Category Archives: Happiness

Living the Moment
“Life is a drag.”

"Enlightenment" Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Enlightenment” — Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

Life is made up of many more ordinary moments than extraordinary ones, like working at the computer, going to the store, or sitting in traffic. Yet, brain research shows that happiness is related more to your state of mind than the state of your current external circumstances.

One way to improve every moment is by learning to have a relaxed, mindful attitude, even when you might be bored, busy, or under stress. There’s no need to simply wait for the next vacation, the next yoga class, or a couple of drinks after work.

When you can be in the present moment and relax, you can learn to be at ease, quick and on task without rushing. When an athlete is in the zone, there is a feeling of time slowing down even though his or her movements and reactions may be very quick.

We can consider life as a precious gift or a strenuous bore. It’s our choice, regardless of external circumstances, because we filter life through our mind. Thus, here are some ways in which we can improve life’s ordinary moments and enjoy the journey by improving our state of mind, making the ordinary extraordinary:

1. Notice sensations, the air, the view, and the environment around you. This puts you in the present moment and mitigates anxiety and fear.

2. Observe your own energy and that of those around you. Intentionally transform your energy, whether you decide to focus on being peaceful, excited, appreciative, or ready for action.

3. Be mindful of your body. Correct your posture and reposition yourself to feel strong and relaxed.

4. Notice your facial expression and decide if you you’d like to change a frown into a more pleasant expression. Smiling alone will improve your day.

5. Focus on your breath. Breathe more slowly and deeply.

6. Be ready to handle anything that comes your way in a positive way. View every challenge as an opportunity for growth.

7. Focus on others, that is, engage others with wit, intellect, or a compassionate attitude. This takes the focus off of one’s own complaints. And most important,

8. Be happy to be alive.

IF things get rough, then breathe deeply, think about what you can be grateful for, and if possible, look for the irony, humor, or philosophical insight in any situation.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I want to enjoy life and not just think about money.”

Read “Fear and Panic: ‘If I don’t keep on top of everything, I don’t know what will happen.’”

“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.

Mindful Indulgence:
“I should have never had those three desserts! NO DESSERT for the rest of my life!”

"R&B for Two" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Where’s the enjoyment when we swing between gluttony and self-denial?

Self-Discipline or Self-Denial?

Self-discipline and controlling your impulses are two of the keys to a balanced and happy life. Yet, self-deprivation can cause undue suffering and a grim existence.

Excessive abstinence can also lead to a rebound effect. Strong desires can be suppressed for only so long, and then their overpowering force can cause you to succumb. Remember the movie “Chocolat!” and the priest who passed out from over-indulgence in the chocolate store after forbidding everyone to put a foot into the store?

Enjoyment or Gluttony?

Pleasure and enjoyment of the senses, such as eating and drinking, are the spice of life. Yet, the attempt to have escalating amounts of gratification by increasing your consumption can cause discomfort, displeasure, and dire consequences to your health. Gluttony can also lead to self-loathing, anxiety, and insatiable craving.

Moderation

Pleasure and enjoyment live in a narrow zone of moderation, though we should also take heed of Julia Child’s notion: “Everything in moderation… including moderation.” Note that for people dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse, abstinence does give the best chance of avoiding further harm. For most people, however, mindful indulgence eliminates the need to make an unpleasant vow of abstinence OR to give in to every temptation.

Mindful Indulgence

Mindful indulgence is an effective way to reduce the unwholesome swing from gluttony and guilt to self-loathing and abstinence. Mindful enjoyment means being present, aware, and engaged.

For instance, eating mindfully entails that you eat slowly and consciously, enjoying the flavors as well as the company you are with. It means that in addition to enjoying the flavor, you take notice of the subtle changes in your body, such as feelings of satiation, well-being, or anxiety. Also important is to notice and remember how you feel hours later and the next day.

This kind of mindfulness and patience will allow you to maximize pleasure and enjoyment by honing your ability to gauge how much you will eat and drink. Mindfulness includes being aware of what kind of situations trigger you to lose awareness of your actions, sensations, and long-term pleasure. Regaining awareness will help you to avoid falling into auto-pilot and mindless consumption without appreciation, awareness, or true enjoyment.

One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.

~Laurie Colwin ‘Home Cooking’

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read Dr. Sharada Hall’s “Mindful Indulging: Having What You Want Without Guilt.”

Read “Order vs. Chaos; Responsibility vs. Spontaneity.”

Read “Live in the now, not in the future!”