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  1. 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.
  2. What is good for your brain is good for you and for your happiness. Although the brain is not a muscle, exercise can stimulate its growth and regeneration in a similar way to a workout providing greater muscularity. Research in the field of neuroplasticity has shown that many aspects of the brain can be altered (or are "plastic") even into adulthood. By building new brain tissue, it is possible to overcome cognitive impairment and – at the most fundamental level – to feel a higher degree of engagement in the world and of overall happiness.  Recent studies have shown that physical exercise can improve brain functions. In one research paper published by Elsevier Inc., it was discovered that a key player in intracellular proteolysis – Cathepsin B – was found to be secreted in the body in greater quantities in runners than in people who had taken no exercise. Put simply; this means that the memory function of the human brain is improved by simply taking exercise.  Psychologists like Dr Matthew Edlund, who has published books like “Designed to Last”, have pointed out that similar restorative effects on the brain which have been derived from physical activity have been found in other species, too. So, should we work our brains like a muscle if we want to feel higher happiness in some cognitive training programme? Well, yes. But that is not the full story. For anyone wishing to overcome cognitive impairment, then other things, such as social activities, are just as important as the exercise itself.  In all, there are five different categories to consider if you want to be happier in yourself and to avoid the sort of cognitive impairment that is all too often prevalent in older age. Let's examine what we can all do to keep our brains in good condition so that we feel better about ourselves right now and in the future.  How to Reduce Cognitive Impairment Cognitive Training In fact, as far as your brain function is concerned it matters little what you learn, so long as you engage in learning itself. According to no less an authority than the Alzheimer's Association, a body which knows a thing or two about cognitive impairment, there are plenty of tasks we can give our brains which will guard against the condition in the future. According to them, formal education is known to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Crucially, this is the case no matter when it is taken in life.  If you think that attending classes is for children or for people who need to upskill during the early part of their career, then there is little doubt that you are right. That it is also for middle-aged people and recently retired folk is equally as valid, however. Regarding happiness and fighting off cognitive impairment, there can be few better tactics than learning about something you are already interested in in a formal way.  Cognitive training might take the form of learning a foreign language ahead of an overseas holiday or studying a little art history to make that next trip to the gallery a more informed experience. In fact, as far as your brain function is concerned it matters little what you learn, so long as you engage in learning itself. However, if a classroom environment is not for you, then why not consider other methods of engaging your brain with new skills. Meditation, Bridge classes or logic puzzles will train your brain to work in new ways, especially games which need you to think strategically. Such activities have been widely researched in study programmes – many of them indicating clear beneficial outcomes for the brain.  Social Activities Selfless though it might seem, joining a local community volunteer group might be the best thing you ever do for yourself. Like cognitive training, being social creates better brain functions because it forces the brain to work in specific ways. If you are locked away from the world to an extent, then not being sociable can become a habit. It may lead to the brain's neural pathways shifting over time to the extent that you never feel like engaging in social activities again. To prevent this, take affirmative steps to ensure you are not cut off from your neighbours, family and friends.  Taking a role in your local community does not merely derive benefits for those around you – it will help your brain to remain active in a meaningful way which will help to prevent neural problems in future. Selfless though it might seem, joining a local community volunteer group might be the best thing you ever do for yourself. Of course, just being around people is often enough to induce the brain's chemicals that make us feel better about ourselves. Chatting, interacting, learning and teaching are all things that will keep your brain active, too.  Throwing yourself into a new group is an excellent way of proceeding but – let's be honest – this is not for everyone. Some of us are just a little shy, and this great leap can seem too much – to begin with, anyway. If you want to take care of your brain, then take smaller steps, to start with. Why not pick up the phone to a friend you haven't spoken to in a while and just ask them how they are? It is a great way to get the ball rolling and strong social connections are a main ingredient for a good life.  Nutritional Intake Like any part of our bodies, brains are made of the matter we consume. Without the right ingredients, it is hard for the body to make the right proteins and enzymes for regeneration. In other words, the brain needs you to eat healthily for it to continue functioning correctly as you age. On the face of it, eating healthily for a part of the body to remain healthy is obvious, right? However, you should bear in mind that a healthy brain is also likelier to mean a happier life, so it is not just about your physical well-being, but your mental well-being, too.  According to a study by Martha Clare Morris, et al, of the Department of Internal Medicine at the Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago, a hybrid of a Mediterranean and a so-called stop hypertension diet will slow down cognitive decline. Morris' work dealt with 923 participants who were aged from 58 to 98 years and engaged in what is often referred to as a DASH diet. Essentially, such a diet is low in trans fats, rich in potassium and calcium and requires a smaller salt intake. By limiting dairy and meat in favour of vegetables, whole grains and fruit, you can eat your way to a healthier brain.  Long considered to be good for the brain, the consumption of fish is also useful. According to a 2014 paper in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, baked or broiled fish eaten on a weekly basis will mean you have more grey matter – on average – compared with people who don't have this level of consumption. Bear in mind that fried fish did not make up any part of the research, however. Also, the fatty acids, like omega-3, found in fish seem to work better when consumed as food rather than as a dietary supplement, as reported in Time magazine. Perhaps this suggests fish have some unknown improving effect on brains?  Physical Activity People who are physically active will tend to have better brain health. As mentioned already, recent scientific studies have shown the connection between running and brain regeneration, but that is far from the full story. Of course, activities like swimming, dancing or even brisk walking will all release endorphins in the body. Not only is it good for the brain to become a little breathless due to exercise – it makes you feel happier due to the release of these endorphins. Some scientists have suggested that the body functions this way because the build-up of carbon dioxide in the body caused by exercise is balanced by the kick of natural opioids. In other words, your body rewards you with a natural high if you exercise. Few people who take regular exercise would argue that they feel better as a result of working out, not just while they do it but for some time afterwards.  It is important to note that exercise is not just about maintaining good cognitive abilities. It can help the brain recover where it might have been going into decline. According to research by Elise Wogensen, et al., of the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, the exercise in a large number of cases can promote cognitive recovery after an injury that the brain has sustained. Although there are some factors which are still to be established as to how this works, Wogensen's work indicates strongly that physical activity and restoring brain functions are linked and that the rehabilitation of 'lost' brain functions is possible.  Management of Heart Health Risk Factors According to the Alzheimer's Association, the factors that are already known to impact on heart health and which combat heart disease are also fully linked to delaying or even preventing the onset of dementia. One of these is taking frequent exercise, which we have already discussed. Other measures include stopping smoking and reducing stress. Heart health can also be maintained better by keeping on top of obesity levels and of reducing blood cholesterol, both important to future brain health, too. Lastly, it should be said that anyone who has diabetes should manage this in a way that is conducive to good heart health. If so, then the brain is likely to be kept in good condition, as well.  Modelphoto: colourbox.com  Written by Ed GouldEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
  3. In our pursuit of happiness, we read self-help books and studies, do meditation and yoga, and sustain happiness practices. Sometimes, however, it is also nice to wind down and watch an inspiring film or documentary. With the documentaries about happiness mentioned below, you kill two birds with one stone, as they are on the subject of happiness, and inspire to do more research, or explore new or different ways to think about and practice happiness. Happy [2011] What is it about? The premise of Happy is that everyone can become happier. The film shows fragments of the life of different people in different places around the world, and how they are happy. A rickshaw driver in Kolkata finds happiness in how his shack home guards him against the elements and how his children greet him after a days work. An American woman was disfiguring during an accident but found the strength to move on and find purpose in life as a healer. A Brazilian surfer finds happiness in his daily surf sessions on the waves, and in sharing that with his son. A Danish woman found happiness after a divorce when she went to live in one of the country’s many living communities. A man in Florida finds happiness in the quiet and beauty of nature and when sharing time with his family. A European volunteer in Mother Theresa’s shelter in Kolkata gave up a life of materialism to find happiness in helping others. And then there are the people in Bhutan who define their country’s well-being by their global happiness index. Or Bushmen in Namibia that still live like the first society of hunters and gatherers, finding contentment in that. And also the people of Ogimi village on Okinawa island in Japan who find happiness in working the land, in the community, and in recurring social events. These varied examples of individual and communal ways of living in happiness are mixed with interview fragments and archive footage of a wide cast of experts. People like Ed Diener, Daniel Gilbert, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Mihaly Csiskzentmihalyi, Matthieu Ricard, and Nic Marks, explain different topics surrounding happiness. Topics covered include the relation between happiness and wealth, how much of our happiness levels are changeable by intentional activity, the role of dopamine and exercise in our happiness levels, the role of social connections and relationships, and how connecting ourselves to something greater increases our happiness. Why watch it? This documentary is a great ‘introduction’ to many different topics associated with happiness. As such, it could be an excellent film to watch to get an overview of how to approach your happiness practices. The film strikes a right balance between the individual stories of the people that are portrayed and the general information discussed in the interviews. There are interesting and moving moments in the film, especially in the individual people portrayed, that make you think about topics associated with happiness that you might have taken for granted, or have not thought of before. The documentary is nicely paced, at moments with strong cinematography, and in a great storytelling rhythm, that doesn’t easily get boring. And, ultimately it is uplifting, which is always great. What else? There is so much more. The Okinawa section of the film connects to the interesting concept of ikigai. The interview segments with Sonja Lyubomirski connect to her book The How of Happiness and its wonderful twelve happiness enhancing strategies. The interview with Csikszentmihalyi's might make you want to further explore his concept of Flow. And then there is research by Daniel Gilbert, like Stumbling on Happiness. Also, you might look into the beneficial effects of volunteering on your happiness level, as researched by people like Borgonovi. And, most of the interviewed experts have great TED-talks that explain [parts of] their research and thoughts on happiness. I Am [2010] "An ocean, a rainforest, the human body, are all co-operatives. The redwood tree doesn't take all the soil and nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn't kill every gazelle, just one.” What is it about? I Am is directed by the producer who was also responsible for Happy. Director Tom Shadyac was previously known for films like Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura, and The Nutty Professor . He had an accident that got him to the brink of death, and that made him re-evaluate his life and accumulated wealth. That is the starting point of his documentary. Shadyac goes out on a quest to asks two questions: what is wrong with the world? And how can we fix it? In trying to answer these two questions, he touches on a lot of questions also asked in happiness research. The biggest part of the film consists of interviews with thought leaders, philosophers and researchers, on what the purpose of life is and what happiness constitutes. Among the people interviewed are Noam Chomsky, Daniel Quinn, Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn, Elisabet Sahtouris, and Coleman Barks. Topics such as Darwinism, the Western society with its disconnectedness and loneliness, the role of economy, and the question of the human tendency for war are discussed. Ultimately, the film asks how we can lead more loving, more compassionate, more fulfilling lives, in a world in which we are fundamentally all interconnected with each other and with the planet at large. Why watch it? The message and story of I Am are tremendously feel-good. The moments in which the film examines, backed by the scientists that are interviewed, the interconnectedness of everyone and everything is very interesting. And even a relief in a discussion that is usually put into New Age mumbo-jumbo pseudo-scientific terms, both by people that that adhere to the idea of ‘Gaia’, and people that criticise it. Furthermore, having all these great thinkers, combined with ‘Happy’ almost a "who’s who" of scientist involved in happiness, in one film, is very inspiring. The ultimate message of the film of compassion, of friendliness, and of love - “humans are hard-wired for cooperation and compassion” - might be cheesy, but that does not make it less true. And, the documentary gives you food for thought on how you can improve your surroundings, yourself and your own beliefs and your attitude towards others, to be happier. Although there are sequences in the film where the music combined with images of nature and wildlife are a little over-the-top, the film as a whole is very watchable and entertaining. What else? The film is loaded with inspiring power quotes, like: “When Darwin wrote ‘The descent of man’ he mentioned survival of the fittest twice, and he mentioned the word love 95 times.” [Marc Ian Barasch]. Dacher Keltner’s presence could be an interesting starting point to examine the happiness research he and others are doing at the Greater Good Science Center, and to have a look at the excellent free edX course Science of Happiness, that he co-teaches. Elisabet Sahtouris’ research and ideas on evolutionary biology and futurism are very inspiring. And, Daniel Quinn’s fantastic book Ishmael, that examines the myths at the heart of modern civilisation, and proposes a more sustainable, healthy, and happy alternative, is more than worth exploring. The Happy Film [2016] What is it about? A different, more sceptical and cynical, but also a playful approach to happiness is found in The Happy Film. World-renowned Austrian designer Stefan Sagmeister tries to redesign his personality to become a happier and better person. The film is divided into three parts, each of which is a one month experiment with meditation, psychotherapy, and finally, prescription drug therapy, to try and boost his happiness. During his meditation retreat, set in beautiful Bali, Sagmeister complains about back pains and not being able to fully experience the meditation. But he does fall in love with a former student that he meets on the island, and that results in temporary happiness. But the relationship goes sour quickly, and Sagmeister becomes sad again. During the therapy sessions, he is confronted with his inability to commit, although he is working through the recent ending of an 11-year relationship. He rekindles an old love in his hometown in Austria, but this relationship quickly ends as well. Then, in the drugs segment, Sagmeister’s happiness level go through the roof, as he proclaims: “I love pharma”. Although he is monitored by another therapist who warns him against making big life decisions, he falls in love again and even gets engaged with this way younger girl. She allows him to film the rise and fall of their relationship, until at the end of the film he is alone again, not happier. All of the parts of the film are intercut with beautifully filmed designed bits or ‘commercials’ in Sagmeister’s signature style of creating written messages in natural environments, that highlight topics like compassionate vs passionate love, keeping a diary, being more flexible, and doing the things we set out to do. We also see the exhibit The Happy Show that Sagmeister created on the topic of happiness. Why watch it? The Happy Film is the most narrative of the three documents mentioned here. It is first and foremost a story of tongue-in-cheek self-discovery, that might resonate with your quest on finding and maintaining happiness practices. The designed bits create an interesting overall structure and offer moments of contemplation. All in all, it is probably the ‘best’ documentary of the three as a filmic experience. The film is not a guide to happiness, nor promotional in the use of meditation, therapy, or drugs. But it invites us to empathise, to reflect on our own lives, and in its construction offers an interesting double layer in which the concept of happiness is explored, and ‘sold as commodity’ in the art-directed bits. It does make you question the happiness industry, and our [failed attempts in] pursuit of happiness. What else? The experiments with psychotherapy and prescription drugs create interesting connections with research done on their effectiveness. Especially if your pursuit of happiness comes from a clinical condition, these are interesting topics to explore. Sagmeister also gave a TED-talk about happiness. In this talk, he introduces an interesting ‘scale of happiness’: from comfort, through contentment, joy, and delight, to bliss. And, he also talks about the difference between the visualisation of happiness, and happiness itself. All ideas that are food for thought, and worth of further exploration. Bonus: 24 hours of ‘Happy’ by Pharell Williams [2013] What is it about? Not an actual documentary, but an interesting project, is the 24-hour video clip for the song Happy by Pharrell Williams. The videos show 24 hours of people lip-synching and happily dancing in different parts of Los Angeles to this infectious song. Each video is a careful orchestration of long steady cam shots, with the parts of people dancing and singing interwoven with long sequences of people driving in cars, driving on motorcycles, and walking on streets. The people starring in these videos are not models or stars [although a couple of actors and celebrities do make cameos], but of all ages, ethnicities, and types. Altogether, they create a beautiful cross-section of American society and turn this promotional stunt in a reflection on humanity and the joy of singing and dancing. Why watch it? Unless you have a distaste for William’s song, it is almost impossible not to get infected by the happiness displayed, and the great message of common humanity from having all these different people dancing, expressing themselves, and ‘singing’. You might even get up at a certain point, and do a little dance yourself! What else? And that is exactly what is worth to explore further. There is a growing body of research that emphasises the happiness benefit of music. For those of us who, maybe like Sagmeister, get back pains from trying to meditate, dancing now and then might be effective for our happiness levels as well! 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. It is part of human nature to think about oneself and to focus on what is going on around us, but this perspective can lead to a false sense of priorities. How do we break out from a parochial view of our lives and start to see things as they really are? By shifting perspectives, we can gain greater insights. Let's examine how.  Changing perspective is a healthy exercise if we want to be empathetic, rational and compassionate. However, changing perspective is not merely about seeing things from the point of view of another. It is just as much about gaining perspective. In other words, our sense of compassion for others need not be the driver for looking for an alternative angle on things. It can help in the pursuit of happiness and a higher level of understanding, too. In fact, simply seeing things another way is good for us not only because it means getting out of a mental rut but because of what we might be missing out on.  Changing and Gaining Perspective – A Classical Illustration The famous Greek philosopher Plato once taught his pupils by coming up with an allegory of a cave. The prisoners in his cave cannot see reality, merely a shadow of it because they are in chains. All they need to gain a higher level of comprehension is to see what is causing the shadows to form – to see things as they really are.  In the allegory, this would mean that the cave dwellers would need to break free from their chains. In a sense, altering our perspective on things means breaking free from mental chains. To extend Plato's metaphor in this manner is fair because changing one's perspective takes effort. Most of us are happy enough to keep moving on in our lives the way we always have – especially if we feel a degree of happiness in our current situation. Nevertheless, unless the mental effort is made, we'll never know what lies beyond the cave or what is causing the shadows to fall against its wall. As such, changing and gaining perspective can be seen as the same thing.  The Benefits of Changing Your Perspective To get a handle on the advantages of changing perspective, there is no need to go back to ancient Greece. There are many more illustrations from more modern times. The author and thinker Benjamin Grant cites just one such example. During the Apollo missions when NASA was working towards putting a man on the moon, the astronaut Bill Anders took one of the most iconic images ever to have been captured by a camera. During the Apollo 8 mission of 1968, the spacecraft orbited the moon several times. As the ship passed by the moon's horizon, he was the first man to see the Earth rise from the moon's perspective. His world famous 'Earthrise' shot, according to Grant, is so iconic because it shows humanity from a different viewpoint.  It should be said that this new perspective is no mere novelty which only looks pretty – although the image is beautiful. The point of view it offers is mind altering. That is its message, its benefit if you will. The 'Earthrise' photograph captures all of humanity, bar the astronauts on the mission, and shows something that feels so anchored and permanent – our planet – spinning in the lonely vastness of space. If you think that such an image is mind-altering from Earth, then consider just how many astronauts have returned from space missions with a new perspective on life and humanity. This, Grant says, is the so-called 'overview effect' which is a consequence of space travel. It can cause profound changes in our brains.  Fruit orchards Huelva, Spain by Benjamin Grant  Grant has harnessed the 'overview effect' in his work. A creator of images, he takes some of the most stunning photographs captured by satellites above the Earth and uses them to create pictures that are designed to alter minds back on the planet. Whether his images are of the tulip fields of the Netherlands, the olive groves of Greece or refugee camps in northern Kenya, he is exposing us to the truth but not as we know it. The colours, the scale and the perspective – everything is shot from above, as you might expect – gives us a view of the world we might know, but also knowingly ignore. His images offer us the chance to gain insights into the fragility of ecosystems, the plight of fellow humans and, yes, to simply marvel at the beauty of the planet.  If you are looking for up-sides of changing perspective, then increasing your happiness is right up there. If your focus is on something that you perceive to be negative in your life and you come at it from a different angle, then you can feel better about it. What's more, you might even find that it helps you to perform better as a result. This approach is called reframing and is just one way in which you can derive benefits from gaining new perspectives. Let's look at some more techniques that will allow you to feel more confident, less self-critical and to enjoy more happiness.  Examples of Altered Perspectives and How to Change Yours For many, altering perspective means becoming less self-centred and moving to a more compassionate understanding of others and the world around us. By stepping outside of our usual perspectives, it can become possible to frame arguments in ways that motivate others instead of leaving them feeling rejected, for example.  Seeing things as 'bad' without taking a fresh view can mean that we get set into a closed loop of negativity. For instance, a relationship breakdown can sometimes lead to negative feelings about one's self-worth. However, a changed perspective might be that becoming single is the start of something new. As a result of reframing your view, you might even gain a higher perspective of yourself, embracing the part of yourself which might not have felt room for self-expression within the relationship.  Academics have done plenty of research into the techniques that will allow us to see things in a new light. Read on to discover some of the principal methods.  Reframing Your Past As previously mentioned, reframing your point of view can lead to tremendously helpful results and renewed chances of happiness. This is particularly effective if you reframe the way in which you see your past. For example, you might say that certain negative outcomes are always bound to happen because of 'the way you are'. You might have been told that you are impulsive or even hot-headed by others and believe this of yourself. However, studies have shown that reframing a negative attribute from your past as a positive one can heighten your performance. Try relabelling your so-called impulsive past as creative, for example, and see how the new perspective can impact on your present.  Problem Solving expressing ourselves is optimistic – in other words, positive, complimentary and generous - we will naturally develop higher levels of self-esteem and a healthier self-image. By getting into the habit of being positive, we can deal with criticism and setbacks much better. Not only does this altered perspective mean that we are better set against potential adversity, but our ability to problem-solve also becomes more efficient. In her book, Putting the Positive Thinker to Work, Potter outlines how reframing perspectives can augment levels of commitment, especially at work, and lead to greater persistence with tasks. This, she argues, is the foundation for most success in the workplace.  Compassion and Understanding By gaining new perspectives, we can become more compassionate to others. It is important not to fall back into bad habits of negative thinking, however. A daily ritual of positive affirmation of yourself and those around you can help to keep your understanding of the world fixed in a better perspective than it otherwise might be. So-called 'silver lining thinking' will help you to see the good in events and to reframe problems as challenges. If you can consciously interrupt negative thoughts that might pop into your head, then this will help you to remain the compassionate person you want to be.  Seeing the Bigger Picture Finally, seeing the bigger picture means sometimes taking a step back and creating time to gain the sort of perspective you'll need for your happiness and compassion. From an astronaut's point of view, seeing the bigger picture comes from literally taking in a macro view of the world. However, we can do this for ourselves, too. Take time to clear your mind, listen to the wind in the trees and rush a little less. Ask yourself what truly counts in your life and, of course, meditation can help you to gain insights into what is most important. The benefits of it are scientifically proven already.     Copyright Fruit orchards Huelva, Spain: Benjamin Grant Copyright Title Picture: Benjamin Grant Here's his amazing caption to the picture: "Before you even ask, this is indeed a real image of Earth! In August 2015 a massive bloom of cyanobacteria - more than 100 square kilometers - was seen in the Baltic Sea. Cyanobacteria are a type of marine bacteria that capture and store solar energy through photosynthesis. While some are toxic to humans and animals, large blooms can cause an oxygen-depleted dead zone where other organisms cannot survive. Scientists believe that blooms are more likely to form in the presence agricultural and industrial run-off or from cruise ships that provide excessive nutrients for the bacteria through the dumping of sewage. Source imagery: NASA"    Written by Ed GouldEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
  5. Everybody who’s gone through puberty (especially those who are in the midst of it) can tell you that hormones play a large part in how we feel. Most women, for one, are particularly aware of this, some even tracking the subtleties caused by the ebb and the flow of oestrogen and progesterone. Not as much conversation is had about how so called happiness hormones and neurotransmitters affect everyone’s mood and well-being. And yes, we do mean everyone, including many animals, men, children, your next door neighbour, and especially you.  Hormones and neurotransmitters are molecules that act as chemical messengers. The main difference between the two is that hormones are released by the endocrine system as chemical impulses, while neurotransmitters are released by the central nervous system as electrical impulses. The two systems work together, so the line between the two becomes blurred, some molecules even acting as both (oxytocin, for example).  The Happiness Hormones Human hormones tally at about 50, while known neurotransmitters have been estimated to be at around 100. Some of the main ones associated with feelings of happiness are:  Serotonin Dopamine Oxytocin Other influential factors are adrenalin and cortisol, melatonin, GABA, endorphins, and norepinephrine.  Researchers also agree that many other factors go into happiness, such as economic stability and relationships to others, to name just a few. It's important to remember then that while the effects of increasing happiness hormones and neurotransmitters are being researched by professionals, no neurochemical alone is a quick fix for happiness, as they act in lockstep with each other. Serotonin Also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), serotonin is a complex neurotransmitter, serotonin could be thought of, simply, as bringing about feelings of confidence and self-esteem. For example, serotonin has been shown to be at higher levels when you feel significant and like you are part of a group. Conversely, feelings of loneliness and depression are usually associated with low serotonin levels.  You may recognize the name from Serotonin-Specific Reuptake Inhibitors (or SSRIs), a popular type of medication taken against depression, anxiety, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, and eating disorders. While a breakthrough in mental health medicine, depression has been associated with various potential causes - not only low levels of serotonin. Still, even if the key to a sunny outlook isn't simply just more of the neurotransmitter, research seems to indicate that to feel happier, it's good to try and avoid it dipping too low. Luckily, there's a wide variety of ways to give yourself a boost, now and then. Higher serotonin activity allows people to put themselves in situations that will bolster self-esteem and increase one’s self-worth and sense of belonging; in turn, this ups your serotonin more. To get this serotonin positive feedback loop going, challenge yourself as much as you can to accomplish activities that will reinforce your sense of self-worth, purpose, and belonging. For example, try volunteering (which has also shown to strengthen social ties and to make you even happier!), becoming involved in a cause you believe in or joining a sports team. How to increase your serotonin levels Studies have shown that athletes have higher levels of serotonin, and exercise like riding a bike or running has been shown to increase serotonin, along with getting some sun, or a well-deserved massage.  Another way to up your serotonin is by reflecting on what you have in your life, for example, experiences, people, and things that make you feel grateful, loved, and important. Your brain will produce serotonin regardless of whether a situation is imagined or is recalled as a memory. Focusing on the positive - while it may not solve your problems - may help you feel better. Some ways to do this include taking the time to do positive affirmations, reflect, or even write a journal about things that you are grateful for, a happy memory - even looking back through old pictures of a great night out will make you smile and get that serotonin going.  In short:  Participate in situations that will bolster your sense of self-worth, purpose, and belonging For example, join a sports team, volunteer, or fight for a cause you believe in Get some exercise, like riding a bike or going for a jog Sit out in the sun - when the skin absorbs UV rays it helps produce serotonin Get a massage - you deserve it Reflect on happy moments, memories, practice affirmations or focus on what you're grateful for. Dopamine Like serotonin, dopamine is a neurotransmitter. Often painted as the neurochemical most strongly associated with happiness, it might be more precise to say that dopamine is responsible for reward-driven behaviour and pleasure seeking activities. You get a rush of dopamine when you feel proud of yourself when you eat comfort food when it's pay day, and, of course, when you win.  Some studies indicate that those with more extroverted and outgoing personality types may have higher levels of dopamine than their introverted counterparts, and it could be one of the main driving forces behind pursuing goals, as procrastination and self-doubt have been linked to low levels of dopamine. As with serotonin, this neurotransmitter's success in regulating our emotions hangs in a delicate balance: if too few dopamine molecules are released, Parkinson’s disease may develop (incidentally, dopamine levels also play a large part in motor reactions), defined by a slow loss of motor skills and mood and sleep disorders. On the other hand, too high of a dopamine level can lead to symptoms like mania, hallucinations, and it also appears to increase impulsive behaviour. How to increase your dopamine levels While many highly addictive substances act on the dopamine system, by feeling success (however you may define it), you can increase your dopamine activity. For example, set a goal and achieve it. For overachievers, this may sound stressful, so there are healthy ways to do it. For example,  you can break down one big goal into several smaller ones, and pause to acknowledge each success. Then, you can try to set a new (realistic) goal while you're still working on your current objective. In short, more dopamine rewards beget more motivation to seek more dopamine, so, without going overboard, nurture that feedback loop.  Also, listen to music. Listen to music that makes you feel good, music that moves you, music that gives you chills. One study analysed levels of dopamine when participants listened to music that gave them these musical frissons and concluded that, when it did, dopamine transmission was higher.  "[...] music is inextricably linked with our deepest reward systems." Yet another study that exercise may also increase dopamine, as do tangible rewards, like food or money. So, find that one physical activity that motivates you to exercise regularly, try saving money (having money at the end of the month is its reward), and learning how to cook food that's delicious and healthy.  In short:  Set a goal and achieve it For more realistic results, if you're facing what seems like an insurmountable objective, try separating it into smaller, more attainable goals Try to set yourself another goal before completing what you're currently working towards From personal experience: if it starts to feel overwhelming, give yourself a break Be unapologetic about the music you listen to: studies show that the more it moves you, the higher your dopamine is Exercise, it raises both your dopamine and serotonin levels For a financial reward, try saving money And for a reward for your taste buds, try your hand at cooking something that both tastes and makes you feel good. Oxytocin Oxytocin is a peptide hormone (one whose molecules are peptides or proteins) composed of nine amino acids, released from the pituitary gland, most notably controlling uterine spasms and breastfeeding stimulus. It's active during childbirth and physical contact, and it's been found to cause behavioural and physiological effects “such as maternal, sexual and social behaviours.” In other words, it facilitates social interaction and is (mostly) associated with positive social behaviour.  Due to the significant correlation between social bonding and life satisfaction, then indeed Oxytocin levels could lead to a happier life. Because oxytocin levels go up with breastfeeding between mother and child, hugging, intercourse, orgasm, and just general skin-to-skin contact, it's often referred to as the "hug hormone" or the "bonding hormone." Indeed, some studies have shown that an increase in oxytocin also increases trust. In extremely experimental studies for oxytocin as a potential treatment for autism, supplementing the neurochemical seem to improve emotional recognition (important since autistic individuals often have difficulties recognising human emotion). However, oxytocin has more complicated effects than bonding and trust. According to Ed Yong on Slate, it "fosters trust and generosity in some situations, but envy and bias in others.” One study found that oxytocin uptake increased feelings of envy and schadenfreude ("pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune”), while another suggested that while it increased a sense of closeness in one’s clique, in some individuals, it increased mistrust in strangers. In other words, the trust and bonding that it offers may only extend to those that you trust and feel open to bonding with, to begin with (and there may be deep seated evolutionary origins in this reaction). Be that as it may, while oxytocin may not be solely responsible for positive human bonding, it still plays a large part in how we interact with others. It is released during moments of shared intimacy - be it familial, platonic, romantic, or sexual. How to increase your Oxytocine levels You can take part in group activities (and if they’re physical, even better) Make sure to take the time to cuddle your loved ones Get a dog In fact, if you own a dog, chances are your oxytocin levels (and his, or hers, for that matter) are the last thing you need to worry about. Studies have shown that not only does petting and spending time with your dog raise oxytocin levels in both, but simply gazing at each other sends oxytocin levels soaring.  Other Neurochemicals of Happiness Endorphins The name translates as "self-produced morphine" for a reason: it's widely known for its analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. This neurotransmitter is present in large quantities during high-intensity cardio, strength training, sexual intercourse, orgasm, and most strenuous physical exertion. Exercising will up your endorphins, as well as acupuncture and laughter (even the anticipation of laughter will raise your endorphin levels).  GABA GABA is an inhibitory molecule that slows down the firing of neurons: in short, it makes you calm. You can increase GABA by doing meditative activities, like gardening, knitting, colouring, meditating, and especially yoga.  Adrenalin (or Epinephrine) and Cortisol A hormone/neurotransmitter and a Glucocorticoid respectively, these two are released from the adrenal glands: they regulate stress (think of an adrenalin rush). Through more studies are needed, it appears that subjects with lower levels of salivary cortisol and urinary adrenaline levels report higher levels of happiness; while the results could be correlative and not causative, it's never a bad idea to try to reduce your stress levels. Melatonin Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland as is most commonly associated with regulating sleep. However, it's also been shown to affect our overall well-being and feelings of happiness (sleep patterns are often disrupted as a symptom of a larger mood disorder). To keep your melatonin balanced, get a good night's sleep, and make sure to turn off your electronic devices well before you do. Norepinephrine Similar to dopamine, low norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) levels have been linked to depression, while further research has indicated that selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor antidepressants "induce a positive emotional, perceptual bias in healthy subjects.” There are many ways to increase your norepinephrine levels, for example taking a cold shower or a quick nap. All in all, Happiness hormones and neurotransmitters aren't as simple as we sometimes wish they were. One neurochemical isn't responsible for a single function, and a happier life isn't as simple as raising each level as much as we can; like most things in life, it relies on a delicate balance.  The good news is that the more you take care of yourself, the better the balance will be, and the happier you will feel. After all, "our brain has evolved to make things that are necessary for our survival feel good," as one Guinness World Record holder speculated: spend time with friends get enough sleep avoid stress laugh often cuddle your loved ones get a dog work towards your goals practice gratitude exercise often    Article picture: colourbox.com  Written by Rae BathgateRae Bathgate is an American journalist based in Barcelona, where she enjoys sunlight, yoga, and bookbinding.
  6. As I ventured into Part Three of this yoga series, I began to see something pop up again and again… The mood is vital to our living a happy life. Psych Central, The Journal of Depression and Anxiety, Psychologist World and many more agree that happy people live healthier lives and make better decisions. Through that, happy folks bring more positive experiences into their lives. The sources also agree that our mood affects our happiness. It takes mere seconds for even the most fortunate people I know to go from beaming with joy to sour-faced and irritated. That's where we need resilience.  This is due to the vast amount of stimuli that can affect our mood. We might get cut off in traffic, receive a bad review at work, hear a song or get a whiff of a random smell and that can trigger a mood shift. Even when I'm happy overall in life, I can lose the feeling for days at a time if I don’t address my current mood of anger or sadness or fear or anxiety.  When my current mood takes centre stage, all my focus shifts there. If the mood is a slight shift, I don’t tend to notice, and both the emotion and my overall happiness can coexist within me. But the moment my emotion moves to a place of being the focus; then it tends to hide my happiness from me.  Yoga for Mood Swings Since yoga was doing so well for me in other areas, I began looking at Adriene’s videos on mood. I’d already used hers for Parts One and Two, so this was a natural place to search. To my surprise, she had several options!  I decided to try Yoga for Mood Swings. While there were options, this one called to me most because in the description she mentioned life’s little annoyances and how they can shift our mood fast.  She also said the stress hormones and how yoga can help. The most commonly discussed is the stress hormone Cortisol. According to the American Psychology Association, this hormone is natural to the body and helps regulate certain systems, but when there is too much, it can cause adverse effects. When too much cortisol is in the system, it’s time to give it the boot.  The Practice Adriene begins with a suggestion to let go and not worry about ‘doing it right’ for this practice. Her focus is more on the body’s needs, so she suggests allowing whatever is going on to exist. To do this, she keeps the practitioner in Sukhāsana or Easy pose for longer than I found in other videos. The easy pose is the pose you most often see in meditation - a cross legged sitting position. There is a heavy focus on breath and listening to the body rather than movement.  As she brings the hands into play, she gives the option to have soft hands or active hands. This was helpful because when we’re angry, we may want more pressure and use of our muscles. I found that personally, I was able to release anger more efficiently when I maintained active muscles. On the contrary, when I'm sad or depressed, keeping my muscles soft assisted releasing those emotions more effectively. The heavy focus on listening to our body in this video made a significant difference in the way I worked through my current mood.  Another aspect of this practice that I felt helped me was the release portion. Rather than suggest the practitioners release slowly, she suggested doing what felt right at that moment. It might be jerky and fast, slow and steady, or whatever we need to release our emotion. When I was angry, the quicker and firmer movements helped. When I was sad, the slower releases from poses was most effective.  We then moved into Downward Dog, then into Walk the Dog. The walking kept my legs active. I was again surprised to notice that even when I did the practice during a sad moment, by the time we’d reached this spot in the video, the walking and active legs was also helping. Even though prior, the softer muscles worked best. I took this as a sign that the releasing was working and I made a conscious note of it. Had I started with Walk the Dog, it would have added to my sad mood rather than help.  After Walk the Dog we went back to a seated position and stayed there through the rest of the video, placing much focus on stretching. This was to bring us back into our flow, as Adriene calls it. The flow we have when the little things don’t happen to shift our mood.  Adriene maintains positive affirmations throughout the yoga for mood swings video. Things like, “I am supported”. Which I found incredibly helpful in combination with the poses.  She ended with the Reclining Goddess Pose, also known as Supta Baddha Konasana. The moment I was in this pose, I felt relief from the emotions that had affected my mood so much. I don’t know why it worked, but it did.  Perhaps because spreading my legs open in such a manner forces my heart upward at the same time as it puts me in a vulnerable position at my base. As a victim of sexual abuse, opening my legs can be a struggle even when I’m alone. The more I trust myself and the situation, the easier it becomes to open my legs. But no matter how safe I feel, that position still makes me feel very vulnerable.  When I’m able to feel vulnerable rather than shut down, it means I’m working through whatever is causing me emotional pain.  Shifting Mood and Thought I wholeheartedly believe that proper yoga for mood swings can change our attitude. If I was doing the wrong kind, like a bunch of super soft poses while I was full of rage, I don’t think that would be helpful. But with Adriene's method of listening to our body’s needs, we can embrace what our instincts tell us and work through the emotions that are sucking the happiness from us.  We will always be affected by our surroundings. We live in a chaotic world the majority of the time. Having the tools to stop, breathe, listen to our body, then move in a manner that releases, could change how we go about our day.  Imagine if I was in line at the grocery store and someone cut in front of me knowing I was there first. No matter what I chose to do at that moment, I’d still have emotions around what happened. I might get angry and say something. I might decide to suck it up and not start an argument. But either way, I’m going to feel slighted. If I don’t deal with the emotion at that moment, it would add to the list other things that happened that day until I became overwhelmed and full of rage.  But what if I recognised my anger and what the person did, then tuned into my body right there in the line. I could focus on my tense muscles. Listen to my body and what it needed. Then I could stretch or move onto my toes to activate my calf muscles. Many things could be done to release the feeling right there. And releasing means, I don’t need to carry what happened beyond the store.  By shifting my thoughts on how to respond to others, I can also change my mood. I feel if we all began behaving in this manner, the chaos that so many of us know would eventually cease to exist.  Yoga for Happiness Series Wrap If you haven’t read them yet, please see Parts One: Compassion Yoga and Two: Gratitude Yoga as well. This series is designed to give tools that will assist with the pursuit and ability to maintain happiness and introduce mindfulness also for those who have difficulties with meditation. From my experiences, Adriene’s yoga series worked for achieving a greater level of happiness. But I had to commit to it completely.  This experience taught me that balancing the mind, body, and soul become easier when incorporating the practices of yoga and mindfulness. I now pay attention to my thoughts, my body and the tension in it, and my gut, which will conflict with my thoughts more often than I care to admit. These parts of me make up the whole me and keeping them in balance is vital to me being present, complete, and happy.  ~ Namaste  Modelphotos: colourbox.com  Written by Sienna Saint-CyrSienna Saint-Cyr is an author, advocate, and the founder of SinCyr Publishing. She speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on the importance of having a healthy body image, understanding enthusiastic consent, using sexuality to promote healing, navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships, having Complex PTSD, and more. Sienna loves sharing her journey of healing and finding happiness with her readers. Along with writing erotica and romance, Sienna speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on such sex-positive topics as a healthy body image, using sexuality to promote healing, and navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships. She writes for several websites. Find out more at https://siennasaintcyr.wordpress.com/.
  7. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us… The novel A two of two cities by Charles Dickens opens with this famous quote. In this story, one of the characters, Doctor Manette, ends up in prison during the French revolution. Debilitated by his unfair imprisonment, Doctor Manette tries to stay sane against the odds. A subject loosely taken from Dickens' biography, as during his youth he unsuccessfully tried to keep his father John out of jail, when he was sentenced for falling to repay a debt.  What does this have to with happiness? There is a growing body of scientific studies that examine the relationship between economic prosperity and happiness or well-being. On the one hand, these studies focus on the positive effects of [increased] income. On the other hand, studies focus on the ways in which we deal with economic hardship to maintain our sense of happiness and well-being. Studies like Economic Hardship and Well-Being: Examining the Relative Role of Individual Resources and Welfare State Effort in Resilience Against Economic Hardship by Reeskens and Vandecasteele. In their study, Reeskens and Vandecasteele examine three factors that can soften, or as they call it, “cushion”, people facing economic hardship:  Informal social contacts Religiosity Confidence in politics Economics and happiness: some basic notions In their article, Reeskens and Vandecasteele discuss firstly some of the common sense notions of happiness and well-being. The most basic one is that more money makes us happier. In a famous study by Princeton University, a magic number was put on the relation between happiness and income: $75,000. According to this Princeton study, people that earn less than this sum, report lower happiness and emotional well-being than people that make $75,000 or more. As their income increased to this amount, respondents reported an increase in their sense of happiness. But the study found that an income increase above this figure of $75,000 does not lead to an increase in self-reported feelings of happiness and well-being.  So does that mean that we should all aim to make $75,000, and then we will be happy? No. A recent study by the London School of Economics, Origins of Happiness, has shown that most human misery can be attributed to failed relationships and mental and physical illness, not to money problems and poverty. Social and psychological factors are more important to the well-being of individuals than income levels. As that study’s lead researcher, Lord Richard Layard has stated:  Having a partner is as good for you as being made unemployed is bad for you. Reeskens and Vandecasteele focus their research on some of these social and psychological factors, in studying what happens because of the negative effect on subjective well-being caused by poverty and [economic] deprivation. Here again, we find some common sense notions. The most basic one is that a negative effect on subjective well-being is caused by poverty and [economic] deprivation. But there are studies like Social comparisons of income in one’s community, that show that some people are more severely affected by economic hardship than others. How come?  Money does matter. Doesn't it? Jumping forward to some of Reeskens and Vandecasteele’s conclusions: income does matter. According to their findings, up to 45% of our sense of happiness, or lack thereof, can be explained by our economical situation. Economic hardship does decrease our sense of well-being. But economic situation is more than just our annual income. Factors that are important as well include:  Employment status. If we have to draw on our savings or get into debt to cover ordinary living expenses If we have to cut back on things like holidays or new household equipment. In a glass-half-full-half-empty analogy, we can also conclude that if 45% of our sense of happiness is material, economic, then 55% is not. It is in this 55% that immaterial factors like those examined, social contacts, religious practice, and confidence in politics, come into play.  Social contacts What makes informal social contacts so important? According to a study by Halliwell and Putnam, The social context of well-being, social interactions, amongst others:  Reduce stress. Enable material and immaterial resources. Improve access to health care. Enable social control to discourage behaviour that might be harmful for your well-being. As Putnam famously put it:  Your chances of dying over the course of the next year are cut in half by joining one group, and cut to a quarter by joining two groups. Reeskens and Vandecasteele show, by examining survey responses taken in more than 25 European countries, that having frequent contact with family, friends and colleagues strongly cushions the effect of [economic] deprivation on happiness. The difference in happiness levels between people with higher incomes and those with economic deprivation dramatically drops when we look at people with frequent informal contacts. In other words: lonely affluent people are comparatively more happier than lonely deprived people. Whereas socializing affluent people are still happier, but comparatively less happier than socializing deprived people.  [su_highlight]When facing economic hardship, we should try to maintain our social network, meet our friends, and go and see our family.[/su_highlight]  Although research shows that this might be harder to do than when we have no financial concerns.  Religiosity The second factor researched by Reeskens and Vandecasteele, religiosity, can also cushion the negative impact of deprivation on our sense of happiness and well-being. There are two effects happening here. The first one is the social aspect of religion. Interaction with like-minded churchgoers through the support, companionship and sense of belonging that we can find in informal social contacts as well. But with religion, this effect is “supercharged”, as Lim and Putnam describe in Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction. Supercharged, because the effect is bigger than with regular [non-religious] friends or family. In that study by Lim and Putnam, it was also found that the other effect is a “private tie to God”, since religiosity offers “a comprehensive framework for the interpretation of world events”. Since religious people have a stronger sense that something outside of them controls things, they are also more likely to believe that their [economic] deprivation will be alleviated by something external.  When looking at the results in Reeskens’ and Vandecasteele’s research, taken from the same survey responses of 25 European countries, the effect of religiosity is relatively the smallest of the three factors, in “cushioning” the effect of economic hardship. There is still a measurable, statistically significant increase in feelings of happiness and well-being between frequent church-going deprived people, and those that do not go to church, when comparing both of these groups with affluent people. It must be noted, as Reeskens and Vandecasteele do, that this might be partially explained by cultural differences [the role of religiosity in Europe compared to e.g. the United States].  [su_highlight]When facing economic hardship, being religious or maintaining our religious practices do help in alleviating the effect of that hardship on our well-being.[/su_highlight]  Confidence in politics Similar to the external effect that religiosity has on the deprived, believing that politicians can alter and influence their situation is also beneficial to a sense of well-being during economic hardship. A study by Catterberg and Moreno, The Individual Bass of Political Trust, has shown that in general, the [economic] deprived have a lower level of faith and confidence in politics. But Reeskens and Vandecasteele argue that among these economic deprived, the ones that do keep faith and confidence in politics, are happier than those that don’t.  Their results back up this claim. In the European survey responses the deprived respondents that had confidence in their governments, were happier than those deprived respondents who did not have that confidence. The differences are sharp. Pro-politics deprived people are only slightly less happy than their affluent counterparts. But negative-towards-politics deprived people are strongly less happy than their affluent counterparts.  [su_highlight]When faced with economic hardship, people that have confidence in politics and government show more resilience against the negative psychological effects on happiness and well-being, than people that turn away from politics.[/su_highlight]  What does this all mean? What to do in times of economic hardship? So, where does this study, and studies like it, leave us? First of all: money does make us happy. But only up to a certain point. And in times of economic hardship, there are certain factors that can help us cushion its effect. The most prominent ones are having informal social contacts, and keeping faith in politics. Being religious does help as well, but not as much.  For a totally different perspective on all of this, we can also start with the premise of psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness. In that book, she states, backed by other research, that 50% of our happiness level is genetically determined [based on twin studies], 10% is affected by life circumstances and situation, and 40% is subject to self control and manipulation. When looked at it from that perspective, our economic circumstances are part of the 10% that also include physical health, love relationships, feelings of safety, etc. It might be wise to focus more on the 40% that we can change and manipulate. As some of the strategies that Lyubomirsky proposes are to cultivate optimism, to avoid ruminating/ over-thinking, and to develop coping strategies. And, gratitude/ counting your blessings, as hard as it may be when faced with the next bill or credit card statement…     Modelphotos: Colourbox.com  Written by Arlo LaibowitzArlo 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. Neuro-linguistic Programming is often used to improve interpersonal dynamics. It also has applications in personal growth and development. Several NLP happiness techniques can help you live a more enjoyable and meaningful life. NLP underscores the importance of mastering higher self-awareness methods to spot patterns, thoughts, and assumptions that can be preventing you from finding happiness in your life. Below you will find an overview of four valuable NLP happiness techniques and the science behind them.  Anchoring Anchoring is one the most common Neuro-linguistic Programming techniques. The goal is to elicit positive responses at will by associating a particular mental and emotional state to an anchor, which can be an image, a word, or a gesture. Anchoring improves our ability to control emotions and to take an active role in self-management, making us less prone to feeling powerless and overwhelmed.  How to use the anchoring technique Elicit a time when you experienced the intense positive feeling you want to trigger in other situations (e.g. feeling achievement the moment you got a promotion) Bring in sensory cues associated with that state (e.g. what you saw, felt, smelt, heard) Bring the memory to its most intense point and then associate your feelings to an anchor (e.g. twist a ring on your finger, pinch your earlobe) Take a short break and repeat the steps above Test the anchor (e.g. pinch your earlobe) to elicit the intense feeling of achievement. You can then use this method whenever you need an emotional pick-me-up, either on its own or alongside other NLP happiness techniques Anchoring is based on the psychological concept of conditioning, whereby a stimulus triggers certain responses. Anchoring helps you elicit the response you want through repetition. It benefits you by putting you in charge of your emotions. Moreover, some studies suggest that when coupled with other techniques and interventions, anchoring can help overcome phobias and irrational fears.  Reframing Next in the list of NLP happiness techniques is reframing, or viewing adverse events from a different “frame”. This allows you to open up your mind to opportunities that may be lying ahead instead of dwelling on the negatives. In short, reframing changes the focus from negative and overpowering to positive and empowered.  How to reframe a thought, feeling or behaviour Identify the thought, feeling or behaviour you want to change  Establish contact with the innermost part of yourself that is triggering the negative mood. This could be an image, voice, an expression, etc. Find the positive intention behind that part. Let's say you have a fear of flying. The sound of plane's engine taking off triggers anxiety because it wants to protect you. This intention is good, but the response is inadequate Focusing on the positive intention, try 2 or 3 ways of responding that will help you realise such intention. For example, acknowledge the protection and self-preservation, which is why you choose the safest way of travelling (flying vs. driving) Ensure your subconscious is fully committed to trying alternative responses, and that it won't sabotage your reframing efforts. Check for conflicting beliefs, and if you find yourself making excuses, go back to step 4 and find alternative ways of responding Reframing is used as a therapeutic technique for its ability to modify perceptions. Different parts of the brain trigger memories and emotions: memories are stored in the hippocampus, whereas the amygdala mainly controls emotions. When recalling past events, the amygdala responds by triggering an emotion that replicates the original one, but reframing reminds us that the nature of that emotion is not fixed and that we can break automatic patterns and prioritise rational responses over knee-jerk reactions. Reframing is one of those NLP happiness techniques that prove that it is possible to break free from the so-called amygdala hijack.  What a liberating thought it is to know you can alter the meaning of events instead of letting events change your mood and perceptions! Meta-Modelling Meta-modelling is one of the most powerful NLP happiness techniques given its ability to help identify self-imposed constraints that may be preventing you from finding happiness. The easiest way to meta-model is by looking at the language you use in everyday life, paying attention to these three types of patterns:  Generalisations, evidenced in thoughts along the lines of “I'm always so unlucky” or “all men are the same” Distortions: mind reading (e.g. “John didn't greet me today, he must be upset with me”) or cause-effect statements (e.g. “if I don't lose weight, I will feel like a failure”) Deletions, or cherry-picking your understanding of reality to confirm pre-existing beliefs. For instance, someone with poor self-esteem would ignore compliments and pay undue attention to critiques, leading to thoughts like “people don't find me attractive.” How to use meta modelling Identify which category your thoughts belong to, then start the exploratory process of questioning the maladaptive thought pattern. For example, if you catch yourself in a deletion like “people don't find me attractive”, meta-modelling questions to ask would be “which people specifically?” and “how do you know that?”. The chances are that your answers will include a generalised statement with the words “always” or “never”, then it's time to ask yourself whether you are realistic by claiming that things are always this way and never that way. When meta-modelling, it is also useful to ask about alternative courses of action. For example, in the statement “if I don't lose weight, I will feel like a failure”, ask yourself whether feeling like a failure is your only option.  Meta-modelling works because it forces you to challenge ingrained response patterns that can evolve into what experts in psychological science call excessive avoidance behaviour, which limits your ability to learn from new experiences. The effectiveness of this technique is also linked to pattern separation. When faced with a new situation, we tend to compare with previous ones, but if pattern separation is active, you will understand that different scenarios require different responses.  Meta-modelling can prompt you to develop habits like listening to yourself and challenging limiting thoughts. This can help you become more resilient to cognitive distortions, and more skilled at challenging deep fears, lessening anxiety and tension.  The Swish Method This is one of the NLP happiness techniques that emphasise the severely limiting effect of negative thoughts. The goal of the Swish method is to identify mental and emotional triggers of negativity and replace them with an ideal response. When using the Swish technique, you don't have to take any action, but become aware of the alternatives available and train your brain to set off a “happier mode” whenever negative thoughts and emotions begin to overpower you.  How to put the swish method into action Identify the feeling that triggers anxiety. Example: you may be anxious about exam performance even though you have done your best to prepare for it. In this case, the trigger feeling would be nervousness and uneasiness Next, know how your mind and body react to such feelings (e.g. nail biting, knots in the stomach, etc.) Create a visual image of the context in which this happens (e.g. as you walk into the exam room) Think about how you would ideally like to respond as you physically enter the context in which the negative thoughts take place (e.g. confident, well-prepared, optimistic, etc.). This is called the replacement thought. In your mind, visualise the negative state and figuratively place the replacement thought over it, make sure it appears bigger, stronger, and more vibrant while making the negative emotion appear in black and white or blurry As it happens with other NLP techniques for happiness, you need to practice the Swish Method a few times to ensure the replacement thought becomes the default response. Do it at least five times and speed up the visualisation with each round. To check for effectiveness, evoke the trigger thought/feeling and its context, and see how you feel about it.  The Swish Method is a visualisation technique driven by the principle that seeing is believing. Research studies have shown that the brain does not differentiate between real and visualised events, as they both activate the same parts of the brain. Other studies have shown that the type of mental rehearsal involved in visualisation has a direct effect on fundamental cognitive skills, including memory, attention, and perception. The benefits of mastering this technique include improved emotional performance and a calm and confident approach knowing that you don't need to let negative thoughts dominate your life.  Summary Neuro-linguistic Programming can help you tap into the resources and skills needed to you train your brain and take control of thoughts and beliefs, facilitating the achievement of a fulfilling life. Anchoring, reframing, meta-modelling, and the Swish technique are some of the NLP techniques for happiness and personal empowerment that are worth putting in practice.     Model photos: Colourbox.com  Written by Dee MarquesA social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in Nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
  9. What does happiness mean to you? Every person is their own world, so every answer is different: you may conjure up a memory, I may think of one person - some even relate it to a smile or a laugh. But how often does happiness make you think of others? The study asked 521 female participants the following question:  “What three words come to mind when you think of happiness?” While not the most original question, a new study titled "What does happiness prompt in your mind? - Culture, word choice, and experienced happiness", conducted between Korea and the United States, shows that it may be worth to sit down and ask ourselves this question more often. The method used in this study was free-association, shown to be an accurate indicator of one’s own self, and in it, evidence surfaced that one type of answer mattered more than others, when it comes to happiness. Unsurprisingly, it’s not money, success, fame, glamour, nor is it, sadly, raindrops on roses or warm woollen mittens. Rather, the most revealing words are social words, interpersonal words - in short, those related to other people. While knowing how often you associate these words with happiness seems to be a telling indicator of how happy you might be, the good news is that you can choose who these other people are (meaning that you can build your own social circle). This phenomenon seems to exist in a positive feedback loop, where fuelling social behaviour - especially helping others - may be the key to a higher life satisfaction. Words Associated With Happiness The study, conducted by the Yonsei University in Korea and the University of California, Santa Barbara (by researchers Ji-Eun Shin and Eunkook M. Suh, and Kimin Oem and Heejung S. Kim respectively) asked 521 female participants from both countries the following question: “What three words come to mind when you think of happiness?”  The test was conducted as a free association task, meaning that subjects were to produce some words (in this case, three) that came to mind related to a prompted cue (in this case, the word “happiness”). Researchers focused on answers they categorised as “social:” These social words, as viewed by the researchers, were ones that simply referred to things like interpersonal relationships. Some examples of the words used were:  for abstract values (e.g., “love") specific person (e.g., “friend" or “family") relationships (e.g., “dating”) The Ties That Bind Out of 1,563 words in total, Koreans wrote down social words more often (42% of the time) as opposed to Americans, who associated social words with happiness only 32% of the time. The most common word among Korean participants was also a social word (“family”) compared to the American words “smile” and “laugh.” Even when looking specifically at Americans’ preferred social words, they tended to be more on chosen social ties, with the words “friends” and “friendship.” This difference between our ideas of happiness is not new and had even been predicted by the researchers. What’s more, the study further mirrored findings that connected loneliness to a lack of family ties in collectivist societies, like in Korea, whereas in America loneliness was more often associated with a lack of friends and confidants.  Rather, the central question to be tested was whether participants who used more social words associated with happiness were in fact happier. It turns out; the answer is yes.  “In both cultures, those who mentioned more social words enjoyed significantly higher life satisfaction,” reported the researchers. This suggests that “defining happiness in social terms is beneficial to happiness in both cultures,” conclude researchers, adding that: The current finding affirms in a novel way that social experience is indeed a core block of happiness. So, how can we move towards greater social connection (whatever that may mean to you) and consequently, towards a happier life? The answer may be simple. Participants who had a higher incidence of social words and a higher reported level of happiness also reported engaging in activities to help others more often, and previous studies have shown that altruistic activities seem to make us happy. While researchers acknowledge that the results of this study are mostly correlative, not causative, they suggest that participating in such activities will start a positive feedback loop. Thereby making you happier, teaching you to associate happiness with social connectivity, leading you to seek out and provide social support, causing you to be happier, and so on. Have We Studied This Before? Happiness, its causes, and its components have long been a source of research interest. In academia, there has been extensive documentation and widespread agreement "that positive social experience is one of the most significant predictors of happiness,” write Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim. Some researchers even go as far as to suggest that social experience was the only condition for happiness, other than the absence of psychopathology (Diener and Seligman, 2002).  Previously used methods have been yes/no questionnaires, or longer, free-form essays; while both accurate to an extent, these methods often proved either too restrictive or not enough so. While seemingly simple, free-association, on the other hand, has yielded powerful results in the world of psychology, proving itself an accurate predictor of personality aspects and demographic characteristics. This is because according to researchers:  Words that are called up when we think about happiness are a sort of cognitive “package,” created based on our upbringing, culture, and personal experiences.  Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim’s work also asked participants to report on their level of happiness and social involvement. Global happiness was measured using the most widely used method, the Cantril’s Self-Anchoring Scale, while the rest of the study focused on establishing "the person’s level of interest, desire, and competence for developing a relationship with others,” with concepts like:  emotional support belonging loneliness optimism efficacy interpersonal closeness How Others Make You Happier Researchers Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim specify that their study is to be taken as a complement to previous work, noting that the primary objective is to draw a parallel between "beliefs about happiness and how they relate to actual experiences of happiness,” by delving into two countries’ deeply-held beliefs about the subject.  So, does linking happiness to social relationships give you a more positive outlook on life? Not necessarily. The study showed that in both ascribed (e.g. “family”) and self-chosen (e.g. “friends”) relationships, there was no difference in optimism by those who used more social words. However, these subjects reported feeling significantly less lonely, as researchers Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim note: "They believed that their selves overlapped more with others, desired more social belongingness, and presumably as a consequence, were less lonely.” Indeed, this stronger social connection (or, as the researchers put it, the content of happiness) seems to indicate a higher level of happiness: in other words,  If your definition of happiness is to spend quality time with others, the chances are that you will be happier. This held true for both American and Korean participants, indicating that “holding a socially rich theory of happiness is beneficial to the mental health of both Americans and Koreans,” explain the researchers, who conclude that  Fulfilment of social need seems to be a universally necessary condition of happiness. What Does It Mean? Social interaction is a tricky thing: for each person, some days and nights lend themselves to picnics, bonfires, dancing and socialising, and days that are fabricated more for some alone time with a book. With their study, Shin, Suh, Oem and Kim aren’t suggesting that the real key to happiness is only through social interaction. Rather, their research supports the idea that those who associate happiness with the notion of strong, reliable social relationships seem to be the happiest. So, how does one change one’s beliefs about what happiness means? Well, apart from continuing to read up on the subject of the key to a good life, you can jump-start a positive feedback loop by engaging in activities that foster strong relationships, preferably ones where you (yes, you!) can help someone else. Cultivating social ties, especially those where you can give back as well are proven to make you happier - or at least, less lonely - which in turn may change your whole perspective on what happiness means.     Modelphotos: colourbox.com and Jeremy Bishop  Written by Rae BathgateRae Bathgate is an American journalist based in Barcelona, where she enjoys sunlight, yoga, and bookbinding.
  10. If you've ever been told that lots of sex will lead to happiness, you might be right. Many factors that go into that statement, however. Frequency is just one factor to be considered. Couple compatibility, quality, and type of sex also need to be looked at. So the link between sex and happiness seems to be there, but also to be more complex.  After reading an article on the frequency of sex and whether couples are having enough on Greater Good, I began thinking a great deal about this and whether or not it’s the sex itself or something that goes along with the sex that leads to happier people. This led me to some core concepts that I’ll discuss below.  Is there a link between sex and happiness? Frequency While the article on Greater Good points out that for many folks, having a lot of sex makes them happier, they also say that this isn't the case for everyone. Frequency without certain factors may do the reverse.  I was with a partner that wanted sex daily. I didn't. For one, it wasn't satisfying for me. He rarely put the time in to make it enjoyable, and he usually focused on his release over mine. This made me severely depressed.  Brian Joseph Gillespie of the Department of Sociology at Sonoma State University did a study in April of 2016 where he found that couples taking part in frequent sex were only more satisfied if the sex was also quality sex. So frequency is only a part of the equation.  Couple Compatibility This brings me to compatibility. That ex and I simply weren't compatible. He wanted quick sex and often and I wanted less sex with more build up.  When I met my husband, he loved foreplay. He enjoyed putting the energy into turning me on and getting me squirming. This incident shows that we were far more compatible because this energy was what I needed. I went from rarely reaching orgasm to sometimes having more than one in a sexual escapade.  According to the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, reaching orgasm releases oxytocin, which is also known as the happy hormone. Their article on The Orgasmic History of Oxytocin covers several areas of sexuality and the release of the happy hormone. So all the extra energy my husband put into me and all the additional orgasms led to more of the happy hormone releasing into my body.  The connection I have with my partner leads to far more happiness if it is a positive one. Desiring the same things as a couple leads to positivity. Putting the kids to bed together and reading them a story five nights a week, while only have sex twice a week, may make for more satisfying sex. Other couples may prefer sex seven days a week. Finding that partner we’re most compatible with is essential for improving our sex life even if the actual frequency of sex is less than before.  Healthy connections and finding a compatible partner means we must be mindful of our needs and desires.  Quality of Sex As mentioned above, sex two nights a week may be perfect for some partners. The biggest thing I've found for myself is the quality of sex rather than frequency.  Is it sex I like? I don’t care for missionary style, so for me, that wouldn't be satisfying. I can have sex for an hour, but ten-minute—super intense—sex is far more powerful for me. Because I enjoy the latter more, it means a deeper level and quality of sex. Longer, softer sex is still good, but not as strong for me.  As Brian Joseph Gillespie also mentions in his April 2016 study, couples that had far less sex but felt they had quality sex were more satisfied with their sex lives. Satisfaction contributes to happiness as well.  This isn’t so clear though when it comes to some studies. The Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization also did a study. They found that when they asked participants to have more sex, their happiness decreased! What I found interesting about this study is that it didn’t do crossovers as Brian’s did. So the folks taking part may or may not have desired that frequency, and that can lead to poor and ‘rushed’ quality.  Type of Sex I'm convinced that the more we are self-aware and mindful of our needs around sex and happiness, the happier we will be. It can be related to oxytocin release or happiness with our partner(s). Or it might be that when we honour our needs, we will be more satisfied because we’ll be seeking out the relationships and sexual encounters that make us feel good inside.  One of the things that drive me batty as a sexuality educator is that so many people feel they need to have intercourse for it to be ‘sex’.  I believe that this is untrue.  There is oral sex, anal sex, masturbatory sex, and even tantric sex. Some may get just as much satisfaction from cuddling as others do a three-hour long missionary sex session. Cuddling releases oxytocin too. So for asexual folks, this might be far more satisfying than intercourse.  Conclusion – Frequency Doesn't Equal Happiness What all of this research and my personal experience has taught me is that this is a complex topic. This is a subject we can’t just look at one or two factors with. Even the article on Greater Good (that inspired this post) noted that there is a lot of conflicting research and study results on this topic.  What I find this all boils down to is that we have to be mindful of our desires and needs. Then we need to honour those desires and needs. There is no doubt in my mind that when I've walked away from a very satisfying sexual encounter, I'm giggly and flying high. The elevated mood can last me days. And some of these encounters have been quite short. Sometimes they vary in frequency as well. But they are still—by far—the most satisfying and happy-making for me.  Other times I've had a lots of sex and often, but I didn't get that same high from it. I didn't giggle or walk away with a feeling of euphoria.  Quality Instead Of Quantity The fundamental difference in these two circumstances included some of the topics listed above. Couple compatibility is vital for me. If we don’t like the same things, we aren't going to be happy sexually. Or maybe even in other ways.  If we enjoy the same sorts of sex and sexual encounters, then I find much more satisfaction. I don’t know anyone that likes taking part in sex and happiness when it feels like a chore. Doing chores might be necessary, but sex should never be a chore.  The biggest of all of these for me is the quality of sex I'm having. All of this connects because all of this involves being tuned into who we are. It’s the self-awareness and mindfulness that leads to us finding compatible partners with similar sexual desires, with the ability to turn mediocre into outstandingly—quality-filled—sexual encounters.  If you’re interested in upping your happiness through increased sexual encounters, I’d suggest keeping these things in mind:  Find a partner compatible with your life goals Talk about sex and sexuality, compare your desires Remember that quantity is not the same as quality Honour both people’s needs with compassion In essence, this is simple. Pay attention and honour one another. If you find your partner isn't ready to meet your needs or if you find you’re not willing to meet theirs and you are both profoundly unable to compromise maybe letting go of that connection and being open to someone more compatible with your needs is the healthier way to go.  I was often taught that couples that love each other stay together until death. But I don’t now nor have I ever bought into this belief. If I can’t make my partner happy, then I love him enough to let him go so he can find happiness elsewhere. I'm sure the ex that hated foreplay and loved frequent sex has found his special someone that desires those same things. If we’d stayed together, we’d not have been happy. And that wouldn't have been due to lack of sex. We were having tonnes of sex!  Honour your needs, talk about your desires, and listen to your partner when they share about their needs and desires. Then act. For me, this has been the fastest way to increase sex and happiness.     Model photos: colourbox.com  Written by Sienna Saint-CyrSienna Saint-Cyr is an author, advocate, and the founder of SinCyr Publishing. She speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on the importance of having a healthy body image, understanding enthusiastic consent, using sexuality to promote healing, navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships, having Complex PTSD, and more. Sienna loves sharing her journey of healing and finding happiness with her readers. Along with writing erotica and romance, Sienna speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on such sex-positive topics as a healthy body image, using sexuality to promote healing, and navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships. She writes for several websites. Find out more at https://siennasaintcyr.wordpress.com/.
  11. Many people believe that mindfulness can make us happier. But is there any evidence to back this up? And how does mindful living improve our well-being, our sense of self, our happiness? New research sheds light on some of these fascinating questions.  Does mindfulness really make us happier? If you've been working on living a mindful life, you may instinctively want to answer yes. Perhaps you've reduced the stress in your life, or at least improved your ability to handle it. You may have focused your effort on the things that really matter to you. Or maybe you just feel a greater sense of confidence and comfort in yourself.  But although many of us can feel the benefits in our lives, there isn't a lot of scientific evidence so far to back up these ideas. That's starting to change. New studies shed light not only on whether mindfulness affects psychological well-being but also how.  Two recent studies from researchers in Australia and the United States have examined the ways in which mindfulness affects individuals' sense of self and behaviour. Both provide fascinating insights into the ways in which mindful living can affect fundamental parts of our identity.  Mindfulness and sense of self A 2016 study carried out by researchers at the University of Utah investigated the "self-concept clarity" of university students. Self-concept clarity, or SCC for short, is the extent to which an individual has a clear definition of their own beliefs and traits which remain consistent over time. Individuals with high self-concept clarity have a strong sense of self, a clear image of who they are. This view isn't necessarily accurate, of course - SCC isn't the same thing as self-knowledge - but it's stable.  There is an association with high SCC, positive relationships, high self-esteem and a greater sense of independence. Not much is known about where exactly it comes from. However, this study suggests that the connection is with intentional and non-judgmental awareness. In other words - mindfulness.  The study revealed that more mindful participants had greater self-concept-clarity, and that both mindful living and strong sense of self were correlated with psychological well-being. In fact, the relation between a mindful disposition and well-being through self-concept clarity was higher than the correlation between mindfulness and well-being alone.  The authors of the study conclude that mindful individuals may improve their well-being in several ways. These individuals avoid conflicting self-images, which can lead to distress. They may more frequently identify behaviour that will improve their psychological well-being and sense of self-esteem.  Mindfulness and authenticity A second study, conducted by researchers at the National University of Australia and Catholic University of Australia in 2016, shows some results that reveal further information about the connection between mindful living and values-based actions. According to the study, values-based action - action and behaviour consistent with an individual's values and beliefs - are an important part of the relationship between a mindful disposition and psychological well-being. Individuals who were more mindful tended to act more consistently with their own values and therefore to be happier. In fact, the researchers found that the connection between mindfulness and well-being through values-based action was much stronger than the direct link. Mindful individuals saw an increase in well-being primarily when they showed authenticity in action.  Psychological well-being Both studies suggest a correlation between mindful individuals and psychological well-being. It's worth taking a moment to examine the concept in a little more detail. Psychological well-being (abbreviated PWB) basically reflects what we would think of as happiness: an individual's level of satisfaction with various aspects of their life. It's not a simple concept, though. Well-being breaks down into two further categories: hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Hedonic well-being focuses on experiencing pleasure and avoiding pain. When we're comfortable, well-fed and enjoying ourselves, our sense of hedonic well-being is high. Eudaimonic well-being bases itself more on the happiness that comes from self-actualisation. Our sense of eudaimonic well-being is high when we feel that what we are doing is worthwhile and that we can fulfill our potential. Authenticity of action is vital to this sense of well-being.  Relating authenticity and self-image Both studies may show some of the connection between a mindful disposition and well-being. In the University of Utah study, mindful individuals did not suffer from some of the distress that can come from a confused or contradictory sense of self. They had clearer ideas of who they were. This may have allowed them to select actions and relationships that satisfied their values. In the Australian study, well-being came from authenticity:  Individuals who acted on their values tended to be happier. But of course, the two are inseparable. A strong sense of self is vital to values-based action since people with lower self-concept clarity may not even really be sure of their own values.  Putting it into practice Of course, these are just two studies, and as always further research must happen.  The evidence so far suggests that authenticity may be one of the most important connections between mindful living and well-being. Maintaining a mindful disposition can make us more aware of ourselves and our values, which is vital. But these values won't contribute as much to our well-being unless we put them into action. By identifying what our core beliefs are - what's really important to us - we can identify the actions that we need to carry out to put those beliefs into practice.  Hopefully, putting our core beliefs into practice makes the world a better place. But it's also an important part of building our sense of well-being. When we act with authenticity -- when we're true to our own sense of self -- we develop the habits that contribute to our own happiness.  Images licensed by Ingram Image  Written by Guest AuthorWe are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.
  12. Accepting you feel happy enough, as opposed to constantly pursuing an ephemeral idea of what happiness might be, is the route many now choose to greater well-being.  Remember that old REM hit, Shiny Happy People? In it, the lyrics encouraged you to put “it in your heart” where “tomorrow” and “gold and silver shine”. Okay, let's not set too much store by a pop song, but it illustrates something important about modern culture:  Happiness seems to be shiny, attractive and – like gold an sliver – material to some extent. In fairness to the songwriters, happiness is something that we might observe in others. The so-called shiny people of the song - if not ourselves.  Now, a jangly rock anthem may not really be the best route to understanding what happiness is conceptually, but it certainly reveals the way many of us think about it on a day-to-day basis. However, the pursuit of happiness, like the pursuit of anything material, can lead us in the wrong direction. This is what today's psychologists refer to as the happiness trap. Let's examine what this trap is, how you can identify the extent to which you might have fallen into it and – perhaps most importantly of all – the measures you can take to get out of it.  The Misguided Pursuit of Happiness According to Greek philosopher Aristotle, happiness involves activity and exhibiting virtue but the word he chose to describe it was eudaimonia. Often translated as happiness, this term is probably better described as human flourishing. We seem quite removed from that sentiment when you consider how contemporary mass culture depicts happiness. Think of all the happy messages the mainstream media bombards us with just to begin with.  Ask yourself how many times a day that you might hear that you can be happy – will be happy, even – if only you choose these clothes, that form of transportation or this particular adornment. There again, the pursuit of happiness might be marketed as being concurrent with the pursuit of other goals. For example, you may have heard you'll be happy if you pursue your youth - with an anti-wrinkle cream, of course. Or that you will be happy if you pursue greater wealth by choosing one investment product over another.  Eudaimonia has little to do with any of that. Over the ages, spiritual leaders have taught us to abandon the relationship between happiness and material wealth. Bear in mind that it is not so much that material aggrandisement won't bring you happiness, rather than the detriment it can cause to your perception of happiness. Although the current generation of Westerners are, by and large, richer than ever before the variation of how people perceive their level of happiness is high, to say the least.  Are You in the Happiness Trap? Feeling unhappy or sad is perfectly natural and all humans will go through mental states like this from time to time. However, a general malaise in your sense of happiness may reveal that you are, indeed, in the happiness trap. If you think that your personal happiness ties in with the images you might see on TV or in lifestyle magazines, then that is a sure sign. Equally, if you are constantly comparing the level of happiness you feel with that which you perceive in your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues, then this may also indicate your entrapment of a false perception of happiness.  Psychologists now write with increasing frequency on the downside of happiness. Essentially, they are posing questions about  when happiness is appropriate what level of it is best whether there are 'wrongful' ways of pursuing happiness Indeed, despite the oft-noted benefits of happiness, some leading authors are posing the question as to whether there are wrong types of happiness that might be better avoided. If you think you might be in the happiness trap, then you are certainly not alone. Modern scientific thinking may well agree with your self assessment.  Cognitive and Behavioural Strategies for Feeling Happy Enough So far, we have focussed on whether we have our priorities right with happiness and whether there is an over-connection to material considerations when pursuing happiness. Now let's turn our attention to being able to feel happy enough. If you like, this is the ability to accept with gratitude the happiness you feel. Then to have the strength to resist the temptation to seek more.  Identifying and accepting the state of being happy enough is the key to getting out of the happiness trap. If you feel happy enough, then you won't feel the need to carry on pursuing the false idols of materialism or of keeping up with the Joneses.  Deciding to feel happy enough may be easier said than done given our materialistic culture. Indeed, a 2003 psychological study by Schooler, Airey and Loewenstein suggested that pursuing happiness as a goal was doomed to failure anyway. Thankfully, Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky and others offer some cognitive and behavioural tips, you can follow to offer you the best chance of avoiding that empty sensation of not feeling happy enough.    Setting Aside Time With so much that contributes to modern life pointing you towards the happiness trap, it is a good idea to simply set aside time to recall moments of gratitude. By doing this regularly, you are much better positioned to see past the short-term nature of such messages and to keep an eye on what really contributes to your happiness. You could, for instance, keep a journal where you can count your blessings. For example the love of people close to you or your general health. In addition, writing letters of gratitude can help to reorientate your perspective on to what really counts. There is something about the mental activity that goes on during the act of writing that helps to rebalance our cognitive processes and application of this can shape your feelings surrounding happiness.    Positive Mentality Strategies As mentioned, writing can have a beneficial effect on the way we think about a range of circumstances, including the way we feel about happiness. However, it is not the only positive mental strategy that you can use in a self-regulatory manner. Positive thinking about oneself can come in other reflective forms. You can have a look back through old photos of heart-warming and cheerful life events. Or you might prefer to talk about your happiest and unhappiest moments in life with a loved one. Another possibility is to have a discussion about your life goals for the future with your partner or a trusted friend. By focussing positivity in this way, you naturally engage less with shorter term aspirations and material objectives.    The Power of Altruism Studies have shown that practising altruism can help you to feel more satisfied with your level of happiness. Helping you to understand what is good about your life, altruistic acts are also of benefit to their recipient. Simply making the decision to be kinder and more understanding in your everyday interactions is a good first step. You might consider doing something practical, too, such as donating your blood. By routinely committing to acts of kindness or trying to make a loved one happy, you will end up feeling more empowered about how happy you feel and less reliant on what other people think about you.    Reaffirmation of Your Values Refocussing on your most important values is another key step in accepting the level of happiness you feel. Think of it like restating your marriage vows – if you ever made them, that is – as a means of getting back to basics. By reaffirming the true person you are, it becomes possible to shake off sometimes years of misguided happiness that has become more and more reliant on a false idea of perfection. One that is modelled on an 'ideal' life as depicted in modern culture so much. Take a step back to focus on what makes you tick and reaffirm your commitment to it.    Engendering Positivity By taking the time to savour positive experiences in life, rather than rushing on hedonistically to the next chance of happiness, you are more likely to enjoy the moment. Think of a greedy diner who, enjoying their food gulps it all down rapidly only to feel disappointed. Compared with someone who savours every mouthful to the maximum. Both might consume the same food but gain very different experiences from their meal. Slow down. See the whole picture. Focus on the positivity of any given situation in order to feel happier in yourself.  Image(s) licensed by Ingram Image  Written by Ed GouldEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
  13. Today is the day to be happy! What exactly is the International Day of Happiness? Why does the UN have an official resolution and can it help to improve your levels of well-being?  It is an annual event organised by the United Nations to promote the idea that feeling happy is a global human right. Actionforhappiness.org supports and organises the day, with support from other groups. Many of the world's leading religions and philosophies promote positive emotions as vital for the well-being of mankind. However, the idea of having a dedicated day of observance for the concept is relatively new.  A brief history of the International Day of Happiness The first International Day of Happiness was on March 20, 2013, following several years of campaigning by Jayme Illien, a United Nations adviser. An American family adopted Jayme Illien. After growing up in one of Mother Theresa's Kolkata orphanages. He was keen to end global inequality. All member states of the UN are encouraged to participate in the event. To raise awareness of the importance of positive emotion for humanity and to help others to find ways to create happiness.  The last three international events had attendees including world leaders and celebrities. Pharrell Williams, the singer-songwriter, has been heavily involved with the event as a spokesman and the composer of the worldwide hit 'Happy.' In fact, an innovative part of the 2013 celebrations was the first ever 24-hour global live streaming video of this very song. Other celebrities who have attended and supported the event include Chelsea Clinton, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela.  During previous celebrations, numerous free events have taken place across the world, such as dances, community drop-in events and conferences. Community workshops, walks and social media are all tried-and-true ways of spreading the message about how everyone deserves to feel happy.  Some years have focused on particular areas essential for well-being. For example, 2015 concentrated on the importance of relationships. While in 2014, people shared images of what made them feel happy. The event aims to reduce global inequality, end poverty and protect the planet for future generations. Many projects coincide with the main day itself. The organisers for 2017 have taken submissions for related free events across the world for today.  Key projects about the effects of contentment and how science backs them The first history of happiness studies began over 2500 years ago when great philosophers such as Confucius, Socrates, Aristotle and Buddha, and many others devoted their lives to the pursuit of this topic, influencing the lives of countless millions to the present day. Today, positive psychology or the science of happiness is the study of what exactly make happy people happy. There has recently been an explosion of interest in this field. The free course 'The Science of Happiness' being one of the most popular courses since its inception in 2014. Students report that the information and materials provided were very useful for improving wellness levels.  The key to human wellness is strong social ties and a sense of purpose. The benefits of happiness Although the history of happiness studies is not a new concept, it is only in recent years that psychologists have begun to understand the importance and far-reaching implications of positive emotions. Scientists conclude that the key to human wellness is strong social ties and a sense of purpose. In other words, involvement in things that are for the 'greater good' of humanity.  Others believe that having a positive mindset is responsible for as much as 90 percent of our feelings of well-being. These might include a fulfilling career where helping others is paramount, voluntary work to improve the community or participation in a religion that promotes communal activities such as regular group worship. The science of happiness continues to be, perhaps, the most valuable area of studies. Concentrating as it does on the question of how to create happiness.  People who are happy tend to live longer and have fewer health problems. Happier people are less likely to have high blood pressure and heart issues. One thing remains clear - we still have a lot to learn about this area of study and the myriad benefits of a life well-lived.     Modelphoto: Colorbox.com Photo of Ban Ki-moon by Chatham House Flickr.com und CC BY 2.0  Written by Guest AuthorWe are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.
  14. Where Does Happiness Come From? Ancient Philosophers May Have Some Answers. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to make ourselves happy, but we hardly ever think about what happiness actually is. Is it a situation? A state of mind? A spiritual experience? Well, if anyone would know, it'd be the wisest philosophers of the ancient world, right?  Well … not exactly.  We'd all like to think that some ancient sage somewhere in the history of happiness had the secret completely figured out. A thorough reading of philosophical writings, however, can just leave you more confused than when you started. Some philosophers defined happiness as meaning something different than we would with our current set of ideals. While others had some rather unusual ideas about how to achieve it.  The History of Happiness Let's start with one of the later Greek philosophers, Epicurus. Probably no thinker has had his name more misused than poor old Epicurus. Today, when we call someone an Epicurean or an epicure, we mean that they love to eat, drink and live well. Ironically, that's exactly the sort of claim that Epicurus' followers spent a lot of time defending themselves against.  The reason for this misconception stems from Epicurus' understanding of the relationship between happiness and morality.  For the Epicureans, the senses were a guide to life. If something felt good, that was a sign you should do it. If it felt bad, it should be avoided. Sounds like a simple code! But not so fast. While this might sound like a simple – and mostly harmless – rule to follow, Epicurus' teachings had a lot of critics. They objected to the principle of hedonism, which they said was a quick pathway to immoral behaviour. Hedonism being defined as the pursuit of pleasure or self-indulgence. It has various interpretations, mainly of the immoral persuasion.  “If it feels good, do it?” What if what felt good was just lying around all day getting drunk? These critics caricatured the Epicureans as pleasure-obsessed brutes who ignored the idea of a higher, spiritual happiness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Epicureans, in turn, vigorously denied that they were any such things. Instead, Epicurus and his followers claimed that feeling good was about more than getting drunk and laid. They derived that genuine happiness came from the absence of worry and stress. A condition they called ataraxia. And how do you achieve ataraxia? The secret is summed up in the tetrapharmakos, the “four-fold cure.”  Don't fear god Don't worry about death What is good is easy to get What is terrible is easy to endure And how do you achieve this? Obviously, by studying physics. Come again? It might seem like a weird answer, but it's the real deal, at least according to Epicurean philosopher Diogenes of Oinoanda. According to Diogenes – and from what we can reconstruct of Epicurus' teachings, which we mostly know from Diogenes. Many people are unhappy because they worry about evil omens and other supernatural phenomena. They worry about things that are in fact not real. Unproven by science and logic. If they all would just sit down and study science they would learn that those things aren't real. They'd soon be on their way to a worry-free and happy existence.  So there you have it. Follow your senses. Insofar as your senses lead you to a scientific understanding of the universe that you live in. On your quest for knowledge, I wouldn't necessarily recommend going to Epicurus for that scientific understanding, though. Since he seems to have believed that your brain was in your chest. A common belief at the time. He also recommended that you avoid physical pain. A piece of advice you probably don't need a philosopher for.  So perhaps Epicurus isn't the right guy to go to for advice on happiness. What about other great ancient philosophers?  What about Plato? Well, remember all those philosophical critics who were lighting up Epicurus for the alleged immorality of his philosophy? They might have had a little more time for Plato's argument. If hedonism was the indulgence of only one thing: pleasure, Plato's idea had a far better ring to it for these critics. For Plato, being happy meant having a balanced personality: wise, brave, just and moderate. Above all, you had to be self-controlled. Athenian society of the era cared so much about self-control that they viewed people who liked seafood too much the way we view drug addicts.  Too much desire for the pleasures in life – wine, sex and fish – was the sign of a disordered mind, a person more devoted to pleasure than happiness. Plato believed that you couldn't be happy without first being good. Which may be true, but it's harder to argue that all good people are necessarily happy, isn't it? How do you rate that? For Plato and his student Aristotle, virtue is central to happiness. And if you were really and truly virtuous you'd be able to deal with your misfortunes and stay happy. Thanks to your self-control. Make sense?  Herodotus, the father of history If a life of virtue and self-discipline doesn't sound like your ideal road to happiness? Maybe some other Greek authors have a better option for us. Let's see what Herodotus, had to say on the subject of happiness. In a story about the great Greek lawmaker Solon, Herodotus puts this sentiment into his mouth. “If besides all this he ends his life well, then he is the one whom you seek, the one worthy to be called fortunate.” Many translations use “happy” instead of “fortunate,” and that's what leads most people to summarise this one as “call no man happy until he is dead.”  According to Herodotus, you're not happy until you've passed a happy life and then died a happy death. So what can we learn from how ancient philosophers approached the idea of happiness? Well, on the surface it doesn't sound great. Leaving out Herodotus' grim dictum, everyone else seems to agree that happiness is ultimately internal. Something that comes from cultivating the right attitude toward the challenges life hits us with. And that's not surprising: the ancient world was a dangerous place. Disease, war and political unrest were common features of the landscape. Relying on the quality of your surroundings to make you happy was just asking to be disappointed. Cultivating a calm, realistic, balanced outlook – no matter how difficult that might sound – was a far safer bet.  And even in a world where we're not as likely to suddenly perish of a disease no one can identify, get speared by the invading Persians or be turned into an animal by a jealous god, that might not be such bad advice after all.  Images licensed by Ingram Image  Written by James HollowayJames Holloway is a historian and freelancer writer living in Cambridge. In addition to teaching about all the usual kings-battles-and-inventions stuff, he spends his spare time researching and writing about the stranger corners of history, from forgotten holidays to quack medicines to werewolves.
  15. 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 quite 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 course claims to be "The first MOOC to teach positive psychology. Learn science-based principles and practices for a happy, meaningful life."  Backing up claims for improving happiness with science You can do the course self-paced and for free. So if you are a sceptic and you 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 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. 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 have learned to appreciate it's 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 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 topics of the course Referred to as "happiness practices," you'll try 11 different practices throughout the 8-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.     Image source: edX the Science of happiness       Written by Tine SteissTine 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
  16. The Secrets of Happiness by The School of Life The secrets of happiness are not as complicated as you might think! This 60-second video by "the school of life" explains it all! Definitely worth a watch! The Secrets of Happiness at a Glance: Stop being so hopeful. Look at the glass as half empty and be grateful when something good happens. A lot of people go around thinking that life is a bowl of cherries. It isn’t. Stop ranting about how awful other people are. Most people aren’t evil. Accept that other people have bad days too and that it has nothing to do with you. Think of death a lot. Keep a skull on your table. A subtle reminder to use your time wisely and appreciate the time you’ve already been given. Thanks, death! Laugh at yourself. You’re not the idiot you think you are. You’re lovable and laughable. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Make regular appointments to talk with someone you don’t normally check in with a lot: YOU! What do you really want? What are you really anxious about? When was the last time you took yourself on a date? Stop the impossible task of trying to make yourself happy. Concentrate on cheering other people up. Seeing happiness in other people helps you to cheer up too! Look at things from a different and far away perspective. Like from space. Things will look the size they always should’ve been- tiny and insignificant. Throw your phone off a cliff for a bit. Talk to your partner, your mother, someone close to you. Chances are you’ve been bent over that thing all day and haven’t even noticed that the sun is shining. Give up on the idea that you should be normal. The only normal people, are people you don’t know yet. Everyone is weird and that’s totally okay. Image source: The school of life on youtube.com    Written by Tine SteissTine 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
  17. Happiness is an essential part of everyday life. We all know the benefits of waking up in the morning and looking forward to our day. We turn on the television or open the newspaper. Hopefully finding some happy, feel-good news, enabling our cheerful mood to continue. Everyone’s perspective of feel good news is different of course. According to child psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Nehrer, smiling helps us to think positively. It also acts as a coping mechanism for any negative issues we may be going through.  The Rise of Feel-Good News With the tensions in the world today, it is impossible to ignore the negative news circulating in the media. This has lead to a rise in feel-good news. News solely designed to increase our sense of well-being. An article by Ray Williams from ‘Wired For Success’, printed in Psychology Today, provides a quote from Loretta Garziano Breuning, the author of ‘Meet Your Happy Chemicals’. In this quote, she contends that deep anxiety can result from following predominately negative news. However, it is that very mechanism of 'feel good' news which helps to make us feel happier. It also appears to help to limit anxiety. Allowing us to feel more contented and able to cope with and resolve problems.  Official "Good News Sections" in newspapers and websites: 'Good News Sections' can now, for example be found on those sites:  Daily Mirror Today Huffington Post Other websites that only publish positive news:  GoodNewsNetwork Positive.News Daily Good It is easy to go through our day reading inspirational or funny stories. This feel-good news appears to have come about because research shows that we choose to read depressing stories as a matter of course. This is according to an experiment carried out at the McGill University by researchers Marc Trussler and Stuart Soroka.  The idea behind feel-good news is that it is important to counteract the negativity of bad news. Feel-good stories can achieve a positive mood, attitude and happiness. Editors may believe that negative news sells. Since many people choose those it over good news. Denise Baden’s research indicates that it is having adverse effects on our well-being and hence on our happiness.  Framing news in such a negative and shocking style might be good for business, but it is not good for mental health or society. Escapism or Optimism? Inspiring stories appear to create a feeling of optimism. The question is: do we actually believe in this optimism long-term or is it just a form of escapism? In an article in the Guardian by philosopher Pascal Bruckner, he states that although humanity has many problems, he is prepared to believe that ‘something will turn up’ to put things right. This in itself is a fine display of optimism.  Reading or hearing feel-good news can sometimes relate to ourselves, but, most often, it has to do with other people or places. This immediately offers us escapism. For example, picturing ourselves in the situation or location of the news: a big lottery winner or an inspirational story of human kindness. The need for escapism is usually within us all and, unless we are in a position to just jump on an aeroplane to a warm, sunny beach somewhere, then this type of news can often provide a great substitute.  One of the main reasons why the need for feel-good news arose is because it provides us with a positive way forward. Quite simply, it makes us happy and when we are happy our perspective on life in general increases enormously. This, in turn, adds to our feeling of well-being, which also offers great health benefits. Happiness can help to reduce high blood pressure, according to Science Daily. It increases levels of dopamine, our ‘happy’ hormone. People who are feeling lonely might find that reading heartwarming news can help them to keep in touch with other people's lives and to think outside of the box.  Therefore, the conclusion could well be that the positive psychology offered by good news stories creates both escapism and optimism. Most Good News is Bad News but With a Happy Ending or Solution So why do we read sad stories? Perhaps the potential role of “eudaimonic” or meaning-making motives provides a reason. We know it is going to be sad, but we read it anyway. Perhaps hoping for a happy ending or a great solution to a problem that has been bothering us. If there isn't one, then our feel-good factor can drop and we start to look for something that will cheer us up.  Perfect endings can create joy and positive psychology, which could also be the reason why television newsreaders will try to end on a positive spin. This allows them to conclude with a smile. Climate change is a problem that worries us all and it is constantly in the news. We would much prefer to read a story like this from the World Wildlife Organisation. One that tells us the world leaders are all pulling together to save our planet. We are immediately given hope for the future. In return, this creates that all important positivity that we crave.  Good news is vital, but without a suitable ending, it serves no purpose towards increasing our level of happiness. We must consider, however, that a lot of news does not have a happy ending. One must wonder, does the provision of good news stories have more to do with increasing readership than our well-being? We choose what we wish to read, nobody decides for us. So it is impossible to be critical of the media which supplies us with these stories. As long as they stick to the facts. Especially when they are giving out information that, not only gives us pleasure but also inspires us. As an example, there is a story about a police officer who was sent to break up a dance party; instead, this kind man taught the youngsters how to Salsa.  How Good News Can Have a Positive Effect On Our Mood and Perception of The World Social media can assist in improving our mood and world perception as it is probably the most popular way of exchanging information and expressing opinions. According to ProCon.org, it is the most used form of communication during times of crisis. Especially since it is the ideal way to deliver messages asking for support. This often creates immediate responses and offers of help, turning sad news into something more positive.  Whether the feel-good news appears as a story or a picture, the effect it can have on our mood or perception of the world is enormous and instantaneous. Sometimes it offers us solutions or different options and a wider point of view. Our Facebook pages, for example, are usually full of feel-good news stories. Our friends, family and colleagues post them. This not only creates a feeling of positivity but also happiness. This is according to a study of 1,910 people from 91 different countries, conducted at the Carnegie Mellon University together with Facebook researchers.  An article in Psychology Today recounts a study from ‘Seaward BL. "Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being." In it, the article states that smiling starts the process of releasing neuropeptides which work towards helping us to fight off stress. To do this we should try to make the time to focus on simple things. For example, any delightful news stories that will put a smile on our faces. It takes only a few minutes every day. The ensuing positivity can often help us to discover solutions to resolve our own problems. An article by Positive.News shows results from research carried out at Southampton University involving over 2,000 respondents. It found that bad news led to negative mood swings and anxiety, whilst a positive news story led to a greater feeling of motivation and hope.  Start and End Your Day With Feel Good News From the perspective of positive psychology, waking up in the morning to feel-good news can easily set our mood for the rest of the day. Simply by focusing on the solution rather than the problem could make us realise that perhaps our issues or worries have resolutions. That maybe, they are not as bad as they first seemed. Thinking outside of the box will often help us to see the bigger picture. Most importantly, it will help us to realise that happiness is within our grasp because feel-good news is just at the touch of a keyboard.  Images licensed by Ingram Image  Written by Guest AuthorWe are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.