Welcome To Happ-E-ness

This is a blog about happiness. Personally, I don’t know if there has been anything more searched for, more desperately wanted, in the history of the world, than true, authentic happiness. Think about your own life. What do you want more than anything? Likely, whatever you say will be a bridge leading directly back to the things you think will make you a happier person. Am I right? I’m going to assume I am. The beautiful thing is, when we make happiness a priority, everything else seems to fall into place. This blog’s purpose is to help you see the amazing and natural benefits from seeking a happy life.
Happiness today! Not someday, not one day, not in the distant future, but TODAY! I am going to go out on a limb here and say that you already know some of the things that make you happy. That’s the perfect start. Sometimes we push those things off because of faulty logic. It’s not your fault. This so called “logic” has been passed down for generations. We, as humans, have been programmed to think like this: “If I just
(fill in the blank), then I will be happy.” It really doesn’t matter what the blank is! Nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t obtain happiness because of accomplishments or milestones, we usually obtain accomplishments and milestones because we are happy! Sure I’ll say it again on its own line so you remember. Thanks for asking!

You don’t obtain happiness by accomplishments, you accomplish things when you are truly happy!!!!

 

How We Feel Happiness

introvertvsextravert

Time to learn something about me. I am and have always been an introvert. When I go to family functions I typically will slip away after a while to be alone or I will put headphones on to block out the noise. I despise large groups of people. I can act the part of an extravert when I need to, but it is exhausting, I honestly don’t know how they do it. I stay even keeled (most of the time). I don’t usually take this at face value and question most things without letting my emotions play to much into my reactions. I have spent that last couple days thinking and reading about the differences between introvert and extraverts and their levels of happiness and what makes them happy. So today I decided to investigate what the “professionals” are saying and read several studies and let me tell you… they do not make me happy!

If you were to google who is happier introverts or extraverts? You would find study after study showing that extraverts are always happier and will always be happier than introverts. It was mind boggling the number of times this has been researched. However, I found several flaws in these studies that I would like to share before I get to my point.

These studies questioned people and asked how often do you smile, how much do you laugh, when you meet new people do you go out of your way to get to know them on a more personal level? Questioning was along those lines and when they did observations it was more of the same, how often did they make eye contact, how was their voice pitch and tone, how energetic and spirited were they?

I can tell you from life experience you can be out going and smiling and laughing like a typical extravert and yet be miserable inside. These things may be indicators of happiness but do not correlate to happiness. At best you can say they have a positive relationship.  The bs example I can think of for this is the great Robin Williams (may he rest in peace). Here was a man who lived an amazing life. He was the life of the party, always so energetic and smiling. He could make people laugh and forget their problems. He was your typical extravert. Yet, he was so sad and unhappy, struggling with depression that he ended his life. Some people are just that good at hiding their pain and suffering.

This brings me to my point.

Do not let society tell you what happiness means.

Just don’t do it. I have friends that try to pull me out of my nice little turtle shell saying that for me to be happy I need to go out more and do more things and be around more people. When that is not the case. True happiness comes from a connection to our true being. You cannot think that you will only be happy if you act a certain way or achieve certain goals. That happiness is fleeting and can do more damage than good. The definition of happiness for each person is subjective, it is driven by our own views on life and what is important. This kind of happiness is deeper- it thrives on more than just a “good day”. It is driven by the satisfaction you feel from within.

People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on internal thoughts, feelings and moods rather than seeking out external stimulation. Many introverts actually enjoy spending time around others, with one key caveat—introverts tend to prefer the company of close friends. As an introvert, our idea of a good time is a quiet afternoon to yourself to enjoy your hobbies and interests. A few hours alone with a good book, a peaceful nature walk or your favorite television program are great ways to help you feel recharged and energized. This does not mean that the average introvert wants to be alone all the time. Many introverts love spending time with friends and interacting with familiar people in social situations. The key thing to remember is that after a long day of social activity, an introvert will probably want to retreat to a quiet place to think, reflect, and recharge

Now, for all my extraverted people reading this, please do not take offense. Extraverts are amazing and talented. You enjoy conversation, you don’t just enjoy talking to friends, family members, and co-workers; you love to strike up conversations with total strangers. You love to meet new people and learn about their lives. Extroverts tend to find such social interactions refreshing and they actually gain energy from such exchanges. When extroverts have to spend a lot of time alone, they often begin to feel uninspired and listless. If given a choice between spending time alone and spending time with other people, an extrovert will almost always choose to spend time with a group.

So, extraverts, these things apply to you just as much as they apply to introverts. I merely am trying to say that now one personality type is going to make you happier than the other. We all have things we love and things that make us happy. Understanding that, can lead to greater happiness in our personal lives. Extraverts: when your introverted friend turns you down on a night on the town don’t take it personally they could just be needing a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Introverts: when your extroverted friend is constantly asking to hang out and to go do things it is because they value your friendship and want to spend time with you.

As we all learn to accept each other and understand our fundamental personality differences we can forge deeper and more meaningful relationships with those around us, and that my friends will lead to greater happiness for all.

And It’s Been A While

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Hello there, friends!! I must apologize for my long absence. I recently got a new day job, that required me to travel for training the first two months, and also have moved. These past months have been a crazy time!! I hope you all have been practicing your happiness skills and have been able to lead happy lives as we have come into the holiday season. I just want to share a couple of thoughts I have had over this time.

First, never let any one control your happiness. While away traveling I struggled staying happy. I was in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar faces and that is not my habitat where I thrive. I had a group of other people that were training with me and there was one particular in our group who…… how to put it nicely…… drove me up the wall just looking at him. There was something about him that my personality and his did not get along on a fundamental level. There were several times when I let him rob me of my happiness and gave up control of my emotions. These were hard times and led to me struggling on maintaining my mental health and sanity. Not letting others actions and behaviors control your emotions is a hard skill to learn and one I work on daily, but it will yield you immeasurable happiness!

Second, life is hard. Sometimes we feel like nothing we do is good enough or we should be doing more or even that we should be farther in life. As I was going thought the process of starting a new job and moving I struggled with this constantly. In all honesty it is something I have struggled with my entire life. I had a moment of clarity as I was setting up my new kitchen. I realized that even though I may not be as established as many of my friends I am still doing pretty well. I make enough to put a roof of my head, food in my belly and a little extra to have a social life. It is important to take time to sit back and contemplate all the good things in your life. You are doing great!

There are so many other things I want to tell you, however, it is past my bed time. I am home now and you can count on more post to come! Stay happy my friends.

Reality Vs. Expectations Dilemma

Happy Happy Day!!!

Let us begin with an equation for happiness!     Reality/Expectations=Happiness

Now you may be thinking to yourself “WOW this man is a genius!  How has no one come up with this yet?!?” As much as I would love to claim this as my own, I can’t.

“A mathematical formula for happiness: Reality divided by Expectations. There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality or lower your expectations.”― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

When I saw this I had a similar reaction to what I am assuming you had above. This is one of the most practical quotes on happiness and it comes with an equation to back it up! It breaks down happiness into simple terms.

You may have such high expectations of yourself that it may not be possible to realistically meet them in the time and effort that you put in. I would never suggest to someone that they should just lower their expectations, but I would suggest taking a good hard look at your expectations and ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is it realistic?
  2. Are my timelines achievable?
  3. Do I actually want this?

If you answer no to any of these I would suggest a re-calculation of your expectations and go from there. In my opinion, lowering expectations is in no way lowering your quest to be your best self or striving for excellence. It means that you are not bogged down when you do not of reach the imaginary idea of the end point or feel bad when you fail to meet it. Lowering your expectations to an achievable level sets you free or detaches you from the outcome and allows you to magnify the happiness and engagement along the journey. You can still dream big and have high expectations, just make sure you have realistic goals to achieve them. It is your choice to get caught up with impossible expectations or constantly strive to do the best you can and enjoy every minute along the way.

You may be thinking to yourself now, “This guy is just a Debbie Downer that doesn’t want me to achieve greatness and reach these lofty life expectations”

WRONG!!!

I want nothing but the best for you: I want you to be a bazillionaire that is surrounded by loving family and friends without a care in the world, being your happiest most fulfilled self.  All I am saying is don’t put so much pressure on achieving all these miraculous things tomorrow. Be realistic, set goals and I know you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

The second part of this equation is reality. Now there isn’t much to be said on this that you probably haven’t heard or read some place else so I’ll keep it brief. The best way, in my opinion, to improve or change reality if you are not satisfied with it is to determine what you would like it to be and then take action towards that new idea. This comes right back to your expectations. If you do not like the reality you live in, you have to have the gumption to go out and change it.

They say perception is reality. I have done some work in my life where all I dealt with were people that lived life that I could only dream about. While I had a lot of fun doing that, it also skewed my perception of reality. I began to flounder and struggle in life. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine re-grounded me that I began to realize that life was pretty good and my expectations had just gotten out of whack.

If you are having a hard time with reality, take some time and do something for others. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter or animal shelter. Help those less fortunate than you and you will be amazed at how that helps you gain a better grasp of reality and what is actually important in life.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy. ”― Lucille Ball

A lot of times we run after success, fame and glory thinking that the eventual end point will end up making us a lot happier. The problem with this approach is that there will always be something bigger and seemingly better to aspire for and desire. Have you ever had the experience where you really wanted something and when you got it, the pleasure and happiness were short-lived and left you wondering if that was it? True lasting happiness comes with following your path and your unique journey and gathering skills and experiences and little pleasures along the way.

Have a clear understanding of what makes you really happy and what appears to make you happy. When you are clearly able to distinguish between the two, you have come a long way in embracing a happy life. You will have a clear perception of reality and you will have realistic expectations.

You may have this picture of what happiness looks like based on what others are telling you or what companies are advertising and wanting you to buy. But if you ask yourself the question: “What makes you really happy?” And then honestly answer it, you will have made a great start as Lucille points out.

“You must be the best judge of your own happiness.”― Jane Austen, Emma

Now, I will leave you with one final quote and a thought.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs–even though checkered by failure–than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

We talked about changing your reality through actions. We talked about setting realistic expectations. That does not mean you are not capable of amazing things or you should not try to do great things in your life. Remember! You are destined for great things! You can do hard things! And if you live on the sidelines you will have wasted away and never known true happiness. Go out and do hard things but just don’t let your expectations cloud your judgement.

Don’t Try So Hard, Well Kinda..

Have you ever thought to yourself “I am going to be happy.”  Then, poof!!  You were magically happy? No? Didn’t think so. Happiness, like other emotions, is not something you obtain, but rather something you inhabit. Inhabit is defined as: living in or occupying. When you’re raging pissed and throwing a monkey wrench at the neighbor’s children, you are not self-conscious about your state of anger. You are not thinking to yourself, “I am finally angry!! Or, am I finally angry? Am I doing this right?” No.  You are out for blood. You inhabit and live the anger. You are the anger. And then it’s gone. Another good example is of a confident man. A confident man doesn’t wonder if he’s confident. He just is. It is the same with happiness, a happy man does not wonder if he’s happy. He simply is.

What this implies is that finding happiness is not achieved, but rather it is the side effect of a particular set of ongoing life experiences. This gets mixed up a lot, and I mean a lot, especially since happiness is marketed so much these days as a goal in and of itself.

Here is something to think about. A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that people who accept their difficult emotions are better off in the long run than those who try to force their way into a better mood. Many psychologists and meditation teachers endorse a practice called radical acceptance. It is a pretty radical idea….. get it?? The basic idea is that when something bad happens—say, a dear friend moves away—you have two options. You can either deny or fight that reality, or you can accept it, deal with the loss, and move on. Or, to put it a different way: Pain is inevitable, but suffering, like the kind caused by denial, is optional.

With all of that being said, I have many friends who have this really awful habit of overly associating positivity with happiness. Chances are you know someone who always appears to be insanely happy regardless of the circumstances or situation. I know that for me, they are actually some of the most dysfunctional people I know, and that’s saying something because I am one of the most dysfunctional and messed up people I know. Denying negative emotions leads to deeper and more prolonged negative emotions and emotional dysfunction.

The trick in dealing with negative emotions is to, first: express them in a socially acceptable and healthy manner (blabbing on and on at a company happy hour about your issues may not be the place) and second: express them in a way which aligns with your values.

Here is a simple example of aligning values. A value of mine is to pursue non-violence (even though my siblings may disagree). Therefore, when I get mad at somebody, I express that anger, but I also make a point to not punch them in the face. Crazy right?! I know. (But I absolutely will throw a monkey wrench at the neighbor’s kids. Try me.)
There are a lot of people out there who subscribe to an “always be positive” ideology. This is partly due to the way happiness is marketed. It is seen as a byproduct of an event or product. These people should be avoided just as much as someone who thinks the world is an endless pile of crap. Both parties have horrible coping mechanisms and will eventually drag you down to their level.

So, what does all of this mean? Simply stated, things happen. Things go wrong. People upset us. Mistakes are made, and negative emotions arise. And that’s fine. In many ways, being able to experience, process, overcome and resolve these negative emotions and experiences helps us understand happiness and maintain our happiness.
All of this comes to the final point.

STOP trying so hard to be happy and start trying to be your ideal self!!

Completing a marathon makes us happier than eating a chocolate cake (I say this not from experience but from the words of people I know). Raising a child makes us happier than beating a video game. Starting a small business with friends and struggling to make money makes us happier than buying a new computer.

Here is the funny thing, all three of the activities above are exceedingly unpleasant. They require setting high expectations, they have a high potential for failure. Yet, they are some of the most meaningful moments and activities of our lives. They involve pain, struggle, even anger and despair, yet once we’ve done them we look back and get misty-eyed about them.

Why?

These kinds of activities allow us to become our ideal selves. We need to be perpetually pursuing the fulfillment of our ideal selves, which grants us happiness; regardless of superficial pleasures or pain, regardless of positive or negative emotions. This is why some people are happy in war and others are sad at weddings.

What did we learn today?? Stop trying to BE happy and start working towards being our ideal selves. What that is depends on you just like your happiness does. Take some time and write out what your ideal self is and start setting goals to improve. You will be amazed at what you can do and how much happier you will be.

Make it a Great Day.

Silver Linings

 

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.” 

Richard Bach

Life is not always rainbows and butterflies. Life can be hard and dark and a not-so-funny place to be. Everything we experience can be a bummer if we choose to see it that way. The key is to always remember that it will get better and there are always silver linings to every situation. They may not be easy to find, but they are there.

Nearly two and a half millennia ago, Aristotle triggered a revolution in happiness. At the time, Greek philosophers were trying hard to define precisely what this state of being was. Some contended that it sprang from hedonism, the pursuit of sensual pleasure. Others argued from the perspective of tragedy, believing happiness to be a goal, a final destination that made the drudge of life worthwhile. These ideas are still with us today, of course, in the decadence of Instagram and gourmet-burger culture or the Christian notion of heaven. But Aristotle proposed a third option. He described the idea of eudaimonic happiness. Meaning that happiness was not merely a feeling, or a golden promise, but a practice, something to be worked towards and attained.

So what does that have to do with silver linings you ask? Everything. Finding silver linings is a very powerful coping mechanism and something that can help you through any difficult situation. There will be many times in life when you experience tough situations and tough emotions. In addition to using reappraisal to handle your negative emotions, it is helpful to use benefit finding to explore the benefits of situations which, at first, seemed to be negative.

So, let’s try an activity that will help us understand and become better at finding those happy little silver linings.

In this activity, we are going to take a look at a past (or current) negative event in your life. Take a moment to think of something negative you experienced. I know that some negative experiences are very negative, so please select an experience that’s just a little bit negative – nothing too hard for your first time using this activity. After practice we can move to a harder experience.

Please briefly think about this negative event. Got it?  Now I want you to spend the next 10 minutes writing about the positive things that came from this experience. For example:

You may have been  greatly rewarded after experiencing a negative situation.                You may be grateful that you had this experience, because it taught you a valuable life lesson.
Or you may be better off than when the negative event started.

Try to really search your mind for the benefits of the negative situation.

This is a great activity that you can do daily with any negative event. I would highly recommend writing it down in a journal so you can look back at how many good things have come to you out of the dark and negative times. Keep it up. You deserve to be happy.

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.” 

Richard Bach

 

Weekend Vibes. And What Does it Mean to Be Happy?

Happy day to you all! So at this moment, it is a Friday afternoon…what could be better?? As I sit here on the precipice of the weekend,  eating my delicious Açaí Mango bowl from Nektar, I am drawn to a question. What does it mean to be happy? How do you know you have reached happiness? Is happiness a singular event that occurs then you are essentially happy for the rest of you life? Or, is it more of a progression that you work towards and maintain?

In my humblest of opinions I believe that happiness is not something that comes as a singularity but, is worked at and achieved throughout life. Let me explain. My parents have often told me that marriage is hard and takes tremendous amounts of work to keep going. I often ask, “Do you have a happy marriage?”  And without a second thought they always respond with a resounding YES! I feel like personal happiness is a lot like a marriage. It’s not something that comes easily and there will be hard times where you won’t feel happy, or you feel like you are progressing but you will still be happy if you continue to work at it.

Now, I have never been married so it makes it hard for me to draw comparisons between marriage and happiness so let me give you one more example. I grew up in a house full of wrestlers; it is in our blood and it is what we do. Not to brag, but I was the only one of my 3 brothers to ever win a state title. Having played numerous sports (Football, Soccer, Swimming, Volleyball, Track, Baseball, Rugby to name a few), I can honestly say that none of them compare to the difficulty of wrestling mentally or physically, though rugby did come close. I never worked harder at anything, as my high GPA will confirm, as I did with wrestling. Honestly, most days I would question myself and my motives. Why am I doing this? Why am I working so hard and not seeing any results?  There were high points: winning a tournament here or beating someone ranked higher than me.  But there were also low points: getting upset by someone ranked lower than me, or getting injured. But as I look back at my wrestling career, I can truly say I was happy with everything that happened. The lows taught me what not to do and the highs gave me something to aim for. I think true happiness is very similar to that. We have our times when things don’t go right, or the way we want, and that makes us sad; but they are opportunities to learn and grow. These moments gives us a greater appreciation and understanding of what it is to be happy. We have high moments when we get that promotion or new career or we get to go on that dream vacation. Those are the moments that can carry us through the lows.

So what does it mean to be happy? Honestly I couldn’t tell you; I am still working on what happiness means to me. I can, however, tell you that happiness is not something that just happens. It is something that is worked towards, it is something that everyone needs, and it is not a one time event that has to be replicated for you to continue to be happy. It is a series of events that will lead to a general feeling of happiness that will last only as long as you continue to work towards it. Everyone defines happiness differently, so it is not something that you can copy from another. YOU must work to define it and work for it.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Take some time and think about what makes you happy and what you can do to improve the quality of happiness in your life.

 

The Happiness of Your Life Depends Upon the Quality of Your Thoughts

Thinking is just another form of nutrition – it feeds you the fuel with which you can exist in the first place. With no energy, you wouldn’t be able to maintain life, or to thrive in it. Our thoughts are extremely powerful in controlling our moods and in altering our behavior. When you realize that you have power over your mind – not outside events, then you will gain strength.

Try with me for a minute an experiment I once did in a Public Speaking class. Start walking around your table.  I’ll wait here. Are you walking? Good. Now you are going to walk around the kitchen table for a short 120 seconds (2 minutes). For the first minute, I want you to focus on thinking sad thoughts. Sad Sad things.  And while you are thinking about these sad things, take a second to take note of your speed and back posture. My guess is that you are scuffling a little and not moving with any pace. Also, you are probably slouching with less than awesome posture (I don’t have great posture to begin with but it got worse when I did this). Now, I want you to take a second, 15 seconds more or less, and shake off the negative thoughts and refresh yourself. Now that we have that all shaken off, start walking again. This time, however, focus on only positive thoughts! Compliment yourself and think about how awesome you are! Notice something different? You were probably walking a little more quickly with better posture. You felt better and time probably went by more quickly.

This is the power of thought! It doesn’t just affect your mind, it has the power to change your physiology. It should tell you that what you consume – the energy you take in – directly determines what you produce – what you put out, how you’re going to feel, what you can accomplish. And I’m not just talking about food or thoughts – the same thing applies to the ideas you expose yourself to, the people you’re surrounded by, the books you read and greater vision you choose to conceive.