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.