10 Happiness Tips

It’s common for everyone to struggle time to time with being happy. We all have bad days, days when we may get frustrated, feel insecure or anxious for whatever reason. There is an infinite amount of things we can do when we need to pull ourselves out of the funk and practice self care.

It’s not a bad idea to list some of your favorites BEFORE you actually need them, that way you can easily pull them out of your tool box.

What works for one person may not work for another, but here are 10 of my favorites to get your started.

Set Healthy Boundaries

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Often we give people too much access to our time and peace. This sometimes includes friends and family who may be overbearing, controlling, draining or negative. By setting healthy boundaries, we limit how much access those people have to us.

Let’s say you have a friend who only calls to complain about her day, maybe you limit her by not always answering her phone calls or giving her only five minutes of your time before you have to go do something else.

Take a look at your life and see where you can eliminate some unnecessary stress by cutting back on the amount of your time you allow to be taking up by other, especially negative or draining people.

Learn To Say No

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It’s okay to say no without an explanation to people and things you don’t feel like doing or being bothered with. Sometimes we feel obligated to do things we don’t enjoy or feel comfortable doing and find it hard to say “no” for a variety of reasons. However, learning to say no without explanation not only helps establish boundaries, it will help build up self-confidence and self-respect when it comes to your precious time, space and peace of mind.

Learn to Make Decisions Quickly

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If you’ve never heard of Mel Robbins “Five Second Rule” then I suggest you look it up quickly. Part of her theory is that the longer you wait to make a decision and act on it, the less likely you are to make the decision that will move you to where you need to be.

If you’re the type of person who takes a long time to make a decision or hates making decisions so you allow others to make decisions for you, then what you are unconsciously conditioning and reinforcing within yourself is a fear of failure and of being imperfect which Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., says keeps us small and dis-empowered. By learning to make decisions quickly we will build confidence and learn to trust ourselves.

Take Full Responsibility For Yourself

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We can’t control others and often we can’t control other factors in our lives. What we can control is ourselves, our responses, thoughts and feelings. If we stop trying to control other people so much, it frees us to dictate our own happiness and take complete control of our lives. When our feelings about ourselves are no longer controlled by external conditions, we will realize how much happier we can actually be.

We can’t make someone treat us better, but we can choose to allow them to be who they are without us there to abuse. We can’t make it stop raining, but we can choose to enjoy the sound of rain or even dance in it.

Have Appreciation And Gratitude For What You Currently Have

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It’s easy to want more and to not be satisfied with what we have. The problem is, if you think like that, you’ll always want more and you’ll never genuinely be happy. You don’t have to be filthy rich and have the most expensive accessories in order to be happy. Look at what you have now. Try to find three things everyday to be grateful for. Today, for me, it’s my family, my job and my health. No, none of those things are perfect, all of them are actually quite flawed, but I am appreciative and grateful for them because they could be worse or none existent.

Travel/Spend Time in Nature

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This one is a two for one. Take time to travel or get out in nature. Allow yourself to see that there are bigger things out there than just ourselves and whatever we may be dealing with, or just to relax and take in new sights, sounds and experiences.

Being in nature in particular can help bring a sense of peace and awe. Whatever you do, just get away from our ordinary routine and allow yourself to become a tourist and explore, even if it’s just in your own backyard.

Take Time To Relax With Zero Guilt

We work hard. Even when we aren’t working we seem to always be on the go. There is always something to do or something we should be doing. We may even feel guilty when we aren’t doing something, but it’s okay to unplug from everything and everyone and do absolutely nothing every now and then. As a matter of fact, it’s good for your sanity. You can watch Netflix, read a book, listen to music, meditate or do whatever brings you back to yourself.

Be Mindful

Following up on the last tip, take time to actually take in what is going on around you. So often we are so busy that we aren’t aware of the simple, yet beautiful or important things going on around us everyday.

Multitasking is something else we do that robs us of truly taking in what we are doing. Research suggests that we don’t even actually multitask, but our brain just switches quickly between doing one thing and then the next. I know for myself, I often watch TV while looking through messages, social media or email on my phone. Now when I find myself doing that, I consciously make the decision to put my phone away so I can truly take in whatever I am watching. A lot of us do the same things when we are hanging out with friends and family. We’re there, but we’re not fully there because we are browsing through our phones. Break that habit and you’ll realize how much you’ve been missing out by not being truly present and in the moment.

Smile

There is research that suggests that the act of smiling by itself can help us begin to feel happier. Your mind can either control your body or be a slave to it. Your body often doesn’t know why it is acting or responding in a certain way and it’s waiting for your mind to tell it why. By smiling, you can trick your mind into thinking that it is happy and your body will respond by beginning to release endorphins that will actually make you feel happier.

Wear Bright Colors

This is definitely one of my favorites. Sometimes at work I have been known to wear pink, yellow or bright red colored dress shirts. It’s easy when you’re feeling down to wear dark, drab colors, but they won’t do much for brightening up your spirits. Surround yourself with bright, vivid colors and you will see that it not only brightens your mood, makes you feel more positive and productive, but it can also brighten other peoples moods around you. It’s even been given the name, “Color Therapy”.

10 Mindfulness Techniques You Can Start Using Today

IMG_148084419922650Most of us spend a lot of time feeling pain, guilt or regret about our past and anxiety about our future. We can get so wrapped up in this past and future thinking that we don’t even enjoy the present moment we are living in.

Mindfulness is a form of self-awareness that helps brings us back to the present moment. It is taken from mindfulness meditation which is based on Buddhist meditation principles. It the past decade or so it has become very popular, especially as part of dialectical behavior training which has been successful in treating borderline personality disorders.

The basics of mindfulness helps us to pay attention to the present moment and disengage from the mental clutter and chatter that is almost always filling our minds.

How many times have you found yourself at a party, in a meeting, on a date even playing with your kids and yet while you are physically there, mentally you are somewhere else. You are in your head, dwelling on your past, thinking about the future and not living in that very moment. We have so much going on in our lives today that it’s hard to live in the present.

We are with our spouses, but thinking about everything we have to do at work tomorrow so we aren’t really hearing what they are saying or we are doing a task we do regularly, but are just going through the motions and not really paying attention to what we are doing (which is one reason accidents happen).

I have to admit that there have been many times when listening to a client that my mind will wonder. I’ll start thinking about my past, I’ll start thinking about what I have to do later that day and before I realize it, I’ve missed a good portion of what that client was talking about (it’s bad I know, but it happens… therapist are human too). I have to fight with myself sometimes to stay in the present, to not allow the clutter and chatter in my brain to take me anywhere else, but to remain in the here and now which takes practice.

As a matter of fact, during group therapy, being in the present and being mindful are two of my 10 rules. Often times when one group member is talking, some of the others will drift off to their own issues, their own regrets over the past and anxieties about the future to the point that they can’t offer support and encouragement to the group member who was speaking because mentally they weren’t there.

Here I’ve listed 10 ways to help you start being more mindful and to start living in and enjoying the present moment today.

  1. One Minute exercise: sit in front of a clock or look at your watch for exactly one minute and focus all of your attention only on your breathing and nothing else. Sounds simple, but your mind will tend to rebel and try to fill itself with all kinds of past and future thoughts. Resist it, focus simply on your breathing for one minute. Once you have this down pat you can start extending it by another minute up to five minutes or even longer!

  2. Take a shower. Showers can be relaxing and can be a mini vacation away from everything and everyone else. Feel free to use your imagination and picture yourself standing under a tropical waterfall.
  3. Speaking of water, sticking your hand in some warm water and concentrating on the sensation on your skin is not only a great way to bring you back to the present, but it is also helpful for de-stressing because it brings your brain a sense of comfort. If you aren’t near any warm water try rubbing your hands together to get a similar affect.
  4. Listen to music, calming music preferably and music you’re not familiar with is best, but really listen to it, not just the words, but the sounds of the instruments and the rhythm of the beat. Even familiar music can sound new again when you truly are present with it.
  5. Mindful Eating: Most of the time when we eat, we aren’t really paying attention to what we are doing. We are distracted by our mind, the television or anything else. In mindful eating, you sit down with no distractions, paying full attention to every bite you select and put into your mouth being aware of its color, how it smells, how it taste, the different textures, how it feels in your mouth. You may be surprised at how your food actually tastes different once you slow down and focus on it and possibly, how little of it you actually need to fill full. If trying this for an entire meal is too hard, try doing it for the first two bites of each meal.

  6. Mindful Walking: This is similar to mindful eating accept you take a walk and allow yourself to only focus on what is happening right now. How the ground feels beneath your feet, how the wind and/or sun feels on your skin, on how the leaves look and sound on the trees, even observing other people. It’s also good to pay attention to your breathing as you walk to help keep you present and centered.
  7. The acronym R.A.I.N. is used to describe a more advanced technique for when you are feeling unpleasant emotions where “R” stands for recognizing when a strong emotions is present, “A” is to acknowledge the emotion (instead of denying or running from it), “I” is to investigate where the feeling is coming from by checking in with your mind, body and feelings, and “N” is to non-identify with what’s there, meaning to not allow the emotion to define you or control you, but to understand that it is just another passing emotion that doesn’t have to control you. RAIN is about staying with your emotions and then letting them go, not dwelling on them or doing things to try to escape them, but acknowledging them and then allowing them to leave. It can be challenging to stay with your emotions and still let them go which is why this and the next technique are both considered advanced, but once you practice and can use them effectively, they can be life changing.
  8. Most of the time before we know it, our minds are racing, we are thinking about the past, the future, anxious, and just going through the motions of our daily routine. This is when we need to find time to S.T.O.P. which means to Stop what you are doing, if only for a minute, Take a breath and pay attention to your breathing, allowing it to flow in through your nose deeply and out through your mouth fully. You can try imagining breathing in a cloud through your nose and blowing it back out through your mouth. Observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Know that you can observe them, but they are just thoughts, feelings and emotions, that doesn’t make them facts they are not permanent. Often times recognizing, observing and letting thoughts, feelings and emotions go will work much faster than any psychotropic medication can in alleviating anxiety and depression. Lasting proceed with something supportive and positive such as talking with a friend or exercising.
  9. Un-tunnel your vision. A lot of times when we are stressed it’s because we are focusing on a single point that eliminates or obscures all other options. Try extending your arms all the way out until you form a “T” and then wiggle your fingers. Slowly bring your arms back in until your fingers are insight and then extend them again. Repeat this. Playing with your peripheral vision can help your brain to remember to expand and to remember that their are other options and possibilities other than that single point it’s currently focusing on that’s causing you stress.
  10. Come up with your own ways to be mindful and in the here and now! There are so many different ways we can practice being in the moment and there is no better way than finding something that works best for you.

A lot of our discomfort comes from worrying about the future and beating ourselves up about the past, but the past is gone and the future has not happened yet. Living happens in the moment we are in right now so taking some time to remember that and appreciate the present will definitely make our entire life experience richer.

Solitude Versus Loneliness

One of the main therapeutic interventions I suggest when working with people is to spend time alone with themselves.

Too often we aren’t just busy with school, work, family and a social life, but overwhelmed and hardly have a second alone with ourselves during the waking hours and are weighed down by stress, anxiety and/or depression.

When we aren’t working, studying, or surrounded by people, we are often thinking about work, studying or the people in our lives. Our minds are always busy and are often filled with thoughts that are either disturbing or distracting.

I especially make this recommendation to people I see aren’t in touch with themselves.

Often these people are fresh out of relationships are are anxious to jump right back into a new one without taking the time to evaluate themselves and their failed relationships so they make the same mistakes over and over again.

If they are lucky they escape unscathed, but more often then not they leave one relationship and enter another with more emotional baggage, lower self-value, more desperation and often an extra child or two.

Often when I suggest to people that they spend some time alone and not rush into another relationship (or surround themselves with people or bury themselves in work, or their family), it’s as if I asked them to do the impossible.

Some will come right out and tell me “I can’t be alone”. Others will say that it’s depressing being alone and others will try it half-heartedly, but are so insecure and fearful that they are easily distracted by whatever takes them away from themselves.

You see, there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Not many people understand that and easily confuse the two.

Loneliness is a sort of aching, emotional pain, while solitude refers to our relationship with ourselves. Loneliness is painful. Solitude is peaceful.

Solitude is a place where our restless mind, spirit and body can come together and is essential for our spiritual lives.

I at times find solitude difficult and have went through many extremes to avoid it, but I know that solitude can be peaceful, loving and rewarding.

It is the place where if we allow it, by shutting out all the internal noise, we become closer to our true consciousnesses (some spiritual/religious people refer to this as God consciousness where they become closer to God).

This is the place where our subconscious often brings into consciousness our unfinished business, people we should let go, goals we never accomplished, etc.

Some people find it painful to analyze themselves and I get that, but it is essential for growth and internal peace. Many people don’t like to be alone because of this.

It is impossible for someone to be at peace with others and their world if they aren’t at peace with themselves and that can only come from solitude.

Like I said, many people go, go, go, and get into relationship after relationship to distract themselves from themselves in order to avoid some of the pain of having to analyze their true selves.

I encourage you to learn to love solitude. Even when it’s involuntary. Aloneness  can grow into solitude, it’s a conscious choice and it takes some practice, but it’s spiritually and emotionally rewarding.

I don’t care if it’s only an hour, thirty minutes, a walk during your break time, but make time for yourself. Try to shut out all the internal noise and allow your mind, spirit and body to become one. You may be surprised at what you find.

Time by yourself is always time well spent.

“Solitude is the garden for our hearts which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit.” Henri J. M. Nouwen; Michael Ford. The Dance of Life: Weaving Sorrows and Blessings Into One Joyful Step 

How to Resuscitate Your Life

The other day as I was sitting in a CPR recertification class, I couldn’t help but to think how could I apply the principles of CPR to my daily life.

Compressions

In the CPR recertification class we were taught that compressions are the most important part of CPR, keeping the blood flowing through the body. That got me to thinking that when it comes to resuscitating your life, perhaps the most important thing is to find, or rediscover the things you love and actually do them.

Many of us have hobbies or things we love to do, yet often allow the stressors of daily life to rob us of those joys and before we know it, it’s been weeks, months and sometimes even years since we’ve done those very things we claim to love. As a result we often find ourselves feeling drained, burnt out and unhappy as our time is spent more and more with obligations and less and less with the things that actually make us excited about life. This leads many of us to feel like we have lost a part of ourselves and sometimes don’t even know who we are because the real us has been smothered by this other person who doesn’t have time to do the things that actually make our hearts beat with joy.

Breathing

The second part of CPR is breathing, and I take that to mean breathing life back into yourself. Sometimes it’s easy to just come home from work and do nothing because we are tired and before we know it, a whole year has passed by without us accomplishing many of our goals or developing our personal lives the way we would have wanted to. We have to find motivation and inspiration to actually live life, be active participates in life and not just participate in it passively. What is it you need to do to breath life back into yourself? Maybe it’s getting up and going for a walk instead of taking a nap, or calling a friend instead of texting. Maybe it’s registering for a class you’ve always wanted to take, but never find the time or motivation to actually do it. Our maybe it’s surrounding yourself with people you know will help breath life back into you.

AED

Lastly, if all else fails in CPR, an Automatic External Defibrillator may be required to try to shock the person back into life. Do you need a jolt? Do you need to jump in head first in order to get past your initially trepidation? I know a friend who was afraid of heights and he signed up to sky dive as a way to overcome his fear. I’m not suggestion something so drastic, but what I am suggesting is that you push yourself out of your comfort zone if you know the reward for that is worth it. I know overweight people who are afraid to join gyms because they think people will look at them. Truth is, most people in a gym could care less and will actually compliment them when they start seeing results. They could find encouragement there, make friends, find motivation, but they can’t get over that initial fear enough to even step foot into the gym. Do you need to push yourself through that door, step into that uncomfortableness, recognize and accept that you feel uncomfortable, but know that it will pass and you will be a better person because of it?

Here is a very short list of suggestions, I would like to hear more from you and you can always create your own personalized list. Now, go out and reclaim your life!

  1. Eat some chocolate
  2. Go for a walk
  3. Take a three minute breathing space
  4. Do something pleasureable
  5. Meditate
  6. Be mindful of yourself and surroundings (mindfulness is something we will talk about in another post)
  7. Keep a gratitude journal
  8. Go to a movie
  9. Go for a walk
  10. Call an old friend