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Bookshelf of A Bookworm

Are you crazy about reading? I've been on a reading binge lately with no end in sight! Click below to find out what's on my shelf the last weeks of summer and share what's on yours.

http://www.themultitaskingmissus.com/the-current-bookshelf-of-a-bookworm/

#reading #read #books #ilovebooks #bookworm #nerd #readinglist
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Before I moved to the state of Tennessee, I was involved in a Happiness Club. Since I cannot find a Happiness Club in my region, I am contemplating beginning one. I so miss the companionship of the people I met, the things I learned, and the new things I experienced.

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I have stopped watching the news.   I have also stopped watching sad or violent movies, and hanging out with people who take a negative view of the world.  Why?   Because a negative perspective serves my mind no good.   It simply leads to a viewpoint that stands in the way of happiness. 

Studies from UC Davis, discussed in the video below, show that it is much more difficult to move from a negative view of information to the positive, than it is to move from a positive view to a negative.   We literally get stuck on negative information, making it more difficult, for example, to remember any of the positive events in your day when you have had even one negative event.   

The good news is that, because the brain is so plastic, you can teach it to learn different thought patterns.  You can teach it to move more quickly from a negative perspective to a positive perspective by thinking positive thoughts.   Some people meditate, some keep gratitude journals, some contemplate the good things in life as they simply go about their day. 

I think it is also easier if you keep as much negativity out as possible of your life.  Turn off the news and google happy events of the day.  Watch a "feel good" movie rather than a "feel sad" movie.   Turn the conversation from gossiping and complaining to something positive when others complain.   Create the environment of positive thoughts that will train your brain to move from negativity to the positive as quickly as possible.   

I think I will go and look for a cheerful book to read now :)

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One of the most important concepts I have learned in my journey towards happiness is that of the plastic nature of the brain.   It used to be that scientists thought of the brain as a machine -- if one part of the brain was "broken", it could not be fixed.   Our understanding has changed dramatically in the past few decades -- with the right stimulation, the brain can rewire itself so that other parts of the brain can take over many of the functions from the damaged sections.  Amazing work is being done in the field, and I recommend the books of Dr. Doidge if you want to explore this subject in more detail. 

In part, this new understanding means that while our brains can be re-trained to function differently with the right stimulation, they are also sensitive to the wrong stimulation.   

But what does this mean for happiness?  Our sense of happiness emanates from the brain.  Our sense of unhappiness, however caused, also  emanates from the brain.   The object then becomes to change our perceptions and reaction to events and stimulus that causes us pain or unhappiness, and to heighten our perception of events that result in happiness.  

Last week I asked you to identify some areas in your life that are causing you unhappiness.   This week I'm asking you to think about some of the triggers associated with a particular area of unhappiness.   Are those annoyances or discomfort increasing each time a trigger button is pushed?   Is your brain training itself to react faster and faster to those triggers, with a larger and larger response? 

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We all journey towards happiness -- none of us deliberately make choices that will cause us unhappiness.   Instead, we try to make the best choices we can, using what we know at that moment.   

But making those choices is a little like standing in the middle of a large air terminal, with no plane ticket and no particular destination in mind.   Where am I going?  How much will it cost?  Which airline is the best one to take?

So take a moment and a piece of paper.   Put a circle in the middle with the word "Happiness".    Then draw smaller circles around the bigger circle, and inside each of the small circles put a word or two of things are are making you unhappy.    It might be words like "job", "lack of sleep", "stress", "weight", "relationship",  "pain", "weather", "boredom", ....   

So now you have a planetary system drawn out, with your happiness in the middle like the sun, and your constellation of sorrows or irritants circling around your happiness like the planets.  

Now look at your planets, and ask the question "How is ________ related to _______________?   How is my pain related to the weather?   How is my weight gain related to stress?  How are the problems in my relationship related to my job?   If you find a relationship, then draw an arrow between those two related "planets".    Eventually, after you have asked all those questions about each of you different circles of unhappiness, you will have a lot of arrows pointing to different areas of unhappiness.  And if you are like most of us, you should find that one or two of your areas of unhappiness has more arrows pointing to it than the others.   That is the place of unhappiness that seems to be causing you the most problems, and that you may want to focus on first.  

And remember, the solutions are not always obvious.   The plane that you want to catch to your final destination may be a different one than you think! 

(Photo courtesy of Kabsik Park, Flickr)
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It has been close to 10 months since I last posted.   In that time I have been on my own odyssey towards happiness.  

I have three chronic diseases that contribute to chronic pain.  Last year that pain almost swallowed me whole.   So I have spent the last year learning about my diseases, the neuroplastic properties of the brain, and how to manage chronic pain.   This morning, as I danced around my living space to some great music, I realized I had crossed a threshold into pure joy.     I am back, and ready to share the practices of happiness with you.   
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Grab your bestie and celebrate your strong connection with a nice cup of tea! #friends #moments #tea
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My final principle for the month is  "Connect with Others".  

I tell people that I live too much in my head.   Often it's a cosy and happy place, but it means that I disconnect myself from other people.   If I stay disconnected for too long, then my head becomes an unhappy place. 

So now I work at connecting with others.   Some of what I do is quite small -- if it's a day when I will be alone, I make a point of going for a bike ride or a drive, finding a busy coffee shop, and just taking the time to people-watch.   I keep a mental list of friends I haven't spoken with in a while, and try to see someone every week for a short visit.   I speak to as many people as I can when I am out running errands, having pleasant conversations with strangers.  

I sometimes think it is the small acts that can be the most delightful. A postcard from far away.   Flowers from my husband for no reason at all.   Hugs from my son and sharing thoughts with my daughter.

Tonight is a major point of connection for me -- it is a meeting of our Happiness Project group.   Food, wine, laughter, and the sharing of personal insights are a great combination for lifting my spirits and staying connected.  

 And thanks to all of you for reading this column and taking the time to comment or post.  You are my connection to a much larger world! 
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