Being Happy with Who We Are


With such a strong emphasis on achievement, accumulation and recognition in our society, it can become easy to be discouraged or disappointed with who or what we perceive ourselves to be, especially in how we stack up in the “pecking order” with those around us.

Being happy with ourselves is a choice that each of us can make every day by taking simple, practical steps to develop habits of happiness. It starts with creating an environment for us to work and live in that reduces our stress and work load, and brings order and ease, making our work and our living easier.

This uplifting environment can also provide us the experience of soothing tranquility rather than focusing us on the disorder and chaos that often becomes the working and living environments we find ourselves in.

Cleaning out desk drawers, closets, discarding excess and re-defining what is important to keep and what feels good to get rid of is a first step to creating a peaceful and happy living or working space. Creating an environment that truly resonates with our values is like building an oasis in the desert. By eliminating the need to accumulate more and more “things” around us, we can unburden ourselves, have a more orderly, relaxing and peaceful space to live and work in.

This is also true with friends and acquaintances. Just like with material things, we can also accumulate unnecessary or unwanted relationships that can make demands on our time and energy and often insert negativity or sap our physical or financial resources. Clearing out the toxic or unhealthy relationships we may have can bring personal renewal and further our sense of happiness and contentment.

Take the time to appreciate family. For most of us there are few individuals who have done more for us than our family members. This includes anyone and everyone in our family who support us, are there when we need them and provide a “safe harbor” throughout our lives.

Losing loving family members can be devastating but no more so than when we fail to appreciate them as they are helping us along life’s bumpy road. By taking time to give back and express our gratitude to those who care and nurture us will not only bring them pleasure and a sense of being appreciated, but will give us a reminder of how loved and cared for we are, allows us to feel more content and happy with being who we are.

For more information about this topic you can access a free excerpt from the bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by visiting www.changingbehavior.org.

Do We Unknowingly Create Unhappiness?


Most people identify themselves as a “glass half full” kind of person.  We don’t intentionally set out to wreck our moods or think ourselves into unhappiness… do we?  However, we can feel like tumbleweeds in the wind, our moods – which can create stress may quickly shift from the impact of a difficult work environment, a nagging spouse, or even something as seemingly benign as the weather.  And all these mood stressors impact us on a physical level too – by increasing the body’s production of a stress hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol initiates a vicious cycle of food versus mood, wherein we crave sugary, carb-laden foods and shun healthier alternatives like fish and vegetables.  Of course, eating all this garbage makes us feel more depressed and more negative, which floods the body with more cortisol.  But the good news is that you can break the cycle – and it all starts with something as simple as a thought.

As it turns out, the more frequently you have negative thoughts, the more depressed you feel [1].  Conversely, the happier you feel, the more your health and your mood improves.  Classes in understanding happiness have even sprung up on college campuses.  Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D ., an associate of the Harvard Psychology Department teaches the single most popular course on campus – a course about how our levels of happiness and unhappiness are rooted in our thoughts, deeds and words.[2]

But can we really learn to be happy?  A new school of thought put forward by psychologist Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychology Association believes that we can all be happier by recognizing how our thoughts and words contribute to our moods.   The good news is that you can start feeling better today by following a few proven steps that boost your body’s natural “happiness chemicals”.

According to an article by the Cleveland Clinic,[3] you can quell a bad mood almost instantly by:

·         Holding hands or hugging – A 20 second hug with your spouse releases the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin, which in turn helps you relax and feel calmer.

·         Get social – Resist the urge to hibernate in your home alone and grab a pal (or two, or three) for an evening out.  When women are emotionally close to their friends, the hormone progesterone is increased, which subdues anxiety and reduces stress.  Men get the same benefits whether they’re with their buddies or with women.

·         Enjoy more of nature – The fresh air, the trees, the crisp leaves under your feet, the warmth of the sun on your face… getting out into nature revitalizes your body and mind while clearing out the cobwebs of too much time spent indoors.

·         Laugh out loud – Rent a comedy movie or listen to your favorite comedian. Boisterous laughter releases endorphins which help you feel happier and more at ease.

Feeling happier is not a matter of willing your body to do so.  Your brain is smarter than you think, and no amount of telling yourself “I am happy…I am happy” is going to change your mood.  Instead, combine your affirmative statement with a reason – such as:

Today I am going to feel happy BECAUSE…(I’ll finish that big project at work / I’m grateful for my family / I’m taking better care of my health, etc.)

Back to the cortisol culprit – how do you slam the breaks on a seemingly never ending cycle of cravings that can disrupt your mood?  Follow these tips, from the Food and Mood connection by the Mayo Clinic [4]

·         Keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day by consuming more whole grains, fruits, and leafy green vegetables

·         Avoid alcohol as it can interfere with your body’s natural ability to get a good night’s sleep

·         Eliminate caffeine as you’re likely to experience a “crash” later when your blood sugar takes a nose-dive

·         Consider eating 5-6 smaller meals per day rather than 3 large ones as this also contributes to better blood sugar levels.

Overall, you can learn to improve your mood and well-being by taking these simple steps. Try it out and let me know your results in the comments below!

[1] The Effects of Reducing Frequency of Negative Thoughts on the Mood of Depressed Patients
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/620107

[2] Tal Ben-Sharar: The Secret to Happiness:
http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html

[3] The Cleveland Clinic: Mood Boosters: Think Happy Thoughts to Boost Your Mood
http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/mind/moodboosters/Pages/ThinkHappyThoughtstoBoostYourMood.aspx

[4] The Food and Mood Connection:   http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-mood/my00716

Copyright 2013 G. Donadio
 

How Happy Couples Behave

 

 

It is not a coincidence that happy couples share many of the same behavioral patterns. Often we think that being happy means we have fun sharing the same hobbies or doing everything as a couple. While sharing activities enhances relationships, the most important components to successful relationships is found in how the individuals within the couple treat each other, and in large part it has to do with communication and behavior. Listed below are some of the most important aspects of having a successful relationship with your significant other.

  1. Friends – Being friends and genuinely liking your partner is one of the most important components of a happy and successful relationship. If you don’t like the other person, how can you truly love them?

  2. Enjoying your friend and partners company – Laughter is not only good medicine but it is also the glue that binds relationships and creates memories. Laughing together and even crying together is meaningful in good relationships.

  3. Be spontaneous – All of us have preferences, likes and dislikes. To be spontaneous about trying new food, travel plans, places to visit and so forth we expand our personal horizons and show respect for our spouse’s or partner’s preferences as well. Life is more interesting if we can be spontaneous together!

  4. Have your own life – Developing a healthy relationship is about two independent and emotionally mature individuals joining company to share their lives together. Sometimes our needs can become interjected into our relationship in a way that creates a co-dependent dynamic and this can derail happiness in an intimate relationship.

  5. Be Fully, Purely Present to Your Partner – It has been said that there is not greater gift than our full, complete presence to another. By being authentically interested and attentive to the other person is a hallmark of a healthy, happy relationship.

  6. Show and express affection – Physical touch is an important part of happiness and fulfillment in relationships. Couples will often express that just holding hands or sharing affection with their partner is the very important part of their feeling loved and cared for.

  7. Be caring and kind – It cannot be stated enough that kindness, compared with criticism or complaints, is one of the most attractive things about another person. When we are kind not only do we feel good about our behavior but the person we are in relationship with feels good about our behavior as well.

  8. Be Honest – If we give our partners a sense that we are devoted and loyal to them and they provide that for us, we create the foundation of a truly lasting and loving relationship. Many times marriages or relationships break up because of trust issues. Trust is the foundation of a all good interactions.

  9. Be committed – When we are committed to someone it means that we are there for them and we can be counted on to support them and be there in times of need. This is what we all want from our relationships and in order to get that we need to give that as well.

  10. Communicate – By actively communicating with your partner on an ongoing basis you can avoid many of the problems that arise in relationships before they occur. By being proactive and checking in with each other on a regular basis to see how things are for the other person, this will go a long way is preventing and avoiding conflicts and unmet needs.

Creating and sustaining a loving, trusting and lasting relationship is one of the most fulfilling experiences most of us long for and look forward to. While it is not a complicated process it does require awareness and cultivation, just like raising a child or growing a garden. If we keep the weeds from infiltrating the flow beds we can enjoy the uninterrupted beauty of our longed for relationship and reduce the work and wear and tear that neglect can produce. Relationships take time, caring and commitment, but they are truly worth it. For a free download on communication skills for enhanced relationships visit www.changingbehavior.org

 

 

Love Can Be Fattening



I ran across a great article, written by Nicholas Bakalar, about a study that was published on the relationship between the weight gain of women who live with a mate in comparison to women who do not. Rather than excerpt material from the article, I would like to share it with you in is entirety. Hope this information is useful for you or someone you know.

Study Says Women With Mate Get Heavier
by Nicholas Bakalar

It is widely known that women tend to gain weight after giving birth, but now a large study has found evidence that even among childless women, those who live with a mate put on more pounds than those who live without one.

The differences, the scientists found, were stark.

After adjusting for other variables, the 10-year weight gain for an average 140-pound woman was 20 pounds if she had a baby and a partner, 15 if she had a partner but no baby, and only 11 pounds if she was childless with no partner. The number of women with a baby but no partner was too small to draw statistically significant conclusions.

There is no reason to believe that having a partner causes metabolic changes, so the weight gain among childless women with partners was almost surely caused by altered behavior. Moreover, there was a steady weight gain among all women over the 10 years of the study.

This does not explain the still larger weight gain in women who became pregnant. The lead author, Annette J. Dobson, a professor of bio-statistics at the University of Queensland in Australia, suggested that physiological changes might be at work.

“Women’s bodies may adjust to the increased weight associated with having a baby,” Dr. Dobson said. “There may be a metabolic adjustment that goes on when women are pregnant that is hard to reverse. This would be more consistent with our findings than any other explanation.”

The study covered more than 6,000 Australian women over a 10-year period ending in 2006.

At the start, the women ranged in age from 18 to 23. Each woman periodically completed a survey with more than 300 questions about weight and height, age, level of education, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, medications used and a wide range of other health and health care issues.

By the end of the study, published in the January issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, more than half the women had college degrees, about three-quarters had partners and half had had at least one baby. Almost all of the weight gain happened with the first baby; subsequent births had little effect.

Also by the end of the study period, there were fewer smokers and risky drinkers than at the beginning, more women who exercised less and a larger proportion without paid employment.

But even after adjusting for all of these factors and more, the differences in weight gain among women with and without babies, and among women with and without partners, remained.

Despite the study’s limitations — weight was self-reported, for example, and the sample size diminished over time because people dropped out — other experts found the results valuable.

“It’s interesting and brings out some important points,” said Maureen A. Murtaugh, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Utah who has published widely on weight gain in women. Perhaps, she suggested, a more active social life may help explain why women with partners gain more weight.

“Think of going to a restaurant,” Dr. Murtaugh said. “They serve a 6-foot man the same amount as they serve me, even though I’m 5 feet 5 inches and 60 pounds lighter.”

The study included only women, but the researchers cited one earlier study that showed an increase in obesity among men who had children, adding further evidence that social and behavioral factors are part of the explanation.

Dr. Dobson said the finding of weight gain among all the women, with families or without, was troubling.

“This is a general health concern,” she said. “Getting married or moving in with a partner and having a baby are events that trigger even further weight gain.

“From a prevention point of view, one can look at these as particular times when women need to be especially careful.”
© 2013 BlueCross BlueShield Association – All Rights Reserved.

Forgiveness is a Gift to Yourself


 

While many of us might think of forgiveness as something we do for others to reduce their suffering, there are now many studies that show when we achieve forgiveness, it has the power to transform our own health and sense of inner peace.

The daily news is filled with unimaginable events. People harm and kill others, parents violate and abuse their own children, and children murder their own parents. It is often difficult for us to forgive even benign events in our relationships (such as a perceived insult or rejection) let alone something of such immense tragedy. The idea of letting go of a grievance against someone who has perpetrated such acts seems impossible.

The simple act of “holding a grudge” against another person can create chronic stress and ongoing feelings of anger and frustration. This chronic emotional response to a perceived insult can result in our becoming sick and even developing ongoing, chronic disease states such as hypertension, asthma or digestive problems.

You will notice the reference to “perceived insults” or wounding that we might feel. This is because while people can do the unimaginable, much of what we experience in our lives is a perceived hurt of rejection that causes us not to forgive another.

Several years ago at the program where I teach, the National Institute of Whole Health, had the pleasure of Fred Luskin, PhD, founder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, present his work on forgiveness at the medical center where we train credentialed health professionals in whole person health care.

Dr. Luskin is the author of the book Forgive for Good, and a world renowned researcher on the subject of forgiveness. His scientific studies demonstrate the healing power and health benefits from the process of forgiving others for either actual or perceived transgressions against ourselves, or to those we love. Dr. Luskin was the lead researcher on a study in Ireland which included individuals from both sides of Northern Ireland’s civil war. These individuals had all lost a loved one due to the country's civil conflict.

In his groundbreaking book, Forgive for Good, he outlines what forgiveness is—and, what it is not:

“Forgiveness is for you and not the offender”
“Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the people who hurt you”
“Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel”
“Forgiveness is a trainable skill – just like learning to throw a ball”
“Forgiveness is a choice”
 

“Forgiveness is not condoning unkindness or poor behavior”
“Forgiveness is not forgetting that something painful has happened”
“Forgiveness does not mean reconciling with the offender”
“Forgiveness does not mean giving up your feelings”

So then what does forgiveness mean? Forgiveness means being willing to find new ways to experiencing “justice” and to choose not to be victimized by other’s choices or actions. It can also mean experiencing an event from a different perspective which allows us to reclaim our life even from the depths of our suffering, loss or despair.

Forgiveness has been scientifically proven to decrease depression, increase hopefulness, decrease anger, increase self-confidence, enhance relationships, decrease stress and physical symptoms of illness, decrease heart disease and increase immune function. Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves that helps us live more peace-filled, healthier lives. There are many excellent books on the subject to assist with and facilitate the process of forgiving what seems to be the unforgiveable.

Copyright 2012 Georgianna Donadio All Rights Reserved