The Importance of Releasing Your Past To Be Happy

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I came across this quote recently that really struck a chord.

“The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life.”

People always tell us that to be truly happy we need to live fully in the present moment. But while this is true, we can still find ourselves living in the past – longing for past situations, believing that we were happier then than we are now or maybe thinking about negative things that have happened to us and not quite being able to move past it.

I completely agree with this quote. How can we honestly say the past was better in some way when we weren’t fully aware of those present moments? If we constantly live in a state of desperately wanting the past how are we truly living in the now?

The past does matter but only in so much as it has made you into the person you are today. The past has its place, in that, you are the person you are because of what has happened before. This is to be cherished both for those good times and those tough times but to move forward you have to release on past situations.

The future will one day be your past. This shows that nothing actually matters other than the present moment. If the past has happened and the future will one day be your past, you only really have the present moment to be truly happy.

Realise you’re not the same person. If you find yourself longing for the past or the person you once were, remember that you aren’t the same person anymore. You probably have different perspectives, beliefs and ideas that wouldn’t serve you back then. Embrace your growth and know you are always moving forward in the right direction.

Know the importance of letting go. Guilt, anger, bitterness and resentment all stem from past experiences that, no matter how much we hang on to them, don’t serve us in our quest to be happy. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning what happened, it just means letting go of the situation and the negative feelings surrounding it in order for you to move on.

A lot of our current negative beliefs are based on our past. It’s hard to change our mindset or perspective on something when we’ve had negative experiences connected with it but remember to think of each new present moment as a clean slate. We have the power to change our negative beliefs at anytime and not be a slave to the past.

As I said, the past has its place. The awareness of the past can lead you to a further understanding of the present but never dwell on past situations or experiences – process them, move forward and be happy in the here and now  🙂

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Why Making Comparisons Is Ruining Your Happiness

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How many times have you compared your life to those around you and felt that panic or overwhelming dissatisfaction for your present circumstances? You feel like you’re not at the stage you were meant to be or you’ve somehow fallen behind in life while they are exactly where you want to be.

I believe no one is alone in feeling this. With current social media exposing us to every nook and cranny of people’s lives, it’s hard not to notice and compare our journey to others.

But comparing ourselves to others hinders our happiness in so many ways.

Remember that everyone is potentially going through a battle we don’t know about. Don’t judge or compare your life to someone else’s seemingly ‘happy and perfect’ life because you don’t know what they are truly going through. They may have it all or have what you want to have but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy.

Don’t take social media at face value. People are extremely willing to put up the best bits of their life on social media especially Facebook or Instagram which gives the impression on the outside that this is the sum total of their life – happy and carefree. What you don’t know is the possible depression they are secretly battling with or their own dissatisfaction with life. This is why we can’t ever take social media at face value as we’re only seeing people’s highlight reels – it’s not a true representation of reality.

Always remember that our negative thoughts and feelings aren’t real. When you get these feelings when comparing yourself to others it’s kind of illogical – you can’t compare yourself to someone else because they are on a completely different path to you despite what you may think.

The comparison game never stops. The main reason we compare is because we are unhappy with our own lives. The key to combating comparison is to simply be more relaxed and happy with the way our lives are because even if you achieved the life others have, there will always be something else to be unhappy with.

Comparison just kills your focus and own happiness. Comparison is just a distraction from your own wonderful journey in life. So what if it’s not the same as hers or his? By focusing on others you aren’t focusing on yourself which is far more important.

See your unhappiness as a stop on your journey to happiness. Making comparisons are a sign of our own unhappiness. It happens to the best of us but just trust that this is where you’re meant to be in the present moment. Everyone is at different stages in both life and happiness and you are where you’re meant to be. Trust you will get where you need to be to be happy when it’s your time.

Finally, you don’t know what happiness means to other people. Just because being successful in your career is your definition of happiness doesn’t mean it is for someone else. Always keep this in mind when making assumptions of other people.

It’s so important to focus on your own happiness and stop being concerned with those around you. Yes, it’s not always easy to do, but taking steps to concentrate on the appreciation you have for your current life – no matter what stage you’re at –  will attract the things you want into your life and be happy with them.

Remember, your happiness is personal to you and no one else 🙂

Happiness Is Choosing How You Respond To Negative Thoughts

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We’ve all heard that it’s all about how we respond to a negative situation that determines how we deal with the outcome but what about our negative thoughts?

I wrote a post a while ago explaining why negative emotions are crucial to happiness. To live a happy and fulfilling life doesn’t mean you need to be positive and upbeat every minute of the day – we need negative emotions to help us work through difficult times and to show us where we may be focusing wrong.

It can be frustrating when you’re having a good period and all of a sudden your mood changes, someone says something offensive to you, something happens that makes you feel you’re back to square one again. It could even be something really serious like illness or suddenly losing your job.

But there’s a difference between negative emotions and negative thoughts. Negative emotions are our reactions to big events or situations – they are there to help us work through the tough times and come out the other side.

Negative thoughts are much more important when we consider our happiness and mental well-being. Our beliefs are a result of our thoughts and when it comes to the beliefs we have about ourselves or the world around us, we can have a whole plethora of negativity going on in our minds. The same negative thoughts can go round and round until we don’t even notice them – they become a negative belief and this is where it gets dangerous.

It’s these thought patterns that can stunt the growth of our happiness and a lot of the time we don’t even realise we have so many of them. We then give them permission to grow by allowing them to come back over and over again cementing the negative belief. So the answer must be to get rid of our negative thoughts, right?

Actually, no. Your goal isn’t to get rid of negative thoughts, it is changing your response to them.

We’ll never truly get rid of our negative thoughts so there’s no point putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to rid them altogether.

Instead, when you next have a negative thought – either about yourself, someone else or a situation you face, just stop, acknowledge it and choose your response. You can either choose to change the thought and therefore react in a different way or choose to continue the negative thought until it affects your mood and even contribute to your core negative beliefs.

This is why meditation is so wonderful for teaching you how to notice your negative thoughts and giving you the space to do this. It teaches you to:

  1. Be more aware of your thoughts both negative and positive.
  2. Notice when a negative thought arises and don’t pass judgement on yourself or blame yourself for the thought. (remember self-compassion!)
  3. Acknowledge the negative thought and note it.

By getting into the habit of doing this, you’re gradually giving yourself the power to respond to these thoughts – whether that’s getting to the root cause or changing it to a more positive thought. After a while you will actually start to notice the negative thoughts start to fall away more easily and you will definitely notice a difference in your mindset.

So next time you have a negative thought, stop and acknowledge it. Ask yourself how this is contributing to your overall happiness and choose to take the power back 🙂

 

How Does Nature Increase Our Happiness And Well-Being?

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Ever been for a hike into the mountains and felt renewed afterwards or felt refreshed after walking your dog in the woods or by the sea? This is probably nothing new to any of you – that taking ourselves outside and taking in the nature around us boosts our mental well-being and happiness levels.

In today’s modern world, we are forcing ourselves more and more indoors and online resulting in less exposure to all that feel-good natural energy we have access to. Or perhaps you’re someone who lives to be outside on a constant basis and can’t go a day without immersing yourself in mother nature.

There have been many scientific studies that have gone towards investigating the true effects that being in nature has on our happiness levels but what exactly happens to us when we’re exposed to a natural environment?

Our Stress Levels Decrease. While the physical act of taking a walk or going for a run will definitely lower your stress and anxiety levels, doing this outside surrounded by nature can actually emphasise this even more. This has been compared to people walking in built-up areas such as cities where there has been a significant difference in heart rate and anxiety levels. Those that walk surrounded by nature are more likely to be relaxed and at peace than those walking in places where little nature is found.

Our Negative Thoughts Lessen. Have you ever been for a walk in the forest or by the sea to ‘clear your head’? Afterwards you feel immensely more calm. Well, studies have found that being in nature affects our mood for the better. People are found to experience more positive emotions after being in nature such as excitement, hope, happiness, calmness and just a general positive outlook on difficulties or problems.

Rumination of negative thoughts which can lead to depression and anxiety are lessened – in fact simple exposure to nature can shut sown parts of the brain that are associated with depression.

Our Tiredness and Mental Fatigue Defuses. ‘A breathe of fresh air’ has become quite a common saying and has maybe lost some of its true meaning but being out in nature (and especially near water) we are breathing in much more pure oxygen and negative ions which are good for our well-being and ultimate happiness.

We are completely bombarded with information on a daily basis and it’s more than our brains can really handle without getting mentally and physically drained. Being outside surrounded by trees, plants, water – whatever it may be – can give our minds the mental energy boost we need in this day and age. Not only that, but studies have found nature can increase our ability to restore our attention which is good if you find yourself zoning out after information overload.

We Become More Kind Towards Others. Research has found that after spending time in the great outdoors, you are more likely to feel more kindness, generosity and trust towards others because you are experiencing more positive emotions.

It Evokes Awe Within Us. If you really think about how amazing mother nature really is and how intricate, complicated, exceptional it all is then you will experience awe. Awe allows us to contemplate and acknowledge just how small we are, in comparison to nature, as individuals. Nature-inspired awe involves a “diminished self” and the “sensed presence of a higher power” and you definitely don’t have to be a spiritual person to experience this! Awe is actually a powerful feeling that can contribute to your happiness.

So try to get yourself out in nature as much as possible. Not only will it be good for you physically but also mentally with many reasons for it to contribute to your happiness and well-being 🙂

I didn’t talk much about the different ways being around water can have a massive positive effect on our happiness levels, so here’s an article I wrote about the wonderful power of water – whether oceans, lakes or rainstorms – and the effect it has on our well-being 🙂

Science Explains How Staying Near Water Can Change Our Brains

The Placebo Effect and Happiness

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We’ve often heard about the placebo effect in scientific studies but how does this affect our happiness?

The placebo effect in this respect is when a patient reacts to a drug believing that it’s having a positive effect on them despite it having no power whatsoever.

In 1972, a group of athletes were told they’d be taking steroids for 11 weeks and they’d be monitored on how the steroids affected their ability to lift weights. The athletes didn’t know that the pills they were taking were empty and had no effect whatsoever on their muscle capacity.

What came next was pretty amazing. All the athletes smashed their personal best records with some lifting 7 times the weight they previously lifted. The evidence was clear – every athlete got stronger simply because they believed they were on steroids. They expected to improve and so they did.

So how is this connected with our own happiness? Well, it clearly demonstrates the power of our mindset. If we truly believe we are capable of doing something, our mind will find a way to make it work.

It not only shows the power of a positive mindset but it can also show us the power of a negative mindset. Being positive about ourselves or holding negative beliefs can be the difference between achieving our own happiness or adapting to low self-worth and a belief that we are unable to get where we want to be which is ultimately to be happy.

It shows that it’s important to cultivate these negative perspectives into more positive thoughts and beliefs as we often don’t realise the real power we have in controlling our happiness and mental well-being.

We all have a default level of performance but the placebo effect illustrates that we are much more capable than our default mind allows us to be. Think about what you could achieve just by choosing to believe certain things – whether it’s how you think about yourself or your capabilities. Believing you aren’t good enough could potentially close many wide, open doors ready to let you through to your happiness.

Without that experiment, the athletes may never have achieved the weight they lifted. Many may have lived out their weight-lifting days believing it just wasn’t possible when it was all along – they just had to believe it.

So next time a negative feeling crosses your mind, stop and think how that’s truly affecting you and choose to replace it with a more positive affirmation. Remember, you have untapped potential inside you and it is just waiting to come out 🙂

 

Why Travelling Is Good For Your Soul (Part 1)

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Travel is a big passion of mine. I love exploring new cities and countries – to this day (if I’ve counted right!) I’ve visited 34 countries and loved every minute of it. I know I’m not alone here so I wanted to write about the connection between travelling and how this has the potential to make us happy.

Travel is a wonderful way to achieve personal growth but how exactly can it relate to our psychological well-being and happiness? Travelling vastly isn’t an option for many people but even that two week holiday a year can bring great benefit to your positive well-being if done a certain way. I’ve been lucky enough to experience travel long-term and I wanted to share with you my insights into how I think this has allowed my personal growth to flourish.

Positive Relationships – Travel allows you to be a good ambassador. When you meet new people you are representing your country, a lone traveller, or anything that people may have preconceived ideas about.  It opens up friendships both short and long term with short-term friendships containing just as much value through memories and shared experiences. Long term friendships leave you with many people to visit around the world which can only add to your happiness.

Freedom – I’ve spent some time travelling by myself which to many may induce feelings of anxiety. It did for me too! But by travelling alone you get that massive sense of freedom that stimulates growth and confidence which becomes part of you and is taken with you wherever you go in life. Being out in the big wide world in unfamiliar places can really expose yourself to yourself which can be scary but only adds to personal growth and understanding yourself better – allowing you to see what’s great about you and maybe not so great!

Confidence – When you move around confidently, mastering your way around, exposing yourself to new experiences and immersing yourself in the culture, it can give you a sense of confidence that you rarely find anywhere else. Knowing it is a little fearful but embracing it, letting it go and coming out the other end in tact, flourishes your confidence no end.

Restores Your Faith In Humanity – You can be quite vulnerable when travelling and sometimes plans don’t work out as you thought they would. But it’s not until you’re in that situation that you see just how kind strangers can be and how willing they are to help you out. The kindness of strangers can give you a sense of unity and shows just how much love is around – this isn’t always something you get to be exposed to when going about our humdrum lives.

Questions Your Own Values – Experiencing different people and different cultures allows us to see different perspectives, ways of doing things and almost provides a humbling experience because it shows us that we don’t necessarily know everything or that there are alternative ways of doing things. Your reactions to different experiences whether comfortable or uncomfortable, brings growth and a deeper understanding of ourselves. Interacting with different cultures creates a sense of becoming more open, wiser and less ready to judge people.

Allows Us To Value Ourselves – Travel gets us thinking about our own self-respect and sense of accomplishment. It lets us see what we are capable of doing which can’t always be apparent when we live our normal daily lives. We are constantly being tested when travelling and each time we are, we can surprise ourselves and see our potential and just how amazing we can be.

Of course, travelling is different for everyone. I believe people gain what they fundamentally need and shows you what you’re not seeing. Ultimately I think it allows us to indulge in things that we wouldn’t normally do at home and gets us pushing ourselves naturally which goes towards our own flourishing – and any kind of flourishing, big or small, will go towards psychological well-being and happiness 🙂

 

 

 

Are You Happy In Your Career?

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Happiness in our work and career is often overlooked. We are told from a young age that we work to make money and not to be happy but since the majority of us spend most of our lives in our job, isn’t it important to be happy while doing it?

While a lot of the time it could be a simple mindset change or creating a different perspective on our job, I think many of us fall into a career that we just don’t get excited about. We often get told that dreaming big doesn’t pay the bills and being successful in something that you’re passionate about or suits your ideal lifestyle is reserved for the lucky few.

We dream about escaping the 9-5 chains of the office, in a job that involves meetings, spreadsheets and endless back and forth emails. Whatever job you do, does it make you happy?

A lot of changes have happened in my life over the last few years – being made redundant from my 9-5 office job in London, travelling to China to teach English, moving to Norway for almost 3 years, and then making the decision to move back home. Career-wise, after a whirlwind few years, I suddenly found myself lost as to what I wanted to do and spent endless days searching for jobs I had experience in but wasn’t really interested in doing  – it was soul-destroying.

Until one day I realised I didn’t want to spend hours commuting to a job I didn’t want to do, in a place I didn’t want to be. I wanted freedom, I wanted to do a job on my own terms, I didn’t want to sit in an interview trying to convince someone I can do a job I ultimately didn’t want to do. It was a journey and one where I had to believe I could achieve what I want in life and life is too short to be spending it in an unhappy state.

I started this blog and from this I realised how much I loved writing. From no experience, I applied for a few writing jobs and I’m now turning this into a freelance career – one where I have the freedom to be creative and do what I love most – travel!! I’ve just come back from Paris and Prague which I wouldn’t have been able to do so easily if I had gone for that long-commuting office job. I don’t know where it’ll take me but I know I’m happy and that’s what counts 🙂

I wanted to write this for anyone who is currently unhappy in their job. If you are, I would strongly recommend you to read a wonderful book called Be A Free Range Human by Marianne Cantwell. It really helps you understand what you really want to do with your working life – it’s not a cliche book about how to find your passion but it’s about what lifestyle you want and focusing on what ultimately makes you happy.

So don’t think you can’t be happy in your job. We live in a time when people are breaking free from the jobs they hate and realising that it’s not all about slaving away until we finally retire looking back and wondering what we got out of it. You deserve to be happy all day every day so make it a reality 🙂

 

There Are Reasons and There Are Excuses…But Actually Excuses

A great blog post about realising the opportunities we have and why we don’t go after what we want. Many of us make excuses for staying in an unhappy state and stop ourselves from actively pursuing changes in our lives that can promote happiness and get us to where we want to be. It’s all about focusing on the opportunities we have rather than the lack 🙂

Dream Big, Dream Often

When you really think about it, most of the “reasons” we use to explain why we didn’t do something or why we didn’t succeed, are actually excuses.

The most common excuses I receive in comments and emails are: not enough time and not enough money.  But didn’t Einstein, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, Steve Jobs, etc. all have 24 hours in a day?  And haven’t there been millionaires start with no money to their name?

In my opinion a reason sounds like this…”I couldn’t pick up the spoon that fell on the floor because I have no hands.”  An excuse sounds like this…”I couldn’t pick up the spoon because I worked all day and my back is sore.”  The more I operate this blog the more I believe that the vast majority of us use excuses and not reasons.  I’m not judging, nor am I trying to give anyone a hard…

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Do We Get Happier As We Get Older?

Today is my birthday…hurrah! It got me thinking about happiness and age – specifically do we get happier as we get older?

Happiness tends to be positively linked with age and there has been a plethora of scientific research that has delved into the answer to this question.

It seems happiness is intrinsically associated with youth and youth means opportunity, excitement, health and the start of the life journey. Yes, we have more energy and future hope but I don’t think this necessarily equals being more happy. Youth brings more mistakes that cause us to feel lost and confused. Societal pressure to have your life going in the right direction can cause stress and feelings of failure if it doesn’t work out the way you expect.

We’re happier when we’ve accomplished our major goals. Many studies have shown that happiness becomes more prevalent in our lives when we’ve completed the goals we’ve set ourselves. This causes us to float along in life more contently and happily because we no longer have to strive for the big things we want out of life. This isn’t to say we stop working towards goals but we do this in a more laid-back, ‘along for the ride’ attitude.

We appreciate things more when we’re older and appreciation plays a huge role in happiness. Gratitude and appreciation is a major factor in the achievement of happiness and with the increase of age comes the increase in appreciation. It’s been found that although identity in youth is formed through experiences such as travelling, falling in love (several times), and general thrill-seeking, as we get older we find identity is found in everyday, simple pleasures and with this comes more contentedness.

With wisdom comes happiness. Every year we get older we add our lifetime experiences to our sense of self. We learn from what we’ve done and fine-tune our ideas, beliefs, understandings and apply this to life going forward. The wisdom we develop adds to our happiness as we realise others opinions don’t matter so much or how much money we make isn’t ultimately as important in making us happy as loved ones do.

We have a greater sense of acceptance as we get older. We resist less as we get older. When we’re younger we tend to want to control circumstances that are mostly outside of our control. With this brings frustration and sense of failure if it doesn’t go our way. Age allows us to accept our situations for what they are and being happy with them. This is where appreciation and feeling content with how things are ups our happiness levels.

So turning a year older, whatever your age, shouldn’t be approached with apprehension and reluctance. Be safe in the knowledge that your happiness is most likely going to rise to whole new levels 🙂

If you’re interested, here’s a great TedxTalk about age and happiness:

 

 

The Effects Of Sleep On Happiness

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Sleep is a necessary component to our happiness. Getting enough sleep can reduce stress and depression which in turn will reduce health problems and increase and optimise our ability to function during the day.

It’s not always easy getting enough sleep with the busyness of modern life and having to juggle work with other areas of our life. Stressful events can stop us from getting those forty winks and if this happens regularly it can take its toll on our waking life.

De-stressing your life will obviously have it’s benefits in the long run; exercising and meditation practice are a couple of things you can incorporate easily into your daily routine to promote a better night’s sleep.

And of course it’s not just the quantity of sleep but the quality is even more important. 8 hours of restless sleep is worse than a good, solid 6 hours sleep. So what can we do to help ourselves get this much-needed shut-eye and therefore increase our happiness levels and quality of life?

Exercise. This is probably the most obvious and effective ways to get a good night’s sleep. Having a regular exercise routine will expel our energy efficiently and prepare the body for a good and well-deserved rest through the night.

Eating habits. What we eat has a massive effect on how well we sleep. Eating a healthy, balanced diet with less sugar and bad fats will promote a better sleeping pattern.

Hydration. Drinking enough is crucial for the body to function properly at night. Being sufficiently hydrated will allow the brain to work at its optimum levels both during the day and night.

Meditation and yoga. Stress has a huge effect on the amount we sleep and the quality of that sleep. Trying relaxation methods such as mediation or yoga will lower blood pressure and ease the mind preparing you to drift off to sleep more easily.

Sleep is so essential to our overall happiness and well-being.  At the end of the day, a tired person is not a happy person. It has been found that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to have a high amount of reoccurring negative thoughts and people with adequate amounts of sleep rate themselves higher on the happiness scale.

So if you feel you’re not getting enough sleep then don’t scrimp on your 8 hours and make sure those 8 hours are as optimal as possible by making a few changes to your lifestyle if necessary and try to sleep yourself happy 🙂