Category Archives: Happiness

chasing happiness

You Can Create Your Happiness

As a society, we are always looking for that one thing that is going to make us happy. We think “if I lose those 10 pounds, I will be so much happier”; “if I buy the house”; “if I get the job”; etc. While achieving a goal or finally getting that thing we have wanted sooo bad will make us happy for a bit, that kind of happiness doesn’t last. 

Real, long-lasting, true-to-yourself happiness is something we create. You have heard it before, and frankly it’s true—you can choose happiness. But how? 

The happiest of people have honed in on particular habits, here are a few to get you started on the road to a happier you:

1.) Slow down — Happy people slow down to appreciate the little moments in life. They take the moment to soak up the way their child laughs or talks, the smile on a significant others face, the laughter of a friend, the beauty of a clean home, a full fridge, or a beautiful sunrise. 

2.) Exercise — Happy people are active. They get out there and get moving. Exercise leads to the release of the neurotransmitter GABA which helps to soothe the brain. It also leads to the release of feel-good hormones. It is a natural mood booster.

3.) Surround Yourself In Good Company — Getting rid of the toxic people in your life, letting go of the ones who are always being negative, can do wonders for your mood. Surround yourself with positive people and your mood and outlook will follow. 

4.) Spend Money On Others — Yes, it can be fun to buy yourself a new pair of shoes or splurge on a fancy vacation but it can feel even better to spend money on others. Treating a friend to dinner, surprising your sister with a coat she has had her eye on, donating meals to the homeless, buying an outfit for a child in need, lifting others up feels good. 

5.) Get Sleep — Sleep is so important for your mood. If you feel rundown and exhausted everything is harder, it all takes more effort and you just don’t feel well. Get sleep and you will feel better and be healthier. 

6.) Have a Growth Mindset — If you don’t believe you can change or grow as a person then you are stuck, you are stagnant in your life. If you have the mindset that you are a fluid human being, you can grow and change with time, then you believe change is possible. It is a much more positive outlook. 

7.) Work At It— Being happy is not something that just comes to a person. It takes effort. A supremely happy person is checking in with themselves often. They make decisions based on their happiness levels. For example, they are exhausted from working hard at the office so they decide to take the night off and go to bed early. Or, they need a mood boost so they decide to hit the gym on the way home, or stop and watch the sunset.

Happiness is possible for everyone, no matter their life circumstances. It just takes some healthy habits and a healthy mindset. A licensed counselor can help you get there if you need some assistance. 

moms

Stay-At-Home Moms Are Working Too

There was another post that caught my eye on social media the other day. It was a hand-written comparison list titled “Should Mothers Have Careers?” I have posted the image below so you can see it for yourself. 

mom image

This list is vastly unfair and unrealistic. It is media like this that gives the stay-at-home mom so little respect. This kind of subtle messaging can do so much harm. It plants these stereotypes that just because you are home with the kids you have so much free time during the day. Oh yes, you are home so you have time to cook a gourmet meal, play all day, and nap. It is this stuff that causes husbands to come home and ask their wives that much-despised question — “what have you been doing all day?”

It is not right. These moms aren’t napping all day. They are juggling the laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, and meal preparation with the constant demands (and guilt) to play (or get a snack) from their children. They are the managers of households. Their to-do lists are overflowing. They are exhausted both physically and emotionally. They are working hard as hell. 

Not to mention they can be faced with ongoing feelings of loneliness, the struggle to find a place where they belong and a purpose within themselves. It is hard when you go through 90 percent of your day with only a two-year-old to talk to. 

Whether working outside or inside the home, each has its challenges and benefits. Being a mother (period) is hard work and it deserves all the respect we can give. We need to stop glorifying the stay-at-home mom as someone who is always on vacation and instead give her a helping hand, a hug, a high-five. We also need to stop putting down the working mom, the one who is doing what she needs to do for her family, the one who may be following her dreams. We all have different paths—one is not better than the other.

kids meaning life

Should our kids really be the ‘meaning of life?’

The other day I ran across a post on Facebook that made me stop and think. The post was a picture of a mother and son holding hands and walking on the beach. The son asked his mom “what is the meaning of life,” and the mom replied, “you are.” It was shared more than 25,000 times.

meaning life image

Now, I get it, we love our kids in a way that only a parent can only understand. It is that “heart outside your body” feeling. They do mean the world to us, and yes we want them to be happy. We want our kids to be successful, make good choices, and live a fulfilled life. But, is it really fair to make them the “meaning” of our lives?

A Lot of Pressure

Think about it. That is a lot of pressure to put on our children. They might feel responsible for our happiness, which isn’t their job to take on. You did have a life path before you had children and you will continue to have one after your children are out of the house starting their own families.

It’s ok to have other meanings for living. Your children are, of course, a big part of your existence. Maybe all you ever wanted was to be a parent. Maybe you gave up a career or another life path to be a full-time mom. And, that stuff is ok. But, should you really be putting all your eggs in one basket. Should you be counting on your kids for all your happiness? Should your life-success be measured by the happiness or success of your children?

Parenting is Beautiful

It is a beautiful thing to love a child, to parent, to care for and raise another human being, but they (by themselves) don’t have to be the meaning of your life. You can do other things for yourself, and others. Maybe the meaning of your life is caring for others, exploring the world, teaching younger generations, etc. Maybe it is following a dream.

Whatever it is. One thing is for sure—you alone control your happiness.

cougar grandma

There is no age limit for intimacy

Human beings like intimacy. We need to be touched and to feel sexually-wanted and attractive. We want to experience the benefits of good old sexual pleasure—the release of endorphins, the natural stress buster. We want to feel good. These needs don’t end as we age, they might change a bit, but they don’t end. 

I read an article the other day about an 83-year-old woman who is using the popular dating app Tinder to find much younger men to have sex with. In the article, she says “My life goal is to change the awful, decrepit view of aging – view and experience, and turn it into something exciting. A life-loving adventure. The depth of life, you can’t avoid it. But the shallowness of good sex, that’s what is good enough for me.”

I found her openness and her passion for life exhilarating. Who said that getting older meant you had to stop having sex? Or stop trying new things? Stop having adventures? Life is short and it is what we make of it. We can choose to enjoy it until the very last drop or we can decide to put an expiration date on certain behaviors because, well, we just don’t feel they are appropriate. But, let’s get real here. We are all human. We all enjoy connection. This is a very basic part of being a person that should be enjoyed to the very last drop. 

Getting old doesn’t have to be depressing. Being older just means we have had more experience, we might be a little frailer or struggle with our health in ways we didn’t use to, but we are still on this earth. Each day gives us a whole 24 more hours to enjoy being on earth. 

Take a tip from grandma Hattie, and love your life. Do what your heart desires. Enjoy being you. 

human connection

Our Need for Connection and What We Can Do About it

Human connection is about sharing experiences, ideas, and feelings with others. It is a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. And, it is crucial to our happiness, our health, and our overall survival as a species.

Yet, why are we so bad at connecting?

In our ever-connected world, where we can catch up with our high school math teacher or college roommate with a click of a button, scroll through images of our coworkers’ weekend adventures, or send a text in a matter of seconds, we are becoming increasingly unconnected. It is damaging to our happiness, our health, and our overall wellbeing. How can a world that is so focused on this idea of always being reachable be drawing us further apart? 

We are spending so much time with our heads in our devices we are missing that authentic face-to-face connection that is so important. We are losing sight of authenticity. It is so easy to leave a comment on a friend’s Facebook wall pretending to care when the reality is we haven’t thought about them in years. We don’t know what is real anymore. We choose what photos we are posting, what information we are sharing with the world and we create our facade, whether it is a true picture of our lives or not. We edit and re-edit ourselves. We tend to share the best in our lives, making things look picture-perfect, but leave out the struggles, the challenges, the stuff that makes us who we are.

There is a reason we used to function as tribes, all the woman working together to care for the families. All the men hunting and gathering. It is the same reason that often people who live alone die earlier and get sicker before they pass. Human connection, the need to connect with others, is at our core as people. 

To fulfill that need, we need to get out into the world and talk to people. We need to have face-to-face conversations. We need to do things together — have family dinners, watch a sporting event, go on a walk, have a picnic, connect outside of our electronic devices. And, we need to be authentic. We need to be our true selves. We need to share, ask the tough questions, open up about our lives and who we are. We need to focus less on finding a connection for ourselves and more on connecting with others. I know it sounds like the same thing but I mean to say that rather than waiting for people to come to you, go to them. 

Your mental health, your happiness, your sense of self-worth, all of it, will thank you for putting yourself out there and connecting. 

How to fit mindfulness into your busy life

The evidence is mounting—being mindful throughout your day can have major impacts on your health, happiness, stress and anxiety levels. It can be a game changer. But, so often I hear — I am so busy. How am I supposed to fit something else in? 

I am here to tell you that being mindful isn’t something you have to “fit” in. It is something you can train your brain to do throughout your days. It is not something that needs to be time consuming. 

Not Another To-Do List Item

Here are some tips to get you started:

1.) Write down reminders—When I first started on my journey of being more mindful I literally wrote things like “Stop, look around” in my phone and on Post-it notes. I stuck them to my desk, my bedroom door, my car console. Every time I saw them it was a reminder to do just that—stop thinking about what’s next and focus on the now. 

2.) Carry a notepad—When something on your must-do list pops into your head, write it down so that you don’t forget it later. That way you are not dwelling on it and can instead focus on the now and complete that task at the appropriate time. 

3.) Set reminders on your phone/make lists—You will find that you can enjoy the present more when you aren’t thinking about all the things you need to do. So make a list, set a reminder on your phone, whatever works best for you.

4.) Let it go—We spend so much time worrying about what happened yesterday or what is happening tomorrow that we miss out on today. That is what matters. We can’t change the past and we can’t predict the future. The only thing we are in control of is what we are thinking about at the present moment. 

5.) Meditate—I know what you are thinking, “you said I didn’t have to fit in mindfulness.” The truth is you don’t. You can choose to meditate while working out, while taking a walk, while brushing your teeth. It doesn’t have to be an eyes-closed break from your day. You can repeat a mantra in your head at designated times throughout your day. Or, you can pay attention to things like how your feet are moving during your run, the birds in the trees during your walk, your breathe as you brush your teeth. 

The bottomline is being mindful is simple — it is focusing on what you are doing at the present moment and observing. It could mean watching the knife as you cut vegetables for dinner, the movement of the brush on your teeth, the sound your child’s voice as they speak to you, the smile on their face as you read to them. It doesn’t have to be another item on your to-do list. 

How Keeping Secrets Impacts Your Mental Health

Turns out, keeping secrets can actually be bad for you. We all have things we don’t want to share with others for one reason or another. We all have things we were told to “never tell anyone.” But keeping all that information inside isn’t good for us. We need people to talk to. We need a support system. 

Keeping secrets can be stressful because we may want to share that information with someone in particular and are unable to. Keeping secrets can be all-consuming because we have to focus on not talking about them. 

All About The Goal

Research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that the problem with keeping secrets could simply be that it is a goal. Goals that we have yet to achieve are usually something we think about. For example, you are more likely to notice a mailbox when you need to mail a letter or you are waiting for something special than when you aren’t. It is about motivation. 

So secrets may not be stressful because of the information itself but rather due to the act of thinking about the information. They are stressful because they are thought-consuming and therefore can depress your mood. 

Authenticity

The study also looked at authenticity. The study found that keeping secrets, or more specifically thinking about keeping secrets, decreased people’s feelings that they were being their authentic, true self. That lack of authenticity caused them to feel bad about their life and how they were representing themselves.

If you are keeping a secret and feeling not-so-great about it, that is ok. Find the right person to share it with and move forward. It can be helpful to bring it up to a licensed mental health professional who can help you figure out what to do with the information so you can live your best life. 

You don’t need an apology to move on

The other day a friend of mine got into an argument with another and started dwelling on how this person had wronged her. She insisted that she needed an apology. The situation got me thinking. Frequently we hold on to the idea that we need an apology before we can move on, but what we forget is we are not in charge of that apology. 

Yes, anytime someone wrongs you, they should apologize. That is the right thing to do, but it doesn’t always happen. Many times the person that wronged you doesn’t apologize at all or doesn’t apologize in a manner that feels appropriate. Regardless, the apology is out of your hands. 

You have the power

Needing an apology to move on is giving the other person all the power over you. You are relying on them to make you happy. You are dependent on this other person, giving them even more power. This person has already wronged you, why would you want to keep them in control of your emotional state? You should—and you do—have the power to make yourself happy.

You don’t need an apology to move on. You have to make things right in your head by accepting that what happened happened and there is nothing you can do about it. Move on, let go and get back to you. You are the only one who can truly control how you feel. You are in charge of you. Stop giving others all the power. Start focusing on your inner struggle and move forward in your life on your terms. 

You are not obligated to take BS

We all cross people in our lives that put on an act, give us their bullshit and expect that we will just lay down and take it. But, we don’t have to. It doesn’t matter who this person is in your life —a boss, a coworker, a parent, a close friend, a spouse, an acquaintance, a doctor, etc. It doesn’t matter who they are, you are not obligated to take their crap. 

There is no concrete rule book in life, but one thing is for certain—you need to be your biggest advocate. You can’t rely on others. Even the closest people to you will let you down sometimes. We are all human. When someone is treating you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, you don’t need to just sit back and take it. Stand up for yourself and set boundaries. 

Those boundaries can take many different forms. It might mean ignoring calls or texts from this person. It might mean ending all interactions. It might mean being straight with them. You can tell this person that you won’t put up with whatever they are doing. Be honest with them and yourself and be your biggest advocate. No one knows you better than you. No one is inside your head feeling what you are feeling, seeing things the exact way you see them.

Even if you are someone that doesn’t like conflict, you are afraid of letting someone down, or you worry about how you are seen, what about you? The ball is in your court. You can protect yourself and separate yourself from toxic situations. You don’t have to leave all the choices up to others. You can make the best choices for yourself. Trust me, even if it is hard to make the first move you will feel better in the long run. 

Turn your bad day around with these tips

Life is not easy. We all have days where we feel on top of the world and we all have days where we feel the gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe. It is part of being alive. But, just because a day is off to a bad start doesn’t mean it can’t end on a good note. There are ways to turn a bad day around. 

Next time you are having a rough time, consider trying some of these tips:

1.) Recognize that you are in control of your happiness: Even on the worst of days you still have the power to find the positive. Your negative energy can rub off on the people around you, contributing to your downward spiral of a day. If you switch it up, laugh it off, and embrace the positive you can change the way you feel and impact how others interact with you. 

2.) Determine the problem: What is causing your day to be bad? Is it just dumb luck? Or a bad mood that is making everything so much more difficult to get through. Identify the problem and squash it. Maybe you were late for a meeting and now your boss is angry with you. Switch up your mood and focus your energy on a project that could help you recover from this mishap. 

3.) Be grateful: Look around, think about the good in your life, find something to be grateful for. Yea so you were late to work, but you got to listen to a really good song on the way. You lost your temper on your child and you feel awful, but at least they made it to school in one piece and when they get home you can hug them and tell them you love them and recover. You are alive, you are breathing, you are well. However small or big it is, there is always something we can be thankful for. Finding something to appreciate will help to lighten your stress and maybe even bring a smile to your face. 

4.) Laugh: There is research that shows that even forcing laughter can lift our spirits. Make yourself smile, laugh, watch a funny animal video, look at a picture of a loved one, laugh at whatever is making your day unpleasant. 

5.) Be accepting: We all have bad days. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect. Forgive yourself. Let go of the moment. Strive to move forward. 

6.) Change it up: If you are struggling, change your routine for the day. Make things different. Maybe instead of working through lunch, ask a friend to meet up, go for a walk, or hideaway for a power nap. 

7.)Stop feeling like a victim: Maybe the cause of your bad day is something that happened to you and you feel victimized. Even if you are the victim of something, stop dwelling on it. The more we feel like a victim, the more we wallow in self-pity and feel sorry for ourselves rather than putting in the effort to appreciate the good in our lives.

No matter what your day has in store, learn to celebrate the small victories — you got out of bed this morning, your hair looks fabulous, that zit on your nose is finally gone, you crossed some things off your to-do list, your spouse loves you, your kid brushed his teeth without needing to be told, etc. You can move beyond the bad and turn a day around, you just have to want it.