When One Door Closes . . .

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

– Alexander Graham Bell


In an excellent article from Positive Psychology Program, seven concepts are explored for increasing a person’s feeling of well-being. It’s a great list:

  • When a Door Closes Another Opens
  • Gratitude by Mental Elimination
  • Similar Strengths – Group activity
  • Flow Experiences
  • Walking Meditation
  • 3 Positive Things a Day
  • Chasing Happiness

It’s a helpful article with exercises to explore each concept.  The first concept – When one door closes, another one opens – is one I think we’ve all had, and I think most of us would agree that the second door does eventually open, but waiting in the hallway is a drag!

Using these questions to look at that closed door can help:

  1. What led to the door closing? What helped you open the new door?
  2. How long did it take you to realize the new open door?
  3. Was it easy or hard for you to realize the new door open?
  4. What prevented you from seeing the new open door?
  5. What can you do next time to realize the new open door sooner?
  6. What were the effects of the door closing on you? Did it last long?
  7. Did the experience bring anything positive?
  8. Which character strengths did you have to use in this activity?
  9. What does a closed door represent to you now?
  10. What did you learn from the door closing?
  11. Is there more room for growth from these types of experiences?
  12. Is there a closed door that you still wish to see open?

One thing that has helped me during those ‘closed door times’ is the idea of Living Curiously. I recently discovered a wonderful website, ‘Living Curiously Lifestyle.’

The website is by a woman named Becki Saltzman – she and I share the same publicist, Joanne McCall.  One door closing led me to McCall, and what a great new door opening that turned out to be. I really recommend you spend some time exploring Saltzman’s website. It is interesting, fun and she has great boots!

The article in Positive Psychology Program is really wonderful. I suggest using the seven activity exercise for seven days, one a day.

It is thought-provoking and positive-inspiring.

What better way to close than with a clip from the father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman.

I’d love to hear about your experience using the seven positive psychology activities.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

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The Best Version of Myself

“Be the Best Version of You”

– Brian Tracey


I am in the process of becoming the best version of myself. I love that image!

When I’m trying to make important decisions, I think to myself, will this move me toward becoming the best version of myself? It usually helps the decision making process a lot.

I’ve been using this to help me in the decision making process for awhile, so I was very happy to have this process affirmed in an article from The Happiness Institute.  In the article, Eric Barker interviewed Sonja Lyubomirsky.

Barker explains that research shows that thinking about your best possible self doesn’t just clarify goals — it can also make you happier just by thinking about it.

Lyubomirsky described an activity she did with her students:

Imagine your life in ten years and that your goals have been accomplished. You’re living your best possible life. Think about that in different domains. I did this once with students and they said to me, “I didn’t even know what my goals were.” So they were forced to articulate their goals. Some people said to me things like, “Yeah, I didn’t think my goals were feasible until I wrote about them,” and they realized there were concrete steps they could take.

A huge decision I had to make recently in my quest toward The Best Version of Me, was choosing the right publicist for my book, This Way Up: Seven Tools for Unleashing your Creative Self and Transforming your LifeI interviewed several publicists, and liked a few of them very much. It was not an easy decision. I eventually decided on Joanne McCall because I think her ideas and connections are most inline with the goals I have for me, my book, and ultimately for moving me toward that Best Version of Myself. Joanne’s portfolio is very impressive, including people like Melody Beattie, David Simon of the Chopra Center, and Brian Tracey! Brian Tracey has long been an advocate of striving toward being the best version of yourself.

So it is fitting to close with a short video of Tracey, Be the Best You

I’d love to hear about how you work toward being the best version of yourself.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Science Backed Happiness

“Contrary to what most of us believe, happiness does not simply happen to us. It’s something that we make happen, and it results from doing our best. Feeling fulfilled when we live up to our potentialities is what motivates differentiation and leads to evolution.”

– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi 


Anyone who knows me well –  knows that I am passionate about happiness and it’s benefits. I talk so much about the benefits of happiness, that I’m sure I begin to sound like a broken record.  But as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow and co-founder of the Positive Psychology movement points out “happiness doesn’t just happen.”

Positive Psychology points out the many benefits to happiness.

    • Happiness brings large social rewards and interactions, superior work outcomes including higher income, more energy and activity, greater self-control and coping abilities, a bolstered immune system, and longevity.
    • Happy people demonstrate a self-serving bias, believing they are healthier, able to get along better with others, are more fun, have good ideas, are more intelligent, and are more ethical than others.
    • People who are positive about aging live 7.5 years longer than those with less positive perceptions. Interestingly, this benefit surpasses the results for smoking cessation, exercise, and obesity control.
    • People with increased SWB (subjective well-being) demonstrate high personal confidence, self-esteem, personal mastery, and control.
    • Happy people feel like they are in control and are empowered.
    • Characteristics related to positive affect include confidence, optimism, self-efficacy, likability, prosocial behavior, activity, energy, physical well-being, flexibility, creativity, and the ability to cope with stress.
    • People who experience positive emotions, namely joy and contentment, right after experiencing negative emotions recover faster cardiovascularly than ones who have no positive emotional experience.  This suggests that positive emotions may fuel psychological resilience.
    • In a longitudinal study of older Mexican Americans, individuals with higher reported positive affect versus lower positive affect were half as likely to have become disabled or dead during a two-year follow-up.

So I often say, Choose Happiness! As I pointed out in an earlier post, 40% of happiness  is up to you.

But what can you do to be happier?  In a recent article in Business Insider, writer Dina Spector listed 25 things that will make you happier.

Some of them made sense:

In a survey of 350 people, researchers found that those who felt more powerful were more satisfied with their lives, especially in their jobs.

But some of them were surprising:

Studies have shown that eating high-calorie comfort foods can make your happier. The downside is this will also make you fat.  As an alternative, a study published in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science in May 2013 found that simply drawing pictures of foods high in fat, like cupcakes or pizza, and foods that taste sweet, like strawberries, can also boost your mood.

The study showed that these 25 things will make you happier:

  • Draw pictures of healthy foods

  • Be both an optimist and a realist.

  • Get your hands dirty.

  • Become a florist or a gardener.

  • Have sex — with one partner.

  • Spend money on many small pleasures rather than a few big ones.

  • Eat lunch on the beach.

  • Make your bed.

  • Focus on what you’re doing right now.

  • Move to Australia . . . (not sure about that one! *a New Zealand joke!)

  • Eat seven servings of fruit and vegetables each day.

  • Maintain a position of power.

  • Master a skill.

  • Seal your worries in an envelope, literally

  • Surround yourself with happy people

  • Volunteer.

  • Play with puppies

  • Smile more (even if it’s fake)

  • Live in relatively cool temperatures.

  • List three good things that happened today.

  • Spend money to free up more time.

  • Stop comparing yourself to others

  • Shorten your commute to work

  • Exercise

  • Listen to upbeat music

It’s well worth looking at the article to understand the reasoning behind each of these suggestions.

I want to close with a great short video that describes positive psychology in less than five minutes.  A fun and succinct explanation.

 

 

Let me know if you read the article in Business Insider,  I’d love to hear what you think of it. And as always, thank you for stopping by.  I appreciate it.

 

 

Happiness – At least 40% is up to YOU!

“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.  I can choose which it shall be.  Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.  I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

― Groucho Marx


HAPPY – The Movie tells us in no uncertain terms that Happiness is within our grasp.

While 50% of our level of happiness is genetic, only 10% is attributed to circumstances (like income, health or the number of shoes in our closet).  The other 40% is up to us:  what we do, how we think and our intentions to be happy.

HAPPY is uplifting and insightful.  It asserts that we can actually re-wire our brains, altering its structure and function, by engaging in some simple activities.  And that happiness is a choice that everyone can make, everyday.  The movie outlines several ways to be happier:

  • Simple Meditation Practices (*see info below about the Compassion Meditation)
  • Physical activity, especially that which gets us “in the flow” and unaware of our surroundings, can contribute to chronic happiness
  • Other activities which get us “in the flow” – like playing music, doing something we love
  • Being of service
  • Community, being with friends, and of course, Love

This information is consistent with Martin Seligman’s findings:

Seligman’s Five Elements of Well-Being (PERMA):

  • Positive Emotions (P) – Feeling positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
  • Engagement (E) – Being fully absorbed in activities that use your skills and challenge you. (Flow)
  • Relationships (R) – Having positive relationships is a universal requirement to well-being. (Community)
  • Meaning (M) – Belonging to and serving something you believe is bigger than yourself. (Service and Helping others)
  • Accomplishment (A) – Pursuing success, winning, achievement and mastery for their own sake. (Gratitude)

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) is doing ground-breaking work on the subject of Meditation and Happiness.  One of the people interviewed in the movie is Dr. Richard Davidson:

Richard J. Davidson, PhD, is a renowned neuroscientist and one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of contemplative practices, such as meditation, on the brain. He is the founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking work in studying emotion and the brain. A friend and confidante of the Dalai Lama, he is a highly sought after expert and speaker internationally. Time magazine named him one of the most influential people in the world.

The same meditation practice used in these studies is offered by CIHM online, free of charge. So it’s even easier to choose happiness!

If you haven’t seen the movie, please take the time to watch it. In my opinion, it is nothing less than life-altering!

 


 

Please let me know if you’ve seen HAPPY, and if so, what you thought of it.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Be Do Have

“You have to be before you can do and do before you can have”

– Zig Ziglar


I hear so many people say – When I have A, then I can do B, and then I’ll be C . . .

For example – When I have more money, then I can travel, and then I’ll be happy. Or When I have more time, then I can exercise and feel healthy, then I’ll be happy. Or When I have a boyfriend, then I’ll go dancing, and then I’ll be happy.  (Note the Be Happy is usually the end result desired.)

But as Zig Ziglar points out, the best way to get what you want is to BE what you want first!  In other words Be Happy NOW!  In the award winning movie, HAPPY, director Roko Belic travelled around the world and asked people – What do you want most in life?  And the ultimate answer from everyone they interviewed in every part of the world was that they wanted to be happy. Simple as that.

Laurence Boldt explains the phenomena well in his best selling book, How to Be Do or Have Anything.

It’s an easy thing to say, but not as easy to embrace.  Gretchen Rubin is working hard to help people start living a happier life with her Happiness Project. 

One of the things Ms. Rubin recommends is making your own Twelve Personal Commandments.

One of the most challenging—and most helpful and fun—tasks that I’ve done as part of my Happiness Project is to write my Twelve Personal Commandments. These aren’t specific resolutions, like make my bed, but the overarching principles by which I try to live my life.

After reading quite a bit by Ms. Rubin, I made my own Twelve Personal Commandments.  I’d like to share them with you:

My Twelve Commandments

1. I AM (Intention Attention Memory) Everyday

2. To Thine Own Self Be True

3. Golden Rule – Be the way to others that you want them to be to you

4. I Will Act Now

5. Be Love in every way

6. Pay Attention!

7. Pay it forward

8. Be the change you want to see in the world

9. Be Happy Now

10. There is only Now

11. How do I want to be remembered?

12. Enthusiasm for Life!

I encourage you to make your own.  They help me keep important personal principals in my consciousness.

I’d like to close with a beautiful TED Talk by Matthiew Ricard, called The Habits of Happiness.

I’d love to hear about what makes you happy.  And if you decided to make your own 12 Commandments, I’d love to hear about them.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Understanding Happiness – Love and Happiness

“Love consists of overestimating the differences between one woman and another.”

– George Bernard Shaw


In my previous post, I talked about the second talk in Understanding Happiness, a wonderful course offered on iTunes U. That course was by the “father” of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman.   The first talk was the one I discussed in Paying Attention to Happiness, in which Nancy Etcoff explores the Surprising Science of Happiness.

In the third talk, Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, tells us why we love and cheat and it’s relationship to happiness.  Facinating!  A great talk on love, happiness and the brain. This was kind of timely for me in that it mirrored a conversation my husband, Jeff and I had sitting in bed this morning.  He is possibly taking a job in Borneo for a year, and could be leaving as soon as next month. Well even after 23 years of happy marriage, sigh, I still do feel some jealousy.  And the thought of him away for a year feels, well disconcerting.  Of course I’ll miss him, and practically speaking, I’ll miss the stuff he does around here.  But there is also that little painful piece of fear that he’ll find some gorgeous woman there and have passionate sex! Sigh, I wish I could say I was much more mature and secure than all that , but there it is.  I found this talk by Dr. Fisher both entertaining and informative. And I have to agree with one of the women who commented on the video:

This talk is comforting and disconcerting all at once.

Please let me know your thoughts Helen Fisher’s TED talk at iTunes U, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on love and cheating.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Understanding Happiness

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

– Aristotle


In my post Lifelong Learning, I introduced a wonderful course offered on iTunes U called Understanding Happiness.  This course is actually a compilation of 7 different TED talks.  The first talk was the one I discussed in my previous post, Paying Attention to Happiness, in which Nancy Etcoff explores the Surprising Science of Happiness.

The second talk in this course is by the “father” of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman.  His talk, On Positive Psychology, is informative and engaging and very well worth the 20 minutes of time for anyone even slightly interested in this field.  He gives the history, the science and the reasoning behind the field.   He points out three key points.  Positive Psychology is:

  • As concerned with strengths as it is with weaknesses
  • As interested in building the best as in repairing the worst
  • As concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling and nurtuiring talent as with healing
Note, it does not say “just be happy.”  It does not say that it is not concerned with healing, just that it is just as concerned with nurturing the positive as it is with healing; it does not say ignore one’s weaknesses, it is just also concerned with finding strengths.  As I suggested in Moving Toward Authentic Self
In order to make changes in the present and not stay stuck, we have to look at the past and understand what led us to our current situation. We need to work through and move through our feelings of pain and loss in order to move on. Please understand I am absolutely and positively a believer in Positive Psychology and finding happiness.  But it must be Authentic Happiness.  And in my opinion Authentic Happiness can only be obtained when we have done our work and touched our Authentic Self.
For those of you interested in learning more and even taking a free test to assess your own level of Authentic Happiness, you can go to Authentic Happiness.
So for those of you that believe that Positive Psychology is the science of  just be happy and get on with it, I hope you will take the time to listen to Dr. Seligman’s informative and interesting talk linked below.  It goes a long way in helping us in Understanding Happiness.

Please let me know your thoughts Martin Seligman’s TED talk at iTunes U, and I’d love to hear about what you think about Positive Psychology.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Right or Happy? Not always an easy decision.

“Would you rather be right or happy.”

– Hugh Prather


I was on a beautiful bike ride yesterday on the new Hauraki Rail Trail.  It was a beautiful day, sunny and stunning.

The only problem was that on the first part of the journey, my husband Jeff and I were in an argument.  The argument wasn’t huge, it was a revisit of a common theme.  I tend to hyperbolize things . . . (OK and occasionally make stuff up to make a better story), and Jeff tends to want the TRUTH with a capital T in most situations.  On this particular occasion, I was talking about something financial, and I did a bit of spinning a tale, and Jeff reacted, in my opinion over-reacted.

I won’t bore you with details, but suffice it to say that it somewhat ruined the first half of the ride for me.  At the spot where we were going to turn around, Jeff put on his goofy grin and said, so “Do you want to be right or happy?”  Which allowed me some space to see the humor, which opened up our communication and we could talk about this latest argument.  We talked about the workshop we did with Hugh and Gale Prather in Tucson, AZ back in 1989.  It was a relationship workshop and a central theme was Right or Happy.  Sigh – I usually want both.

The important realization I had  though, was that after talking at that mid-way point on the ride, I had such a better time on the second half of the ride.  Although I didn’t prove my point and make him see that he was wrong and I was right, I was so much happier after we were able to communicate through the difficulty and move on. The ability to communicate through it was the central key.  We both listened and tried to understand the others’ point of view – not to say that the other person was right or wrong, just to understand the other side and accept it as valid for that person.

Please don’t get me wrong, this is not an easy decision, and anyone who knows me – knows that I really like to be right!  But usually (always?)  in relationships there are two sides of a story, two experiences in an argument and both are usually valid depending on which angle you are viewing it from.  And yesterday, on the bike ride I viscerally felt the feeling . . . I’d rather be happy.  But damn, it is not always an easy decision.

For those of you who have not read Notes To Myself  by Hugh Prather – it is a beautiful book, well worth a read.  Here is a very short clip by Hugh Prather about Attitudinal Healing.

 

 

Please let me know your thoughts on Hugh Prather and any experiences you have being Right or Happy.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

Moving toward Authentic Self

“Our sadness is an energy we discharge in order to heal . . . Sadness is painful. We try to avoid it. Actually discharging sadness releases the energy involved in our emotional pain.  To hold it in is to freeze the pain within us.”

– John Bradshaw


I’m incredibly fortunate in that I get to work with my best friend.  We run workshops together through a charitable trust called Figjam Workshops.  I love my work!

http://www.figjamworkshops.co.nz/home

Part of what I really enjoy, aside from the facilitation which is wonderful, are the long drives to and from the workshops, where Deb and I drink coffee and have long, deep conversations.  On Friday, on the way home from a workshop, Deb and I were talking about Authentic Self; about healing old wounds, about dealing with old, deep trauma and abuse – about doing the deep work – the work to move from being stuck to finding one’s Authentic Self.  We both agree that doing one’s personal growth work is essential to one’s well-being.

And because Deb is a good friend and we trust each other, she felt safe enough to challenge me a bit, and I felt safe enough to listen.  She asked me about some of my posts on this blog.  She said that I make it sound like “being happy” is the answer, that all one has to do is decide to be happy and everything will be better.   She said in her opinion it sounded like I was saying just act happy, maybe journal a bit and everything will be OK.  And after looking over some of my past posts, I see she is right and I don’t feel like I am honoring Authentic Self.  I want to state here and now that I believe that any of us with past emotional scaring, trauma, or abuse need to acknowledge it and do the work.  Staying stuck, staying in denial and pretending that everything is just wonderful is not helpful.   Pasting on a smile and saying I will just be positive when the pain inside is unbearable does not work.

In my previous post,   Who Was Your Teacher:

https://patticlark.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/who-was-your-teacher/

I talked about finally getting to the point where partying and alcohol were no longer enough to numb the pain.  I was lucky enough to have a sister who cared enough to talk to me about her path and pass on a transformational book called Creative Visualization.  Yes I did read that book, and yes it did help me begin my journey.  But it is important to say that then I spent many years doing my own work.  I went to one on one counselling, I did psychodrama groups, I did group counselling and I went to more personal growth workshops than I can count.  I did deep, deep work. Most of it was not fun and a lot of the work was very painful, but all of it helped move me forward on my path.  I was and still am committed to growing and not staying stuck.

In order to make changes in the present and not stay stuck, we have to look at the past and understand what led us to our current situation. We need to work through and move through our feelings of pain and loss in order to move on. Please understand I am absolutely and positively a believer in Positive Psychology and finding happiness.  But it must be Authentic Happiness.  And in my opinion Authentic Happiness can only be obtained when we have done our work and touched our Authentic Self.

A great teacher and author who helped me move through a lot of my own past feelings of pain and loss is John Bradshaw.  I have included a video here of John Bradshaw on the Oprah Show.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of John Bradshaw on Oprah.  And I’d love to hear about how you move toward Authentic Self.

As always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

How much is enough?

“Materialism can negatively influence well-being.”

– Ed Diener and Martin Seligman


We often get lost in the Myth of More – believing that “more” will make us happier – more clothes, more wine, more food, more money, more stuff!

In my post Finding Joy,  Michael Norton describes that people believe that the prospect of possessing things will make them happy.

https://patticlark.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/finding-joy/

But Diener and Seligman, leaders in Positive Psychology argue that from an economic point of view, materialism can actually negatively influence well-being.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2007/10/14/why-money-doesn-t-buy-happiness.html

And even when a business magazine  The Business Insider explored what will make you happy, more stuff was not on the list:

http://www.businessinsider.com/things-that-make-you-happier-2011-1#

So how much is enough?  In many articles, including this one on Zen Habits, it is argued that we already have enough now.

http://zenhabits.net/key-question-how-much-is-enough/

So instead of more stuff, most psychologists and even some economists are suggesting a change in attitude.

This wonderful video illustrates our rediculous attraction to more stuff and the damage it is doing to us and to our planet.

It is appropriately called The Story of Stuff.

 

Please let me know what you thought of The Story of Stuff.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.