Can worrying be good for you?

“Values are linked to worries. Researchers distinguish two types of worries – micro worries and macro worries (Boehnke et al., 1998).

Micro worries are all about yourself and others close to you (‘Will I get an interview?’, ‘What if he leaves me?’). Not surprisingly, they lead to poor well-being. Moreover, people who have a lot of these worries usually hold power and hedonism values.

Macro worries, on the other hand, are about society, the world or universal issues (AIDS in Africa or presidential elections in the USA). People who are high on universalism and bebevolence values have these types of worries, together with a higher level of well-being (Schwartz et al., 2000).

So, worrying is actually good for you, as long as it is not self-centered.”

Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. The science of happiness. by Ilona Boniwell.

What is HYGGE and how can it improve your life and well-being?

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Hygge (pronounced “HUE-gah”) is a Danish word that describes a lifestyle where we consciously focus on creating joy and cosiness in everyday life, or, in other words, it’s a ritual of enjoying and celebrating life’s simple pleasures such as family, good feelings, nature and friendships.

People who implement this in their lives respect others and try to be always warm, friendly and open. Surely, the world would be a much more beautiful place and our lives easier if everyone decided to implement this approach. 😉

Snuggling up in a blanket in your most comfortable PJs, with a big cuppa of your favourite coffee, tea or hot chocolate, and working or relaxing in such a comfortable environment, is something we should aspire to once in a while if we want to maintain or boost our well-being, according to Danes. They believe that this is the best way to fight boredom and depression too.

Some people describe Hyggeias a Danish way of looking for beauty in everyday mundane life.

Hygge means that we allow more time for things that we enjoy. It means that we are okay to slow down not because some activities need to be done more carefully but because they simply give us pleasure and put us in a good mood: simple, small, everyday things like making a coffee or preparing or eating breakfast.

To some it may seem like a lovely but awfully unproductive (yet nearly impossible) way of living which active and busy people don’t have time for, but actually…  is Hygge perhaps the answer to why Denmark is often in the top 10 happiest nations in the world?

Living a very active busy lifestyle is surely draining and not really a natural way of living for human beings. Hygge can help you to relax, slow down a bit, and make your life more enjoyable.

How can you implement Hygge in your busy everyday life? 

Everyone is different, so not every activity will feel ideal for you, but if you look at the ideas below, you may find something that you will actually really enjoy and may consider trying to implement in your busy schedule once in a while …

Why should you do it?

Better to ask: why not? Why not try it if it was found to be so beneficial for people?

    • For example, you could invite friends round for a chat (rather than a movie or playing games, or sitting together and texting) and put out some simple drinks and perhaps a fruit or cheese platter for you all to enjoy together.
    • You can consider what you have always wanted to try but had various excuses for not doing, and take up a new hobby that would help you to relax (painting, swimming?).
    • You could light some candles to create a soft glow during dinner time and switch off the TV and your mobile, so you can enjoy your meal more.
    • Go out and play and enjoy spending time with your dog or children outside.
    • Have a picnic in the park with a friend.
    • Go for a bike ride

The ideas are endless really. You can find your hygge where you find your inner calm, where you feel good. It doesn’t need to be nature or snuggling in a warm blanket at home. It may be a coffee shop in the city centre where you enjoy observing others while drinking caramel mocha. It’s an individual matter as to what feels right and makes you happier.

Everyone can find hygge in a different place and situation. Try to find yours. Do more of what you love and be open to new ideas for spending your time unwinding and relaxing, especially here and now – in this super busy world that we live in…

You have only one life. Live it well! Enjoy it!

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If you’d like to learn more about Hygge, I recommend this beautiful edition in hard cover (great as a gift!): Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg. Have a look here

This is a nice read too: Hygge Habits: 42 Habits for a Happy Life through Danish Hygge that take Five Minutes or Less by Helena Olsen (more details here).

… and to end in true Hygge style here are two quotes that perfectly summarise this post… 😉

 

7 Ways to deal with depression.

Depression is a real problem nowadays. According to recent studies, one in every two people will experience depression by the age of 60… That’s half of our population!

No-one really knows what exactly causes depression but…

  • genes are believed to be one of the factors that influence about 30% of the predispositions for depression.
  • stressful life events such as childbirth, loneliness, financial difficulties or unemployment can play some role in it too.
  • people with some particular personal characteristics may be more prone to have depression than others as well.
  • it is known also that some diseases and medications can contribute to depression a great deal.

So, how exactly do you or your relative or friend feel when experiencing depression? 

Surely miserable for most of the day. To be diagnosed with depression such symptoms need to occur nearly every day for at least two weeks. If you lose interest in your usual activities, sleep poorly, notice a decrease in concentration, have less energy, lose appetite, weight and libido, then you may be diagnosed with clinical depression.

How can you improve your mental health on your own?

  1. Many studies have shown that the best method of dealing with depression is exercising! A few decades ago we used to exercise… 4 hours a day! Nowadays many of us struggle to find 30 minutes for exercising a few times a week! Professors from the University of Toronto analysed over 26 years’ worth of studies on depression and confirmed that even moderate physical activity like a short brisk walk every day is very beneficial. Studies actually shown that people who exercise for 30min 3x a week felt improvement in their well-being equally well as people who were given antidepressants but did not exercise. What’s more, these who took antidepressants were 3x more likely to feel depressed again within the next 6-12 months after finishing their treatment! Surely it’s difficult to get motivated but once we manage to start doing it we’ll quickly notice a boost in general well-being levels, an increase in confidence and greater emotional stability. 

  1. Another very important factor is to spend time with people who support you and who you can trust. If you have depression you feel like you want to stop socialising and sit on the sofa all day but this will only make things worse. Close relationships are a huge happiness booster! Unfortunately, as many as 50% of Americans report that they don’t have any close friends. Recent technology development and Internet usage leads us to social isolation. Studies shown that creating and maintaining relationships with others release hormones that are responsible for reducing stress and anxiety levels.

 

  1. Try to devote more time to your passions, things you really like and enjoy. This also has been proven in many studies as a great method for 
    improving well-being!

 

  1. Healthy eating is an obvious fact … and yet so few of us take it seriously and follow the right advice. Food and drink have such an enormous impact on our mood and well-being …

  • If you feel tired and you need to focus, eat a bit of dark chocolate, a banana or some walnuts.
  • If you feel angry, drink some green tea.
  • If you feel sad, apparently drinking some low-fat milk can make you feel better.
  • Upset? Get some bananas and oranges.
  • When you feel depressed, try  to have more fish oil (omega -3) on a daily basis.

And, of course, drink at least a few glasses of water a day – something many of us constantly need reminders about.

  1. If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted de-plugging, getting more sleep, disconnecting for a few hours, or a whole day, may be very helpful. However, withdrawing from your life for more than a day is dangerous and not helpful at all. Remember that even if it feels like the right solution, your depression symptoms will probably get worse. Get more sleep than usual if you feel like you need to, but don’t waste too much time in front of the TV avoiding people, your responsibilities and life!

  1. There are many ‘helpers’ that work but only very temporarily and you should avoid them particularly when you feel depressed: alcohol, the Internet, drugs, and medications to boost your well-being. Some people may need antidepressants but these may make you feel unwell for a while before they start to work. Of course, I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone not to take any antidepressants on your own without speaking to your doctor about it! Try to take other steps first (such as exercising) before you and your doctor decide that you need to be on medication to cure your depression.

  1. What can also be very helpful is to plan your day to ensure that you have some structure, routine and things to look forward to; things you might enjoy doing even if you are not feeling 100% right yet. Remember to get some Me Time –  perhaps a trip to the cinema or a nice long bath with a book.

If you try these techniques and you still feel unwell, or your symptoms are deteriorating, you need to speak to your doctor. You may need antidepressants for a while. Just remember that they often take at least a few days to start to work properly, and they may make you feel a lot worse first before they actually start to work and make you feel better!

Self-talk and your well-being.

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Human beings have a tendency to negative thinking, especially about themselves. We are often afraid to do something—for instance, to change a job or start a business idea—because we feel that someone else out there is better than us or that we may not deserve to succeed, or … well, we surely can always find a different excuse.

We may not even notice how much negative talk we keep in our head on an everyday basis. Sometimes we don’t feel confident, good enough, smart enough, quick enough, clever enough, fit enough, beautiful or powerful enough … we just can so easily find a variety of drawbacks depending on the area of life, or of a discipline, that we are thinking of. Actually, we are super-creative when it comes to self-pitying and finding excuses.

We never will be ‘enough’ because there ALWAYS will be someone better at something; someone more beautiful, more powerful, richer, fitter or more skilled. It’s easy to compare ourselves with others and some people’s advice is that we don’t do it at all.

However, if you focus on your strengths and positive traits, and if you start to accept and love yourself more, then comparing yourself to someone who is better should be an inspiration, rather than a problem, frustration or disappointment.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

If you can’t achieve the same or better results, then maybe it’s not what you should be doing. Do what you love, where your strengths can be used, not what you’re supposed to do or what may give you slightly more money.

Love yourself because no-one has the same unique mixture of knowledge, skills, talent, grit, ideas and experience that you have!

Be proud of who you are. You never know who has been looking at you and wishing they were you!

How to be happier? And why we should think of others more?

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Make someone happy. Make someone smile. You’ve surely heard that good vibes and emotions, a positive mood and optimism are contagious. Studies from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, using MRI scans, indicated that people who spent money on others instead of themselves had more activity in the brain areas associated with happiness and altruism. In the research it was also highlighted that the amount of money spent on others did not matter.

The simple act of giving, not always expensive or material things, improves our well-being a lot.

In a different study, carried out by UK researchers, it was found that people who performed some acts of kindness regularly every day for 10 days had a significant boost in their happiness level. Such a short period of time as 10 days had made a huge difference! Again, the conclusion is: helping others makes us happier.

There is a popular Chinese proverb that fits here perfectly:
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. 
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. 
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. 
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

Happiness & science. Live 9.4 years longer!

In 2000 a huge amount of data was analysed and, after talking about happiness to 1.1m people in 45 different countries, it was concluded that on average people feel quite happy. On a scale from 0 to 10 the average score for all these people was 6.75, which is quite surprising when we think of how much time and effort and money many people put into the pursuit of happiness, how many of us complain and worry unnecessarily every day, and how many life coaches or self-help and self-development books are published every year on selling tips and techniques for boosting well-being!

A score of 6.75 I think is pretty good! What do you think?

Surely the surveys were not too straightforward and consisted of a series of questions to cover various aspects of well-being rather than asking only one question directly – how happy are you?

And we know there are LOTS OF benefits of being HAPPIER – it can even protect us against colds! Also, according to research done by Danner (results published in 2001) happiness can increase our life by 9.4 years!

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What do you think your score would be?

I think if someone simply asked us only one question about happiness the answer would depend a lot on the time of day (we feel more tired and unmotivated in the afternoon rather than in the morning). The season of the year and the weather would also affect our answer, as would our feeling disappointed, stressed, in pain, or relaxed and contented at a particular time for some reason (maybe we just finished reading or writing a book or we are terrified because we are going to the dentist?!). We may focus more on the emotion we feel at particular time than on our general well-being. We probably wouldn’t score anywhere near the maximum number. However, we actually probably should give us a very high score when we think about it for longer and remind ourselves that actually maybe we have a great family, and food every day, and a roof over our head, and fairly good health; and maybe we can work full-time while some people due to ill health may not be able to… Or maybe we have a fantastic, trustworthy and reliable friend and there are some people out there in a toxic environment that leads them to depression and even suicide.

If we try to not take things for granted and be more grateful for what we have, our happiness level increases a lot. Actually, one of the most common exercises in positive psychology which can boost our well-being is to keep a diary where we write each day a few (3-5) things that we are grateful about that day. It is proven that this works and boosts our happiness level a lot.

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HAPPY WEDNESDAYS! What can make us happier?

I’ve decided to create a cycle of blog posts on HAPPINESS that will always be published on Wednesdays. There are SO MANY interesting facts, data and anecdotes to share about happiness!

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I’ve noticed that in the last decade the definition of success has started to change from ‘rich and famous’ to ‘happy, healthy and with a meaningful life’. I think media and the Internet are largely responsible for this shift because we’ve learnt that celebrities’ lives are not as perfect as we used to think and that rich does not mean happy. For example, it is such a rarity to see a famous person in a successful relationship for most of their life. Like everyone else, despite all the money and success in the world, they also get sick and suffer.

Studies show that money can make you a little bit happier in some circumstances (more about this in a future blog post) but in the long-term it doesn’t mean HAPPY. For example, moving to a sunnier climate or getting nearly $10,000 more a year would make you very excited and enthusiastic for some period of time, a few weeks or months, but then it goes back nearly to its usual level giving you only approximately a 1-2% boost in your happiness level! (more info in – Christakis and Fowler’s book Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (available here).

The article What makes a life good? (in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1998) stressed nearly 2 decades ago that happiness seems to be more valuable to people than:

Pursuit of money

Moral goodness

Or going to heaven

In general most of scholars agree that 3 things/aspects can make us happier...

Before you read further try to guess what these three things are (and write in the comment if your ideas were different from what’s under the picture – let’s make the comments section an interesting place!)

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These three things are:

  1. Meaningful relationships: spending time with people who support you
  2. Finding your passion(s): doing what you love as often as you can
  3. Personal growth: it was found that grit, which by the way is believed to be more important than talent and IQ (Angela Duckworth’s book GRIT, available here), delayed gratification and emotional control can accelerate your development! (You can find out more about delayed gratification and the Stanford marshmallow experiment here: https://jamesclear.com/delayed-gratification )

I think there are still people out there who would criticise this current trend towards individualisation, towards the pursuit for a meaningful life, towards looking for and thinking about our passions, and taking care of and investing more in personal growth than ever before, because focusing on own well-being and happiness can be perceived as selfish, egocentric and more of a luxury than a necessity to some people.

However, I’m sure (or I hope…) that most of us realise that the more we focus on our passions and invest in our personal development (without going to extremes and forgetting the world around us naturally!), the more content we will be with our own life:

  • the happier relationships we will be able to create and maintain
  • the more successful we can be in different aspects of our life, such as at work or being a parent
  • and people enjoy hanging out more with happy folks, not the ones who are frustrated, angry, unsatisfied with themselves, their life and the world, right?

Actually, there was some research done by Christakis and Fowler which stressed that people can boost their happiness levels a lot by simply spending time with happy people.

And where do we find a lot of HAPPY PEOPLE? 🙂

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