Archive | April 2013

How you can ‘pay it forward’

loving-kindness

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. James Keller

Thursday, 25 April 2013 was not only ANZAC day for Australians and New Zealanders – a day of remembrance for those that served in World War I – but it also marked my favourite day of the year: Pay It Forward Day! If you haven’t already seen the film “Pay it forward” starring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt, make some time for yourself and watch it! It’s a fantastic movie that inspires everyone to be kind to each other no matter what their circumstance is.

Read more about the movie here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0223897/plotsummary

Last year more than 500,000 people in 60 different countries around the world were participating in the Pay It Forward day. This year Happiness Weekly is endorsing the day and hoping to raise further awareness of how your kindness can impact others and encourage the ripple effect – get involved!

“There is a tremendous power and positive energy in giving, it is a shame that not enough people have experienced it to the fullest. Pay It Forward Day is about all people, from all walks of life, giving to someone else and making a positive difference,” the website says.

Why should we Pay It Forward?
There are several reasons why Happiness Weekly endorses the kind of kindness that comes with “paying it forward”:
* It encourages all of us to embrace the power of giving
* It demonstrates that we care and there is love and hope all around us
* It takes the focus away from ourselves and begs the question: “How can I create a little happiness for someone else?”
* It encourages joy among both people involved – the person giving and the person receiving
* It illustrates that while we may only be one person in this world, to one person – at one time, we are the world.

Everyone likes to make a difference to the world, so this week Happiness Weekly shares some suggestions for how you can ‘Pay It Forward':
– Pay for someone’s coffee in the coffee shop
– Pay for a stranger’s petrol at a petrol station
– Get the next person’s meal at a fast food restaurant
– Shout someone a journey on the bus/train/ferry
– Let someone cut in front of you at the grocery store
– Help family members by doing chores without being asked
– Forgive someone that has wronged you and demonstrate your forgiveness to them
– Visit an elderly person in a retirement village who hasn’t had visitors or who lives alone
– Lend someone your car for something
– Help a student with their tuition
– Buy a stranger a drink
– Be a mentor
– Walk a neighbour’s dog for them
– Baby-sit for free
– Write a letter to someone thanking them for influencing your life in a positive way
– Have a conversation with a taxi driver and then tip generously
– Clean someone’s house
– Offer someone a lift and drive them around
– Leave a tip whenever you can
– Buy a lottery ticket for a stranger
– Spend an afternoon baking and bring what you made to work or give it to the local fire or police station
– Pick up someone’s tab when you dine out
– Go through your wardrobe and donate as many of your clothes as you can
– Mow someone’s lawn
– Cook a meal for a friend
– Wash someone’s car for them
– Look after someone’s house while they’re away as though it’s your own
– Put some money in the parking metre for someone
– Leave a copy of a good book or magazine you’ve read in a café for someone else to enjoy
– Treat customer service staff with the highest level of respect
– Offer to do pro bono work where your skills are needed
– Give a homeless person one of your warm coats
– Make a donation to a charity
– Compliment a stranger
– Praise generously
– When leaving a foreign country, leave your currency to someone that lives there
– Give a tourist local advice (e.g. your favourite restaurants, sights, cafes, bars etc)
– Tip a street musician
– Tell someone a funny joke you just heard
– Hold the door open for someone
– Volunteer at a woman’s shelter
– Spend some time with someone who’s terminally ill
– Give up your seat on a crowded bus, train or ferry
– Offer someone an experience they may not usually have that you have access to (for example, take people into the wheelhouse/drivers carriage on public transport or teach someone something your skills can give them)
– Inspire someone to be the best that they can be
– Donate blood
– Help someone carry their groceries to their car
– Purchase umbrellas, blankets and ponchos from a cheap shop – on a rainy day, drive around and offer it to people who need it
– Leave your change in a vending machine
– Send someone a small gift anonymously
– Drop some flowers in to your next door neighbour
– Send a card to someone in the military overseas
– Write to someone in jail
– Write letters of appreciation to groups helping the community/environment
– Offer to take photos of families or couples at tourist spots
– Wave back to children who wave to you
– Sit with someone who is sitting alone
– Water someone’s plants/flowers/garden
– Donate your organs for when you pass
– Volunteer at an animal shelter
– Love your dog? Train it to volunteer at hospitals and nursing homes
– When you get flowers, share them with friends, family or co-workers
– Adopt someone that needs a friend and check in periodically to see how they are
– Buy something for someone because it reminded you of them
– Slip paper hearts under windshield wipers that read: “It’s Random acts of kindness week! Have a great day!”
– Write a note to someone telling them why you love them
– Tell your manager that you think he or she does a great job
– Tell your co-workers that you appreciate their work
– Encourage Random Acts of Kindness in your workplace by drawing office names out of a hat and having a buddy that you need to do a random act of kindness for that week
– Call an estranged family member
– Invite someone new over for dinner
– Go to your favourite outdoor location and pick up rubbish
– Greet someone in the elevator
– Allow someone to merge into your lane
– Don’t beep someone unless it’s a friendly goodbye toot or absolutely necessary
– Return your shopping trolley to the store
– Help a friend pack for a move
– Tape a nice thought or saying to the bus/train/ferry window
– Hug a family member
– Pull a chair out for someone at the dinner table
– Take a newspaper laying on your neighbours driveway to their front door
– Let a manager know your compliment for outstanding customer service
– Print some inspiring signs and post them around town
– Do many kind things for many people as anonymously as you can
– If you see a gap, change it (for example, I used to promote unsigned bands online because no one seemed to know when gigs were on and where. My business made it more accessible and changed the Sydney scene)
– Take your parents out to dinner
– Sign someone up to receive Happiness Weekly posts
– Always smile at people around you
– Actively listen to a stranger
– Tell someone else about the Pay It Forward concept.

Discover your emotional blocks (and take control of your happiness)

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Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way. Les Brown

When we’re not 100% content with our lives, there’s generally something blocking us from being that way. Sometimes we need to know where the problem is (what’s blocking us), other times we need to ask ourselves a few honest questions (why are we allowing it to block us from moving ahead).

Everyone has a purpose in life. Everyone can be better than what they currently are. Everyone has potential to be happier. Sometimes we need to examine and remove our emotional before we can move ahead in life. Generally the things that block us are our fears and insecurities.

Sometimes life is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway – besides – what’s the worst that could happen? By discovering your emotional blocks, you will find other areas of your life improving, including: career success, love life, weight loss, relationships, happiness, freedom and self-esteem. Overcoming your emotional blocks will help you overcome other issues that are currently stopping you from succeeding including: limiting beliefs, self-destructive behaviours (as you will become more self-aware) and you’ll go from being lost to discovering what you truly want. Removing your emotional blocks isn’t easy because sometimes it means some tricky changes are ahead, but it’s rewarding!

History is full of people who experienced the worst difficulties and succeeded anyway, primarily because of their clarity, persistence and sense of purpose. This week, Happiness Weekly helps you to discover your blocks and take control of your happiness. If you’re currently feeling stuck – this blog is for you!

What is an emotional block?
Your emotional blocks are reactions that you create in response to the world. Similar to behaviours, they are actions that you choose and therefore have control over. By choosing how you perceive yourself, you can either change to start behaving differently and achieve success, or continue as you are and continue getting results you’re not happy with.

Defining symptoms of emotional blocks
Let’s get some psychological jargon out of the way and define what our emotional blocks may be:

Internal dialogue is a conscious conversation you have with yourself about everything you experience. With the theory that each though creates a physical change, it ultimately provides us with a functional change in our lives.

Labelling, as a psychologist once told me, is nothing but destructive because it can stop us from accepting things in a positive way. However, humans tend to organise things into categories, even labelling other humans into groups, subgroups, classes and functions. We tend to “live” the categories we’ve attached to ourselves. It’s kind of like the “believe it before you see it” and “fake it til you make it” theories – which are both positive ways for how we can use labelling.

Tapes are beliefs that have become so deeply ingrained that they become subconscious. They “play” in our minds and influence our behaviour without us being aware. Tapes have the power to set you up for a specific outcome.

Fixed or limiting beliefs are the beliefs we hold about ourselves, others and life circumstances that have been repeated for so long they have become ingrained and are difficult to change. Limiting beliefs are the beliefs we have about ourselves that limit what we reach and achieve. They generally stop up from receiving any positive information which confirming any new negative information. If you pay attention to your inner dialog (self-talk), you may find beliefs that lead to anxiety, depression and irritation. Such beliefs can sap your motivation and hinder or prevent you from finding creative solutions to your problems.

How can we overcome our emotional blocks?
1. Set goals. Goal setting is a fundamental part of success – it helps us know where we’re going so we can move ahead in the right direction, and also measure how we’re tracking. If we can’t accurately define our goals, what chance do we have of actually achieving them? Have you ever heard the expression “Failing to plan is a plan to fail”? This is where it comes in.

2. Monitor your progress. Once you know where you want to go, you can accurately and honestly assess exactly where you currently are. Knowing where you are in relation to where you want to be enables you to monitor your progress. Take inventory of your current situation to get an accurate picture of where you are.

3. Review your focus point. It’s important to focus on what you do want to take your focus on the negatives and looking at what you don’t want. While it can be important to consider the worst case scenario so we can avoid possible pitfalls, we need to resist any temptation to focus on that conclusion – we can do this by focusing more on the best case scenario. Sometimes the fear of failing or making a costly mistake can act like a powerful emotional magnet that captures our attention in subtle ways. Overcoming this emotional block is like learning to ride a bike, if you look down, it’s likely that you will fall off but if you look where you’re going – you’ll move ahead in that direction.

4. Discover your internal conflict. If we haven’t taken the time to discover our deepest personal standards and values, then we are vulnerable to this kind of inner disharmony. To create internal harmony, we must live and act in harmony with our core values and beliefs, but we can’t do that if we don’t know what those values are. Pay careful attention to this, especially if there seems to be some self-sabotaging tendencies. The best way to avoid this emotional block is to analyse your deepest core values and ensure everything is in harmony with them, or if not, knowing how to change them. If you struggle with this, I highly recommend the book Schema Therapy by Jeffrey E Young.

5. Review limiting beliefs. Limiting or obsolete beliefs are your beliefs about what you think you are not capable of, and what you think you do or do not deserve. They may have been established during childhood and have now become redundant or outlived their purpose. Others may be leftover from situations and circumstances that are no longer relevant. If this is your greatest emotional block, you may need to seek assistances from a psychologist to get past it.

6. Delegate personal responsibility. The quality of our life is our personal responsibility. We can either accept conditions as they are, or accept the responsibility to change them. We are the only person responsible for our decisions and actions. Taking personal responsibility is one of the most liberating things you can do because it completely eliminates the temptation to blame anyone or anything and it puts you in control.

7. Embrace change. When we successfully break out emotional attachments to “what is”, we allow room for growth. On an emotional level, there is a sense of security related to “hanging on” and this causes us to be resistant to change. As you embrace small changes in your life, your emotional security anchors shift, over time your resistance will fade and you will find comfort and security in a more fluid reality. When this happens, continued personal growth becomes your new security anchor. Practise letting go – it can be challenging but it is rewarding.

Rational people with good mental health know what they want, how they feel and why they feel that way. They find solutions to problems quickly. They have similar challenges to less happy people – but they are able to deal with them faster. Healthy people don’t get stuck for long – they rarely sabotage themselves because they acknowledge the damaging effects it can have. What have you done to overcome your emotional blocks in the past?

Practical ways to live longer (Part I)

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I intend to live forever, or die trying. Groucho Marx

On Monday, 7 April 2013 we celebrated the 65th World Health Day and in celebration of that event, we have decided to write a blog about what you can do to live a longer life. Each year WHO selects a theme for World Health Day that highlights a priority area for public health concern in the world – this year it was about High Blood Pressure. For more information about World Health Day, please click here.

It seems obvious: don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively, get regular health checks, get regular dental checks, eat fruit and vegetables and exercise often… but there’s more you can do to living longer than you think! So much so that Happiness Weekly has broken this blog into two parts, with the second part to be released later in the year.

The fact is, on average, women live to 79.9 years of age and men live to 75 years of age. Despite the rise of incurable diseases such as the current diabetes epidemic, life expectancies are also on the rise. Scientists believe that only 30% of ageing is due our genes which means 70% is due to our habits! This week Happiness Weekly looks at what you can do to expand your lifetime.

Have regular health checks
Get to know how your breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to your GP such as a lump, dimple, unusual pain or discharge. The best time to do a check is a week after your period and remember – nine out of ten lumps are benign and many breast cancers are curable if caught early enough. Also remember that pap smears are important. According to the Institute of Public Health, Cervical screenings prevent 2,500 deaths each year in the UK.

Watch your diet
Eat fresh foods, shop regularly at local markets and rely less on convenience food. Overeating causes ageing and increases the risk of heart disease and cancers of the colon, womb, gall bladder, ovaries and breast. Coronary heart disease causes 270,000 heart attacks each year, of these 28,000 are linked to obesity. Take control! Did you know 40% of cancers are diet-related? Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day to reduce your risk of the following cancers: lung, digestive tract, bowel, bladder and breast. If you experience any dramatic change in your bowel habits – such as constipation, increased looseness or passing blood – you should see your doctor.

Eat less
Cutting your daily calorie intake to 1,400-2,000 each day can help you stay young at heart. It’s about getting the most nutrition out of each calorie you consume. Research shows rats, mice, flies and monkeys live up to twice as long when their food intake is reduced by a third – possibly because eating less means the metabolism has less work and therefore slows down.

Consume the following:
– Drink milk! The vitamin D contained in milk makes it an effective anti-inflammatory and reduces osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
– Eat onion. One 80g onion per person (in bolognese, say) is a sneaky way to add to your five portions of fruit and vegetables. Onions lower the risk of colorectal cancer, laryngeal cancer and ovarian cancer. They are rich in quercetin (an antioxidant that prevents harmful enzymes from triggering inflammation and containing sulphur compounds that boost the immune system.
– Eat fruit that’s room temperature. Bright coloured fruits such as tomatoes, watermelon and red/pink grapefruit stored at room temperature contain double the beta carotene as chilled fruit – which the body then metabolises into vitamin A. Room temperature fruits also contain 20 times more lycopene because the warmth enables them to keep ripening. Full ripe melons kept at room temperature overnight (and uncut) increase their levels of carotenoids (disease-fighting substances) from 11% to 40%.
– Eat red foods. Red capsicum (or a red pepper) contains more vitamin C than an orange; beetroot contains nitrates that relax the blood vessels; tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene that may protect against cancer and heart disease (particularly when cooked); and red grapes contain resveratrol thought to include anti-inflammatory, cancer-preventing, cholesterol-lowering properties.
– Eat chocolate. Research shows that people who eat a moderate amount of chocolate live longer than those who eat sweets three or more times a week and those who never touch sweets. Chocolate contains chemicals such as phenols which protect against heart disease and cancer.
– Eat bananas – they reduce your blood pressure, risk of strokes and heart disease because they are rich in potassium. Fruit juice and dried fruit are also recommended for this reason. Potassium counteracts the damaging effects of excess salts in the diet. One banana contains 4.7g potassium which is enough to lower blood pressure.

Sleep less
Sleeping more than eight hours a day may reduce your life expectancy. People who only get six to seven hours sleep a night live longer. You may also want to go to bed an hour earlier than usual – this can lower your blood pressure in just six weeks and subsequently reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Start exercising
Women who are physically fit have a 40% less chance of developing coronary heart disease than those who don’t exercise regularly. Up to a third of older hip-fracture patients die within a year because of complications from the trauma. Performing daily squats and lunges is one of the best ways to maintain lower-body strength.

Move to the country
People living in rural areas have a higher life expectancy than those living in cities.

Love your family
A Harvard Medical School study found that 91% of people who said they aren’t close to their mothers develop serious disease by midlife such as high blood pressure, alcoholism and heart disease. Women who have children have a greater life expectancy, however this could be because of the increased contact with and support from their children and grandchildren as they get older.

Get a pet
Families who own a dog or cat are less stressed and visit their doctors less often than those who don’t. Pets encourage us to have a positive outlook and make us feel relaxed which lowers blood pressure. While dogs give best results, a goldfish in a bowl also works.

Improve your positive thinking
People who are optimistic are more open to taking health advice and live about 12 years longer than pessimists who are more prone to viral illnesses such as colds and flu.

Quit smoking
Damage caused by smoking is cumulative, the longer you smoke – the greater the risk of developing a smoking-related disease such as lung cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Each year up to 120,000 deaths are linked to smoking.

Take exams
The more qualifications you have, the higher your life expectancy. Less educated people are more likely to smoke and work in high-risk jobs.

Have fun
US cardiologist, Dr William Fry, says laughing 100-200 times is the equivalent of a ten minute jog. It also lowers stress and increases the body’s natural defensive killer cells and antibodies.

Get spiritual
Attending church increases life expectancy because it helps people’s stress and emotional problems and protects against heart disease, and respiratory or digestive problems.

Enjoy a work/life balance
Stressed people are 20 times more likely to develop heart disease. Prolonged tension also depletes the immune system and robs the body of its antioxidant store which helps prevent premature ageing. Meanwhile, meditation or yoga are proven to alleviate stress, reduce blood pressure and stress-related conditions such as depression.

Do what you want
As you get older, playing games or shopping can be just as good for you as physical exercise. In fact, women who shop daily have 23% less risk of death than infrequent shoppers, and men 28%. The key to good health is doing what you enjoy and feeling good about yourself. Gardening is another great thing to do as it combines cardiovascular exercise with flexibility, endurance and muscle strength — and an hour’s steady gardening is equivalent to a five-mile walk.

Drink tea
Green tea and ordinary black tea have the same amount of antioxidents and equal benefits. Research shows that drinking one cup of black tea a day significantly reduces the risk of heart disease. Drinking tea also boosts the survival rate following a heart attack by 28%.

Be sociable
Outgoing people who enjoy socialising are 50% less likely to develop dementia. Learning to use social media can also help keep brain cells young and healthy. Watch out for having overweight friends – studies show that a fat best friend means you have 171% greater chance of also becoming fat. A great incentive to encourage your bigger friends to workout with you!

Get creative
People who describe themselves as creative have a significantly reduced mortality rate because it enlarges the neural networks in the brain.

Floss daily
Bacteria that cause tooth decay trigger inflammation which can be a significant precursor to heart disease. It may also protect against diabetes and dementia. Flossing each evening can make a difference to how fast you age – taking as much as 6.4 years off your age.

Be conscientious
People that are conscientious have more serotonin (a brain chemical that brings a feeling of satisfaction), which affects how much they eat and how well they sleep. These people are also naturally drawn to healthier situations and relationships.

Enjoy an active sex life
Couples with a healthy sex life look up to seven years younger than those who don’t because sex reduces stress and leads to greater contentment and better sleep. Sex at least three times a week can add two years to your life through the increase of heart rate and blood flow. If you have sex three times a week, you can increase your life expectancy by two years or if you have sex every day, your life expectancy could increase by eight years! In addition to boosting circulation and reducing stress, stress releases a building block of testosterone which helps repair and heal tissue. It’s also a natural anti-depressant – especially for women.

All about laughter therapy

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Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. Victor Hugo

According to the Humour Foundation, Monday, 1 April 2013 was National Smile Day.  National Smile Day is the annual fundraising day to raise awareness and support for Clown Doctors in the local community. Did you miss it? It’s not too late to show your support and participate – the entire month of April marks Smile Month at Clown Doctors and Commonwealth Bank.

From October, there will be an increase in Clown Doctors visiting children in hospital around Australia – with the aim of reaching 10,000 more children each year. Clown Doctors currently visit 21 hospitals around the country drawing with them the inspiration that laughter is still the best medicine.

More information about the Humour Foundation’s Smile Month is available here.

To celebrate Smile Month, Happiness Weekly is looking into laughter therapy and how it can help you!

Laughing is the simplest, easiest and cheapest stress management there is. In fact, all humans, apes, and surprisingly dogs and rats, have the ability to laugh from birth. As the name suggests, laughter therapy is about laughing to get a particular result – usually to make us feel better in some way, but it can also relieve pain, reduce blood pressure and decrease stress.

There are various types of laughter therapy including laughter yoga (laughing out loud until it does become funny), laughter groups (sharing jokes, funny props, watching humorous videos), and Clown Doctors (who visit sick children in hospital). Generally one type of laughter therapy will appeal more than the others depending on your condition and circumstances.

When laughter is spontaneous and in response to something we think is funny, we get a better result than if it is forced. Understanding a joke increases happy hormones and endorphins, but it also lifts a weight off the brain. Having said that, it doesn’t matter how or why you laugh, because the mind responds in the same way – whether it’s real or fake. Having a bad day? Stand in front of the mirror and smile at yourself – eventually you will feel better.

Laughter Yoga Groups involved a group of people coming together to make the noise of laughter until it generates its own hilarity. The sessions include breathing, ho-ho-hoing and producing different laughs (with bizzare names such as: one metre, silent, cocktail and lion). Although it can be intimidating to start, laughing in a group is contagious.

Laughter groups are slightly more difficult to find but can help with pain management and weight loss. It encourages participants to take part using funny toys, props, jokes and fancy clothes. By attending a laughter group you will learn to laugh at yourself more easily and to treat life less seriously as a way to reduce stress.

Clown Doctors are recognised as the most important and useful form of laughter therapy. Sick children in hospital are “treated” with “doses of fun” to help them deal with laughter, fear, pain and anxiety. Clown Doctors have professional training within the Humour Foundation to offer high level skills in the midst of serious hospitals and illness, often making frightening hospital equipment and procedures into a parody.

Laughter is a great workout as it uses most of your body – including the heart and lungs. It breaks down barriers, makes you feel relaxed and encourages positive communication and enables smoother problem solving.

Without being crude, what is the funniest joke you know?

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