#happiness Part III

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It’s here! That’s right, now that the International Day of Happiness is upon us, what better way to celebrate than by checking out the Day of Happiness website. Also, let’s add a few more actions to increase your general happiness! Remember in Part I, I discussed practicing Pro-Social Qualities and Mindfulness as ways of increasing happiness. Then in Part II, I discussed taking actions like Flow and Awe as methods we can use to tap into more happiness.

So let’s get right to it, here are two further researched happiness actions you can try…

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5. Laughter. When is the last time you laughed? When is the laugh time you had a really good belly laugh? If it’s been a while, get on it! There are lots of funny movies, funny people, and other things that can induce laughter – like remembering funny times in the past, or surrounding yourself with people who like to laugh and find the humour in everyday life. So, try not to be so serious all the time, seriously. A vast amount of research has shown that laughter can contribute to overall health and wellness including increasing your resilience and improving your overall mood.

6. Self-compassion. Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion, says that self-compassion is a state where you understand your own suffering and use mindfulness, kindness, and openness to hold it non-judgementally and consider it part of the human condition. In other words, self-compassion is where you would consider grace for the self even despite unfortunate circumstances. Kristin Neff says that self-compassion entails three core components: 3-Elements-of-Self-Compassion1

She goes on to say that we must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.

Research has shown that people with self-compassion tend have an inner strength of a self that is worthy of respect, and their sense of self-worth tends to be less rattled. They also tend to worry less about social comparison, and feel less need to retaliate for perceived personal slights.

This research suggests that self-compassion provides a sense of calmness. Think of it as a safe place from a perceived hurricane of positive and negative self-judgment. It can shelter you from questions like “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By practicing kindness, and realizing that all of us have an imperfect human condition; you can be confidently on your way to feel more safe and secure, feeling like you belong, and embracing life fully.

Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds and it does take some work to realize and practice self-compassion. It may take baby steps to break old habits. A pause for self-awareness can help to self-identify when we need more compassion for ourselves. Consider how allowing, with an open heart, life to be as it is could help you change your life for the better.

You may be asking “isn’t it selfish to consider the self”? In response to this I would say that allowing self-compassion into your life may, over time, allow you to respond to others and lifes’ challenges in a way that is more open-hearted and loving.

So there you have it. That’s 6 all together. Let’s summarize these happiness actions one more time:

1 & 2 Practicing Pro-Social Qualities and Mindfulness or Awareness

3 & 4 Flow and Awe

5 & 6 Laughter and Self-Compassion

So what are you waiting for? After you reflect on these a bit, start practicing these actions to increase your #happiness. Let’s GO!

Please let me know how this goes for you, or if you have any questions on these Actions. And don’t forget to go to the International Day of Happiness site to join in with other people celebrating this day of happiness!

Benjamin Franklin said:

“Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances”.

-Kevin

Happiness is an inside job

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Happiness is an inside job. Outward circumstances, and actions of others, do not create lasting happiness. That’s a lot of power to assign to anyone or anything else anyways. Sure, these outward circumstances may cause you to feel moments of joy. But deep and lasting happiness – that comes from within. You are ultimately responsible for your happiness. It’s a big responsibility. Are you ready for this?

See our Part 1 and Part 2 blogs on #happiness for some concrete actions you can take to increase your happiness. Part 3 is coming March 20th…stay tuned!

Krista and Kevin

#Happiness (how can I get some of that) Part II

 

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Did you know that there is a day dedicated to happiness? It’s called the International Day of Happiness, and it’s coming up on March 20th. As it states on their website “We’re inviting everyone to focus on their connections with others.”

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In Part I of this blog I had stressed the key finding of a 75 year Harvard study which demonstrates the importance of our connection with others. In the Part I blog, I had also included a background to happiness, and mentioned a further action to help induce moment-to-moment feelings of happiness: Mindfulness. Being present.

Before we get started on Part II, I’d like to mention a further way to incorporate mindfulness into your day-to-day routine, which as I mentioned previously has been shown to lead to happiness. 5-10 years ago I was a meditation non-believer, but after practicing it for several months now, I absolutely see and feel the benefits meditation can provide. In fact, a multitude of studies show how meditation can have positive effects on several aspects of health, resilience, and better relationships.

So let’s continue on to Part II of #happiness. Here are a few more ways you can take action in order to increase your #happiness!

3. Flow. Famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly coined the term flow to describe a particular state of heightened consciousness. Flow can appear when we do certain activities throughout the day or week, ones that can increase our joyous moments. These activities should be ones that you really enjoy, a favorite activity. Think about this for a moment. What are some things that have brought you joy over the years? Was it a sport or an activity? Visiting family or friends or animals perhaps? Achieving a goal? Reading? There are so many possibilities! Other ways of referring to this state of Flow are “being in the zone” or times where you are involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter and you may lose track of time. Researchers have shown that states of flow have a strong association to happiness.  

thG4IX9KVM4. Awe. You know, that experience you feel when you look up at huge beautiful trees, or perhaps looking at this beach photo here, or a beautiful painting. When was the last time you went star-gazing and saw a shooting star? What tends to put you in a state of awe? It’s really about experiencing awe / wonder / beauty, which makes us feel like we are in the presence of something larger than ourselves.

Researchers have linked positive emotions – especially the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art, and spirituality – with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (which are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder). Elevated cytokines have shown association to autoimmune diseases and depression. UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner says “that awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art – has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”

And there you have it, Flow and Awe are another two ways to tap into #happiness. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list and we will explore more ways to tap into happiness in the months to come.

Keep in mind that happiness is different things to different people. There simply isn’t one happiness strategy that works for everyone.

One final note, please try to not let your happiness depend on what others say or do. Remember that happiness is truly up to you and it’s yours and yours only. It’s an inside job.

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Benjamin Franklin said:

Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind, than on outward circumstances.

Looking forward to continuing on this happiness journey with you. Remember, we are all in this together!

Kevin

Embrace the Day!


Life can present you with many rewarding experiences and many challenges.

Expect the unexpected, there will be challenges along the way. It’s how you respond to life’s challenges that matters.

You can’t control the curveballs being thrown at you, you can however, control how you react to them. So, make sure you move out of the way as quickly as possible, so that curveball doesn’t knock you down!

Be sure to allow yourself the freedom to experience an array of appropriate emotions for each life experience.  These are all encompassing moments that change, mold and challenge us as individuals.

Happiness is dependent on expression of all emotions.

When life throws you a curve ball, what are some of the ways you cope?

Embrace the Day!

Embrace Life!

-Krista

#happiness (How can I get some of that!) Part I

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#happiness is one of the most popular hashtags around right now. Makes sense right? Whoever doesn’t want happiness in their life say “I” (room goes silent now). But the question is…how do we get this thing called happiness? How do I summon this greater power throughout the day? Let’s examine.

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First of all, what is happiness? That is a loaded question, so let’s start by looking at one happiness researcher’s definition. In her book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

OK, so where does happiness really come from, and how does it mysteriously appear? Some scientists have said that it arrives as a reaction to outside events, the events that bring us joy. While other scientists discuss it as being an inside job (it is conjured up from within ourselves). I believe that it is something that arrives from within ourselves. Sure, it seems like an outside event is the trigger, however the exact same outside event can mean different things to different people. It’s intentional activity that’s really important here; it’s how we choose to create or do an activity, and ultimately our response to it. Think about it – a simple thing could seemingly cause one person to be unhappy while another person could be joyous. The event is exactly the same. It’s our reaction to the event that can be so different.

In fact, according to research, approximately 50% of our happiness is accounted for by genetics, 10% by life circumstances, and 40% by intentional activity. The 40% intentional activity is what we should focus on changing, and I will discuss some ways to do this shortly.

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Now what about “joy”, how does this relate to happiness? We are all well aware of the moment-to-moment times of joy that seem to arrive from external things, like when we see a baby smile or a tail-wagging happy puppy. But have you seen the popular movie Inside Out where we learn from the character named Joy – that real happiness involves a suite of emotions including sadness. Yes, you saw that correctly, sustained happiness will include times of sadness, believe it or not. Happiness is not simply a constant euphoric state without negative emotions included along the way. Unhappy emotions like anger, fear, and sadness are quite normal, and at times, appropriate. If we continually set a high bar for happiness, we can become disappointed when we don’t meet that bar. An acceptance of some “negative” emotions is ok.

So happiness – how does it appear and continue with us along our journey called LIFE? This is a question many of us talk about and, we at Embrace Life have often wondered about this illusive word too. So let’s get to it…here are two ways of conjuring up more happiness in our lives:

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1. Practicing “pro-social” qualities like human connection, gratitude, and compassion, etc. Some examples of this could include practicing “Three Good Things” (or you could even try One Good Thing)”. Practicing Three Good Things involves, on a weekly basis, writing down three things good that happened in your life. This activity reminds us to seek out and savor positive things. This could include our connections with our friends and family, or considering how grateful we are for little things throughout the week. Regularly practicing pro-social qualities can help us feel more connected to others and connecting to something higher outside of the self. Check out this fantastic 12 minute TEDtalk on an exciting 75 year Harvard study on living the good life. The #1 thing learned in this study is that good relationships keep you happier and healthier….period! The quality of your relationships really matter, not necessarily the quantity. Good relationships with family, friends, and community are what really matter. And besides general happiness in life, there are many other benefits as mentioned in the video.

2. Mindfulness and awareness. Be present. In an article on Mindfulness , well-known mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses how to cultivate mindfulness as follows: “although mindfulness can be cultivated through formal meditation, that’s not the only way. It’s not really about sitting in the full lotus, like pretending you’re a statue in a British museum,” he says…“It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.”

Here are a three key components of practicing mindfulness that Kabat-Zinn and others identify:

• Turn your mind to your breathing, really noticing it, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.

• Notice what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.

• Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.

Mindfulness is important in that it includes awareness. Self-awareness – we can’t be authentic without being ourselves. And we can’t be ourselves without really knowing ourselves. Therefore, being authentic all starts with self-awareness. Consider being more aware of your reaction to words and actions, be it positive or negative. Try pausing for a second before a reaction to anything, and generally pausing from time-to-time in your everyday life. This gives your prefrontal cortex time to access a more positive road to take in your reaction to anything, be it positive or negative. Consider Gandhi’s famous quote:

‘Happiness is when what you think, say and do are in harmony’

Personally, I have found meditation to help with taking pauses at opportune times, and for thinking things through with greater clarity and purpose.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Practice the above and we think that you will see a difference over time. We are making strides to practice these things too – and we really hope that you will try this too. We would love to hear how it goes!

Stay tuned for Part II of this Happiness blog where I will discuss further happiness actions to include in your daily routine.

Kevin

Take Moments to Enjoy the Journey

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A simple reminder that we should take moments in our lives to experience joy, wonder, and “awe” along this journey called Life! Take a moment from what your mind perceives as the seriousness of life, and look up at the sky, or at anything in nature; really anything that puts you in a state of wonder or awe. Also, let’s remind each other how amazing life is, because we are all in this together. Joy, wonder, and awe are simple tools we can use to Embrace Life within ourselves, and outwardly with those around us. Eckhart Tolle said:

“Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be”.

Kevin

New Years GRATITUTIONS (Part II)

wisewords_bannerNew Years’ Resolutions have a reputation for setting you up for failure more often than not… When I did a Bing internet search for “failure+New+Years+resolutions” it returned 18,000,000 results!  Can being grateful everyday have the same failed outcome?

There is a difference between setting a goal (resolution) just because the earth will begin another rotation around the sun, and your calendar starts on page one… and practicing gratitude everyday because, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”  – Eckhart Tolle

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If your goals for the New Year were the most common New Years’ Resolutions, for example:

  • to help others, be more generous and kind
  • live a healthier, more fit lifestyle, lose weight
  • pay off debt
  • get better grades in school
  • quit smoking, quit drinking

Gratitude would help you to achieve these and more.  

Gratitude, according to the “What Good Is Gratitude?” (infographic) makes us:

  • more giving
  • more community minded
  • healthier
  • make more money
  • have stronger relationships/friendships
  • perform better academically
  • make better choices, regarding addiction
  • live longer

Do New Years Resolutions provide these benefits?Can you achieve Resolutions successfully without gratitude?  No.

So, let’s then begin to refer to resolutions and Gratitutions and provide a frame of success and encouragement to achievement of goals each year!

As each New Year begins, how do you recognize it if you are celebrating the things you are grateful for from the previous year, and then creating an action plan for gratitude for the New Year?  If you aren’t setting new goals, as some choose to do, many unsuccessfully, with resolutions, on January 1st, what will you do instead?

GRATITUTIONS Examples:

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On New Years Eve or New Years Day gather with your family and/or friends and create Gratitude Jars.

Once a day, several times a week, once a week (on a Sunday, perhaps)… you decide… write what you are grateful for and place it in your jar. The following New Years Eve or Day, gather together and read all of the things you were grateful for throughout the year.  Then , start your jars again the next year with a celebration of gratitude, and continue to practice GRATITUTIONS!

Gratitution or Gratitude Box

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This is what we did this year as a family,with a few of our daughter’s friends, on New Years’ Day.

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Gratitude Journal

Similar to the Gratitude Jar, just a different format…  It’s a book instead of a jar!

You can write in a Gratitude Journal every day or once a week.  You can list three things you are grateful for, or you can write a story. This is your journal.  Again, just as you do with the Gratitude Jar, celebrate GRATITUTIONS on New Years Eve or Day with family and/or friends, each year!

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Be creative and create your own!!!

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So what is the benefit of Gratitutions versus Resolutions?

New Years Resolutions focus on what you do not have, what you have not yet accomplished, failures… each New Year.

New Years Gratitutions focus on what you already have, what you are grateful for from the previous year, and how you can continue to build on that successfully and positively to achieve new goals each New Year. 

Which one do you choose to ring in the New Year with this year?  I know which one I’m choosing… the soon-to-be-famous, GRATITUTIONS!

Wishing you a joyous 2016 and a New Year filled with an abundance of gratitude!

Krista

 

New Years “GRATITUTIONS”… Forget Resolutions (Part I)

This New Years, instead of making “resolutions“, why not change it up and make “GRATITUTIONS“?

What are gratitutions, you ask?  Well, first of all, let’s be honest, I made up the word… but it will soon be famous, I’m sure of it! 

New Years Gratitutions are a soon-to-be tradition. You reflect on the things you are grateful for from the past year, and create an action plan for gratitude for the New Year; rather than setting new goals, referred to as resolutions.  Why, you ask?

  1. Gratitude makes sense of your past, provides peace for the present and creates a vision for tomorrow
  2. Gratitude allows you to reach more goals, because your outlook changes and opportunities seem to open up everywhere
  3. Gratitude teaches you to appreciate the sunshine and the rainstorms, all of the ups and downs in life
  4. You can always choose to be grateful
  5. Gratitude turns what you have into enough and more

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The thing to understand about Gratitutions versus Resolutions is this:

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New Year’s Resolutions, list of items

According to John Norcross (Journal of Clinical Psychology), approximately 50% of the population makes resolutions each New Year.  Some of the most popular resolutions are: quitting smoking, weight loss, exercise, better money management and debt reduction.

“Cultural Procrastination”, an effort to reinvent oneself; this is Timothy Pychyl‘s definition of resolutions.  As a Carleton University psychology professor, he believes that although people make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, they aren’t usually ready to change their habits. Thus the high failure rate of resolutions.  New_Years_Resolutions

I believe unrealistic goals and expectations are another contributing factor. Discouragement from goals not being met as easily or quickly as anticipated can lead to old behaviours returning.

To change a behaviour, you have to change your thinking!

Gratitutions allow you to see only the positive by being grateful for things, big and small, hourly, daily, weekly…. If your mind is focused on the positive, and the abundance that surrounds you, it is much easier to achieve a goal!

Resolutions on the other hand, focus on the opposite, what you do not have, what you need, what you have not yet accomplished, what you lack, … this is discouraging and not conducive patterning to change behaviours over the long-term.  Hence, New Years resolutions are famously known to fail.

Focus your thinking on successes and how you can continue to improve upon them, such as with my proposed, Gratitutions. In order to create new behaviours and thought patterns, you must create new neural pathways in your brain to change habits and behaviours; do this in a way that allows you to be positive, present, and mindful.  Do not live in the past (except to build upon positive experiences for which you are grateful) or future. Be aware of your physical, mental and emotional present state, and pause and be grateful for it. Use gratitude as your encourager, and you can achieve anything!

Part II, New Years GRATITUTIONS, will delve further into the failure of New Years Resolutions, the benefits of Gratitude, and concrete strategies to embrace New Years Gratitutions!  I will post it in a couple of days 🙂

Be kind to yourself, practice gratitude, check back before the New Year for Part II!

With heartfelt gratitude,

Krista

 

Motivation – it’s an inside job

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Motivation is a word that’s used a lot, but do we fully understand it? What is motivation and where does it come from? Why is it so important?

Now, motivation can be seen as something outside of ourselves. Like when we watch something or hear of something that really motivates us. But therein lies the key to the world of motivation…something triggers or sparks our inner drive. Motivation is really self-specific. It’s individual. It’s what’s inside of you. It’s always “there”, ready for a trigger…ready for you to be the best you can be. So let’s dig into this fascinating word called motivation.

Motivation can be defined as an initiation / desire / willingness to do something. Like I mentioned, it’s specific to you. Unfortunately it has the potential to get buried deep in all of us, especially during tough or seemingly difficult times. Sometimes it feels like it will never surface again, or maybe we can’t remember the last time we were motivated.

So then the question is – how do I unleash this beast called motivation?!? We all know it’s a beast because we’ve likely all seen it. Remember those times when you’ve been driven to, and taken, resulting action to do that thing you’ve wanted to do? How did it escape? Where oh where did that thing inside of you come from?

It really comes from the stories, thoughts, and emotions from within us. So then how does it appear when we need it? How can we conjure it up at a moments notice? Here are three tips for unleashing the beast (or if you prefer, accessing our inner motivation):

  1. Visualize it. Remember a time when motivation came to you naturally. What did it feel like? What were you doing? What was the visualization or picture in your head? Try to focus and re-create this. This helps to see what it is you’re after with clarity. Or if this doesn’t work, think about what would make you jump out of bed every morning, or if you prefer, ask yourself what’s really burning in your heart?
  2. Watch it. Type “motivational video” into a Youtube search and there are several great ones to choose from. Pick one that really resonates with you. You’ll know it resonates with you if you can’t get enough of it! Check out one of my favorite motivational videos here. Seriously take six minutes to watch this…I cannot get enough of this powerful video… Unbroken – Motivational Video
  3. Affirm it. Look at this blog photo which states “wake up every morning and tell yourself – I can do this“. Telling yourself you can do it can help unlock your potential inner desire. If this doesn’t work at first, practice telling yourself “I can do this” every morning. To help reinforce the desire, affirm it a few times throughout the day.
  4. Write it. What do you really want to achieve (i.e. what’s the goal)? It helps if you can write/type it. Now add short-term steps that will help you get to this long-term goal. Now add actions (short term, like tomorrow and next week; and longer term actions). These actions should have some sort of a line of sight to your long-term goals.

Regarding #3, don’t worry if these include baby steps. Baby steps are still much better than taking no steps at all. In fact, I encourage baby steps. These steps can help keep you going on the right path, rather than attempting to attain a larger goal that seems insurmountable or unattainable.

I hope these steps help you unleash the inner drive that creates your moments of motivation. If you have any other methods towards triggering your inner motivation I would love to hear them!

Motivationally,

Kevin