Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Happiness - growing gardens

We've reached our final thought on happiness - growing gardens.

Some people love gardening, some people don't see the point, but gardening can bring a sense of happiness to those who persevere. 

There is a lot to learn about gardening - which plants are weeds, which plants are suited to your garden, which plants need wrapping up or moving inside over winter, the list goes on.

You can’t make gardens grow, but you can optimise the conditions in which plants can flourish. Although not all conditions are in your control (the weather for example!) you can pick the plants that are best suited to the conditions available. So by a judicious mix of planning, tending and patient waiting, you can cultivate a natural wonder but, most importantly, you can enjoy the process.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our thoughts on happiness. We will be posting a resource containing our thoughts on happiness on our Borders website http://www.borderspsychology.co.uk very soon.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Happiness - making sense

Do you tell stories - about your past, present and future? How do you think about what has happened to you and how it all fits together? Do you have a faith or religion or spiritual perspective that helps you make sense of life?

Our happiness is affected not simply by external events but how we weave what happens into our life stories and understanding of ourselves. There is power and protection in a coherent and meaningful life story that includes suffering and trauma as well as positive experiences.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Happiness - practising peace

“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It is meditation.” (Haidt) 
Meditation and gaining inner peace really can help to reduce anxiety and increase happiness, but for some, often those who need it most, it can seem like hard work with a concept that is far removed from the realities of daily life.

For those embarking upon the journey of meditation, help is on hand. Courses on mindfulness, yoga classes, meditation retreats, manuals and inspirational literature are all readily available.

Start practising peace and your relationship with the world will change for the better.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Happiness - hopeful thinking

We often focus on the negative without even noticing: replaying what has gone wrong, predicting what will go wrong and paying attention to what is going wrong. Below is an exercise in thinking about what could possibly go right and it has been shown to promote happiness (Lyubomirsky).

Take 20 to 30 minutes to think about your best possible self. This means that you imagine yourself in the future after everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realisation of your life dreams and your own best potentials. Now describe in writing what you imagine. Repeat this at least four times.

To read more about Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky's work on happiness see http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~sonja

Listen to a happiness song based on Sonja Lyubormirsky's book 'The how of happiness' . See http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~sonja/song.html

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Happiness - maximising flow

“With climbing you have to get up at two or three in the morning and walk for a few hours in the cold until you get to the rock face. But once you get involved, it's a different world. You can keep it up for hours - with no sense of time passing.”
(Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, one of the pioneers of the Positive Psychology movement)

”I was already on pole, [...] and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team mate with the same car. And suddenly I realised that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel.”
(Ayrton Senna, Grand Prix Driver)

Do these quotes ring any bells? Can you identify with the state they describe? If so you have experienced 'flow' otherwise known as being 'in the zone', 'on top of your game', 'on the ball', 'riding the wave' among many other phrases. These are moments when we are completely immersed in an activity to the extent that we are taken out of ourselves. The more, the better!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Happiness - working towards happiness

"Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing" (Shakespeare  Troilus and Cressida I.ii.287)

Much of our sense of identity and self-worth comes from what we do - from cooking lunch to being Prime Minister.

It can be easy, in our busy lives, to get caught up trying to get things done and as a result  we often don't notice or enjoy the journey. Remember to take pleasure in the journey as well as reaching the final destination.

And remember to come back tomorrow for thought 6.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Happiness - nurturing love, loving nurture

"All you need is love" (the Beatles)

You only have to do an internet search for happiness and love to discover they are the bread and butter of song lyrics. From the Beatles to Lady GaGa, love is the stuff good songs are made of.

That's probably because love and happiness are so important to us all on a daily basis.

Love is the key not only to happiness right now in our relationships, but also in building our children's capacity for love and happiness as they develop.

If we want more love and happiness, we have to make time for those we love in our lives, despite being busy and tired.

Love needs time to flourish and it needs to be nurtured if it is to grow.

Come back tomorrow for happiness thought 5.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Happiness - giving and taking

When did you last help someone else?

How often do you go out of your way to say thank you?

What is the kindest thing you have done this week?

Helping others, expressing gratitude and practising kindness regularly, but in a felt and meaningful way, all increase our own (and others') happiness.

See http://health.msn.com/health-topics/depression/do-good-feel-good?page=1 for more on this subject.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Happiness - give us a smile

You may not feel happy, but smiling (even false) can actually increase your feelings of wellbeing. Yes it's true, acting happy can actually make you feel happier, more positive and more resilient in yourself. Not only that, but other people respond to happiness by smiling back, which in turn increases feeling of happiness.

So how does this work? Psychologists have long believed feedback from facial expressions to the brain can actually change our emotions. Using botox, which effectively freezes muscles, has given scientists Joshua Davis and Ann Senghas at Barnard College in New York the opportunity to test this theory.

The research involved giving either botox injections or Restylane injections to participants and then showing them video clips. Those who'd been given botox injections showed less strong emotions than those who were injected with the filler Restylane, which does not inhibit muscle movement. For more about this research see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7849905/Smiling-makes-you-happy-research-into-botox-shows.html

So it does seem the simple act of smiling really can make you feel happier!

Come back tomorrow for happiness thought 3.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Happiness - the rules

Those of you in the Borders, may know that we recently held a free launch event about happiness and how to become happier. Those who were lucky enough to secure a place at that event will know the rules to happiness, but for anyone else, here are our ten thoughts on happiness.

It may surprise you to know that happiness is not a fixed entity, but can be affected by how we perceive ourselves and our lives. This can be demonstrated by looking at the bold text below.


What did you read?


This exercise was devised by Robert Holden to illustrate how the way you choose to look at life affects what you see in it. Seeing the positive in everything really can make you happier.

Come back tomorrow for happiness thought 2.