Category Archives: Happiness

Random Thoughts from So What I Really Meant

"Wisdom of Laughter" — Einstein by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Wisdom of Laughter” — Einstein by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Passion

Passion is the feeling of exhilaration in the face of mystery. It arises from the heat generated by the intermingling of two people pursuing their own individual passions. So if partners sacrifice their own personal passions, interests, and friends for the sake of their relationship, that relationship will probably lose its passion.

Jealousy

A jealous partner may have experienced abandonment in his or her life and be easily triggered. Getting angry won’t help the situation. Be considerate and reassuring, but don’t start constricting your life to pander to the jealous partner’s fears, if they are unreasonable. Tell the jealous person that the suspicions are hurtful and are causing you to feel defensive and suggest focusing on his or her positive desires instead.

Feeling controlled

Those who are susceptible to being controlled need to stop fearing the other person’s reactions. That doesn’t mean becoming confrontational. You simply cannot let the fear of another person’s anger dictate your willingness to stand up for your values and needs. Calm, candid, honest communication is best to avoid developing a relationship based on fear and resentment.

Perfectionism

There is no reason you can’t have both the desire to excel and the ability to accept and enjoy the moment, which may be less than perfect. Laughter is much better for your health and your relationships than the anxiety of having to control for the perfect outcome. You rarely hear about the perfect dinner party, but an over-spiced, smoke-filled, ridiculously-problematic dinner tale gets a lot of mileage in laughter-filled stories long after the smoke clears.

Stress

Focus primarily on difficulties you can do something about. Taking control requires taking positive steps to deal with challenges, not ignoring the problems, suppressing the stress, or allowing yourself to be consumed by stress.

Taking control includes prioritizing situations in your life, changing your situation, and changing your perspective, and, just as important, relieving the mounting tension in healthy ways such as exercising, relaxing with friends or family, and developing a sense of humor. In cases where you cannot take physical action, you can take action by consciously changing your attitude and the way you think about the situation.

Difficult times

Feelings of fear and worry are important signals meant to get our attention in times of danger. Once we are alerted to difficulties, however, we need to harness fear and worry in favor of our personal power. The most useful powers in times of difficulty include courage, love, and clear thinking.

Experiencing vulnerability, including fear and sadness, is a crucial part of being able to feel empathy and love. However, we should not allow feelings and vulnerability to take over and engulf us in panic. Worry and anxiety are contagious and paralyzing. It is the power of our capabilities, our thinking, our courage, and our optimism that can best handle the inevitable difficulties of life.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Watch “Pursuing your passions in relationship.”

Watch “How to Deal with Controlling People.”

Good Mood / Bad Mood:
“I have no control over what mood I’ll be in.”

"Dance Party" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Dance Party” by Mimi Stuart ©

It is not surprising that people who expect things to turn out well report themselves happier and under less psychological stress than people who expect the worst. When people are in a good mood, they experience better mental agility, comprehension, and creativity. They view other people and events more optimistically. They also become more helpful to others.

Two things influence your mood at any given time: you and the people around you.

You

Everybody has an in-born tendency toward optimism or pessimism. Whatever your innate temperament, you can teach yourself to shift your attitude into a happier range. Physical exercise, friendships, volunteer work, gratitude, sleep, consuming healthy foods, and following your passions are all great mood enhancers.

Additionally, expanding your emotional vocabulary allows you to actually experience more variations in your mood. Someone who lives in the snow doesn’t use one term for snow, but benefits from knowing the distinctions between slush, hoarfrost, sleet, powder, etc. Eskimos are said to have at least 50 words for snow, while the Sami languages have upward of 180 words for snow and ice.

Similarly, grasping a whole range of subtle distinctions between emotions adds richness to your emotional life. Understanding the source and nuances of emotions makes them much less alarming and easier to handle. A greater vocabulary to describe your feelings also gives you more choice as to how you experience them, which makes them more manageable.

For example, you will feel less angst if you reframe “panic over potential failure” into “nervous excitement over a new challenge.” Likewise if you decide that you are “sad for your loss but need to move on” rather than “crushed,” you can transform anguish into determination.

The People Around You

It seems that we only have control over our own mood and not very much influence over the mood of those around us. So does it matter if people around us are in a bad mood?

Yes. An experiment showed that among 70 work teams in different industries, the people on each team ended up sharing their good moods or bad moods within two hours of being together.

You can always try to influence the people around you to improve their state of mind, but only if they are open to it. When it becomes apparent that it is a futile effort, you should beware of having your own feelings of wellbeing compromised. Minimizing time with people who leave you dejected, drained, frustrated, or angry in favor of people with passion, vitality, and enthusiasm makes life more gratifying and fulfilling.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen


“I feel frustrated and under stress a lot.”

"Tranquility" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Physical health and balance

First make sure that your lifestyle is healthy. Lack of sleep, too much sugar, alcohol, drugs or medications, lack of exercise, as well as physical disorders can cause stress hormones to get out of control. Revitalizing your physical health strengthens your ability to handle stressful situations.

Expectations, thoughts, and worries

Much of our stress and anxiety results from dwelling too much on our expectations—negative and positive. We live in fear of our negative expectations coming true.

“He’s going to be angry.”

“I won’t be able to pay the rent.”

“I’m never good enough.”

We feel let down when our positive expectations are not met.

“If I were thinner, he would love me.”

“If I had gotten the promotion, I would be happy.”

Our thoughts cause much of our physical and emotional stress. Imagine seeing your new boyfriend with another woman. The bitter disappointment felt in your body reflects your thoughts—that he’s cheating on you or that he’s no longer interested in you and too selfish to be honest with you.

Later he calls to invite you over to meet his sister who’s in town visiting. Suddenly all the stress vanishes and you feel relief and joy, simply because your thoughts have changed. Or perhaps he really was cheating, but many months or years later, your life takes a wonderful turn and you realize how fortunate you were to leave that relationship.

Refocus your thoughts

If you could learn to think differently, much of your stress and unhappiness would vanish. If you could live your life without wishing things were not as they are and without fearing the worst, you would be more fully present to the moment and not overcome with fears about the future.

Letting go of your expectations does not mean that you shouldn’t have personal goals, that you shouldn’t have boundaries and consequences for bad behavior in your relationships, or that you shouldn’t be prepared for potential risks in the future. It means that you should stop trying to control aspects of your life that you cannot control.

Make room for the unexpected

When you actively expect the unexpected, you can more easily handle whatever comes your way with equanimity. If you are over-scheduled, then whenever something unexpected occurs, you will experience frustration. If you have no space in your life for the unexpected, then when someone calls, drops by, needs you, or when you forget something, it will cause unnecessary agitation.

Avoiding over-scheduling your life will give you room to accept the inevitable unforeseen challenges, opportunities, and adventures that life offers us. It also allows you time to relax, enjoy, be creative, and engage with other people without feeling rushed.

Accept reality

Try and enjoy or at least be accepting of whatever happens. If there’s a traffic jam on the freeway on your way to the airport, you’ll either make the plane or you won’t. You might as well make the most of the time you have in your car rather than panic.
Some of the worst disasters turn out to make the best stories. Some of the most unwanted outcomes lead to great adventures and opportunities. The more quickly you can accept the inevitable, the less time you lose fighting reality.

When you become willing to accept reality, you can base your decisions on what is rather than on what you wish were true or what you dread might be the case.

Embrace some stress

It turns out that having a moderate amount of stress as well as some control over your life is healthier and results in more happiness than having no stress or no control in your life. Thus, the goal should not be to eliminate stress but to focus primarily on things you can do something about. Taking control requires taking positive steps to deal with challenges. So, do not ignore problems, suppress stress, or allow yourself to be consumed by stress.

Taking control includes prioritizing your life and changing your situation. Equally important is relieving your stress in healthy ways such as exercising, finding a way to laugh, and relaxing with friends or family. In situations where there is no course of action to take, try slow deep breathing and consciously change your attitude and perspective about the situation.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

“If I don’t keep on top of everything, I don’t know what will happen.”

“Garden of Eden” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Being organized, dependable, and creative in planning for the future are wonderful qualities. They allow you to create beauty in the home, order in your finances, and enjoyment in your social life.

Control and order

Responsible people generally strive to achieve security, order, and harmony to prevent upheaval, chaos, and turmoil. When circumstances become stressful, however, the drive to sustain order can get out of control and actually add to the stress. Ironically, the attempt to take too much control of life sometimes results in excessive vigilance that leaves you feeling powerless and out of control.

Moreover, you may become preoccupied with your worries to the exclusion of appreciating your blessings. As a result, you end up feeling tense, angry, and tormented — even panicked, while others seem to be nonchalant. It doesn’t seem fair.

Effective Problem-Solving

Paradoxically, by focusing exclusively on what has gone wrong and what might go wrong in the future, you lose your objectivity and effectiveness. If you dwell too much on a problem, you may lose sight of the bigger picture and access to your intuition. You may get mired in the mud of hopelessness. You may also drive other people away with your anxious energy.

Brain research shows that the best way to resolve a problem is to focus on that over which you have control. Inform yourself of all the facts and seek good advice if necessary in order to consider the problem thoughtfully. Then engage in something other than thinking about the problem. Stepping away from the problem at this point will allow your intuition to inform your decision-making. It also allows you to maintain perspective, while being able to enjoy other aspects of life.

Security

Taking the time to plan and organize fosters security and harmony in life. Too much planning and organizing, however, creates excessive tension that wipes out feelings of security and harmony. While you can hedge against some risks in the future, you cannot prevent all misfortunes and loss. Life is fleeting and mercurial. At some point you have to let go of trying to control against all misfortunes, and face the unknown with courage and acceptance.

Balance

Given the ephemeral quality of life, we need to balance planning for the future with being present in the moment. It may seem inappropriate and even absurd to think about enjoying life when faced with uncertainty, misfortune, and stress. Yet it is the present moment that we actually have the most control over, that is, we have control over our attitude and reactions to whatever is currently happening. Regardless of how beautiful and safe we try to make our world, we inevitably must accept what comes our way willingly and gracefully.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen


Guest Author Roswitha McIntosh
Beyond Gloom & Doom

"Yes" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Yes” by Mimi Stuart ©

Brain research shows that happiness is more closely related to our state of mind than to our external circumstances. We filter life through our mind’s eye. Thus, we can choose to appreciate the moment and view our life as a precious gift. By transforming our state of mind, we can improve life’s ordinary moments, making them extraordinary, which results in greater enjoyment of life’s journey.

Here is an example of how a change of attitude can transform our experience of ordinary life, and make it better for those around us as well.

GUEST AUTHOR Roswitha McIntosh writes:

Whenever I listen to the news or read the newspaper, a sense of gloom overtakes me—nothing cheerful, nothing uplifting. News about terror, war and corruption, news about the alarming decimation of other species and destruction of our planet, or earthquakes, floods and fires. Man against man, man against beast, man against nature, and nature against man. Nothing but gloom.

I decide to take a walk. A neighbor waves a friendly Good Morning. A little boy holds the door for me—what kindness in one so young! The sky is blue. Overhead, a plane takes travelers to distant lands. Below, flowers shine in the sun. My spirits lift with joy.

As always when I enter a grocery store, I marvel at the abundance of it all. I grew up in war-torn Europe, when food was severely rationed. People were pitifully thin.

I remember my overwhelming amazement when I had my first American meal, succulent roast beef—more than a month’s ration—a baked potato, butter and corn. We did have potatoes—that’s what we lived on—but there was no butter or cream or anything else. For my first dessert in America I chose an orange—I vaguely recalled once having seen one. I knew nothing about ice cream.

Today I’m looking for an orchid for my brother. “Long lines,” I mention to the young woman in front of me. It is Saturday. “You’ve got only one item?” she asks, looking at my plant. “Do go ahead of me,” she offers.

I thank her for her kindness, but decline, seeing her little son. “I bet you’re eager too to get back outside,” I say to the boy. He smiles. We chat amicably about this and that and before we know it, we reach the checkout stand.

I walk home with a smile, glad to realize again that most individuals are kind, far kinder than the media realizes. I mentally survey my friends and acquaintances and find that they all have admirable traits: it may be kindness, joie de vivre or integrity, knowledge, special skills or a good sense of humor. It’s rare that I run into a person who’s devoid of a worthy trait.

It is NOT a world of gloom and doom, I conclude, but a world of infinite variety. And, gratifyingly, we are free to choose our focus and attitude. By doing so we create a world of our own making.

by Roswitha McIntosh, editor of the blog “Rosi Colored Glasses

“I try so hard to make her happy.”

"Noble Love" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Noble Love” by Mimi Stuart ©

Responsibility for another’s wellbeing

People who put excessive energy into trying to make others happy tend to lose their sense of self and the accompanying groundedness and objectivity. The suppression of their own values, needs and desires often leads to growing resentment and a lack of vitality.

The more compelled a person is to promote someone else’s wellbeing, the more anxious that person becomes. People who put excessive energy into “helping” others and to making them happy are often completely unaware of the anxiety which drives them, because they are projecting their own anxiety onto the people they are trying to help.

Dependence on validation from others

The opposite dynamic also leads to trouble. The more your own wellbeing depends on validation from others, the more anxious you become. Thus, when people are desperately seeking validation, they tend to use emotional manipulation to get it. The resulting validation isn’t very gratifying because it has been coerced. Thus, their craving for validation is never satisfied, and becomes a drain on the relationship.

People who crave a lot of validation may be aware of their own anxiety, but they believe it is up to others to take care of them. Their efforts to get others to relieve their anxiety are ineffective in resolving the ultimate problem—that is, learning to tolerate their own anxiety.

Escalation of anxiety

Anxiety increases when you have less control over achieving your goals. Since you are not in control of someone else’s wellbeing, and you are not in control of someone validating you, anxiety for both parties increases. Hence relationships between emotionally fused people tend to generate considerable chronic anxiety.

The more anxious people become, the more reactive and intolerant they are of others. They become more frantic to “fix” things. They may feel alternatively overwhelmed and isolated, needing more emotional connection, but rejecting all but the “right” kind of connection, that is, total validation. A lack of response or the wrong kind of response hurts or angers them, which causes them to say hurtful things or withdraw, leading to an escalation of anxiety and conflict.

It is paradoxical and unfortunate that undifferentiated people have more need of emotional support, but are less likely to get it or to be satisfied by it.

Healthy relationships

In healthy relationships, people are helpful, considerate, and care about the one another’s wellbeing. They will do things they think might make the other person happy. However, they are emotionally differentiated, which prevents one person’s anxiety from infecting the other and spiraling out of control. Differentiation means that you avoid emotionally manipulating another person and you avoid walk on eggshells. Instead you respect that person as autonomous, though perhaps interdependent. This requires being aware of and tolerating your own anxiety when someone else is not happy or when you are not receiving the validation that you were hoping to receive.

Murray Bowen, who developed the notion of differentiation, puts it this way: “The goal always is to work on oneself, not to attempt to change one’s family. The goal is not to get the family to “accept” you, to “love” you. The goal is to be more of a self, which is not contingent on acceptance.”

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Recommended Kerr and Bowen’s “Family Evaluation.”

Read “Happiness: ‘We must have a terrible marriage because I’m so unhappy.’”

Read “I can’t live with her and I can’t live without her.”

Read “Ten Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘The magic is gone.’”