Tag Archive | benefits

Happiness Weekly’s best tips for helping others

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You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. John Bunyan

The efficiencies of the internet are moving us towards a more insular world and it is becoming more difficult to be mindful of helping others. According to the Dalai Lama that is our sole purpose in being here on earth – to share our compassion and help others.

The Pay It Forward movement has been particularly active on Facebook this year. You may have noticed several posts that read:

“To start this year off in a caring way I’m participating in this Pay-It-Forward initiative:

I don’t usually buy into these things, but due to a recent act of generosity I have decided to get involved, this is for real.

The first five people who comment on this status with “I’m in”, will receive a surprise from me at some point in this calendar year – anything from a book, a ticket, a visit, something home grown or made, a postcard, absolutely any surprise!

There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something that I believe would suit you and make you happy.

These five people must make the same offer in their Facebook status and distribute their own joy. Simply copy this text onto your profile (don’t share) so we can form a web of connection and kindness.

Let’s do more nice and loving things for each other in 2014, without any reason other than to make each other smile and to show that we think of each other. Here’s to a more enjoyable, more friendly and love-filled year.”

So while our modern world seems to be encouraging selfishness, greed and isolation – Happiness Weekly looks at some ways that you can help others this week without having an agenda of your own. Truly helping others means there’s nothing in it for you – in fact, the person you may help may never be able to repay you and that’s the ultimate aspiration in truly helping others.

 

The benefits of helping others includes:
-          Connecting you to someone in an otherwise very lonely world
–          Enhancing someone else’s life
–          Making the world a better place to live

Things you can do to help others
-          Teach them something new
–          Smile and be friendly
–          Volunteer for a charity
–          Start your own charity
–          Make a donation
–          Share your knowledge
–          Help someone do something – e.g. cross the street, change a flat tyre, get from A to B
–          Donate something you don’t use
–          Comfort someone
–          Buy food for a homeless person
–          Listen to someone
–          Do a chore for someone
–          Send a nice email
–          Share your favourite things (movie, song etc) – if you enjoyed it, someone else may too
–          Give a loved-one a massage
–          Praise someone publicly
–          Be patient with someone
–          Tutor a child
–          Make a care package for someone
–          Speak up for someone – sign a petition, write a letter etc.
–          Offer to babysit
–          Share what you have
–          Find out what’s valuable to someone and get it for them
–          Present an opportunity to someone or make them aware of it
–          Give transparent feedback to better performance (without being too critical)
–          Introduce people to each other, help people network
–          Give someone a gift
–          Do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return
–          Welcome a new neighbour by baking for them
–          Use your power to help people around you have a good day
–          Only see good in people and treat everyone accordingly

We’re all here together and the only certainty is we have one life and we’re living it now. Help others to be the best they can be where ever you can, because if everyone surrounding you is doing the same, imagine the powerful world we would live in.

Pages that helped inspire this blog:
http://www.zenhabits.net/25-ways-to-help-a-fellow-human-being-today
http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2013/05/26/10-ways-to-help-others-that-will-lead-you-to-success
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-help-someone-who-wont-help-themselves
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/outside-the-classroom/volunteering-how-helping-others-helps-you

Why working for a charity will improve your life

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No one has ever become poor by giving. Anne Frank

Many people are interested in working for a charity or not for profit organisation that has a good cause – however there’s not a lot of work available in these workplaces as many people stay in their role. Why? Because not only is helping other people satisfying, and particularly if you’re passionate about the cause you are supporting, but there are great benefits!

Today, Monday, 12 August is International Youth Day recognising the positive contribution youth make and this year the theme celebrates Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward. “While migration can often offer valuable opportunities and contribute to the development of communities and society at large, it can also pose risks and lead to unacceptable situations, including discrimination and exploitation,” the United Nations says.

Many organisations have been set up to help youths in that may be in this situation or with complications as a result of migrating (such as mental health problems: anxiety and depression) including the Commonwealth Students Association (empowers and encourages students to have a coordinated voice in decision making in the Commonwealth Education Sector), St Vincent de Paul (helps people in need and combats social injustice across Australia), Headspace (Australia’s National Youth Mental Health foundation – they help young people who are going through a tough time) and BeatBullying (all about young people helping and supporting each other online). Meanwhile, World Vision’s 40-Hour Famine begins this Friday, 16 August and is also one of Australia’s biggest community awareness and youth fundraising events.

This week Happiness Weekly looks at how working for a charity or Not For Profit organisation with a great cause improves your outlook on life.

1. Like volunteering – it’s all about the purpose
There is nothing more rewarding than helping others and giving back to the community. The best thing about working for a charity is you have all the benefits of volunteering (aside from the flexibility of working whatever hours you like) and you get paid while you do it. There’s no doubt it can be hard work at times, but it’s always rewarding – add passion for the cause and you could well find yourself in your dream job!

2. It makes you more self-aware
If you’re working for a cause you’re not familiar with, it will be like becoming a doctor. You’ll learn the symptoms of the problem, hear about the debilitating consequences and complications associated with the cause and you’ll do everything in your power to avoid the problem you’re working to solve for everyone else! On a brighter note, you will be the first to know if you have even the slightest symptoms of developing the problem. While it can make some people paranoid, others just grow with self-awareness.

3. You’ll learn A LOT as you grow and develop
Not only will you grow and develop in your role as you will in any organisation (we hope!), but you will also learn a lot about: the cause, the complications, advocacy and government, the people you are helping, volunteering, education techniques, various payroll benefits… the list goes on. You name it, there is a lot to learn when you enter the world of working for a charity organisation and it’s not just about role development and climbing the corporate ladder. Day one – prepare for information overload!

4. It’s family-friendly and flexible
The general consensus looking at people who work for charity organisations is that they are family-friendly and flexible. It’s almost like working for a family business … but with more people! Everyone generally leaves on-time and there are usually part-time and flexi-time (or time in lieu) options to ensure employees maintain a healthy work/life balance. So if you’re chasing balance and want to work somewhere that appreciates you’re human not robot, working for a charity may be the best option for you! A work/life balance means more time for you and the things and people you love.

5. People appreciate you
Not just the people at work, but the people you are helping and the volunteers who can see the work you do will always appreciate you. Each day there’s generally someone in your building who will say or do something lovely that will inspire you and keep you motivated to continue working to the cause. Work becomes a great place to make friends! Why? It’s stereotypical, but the people who work in these kinds of organisations are generally very supportive, nurturing and caring.

6. You’ll be inspired
Sometimes it’s the people who haven’t got things, have less of things, or are missing something who are happier and have a more positive outlook than other people. Speaking to some of the volunteers and even employees with the illness at the charity I have been working for has been extremely inspiring, and I must say it has motivated me to work to my full potential every day.

Want to know more about what it’s like working for a charity? Read this fantastic interview by TotalJobs.com, with Fundraising Development Manager Eve Robinson from the Epilespy Society.

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?

How to write a good profile for a dating website

Online dating is just as murky and full of lemons as finding a used car in the classifieds. Once you learn the lingo, it’s easier to spot the models with high mileage and no warranty. Laurie Perry

Internet dating is becoming the most recognised way to meet your match. With so many people now heading to the internet for love, the competition is increasing and it is becoming harder to get noticed. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how to put your best foot forward and write a fantastic internet dating profile.

Benefits of internet dating
- It’s a great way to screen people before spending time with them to ensure you have enough in common
– You only talk to people for as long as you need, til you gauge interest or a connection before you can move on
– It’s safe – if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you can easily block them or exit away from the situation
– It’s fun, great for your self-esteem (as people introduce themselves to you) and for meeting new people
– Even if you meet someone and it doesn’t work out, you may become friends
– You’re in control. You only need to share the information you choose to, there’s no pressure, you can even hide your identity until you find the right person for you
– Like the best things in life, it’s FREE (depending on what site you use) and it’s convenient – particularly if you work long hours and don’t get to go out much
– The fear of rejection is significantly reduced because it’s easy not to have expectations. Even if you talk for weeks and they vanish or find someone else, it’s ok because there are so many other options!

Selecting you profile picture
If you’re serious about meeting the right people, your internet dating profile should be approached as you would a job interview. Select a nice, clear and classy photo that represents you well for your main profile picture. Make it a current (within the past year) photo so as not to mislead anyone.

What to write
- Your first sentence should be something about you that will set you apart from everyone else. It needs to show your personality but it doesn’t have to be witty. Or start simply with some positive adjectives to describe yourself: Loyal, fun, caring, intelligent, confident, sensitive, daring, honest…
- Be honest. Don’t say you’re an expert at something if you’re not, don’t pretend to have more money than you have. Be yourself: and remember – those who mind: don’t matter, and those who matter: don’t mind
– Write passionately and creatively about your interests and hobbies. Focus on the things you LOVE in life – that will make other people sense your passion and want to be part of it!
– State clearly and honestly what you’re looking for. If it’s short-term, explain why (going overseas? Just out of a relationship, don’t want anything serious?)
– Are you educated? Have you studied? What did you study? What field do you work in? Career-wise, what are you most passionate about?
– If you do want to avoid certain people (for example players), put it back on yourself but keep it fresh, light and always finish positively: “Straight up – I’m not a one-night-stand girl. I’m selective about who I will let in my life. Initially, I am just looking for new friends, new perspective and new inspiration” or “I’m not a package deal – I have never been married, I have no lingering or jealous ex-boyfriends, no children, no haunting past… I have a cute dog?? But he doesn’t live with me.”
– List the things you love: favourite food, activities/hobbies, favourite tv shows, sports, entertainment etc.
– Go into detail about your favourite thing to do in your favourite season. For example: “My favourite thing to do is go out on a boat with friends, crank up the tunes and drink the afternoon away. Nothing beats it!”
– When saying where you live, this is where I say I live a suburb further than I am. You don’t want any crazies tracking you down!

What you are looking for
- The key to this section of your profile is knowing EXACTLY what you are looking for. Do you want a smoker or a non-smoker? A social drinker or a non-drinker?
– Be selective! It can be tempting to put “A great person” in there, but by being specific you are more inclined to encourage the right people to talk to you.
– Fill in this section with positive adjectives about the person you are looking to date: outgoing, educated, generous, funny (not at other’s expense), mature, accepting etc.

What to avoid saying on your profile
- Saying anything negative on your profile. Instead of saying what you don’t want, use the space to say what you DO want (after all – you’re marketing yourself and you want to come across as positive and happy)
- Mentioning or inferring anything negative about your past “No players”, “Control freaks need not apply”, “I come without baggage”. You can discuss this stuff when you make it to the date
Likening your appearance to a celebrity. Embrace your individuality – the celebrity talk will make you appear conceited
– Lying in any way – if you lie then you’ll get found out in the end. It’s a horrible way to start a relationship with someone – just be honest!
– Giving too much information. Not just in your profile but when you begin talking to people. Don’t tell them your life story straight away, leave a little mystery
– Shorthand – not everyone gets what OMG LMAO ATM means. Keep it real, straight to the point and simple
– Committing to meeting everyone you talk to. It can be tempting, but remember to be selective when you meet with people. You don’t want to be too available and remember, the person you’re attracting may also have friends on there, so try to avoid saying the same thing to everyone. Keep your introductory letters unique to each individual you chat to.

In short, the best way to write a great Internet dating profile is to be positive – remember, when you meet, no one’s perfect. Good luck and I hope this helps you to find love!

14 tricks to self-empowerment

Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to,  when all they need is one reason why they can. Martha Graham

Empowering yourself can sometimes seem particularly difficult, especially if we have suffered a battering to our confidence in recent times. Self-empowerment is interrelated with the way you conduct yourself, the image you project to others and the way you improve yourself. This list of tips and tricks will help you empower yourself and those around you in no time – because often the hardest part of self-empowerment is knowing where to start!

Know what you want
You need to know what you want in order to receive it. Sometimes it may feel like a process of elimination – we all know what we don’t want – but that isn’t getting you much closer to what you do want. It is worth sitting down and finding out what you want (brainstorm a list) to give you a clear understanding of your direction.

Discover your barriers
Find out what is blocking you from getting what you want. Listen carefully to your self-talk – you could be blocking yourself. Does it fit into the following catagories: mixed doubts, limiting beliefs, attachments (giving up something to receive it), resources? If so, what can you do about it?

Eliminate your doubts
One thing you have complete control over is your doubts – which is part of your self-talk. Visualisation may help with this. Tap into your senses and hear, see, feel, smell, touch and taste what it is like to achieve what you are after. Focus particularly on the sounds and colours. If achieving your goal isn’t satisfying you fully, make adjustments and use this visualisation technique again to test it and help eliminate all doubts.

Banish limiting beliefs
Another thing you can control is your limiting beliefs – however it can be difficult because these beliefs may have been with you since childhood and are now considered “core beliefs”. Limiting beliefs are often there as a protective mechanism from something that caused hurt in the past. If you can identify a limiting belief, figure out whether or not it is useful and what you would rather change the belief to, and work to change it or replace its intention (e.g. to keep you safe) with something healthy, and continue to work to achieve your goal. If you struggle with limiting beliefs, Schema Therapy may particularly helpful for you – see if you can join a local workshop to learn more!

Focus on your agenda
There’s a universal agenda among humans (and animals) and that is to maximise happiness and minimise suffering but everyone has their own strategies and not all are successful.  Even those than appear unhappy are getting something positive from their misery, or they would have moved on. Unhealthy habits are usually initiated because a challenge appears too great. To move towards your goal, you must be clear on what you would like to keep from the present situation. Before making a change, ensure you keep the best aspects of your current situation and discard all aspects you don’t enjoy. If your problems relate to resources only, make an effort to access existing resources and create new ones.

Getting started
Move at a pace comfortable for you, but not so comfortable that you get slack. Invest your time and energy into your goal and things will quickly change. You may need to re-evaluate your goal as you start moving towards it, your goal may even change completely, that is normal. It’s hard to know specifically what we want before starting out.

Strive for the best
When you are reaching to a big goal, you should feel some degree of discomfort, and perhaps a little unsure of yourself, as you are challenged. You are on a journey into the unknown. Be confident but not comfortable as you move towards achieving your goal. Dare to dream, and dream big, then concentrate your time on filling in the details.

Prepare to learn
Make every experience a learning experience. Be curious, particularly about the things that matter most to you. Expect to find valuable, useful knowledge in everyone and everything.

Be persistent
Don’t be discouraged over setbacks, be self-motivated and don’t give up. When you make progress, keep going! Take responsibility and avoid draining your energy by making excuses or assigning blame. Seek advice, assistance and cooperation of others and offer your own in relationships of mutual benefit. The achievements you seek to create are your responsibility, so be prepared to compete with yourself and work constantly to improve.

Be grateful
Gratitude will open your eyes, mind and spirit to the value that exists in everyone and everything. When you’re genuinely thankful, you make use of whatever it is in a meaningful, effective and positive way. A grateful attitude is also a positive attitude and being optimistic about your conditions and situation is essential as it enables you to see the best side in all the challenges you face. A positive disposition will trigger you to do better, find resolutions to problems and look for other support systems until your goals are achieved.

Focus on your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses
List all the qualities that you currently have which will lead you to your goal. Be honest. You could even brainstorm a word and write a short explanation as to how it will help you. It is equally important to realise your weaknesses and accept that you need to practice some measures to turn these into strengths.

Be a leader
Leadership means you have a lot of abilities and a high tendency to empower yourself personally, that the excess can be radiated onto other people. As you find others succeeding or following under your guidance, you will discover that your support for other people also equates to more self empowerment. You will start to appreciate your talents and potential.

Associate with successful people
Just as your talents will radiate onto others, so will theirs. Successful individuals have a knack of empowering themselves, especially when trying times are present. Socialise and be around people who believe in their own talents and capabilities.

Talk to yourself
Positive self-talk is imperative when empowering yourself. Know how to build yourself up. Make a conscious choice to build yourself up as often as possible. Make it a habit to speak encouragingly to yourself and expressing positive thoughts about your abilities. Speak to yourself as you would a good friend in need of support and encouragement. Regularly commend yourself for a job well done and love yourself unconditionally. The more you allow yourself to feel your own love and approval, the better you will feel about your life.

Quick tips to be self-empowered
- Be confident in yourself. Your confidence will naturally project a more powerful image than if you appear uncertain or anxious. Identify what is affecting your confidence and take steps to improve it
– Look after yourself – maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly and manage your stress. If you feel good, you will be more self-confident and project a glowing energy to others
– Make a positive impression on people. People are more receptive to those who take good care of themselves, dress well, are neat and tidy and hold their posture. Focus on what you say and think before you speak
– Be constructive. Don’t be critical, gossip or complain too much. Avoid the temptation to whinge. Be positive and optimistic, provide constructive feedback and participate in finding solutions to problems rather than finding the problems
– Change yourself – not others. If you are unhappy with someone or something, change it to suit yourself. You can try to compromise but don’t expect anything to change for you
– Thrive on feedback. Empowering yourself means taking criticism constructively. Develop yourself technically, behaviourally and emotionally. Seek feedback and identify ways you can empower yourself. Criticism is always an opportunity to improve
– Focus on your goals, ambitions and desires. Don’t get tied up with your emotions, stay focussed on what’s ahead.

How to have a great day … every day!

I hope everyone that is reading this is having a really good day. And if you are not, just know that in every new minute that passes you have an opportunity to change that. Gillian Anderson

Every day has potential to be the best day of your life. Make the decision that today will be a great day and spend your time working to achieve it. The following tips will make it easy for you to live each day to the fullest.

Select your alarm tune carefully
Setting your alarm tune to something peaceful or happy is always a great way to start the day! My alarm tune is set to the DuckTails theme song. It reminds me of Saturday Disney and being young, it gives me energy to start the day and it makes me wake with a smile. For those of you that think a song may be too much too early in the morning, try selecting something peaceful (but still enough to wake you) to get you out of bed each morning.

Wake up healthy
When you feel good, you’ll look good. Wake up and stretch, drink a glass of water, have a bowl of fruit and/or high-fibre cereal for breakfast and try to schedule some time for a brisk walk to get the heart rate up. Getting into the routine of slowing down your morning, properly brushing your teeth and taking time for yourself is a great way to start the day!

Dress to impress
It’s important to dress for success whether you have a long day of work stretching ahead of you or not.  Did you know that a careerbuilder.com survey found that 41% of employers are more likely to promote people that dress better? It will also help you be more productive and people will be more receptive to you.

Genuinely smile
Smiling is universally recognised as an expression of happiness among all cultures: if you smile, other people will generally smile with you. Some studies support this, even suggesting that it is contagious. For example a study conducted in Sweden showed that people had difficulty frowning when they looked at other subjects who were smiling, and their muscles twitched into smiles all on their own.

Perceive everything in a positive way
Make the decision to take everything in a positive way – remember, you are only living today for one day only. If someone is trying to be negative and force you down, the trick is to try to find the lesson in what they are saying or doing. Learning from them will benefit you as you keep your head up and continue striving to be the best you can be.

Be kind
Be kind to everyone you encounter. According to psychologist Og Mandino (1923-1996), “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again”. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to someone, it’s easy to do, and it makes you feel good! So smile, start a conversation and remember to mind your manners. The Stanford Research Institute says that the money you make in any endeavour is determined by 12.5% knowledge and 87.5% ability to deal with people.

Give away positive energy
According to the law of attraction, the more positive energy you give, the more you will receive. Give compliments, let people know you’re thinking of them, buy people gifts, and always mind your manners. The easiest way to give and receive positive energy is to always have good intentions.

Have a positive attitude
Maintain an attitude of gratitude and you will attract all good things. Being thankful for even the small things will enhance awareness of your surroundings and it’s this level of mindfulness that will assist you in appreciating each day. You have 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts a day, changing most of them to be positive will be a challenge but it’s certainly possible!

Challenge yourself
Be open to learning something new. Accept a spontaneous opportunity. Do something you’re scared of (within reason!). Challenge yourself to achieve your full potential. By challenging yourself you will grow, gain awareness, skills and knowledge, achieve more, possibly advance in your career, become a better friend or partner, and gain new experiences.

Chat to loved ones
Schedule some time towards the end of each day to chat to your loved ones. Call your family for a general catch up or call your best friend. It’s a great way to vent, relax, unwind, and wrap up a busy day in the office!

Exercise
Have an exercise routine in the afternoon that you look forward to after work, it will help you to refresh – and it’s great for your health! Studies have shown that just 20 minutes of exercise three times a week will increase your happiness by 10 to 20 percent after six months.

Look after yourself
Aside from the usual hygiene care (showering and brushing your teeth), try to do something nice for yourself each day. This could be grooming: getting a haircut, painting your nails or it could be something leisurely: planning a party, having a bath, reading the newspaper or a book, going shopping or to the beach, writing a letter, painting a picture, going star-gazing, listening to music etc.

Live for the moment
Time is something you can never get back. Avoid wasting it! While we can live to an endless to-do list it’s equally important to have time to think and meditate. Put your phone down and give your time fully when you’re socialising – it will allow you to fully enjoy the moment. Switching off and being completely present enables you to slow down a fast-paced life to fully enjoy yourself.

Respect your biorhythms
To help ensure tomorrow is just as good as today, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep may mean investing in earplugs to ensure your room is silent, a new pillow for comfort, or an eye mask to ensure no light will disturb you. If you find yourself awake at night, figure out what is worrying you and how you can overcome it.

Responding to a decision you don’t agree with that affects you

Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. Unknown

Like it or not, people make decisions that affect us every day. The government of the country, the CEO of the company you’re working for, your manager, your local council, your bus or train driver, your partner… it’s just a fact of life we’re forced to deal with. But how do you cope when you really don’t agree with the decision that has been made?

1. Think about it
Take a step back from the frustration and panic that is overcoming you and don’t react. Be open to the decision that has been made: just because it’s not your decision, or your choice in decision, does not necessarily make it wrong. Consider why you don’t agree with it, why the decision was made, why the person may have made this decision, and what benefits could come from this decision?

2. Talk about it
It’s important to communicate. Find out if the decision is final or if there is any way you could influence it with your opinion by telling the person in charge your thoughts. Once you offer your ideas, opinions and perspective, the decision maker may take it into consideration. It may also get you included in the decision making process in future – you don’t know until you try!

3. Accept the decision
Everyone has the right to make their own decisions. You don’t have to agree with the decision made, but for your own peace of mind, you need to accept it. To put your mind at ease, trust that the person making the decision is making it the best way they can, in their situation, with their experience. This person will need to accept responsibility for their decision later on, so the best thing you can do is accept their decision and support it as best you can. Start taking action to support their decision to help you to feel empowered.

4. Respond
Many decisions aren’t yours to make – this is a fact of life. However, you do have the opportunity to respond and can make another decision that gives you power in the situation you have found yourself in. If someone else’s decision endangers your life or is seriously against your values, the final option is this: you can stay or you can go.

All about assertive communication

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The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behaviour affect the rights and wellbeing of others. Sharon Anthony Bower

Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes. Eleanor Roosevelt

Assertive communication helps us express our feelings, thoughts and wants in a way that allows us to stand up for our rights without infringing on the rights of other people. Like any social behaviour, assertiveness skills have to be learned and practiced.

Assertive communication involves the following steps:

Identify your communication style
Passive – I talk softly and rarely stand up for my rights. I usually try to avoid conflict and arguments. I don’t usually get rejected directly, but people take advantage of me because I am afraid to say no – then I get angry and resentful when my needs are not met.
Aggressive
– I always get my way, even if I have to hurt or offend people to get it. People never push me around. I use my position, power, and harsh or manipulative words. I speak in a loud voice. I can be abusive and enjoy getting even with people.
Passive Aggressive
– I’m sly, sarcastic and subtly insulting. I protect myself by avoiding problems and risks. I deliberately ruin other people’s plan or projects. I talk about others in negative ways. I dress however I want, regardless of the situation.
Assertive
– I often get what I want without offending other people. I am clear and direct when I communicate and am able to express my thoughts, feelings and wants easily. I am honest and show my confidence without being aggressive about it.

Identify your solutions style
Usually you may have no problem being assertive, but when it comes to solving a problem tend to become passive or aggressive. Use the examples above to identify what communication style you use when solving a problem.

Know your values and beliefs
Your beliefs and values were moulded during childhood and include rules about “good” and “bad” ways to act as taught by our parents and other role models.

Learn the responsibilities that come with effective communication
* Assess your true feelings without exaggeration or minimising. Express your feelings appropriately without insulting anyone
* Reply as soon as possible without taking an unreasonable amount of time
* Thinking through your opinions and realising others can disagree
* Learn from mistakes rather than punishing yourself or others for them
* Act responsibly
* Feel appropriate anger and happiness, and share those feelings with the people involved
* Don’t impose your personal beliefs or standards on others
* Think through your responses before answering a question
* Respect your commitments and allow enough time to fulfil promises
* Talk about your needs and learn to compromise
* Express your feelings without infringing on the rights and responsibilities of others
* Avoid labelling or making unfair judgements on yourself or others.

Learn to use assertive communication
Express yourself in a way that doesn’t violate the legitimate right of others by using “I” statements, thinking through responses and using correct assertive body language. Remember, there are four parts to a message:
Feelings
– by sharing your feelings it allows others to have more understanding. Sharing the way you feel will give others the opportunity to behave in a way that meets your needs. For example: “When you are condescending, I feel disrespected” or “When you hug me, I feel loved”.
Observations
– sharing what your senses tell you: it should always be factual. For example: “I heard you call me an idiot” or “I saw you break the door”.
Thoughts
– sharing your beliefs and theories shows others that you have attempted to make sense of the situation. For example: “I think it’s hurtful to call me an idiot” or “I think I’m ready to do this course because it will challenge me”.
Needs
– It is important to express your needs with other people because they can’t read your mind. For example: “I need some time to think about this” or “I want some quiet so I can concentrate on reassessing my goals”.

Now to put the whole message together
“I feel _______(emotion)_______ when ______(situation)______, because _____(reason)_____, and I need ______(request)________.”
For example:
“I feel disappointed when you tell me I can’t do something because you haven’t given me a chance to try it and I need that chance to be disproved before I feel you can make your judgement.”
It may feel unnatural at first, but it just takes practice. The more natural it becomes, the more you will begin to see an improvement in the amount of successful resolutions in your daily situations.

Mind your (body) language
How you express yourself is just as important as what is said. If your body language is assertive, you will:
* Maintain eye contact: don’t stare, but avoid looking down or away
* Keep good posture (stand or sit up straight) and remain at a good distance from the other person – don’t stand too close
* Avoid fidgeting
*Keep your posture open and relaxed, relax your shoulders
* Naturally and briefly open your arms and use other hand gestures to emphasise your words
* Maintain a level tone of voice, and speak clearly at a volume that can easily be heard
* Concentrate on breathing normally speaking at a normal volume
* Keep facial expressions that fit the message you are trying to convey.

Diplomatic communication
Diplomacy is taking responsibility for getting your own needs met in a way that preserves the dignity of the other people involved.  Like tact, diplomacy involves careful consideration of the feelings and values of another so as to create harmonious relationships with a reduced potential for offence. It is the ability to communicate hurtful information without offending through the use of consideration, compassion, kindness and reason. Characteristics of diplomatic communication include open, inoffensive communication that is clear, flexible, with specific wording, a positive approach, non-judgemental and demonstrates a relaxed manner both verbally and non-verbally.

How to act diplomatically
– Make a conscious decision to act assertively. Avoid aggressive words and behaviours
– Be decisive when saying no. Explain your reasons without being apologetic
– Approach conflicts diplomatically
– Practice talking assertively with a friend
– Respect the wants, needs and feelings of others and accept their perspective may differ from yours
– Use active listening to ensure people know you have heard them. Ask questions to clarify
– Take a problem-solving approach to conflict and see the other person as your collaborator
– Concentrate on facts
– Use direct language “I  think” or “It looks like” rather than “You do this or that”
– Don’t interrupt people when they are talking. Understand what people are saying
– Resist interruptions until you have finished your thoughts. Don’t be scared to say “Just a moment, I haven’t finished…” and continue
– Be conscious of your body language: stop smiling too much, nodding too much, tilting your head or dropping your eyes in response to another person’s gaze.

How to diffuse an argument assertively
- Organise to have the conversation at another time and leave
– If you stay, remain calm, steer the conversation back to the original point, try to understand the other person’s perspective and try to find a common ground
– Accept that other issues may be motivating the person’s behaviour and don’t take it personally
– Avoid taking heat-of-the-moment criticism to heart
– Learn from mistakes and try to negotiate positive scenarios in future with a better outcome. Move the discussion to talk about how you will behave differently in future to get a desired outcome.

Benefits of assertive communication
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
– Better problem solving ability and less conflicts to manage
– Increased resilience
– Reduced stress/anxiety
– Learning the clearest, most productive and effective way to communicate honestly and openly
– The “feel good” feeling we get when we do it correctly – like teamwork!
– Improves relationships and leads to the development of mutual respect
– Assisting us to achieve our goals
– Minimising hurting and alienating people
– Protecting us from being taken advantage of by others
– Making better choices and good decisions
– Expressing ourselves (verbally and non-verbally) about positive and negative topics.

Quick Tips: Being assertive
- Be clear about your objectives: specify what you want and your needs, but be opening to listen to other people’s perspectives and criticisms
– Show respect: stay calm, be kind, maintain an even tone of voice
– Acknowledge the other person’s perspective
– Meet someone at their eye level – sit down or stand up with someone to equalise the balance of power
– Choose your words wisely – put yourself in the picture by using “I” statements, don’t get personal
– Ask questions to clarify the speaker’s intent
– Allow others to assert themselves – don’t interrupt
– Compromise where you can: meet people half way to get more win-win situations.

Forgiveness: the choice that sets you free

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To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive peace and happiness. Robert Muller

Someone very close to me recently pointed out that the majority of movies we watch are mostly about revenge. In reality, when we hold onto a grudge and take revenge, we are only damaging ourselves as it entices anger and other negative emotions, which unnecessarily uses a lot of energy. As Buddah says: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”. Or this one by an anonymous (but wise!) source: “Hating someone is drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it.”

But how do we let go and forgive someone after we have been wronged?

Remember, your life and your emotions are made up of a series of decisions. You can choose to be angry and hold resentment or you can choose to forgive and move forward. Holding onto resentment initially is there as a coping mechanism, to protect us from further pain – short term it is healthy, but when it continues for a long period of time, it’s a problem.

Forgiveness is often hard to give because there is a big misconception in the world that if you forgive something then you condone what has happened, and has obviously hurt you. This isn’t the case and it doesn’t mean you need to forget what happened either. True forgiveness shows that your relationship with that person is more valuable than your ego. It means you have moved beyond the action and your mind is now clear so you can move forward.

The biggest changes generally have to come from within, so why not start by forgiving yourself before you move to forgive others.

Some benefits of forgiveness – it:
* Invokes love
* Releases stress and tension
* Rebalances your body chemistry
* Decreases use of medication
* Improves sleep quality and decreases fatigue
* Decreases aches and pains
* Strengthens spirituality
* Encourages better conflict management
* Improves relationships
* Is good for your heart: a study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found forgiveness to be associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as stress relief.
* Restores positive thoughts, feelings and behaviours toward the offender
* Is associated with more volunteerism, donating to charity, and other altruistic behaviours.

How to forgive:
– Accept that your grudge doesn’t hurt the offender in the slightest
– Choose to use your negative emotions for positive and strive to move forward
– Make a list of all the good things that have happened as a result of this negative experience
– Turn to your friends for support
– Keep focussing on the bigger picture
– Be compassionate, everybody makes mistakes
– Identify an opportunity to demonstrate true forgiveness: retrain your thinking and wish the offender well
– Work out how you will undertake it, in your mind or with the person involved
– Follow through: forgive the person, but maintain perspective – you don’t need to become their best friend either
– Assess changes in your feelings over the next few days.

The connection between trust and happiness

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Trust happens when two or more people in a relationship believe each another to be honest and look out for the best interests of the relationship and each other. Matt Ackerson

We’ve all experienced it before: once bitten, it’s easy to be twice shy the next time around. With time and patience, we eventually will trust again. Why? Because everyone wants to trust – even the most sceptical among us. “The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him,” Henry Stimson said. The question is: why does trust enhance our level of wellbeing?

In general, trusting people are happier than mistrusting, suspicious people. According to Eric Weiner, who wrote The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiness Places in the World, “Trust is a prerequisite for happiness. Several studies have found that trust – more than income or even health – is the biggest factor in determining our happiness”. It’s not just about trusting people but also the feeling of being trusted that contributes to our happiness.

Paul Zak, PhD, at Claremont University in California said their research reveals that the biological basis for social connections – a hormone called “oxytocin” – is part of the brain mechanisms that serve to make us happy.

Research presented at Neuroscience 2010, showed that women who show large increases in oxytocin when they are trusted also report being more satisfied with life, showed greater resilience to adverse events and were less depressed.

Oxytocin suppresses the activity of the brain that processes fear and communicates it to the rest of the brain (a region known as the amygdala). Natural ways to boost your oxytocin (also known as the love hormone) include: ingestion of food, sex, massage, cuddling, smiling and bonding. You can actually purchase it oxytocin a nasal spray as well – called Syntocinon.

There are several benefits of trusting that contributes to our overall happiness and state of wellbeing, including a decrease in anxiety levels. It also enables you to live in the moment – enjoying the people and situations surrounding you – for example, by trusting at work we are more productive because we are able to concentrate more on the task at hand. Trust – just like happiness – is a choice. Not saying that everything will work out because you trust, you will still experience disappointments, but they won’t seem as great.

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