1. Rock or Classical Music? Which One Makes You Happy?

    May 6, 2014

    Rock or Classical Music? Which One Makes You Happy?

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

    You’re in your room. It’s raining outside-practically a monsoon. You want to lift your down mood but can’t seem to find the right thing. Movies? Maybe later. Computer game? Nah, you have to pay to advance to the next level and the game is not that good anyway. MTV? That’s a big ol’ pile of NOPE. Who wants to watch pregnant teens anyway? AH, the radio! It’s been FOREVER since you last turned it on. You dash over and press the power button.

    “Classical? Since when did I ever listen to classical?” You wonder as you turn the dial. It Smells Like Teen spirit spills out of the bug eye shaped speakers.

    “And I’m definitely NOT from Seattle. Pass…” you turn the dial a few more times getting more and more frustrated. Whatever happened to good music? That kind of music that-YES! The Cars! Shake It Up from The Cars blasts through the speakers and soon you’re dancing around like it’s high school all over again.  Your arms flail about, your feet excitedly jab at the floor and you KNOW you look freakish. But you don’t care-your mood is suddenly higher then the highest note that seems to flutter at your ears. Ah…

    Dopamine Dream


    Music. We all love it. We all dance to it. Find our favorite song on the radio and we’re bound to bust a move! So what makes music so enjoyable? And why are upbeat songs so good at lifting our feet AND our mood? Dr. Yana Ferguson was wondering the same thing.

    She and a group of researchers at Northwestern University set out to answer this question by conducting two studies. In the first two-week study they asked volunteers to listen to music from American composer Aaron Copland before switching to music from low-key European composer Igor Stravinsky. In the next two week-study volunteers only listened to toe-tapping tunes while a control group in BOTH studies listened to nondescript songs. It is unclear whether the volunteers had their brains scanned during the listening, or after, but what WERE clear were the results. Upbeat music activates both the frontal and rear striatum, areas of the brain that deal with awaiting rewards and pleasure. Both these areas also got doused in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that gives you that oh so happy feeling.

    So the next time your feeling down turn those tunes up and do the dance to a better mood!

    And remember,

    Dream Well! Dream Positive!

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sicoactiva/3676952605




  2. Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Exercise

    March 6, 2014

    Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Exercise

    by Michelle Blessing


    (This article is a follow up to “7 Habits of Happy People“)


    We all know exercise benefits us in the physical sense – it improves our health and extends our life expectancy.  But many people don’t realize the benefits exercise has for your mental well-being; exercise improves brain function, improves mood and decreases the incidence of depression.  Still not convinced about the benefits exercise can have on your happiness and well-being?  Read on…..


    Many research studies have been published regarding the connection between exercise and happiness.  Most of the studies have discussed the link between improved mood and happiness with exercising.  Although the link is not definitive (some studies state that people who are happier are more inclined to exercise), there is proof that being active and exercising can and does improve your mood.  Some researchers have cited the release of endorphins during exercise as causing the improvement in mood, while others believe challenging the mind and body creates a feeling of satisfaction that leads to increased mood and happiness.


    However, as discussed in the post regarding caring, it can be difficult to find the time (and the energy) to exercise on a regular basis.  Take it from someone one who has been there – I was notorious for finding every excuse in the book not to exercise.  Here are some examples of my excuses – the dishes need to be done, my favorite show is on TV, I feel guilty spending time away from my kids….on and on the list went.  I wasn’t exercising, and clearly, my mood reflected that.  I soon discovered that in order to be the best version of myself, I needed to make the time to take care of myself.


    Exercise is and should be an important part of your everyday life.  Exercise has the ability to teach you things about yourself – what fulfills you and what you’re capable of.  The art of practicing some form of exercise, whether it is aerobics, walking or yoga, allows you to get in touch with your body – and your mind.  The key to success – and happiness- with exercise is not choosing something easy; it is important, however, to choose something you enjoy and something that will challenge you.


    Exercise and becoming physically active is the first step in achieving some level of happiness.  But there is truth in the idea of challenging yourself to accomplish goals or master something.  It doesn’t matter what exercise you choose; the important component is to find your niche, settle in and work towards whatever it is you want to accomplish.  Happiness will be the icing on that piece of cake.


    For me, yoga is what fulfills me.  It’s not just about the breathing or the stretching, the poses or the meditation; it’s about challenging my body to reach its potential.  With every class I take, I try harder, I get stronger – and I find a deeper sense of happiness and satisfaction.  For others, running is their passion; they find inner peace in pounding the pavement and pushing their body to the limit.  It doesn’t matter what you choose, but you need to make a commitment.  Make a commitment to exercise at least a few times per week.  Start slow (and always check with your physician before starting a new exercise regimen); 20 minutes of exercise, 2 or 3 times a week is a good place to begin.  With each exercise session, push yourself (within your limits) to progress towards your goals.  Most importantly, focus on how the exercise makes you feel both physically and mentally.  Appreciate how the activity impacts your body and your mind.  When you are exercising, try to focus on only that; let other thoughts (about the kids, bills or dinner) leave your mind; instead, keep the concentration on your body and mind, especially reflecting on what you are capable of.  By appreciating your body and your mind for what it can do, you not only push yourself on the path to happiness and positivity, you might even inspire others to do the same.


    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazz_defo/3529977647


  3. 7 Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Caring

    March 4, 2014

    Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Caring

    by Michelle Blessing


    (This article is a follow up to “7 Habits of Happy People“)


    The idea that caring for others leads to happiness is common sense to most people; in fact, research shows that caring for others leads to better relationships and lower levels of depression.  However, in our fast-paced, modern world, it can be difficult to find the time to care of ourselves, let alone care for others.  However, finding that inner peace that leads to happiness is important for both your mental and physical well-being.  And caring for others can be as simple or as complex as you decide to make it – from simply helping a friend, family member or stranger in need to making a standing date to volunteer at a hospital or shelter.  Whatever you decide, know that you are making an important decision – not just for you, but for others as well.


    Unsure where to start?  You aren’t alone; many people really aren’t sure how to get started when it comes to showing others how much they care.  Although kind words can go a long way, research demonstrates that being an active participant in caring for others leads to higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness.  Even as little as once a week can help you reap the benefits of volunteering and caring.  And even simple acts of kindness can have huge benefits for your life.


    For example, simply holding the door and smiling at the person behind you at the grocery store can boost your happiness levels for the day.  And when your happiness levels are boosted, you are likely to carry those good feelings with you throughout the day, leading to more acts of kindness – this creates a “happiness cycle” that can help you achieve higher intensities of life satisfaction.  If smiling at a random stranger has the ability to raise your happiness levels, imagine what volunteering on a regular basis can do for you.


    Research shows, however, that passively volunteering does not have the same impact as actively volunteering.  Passive volunteering means going to the shelter but not engaging with the residents; you simply go in the hopes you will experience some of the happiness and satisfaction that people talk about.  However, it doesn’t work and it can actually lead to lower levels of life satisfaction and depression.  When you actively participate in the volunteer experience, you learn not only about what you are capable of, but what others are capable of giving to you as well.  And I’m not talking about tangible rewards; no, this is much more powerful than that.


    When you open up to caring for others, you open up a world of possibility for yourself.  You allow people to see what you are made of – your thoughts, your feelings and your life intentions.  And that’s just the beginning – when you open yourself up to others, you learn about how other people experience (or don’t experience) happiness.  The results of this back and forth relationship can be powerful – and life changing.


    So take a chance and make a change; make more of an effort to care for others.  If you aren’t sure how to start, start small.  Smile at a stranger; it just might make his or her day.  Slow down and take the time to appreciate what others have to offer to the world.  Remember that everyone has potential, and you just never know how another person can impact your life – or you can impact him or her.  When you’re ready, take the next step – volunteer your time with others, especially those less fortunate than yourself.  Spending time with others, listening to them and making an effort to understand them can all lead to renewed energy and direction in life.  And sometimes that change in direction is all you need to take you on the path to happiness.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dragnfly78/389961836/


  4. Happiness and Better Health

    September 5, 2013

    Happiness Leads to Better Health

    Lately, physicians, researchers, and even economists have embarked on a journey to unveil the secrets of achieving better health. What could be deciphered from the secrets of nature is that happiness leads to better health. Well, modern research just validates what was established ages ago by sages.

    What exactly is happiness?


    Happiness as a concept is fairly subjective and dynamic. It often revolves around various vague aspects and so there are innumerable definitions of happiness. What has been derived from myriad definitions is that happiness is a felling of elation that protects you from stress and ill-thoughts, instilling the spirit with joy and jubilation.

    Many scholars categorize happiness as a sense of inner peace, comfort, an positive attitude that paves way for a healthier, more balanced and a long lasting life. If you are a religious person than, according to saints and spiritual teachers, happiness is a feeling of gratitude towards God for showering his blessings on our poor souls.

    Hundreds of writers, poets, and intellectuals have used their pen to describe what happiness means to them – I personally like this one:

    “Under the deep blue sea

    It’s always better my darling

    Down the wetter lines

    Take me further O my Lord – So I can either find you or happiness!”

    Does happiness really affect our health?


    Amusingly so, most of really happy and cheerful people comes across as exceptionally healthy for their age. Once in a blue moon we get news of our distant relative (Uncle Cheerful – almost every one of us have one) suffering from cardiac arrest.

    Statistics show that happiness is correlated with better health for individuals, communities, and even countries. So what could be the secret? Is it inner peace and comfort? Is it a positive attitude to the outside world? Is it positive thinking? Happy people certainly have less negative thoughts that cause negative emotions. It is well known from medical studies that these negative emotions ruin our psychological and physical health. As per medical researchers, happiness is the surest way to stimulate the release of anti-stress hormones and improve your immune system.

    Research studies by the Harvard’s School of Public Health in Boston and University College in London correlate happiness with longevity and show that optimistic and happy people live longer and healthier years.

    Secrets of happiness


    What does it take to be happy in your life? Not much, just follow these golden rules and let happiness come to you.
    1. Find Positive in everything around you
    Positive Psychology teaches us to focus on positive aspects of our life. Every moment we have a choice of focusing on positives or on negatives… this choice is yours. Positive thinking and positive attitude to others is a key to happiness.


    2. Eat the diet of happiness


    Scientist and dietitians recommend one key ingredient for your diet: Essential fatty acids or EFAs. These acids are the building blocks for your brain and deficiency causes anxiety, depression, and even dementia. EFA supplements and a diet rich in Olive oil, fish, and seasonal fruits and vegetables is essential to keep you in a positive mood.


    3. Sleep to heaven


    Sleep sets the tone and mood for the following day. Sleep is shown to be the most important factor for your mental health. Statistics prove that those who sleep well can find their joy even in the garden of hell. The insomnia or inability to sleep causes devastating impact in the life of people.


    4. Live and Let live


    The ultimate mantra to instill loads of bliss and joy within yourself and others is through adherence with the policy of ‘live and let live.’  It is a contagious policy and profits one and all for an entire life.


    Can we measure happiness?


    Assessment of happiness is subjective and depends on what you consider a happiness scale.  There is no particular criterion other than the glow on your face.

    The indicators of happiness are life satisfaction, health, community engagement. Person need some basic wealth to be happy, yet high income doesn’t really increase the level of happiness.

    The level of happiness could be measured based on surveys. In 1972, Bhutan introduced a Gross National Happiness (GNH) scale, a parameter which is closely monitored by government and considered very important to the development of their economy.


    Author Bio: Mike Chapman a happiness expert & fitness consultant with 5+ years of experience working in clinics and gyms and dealing with health, pain and injuries. He is delivering talks on happiness and writing articles telling people how happiness can benefit their lives and the environment.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian – http://www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/7824209576