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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ten good reasons to smile

smiling is infectious, you can catch it like the flu, someone smiled at me today, and I started smiling too.  ~Author Unknown
  1. smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin which make you feel good
  2. smiling lowers your blood pressure
  3. it works better than the best beauty treatments
  4. it will make everyone wonder what you’ve been up to
  5.  it costs nothing and they can’t tax it
  6. you can give away a smile and still keep it
  7. there are no language barriers to a smile
  8. sunshine is good for your teeth
  9. it takes seventeen muscles to smile and forty-three to frown
  10. its easier than explaining why you’re sad

listen to this then try and get it out of your head

what to do when attacked by man with banana

Now, it's quite simple to defend yourself against  a man armed with a banana. First of all you force him to drop the banana; then, second, you eat the  banana, thus disarming him. You have now rendered him helpless.

Monty Python

Thursday, March 24, 2011

happiness is a pound of sausages

Isn’t it strange how we want what we haven’t got?
Living in a Middle Eastern, Muslim country, naturally not many of the supermarkets around where I live sell pork, and those that do just stock a frozen, rather dubious looking variety. 
So yesterday, on a day out to visit friends “in the city” where I used to live, the last thing I did before returning home was to visit my favourite supermarket and purchase an insulated bag and a pound of fresh sausages.
I had a lovely day out, did a bit of shopping, had lunch with an old friend and then afternoon coffee with other lovely ladies.   I even managed a trip to the hair salon to get a much needed trim, which, as all ladies know, is always good for a boost.
A great day, it all made me happy but if I had to choose the best bit of the day, I’m afraid the sausages would come very high up on the list.  
I guess it’s the little things that make us happy

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Create your own future happiness map

No matter how minimalist your home you probably have a few photos scattered around.  We all love to have photos of family and friends, our pets – and of course the holiday snaps that remind us of happy times past. 
But there lies a bit of a problem – they remind us of happy times past. 
Why not create an image of your present and better still your future. 
We’ve all seen the fancy interior designers on tv create “mood boards” before they tackle redecorating a room, and it’s a popular trend now with wedding planning for brides to be.  Surely your future deserves the same effort.
Collect together images of the everyday things in your present that make you happy, perhaps the view from the window, your bed, a nice meal you’ve just prepared , spring bulbs flowering right now in the garden.  Of course include your loved ones – they are part of your present too.
Now think about your future – what do you want that to include?  This is where you might have to be a bit more creative – you can’t take photos of the future so search for images that represent what you want to do or hope to achieve.
You could include pictures of places you want to visit, perhaps that retirement cottage by the sea that you are aiming for, the hot air balloon that you want to ride in, the yacht that you’d like to sail, the designer shoes you want to buy.  It could be an image of a successful athlete or business person that you intend to become.  It could be as simple as the perfect cake you want to bake or as life changing as the baby you want to have –its your future- you choose.
The only limit to your future is your imagination –so when you think about what’s important to you and select the images for your happy future “mood board” you are taking the first important steps towards creating that future.

Monday, March 21, 2011

hello and thank you for calling the mental health helpline…

please select from the following options menu:
If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly
If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you
If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6
If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want, stay on the line so we can trace your call
If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be forwarded to the mother ship
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press
If you are manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press, nothing will make you happy anyway
If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969696.
If you have short-term memory loss, press 9
If you have short-term memory loss, press 9
If you have short-term memory loss, press 9
If you have low self-esteem, please hang up our operators are too busy to talk with you
If you are menopausal, put the gun down, hang up, turn on the fan, lie down and cry, you won't be crazy forever
If you are blonde, don't press any buttons, you'll just mess it up.
 
 just got to laugh

Sunday, March 20, 2011

what kind of friend will make you happy?

In bad times a friend will listen to your problems, helping you to put things in perspective and soften life’s blows, and having a close friend to confide in helps  to relieve the stress in your life.  In good times a friend is there to share the joy and to be happy with and for you.
Just like shoes, friends come in all shapes and sizes, and just like shoes, we need a good variety
  • the  outgoing friend – the life and soul of the party – in fact no party would be complete without this friend
  • the clever friend – knowledgeable or experienced – this friend is great for practical advice
  • the empathetic friend –  is the one who actually listens to your problems without immediately telling you their own
  • the happy friend who cheers you up
  • the sad friend who makes you feel needed
  • the friend who shares your interest or hobby of “collecting widgets” and will happily chat with you about  “widgets” all night long
  • the friend with completely different interests who can introduce you to new experiences
  • the workplace friend who understands the pressures that you are going through
  • the friend at the same “life stage” as you – with similar daily activities and challenges
  • the older friend – who can share the wisdom of their years of experience
  • the younger friend – who keeps you in touch with everything new (hopefully explaining the latest technology)
  • the old friend who has known you for years who you can share memories with
  • the new friend you can enjoy getting to know
  • the friend close by – who you can meet up with for a drink and a chat
  • the friend a long way away who you can keep in touch with, by email or phone and look forward to reunions with
In fact when you think about it just about everybody you meet is a potential friend – hope you find a new one today.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

dont worry be happy

I love the old saying   “worrying works – 90% of what I worry about never happens”
Its so true, so why do we spend so much of our time worrying?  often when we’re trying to get to sleep at night, or just when we should be focussed on something else?
Here are my favourite tips to reduce worry in your life
  • Ask yourself will it matter 100 years from now? what about a year from now? what about a week from now?  put your worry into perspective and decide just how important it is
  • Think about the outcome – so what’s the worst that can happen? If you don’t get that job or pass that test – there will always be other opportunities, will it really be the end of the world?
  • Decide just how important the issue is and how much time you are going to spend on it – then move on
  • Use the worry decision tree in the tools section to guide you through your worries

and in the words of the  great Bob Marley  “Every little thing gonna be alright

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

when down becomes depressed

We all have periods in our lives when we're not so happy, or feel "a bit down" and often we can get over this by ourselves, but 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will experience depression at some time in their lives.
Anyone who has ever suffered from it, will tell you that it is a very black and lonely place to be, the symptoms can include 
  • Persistent sadness or low mood, with or without weepiness
  • A marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities that you normally enjoy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness
  • Feeling like a failure - that you have let yourself or others down
  • Disturbed sleep - either difficulty in getting off to sleep, or waking early and being unable to get back to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Change in appetite- either a poor appetite and weight loss, or comfort eating and weight gain
  • Tiredness or loss of energy
  • Agitation or slowing of movements
  • Poor concentration or indecisiveness, even simple tasks can seem difficult
  • A preoccupation with death and dying, despairing thoughts such as "life's not worth living" or "I don't care if I don't wake up" are common. Sometimes these thoughts progress into thoughts of suicide
If you think you are depressed seek help - talk to someone you trust about it, a member of your family, a friend or your doctor - no matter how hard it is to talk about your feelings - take it from someone who knows - the good news is that you will not always feel like this, and with help you can get better and be happy again  

its your choice

Your state of mind hinges not on what happens to you, but how you respond to a particular event or happening. Some of the happiest people also face some of the biggest problems. If you think and feel happy you'll be able to cope with whatever life throws at you
Viktor E Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the horrific experience of being a prisoner in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. 

Watching his fellow prisoners he came to the conclusion that even in severe suffering each person could choose how to react to their situation – those who held onto a faith in the future could survive – once they lost that faith they were doomed.
Perhaps the next time you are faced with a difficulty it might be easier if you remember that you can choose your reaction to it.
Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
Viktor E. Frankl

sleep yourself happy

Lack of sleep at best can make you grumpy and irritable, making it hard to function properly, at worst it can lead to anxiety and depression.  When we suffer from sleep deprivation it affects our memories and also our abilities to use our brains effectively making us more prone to accidents.
All that’s enough to make anyone miserable, so here are a few tips to get a good night’s sleep
  • Have a calming warm bath or shower – not too hot or that energises you – try some relaxing bubbles or oils such as lavender
  • Turn off the TV at least half an hour before sleep time
  • Play some soothing music or listen to a relaxation or meditation tape
  • Read something (but not work related – don’t need to start thinking about work now)
  • Avoid nicotine and caffeine close to bedtime – try a milk or herbal drink instead
  • Keep a notepad by the bed, then if your mind starts racing on with worries or thinking of things you have to do, write them down to deal with the next day – then let go of them
  • If you still find it hard to stop your brain racing – try visualisation – imagine you are somewhere calm and relaxing eg laid on a beach, listening  to the waves, watching a solitary cloud float across the sky, feel the warmth of the sunshine on your skin and relax.
  • Try relaxing all your muscles – starting with your feet – first tensing then relaxing the muscles – continue up your body focussing on each part at a time – tensing then relaxing.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a haven for rest – banish clutter, especially TV’s, computers and mobile phones, make sure your bed is comfortable, the bedroom dark and at a comfortable temperature
And if all these tricks fail check out the insomnia website on the links page
Night night sleep tight

Monday, March 7, 2011

be happy at work

seven ways to be happier at work
  1. connect with people – very often its our relationships with others that give us most happiness in life, so try to build good relationships with your work colleagues, support and encourage them, show an interest in them and get to know them better
  2. don’t stress the small stuff – before you get annoyed about the irritations that you encounter, just stop to think whether it really matters? a good test is to ask yourself “will it really matter a week from now? or even a year from now?”
  3. celebrate small successes – perhaps you made a sale or dealt with a difficult client – ok, no reason to throw a party, but be sure to share your success with someone else or at least give yourself a mental ‘pat on the back’
  4. try to see the humour  -when things go wrong  (and they will), and be prepared to laugh at yourself.  Seeing the funny side of life’s little problems and not taking yourself too seriously can be a great way to turn things around
  5. accept change – there is a strong link between learning new things and happiness, if your boss suddenly wants you to take on more responsibility look upon it as a great opportunity  to learn new stuff
  6. be calm –especially when others around you are getting stressed – close your eyes and take deep breaths and if you can, leave your desk and take a break for five minutes and go for a walk
  7. stay positive – remind yourself about why you wanted the job, look for the positives, work hard and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.

find happiness at the supermarket

We all have good days and bad.
We think about the times when we were especially happy, perhaps a wedding day, or the birth of a child, or a special day out, birthday or holiday and sometimes its easy to think that life has a few special times and lots of boring days in between.
But what if every day could be a happy day? – what if we could find pleasure in all our day to day routines?
Ok you’re saying, but I have to go to the supermarket - how can that be happy?  Take a look around you at the supermarket, its clean and bright – there are wonderful foods from all over the world for you to choose from. You have money in your purse to buy enough to make a delicious meal for you to enjoy with your family. Perhaps even enough to buy a bar of chocolate to sit and enjoy with a cup of coffee when you get home and have put all the shopping away.
Ok, so I have to do the washing – how can that possibly be happy?– think how lucky you are to have a modern machine that does most of the work for you, water on tap and electricity to make it work,  how lovely and fresh your clean clothes will be and how satisfying it will feel to put the freshly laundered clothes away in the wardrobe.
Housework – free workout and think how you’ll enjoy the results of your home feeling clean and tidy
Gardening – fresh air, exercise and the wonder of nature all around you
Cooking – the chance to be creative and make yourself and others happy with a wonderful meal
Getting the idea? 
Slow down and find the happiness in the every day routines and you will find more joy in your life.

come to your senses and be happy

we can use all of our senses to improve our moods and be happier
  • sight  - what a wonderful gift to let us see amazing things all around us, in nature- a cloud or a beautiful flower or the smile on the face of someone we love – look more closely and appreciate the beauty in your surroundings
  • sound – listening to music that you like can instantly make you feel more relaxed.  Whether we prefer classical or hip hop it can give us a great boost and if it inspires us to dance so much the better
  • smell – aromatherapy is a whole new area – why not try lavender for a start – it's supposed to be calming and helps to reduce exhaustion
  • taste – granny was right, a good cup of tea makes you feel better, it contains theanine which helps to make you calm.  There are many foods which can make us feel better – see my previous post on “good mood foods
  • touch – giving and receiving a hug can always make us feel better
Think about using all your senses to be happier each day

the time to be happy is now

I can remember as a child thinking that life would be perfect when I was 13 – that was the age when I could join the local youth club and that (according to my older brother) was where everything was great and wonderful – of course it never lived up to the expectation – in fact, I can now remember the longing for it more than the actual youth club itself.
How much of our lives do we spend looking forward to being happy? – when I leave school, when I get a good job, when I get married – that’s when I’ll be happy.
Of course its good to have goals, to have things to aim at and look forward to, but if we get into the habit of constantly striving for the next thing, are we enjoying the journey as much as we could?
If we go through life thinking that we need a better job, a smarter car or a bigger house to make us happy, or that we would be content if we could just get a bit fitter and lose a bit of weight, will we ever reach that happiness?
Make your mind up to be happy right now with what you are, and what you have – enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

I can handle it

Just four little words but what a powerful thought.
When you think about most things that makes our life difficult or stressful  you find that what causes us most problems is fear itself.
We are afraid that we are not going to pass that exam, get that job, keep our kids safe, make that presentation at work, and manage our money well enough.  So many fears that it’s a wonder we make it through the day.
I used to be a terrible flyer –I would spend hours terrified on long flights, hating the moment when the stewardess closed the doors,  nervously listening for every change in engine sound, fearing the worst at the slightest turbulence, it felt as though I was single handedly keeping that plane up in the sky.  
Then one time – at the start of an eight hour flight I suddenly wondered what it would be like to not be afraid – if I just relaxed and didn’t worry, just let the pilot fly the plane instead of me.  All I had to do was sit back, enjoy the movie, enjoy the food, read my book, perhaps even sleep for a while and I suddenly realised that I could handle that.
 I have flown many times since – living a long way from home I have to – and although I don’t particularly look forward to it – I now know that I can handle it, and have never  suffered the awful fears that I used to.
Why not try it?  When you find yourself stressing over something just tell yourself that “I can handle it” and see how much stronger it makes you feel.

are you grateful?

Don’t you just hate that feeling when you get into your car – probably rushing as usual to make an appointment or get to work on time – and it doesn’t start –its so frustrating and annoying.  But what about the other 364 days of the year when the car starts perfectly and gets us about no problem?  Do we feel grateful and thankful for the freedom and convenience that having a car gives us? Probably not because we take it for granted.
Its so easy to concentrate on the things that go wrong, the annoying things in life – the negative things, that we fail to appreciate all the good things around us every day.
If you are feeling down about things that are happening to you, trying to shift that feeling on to the good things can help you to feel a whole lot better. 
Start a gratitude diary – at the end of every day write down 3 good things that have happened to you that day.  It could be a major thing – getting a new job, or a pay rise, or much more likely, a smaller thing – a phone call from a friend, sitting in the park in the sunshine, laughing with a child or enjoying a good meal with your family. 
No matter how down or depressed we feel, we can all come up with three things to be grateful for. As we get into the habit of writing our diary each day – we start to look for the things that we can put into it – we start noticing the good things and focussing on the positive.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

why are you stressed?

We all cope differently with stress, sometimes we cope and other times it just all gets too much.
If it’s a major event such as bereavement or divorce its obvious what’s causing the stress, but more often it’s the accumulation of lots of small stressful events that build up over time that is making us feel so bad.
A good way to start to tackle the problem is to keep a stress diary
Just as keeping a food diary when going on a diet makes us aware of what we are eating, by recording the small stress events over a period of time we can start to recognise where the problems lie.  See the stress diary template in the tools section. Try using it for a week to note when and what stresses you – rating each event on a scale of 1 to 10 – noting how it makes you feel and what you do to cope.
At the end of a period of time, look for patterns, it may be a certain time of day when you feel stressed or a certain situation or person causing the problem
Once we recognise a problem its far easier to find a solution ie if the rush hour traffic on the way to work is making us stressed, maybe it would be better to allow a bit more time, or find alternative transport. Looking at how you coped may also help you to identify what worked best for you.
Often we can start to feel better by doing an exercise like this simply because we are taking control of the situation.

having a bumpy ride?

Are you satisfied with your life? – are you as happy as you could be, and are you spending enough time and energy on each area? – use the life wheel in the tools section to find out.
If you don’t think that the areas on the wheel are appropriate to you simply change them to others that you prefer.
On a scale of 0 meaning total dissatisfaction, to 10 meaning total satisfaction and achievement, decide where you think you currently are in all areas of your life
Mark your scores on the wheel using 0 as the centre of the wheel to 10 being the outer circle.
Now draw a line to join the marks together – do you have a nice even circle – any flat areas and you may be having a bumpy ride. 
Think about which areas are making you happy, satisfied and fulfilled. 
Which areas do you need to work on to achieve a better balance in your life?


laugh and live longer

For a long time it has been known that optimists live longer than pessimists – but now research suggests that a good laugh can help you to live longer too.
So along with the broccoli and bananas, maybe you should add a joke book to your basket next time you're in the supermarket,  evidence shows that people with a better sense of humour also have healthier as well as longer lives.
A good laugh reduces stress hormones and releases endorphins into the body that make you feel good physically as well as mentally.  Most people also find laughter contagious – so if you laugh more its highly likely that those around you will too, this way you make better connections with people and improve your social interactions.
Think of ways to add laughter to your life

  • build up a library of comedy dvds that you find funny- and make a point to watch something funny at least a couple of times a week
  • play and be silly with small children – they know how to have fun, laughing up to 300 times a day – compared to an adults fifteen
  • play fun games – charades is for life not just for Christmas
  • search http://www.youtube.com/ for funny clips of laughing babies, funny animals and children (see one of my favourites “Charlie bit my finger”)   Add clips of your favourite stand up comedians. Save the best ones in your favourites to go back to when you need a chuckle
  • Read joke websites  - and don’t forget to check out “funny exam answers” and  “funny insurance claims”
  • Try to find the funny side of things that happen to you – there are always crazy or just plain stupid things happening all around us, instead of letting these things annoy you, try to appreciate the humour, laugh them off and live longer in the process.
  • Laughter Yoga created by Indian Doctor Madan Kataria is now practised around the world and World Laughter Day will be celebrated in over 60 countries on 1st May 2011 “Sending a big joyful hug of laughter around the world”  see http://www.laughternetwork.co.uk/index.html
“Remember, You don’t stop laughing because you get old ...you get old because you stop laughing”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

good mood foods

As well as bananas there are other foods that can help your moods
Oily fish – mackerel, tuna, sardines or salmon- have essential fatty acids that are needed for the brain and nerve cells to work properly
Meat and also green vegetables, especially spinach and peas contain iron – and if you don’t get enough iron you can feel tired and lack concentration
Wholewheat bread and cereals, meat, marmite (love it or loathe it?) and leafy green vegetables provide B vitamins which help to prevent lack of energy  and depression
And last but certainly not least, dark chocolate stimulates endorphins which gives a feeling of pleasure, and also contains serotonin which is an anti depressant – not to mention that it tastes sooo good

be happy to be successful

For all those workaholics – or those who have a partner who works all hours- this may be something of a revelation – its not being successful that makes you happy – its being happy that makes you successful.
Scientific studies (putting people into a positive or negative frame of mind and then testing their reactions to different situations) show that people in a positive frame of mind tend to
  • Talk to others more – and  to reveal more information about themselves (the self-disclosure necessary for forming close friendships
  • Be more interested in leisure activities – going out for a meal, having a party or going on holiday
  • Get more pleasure from social interactions
  • Get on better with other people, resolving conflicts and collaborating rather than competing
  • Help others more  and being more generous with time and money
  •  Feel healthier and feel less pain
  • Be more creative –thinking with originality and an open mind
  • Have more confidence in their own abilities
So perhaps as well as striving for more success we should all work on being happy – and just see what happens……………..