Tag Archives: Gratitude

8 Ways to Happiness & Satisfaction in Your Life

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happiness_250Spring has sprung, or at least that’s what I tell myself! Despite the cold weather and snow sprinkles we’ve seen the past few days, my body still senses a new season approaching. I can also see and hear it at appointments with coaching clients – showing up in bright clothing, with new-found motivation and general excitement around goal-setting. Spring is a time when moods begin to shift. People are waking up from winter and getting ready to move around more. Everyone’s energy climbs with the lengthening of days. It’s great.

But for some of us, just the thought of a new season isn’t enough to get us ticking. Thanks to Sonja Lyubomirsky of University of California, this post includes some helpful practices that will make your days brighter as you wait patiently for Spring to show up more fully. I also added some of my own suggestions to the mix, so I hope you enjoy!

1. Count your blessings. So maybe your life isn’t perfect. Nobody’s is. However, research shows that if we pay attention to the things we have in our lives that are going well, our overall happiness is greater than our peers who do not practice gratitude. Not sure how to be more grateful? Try out one of these practices:

  • Start a gratitude journal. Each week, pick one day to write down 3-5 things that make you feel grateful. Try to switch it up so your entries vary. Be sure to include the big and the little things that make you happy. If it brings you joy and gratitude, write it down.
  • Pay a gratitude visit. Write a testimonial to a friend, teacher, or mentor, or even better, pay them a visit and read them the letter in person. Studies have shown that this one act can give you a whole month’s worth of feeling happy…that would buy you until May!
  • Three Blessings: Martin Seligman finds that an exercise he calls, Three Blessings, can provide you with three to six months of satisfaction. Every day write down three things that went well in your day and why. Keep this up over time and see what happens.

2. Practice self-care. Do you chronically go to bed late, wake up early, and then feel lousy the rest of the day? How do you feel when you get enough rest? Better, right? Sometimes the key to happiness is as simple as getting enough sleep. Such a simple answer but for many of us so hard to execute. Understanding what you need to do to keep your body and mind at optimal functioning is important. Start by making a list of your basic needs and try to check a few off the list each day.  Experiment with it, and practice, practice, practice. The more you are able to work what you need into your life on a regular basis, the easier it will become.

3. Be compassionate. Being kind to other people for the sake of being kind is so good for your well-being. Pay it forward. It makes you feel generous and capable, and it builds your self-efficacy – your belief that you can do it! It also gives you a sense of community and connection to others which provides you with acceptance, smiles/appreciation, and reciprocated kindness. All of these results will bring you more happiness. Being kind to others puts you in a good mood, it’s that simple. Just make sure that it is genuine. If it is not something you are doing from your heart you will not get the same benefits.
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4. Have fun. On average babies laugh 300 times a day. Adults laugh 20 times a day. These figures are staggering and affect our ability to be happy. In order to raise the bar, do things that you enjoy every once in awhile. Smile. Smile when you look at yourself in the mirror. Smile at someone else. Smile with your eyes. If you really can’t get yourself to smile, hold a pencil or pen between your teeth, and your body will passively start to generate some positive feelings. Do this while looking in the mirror and you may actually start laughing 🙂 If you find yourself too busy to “do” something fun each week, try to work on enjoying or simply noticing the parts of your day that are fun or pleasurable. 

5. Forgive, forgive, forgive. The time you spend mulling over experiences and people that bother you or have wronged you is time wasted. Being angry or resenting others will only suck the energy and vitality out of your life. Write a letter of forgiveness to the other person and send it to them, or just strike a match and let it burn away. Let it go. Work on practices that help you let things go. Yoga is a great framework to help with forgiveness. Through breathwork – breathing in nourishment and letting go what no longer serves you – you can change your life and learn to let go. Meditation is another great way to work on forgiveness. Imagine a person in your life that you love a lot and focus on sending them all your love and compassion. Then repeat with the same focus and feeling but send your love to someone who you are trying to forgive. It’s not easy, but it helps. The sooner you can detach from being angry at others, the sooner you can achieve freedom and happiness in your life.

6. Spend time with friends & family. Study after study shows that after you reach a level where your basic needs are met, where you live, more money, your job title, or even your health status will NOT make you more happy. What does make you more happy appears to be strong personal relationships. When you are busy chasing life, if you want to be happy, do not forget this piece. When you are too busy for your friends and family, reconsider. If you don’t want to see your friends or family, ask yourself why. If it is because the people make you feel rotten, then build a new community. Always surround yourself with people who support you, and make sure to take time for these special friendships as they will bring you the most joy.

7. Find meaning in your life. As mentioned in the healthy retirement blog post, having a purpose is central to our ability to be satisfied and happy. For a lot of people this is tough. What this one boils down to is a lot of self-study – the ability to know yourself inside and out. What makes you tick? The better you know yourself the easier it will be to understand what drives you and motivates you. Knowing your strengths and finding ways to realize them in the world can boost your happiness and feelings of satisfaction. If you have trouble with pinning down your strengths, ask people that know you well and that you trust. See what they say. You might be surprised or you might receive affirmation in what you already know about yourself.

8. Show up. Get engaged in what you do. Dig into the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more you disconnect yourself from your surroundings, your work, your friends, your family, the worse you are going to feel about your life. Life is not easy, but if you come to the table with your eyes and heart open, you will have a better chance of being resilient to the daily stress and challenges that life ultimately brings. If you try to avoid or ignore the hard stuff, you are only going to cause more trouble for yourself down the road. The best thing you can do for yourself is show up and be an active participant in your life. Nobody else is going to live your life but you. So go out there and live out your legacy!

I hope this post gives you a little inspiration, I know it revs me up! It can be a little overwhelming, I know – believe me. But what I find works best for me is to pick one or two items to focus on at a time.

How many of these 8 practices do you have in check? 

Which ones do you feel like you need to work on right now? 

Any other practices you find helpful in your own life that you would like to share?

Success ≠ Happiness

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How do you balance the challenge of what it means to be successful? Does success mean working harder? Does success mean striving to be better? Does success mean “doing” more? According to the way we are socialized, the answer is typically, “Yes,” to all three questions. Yet, this view-point is so far from the truth, because it fails to celebrate and acknowledge the joys that occur in the present moment. Which is why I decided to put my work away today and visit this neglected but dearly loved, blog of mine.

Shawn Achor’s TEDtalk nails it. Our society tends to believe that the external world can predict how happy people are. We see someone with a nice job, a new car, a lovely house, a handsome lover, an ivy league education, etc., and we assume life must be good for them. Just like we assume, if we become more successful and have more nice, pretty things that we, too, may be happier.

This mentality is misleading, and it is time to break the spell as individuals and as a community and to start recognizing what really makes us happy. Shawn Achor’s TEDtalk mentions that 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world (things we have/things we do) but by the way our brain processes the world (our internal self/our outlook). He goes on to illustrate how our personal and collective perspectives can impact the world within us and around us.

He explains that by raising positive thinking and optimism in the present moment, instead of focusing on future-oriented/desired success, we will become happier living in the moment. This resulting happiness and shift in perspective activates all learning centers in our brain and raises our intelligence, creativity, and overall energy.

While his talk is framed around how we can improve our success at work, it really is about how we can improve and reclaim the direction of our life, health, and happiness. Which direction will you take?

Shawn’s Recommended Exercise: Train your brain to become more positive by making optimism a habit. Try out all or any of these 5 activities for 21 days, and you will be on your way to teaching your brain to scan for the positive rather than the negative.

1. Write out 3 gratitudes a day.

2. Journal about a positive experience you had each day.

3. Make time for exercise – it helps remind you that behavior does matter.

4. Meditate to help you overcome your culturally acquired ADHD.

5. Perform random acts of kindness, practice compassion. It makes you and the world happier.

If you need to be reminded how important it is to raise your optimism levels in the present moment and let go of the illusion that success = happiness, then this is the video for you. I highly recommend.

                                                                                                                                                         

Food Sadhanas: 4 Practices to Keep Your Mind & Body Whole

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After prenatal yoga teacher training a few weekends ago, I was inspired to reacquaint myself with Ayurveda (India’s traditional healing system). As a person who associates my primary dosha as pitta (fire), I reviewed the list of foods and spices that I am supposed to avoid according to ayurvedic principles. I quickly remembered why I didn’t pay much attention to Ayurveda when we covered it in graduate school–as a pitta I am to avoid or limit many foods that I love–like garlic, onions, and spices to name a few. Messing with a pitta’s cherished food is not a fun or an easy matter. In fact, it might be dangerous. If you are part-pitta, you know what I’m talking about. With this one fact in mind, it’s no wonder I decided against adopting this healing system into my way of life.  And yet, here I am blogging about it and thinking about my views and practices around food.  Maybe it’s a sign I need to revisit Ayurveda.

For today, I did not come here to discuss the particular foods as they relate to my body type and Ayurveda, but I came more so with the intent to speak about food sadhanas. To keep it simple, a sadhana (sod-a-na) is a special practice. This practice is typically a wholesome/spiritual activity that is connected to nature, and it is a pattern that is based on the memory of the universe. It is an action that can lead to those “a-ha” moments that some of us seek out and some of us avoid. According to Maya Tiwari, sadhana awakens our cognitive memory and replenishes the lost art of beauty, grace, and accommodation. Through sadhana we can better connect to the earth and to our own internal and external environment.

The simple act of cooking and eating can inspire and rejuvenate our body’s cognitive memory. Food sadhanas are so important to “waking up” and connecting to nature and others, because food takes us through the complete cycle of life and elicits universal memories. From seed to waste to seed, this central practice helps our whole life come into balance. Special food practices help us reacquaint with nature and with our own nature. And yet, today, confusion about food is the norm. People consult with dieticians and nutritionists to navigate their relationship with food. And who can blame us? With the way most food is produced, there is no wonder why we have “experts” who exist to help us with it all. However, if we look at it from a very basic perspective–from the perspective of a food sadhana or food practice, we all can agree that we know more answers to our questions about food than we realize. And we also know that many of us are guilty of not engaging fully or honestly in our food practices.

Some food for thought today surrounds some basic and timeless concepts that connect the individual to the greater community/world through simple food practices. We often think about what we eat as being important to our health but not about the practice of how we eat.

Practice #1 Expressing Gratitude 

When it’s time to sit down for a meal or food, how often are you grateful? How often do you think about the farmer or person who made this food available to you? And how often do you send a thank you note either mentally or physically to that person? By being thankful and grateful while we eat, we have a peace of mind, which leads to a more peaceful digestion. How do you practice gratitude as it relates to your food practices? Do you offer to clean up after a meal? Or do you inhale the meal and move on to the next thing? Unsure about who to thank when you eat your food? Think about that for a minute. Investigate.

Practice #2 Emotional Eating–How do you feel?

A sweet meal can turn sour really easily if you are feeling in a dumpy mood. Never eat when you are upset. It is an insult to your body, the food, and the food-maker. How often do you eat when you are upset? Unfortunately, this practice is a habit many of us know too well or maybe even do without realizing. What would it look like if you did not eat when you were feeling down? How would your relationship with food change and how would your body change if you were not eating to fill a void?

Practice #3 Savoring the Flavor

Part of eating is for sustenance, but it’s also for enjoyment. Are you actually tasting what you are eating? Or are you checking your email? Or thinking about what you have to do or what you should have done? Are you chewing your food? Are you being present with your food and surroundings? Research has shown the importance of chewing food and being present. We all very well know that when we take our time eating, we usually feel better afterwards.

Practice #4 Eating in Community 

How often do you eat with your loved ones? Sharing is such a gift, and to share a meal with someone is a very healthy and necessary food practice. Through shared meals we cultivate friendships and make connections that are greater than ourselves to those around us which is important to our well-being. When we do not fulfill the human need to bond with others, we tend to try to bonding or attaching ourselves to other things, like the food itself, drugs, or possessions. When was the last time you shared a meal with someone? Were you fully present?

Main source: Ayurveda a Life of Balance by Maya Tiwari