Category Archives: healthy ways to be out in the world

10 Steps to Savoring the Good Things in Life

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By Stacey Kennelly | July 23, 2012

We get plenty of advice for coping with life’s negative events. But can we deliberately enhance the impact of good things on our lives?

Browse the self-help shelf of your local bookstore and you’ll find plenty of advice for coping with life’s negative events, from divorce to illness to death.

But what about dealing with the good ones? Reaching the top of a magnificent waterfall. Hearing your child’s laugh. Seeing your favorite band perform your favorite song.

“It’s been presumed that when good things happen, people naturally feel joy for it,” says Fred Bryant, a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago. His research, however, suggests that we don’t always respond to these “good things” in ways that maximize their positive effects on our lives.

Bryant is the father of research on “savoring,” or the concept that being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings during positive events can increase happiness in the short and long run.

“It is like swishing the experience around … in your mind,” says Bryant, author of the 2006 book, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience.

His research and the research of others—like Erica Chadwick, who recently completed a dissertation on savoring at Victoria University in New Zealand, and Jordi Quoidbach, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University—has identified myriad benefits to savoring, including stronger relationships, improved mental and physical health, and finding more creative solutions to problems.

Bryant is in the process of analyzing a wide range of studies on savoring to determine what works and what doesn’t. Already, he has distilled his research into 10 succinct ways for us to develop savoring as a skill.

1. Share your good feelings with others.

“What’s the first thing you do when you get good news?” Bryant says. “You go and tell someone that’s important to you, like a spouse or a friend.”

He suggests that we treat positive events just like positive news. Tell another person when you are feeling particularly appreciative of a certain moment, whether it be a laugh with friends or a scene in nature. Studies about the ways people react to positive events have shown that those who share positive feelings with others are happier overall than those who do not.

In fact, research shows that one only has to think about telling others good news in order to feel happier, says Chadwick.

“You fake it ‘til you make it,” she says. “If people are unhappy and put a smile on their face, within an hour or so they’ll be happier because they’re getting smiled at by other people. That interaction works.”

“Savoring is the glue that bonds people together, and it is essential to prolonging relationships,” Bryant says. “People who savor together stay together.”

2. Take a mental photograph.

Pause for a moment and consciously be aware of things you want to remember later, such as the sound of a loved one’s chuckle, or a touching moment between two family members.

In one study, participants who took a 20-minute walk every day for one week and consciously looked for good things reported feeling happier than those who were instructed to look for bad things.

“It’s about saying to yourself, ‘This is great. I’m loving it,’” says Bryant.

3. Congratulate yourself.

Don’t hesitate to pat yourself on the back and take credit for your hard work, Bryant says. Research shows that people who revel in their successes are more likely to enjoy the outcome.

Bryant notes that self-congratulation is not encouraged in all cultures, especially Eastern ones, where many individuals downplay their achievements or believe a good experience is likely to be followed by a bad one.

“They tend to tell themselves not to get carried away,” he says, “but in our culture, we say, ‘This is great and going to continue.’”

4. Sharpen your sensory perceptions.

Valeria Palmuli

Getting in touch with your senses—or taking the time to use them more consciously—also flexes savoring muscles.

With all the distractions we face today, this is particularly difficult, Bryant says. In one study, college students who focused on the chocolate they were eating reported feeling more pleasure than students who were distracted while eating.

Chadwick suggests slowing down during meals.

“Take the time to shut out your other senses and hone in on one,” she says. “Take the time to sniff the food, smell the food. Or close your eyes while you’re taking a sip of a really nice wine.”

5. Shout it from the rooftops.

Laugh out loud, jump up and down, and shout for joy when something good happens to you, Bryant says.

People who outwardly express their good feelings tend to feel extra good, because it provides the mind with evidence that something positive has occurred. Several experiments have found that people who expressed their feelings while watching a funny video enjoyed themselves more than those who suppressed their feelings.

Bryant notes that some forms of positive expression are based on cultural context. For example, jumping with joy is acceptable in American culture, whereas it is considered inappropriate in many Eastern cultures and therefore would be less likely to have a positive impact.

6. Compare the outcome to something worse.

Boost positive feelings by reminding yourself of how bad things could be, Bryant suggests. For example, if you are late to work, remind yourself of those who may not have a job at all.

Comparing good experiences with unpleasant ones gives us a reference point and makes our current situation seem better, he says.

7. Get absorbed in the moment.

Try to turn off your conscious thoughts and absorb positive feelings during a special moment, such as taking in a work of art. Studies of positive experiences indicate that people most enjoy themselves when they are totally absorbed in a task or moment, losing their sense of time and place—a state that psychologists call “flow.”

Children are particularly good at this, Bryant says, but it’s tougher for adults, who are easily distracted by technology and the temptation to multitask.

Chadwick recommends pausing and reflecting on positive experiences on the spot.

8.Count your blessings and give thanks.

Tell your loved ones how lucky you feel to have them, Bryant suggests, or take extra time to appreciate your food before a meal.

Research suggests that saying “thank you” out loud can make us happier by affirming our positive feelings. Bryant also suggests thinking of a new blessing for which you’ve never given thanks each night in bed. Recalling the experience through thanks will help you to savor it.

9. Avoid killjoy thinking.

Avoiding negative thinking is just as important as thinking positively, Bryant says.

After a rough day, try not to focus on the negative things that occurred. Studies show that the more negative thoughts people have after a personal achievement, the less likely they are to enjoy it.

“People who savor the positive sides to every situation are happier at the end of the day,” he says.

10. Remind yourself of how quickly time flies.

Remember that good moments pass quickly, and tell yourself to consciously relish the moment, Bryant says. Realizing how short-lived certain moments are and wishing they could last longer encourages you to enjoy them while they’re happening.

In fact, savoring can be used to connect you to the past or future, argues Bryant. This can be done by remembering a good time and recreating it, or imagining a time in the future when you will look back with good memories.

“If you’re working hard on a project, take the time to look at your accomplishment,” she says. “Look at your experience and tell yourself how you’re going to look into the future with this—tell yourself, ‘This is such a good day, and I know I’ll look back with good memories.’”

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unhappy making actions

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10 Things You Need to Stop Doing Today to be Happier.

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/28145073@N08/7356884872

We tend to be unconscious of behaviors that are causing pain and unnecessary suffering in our lives.

If we could just become more conscious of behaviors that are leading to the pain in our lives, we would be a lot happier. Today we can start giving up some of the things in our life that are causing this conflict.

1. Stop complaining

Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain.
~ Henry Ford

Nobody wants to be around someone who complains all the time. Yet we all do it. Instead of finding a reason to complain, look for the solution if your facing a problem. Look for something positive in your life. There’s always something positive to find in our life if we shift our focus.

2. Stop Judging

We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.
~ Paulo Coelho

Stop judging other peoples lives and focus on perfecting your own life. We spend so much time gossiping rather than working on perfecting ourselves. Focus on your own life, and how your going to perfect it.

 3. Stop avoiding your fear.

Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
~ Rumi

Fear is an obnoxious thing—it slows you down from finding a career you love, a romantic relationship, and pursing your dreams. Do something that makes you uncomfortable every day, in small steps, and it will dramatically alter the course of your life.

4. Stop being so hard on yourself

When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.
~ African Proverb

The biggest enemy that you face is the one inside you—this enemy criticizes, condemns, and complains. Don’t let these unconscious patterns run your life.

Come to terms with these patterns, the biggest enemy you ever have to face in the one inside of you.

5. Stop being negative

Misery loves company.
~ Anonymous

If you focus on being negative it’s going to show up everywhere in your life. It will show up in your work, relations and everything else. Shift your focus away from being so negative all the time. Find things that make you come alive!

6. Stop caring about what other people think of you

Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
~ Lao Tzu

Every great artist, musician, political leader, ignored what people thought of them. Other people’s opinions of you, are none of your business. What people think of you should not drown out your own inner voice and inspirations.

7. Stop worrying about the small stuff

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.
~ Winston Churchil

Think about all the unnecessary worries that go through your mind all day. We worry about why someone is not returning our emails, texts, phone calls. We worry about everything and everything.

Focus on what you can do at the present moment and not about how you can worry about the outcome.

8. Stop needing to be right all the time

The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas. It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong than to be always right by having no ideas at all.
~ Edward De Bono

Stop needing to be right all the time, this can lead to so many unnecessary arguments. Instead of needing to be right, start working on being more open to other peoples opinion’s. Start asking more questions and become more interested in other people’s points of view. It may open a whole new dimension of life.

9. Stop blaming others

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.
~ George Bernard Shaw

We constantly blame everyone for all types of different things. Quit blaming other people for your circumstances. If you want to change something go out and do it! Don’t blame someone for your present day situations.

10. Stop living in the past or the future

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
~ Henry David Thoreau

So much of our attention is on past experiences or on how we will be in the future. Focus your mind on the present moment. We would be so much happier if we placed our attention on the present.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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From Robert Piper http://monkinthecity.com/

when you are criticised

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from  at elephant journal

It is more blessed to give than receive, no? No one wants to hear he has screwed up. You get flustered. Maybe even blush. You feel like a little kid who’s been called on the carpet for doing something naughty or making a mistake. You want to start swinging away at whoever is dishing out the criticism. It sucks. Can’t we just skip over this part where I’m wrong and move on to where you like me again and everybody’s happy? Please? Nope.

Criticism is like going to the dentist. You know you need it. You’re afraid it’s going to hurt. You get that knot in your stomach when you see it coming. You want the end result where you are better, stronger–but you don’t want to go through it.

We often avoid it as much as possible. We want to stay in our little cocoons where everything is nice and cozy, and no one makes us feel bad about our choices.

But that isn’t what we need.

Compassion isn’t always yes. It isn’t always flattery. When we screw up, flattery is a band aid; criticism is the surgery. If we really want to grow, surrounding ourselves with people who always tell us “it’s okay” isn’t going to cut it. If we want to be stronger, be better, we can’t let fear of criticism keep us wrapped up in our neat little boxes. We have to be able to give it–and take it.

Praise can be addictive. And dangerous.

Just look at Elvis. When Elvis was a rising star, he had his mom around to set him straight when he needed it. After she died, he surrounded himself with “yes men” and became insular, miserable, up and down…with, finally, a tragic, too-soon ending. Imagine the much happier ending if he had friends around who called him on it when he was popping pills and blowing all his money. Instead of random “sightings” by diehard fans, we might be still be enjoying Elvis and Willie duets today.

When criticism comes your way:

1. Stay quiet. Mouth and mind. Hear the person out until he’s finished. Being defensive doesn’t make you stronger; keeping an open heart does.

2. Ask yourself if it’s true. Be honest about this. Even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts.

3. If it’s true, thank the person. Anyone who gives you honest criticism has given you a too-rare gift. He or she has shone a light on an area where you need to change. Might still hurt, but it’s a good thing. If an apology is in order, do that too. The word “but” should not appear anywhere in the apology.

4. If it’s not true, thank the person. And then move on. If it’s a friend and there’s been a misunderstanding, sure–explain yourself. It’s fine to clarify things if you truly believe you are being criticized for something you didn’t do.

But sometimes people just feel like criticizing. Period. Sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with you except for the fact that you were in their line of fire. I recently received a comment from someone who told me that it was “People like me that make him hate the world.” and he went on in about half a dozen unrelated directions about what made him angry. Had absolutely nothing to do with what I had said or done. Still…good practice.

5. Right the wrong. The great thing about criticism is when it doesn’t just end with you feeling bad. Learning where you’re flawed isn’t where it ends; you are learning where you can grow. If it was unwarranted criticism, then learn the lesson of detaching a little more from your ego. You don’t always have to be right. You can let it go. (I’m writing that for me…I need to hear that the most. Maybe you do too.) If you deserved it, even better. Feel the hurt, stay open, and be better now that you know better.

~

Unless you never do or say anything, you will be criticized. As the Japanese say, it’s the nail that sticks up that gets hammered down.

But before criticism even comes up organically, we can try soliciting some constructive comments from someone we respect, who will give it to us honestly. No fishing for compliments from people who are going to stroke our ego and tell us how great we are. What good does that really do us? If we are closed up and smoothed over by flattery, how will we be able to learn and improve?

Real growth towards enlightenment starts with a broken, open heart. And how we respond to criticism is one way to get there.