Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!

Archive for June, 2012

The 7 Habits of Highly Happy People

The 7 Habits of Highly Happy People

 

Highly happy people all share happy habits.  It’s as simple as that. The happiest people I know  share seven very  obvious habits. If you’re looking to expand your general  happiness, you  may consider adopting these in your own life.

1. Be a part of something you believe in. This could be anything. People may take an active role in their   local city council, find refuge in religious faith, join a social club   supporting causes they believe in, or find passion in their careers. In  each  case, the physiological outcome is the same. They engage themselves  in  something they strongly believe in. This engagement brings happiness  and  meaning into their lives.

2. Share time with friends and family. A happy life is a  life shared with friends and family. The stronger  the personal relationships  are and the higher the frequency of  interaction, the happier a person will  be.

3. Reflect on the good. Quite often  people concentrate too much of their attention on negative outcomes and leave no  time to positively reflect on their successes. It’s natural for a  person to want to correct  undesirable circumstances and focus closely on doing  so, but there must  be a healthy balance in the allocation of personal  awareness. It is  important to mindfully reflect on the good while striving  diligently to  correct the bad. A continuous general awareness of your daily  successes  can have a noticeably positive affect on your overall emotional   happiness.

4. Exploit the resources you DO have access  to. The average person is usually astonished when they see a  physically  handicapped person show intense signs of emotional happiness. How  could  someone in such a restricted physical state be so happy? The answer   rests in how they use the resources they do have. Stevie Wonder couldn’t  see,  so he exploited his sense of hearing into a passion for music, and  he now has  twenty-five Grammy Awards to show for it.

5. Create happy endings whenever possible. The power of  endings is quite remarkable. The end of any experience  has a profound impact on  a person’s overall perception of the experience  as a whole. Think about reading  a well written, thought-provoking  novel. Now imagine the ending totally sucks.  Even if the story was  captivating up until the ending, would you still be happy  recommending  the novel to a friend? People always remember the ending. If the  ending  is happy, the experience creates happiness. Always tie loose ends, leave  things on a good note, and create happy endings in your life whenever   possible.

6. Use personal strengths to get things done. Everyone  possesses unique personal strengths. We all have different talents and skill sets.  Emotional happiness comes naturally to those  who use their strengths to  get things done. The state of completion always  creates a sense of  achievement. If this achievement is based exclusively on  your own  personal ability to get the job done, the physiological rewards are   priceless.

7. Savor the natural joy of simple  pleasures. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best  things in life are free. They come in the form of simple pleasures and they appear right in front of you at  various locations and  arbitrary times. They are governed by Mother Nature and  situational  circumstance and captured by mindful awareness. It’s all about  taking a  moment to notice the orange and pink sunset reflecting off the pond   water as you hold hands with someone you love. Noticing these moments  and  taking part in them regularly will bring unpredictable bursts of  happiness into  your life.

By Marc and Angel Hack Life, DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women  come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability,  and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by  writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real  women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re  discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel  and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

How Eye Contact Affects Our Brains

How Eye Contact Affects Our Brains

 

Did you ever play the Eye Contact Game as a kid? You’re supposed to  sit  directly across from another person and stare into his or her eyes  for as long  as possible while keeping a straight face. I don’t think I  won a single game;  every attempt would end in a fit of nervous giggles.  And as an adult, I feel  even weirder locking eyes with someone for too  long. There’s just something  about prolonged eye contact that makes you  feel vulnerable and exposed, as if  the person looking into your eyes has  access to your inner thoughts and  feelings. A loved one’s lingering  look can trigger a rush of happiness, but too  much eye contact with an  acquaintance or a stranger can bring on sudden  discomfort. How, exactly,  does eye contact affect us, anyway?

The Look of Love That old adage about eyes being the  window to our inner selves  isn’t far from the truth. We can feign a frown or a  smile, but it’s harder to fake expressions from the nose up. A true  smile will produce crow’s feet, and someone  who’s angry will narrow his eyes a  bit, according to body-language  experts. We learn a lot by looking into another  person’s eyes, a  behavior that’s ingrained in us from the start. As babies, we  use  adults’ gazes to figure out what’s worth our attention. In a 2002 study   published in Developmental Psychology, researchers found that  infants  followed people’s eye direction, rather than head direction. Eye  contact also  helps our younger selves with memory recall. Researchers  at MIT discovered that  four-month-olds were more likely to recognize  someone later if he or she made  direct eye contact.

Over time, we learn the difference between eye contact that makes our hearts flutter and eye contact  that makes us cringe internally. Oxytocin, also known  as the “love” or “cuddle” hormone, plays a big part in that. It’s a  feel-good chemical that’s released  when we feel bonded with someone,  either emotionally or physically. The release is prompted by a warm hug, holding hands,  falling in love, and so forth. A recent article in Biological  Psychiatry postulated that oxytocin’s the reason we’re so inclined to make   prolonged eye contact with our loved ones. And Dr. Kerstin Uväs-Moberg,  the  author of The Oxytocin Factor, believes that eye contact can  bring  about oxytocin release as well. Perhaps that’s why gazing into the  eyes of  someone you don’t feel emotionally close with can feel so  wrong—the oxytocin  might be there, but it’s not for the right reasons.  It’s also why eye contact  is deemed so essential for couples trying to  reconnect. Looking deeply into  each other’s eyes might rekindle  forgotten feelings.

A Simple Gaze Inspires Complex Behaviors Even if we don’t  appreciate meaningful glances from just anybody, we  do look favorably upon  those who look directly at us. Researchers at  the University of  Aberdeen asked  a group of people to look at two  pictures of faces that were almost  identical—the only difference was  that one face had eyes looking away and the  other’s eyes looked into the  camera, mimicking eye contact. Whether the  subjects smiled or looked  disgusted didn’t make much difference; instead, men  and women found the  faces making eye contact most attractive and likable.  According to the  journal Nature, the brain’s reward center is  activated when one  makes eye contact with a good-looking person. Not only do we  like  looking at attractive people, but it makes us feel even better when they   look our way.

Because eye contact is linked directly to our emotions, it has an  effect on  our behavior, too, as researchers at Tufts University proved.  Study  participants encountered a dime left in a phone booth and were  approached by a  random person claiming it as his or her own. When that  person made eye contact  with the participants, they were more likely to  give back the dime. Having  someone look directly at them made them more  honest, probably because their  inner thoughts—namely, “This dime isn’t  mine”—seemed exposed.

Direct gazes also prompt increased participation from people in groups  because it makes them feel more included. Dr.  Roel Vertegaal, an expert on eye  communication between humans, showed  that the amount of eye contact a person  received during a group  conversation was proportional to how much he or she  participated. Eye  contact also forces us to pay attention more: a 2005 joint  study by the  University of Wolverhampton and the University of Stirling found  that  viewers remembered what a speaker said better if he looked directly into   the camera at least 30 percent of the time.

This improved attention to detail shifts the other way if  someone’s expected  to answer a question while making eye contact with  someone else, as evidenced  by a University  of Stirling study. Kids  answered questions correctly only 50  percent of the time if they had to  look at someone while doing it; their scores  improved significantly when  they were allowed to avert their gazes. Eye contact  requires so much  mental work that it becomes difficult to think of much else in  the  process. It’s easy when our eyes are focusing on someone we trust and   love; we can concentrate solely on the adoration, instead of on keeping  up a  conversation. But most of us can’t even look into an acquaintance’s  eyes and  keep a straight face, let alone attempt complex problem  solving.

Use Eye Contact with Discretion Eye contact can help us  feel incredibly bonded or incredibly creeped  out, depending on the person in  view. It can make people more honest or  make them appear more attractive. It  has the power to enhance memory or  cause us to forget everything else but the  irises in front of us. Think of how many people we lock eyes with on a daily   basis, be it at the grocery store or during a conversation with a  coworker.  It’s a wonder we can get anything done!

Luckily, there’s a social difference between strangers and loved  ones when  it comes to eye contact time limits. A certain amount is  necessary for social  functioning (how weird is it when the person you’re  talking to refuses to look  you in the eyes?), but anything more than  that gets far too close for comfort.  Though we do it all the time, eye  contact is clearly one of the most intimate  behaviors we engage in. We  may look into people’s eyes throughout the day, but  we reserve the  prolonged kind of gazing for those we keep closest to our  hearts.

By Vicki Santillano, DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women  come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability,  and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by  writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real  women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re  discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel  and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

 

10 Simple Truths Smart People Forget

10 Simple Truths Smart People Forget

Some of the smartest people I know continuously struggle to get ahead   because they forget to address a few simple truths that collectively  govern our  potential to make progress. So here’s a quick reminder:

1. Education and intelligence accomplish nothing without action. It doesn’t matter if you have a genius IQ and a PhD in Quantum Physics, you can’t change anything or make any sort of real-world  progress  without taking action. There’s a huge difference between  knowing how to do  something and actually doing it. Knowledge and  intelligence are both useless  without action. It’s as simple as that.  For some practical guidance on taking  action, I highly recommend The Now Habit.

2. Happiness and success are two different things. I know  an extremely savvy businesswoman who made almost a  million dollars online last  year. Every entrepreneur I know considers  her to be wildly successful. But  guess what? A few days ago, out of the  blue, she told me that she’s depressed.  Why? “I’m burnt out and lonely. I  just haven’t taken enough time for myself  lately,” she said. “Wow!” I  thought. “One of the most successful people I know  isn’t happy.”

I also know a surfer who surfs almost all day, every day on the beach in  front of our condo  complex in San Diego. He’s one of the most lighthearted,  optimistic guys  I’ve ever met—always smiling from ear to ear. But he sleeps in  a van he  co-owns with another surfer and they both frequently panhandle  tourists  for money. So while I can’t deny that this man seems happy, I wouldn’t  classify his life as a success story.

“What will make me happy?” and “What will make me successful?”  are two of  the most important questions you can ask yourself. But they  are two different  questions.

3. Everyone runs their own business. No matter how you  make a living or whom you think you work for,  you only work for one  person—yourself. The big question is: What are you  selling, and to whom? Even  when you have a full-time, salaried,  Corporate America position, you are still  running your own business. You  are selling one unit of your existence (an hour  of your life) at a set  price (the associated fraction of your salary) to a  customer (your  employer).

So how can you simultaneously save your time and increase your  profit? The  answer is slightly different for everyone. But it’s an  answer you should be  seeking. The 4-Hour Workweek is a good read on this topic.

4. Having too many choices interferes with decision making. Here in the twenty-first century where information moves at the  speed  of light and opportunities for innovation seem endless, we have an  abundant  array of choices when it comes to designing our lives and  careers. But sadly,  an abundance of choice often leads to indecision,  confusion and inaction.

Several business and marketing studies have shown that the more  product  choices a consumer is faced with, the less products they  typically buy. After  all, narrowing down the best product from a pool of  three choices is certainly  a lot easier than narrowing down the best  product from a pool of three hundred  choices. If the purchasing decision  is tough to make, most people will just  give up.

So if you’re selling a product line, keep it simple. And if  you’re trying to  make a decision about something in your life, don’t  waste all your time  evaluating every last detail of every possible  option. Choose something that  you think will work and give it a shot. If  it doesn’t work out, choose  something else and keep pressing forward.

5. All people possess dimensions of success and dimensions of  failure. This point is somewhat related to point number two on  happiness and success, but it stands strong on its own as well …

Trying to be perfect is a waste of time and energy. Perfection is an  illusion.

All people, even our idols, are multidimensional. Powerful  businessmen,  polished musicians, bestselling authors, and even our own parents all have  dimensions of success and dimensions of failure present in their lives.

Our successful dimensions usually encompass the things we spend  the most  time doing. We are successful in these dimensions because of  our prolonged  commitment to them. This is the part of our lives we want  others to see—the  successful part that holds our life’s work. It’s the  notion of putting our best  foot forward. It’s the public persona we  envision as our personal legacy: “The  Successful ABC” or “The Award  Winning XYZ.”

But behind whichever polished storyline we publically promote,  there lies a  multi-dimensional human being with a long list of  unprofessed failures.  Sometimes this person is a bad husband or wife.  Sometimes this person laughs at  the expense of others. And sometimes  this person merely takes their eyes off  the road and rear-ends the car  in front of them.

6. Every mistake you make is progress. Mistakes teach you  important lessons. Every time you make one,  you’re one step closer to your  goal. The only mistake that can truly  hurt you is choosing to do nothing simply  because you’re too scared to  make a mistake.

So don’t hesitate—don’t doubt yourself. In life, it’s rarely  about getting a  chance; it’s about taking a chance. You’ll never be 100  percent sure it will  work, but you can always be 100 percent sure doing  nothing won’t work. Most of  the time you just have to go for it!

And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it  should be.  Either you succeed or you learn something. Win-Win.  Remember, if you never act,  you will never know for sure, and you will  be left standing in the same spot  forever.

7. People can be great at doing things they don’t like to do. Although I’m not suggesting that you choose a career or trade  you  dislike, I’ve heard way too many smart people say something like,  “In order to  be great at what you do, you have to like what you do.”  This just isn’t  true.

A good friend of mine is a public accountant. He has told me on  numerous  occasions that he dislikes his job—“that it bores him to  death.” But he  frequently gets raises and promotions. At the age of  twenty-eight, out of  nearly a thousand Jr. Accountants in his division,  he’s one of only two who  were promoted to be Sr. Accountants this past  year. Why? Because even though he  doesn’t like doing it, he’s good at  what he does.

I could come up with dozens of other examples just like this, but  I’ll spare  you the details. Just realize that if someone dedicates  enough time and  attention to perfecting a skill or trade, they can be  insanely good at doing  something they don’t like to do. For an  insightful read in this department, I  highly recommend The Talent Code.

8. The problems we have with others are typically more about us. Quite often, the problems we have with others—our spouse,  parents,  siblings, etc.—don’t really have much to do with them at all.  Because many of  the problems we think we have with them we  subconsciously created in our own  mind. Maybe they did something in the  past that touched on one of our fears or  insecurities. Or maybe they  didn’t do something that we expected them to do. In  either case,  problems like these are not about the other person, they’re about  us.

And that’s okay. It simply means these little predicaments will  be easier to  solve.  We are, after all, in charge of our own decisions.  We get to  decide whether we want to keep our head cluttered with events  from the past, or  instead open our minds to the positive realities  unfolding in front of us.

All we need is the willingness to look at things a little—letting  go of what  was and what should have been, and instead focusing our  energy on what is and  what could be possible.

9. Emotional decisions are rarely good decisions. Decisions driven by heavy emotion are typically misguided  reactions  rather than educated judgments. These reactions are the  byproduct of minimal  amounts of conscious thought and primarily based on  momentary ‘feelings’ instead of mindful awareness.

The best advice here is simple: Don’t let your emotions trump  your  intelligence. Slow down and think things through before you make  any  life-changing decisions.

10. You will never feel 100 percent ready when an opportunity  arises. The number one thing I persistently see holding smart people  back is their own reluctance to accept an opportunity simply because  they  don’t think they’re ready. In other words, they believe they  require additional  knowledge, skill, experience, etc. before they can  aptly partake in the  opportunity. Sadly, this is the kind of thinking  that stifles personal  growth.

The truth is nobody ever feels 100 percent ready when an  opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to  grow emotionally and  intellectually. They force us to stretch ourselves  and our comfort zones, which  means we won’t feel totally comfortable at  first. And when we don’t feel  comfortable, we don’t feel ready.

Just remember that significant moments of opportunity for  personal growth  and development will come and go throughout your  lifetime. If you are looking  to make positive changes in your life you  will need to embrace these moments of  opportunity even though you will  never feel 100 percent ready for them.

By Marc and Angel Hack Life, DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women come  together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and  culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing  and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women  publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all  facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy  living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com

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