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  1. At new year, many of us make resolutions to break or create habits, only to relapse back into our existing behaviour. In this 'how to' guide, Arlo Laibowitz explains how to change this cycle, so you can avoid falling back into bad habits and focus on maintaining those good ones. Quitting smoking. Keeping a gratitude journal. Developing a mindfulness practice. Whether we want to break habits, or create new ones, the process can be complicated. Most of us have made resolutions to break or create habits, only to fall back into old patterns. So, how do we change this cycle? How do habits work? And what are the elements needed to break and create habits? Popular believe has it that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, a study from University College London has shown that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, depending on the complexity of the habit. Learn how to create habits... and break destructive ones How are habits formed exactly? Habits are formed by the 'habit loop'. The habit loop consists of: The Reminder (the trigger of the behavior). The Routine (the behaviour itself). The Reward (the benefit of the behaviour). To develop a good habit, do the following: Identify the routine around the habit. Isolate the cue or reminder that triggers the behaviour. Create behaviour chains and choose a (new) reminder. Create two lists; things you do every day, and things that happen to you each day. These lists will show you where and how to insert a new habit, in an “if-then” plan. Eliminate excessive options. Identify aspects of your life that you consider not that important, and then routinise those aspects, so that you have mental energy left to work on your habits. Choose a habit that is easy to start with. Big changes in life happen as a product of daily habits, usually not the other way around. Experiment with rewards. Create success and positive feedback loops when accomplishing your growing habit for that day. Make micro quotas and macro goals. Balance your desire to dream big goals with your day-to-day activities and possible quotas to get to your goals. When monitoring your habit, consider using tracking apps, or using a simple “yes-no-chart” that tracks how many days you have engaged in the habit. Make a solid plan on how to break or create the habit and how to monitor it. Process plan: visualise the process instead of the outcome. Eliminate the “What the Hell Effect” or “ah-screw-its”. Find where things are susceptible to break down, and consider including an if-then-plan to mitigate these moments. Studies have shown that certain habits, like making your bed, exercising, or keeping a journal, can keystone other habits. Recognize a keystone habit that works for you, and use it to develop other habits. Track and monitor your habits to see if you're sticking to them – or not! How to avoid falling back into old habits To avoid falling back into our bad habits, or not succeeding in creating new ones, it's essential to recognise and counteract loopholes, like false choice loopholes, tomorrow loopholes, this-doesn’t count loopholes, fake self-actualisation loopholes, or one-time loopholes. Recognise these kinds of loopholes and counter them with if-then plans to strengthen your automaticity. Ultimately, breaking or creating habits help us in living the life we want to live. As author Gretchen Rubin put it, habits are “the invisible architecture of every life and a significant element of happiness.” Whether it's gratitude, mindfulness, connection, forgiveness, compassion, or any other happiness practice you seek to work on, the key is to form and sustain good habits. So, why not start with one today? ● Written by Arlo Laibowitz Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  2. It’s often said that schools don’t provide the life skills children really need as they become adults, but emotional education – or social-emotional learning – is becoming much more popular these days. Arlo Laibowitz explores what it is and just how emotional education can benefit the younger members of our community. Traditionally, education focuses on three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic. But to become happy and caring individuals, those skills are not enough. Increasingly, there’s also attention to 'soft skills', most often called emotional education or social-emotional learning (SEL). What exactly is SEL? SEL is the process through which students acquire and apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to: understand and manage emotions (self-awareness) set and achieve positive goals (self-management) feel and show empathy to others (social awareness) establish and maintain positive relationships (relationship skills) make responsible decisions. Check out our video below to find out more. What does emotional learning focus on? Self-Awareness trains the ability to focus on one's emotions, thoughts, and values, and how they influence behaviour. Also, it strengthens the capacity to assess one’s strengths and limitations, with confidence, optimism, and a ‘growth mindset’. Self-Management trains the skills to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in different situations: managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself. Social Awareness focuses on the ability to take the perspective and empathise with others. It enables the student to understand social and ethical norms. Relationships skills strengthen the students in their ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships, to communicate clearly, listen deeply, cooperate with others, negotiate conflict, and seek and offer help. Responsible decision making trains the capacity to make constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions based on ethics, safety, and social norms. How can it be used to help students? The three R’s of emotional education that are found in SEL, are focused on emotional literacy: Regulation, Reconstruction, and Resilience: Students learn to regulate their emotions and alter them. Reconstruction of emotions enables emotionally healthy and positive responses. And when students are capable of balancing conflicting and competing emotions, they become calmer and more resilient. The reasons to adopt SEL are these positive results: To overcome and manage emotions like fear, hatred, anger, and anxiety. To increase academic success, in test scores, grades, and attendance. To lower stress-levels, and have more positive attitudes towards themselves, others, and tasks. To prevent harmful behaviors like drug use, violence, and bullying. And to provide students with the skills, they will need in their future careers and lives. The skills taught through SEL help students, educators, and parents to cultivate more positive emotions. Education can be used as a tool to serve the greater good: students learn to sustain their well-being and happiness and care for themselves and others. In the shift from the traditional three R’s to the three R’s of emotional learning, students, schools, and parents, develop skills and competencies that enable them to lead more balanced, empathic, connected, and happier lives. ● Written by Arlo Laibowitz Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  3. Self-acceptance can be difficult, especially in a world where we often compare ourself to others. But being aware of your strengths and also being happy with your flaws can have real benefits. Here, Arlo Laibowitz explains what true self-acceptance is and shares 12 useful techniques you can implement to start accepting yourself today... Self-improvement. It sounds like a great idea to strengthen our skills and habits. But, in fact, it can have a negative impact on us if we ask ourselves what we should do or should be all the time. Often, our inner critic makes a judgement that we are not good enough, and we don’t accept ourselves as we are at that moment. That is a problem, because one of the most significant factors to be happy, and overall feel satisfied with life, is self-acceptance. What is true self-acceptance? Self-acceptance is: The awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. The realistic appraisal of your talents, capabilities, and worth. The feeling of satisfaction with your self, despite flaws and regardless of past choices. Benefits of self-acceptance include: Mood regulation. A decrease in depressive symptoms, the desire to be approved by others, fear of failure, and self-critique. Increase in positive emotions, sense of freedom, self-worth, autonomy, and self-esteem. Self-acceptance steps such as celebrating your strengths and forgiving yourself really can make a difference How can we work on being more self-accepting? There are some clear steps to being able to truly accept ourselves: Become self-aware and set an intention: recognise your thoughts, feelings and pain, welcome them, and separate yourself from them. Then set the intention that you are willing to accept yourself in all aspects. Celebrate your strengths and accept your weaknesses. Consider the people around you, in recognising positive and negative reinforcement, and practice your sense of shared humanity, for instance, through loving-kindness meditation. Create a support system; surround yourself with people that accept you and believe in you. Forgive yourself; learn to move on from past regrets and accept that you were the best possible you at that moment. Shush your inner critic and stop rating yourself against others. Grieve the loss of unrealised dreams; reconcile who you are with the ideal image of your youth or younger self. Perform charitable acts; give to others, recognise how you can help and make a difference in others’ lives. Realise that acceptance is not resignation; acceptance is letting go of the past and things we cannot control. You can then focus on what you can control, and empower yourself further. Speak to your highest self; the inner voice that has compassion, empathy, and love, to others, and to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Cultivate self-compassion, in not judging yourself, or over-identifying with self-defeating thoughts or behaviour. Take care of your mind and body. Keep believing in yourself, use positive self-talk, and practice PERT: Postive Emotion Refocusing Technique when times are tough. Try to follow these 12 steps and you should feel the benefit of greater self-acceptance The path to self-acceptance can be rough and bumpy. There will be times that current external circumstances, past experiences, and our programming make it hard or impossible to accept ourselves. And there's no shame in seeking help – from a loved one or a professional – when things get too hard. In the end, the greatest gift you can give yourself is self-acceptance. In the words of psychologist Tara Brach: “Imperfection is not our personal problem – it is a natural part of existing. The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.” With self-acceptance, we can learn to live with our imperfections and be truly free and happy. ● Written by Arlo Laibowitz Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  4. WHAT IS: Ikigai

    Ikigai (pronounced Ick-ee-guy) is a concept originating from the Japanese island of Okinawa, home to the largest population of centenarians in the world. So, could finding our ikigai – our reason for being – lead to happiness and longevity in life? Arlo Laibowitz explores this interesting idea... Why do we get up in the morning?, What is the meaning of life? Why don’t we commit suicide? These are all questions that we think about or need to answer at some point in our lives, either professionally or personally. The Japanese concept of Ikigai answers these questions, by finding our reason for being. So, what exactly is Ikigai, and how can we use its lessons to find meaning and happiness in our lives? Ikigai, according to one definition, is our “raison d’être”, or the happiness of always being busy, both in our professional life and everyday life. It's the passion and talent we have that gives meaning to our days and drives us to share the best of ourselves with the world. Ikigai is an attitude towards life, a way of finding our optimal activities in life, and a set of characteristics that can create meaning and happiness in life. Ikigai helps you find your reason for being, and therefore, passion and meaning When we look for our professional ikigai, we can ask ourselves four questions: What do we love? What are we good at? What does the world need? What can you be paid for? Ikigai is found at the intersection of these four questions, where passion, mission, vocation, and profession meet. To determine our ikigai, we can try to: Find a purpose we strongly believe in. Stop thinking and start doing. Speak to people who have similar passions. And, accept that setbacks are normal. Ikagi at work: Knowing what you love and what you're good at can help you make better career options The characteristic of everyday ikigai are: Finding flow in everything we do, and remaining active. Taking it slow, and not worrying. Cultivating good habits, including good nutrition. Nurturing good friendships. Living an unhurried life, and exercising daily. Being optimistic and smiling a lot. Reconnecting with nature. Giving thanks, and having resilience. Cherishing "wabi-sabi", or the imperfection of life. And, living by "ichi-go, ichi-e": the knowledge that this moment exists only now, and won’t come again. By finding our professional ikigai, and living according to its characteristics in our day-to-day, we can lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. On the Japanese island of Okinawa, people live among the longest in the world. Their secret: following their ikigai, and thereby constantly maintaining their happiness. ● Written by Arlo Laibowitz Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  5. WHAT IS: Flow

    Ever had the feeling of complete focus and contentment on a work/study task or hobby? That's called 'flow', and when you find it, cherish it. Because, as Arlo Laibowitz explains, finding that elusive state of flow can lead to great happiness. True happiness and satisfaction in our work, studies, or hobbies. These are things we all strive for, but only a few seem to be able to obtain such contentment. Did you know that there is a state that means to be fulfilled and engaged in these activities? That state is called flow, named by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [Mee-high cheek-sent-mee-high]. So, how does 'flow' work and how can we obtain it? Flow: the meaning Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of focus, involvement and enjoyment. This state is characterised by total absorption in what one does, and the resulting loss in one's sense of space and time: Action and awareness become merged. We have no worry of failure, because we are in control. Our sense of time becomes distorted, because the activity becomes rewarding in itself. Check out our full video on flow here: Autotelics, and how to achieve flow There are people who have developed their flow in such a way that every obstacle becomes an enjoyable challenge. Csikszentmihalyi calls these people 'autotelic'. These are people that are never bored, rarely anxious, and constantly involved with what is going on. So, how do we become more autotelic ourselves? There are some conditions that have to be met to achieve it: The activity has a clear set of goals and progress. The task must have clear and immediate feedback. We have to pay attention to what is happening in the moment without distractions. We need to learn to enjoy the immediate experience. We have to proportion our skills to the challenge. How do we obtain and maintain flow? Flow is a balancing act between anxiety; when the task is too difficult, and boredom; when the task is not difficult enough. That is because when we are in flow, we subconsciously work towards becoming masters. So, to maintain flow, we must seek greater challenges. Go with the flow: increase your challenge level and avoid boredom It's an innately positive experience. It produces intense feelings of enjoyment, with long-term benefits to positive effect and happiness. Csikszentmihályi also stated that happiness comes from personal development and growth. Flow states create this development and growth. The more time we spend in flow-state activities, the more our intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning increase. So, challenge yourself with more complicated tasks, improve your skills, and repeat this process continuously, to help boost your happiness and satisfaction. ● Written by Arlo Laibowitz Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  6. HOW TO: Practice Forgiveness

    Practicing forgiveness is a key way that you can lead a more meaningful life and cultivate deeper happiness. However, forgiving someone – or yourself – isn't always easy. Here, Arlo Laibowitz shares some great steps that can help make the process easier, enabling you to let go of suffering and move on with your life. To live is to get hurt. We've all been in the situation that we feel that others have done us wrong: by their words, their actions, or even worse, their indifference. And then there are the things we regret doing or saying ourselves. The saying goes, 'to forgive and forget', but in practice, we tend to hold on to our feelings of hurt and resentment. Forgiveness: what exactly is it? How can we forgive others, and ourselves, for good? What is genuine forgiveness? And how does forgiving help us to lead happier and more peaceful lives? “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Gandhi~ Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to let go of resentment or vengeance towards a person or group who has harmed you. Forgiveness is not forgetting, or condoning or excusing offences. It is what we do for ourselves to get well and move on. Essential steps to practice forgiveness According to author and Buddhist practitioner Jack Kornfield, we can forgive by following these 12 steps: Understand what forgiveness is and what it is not. Feel the suffering in yourself of holding on to your lack of forgiveness. Reflect on the benefits of a loving heart. Discover that it is not necessary to be loyal to your suffering. Understand that forgiveness is a process. Set your intention for forgiveness. Learn the inner and outer forms of forgiveness. Start the easiest way, by forgiving an ‘easy’ individual. Be willing to grieve. Forgiveness includes all dimensions of life, including the body, mind, emotions, and interpersonal. Forgiveness involves a shift of identity, to our capacity for love, freedom and good. Forgiveness involves perspective. “It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” ~Maya Angelou~ Forgive and forget in nine simple steps The nine-steps forgiveness program On a more practical level, there are clear steps to be followed, as outlined by Fred Luskin of Stanford University. He outlined a forgiveness program that helps us to take things less personally, blaming others less, and offering more understanding and compassion to others, and to ourselves: Know how you feel and be able to express what you do not consider acceptable about the situation or behaviour. Commit yourself to feel better. Forgiveness is a personal process. Forgiveness does not have to mean reconciliation or condoning the actions of the person that has grieved you. Forgiveness is about peace and understanding and taking things less personally. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Practice stress management to soothe flight or fight, by doing mindful breathing exercises, taking a walk, or whatever else works. Give up expecting things from your life or other people that they do not give you. Put your energy into looking for ways to get your positive goals met, instead of focusing on the experience that has hurt you. Remember that a well-lived life is an ultimate revenge: look for love, beauty, and kindness. Put energy into appreciating what you have instead of what you don’t have. Amend the way you look at your past; cherish your forgiveness. “Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~Marianne Williamson~ Research has shown that as we forgive, we are less susceptible to stress, anger and hurt. Once we have started the practice of forgiveness, it becomes easier to do that in new situations and induces more optimism. Practicing forgiveness is one of the essentials to leading more meaningful lives. By gifting ourselves the gift of forgiveness, we can live more loving, more compassionate, and ultimately, happier lives. ● Written by Arlo Laibowitz Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  7. It's all too easy to snap at our friends and family when they upset us, but by practising non-violent communication (NVC), Arlo Laibowitz argues that we can make our communication friendlier and ourselves happier. "Hi! Sorry, I’m late." – "You are always late and unreliable!" – "Oh really?! That’s because you want to meet at impossible hours!" – "Why do I even try to be on time?! You egoist!!" – "I hate you!" – "I hate you more!” Personal relationships contribute to our happiness. But sometimes things can go wrong: we say and do things that create conflict between our loved ones and us. Well, there's a way to avoid or resolve conflicts, developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. It's called Non-Violent Communication or NVC. How does this method work, and how does it help us to be happier in our relationships? Watch the video on Non-Violent Communication below... "I care." "I'm concerned." "I understand." “I sympathise.” Non-violent communication and compassion NVC is based on the idea that we all have the capacity for compassion, and that we only use violence or harmful behaviour when we don’t have a more effective way to meet our needs. It tries to find a way for everyone to get what matters, without the use of coercive or manipulative language. "I want to be loved." "I want to show I feel with you." "I want to be seen.“ “I want to be happy" Three aspects of communication NVC focuses on three aspects of communication: self-empathy (awareness of your own experience) empathy (understanding of the other with your heart) honest self-expression (expression that inspires compassion in others) Practitioners of NVC focus in their communication on four aspects: Observation What are you seeing, hearing or touching, without evaluating or judging? Feelings What are your emotions, without thoughts or stories added? Needs What do you desire, without thinking of the strategy to get there? Requests What specific action would you like to ask, without demanding it? NVC: constructing communication The components of NVC work together. A typical NVC way of expressing something would be: When you do A [observation] ... … I feel B [feelings] ... … because I want C [needs] ... … I would appreciate it if you would be willing to do D [request]. For example, “When you are late, I feel neglected, because I want to use my time well. I would appreciate it if you could let me know when you’re running late.” NVC is useful for connecting with others and living in a way that is conscious, present, and in tune. And that, in the end, makes up all happier! ● Written by Arlo Laibowitz Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  8. Minimalism is a great way to unclutter your life, gain more space, and also deal with less stress. Happiness.com's Tine Steiss shares her simple rules of minimalism, and – like the practice itself – they are pretty minimal too! Minimalism is a great way of making space for the new year; for change, personal growth and development. Here's how to unclutter your life and make room to breathe and to be yourself. Think about your belongings like this: Everything needs to have a purpose. It can either be beautiful or useful or both. It is beautiful if you look at it several times a week and it makes you smile. It is useful if you use it several times a week. Put the other things in a box. Put the box aside for some weeks. You can take things you need out again. After some weeks, label the box and put it away.Take it out after several months. If you haven’t opened the box meanwhile, donate it without opening it again. You will create space in your life. You will establish character, time and priorities and most of all, by sticking with the useful and beautiful, you will become more yourself with less. Let go of the old – make space for something new! ● Main photo: colourbox.com Written by Tine Steiss Tine is an artist, meditator, media engineer and student of happiness. If she is not traveling she's working on turning her rooftop terrace into an urban garden paradise. Find out more about her on: Instagram Facebook
  9. What is Maslow’s Pyramid? Arlo Laibowitz takes a deeper look at the hierarchy of needs. How do we become happy? A question that has been asked since the dawn of man. And, answered by philosophers, gurus, and recently psychologists. One of them was Abraham Maslow, who formulated his ‘hierarchy of needs' or 'Maslow’s pyramid'. So, what can we learn from this pyramid, if we want to be happy? Check out our video below: Maslow’s pyramid is divided into five levels of needs: physiological safety love and belonging esteem self-actualisation 1. Physiological needs These are biological and physical requirements, like breathing, food, water, and sleep. When these needs are not fulfilled, they become the only thing we are preoccupied with. 2. Safety needs These are things such as physical safety, and needs for home, employment, income, and health. Without fulfilment of these needs, a person continually feels insecure and unprotected. 3. Love and belonging needs These deal with our desires for deep interpersonal connections, good family relationships, friendships, and sexual intimacy. Without them, we might become depressed or experience loneliness. 4. Esteem needs These are needs like self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and being respected by others. 5. Self-actualization needs These deal with creativity, spontaneity and problem-solving. They are met if we can become everything we are capable of becoming. Self-actualizing people have a grounded sense of well-being and satisfaction. And a sense of awe, wonder, and gratitude about life. The five levels of Maslow's Pyramid Maslow noted that his hierarchy is a general description. Levels are not fixed, and each need does not have to be fulfilled 100% to move to higher levels. So, how do we become happy? Maslow called the lower four levels 'deficiency needs': if we don’t have them met, it influences our psychological health and obstructs our tendency for growth, autonomy, identity, and excellence. Fulfill your needs at all levels and become a truly happy person! “Maslow noted that his hierachy is a general description. Levels are not fixed, and each does not have to be fulfilled 100% to move to higher levels.” In later work, Maslow added a sixth level to the hierarchy: 'meta-needs' or 'intrinsic' values. Maslow studied what keeps self-actualising people motivated. He found that these people seek things like truth, goodness, beauty, excellence, and so on. Instead of being interests that involve self-interest, these values transcend the individual. By including these types of needs, Maslow answered criticism about the absence of desires to know, desires for beauty, and desires for truth, that at this sixth level can be incorporated in the pyramid. ● Written by Arlo Laibowitz Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  10. Young people often struggle with grief following a loss, but a new app, Apart of Me, could help change that. Tine Steiss sat down with co-founder Louis Weinstock to find out more about this exciting project. Louis Weinstock is the co-founder of Bounce Works, a London-based social enterprise that creates connected products to help kids thrive. Apart of Me is its latest project; a safe virtual space to help young people deal with grief. Designed by experts in child psychology and bereaved young people, Apart of Me is a ground-breaking mobile game which helps young people cope with life-limiting illness, death and loss. It enables users to record and securely store memories of loved ones, build emotional resilience, and turn their suffering into a source of hope for others. The game was launched following a successful crowd-funding campaign in 2017. We sat down with Louis Weinstock to find out more about this now award-winning project. How did you come up with the idea for Apart of Me? Louis Weinstock: “I was working in St Joseph's Hospice in Hackney (London, UK), counselling both families where a parent had a terminal illness and also bereaved young people. I saw how the young people I was working with were just a tiny fraction of the numbers of young people around the world dealing with the death of a loved one without the means or support to process their often very difficult feelings. “I saw how unresolved grief can lead to much greater problems like drug addiction, mental illness and criminality further down the line. I also saw how bereaved young people had their digital memories of their loved one kept in chaotic ways on their phone amongst pictures they wouldn't want to share with their therapist or anyone over the age of 21! This made it difficult, awkward for them to honour, remember or talk about their loved one to other people.” Is it in any way comparable to the movie Inside Out, which was an excellent way to engage children in talking about emotions. “I loved the movie Inside Out. And in some ways using an animated medium is the best way to teach anyone about emotions, never mind just children. We do have a 'cave' in the game where the user catches fireflies in a net, and each firefly represents a different emotion. “The user is then supported to experiment with different strategies that can help them find peace with that emotion. But a key difference is that Inside Out is aimed mainly at younger children. Apart of Me is designed for teenagers, so we have used a more nuanced explanation of the emotions around grief, drawing on my experience as a child psychotherapist and 17 years working with children and families.” Watch how Apart of Me works What was the inspiration? “The inspiration was a boy I worked with at the Hospice. He was 15 when I started working with him. His dad had died from liver cancer six months before we met. This boy had been badly affected by his dad’s death: he got kicked out of school, started having around with the wrong crowd, was struggling with his emotions, and had no support. He showed me what happens when a young person doesn't have the right support to find a way through grief. “That’s when I realised we needed to create a highly effective, interactive, therapeutic game to help bereaved young people cope with grief. I'm pleased to say that that boy became an ambassador of Apart of Me and is now doing well. I spoke to him yesterday, and he told me he loved his college course, and he was teaching himself to play the guitar on his dad’s old guitar!” Fantastic! So, what is Apart of Me about? “Apart of Me is based on a character you control, who lands on a beautiful and peaceful island, to meet the Oracle, your wise guide. The Oracle explains that he has been through something similar to you, and he wants to help you to train up to become an Oracle too. Your job is to explore the island, complete the quests, and go through different levels to train to become an Oracle yourself, so that you can share your wisdom with other bereaved young people around the world.” And what's the main mission of the project? “The primary mission is to help young people find hope and courage when someone close to them dies. Too many don’t. Did you know that 25 percent of under 20s who commit suicide have experienced a bereavement in childhood? And that 41 percent of young offenders have lost someone when they were younger? Alongside this mission, we want to help families feel more comfortable talking about death. Being aware that life is precious, a gift can help us all to make the most of each moment.” Which solutions does Apart of Me offer? “So, we have four features in the game at the moment. The images below are probably the best way to demonstrate what we've done so far. Cave: which is about wisdom. The inside of the cave is a mysterious place for catching fireflies, exploring emotions, and hearing user stories from other young people around the world. Message in a bottle: which is about connection. Each day, a new bottle arrives on the island, containing a quest for the hero. These quests encourage face-to-face connections with your parent(s) so that you can co-curate a beautiful treasure-chest of memories, and check in with these memories whenever you want. This feature is a digital version of the 'memory box' practice commonly used in grief counselling. Waterfall: which is about peace. The Waterfall is a place to find some peace with our mindfulness meditations designed to support the grieving process. Perspective on death: What happens when we die? Explore this big question by searching for the mysterious rocks on the island, listen to perspectives old and new, and develop your understanding. Who is the target group? “The primary target group is disadvantaged young people who have a parent who is dying or has already died.” How are those solutions specifically tailored to children? “These solutions are tailored to young people. Traditional counselling is two people sat in a room. While this can be very effective, a lot of young people are more comfortable these days in digital spaces. These are the worlds they inhabit. So all the solutions in this game are based on tried and tested therapeutic techniques, just put into a medium and in a way that young people find highly compelling.” What is the motivation of the people behind this non-profit? “We're motivated by the growing crisis in young people’s mental health. We believe that we need scalable solutions that give young people the perspectives, the understanding, and strategies they need so that they can be free from their suffering and find hope and meaning in their lives.” Which parts of modern research regarding resilience are incorporated and how? “Well, first, it's crucial to say that resilience in grief is difficult to define. What do we mean by resilience? Do we mean feeling better, less sad, or happier? Grief takes so many different forms that it's unhelpful in my clinical opinion to map out a straight line with grief at one end and ‘end-of-grief’ at the other. I love the psychotherapist Patrick O’Malley’s simple clarity: that the depth of a person’s sadness in grief is often a measure of how much love was in that relationship. When somebody close to you dies, life takes on a new meaning, a new story and grief often become a part of that new story. “Most modern research into resilience takes into account the resilience of the system around the young person. So, a young person who has two very supportive parents, a supportive wider family, and a caring school, community or society which allows time and space for people to grieve… that young person is far more likely to find a way through the grief without having scars that are too deep. “So, in the game, we encourage the user to build relationships outside of the game with people they can trust. We are also designing features which allow bereaved young people to support each other in safe and meaningful ways. “Finally, and this is probably the most important, one of the things that breed huge hope and build resilience is when someone who has suffered finds a way to turn their suffering into a source of hope and wisdom for others. In the game, the user’s objective is to train to become an Oracle so that they can upload their wisdom and use that to help other young people who are earlier on in their journey.” How do you plan to move the project forward? What are the next steps? “So, we are about to launch a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo. We hope we're going to raise a lot of money, so we can realise the very exciting and important plans we have, including creating a version of this resource for refugee children who are bereaved.” ● 2019 update: Apart of Me is now freely available in the UK, EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand from both the iOS App Store and on Google Play. Bounce Works are hoping to release Apart of Me in the US and other territories in the near future. They are also planning to create localised versions translated into various languages. If you're interested in helping to customise Apart of Me for young people in your country, please get in touch. Written by Tine Steiss Tine is an artist, meditator, media engineer and student of happiness. If she is not traveling she's working on turning her rooftop terrace into an urban garden paradise. Find out more about her on: Instagram or Facebook.
  11. Looking to develop or improve your mindfulness practice? Tine Steiss reviews Mindfulness Daily: an app that aims to do just that. In Mindfulness Daily, Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach are presenting a 40-day introduction for mindfulness and meditation. You can access the daily lessons via an app or online. Mindfulness Daily: what is it? The lessons are usually around 10 minutes long and are either taught by Jack or Tara. An explanation about today's subject is followed by a guided meditation to dig deeper into the subject. It's wrapped up with a daily practice to try throughout the day. Finding some space to incorporate your mindfulness daily practice during the start of your day could be a great idea. Once you've completed a lesson you can access the following one the next day. This creates a nice pace and you can't rush through the course. You're given the time to explore each lesson throughout your day and you can always revisit the lessons you've already completed. These lessons are currently divided into four main topics: Mindfulness Basics Emotional Intelligence Resilience, Healing and Inner Freedom Mindful Living With the latest update of the Mindfulness Daily app, each lesson also has a name. This makes it much easier to revisit your most influential lessons when you feel like you need them. With this, you can tailor your sittings to your daily needs once you've finished the course by starting out with a subject you'd like to focus on. Which means the app keeps being your little helper even after having finished the course. “Once you've completed a lesson you can access the following one the next day. This creates a nice pace and you can't rush through the course.” The course has a great structure that guides you through all the relevant areas of mindfulness without being boring or too demanding. It's suitable for beginners as a first introduction to mindfulness, but if you're more experienced you will still find this course helpful and structured and are likely to discover new aspects of mindfulness for yourself. Get 'appy: Mindfulness Daily offers 40 lessons Going through 40 aspects in 40 lessons you'll most likely encounter some that seem to be an easy ride and some that touch you on a deeper level. So, this is also a great way to explore where to focus on more in your future practice. Pricing and benefits Mindfulness Daily is distributed by Sounds True, an independent multimedia publishing company focusing on spiritual traditions, arts and humanities. I paid $38 for the app, so each lesson comes down to less than $1. If you download Mindfulness Daily you also get access to other free Sounds True content. Even its regular newsletters come with free content, so the marketing is actually a win-win deal; they remind you to spend your money with them and give you something nice for free. Fair enough if you ask me. The Sounds True library app is a similar deal. It provides you with easy access to meditations, music, Mindfulness Daily and whatever else you'll maybe buy there in the future. It also tracks the time you've been meditating with the app, offers a meditation timer with different bells and a journal for your experiences. This keeps me from not deleting the app from my phone and even using it on a daily basis. Mindfulness Daily: my personal experience Due to the briefness of each lesson, it's easily incorporated into your morning routine. At least for me, it was easy to sit down for 10 minutes each morning and I didn't skip or postpone a single day. Most of the time I'd even revisit a lesson in the evening again to wrap up my day. “The course has a great structure that guides you through all the relevant areas of mindfulness without being boring or too demanding.” I started with meditation many years ago, but it wasn't until about two years ago that I developed my personal daily routine. Having a structured program is very helpful for me to keep up a daily practice. Even better if it helps me revisit and expand my knowledge and practice. So, the structured daily lessons were up my alley to start with. I also realized how I got a bit slack after the course had finished. But I started using single lessons matching my needs that day as an intro to my daily practice. High praise: daily meditation using Mindfulness Daily works Furthermore, I admit being a bit of a Tara Brach fangirl. She has a lot of free content out there that I listen to regularly. Normally it's harder for me to concentrate on a subject if I'm just listening and I prefer reading about it. In her case, it's the other way around. I had some troubles reading her book True Refugee. On the other hand, listening to her talks is a great experience, as the way she explains things really resonates with me. So, that's one of the main reasons I chose this course. If you're unsure about whether or not you like Tara Brach's or Jack Kornfield's style, just check out the free content they provide. Some of it you can also get for free on Sounds True. ● Main photo: colourbox.com Written by Tine Steiss Tine is an artist, meditator, media engineer and student of happiness. If she's not traveling she's working on turning her rooftop terrace into an urban garden paradise. Find out more about her on: Instagram, Facebook.
  12. MBSR or mindfulness-based stress reduction is a technique growing in popularity. Ed Gould takes a look at the science behind it and the growing list of physical and mental positive effects on the body... Do you want to alter the way your mind works to gain a greater understanding of the here and now? Are you thinking about which strategies you can use for dealing with pain, inattentiveness or stress? Worried that any approach you might take is not bound up in real scientific research? If so, then MBSR – mindfulness-based stress reduction – may be the practice you've been looking for. The techniques involved are simple; anyone can learn them with persistence. Thorough research from various leading medical experts in their fields has revealed some impressive facts about this practice. The key effects of MBSR Mindfulness-based stress reduction is something that can bring tremendous benefits to anyone who takes it up. While it's not a substitute for treating more serious medical conditions, it does have many benefits. As with most things in life, creating a balance is key. Once you become better-versed in the mindfulness techniques and training, they can have a widely-accepted therapeutic effect for any of the following conditions: stress high blood pressure depression chronic anxiety migraine headaches diabetes some heart conditions In particular, common uses for MBSR are for controlling the often debilitating effects of chronic pain, a frequently unwanted symptom of several of the above-listed ailments. But, how can such claims be made? According to Dr Daniel J. Siegel, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, scientific studies and research programs have regularly shown that MBSR is effective in reducing stress in all these conditions and more. Keeping calm: MBSR helps to reduce stress In addition to the medical effects that mindfulness can have, many people use the techniques involved to improve their daily lives. Everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, going for a walk, can all be performed using mindfulness techniques. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts, taking a mindful approach is as focused on being as fully awake in life as it is when dealing with medical ailments. “It's about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment," he says. Therefore, stress-reducing mindfulness can have a powerful effect on individuals who consistently practice the techniques. Even those who don't suffer from excessive amounts of anxiety and mental anguish can benefit from mindfulness. The history of MBSR The science of mindfulness has been a crucial part in creating its modern history. It had its start in America in 1979. Numbers were small, but as word spread of its positive effects, numbers grew. The 35-year history of the course program has revealed to science that it can deliver a consistent and reliable improvement in individuals suffering from stress and other related symptoms. This betterment is present in both medical and psychological symptoms. MBSD was pioneered by Kabat-Zinn, who successfully brought together modern Western traditions of science and medicine together with ancient mindfulness techniques from the Far East. Indeed, mindfulness can trace its roots back hundreds, if not thousands, of years to transcendentalism and Buddhism. Centered in and around the Middle East, India and China, mindfulness takes hold in various religions and philosophies. "Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are." Jon Kabat-Zinn The word mindfulness is essentially a translation into English of the Indian Pali word sati or smrti in Sanskrit. Sometimes translated as 'awareness', sati is one of the fundaments of Buddhist thought. These concepts have a broad range of ways in which they can be practised, similar to anapanasati and satipaṭṭhāna, which are popular in Zen Buddhism. These ideas focus on mindfulness and awareness of sensory experiences. Notable scientific studies into MBSR effects According to Philippe R. Goldin and James J. Gross in their study 'Emotion Regulation in Social Anxiety Disorder', one of the key findings of MBSR research is that it has measurable effects on emotional regulation. Goldin and Gross point out that reducing stress, anxiety, and depression is possible by using these techniques. This result was due to the modifying emotion regulation abilities which mindfulness practices can create. Peace, please: mindfulness can regulate emotions so try MBSR The study also shows that people involved in this research program were able to achieve emotional regulation in a number of different ways. These included changing situations by selection, modifying situations, attentional deployment and response modulation. Another key factor in the scientifically noted emotional regulation detected in participants resulted in cognitive change. Further research studies have been carried out to determine the impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction on social anxiety disorder, a common psychiatric condition. According to one critical study, carried out by Koszycki et al. in 2007, results from the study showed a like-for-like improvement in patients with the disorder was achievable by participating in an eight-week MBSR course, compared with a 12-week cognitive–behavioural group therapy course. Although both programs produced improvements in the mood, functionality, and quality of life for the participants, the study also revealed significantly lower scores for anxiety, especially with cognitive behavioural therapies compared with MBSR, as rated by both clinicians and patients. “Mindfulness-based stress reduction is something that can bring tremendous benefits to anyone who takes it up.” In a 1998 study conducted on medical students, a control group who underwent an MBSR course showed reduced stress levels. Published in the American Journal of Behavioural Medicine, Shapiro et al.'s study showed that there was a reduction of reports from the group of overall psychological distress, including depression. Furthermore, the group stated that they felt increased levels of empathy. They also measured their spiritual existence with higher scores at the end of the course. Fields of use for stress-reducing mindfulness According to Judith Ockene Ph D at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in this video, there are many areas of use for mindfulness-based stress reduction. Early scientific studies showed that psoriasis patients saw improved results after their phototherapy treatments. Two control groups were created. One group listened to a guided mindfulness audio during their treatment, the other group heard no accompanying audio. This study, it should be noted, centred on the physical ailments of psoriasis and not the mental aspects. By simply reducing the stress levels of the patients who underwent their treatments, scientifically demonstrable improvements demonstrated the effects of the physical outcomes from using the mindfulness audio. Now's the time: why not take the free course in MBSR? Much of the recent scientific research into MBSR focusses on mental well-being, with a particular focus on conditions like depression. But mindfulness can be a powerful tool in the field of medicine across many disciplines and therapeutic avenues. For example, according to Lawrence Leung, Associate Professor at the Department of Family Medicine at Queen's University, Canada, MBSR techniques are also used to help patients cope with chronic non-cancer related pain and a range of other conditions. These matters eventually affect up to half of the world's population at some time or another. With such wide-ranging uses, it seems that the medical possibilities for mindfulness are limitless. All it takes is new ways of imagining its practical application. If you' re keen to try out mindfulness techniques yourself, you can take this 100% free 8-week MBSR course, created by a fully certified MBSR instructor and modelled on the program founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn. ● Main image: Colorbox.com Written by Ed Gould Ed Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He's also a practitioner of Reiki.
  13. Happiness.com takes a closer look at The School of Life, an organization set up by experts in their field dedicated to improving lives, especially when it comes to relationships, careers and emotional well-being. The School of Life was founded in 2008 by well-known public philosopher and author Alain de Botton. Alongside colleagues in the arts, education and cultural fields, the group started this London-based global institution dedicated to the pursuit of the better life. The school provides consultations and training for businesses. This includes a range of courses and services for individuals which are aimed at helping clients with relationships, careers advice and emotional well-being. It now has branches in London, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin, Istanbul, Melbourne, México City, Paris, São Paulo, Sydney, Seoul, Taipei, and Tel Aviv. Never board: The School of Life is dedicated to a better life Help comes in the form of face-to-face therapeutic treatments and classroom-based sessions. The School delivers educational material through physical books, online books and films, a YouTube channel, and various educational tools. Many School of Life courses have received accreditation from the Continuing Professional Development Certification Service. The School is a partner in the Knowledge Quarter: a professional association that works towards the sharing and dissemination of ideas and knowledge. The humane spirit of The School of Life The School of Life bases its approach in the arts and humanities. It does this by exploring history, psychology, sociology, economics, politics, ethics and philosophical concepts. Alongside treatment of the inner aspects of the human subject, the School gives orientation in external social matters. These matters include responsible consumerism and entrepreneurship, and how to engage with culture and make one's place in the modern consumer-capitalist world, with all its challenges. “The School of Life bases its approach in the arts and humanities. It does this by exploring history, psychology, sociology, economics, politics, ethics and philosophical concepts.” The courses and therapies on offer encourage a realistic attitude to the concept of happiness. They pursue this and foster a sense of hopefulness and possibility with a humane spirit. Free of dogma and jargon or any particular ideology, they present challenging ideas to the individual. This is at the centre of everything The School of Life does. Down under: the window of the Melbourne branch of the School Aspects of modern living with which The School of Life can help: Improved parenting Being an understanding son or daughter Dealing with fear and anxiety Developing one's capacity for tolerance, forgiveness, appreciativeness and self-insight A more person-centred ethos in business and in the workplace Being comfortable with the acquisition of learning for its own sake, not only for passing examinations. “The courses and therapies on offer encourage a realistic attitude to the concept of happiness. They pursue this and foster a sense of hopefulness and possibility with a humane spirit.” The School of Life: goals The people at The School of Life do not lack ambition. It's their purpose to become a global hub for the promulgation of better emotional health. They employ various media to reach across nations with their philosophy. Which is about personal development and the psychological well-being in personal lives and in the workplace. The School aims to grow and bring its unique approach to finding solutions for emotional pain and confusion worldwide. In their own words, it 'wants to bring collective strength to the field of emotional health.' Check out The School of Life book and its website. ● Images: The book of life, YouTube, Colorbox.com Written by Guest Author We're happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you're interested in publishing an article here on happiness.com, please contact us.
  14. Interested in positive psychology and increasing your own happiness? Then the Science of Happiness course could be right for you. Tine Steiss tried it out... but did it change her? Edx.org offers – among many others – a course by Berkeley X called 'The Science of Happiness'. Being an engineer by training, hence naturally sceptical towards a lot of things that fall into the broad spectrum of 'spirituality', I was intrigued by the title. Of course, I want to be happy and yet I can't just blindly believe anything. So, the word science in this context really got me. The Science of Happiness course claims to be "the first MOOC (massive open online course) to teach positive psychology. Learn science-based principles and practices for a happy, meaningful life." Improving happiness with science: the claims This course is free and you can do it at your own pace. So if you're a sceptic and want some scientific proof why certain habits and behaviours have positive effects on your well-being, sign up for it and give it a try. During the course, I admit that I sometimes got bored with the many studies they quoted to prove a point and be scientifically convincing. It was only because by that point I had developed trust in what they were claiming and I didn't need further convincing and have proof for every single point. I had heard about mindfulness, about the benefits of meditation, but I was never convinced enough to actually sit down myself and give it a proper try. Well, after this course I did and I haven't stopped since. Also, seeing scientific proof of the deep need for social connections, this had a big effect on me. I tend to be an introvert and have the vague idea that I need to surround myself with just a handful of the 'right' people to be happy. “I had heard about mindfulness, about the benefits of meditation, but I was never convinced enough to actually sit down myself and give it a proper try. Well, after this course I did and I haven't stopped since.” This view shifted drastically, by focusing on empathy, compassion and also the will to improve relationships rather than avoiding unpleasant conversations. I still try to avoid conflict, but only to a certain degree, because I've learned to appreciate its potential for growth. It also allows for a deeper connection instead of trying to keep up the status quo. Change – after all – is inevitable. Contents of the MOOC: the science of happiness What you'll learn: Discover what happiness is and why it matters to you Learn how to increase your own happiness Understand the power of social connections and the science of empathy Discover what mindfulness is and applications for the real world Overview of the Science of Happiness course I also appreciated the many practices we did during the course: that way you get to try out what works better for you. You develop a broader idea of what you could focus on in the future to develop resilience, improve your happiness and find meaning and therefore motivation in what you are doing. Happiness practices and course topics Referred to as 'happiness practices,' you'll try 11 different practices throughout this eight-week course. For example, active listening, random acts of kindness, and writing a self-compassionate letter. They are all connected to the topics of the course: The power of social connection Kindness & compassion Cooperation & reconciliation Mindfulness Mental habits of happiness Gratitude Finding your happiness fit and the new frontiers As you can see, the 'Science of Happiness' course covers a broad spectrum that influences our happiness. As I said before it does so by presenting scientific proof for the findings and recommendations on how to improve your happiness. ● Images: edX the Science of happiness Written by Tine Steiss Tine is an artist, meditator, media engineer and student of happiness. If she is not traveling she's working on turning her rooftop terrace into an urban garden paradise. Find out more about her on: Instagram Facebook
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