7 practices for Happiness

I’ve always being intrigued by Happiness. How some people can be happy regardless the situation they’re passing through and how some people cannot be happy even if they seem to have their lives resolved?
And this may actually be the key. As someone who was born and raised in a “third world” country and then moved to the “first world”, I have always been surprised by how happy people in my hometown seem to be, compared to the people in Montreal.   I have noticed that, in general, people are happier when they are with other people, when they’re focused on an activity, or focus on their loved ones. The key seems to be being Present, enjoy the moment, enjoy themselves, enjoy the life and blessings they’ve received.
Thinking about the blessings we have had through our lives brings us satisfaction, while thinking of what we don’t have yet will bring us dissatisfaction. Notice how different is to say: I’m glad I’m …. vs. I wish I were… 
When we’re kids, we’re naturally present. We enjoy the moment or we express our discomfort openly and we naturally try to be happy. We make an effort to obtain what will make us happy or we move on.
Later on in life, when we are not able to be happy, we tend to hold grudges, and as we’re unhappy, we tend to need drugs and anti-depressants. We’re not able to move on.  We tend to keep our eyes on the negative things.
If you have a conversation with a co-worker and praise her work for 5 minutes, then tell her 1 single little thing that she could do to improve, and all she will think will be that “negative” comment.
 
If we keep focusing on the negative things we perceive or are afraid of, we may soon enter in a mood of sadness, anxiety or anger, which, in turn may have an impact on everything else we “experience”, as emotions change the way we perceive or remember things.

If you want to have a happier life, we can:

1. Surround ourselves with positive people. Build a circle of friends to share the joy with us.  From what I have seen, in North America, people tend to be isolated. When we have a group of close friends and we feel taken care of, we feel supported and loved.
2. Be grateful. Count our blessings. You cannot be thankful and sad at the same time. We just need to remember that we came into this world naked and without anything. Everything that we have now is a blessing!
3. Be active. Regular physical activity keeps the body healthy and makes the spirit happy. Daily walks raise the level of happiness, the brain works better and so our bodies, so it’s a win-win situation.
4. Help other people. John A. Schindler wrote, “Live as a giving person. Those who give are happier than those who only take. Those who give to others discover the beauty in the world.” There are studies that prove that people who help other people feel better.

5. Take time to rest. Get enough sleep, relax.  Scientific research shows that relaxed people think more positively and are happier. Every hour of sleep missed lowers the positivity one can experience during the day.

6. Start our day with gratefulness, purpose and a positive attitude. I have noticed that the way I start the day, is the way the day goes. Gandhi said that he used to count his blessings for half an hour every morning.  If we focus on the positive things that surround us, we will notice more positive things. If we have a purpose for the day, we will be more present and it will be more likely that we accomplish what we want.

7.   Take ourselves less seriously. People who feel entitled to something, people who easily feel offended, and people who take themselves and the rest of the world very seriously won’t be as happy as people who can laugh about themselves.  Add some good humor to your life, see cheerful films, laugh often.

Do you have any other advice that can help us to be happier? Please, share it in the comments section and share the joy with more people.

50 shades of problem solving

Sorry for the cheap reference, but I think it’s appropriate in this case. Nothing is white or black (except colors, of course) it’s only our perception.  The simplest way to be frustrated by life is to see things in black or white.  Sometimes, it appears that we have already solved that problem, but then it comes back again.

We tend to think that the way to success is kind of a straight line with some minor detours, when in reality, successful people are the first ones to admit that it took several iterations, a lot of tries and failures and some minor wins here and there.

Failing-is-just-a-regular-stop-over-on-the-road-to-success

Before studying my master degree, Polarity was a term only related to batteries. Then, I learned about this Polarity Management theory used in social science to solve problems.  I learned that when people are frustrated with something, they tend to compare their situation with an ideal one, which is the equivalent of comparing your backstage with someone’s final presentation.   The moment when we’re more disappointed and frustrated is usually the moment when we compare ourselves with successful people, but we don’t know all the work it took for them to achieve what they got.

We  also become frustrated when we think in absolute terms and things don’t work out the way we expect them to. For example, everyone knows that teamwork is a great way to achieve things, as it brings everyone’s talents to the table and create synergies.  We also know that individual initiative and creativity can generate amazing results. Genius is the work of just one person. However, we cannot resolve every problem using only teamwork or working individually only. If we want to do it, we’re only seeing nails when we’re holding a hammer. 

When we’re solving a problem, we forget the nuances of the problem and we want to stick with just one way of seeing (and approaching) the issue. When we do this, we forget that the two sides are interdependent and that everything has a positive and a negative side.

For example, in an office environment, we have people who are very independent and like to work by themselves, without supervision. We have also the other type of people, who are constantly verifying they’re doing what is expected by checking with their managers. If we feel constrained by our managers and we say we prefer to be left by ourselves, we tend to idealize the opposite situation,  forgetting that both alternatives have a positive and a negative side.

USING THE POLARITY MANAGEMENT THEORY IN OUR DAILY LIVES

Polarities are the contrast that help us perceive the complex reality of a situation. Polarity Management is helpful when you find yourself in a “this or that” decision: when you feel the need to choose between two seemingly divergent “poles”.  To manage polarities we need to:

-Identify the two different sides

-List the pros and cons of side A and side B

-Ask ourselves what would we achieve if we could we maximize the pros of both options, and minimize the cons.  That would bring a higher goal, instead of a polarized discussion or analysis.

LET’S WORK

1. Pick any “either/or” problem you’re currently having.  Use a sheet of paper, draw a line in the middle horizontally, and another one, vertically, creating 4 quadrants.

2. Write the list of positive effects of side 1 in the top left, the negative effects of side 1 in the bottom left, and do the same for side 2.

poles_1

Disappointment happens when we contrast the negative quadrant of one side, like B, with the positive quadrant of the other one, C.  We always try to move from B to C, but as both poles have positive and negative sides, the contrast and the polarity will always be present in our lives.

3. Try to find an alternative solution that minimizes the negative quadrants, instead of focusing on Pole 2 only; if you do this, the quadrant D will bring again more disappointment. 

Handling stress in a positive way

Some days ago I had the chance to attend an event that made me reflect on the importance of dealing with stress in a positive way: one of the organizers was really affected by stress, to the point where she fell sick. The other organizer, a friend of mine, was very concerned when the person who was sick didn’t show up on time. When I noticed that my friend was becoming more agitated I offered my help. We devised a plan in case her partner didn’t show up and that really helped my friend to ease her feelings and get back on track. Just by having a plan, and the reassurance that things can be fixed, we feel relieved.

We have all heard that there are two types of stress, and while both have an impact in our mind and body, only one of them actually helps us. It’s known as Eustress, and it appears when we’re in demanding and challenging situation which we are capable of handling. It’s the sense of thrill and excitement we have when working on new projects, or competing.  It can motivate us to achieve something and it brings enthusiasm.

The negative stress, Distress, is the one we identify more often. In general it causes emotions and feelings such as anxiety, fatigue, depression, unhappiness, and eventually illnesses.

stress

My advice is really simple:  If there is something you can do to fix the situation, do it. If there is nothing that can be done, just relax. Plan for the worse and hope for the best, and then just let things happen, but more importantly, take action as soon as you can.

Remember that all problems start small, and that as Corrie ten Boom says “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” When we’re stressed, we don’t enjoy the moment, the beauty of the present. 

 And if you see someone struggling with a stressful situation, step forward, show up, offer your help.  This person will be grateful and that will improve the situation enormously. Sometimes, just by acknowledging a difficult situation, we help other people relax. 

LET’S TAKE ACTION

1. Identify the situations that are currently causing you Distress.

2. Identify three possible actions you can take right now to work through the situation. They don’t have to be major actions, but rather simple steps that you can take immediately.

3. Identify one or two friends/relatives/colleagues that can support any of your actions, if needed.

4. Contact them and ask for help, if it applies. It will give them the opportunity to be closer with you and it will give you the chance to finally solve what is affecting you.