Categories
Happiness Psychology Relationships

How To Be Happy Every Day Of Your Life

You can think of happiness as being similar to exercise. The longer you go without exercise, the more your health deteriorates. The more of a priority you make it to exercise, the better you feel. Happiness is the same. Happiness is something you can experience every day, but it takes daily attention to create long-term happiness.

The actual fact of the matter is that this thing we call “happiness” does not even exist!

What we call “happiness” is actually just the release of various neurochemicals like epinephrine and norepinephrine, seratonin, oxytocin, GABA and dopamine. These chemicals can all be triggered by something happening to you, such as when someone kisses you or smiles at you but you can also trigger your own neurotransmitters yourself through certain actions and behaviors.

Exercise, for instance, can have a powerful impact on brain chemistry. In fact, it may be one of the most powerful ways to combat depression, thanks to the release of neurochemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that can be released just by looking at someone we love or even just playing with your dog. The great news about neurotransmitters is that there is an almost limitless number of ways to trigger them.

Unfortunately, there are both healthy and unhealthy ways to manipulate your own brain chemistry.

 Social media addiction is one very real example of this. Individuals can actually become addicted to the tiny hit of dopamine they get from getting a like, comment or other form of recognition on social media. “Cutting” or other forms of self-injury is another type of unhealthy behavior that is a means of manipulating your own neurochemistry.

When the body experiences trauma, it releases a cocktail of neurochemicals that create an effect similar to cocaine. This can temporarily help alleviate pain, including emotional pain. When people live with undiagnosed mental, physical or emotional pain, it is natural to try and find ways of dealing or coping with it. Unaddressed or undiagnosed pain is actually the root of almost all forms of addiction.

One of the best ways to avoid these types of behaviors, however, is to learn to understand how to trigger your own happiness neurochemicals. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to do. Here are 5 healthy ways to trigger your own “happiness drugs.”

1. Go for a stroll

Photo courtesy Free Photos @ Pixabay

While strenuous exercise can certainly offer a number of benefits, the truth is, exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous in any way to have a positive impact on your mental and emotional health. Just going on a short stroll can actually help decrease anger and hostility, boost your immune system and even help you break through creative blocks. 

If you’re angry or stuck on a problem you just can’t seem to solve, take a short walk around the block or even just around the parking lot. You might be surprised at how much clearer, calmer and even happier you feel! For a double boost of “happiness drugs” taking a stroll with a partner, friend or child can also help give you a boost of oxytocin. 

2. Connect

Photo courtesy of Jill Wellington @ Pixabay

Human beings have a strong need for connection. Most of our neurotransmitters are actually a type of reward our body gives us for good behavior as a way of encouraging us to do more of something. Thankfully, you don’t have to have a love interest or even access to another person to trigger your happiness neurochemicals. 

Connection with nature or even a pet can trigger a reaction just as strong and powerful as connection with another human being. If all else fails, science has shown that simply looking at pictures of nature or a loved one can reduce stress levels and invoke a sense of peace and calmness. 

3. Watch your diet

Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

For most women, the idea of a diet is almost inextricably intertwined with weight loss. While we are slowly breaking free of this extremely unhealthy mindset, the truth is that what you eat has a powerful impact on how you feel. This doesn’t just include your energy levels but also your moods. In addition, however, your diet is not just about what you feed your body but also what you feed your mind. 

It’s hard to have a positive mindset when you surround yourself constantly with negativity. Whether it’s the news, your social media feed or a friend that is kind of a constant negative Nancy, try to limit your exposure to negativity. One great way to do this is to leave your phone behind when you take a walk. 

4. Learn to value silence

Photo by madison lavern and tim goedhart on Unsplash

From televisions blaring to cell phones ringing to the thumping bass of passing cars, few people realize just how surrounded by sound we constantly are. The fact is, the constant noise of the modern world can have a significant negative impact on your mental and emotional health. While you may not be able to escape to the mountains or the beach every day, try to at least spend some time alone with your thoughts each day with a little help from some noise-canceling headphones.

5. Get to know yourself

From almost the time we are born women are generally told how to walk, talk, act, think and behave. By the time we are old enough to make those decisions for ourselves, our patterns are usually so deeply ingrained that we no longer even know what it means to have our own thoughts. 

It is a sad, unfortunate truth that women often know very little about their own individual interests, tastes and passions. Women are naturally supportive, so the things we think we enjoy the most are often just the things our loved ones enjoy doing the most. We enjoy being with them, which can lead us to believe we also enjoy doing the things they love. 

While there are dozens of habits that will help almost everyone live a happier life, such as eating a good diet, getting plenty of exercise, spending time with loved ones and getting plenty of rest; there are also hundreds of ways for you to be happy individually. 

It might be cooking, sewing, gardening, carpentry, painting, traveling, writing, speaking, teaching or starting your own business. Whatever it is, you won’t know until you start getting to know yourself a little better. How do you do that? The same way you would get to know someone else – spend time with yourself.  Journaling is a tried-and-true method for getting to know the real you.

The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. You may get married, divorced, date and break up several times and have your children leave the nest but through it all, you will be stuck with you. Relationships are what you make of them. The more time you invest in your relationship with yourself, the better – and more fulfilling – it will be. 

Categories
Boundaries Psychology Relationships

The Vital Importance Of The “Free No”

We all long to know whether we are truly loved and accepted by those we care about. We will never know how people genuinely feel about us, however, unless they feel free to say no to us. Taking no for an answer is hard, painful and difficult, but it is vital to healthy relationships.

Many years ago, a psychologist friend of mine introduced me to the concept of the “free no.” The idea being that you can never trust that a yes is genuine unless people know they have the freedom to say no to you without penalty. 

That without penalty part is very important.

It is natural to assume the people we care about know they can say no to us – and theoretically, they can. The question, however, is what happens when they do? How do we respond?

We nag.

We whine.

We give them the silent treatment.

We wait for just the right moment for “paybacks.”

That is not a “free no.

When we punish people for saying no to us, we are not actually giving them the right to say no.
Photo courtesy of Sasint @ Pixabay

WHY IS A FREE NO SO IMPORTANT?

Any time we say yes to one thing, we inherently have to say no to something else. We all have a certain number of resources that are finite. These include time, money and energy – which includes emotional energy. While we can always get more eventually, once what we currently have is gone, it is gone. 

When someone wants my money, my time or my energy and will not take no for an answer, they are essentially manipulating me into doing something I don’t really want to do. In other words, they are taking away my free will and basically holding me hostage to their own. 

When we demand a yes, we rarely stop to consider is what it is costing the other person to say yes to us.

For instance, say I want to go out at night, but my spouse is tired. They want to spend the time they have remaining in that day recharging their batteries so that they can start the next day refreshed and recharged. 

So, let’s say they say no, they don’t want to go out. That leaves me with several options in regards to how to respond.

* I can whine, beg, pout threaten, manipulate or guilt them into going out with me.

* I can stay there with them and pout, stomp around, slam doors and let them know in every way possible how angry I am at them for saying no to me.

* I can stay there with them but demand they amuse me or entertain me since they wouldn’t go out with me – even further exhausting their batteries in the process. 

Or, I can graciously take their no for an answer. I can go out on my own or stay in with them without demanding that they amuse, entertain or in other ways expend even more energy on me. I can leave them in peace to recharge. 

Being around someone who is angry with you is exhausting, as is having to amuse or entertain someone. If I choose to respond in one of these ways, I simply exhaust them even more. They may end up even more tired than if they had just gone out. 

On some level we know this, which is maybe why we do it – so next time they won’t fight us, they will just do what we want. Over time, this establishes a pattern in which they either just give in and give us what we want or we make their life a living hell. That is called a no-win situation. We may get away with it for a while but over time they will grow to resent us and start fighting back in a million small ways. Ultimately, this just turns our relationships into war zones.

Photo Courtesy of Geralt @ Pixabay

WHY IS A “GENUINE YES” SO IMPORTANT?

Have you ever wondered if someone really likes or loves you or not? Usually, we know how people feel about us by what they do for us, not just by what they say. But if no one can ever say no to you, how do you know what it actually means when they say yes? Are they saying yes because they love you and genuinely want to say yes, or because they are afraid of the consequences of saying no? That’s not love. 

You will never never know if a yes is genuine unless you know the other person feels the freedom to say no to you. 

Allowing someone to say no to you without punishing them for it is painful and difficult. We all want what we want. Letting someone say no to you is a form of losing.  It is not getting what you want. 

When we want something, we generally want it for a reason. Sometimes we may even feel we need it, so when someone denies us that thing it can actually cause us pain. No one wants to be in pain, so we work hard to get what we want.

What we don’t think about, however, is that sometimes, getting what we want causes the other person pain. Sometimes when it comes to pain in a relationship, its either us or them. Not getting what we want will cause us pain, but giving us what we want will cause them pain – so we choose us. Sometimes, that’s okay, but not every time. That’s where we have to be careful. 

You can’t claim to love someone that you are always forcing to do things for you through some type of emotional manipulation. That’s not healthy for you and it’s not healthy for them.

Can you let someone just say no to you today?

Categories
Generosity Giving Philanthropy Wisdom

The Art of Giving Generously

Let’s face it, we all want to be generous and that is a good thing.

If you are at all like me, however, you may feel like you are constantly surrounded by need. From requests for a few dollars at the check-out register to commercials and advertisements pulling on our heartstrings to literal strangers walking up to us on the street asking for money. We are constantly being bombarded by requests (or demands) for money or resources. And that’s just from the people we don’t know.

Add to that all the kids of friends or relatives selling things, the needs of our own children, our churches or other civic organizations, our partners and all of the other needs, wants and demands placed on us by people or organizations we actually participate in and it can all just get really overwhelming. Particularly for women.

While this may slowly be changing, fathers (and men) rarely have the civic and social demands placed on them that mothers and women do. Even though women today may be just as likely to have a job as a man, historically women were viewed as having more time to contribute and therefore were expected to contribute more of their time and energy to social causes and civic and family commitments. This view has not seemed to change much with the times.

Eventually, it can become really easy to become angry about all the constant need we are surrounded by that we feel expected to meet. It is hard to be or even feel generous when the feeling of having to constantly be giving, giving, giving makes you angry.

There is a way, however, to become a truly generous person without being angry about it. 

The secret is to set boundaries.

Here are 4 tips to help you set good boundaries around giving. 

Photo Courtesy of zhuwei @ Pixabay
1.) Accept that you have finite resources and budget them in advance

Everything you have is a resource, and this includes time, money and emotional energy. Understanding that emotional energy is a finite resource is important because it means that you cannot care deeply about every single “cause” on the planet, let alone invest in them. The best way to learn to give wisely is to stop looking at it as “giving” and see it as investing. Investing in causes or charities that you care about is important because just like any other kind of investment it is important that you see a return on your investment!

Unlike traditional investing, however, the return that you see will most likely not be a financial one. The “return” that you are looking for is either seeing the organization actually have impact in an area you care about or the personal satisfaction you get from helping create change.

Sitting down to determine in advance what you have to give or invest is important so that you do not become overextended either emotionally or financially. Before you decide what you have to invest, it is important to look at what other commitments of time, money and energy you already have. Giving may require you to do some shuffling and cut back in some areas so you have more to give in others. To start with, just pick one cause or organization to give to and invest only what you have budgeted to invest. If you start to see a good return on your investment, then you can revisit your budget to determine if you can find more to invest.

Photo courtesy Jill Wellington @ Pixabay
2.) Learn to say NO. (Politely, of course!)

Learning to say no is one of the most valuable and important skills a woman can master. It is very important for women to be aware that we face a “double-whammy” of sorts when it comes to giving and generosity. To begin with, many of us have been conditioned and raised to believe that whatever need anyone else has, it is our responsibility to meet it! This may be particularly true if you have been raised in any type of religious environment.

The second challenge we face is that as women, we are more in touch with and aware of our emotions, which makes us more vulnerable to emotional pleas. If you have not carefully set out and budgeted what you do and do not have to give, you can easily find yourself giving, giving, giving to every cause and need you see. Determining in advance what you have to give and giving it can help protect you from the constant bombardment of emotional pleas and need you are surrounded by.

3.) Do your homework and find a good fit

Remember that “giving” is really a form of investing and the goal is to actually see an ROI. If the charity or cause you choose to invest in is actually using their resources wisely, then you should easily see that ROI in the form of the impact made by your dollars. In addition, however, not everyone has money to give and money is not the only thing you can give.

If you’re an outdoor person that just loves to camp, hike, fish or mountain bike, find an organization that mentors youth or Veterans or someone that you can share your love of the outdoors with; someone that needs what you have to offer. If you love to read, write, sew or scrapbook, there are organizations that can use all of those things.  If you are a plumber, carpenter or like to work with your hands, there are plenty of organizations that can use those skills.   

You may also want to use volunteer or philanthropy opportunities to build relationships with your family, friends or coworkers or to set a good example for your kids. Whatever your skills, gifts, needs or interests are, there is someone out there that needs them. Find an organization that needs what you have to offer – that also fits your needs – and offer it!

4.) Once your boundaries are set, stand your ground – both with the organization and with yourself!

There is always going to be more need than any one person or organization can meet in any given area.  The more our hearts become invested, the more need we see – which is often why people avoid getting their hearts invested in the first place. Some people actually know that it’s far easier to write a check than get personally involved, so that’s what they do. If you do get personally involved, however, it can become harder and harder to say “no” to ever increasing demands. This is where we have to remember point 1. You have finite resources. Use them wisely and do not allow yourself to be compelled into giving more than you can.

The world is not your responsibility to save!

Giving and being generous are both important parts of being human. If you are not wise about how you give, however, you will quickly become burned-out, angry and bitter. That doesn’t help anyone. Set boundaries and limits around your giving and don’t let anyone push you past them.  This will help you truly be a generous person without being angry and resentful about it. It’s hard, but it’s so worth it.