Category Archives: Happiness

“If I get the promotion and my new relationship works out, then I’ll be happy.”

"Scott Joplin's Great Crush Collision"  by Mimi Stuart© Live the Life you Desire

“Scott Joplin’s Great Crush Collision”
by Mimi Stuart© Live the Life you Desire

It turns out that this kind of thinking is reversed. It actually works the other way around. If you decide to be happy, then your job and your relationships are likely to be successful and fulfilling.

People who are happy feel better, focus better, think more clearly, have better access to all regions of their brains, have quicker more agile responses to changing circumstances and solve problems better. Happy people are more empathetic and creative, which means they will be more diplomatic, interesting and enjoyable to be around.

In essence, happy people perform better at work and have better relationships.

How do you make yourself happy?

To increase your happiness, try some of the following:

• get more sleep,
• eat healthy foods,
• exercise — particularly sports or activities you enjoy,
• pursue your passions,
• change negative thinking to optimistic thinking or at least to humor,
• do nice things for others,
• laugh more,
• meditate,
• increase your gratitude for the good things in your life,
• and focus on the positive angle of challenging circumstances in your life.

How to be happy when you’re angry at someone

When you are angry at someone, take the time you need to find at least one thing you are grateful for in that person. Try to adopt an attitude of gratitude in order to provide you with the clear thinking and demeanor to be more effective interacting with him or her. You may need to take a walk, get some exercise, do some deep breathing, talk to a friend, or take a couple of days before you are able to see some redeemable quality in the other person. Once you feel centered and can see a bit of humanity in the other person, you will communicate much more effectively, or at least avoid making things worse.

When you see the good in others despite their perceived shortcomings, they will sense it and be more open and amenable to you. Your effort at communication will be more compelling. Moreover, you can feel good about yourself for approaching someone in a positive, constructive, and humane way.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Should we always be positive? ‘Just be happy!’”

Read “Fantasies: ‘All I want is a Lamborghini! Then I’d be happy.’”

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

“I can’t wait to go on a vacation!”

"Anthony's Key" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“Anthony’s Key” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Research shows that most of the pleasure derived from traveling is experienced in the planning and anticipation of the trip.*
Planning a vacation involves imagining what you will feel like on the trip—whether relaxed and romantic, adventuresome and athletic, or knowledgeable and worldly, etc. When we imagine how we feel on the trip, the parts of ourselves that have been neglected come alive in hopes of being more fully expressed.

The fantasy of travel

Fantasies are deceptive in that they highlight the pleasure, novelty, and magic of what is possible, and leave out the disappointment, discomfort and difficulty you might experience during the trip. When you picture the warm breeze and swaying palm trees at the beach, you rarely imagine the frustration with airport security, flight delays, hotel cancellations, weather, noise, unexpected expenses, disappointments and bad moods. Fortunately, memories of our past tend to highlight the highs, and with some imagination and a sense of humor we can turn the misfortunes into opportunities for telling entertaining stories.

What fantasies reveal

Fantasies often reveal to us what we may be missing in our lives—literally or metaphorically. They sometimes substitute the literal object for the quality that we could benefit from developing in ourselves.

For example, someone who is very practical and goal-oriented may fantasize about sitting by the ocean and doing nothing but feeling the warmth of the sun. Someone who has a regimented daily routine may dream of adventure and spontaneity. Someone who feels his or her life is too provincial may imagine taking in the art, culture and history of foreign countries.

Using the fantasy to improve your life

We can gain a fresh look at our life by recognizing what is motivating us to take our fantasy trip. We don’t have to wait for the trip in order to begin integrating the sought-for qualities within ourselves. If we are seeking romance, for instance, we can try to do things with more excitement, passion, and love every day.

Instead of waiting until a two-week vacation, we can use our imagination to look for ways to add a little fantasy vacation into our every day life. The desire to have adventure, feel romantic, relax, or feel strong can deepen through being aware of those needs and desires. We can try to live the life we desire all year round by bringing some of those qualities into our daily life in addition to going on a fantastic vacation.

An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing.

~Samuel Smiles

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

* Research by Jeroen Nawijn from Erasmus University in Rotterdam and NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences and his team, who are published online in Springer’s journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.

Read “Fantasies: ‘All I want is a Lamborghini! Then I’d be happy.’”

“I fear something bad is going to happen. It feels like the end of the world.”

"Mayan Tzolk'in calendar" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Mayan Tzolk’in calendar” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Anxiety is part of being human. Yet most people feel uncomfortable with anxiety; so they tend to attach it to something external to make sense of it. Freud pointed out that free-floating anxiety often gets attributed to objects or situations, such as spiders, heights, even aliens and, yes, the end of the world.

Another example is a person who frequently fears that something dreadful is going to happen. Will our son drink too much? Will I get cancer? Will a driver crash into me? Will someone break into our home? Although we can do some things to avoid disaster, we cannot control everything even if we are hyper-vigilant.

Ironically, it doesn’t matter if specific bad events do not occur, precisely because people who externalize anxiety are living in a state of fear and worry. Being in a constant state of anxiety prevents a sense of inner peace, enjoyment, and the ability to laugh off some otherwise annoying nuisance. When people spend too much time fretting about what could happen and all the things that could go wrong, they lose sight of the fact that at this moment everything is just fine.

That doesn’t mean we should be naive or ignore potential danger. We need to be aware of our surroundings and avoid danger when it is avoidable. However, we also need to be able to appreciate the present moment regardless of what the future may bring. In fact, with wisdom and practice, we can manage to experience a state of inner peace even in the face of actual pain and loss.

How we use fear is under our control. We must find a happy medium between
1) checking out our surroundings for danger and planning against negative things happening in the future, and
2) letting go and appreciating the Now, understanding that much of life is not under our control.

Take the worst-case scenario: the possibility of an apocalypse. Why not live every day as though there is a split chance between this being the last day of life and it being the first day of the rest of a long life? Then we will have no regrets.

To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.

~Katherine Paterson

You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.

~Dale Carnegie

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Avoidance Behavior: ‘I’ve been dreading telling her about our financial problems.’”

Read “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: ‘Since he lost his job, he doesn’t seem to care about our relationship.’”

Living the Life you Desire:
“Why me? Everything would be different, if only….”

“Noble Love” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Sometimes we impulsively focus on the negative, perpetuating our view of ourselves as victims lacking influence over our own life and attitude.

Sometimes we rush through life without any awareness of how those around us and we ourselves are feeling. In other words, we lack connection with the world and ourselves.

It’s important to ask yourself how you want to experience the journey through life. By keeping in mind how you really want to live your life, you are more likely to live the life you desire, whether that means being happy, reaching your full potential, having meaningful relationships, or all of the above.

Living a more fulfilling life is possible when we become self-aware and understand the dynamics of life’s subtleties.

Ask yourself what you would like more of in your life?

Enjoyment with friends.
Confidence—abilities and skills.
A better job.
Time with family.
Solitude.
Time outside to exercise and enjoy the out-of-doors.
Respect from those around you.
Better health.
More fun.
More financial security.
Serenity.

There is a time for solitude and a time for pursuing financial security. Much suffering comes from neglecting specific spheres in our life. The man who only wants to have fun and enjoy friends may end up alienating friends when he banks on their generosity for too long. The woman who is exclusively compelled to drive forward her career may find herself estranged from family and friends.

As we approach different stages in our life, we may be able to adjust our lives to achieve greater balance and with it a more fulfilling life. Living a meaningful, fulfilling life involves being mindful of the world around us as well as keeping aware of our own inner experience as we pass through the different phases of our life.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: ‘Since he lost his job, he doesn’t seem to care about our relationship.’”

Letting go of things:
“It’s hard to discard things that have personal meaning to me.”

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

We are often weighed down by the things we accumulate – gifts, mementos, and even furniture gifted to us by loved ones and relatives. We feel that throwing out or giving things to the Good Will would be an offense to the memory of our parents, grandparents, friends, and children.

This grasping onto material objects seems to be an attempt to hang onto the connection we once had – or that we wish we had – to people and phases in our lives. We feel as though we might be tossing out the past if we clear out mementos from the history of our lives.

Yet, holding onto memories and keepsakes can confine us to the past. Not only do we develop material clutter, we also develop and re-enforce emotional clutter.

An extreme example of how a jumble of junk holds a person prisoner is demonstrated by the mental disorder of hoarding. Hoarders can no longer negotiate their way through their homes being blocked by a mass of “valuable” possessions that stand in their way. The cluttered home is a metaphor for the cluttered mind. Imagine what this self-induced captivity does to their love lives, professional pursuits, and spiritual or creative quests.

We don’t need tacky paintings, worn-out furniture, or outlandish jewelry to remember loved ones. Nor do we need to keep every drawing and science project our children once created to enjoy and love our children. Nor must we keep the decrepit desk or old frayed quilt to honor our ancestors.

De-cluttering our homes and our lives prevents us from becoming buried by our belongings. Freeing ourselves of excessive stuff, particularly things that don’t resonate with our soul, can free us to live the life we desire in the present and future without being burdened by the past.

To prevent clutter from taking over your life and home, choose only those clearly-meaningful mementos that give you pleasure. You’ll know which ones they are, because there will be no question that you want to keep them.

Some tips on clearing out stuff might help:

1. If you haven’t used it in the past year, you’re not likely to miss it.

2. If you don’t need it, but it’s the ONLY memento of Uncle Harry or Aunt Tilly, take a picture of it to preserve the memory without using up space.

3. If it’s a usable item from someone else, think of the joy it will give another person if it is donated to an organization that helps others.

4. Recycle… re-use… restore your own harmony of home by emptying the boxes at the back of the basement.

5. Follow the old rule: If in doubt, throw it out. If you can’t throw much of anything out, enlist a friend who embodies simplicity and common sense to help you.

You need space in both your home and your life to be open to possibilities the future may bring. Letting go of old stuff on a seasonal basis promotes recurring renewal on many levels of your life.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD


Read “Clutter in your surroundings causes clutter in the mind: ‘I don’t have time to deal with this mess. I’ve got so many things going on—it’s chaos.’”

Read “Dividing up Household Chores: ‘The house is a mess!’”

Check out “zenhabits.”

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

"BLISS"— Theo Fleury by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

When you’re unhappy, you tend to target those closest to you. When you feel depressed and anxious, it’s easy to conclude that your marriage (or work or the place you live) is undesirable and a failure. The assumption is that “If I were happy in my marriage, I wouldn’t feel so miserable.”

A vicious cycle commences, as unhappiness is terribly contagious. You blame those closest to you for your unhappiness, which causes them to feel defensive. Defensiveness furthers mistrust and misery, making it more difficult to feel loving and happy.

Before wrecking your relationships by blaming those around you, it’s wise to remember that your emotions fluctuate, and are dependent on a large number of factors having nothing to do with your partner. Simply changing your spouse rarely leads to long-term happiness. Moreover, a downcast emotional state rarely motivates a person to make the right changes required for happiness.

What’s needed for improving your happiness is a multifaceted, holistic approach. Research shows that the following key factors are involved in being happy:

1. Eating healthy foods provides the needed vitamins that affect brain chemicals and vitality; those include all the essential amino acids as well as vitamin D, which you can get from sunshine, food, or vitamins. Avoiding excessive sugar, fats, junk, nicotine, and alcohol can have a dramatic effect on happiness levels. People eating high-fat and sugary foods have been shown to be 58 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those who eat a healthy, balanced diet.

2. Exercising frequently increases serotonin, which, at too low a level, has been associated with depression and anxiety. Among other benefits, exercise is key to overcoming a lack of seratonin.

3. Activating positive behavior is one of the principal therapies used for depression. It means putting yourself out there to do the things that are enjoyable for you, even if you don’t feel like it, as well as being optimistic and smiling at others, which is proven to affect one’s state of mind.

4. Seeking inner peace either through meditation, spirituality, or other calming practices has a great affect on one’s happiness.

5. Cultivating good relationships with your partner, family, friends, and community (or having a pet) contributes tremendously to your happiness. Accepting others and feeling accepted, as well as being respectful and loving, are the best ways to enhance your connection with others.

6. Pursuing your passions, whether creative, spiritual, or athletic endeavors, enhances joy and vitality.

7. Meaningful work, particularly contributing to others, if you have time, has been shown to be one of the most life-enhancing activities. There’s nothing like helping a wounded warrior who has lost a limb to practice a new sport for finding connection and joy and forgetting about your own malaise in life.

8. Eliminating negative emotions and thoughts is critical to experiencing purposeful happiness. Once you start implementing the above seven factors toward happiness, it will be easier to eliminate negative emotions such as anger, resentment, and blame. You will also have less time for negative thinking such as perfectionism, black-and-white thinking, and projection – “I’m unhappy, therefore my marriage is terrible.”

In this fast-paced world of impulsive decision-making, many people wreck relationships before working on the multifaceted essentials to meaningful personal happiness.

Of course there are situations when a relationship is in serious trouble, e.g., having a partner who shows no interest in making the relationship work. However, for your own peace of mind, it’s worth the effort to incorporate the many various keys to happiness in your daily life first before making life-changing decisions. You may tap the well to happiness, and thereby change the dynamic of your marriage, because happiness turns out to be contagious too.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “What is there to be cheerful about?”

Read ‘Guest Author Roswitha McIntosh: In Search of the Good Life. ‘If only life weren’t such a struggle!’”

Read “My life has no purpose or meaning.”

Recommended: “How to be Happier” by Paul Jenner.