Repost: Happiness

Mar 30 8:56am | Dr. Melanie Chandler, HABIT FL Director | @drmelaniechandler | Comments (6)

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I thought this post from Michelle Graff Radford from 2018 was worth reposting this week.  I hear "I'll be happy when..." a lot.  Of course, sometimes after a stressful event or something comes to fruition we were hoping for, we may indeed feel happier (like the pandemic being over, right?) But, often, it isn't about waiting for something to pass, but rather changing our thoughts and mental focus that makes us feel "happy," as Michelle details below. One last thought from me on this topic, it may also be unreasonable to expect to regularly feel "happy." I mean, can you sustain the glowing emotion the folks are showing in the picture above? That state of feeling is just not reasonable to maintain.  Rather, it may be more realistic to seek a sense of feeling "content." - MJC

**** Below from MGR in 2018****

We all want to be “happy” but what does that actually mean and what can we do in our daily lives to be happier? Fortunately, researchers have begun to understand what really helps us to be happier and more resilient to life's challenges.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a researcher in the field of positive psychology, describes happiness in her 2007 book, The How of Happiness, as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

How to find happiness

According to Mayoclinic.org  “Only a small percentage of the variation in people's reports of happiness can be explained by differences in their circumstances. It appears that the bulk of what determines happiness is due to personality and—more importantly—thoughts and behaviors that can be changed.”

The good news is that your actions and thoughts can influence your level of happiness. Below are practical activities drawn from scientific studies. Note that all of these take regular practice to be effective:

  • Gratitude
  • Social connection
  • Compassion
  • Feeling a sense of purpose
  • Living in the moment or mindfulness

Gratitude

Gratitude is an attitude – a sense of wonder and appreciation for the gifts in your life. Research shows that practicing gratitude can make you healthier and happier. Focusing on blessings can help ward off depression and build resilience in times of stress and grief.

Here are some techniques to help you to build your sense of gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Each day write down three things that went well for you. Provide an explanation of why you think it went well. How did this made you feel?
  • Count your blessings-- not sheep-- before you go to sleep.
  • Review the things you have done that day and the people in your life and feel a sense of gratitude.
  • Try a short gratitude meditation exercise by Dr. Amit Sood, a Mayo Clinic expert on happiness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M-TLhGKgwA

Social connection

Our connection with other people is basic to our happiness. Meaningful relationships boost happiness, cognitive abilities and health.

  • Nurture your relationships with friends and family. Express your appreciation to them for the things that you may take for granted. Try to listen to what they have to say without making judgments.

Compassion

Compassion is a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for other people's suffering and a desire to help.

Research shows that we are born with an inherent sense of compassion that is essential for bonding and connecting with others.

Giving or receiving compassion helps you enjoy better mental and physical health.

Here are some techniques to enhance your compassion:

  • Try daily to practice random acts of kindness, for example:
    • Let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line or in traffic.
    • Take time to really listen to someone.
    • Give a sincere compliment.
  • Be compassionate to yourself. This is not self-pity. You’re simply recognizing that “this is tough, this hurts.” Give the same warmhearted compassion to yourself as you would to any friend grappling with the same challenge. Studies have shown that self-compassion has many benefits including lowering stress and increasing resilience.

Feeling a sense of purpose

Studies show that having a sense of purpose enhances happiness.

  • Make a list of activities that bring meaning to your life. Try to do one activity each day.
  • Find meaningful use of your talents through volunteer opportunities
  • Join an organization with a cause you find important.

Living in the moment or mindfulness

·         Focus on the present moment. When not in the present, the mind wanders and tends to ruminate on negative thoughts.

·         Accept your emotions. It is vital to have an emotional balance. One cannot experience happiness at the expense of avoiding other important emotions, such as fear, sadness, anger or guilt. Accepting these emotions as a part of life help us live a healthier emotional life.

·         Look for opportunities to savor the pleasures of everyday life.

·         Spend time in nature.

Invest in your happiness today by trying at least one of the techniques.  Comment below to let others know how these techniques work for you.

Agreed though we are glossing over the major factor in all of this. Choice. While consistently implied in the article, in the end you choose to express gratitude. You choose to seek connection. You choose to find a purpose. You choose to be in the moment. We choose to be happy,
Best always,
s!
Scott Jensen

REPLY

Happiness becomes much more elusive when you are ill day after day after day. I would love to do some volunteer work to bring meaning to my life, but I cannot do it because of illness. I have read many articles on happiness, but none of them address how to be happy when you are chronically ill. It seems impossible. You can't do the things you enjoy and you never feel well. I have also tried medications, but they don't work for me. If I got well tomorrow, I'd be the happiest person on earth.

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@nataliem I hear you with pain but it often is mind over matter as was said it is your choice to be happy or stay stuck 8n your problems Let your Power win not your illness

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@nataliem

Happiness becomes much more elusive when you are ill day after day after day. I would love to do some volunteer work to bring meaning to my life, but I cannot do it because of illness. I have read many articles on happiness, but none of them address how to be happy when you are chronically ill. It seems impossible. You can't do the things you enjoy and you never feel well. I have also tried medications, but they don't work for me. If I got well tomorrow, I'd be the happiest person on earth.

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I know how difficult this seems. I think the way is very small steps of gratitude. "Today I could walk or today so and so called or I remember a good moment in my life. Some days it may be that you felt the healing rays of sunshine or felt the comfort of the falling rain." Some times we are so consumed with what we can't do that we forget to concentrate on what we can do. Acceptance of our disabilities and the difficulties they bring to life goes a long way.

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@nataliem

Happiness becomes much more elusive when you are ill day after day after day. I would love to do some volunteer work to bring meaning to my life, but I cannot do it because of illness. I have read many articles on happiness, but none of them address how to be happy when you are chronically ill. It seems impossible. You can't do the things you enjoy and you never feel well. I have also tried medications, but they don't work for me. If I got well tomorrow, I'd be the happiest person on earth.

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When I hit very low points, whether due to illness, pain, or situation, I resort to an old tool… It is a gratitude list. I have been using it daily for many months now to maintain a positive outlook as we work through Covid & continue to deal with everything life hands us.

Each morning and each evening, I list 3 things I am grateful for that minute – and focus on each for at least 10-15 seconds.

For example, during the complete Covid lockdown, when I couldn't see anyone, was in pain, and very lonely, one morning my morning list was:
I can breathe without struggle (sometimes an issue for me)
I can use technology to connect with people
I am enjoying my morning coffee

My evening list was:
I connected with people on Mayo Connect today
I was able to order and pickup the food I needed today
I went for a short walk and saw nature

This morning:
My hands are working today so I can type with minimal pain, doing safe, remote volunteer work
I have my windows open and am listening to the birds calling to each other
I can breathe without struggle (it was an issue for me yesterday)

My 4 year old grandson was struggling mightily during Covid with the isolation we worked on this with him as well.

It really is a matter of focusing on what we HAVE and CAN DO rather than what we have lost, or temporarily cannot do… I refuse to focus on my pain or my lungs – I use every therapy, exercise, rub, stretch, heat, cold, healthy diet, etc to minimize pain and to keep my lung infection under control.

I have a friend who cannot eat "real food" – only select foods completely liquified. She still enjoys sitting with us when we eat, remembering the tastes and textures, enjoying the aromas and the company – talk about seeing a glass as HALF FULL!

Sue

REPLY
@scottij

Agreed though we are glossing over the major factor in all of this. Choice. While consistently implied in the article, in the end you choose to express gratitude. You choose to seek connection. You choose to find a purpose. You choose to be in the moment. We choose to be happy,
Best always,
s!
Scott Jensen

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@scottj I agree that choice is a vital ingredient. Thanks for adding this perspective.

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