Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Are You Afraid to be Happy?

Think about it, are you?

Being afraid of happiness might sound like an oxymoron, but this type of fear exists and is likely one of the main reasons people are not able to find true happiness in their life.

There are several reasons a person might be afraid to be happy. 

Unhappiness can be a learned behavior. Someone who had a severely unhappy childhood and watched the important people in their lives (such as parents) lead an unhappy life will likely lead their own unhappy life. In this case the fear of being happy would simply be caused by fearing the unknown. 

Fear of happiness can also be caused by a misunderstanding of what true happiness really is. Although this entire blog revolves around the word "happiness," I actually hesitated to use it at first. The real definition of happiness (a state of well-being and contentment: joy, merriam-webster.com) is not how many people recognize it at all. As many people think happiness is this forced, bubbly feeling, they reject the entire concept and would rather feel unhappy or even miserable. They fear a superficial idea that they cannot understand.

Another reason some may fear happiness is because they think it is fleeting. Have you ever heard the expression "waiting for the other shoe to drop?" I know I have been guilty of this - if everything is going great in my life I sometimes catch myself waiting for that other shoe, which for some reason always seems to be negative (in my mind). If you believe happiness means have a good day now or then, or experiencing a positive feeling until something bad happens, it's completely understandable why you would fear feeling happy just to have it taken away from you at any second.

So if you fear happiness, how do you get over the fear?

The first step is to be aware and recognize your fear. If you read this blog, you know happiness is all about your mindset, not about your circumstances. If you are not happy, what's holding you back? Honest answers will allow you to pinpoint the problem so you can start cultivating your happiness

The second step is to start cultivating your happiness! Define your happiness and get to work on creating the type of life that you want to have.

Lastly, understand fear of happiness for what it really is - an irrational feeling that is keeping you from living the life of your dreams. Determine within yourself that you will no longer live in fear.

No go and live your happy life!


Friday, August 17, 2012

How to Be Happy When Everything Is Going Wrong

The most important test of your true happiness is when everything seems to be going wrong. Sure, it's easy to be happy when you have a life you love and everything is falling into place - but what about when you are jobless, going through a divorce, deep into debt, your teenager is driving you crazy - basically going through life's struggles?

If you are not truly happy, it will show during these times, however, if you have cultivated a happiness mindset and have made positive thinking a habit, it will also show during these times.

A positive attitude will actually be beneficial to you during hard times. Feelings of discouragement, depression or hopelessness can cause a person to take LESS action towards finding a solution for their problems.

One of the best ways to practice the happiness mindset is to focus on the solution, not the problem. If you spend time focusing on what is going wrong and how terrible you feel, you will never get anything accomplished! If you are facing a problem, the first thing to do is push away the negative thoughts and set your mind to finding a solution. 

You can also recognize the opportunity to challenge yourself. Challenging situations may seem 100% negative, but they are actually opportunities for personal growth. Overcoming a challenge is beneficial for building self-esteem, improving your emotional and mental strength and making you a better person overall. Instead of looking at situation as a problem, consider it an opportunity for personal growth.  

I know it is challenging to stay positive in the face of a difficult situation, but you can do it and you will be a better, happier person in the long run. 

If you like what you are reading, please share with your friends!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rid Yourself of Toxic People and Live A Happier Life

In my post on Stress Management - Stop Borrowing Stress, I briefly mention toxic people and why you should eliminate them and their stress from your life. 

The definition of "toxic" is pretty fluid - what is toxic for me may not be toxic for you, but there are a few basic characteristics of toxic people. 

Generally, a toxic person will be very draining, leave you feeling depressed, angry, anxious, worried and/or strained. Toxic people also like to make you deal with their issues and depending on the relationship, they may blame you for their problems. They do not care about anyone other than themselves and they typically view the world as being all about them.

In a word, toxic people are destructive

I'm sure we have all run into 1 or 2 toxic people, the problem comes when we keep these toxic people in our life. 

To be clear, you will never be happy if you keep toxic people in your life. 

These types of people are considered destructive for a reason - they are destructive! They seep all positivity and happiness from your life. 

Your first step to ridding yourself of this source of stress is to recognize if you have a toxic person in your life. Pay attention to how the people around you make you feel. If you feel badly after engaging with a specific person (not just sometimes but most of the time), that person may be toxic. If you have a person in your life who displays selfish and destructive behaviors, that person is likely toxic.

Once you have identified the toxic person, you need to work on eliminating that person from your life. Depending on the relationship you have, this may be difficult. This person could be a family member, childhood friend, co-worker, etc. and you may feel guilty about kicking them out of your life, especially since toxic people can be very manipulating and they will make you feel guilty.

First, do not feel guilty! Realize that making this change is only going to benefit you in the future. 

There are a few ways to eliminate toxic people from your life:

For family members, close friends and co-workers, initiate the low-contact rule. That just means limit your contact as much as possible. When you are around these people, do not engage. Avoid getting caught up in an argument or trying to solve their problems or doing something just to make them happy. Let them be toxic all by themselves.

For people who are just acquaintances or not really important to you, kick them right out of your life without a second thought!

There is a third option that I would only suggest if the person is someone you love dearly and cannot imagine living without (such as a child, spouse, parent, etc.) and that is working on the relationship. 

Some toxic people become toxic and destructive because of their experiences. A string of really difficult circumstances can turn a generally fun-loving and happy person into a toxic, destructive person. In these cases, instead of simply being done with that person, I would try therapy, counseling or just talking to that person. These cases can be very difficult, hurtful and confusing, but if both parties involved are willing, the relationship can be salvaged.   

Typically, if there is a toxic person in your life, you already know it. Choose one of the three ways to deal with the situation and then do it today! Your happiness is waiting...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Stress Management - 3 Techniques to Handle Work-Related Stress

The topic of work-related stress is currently on my mind because I just ended a very stressful work-week (and am hopefully beginning a very relaxing weekend!). If you can name a work-related problem, such as difficult co-workers, communication breakdowns, system issues, etc. I most likely experienced it this week.

To keep myself sane, I implemented a few techniques that were very useful in handling my stress: 

Be amused: This may sound a little wacky (and you may look a little wacky when practicing this technique), but finding amusement in non-serious but stressful situations is a great stress reliever. Laughter really is the best medicine, and if you find yourself in a situation that you can recognize will make a humorous story later on, why not embrace the humor while you are experiencing it?!
This technique not only puts things in perspective (if you can laugh about it later, it is probably not that bad, right?), but it also adds a little bit of levity to the situation and will likely break the tension for those around you as well. 

Remove yourself from the situation: One of my stress-causing moments this week happened to be something that really had nothing to do with me. It took me a minute or two to realize I was just borrowing stress. As soon as I realized, I took myself out of the equation completely and, surprisingly, was instantly relieved of my stress regarding that particular situation. 
When a problem arises, take a moment to consider if it really is your problem. If the situation is not directly involving you, say no to unnecessary stress and walk away. 

Recognize when something is bigger than you: Sometimes problems are bigger than you are. Accepting that is powerful because it allows you to let go of negative feels about the situation.  
If you have a system issue and you have to wait around for IT to come and fix it, you have a built-in reason to release any stress you are feeling about the problem, as it is completely out of your hands. Instead of feeling stressed, standing over the poor tech support person and fretting, grab a coffee, have a seat or chat with a co-worker and let go of feeling that you have to be in control of the situation.

These are the three techniques I used to deal with my long, stressful work-week. Practice these techniques to better handle your work-related stress.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stress Management - Stop Borrowing Stress!

Have you ever heard the saying "you are borrowing trouble?" It basically means that you are looking for and taking on problems that are likely not even yours. 

Unfortunately, many of us do this with stress.

*Have you ever found yourself feeling down or maybe even depressed after talking to a friend or co-worker who has just poured out all his or her troubles to you? Not that there is anything wrong with being a friend and lending an ear, but is this the same toxic friend or co-worker (more on toxic people later) who pours out all their troubles to you all the time? 

*Do you find yourself getting upset on behalf of others frequently? People who are completely capable of taking care of themselves?

*Are you controlling?

*Do you have unrealistic expectations of others?

You may not do all of these things, you may only identify with 1 or 2, but even identifying with just 1 thing is an indicator that you are borrowing stress.

For some people, this is kind of a knee-jerk habit, simply the way that they live. Others may operate this way infrequently, but even 1 time is too many in my book.

The problem with borrowing stress is that everyone will have their fair share of problems and stress just because we are alive. Taking on unnecessary stress robs us of our happiness and the ability to deal with normal stress as effectively as we can.

Here are a few tips to stop borrowing stress: 

Eliminate needy and toxic people from your life. OK, you may not have to eliminate them completely, but you do need to eliminate their stress. A great first step is to stop listening to their problems! As soon as the person in question starts telling you what bad thing happened to them today, stop them in their tracks. Let them know you are only focusing on the positives today. If need be, don't ask them how they are doing.

Notice if you are constantly defending or getting angry for a person. If the person is able to take care of themselves, let them! 

Let go of control. This subject should be (and will be) a post of it's own. Control is an illusion and trying to stay in control is nothing but an stressful exercise in frustration. Most people believe in something bigger than themselves. That is a great place to put your desire to control. This one may be difficult and a little scary, but it's also an instant happiness boost (once you get over the scary part).

Don't place expectations on others, especially others who you know are not up for the job. Don't keep hoping, wishing and praying that so-and-so will finally change. Expect nothing and you will always be pleasantly surprised if something good happens. This goes for situations as well! Don't expect certain things to happen just because they should. You are only opening up yourself for disappointment and stress.

Follow these tips, turn them into habits and you have taken a big step towards finding your happiness heuristic. 

Please follow us and share with friends if you like what you are reading! Until next time...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cultivating Happiness

The idea of cultivating happiness is not new - it actually is a main component of Buddhism, however, the practice of cultivating happiness seems almost foreign in our society today. 

How do you cultivate happiness? 

Happiness is a mindset. Contrary to popular opinion, happiness is not a result of something good or great happening, it is a individual mindset one has about life. 

For instance, I once went on a missions trip to Mexico as a youth. I walked away from that trip seriously evaluating my attitude and my life because I spent time with people who seemed to have almost nothing but who also almost glowed with contentment, sincerity and just...peace. What we would call true happiness.

Cultivating happiness starts with recognizing what you have as opposed to concentrating on what you do not have. What is it that you have? Do you have your health? People who love you? Freedom? Talent? 

Once you start to focus on what you do have (and it does take some practice), you will start to notice you will begin to feel something a little like contentment. And you will start to notice it's not so difficult to stop thinking of what you do not have anymore. 

Try something for me today. Find one positive thing about your life that makes you happy. Nothing materialistic either, but something that brings a smile to your face just by thinking about it. Focus on that one thing for an entire day. Every time you start feeling negative about something, think about that one thing and push the negative thoughts away. 

Take this one baby step with me and you will be on your way to cultivating happiness. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Defining Happiness

What exactly is happiness? We know it is not material things or most of us would be very happy.

For me, if I strip away everything superficial and get to the core of things, happiness is:

  • A strong spiritual foundation (spiritual, not religious, but we will save that for another post)
  • Good health
  • Quality relationships with the people I love, like admire, etc.
  • The ability to support myself with something I love to do
That's basically it! That's all I need to be truely happy, content, fulfilled and satisfied with my life. Of course other components come into play, but if I only had the things listed above, I would be happy.

Your happiness needs may be entirely different from mine, as we are all individual, but the methods we can use to change our lives are still the same.

Think about it: If you could only choose 5 areas of your life that are directly connected to your happiness, what would they be?

Once you have figured out what makes you happy, it's time to look at ways to cultivate your happiness.