The Future of Happiness — Up or Down?

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
The Future of Happiness — Up or Down?
It’s unsettling that so little is known about what it takes to be happy, and a lot of what we do know is contradictory. On the one hand, most people report that they are happy when asked by pollsters — up to 80 percent in most developed countries. On the other hand, psychological studies and various reports don’t share such a bright picture. The following things make happiness a problem:

• As a feeling, being happy comes and goes. It often arrives accidentally, leading to one popular theory that we “stumble on happiness” rather than create it.
• People are generally not good at predicting what will make them happy. Having a baby, for example, is often a major stress from day to day, not a sustained joy.
• Prescriptions for antidepressants and tranquilizers remain high, although many question that either kind of medication does more than improve symptoms, and sometimes not even that.
• Aside from rampant consumerism and the pursuit of diversions, modern society has not found a deeper theory of happiness to guide us.

It’s the last point which is the most critical. One of the major reasons for the existence of religion has always been that God offers a happiness beyond what is found in mortal life. That view is no longer viable for millions of people who have walked away from organized religion. The promise of heaven vaguely persists in people’s minds, but it’s fair to say that trying to be happy in material terms has replaced the hereafter as their main focus.

If we leave aside religious terminology, the picture of happiness held out by the world’s spiritual traditions isn’t at all like the materialistic model, with its dependence of looking outside yourself for things that bring pleasure. Instead, the following are supposed to be true:

• Happiness is a permanent condition of the soul.
• We create unhappiness by deviating from the soul’s immortal condition.
• Lasting happiness is achieved by a spiritual journey that heals self-division.
• The undivided self is the true self and therefore the most natural identity for every individual.

This model of a kind of happiness that no one can take away from you remains as radical today as it was centuries ago, perhaps more so given the hold that materialism has over us. But appearances are deceiving, I think. The world’s religions were addressed by and large to a population that struggled to fill the basic necessities of food and shelter, with early death and lifelong privation the norm. Rising prosperity and modern medicine have created a much more secure platform for the average life today.

This means that millions of people are in a position to test for themselves if the spiritual model of happiness is actually valid — they have the time and freedom to pursue the true self. Such an agenda is part of official social values, but it has been adopted by countless people who form a loose confederation of seekers around the world. Material freedom, in a word, isn’t the opposite of spiritual freedom. People aren’t forced to seek God because daily life is so miserable but because they have higher expectations than daily comfort and security.

It would be better all around if we recognized the reality of the situation instead of recycling outworn images of sin, eternal punishment, earthly life as a vale of tears, and a state of bliss achievable only after death. Eastern spirituality doesn’t focus on these things, but it too has outworn notions of renunciation, daily rituals, caste obligations, and a state of enlightenment available only to the dedicated few.

What will our future happiness look like if all of these hindrances and obstacles were rejected once and for all? We’ll go into that in the next post.

(To be cont.)

Practice Empathy for Better Relationships at Work and Home

Empathy is perhaps the most important relational skill. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and understand how they might be feeling in a given situation. The ability to listen empathically — relating to and understanding the perspective, position and feelings of others — is a tremendously important capability in both personal and professional relationships.

We don’t need to have had the exact same experience or scenario in life to empathize with somebody else. As human beings, we all experience similar feelings of joy, sadness, loss, love, fear, loneliness, pride, shame, guilt, relief, and elation. If we listen in a way that allows us to relate to that common feeling or human experience, we can improve our connections and shared understandings with others.

Empathy does not involve judgment, criticism, opinion or problem solving. We can not change or control other people’s feelings. Instead, we can help them work through their feelings by letting them experience being heard and validating their emotional responses.

Sometimes people appear to have a larger emotional response than is appropriate to the situation at hand. This is because the event has tapped into a well of feelings from past/similar experiences. Their response may seem excessive or dramatic, but feelings are never “wrong.” They are normal responses to a person’s nature and nurture.

Verbalizing empathy allows the people in our lives to feel heard, known, understood and connected to us. It can diffuse conflict as once people feel heard, they may not feel the need to become increasingly defensive or aggressive to get their message across.

As part of the human condition, we can all become self-absorbed at times and tend to look at things from our own perspective. Consciously stepping outside of ourselves and putting ourselves in the experiences of others (similar to identifying with a character in a movie) can increase our awareness and improve our relationships.

Empathy is a skill that can be developed. So, let’s practice:

Situation: Your girlfriend is crying and tells you she is upset that her boss reprimanded and criticized her in front of her peers.

Non-empathic responses:

“Don’t let it get you that upset. You shouldn’t feel that way.” (Invalidating)

“You just need to get a new job already. I keep telling you that.” (Problem solving, impatient)

“Well, what did you do? Did you deserve it?” (Unsupportive, blaming)

“That’s too bad. What’s for dinner?” (Under-responsive, self-centered)

“It’s not that big of a deal. At least you didn’t get fired.” (Minimizing)

“Is it your time of the month or something?” (Infuriating)

“I wouldn’t care if that happened to me. I would just shake it off.” (Comparing to oneself, not helpful)

“You are too sensitive.” (Critical)

Empathic responses:

“Gosh, I am so sorry that happened.” (Sympathetic and caring)

“That was really unprofessional and uncool of your boss. It is completely understandable that you are upset. I know how hard you work and how invested you are in your job.” (Validating)

“That must have been embarrassing and uncomfortable. I imagine you feel frustrated, mad and disempowered.” (Empathic, recognizing and honoring the feelings.)

“I felt similarly when my mom criticized me in front of my brothers or friends. It was humiliating and enraging.” (Relating and normalizing, as long as comments are kept brief and you don’t hijack the conversation and make it about yourself)

“What do you think would help you feel better about it? What do you need? How can I help?” (Supportive)

Empathy is a work in progress. I sometimes (annoyingly, I’m sure) coach my husband in a flowery voice on what empathic response I desire from him, “Oh, my beautiful wife who I love and appreciate so very much, I can completely understand why you are mad that I forgot to do the ten things you asked me to do…” To see what that must be like for him, check out this humorous skit on empathy in relationships! Click here.

Keep empathy in the forefront of your mind as you relate to others, and watch your relationships improve!

Twitter: @Joyce_Marter and @Urban_Balance

Facebook: Joyce Marter, LCPC and Urban Balance

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7 Ways to Keep Your Sanity When You Live With Toxic People
Do you live with people who love to complain and whine about anything and everything? If you do, you may have wanted to bang your head against the wall more than once and shout, “Stop it!” Living with toxic people can drain your energy, and they can make you sick. How? By transferring their negative energy to you. Before you know it, you have stinky energy seeping deep into your pores, clogging your body, mind and spirit. If you can’t move out, don’t worry. You can keep your sanity and thrive. But it will take determination on your part.

7 Ways to Keep Your Sanity When You Live with Toxic People

1. Tune out.

You may want to tune out when someone is complaining about this or that. Let’s face it; your central nervous system can only take so much of another person’s toxic dumping. If someone isn’t willing to see that they’re possibly creating their own problems and making themselves miserable, you can’t do anything about it. But you can tune out for a while. Grab your favorite electronic device and plug in to good music, perhaps a good meditation. You’ll feel better after 20 minutes of relaxation.

2. Change the subject.

If someone starts a conversation that will lead you down the “gossip or toxic dump road,” change the subject. First of all, if you gossip about someone, rest assured they are talking about you, too. Why should you willing attract negative vibes into your life? Gently steer a conversation in another direction and topic. If you’re lucky, your friend will forget about what he/she was talking about, and you can have a nice conversation.

3. Have empathy.

It’s true that people are doing the best they can at any given moment, so cut them some slack. Try to see a situation from their point-of-view and acknowledge that it’s their truth, for now. Plus, you can’t know for sure what goes through another person’s mind. Unless, of course, you can read minds. Perhaps you’re intuitive, but unless you ask, “What’s wrong?” You’ll never fully understand what someone is going through every day.

4. Volunteer.

Maybe you need to get out of the house. Not only is volunteering great for your soul, but it’s good for your mind, body and the community. Focusing (mind) on someone other than yourself is always good. For example, let’s say you volunteer at a food pantry. You may have to lift and move 50-pound boxes (good workout) that are filled with foods to be donated to families (supporting the community). Make a difference in another person’s life. Who knows? The people you live with may want to volunteer with you. See that? You just led by example.

5. Be grateful.

Say, “Thank you” for everything that you have, even the toxic people in your life. Why? Because an attitude of gratitude is good for you, and the people in your life may teach you valuable life lessons. For example, if you live with an alcoholic, he/she can teach you that you don’t want to become an alcoholic and that addiction doesn’t work for you. However, this doesn’t mean the people in your life have the right to drive you nuts. Set and keep strong boundaries. Reach out for help and support, if you need it.

6. Offer help.

If you can help someone change their life, go for it. Just don’t be judgmental about it. Come from a place of empathy and understanding. Perhaps all a person needs is a shoulder to cry on or guidance on how to handle a situation. Extend an olive branch and do your best to help. Whatever you do — do not force your beliefs on those around your. Everyone has free will and can think and believe what they want to, even if it’s toxic.

7. Smile.

Just smile! You may be surprised how a smile can change the people around you. Why? Because it can alleviate stress and stressful situations. A smile is contagious. How can you not smile when someone is smiling back you? And while you’re at it, laugh. It’s true that laughter is the best medicine. A hardy laugh can put you and everyone around you in a better mood in no time.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

The Protagonist
Who do you live your life for? Who owns your life? Who’s responsible for your life?

Most of you will say “I am.” But let’s have a moment to reflect to determine if we really are the protagonist or if we are a supporting character.

Let’s start with something simple. The clothes you wear. Is it to impress those around you or is it because you are satisfied with it?

The restaurants you choose. Is it because of the food or is it to be scene?

The volunteer work you do or the money you donate; is it because you want to help or is it because you want to be scene as a “nice person”?

The posts you load and the pictures you upload on Facebook; is it to show off how fabulous your life is or is it because you want to share your happiness?

Where do you spend your money?

When you look in the mirror, what is your first thought?

Depending on your answer, you will be able to determine if you are a protagonist or a supporting character.

Protagonists live the life with the knowledge that they are responsible for their lives. Protagonists understand that their choices will lead their life towards their goals. Protagonist will wear the clothes that they are comfortable not thinking about one passing comment of, “what a great outfit. You look great.” Protagonists will eat wherever they want without thinking, “I’ll check in so people will know I’m at the five-star restaurant.” Protagonists share their thoughts because it is their thoughts, without thinking “I wonder how many likes I’ll get.” Protagonists spend their money and save their money to their means and be happy and grateful for what they have. Those who live their lives constantly worrying about what people will think, constantly wanting that extra “like,” constantly wanting to show off the newest toy that they just purchased, the clothes that they just bought, the people that they know, the parties that they have gone; I’m sorry to tell you but you are just a supporting character. You’ve let those in your life or even a stranger that might stumble across your Instagram picture, be the protagonist.

When you are a supporting character of your own life and you let others be the protagonist, you’ll look back and see that there is nothing left.

But when you take ownership and be grateful in your own skin and lead with the giving heart, then you are THE protagonist of your own life. Your feet will be grounded. And no one can stand in your way. And when you look back, you will have accomplished it all.

Your story is not told by the thoughts, judgement, or comments of others. Your story is told by you: your thoughts, your judgement, and your beliefs. So are you a protagonist?

How To Take What Makes This Season Great And Apply It To The Rest Of The Year
After weeks of preparation, menu planning, decorating and addressing greeting cards, just like that another holiday season has passed us by.

Although the tree ornaments may not be packed away, and the leftover food may not have disappeared quite yet, it’s still possible to feel a bit of yearning for the holiday happiness you just experienced. It’s no wonder we’re sad to see the season go: Studies show that holidays full of family boost emotional wellness.

The good news is it’s possible to make that exuberance and joy you feel during the season last throughout the year. Below, find six ways to make your holiday buzz carry into 2014 and beyond.

Be festive.


When was the last time you celebrated something, just because? Or had a festive gathering outside of the span of the season? Adopting a more festive attitude, and ritualizing more events than just the main holidays on the calendar, can actually help you cultivate more joy all year.

Celebrating good times and fun occasions can create a deeper sense of social connection and helps to build closer relationships. By being festive beyond the holiday season, you also open yourself up for more opportunities to log some time with your friends, which has been proven to help beat anxiety. Celebrating the little things — no matter if it’s an accolade at work or just because you’re happy it’s Friday night — is also associated with overall gladness. So next time you need a little pick me up, schedule a little festivity (the ugly Christmas sweater is optional).

Send greeting cards and thank you notes

envelope and letters

Another way to carry the holiday spirit through the rest of the year is to express thanks to and keep in touch with loved ones more often than your once-a-year Christmas card. It’s no secret that gratitude is at its peak during the holidays, but practicing it all year — even in small forms — can have a significant impact on your on your emotional and physical wellness. Writing down what — and more specifically, who — you’re thankful for can help you focus on the present and cultivate gratitude for all the good in your life, according to gratitude researcher Dr. Robert Emmons. The result? An increase in feelings of happiness and contentment.

In his book “365 Thank Yous,” author John Kralik details how the simple act of writing one thank you note can have a positive impact on your psyche. After struggling with a series of challenges, Kralik made it his mission to take the time to write a thank you note at least once a day to someone — and the results were life changing.

Writing a thank you note or a message just to check in doesn’t have to follow a material gift. Just letting someone know you care will also affect your happiness levels — but according to Kralik, make sure you say it in print. “Things we write in cyberspace are so easily deleted and forgotten … buried by the next 30 e-mails we receive,” Kralik told NPR in 2010. “In this day and age, a handwritten note is something that people really feel is special.”

Spread a little generosity
giving gift

Part of the joy that fills the season includes giving gifts to loved ones — but that thoughtfulness and generosity doesn’t have to come to an end once that last gift has been unwrapped.

Adopting a giving mentality all year round can make the jolliness of the season thrive — along with your happiness levels. According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development, extending any bit of kindness or generosity to others can increase social connection and feelings of positivity for the donor.

The study examined how social giving affected emotional wellness, concluding that giving to worthy causes through friends and family made participants feel the happiest. “Our findings suggest that putting the social in pro-social [spending] is one way to transform good deeds into good feelings,” the researchers wrote in the report.

Spend time with loved ones

friends and family

Surrounding ourselves with those who make us the happiest doesn’t have to be a once-a-year treat. In fact, spending time with people rather than your holiday gifts can have a positive impact on our emotional well-being. According to a study conducted by the University of Missouri, happiness levels were greater when family events were more prominent during the season. Connection with friends and family also has a major reduction on stress, resulting in more pleasant, helpful and sociable attitudes.

Instead of the empty promise to get together as you head to your cars after the Christmas party, try making a regular date and sticking to it. A busy social calendar, along with some quality time with those who lift you up, can help transcend the holiday happiness into the spring, summer and beyond.

Let yourself indulge a little

holiday cookies

Admit it: You totally ate that second piece of pie even though you were already full -– and even more so, at the time, you didn’t regret it. It turns out your desire to indulge isn’t wrong; in fact, allowing yourself a little leniency more often can actually be good for you in the long run.

Research has shown that those who didn’t deprive themselves when it came to cravings managed to stay on track with dieting a lot better than those who restricted themselves entirely — and that holiday buffet is no exception. In other words, (mindfully) adopt that “cheating” attitude and grab a cookie at the next book club or treat yourself to that bowl of ice cream — a little indulgence is going to help you more than hurt you, and will help your jolly spirit live on beyond the end of December.

Take time off


Perhaps one of the most thrilling parts of the holidays is the mental break and time away from our work responsibilities — and rightfully so. A 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that the anticipation of planning and taking a vacation resulted in higher overall happiness levels — not a bad thing to have on your side when you’re navigating your way through a hectic day at the office.

And that’s not the only benefit of a little holiday. Studies have shown that taking a vacation can help stave off a heart attack,

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