World Happiness Report

Have you heard of the World Happiness Report? This report ranks over 150 countries in terms of people’s self-reported perception of their happiness. I read a blurb about the report. Fascinated, I then clicked on the link to read the actual report. Yea, I’m a bit of a geek. I figure I should put my data and analysis day job skills to use on something that actually interests me.

What I found interesting in the report was that Americans’ happiness has significantly decreased since 2012. What happened in 2012? This was the first year that most of Americans owned a smartphone. This especially caught my attention because 2012 is the year that I first had a smartphone!

There are many theories on what’s behind the correlation. It’s not so much the 24/7 access that the smartphone has to, well, pretty much everything you can dream up that causes the unhappiness. Most researchers say it’s what the smartphone is taking the place of, primarily in-person social connectedness.

That makes sense since social connectedness is a major factor in determining happiness. Just as I wrote in the post, Joy in Connecting with People, joy from connecting to others goes all the way back to our cave person days when we literally needed others for survival. Happiness from uniting with others is in our DNA!

In present day, as well, researchers have found that we greatly benefit from connections to others—we are physically healthier, less aggressive, more helpful, and we recover from stress easier. Just generally, we are happier when we interact with other people.

I’m not writing a scientific research paper here so I can just blurt out my opinion from my own personal information. For me, my smartphone has increased my happiness because nearly everyday I find myself being grateful that I have it so I can connect with my friends and family so easily—most of which don’t live nearby. I also use my smartphone to stay connected to my husband throughout the day. Some days we don’t actually text or email each other. But just knowing that we can, increases my feeling of connection to him.

So use your smartphone in smart ways. Don’t let it disconnect you from people, but rather use it to increase your bond to others. Talk, text, or email people significant in your life. You can even use it to simply set up when and where you are going to physically meet up with your friends or family. Remembering to be grateful that you have the device to easily keep in touch across distances near and far will ensure that you don’t fall into the statistic of the decreasing rate of American happiness.

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This is Life

I was confused because I’ve heard—and I 100% believe this—that we create our own reality. I’ve gotten loads better at focusing on what I want and not paying as much attention to the things I don’t want. I’m way more aware of the power of appreciation…and do it frequently.  Each day, I make a deliberate effort to do activities that are enjoyable to me. But yet, stuff continues to come into my life that I don’t particularly want. Some of it I fiercely don’t want. And I wasn’t getting the outcomes and manifestations that I did want. I felt like I was failing at this creating my reality thing. What am I missing, God? What am I doing wrong? Why are these things happening to me?

After a few days of asking those questions, some insights came to me. The first via my sister. She simply said, This is life. Yea, I already knew that but this day it sunk in on a deeper level. Not that I now expect or want bad stuff. But I realized that I had gotten to a point where I was almost desperate for the good things to happen. I had felt like I put in my dues and deserved only good from here on out. That’s not life. Life is comprised of ups and downs, good and crap. Just because I have a down day or some awful circumstance crops up, doesn’t mean I’m flunking at creating the life that I want.

This is life concept helped me to see that—and this is so key—I can’t not live my life in the meantime while waiting for the good stuff. I’ve got to deliberately focus on happiness, find fun, and be light-hearted even when I’m in the midst of dealing with difficulties or struggling through a rough day.

After realizing and accepting this, I felt lighter, more at ease, and less pressured to “get what I want”.

A day soon following, I found myself exceptionally happy while working at my office job on a very detailed project (one that I, unsuccessfully, tried to ditch). I caught myself in mid-happiness and gasped, This is not my dream job! I shouldn’t be so happy doing this task!

That’s when the next insight came through: Maybe we are creating our reality, in general. Sure, we can create our reality in specific, delicious detail when we get really, really good at it. But in the meantime, we’re creating an overall theme. In general, I wanted to be happy. And I was happy. Period.

Sure, specifically I wanted to be happy doing work that is more meaningful to me. But I had gotten the overall emotion that I wanted…happy while working. I wasn’t failing at creating my reality; I was succeeding, in general.

And I realized that just because my life wasn’t the exact picture that I was envisioning, didn’t mean that my bigger, more specific dreams weren’t coming to fruition. In other words, I shouldn’t give up on my dreams. But in the interim, I carried on doing things that made me happy, like arts & crafts. When life gives you lemons, make a lemon wreath!

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How to Eliminate Your Problems

I had a problem. It was big, huge, major. I was very grumpy about it. Fortunately, I was aware enough to notice so I was able to take a minute to ask myself why. I had been working on making a new style of bracelet and it wasn’t coming out as I wanted. I just couldn’t get the hang of how to create this piece of jewelry. Wow, that’s it? That’s my problem? I realized that I had lost perspective and turned something that wasn’t that big of a deal into something seemingly critical.

With the relief of this realization, it wasn’t much later when it dawned on me that if I dropped my need to learn how to make the bracelet, then my problem would no longer exist. Amazing—I had the power to eliminate this “problem” just by changing my mind about what I thought I needed.

Some problems are bigger than this, of course. But most seem bigger than they are because we make mountains out of molehills.

But, what about situations when we can’t simply alter our needs to make the problem vanish? For instance, what about when a flight gets delayed or changed and it messes up vacation plans at the last minute? Or your partner in a relationship breaks up with you? Or a loved one gets a scary health diagnosis?

If I change my expectation, then the problem is gone. Like with the flight, if I’m ok with arriving later in the day, then there is no problem with it being delayed. Or if I’m ok with being on my own, then there’s no problem with a break-up.

But, that last example is the one that truly opened my eyes to acceptance of what is. When you really can’t change things; when you may get an outcome you really do not want, the only options are to be hopelessly sad, angry at the world or to accept what is. The good ol’ Serenity Prayer – Accept the things I cannot change.

I don’t know exactly how to be okay with receiving something I don’t want (or not getting a thing I do want). But I do know that when I tell myself I don’t need the outcome to be exactly as I pictured it, then a feeling of relief washes over me. I stop working so hard to control the situation to make it as I want it to be. Because really what controlling it is about is believing that I’m not capable of handling what may come. In other words, fear of the future. In other other words, not living in the moment.

I tell myself that I can handle whatever happens, that I trust the Universe (who knows far better and more than me!) to deliver the best outcome to all concerned, and I remind myself I am ok in the now (I may have to repeatedly tell myself these statements). Then I can take a deep breath and transcend the profoundly distressing feeling of disliking and fearing life on Earth.

Now, to be clear, acceptance doesn’t mean I enjoy the outcome; it doesn’t mean I changed my desires and now want what I didn’t want. Accepting what is frees me up from the struggle of “efforting” to make things happen my way. It makes me not have to be upset. It enables me to feel better in the moment. And, really, that’s the whole goal—to feel good in the moment and that moment and that moment and that one and so on. And then you see that every moment put together adds up to your life.

What things in your life that you don’t want and can’t change, can you accept “as is”? Do you feel the relief of not struggling to control the outcome? What insights does acceptance bring to the surface for you?

Postscript 1: After I no longer needed to learn how to make the new type of bracelet, I tried it again days later just for the heck of it, you know, for fun. Interestingly, I was able to easily make it and it came out beautifully.

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Postscript 2: I accepted my loved one’s (Don, of course!) serious health scare and he is doing well physically.

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Interesting how acceptance works. 😊

Vacation Bonus: Hearing Your True Self

When Don—my husband—and I got home from the Grand Canyon, I began writing my book, Trail to My True Self. We had a day or two to just veg before going back to our regular job lives. I remember sitting on the blue couch in our dining room-turned-den with a spiral bound notebook busily jotting down the insights I had on that first hike down into the Grand Canyon.

But something was different. I wasn’t just journaling, as I did on a pretty regular basis. I was writing a story. I hadn’t planned to write a story. It just sort of flowed out of me onto the paper. I was taken aback because I didn’t write stories…ever. I was a practical writer. Writing was my tool to help me solve my problems or a method to vent frustrations. I didn’t even like writing. In college, I had a semsester of required Creative Writing 101. Ugh, I hated every minute of it. So what was up with this story that was flowing out of me? Even though I had just lived what was coming out onto the page, I found myself curious and eager to read what would happen next, as if I was the reader rather than the writer. When I read it afterwards I thought, Wow, that sounds really neat, like part of a book. And so, the beginning—or what I thought at the time was the beginning, but turned out to be Chapter Two—of my book was in ink.

I’ve never written again quite in that fashion, wondering what words would come out next. I didn’t know on that day I would be starting a book that I would publish almost ten years later. I just sat on the blue couch in a relaxed, post-vacation mode and wrote what I had learned about myself on vacation.

You never know what could come from vacation or relaxation time. Really, the point is to make it a priority to care for and listen to yourself. To have some down time—even a few minutes with no errands, schedules, or must-do’s—when you can hear the cool story your true self is communicating to you. It may not be a book, but no doubt it’s some very valuable information.

If interested, you can read my story from the Grand Canyon here.  🙂

Trail to My True Self…Published!

I did it! Trail to My True Self: My Journey to Self-Love and Happiness is now available on Amazon.

WordPress has a neat feature that allows blog creators to see what countries have viewed their posts. In doing research for my book, I saw that about 87 countries have viewed my blog. Wow! Obviously, I was glad and amazed. But it also showed me that I was connecting to people. And that people all over the world are interested in finding ways to be more joyful.

So, if you feel so inclined, I invite you to take a look at my book, Trail to My True Self. My hope is that it inspires you to bring more joy into your life.

Click here to get the book on Amazon. Thanks. Happy reading!

 

 

My Book: Trail to My True Self

It has been quite a while since I published a new blog post. It’s not because I have just been “sitting around”. Ha! For many months, I wasn’t quite sure how to follow the two previous posts about the traumatic period for my husband and me. So, I didn’t post anything.

But, I did write.

For several years, I had been working on a self-help type of book. Loving the process; then hating it. Picking up where I left off; and then abandoning it. A back and forth pattern that drove me crazy. But recently, things lined up to bring me the help, motivation, and inspiration I needed to get the book completed!

Since Don’s heart surgery, I’ve gotten a new perspective on life. It made me see past experiences in a new light and understand them on a different level.

So, I changed the genre of my book from self-help to memoir. That means my nitty-gritty personal stuff is in there! I recount the whole story of how a cute guy helped me to discover my self-worth issue while hiking in the Grand Canyon. The realization that my dad’s early death contributed to the denial of my true self. And how not valuing and loving myself played out in everyday life—fearing my first kiss as a teenager; being an imposter with my husband; and suffering at work, to name a few.

My hope is that this book leads you to strengthen the value and love you always deserved from your true self.

Check back soon for the upcoming release of Trail to My True Self: My Journey to Self-Love and Happiness!

 

Good Things from Traumatic Experience, Part 2: The Kindness of Others

We live in a fear-filled, finger-pointing, antagonistic, mixed-up world right now.  So says the news.  But another good thing I got out of this traumatic experience (click here for Part 1), is that even though people strongly disagree with each other and it seems there is so much hate in the world, there also is so much love and kindness out there.

 Family and friends’ help was elemental in me not going completely bonkers during this traumatic event.  Of their kindness I was already aware; I’m extremely blessed, especially with family (including in-laws!).  But what warms my heart to no end and what I didn’t expect are the many people -barely even acquaintances- that showed up, gave gifts, offered to do whatever we needed, or sent their good blessings.  In addition, (most of) the nurses and hospital staff blew me away with their generosity of spirit.  I found that I cried more tears from touching acts of kindness than from the trauma itself.

For instance, one nurse gave me a hug at the exact right moment and said precisely the right words that made me know we would get through this.  Don wasn’t even in the room at that moment so that was definitely not part of her job duties.  It was simply her being exceptionally kind.

Another instance was when I went back to work.  I had found that a project that I had left in mid-session was picked up without me uttering any request for help.  No, it was not in a steal-my-job kind of way or with a looming deadline.  It was simply him being exceptionally thoughtful by helping me out.

Other kind acts: My neighbors walking our dog and letting her hang out at their house because she seemed “lonely”; Acquaintances somehow getting my email or phone number to say they are thinking of us; Hospital waiting room staff suggesting to me to keep my (many and heavy) personal items behind their desk so I don’t have to lug them around the hospital all day.

These things all seem very small and, possibly, inconsequential.  Especially in light of the major corrupt and immoral things we hear about and sometimes experience firsthand.  But, don’t let the ego trick you!  These seemingly small things can have great effects.

I know for me the small acts of kindness made me feel loved.  They also gave me motivation to be more kind and helpful myself.  And the effects need not be for one person; the ripple effects cannot be measured.  Heard of “Paying it forward?”  Urban Dictionary defines it as, “When someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, pay it forward by doing a good deed for someone else.”  You experience a kind act, and therefore, are inspired to do a kind act for someone else and then they do a kind act and so on and so on.  A few small kind acts can easily be turned into –well, not to sound too corny but- changing the world.

Of course, there are cruel and ruthless actions all around the world.  But no matter what I read or see in the news and on social media, I know, without a doubt, that there are more kind and loving people in this world than not.  Don’t wait for a traumatic event to notice them and be one of them!