese government has been surveying it’s citizens since 1971 on their psychological well-being, health, education, living standards and time use. They also track cultural diversity, cultural resilience, quality of governance and community vitality as well as ecological diversity and resilience.As well as asking people about their happiness in the moment and overall life satisfaction, some psychologists have found more creative ways to measure happiness, including monitoring social media for happy tweets, Facebook feelings and Instagram grins.
How can you measure your own happiness?
If you want to measure your own happiness you can take the numerous multiple choice quizzes available online. They will help you think about where you are across different criteria.
Or you can do that with our chart your life exercise, which you will receive if you join our Changeability Starter Kit. This gives you a quick snap shot of where you are now, and is a good place to start. You can then measure yourself on these scales in a few months time if you want to see if things have changed.
Or if you want a quick multiple choice quiz there’s one on the TIME website.
With the 4 key questions that Edward Diener devised for the Satisfaction With Life Scale in 1980 and has been used as the basis for many studies since. You score yourself on a scale of 1-7 for each orf these statements:
Although it’s quick, convenient and interesting to ask yourself these questions, it doesn’t really go anywhere after that.
So the best way to measure your happiness is to keep a happiness journal where you record how you feel throughout the day. The emotions you experience at different times. Or you can do an overall summary at the end of the day, but isn’t quite so robust as our feelings and emotions change considerably throughout the day.
And that’s the challenge of doing these online quizzes they are literally a snap shot of how you feel in that moment. What you’re after is a more in-depth realistic assessment, if you’re serious about it, by recording your emotions over at least a week.
Episode 59 of the Changeability Podcast
Hear us talk about all of this and more in this week’s episode of the Changeability Podcast – on iTunes, Stitcher and TuneIn or the player at the top of this post.
Choose happiness and make it happen
So what about you? Do you describe yourself as very happy? Comment below.
If not do you want to do something about it? Listen next week for our tips, actions and techniques on how to be happier.
Thanks for reading or listening – and if you want to help us out please subscribe to the Changeability Podcast on iTunes and leave us a rating and review – it would be much appreciated.
Sat, 5 September 2015
Here at BrilliantLivingHQ.com we love thinking and talking about how our thoughts impact our lives. How what we think makes a difference to what we do, which is where the concept of mind management comes in.
When we realise we don’t have to be defined and confined by the way we think, because they’re just thoughts and we are more than our thoughts, we can do something about it to make changes and get the life we want.
We call it managing your mind. Our guest for today, Rob Cubbon, calls it ‘freeing your thoughts’ and he’s done just that. So we just had to talk to him and now bring you the conversation in this week’s episode of the Changeability Podcast
Rob Cubbon is an Amazon bestselling author, online teacher, graphic designer, digital nomad and all-round good guy! Rob helps and inspires people to build sustainable online businesses, earn passive income and experience greater freedom and happiness in their lives.
Rob’s also the author of ‘Free your Thoughts: How I Re-programmed Myself For Happiness And How You Can Too’, his latest Amazon bestseller about the mindset shift he enjoyed which enabled him to sort out his life and start his own business, find his own calling and happiness.
Episode 58 The Changeability Podcast
In episode 58 of the Changeability Podcast Rob talks about how he did this, sharing the good, the bad and the ugly, including:
If you enjoyed this interview please send Rob a tweet to let him know at @RobCubbon