How Much Happier You Can Be by Time and Effort Required

happiness

 

I saw this handy article and infographic on The Huffington Post, and I couldn’t get over how cute and useful it was, especially for anyone who might be getting the post-holiday blues or who resolved to have a happier 2014. I know that my life always feels 1,000X more hectic when I am trying to get back into the grind after a light holiday work schedule. When you’re looking for ways to feel happier, but might only have a few minutes to spare, this graph can easily tell you which of the 16 scientifically backed ways to boost your mood based on the time you have available. And it breaks it down by how big of a leap in good feelings you can expect to see, taking the mystery our of your mood.

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Eat and Drink These Things to Stay Productive

coffee

It’s Monday, and it’s Veteran’s Day. Those of us who are stuck in the office instead of enjoying a day off to celebrate our nation’s heroes, may be experiencing a little drain on motivation from friends who are not at work today. You may be searching for some extra incentive to make it through the day. Luckily, The Huffington Post has a list of the food and drinks that can make you more productive while you’re at work. They can help keep your mind sharp, and give you a natural boost without needing a 5-hour energy. So, when you’re feeling sleepy or a little stalled, reach for one of these power foods and beverages:

  • Dark Chocolate: The flavanols found in cocoa will increase bloodflow to the brain, keeping you feeling energetic
  • Citrus Fruit: Even just the scent of citrus can give you a boost, but consuming the Vitamin C will give added alertness
  • Water: Dehydration zaps your focus and short-term memory. Keep your brain running like a well-oiled machine with lots of H2O.
  • Coffee or Tea: Most of us know this already, but having a cup of caffeine can improve your cognitive focus and concentration.

They just might make the difference between hitting a wall, and keeping on trucking. Now, go mark some things off your afternoon to-do list.

Explaining Why Debbie is ALWAYS Such a Downer

haters

We all have that friend who can make any situation into a Debbie Downer moment, regardless of what is going on. My Grandmother used to call it being contrary, when I used to disagree with everything my sister said just to be difficult as a child (luckily I grew out if it). Now researchers call this tendency to take an EVERYTHING IS AWFUL or EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL point of view “dispositional attitude.”

What it means is that how people feel in a particular situation isn’t 100% motivated by the circumstances surrounding them. Instead, it is a result of the properties in the mind of the person evaluating them. A person with a dispositional attitude will automatically be pre-disposed, or more inclined, to either love everything or hate everything regardless of whether the sky is full of rainbows and sunshine, or rain clouds and thunder. It is not the situation itself making them feel that way, but an internal tendency to view all circumstances in a particular light. I’ve been known to tell my friends, “Haters gonna hate,” when that kind of person gets them down. Now, at least we have an inkling as to why!

Happiest Ages are 23 and 69

happyA new study has found that happiness flows through ups and downs as we go through life (a real, emotional roller coaster, right?). I think we can all agree that there are certain years of our lives that we’ve felt happier than others. For me, I always remember 2009 as an extra-exceptional year when my sister got married, I attended my first music festival and took some wonderful trips, and I just felt free. Then at the other side, there are other years on the not-so-great end of the spectrum. Now researchers have pinpointed a couple specific points when people tend to be at their happiest, ages 23 and 69. They think it is partially because young people over-estimate how satisfied with they will be in the future, leading to disappointment. The elderly tend to under-estimate levels of life satisfaction, and thus are pleasantly surprised and happier as a result. I was 23 for a portion of 2009, and life was so good. I’ll have to keep you posted on what age 69 brings.

Do you remember these ages as particularly good or bad in your life?

Positive Thinking = More Possibilities + More Skills

pinwheelsEveryone cringes when they see articles titled things like, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” It seems cheesy and false to say that simply thinking good thoughts can actually change your life, and people who insist on always seeing the silver lining can be slightly annoying, especially when you’re feeling down in the dumps. But time and time again, research has proved that positive thinking can make you happier, and now it is starting to show that it not only allows you to see more possibilities in your life, but also builds skills that will help you attain more long term happiness. Negative feelings tend to shut you down. They close off your ability to see the other options and feelings in the world around you. Happy thoughts do just the opposite, they allow you to see more opportunities. They also enhance your ability to build skills that you can use later in life. Many times people equate happiness with achieving a certain goal. While goals do provide happiness, it is temporary, as once attained, you set a new goal to chase after. However, when you think positively, you are constantly seeing new opportunities that lead to you broadening and building your skill set. These skills will allow positive thinkers to more easily achieve their next goal, and the next, constantly pulling in more happiness.

So how do you do it? Researchers recommend engaging in activities that make you feel joy, contentment, and love. You can spend time doing things you like, with people you care about. Additionally, meditation, writing about positive experiences, and setting aside time to play, explore and experiment (just like you would schedule a dentist appointment) all lead to an increased ability to think positively.

5 Things to Know on the Hunt for Happiness

happinessRolf Dobelli chatted with The Huffington Post about happiness. He says that since we can’t pin down exactly what quantifiable thing it is that makes up happy, instead to achieve happiness, we need to clean our lives of things that are known to cause unhappiness or destroy happiness. Here are his top things you should know to stop undermining your happy.

  1. Understand that You Don’t Know What Will Make You Happy: In other words, the things we think will make us happy- for example a big purchase like a new car- often only provide a short-term thrill lasting up to 6 months. Instead, experiences, projects and new challenges tend to contribute more to long term happiness. Try trading more of those instead of the instant gratification of a purchase to boost your mood.
  2. Cut it Out with YOLO Already: While yolo is a great excuse to throw caution to the wind in the moment, being happy in life takes planning and hard work that will pay dividends down the road. Don’t totally abandon spontaneity and fun, but reserve it for a special couple days a week, and use the rest of the time to keep your nose to the grindstone forging on toward your long term goals.
  3. Make Your Own Path: Don’t copy those around you, instead make your own decisions. Follow your instincts, and try not to let what everyone else is doing effect what you want to do, and choose to do with your own life.
  4. Stop Watching the News: FINALLY someone else is with me on this. 90% of breaking news is either a downer, or not relevant to your life. Instead of constantly trolling your twitter feed and RSS reader for the LATEST trend, instead spend time reading longer articles on your particular interests, and learning new things about it.
  5. Get Out of “The Moment”: While it’s great to be focused on your experiences as they happen, keep it in the back of your mind that things are happening (in the world, in other people’s lives) that you just can’t perceive. Don’t be too hung up on every minute detail of the moment for a happier life.

In other news, Australia is the happiest country among the developed nations. With all the beach, time spent outdoors, and beautiful country, I can’t say I’m surprised. You?

6 Ways Optimism is Good for Your Health

optimism

If you haven’t already noticed, looking on the bright side (or at least making crappy situations seem a little less crappy) is kind of my thing. So, imagine how happy I was when I read this article on the Huffington Post that was dedicated to describing how this state of mind – seeing the glass as half full— is good for your health. It discusses recent findings published in The Journal of Personality which indicate that most people tend to view their future through rose-colored glasses across national boundaries and high vs. low income nations. Read: the ability to take a positive stance isn’t limited to those who live in the lap of luxury. And it’s not limited by your age, education, gender or total income either. The results showed that hopefulness that tomorrow will be better than today extended through all of these groups as a universally attainable belief, which is great news because studies show that optimism is associated with overall well-being, good physical condition, and has 6 definite impacts on health. In general, optimists have:

  1. Healthier Hearts: Psychological well-being (or being happier as a person) decreases risk of cardiovascular problems
  2. Better Cholesterol: More good cholesterol, lower levels of bad cholesterol are found people who expect more good to come their way than bad
  3. Enhanced Stress Management: Looking for the silver lining in bad situations makes optimists overall more able to manage stressful situations, and recover physically more quickly
  4. Stronger Immunity: Staying positive during cold season may make it easier to fight off those germs
  5. Lower Stroke Risk: Possibly attributed to the idea that people who are positive in nature take more steps to maintain their physical health
  6. Superior Emotional Regulation: Optimists seem more able to bounce back more easily from emotional trauma, and take upsetting feelings in stride

While you can’t control what happens to you in life, you can control the attitude you adopt after that bad hair day, break up, or cavity at the dentist ruins your day. And now, it looks like you can affect how your whole body functions as a result, some pretty good motivation to try out some positive thinking now and again, no?