Happiness is Possible Every Day

“My awareness is aligned with the creative power of the universe.” Deepak Chopra

Time is the constant in the changes and seasons of life.  It is up to us to determine our perspective and use of that time.

Age

Many people worry about age. Children want to quickly grow-up. A favorite pastime of mine as a little girl was to play dress-up. I would raid my mother’s closet, searching for the perfect outfit, trying on many changes of clothes. I scavenged through her make-up drawer and would paint my face with various shades of pinks and purples. It was a fun past time imagining myself as an adult.

As I’ve gotten older, I now reflect upon times when my hair was a little thicker, fine lines weren’t quite as apparent, and my skin was plumper.

No matter the timeframe, the focus was on my outer appearance. One thing I value, as I’ve gotten older is my experiences have led me to be wiser, more confident, and self-assured. As I’ve become more aware of whom I am, I feel more at peace and ease with the natural flow of life. I am less forceful and resistant and more open and flexible.

With age, there are certainly changes but overall time allows for more gifts than drawbacks.

Oprah has been fortunate that she has never been one to worry about age. Her belief is it doesn’t matter how many candles there are on the birthday cake, you get to choose how you feel and see that number.

She shares such a wise perspective. Just as a little girl, I hoped to be older and as I aged, I thought at times, I’d love to be younger. The similarities exist in that both describe wanting to be something I am not now.

We all have a choice on how to view age. When Oprah turned 60, she felt, okay, I’m grown now. She said, “I am more myself than I’ve ever been.” Her outlook is throughout the years she’s been taking lessons from life’s experiences and today she is in awe of her journey on here on planet Earth, as it continues to unfold.

Feeling Alive is a Blessing

All our lives, no matter your background has been blessed with so many miracles.

Today it is our chance to feel alive; not just be alive. Admit just to be alive and breathing is a miracle. You can choose to be healthy and strong in whatever capacity available to you. It’s the comparing to others and wanting to be something we are not; just as I have done many times in my life, causes suffering. The moment I choose to accept this moment as I am right now, I find that peace I spoke of.

Oprah has learned from her milestone occasions, turning 30, 40, 50, and now at 63 is that if you allow yourself to breath in the depth, and the wonder and also the difficulties each year brings, you can live fearlessly. Look what you have already overcome and you’re still here.

You Are Timeless

YOU are timeless. Every experience brings to you a piece of the fullness of your life including the disruptions; the trauma, the divorce, the loss. Even the moments of pain and suffering offer the opportunity to explore the question, “ Is this worth my time?”

What is the best way to approach the issue of leading a happy life?

People have their own perspective on how to answer this question. Some work hard during their productive years, sacrificing happiness and fulfillment until they retire or until the children leave the home.

Some grind away five days a week and save play for the weekend. Only a fraction of the population thinks about happiness as a daily requirement. Positive psychology which studies optimal psychological states suggest the best strategy for a happy life is to have happy days.

Happy Days

The late 70’s/early 80’s hit show; Happy Days was wiser than it’s time. The lyrics to the theme song stresses every day is a choice to be happy and to be free to share in our happiness.

Sunday, Monday, Happy Days,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days,
Thursday, Friday, Happy Days,
The weekend comes, my cycle hums
Ready to race to you

These days are ours
Happy and free. (Oh Happy Days)
These days are ours
Share them with me.(Oh baby)

Goodbye grey sky, hello blue,
there’s nothing can hold me when I hold you.
Feels so right you can’t be wrong,
Rockin’ and rollin’ all week long.

Saturday, what a day
Groovin’ all week with you

Sunday, Monday, Happy Days,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days,
Thursday, Friday, Happy Days
The weekend comes, my cycle hums

Ready to race to you
These days are ours
Happy and free. (Oh Happy Days)

These days are ours
Share them with me.(Oh baby)
Goodbye grey sky, hello blue,
There’s nothing can hold me when I hold you.

Feels so right you can’t be wrong,
Rockin’ and rollin’ all week long.

Sunday, Monday, Happy Days,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days,
Thursday, Friday, Happy Days
Saturday, what a day
Groovin’ all week with you

Happiness is a Conscious Choice

Striving for happiness is a conscious strategy. To consciously make each day a happy day, find ways to mediate, to journal, and to reflect inward. Treasure an approach that works best for you to have some time alone, some downtime and some playtime. This process is part of treating yourself with love because you can taking the time to cherish you.

Connection

Another important aspect of a daily habit of happiness is to connect with those that are close and important to you. The time can be spent on the phone, through email, or in person. The more personal the contact, the stronger the emotional bond.

Seasons of Life

According to Deepak, a successful life means that with each season of life we become more conscious and we continue to evolve.

The seasons of life begin with infancy and early childhood where biology dominates. Genes mainly at the cellular level control our development.   Divided by parents’ influences children don’t bare the responsibility for major life choices.

Personal choices loom larger after childhood as biology and family influence become less dominate. By adulthood everybody is involved in some sort of project; building a sense of self. Yet most people don’t see that this is happening.

Happiness Begins Within

Instead, most people focus externally on relationships, work, and family. But these can’t be fulfilling without personal evolution, a self that continually grows throughout all ups and downs of external events.

Although society offers a template for each phase of life such as going to school, getting a job, raising a family, then retiring. These stages are not a guideline to evolution. The only guide is within. Personal growth is measured by your vision of life as in your individual values, self-awareness, character, and fulfillment.

Evolution can’t be quantified on a chart. We are the judges of our lives. We determine whether we are happier, more loving, filled with kindness and consideration, more open to differences, and finding new outlets for creativity and self-discovery.

Happiness is a Conscious Daily Practice

The journey of consciousness unfolds each day from dawn to dusk. Our full life span, from beginning to end is an opportunity to grow in character, self-awareness, compassion, and understanding. We learn as students, we progress through our career choices, we grow via our choices for family or not, and later toward retirement. Every phase offers opportunities to stay in the present moment. Each day brings occasions to be the observer of your internal and external experiences. As we become more aware of our character and values, fulfillment is possible at every stage of our life.

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10 Ways to Get Things Done

“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

“If you think you can, you can.  If you think you think you can’t, you’re right.”  – George Bernard Shaw

“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.” – Baba Amte

“Practice is the best of all instructions.”  – Publilius Syrus

achievementIt’s another year gone by.  Bloggers, editors, and writers are scripting about resolutions, goals, and fresh starts.  Each New Year seems to bring a surge of renewed energy to make this year the best year yet.  Yet come February/ March that enthusiasm fades.  Why?  What is it about the New Year that brings a desire for change but then it quickly dwindles?

Change is hard.  Breaking old habits takes a consistent effort.  Casting your magic wand doesn’t just make it so.  It takes action, accountability, dedication, repeat and do it again.  Research supports it takes at least 21 days, some say 8 weeks to replace a bad habit.  It really depends.  It depends on the new habit, how long you have been doing it, the benefits of continuing, the immediacy of the payoff, and how often and automatically you perform the behavior.

To break the cycle, it is imperative to be conscientious of your thoughts and behaviors around the routine you desire to alter.   It takes consistent modifications every minute, hour and day.  For how long, well depends. Just repeat the desired change.

Wow! That seems overwhelming, huh.  It doesn’t have to be. Write.  Put your desired behavior modification on paper.  Post your desires on a visible spot that you see daily like your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or front door.

Take some time (as much as you need) and reflect on the past year.  Look at what you achieved, what you learned, gained, and liked.  Review what you didn’t accomplish.  What were the blocks that prevented you from achieving those marks?  What do you need to make them happen in 2014?   Now write this down and keep it in a safe place to review often.

The answers to the questions above help you analyze past behavior, learn from successes and failures, and make fresh intentions.  The best way to accomplish this thorough investigation of your life is to break it down into professional, relational, body, and spiritual goals.  Again, write your thoughts down!

Next set small goals with specific due dates.  Break down those big ideas, dreams, and aspirations into tiny, manageable, and achievable goals.  Ensure they are realistic.  You don’t want to set yourself up for failure before you even start.

Find support.  Join a team or involve friends and family.  Tell them your aspirations, the due date, and ask them to follow-up and inquire upon your progress.  Involving others ensures accountability, support, and friendly reminders.

Here is a list of 10 Ways to Make Ideas Happen:

1. Remove the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary.

2. Focus on the possibilities instead of the limitations.

3. Remember that there is a solution for every problem (some are just harder to find than others).

4. Write it down and set a deadline.

5. Allow yourself to receive help (there is no reward for doing it all yourself).

6. Be open to feedback and suggestions.

7. Learn how to enjoy the process (it may take you a while to get there, so you might as well enjoy it)!

8. Reward yourself often.  Be proud of even the tiniest steps of progress.

9. Hang around with people who make their ideas happens.

10. Start even if you don’t know how you are going to finish.

11. REPEAT.

Laugh Out Loud: Laughing is Just Good Practical Fun

Babboon LaughingOf all the gifts bestowed by nature on human beings, hearty laughter must be close to the top.” – Norman Cousins
Human beings need to have fun. We need to play, and most importantly, we need to laugh.” -Hal Urban
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” – Solomon 17:22
A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest of men.”- Ancient proverb
There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun.” – Josh Billings

Laugh out loud. Play. Be Silly. Joke around. Have Fun! These are just some of the things I think of when I see children play. I watched a young girl today make the most mundane activity a joyful experience not only for her but for her granddad and mother. All three were walking along the sidewalk, destination unknown, but she playfully walked tagging one caretaker and then the other. She giggled, skipped, and made all those around her including myself chuckle out loud.

Where does that spirit go? I see children playing at the park, laughing, and having a grand ole’ time; hopping, skipping, and twirling around with not a care in the world. When does that dwindle? Life takes over, responsibilities become priorities, and work turns into a necessity. Yet I know deep in my heart, I still love to play, giggle like that 7 year old girl, and act silly. Those are some of my fondest of memories with friends, partners, and family. It’s free, fun and even good for the mind and body.

In the book, Anatomy of an Illness, Cousins said, “It worked. I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an aesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.”

Even Einstein ensured he had a daily dose of laughter in his long, arduous hours of mathematical equations. He was known for maintaining thousands of notebooks on scientific equations and on jokes. He was able to work extremely long hours due to frequent breaks and using good ole’ fashion laughter to lighten his load (Urban, H.).

Laughter is not only used by humans such as Einstein and Edison but also animals. Chimps use laughter to solidify friendships and alliances according to lead author Marina Davila-Ross, PhD from the University of Portsmouth in England (Dingfelder, S.).

Here are just a few of the benefits of laughter:

  • Strong painkiller
  • Enhances respiration
  • Produces endorphins
  • Increases immune cells
  • Strengthens immune systems
  • Reduces stress and tension
  • Calms tempers
  • Stimulates creativity
  • Improves blood flow
  • Builds and strengthens relationships
  • Simply makes life more fun!

There are so many positives to laughter. It’s impractical not to incorporate it into your daily routine. Doctors and laymen alike support amusement so why not you? You may be asking, well how do I begin?

There is no easier way than to start with yourself. You don’t have to look far to see humor in the silly things we do, like tripping over our own two left feet, clamoring over misspoken words, or our own goofy thoughts that run through our minds. There’s nothing like using yourself as your own tool to bring hilarity and heal yourself. When was the last time you laughed out loud; I mean a good ole-fashioned belly laugh?

Here are some recommended items to ensure you laugh daily. What do you do to ensure a good chuckle?

Movies:

  • Zorba the Greek
  • A Thousand Clowns
  • Patch Adams

TV Programs:

  • Candid Camera
  • America’s Funniest Home Videos

Magazines:

  • Reader’s Digest: “Laughter, the Best Medicine”
  • Comic Books
  • Mad Magazine

References:

Dingfelder, S. Chimps’ laughter: Not just monkey see, monkey do, May 2011, Vol 42, No. 5, p. 11
Urban, H. Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter, 4th Edition, Fireside, New York

Exercise Is Not Just For The Body Anymore

boost brain function with exerciseThe benefits of exercise are mind-blowing.  They can range from increasing memory not only for your muscles but also for your brain and all in between.  Get inspired to start moving by reading the many ways working out can improve mental well-being, relationships, and an overall happier and healthier life.

1.  Adapt easier to change

Once you begin a routine of exercise the benefits are reaped even after a break.  Thirty minutes of endurance or strength training 3 times a week affects muscles on the cellular level first before any physiological results are seen.  Thus after exercise is stopped and muscles begin to atrophy, the cellular level memory remains intact and can remember previous learned motor sensory to achieve faster results upon onset of exercise again.

2.  Reduce stress

A brisk walk or weight lifting stimulates the central nervous system and increases the neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine which our body releases to adapt more efficiently to stress.  The intense concentration for coordinated exercise such as dance, tennis or rowing precipitates a type of distraction that may reduce anxiety even further.

3.  Relieve depression

Exercise is like taking a happy pill.  It’s a form of mediation which facilitates an altered state of consciousness.  Playing tag can reignite that inner child and boost mood.  Press that fun button and get that body moving again.

4.  Increase self-confidence and body image

Physical activity gives a sense of mastery and control.   Seeing results of your hard work gives a sense of gratification.  Not only are the improvements seen in your body but also running that mile faster or lifting more weight than before.

5.  Inspire others

Exercising with a buddy is an instant motivator.  You are more apt to exercise because your partner is there waiting.  They hold you accountable for your actions and vice versa.  Not only are you encouraged to show up but when you are running side by side, you are more apt to push just a little harder.  There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition.

6.  Make new friends

There’s no better way to make new friends than at a pick-up game of soccer, a group class at the gym, or joining a running club.  Exercise is just more fun with someone else.

7.  Anti-aging

Working out can help prevent telomeres from shortening. Telomeres are like the plastic protector at the end of your shoe laces but for your chromosomes.  Telomeres protect genetic data and determine how we age and get cancer.  When we age, cells divide and telomeres shorten.  Overtime, telomeres reach a point where they can no longer divide and become inactive.  This process is associated with aging, cancer, and a shortened lifespan.    Research shows that aerobic exercise can help delay shortening of telomeres and add years to your life.  So go ahead and take those stairs instead of the elevator knowing you are doing your body and cells good.

8.  Decrease onset of Alzheimer’s

Staying physically active maintains good blood flow to the brain and supports new brain cells.  Research shows regular exercise such as tai chi, yoga, even gardening can increase blood flow to the brain which reduces brain cell loss.  Exercise also stimulates mental activity especially when done with a partner.  The social interaction and decision-making process of planning your route or coordination of a good game of softball provide added brain benefits.

9.  Improve learning

Researchers who published a study in the 2011 Archives of Internal Medicine determined that even mild exercise improves cognitive functioning compared to folks who did not exercise.  Learning a new sport or activity like ballroom dancing can increase the amount of gray matter in your occipital lobe, the area of the brain associated with visual memory.  A 2004 Nature article stated that those who learned how to juggle increased the amount of gray matter but when they stopped the new gray matter vanished.  So learn a new move, improve your learning and memory and keep practicing!

The positive effects of physical activity out way any negative, self-sabotaging excuses.  Exercise doesn’t have to be at the gym to be beneficial.   All you have to do is access that inner child and get that body moving again.  You might just lose a few pounds and gain improved relationships, memory, and confidence.

Optimize Brain Function and Create Happiness

be_happyHappiness is a choice.  It can be a difficult decision to make with all the negativity in the world.  It doesn’t have to feel like such a daunting option when focusing on small changes.  Small changes create big leaps forward.  Over time a greater sense of happiness is enlivened.  If you want to optimize your brain health and create greater happiness here are some simple ideas.  You don’t have to do them all to achieve results. Focus on just a few and see how you can make small changes ripple outward.

1. Meditate.
2. Journal.
3. Write 3 things you are grateful for daily.
4. Exercise.
5. Create random acts of kindness.
6. Drink at least 6 to 8 oz of water daily to stay well hydrated.
7. Eat healthfully with lean proteins, 5 to 7 cups of fruits and vegetables and whole grains daily.
8. The suggested nutritional supplements tyrosine (500 – 1500 milligrams) 2 to 3x daily; OPC (oligomeric procyandius) grape seed or pine bark (1 milligram per pound of body weight); and gingko biloba (60 – 120 milligrams 2x daily) help increase dopamine and blood flow to the brain and may help with energy, focus, and impulse control. Before taking any supplements, first consult with your doctor.
9. Think positive, healthy thoughts and rid yourself of automatic negative thoughts.
10. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting people.
11. Spend time with people you want to be like. You are more likely to become like them.
12. Talk to others in loving, kind, helpful ways.
13. Fill your environment with comforting smells such as lavender, rose, or cinnamon.
14. Breathe into your diaphragm.
15. Effectively confront and deal with situations involving conflict.
16. Develop clear goals for your life (relationships, work, money, and self) and reaffirm them every day.
17. Focus on the positive things in your life more than the negative.
18. Establish eye contact with and smile frequently at others.
19. Notice when you are stuck, distract yourself, and come back to the problem later.
20. Write out options when you are feeling stuck.
21. Seek out the counsel of others when feeling stuck. Often just talking about feeling stuck will open new options.
22. Enhance your memory skills by learning something new every day.
23. Sing, hum and move in rhythm often.
24. Touch others frequently in a loving and appropriate manner.
25. Power pose daily for 2 minutes.

Life brings many challenges.  There are many uncontrollable ups and downs.  Regardless of what life may throw us, we can still choose to be happy.  Adding just one or more habit from this list ensures you are controlling what you can.  You are making certain your brain performance and personal well-being are at their best.