20 Lessons for Happiness

After having a roof over their heads and food in their belly, happiness is usually the goal that most people aspire to reach. It may sound simple enough however many things can get in the way. If you are looking for ways to feel happier in your own life here are some things to remember.

  1. Stop caring about what others think. (Especially strangers) Embrace the quote: “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Bernard Baruch  
  2. Learn how to deal with endings. Endings happen ALL the time, you move, a friend moves, you change job, a relationship finishes. Ideally we should be able to learn from all of our experiences (even the hard ones) and move onto something better.
  3. Find a physical activity that you enjoy. Staying fit doesn’t have to be about looking a certain way, it will help make you feel better emotionally as well. If the gym isn’t your thing, try running, yoga or join a team near you so you can make friends as well as breaking a sweat.
  4. Notice how food affects your mood. Serotonin is the brains natural mood regulator, depending on what foods you eat it can increase or decrease. Food also affects our energy levels, food high in sugar will give you a boost followed by a crash. Once you become aware of the impact of your diet it will be easier to choose food that keeps you on an even keel. 
  5. Let go of people who bring you down. Having a negative person around can make the world seem like a pretty bad place. Try to limit the amount of time spent with that kind of personality. If that’s not possible then try to be around in body but not in mind. 
  6. Find friends who you can have real conversations with. There are so many facets to life, make sure you have people who you can debate the big questions with, it will make you feel less alone.
  7. Don’t believe everything you read/see/hear in the media. Often you are being sold to, be critical.
  8. Stop comparing yourself to others. Like you, everyone is just trying to get through each day. You can’t know the journey of another at first glance so don’t make assumptions.
  9. Start speaking to yourself like a friend. If that sounds too difficult try speaking to yourself like an acquaintance who you would like to get to know better. Therefore it would not be in your best interest to constantly put them down.
  10. Everyone feels like they are a little crazy. And in truth we all are, I am convinced there is no such thing as ‘normal’.
  11. Just because you feel guilty doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. 
  12. Don’t judge your feelings. Our emotions don’t have to be good or bad, they just are. Telling yourself that you should feel any different then you do isn’t helpful. If a friend came to you upset would you tell them they are being stupid? I doubt it and remember, you are talking to yourself like a friend now.
  13. Be comfortable with your own company. Who do you spend more time with but yourself? 
  14. Embrace change. Change is constant, the better you can adapt to it the less overwhelmed you will feel.
  15. Be positive. You’ll live longer.
  16. Be aware of your ‘baggage’. We all have our own emotional issues, that’s okay. Knowing what yours is will make it easy to connect.
  17. Find your passion. 
  18. Let go of ‘should’ and ‘should not’. Why shouldn’t you be exactly where you are, doing exactly what you are doing?
  19. It’s never to late to change. If you don’t like your life/relationship/job etc. then change it. Yes it may be difficult but if you don’t want to be in this same place in 5 years time then change has to happen.
  20. Fear is a liar. Fear will gain your trust and make you think it knows best, it doesn’t. Be hopeful and excited about things to come.

“Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness.” – Ayn Rand

 

Good News II

I try to avoid the news. I find it depressing and I believe that is the point of it. To make people think and feel that the world is scary and bad can mean we follow rules more easily. If everyone were to believe that the planet we live is on is wonderful and full of hope you may not find the need to buy that newest product. Or perhaps you won’t watch that mindless show knowing that real life exists with one another.

Bill Hicks, a late comedian was fed up with the news and especially its portrayal of drugs in the media.

My lack of interest in the news doesn’t mean I am not caught up with current affairs. It just means I pick the sources myself. I find if I spend the day listening to the radio every hour on the hour I am shaking my head. I feel heartbroken for lives lost, families torn apart and angry at the people in charge. I don’t like feeling like that I also don’t like allowing strangers into my heart and dictating how I feel.

With that in mind I want to once again show you that the world isn’t all bad and you can learn about good things happening out there. Below are some options to read about some of the positive things occurring all around us:

  • Positive News – This website has many different categories, from environment to lifestyle and is part of a global community of contributors. In their own words ‘we look at society’s challenges through a lens of progress and possibility.’ A view I prefer instead of, ‘everything is terrible and broken’.
  • Sunny Skyz – The news section of this website will give you positive stories coming out of the states. With a country that is often only making headlines for gun violence or a xenophobic presidential candidate, hearing about the kindness of its citizen’s is refreshing.
  • Positive News.org – With headlines like: Kindness Disarms Anti-Islam Protester and Solar Powered Plane Completes First Ever Atlantic Flight this site is exactly what the name implies. It contains positive news with no corporate funding so there isn’t any hidden agenda.

There are many articles written and studies done on whether the planet is better or worse than it once was. Instead of asking that, ask yourself do you feel better or worse depending on how you look at the planet? Personally, reading about all the terrible things happening out there can make me feel undeserving for all I have. When really I should feel grateful for my life and take that energy to help others. If we feel that the world is doomed then what’s the point in trying to make a difference?

Decide for yourself what feels right for you and follow that path. Maybe you’ll start turning off the news or not reading the papers. All we can do is be kind to one another, which in my opinion is the most powerful, world-changing force.

“The bad news is, people are crueler, meaner and more evil than you’ve ever imagined. The good news is, people are kinder, gentler and more loving than you’ve ever dreamed.” – pleasefindthis

Religion vs. Spirituality

Many of us are born into a religion. It’s not until we get older that we have the opportunity to question our beliefs and decide if they are for us. This is an opportunity that not everyone takes. It can be difficult to ask the tough questions like: Why are we here? What is the point of life? What happens when we die?

As a therapist I am sometimes the person that gets presented with such big questions. I feel honoured that I get to help someone better figure out what they believe and in turn better understand themselves. That is why exploring your own view on spirituality is so important. Spirituality is more about deciding for yourself what the big questions are and how to answer them. Deciding when and how you feel connected to yourself and others. For you that may not be in a church but in nature, near the sea or being surrounded by those you love. The forest can be your church and any sunny day your sabbath.

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Giving yourself the space to explore what religion and spirituality mean to you is important. It will allow you to better deal with difficult situations. Believing that every experience is to help you learn and grow means that the ups and downs of life are easier to make sense of.  Religion can feel like it opposes spirituality because some of the planets biggest religions have outdated views on woman and equality in general. It’s not their fault, these religions were formed thousands of years ago. Being a person now is completely unrecognisable the world of our ancestors. Which is most likely why more and more people are finding it difficult to relate to religion like our generations before.

If you never ask yourself what you believe you can end up feeling confused and alone. It’s okay to ask questions and change your mind. Life happen and we grow, sometimes our beliefs change. Maybe that’s why we’re here, to ask these questions and figure out an answer. At least we don’t have to ask them alone.

“We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

A Balanced Lifestyle

Due to the society we live in there is a large focus on looks. For both men and women there is a standard we are all supposed to ascribe too. The problem with that is how we look only tells a small story of who we are. However, feeling positive about how we look on the outside can help us feel more positive on the inside.

We all know that diet and exercise is the key to having a healthy body but it also contributes to a healthy mind. When it comes to the food we eat and the activities we do, I believe the key is balance. Diets have been proven time and time again that they rarely work. The diet is usually too restrictive and when you go back to eating the way you did before you gain more weight back.

Many of us have become incredibly disconnected from our bodies. Not noticing the connection between our diet and how we feel. In a past post I spoke about our relationship with food and how our patterns with it can be formed young. As we grow-up it’s important to look at why, when and what we eat. As well as when, why and how we are physically active.

If you find you don’t like exercise maybe you haven’t found the right activity. The gym and going to classes can feel intimidating. Why not try exercises at home? Here are some examples of exercises you can find on Youtube:

  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Cardio
  • Zumba 

These are just a few examples of what’s available. If you don’t even know where to start it always begins with awareness. Notice what it feels like when you eat and what you eat. After a difficult day do you crave sweets? Do you find instead of getting upset you eat until you are so full it’s uncomfortable?

Living in the extremes of restrictive dieting isn’t good for your body, listen to it and notice what it’s asking for. Try to find balance and enjoyment, your body carries you through each day, treat it in the way that it deserves.

“Health isn’t about being “perfect” with food or exercise or herbs. Health is about balancing those things with your desires. It’s about nourishing your spirit as well as your body.” – Golda Poretsky

Ditch The Shoulds

As this post is about the detrimental effects applying ‘shoulds’ to your life can have, I am not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. However, I hope to demonstrate how freeing it can be when you start recognise the regular judgements you have on yourself and let them go. Many people go through each day doing what they feel like they should, not what they want or even what might be good for them.

Usually if someone tells us: ‘You should do this…’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that…’ we can feel the need to rebel, most of us don’t like being told what to do. Yet we do it to ourselves all the time and can be left wondering how we ended up feeling so unhappy. You might be telling yourself you should be over that break-up, or you should be ready to go back to work. Perhaps you think that you shouldn’t want more from your partner, or you shouldn’t still be angry.

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Who gave you these shoulds? Who told you it’s time to move on? Who decided what is the right path for you?

These shoulds often become so ingrained that they can form harsh judgements of ourselves. It’s okay that you want your life to be different. It’s normal that you are still grieving. And it’s fine that you’re still angry. Telling yourself to be any different then you are is not going to help you heal any faster. I try to remind my students and clients how much better they would feel if they spoke to themselves like a loving friend.

Being compassionate for yourself means trying to be caring and non-judgemental. Recognising how you feel and allowing yourself to feel it. Insisting to be different doesn’t help us move on any faster, often just giving yourself some space to be with your emotions is all you need. Starting today try to ditch the shoulds, or at least be aware when they are calling the shots. Remember you have to figure out what’s best for you not anybody else.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” ― Christopher K. Germer

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The Service of Suffering

Over the course of our lives events happen that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, heartbroken or depressed. Have you ever been in the depths of despair and asked why? What is the point of this pain and suffering? How we answer this question affects the way we feel about our life, it’s purpose and how we perceive the world.  These terrible occurrences can shape who we are, if we chose to learn nothing from our pain then we may end up getting stuck in it. Perhaps suffering is a conduit to help us learn and connect to one another. What if there was a purpose to your misery?

While in the midst of a life altering loss or tragedy it can be incredibly frustrating to hear the phrase, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ Although it may be something you believe, it can be difficult to feel that way in depths of grief. When I speak of learning from painful experiences, I do not assume that this is something that can be done in the middle of the grieving process. It is completely healthy and encouraged to feel your sadness, anger and frustration. However, if you stay stuck in those feelings it can be easy to believe that the world is conspiring against you.

Feeling like a victim is an incredibly lonely place. Watching others have their dreams come true, while another opportunity slips from your grasp. Believing that nothing has and ever will turn out positive for you is heart wrenching. It is difficult to believe there is any point to your misery when you have yet to see a break in the clouds, let alone a silver lining. Often these feelings cause us to isolate ourselves further. Feeling ashamed and believing that we are a failure can make it less likely to reach out for support. Usually having the assumption that no one has experienced exactly what you have, so no one can understand.

The belief that we are separate and alone in our pain is what can make us feel so terrible. However, I believe it is through this pain that we can learn how to connect more fully to each other. The first step is acknowledging that everyone hurts. Everyone has moments of feeling lost and believing their life is a mess. However, when we cannot find that understanding for ourselves it can be difficult to believe that anyone else would. That belief causes many to stay quiet, suffering in silence, never being able to share their inner pain. When the truth is, everyone has a right to feel. If you have been hurt you feel that way for a reason. Trying to convince yourself you do not, will not make those feelings go away; usually it makes them worse.

It is in these dark places within ourselves that there is space for personal growth and understanding. However, that can only be achieved when we find compassion for ourselves and our pain. That means not being judgemental of how you feel. Nothing is gained from thinking and speaking negatively about yourself. These thoughts are not usually facts and if they contribute your misery they are not helping you. If you want to evolve from the pain you need to consider if you have learned or gained anything from the struggles in your life.

As therapists the most common prerequisite to training is ‘life experience’. Which really is a nice way to say suffering. To better connect and help someone move on from their pain you have to have been there yourself. Having the ability to facilitate growth, knowing that in the end there is hope, light and possibility. You don’t have to be a therapist to recognise the benefits gained from living a full life, one filled with ups and downs. The difference is that many people use their losses as a way to separate themselves from others, instead of a way to connect and learn. We should be able to see ourselves in every tear that is shed by those around us, but we don’t.

Suffering disconnects us from ourselves and in turn, one another. This disconnect means that we can find it difficult to relate to the suffering of another. From the stranger we pass on the street to a loved one, the up’s and down’s are called ‘the human experience’ yet we usually perceive them as ‘my’ experience. Living with the belief that what I experience is different from what you experience. Which is only true to a point, I may not know exactly how sadness feels to you or why you have experienced it. However, I do know that when I feel down what makes the difference is knowing I am not alone. I believe is true for all of us.

In an ideal world we would see our struggles as lessons, teaching us to grow. Or we would recognise that no matter the culture or religious background the experience of emotion connects us all. Perhaps suffering is a part of our experience because it allows us to appreciate the joy while also teaching us how relate to one another more fully. Either way, until we give ourselves the opportunity to reflect on all parts of our journey it will be increasingly difficult to learn from it. Allow yourself to believe in a life where your suffering has not been worthless and explore what there is to gain.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”  – Haruki Murakami

Workshop – A Reflective Journey

Life moves quickly. So quickly, that most people spend all of their time focusing on what’s next and what needs to be achieved; rarely taking the time to reflect on the journey thus far. Always looking to the future can lead to feeling anxious and unfulfilled. Instead of appreciating everything you have accomplished you may end up comparing yourself to others and focusing on what you lack.

Have you ever given yourself the time to reflect on all the ups and downs that have lead to you being here today?

Rick Warren

It’s difficult to know where you are going if you don’t understand where you’ve been. Although one day is not enough to reflect on a life’s journey, it’s a start.

Through the use of exercises, visualisations, discussions and an introduction to the stages of psychological development, you will gain personal knowledge and understanding. This learning will help give you a further awareness of your own patterns and how they have shaped your life and reactions. Gaining self awareness will help put you on the right path to living in a more positive way.

Further Information

When: Saturday, April 23rd 10am – 5pm

Where: 9 Fitzwilliam Street Upper, Dublin 2

Cost: €100 – all supplies, snacks and tea included.

If you are interested in joining or would like to know more please contact Angela, spaces are limited:  085 133 6644, or by email: adastratherapy@gmail.com

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” – Ralph Ellison