Saturday, 24 August 2013

Mindful living and the Holstee Manifesto

The internet is such a great way of discovering new things and information, often accidentally! This week I stumbled upon  “The Holstee Manifesto” and it may have been one of the greatest links I have ever clicked on.

Holstee is a start-up that designs a range of products to encourage mindful living and positively influence the world.

I think their manifesto is great, as it truly reflects their vision for the world. The opening line reads “This is your life. Do what you love and do it often” I won’t go through all of it as you can read it and download it for yourself (see link above) but it really is something that is worth reading. I think it is something you should keep a copy of -  in a prominent spot at your desk, in your living room, or on your phone -  anywhere you are going to see it everyday.

How often do we do things without asking “Why am I doing this?” How much time do we spend on tasks that do not stimulate us, satisfy us or improve our lives?

Time is life’s greatest currency. You can always earn more money or have more stuff, but you can’t have more time. As each day ticks by, you have to choose how you spend your time, as you can’t get a rain-check if you don’t like how you have used your day.

Working as a health professional I am reminded more often than most just how short life is. I have come across many people who would have wanted nothing more than to have more time with the ones they love, or to do the things they love. No one ever wants to have more stuff or money when they are at the end of their life.

“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.” This is the final line of the manifesto, and my personal favourite. If you don’t know what your dream is, start dreaming! Find your passion – what is it that truly engages you? If you don’t know yet, try new things, meet new people and have experiences that will help you to discover it.

You only get one chance to live, and you can never get any more time. There is no better time than the present to start living the life you want. So what are you waiting for?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

10 Things You Should Know About Your Health

When asked about the most important or most valuable things in life, health is often at the top of everyone’s list. Without your health, you do not have the ability to do, or have, much else. Being healthy means different things to everybody, and health status is strongly linked to happiness. But how much do you really know about your health- the things that affect your longevity? Here’s a list of ten things you should know about your health – as a bare minimum!

1.   Keep your vaccinations up to date

Vaccinations are an amazing invention that we take for granted in the 21st century. We can now avoid many diseases such has whooping cough, influenza, tetanus, and diphtheria, simply by having vaccination. Different vaccinations are available for different age groups, so check with your doctor whether you are up to date with your vaccinations.

2.       Diet and Exercise

Have you ever had a health professional review your diet and exercise regimen? Has a professional ever provided you with any recommendations? Have you tried to lose weight unsuccessfully? Your diet and exercise regimen has significant influence on your health and well-being, yet most people probably never have any professional input as to whether they are on the right track, or need to make some changes to achieve their goals.

3.       Undertake preventative screening

There is an array of preventative health screening programs available that are highly effective at detecting diseases early on. The sooner a problem is identified, the better the prognosis as early interventions can be made.  Pap smears, mammograms, bowel screening, prostate checks, mole checks and bone density tests are just some of the many available tests that can detect problems in the initial stages.

4.        Know your blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for a number of conditions, including heart attack and stroke. People who have high blood pressure are often unaware that there is any problem, as symptoms are only usually experienced at dangerously high blood pressure levels. Your doctor or local pharmacy can perform a blood pressure check, and identify whether further follow up is needed.

5.       Know your cholesterol and sugar levels

A simple blood test can determine your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. High cholesterol is a “silent” disease that causes narrowing and blockage of the blood vessels ; however there are no noticeable symptoms.  The first symptom experienced  could even be  a  heart attack or a stroke. Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body can no longer regulate blood sugar levels effectively. It often has a gradual onset, with early symptoms being very mild. Both conditions are associated with a range of potential complications. However there are effective treatments available and these conditions can be well managed, especially with early intervention.

6.       Understand  your medications

Medications are routinely involved in the management of diseases and ailments. But how much do you really know about your medications? Make sure you know what each of your medicines is actually for, be able to identify the difference between the drug name and the brand name; and ensure you know how to take your medication correctly. If you are unsure, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

7.       Check your cigarette and alcohol use

No one needs to tell you that smoking is bad for you; this has been widely known for decades. Smoking damages every part of the body, and the sooner you kick the habit the easier it is for the body to reverse some of the damage that has been done. Alcoholin moderation does not appear to increase the risk of disease or injury for most people.  Moderation is defined as “on average no more than 2 standard drinks a day”, and this doesn’t mean you can save up your daily drink quota and binge on the weekend!

8.       Dental health check

No one likes going to the dentist, as it hurts the mouth and the wallet! But like most aspects of health, preventing dental issues is better having to treat them. Try to go at least once a year for a routine check-up and a good clean. 

9.       Eye health

We take our eyes for granted, if they are working fine, we don’t worry too much about them.  For people over 40, regular eye testing at least every two years is recommended to check for glaucoma, a condition where the pressure behind the eyeball becomes elevated and can lead to significant vision loss. If detected early on, treatment is available to slow the progression of this disease.

10.   Give yourself a mental health check

Often doctors won’t routinely ask about mood, stress and anxiety levels. If you are feeling “not quite right” emotionally, talk to your doctor about how you are feeling or visit a counsellor or psychologist for further help.

Do you know all of this information about your health? No? Well you are definitely not alone. It’s easy to put off looking after your health when your life has other demands and priorities. Yet if your health is important to you, do something about it!  Make sure you know how healthy you really are and what else you could be doing to improve or maintain your health and well-being.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Five ways to remember people's names

Remembering the name of every person you encounter may be challenging, but worthwhile in the long run. I recently had an experience at work that emphasized the power of remembering a person’s name.

Now I’ll be honest, I hadn’t actually remembered her name, but rather I’d just overheard her introduce herself to someone else. True, I had met this person before, but I did not have the faintest idea what her name was. Then when I went to speak to her, using her name, she was really pleased and said “You’ve got a good memory!” She was then really receptive to what I needed to discuss with her, and eager to be cooperative.

This incident really struck a chord with me, as my accidental “recollection” of her name was really important to her. She didn’t know I had forgotten it and only accidentally overheard it; and I wasn’t going to correct her as that would have served no useful purpose. People care about themselves, and there is no sweeter sound to a person than the sound of their own name.

Think about it, when you hear your name, your ears prick up, you pay attention, you look around to see who it is that  wants to speak to you. This one word is so important to each individual, yet actually being able to remember names is hard. Perhaps that is why people who can recall names easily get so much further in the workplace, in business dealings and in social gatherings, than those of us who lack such recall for names.

So how can we remember names? If it was easy everyone could do it. Here are a few strategies I’ve discovered to try to remember people’s names.

1.  Listen

You are never going to remember anyone’s name if you are not listening for it. When being introduced to someone, listen for their name and if you don’t catch it ask for the name to be repeated.

2. Observe the details

Look at the person closely to identify distinguishing features. Observe facial expressions; listen to how they talk and whether they display any defining mannerisms.

3. Repeat it

If you don’t use it, you will forget it! Use a person’s name a few times during your initial conversation; just be careful not to overdo it.

4. Associate the person’s name with what they do

This technique is particularly effective if the person’s name and occupation are highly appropriate, completely mismatched or humorous in some way. For example when you meet a doctor who is a Dr Love,  Dr Feelgood or Dr Death; it is going to be very easy to remember their name and face. Yvonne Stitch who is a dressmaker, Brad Tyler who is a tiler, James Makepeace who is a diplomat; are all examples of names strongly associated with what the person does, and consequently easier to remember. Clare Tall, who is 5ft, Nathan Stick, who is a beefy lad and Sally Green who is a red head all have mismatched names to their features. These contrasts provide a means for the brain to associate the person’s name to their face.

5. Create a mental image to associate with a person and their name

How often have you thought, “I know the face, I just can’t recall the name?” Our brain is better at remembering visual information, rather than verbal or written information. Creating a mental image of a person’s name helps to overcome this, and consequently this method is likely to be most effective for recalling names over a long time period. This “mind picture” method was described by Dale Carnegie, author of the ground-breaking “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, and several other personal development books. The “mind picture” technique involves associating an image that sounds like the person’s name, combined with some other detail about them.  The more ridiculous the image you create the better, as your mind is more capable of recalling names if the person’s face is associated with vivid image you have created in your mind.

Consider the following examples below:

- To remember Jason Deer who likes to drink a lot, you could associate his name with an image of a mason with a deer holding a beer. A mason sounds like “Jason” a deer is, a deer and including beer in this image helps to remember the drinking aspect of his personality.
To remember Samantha Fisher who owns Labradors, you could associate her name with an image of  Labrador holding a fish in its mouth being chased by a panther. Here we have a “panther” which rhymes with “Samantha”, the Labrador in the image helps to recall something defining about her and the fish in the dog’s mouth provides a visual link to the name “Fisher”.

The beauty of this method is that there is no right or wrong way to create the mind images; it is whatever you can come up with in your mind to help you remember that person’s name.

After my experience at work, I am going to try to remember people’s names more often. It is easy to think I have remembered someone’s name, only to find I am struggling a day, or a week, or a month later to recall it.  I’ve never had such a positive initial reaction from a person before; and if remembering names is what it takes to get this response, then I am going to give it a go!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Chronic Pain and Happiness

Being happy is a difficult challenge for most of us. It is a state of mind, an intangible state of being. No one other than yourself can say whether or not you are happy. But what about those people who have the added challenge of living with chronic pain? These are people who are not dying from their illness, but rather live a life with some element of ongoing pain.

Working as a health professional I come across many people who experience some sort of chronic pain condition. Arthritis, phantom limb pain, recurrent migraine, chronic back pain, diabetic nerve pain; the list goes on. There are so many people who have these conditions, yet while doctors do everything they can to relieve the ailments, sometimes these conditions cause symptoms that some people just have to learn to live with.

If someone punched you in the stomach, or you stubbed your toe or banged your head; in that moment it is highly unlikely that you will feel happy. While this may hurt for a short while and makes you feel a bit sore, this pain will go away. This is acute, short lived pain. For people with chronic pain, their pain is ongoing and has varying degrees of severity. Being in pain is a miserable experience, so how do people with chronic pain manage to be happy?

Happiness means different things to everyone, as does pain. Experiencing pain, like happiness, can only be described by the person feeling it. No one can measure or record someone else’s pain experience.
Pain management is such a complex issue, and emotional well being has a major effect on how well a person lives with their pain.  Understanding pain, learning coping strategies, taking medication, practising relaxation techniques, exercising as appropriate are all regarded to be essential in the management of chronic pain.

As we all know, happiness is a different state of being for each individual. Living with chronic pain does not make being happy impossible, far from it.  Being able to move freely or perhaps not experiencing any pain one day might be things that elate chronic pain sufferers. 

For pain sufferers, the extent to which each individual manages their pain has a huge effect on their happiness. Chronic pain management is a complex issue, and sufferers should seek help from their doctor or therapist, as there is no need for anyone to face chronic pain alone. 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Working in a GOOD team

Most of us have to  work to earn a living. Very few of us have the luxury of not having to toil for several hours a day, to earn money to make ends meet and enjoy life with what is leftover.  Working with a group of people is part of life for the majority of us. If you enjoy your job, this makes going to work that much more bearable but on the whole it’s the people around you that can make or break your work day.

I believe I am lucky enough to work with a really good team of people, and it was confirmed the other day when it was just one of THOSE days. Due to it being the cold and flu season, we were short of staff by about 5 team members, it was busier than normal and it was hard just to keep up the pace to get everything done before the end of the day.

In these situations it’s easy to have a meltdown. Pressure makes most people crack and make mistakes. We often expect our leaders and managers to be immune to pressure, and not feel the strain, or at least, not let it show. A great team knows when their leader is struggling and can step up to help make the workday a bit more bearable.  

This is exactly what my work team did last week. It was a tough day and rather than crumble under the pressure, everyone just worked a little bit harder.  Each team member helped each other out, undertook tasks without instruction, used initiative and even stayed back late after their shift had ended to help late staff get everything finished on time.

Some days at work are good, some are OK, some are horrible! A horrible day is that much more bearable when you have a supportive team.

Maybe next time you are struggling with work and just ready to crumble, look to your team. They might surprise you and flourish given the opportunity to help when you are having a tough day. Whether you are an executive or a junior, if a colleague is struggling, don’t simply ignore them and only focus on your workload. Help each other out to get the job done and you can both go home happy; and nurture a true team culture in the workplace. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Quote of the day

"Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today" - James Dean

I love this quote by James Dean. So very apt coming from someone who appeared to live by this attitude who had his life cut short by a car accident at such a young age (at 24 years old). It is an appropriate reminder that no matter how bad a day you may be having, you never know which day could be your last. Don't waste time having bad days, work on what you can do to make your day better. Be happy for today, and dream for the future. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Fitting In

I was out the other evening with a large group of people at a function. As a shy person, I’m not really one for flourishing under such conditions. I have a soft voice so even when I chat to people it’s hard for them to hear me. And in a crowd, I tend to get drowned out.  Everyone was drinking, with an open bar nothing less is expected. At one point in the evening a drunk version of one of my colleagues said this exact phrase to me: “Have a drink, come on, what’s wrong with you?”

I don’t really drink much alcohol. It just doesn’t do much for me. I might have a glass of wine occasionally but I’m not that fussed. I rarely drink when I go out because quite frankly it’s overpriced (yes I know it was free in this instance) and I tend to get sleepy from just one drink.  

This flippant comment really upset me that evening. This person has known me a long time and knows I’m not one for drinking, and I always get frustrated having to explain over and over again why I don’t drink.  It’s clear to see why so many people drink even when they don’t really want to. They want to fit in and not have people start interrogating them about why they aren’t drinking. Society says that drinking alcohol is normal; therefore if you don’t do you must be abnormal. 

How often do we do things we really don’t want to just to make other people happy? My colleague couldn’t really care less about me, or my reasons why I don’t really drink much. If I had just been holding a drink in my hand and not drinking it I would have been seen to be behaving how he wanted me to, and I probably would have avoided any upset.  If I had started drinking just to appease him then that would make him happy, not me.

Not behaving in a way that the people around us want us to can make it hard to fit in. Since I don’t enjoy getting drunk this is one of the many reasons why I don’t spend too much time with people who just want to go out and get drunk.  There is no enjoyment in being sober around drunken people!
As far as I can tell, choosing not to drink doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. Far from it, but I let this flippant comment upset far too much for my own good! From this experience there are a few things to be learnt:

1.  Drunk people are stupid and insulting
2. Try not to care about what people think of you; especially people of little importance.
3. Don’t let other people alter your behaviour. Make your choices for you, and what will make you happy.

Ultimately, you only live once so stop wasting time with people who make you feel miserable, and spend time with those who contribute to your happiness. 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Happiness Quote

"Gather the crumbs of happiness and they will make you a loaf of contentment."


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Making Choices

Today I attended my cousin’s wedding.  In amongst the readings and the vows, the priest took the opportunity to discuss why we make choices. His view is that ultimately we make choices that we believe will make us happy. We don’t tend to make choices that will make us worse off.

Making everyday choices

Looking at the choices we make every day, we all act in a way that will contribute to our happiness. We decide what to eat for breakfast.  We might be on a diet, so we eat something that we think will be a healthy start to the day. By eating healthy, this should help with weight loss and this will then make us happy. We have a shower, which we do to keep clean, and make us feel refreshed. We choose our commute to work. We might use public transport because it is cheaper and more convenient. This saves money, which improves our life. Or we might choose to drive a car for a less crowded commute if we have free parking. All these small decisions are made automatically every day.

Not all choices are good choices

Every choice we make has some element of consideration of our happiness, wellbeing, or enjoyment. It can be a small decision, or a huge decision. This doesn’t mean all people make good choices. The person who chooses to steal a car is thinking they can go for a hoon and have a good time; or maybe they want to sell it for cash. By making this choice, there is something in it for them that they think will contribute to their happiness.  They don’t make such choices thinking about the consequences.

The power of choice

As we have this incredible power to make choices, we can all try to put a bit more conscious effort into our decisions, however small or large. Some choices take an instant,  especially those driven by our survival instinct. For example we choose to put our foot on the brake if something crosses in front of our car, without giving this decision any conscious thought.  But for the majority of choices we make, if we actually put some more thought into the decision making process, however small or large, there is a huge potential to make better choices, that will contribute to our happiness. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Living with regrets

To regret  is “to feel sad, sorry or disappointed over something that has happened or been done”. We have all experienced regret over something that has happened in our lives.  It may be something small like regretting the last drink of the night the morning after; or it could be a decision that was made that completely altered  our life. Having regrets has a major effect on our happiness, as we are powerless to change those events  that have already happened.

Making choices

If you have made a decision that you regret, that is a choice that stays with you for your whole life. There are two options for dealing with regret – accept what has gone before and focus on how you can live with what has happened (or not happened); or you can continue feel awful about the decision  you made. As hard as it can be sometimes to move forward, there really is no other choice.

I have often regretted choosing to study pharmacy at university.  At the time it seemed like a good decision, but in recent years job prospects have thinned out and wages have fallen. There were days where I was really quite upset about the lack of opportunity, especially given how hard I worked to achieve good results.

Regrets and "what if"

When we have regrets, we often think of how much better our life would be if we had made a different choice.  How often do we ever think that the alternative life to what we are currently living might have been worse? Not too often I think. We all like to believe that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence”.  I thought this way about my situation, if I had studied a different course then I would have better job opportunities and be better off overall.

So I made a choice. I got all my qualifications required to be registered as a pharmacist, but then not wanting to settle for what was on offer, I kept studying to gain additional qualifications. After to applying to every pharmacy in the city for a position, I got lucky and landed my first position. I worked hard for a couple of years, got additional qualifications and then applied to work in hospital pharmacy. Eventually I had enough experience and additional training that the time came where I was successful in my application for a particular position. Now I love my job, I work with a great team and I am happy with my potential for career progression.

I could have chosen to give up on pharmacy all together and go back to university, but I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t  be living in my first own,  I wouldn’t have ever met my partner, I wouldn’t have known some of the great people who have become my friends. It’s so easy to think “what if”, and ignore all the good things that have happened along the way.

Accepting choices

If you make a decision and later regret it, do something about it. If that choice is stopping you from being happy, it may be time to reassess what you can do to live with your choice.  Take steps to put the decision in perspective – was it really that bad? How can you go about making it easier to live with this decision? At the end of the day you cannot change what has already happened, but there is no reason to let regrets be emotional burdens that you carry forever.

If we were all perfect, we would always make the correct choices that lead us to a life of happiness. We are by no means perfect, and sometimes we make “bad” choices. Focus on what can be, not what could have been. The past cannot be changed, so the only choice is to move forward , as to live a life burdened by regrets is to live an unfulfilled life.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Healthy ways to manage stress

I am the type of person who doesn't realise just exactly how much I get stressed. It doesn't even  have to be anything major, just lots of life’s little demands that keep building up. Whilst I am dealing with all these “little things”, my body gets tenser and tenser. It’s not until I get a massage, have a good laugh or take a deep breath and relax my shoulders that I feel just how stressed I have become!

Recently I've taken stock of my stress levels, and discovered some ways to ease the load and relax. There is no exact way to manage stress, it’s simply finding an activity that you  are so engaged in that your mind becomes freed from  its worries.  We all have stress to deal with, and it is possible for each of us to cope with it. Successful people are not those that don’t have any stress, they are just successful at managing stress.  Consider trying some of the following approaches to help manage stress.

Option 1: Do some physical activity

It may be hard to find time to exercise in your day but getting the body moving is one of the best ways to relieve stress and stay healthy. Put on some music and dance like no one’s watching. Play on the Wii, play WiiFit, Zumba or Sports Resort. Get outdoors and go for a walk, run or bike ride.  Physical activity was the nature of human existence before the explosion in technology (we didn’t have cars and we didn’t have machines to do a lot of our housework). Get your blood flowing and your  heart pumping and your stress levels will plummet!

Option 2: Laugh

When you laugh, all the muscles in your body relax. If you are stressed out and have a good laugh you will feel just how tense your body really is. Visit YouTube and find a clip of a funny video. Watch a comedy show that you enjoy.  Remember a time when you had yourself in stitches, and soon enough a grin will be likely to come to your face.

Option 3: Reward yourself by doing an enjoyable activity

We all have activities which we enjoy doing. Reading, shopping, sewing, watching TV, going to see a movie, gardening, cooking, having a massage; all of these activities are highly effective at taking your mind off your worries. Really engage in what you are doing to refocus your mind away from stress.

Option 4: Talk to friends or family

When you get stressed you may have a tendency to bottle up your problems. Talking to friends and family can help take your mind off your worries, and a problem shared is usually a problem solved. Family and friends want to help, and be there for you, even if you think you can manage on your own. There is no need to carry a heavy load alone.  

Option 5: Talk to a counsellor

Sometimes stress can get so overwhelming it can be extremely hard to get perspective on how to deal with it. Talking to acounsellor can provide a completely objective view on your problems without any emotional attachments.  Counsellors are more readily available than you might think. Community organisations like Lifeline have a 24 hour  telephone counselling service, and many workplaces offer  confidential counselling for employees.

Unhealthy ways to cope with stress

Choosing a healthy way to manage stress may be hard, especially given that there are a range of easy, unhealthy ways to deal with stress. Often these are the first port of call for many of us. Who hasn’t had that chocolate bar or an extra drink after work at some point after having a bad day? Smoking, gambling, and other risky behaviours are all ways people choose to cope with stress. In the short term, you may feel better. But in the long run, these types of behaviours will damage your health, adding another unnecessary stress to your life. We all cope with stress in different ways. Sometimes we might choose to manage stress in a healthy manner, other times we might reach for the chocolate bar. Stress is a part of everyday life, so it is a life skill to learn and practice the stress management technique that works best for each of us. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

How relationships contribute to happiness

Humans are a social species that have evolved to seek out relationships. From the moment we come into the world, we are thrust into a world of interaction with other people. As a species, we need to be connected to others. We need to feel accepted, needed and that we belong.  The relationships we have throughout are lives significantly contribute to our happiness.

Having meaningful relationships with other people is essential to our happiness. This should not be interpreted to mean that we need other people to make us happy, far from it. From the moment we are born, we begin our relationship with our parents. As we grow older, we form relationships with our family, seek out friends in the playground, and seek out a partner to share our life with. We have professional relationships with co-workers and mentors; and then we have a relationship with our own children; and the cycle continues.

Relationships need to be nurtured, sometimes they can be extremely hard work. In any relationship, you are seeking something from the other person and they something from you. You may seek love, acceptance, respect. You may want to feel useful and needed. We all view relationships from our own perspective. How one person views a relationship and what they are seeking from it can be different to the other’s point of view.  When there is a mismatch in expectations from a relationship, this can be when problems start to occur.

Relationships are the foundation of human existence. We cannot live without them. Being connected to others emotionally, intellectually and physically can bring us profound happiness; if we are careful in choosing those relationships to nurture and those to sever. Sometimes we might take our relationships for granted, something we have hall been guilty of at some point in our lives.  To decide if a relationship is worth nurturing, think of how you would feel if that person was not in your life at all.  Fairly soon you can come to the conclusion as to those relationships you value and those that you could live without.

Having meaningful relationships contributes enormously to having a happy and fulfilling life. Being connected to people who are there to savour the good times and support us in our weakest moments helps keep us strong. Creating these connections takes a great deal of hard work, but it is work of the most rewarding kind. A life without meaningful relationships is a hollow existence.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The dollar value of happiness

We spend a lot of our lives working hard to earn money. We spend it to live a comfortable existence, to keep a roof over our heads, to have food in our stomach and clothes on our back. We pay all the bills and then ideally we might save some money. After all that is accounted for, we make choices as to what we spend the rest of our money on.

Why do we feel the need to spend our disposable income? Essentially we want to enjoy life and therefore we seek out items and activities which we believe will make us happy.  When we go to make a purchase, we do so for a reason.  It might  be something we need, such as a new fridge. No one wants rotten food in the house!  Or it might be something we want, like a new bike. Different people are obviously going to “want” different things, because we all have varying interests, beliefs and values. These factors then give us our perspective on what we believe is going to bring us happiness.  

Say you buy the family a set of bikes. If this then leads to countless bike rides, riding on holidays and spending time together; then this is the ideal scenario of quality use of disposable income. The money you have spent has not only bought a physical, tangible object; it has also created an opportunity to create memories together, and keep active and healthy.  

If however you buy the bikes and they sit in the shed gathering dust,  you probably aren't going to feel all that fulfilled with your purchase. There may be the initial excitement of having something shiny and new; but this initial satisfaction soon fades.

We have all made these types of purchases, often made with the best of intentions that by purchasing that object somehow this will make us happier and more fulfilled with our lives. We don’t often part with our “leisure money” unless we think there will be some enjoyment to come out of it.

After having a look at the items I have purchased over the years, there are some I can identify as being more valuable to me than others.  I am by no means a spendthrift, but there are some items I look at and I think “why did I bother”, as they haven’t created the happiness I had hoped they would.

Happiness comes from dreaming, creating and achieving; not from having.  There are a plethora  of quotes on the topic. “Money doesn't buy happiness” is one such quote that obviously comes to mind.  If you use your money carefully, and spend it wisely, it can give you opportunities to create your own happiness. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Controlling Anger

Everyone gets angry. From time to time, there will be things in life that just get under our skin. Think about when you are sitting in traffic – how often does this make you angry? Do you yell expletives in your car at the offending driver? Do you toot your horn? Do you go so far as to actually engage the person who has “done you wrong”? We all get angry, but we cannot afford to let it be an emotion that comes easy to us. Anger doesn't make us feel good, so why waste your time with it? Here are some reasons why getting angry only harms you and your emotional well-being.

1.       You never make good decisions when you are angry
How often are you likely to come up with a great idea, solve a problem, and make a good decision when you are angry? It doesn't happen. When we are angry, our minds are solely focused on the issue that has made us angry, which then often promotes irrational behaviour.

2.       Anger gets you into trouble
People with major anger management issues are often getting in to trouble, as they are letting their anger control their decision making. While you are calm, you probably won’t hit your jerk of a boss (even if you think he deserves it). But for some people, when guided by anger they do end up doing stupid things like assaulting people.

3.       Regret often stems from anger
Can you recall a time when you said or did something that you now regret; which only happened because you were angry at the time? We might say hurtful things when we are angry that we don’t really mean. The anger within us is looking for an outlet by trying to hurt someone else; often someone we care about. It may be something minor, or it may be a significant event which ends a relationship.

The lessons to be learnt from anger are that it is a damaging emotion to you and potentially to those around you, depending on how you behave when you are angry. Anger should not be anybody’s controlling emotion. If you feel yourself getting worked up, cool off before saying or doing anything. Learn to control angry emotions – if you are easily worked up you may need some professional help to cope with anger management. A good place to start is reading this article over at Tiny Buddha. Don’t let little things stir you up so easily. Acknowledge to yourself that you are annoyed by something/someone, but try not to react in a negative way. The key message is anger gets you nowhere, and only does harm, never any good. Anger is the most useless emotion, so don’t waste your time being angry!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Yes…you CAN : 5 ways to manage stress

Stress is a naturally occurring biological phenomenon. All living things experience stress, from the antelope being chased by a lion over the plains of Africa to the bomb squad expert deciding whether or not to cut the blue wire or the red wire.  Stress is part of life, it cannot be avoided – accept that now! But there are ways to help manage your stress so that it does not control your life.

1. You Can: Identify and acknowledge stressors
 Identifying what causes you stress and acknowledging it is the first step in coming closer to reducing your stress levels. Stress is like a bell curve. No stress at all and we’d never do anything as we would have no desire to strive for survival. A little bit of stress is needed for optimal performance, too much stress and your quality of life becomes seriously diminished. Determine the really big obvious stressors, such as work related issues, financial issues, health concerns; as well as the minor ones such as your partner’s annoying quirks that irk you, things your kids do that drive you nuts and the irritants you encounter each day.

2. You Can: Select what stress you can get rid of
Some stress is easily dealt with, and it is best to start with these things. Any issues that causes you stress which you can delegate – do so! Any problems you are dealing with that aren’t yours to begin with – get rid of them!

3. You Can: Prioritise
If you’ve got a lot on your plate, trying to deal with it all at once can be daunting. Prioritise what has to be done today, this week, this month etc. Now once you’ve done that go through your list again and really review it. What have you put down for dealing with today that you can really put off for the week? This doesn’t mean you are being disorganised, you are learning to prioritise.

4. You Can: Get help
Where has it ever been engraved in stone that you aren’t allowed to ask for help? Whether it’s a colleague, your partner, your parent, your child, your neighbour, your best friend, your stepmother’s gym instructor’s cleaning lady – if you ask you will usually find that there is someone who can help you if you need it.

5.  You Can: Cope
Coping with stress is one of life’s essential skills. And you can do it, you already are, even if your current coping mechanism is doing so many different tasks you never have any time for yourself, you’re simply trying to distract yourself from the stress by keeping busy. There are countless ways to cope with stress, far more than what I could possibly cover in this post. Learning to relax is one such coping mechanism– which may seem easy in theory, but may be very difficult for many so don’t be concerned if you take some time to learn this skill. Learn to identify your body’s signals – it will tell you when you need to stop and take a break before you burn out.

Yes, you can manage stress, but you cannot beat it.   Embrace stress, as trying to “fight stress  is only going to increase stress and anxiety by raising adrenaline levels, creating a higher level of fear. Acknowledge how stress makes your body feel and notice those subtle changes.  We all experience stress, just don’t let it stop you from experiencing the rest of your life. 

Friday, 24 May 2013

5 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Solving Others’ Problems

Some of us always seem to end up solving other peoples’ problems. It can be anything from petty everyday issues to helping someone make on of life’s big decisions. We are the ones others turn to when they want something. I’m not just talking about your kids phoning asking for help, it’s EVERYONE.  If you are one of these people you know that you have been a problem solver for everyone ranging from your boss, your colleagues, your friends, associates and even complete strangers. Some of us seem to end up being the perpetual helper and  I know I am one of these people.  So why do we do it? Maybe we have got “sucker” or “push over” written on our face, but I think it would fundamentally come down to our caring nature. Caring people like to help others out, which is fine in small, reasonable amounts. But as I have learnt, there are several reasons why it is not advisable to get involved in solving other people’s problems.

1. People rely on you
This can make us feel needed and important, but what about when you really don’t have the time or the means to help out? This only puts extra pressure on you and increases your stress levels.

2. You will end up never having time for yourself
You might be able to solve others’ problems, but how is your own life looking? Sometimes you spend so much time focusing on others your own life can take a back seat, and this should not be the case.

3 You rarely get any thanks
Often as the person people turn to for help, it’s just taken as a given that you will be able to resolve whatever issue is thrown your way without question.  People end up taking you for granted, and consequently rarely thank you for solving their problems.

4. Resolving mundane issues will not leave you with that warm fuzzy feeling
Helping out at a charity event or volunteering your time for a cause you are passionate about will leave you feeling great and glowing with that “warm fuzzy feeling” of having done a good deed. Getting bogged down in helping others deal with routine mundane issues will not. Ask yourself “will doing this particular task make me feel good about myself? Unless you absolutely have to (this means you are employed and getting paid as compensation for your efforts!) don’t do it unless you answered “yes” to the previous question.

5. Don’t get involved…you don’t need to be!
Sometimes you might overhear a conversation and think “I know how to fix that” or “I know the best website for information regarding that problem”. You aren’t even involved, but somehow you end up getting yourself involved and offering your assistance anyway, simply because you have potential solutions.  You have enough of your own problems, without getting involved with others. Let people figure things out for themselves, in their own way.

The helpful people of the world are overlooked and underrated. Your own happiness is not going to be improved by involving yourself in other’s problems.  When you feel tempted to problem solve for others, simply remember that it’s not your problem, let others find their own solutions, and get on with living your own life!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

5 ways to deal with negative people

As human beings we create the environments in which we live, work and play that can either nurture or harm us. We respond to people and situations in our environment, which triggers how we feel and behave.

How many of us are fortunate enough to have truly positive influences surrounding us each day? I’m sure that we all have a friend, family member or co-worker that is Captain Negativity.

It’s easy to notice the difference in how we feel when we spend time with people who are positive compared to those who are pessimistic and look on the downside of life.  If you are constantly surrounded by these types of people you may not even realized just how much they are bringing you down!

You don’t have to be surrounded by impossibly perky people notice the difference.  Just notice how you feel after spending time with a friend who is always talking about what is wrong with their life, and finding the faults with yours; compared to how your feel after spending time with a friend who focuses on the good things life has to offer? Maybe you are one of those negative people – pay attention to your conversations and notice how often you comment in a positive way or a negative way. If you notice you are predominantly negative, perhaps it’s time to do something about it!

You can’t avoid negative people, especially if they’re a close friend or family member. But you can prevent them sucking the life out of you! Negativity is a highly contagious disease that you don’t want to catch; as once you've got it it’s a tough bug to get rid of.  Here are five ways to deal with the negative people in your life.

1. Limit your time with pessimism
If you have to spend time with negatively focused people, limit your time with them where you can.  The less time you spend with these types will give you more opportunity to spend with people who actually make you feel good.

2. Change the topic
Some people are genuinely having a hard time with some issues, and have a right to be negative to an extent.  Listen for a considered amount of time, and then try to change the topic to something that is less likely to promote a negative response. 

3. Don't get drawn into the negativity
While your friend is on their negativity rant, it’s easy to start thinking about all the things you don’t like about your life. Your job isn’t super great, you need a new car, and your latest hair cut is awful. The two of you will just start comparing the negatives in your lives, and end up in a competition as to who is worse off! Having a wallow in a pit of negativity may make you feel better for five minutes, but then you’ve just put yourself in a downer mood for the rest of the day

4. Balance out your time with positive people
It would be impossible for any of us to be surrounded by positive people 100% of the time. If you know you’ll be spending some time with a friend who you know brings you down, balance out your day by talking with others who are slightly more inspired with their lives.

5. Don't let others tell you how to feel
Negative people love to share, and tend to find it easy to focus on the negatives. You might have just got a new car that you are really excited about, but they might be more focused on how much you’re going to have to repay in interest. Not only is that not their problem, unless they are offering a way to help you reduce it they are just taking a good thing for you and reminding you of a downside. Never let anyone tell you what you feel, and don’t let anyone pass their negativity onto you!

Having valuable, positive relationships is highly important in contributing to our overall happiness. If you want to be a happy person, your environment needs to include people who are contributing to your happiness, and not drowning you in their negativity.  Happiness is just as contagious as negativity, it’s just not as abundant. You can’t completely avoid negative people, but you can prioritise which relationships bring positivity and happiness into your life and nurture them. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

How to be still

I will admit, it has been a very stressful weekend! As I have been packing in preparation for moving house, I have had very little time to relax. Or even time just to be still, without my mind whirring away thinking of the next task that needs to be completed. I haven't slept well, as my mind just won't switch off and be quiet. I feel exhausted today. People around me tell me to" relax", but that is easier said than done. Boxes aren't going to pack themselves, so how can I reduce the stress?

The way I see it now. my body is trying to tell me it has had enough and it would like a break! I've recently discovered meditation, and the art of being still. Being still goes against all my natural tendencies, I'm the type of person who is always doing something. But as I've discovered, my mind needs some stillness for its well-being.

When I talk about meditation, I'm not talking about sitting cross legged on the floor and"ohmming"for hours. There are many different types of mediation out there, but I've found guided meditation audios available on iTunes, as apps or directly over the internet to be quite helpful. One of my favourites are the guided meditations at Meditation Oasis. I find these to be extremely useful at helping me to relax and switch off the traffic in my mind.

In our switched on world it's easy to  feel like we constantly need to be connected and doing something. But in the long run, this will do us more harm than good. This is certainly what it feels like for me - what are your thoughts?  Taking a small amount of time out each day to just be still seems so easy, yet so few of us do it.
I'm going to practice being still. I know my body and my mind will thank me for it!

Friday, 10 May 2013

The power of music

Why does music make us feel so great?

When you hear a great song that you love start to play, it just makes you feel better and improves your day. You know that feeling, when you’re sitting in traffic and the station decides to play one of your favourites, you can just feel your mood lift.

A song you love + the power of your brain = why a favourite song provokes such a strong emotional response.

The brain is a powerful thing, and it is affected by music in many ways. It's official music and our mood are definitely linked. Scientists have done studies that have shown how listening to different types of music affects our mood and perceptions of the world. This is an extremely powerful neuro-biological link that we can harness to alter our mood and contribute to our happiness.

We are all wired differently, which is why a song that you love, your partner hates and your father can't stand at all. Our brains process aspects of music such as melody, rhythm, pitch, lyrics differently; so someone who has a preference for rhythm and blues music is unlikely to feel incredibly happy by listening to top 40 pop music. 

How you feel too affects how well music can work its magic on you. For example, even though you may love a particular song, sometimes it just doesn't hit the spot if it's not suited to your mood. If you love a good power ballad, it’s just not going to do it for you when you are working out and want some motivating, energetic music. Similarly, a song you might not like much normally may be fantastic to listen to for increasing your motivation when you're pumping it on the treadmill. 

Music is strongly linked to memories. You might reminisce on your wedding day when you hear the song you danced to get played. You may feel sad when you hear the song that played at your Grandma's funeral. In the middle of winter, playing songs that remind you of summer and warmth can help to keep you out of a winter funk.

While we can probably all agree that music is pretty awesome, remember to unplug from time to time, as there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The pleasurable effects of music will be less effective if you are constantly surrounded by it.

I always knew music was great and an essential ingredient for the happiness recipe. Here are five of my favourite songs that always put me in a good mood and make me feel good. 

1. "White Flag" - by Dave Barnes
2. "The Beat" - by Ben Rector
3. "Fallin' For You"  by Colbie Caillat
4. "Hanginaround" - by Counting Crows
5. "Red" - Taylor Swift

I may like these songs, the rest of you may or may not, it will depend how you’re wired! What songs lift you up when you’re having a bad day? What songs make your body want to sway and get your toes tapping? What music is in your happiness recipe?

How to maintain a positive state of mind

The ability to be positive in any situation significantly contributes to being happy. I'm sure you've come across those people, who, no matter what the situation, seem to be able to find something positive about it. Everyone else around them may be moaning and grumbling, but they just manage to smile carry on. For some people this ability might come naturally, but I would think that for many people it is a learned talent.

It is hard to be positive; it is easy to be negative. It is how humans work. Take a look around you and listen to people's conversations. People constantly look for the negative, point out faults and have a downcast attitude. Being positive takes energy, and a little bit of effort.

I know myself when I'm faced with something challenging, or even something good it’s easy to be negative. At the moment I'm moving house, and whilst being in my own home for the first time is exciting, I'm struggling to think past the packing...and then the unpacking! It's just so easy to spot the negatives, the difficulties, the challenges; rather than identify and relish the positives.

So I've done some investigating this week and I came across this post at The Wellbeing Revolution about how to consistently maintain a positive state of mind. Author James McWhinney points out some key factors necessary to maintain positivity, including practicing gratitude, journaling, exercising, meditating, performing random acts of kindness and looking for something positive in every person and situation you encounter. Performing these tasks every day may take some effort, but there it is again, positivity doesn't come naturally to most of us, but I'm willing to learn and give it a go!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

What is happiness?

How would you describe "happiness"? What does "being happy" mean to you? The definition of happiness as per the Merriam Webster online dictionary is "a state of well being or contentment".  I believe happiness is indefinable,  rather it is something intangible that means so many different things to different people.

For starving people in it means having something to eat, for people in war torn countries it might mean not being under attack. Western society seems to have a much broader definition of happiness, where our individual, social, physical and emotional needs are met to our satisfaction. And even then, we may have lots of things to be happy about, but we still are not happy. We are obsessed with success, looks, money and power with the belief that we need these things to make our lives better.

I'm starting this blog to ponder the happiness question. To learn for myself what does happiness mean and how I can develop as a person.

I'm not an unhappy person, but I'm intrigued to discover how to learn to be truly content with what life offers.

What does happiness mean to you?