Reaching a state of Flow

Have you ever heard of someone being in a state of “flow”? You may have heard it used to describe the state of a professional athlete, or perhaps a dedicated student. But what does it really mean?

Flow occurs when a person’s challenges and skills are appropriately matched. It’s linked to an optimal state of development and functioning. Neuroimaging shows better controlled and more efficient attention that occurs during flow, even though it may feel “effortless”. On the contrary, boredom occurs when the challenges are too easy compared to one’s skills; and anxiety occurs when the demands increasingly exceed one’s capacities for action.

Under flow conditions, a person can be described as “in the zone”. For instance, while writing a paper, your mind has psychologically reached the point where your challenges and skills are matched to proportion, and you feel you’re able to fully immerse yourself in the writing process, things almost seem to just “come to you”, and you feel like thoughts are naturally flowing to you.

Similarly, an athlete may reach a state of flow when their physical challenges appear to meet their level of skill. The work doesn’t feel easy, nor overwhelmingly hard, but provides the right amount of challenge to feel an immense amount of satisfaction and enjoyment out of the activity. Again, athletes may be described as being “in the zone”, fully immersed into their sport, and things may just “feel right”, like they’re “on top of their game”.

Reaching a state of flow, can often be described as having the following characteristics:

  • Intense focus and concentration on what one is doing in the moment
  • Merging of action and awareness
  • Loss of reflective self-consciousness, (ie. loss of awareness of oneself as a social actor)
  • A sense that one can control one’s actions
  • A sense that time has passed faster than normal
  • Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding

Researchers think that a mindful, non-judgmental approach may be necessary for flow to occur. In other words, certain personality traits may be associated with a greater ability to achieve flow or quality flow, such as curiosity, persistence, and low self-centeredness to name a few. That’s not to say that if you don’t identify with these traits you won’t ever reach flow. The environment you’re in and the way you approach things can also influence your ability to reach flow.

To become more engaged with daily life, perhaps one can try finding and shaping activities and environments that are more conducive to experiencing flow; or identifying personal characteristics and attentional skills that can be tweaked to make flow more likely. A great place to start is choosing activities that you’re really interested in, as it’s essentially a “pre-requisite” for the appearance of flow.

So the next time, you feel like you’re “in the zone” during an activity, you’re actually in a “state of flow”.

Always,

Paula

Add some spice to your life…with Turmeric!

This spice has definitely been getting some hype lately! And it’s well deserved. With so many health and nutrition benefits, we all should consider incorporating a little more turmeric into our lives.

Turmeric, popularly known for its bright yellow colour, has been a traditional spice used in various cultural cuisines (especially India) for thousands of years. Did you know that this spice has also been used medicinally as well? It’s active compound “curcumin” is the main active ingredient that produces its many medicinal benefits.

Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant

First and foremost, turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant with the ability to repair damage in your body. As an antioxidant, turmeric may also stimulate your body to produce its own antioxidant enzymes. Prolonged, low levels of inflammation in the body which may be caused by a variety of lifestyle, nutrition, environmental, or biological factors is often the culprit to may chronic diseases present in our society today. This includes heart disease, cancer, and metabolic syndromes.

What this means for mental health, is that turmeric has the potential to reduce inflammation in the brain as well! Alzheimer’s is one disease of the brain that is linked with increased levels of inflammation. As a result, much research is currently being done that involves reducing whole-body levels of inflammation through mechanisms such as medication, exercise, and not surprisingly, turmeric!

Boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)

BDNF is a type of growth hormone that functions in the brain. We need an appropriate amount of BDNF in order to have optimal brain functioning and cognition. Many common brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and depression have been linked to lower levels of BDNF. Interestingly though, turmeric can potentially boost BDNF function, so that our brains can build new cells and make more connections! Turmeric has the potential to increase BDNF for those experiencing depression, aiding in helping reduce depressive symptoms. Using turmeric as a potential antidepressant aide is a current topic that’s being looked into in research.

Immunity

A very relevant topic today, the properties of turmeric are also thought to help boost the immune system! Through a combination of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial effects, turmeric in combination with other complimentary ingredients may help boost your health. Note, consuming turmeric may not be suitable for everyone, so definitely listen to your body and seek advice from your doctor. As with any spice, its not recommended to over-consume in large quantities.

Besides adding a little turmeric to savoury dishes, I love adding it once in a while to a tea for added health-boosting effects. My favourite tumeric tea recipe is shared with you below!

Add small amounts of each of the following: turmeric, lemon juice, honey, coconut oil, black pepper. Make sure to start with small quantities and adjust the ratios to taste. Top it all off with a cup full of hot water, stir well and enjoy!

Did you know? Adding a bit of coconut oil and black pepper to the turmeric will help it absorb more efficiently into the bloodstream.

Feel free to share this post with friends, and let me know how you incorporate turmeric into your life!

Always,

Paula

The Importance of Mindfulness

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you’re likely to have already learned quite a bit about mindful thinking, the practice of gratitude, how to be more optimistic, and so much more. Today, we’ll dive into how important a mindfulness practice truly is. I’ll share some practical mindfulness tips along with evidence from the study of positive psychology.

As touched on previously, being mindful requires us to:

  • Overcome the desire to reduce uncertainty in daily life
  • Override a tendency to engage in automatic behaviour
  • Engage less frequently in the negative evaluation of yourself, others, and situations

In moments of mindfulness, and with sustained practice, you may notice certain qualities are likely to appear:

  • Non-judging
  • Acceptance
  • Patience
  • Trust
  • Openness
  • Letting go
  • Gentleness
  • Generosity
  • Empathy
  • Gratitude
  • Loving kindness

Mindfulness can also reduce stress, allowing you to accept external situations and internal stress, fully embracing what you’re currently going through with minimal resistance. When people make mindfulness a habit, studies show individuals tend to produce less of a stress hormone called “cortisol” when reacting to something emotional. This reduces the overall amount of distress your body experiences!

According to Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), regular practice weakens the association between negative thoughts and depressive emotions. It allows you to focus more on the awareness of thoughts and emotions as opposed to the evaluation of the legitimacy of the thoughts. As a result, we see benefits such as a reduction in depressive relapse, reduced depressive and anxiety symptoms, and lessening the symptoms of social phobias. We also see better sleep quality, more calmness and positive feelings about the self, better rehab and addictions recovery, less conflict and more ability to cope. Amazingly, these benefits can be seen at any age – in children, adolescents, or adults.

Not surprisingly, mindfulness may allow you to become better at multitasking by increasing your ability to be cognitively flexible. Evidence shows better spatial abilities as well, due to greater ability for awareness and the potential for neuroplasticity (making new neural connections in the brain!).

Cultivating Mindfulness

  1. One of the simplest ways to beginning a mindfulness practice is to start with a few minutes a day of quiet deep breathing and meditation. It might seem strange at first sitting in silence, listening to your breath, trying to clear your head, however with patience and dedication, you’ll be able to fall into this calm, relaxed state more easily.
  2. Taking part in a yoga session can also get you into a relaxed, mindfulness state as the body postures and positions are meant to stimulate a calmer nervous system along with positive changes physically, cognitively, and emotionally.
  3. Try self-guided mindfulness by using a workbook on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which has been proven successful at reducing feelings of stress.

If you have any thoughts, questions or comments about this post or anything mindfulness related, feel free to write in the comments below!

Always,

Paula

Fostering a Meaningful Life

Finding meaningfulness in one’s life is a topic almost every person thinks about at some point in their life. It’s human nature to want to feel important, useful, and have a life purpose. In this post, we’ll explore ways to create meaning in one’s life along with interesting evidence from psychology and mindfulness sources.

In the study of psychology, there are four “needs” for meaning in life, four patterns of motivation that guide how people try to make sense of their lives.

  1. The first is purpose. We search for a life purpose that allows our present events to connect meaningfully to future events. This can be in the form of goals (ex. obtaining a university degree, getting married and having kids) or in the form of fulfillments (ex. feeling like you’ve reached success, living happily ever after).
  2. We seek a sense of efficacy. We like to feel control over events in our lives and the actions we take towards a meaningful life.
  3. Self-worth is another necessary factor. Finding meaning in life is often accompanied by having intrinsic personal value, or feeling important to society/others in your life.
  4. Lastly, having strong values rooting your moral and ethical decisions for actions helps to foster life purpose.

If all four of the above components are achieved, it is then thought that one has reached the opportunity of finding meaningfulness, leading to positive effects on one’s mental health and an increase in happiness. However if all four are not met, life may seem insufficiently meaningful and may be associated with a sense of “drifting aimlessly” through life and an increase in depression.

Various scholars have theorized that people can find meaning in several places: career, relationships, religious beliefs, volunteer services, achievements, etc. People who deepen their spiritual/religious beliefs, set goals to reach personal achievements, open themselves up to create genuine relationships, and dedicate service to others tend to report feelings of greater well being, are more physically active, have greater marital satisfaction, and overall life satisfaction.

Meaningfulness is not the same as happiness.

You can have meaningfulness without happiness, but you cannot have happiness without meaningfulness. If this seems confusing, take adversity as an example. When we experience adversity (a negative situation) we ask ourselves “why did this happen?”. Finding a positive in a negative situation is like finding the silver lining, making sense of it. Perhaps we tell ourselves that “Everything happens for a reason” or “It was God’s will or judgment”. However you come to terms with it, you eventually begin to accept the situation. In this way, the situation doesn’t necessarily make you happy, but you’ve created meaning in something that you couldn’t control. Giving meaning to something is especially important during times of misfortune. It reduces distress, rebuilds your sense of mastery or control, bolsters your self-worth, and allows you to find purpose in it.

Some people find meaning in difficult times by writing or journalling about it. By actually writing your thoughts down, you make your thoughts visible, and that transforms what was once intangible in your mind to now a physical, tangible thing. Using journalling as a way to release negative energy held in your body may improve the function of your immune system, reduce the chances of illness, and increase enzyme functioning! Writing allows you to find a positive meaning of a situation, making sense of it. Initially when beginning to write, it may bring up negative emotions, however a few days to weeks later, you might begin to feel less negative towards it and possibly look at it from a more positive perspective.

If you’re looking to give meaning to your life or something in your life, consider adapting a few of the practices above. You might have to revise your goals, standards and priorities from time to time to boost your life happiness and satisfaction, and that’s okay! It’s all part of our life journey.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Always,

Paula

Exercising for Physical and Mental Health

The COVID pandemic along with its restrictions on social distancing and isolation have had a toll on both our physical and mental health these past few months. We’ve been staying inside more, moving around less, having fewer in person interactions, and perhaps opening the refrigerator a little more often as well.

According to previous studies on being sedentary, negative effects on the body can appear very quickly. When previously active people had their activity restricted, reductions in muscle mass and strength were seen in as little as 2 weeks! The longer one goes without returning to regular activity, the harder it is to regain the lost muscle mass and strength. Similar detrimental effects can be seen on the cardiovascular system with reduced VO2 (maximum oxygen capacity), and on the metabolic system (reduced glucose sensitivity). In simpler terms, this means less ability to take in enough oxygen for your body during physical activity, and less ability to regulate your blood sugar after meals.

With most of society ordered to social isolation and confinement, there is also likelihood of notable negative effects pertaining to mental health, especially when combined with the reduced physical activity. Increases in anxiety, depression, and boredom are issues that compound and add to reductions in overall health and wellbeing.

Physical activity is clearly a critical component to maintaining good health. The fact is, humans have developed and evolved to be physically active, with the body reaching an optimal physical and mental state when physical activity is balanced with energy intake. Although the current pandemic may not allow us to be as active in the same ways we used to be, we can re-introduce regular daily exercise to improve both our physical and mental health. If this seems too daunting, consider simply having an exercise “snack”. You don’t have to jump into doing a full hour of a high-intensity interval training online class, or running 5k a day – Having an exercise “snack” means breaking up your day to include opportunities to be more active. It could be as simple as setting an alarm every hour to remind you to walk around for 10 minutes outside. Repeat this three times, and you’ve already completed 30 minutes of activity!

Here are a few more ideas of bringing activity back into a regular routine…

  • Getting up to walk around. Now that the weather is much nicer, why not spend some more time outdoors? Take a walk around your neighbourhood, and while you’re at it, why not stop to chat with your neighbours across the lawn? You’ll be reaping both physical and mental health benefits at the same time. Note, make sure to of course properly social distance by staying 6 feet apart, and consider wearing a mask in public areas.
  • Many local outdoor recreational parks are now offering limited access to the areas with online reservations to ensure social distancing safety while exploring a trail, garden, or park. Check out your local recreation listings to see what is available in your city!
  • Doing resistance exercises at home, even if you don’t have heavy weights that you may be accustomed to using at the gym. Studies show doing resistance exercise with body weight/low weights and high repetitions may be just as effective, if not more effective, on maintaining muscle mass when compared to traditional weight training done with higher weights and lower reps.
  • Downloading a health/fitness app. In today’s society, there’s a multitude of health and fitness apps that you can download for free to help motivate and track your activity. Something as simple as a step-counter can be used to set goals and beat your best score of daily steps. Fun fact: the minimum steps required to avoid sedentarism is 5000 steps, but the more the better!

The key here is to choose something and try sticking with it for a few days, making a habit out of it, and building it into your daily routine. If you continue doing this, by the end of this pandemic there’s a good chance your body will be stronger and your mind will be in a healthier state.

Always,

Paula

Adapting a Past, Present, and Future Mindset

Many of us have been informed of the importance to live in the present moment, to forget the past, and to stop worrying about the future. While these suggestions are usually met with good intention and considered to be fairly good advice, this type of thinking is actually only relevant during certain circumstances. In a given situation, it might in fact be more important to consider your past, or place a greater emphasis on thinking about the future rather than the present moment.

If this seems contradicting to what you typically hear about in the mindfulness media, you’re right, it is. But I’d like to shed some light on the often mis-conceptualized idea of always “living in the moment” and instead give evidence as to when you might benefit from spending time more so in a past or future context.   

Let’s first look into how the past, present, and future orientations are defined.

The Past

A “past” mindset is often characterized by nostalgic memories and pleasurable views of previous family and friend relationships, with happiness seeming to derive from warm, personal interactions. However, with one’s past also comes the chance of holding onto negative emotions, thoughts and feelings, anxieties, sorrows that we may experience in life. Additionally, there are also cultural differences when having a “past” mindset. For instance, from a Western (American) perspective, the “past” orientation can produce a conservative, cautious approach to life with an unwillingness to experience new things. This is often thought of as a negative mindset. From an Eastern (Asian, Indigenous) perspective, paying attention to the past might ensure the passing down of traditions and rituals from generation to generation. This instead is viewed as a positive mindset to have.

The Present

When describing a person who lives in the here and now from a Western perspective, one typically derives pleasure from highly intense activities, thrills and excitements, and is open to adventures of the moment, often placing value on experiences of present gratification. This approach could sometimes be harmful and detrimental to the person and their future when “living in the moment” involves short-term pleasures like drugs, partying, risky driving, sexual encounters, etc. The Western perspective reflects the fact that a person may not necessarily think ahead about potential liabilities of such excitement activities.

When taking an Eastern perspective however, living in the moment may be centered on the concepts of calmness, meditation, flow, and mindfulness, and is not associated with potential detrimental effects on an individual or their future. It is more so interpreted as paying less attention to time as it relates to a clock, and instead view time as related to what is happening in the moment. In this way, the practice of being “mindful” from Eastern cultures is becoming more attractive to people in the West (Hence, the growing interest of adapting mindful practices, such as the advice and tips listed in the Mindfulness by Paula blog!).

The Future

A person with a future orientation often thinks ahead to the possible consequences of their actions, forms clear goals, and strategizes to reach those goals. They’re more likely to engage in preventative behaviours to lessen the chance of “bad” things happening in the future. Such people are typically successful in life’s endeavours- academics, jobs, sports, health, etc. Some future-mindset people however don’t experience a lot of pleasure from simply being with others or recalling previous social activities. Additionally, embracing a future orientation may not be viewed positively by all cultures.

Reading through these three perspectives, which one do you think you have? Chances are, we all take on a past, present, and future mindset at various times of the day and may switch between them during different situations of our lives.

Finding Balance

The key to having balance in these three perspectives of time is in your ability to use the mindset that best fits your situation. This means, “Working hard when it’s time to work. Playing intensively when it’s time to play. Actively listening and socializing with others while gathering together. Laughing at jokes and the craziness of life. Indulging in desire and passion” – as quoted by Boniwell and Zimbardo. Being flexible and capable of switching to an appropriate temporal perspective results in the most productive approach to how we spend our time.

Having said that, our cultural influences, societies, and communities may affect which mindset we think may be best to choose in a given scenario:

Western cultures tend to place a priority on mastering their future, emphasizing action or goal-oriented activities, and may be judged by what they do or accomplish, more so than by who they are as a person. They might be more focused on controlling their surrounding environment and place a great importance on planning for their future.

Eastern cultures tend to view time as a plentiful resource, with human relationships taking priority. They tend to view the self and other people as interrelated, placing importance on interdependence and interacting with people. A common view is that the experience of suffering is a necessary part of the human existence.

Considering the cultural context that may be applicable to you, it’s important to embrace a positive psychological mindset. One perspective may be ideal for you, but not for someone else. In the end, be true to yourself when thinking about which frame of mind to adapt in any point in time, whether that may be cherishing your past, learning to be mindful in the present, or having hope for the future.

Always,

Paula

Cultivating Optimism

Featuring a special guest on the blog today! He has a honours degree in life sciences with a double minor in psychology and kinesiology, is an avid athlete, a healthy living enthusiast, and happens to be the love of my life. Can you guess who? Read on for Ryan’s tips on cultivating optimism:

Considering the current pandemic, keeping a positive and optimistic mindset may seem more challenging than ever.

Optimism is defined as a very general belief that good life outcomes are more likely than bad ones in most situations. Pessimism, the opposite of optimism, is the belief that bad life outcomes are more likely in most situations.

The phenomenon of optimism has been studied extensively in the field of positive psychology, and the potential benefits are remarkable. Before getting into the benefits of optimism, lets take a step back and think about the role of optimism in on your life. Think about how you motivate yourself to reach your goals; you probably have at one point in your life said to yourself (or something along these lines) “I will reach my goals, I will be successful”. This is an example of optimism and is commonly used to self-motivate yourself to keep yourself on track to reach your goals. Optimism is commonly used in sports and is common belief among professional athletes. If you observe the attitude of some of the most successful athletes, you will notice they share the same thing in common – they are optimistic about outcomes. Take Mark Messier for example, one of the best hockey players of all time. On May 25th, 1994, Messier and the New York Rangers were trailing 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils in a best of 7 series in the Eastern Conference Finals. Earlier that day, messier told reporters “We will win tonight”. Subsequently, Messier and the rangers won that game forcing a game 7, where they would win the series, and eventually win the Stanley cup. While you may not consciously observe optimism regularly in your daily life, chances are it plays a significant role.

An optimistic outlook on life is associated with numerous benefits including the following:

  • Better academic performance
  • Superior athletic performance
  • More productive work records
  • Greater satisfaction in interpersonal relationships
  • More effective coping with life stressors
  • Lower vulnerability to depression and anxiety
  • Superior physical health

Maintaining optimistic beliefs may help mitigate the psychological consequences experienced from any social restrictions imposed during COVID-19.

Those who attain the optimism characteristic react to failures, stressors, and negative situations differently than their pessimistic counterparts. Particularly, they commonly reason with the following attributes:

  • Attributing failures to external causes: e.g. I did bad on the test because the questions were worded poorly.
  • Unstable causes: belief that things can and do change over time (e.g. I will do better on the next test.)
  • Specific causes: relating causes to specific situations, rather than global causes (e.g. I do better in other courses.)

Put the benefits of optimism to use by maintaining a positive outlook on the future and utilizing the attributes commonly used by optimists. While we all experience stress, agony, hardship, etc. remember to seek the positives and maintain an optimistic mindset.

-Ryan

Let’s Practice Mindfulness

Since we’re all spending a little bit more time indoors these days, what better thing to do than practice some self care? Many people are now becoming interested in mindfulness, and perhaps you have some unanswered questions about what mindfulness actually is, and how to make it part of your daily routine.

Mindfulness is defined as the meaningful moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and the surrounding environment, and accepting it without judgment. With regular practice, mindfulness strengthens our mind to always come back to the present moment, setting aside our worries and stress about the past and future. What this means is essentially, we have the capacity to control how we live in this present moment.

Mindfulness has been studied for centuries, and it’s benefits are countless. For instance, mindfulness meditation is known to improve:

Amazingly, the latest research has also suggested that we have the power to literally change our brains by changing our minds! In one study, a group of people participated in 30 min of daily meditation for 8 weeks. Results indicated a greater density of grey matter in their brains- the region associated with functions such as memory, stress, and empathy.

Meditation in a sense has similar effects on the brain to what exercise has on the body!

How can YOU put mindfulness to practice? Here are a few easy suggestions to get started:

  • Begin to pay attention and recognize your thoughts and feelings
  • Allow your thoughts and feelings to simply be there in the present moment with you
  • Observe how these thoughts and feelings impact your body
  • Take time to nurture yourself

You could also practice mindfulness while eating: pay attention to how your food tastes, it’s texture, how it makes you feel, being appreciative of your meal.

Another idea is to practice mindfulness while socializing! Give someone your full attention, make sure to actively listen to them, and value the time with others in the present moment.

There are also many great apps that provide mindfulness tools and guided meditations. A few are listed below:

Calm

Headspace

Insight timer

Let me know in the comments if you try including mindfulness practices in your daily life, and make sure to subscribe for more tips on mindful thinking, body love, and wholesome living.

Always,

Paula

Building Resilience

What does “resilience” mean to you?

Oxford dictionary defines resilience as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Psychology further defines it as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity or a significant source of stress. Essentially, it’s our ability to “bounce back” from difficult situations, and can also result in profound personal growth. Everyone has a different experience and understanding of resilience, and what might seem stressful to one person may not necessarily be an issue for another.

Why do some people seem more resilient than others?

Many factors influence your current state of resiliency, including:

  • Psychological predisposition
  • Biological predisposition
  • Unique life experiences
  • Presence of supportive networks
  • Exercise
  • Mindfulness

What’s interesting though, is that our capacity to be resilient is not fixed! With some practice and dedication, we can train our minds to become more resilient.

Components that promote resilience include:

  • Good communication skills
  • Having a positive outlook on life
  • Good physical and mental health
  • Planning and goal setting
  • Being reasonable
  • Having a sense of humour
  • Having a sense of accomplishment
  • Ability to relax, take a break

If you’ve taken a look at the above list and identified a few areas that can be improved, you’re not alone. Together, we can overcome obstacles in our lives and come out of these challenges stronger than before!

Before we get caught up in trying to figure out how to be more resilient, let’s stop and just take 5 deep breaths, and take a moment to check in with yourself. Our lives can be so busy that we can forget to take a few moments and catch our breath. Our minds and bodies aren’t meant to deal with the constant stress that often leads to burnout. A key step in building resilience is finding time to let our minds and bodies recover, replenish, and restore our energy.

Research says that by simply taking slow deep breaths for as little as 30 seconds, we’re already switching to a calmer state within our nervous system. It’s amazing that we can consciously change our stress response (sympathetic system) to turn on our relaxation response (parasympathetic system). This lowers your breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety levels, while increasing feelings of calmness.

Other practices that can help us recover from stress may include:

  • Exercise
  • Going outside
  • Journaling
  • Eating nutritious food
  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Letting go of things you can’t control
  • Practicing an attitude of gratitude
  • Forgiving yourself and others
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Building a strong supportive network from friends and family

When responding to stressful situations, after “recovering”, it’s time to “renew”. What I mean by this, is to build regular positive habits that you enjoy and look forward to, and acknowledge that you need to do something to lift your spirits and energy levels. It’s important to live your values, make time for your passions, cultivate a positive relationship with yourself, become more patient and compassionate, and of course to always be kind to yourself.

Learn to change from simply reacting, to responding more mindfully, positively, and purposefully during difficult situations.

“Between stimulus and response, there’s a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” – Victor E. Frankl

Hope you stay well.

Always,

Paula

How to Generate Happiness

Let me start by asking you this, are you having a good day or a bad day? Why? Take a moment to think about it. Whether we have a good day or a bad day depends on our “why”.

What is happiness? Most scientists agree it’s our life satisfaction and positive affect, together known as “subjective wellbeing”.

What does happiness look like? When we think of happy people, often what comes to mind is people who are able to live in the moment, enjoy life everyday, regularly exercise, have hope for the future, are friendly and helpful, have strong social connections, able to cope with life challenges, have a strong sense of purpose, and so on.

What makes us happy? Scientists explain that 50% of our capacity to be happy is due to genetics, 40% due to our intentional activities, 10% due to life circumstances. So essentially, 40% of our happiness is entirely within our control. We can increase our choice to be happy more often and likewise take part in intentional activities that can make us feel happy. This in turn, can help change our path towards manifesting a happier life, therefore influencing that remaining 10% margin of our life circumstances. That means, it’s possible to convert 50% of our happiness capacity to within our own control. We have the ability to create happiness.

We often say, I’ll be happy when I graduate, when I get that job, when I have my own place… But it’s important to recognize that you can do things to feel happy today. Don’t wait for that when. Happiness is a choice and a mindset to practice everyday.

“Nothing changes if nothing changes” – Albert Einstein.

Here are a few suggestions on how to increase happiness:

  • Expressing gratitude (gratitude journaling, being thankful for the little things)
  • Practicing optimism (finding the positive in something negative)
  • Avoiding social comparison (comparison is the thief of joy!)
  • Performing acts of kindness
  • Nurturing relationships and social connections
  • Learning to forgive (let go of the past, consider writing a letter but not necessarily mailing it out!)
  • Savouring positive experiences (positive memories that make you smile, sharing a positive event with others, remembering the sound of the ocean)
  • Practicing self-care (regular exercise, eating healthy and mindfully, drinking enough water, meditation, etc.)

You are the only one in the way of generating your own happiness. Stay motivated everyday, and take small steps in a positive direction. In scientific terms, the more we stop and recognize positive moments all around us, the more we tap into neuroplasticity and use our prefrontal cortex to actively choose to be happy, and the less we use our amygdala- our reactive stress centre. We need to make happiness a priority in our lives.

Below are just a few of the benefits of being happy:

  • Strong immune systems
  • Rich networks of social support
  • Resilience during life challenges
  • Physically healthy
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Reported higher engagement at work
  • Increased self-esteem and self-confidence
  • And many more!

So what are you waiting for? Take a small first step: positive emotions help fuel more positive emotions, like a positive feedback loop. Some people find committing to self care and mindfulness practices at the beginning of the day can help set you up for an overall more positive, happy day. Recognize things that make you feel good and use those tools regularly when you notice you feel tense or stressed to actively control negative thoughts and feelings. Also, choose to focus less on creating happiness from materialistic things- happiness often comes from rather focusing on authentic, irreplaceable things in life like your health, social relationships, nature, and making positive memories.

I hope you find this useful and start to generate your own happiness!

Always,

Paula