Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “Happiness is not a goal; it is a byproduct.” As humans, we often believe that when we buy a house, or fall in love, or receive that well-deserved promotion at work, we will be truly happy. But why do we infer that happiness is only attainable through milestone events or achievements?
The reality of this tendency is that it may not be happiness that we are seeking and experiencing on a daily basis but instead satisfaction. Perhaps we live our day-to-day lives pursuing the things that make us happy, which then contributes to our overall sense of satisfaction.
If you look up happiness and satisfaction in a dictionary, the two definitions are quite similar. Both use words such as “joy” and “contentment,” describing a pleasant and delighted emotion. But why is it then that people often say, “Do what makes you happy” but never think to advise “Pursue what satisfies you”? It may have a different ring to it, but it is a good indicator of a different sense of contentment.
We reached out to cognitive behavioral therapist and clinical psychologist Jennifer Guttman, Psy.D., to better distinguish happiness and satisfaction.
The difference between happiness and satisfaction.
Research shows that the most frequent uses of the word happiness revolve around describing someone’s personality, as in being characterized as a happy person. It is also used in association with materialism and experientialism, conveying that when you purchase or experience something, you may experience happiness. Although definitions are vague and vary, happiness ultimately seeks to portray a moment of temporary bliss.
“Happiness is fleeting,” Guttman explains. “Happiness is a feeling someone gets when they experience something out of the ordinary that brings them joy. With that feeling, a neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released, which gives us an elevated mood state. However, this elevated mood state is not sustainable because it’s reliant on the release of this neurotransmitter.”
Satisfaction, on the other hand, is an enduring feeling experienced for a longer period of time, as a result of the collection of life events and feelings you’ve experienced. Guttman describes satisfaction as a more balanced, sustainable state because it’s not neurotransmitter-dependent the way happiness is.
Or as Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., Nobel Prize winner and psychologist, explained in his TED Talk, we experience happiness in our lives as well as happiness with our lives. This latter principle is akin to the concept of satisfaction, which we experience more frequently and thus influences our attitudes and behaviors. Satisfaction is a better indicator of how content we feel toward our lives overall and may contribute to more mindful decisions that bring our lives meaning.
For example, you come home from a long day at work and are greeted by a package at your front door of a new pair of shoes that you had ordered a few days prior. At the moment of opening that package, you might experience excitement and happiness. The moment then passes, and you are onto your next activity. However, each day you wear those shoes, you are reminded of your purchase and are satisfied. Therefore, feeling satisfied has a longer-lasting impact on people’s moods, whereas experiencing happiness is an instantaneous, temporary sensation.
Which is more important?
Guttman describes satisfaction as a more long-term and tangible solution than happiness. “When people think ‘happy’ as joy or effervescence is attainable, it creates cognitive dissonance when that feeling is not sustainable,” she explains.
That said, happiness and satisfaction are intertwined, as “most people experience satisfaction on an ongoing basis, interspersed with moments of happiness,” Guttman explains. “They are both attainable, but satisfaction is more sustainable.”
“People become more satisfied by becoming more self-confident, self-reliant, by developing a strong sense of self, by developing a sense of their effectiveness in the world, and by believing in their inherent lovability,” Guttman says.
To strengthen your sense of self, she recommends finishing tasks (not just starting them), making decisions for yourself, facing fears, and avoiding people-pleasing behaviors. Facing your fears, for example, may not make you happy—but it sure is satisfying.
2. Write down at least one good thing that you experience each day.
As the saying goes: Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. Especially in today’s current climate, you may feel that your daily routine has become redundant and complacent. However, it is all about where you channel your energy and focus. Whether you meet an old friend for lunch or go for a relaxing bike ride, write it down. Those moments will turn into memories and will leave you feelingmore grateful and optimistic in the long run, as you are able to go back and read them. The benefits of gratitude are all about creating a sense of lifelong satisfaction, as opposed to simply seeking moments of exuberant happiness.
3. Put yourself out there.
Some research suggests extroversion is associated with more life satisfaction and overall well-being. Despite this pandemic, it is easier than ever to reach out to someone and make a new friend. From becoming a pen pal with a patient in a nursing home to just messaging an old friend you’ve lost touch with, you may rekindle or create new friendships that could enhance your interpersonal skills and revitalize your daily routine.
The bottom line.
Making happiness your destination may cause you to miss out on this exciting journey of life, a journey that has many twists and turns, with new opportunities appearing each day. Recognizing what makes you feel satisfied, on the other hand, can contribute to a more positive attitude and outlook on life while feeling more fulfilled. By living through this lens, we can experience not just moments of happiness but a lifestyle that is enduringly satisfying.
Dismissive listening is the opposite of empathetic listening. It says “I want to fix you” or “I want to fix your problem” instead of “I hear you, what do you need?” While empathetic listeners are able to determine what a conversation partner wants or needs, dismissive listeners tend to be less charismatic in conversation and can be seriously holding back their relationships by leaning on inefficient (and generally less empathetic!) listening skills. As a result, they tend to be less effective leaders, mentors, parents and friends.
The good news: Dismissive listening isn’t a personality, it’s a practice. It can be corrected. The first step is diagnosing the situation. If you use any of these phrases, you may be engaging in dismissive listening. Keep reading to determine how you’re leading conversations down the wrong road — and what to say instead.
It’s worth noting that these critiques don’t apply to conversations that open with someone asking for advice or feedback. Instead, they apply to more subtle, open-ended conversations where empathetic listening is required.
1. “Aww! Don’t be upset!”
If someone comes to you when they’re upset about something — from missing out on promotion to experiencing a difficult life event — countering by telling them not to experience their feelings is reductive and dismissive. While you’re a kind person and want to see them happy again as soon as possible, asking them to simply not be upset may make them feel guilty for bringing it up or feel like their emotional experience isn’t valid.
What to say instead: I’m listening. That sounds hard.
This phrase reconfirms that you were a safe person to have this conversation with and validates their feelings. It also allows them the space to lead how the conversation progresses.
2. “What if you try this?”
Most of the time, people are approaching you with a conversation — especially a conversation about a problem at work or at home — to vent and have their experience validated. You’re a nice person and you want to help, but leading with unsolicited advice focuses the conversation on fixing the problem from your perspective instead of on how the problem is affecting your conversation partner. That’s dismissive of their experience and can lead them to feel frustrated and not heard.
What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?
Saying this allows you to take action and offer help without inserting your own solutions or opinions into space where someone hasn’t asked for them. If they want help, they’ll tell you how you can engage. Or, they’ll tell you they just needed you to listen.
3. “Oh! You should read/listen to this…”
Similar to the above, this well-intentioned phrase offers unsolicited advice — and shallow advice, at that. If someone is approaching you with a difficult experience — from a layoff to getting into a serious fight with a friend — they likely know where they can go to get advice. We all have Google on hand. Unless they ask, don’t offer those options up. It’s a bit deflective and insinuates their experience can be reduced to a problem that can be solved via educational podcast or inspirational memoir.
What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?
Instead, focus on their experiences and how they see you fitting into the larger conversation, if at all. Chances are, they just wanted to vent or wanted you to offer a real piece of wisdom. They’ll let you know!
4. “I totally get it. One time…”
While sometimes you really will get what your conversation partner is experiencing, most of the time, you won’t. We all live individual lives, complicated by our personal experiences, identity dimensions and personalities. While this phrase feels empathetic when you’re saying it, it may feel reductive or just plain wrong to the person on the other side. It also centers your experience over theirs. It’s best to proceed with this route only if you’re asked for similar situations or what you learned from them.
What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate?
Instead of assuming you understand what they’re experiencing, repeat back to them your impression of the situation. It centers them, reinforces that you’re listening and helps them progress the conversation in the direction they’d like it to go.
5. “You’ll be fine!”
If someone comes to you with a problem or difficult situation, telling them that it will all work out isn’t just invalidating, it’s not very helpful, either. You’re a nice person and you want to be encouraging and optimistic, but these words reduce the complicated experience someone might have and also deflects the conversation instead of allowing them space to talk through those emotions. This kills your credibility as a listener.
For example, telling a direct report that’s anxious for a presentation that they’ll be “totally fine!” is likely to kill their confidence coming to you for encouragement in the future. Similarly, telling a friend who just got laid off that they’ll be “totally fine because they’re so talented!” makes them unlikely to come to you with complicated, hard situations in the future.
What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate? How do you think it will impact you moving forward? How can I show up for you?
To avoid being reductive, reconfirm with someone how you think they’re feeling and how the experience is impacting them. Then, ask how you can help. This centers their experience without reducing it, shows interest in how they foresee the experience continuing to impact them and allows you to expertly diagnose what they’re expecting from the conversation.
Corresponding with students via snail mail is a good way for teachers to foster trust anytime—but especially when everyone is physically distanced.
My first year in the classroom, I saw one of my more disengaged students pass a note to a friend. I thought about confiscating it, as my teachers had done. Instead, I wrote her my own note the next day. She wrote back, and we continued writing through the year, her engagement in class strengthening alongside our relationship. Letter writing became my most essential tool for earning my students’ trust.
When we as teachers write letters to students and they write back to us, we balance power dynamics, learn from each other, practice holding space for complex feelings, and engage our natural curiosities as readers and writers. Here are several suggestions for writing meaningful letters to students.
INTRODUCING THE LETTERS
To promote authentic communication that equalizes the power dynamic, remove obligations and expectations that students participate. Keep the letters optional and clarify that writing conventions and content will not be evaluated.
Inform families, perhaps in a separate letter, that you are initiating a dialogue with students through optional letter writing. Remind parents and students that you will respect their privacy—but that you are still a mandated reporter.
Keep the lines of communication open and flexible by avoiding constraints like deadlines and page limits. Make it known that students are welcome to start new topics and don’t need to continue a topic initiated by the teacher.
Write the first letter to your students (you might start with a few students per week) to serve as a helpful example for students who may struggle with this possibly unfamiliar form. Set students at ease by using a casual tone, sharing personal anecdotes, and even including jokes or funny sketches. Model letter writing conventions like dating and signing the letter.
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WRITING YOUR LETTERS
I used to pepper my letters with questions and suggested topics to prompt students to respond. But this approach maintains the traditional power structures of classroom communication, where the teacher is facilitating conversation. Over time, I learned to create a safe space that promotes genuine dialogue.
Participate in the conversation instead of directing it: If I know a student plays the violin, I won’t directly ask him about it. Instead, I write about my related experiences. For example, with this extra time on my hands, I have thought about finally learning how to play my guitar. I’m thinking of trying YouTube videos, but I’m worried that I won’t have the discipline to practice without a teacher. By sharing these thoughts, I open up lines of communication. My student is free to pick up this thread and respond in a variety of ways, instead of only answering my specific questions about the violin. Maybe he won’t mention his violin at all and instead choose to talk about YouTube, describe what he’s doing with his extra time, or assuage my worries about learning a string instrument.
Ask questions that stem from curiosity about topics that students initiate: Questions that are prompted by what students are choosing to share with us invite us to demonstrate genuine curiosity, offer our unique perspective, and introduce new words and ideas that probe students’ thinking. When we gain insight into our students’ unique funds of knowledge, we see their academic assets. We can use these insights to plan instruction that leverages what students already know.
Make your thinking visible: When young people get a glimpse into the thinking life of someone else, especially someone who thinks in an interesting or productive way, it’s the best kind of education. When a student recommends an app I should download, I’m honest about how I’m trying to cut back on my phone use since I’m getting addicted to the games I already play. I add that I’m trying to dock my phone after 6 p.m. and will let her know how it goes. By observing others’ thinking, our students may learn new coping skills and language to navigate their own experiences.
Encourage all forms of expression, regardless of perceived errors or informality: Zaretta Hammond has said that our students’ errors are information. As students informally write to you to connect and share their lives, avoid directives about how they should write. Simply note their errors and write your response with correct models. Use this information as you plan your instruction, but don’t instruct in your letter.
Hold space for students’ feelings: To maintain an equitable co-writing relationship, refrain from comments that evoke the authority you still have as the teacher. Instead of suggesting solutions to problems that students share, respond with acknowledgment and empathy. Instead of reassuring students with praise, show how you connect with their experience or what you’re learning from them.
When our students have uneven access to distance-learning technology, writing letters allows us to advance equity within our sphere of influence. We can give them a safe space in which to reflect, complain, disagree, express fear, ask hard questions, and hear our stories. We can practice being there for students as a trusted adult, a relationship that can nurture rigorous learning.
Are you one off those people who constantly need approval from everyone they know? Don’t you know that this is a damaging habit that will only add more stress to your decision making process and make it harder for you to do whatever it is that you want to do in life? Why do you think that other people should get a say in what you do or don’t do in life? By seeking approval from others you basically give them the power over your life and that’s completely and utterly wrong. It will not do you any good, on the contrary, it can only bring you misery and discontent so you need to stop doing it.
No one should have the power to decide what’s good for you and what’s not, other than yourself and here are a few other reasons that will convince you to never ask for approval from anyone but yourself.
5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ask for Approval from Anyone
You make your own happiness
It’s true that the people we love and care about make our life happier, but they aren’t the ones that make or break your happiness, you’re the only one responsible for that. Your happiness shouldn’t depend on what others think about you or what others say about you, you shouldn’t care about that. If you let your actions be guided by other people’s approval, you’ll never be truly happy. Remember that at the end of the day you are the one who needs to live with his decisions and you are the one who needs to be comfortable with them. No one else can know what you want in life better than yourself, so don’t worry about other people and make your own happiness. Remain true to yourself and to what makes you happy and make sure you follow that path.
You control your own life
You don’t just make your own happiness; you control your own life as well. Stop rushing to other people, asking for permission to do something, remember that you are your own master and you should decide what’s best for you. Listen to your heart and you’ll get all the guidance you need, from within. You are stronger than you think and wiser than you believe, you just need to let yourself follow your passion. People don’t know what they truly want to do with their own life, how can they know your life path? Trust yourself and let your soul guide you on this journey we call life.
You’re wasting precious time
Do you always run to your friends or family members whenever you need to make a decision about something? Can you imagine how much time you spend trying to convince everyone that you’re right or getting them to see things your way? And why? Just so that you’re sure in your actions, in your decisions? Asking other people’s approval only makes it tougher for you to reach a decision and it’s truly time-consuming. You’re wasting precious time; time that you could spend doing something you enjoy.
Don’t rely on others to support you, be your own biggest support. It’s OK to share your plans with your loved ones, but just that, inform them of your decision and don’t ask for their approval of support.
You can truly be free only if you rely solely on yourself
Can you imagine making a huge decision that will change your life all by yourself? Not to consult with anyone, not to ask for anyone’s advice, just follow your heart and gut? Yes, it’s possible to do it and you have everything you need to make this decision you just need to follow your gut instinct.
We can all be truly free only if we rely on ourselves and only if we know that we can make big changes in life without seeking anyone’s approval. It may seem scary at first but try it out, it’s so liberating. Rise to your potential and seize the day – that’s when you’ll experience true freedom.
Don’t even try to please everyone, it’s impossible
It’s completely normal to have people who don’t agree with what you say or what you do, that doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong. You just have different views and opinions in life and that’s all that is. If you try to please everyone and get everyone to like, you’ll end up feeling miserable because you’ll fail spectacularly. It’s absolutely impossible to get everyone to agree with you and you need to accept this and not let it affect your life. Moreover, the sooner you stop trying to please everyone, the sooner you’ll be happy.
7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort
Isn’t it the best feeling to hear “It wasn’t the same without you” or “I missed you so much”?
We all want to feel desired, wanted, and needed. We all want to feel loved and cared for. We all want to be missed. When it comes to significant others, we need to feel desired. That desire drives the passion, intimacy, and love that we feel between each other.
Sometimes we feel the passion but not the desire. We receive the response to our text a day or two later without any acknowledgement that it was late. Sure, people can be busy. Of course, we’re always busy. But how busy do you have to be to not respond with a “So sorry, busy day, will respond later”? It’s the respectful thing to do.
In our society, texting is many times our primary form of communication. We get to know each other by what emojis we send, whether or not we use periods or commas, and of course, our response time. We’re never asking for much, but we do expect a response within a respectable amount of time.
It might be that you’re trying to plan a date with the person from your English class that you’ve been crushing on for the entire year. It might be an old fling that you’re trying to reconnect with. It might be someone you’ve gone on a few dates with and you’re really feeling the potential.
Whether you’re in a potential, new, current, or nonexistent relationship, there’s never a reason to settle for someone who doesn’t make it known they want you. Here are seven reasons why.
1. You deserve better.
First comes first: You deserve better. If your best friend was complaining that the guy she likes was only texting her back every three or four days, what advice would you give her? You deserve better. It doesn’t matter whether this person is the sweetest person ever when you’re together. Making plans is a crucial step to continue getting to know each other. If they’re wishy-washy, it’s not worth it to you.
2. Your time is valuable.
When this person is off “being too busy,” you’re waiting around for their text and either coming up with excuses for them or feeling sorry for yourself. Stop that! Your time is valuable and you could be doing much better things than thinking about the “what ifs.” Stop “what if-ing” and spend your time investing in someone who will also invest time in you.
3. The Golden Rule.
Treat others how you want to be treated. You know that you wouldn’t be this flaky with someone, so why let yourself be treated this way? Indirectly, it’s insulting to you. You don’t need to be insulted or played with.
4. You won’t know what other opportunities are out there.
When you’re distracted by what this person could be doing instead of texting you back, you’re wasting your own time. You could be missing out on bumping into that cute person at the coffee shop who is completely willing to spend the 30-seconds it takes to reply to a text and make plans. Who knows what else you’re missing? You don’t! Not until you start looking.
5. You’ll become dependent on someone who isn’t dependable.
Let’s say you end up waiting 3 days for the reply. Even though you’re frustrated that this person made you wait, you make plans for Saturday and you’re looking forward to it. Saturday is a blast and your optimism is restored that this person is the one for you. They end up taking another 3 days to reply when you try to make plans again. This becomes a cycle of feeling so down when you’re waiting for the reply, but so happy when you finally make plans. You don’t need this madness! There are already so many stressors in life; waiting the whole week to confirm your weekend plans shouldn’t be another one.
6. There are better things to do than wait around.
Cook a new recipe. Bake cookies. Sing. Dance. Go to the beach, for a drive, for a run. There are endless possibilities for you to do that will stimulate your mind, body, and spirit much more than waiting around for a text back.
7. You are strong!
You might be feeling like it actually is worth it to you to wait around or that there actually aren’t better opportunities for you out there. But trust me, there are. Be a little more patient—the best has yet to come.
The bottom line is that if someone wants you in their life, they’ll make an effort to keep you in it. You’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t wait for someone to “come around” and show you they want you. If they do, you’ll know.
1. Consider the mistakes as part of the learning process
No one likes to make mistakes, but we need to learn that only when we make mistakes we realize what is not working and what can be changed or be done better. We should always keep in mind that we are not what we do, we are much more than that. Our actions, what we do, is the self-efficacy which can be increased with the practice; our essence, who we are, our self-esteem, is separated from everything and do not depend on our performance.
2. Do not compare yourself to others
Comparing yourself to others is never constructive. Focusing on what others do better than us is a trap that no one is immune and is very insidious because it leads to focus on what we do or do not possess losing sight of the many gifts that are already present in our lives. Continuing to bring our attention to others makes us take everything for granted. The comparison leads us to measure ourselves using inappropriate parameters, risking to live someone’s life and desiring things we don’t really want. When it happens to envy someone ask yourself: “I really want that thing, that result, that goal?” And if you do not want it, then why are envious? Are we convinced that this person will appear in the eyes of others better? But in the eyes of whom? And that’s really so important?
3. Be loyal to your values even if it means being unpopular
Key values are those that belong to our soul, do not change over time and lead us in our lives. Be true to your values, even if it means going against and be unpopular. It is not easy, you will lose people along the way, but you won’t lose yourself and this is the only thing that matters. Being faithful to your values means loving yourself.
4. See the past as an adventure
Life is an adventure: every day we have the opportunity to discover something new and wonderful to experience. The past is what allowed you to get to this moment, including errors. Do not condemn your past, even if you suffer, it made you the person you are today.
5. Do not underestimate your talents
All of us have unique talents that make us special, but very often we underestimate them or we are not even aware of them. What makes you feel most alive? What gives you more excitement, what you dream to be, do, have, give? What were your dreams, your passions as a child? What makes your heart beat? What are
your favorite topics? What are your interests? What would you do even if your are not paid for? What makes you feel so absorbed that you lose track of the time passing? What are your features, your peculiarity? It’s just by looking within yourself that you can discover your talents and make them available to the world.
6. Surround yourself with people that inspire you
We are social animals and we need to interact and share experiences with others. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you and inspire you to be the best version of yourself.
7. Express your anger creatively
Anger is an important emotion, but many times we try to repress or deny it, hurting ourselves. It’s important to express anger and there are many different ways to do that. Playing sports, spending time in nature, writing, screaming (in the car or with a cushion for example): find ways to express anger, not hold it in!
8. Celebrate every success
Celebrate every success, even when it seems insignificant, it is important to keep motivation high. Celebrate the wonderful person you are, whatever you do or whatever result you get. Just because you’ve decided to do something new and try to be happy, you deserve all the possible respect.
The song “Who is beautiful, beautiful” loved by Armenians is one of the beautiful works that we always listen to with pleasure and great love. Over the years, this song based on Levon Mirijanyan’s words has been developed by various Armenian artists and presented in a unique way (recently the song was also presented in reggae style), but now it is also performed in Armenian by members of the famous American band Pink Martini.
It was 1962, the girls wouldn’t stop laughing and nobody knew why.
And even stranger, the laughter was spreading. Like a virus.
This was at an all-girls school in Kashasha, Tanzania. A few students had started laughing and they couldn’t stop. And this inexplicable behavior spread from girl to girl until 95 of the 159 students were affected. After 6 weeks the school had to close because of it. But that didn’t stop the laughter.
It had already spread to a neighboring village, Nshamba. 217 more girls afflicted. And then it spread to Bukoba, “infecting” 48 more girls.
All told this “outbreak” lasted 18 months, closed 14 schools, and affected over 1000 children.
Sound crazy? It’s true. While certainly uncommon, this kind of thing is not unheard of. During the Middle Ages there were outbreaks of “choreomania” – uncontrollable, infectious dancing that spread throughout Europe sometimes affecting tens of thousands of people at a time. And, no, I’m not making that up either.
Viruses aren’t the only things that spread through networks of people. Attitudes and behaviors do too. Yale professor Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, has studied how this works. A network can perpetuate anything in it: not just fads, fashion, and trends, but happiness, unhappiness, kindness and cruelty can also spread like a disease. When I spoke to Nicholas, here’s what he told me:
We’ve shown that altruistic behavior ripples through networks and so does meanness. Networks will magnify whatever they are seeded with. They will magnify Ebola and fascism and unhappiness and violence, but also they will magnify love and altruism and happiness and information.
A happy friend increases the likelihood of you being happy by 9%. An unhappy friend means a 7% decrease. Yes, happiness is more contagious than unhappiness. It’s the scientific version of karma. With the effect spanning out three degrees, there’s a good chance making a small effort to make friends happier will flow back to you. Nicholas found that if a friend became happy in the past six months there’s a 45% chance your happiness will increase. Neat, huh?
Hold that thought, I’ve got a second story for you:
Julius Wagner-Jauregg won a Nobel Prize in 1927 for “pyrotherapy.” Other than having the coolest name in all of medicine, pyrotherapy would go on to save tens of thousands of lives. This was before antibiotics, when syphilis was a scourge. There was no cure for it. But there was a cure for malaria. Here’s the thing: the bacterium that causes syphilis really doesn’t like heat. Meanwhile, malaria causes high fevers. So Wagner-Jauregg deliberately infected syphilis patients with malaria. The high fever killed the syphilis. Then you treat the malaria. Patient recovers from both. Triple word score.
Clever stories. But what’s this all mean?
A network can spread a virus — but it can also spread happiness, help, gratitude and optimism.
You can use one infection to fight another. “Fight fire with fire.”
So what if we start our own “pandemic” and use it to fight the current one?
It’s just a metaphor but that’s okay; I recently had my poetic license renewed at the DMV. Look, I’m in no way suggesting that spreading happiness and kindness right now is magically going to kill COVID-19. And I do not want to make light of something so serious.
But we need to stay positive, optimistic and hopeful to keep fighting this. We need to help each other. We need to protect our health, but to do that we have to protect our mental health, our spirit and soul to stay resilient.
Our ancestors didn’t climb their way to the top of the food chain to have their spirits broken by a few rogue strands of debatably-alive RNA. We’re not giving up hope. Humanity is not just going to crawl back into the primordial slime and close the door behind us. We can’t let this get us down or tear us apart.
So let’s start our own pandemic of positive emotions to keep our spirits strong for the battle ahead. We’ll fight fire with fire. We’ll spread connection, help, gratitude and optimism. And we’ll win.
Ready to get infectious?
1) Spread Connection
70% of your happiness comes from your relationships with other people.
Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996
But with social distancing, some of us now have zero people around us. (Even yours truly lives alone.) And extended time without social contact is bad. Very bad.
Even months after they were released, MRIs of prisoners of war in the former Yugoslavia showed the gravest neurological damage in those prisoners who had been locked in solitary confinement. “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic head injury,” Gawande concludes.
Loneliness is the equivalent of being punched in the face. And that, dear reader, is not a metaphor.
Your stress response to both — the increase in your body’s cortisol level — is the same.
Feeling lonely, it turned out, caused your cortisol levels to absolutely soar—as much as some of the most disturbing things that can ever happen to you. Becoming acutely lonely, the experiment found, was as stressful as experiencing a physical attack. It’s worth repeating. Being deeply lonely seemed to cause as much stress as being punched by a stranger.
We may be quarantined and cut off from others to varying degrees, but this doesn’t mean we need to be lonely. Sound weird? It’s not. Stick with me.
Ever felt lonely in a crowd or lonely at a party? Yeah. The late John Cacioppo was the leading expert on loneliness. He said feeling lonely isn’t caused by the mere absence of people. We feel lonely because we’re not sharing with others, not connecting with them. That’s why you can be surrounded by people and still experience loneliness.
So reach out. Our new pandemic of positivity needs to spread that feeling of connection far and wide.
Send a text. Pick up the phone. Do a video call. Smoke signals and semaphore. Whatever. Just let people know you care and are thinking about them.
Have any of your relationships fallen dormant? Time for a reboot. Estranged from anyone? The force majeure clause has just been engaged. Reconnect.
You know how good it feels to be connected to others? Research does. It feels pretty close to an extra $76,856 a year:
So, an individual who only sees his or her friends or relatives less than once a month to never at all would require around an extra £63,000 a year to be just as satisfied with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.
Reach out and tell people you’re thinking of them. We have the most powerful communication tools ever known to man at our fingertips, for free, 24/7. COVID-19 needs face-to-face contact to spread. Our pandemic of positivity doesn’t.
We have the advantage.
(To learn more about how to make friends as an adult, click here.)
Just connecting with others is huge. But our pandemic can do more to “fight fire with fire” and mitigate that other one…
2) Spread Help
Ask people if they need anything. Others might need a little more than well-wishes right now.
Everybody should be doing this. Everybody. Yes, even selfish people. Because being a little selfless can actually be the best way to be selfish.
As University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, one of the leading experts on happiness, explains in his book, Flourish:
…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.
And what if you’re not only selfish but you’re also a narcissistic braggart? No problem at all. I encourage you to tell others about how much you’re helping and get credit for it. Yes, really.
When people see others helping, they’re more likely to help. Infect others with the altruistic spirit. Altruism is deeply wired into us as mammals. Even rats (yes, rats) believe in paying it forward.
A recent study in rats showed that the more a rat benefits from the altruism of a stranger rat, the more he will later act benevolently towards stranger rats himself.
And on the flip side, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it right now.
Most of us (well, the non-selfish, not narcissistic ones) never want to be a burden to others but research shows we vastly underestimate how willing others are to lend a hand:
A series of studies tested whether people underestimate the likelihood that others will comply with their direct requests for help. In the first 3 studies, people underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help, across a range of requests occurring in both experimental and natural field settings.
Spread help. Spread word that you’re helping to encourage others to help. And ask for help where you need it. Keep the lines of communication flowing so that we can all be getting what we need right now.
(To learn the two-word morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)
So what can we spread that makes us all happier — while also strengthening the bonds of a relationship?
3) Spread Gratitude
Gratitude is the undisputed heavyweight champ of happiness. What’s the research say? Can’t be more clear than this:
…the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.
I know, some are saying there is very little to be grateful for right now. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not but guess what?
Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts, says UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb.
It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.
Spread the gratitude. Sending a thank you text is an awesome way to make two people happy and spread our pandemic of positivity.
Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Achor has tested this — and it works. Here’s Shawn:
The simplest thing you can do is a two-minute email praising or thanking one person that you know. We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft. We had them write a two-minute email praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row. That’s it. What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations.
And don’t forget about the people you might be quarantined with. Right now some of us are participating in a 24/7 involuntary reality show with our spouses that can put a strain on any partnership.
…results indicate that one’s felt and expressed gratitude both significantly relate to one’s own marital satisfaction. Cross-partner analyses indicate that the individual’s felt gratitude also predicts the spouse’s satisfaction, whereas surprisingly his or her expressed gratitude does not.
(To learn how to use gratitude to make yourself happier, click here.)
What can we spread that not only makes us all happier but increases grit and even makes us luckier?
4) Spread Optimism
Research shows being optimistic increases happiness, health, resilience and even luck. (Yes, luck — because optimism boosts openness which leads to new opportunities that don’t happen when you say no to everything.)
Some will say there’s a danger in being overly optimistic, that we could go full pollyanna and not take problems seriously. And you know what? They’re right. We need to be careful with optimism so that we don’t neglect serious concerns. Penn professor Martin Seligman has a method to help you strike the balance:
Whenever you’re unsure if optimism is the right way to handle something ask yourself: “What’s the cost of being wrong here?”
The fundamental guideline for not deploying optimism is to ask what the cost of failure is in the particular situation. If the cost of failure is high, optimism is the wrong strategy. The pilot in the cockpit deciding whether to de-ice the plane one more time, the partygoer deciding whether to drive home after drinking, the frustrated spouse deciding whether to start an affair that, should it come to light, would break up the marriage should not use optimism. Here the costs of failure are, respectively, death, an auto accident, and a divorce. Using techniques that minimize those costs is inappropriate. On the other hand, if the cost of failure is low, use optimism.
For instance, if you’re having serious illness symptoms, don’t be optimistic that they’ll clear up on their own and avoid medical care. But if the cost of being wrong is just a minor feeling of disappointment that things didn’t go your way, right now it’s better to stay positive.
And spread that positivity. The resilience-boosting effects of optimism are so strong the US military implemented a plan to teach optimistic thinking to soldiers. And we could all use a little extra resilience right now.
What’s the best way to keep others’ spirits high? Make’em laugh. Humor provides a powerful buffer against stress and fear.
“Humor is about playing with ideas and concepts,” said Martin, who teaches at the University of Western Ontario. “So whenever we see something as funny; we’re looking at it from a different perspective. When people are trapped in a stressful situation and feeling overwhelmed, they’re stuck in one way of thinking: ‘This is terrible. I’ve got to get out of here.’ But if you can take a humorous perspective, then by definition you’re looking at it differently — you’re breaking out of that rigid mind-set.”
Okay, we’ve covered a lot. Time to round it up. And we’ll also learn what science says is the question that best predicts whether you will be alive and happy at age 80…
This is how we can start a pandemic of positivity:
Spread Connection: Just let people know you’re thinking of them and they are meaningful to you.
Spread Help: Offer help where you can and ask for it if you need it.
Spread Gratitude: Say thanks. And really feel it.
Spread Optimism: If the cost of being wrong is low, let yourself believe things will turn out right.
So what does Penn professor Martin Seligman say is the magic question that best predicts if you’ll be alive and happy at age 80?
“Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to?”
If your answer is yes, you will likely live longer than someone whose answer is no. For George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who discovered this fact, the master strength is the capacity to be loved.
Our relationships to other people are often the key to our survival and happiness. That’s something we need to remember right now.
And it’s an idea we need to spread.
So from me to you:
I hope you’re doing well right now.
I hope this blog post has helped you.
Thank you for reading this.
And I really do believe things are going to be better soon.
And with those 4 sentences, hopefully I have spread connection, help, gratitude and optimism to you.
I am proud to be Patient Zero in our new pandemic of positivity.
Now go spread good feelings to the people that you love. We all need them right now.
Being a leader requires confidence, decisiveness, and quick thinking–none of which are served by overthinking every decision or scenario or worrying about every move you make. There’s a time to think, a time to act, a time to reflect, and a time to move forward.
Overthinking causes us to spend too much time thinking, getting stuck in a loop of inaction, and turns positive reflection into debilitating worry. Not only does it not move us forward, it moves us backward and downward.
For three decades I’ve been coaching employees and entrepreneurs with tendencies to overthink things, and I can share 11 mental tricks to dash the dissecting and stop the overscrutinizing.
1. Reopen the door only when new information knocks.
Overthinking goes into overdrive when we keep revisiting decisions we make, refusing to close the door on a call that was made. Believe that you’ve done your due diligence, and only revisit something you’ve decided when you’re presented with new information.
2. Know that overthinking and problem solving aren’t the same thing.
Constantly ruminating and going over scenarios and possibilities often disguises itself as problem solving. It feels like you’re doing something good and useful. But you’re not, you’re just spinning in a circle. Recognize when you’re overthinking something, don’t act like it’s problem solving, and press fast-forward.
3. Remember the 90-10 rule.
This is a formula, a ratio, for how you should calculate how you value yourself. Which is to say it should be based on 90 percent self-worth, 10 percent assigned worth. 90 percent should come from your self-acceptance and self-appreciation, just 10 percent from that occasional sliver of external validation we all need.
Overthinkers distort the formula, even reversing it by acting like 90 percent of their worth comes from what others think or say. So they worry, which takes the form of–you guessed it–overthinking.
4. Assume good intent.
Overthinkers read too much into things. Why? They’re assuming something bad lies underneath, something like a bad perception, someone wishing them ill, or an unfavorable outcome. When you catch yourself doing this, switch your assumption to what you’re reading into was well-intended, or at least neutral. The vast majority of the time, it really is, so why not act like it?
5. Embrace informed ignorance.
News flash: You can’t read the future, you can’t read minds, and you can’t know everything. So don’t try. Thinking harder doesn’t activate the crystal ball.
6. Embrace uncertainty.
When we don’t know something, we tend to fill in the blanks, often with garbage assumptions. Why? Many of us would rather be unhappy than uncertain. Garbage assumptions can take many forms, all infusing themselves into the inner monologue of the overthinker.
A Buddhist chaplain once taught me how to handle uncertainty. I remember his teachings as an acronym: OAR. Observe uncertainty, don’t overreact to it. Acknowledge the presence of uncertainty and accept that impermanence is inevitable. Realize that uncertainty brings benefits, like unleashing creativity and resilience.
7. Replace “what if” with “we’ll see.”
Overthinkers keep asking themselves “what if,” which is an impossible question to answer. If you catch yourself asking “what if,” quickly switch it to “we’ll see,” which is a way of moving past analysis paralysis to acceptance.
8. Get outside and play.
By this I mean stop spending so much time in your head. Get outside it and switch gears to connect with what’s going on around you so you can take joy in it. It can be dark and foreboding inside that head of yours, no?
9. Do the math.
Overthinking also comes from overworrying about the worse-case scenario, which of course no one wants to experience. But ask yourself, “What is the probability the undesirable outcome will actually occur?” Odds are, not very high.
10. Stop framing the unremarkable as catastrophic.
Related to the above, this means stop taking small details and turning them into questionable conclusions. Stop making a mountain out of a molehill. Unlike at the mall, this kind of escalator lifts nobody up.
11. Evaluate the true impact of being wrong.
We often feel the need to overthink because we simply fear being wrong. It might make sense to overthink things if you’re planning to jump your motorbike over the Grand Canyon or to go swimming with a great white shark. As for overthinking the decision you made in that meeting yesterday? Not so much.
Ask yourself in such moments what the realistic cost of being wrong is. When you can lower the stakes, you raise your ability to get mentally unstuck.
So don’t overthink it. Take the inspiration here and run with it. Without looking back.
It’s the day after Christmas. Generally, this day is a flood of emotions that can vary from one person to the next, however, I think there is one word that most likely describes all of us: exhausted! Maybe your home is like mine – with all the extra food, all the packaging from the gifts, the used wrapping paper, and more. And then there may even be a pile of returns. Ugh. But, the day after Christmas doesn’t have to bring you stress – it actually can be a peaceful day if you allow it.
Sound like a dream?
It’s not. Just keep reading.
Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.
Before you go any further, one of the things you’ll need is help with clutter. Be sure to grab our download with questions to ask yourself about whether to keep things or get rid of them. Just enter your email below to have it sent right to your inbox!
You may still be in the midst of exhaustion if your Christmas festivities are still continuing. Whether today marks the end of your holiday festivities or that day has yet to come for you, we all must resume our regular lives in the midst of the exhaustion that the holidays leave in their wake.
How then, are we to do this? How do we dig ourselves out from the torn packaging, mountain of wrapping paper and the kitchen that have most likely fallen victim to holiday cooking of some kind. Then there is the endless amounts of toys that need to be assembled or brought to life with countless batteries?
Let’s not forget about the sugared up, sleep deprived, most likely “regular rule” breaking kids since there is rarely room for “regular rules” in the midst of the holiday cheer.
Feel like your head is spinning yet?
HERE ARE SOME SIMPLE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS THINGS YOU CAN DO SO YOU CAN CATCH YOUR BREATH TODAY AND BEYOND.
1. TAKE A DEEP BREATH
We must start here. If there is one thing I know as an exhausted, sleep deprived, overloaded, overfull, and stressed out post holiday mom it is the need to start with a deep breath. Most likely, you probably have not had a deep breath since last week sometime.
2. PRIORITIZE WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
The list of things that need to be done all seem urgent, but the entire list of what needs to be done can’t be urgent. We only have so many hours in the day. As a mom, we are in the midst of trying to get our kids to return to “normal” as well.
Take a quick inventory of what needs to be done in the near future. Then, put this inventory list in order from most important to least important.
3. MAKE A PLAN
Plan the times that you will be devoting to working your way through your prioritized list of tasks. We all still have our “regular” lives, so fitting in all the extras that the holiday rush thrusts in our lap will have to be planned into our daily schedules, most likely little by little.
4. START WITH GOOD ENOUGH RATHER THAN PERFECTION
Start with making things good enough to get by.
Do you have a bunch of things that need to be returned?
Start by gathering them in one place. Then, get the necessary receipts and put them in a bag or box in your car, ready to be returned.
Do you have a bunch of clothes that your kids need to try on? Try putting them in a neat pile somewhere in their room. This way they are out of the way, but not causing a bunch of clutter around your home. You can get to them when you can get to them.
I am sure you have a bunch of new things that all need places to go in your house. With a family of 11, the new things that now need to find homes is astounding.
My favorite way of handling this is to break the things down, room by room, and then put each room’s things in a box or bag in the room that it will need to be put in. Again, this way I can get to it when I can get to it.
5. ACCEPT WHAT IS
Accept that your house, your kids, and your life will be in a state of disarray for the next little while. Just accept it now – you can’t change it anyway. Know that things will go back to normal in a few days, at least ideally.
6. LOOK PAST WHAT ISN’T GREAT
Look past the things you can’t get to right now. Look past the box of stuff waiting for your attention in each room. Know that it is already partially tended to since you have started organizing things to be put away. But, look past the fact that everything isn’t done to completion at this point in the game. You’ll get there eventually.
7. START WITH THE VISIBLE AREAS FIRST
Start with putting things away in the most visible areas. Attack the main living areas first since this is where you spend most of your time. The list of things you need to take care of is most likely seemingly endless at this point.
However, if you are anything like me, the sooner you can get the areas you look at most under control, the better.
8. WORK IN ORDER
Get one area or room completely done before moving on to another area. I find it to be so much better if I can get one room completely under control. Then, when I feel overwhelmed by another area, I can breathe in the solace of the one completed room I have.
It also motivates me to keep going on the rest as I can check rooms off my list.
I put this last on the list not because it is least important. In fact, I think it may be the most important thing, and it is something that you need to start working in to your digging out process right from the start.
Recognize that in most cases, you have had several long days, all in a row. This means that you need some time to rest and recuperatere. Resist the urge to pass over this rest part in an effort to have more time to devote to the things on your list that are screaming at you.
Plan some time of rest into each day.
More importantly, get to bed on time tonight and in the nights that follow. You are no good to anyone when you continue to run on fumes.
Although we all love the holidays, the after part is not nearly as much fun. However, with every Christmas holiday season comes the time of transition and let down when Christmas is finally over.
Being intentional in breathing deeply, prioritizing and planning, creating ways that things can be good enough to get by while looking past everything else and getting adequate rest will help get you back on the path to sanity in your life once again.