The Answer to the Question – Is the glass half empty or half full?

Hello!

With the first ‘World Report on Happiness’ being published last week it seems that happiness is now a serious issue, one which governments are willing to take into consideration alongside gross domestic product.

Turns out that living somewhere sunny doesn’t make you happier… (although I’m just putting it out there that it would DEFINITELY make me happier)  Coming out on top was the great land of Vikings, Bacon and The Little Mermaid, yes Denmark officially has the happiest folks, closely followed by Finland and then Norway.  So what do these (cold) countries have which we don’t?

Well, it’s more than just good feelings (Scandinavia is notorious for high rates of depression and suicide) The research found that the two most important factors needed for national happiness were: Trust and Equality. This (epic) study showed that people who feel they have the freedom and equality to choose what they want to do are happier than those who feel that their decisions can be changed by someone else. The countries at the top of the list also felt more trust towards other people and their national institutions (hence the fact they don’t mind paying astronomical taxes because they believe in where they’re going.)

As I don’t live in, or have any plans to move to Denmark (I’ve already told you I need sunshine!) I thought I’d see what I could do to increase the happiness in my world, and here’s what I found…

The secret to success?

Leo Bormans is one of the leading psychologists of happiness who has spent years putting together ‘The World Book of Happiness’ says that it is proven that a lot of society’s problems could be helped with a dose of optimism. He’s found that optimists are happier, healthier and more successful.

Whereas pessimists will talk about ’I, the past and problems,’ optimists talk about ‘we, the future and solutions.’ Optimistic people don’t dwell on what’s happened in the past or feel challenged by obstacles in the future.

Bormans insists that the correlation between optimism and happiness is as strong as the one for smoking and lung cancer – isn’t this statement crazy?! Apparently true!?

The positivity percentage

Psychologists have found that 50% of our optimism can’t be altered because it’s entirely based on our genetics (anyone else surprised by this amount?!) A further 10% of our happiness stems from our circumstances e.g. where we live, work etc so if we’re lucky enough to have a house then this is going to increase the good feelings.

However, the final 40% is totally interpretational and entirely in our hands.  You can choose how to see the world and as I’ve written about before, you can think yourself happier. Not only that, but happiness is catching! Optimism spreads more optimism and those who look on the brighter side of life give double the weighting to happy events than pessimists do.  (Forget ‘misery loves company’, go find someone chipper and let their magic rub off on you!)

What Leo Bormans has found is that it’s not about instant gratification but long lasting satisfaction – so put down that spliff and send that naked beauty packing. Haha.

To get ramped up in the satisfaction stakes we need to learn to value our: relationships, health, freedom and work (apparently we need structure and meaning through work… again, I beg to differ but ok.)

Money can’t buy you happiness

Although money cannot be written out totally as a factor for happiness (wealthier nations out scored poorer African nations considerably) it’s been found that having an excess of money leads to increases jealousy and egocentricity. It seems the more money you have the less you are able to except life small pleasures (so that unexpected cup of tea or marshmallows or other random nice gesture falls on to a rich dead soul)

Half empty or half full?

And so, the eternal question: is the glass half empty or half full? The solution: change the glass. (Shut up, this is not a cop out!)

By changing the glass to one which can be filled with water we learn to be grateful for what we have, and the strengths and experiences we’ve already got. While pessimists focus on who they are, optimists focus their energies on who they might become and what goals they need to set to reach it.

We were all a little more optimistic then we could create a more collective happiness … which would filter into society and then perhaps we could give Denmark a run for its money.

Next week I’m definitely trying something new.. I’ve had a couple of weeks off the crazy so it’s about time I got out there again.

Always lovely to hear from you as always!

Peace

x

If you want to read more about the World Report on Happiness click here or hereLeo Bormans site click here

Who’s that mad girl giving out cake?!.. oh its me.

Aside

So, it’s been a couple of months since I embarked on this ‘journey’ and as I was crammed into my daily commuter train (sandwiched between the girl tweeting offensive things about her fellow passengers and the man breathing on my neck) I started to think about whether I’ve actually gained anything or moved forward in any way –

Tentatively I would say yes. I’ve definitely put myself in situations I wouldn’t have done before!

I’ve learnt to meditate (although I have to confess that my daily practice consists of 5 minutes positive thinking on the way to work rather than any prolonged period of time at home, but it’s a baby step I guess) I’ve laughed so hard my cheeks hurt, danced in a drum circle, been inspired by some great mentors and leant to make a conscious effort to be kinder, more generous and more trusting. (I definitely wouldn’t have stopped to ask my Big Issue seller if he wanted a homemade chocolate banana muffin on my way to work this morning!) I’ve met a community of like-minded people (both on and off line) and discovered that you don’t have to live in a tree-house or wear tie-dye to want a happier, more fulfilling life (man, I wish I could live in a tree house.) I’ve made new friends and re-connected with old ones. No doubt, these are all awesome.

Don’t get me wrong. I have not become a perfect person. I have not turned into the quiet serene girl I always admired in school (then I’ve always said mysterious is over rated) I still get quite outrageous road rage, I’m grumpy when I’m hungry, I judge people who I think are idiots and I tut at people who jump into the train carriage as the doors are closing when there’s clearly no room left (just a few things to work on!)

When I started this project one of my main sources of unhappiness was feeling like I was on the wrong path. I now work in a job, which although isn’t perfect, strives to combat prejudice – who wouldn’t forgive the office politics when you get letters from people telling how much your project has inspired them. I also used to hate living in London. I try not to use the word hate very often because it implies something venomous, but I really was miserable. Despite having met the most amazing person who I hope to spend the rest of my life with and having a large wonderful group of friends – I felt like the city was sucking my soul. Boyfriend used to tell me that it was more in my head than where I was, and turns out he was right (oh how wise he is. ggr) Having started to get out and explore the city I have found that I can appreciate it’s diversity – there is SO much to do here and so much of it is free! Although I know I can’t live here forever (I need to live near the sea…) I’ve accepted that I have to be here for a while and have to get out of it what I can.

‘Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim

and end of human existence’ – Aristotle.

 And, what have I learnt about happiness? There is literally so much to read about the topic that’s for sure. Just when I find something which I’m certain is true something else comes along and changes my mind! A girl I met told him something interesting when I told her about this blog. She said ‘When you ask people about happiness, they tell you about sadness. When you ask about love, they tell you about pain.’ I thought about this and I understand what she means – both happiness and love are what we, as humans, are all programmed to pursue – yet they the hardest things to keep. When we have them we are in a state of high and if we lose them, then it is as if we have lost a piece of ourselves. Does that sound too deep (clichéd)? If there is one thing I have learnt so far is that happiness isn’t a state of continuous bliss. It’s just impossible (and just unrealistic) to try and stay ‘happy’ all the time. Happiness is about becoming internally more positive so that when something bad happens it feels less like falling off a cliff and more like a bump in the road. I also think it’s about finding things you like doing and making time to actually do them. And it’s about having a future goal and working towards it. I’m still searching, I really want to have my own (ethical) – business (hey, u can’t take the hippy out of the girl what can I say?!)and just waiting for the right idea, but in the mean time I try to be thankful for the good things I have now.

There’s still so much I want to try – trapeze swinging anyone? There’s bound to be more dancing with strangers.

And so the journey continues!

Thank you to all those who have got in touch to say how much they enjoy my posts, it’s always awesome to hear from you.

More soon.

Peace

x

May happiness always win

10 quick tips to get happier this week:

Unfortunately last week I didn’t made it to any new happiness experiences – mental time at work. Boo. And after a big Saturday night my brain feels quite frazzled today. In fact, I would say that productivity is at an all time low at my desk office today. So to help get through the week I’ve found 10 easy tips to get some warm fuzzy feelings going and ease the pain of the 5 more days till the next weekend…Enjoy!

  1. Be curious. Inquisitive people are more get happiness from every day things according to a study published in Motivation and Emotion. But YouTube won’t quite cut it. The key is to engage in activities outside your comfort zone, says Todd Kashdan, professor of psychology at George Mason University — especially those that require skill. “That’s when you get so absorbed that you’re completely engaged in the moment, which creates very positive energy.”  (Rock climbing here we come! Though perhaps not today with this hangover…)
  2. Think fast. Depression is characterized by slow thinking so making your brain ‘race’ could give you a mood boost. In a study published in Psychological Science, when subjects read statements quickly, they felt happier, more energetic, and more creative afterward! Even when the content was depressing, reading it quickly was still found to make you feel happier.  (Good news for reading the paper on the way home then!)
  3. Speak up. Even if you’re naturally shy, acting extroverted will have a positive impact on your mood according to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
  4. Talk to strangers Forget ‘Danger Stranger’ – interacting with someone you don’t know is a sure fire pick me up because we are naturally programmed to act cheerful around a new person to make a good first impression, and when we act cheerful, we begin to feel that way say Scientists. In another study, participants were told that in three minutes they would be talking with a stranger — and that anticipation alone boosted people’s moods. Pretty cool.
  5. Do a good thing “If you want to be happy, practice compassion,” preaches the Dalai Lama — sure, that’s easy to say when you’re a yogi. But a university study actually found that even small gestures as small as buying someone dinner can enhance your mood. Participants were asked to carry out five “acts of kindness” every week for six weeks. At the end, the ones who performed all five acts in one day showed significant increases in happiness. As I found out last week, giving away ends up giving you back all sorts of goodness.
  6. Ditch the downers. Get rid any people that bring you down. Some people, for example colleagues, you’re unfortunately stuck with – but you can adjust the other people in your life. I once heard someone use the phrase ‘people radiators’ to describe anyone who gives you a warm feeling. Make sure you are surrounded by people who make you happy – and get rid of any ‘fun sponges’ who want to suck the life out of you.
  7. Sweat it out. Not only is exercise good for your body but experts say there are a host of other benefits too including the unleashing of the feel-good building blocks serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Which make you feel happier and less stressed!
  8. Breathe deeply. When we’re stressed we tend to breathe more shallowly in our chests. By focusing on breathing deeply – from your belly, you’ll replenish the oxygen in your brain and feel more relaxed. Yoga has the additional benefit of increasing levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter associated with happy, calm feelings) and lowering levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. Go on, unleash your inner-zen.
  9. Eat some fat (and fatty fish if poss) Studies have shown that a diet with less than 25 percent of its total calories from fat can raise anxiety, frustration, and anger, says Susan Kleiner, a sports-nutrition consultant in Mercer Island, Washington. The best mood enhancers are monounsaturated fats (like avocado, olive oil, and nuts) Most people are deficient in fish oils but it’s been found that omega-3s (found in cold water oily fish) can have a greater positive effect on mood than prescription antidepressants (wow!)  according to an independent analysis of studies that were conducted by the American Psychiatric Association. Try to eat oily fish three times a week, and take a fish-oil supplement to reap the biggest benefit.
  10. Listen to music. “Music can affect the pleasure center of the brain, the same area activated when you have an orgasm,” (!!!!!!) says neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, a professor of psychology at McGill University. And the positive effect can last even after the music is over.

Perhaps the most genius bit of info I have discovered since writing this blog.

Off to another ActionforHappiness lecture this Thursday to get some more brain boosting advice, after this weekend I reckon I could use it.

More soon.

Have a good week lovely people and let me know if you get up to anything interesting. It’s always awesome to hear your feedback.

Peace.

Pinkbananashoes.

Xxx

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