Change

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

 

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

To everyone who thinks they aren’t good enough

You probably can’t pinpoint the exact moment you started to believe you weren’t enough. Most likely it began when you were younger. Someone said something or treated you in a way that you didn’t deserve, but you thought you did. Comments and behaviours planted a seed in your mind which blossomed into assumptions that you hold onto today. That you, as you are, are not enough. This assumption most likely formed because someone you loved didn’t make you feel loved. Which was interpreted as “I am unloveable.”

I write this to tell you that you are wrong. You are loveable and good enough just as you are.

You may be thinking, ‘You don’t know me, you don’t know who I am, what I’ve done, the mistakes I’ve made, etc.” And you’re right, I don’t. But I do know that almost every person I have ever met is too hard on themselves. Holding an entirely different set of rules for themselves than they do for those around them.

It’s not your fault. We are raised in a society where buy more and change yourself are sold to us from birth. Our parents (who are also only human) have their own insecurities that can get passed on and the cycle of believe that we need to be more than we are continues; never being happy in our own skin.

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You, with all your flaws and human imperfections are exactly all you need to be. That internal voice that speaks harsh complaints about who you are is a liar. It can grow and get so loud that it makes you feel completely worthless. Imagine if you believed that you were good enough, as you are. If you could live your life with a belief in yourself and the decisions you make, how would that reflect in the way you interact with the world around you?

It benefits no one living a life trying to please others. When we live by the assumption that we aren’t good enough then choices can be made in hopes to impress those around us. If you feel unloveable then you may do whatever you can to make people love you. Which results in living a life for others and not for yourself.

Notice when that internal voice puts you down and question it. Are you really an idiot or did you just make a mistake? How would you respond to a friend if they looked at you and picked at every perceived imperfection? I imagine you would be angry and hurt. Yet you do it to yourself all the time without noticing the consequences. Be aware of how harsh you can be and see if you can question the beliefs you hold about yourself. Start trying to believe that you are good enough, with all your quirks and wonderful qualities. Because you are.

You are good enough. You just have to believe it.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha

5 Resolutions With a Difference

January often means many of us want to make changes in our lives. I believe we don’t need a new year to make those changes, you can start any day you choose. However, if you feel like this is the right time for you then I recommend you make changes that will benefit your overall well being, not just your health.

Usually the reason that New Year’s resolutions fail is because people give themselves a list too long. “Quit smoking, drink less alcohol, loose ten pounds…” It’s great if you want to be healthier but changing every aspect of your lifestyle is a huge under taking. If you want to make changes start small, choose one thing and work from there. Or better yet, make changes that will make you feel better from the inside out.

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Speak to and about yourself in a more positive way – I have spoken about the importance of self love in the past. I will continue to preach about it until everyone realises they are awesome. You should speak to yourself like a friend. However, most people speak to themselves with little patience and have demands that are unreasonable. Thoughts affect the way we feel, if you think kindly about yourself you’ll feel that way too.

Say goodbye to negative people – It’s hard to speak to yourself in a positive way if you are surrounded by negativity. Pay attention to the way you feel in the presence of certain friends and family members. If you are drained then that’s a good indicator that the relationship is unbalanced and it might be time for a change.

Trust your intuition – Also known as ‘trusting your gut’ this is a part of ourselves that we often ignore. I have yet to know of any bad decisions that have come from trusting intuition. Although not also an easy path it is most commonly the best for us. The next time you are faced with a tricky choice see what that little voice inside is saying. Not the fear or judgemental voice, but the part of you that feels like it’s connected to something bigger. This will also lead to further self trust because you will be doing what’s right for you and not someone else.

Open up – The main reason that people don’t start therapy is because they fear what may be discovered/uncovered. With that understanding comes a knowledge that there is a darkness inside of us. Talking to someone you trust or with a therapist means you can familiarise yourself with that part of who you are. We are all light and dark, yin and yang. It’s not bad and doesn’t have to be scary, sharing this part of you without judgement leads to personal acceptance. If you want to accept who you are, you have to accept all of you.

Figure out your truth – Give yourself some time to make sense of this life you are living. What do you believe? What really matters? Life can be busy and unrelenting, so much so that we don’t give ourselves time to ask the important questions. If you feel like life is pointless than it wouldn’t matter how you speak to yourself, or anyone for that matter. Take some time to decide what is important to you and see what happens when that leads your decision making.

Make 2016 the year that you make changes that will have a long reaching impact. Changing the way you feel about yourself and your place in the world is far more beneficial than loosing a few pounds.

“If you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you.” – John C. Maxwell

Want to unplug?

Does your phone never stop pinging? Is your inbox filled with notifications from all your different social media accounts? Can you hear the impatience in the voice of your partner/friends/family because they know you aren’t paying attention? These days so many of us are too attached to our phones and screens. We are like zombies stumbling through life, bumping into each other, glued to a glowing rectangle disconnecting us from our physical reality.

The amount of information available to us these days is overwhelming and quite addictive. The world is literally at our fingertips, yet I spend a lot of time online looking at cats. However, with all of that information most of us just refresh our Facebook newsfeed or check e-mails. The power of this online world is apparent as it takes us away from the present moment.

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If you find your time is filled with screens and you want to plug back into the world around you, here are some tips:

  • Don’t let the internet start your day. Instead of waking up and checking your twitter, wake up and see how you feel. Stretch, take deep breaths and think about all you have to be grateful for.
  • Don’t go online until you get to work, or until an hour into your day. Allow that time for you, check in with your thoughts and feelings. Instead of reading about all that is happening in the world of others, notice what’s happening in the world of you.
  • Focus on the real relationships. Don’t just chat to people through a screen, meet for coffee, be present to them and put the phones aside.
  • Make blocks of time where there will be no internet usage and do something positive. Why not start reading a new book, go for a walk, meditate or take up a new hobby?

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How many hours a day are you in front of a phone/laptop/tablet/computer/television? The average is about 6 hours a day, however if you need a screen for work it would be at least 8. If you are awake for about 15 hours a day then about 40% of your day is in front of a glowing box. This can have negative effects on sleep patterns, attention span, emotional reactions and can even lead to brain damage. These are all very detrimental side effects, especially since there is a very simple solution. Turn it off.

Being connected to each other is what this journey of life is all about. Although the internet can bring us together and it can also pull us apart. There’s nothing wrong with awkward eye contact on a busy bus or occasionally being bored. We don’t need to fill our time with screens, we need to treasure the moments without them.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott

What does success mean to you?

We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves. It can be hard to accept yourself for who you are. There is usually a long list of things we want to accomplish before we feel like we’ve ‘made it’. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals, that is something I would encourage. However, what can often happen is if we don’t reach certain goals at certain times we beat ourselves up.

Sometimes the goals we have in mind aren’t ours. We feel pressure from others to be a certain way. It’s important to ask yourself – How do you measure success?

Everyone will measure success differently, look what you value. Around the world what matters most is:

  • Life satisfaction
  • Health
  • The environment
  • Education

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Most people would say they consider being happy in their lives the ultimate goal but how many actually chase that? Are you doing what makes you happy? Society would have us believe wealth and fame is what we should be striving for. Until you decide what is important for you it’s hard to know if you are living the life you want. Take time to choose your own path, then choose what makes you happy.

“I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.” – Herbet Bayard Swope

Birthdays

Every year we age, change and hopefully grow. However, we don’t usually take the time to reflect on such developments. I feel that’s what birthdays should be for. Used to take the time to ponder the year that has passed and the lessons learned.

It’s interesting to me when people dread birthdays. What’s so terrible about getting another year older? At least you’re here to blow out the candles one more time. Birthdays tie into our feelings about ageing and ageing can be a very scary thing. Especially if they are just a reminder of how you are counting down the days, waiting for your life to truly begin.

In reality you’re in it, it’s begun, this is your life. Getting older can be overwhelming when you feel like you were destined for more. Regret can follow you like a ghost, constantly reminding you about the path you didn’t follow. The negativity can swallow you and make each passing birthday no fun at all.

If you want you feel less overwhelmed on your next birthday there are some simple changes you can start today.

  • Be grateful – make a list of all the things you are grateful for. Begin with the basics, a roof over your head, food in the fridge, good health etc. Gratitude has many positive side effects, try to embrace the good things in your life. It will help make it more difficult to find the bad things.
  • Let go of regrets – It happened, it was a bad choice but it doesn’t have to haunt you or define you. You have to choose how to move on from it. It might mean asking for forgiveness from someone or from yourself. There is no way to know how different life could have been, work on accepting the way it is.
  • What are you afraid of? Ask yourself why you fear getting older. Maybe you lost a loved one at a certain age so that age terrifies you. Maybe ageing only brings up negative emotions or difficult memories. Give yourself space to examine why you feel the way you do to gain a better understanding of yourself.

Many people go through their lives never asking, ‘How could this be better?’ It doesn’t always have to be a struggle. When the next birthday rolls around hopefully you’ll be grateful for the year that has past, appreciating the life you have lived.

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” – Gabriel Garcia Marques