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  1. How do we become happy? A question that has been asked since the dawn of man. And, answered by philosophers, gurus, and recently psychologists.  Maslow’s Pyramid - The Hierarchy of Needs One of them was Abraham Maslow, who formulated his ‘hierarchy of needs', or “Maslow’s pyramid”. What can we learn from this pyramid, if we want to be happy?  https://youtu.be/zLHiWjMFYUU  Maslow’s pyramid is divided into five levels of needs: physiological safety love and belonging esteem self-actualisation Physiological needs are biological and physical requirements, like breathing, food, water, and sleep. When these needs are not fulfilled, they become the only thing we are preoccupied with.  Safety needs are physical safety, and needs for home, employment, income, and health. Without fulfilment of these needs, a person continually feels insecure and unprotected.  Love and belonging needs deal with our desires for deep interpersonal connections, good family relationships, friendships, and sexual intimacy. Without them, we might become depressed or experience loneliness.  Esteem needs are needs like self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and being respected by others.  Self-Actualization needs deal with creativity, spontaneity and problem-solving. They are met if we can become everything we are capable of becoming. Self-actualizing people have a grounded sense of well-being and satisfaction. And a sense of awe, wonder, and gratitude about life.  Maslow noted that his hierarchy is a general description. Levels are not fixed, and each need does not have to be fulfilled 100% to move to higher levels.  So, how do we become happy? Maslow called the lower four levels “deficiency needs”: if we don’t have them met, it influences our psychological health and obstructs our tendency for growth, autonomy, identity, and excellence.  Fulfill your needs at all levels, and become a truly happy person! In later work, Maslow added a sixth level to the hierarchy: meta-needs or intrinsic values. Maslow studied what keeps self-actualising people motivated. He found that these people seek things like truth, goodness, beauty, excellence, and so on. Instead of being interests that involve self-interest, these values transcend the individual. By including these types of needs, Maslow answered criticism about the absence of desires to know, desires for beauty, and desires for truth, that at this sixth level can be incorporated in the pyramid.  Written by Arlo 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.
  2. Mindfulness and the Science of Spending New research shows how we are saving and spending money affects our mental health more dramatically than previously thought. But learning to embrace our emotional responses to spending may provide the key to a happier life. Our relationship with money is one of complexities, and often highly personal emotions. We may wish we were capable of making the rational choice. When it comes to managing our personal finances, in reality, it is rarely so straightforward. But, as wider research happens on this subject. We are beginning to piece together a more precise picture of exactly how our interactions with the world of finance can affect us mentally. And, perhaps surprisingly, what we believe to be the responsible choice is not always the most beneficial.  There is a growing body of evidence which explains the connection between our spending habits and mental health. The state of our personal finances and spending habits plays an active role in determining our overall mental health and our well-being in other areas of life. As we seek to balance our needs and our wants, it may be valuable to consider some of the many ways in which our personal spending choices may be influencing our state of mind. Also, whether our habits are a positive or a negative influence on our quality of life.  The Psychology of Money There is a popularly held belief that our interactions with and attitudes towards money are psychologically hard-wired. That we may be a spender or a saver; a conservative or a risk-taker. And there is convincing evidence to suggest that this is precisely the case. Our financial instincts operate within the same fundamental patterns as our impulses to manage other lifestyle essentials.  Professor Glenn D Wilson alludes to this phenomenon with the interesting observation that our behaviour towards money “Has commonalities with food, which might suggest an evolutionary origin for our craving [for wealth].” He notes that, when our appetite is stimulated by the scent of nearby food, our economic instincts become equally hungry. We become more inclined to horde, and less likely to spend.  Equally, risk-averse individuals may simply be behaving in accordance to built-in traits. The region of the brain called the insula is active in the processing emotional responses. As well as associating stimuli with previous adverse reactions. Individuals with a more active insula have been found to respond to the experience of spending large sums of money in the same way as they would react to pain, or to a disgusting smell.  Wants and Needs: the different forms of spending Due to these previously-acknowledged findings, traditional thinking has just classed us as spenders or savers. Which deduced that our attraction or aversion to spending was a matter of innate neurological make-up. But recent investigations studied the impact of different forms of spending. They have demonstrated that not all spending is equal:  In contrast to decades of research reporting surprisingly weak relationships between consumption and happiness, recent findings suggest that money can indeed increase happiness if it is spent the “right way” (e.g., on experiences or on other people).” (Matz, et al.in). Understanding the different forms of economic activity is a necessary step towards learning how the psychology of money could be affecting our own peace of mind. A report by the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge sought to identify the psychological impact of qualitative factors within our spending habits, as opposed to simply the amount spent.  Taking a closer look. Developing this point further, an article published by the University of California at Berkeley seeks to establish distinct forms of spending. The objective is to learn the psychological impact of each form. Every transaction divides into one of four expenses. Firstly either as a fixed or variable outgoing and of which both classes sub-divide into sets that are our “wants” and our “needs”. While our Fixed needs are all of those outgoings that could be “the cost of living”. Such as bills, grocery, transportation, and other recurring charges that we need to cover. Our fixed wants are regular treats that we award ourselves in everyday life. These could include a cup of coffee on the way to work or a Friday night take-out. Together, these forms of recurring purchases will define our basic standard of living on a monthly basis.  However, data shows that we quickly grow accustomed to these purchases as a new, baseline standard of living. Although reducing these expenses may not make us happier, there is also no marked long-term improvement in our well-being when we make such purchases, either. Instead, fixed wants are more effective psychological rewards when they only occasionally happen. Not when they form part of a regular spending habit.  What happens when our needs and wants change? In contrast, Variable needs describe the infrequent or one-off purchases that are, nevertheless, mandatory. From travel visas to health insurance; vehicle repairs to items for a child's education. Variable needs are the expenses that motivate the saver in all of us. Our peace of mind relies upon knowing that we have the financial resources to cover the unexpected. There is substantial evidence to suggest that these economic safety nets are among the most vital sources of physical and mental well-being.  To improve our well-being through spending, it may be more effective to re-establish our habit-forming fixed desires as “variable wants”. While the saver in us may look at these expenses as frivolous. It is these non-essential, one-off treats that are in fact the most efficient forms for improving our mood and mindset. Despite this, these non-recurring purchases typically account for the smallest total outgoing of expenses when taken on an average annual basis.  Spending Money on a Happier Life Such evidence would suggest that many of us could potentially be enjoying greater peace of mind if we permitted ourselves to spend more of our money. However, there is a caveat. It is what we are spending money on - rather how much we are spending. That is the truly powerful influencer on our overall quality of life.  By far the most intriguing discovery by this latest round of studies is the realisation what the psychological impact of spending does. It can amplify when economic activity matches the individual's unique personality traits and motivations. An individual who makes purchasing decisions that best suit their personality shows more enjoy and an increased quality of life. With an increase in personal well-being that is more effective than that observed from other influencers. Such as the overall amount spent, or even the total level of that individual's income.  The results suggest that for each, there are optimal and suboptimal ways to allocate spending money. Purchases that make one person happy might not do so for another. Finding the right products to maintain and enhance one’s preferred lifestyle could turn out to be as important to well-being as finding the right job, the right neighbourhood, or even the right friends and partners.” (Matz, et al.) One can conclude, not only does “retail therapy” work – albeit under the right conditions for the individual – but also that there is, possibly, an efficiency model for the process, too. This improved understanding will form a fascinating starting point for the next generation of behavioural psychologists' studies. We move towards a reality where individuals are capable of discerning the optimal use of their personal finances. One where identification of products, services and experiences that will help maximise quality of life beyond the restrictions of income or budgetary concerns.    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.
  3. Some people realise they've got “unusual” sexual needs from a very early age. We explore it but wonder if there’s something wrong with us. Some of us are taught sex is something bad, dirty, or secretive. We shouldn't talk about it, think about it, and certainly not do it - until we’re married.  I was raised in the latter category. At age eight, I asked my mother to explain sex to me, and her response was emphatic.  “We’re not talking about that.” As a parent now, I imagine I surprised the hell out of her. It didn't help that we were in public when I asked or that I was so young. The lesson I learned, however, was not to talk about sex.  Sex was something secretive, mildly wrong, and - when I finally fully engaged in it - wildly rebellious. Never one to do things by halves, once I started fucking, I didn’t stop. The week before I graduated high school I lost my virginity and had frantic, drunken, and bad sex in a dark room. I spent the rest of the summer fucking my boyfriend until he begged me to stop. He couldn’t keep up.  For the next year or so, as long as I had a boyfriend, we had sex. Not kinky. Not even all that good. No orgasms for me. But plenty of wet, sweaty sex.  By the time I met the man who would become my husband, and later my ex-husband, my childhood beliefs had caught up with me. By having sex, I was doing something wrong. I shouldn't want so much of it, and I definitely shouldn't want the wild, animalistic sex that made me scream and writhe.  That my husband at the time was less than stellar in bed was both a problem and relief. When we had sex, it was boring, and I experienced very little pleasure. Never having had an orgasm, I didn't miss what I’d never had. I’d already internalised the mistaken belief that orgasms are rare, elusive, and (worse) unimportant.  Bad Sex in Marriage is “Normal” What do you get when you combine incompatible sexual partners, a stressful marriage, and kids? Some would say you get a completely “normal” situation. I used to be one of those people. I’d been raised on movies and television that depicted an always-horny man and his long-suffering wife who suffered chronic headaches that miraculously occurred whenever the lights went out, or he offered a back rub.  This was my reality. We had sex to improve his mood or to negotiate favours (I’ll fuck you if you do the dishes). It was quick, quiet, and always in a dark room. He would roll over quickly and snore. I would pull myself out of bed to clean up and find a book to read. The times we used condoms, it was over quicker and with less mess. Condoms were my preferred method.  It was a sad existence. We were both miserable on multiple levels. If we’d been honest with each other, the marriage ended many years before the divorce. It wasn't until I had a sexual awakening of my own that I realised that part of our problem was what happened (or didn't happen) in bed.  Owning My Sexuality and Sexual Needs When I divorced my husband, I promised myself I wouldn't date or fuck around until it was final. I needed to be truly free and single before I could contemplate sexual enjoyment. Of course, even then, my idea of a good fuck was quick and hard. The fact that an orgasm or anything other than basic “vanilla” sex was an option never occurred to me.  I went through a few flings and sexual partners until I was ready to do something different. And without the rejection of a man who found my lack of orgasms a turn-off, I might never have cared. What started with masturbation and allowing myself to swim in my sexual fantasies, turned into a deeper exploration.  What was it that turned me on? Power. Control. Dirty sex. Not having the words for my sexual desires, but the images in my head were clear. To be pinned down. I would be ravaged. I would be lead, controlled, and told what to do. Call me names. Make me cry. Make it hurt. I found the language for my desires in erotic writing and personal sex blogs. Kink, BDSM, Dominant, submissive - it was new and a little scary. It was also exciting, and it was who I was.  I am a submissive woman.  I'm Better as a Kinkster As a kinky woman who has embraced her sexuality and found a Dominant partner, I am a better, healthier human being than I was in previous years. The principles of BDSM and kink are trust, communication, and openness. Without those three things, it’s impossible to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship. You can barely play safely without them.  Could I have had a different type of marriage or better sexual experiences as a younger woman if I’d accepted and believed in trust, communication, and openness? I think so. Was the man I married someone who could have fulfilled my need for power and control? No, he’s not wired that way. The few times I tried to express my desires, I learned through rejection and disgust.  We were doomed. In the years since, however, I've found a community and a partner that not only accepts my desires, he and it celebrates them. I'm free to be the woman I am and the submissive I'm meant to be. I live a life that not only expects me to be open about my sexual desires; it demands that openness. Without my willingness to admit what I want and need, kink doesn't work.  After 15 years or so denying my sexuality and being afraid of it, I was an unhappy woman. Life was less colourful, more difficult. All these years later, I know how important my sexual needs are to me and a healthy, thriving relationship. There’s no way I could go back to anything less than what I have now.     Model Photo colourbox.com  Written by Kayla LordsKayla Lords is a freelance writer, sex blogger, and a masochistic babygirl living the 24/7 D/s life. She hosts a weekly podcast, Loving BDSM, where she and her Dominant talk about loving BDSM in a loving D/s relationship and share what they've learned and experienced as a kinky couple.