If you’ve ever been body shamed, read this.
“Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological wellbeing.”
Everyone loves a good story. So which one are you telling yourself?
When it comes to happiness, is money overrated, or underrated?
It’s never been more obvious that with age comes wisdom…
It’s the things in life that we never really stop to think about, like being able to put food on the table, having enough money to pay the bills and just being alive and living a healthy life. When things get busy and you’re stressed and feeling down, it’s easy to fall into the trap of asking why things are so hard for you.
That’s why being grateful is so important in life. It’s about remembering how lucky you are to have what you have, being humble and helping out those who are less fortunate than yourself. When I was younger, I always used to complain about how ugly my feet were and how my feet would never look good wearing open heels or sandals. My mother would look me right in the face and say: “At least you have feet to walk on,” – this really hit home for me.
Being grateful is about valuing what you have in life and it’s fantastic for your attitude, your happiness, and your health. Gratitude in your life leads to lower levels or stress and depression, as well as more positive emotions and higher levels of life satisfaction.
By ignoring the urge to dwell on the things that haven’t gone your way and being thankful for the things that you have received in this world, you are allowing yourself to see the positives in life.
Those who show gratitude are more likely to take better care of themselves by engaging in regular physical activity and eating a healthier diet. Being grateful is also said to be an immune system boost as being optimistic leads to better immune function. They are also said to engage in more protective behaviours when it comes to health, like scheduling regular check ups and taking a ‘prevention over cure’ attitude.
One way that you can start to focus on what you are thankful for is by keeping a gratitude journal and writing down daily the things of the day that you are grateful for. By focusing on the positives of the day, you are helping yourself to de-stress and become a happier, healthier person.
Image via theunboundedspirit.com
Being single in the twenty-first century is a choice many people are opting to take, or perhaps they just haven’t found ‘the one’ to settle down with. Regardless, instead of people rushing into long-term relationships to get married and have a family, it’s become acceptable to wait until they have some life experience under their belt.
Relationships are damn hard work and other priorities often take precedent. This might be career aspirations, travel plans, or just simply wanting the freedom to live life without the constraints of a relationship. Even with partnerships where individuals feel free to do things solo, they still don’t have the same freedom as they would being single.
Obviously there are significant benefits to having a single lifestyle. However, some people desperately searching for a partner may not realise their valuable opportunity and unfortunately they feel like they are missing out on sharing their life with someone. So, instead of looking at the positives of their situation, they see it as a negative experience which can lead to depression and misery.
Being single shouldn’t mean being lonely. In fact, it should be embraced as a vital time in one’s life to live life to the fullest, learn, and to grow. Whether a person’s never had a long-term partner, is separated or divorced, being single can – and should – be a positive experience.
Take a singles vacation
Singles vacations are all about having fun and meeting other people. Cruises, for example, specifically cater for this demographic. As well as providing a great opportunity to recharge the batteries, they are a lot of fun. On board entertainment varies and some longer cruisers stop and visit different ports. If cost is a factor, some cruise liner companies have payment plan options for you to pay off your singles holiday of a lifetime.
If a cruise isn’t up your alley, there are other solo experiences you can embark on where you will meet great people along the way, and backpacking abroad is one of them. Despite having some poor publicity with young people getting themselves into trouble, the majority of overseas backpackers have an incredible experience.
Check online for singles holiday ideas and book an adventure. There are even options for single parents who want – or need, to take the kids along.
Chase better employment options
Another upside of being single is having the opportunity to relocate and source the best employment options available. This might be an interstate move, securing a fly-in-fly-out job in remote areas, or perhaps relocating to a different country. Once people are no longer solo it becomes much harder to take that step. Not only do they need to consult partners, if kids are involved, it becomes that much harder again.
It’s much easier to complete a university degree or gather qualifications while being single. I completed my degree at 40, which wasn’t ideal. I had kids to tend to, sick parents to help and a partner in tow. Ideally, if I’d completed my education when I was childless and single, it would have been a heck of a lot easier! Plus the atmosphere at educational institutions like universities is a lot of fun for young singles. They have social clubs and events, so being unattached while studying doesn’t equate to being lonely.
Self-development is all about exploring life’s possibilities and getting to understand and know one’s self. People with a greater sense of self-satisfaction and knowledge can have much better relationships. It’s also about off-loading baggage, which older singles collect along life’s journey. This is particularly true for singles who go from one broken relationship to another. If people take the time to heal from their past, they can set themselves up for a much more positive future.
Save some money
Finally, saving money is much easier to do alone because many singles have a highly disposable income. This is especially true if they are still living at home. Unfortunately though, many singles don’t realise this fact until it’s too late. Once they start paying bills and having kids their finances become extremely tight.
Therefore, if while unattached they can get into the habit of putting a small percentage of their income away, even as little as 1-5 per cent, they will have a small net building up. If they work and live at home, the idea is to save a much larger percentage of their wage. I know having the latest technology, dressing well, looking good and going out can cost a small fortune these days, but getting into saving habits early is vital if singles ever want to buy their own homes later in life.
Image via Pinterest
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT is generally used to improve poor mental health, however, it can also be used successfully to improve overall happiness. There’s a movement within psychology called Positive Psychology which looks at using therapy techniques to assist in the maintenance of good mental health. So, rather than trying to fix mental health issues as they arise, the idea is to prevent them.
The way positive psychologists use CBT is to reduce negative thought patterns. The aim is to address the thoughts which lead to behaviours related to them. To provide you with a better understanding, the example I’d like to explain here uses CBT to improve life satisfaction and overall happiness.
How It Works
The way we think is very powerful and it can predetermine if an outcome will be negative or positive. If we approach life as if everything were difficult and that life is basically negative, we’d look for evidence for our rationale. On the other hand, if we believe life is positive and that good things happen, we will search for evidence for this as well.
So, say a person has a pretty good life and no mental health issues, but would be more satisfied and happier with life if they had a better body image. They feel uncomfortable in their own skin and opt to wear heavy clothing in summer to cover up – CBT can address the thoughts which lead to this behaviour.
How It’s Done
In therapy, CBT is often done on paper, but doing it mentally is also effective. Initially, therapists get clients to write down a behaviour they’d like to change. I’ll use the example of the person with a poor body image who is dissatisfied with their appearance – the aim here would be to improve their happiness by being able to wear clothing suitable for the climate.
Now, there’s obviously a thought pattern associated with this behaviour, so the next step is to identify it. For example: do they fear negative feedback from others and therefore cover up? Do they feel like they are hiding in more clothing? There might be a whole list of reasons why they have chosen to behave this way.
Once the thoughts associated with the behaviour are identified, things can begin to change. So in this case if it’s fear of negative feedback, a therapist would challenge whether this has actually occurred. For some, it might have been the odd isolated occasion which has stuck with them; or for others, their fear may have prevented them from doing it altogether. Therefore, no negative feedback has actually taken place. Others may have experienced more negative feedback which has verified their assumption.
Once they understand why they over-dress in warmer weather, the next step to introduce is the ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen’ scenario. If they did wear lighter clothing, what do they expect to happen? Do they think people will look and stare at them, or do they fear something more drastic like their heart will stop beating? Don’t laugh, some people do have this fear of exposing themselves to what they assume will be a negative consequence for a particular behavior.
Questioning ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen’ is a very empowering thought because it enables people to challenge their behaviour for what it is. So, if they wear lighter summer clothing and people do comment, what is the worst thing that can happen? It will probably be that it makes the individual feel bad – and ultimately, this is why they are doing what they do. No-one wants to expose themselves to feeling bad if they don’t have to.
The ultimate goal here would be to change the way they dressed in warmer weather and be able to feel good. This would improve their life satisfaction and their level of overall happiness. Many things we do lead to this and once we can identify what’s stopping us, we have the freedom to move forward, change it and have a happier existence.
Achieving Happiness By Adding Exposure Therapy
To complete the exercise here, I’d suggest the individual try wearing lighter clothing in warmer weather and in the presence of someone they trust. Only when they expose themselves to the new behaviour can they affirm their negative thoughts are faulty. This is called Exposure Therapy and is highly effective in combating self defeating behaviours.
It may take a few attempts to get them to feel comfortable with their new behaviour and be able to do it solo. And as previously mentioned, while they do this exercise they should think to themselves: what’s the worse thing that can happen? In many cases this simple change in thought pattern, combined with exposure to the behaviour, will be enough to improve their overall level of life satisfaction and happiness.
Image via psychprofessionals.com.au
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – American author/humorist, Mark Twain.
Need an instant pick-me-up? It’s easy; try committing a random act of kindness. Why? Psychological research shows that being kind to others boosts our health and happiness; kindness breeds kindness; and – even better – witnessing altruistic acts can lead us to feel elation, peace and gratitude.
So why don’t we practice these little acts of kindness more often – especially when we know being kind to others, ourselves and animals, for example, is both reciprocal and good for us? Is it because we’re all so damn busy with the humdrum of life, we become bogged down by work/family/social commitments, so that we forget to be nice?
I was amazed by how happy I felt recently after a random act of kindness I committed quickly lead to another. It was nothing major on my part, I just simply gave a stranger 50 cents when he fell short at the petrol station. It was practicality on my behalf, also: I was waiting in line behind the man to pay for my petrol and the line of people behind me was getting bigger by the minute.
So, while the man fumbled in his pockets, scrounging for change, I simply offered him up the change he needed. A look of shocked surprise crossed his face, he mumbled his thanks before going on his way, and all was well. And, here comes the good part for me – the petrol service station attendant was so impressed, he gave me a nice, little discount on my fuel.
It was a win-win for everyone and – call me a simple lass – but it made me feel really, really good. I had a warm, happy glow afterwards – certainly something akin to elation, as the psychological studies suggest.
A Brisbane clinical psychologist, who wishes to remain anonymous, says it’s well known in social psychology that doing something kind for someone else is a good antidote for depression. What’s more, people suffering from depression are often asked by psychologists to find a way to help someone. And if they do so, it can be an effective means of alleviating their depressed mood.
But you don’t need to be suffering from depression to benefit from performing a random act of kindness; everyone benefits, she says. “Doing something positive for someone else, even something as simple as a warm and caring remark or small act of kindness, can lead to a feeling of well-being in both the helper and the recipient, even a sense of elation,” says the psychologist.
“The person offering the help or kind words will benefit with a boost to their self-esteem and the recipient is likely to feel a sense of gratitude.
“Feeling grateful or appreciative for one’s blessings is good for our emotional well-being. To encourage a sense of gratitude, positive psychology uses the gratitude letter or visit, in which a person is encouraged to visit or write to someone who has helped them in the past and tell them how much their words or deeds helped the recipient. This of course is beneficial for both parties, but especially for the one feeling grateful.”
So, why not try doing something unexpectedly kind for someone else today? And it doesn’t even have to just be limited to a loved one – feel the power of being nice to strangers and tell me it doesn’t feel really, really good!
What do you think? Have you committed a random act of kindness lately?
Images via Random Acts of Kindness, Michelle Cederberg, Bright Drops, whysimpleisbetter.wordpress.com
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness.
Inner peace doesn’t come easily; yet learning to love yourself and practice self-compassion are important life skills essential for self-growth and development, for self-compassion and our well-being are inextricably linked. You can be a great, kind and loyal best friend to others, but your own harshest critic, which is very self-defeating; a destructive form of self-sabotage if ever there was one.
Being kind to yourself is important to avoid depression, misery and sadness; you have to give yourself positive daily messages to build and retain self-confidence, self-worth and your own inner peace and happiness. And self-care isn’t about being indulgent – in fact, it’s vital for our good health and well-being.
Brisbane psychologist Kobie Allison, 31, concurs, with self-compassion a hot topic in psychology right now. The psychologist/director of a private practice – which specialises in children, teens and families and acute and complex trauma – says self-compassion is essentially the art of being your own best friend.
Kobie, (pictured), says research has shown that a lack of self-compassion can lead to “depression, anxiety and stress, eating disorders, perceived helplessness, negative affect, and maladaptive coping behaviour.”
“In essence, self-compassion is treating oneself as worthy of the upmost love, respect, warmth, care and compassion,” she says. “Self-compassion is giving to you, what you so freely give to others.
“It is the inner-realisation that your feelings matter, that your pain and suffering matter, that ultimately you matter. Self-compassion is embracing and allowing your humanness and suffering to be exposed to yourself and others, and to experience this with self-kindness and respect.”
Kobie says American self-compassion expert, Dr Kristin Neff defines the three vital elements of self-compassion as:
Self-kindness: Being empathic, forgiving, sensitive and warm towards ourselves when we have suffered, failed, or we feel inadequate.
Common humanity: Recognising that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of being “human”. It is our shared human experience of feeling vulnerable and imperfect that provides a connection to others through our shared human experience.
Mindfulness: This allows people to observe their negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness, rather than suppressing or denying their feelings.
So, we know that self-compassion is imperative for our own happiness, but how does it affect our close relationships? “People with higher levels of self-compassion report higher levels of life satisfaction, social relatedness, reflective and affective wisdom, personal initiative, curiosity and exploration, optimism, emotional intelligence, self-determination and more,” Kobie says.
“And research has also shown that self-compassion is also a positive predictor of healthy romantic relationships. It is through cultivating a sense of kindness, common humanity and mindfulness that we are enabled to be kinder and more supportive to those we care about.
“Interestingly, Kristin Neff found that individuals who practice self-compassion, tend to describe their partners as more affectionate, intimate, accepting and autonomous. In summary, this researcher noted that if an individual has a high-level of self-compassion, they are able to better take responsibility, forgive, and learn and grow from experience.
“In addition, an individual who is able to meet their own emotional needs through self-compassion, places less expectation and pressure on their loved ones. This allows both partners to be more giving and generous with one another.”
So, rather than falling prey to the self-destructive “princess myth” and looking for that white knight to rescue you, Kobie says look within for strength and the ability to self-soothe and calm, as relationships based on need often lead to drama and disappointment. What’s more, if you’re having a really bad day, practising the art of self-compassion can really help.
“Self-compassion can aid a person in times of suffering, such as having a bad day. Suffering affects our happiness, the happiness of those around us, and our behaviours throughout the day,” Kobie says. “For instance, suffering can lead to stress, frustration, anger towards others, feeling bad about yourself, feeling rushed, distraction, procrastination, not exercising, unhealthy eating and a lack of gratitude.
“Therefore, developing a self-compassion practice allows us to approach triumph and tribulation with understanding, kindness and compassion. So, rather than beating up ourselves up, we should instead acknowledge our suffering and ask ourselves: “What do I need in this moment? What kind gesture can I provide myself in loving-kindness?”
So, in learning self-compassion, Kobie advises us to try taking a “self-compassion break”. Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that’s causing you stress. Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body. Now, say to yourself:
- This is a moment of suffering: That’s mindfulness. Other options include:
- This hurts.
- This is stress.
- Suffering is a part of life: That’s common humanity. Other options include:
- Other people feel this way.
- I’m not alone.
- We all struggle in our lives.
Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you.
- May I be kind to myself: Say this to yourself. You can also ask yourself: “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as:
- May I give myself the compassion that I need.
- May I learn to accept myself as I am.
- May I forgive myself.
- May I be strong.
- May I be patient
This practice can be used any time of day or night and is said to help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when you need it most.
Image via psychcentral.com
When was the last time you took time out for yourself? Well according to a new survey conducted by Officeworks, it wasn’t recently. Through their survey, the giant office supply store discovered that 95 per cent of us are at our happiest when we are participating in an activity that we love, however only 20 per cent are making the time to engage in these pursuits and activities.
As the Easter break fast approaches, why not schedule some time to re-discover or discover your passion. Whether your interests be creative, energetic, free, or costly, there is no doubt that your mood and mentality will reap the benefits. Dr Paula Watkins from the Happiness Institute shared her top 5 activities that will certainly keep you busy and entertained over the holidays, and the best part is that all these are kid friendly – so no excuses!
- Getting Outdoors
When was the last time you spent some quality time outside? And no, walking to work from the bus stop doesn’t count! This Easter why not get outdoors and enjoy discovering parts of your city or region that you didn’t know before.
It may be a lazy afternoon spent reading a book under a tree, some time in the park with you’re your family, or if you’re looking for something more physical, why not try a long walk or bike ride through local National Parks and reserves? A little Vitamin D never hurt anybody and according to Watkins, increasing the amount of exercise you do “stimulates dopamine and other happy hormones.” Like they say, the best things in life are free!
- Art and Design
Remember how much you loved art at school? Well why not pick it up again this Easter break as a hobby and introduce it to the whole family. Painting and drawing is a great way to relax and is extremely therapeutic. “The precision required, paired with quality family time, will leave you feeling connected to your mind, body and soul” says Watkins. Painting and decorating your very own Easter eggs is a great way to celebrate the holiday.
Photography is an art and can be the perfect way to document special moments as well as gain a new perspective on familiar landscapes. Yet taking photographs doesn’t have to be a solo hobby and can be a fun way to get everyone involved, particularly over Easter when a lot of extended family spends time together.
Get creative with how you take your annual family photo – create a photo booth with props and a theme. Alternatively, for those who are passionate about photography, allow time to produce a photo-shoot with friends and family. As Dr Watkins highlights: “Special moments like these with loved ones will leave you feeling connected and content.”
Sick of hearing the top 40 on repeat every time your turn on the radio? Are you still listening to that same old album you purchased 2 years ago? Those who are passionate about their music know that there are hundreds of artists across all genres that are amazingly talented and produce music that does more to the soul than any medicine could do. According to Watkins, “listening to music stimulates the brain, boosts mood and serves as an emotional and stress release.” All that from just listening to music – we should do it more often!
Remember all of those photos you took of your most recent birthday that are hiding in the dark corners of your computer? Why not retrieve them along with all the other photos that hold special meaning and create a scrapbook? Officeworks spokesperson, Watkins highlights the benefits of reminiscing: “It is known to be good for our health. This kind of nostalgia can boost mood and helps to provide a sense of meaning.” Scrapbooking can bring your memories to life and let your favourite moments be more regularly recognised and appreciated.
Feel like you need to check your attitude? Perhaps you have a longing to give back to those in need. On November 13, take part in World Kindness Day by trying these simple gestures to make the world a little better.
Ever noticed how depressed people look on the morning commute to work? We try to avoid our fellow passengers like they’re carrying a deadly virus instead of embracing that you’re all doing the same thing, you’re all trying to get by. Next time somebody boards your train and is looking for a place to sit, move your handbag and smile – you never know whose day you will improve.
- Give somebody a compliment
Too often we think nice things about our friends, family, co-workers, even strangers and we never tell them. Why? Tell the people you love that you love them, the people you respect, that you respect them, and that the girl or guy you pass on the way into the office looks nice today.
- Go out of your way to help
If you see somebody looking lost on the street, ask if they need directions. Clean the house for your house mates. If you’re making coffee at work, offer your co-workers. If someone you know is down, give them a call and listen to what they have to say.
- Donate blood
Don’t have the money, but have your health? Head to the hospital or your local blood drive and make a donation. A blood donation could be worth more to someone than money. Although, if you do have a few spare dollars, giving them to a worthy organisation will always help.
- Clean our your closet
We all have clothes in our closet that we never wear, no matter how many times we say we will. On World Kindness Day, give your excess belongings to charity or offer them to a friend. Be realistic about what you want and need – and let go of the things you don’t.
- Care for the environment
Being kind to the environment is like spreading kindness to future generations. If you see some person’s empty coffee cup on the bus, pick it up and put it in the bin. You could also plant a tree, have a meat-free day, or sort through your recycling.
- Be Kind to yourself
While most of us don’t find it difficult being kind to others, we struggle finding the right words to say to ourselves. Forgive your mistakes, trust yourself to make good decisions, and remind yourself that you are just fine and fabulous the way you are.
World Kindness Day is part of an international movement promoting kindness and goodwill. To find out more about the event and what you can do, visit The World Kindness Movement website.