Posts tagged happiness
Posts tagged happiness
Recently I took a trip to my local Barnes & Noble bookstore for a slow cooker cookbook, which went against my newest promise to myself. I have many such promises: cut back on sugar, garden more, make a dent in my ever-growing stack of reading. The bookstore promise is a little different; my husband was in on this one.
He reminds me occasionally that we posses a robust collection of cookbooks, worthy of a card catalogue, and they are only occasionally used. The irony here is that I really like to cook, but find I hardly have the time. So in I go for one to compliment my new slow cooker, a desperate attempt to make dinner-making easier. As in, I don’t even have to be there for it to be cooking. Genius! I find a great one, repleat with sufficient pictures and make my way to the cash wrap.
On my way I notice the people in the store posses an unusual contentment about them. Customers everywhere are loitering the racks and have a peaceful, even happy feeling exuding from them. These people are happy to be shopping for books. Why is this note worthy? Well, it might not be, except for that I am planning on buying my first e-reader soon, which will make trips to the bookstore another in the growing list of warm, fuzzy memories; like all my childhood ‘80’s songs that are now considered oldies. Since I am late to this party of Kindles, iPads and Nooks, what does this mean to the future of bookstores?
Of the bookstores that were present in my community when I was growing up, only two still exits - they were all “mom and pop” stores. Heck, even the Borders in my county went belly up last year. This feels important to me because the phenomenon of e-reading will continue to grow for both necessary and sad reasons. First, if you are anything like me, you have run out of room to store more books. Our shelves are bowing under the pressure, literally. Those cookbooks are heavy - it’s all the pictures. And when you take into account the paper used in books, any good eco-concious person has to listen to their inner Gore, especially in my hood.
Yet, those last hold outs I wax nostalgic with over the smell of books and the feel of turning actual vs. virtual pages, serve as reminders to the benefit of standing against the virtualization of everything. Increasingly, we are more disconnected from reality. Another irony when you consider the proliferant reality shows to remind of us of what we are actually not doing ourselves. Or that products like the iPad and Kindle FIre are praised because of how realistic they simulate human perception through high definition, etc. By the way, I used my tree-killing paper Thesaurus to look up proliferant - it’s a real word.
So being that I am a therapist, I usually look for meaning in emotions, and seeing the happiness viscerally evident in that bookstore, it reminded me that this may be a dying form of happiness as the medium of paper books may wane over time, bowing to the electronification of our lives. That was totally not a word, just go with it.
I wrote the following article for a local publication in my community, Ross Living. I based this piece on the myriad of clients I see that struggle with finding happiness in what they think they should be doing.
In today’s lifestyle, it is easy to get sidetracked with multi-tasking and competing for the next must-have item to complete our lives. As a psychotherapist I find I am confronted with people not just troubled by the issues in their relationships, but just as often troubled by the nagging feeling that they aren’t enjoying what they are living each day.
Enjoying your life is no longer the stuff of Hallmark cards or seasonal tv movies. Institutions like The Greater Good Society in Berkeley are studying the effects of our behaviors and choices to determine scientifically what contributes to our happiness. While places like Esalen, Asilomar, and countless other centers providing introspective seminars give us the time to decompress and examine what it is we are lacking in our lives so that we may ultimately feel fulfilled.
Finding those triggers for happiness can be easy for some; pursuing hobbies that thrill or provide much needed quiet, alone time. For others it can be daunting to figure out what is keeping them from enjoying the present, a long-known movement gaining momentum called mindfulness. Here are seven key factors to establishing full-blown joy and excitement in life.
Knowing Your Limits
Believe it or not, people actually respect limits more than those who bend-over-backward to accommodate them. The reason is that it is comfortable to know what the structure is and where someone ends and you begin. We recommend reasonable limit setting in parenting to help kids identify self-reliance, self-discipline and good judgment. It’s the same principle with adults.
Giving too much of yourself can backfire in terms of emotional endurance and quality of relationships. Resentments may eventually build that will inevitably degrade the relationship as you attempt to change to a mutually beneficial structure. Saying no is a different sort of way to say yes to yourself.
Christine Carter made a case for this in her book Raising Happiness. She’s not onto anything new here, just reminding us that in a fast-paced culture like ours, it’s easy to forget that gratitude breeds happiness through recognition of what you have.
Traditionally, gratitude has been expressed through grace at meal times, prayer at bedtimes and general service in your community, which really created stakeholders out of citizens.
Being grateful for things large or small creates reinforcement of those neurons in our brain and strengthens the ability to recognize more of it in the future and therefore the likelihood that it will happen again.
Mindfulness is catching on, somewhat as a cliché, but has real merit as younger generations struggle with higher and higher rates of depression and anxiety. In numbers we have never seen before, the Gen Y and AO generations (Always On) are less able to regulate emotions and follow simple directions due to the level of media interface and intense hands on parenting we have seen develop over the last decade.
Mindfulness tells us to unplug out of everything but the present moment, in order to fully appreciate where we are and what we are experiencing, but also to invest the full scope of our problem solving abilities and creativity; both of which are highly prized by employers.
The ability to prioritize is a strong skill in the happy crowd. Prioritizing means setting goals and clear paths to achieving them. It also means creating time for the things you know you need and want.
Such things as reasonable work hours that allow for family time, structured time to pursue passions or hobbies, time set aside to spend with those you love and fill you up (either friends or family) and time alone to recharge. Having something of yourself to reinvest in relationships or work, comes first from devoting any amount of time you can to recharging your batteries.
Take some time to jot down the list of things you want to do and feel excited about or motivated when they come to mind. Perhaps it means spending more time in nature/hiking, engaging in art creatively, spending time with a pet, more time to read or cook, etc. The list is only as limited as your imagination.
Confront Your Fears
Fear is a strong motivator. It keeps us from doing stupid things we suspect will endanger us, but it also prevents us from engaging in things that promote growth and resolution.
Fear can be the block that keeps us from resolving conflict or taking a chance on a challenge like a job interview/promotion, the Iron Man competition or travel to the exotic locale that rounds out our bucket list. When fear is indulged, it creates regret and sometimes resentment and that will lead to depression. Confronting fears and changing the negative self-talk that accompanies them shatters the barriers to happiness.
One of the most potent skills I have helped people learn in session involves understanding that you cannot control anyone but yourself. It’s a simple construct yet very elusive, particularly when struggling with grief and major life transitions that happen without our permission.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission” which speaks to the notion of control. We cannot control others and through that attempt we encourage destructive behaviors and self-defeating thoughts. Focusing on control over ourselves puts the power back in our hands and unlocks doors of opportunity.
Hopefully as you read through these 6 keys to encouraging happiness you recognized some of your own strengths alongside some new tools to help boost your quality of life and therefore overall happiness. You are the architect of your life and how you enjoy it.
Did you happen to catch Tiger Woods amazing chip in the Memorial tournament yesterday? It was truly an amazing shot, and worthy of his reputation as the best golfer in the world. It also got me thinking about the flip side of his talent, his very public struggles - as most celebrities trigger us to think about the duality of positive and negative.
I wondered if being Tiger Woods was worth it. I asked my husband what he thought and his answer was quite simple, “I don’t have that kind of drive to push myself that hard, in order to be happy.” He’s right, that in order to feel good about himself, Tiger has to push himself to extremes to be happy or sated. And that began quite early. I believe Tiger Woods began golf before the tender age of 5, pushed by his father, and what a treasure trove of psychological material that must be! I cannot fathom pushing my son, who’s 6 at the time of this posting, to be that good at anything. And this kid lives and breathes baseball and basketball. The cost to him would be too great, and that’s what triggered my query about whether being Tiger Woods is worth it.
Yes, he is quite comfortable financially, never needing to worry about making his monthly obligations. Yes, he has fame, notoriety and influence. And yes, he is reputed to be the best golfer the game has ever seen; I think some even argue the best athlete, but I have trouble identifying golfers as athletes, and that may be for a different post. But are all the consequences of these labels worth it? His consequences have come at a high price; the harder they come, the harder they fall, the old adage goes.
I believe that people who seek out this level of mastery, which inevitably includes fame, power and money, also possess a higher than normal level of testosterone. There are some women who rank in this category (perhaps Meg Whitman, Hillary Clinton, etc.), but usually we see men achieving great heights both from the talents they possess and the pedestals we put them on. Tiger Woods is a great example of this. Currently he has tied Jack Nicklaus for tournament wins and is lead by only one other golfer, Sam Snead. By all appearances he had the perfect life: rich, talented, beautiful wife, beautiful & healthy children and an office most people would kill for. Here is where we are lead astray - the concept of perfection. It does not exist, not to put too fine a point on it. Even in nature, who demonstrates the yin-yang principle so beautifully with the extremes of mother nature, perfection does not exist. We cannot have the good without the bad or we would have to redefine the good altogether.
Men like Tiger Woods possess a larger than normal level of testosterone which allows them to achieve lofty goals and yield power. It also has a downside: difficulty controlling impulses, namely that of achieving more power and sexuality. After all folks, we are still animals with the innate need to procreate, regardless of what the conservative right says! Hardwiring for that level of achievement also comes with achievements that our culture frowns upon, but is necessary in the biological make-up of people capable of handling power. We can look to the behavior of many President’s of our country for further proof.
Back to my earlier point about the costs not being worth pushing my 6 year-old into this level of mastery. To gain anything we need to ask ourselves what will the costs be and are they worth it. It is clear to me that my son having a drastically different childhood experience that separates him from his peers for the rest of his life is a pretty big consequence, and one that never really gets better. Childhood is the natural time to learn how to navigate the rigors of relationship with it’s myriad rules and expectations. Emotional intelligence is mastered through things like secure attachment, consistent family support, and healthy relationships. What will he gain form practicing basketball until the blisters on his feet are permanent? Perhaps a shot at a profession level team with a crazy salary, but also the inability to relate to people around him. both because of the money he would make, and his preoccupation with achievement that creates a vacuum for social skills. A lot of the research coming from happiness studies (like the Great Good Society in Berkeley, CA.) is consistently demonstrating that happiness is achieved best through recognizing what’s working in your life (optimism), healthy social skills and relationships. While Malcolm Gladwell has posited that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in any one thing, I am perfectly content to allow myself and my kids the luxury of leisure and joy in the hear and now as it will serve us better in the long run. And like my husband said, I don’t need the notoriety and power to feel happy. I wonder what Tiger would say to this question?