Think about it … every single thing we do is intended to make us happier.
And yet sometimes we get diverted and do things that actually move us away from this goal.
We all have the potential for genuine happiness. There is no gene or DNA marker that determines who will be happy and who will not. We make choices throughout our lives, and the result of all these choices combined, determines our level of happiness. Make the right choices and happiness can be yours.
Here are just a sampling of some of the tactics we can employ in an 11-point roadmap to help guide us toward genuine happiness:
1. Look For The Positive In Everything: There is an old saying that nothing is inherently good or bad—what makes it one or the other, is merely your reaction to it. Find the positive and you will be happier. Those who soar against all odds, do so because they look at the positive that could come out of their situation, how ever bad it may seem to others.
2. Accentuate The Positive: We all grow up with a “positivity imbalance”—the result of society’s norms and rules being based on restriction and punishment more than approval and reward. From a young age we are taught what we must not do instead of what we may do. Even in day-to-day life, there is more negative influence that positive. Luckily you can work to improve the balance. Celebrate the positive and work to get more of it. When you achieve something, congratulate yourself! Look for things you find uplifting, that make you happy. Get more of that! At the same time, reduce your exposure to negative input, whether it is the daily news, or people you don’t feel good around. You know your buttons…make sure the positive ones are pushed more than the negative.
3. Practice Good Selfishness: When we were young we were taught that putting our interests before those of others is wrong. This is particularly true for women, many of whom sacrifice their dreams and ambitions to help others achieve theirs. It is also common in the corporate world where the good of the company is considered more important than the good of the individual. It is good to help others, yet we should have boundaries to protect ourselves from being manipulated or abused by others. You are important, and if you don’t look after yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually, you cannot expect anyone else to do so.
4. Listen To Your Feelings: All feelings are good. Every feeling occurs for a reason: it is delivering a message. Sometimes that message is pleasant, other times not. Our tendency is to distract ourselves from unpleasant feelings, often through smoking, drinking or drugs of one kind or another. When you feel bad, avoid distracting yourself, and identify the reason—there is some need not being met.
5. Give Of Yourself: The more you give, the more you receive. There is probably no scientific study proving this to be so, but unconditional giving is hugely rewarding. It seems that the more of yourself you give, the greater the thrill and uplifting effect on your psyche. Help the needy. Give time if you can. Give anonymously, even if you lose the tax deduction!
6. Make It Happen: You have the ability to make things happen using your mind. Top sports stars, and business people use it, and so can you. There are many ways of doing this; one of the common methods is to use visualization—getting a picture in your mind of whatever it is that you want to happen. It does not actually have to be a visual picture; it could be a feeling, a smell, a sound, or any combination of the senses. Imagine finding the perfect parking near the entrance as you arrive at the supermarket or mall … the sky is the limit, but persevere! We are not used to utilizing this tool, so it takes practice.
7. Accept The Things You Cannot Change: We resist things we don’t like, and often expend a tremendous amount of energy on this resistance. Whilst this can be good, and has resulted in tremendous advances through history, we should work to understand those things we cannot change, and then move on. Rather use the saved energy on something more worthwhile and productive. This is not to say that you should complacently accept anything. If you truly desire change, you should work towards that change; but spending time worrying about something without actively working to change it is unproductive and damaging to your wellbeing.
8. Take Responsibility For Your Choices: Everything that you do, or don’t do, is because of choices you make (or don’t make). It is easier and convenient to blame outside causes for things that go wrong in life, but your life is the sum of all the choices you make along the way—sometimes that choice it to let somebody else make a choice on your behalf. If you tend to blame other people or things, it may be scary to take responsibility for what happens in your life, but it is really quite liberating because instead of seeing yourself as an effect of outside forces, you realize you are the cause of everything good you achieve. Don’t abdicate responsibility for your life.
9. Schedule Regular “Self Time”: Spend some time analyzing where you are in life, your strengths and weaknesses. How can you turn the latter into the former? Think about your views on everything from your job to global warming and the existence of aliens—then work out why you feel the way you do. Is your reasoning sound? The better you understand yourself, the better you understand the world.
10. Make Time To Meditate: We spend almost all our time thinking of the past or planning for the future. We seldom spend time in the present. It has reached a point where, for most of us, it seems impossible to keep our focus on what is happening right now. Your meditation could be formal meditation or prayer, but it could be as simple as merely focusing on each breath as it goes in and out for five or ten minutes, dismissing past and future thoughts as they arise—and they will!
11. Remove Your Limitations: When we fail, usually the reason is simply because we don’t believe we are able or worthy of whatever it is that we fail to achieve. Most often, this belief is actually false; the result of negative programming received since childhood. The truth is that most of us are able to do most of what we really want to do … you just have to believe. The best way to start is with small things, working your way up as you notice the limits dissolving.
The more successful you are at assimilating the concepts and processes described in these eleven points into your life, the more genuinely happy you will be, and the happiness will last!
Dealing with Criticism and Difference In Opinion
We often become emotionally disturbed during a disagreement, or an argument, or when someone criticizes us or disagrees with us. In such cases our personality usually feels hurt, demeaned and in danger.
When we feel this way, we destroy our own happiness, clarity and health and often behave in ways which we later regret.
A simple technique for gaining clarity is to:
1. Remember that concerning criticism, there are two possibilities:
a. The other person might be correct in his or her observations and criticism. In this case we would benefit by admitting it and making the proper adjustment in our behavior. We have everything to gain by listening and evolving through others’ comments.
What prevents us is the belief that we are not lovable if we are not perfect. Thus, we do not want to see or admit our faults. When we realize that we are worthy of love and respect even when we are not perfect or right, then we will be able to look at our faults.
b. The other person might be wrong. In this case, it is his or her projection, and we need not be affected by these misconceptions or projections. We have in this case the lesson of loving ourselves and also the others even when they perceive us in distorted and negative ways.
2. One solution would be simply not to react one way or the other at first, but to reflect upon what has been said for some time so as to evaluate whether or not it is true.
We can establish a space in our minds where we can store such questions about our personality structure or actions so as to observe objectively for ourselves if they are true. If they are not, then we simply continue on in the way we were.
We need not feel hurt, angry, defend ourselves, prove ourselves, or attack. When we feel inner security and self-worth, we do not need to react in these ways.
3. We can simply thank the other for this feedback and tell him or her that we will think about this observation and will gradually come to our conclusions, and if necessary, make changes.
We do not need to live our lives in accordance with others’ perceptions. We can listen to all, but follow ourselves.
A “thank you” is enough.
(Adapted from the “The Psychology of Happiness” by Robert Najemy)
The Challenge and Stigma of Mental Health Disorders Amongst Family
Having a family member that is suffering a mental health disorder can be taxing at times. Depending on the severity of the disorder, many families have been broken up because of this. Some of them can be blamed on the lack of love or patience a family member can bestow. Some just cannot handle the pressure and others just cannot take the shame.
But if the people around a person with a mental health disorder feels awkward, then what about what the actual person with the disorder feels? Many or most of these people are too afraid or ashamed to share their disorder with other people because they fear being ridiculed or judged.
Even as seeing a psychiatrist or taking mental health disorder medicines are commonplace nowadays, many people still distrust a person with a mental health problem; they feel that they are too unstable and unpredictable. Fearing what they do not know, this ignorance causes more depression and damage to a person with a mental health disorder.
Getting Over the Fear
What mental health disorder patients want is for them to be considered as normal people. Only that they need more compassion, understanding and kindness. Treat a mental health disorder afflicted person the same way as you would anyone, this would make him or her feel more normal.
As they feel more accepted and happy, they increase the chance of becoming normal. Also, be prepared; learn about the disorder that has afflicted your family or friend. Know the symptoms so you can be prepared as well.
For the patient, learn and try to accept your condition, do not be afraid of what people will say, open up your condition to them. If they can’t take it then they’re not worth it. Remember that there are many people with mental health disorder; some are not just as obvious. Hold your head up high and live with dignity.
Steps to cope with stigma (via Mayo Clinic)
Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:
- Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
- Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn’t just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others who have mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
- Don’t isolate yourself. If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy or members of your community can offer you support if they know about your mental illness. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.
- Don’t equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So instead of saying “I’m bipolar,” say “I have bipolar disorder.” Instead of calling yourself “a schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.”
- Join a support group. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offer local programs and internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people who have mental illness, their families and the general public. Some state and federal agencies and programs, such as those that focus on vocational rehabilitation and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offer support for people with mental illness.
- Get help at school. If you or your child has a mental illness that affects learning, find out what plans and programs might help. Discrimination against students because of a mental illness is against the law, and educators at primary, secondary and college levels are required to accommodate students as best they can. Talk to teachers, professors or administrators about the best approach and resources. If a teacher doesn’t know about a student’s disability, it can lead to discrimination, barriers to learning and poor grades.
- Speak out against stigma. Consider expressing your opinions at events, in letters to the editor or on the internet. It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.
5 Important Tips To Managing Your Stress
At one point or another, we all have to deal with some type of stress. The important thing is to prevent it from taking over our daily life, and this can often be done by observing a few simple ways to keep emotions high and the blues at bay.
Just breathe. There’s an old saying that recommends taking a deep breath and counting to 10 to soothe anger. Well, the same is true with stress. Breathing in rhythm may improve positive emotions as it helps to promote activity in the area of the brain that’s responsible for good thoughts. Positive thinking can lead to happiness, which is one sure way to stop stress.
Treat yourself. Whether you’re feeling a little blue or just need a quick pick-me-up, take time to be good to yourself. Have a sip of your favorite beverage, indulge in a light snack to tempt your tastebuds or just take a break. When one errand runs into another and days seem to fly by so quickly that we barely even notice them, it may be time to get out of the rut and take a moment to enjoy life by treating yourself to something great.
Smell Goods. Many people relax to their favorite scented candles, but few know that certain fragrances have a calming effect that may actually reduce stress. Lavender, vanilla and other fragrances that you may find especially soothing may be just the ticket to a stress-free day.
Pet your pet. For years, experts have agreed that pet owners may lead happier, healthier lives thanks to their four-legged friends. Gently stroking a cat or dog is believed to lower stress and increase happiness.
Take a hike. Studies have shown that walking at least 30 minutes each day may help to significantly ease stress. It doesn’t matter whether you walk outdoors or indoors using a treadmill; the important thing is to get up, get moving and get rid of your stress.
The information contained in this article is designed for reference purposes only. It should not be used as, in place of or in conjunction with professional medical advice regarding a treatment or cure for stress. For additional information, a diagnosis and/or treatment advice, consult a licensed physician.
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