Want To Be Happier? Be Less Busy!

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If you feel you need to be busy then stop and think about why that might be. There are times in our lives when we need to be busy – we can be juggling many responsibilities at once and most of them revolve around work, family and social life. We want to have a good balance to make our lives as happy as possible but are we actually creating this? Or are we diminishing our happiness in the process of being too busy?

We are living in a society where we are very distracted with phones, TV and internet but even as we’re distracted we’re trying constantly to focus. Now, focus can be a positive thing but not when it stops us from being mindful of our surroundings and ourselves. Busy-ness in essence is robbing us of our present moment. We all know that relaxing is a way of recharging our batteries and we should all do it but for some of us it comes with a price and that price is not getting things done, letting people down, the constant feeling of needing to be out seeing friends or picking up kids from here and there.

When we sit quietly and don’t think about anything or do anything, this can start to feel uncomfortable – that itching feeling that we need to be doing something or that voice in your head saying You can’t sit here doing nothing, you have a million things to do! and so the busy-ness ensues until we’re exhausted and worn down – never giving ourselves the chance to stop and simply do nothing.

But next time your little voice starts piping up remember this: magical things happen when you sit quietly and do nothing. When we take a break and stare into space our brain isn’t doing nothing – the unconscious part of our brain is much faster and smarter and processes information on a much higher level than our conscious mind. So taking breaks actually allows us to access a much more powerful part of our brain and gives this part of our brain a chance to work.

In an earlier blog post Simple Kindness Promotes Big Happiness I wrote about how kindness is important to our overall happiness. Studies have also shown that busy-ness reduces our ability to be kind to others. A Samaritan study was conducted at Princeton University campus where students were asked to help someone who seemed to be having cardiovascular problems  – for those that weren’t rushed to get to class, 60% stopped to help. For those that were a minute or two late for class, there was a 10% drop in the number of students that helped out – quite a decrease in kindness just by feeling a little bit busy.

Another important reason to stop and relax is to be aware of our feelings and emotions. Being busy tends to mask how we’re really feeling about something. We don’t even have time to process – as a result we can end up suppressing negative emotions that need tending to or just not appreciating and taking in any positive things that have happened in our day. Being aware of our emotions, positive and negative, are essential to our happiness and well-being.

It’s essential for our happiness to be mindful of what we do in our day. Is it really necessary to stay in bed for an extra 15 minutes and then create stress by rushing to get ready when we could have had a more relaxing morning routine? Is it necessary to always arrange plans after work so you have no down-time in the week? You could be missing out on a huge number of things because you’re busy rushing about – simple conversations, noticing what’s going on around you or just enjoying the present moment. Simple changes can bring a greater ease into your life. Try to find ways to alleviate the need to be busy – has it just become a way of life?

Approaching life in a more relaxed, mindful way is so important to our everyday happiness which in turn will benefit those around you. Cut out the unnecessary busy-ness and make sure that you take the time out to relax, recharge your brain and not worry about to-do lists – the world will keep on turning if you’re not doing something right this second and your happiness levels will thank you for it 🙂

 

The Happy Documentary :)

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As a sucker for a good documentary, I sat down the other day and watched The Happy Movie. I realised I was a bit late in seeing this as it was made in 2012 but what an eye-opener it is. If anyone hasn’t seen this and has an interest in what makes a happy life and likes a bit of science thrown in to back it up, I would completely recommend this.

It’s a wonderful documentary that gives a fascinating look at the science behind happiness – following people from all walks of life from the slums of Kolkata to Tokyo and seeing who is happy and what elements in our lives create this widely sought-after emotion. I think you can probably guess what these are but if you have a spare 1hr 15 mins then it really is worth a watch (I’ve posted the trailer below) 🙂

“The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone, but the good news is that the things we love to do are the building blocks of a happy life: play, having new experiences, friends and family, doing things that are meaningful, appreciating what we have – these are the things that make us happy and they’re free. With happiness, the more you have, the more everyone has.”

 

Is The News Having An Impact On Your Happiness?

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We are constantly bombarded by the news, but of course we are because we need to know what’s going on in the world, right? The media has a huge impact on us. Most of us don’t have first-hand knowledge about events going on and so our knowledge is very dependant on the news and the media. It plays a huge role in how people think of the world and also themselves and it might just be affecting our everyday happiness.

Everyone knows that if we eat junk food every day we’ll become unhealthy. The same can be applied to the information we read and pay attention to in everyday news and media outlets. Traditional news has a huge emphasis on the negative and unfortunately the fact is that the majority of news needs tragedy and negativity to sell newspapers or make money. When I really thought about this I decided to test this out and open up the news app on my phone. Sure enough, there were 12 top stories and out of those 12 only 1 story was actually positive. Perhaps it was a particularly bad day? I don’t know.

We all know that journalism is about asking the questions but are journalists always asking the right questions? Questions that will produce a shocking or intriguing story will get the ‘better’ story and in that process we, the readers, don’t end up getting the true view. Now, I realise I’m generalising here – there are many newspapers and news outlets that try their best to keep a fair view but unfortunately the majority don’t do this and as people keeping up with local and world events, we are probably affected by this more than we realise.

There are a lot of bad things that happen in this world and it’s probably right that we should know about them, for example crime, war, injustice or famine but for our happiness to flourish, we need to balance this out with positive subjects. Unfortunately, with 24 hour news many stories are emotionalised or sensationalised to keep the watcher or reader gripped and unnecessarily putting too much emphasis on the entertainment of certain stories rather than an unbiased, constructive type of journalism.

Psychological research has shown that people who are subjected to a range of negative news stories were found to have an increase in anxiety and slight depression. The affect that negative stories have can potentially heighten a range of personal concerns even though they are not specifically relevant to the content of the story itself.

So what should we do? I’m not saying we should avoid news altogether (although this has been done by many people) but perhaps we should lessen the amount of time we spend reading or watching negative news items.

Be aware of how much of the news is unnecessarily negative. Be mindful when taking in the news  – ask yourself, is this something I need to know? If not, stop and move on. Be aware of unnecessary sensational and over-emotional stories because we don’t want people playing on our fears or emotions – it’s just non-essential to our well-being.

Cut down on the amount you are exposed to. If there’s something important that you need to know about don’t worry, you’ll find out about it. Otherwise maybe try and cut down on the amount you read or watch. Just catching up quickly in the morning over breakfast may be all you need.

Weed out the positive news items. If you’re reading something, try and focus just on the positive stories – try reading the sports pages first as they tend to be more on the positive side!

Read a positive publication. There’re some wonderful publications out there that just focus on positive news. Positive News is a great website that reports on science, environment, economic and lifestyle topics that are all written with constructive journalism. They even have a print edition if you’re that way inclined! Sunny Skyz and Good News Network are other great websites that emphasises positive stories. I’m not saying this is a way of getting hard-hitting stories but exposing yourself to a more positive element of news will definitely help balance out your perception of the world.

So why not try it out? To be honest, we probably aren’t even aware how much the news affects us on a daily basis and how much it lowers our vibration and ultimately our happiness. We want to keep a positive mindset as much as we can so at the very least, start your day with a happy news story and end your day with one too 🙂

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Why Negative Emotions are Crucial For Happiness

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It’s okay to not be okay. I wanted to write this post because I didn’t want people to read my blog and think that I believe life should be all about sunshine, roses and rainbows and that we should somehow all be experiencing extreme joy every day and anything less is not good enough. No.

Negative emotions are essential for our mental well-being and overall happiness. 

Positive emotions are obviously crucial for us to lead a brighter life but we all have days when we don’t feel great. Life cruelly throws us into the rubbish dump sometimes and it’s important to understand the complexities that comes with being human – that hard times are inevitable as well as the happy times. It helps us make sense of life’s ups and downs and evaluate our experiences.

Scientifically, negative emotions can be vital clues to a health issue, a bad relationship or something in our life that requires our attention. The importance is to notice these emotions and not judge ourselves for them. They are there to help us and the key is to notice them and realign accordingly.

Prolonged negative emotions are telling us that we need to do something – something is not right and essentially needs fixing whether it’s something deep-rooted like a bad past experience we haven’t dealt with or something simple like taking steps to find a new job if you’re unhappy with your current one.

So never suppress negative emotions. Make sure you feel them and identify what they are trying to tell you without rushing to change your emotional state. Confide in other people, exercise, breathe slowly and deeply, and accept it. If the discomfort lingers then consider taking steps to change your circumstances or confronting the person/situation that is causing you the negative feelings.

Sometimes we just get used to feeling negatively and it becomes an everyday habit. It’s important to notice the difference between that and a more serious problem. We tend to accept our ongoing negative mindset because that is what we’ve got used to and it’s in this instance that we need to make a shift and to simply change that to a more positive perspective.

For times that are more trying, pulling on your positive resources can work wonders and can get you out of a funk but be kind to yourself and don’t force it. Let yourself ride it out and don’t suppress anything. Sometimes it’ll pass quickly and other times it’ll take much longer. The key is being able to see your problems with greater clarity and start taking those steps down the path to recovery 🙂

 

 

 

Is Low Self-Worth Ruining Your Happiness?

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We all struggle with ourselves sometimes. It’s part and parcel of being human. Am I enough? is a question that is pretty wide-spread amongst us all and can be found in even the most confident of people. Problems with self-esteem and self-worth can crop up in many areas of our lives. We live in a society where beauty, fashion and social media is consistently present in our lives. We are constantly bombarded with reasons to question our self-worth whether we realise this or not.

Low self-worth has become a habit for some. A person with low-self-worth has a brain programmed to interpret the world in a particular way despite what the reality is and don’t tend to think about questioning it. If good things are happening or nice things are being said the assumption will be that these are one-off events or people are ‘just saying that’ and it won’t resonate with them at all. Having low self-worth will even cause people to misinterpret others’ words and intentions and even go out of their way to see the insult behind the compliment.

But our sense of self-worth typically develops at a young age and we never grow out of the mindset. It can be affected by parenting for example. Particular positive encouragement from parents can create a sense of high self-esteem in a child whereas negativity can cause feelings of low self-worth even if completely unintentional (it’s interesting to note that you are highly likely to develop the same self-worth as a parent or an accumulation of both parents). Social status – what kind of neighbourhood you grew up in, friends you spent time with – can also be an influence.

A lot of the time it’s about individual thinking processes – people with high self-esteem, for example, will interpret new information about themselves as a positive no matter what that information is and people with a low self-esteem will immediately see something as a negative.

The way we perceive ourselves is very intrinsically linked to our happiness so if you feel you’re struggling with how you feel about yourself then what can you do to improve your self-esteem and self-worth?

The answer isn’t an overnight solution. It’s a mind shift but it doesn’t have to be as hard as we believe.

  1. Realise that what other people think doesn’t matter. Putting too much emphasis on others takes away your own self-worth.
  2. Don’t assume what people are thinking about you. Realise that how you think about yourself is only in your head. You wouldn’t want someone to assume what you’re thinking so why do this to others?
  3. Realise that no one really cares. Sounds harsh doesn’t it? But everyone is dealing with their own problems and their own thoughts and they’re really not focusing on what you said, how you look or what you’re doing.
  4. Don’t hold on to every negative. For every negative in our day there are 10 positives. This is a fact that we struggle to actually see. We are programmed to focus on the one negative thing that happened despite there having been plenty of small, great things too. For example, you always remember the nasty thing someone said to you one time but sweep away and forget all the compliments you’ve also received despite these outweighing dramatically.
  5. Realise that whatever has happened in your past is in your past. Every day is a new day to accept yourself for who you are. Whatever negative things your parents may have said or bullies taunted you at school about is nothing to do with you. For whatever reasons they also had low self-worth and projected this onto you and most likely onto other people too.
  6. Everyone has their strengths – even you! It’s important to reflect on your own strengths no matter how small you feel they are. Whether they are physical attributes, sides of your personality or achievements – these are all things people with high self-esteem focus on and they are absolutely no different to you…the only difference is their mindset!

These are only a few observations and there are many, many more. The key is really to realise that other people’s opinions are irrelevant when it comes to your life and your happiness. Happiness starts with you. Life is too short to live in a constant state of self-doubt and feelings of lack in ourselves. We all suffer from this to varying degrees (I include myself in this too!) but just getting on the road to feeling better about ourselves is a massive step in the right direction 🙂

Simple Kindness Promotes Big Happiness!

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Sounds obvious, right? Kindness is one of those basic humanistic straits that is found in each and every one of us. We crave kindness from others and we project kindness towards those around us. But how does this really affect our overall happiness?

It can be very easy to be kind to the people we know in our lives, the people we feel fond of but it can be harder to show that same level of kindness to strangers. The detachment we have towards random people we encounter can lead to us dismissing opportunities to act in a kind manner.

But studies have shown that being less selfish and more altruistic can really have a wonderful effect on our happiness and in fact, the more we show kindness to others without expectation of anything in return, actually creates a type of kindness-happiness loop – the more acts of kindness we take elevates our sense of happiness which, in turn, causes us to want to do more acts of kindness.

It’s nothing new to say that interactions with others helps with our confidence and self-worth. Connecting with others, even in a fleeting moment of kindness, can do wonders for our well-being and not only for us but the person on the receiving end. How nice is it when a shop assistant smiles at you and is extra helpful when you’ve been having a bad day? How good do you feel when you give up your seat for someone less fortunate than you? They may seem like small, insignificant instances but these moments really are beneficial to your health and happiness as well as lifting the spirits of others.

Latest studies and research is starting to show that the more you practice kindness, the more you are enhancing the welfare of others and you can start to feel less lonely in yourself. Not only that but involving yourself in acts of kindness can result in stronger immune systems, less aches and pains and less depression. Doing volunteering work has even shown to strengthen cardiovascular systems. It seems the knowledge of doing something good for others without getting anything back from it is a really huge boost to our health, in both mind and body.

With that in mind, here are some tips for ways of incorporating kindness into your life:

Realise how to be compassionate and kind to yourself. Everything starts with yourself. Understand that being kind to yourself is important to projecting that onto other people and will make your kindness more authentic. Being able to relate to others from understanding your own needs opens up the opportunities for kindness much more.

Listen. Listening and being aware of others is so important when doing an act of kindness. This allows you to be much more capable of seeing opportunities. It’s when the action meets the need where the magic really happens so notice that someone might be struggling with heavy bags, unable to open the door because their hands are full. The awareness of moments is the key to success.

It’s the small things that count. An act of kindness doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Dedicating yourself to a massive cause to make a difference isn’t necessary. Sometimes the smallest thing can change someone’s whole day.

Don’t give up. Sometimes it can be hard to constantly find opportunities to be kind. We have bad days and bad moods and that’s ok. We may feel self-conscious or shy to do something and possibly feel that we aren’t capable of it. But we are all capable of showing kindness and most of the time it’s just a mindset. Everyone has the capability of sharing kindness we just need to realise our potential to do it.

So why not seek out opportunities to do something kind? Perhaps start with those closer to you. Offer to do something nice for someone – offer to cook dinner if you don’t usually cook, simply make a cup of tea or run a bath. Being kind to strangers can sometimes lie outside of our comfort zones but build up to it and notice any opportunities to be kind. Equally, we may know we are capable but we can easily slip into ourselves and the rushed busyness of life, causing us to not notice the opportunities. Even just smiling at the shop assistant and telling them to have a nice day – you never know, you may be the beacon of light in someone’s god-awful dark day and what a lovely thought that is? 🙂