1. A Life of Contentment: The Truth about Happiness

    July 6, 2014

    A Life of Contentment: The Truth about Happiness

     

    In horse racing there is something called a trifecta. To win a trifecta, the bettor must not only pick the horses finishing in the top three places in a race, but the exact finishing order of each horse. In this article we will lay out our own trifecta. Ours has nothing to do with horse racing though. Rather, it has to do with picking a winning strategy for a life well lived.

    To get started I’m going to ask you to suspend a commonly held belief. That belief is this; “all I need to enjoy a good life is to be happy.” Nonsense! As you will learn, happiness is an overrated temporary response to the alignment of certain events in your life. Happiness is not a permanent state or condition. If it were meant to be permanent we would have no need for the word sad.

    That said, let me assure you that I have nothing against being happy. I enjoy happiness whenever or wherever it may occur. Pursuit of happiness is an important factor in human evolution. My only concern is that in our pursuit of happiness we often overlook those events, people, and situations that may or may not be conducive to our being “happy,” but never-the-less are important. If I may, allow me to substitute here the word contentment for happiness.

    As I will explain, contentment captures the importance of balance in our lives. I like to call this place, a life lived in balance, the good life. Which brings us back to the trifecta. Our race track: the Good Life; the heat: Psychology and mental health; the entrants: in gate #1 is Spirituality, gate #2 holds Meaning of Life; gate #3 Positive Psychology. The rest of the field is made up of a rag-tag assortment of lesser important names. Let’s look at the top three.

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  2. Turning points in life: how to make the best of them?

    July 1, 2014

    Turning points in life: how to make the best of them?

    Have you read our previous post on crisis? Well, this is its sequel. There comes a time in life when you come across a choice: the choice is to go forward or pass on an opportunity. Those are what I like to call turning points in life.

    Over time, luckily for us, we’re faced with several turning points in our lives, chances to evolve or to stagnate. Are you making the best of those moments towards a better version of yourself and hopefully a more meaningful and happy life? Do you recognize a turning point when faced with one?

    Of course, you’re going to have to be a little bit of an optimistic to make the most out the turning points in your life. Fear of the unknown and a pessimistic attitude could enable you from taking an opportunity to make positive changes in your life, transforming a low point into an upwards one. Are you ready to live a full life? And discover what lies ahead when you take chances and dare to dream a brighter future?

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  3. Fear: is it holding you back?

    June 25, 2014

    Fear: is it holding you back?

    Fear is a powerful feeling. In evolutionary terms, fear has protected our species and helped us survive. And it stills does to this day. Can you imagine if our ancestors felt no fear at all? In the face of a fierce animal and took no measures to protect themselves or run? Fear is a part of our self-preservation instinct and can get us out of many troubles. Trusting your fear, even if you don’t understand it, may be a good call most of the time.

    But what if you’re letting you fear get the best of you?

    What if your fear is actually controlling you and preventing you from achieving greater things? Of not taking the necessary risks to accomplish success? You can never succeed if you don’t try. Most importantly, what if fears are feeding your anxiety and leading you to the brink of mental disorder?

    First thing you need to do is to identify the roots of your fear. Fear has a lot to do with our personal history, the values that our parents and relatives passed on to us. Most of us may look at our parents and realize their parents passed on a fear of financial ruin to them. Why was that? Our grandparents lived through a great economic depression and because of that, passed on to our parents the need to have savings and prevent a rainy day. Some of us incorporate that fear in a constructive way (like having a few savings stored away) and others take that fear to extremes (like becoming a serious cheapskate and not enjoying your own money to spend).

    Knowing your fear and assessing it against your reality, can help you not only understand it but also overcome it.

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  4. Learning Gratitude

    June 16, 2014

    Learning Gratitude

    You may remember the article “Gratitude as a coping mechanism”. In this article, we discussed how being more grateful helps build up positive emotions and cope with life’s stress and setbacks. Most importantly, it helps build a positive relationship with yourself and others. No-one enjoys an ungrateful friend. And on a personal level, not being able to be grateful and recognize what a wonderful life most of us have, is a direct road to leading a life full of frustration and letting the good stuff pass you by.

    Being grateful can also be a way of mindfulness, of becoming more aware of yourself, your life, your relationships and the world around you. And of really beginning to understand what matters to you, what you’re truly grateful for.

    Just a simple example: imagine you fall seriously ill. And your spouse takes care of you with all the love he/she can provide. Yet, you return that love by being ungrateful, grumpy and demanding more and more. How long do you think it will take until he/she can endure the demanding task of taking care of you? My grandmother always said: “Love is repaid with love.” If you’re a grateful person, you will return all that love with love and your relationship will only go stronger.

    An easy exercise to start with

    This exercise is described in Dr. Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness and has been tested on his graduate students successfully. All you have to do, for a week, at the end of each day is write a list of all the things, people, events and experiences you’re grateful for in your life (past, present and future).

    At first, if you’re still new at this whole being grateful thing, you will probably not have many items on your list. But try to think about it and you’ll see that everyday you’ll have something to add to your list you find yourself grateful for in your life. At the end of the week, how many items do you have?

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  5. Crisis: a Setback or an Opportunity?

    June 14, 2014

    Crisis: a Setback or an Opportunity?

    If you’re an optimistic like myself, you’ll immediately say opportunity. But what if you’re facing a really big crisis? How to stay positive and optimistic in the face of what seems tragedy to you? Let’s analyze in this post personal crisis, like identity ones.

    Not to remind you of a great financial collapse, but the word crisis comes from the Greek word krisis, which actually means growth. Interesting perspective? Think about it: all of mankind’s greatest evolutions came from a crisis. Don’t believe me? Think about the Middle Ages, such a dark period in time, right? How did we evolve from it? Well basically through the black plague which wiped out a third of the European population and the 100 year war between France and England. What good came out of it? We have the millions of deaths to be sorry for that’s true,  but this particular crisis enabled us to leave the dark ages and change our political and economic system as well it provided an opportunity for development in arts and science.

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  6. Positive Psychology: Psychology or Mythology?

    June 13, 2014

    Positive Psychology: Psychology or Mythology?

    Other than posing an interesting question, what is meant by this title? In order to answer that question we need to take a step or two back, back to understanding what are the key differences are between psychology, mythology AND positive psychology.

    Defining Terms:

    I could suggest that you define the three terms identified above. That would be well and good except our definitions may not match – that would not be so good. So, for the sake of clarity, let’s go with the following:

    1. Psychology: Let’s keep it simple, psychology is a scientific discipline that studies mental processes and behaviors.

    2. Mythology: The story accepted and believed in different cultures explaining how or why humans act in certain ways.

    3. Positive Psychology: The application of psychological principles and practices that emphasize how to achieve a “good life” for oneself.

    Why are these important?

    Myths:

    Among the newer areas of psychology is positive psychology. The very use of the word “positive” has strong Euro-American cultural mythologies attached to it. Most particular this can be found in the work of Norman Vincent Peale, “The Art of Positive Thinking” and similar self-help approaches of making all things better by simply thinking positive. These are myths.

    I refer to this myth as thought replacement. It even works for some. The difficulty with this approach is that it remains a superficial solution. Serious work to address your preferred choices in your mental processes and behaviors requires an attitude with a deeper effect. Achieving the good life, that is, a life of contentment calls for something more.

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  7. How to Become an Optimist

    June 11, 2014

    How to Become an Optimist

    Positive Psychology research has brought to light research on the positive effects of being an optimistic. But it has yet to show us how we can be optimistic. Is optimism a life’s choice or is it a matter of personality? Can anyone be an optimistic or is it just for a few? And is not being an optimist a necessarily bad thing?

    Let’s hope we can answer some of these questions and more.

    What is Optimism?

    In the first place, it’s probably necessary to clarify what is optimism and who can qualify as an optimist. Optimism is not an unrealistic view of reality. It’s a positive mind-set where people choose to focus on what can go right instead of what can go wrong. Nonetheless, optimists can still see the bad things in a situation, but choose to ignore it.

    It is a personality trait but it is also a life attitude. Our as someone explained it to me one day, it’s all about the glasses you wear to analyze reality – are they programmed to see the good or the bad?

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  8. Silence! I Need to Hear my Inner Self

    June 6, 2014

    Silence! I Need to Hear my Inner Self by Daniela Aneis

    Not all people can enjoy the silence, or even a little bit of solitude. But how can you hear your inner voice with all the noise that is coming from the outside world? Doesn’t it seem like sometimes we get caught up listening to others when we should be looking for the answers within ourselves?

    And why is it that enjoying some time alone has become a synonymous for being lonely? Loneliness is not the same as solitude.

    Truth be told: We already have most of the answers we look for

    This may seem like a quote taken from a karate movie but isn’t it true? When has following what other people have told you to do, has come with positive outcomes for you? And how many times have you thought “I should have done what I was planning in the first place”?

    In order to avoid feelings of frustration for not being able to make the necessary silence to hear your inner voice, you might just want to follow some of the advices on this particular article.

    There are two important things to take into account when listening to your inner voice and making decisions you can live with:

    • Listen to what you’re body in telling you: trust your gut!
    • Take some time on your own to listen to yourself

    Some people have strong emotional responses at a physical level: they usually call it their gut feeling. And the truth is sometimes we can’t quite interpret cognitively what we are experiencing and make sense of it, but it feels plain wrong on your insides. Listen to it and take time off to think things through. When you do make a decision, try to feel as confident as you can about it.

    If something feels wrong or off, just step aside. Retreat yourself from the situation. It’s always best to make a well thought through decision than to go by your impulses. Impulses are often misleading.

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  9. The Ideal Self vs. the Possible Self

    June 5, 2014

    The Ideal Self vs. the Possible Self

    Many of us are no strangers to frustration. We can’t always have what we want and the world is not always fair. But there are some of us who lead a life of frustration and dissatisfaction, that look back and all we see is what we couldn’t achieve. This is obviously neither the good life nor the happy and meaningful life we wish to achieve that Positive Psychology talks about.

    What is it about the way we perceive and attribute meaning to our lives that determines a life of frustration versus a fulfilling one?

    I came across at a conference on aging and learning throughout the later life, an interesting idea one of the speakers pointed out: the ideal self vs the possible self as a source of frustration in later life. As an example, the speaker talked about the plans we all make for our retirement: that we are going to start a new project, do things we’ve never done before, travel places and we postpone everything until we get to the stage when we’re finally retired and do nothing. And all those plans just seem washed away and life pointless or a waste of time. Why didn’t I do things sooner, why didn’t I take that chance?

    That idea keep me wondering. Why are we sometimes so frustrated with our lives? Why can’t we feel happy with what we have or make the necessary changes to achieve a possible goal? And maybe, it’s this idea of an ideal self that is keeping us away from achieving a possible one.

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  10. The Emotional Rainbow

    June 5, 2014

    The Emotional Rainbow

    by Daniela Aneis

    One of the most common critiques and one of the most wrong ones is that the Positive Psychology movement ignores negative emotions to simply focus on positive emotions. This is quite untrue. What Positive Psychology wishes to do is take the focus out of negative emotions to take a better look at what positive emotions have to offer in terms of human development.

    But what we really do need is to learn how to cope with the emotional rainbow that our nature has to offers us. The negative and the positive emotions. They are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary.

    Good or bad emotions?

    Actually there is no such thing as good or bad emotions, only the necessary ones. Or at least that’s what I tell my patients. Emotions are centered in the most primitive part of our brains (yes, reasoning came after in evolutionary terms) and yet it is one of the most crucial parts of our brain. Can you imagine calling yourself human and not being able to feel anything?

    Remember the “fight-or-flight” mechanism, so necessary to our survival as a species? We don’t need to assess in a jungle if that big animal is to eat or is planning on eating you, but our emotions still serve their purpose in our “social survival”. It’s still a jungle out there, only the rules are not as simple as they used to be.

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