Tag Archive | responsible

Why Happiness Weekly has been lacking in happiness

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Everybody wants sunshine, nobody wants pain, but you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain. Anonymous.

Loyal followers – who don’t know me personally – may be wondering why my blogs went from full happiness focus to a focus on happiness during times of adversity. It’s like one day I woke up and while the element of happiness was still there, it went from being happy and bouncy to tackling some pretty serious issues with a theme of maintaining happiness during tough times.

Two years ago, when I started Happiness Weekly, I was a very happy person. I was also very naive. I believed that there was only good in this world. Not only that, I believed that as long as you believed that there was only good this in this world then that’s what you would attract – just like The Law of Attraction, right?

Since then I’ve learned first-hand that psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists exist. And even if you don’t want to believe it, they’re very real and they roam the planet just as a normal healthy human being. It terrifies me to not only know, but to have experienced first-hand, that some people feel empowered by making other people feel miserable.

I’m not tainted. I’m not jaded. I’m not bitter.

I’ve learned quickly to accept this.

But instead of promoting happiness as a way of life, I decided I wanted to equip people to survive times of adversity and to facilitate their happiness and assist their inner glow to shine through during these harder times.

Through surviving my own adversity, and getting back up, I finally know who I am. I stand tall. I’m confident. And I share with others from a place of confidence and sympathy.

So Happiness Weekly has evolved as I have.

My posts for the next little while will be filling in the dates I missed while I was away, as well as posting so that we’re back up to date. Each week I will try to release two posts until I’m back on schedule – I apologise if I miss a week, my priority is now on the next chapter. To stay on top of what has been released, you’re welcome to follow my blog by email, you can keep an eye on the Facebook page or you’re always welcome to contact me.

I want to leave you with this: never stop learning. Never give up. Once you think you know, you’ll discover there’s more to know.

Stay in the driver’s seat of life and keep moving forward.

Letting go – the easy way

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How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar. Trina Paulus

Look around you. Right now. What do you have in your life that’s important to you?

Now imagine that gone. Completely.

Generally even the thought of losing whatever it is makes us feel sad, overwhelmed or possibly even angry.

`While going throughout the journey in life, you’ll eventually come across a point where you need to let go. It may be letting go of a person in your life, it may be letting go of negative thoughts and feelings, it may be letting go of material things. Letting go is the steepest learning curve in attachment. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can let go the easy way!

 

Acceptance

Part of letting go is acceptance – acceptance that it is gone, acceptance of your feelings and acceptance of the feelings other people have around you about whatever is gone. For example let’s say we lose someone close to us through a relationship break up or death – there’s not a lot we can do about it, it is what it is – but we will have feelings about it and the people around us will have feelings about it. If we can accept what has happened quickly, then what other people think will bounce off us rather than consume us.

 

Self-validation

I’ve been talking about this a lot lately because it’s true – a lot of the time we look for external validation – but why? We live our lives! Stuff what other people think: What do you think? How do you feel? That’s what matters. Check in with your self and make your internal or self-validation a priority in your life.

 

Be conscious of attachment

If you know you are attached to something (dependent children are different) – let’s say we’re talking about a house, a spouse, a sports car or a romantic partner, start distancing yourself emotionally from whatever it is you are attached to. Practise thinking about letting go of it in the most positive way you can. This is key in recovering quickly if you are to lose it. Even if you just practise it as a passing thought rather than doing a deep meditation over it – if you are to lose it, your mind is prepared and your subconscious will return you with “Oh yeah, you prepared for this – remember when you were thinking this would happen and this is what you thought…” Don’t panic, it’s not the Law of Attraction, it’s preparing for what may eventually happen.

 

Challenge your limiting beliefs

If you were to lose whatever it is you’re attached to, what would it stop you from doing? What is it about that thing that you are so afraid of losing it? How does this thing make you a better person now than what you could be without it? If you lost whatever it is you’re attached to, what would it stop you from being? You’ll find when you start challenging your limiting beliefs about the thing you’re attached to, that you’re able to create distance from it. In fact, you may even discover the thing you’re attached to is holding you back.

 

Believe in yourself

When you believe in yourself, you know exactly what to do. The only way you can believe in yourself is to know who you are. Spend some time on your own exercising your self trust, self acceptance and self love, and learning about yourself and the things you love. Once you know all these things, you’ll be able to believe in yourself, your confidence will grow and you will be ready to face whatever challenge comes your way.

 

Break it down

Take it one day at a time, one step at a time, one moment at a time. You don’t need to let go all at once. But if you use each day to detach piece by piece, you’ll feel stronger because every time we let go of something, we give more energy and power to ourselves. If you are strong enough to let it all go at once, then more power to you – letting go quickly enables you to start your healing journey faster whereas letting go gradually can sometimes just prolong the pain.

 

Let it go

If it comes time that you need to put this into practise: give yourself permission to let it go. Consider other positive stories where people have been in your exact situation (or something very similar) and as a result, have gone on to achieve much bigger and better things. Focus on what you do have, not what you don’t have. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Read positive affirmations and encourage yourself to let the situation strengthen you. Allow it to make you better not bitter. And remember: When you’re going through hell, just keep going – keep going and going until you’re so far removed from that hell that before you know it, you’re floating with angels again. Remember: nothing can hurt us forever.

 

Finally, if you really want a lesson in letting go, try packing your entire life in a small suitcase and moving overseas to a completely different country … indefinitely. What’s stopping you? Remove the blocks and excuses – and go for it – it will be one of the most empowering things you ever do.

 

let-go

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How to get angry and seek healthy revenge

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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. Buddha.

You probably think I’ve lost it – the chief blogger of Happiness Weekly who prides herself on spreading peace and happiness worldwide is writing about getting angry and seeking revenge? What good could come out of embracing an emotion such as anger and responding out of revenge? And I’m not only talking about getting angry but actively seeking revenge?

Yup … I’m crazy. Or am I?

Holding anger in, or suppressing it – which is basically the same – can be unhealthier and even more detrimental to your long-term health, than to actually get angry and respond. Suppressed anger leads to premature death (ie. by 50 years old), long-term depression, increased risk of heart disease, cancer, accidents and suicide.

Not a lot of us have been taught how to get angry. In fact from a young age it’s an emotion that is often to be neither seen nor heard – in my social circle I’ve found that particularly being female impacts this as you’re almost expected not to get angry. Unfortunately when we swallow anger, we also swallow other emotions along with it – such as fear.

I’m often told of people doing the wrong things by each other. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to my friends, it’s happened to colleagues and I’m almost certain at some stage in your life it would have happened to you. In fact, maybe you’re even the person who does the wrong thing sometimes out of anger. That can happen – we’re all human and sometimes we make mistakes – so long as no one gets hurt. So I’m excited about this week’s blog post because this week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can get angry and seek healthy revenge.

 

Embracing anger

Have you felt that overwhelming sense of anxiety, where you have so many emotions as a result of someone hurting you that you actually don’t know what to do so you’re trembling in silence and almost suffocating in agony? All you seem to be able to feel is sheer frustration combined with immense pain? You may have also felt fear.

Anger, when we don’t know how to deal with it properly, will often manifest as other emotions. When our anger finally does explode, we will generally overreact to something impulsively, irrationally and also may not have as much control as we would if we’d dealt with our anger at the time we felt angry. By dealing with our anger at the time, rather than keeping it suppressed, we can continue living a harmonious life. This doesn’t mean you can punch people out when they do the wrong thing by you, although it may be tempting, so today we’re going to look at the healthy ways you can express your anger.

First, it’s important to acknowledge the upside to anger according to Dr Gary J. Oliver, “One of the many potentially positive aspects of anger is that it can serve as a very powerful and effective warning system. Healthy anger can help us identify problems and needs and provide us with the energy to do something about them.”

 

How to express your anger in a healthy way

As I said, it’s best not to go knocking people out every time they wrong you – but it’s almost important to allow yourself to have your feelings and ensure you feel validated in feeling the way you do.

When I first considered the concept of getting angry in a healthy way, it was such a foreign concept to me that I kind of laughed. “I don’t even get angry! I just cry!” It was brought to my attention that those tears were caused by years and years of swallowed and suppressed anger. I had actually had a lot of anger bubbling under the surface but I didn’t know how to let it out so I’d never released it.

One concept I had grasped correctly about anger is that anger is an emotion, not an action. This means you need to express it and in expressing it, you need to figure out a healthy way of doing it – such as seeking “healthy revenge”.

Recognising that you’re angry and dealing with it appropriately won’t hurt you or anyone else. As Dr Gary J. Oliver pointed out, anger can carry messages that act as warnings to us – when we swallow our anger for a long time these loud warning bells start getting dimmed and we start overlooking them and accepting circumstances we don’t like, which links back into my article about cognitive dissonance.

 

How to express your anger in an acceptable way

There’s no right or wrong rule of thumb here, but let’s set some ground rules and boundaries around this to ensure we’re safe and the people around us are safe as well.

-          No one (you or others) should get hurt as a result of your expression of angry (this includes hurting their wellbeing or negatively affecting their life)

-          There should be no consequences from your actions and if there are, you need to accept the punishment

-          Part of knowing how to get angry properly is knowing how to fight fair – if you get angry and then don’t fight fair then you never actually won that fight, whether you feel better about the outcome or not.

Anger Management classes will obviously identify and establish healthy responses to anger. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re passive aggressive (as the movie may suggest) or that you have issues in over-expressing your anger. A few tips for expressing your anger in an acceptable way may include:

-          Assertive communication or waiting until the anger has died down and then communicating

-          Acknowledge that you feel angry and validate yourself

-          Go for a run and really pound your feet against the pavement

-          Smash a pillow onto your bed

-          Healthy revenge – which I’m going to tell you more about now.

 

How to seek healthy revenge

The first thing you need to do is cut the fantasy. Yup, you have to stop fantasising over writing rude words in your neighbour’s lawn with weed killer because their loud partying kept you awake til 3am last night. Stop thinking about slashing your ex’s tires because they cheated on you. Stop thinking about picking up your ex-girlfriend’s sleazy best friend to get back at her. Can you see how these fantasies only make one person look bad at the end of the day? Carry it out and I guarantee the only person who will feel bad will be you. Although I’m sure each fantasy may enable you to express your anger, none of them do anyone any good. In fact, these thoughts waste energy, people’s time and money at the end of the day. Although it may make you feel validated at the time and as though you “won”, none of these things will lead to a positive conclusion. So, instead of bothering with any of that, we’re going to concentrate on how you can really get your anger out and win. The best way to do this is to act for the greater good.

OK, now you’ve quit wasting your time on fantasising and let’s work out how you can actually deal with this anger in a healthy way and then how you can seek healthy revenge.

 

How do you seek revenge in a healthy way?

Warning: DO NOT SEEK REVENGE WHILE YOU’RE STILL ANGRY! If you’re still angry, keep on with the first part of this blog or see a professional psychologist about how you can deal with your anger. Anger is the strongest emotion that can manipulate our responses, causing us to act irrationally.

Now that you’ve dealt with your anger and released it in a healthy way, you’re in a better position to seek revenge. That’s what the first part of this blog was all about, getting in the best possible position you can so that you can use your anger to seek healthy revenge. OK – we’re going to do is something quite radical now…

Instead of seeking revenge on the people who did us wrong, we’re going to look at how we can use this incident to help other people. So literally we’re taking the pain from the situation and we’re going to turn it into power. This is what I’ve been referring to as healthy revenge. This is the only actual revenge that shows you as a positive and balanced individual that is striving for success rather than hurting others as a result of the pain you are feeling. Your response by taking action this way will speak louder, encourage powerful outcomes and create a positive difference – people can see that you got angry in order to take that action but they, and you, will be grateful for the outcome. A really good example of this is Tom Meagher from Melbourne, who contacted the parole board to change their system in order to enable our justice system to protect other women so they don’t get hurt like his wife did. The value that he has added to our world by using his anger to seek positive revenge is incredible.

 

Well that sounds great! But how do we know what action to take?

This is similar to how you were fantasising about plotting revenge, but instead of listing negative scenarios, we’re listing positive scenarios that will assist you in moving forward from the event that hurt you and left you angry.

The best, most dignified way to get angry about something that happened to you, is to make something positive from it. It’s just up to you to come up with what action that may be.

Here are a few steps you could take in order to take healthy revenge:

Step one: Give yourself permission to go on a healthy revenge mission. A big part of this will include forgiving yourself for any part in what happened

Step two: Consider the most positive thing you can do with your anger – for example, I started supporting a domestic violence charity that shuns violence against women after my experience with narcissistic abuse. This action was just one step in seeking healthy revenge, but it was certainly the most empowering response I could’ve had to the situation.

Step three: Get creative. If you’re really angry, spread it out and get creative about it. Contact politicians, start your own business based on the event that affected you, write the story and educate as many people about what happened to you as possible (imagine if it went global and you saved thousands of people from going through the same thing), hit the gym and workout to be strong enough to defend yourself in case it happens to you again … the list goes on.

Events are just events until we add perspective to them. Anger is the one emotion that leaves us feeling completely powerless – unless we do something positive with it. Even negative revenge is a temporary fix. Don’t let your anger beat you.

 

Recommended articles

Anger management techniques

Finding opportunities in challenges

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Difficulties mastered are opportunities won. Winston Churchill

The way we process things all comes down to our perspective on the events that have occurred and the lessons we take with us to grow and help others. The greater the challenge, the more we learn from it and the more opportunities appear right on our doorstep. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can find opportunities and lessons in challenging times.

This blog was inspired by a recent trip to the airport. One thing after another kept “going wrong” for me, but instead of getting frustrated by each event, I laughed hysterically at myself. When things like this happen, you have a choice – you can either laugh at it as an outsider would, or get uptight and stressed about it. Life’s short – choose wisely.

After much debate I decided to wear high-heeled boots and look attractive, rather than be practical and wear flats because I hadn’t seen the friend I was visiting for some time. I had a large suitcase, my laptop bag and a large handbag and I struggled with all three as I caught a bus and then a train to the airport – all the while, chatting to a beautiful soul on Facebook, who happens to be a pilot and was keeping me calm about my impending flight.

When I got to the airport I went straight to the automatic check-in point. There were about seven options on how you could check in including scanning a barcode, typing in the reference number, typing in your name etc. Having some time on my hands, I decided to scan the barcode. About ten minutes later (I’m pretty persistent at times!), I stopped attempting to unsuccessfully scan the barcode and typed in my name – which took approximately sixty seconds. The rest of the process took approximately two minutes to complete and I was all checked in.

The lesson I learned in this was that sometimes it really is just easier just to do things the simple way than to attempt to do things because of novelty.

I then start struggling over to the baggage check-in point – on my way stopping to ask an attendant if I would be able to take my fold up umbrella aboard in my carry-on luggage. For those looking to fly domestically in Australia – the answer to this was yes.

I got to the conveyor belt that takes your baggage into the abyss until you hope to see it again at your destination. I placed my bag on the conveyor belt, standing up on its wheels, where it got weighed. What I was convinced weighed a couple of tonne, weighed 15kg. (For a five-night stay interstate, I’ll admit – I probably over-packed a little.) At this point I had my laptop bag on my back, my large handbag over my arm and was clutching onto the boarding pass and receipt for the boarding pass along with the sticker to put on my bag (also known as the luggage sticker). “Goody! I’ve always wanted to do this!” I thought to myself, as I envisaged the lady at the counter doing it for me last time – so seamlessly, so professionally, it probably took about two seconds in total to take the sticker off and wrap it around the handle and off went the bag.

Now it was my turn.

So I removed the sticker. Half of it peeled off seamlessly, just as the checkout lady had done at my previous visit to the airport. It was just as I’d imagined – I could almost have gone for a job at the checkout, I thought to myself. But then: disaster. The other half of the sticker just didn’t go so seamlessly. In fact, it started to tare and as I instinctively tried to use my other hand to separate it – my boarding pass and receipt both got stuck to the sticker. Concentrating, I carefully peeled my boarding pass away – it tore slightly but not too bad … the receipt wasn’t so lucky on the other hand – it tore in half.

So the lesson I learned here was this: when trying to stick the sticker on your bag at the airport, keep your boarding pass and receipt completely clear of the sticker. In fact – put them in your handbag or pocket if you have one. Oh – and just because you visualise something doesn’t mean it’s going to pan out that well for you – make sure you’re adaptable and creative enough to adjust to whatever may happen next!

My next challenge was trying to place the bag down on the conveyor belt. It was a wheelie bag, so I thought if I just tipped it then it would fall flat – but for some reason it didn’t work that way. I ended up rolling my bag up and down the small section of conveyor belt about five times before I physically had to pick the bag up, lie it flat and place it back on the conveyor belt. I watched my bag disappear on the conveyor belt to join other travelling bags. The lesson I learned here was sometimes persistence doesn’t pay!

Next was walking through the scan machines. I carefully placed my handbag, my belt and my backpack into the trays provided and watched them go through the machine. I walked through and all was clear. I then took my bags and started tying my belt back around me. I then received a random request to be scanned for explosives. I agreed. I learned if you wait around for too long, people will take advantage of you – sometimes it’s best not to loiter, take your belt with you and put it on elsewhere!

After that I marched off to the travelator which has been my favourite thing about airports since I was young. I learned that things we enjoyed as children, we may also find enjoyable as adults – even if we’re using it properly (unlike when we were children and would use them as a treadmill). I made sure I walked it on the way home too – just to please my inner child and bring back a few memories to bring a smile to my face.

As you can see, there are lessons in every little thing we do and as long as we learn through our times of despair – as much as we may feel the loser at the time, we come out the winner. It is our perception of the events that happen to us that frames the event. Life events are just events until we frame them – and our perception of these events is based on our beliefs, values and past experiences. For example, laughing at the chaos in my case helped me to view the circumstances in a positive frame of mind.

The ability to learn from things is up to us – for example, if I allowed each of these events to frustrate me perhaps I would have repeated all the same things on the flight home because I wouldn’t have been so receptive to learning from what happened.

When things appear to be mounting against you, have a think about this quote: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly”. Many people will interpret this in different ways. What does this mean to you? Check out some of these powerful interpretations.

Finding opportunities in challenges is like looking at life like an optical illusion – sometimes they can be two-faced and the opportunity is up to us as to how we interpret it. Have a look at these optical illusions and see what you find – I’ll put answers below. You should be able to see two images in each image below – what do you see?

 

A

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B

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C

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D

Rose

E

Optical-Illusion

F

duckrabbit

 

Optical Illusion Answers:

A Beautiful woman looking away/Old woman looking to the left

B Old couple looking at each other/Two people in sombreros – one playing a ukulele

C Old man/Person on a white horse

D Rose/Two cherubs kissing

E A man with a moustache looking to the left/A boy with sheep near a village

F Duck/Rabbit

 

Thank you for reading and have a fantastic day!

One step to achieving positive change in your life

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You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there. Edwin Louis Cole

Last year my life didn’t move. It was like I was frozen in time. Nothing changed. At all.

I didn’t learn anything (other than what I researched for my blog), I didn’t do anything new or exciting (because I was so busy trying to facilitate that for others) and my life just stayed exactly the same. I couldn’t help but compare it to the year before when everything changed all at once: new job, new home, new relationship.

It was frustrating for me because I am usually good at initiating change in my life, but I couldn’t find what was anchoring me down. I was stuck. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I couldn’t make anything happen and just as I was on the verge of making something happen, I’d back down.

I stopped believing in myself.

Yet here’s the thing: in this year of nothingness I wanted change and almost expected it to happen without me even trying.

It wasn’t long before I developed something that I call “I’ll believe it when I see it depression” – unless something happened to demonstrate change was imminent, I didn’t believe anything would change, so I wasn’t going to bother trying. I remained completely unmotivated.

Fortunately, once I cut myself from the anchor, and started working on myself, I was able to turn things around. I started by taking a big step and left that relationship I’d gotten into – over time I have found the bigger the step you take, the greater the change. Not surprisingly, this year is completely different. My confidence is restored, I feel as though I’m in control again and I love life!

This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can overcome this “I’ll believe it when I see it depression” and make positive change happen in just one simple step.

I heard a fantastic quote the other day that I wanted to share with you:

“If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to heaven (happiness) is created by good actions. To take action, just do it. Do it now!”

The rule of thumb here is: in order to get out this “I’ll believe it when I see it depression”, we need to take action to encourage positive change and keep taking steps until we reach our goal. In other words, we’re turning things around to enables us to see it before we believe it! How do we do that?

1. Stop what you’re doing

Stop what you’re doing and be mindful of any rituals you’re currently following. Think about where your values are and whether your priorities align with them. What is most important to you – and why? Are you following through with these things or have you forgotten about yourself? How are these rituals you are following serving you?

2. Discover what’s holding you back

Realistically assess what you’re spending your time on – is this holding you back? It didn’t take me long to realise what I was spending my time on was doing nothing for me, and when really honest with myself, I acknowledged it was depleting my self-esteem – and it was my fault! I was spending 95% of my energy on a relationship with a narcissist – my anchor – and I was choosing to remain in it even though friends and family disapproved, it didn’t align with my values (despite his best attempts to cover it up – it was an affair), and it wasn’t doing anything positive for me at all. Once acknowledging this, I could concentrate on the steps I needed to take in order to get out of there.

3. Do what’s in your control

If you can make change happen, within your control, do it! Generally if you have “I’ll believe it when I see it depression” you would have been procrastinating for quite some time… so you know what changes you want to make but you never quite got there. Today is the day you give yourself permission to make change within your control happen. If you’ve been looking at renting a property, if you’ve been thinking about studying, if you’re looking at jobs but not applying… STOP HOLDING YOURSELF BACK! Make it happen!

4. Don’t be scared of eliminating blocks

This is a big one – sometimes taking steps to remove our blocks is exactly what is holding us back from making positive changes to our life. What if it means the difference between being with your partner and being on your own? It sounds scary. OK, go into your imagination for a moment – and fast forward time by 10 years, imagine your life once you have removed the block and the positive change has happened as result. What do you look like? How are you behaving? What’s changed around you? Now weigh up if you want that anchor tying you down, or not.

5. Empower yourself

We all have a lot more control than we think we do in any given situation – don’t wait for someone to save you, save yourself! Empower yourself. Depend on yourself to make the right decision. Trust yourself. Love yourself enough to let go of something that’s hindering your happiness. The key to making positive change happen is setting goals to help you out of your situation. Define a goal as positively as you can and then write down what steps you need to take to get there. Then choose just one of those steps and action is today! Some people take little steps, others – like me – like to start with the toughest step to get the biggest impact and make the most dramatic change. There’s no right or wrong. Once you have actioned that one step, you are one step closer to achieving positive change in your life.

Remember this in trying to move forward, no matter how scary that first step appears to be:

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. Nora Roberts.

Why strangers make us happy and how to repay them

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Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Bob Kerrey (1943)

The kindness of strangers has the power to improve our wellbeing and increase our feelings of happiness more than our normal friendship circle. How do I figure this? Imagine you have been hurt or let down by someone you trusted and thought you knew. You’re just looking to vent and for someone to listen to your story.

First you talk to a friend, they listen, and offer you their opinion and give advice in an attempt to try to lift you back up. You can sense their empathy and genuine care in their response which makes you feel somewhat better and your day continues as normal.

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time you’re talking to a complete stranger. You tell them your story and they listen. They then respond in a way that shows they identify or can relate to your situation, they offer you their opinion based on what they have heard and understood, and advise you accordingly. All of a sudden you feel less alone and your faith in humanity is restored and it’s like the sun has started shining through a grey sky – your day almost feels better, more fulfilled, than when you spoke to your friend. The happiness you feel as a result of the correspondence with the stranger barely compares to how you felt after communicating with your friend about the same issue.

This week Happinesss Weekly looks at why strangers can have a greater impact on your happiness than your friends.

 

Why strangers do it better

There are several reasons why strangers have the power to make us feel happier than our usual circle of friends – this could be why internet dating is becoming more popular and a more acceptable way of meeting someone and finding love. Here are some of the reasons why strangers can appeal to us more than our friends:

 

- Our expectations

The fact is we expect our friends to care about our wellbeing and therefore subconsciously depend on them to listen to us, side with us and support us unconditionally through all turbulence. It’s a part of friendship that almost all of us take for granted.

In the case of a complete stranger, we have no expectations. When a stranger is entirely removed from a situation and shows us kindness, we appreciate the time they take to actively listen to our story more than when our friends show us the same courtesy. Then if the stranger passes judgement that validates our feelings or actions, we start to feel better understood and less alone.

Although a stranger may have responded the same way as our friends, they exceed our expectations because we didn’t have any to begin with.

 

- The “stranger danger” belief

Strangers may also have an advantage over our friends because as children we were made acutely aware of “stranger danger”. These messages shaped our beliefs that strangers are a threat and potential danger.

Even now, despite statistics showing that someone we know who is a greater threat to us than a stranger, the media often highlight stories that demonstrate the opposite. When a stranger offers us kindness, our receptors instantly flick on warning us to be wary and we begin to question their motives and what could be in it for us.

It is when the kindness of a stranger is proven to be genuine and consequence-free, despite what we were programmed to understand, we often find ourselves pleasantly surprised.

As adults, neglecting or rejecting the kindness of strangers can force us to be confined and limited, so if we challenge this “stranger danger” belief, it enables us to work together to make a positive difference in each other’s lives.

 

- The selfish world we live in

Society often finds people first looking for the “what’s in it for me” before taking action in any situation. We all do it, whether it’s because we’re all time-poor in this fast-paced world or we’re simply becoming more selfish by the generation.

You may even notice that marketing campaigns are starting to lean towards commercial bribery as they become more aware that if they can’t convince the consumers that there’s something in it for them, it’s nearly impossible to motivate anyone to take action, let alone convince people to try a new product.

We are starting to value time more than ever before which is why when a stranger takes a moment to act selflessly towards us it leaves us feeling good because they have given up time to be thoughtful.

 

- About the kindness movement

This theory that strangers can have a greater impact on us than our friends isn’t new. Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward published in 2000, which was adapted into the film starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment in the same year, may have inspired the movement that encourages random acts of kindness towards strangers.

Whenever it began, adults are now being actively encouraged to be more mindful of each other and to demonstrate random acts of kindness where they can. The stigma associated with strangers being dangerous is deteriorating as more people embrace the “Pay it Forward” movement.

 

How you can make a positive difference to a stranger

The purpose of the following activities is to do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return – It doesn’t have to be expensive and there’s no need to go above and beyond when you choose to demonstrate a random act of kindness for a stranger.

- Buy someone’s coffee in the coffee shop

- Help a student with their tuition

- Teach someone something new

- Volunteer for a charity

- Let someone in front of you in the grocery store line

- Hand-write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you

- Speak up for someone – sign a petition, write a letter, be a referee for a job

- Work pro bono where your skills are needed

- Compliment a stranger

- Give up your seat when taking crowded public transport

- Listen to someone without interruption

- Greet someone in the elevator

- Hold the door open for someone

- Explain the Pay it Forward concept to someone

- Take part in Pay it Forward Day on 22 April. Find more information here.

 

For more ideas on how you can show kindness to others, follow the free Thrive Happiness Challenge application.

How to be better not bitter

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You change for two reasons: either you learn enough that you want to or you’ve been hurt enough that you have to. Unknown

If anyone has shown how to be better not bitter coming out of an extremely traumatic experience it would be Rosie Batty – she has fast become a role model for me. Rosie took her son to cricket training in Mornington, Victoria where he was seeing his father, who they had a restraining order against, in a supervised public place, when the father turned on their 11-year-old and killed him. By the time police arrived, he charged at them with a knife and they shot and killed him. Every part of what played out was all contrived by the father.

Since this tragic ordeal Rosie has mustered up her inner strength to raise awareness of domestic violence situations, and flung open the doors to that horrible situation that revealed how she was so trapped, tortured and controlled for so many years. In the midst of profound grief, Rosie Batty offered help and hope to others and this week Happiness Weekly pays tribute to that and explores how you can be better not bitter after trauma, just like Rosie.

 

1. Keep your mind open

Rosie maintained dignity and compassion with an open mind when confronting the media on a panel recently over changes to Victorian laws that will see the woman punished with jail time for not leaving a domestic violence situation where children may be at risk. In drawing awareness through her own experiences it enabled others to share their opinion – misguided or not. We can learn a lot from this. To become better not bitter, use your situation to learn and grow rather than letting it hold you back in an overwhelming state of hurt, frustration or anger. Find how you can make positive change around you and just take one step forward – you’ll be one step further away from what happened to you.

 

2. Embrace your freedom

It takes a while and it’s difficult, particularly when you’re coming out of a toxic relationship riddled with abuse and control, but eventually you do overcome your fears and embrace your freedom. This takes time. I don’t think you can fully appreciate freedom until you’ve been in a situation where you’re so controlled that all of it is taken away from you. Rosie’s case is a little different because she’s speaking now that her partner is dead – he’s done the ultimate, he can’t hurt her anymore … though I’m sure he continues to haunt her. Rosie is embracing her new found freedom by educating us about her experiences with this man. Be grateful for your freedom and the supportive friends and family still around you – embrace those people and your freedom during your healing journey by overcoming your fears provided by your traumatic experience and doing what you want to do. If you are struggling with this, some inner child work may be beneficial for you – speak to an alternative mental health professional.

 

3. Rely on role models

Spend some time looking for other people who have made positive improvements from negative situations and experiences and use these people as positive examples and role models for where you can go with your situation. There’s lots out there! There are so many fantastic movies to see, particularly on the topic of domestic violence where people have overcome what happened to them and gone on to bigger and better things – if you want to know some titles, leave comment below and I can make some recommendations, or if you have had another traumatic experience contact me and I’ll see if I can find a movie you can identify with that has a positive outcome for the victim. Let these stories motivate you in your healing journey. Remember these people also felt pain and fear and suffered during their recovery from what happened, but they found the strength within to encourage positive changes. Look to these people for guidance on how you can move forward to better yourself.

 

4. Be thankful

Look at the things you have as a result of surviving your traumatic experience. With every negative, there’s a positive – sometimes you just need to search a little harder to find it, or if you’re struggling ask a friend to help you find it. “What good came out of this?” Make a list. It may include your family and friends, your work, the pleasure nature brings you, or simply that you now know and won’t go back. Also, keep track of all the lessons you’ve learned as a result of your situation so you can share them with others. At minimum be thankful that what you have lived, you have enough power and control that you never have to live it again, so long as you heal fully and learn from what has happened to you. This task may sound frustrating if you’re still in a lot of pain, but think of it this way – anything that gives you gratitude proves you’re better – when you can’t find something to be thankful for you’re stuck being bitter. Be better, not bitter!

 

5. Challenge yourself

Challenge yourself to grow from your experience – don’t stop to dwell, keep going. They always say when you’re going through hell, keep going – let this not be any exception. Think of the new possibilities ahead, remain accountable and optimistic, set some new goals and strive for a positive future. Learn as much about the experience and what happened to you as you possibly can. If you can’t make sense of it, get in touch with me and I’ll try to help piece it together with you. Oprah said it really well though – staying in bad circumstances and trying to mitigate the damage in order to endure our situation is like “taking an air-conditioner into hell, rather than leaving hell and beginning to heal”. As hard as things may be for you – continue on your healing journey, challenge yourself to heal fully and completely from your experience and take your lessons as you move forward. Keep this quote in mind: “Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present towards the future,” Denis Waitley.

 

6. Grow through healing

If you’re recovering from narcissistic abuse or a domestic violence situation you may also be suffering from post-traumatic stress or complex post-traumatic stress from your traumatic event. Instead, I would like to introduce you to a relatively new concept called post-traumatic growth – that’s where you need to shift your focus to be. Some people say what doesn’t kill you tries again (and those who have been in a domestic violence situation will be able to relate to this), but it can also make you stronger, smarter, wiser, braver. Post-traumatic growth describes the positive change occurring in an individual after they’ve experienced a highly stressful life event. This terminology proves that suffering does not have to debilitate a person, in fact, finding a way to endure through significant suffering can actually lead to meaningful development of personal character. More information on Post-Traumatic Growth can be found here.

 

7. Trust your journey

Find positive resources online that will inspire you to grow. I find Trust your journey<http://www.trustyourjourney.com&gt; really helpful. If you’re on Facebook or a social media channel, have a look at some positive forums you can join that will encourage your healing steps to move forward. From these forums or blogs, you may even find a “buddy” – finding others you can identify with will stop you feeling so alone. Look for someone who has experienced something similar to you and you can keep each other strong – where ever you both are in the world. Remain calm through times of trauma and trust your journey. Find ways to educate others with the lessons you have received from your experience. Don’t forget the adage “This too shall pass” as you step forward. Every action has a reaction, every reaction has a consequence – go fourth with confidence and grow to be better, and encourage others to do the same.

 

Someone else I would like to acknowledge in this post is Tom Meagher who I have an overwhelming level of respect for from how he has recovered from his traumatic incident. He recently published this blog, The Danger of the Monster Myth, through White Ribbon (the world’s largest male-led movement to end violence against women), recently spoke with the Late Late Show about the life-changing moment he heard her killer speak in court and he released letters he sent to the parole board as he tries to make Australia a safer place. Tom is another prime example of someone who is becoming better not bitter from his situation as he talks about the message we’re sending in punishing perpetrators and continues to fight to make the Australian justice system actually serve justice – and not just hand down penalties as punishment.

 

With every thought and every action following your traumatic event, always remember before you take a step that your aim is to be better not bitter. Don’t let the situation beat you, challenge yourself to beat the situation. Instead of allowing the event to destroy you, allow yourself to grow.

Be patient – being better takes time.

How to make yourself happy

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Happiness depends upon ourselves. Aristotle

Knowing how to make yourself happy is one of the most empowering things we can do. Life is constantly changing and everything is unpredictable, which means the only person we can fully depend on is ourselves. If we’re going to spend a lot of time by ourselves, it’s a good idea to know how to make ourselves happy!

I caught up with a colleague the other day and we spoke about the little things people had been doing lately that made us feel special. We could literally narrow it down to: receiving an email first thing in the morning, tapping on the glass to say hello as someone walked by, a guy calling me “mate” when he said hello and getting a thumbs-up signal.

We stopped and looked at each other in horrified realisation:

“How in the hell did such small things come to make us feel so special?”

There are various reasons for this and I’ll touch on it more in my blog next week about acceptance but this week, the goal is to get ourselves to the point where we truly know ourselves, trust ourselves and are full of so much self-respect that no one can shake us from our path. Get set to get completely independent – and in the process learn two things: what makes us feel special and what makes us happy. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can make yourself happy.

So let’s get this mission started!

Everyone is going to be different in finding their path to a happier and more fulfilling life because everyone’s journey is different. We all have different values and beliefs. Thought Catalog has some great ideas about little things you can do to make yourself happier instantly – but here are some ideas for how to make yourself happier longer-term and live your best life in a more fulfilling way:

 

1. Date yourself

Yes – that is exactly as it sounds. Take yourself to the movies. Go to that new coffee shop you want to check out. Walk along the beach alone. Go to a concert. Visit the zoo. Head to a festival. Literally learn how to be on your own and comfortable with yourself in public situations. Once you’ve learned how to date yourself, set up a date with yourself one weekend each month to catch up with yourself regularly and help stay on top of everything. This will ensure you remember what you like and don’t like and that you are leading a fulfilling life.

 

2. Appreciate nature

Be conscious of the natural things surrounding you that make you happy. Things that have nothing to do with any other being. Some hints: watching the waves at the beach, the sunrise each morning, the sunset each evening, the rolling hills in the distance, admiring the flowers in a garden on the way to work, the smell after rain falls, the way the shadows fall as the sun passes by each day etc.

 

3. Choose friends wisely

Select your friends wisely. Surround yourself with positive, successful people and leave the losers for someone else. It sounds harsh, but that’s how it needs to be. Only spend your time with people who are on your level or who can lift you up – if they can’t, really question why you want that person in your life and if you need them there. Make sure your expectations of yourself are realistic – you don’t want to think you’re so good, no one is good enough and at the same time you don’t want to think so little of yourself that the losers get to stay. Your friends should share your belief system.

 

4. Trust yourself

Learning to trust yourself is essential in finding your happiness long-term. If you can’t trust yourself, you’re never going to stay on the path you want to be on and others will more easily be able to knock you off balance. Once you trust yourself you can start trusting each and every decision you make to lead you to where you want to go. Part of learning to trust yourself could stem from being fair to yourself and to demonstrate what I mean here, I want to refer you to Paul Hudson from Elite Daily’s article: 20 Things you need to stop doing to yourself.

 

5. Ditch anything toxic

Anything that makes you doubt or question yourself, anything that makes you feel less than what you are, anything that hurts you is toxic – let it go. Be as cold as you need to be when breaking away from everything toxic in your life. Nothing toxic will ever serve you – unless it hurts you enough to teach you a massive lesson.

 

6. Believe you’re good enough

Self-belief is essential in making yourself happy long term. If you don’t believe in yourself, how is anyone else meant to? Concentrate on tapping into what you think of yourself and if it’s not a positive image, challenge it – why aren’t you as good if not better than anyone else? You may need to work with a psychologist if you find you’re having difficulty with your self-perception.

 

7. Learn your values

Stop looking externally for approval, look to yourself – ask yourself what you think, ask yourself for advice, find out what your values are. Write down what your values are and the things that you value above everything else. Then say why you value it. If you’re not on the list, ask yourself why not – add yourself to the list and consider why it’s important you should be there.

 

8. Make plans for the future

Stop waiting for other people to make plans, make your own plans for the future and get started – but make sure you select things you can do all on your own. If you want to go overseas, book that holiday. If you want to start a course, there’s no better time. If you want to learn a musical instrument or take up a sport – go for it! Challenge yourself and start today – nothing is too big or too small when it comes to planning your future.

 

9. Try to accomplish something you think is impossible

We may feel like a tiny spec in the grand scheme of things but you never know when your idea or your action can make a difference not just to one or two lives but a greater impact on many lives. Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. Attempt to achieve the impossible – you might surprise yourself and if you don’t make it, you may start a whole new revolution or learn a whole lot of new and exciting things along the way!

If you still feel alone in this quest for making yourself happy, I recommend two books that helped me in changing and shaping my journey: God on a Harley by Joan Brady and Marry Yourself First by Ken Donaldson and The End – a blog post written by Coco J Ginger.

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With a little help from our friends

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A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities. William Arthur Ward

Whenever there’s a catastrophe in your life, who do you turn to?

Generally during times of adversity, we turn to our family and friends for support as we know and trust they have our best interests at heart while we rebuild ourselves. Despite all the hard times I have come up against in my time, I am so fortunate for the friendships I have made and the family I have. I never have to look far for someone to talk to; my social calendar is always full; human contact is never far away – I always have the phone glued to my ear or I’m texting. I can honestly step back and say my life right at this point in time, without doubt, is the best it has been in several years because of the people I currently have in it.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing and my friends can testify to that. I’ve had to weed the odd person out, and some of them were so deeply implanted that getting them out of my life was almost impossible. There were even times I actually believed poison ivy could grow into a rose bush – and when I was disappointed, my friends gave me that extra strength to dig that ivy out. What I learned? Some people genuinely want you to be unhappy. I can’t tell you how much trouble I had accepting such a simple fact: psychopaths exist. They walk among us, just like normal people. On several occasions it has taken me a while to snap out of the denial, stop trying to help the ivy in hope of roses and accept: it is what it is. Unfortunately I got hurt in the process.

Oscar Wilde said it best “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”.

So despite the immense pain I felt, I weeded my garden and in the process I started to accept that sometimes there are people who simply can’t be helped. So, although it was difficult to get rid of some of the weeds, it proved worth it because once the weeds were gone, there was so much space in the garden for more roses, daisies and sunflowers. This week Happiness Weekly looks at friendship and how it can inspire happiness – whether you’re sad or already happy – having friends to share your life with is essential to a happy existence.

Often I harp on about the best things in life being free and it would appear this philosophy is supported by the Daily Mail with their article Money DOESN’T buy happiness: how friends and family – not flashy possessions – bring true contentment. The article talks about the happiness that lies in gratifying relationships, and says research has shown a close circle of friends and family is most important for happiness and that material possessions such as iPhones, computers, wealth and owning a sports car do not provide the same level of contentment.

This Emotional Life said close, loving relationships are crucial to our wellbeing and happiness because they create a psychological space that makes us feel safe to explore and learn and it’s in that environment that we can build resources for times of stress and adversity. It’s like a squirrel stockpiling their acorns for the winter, because winter is sure to come, just as with times of adversity.

The Connection and Happiness article by This Emotional Life says belonging to something such as a group or community gives us a sense of identity. Plus, people with strong social connections have been found to have less stress-related health problems, are lower risk of mental illness and recover faster from trauma or illness.

Both introverts and extraverts are happier in the company of others than on their own. It makes us more pleasant, helpful and sociable. “So being around people makes us feel happier, and when we are happier we are more fun to be around, creating an “upward spiral” of happiness,” This Emotional Life concluded.

Happiness is contagious according to Psychologist James H Fowler, who found that it benefits other people through three degrees of connection and the effects can last for a year. “We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends’ happiness, but between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ friends’ happiness,” James said.

Some people, such as Alex Roberts, believe having fewer friends is most important to your happiness because they are real friends. It’s our close relationships that gives us greater meaning and support. This supports that quality not quantity is most important when it comes to our friendships, which is why we must weed our gardens and have an overall clear out from time to time.

Others, such as this article found on the Huffington Post believe a larger circle of friends is the key to happiness. It’s been discovered that broad social networks contribute to our happiness by making us feel more connected and increasing our sense of belonging and self-esteem. Whatever it may be, it’s undisputed that with a little help from our friends, our overall happiness and wellbeing is improved.

But why?

Action for Happiness says research shows people who have strong relationships with a partner, family or close friends are happier, healthier and live longer than those who don’t. According to 32 Keys interacting amiably with friends and family is good for your health because it reduces stress. When we’re healthy we’re able to be happier because our worries and anxieties are reduced.

The Pursuit of Happiness talks about happiness according to Aristotle. According to the article, Aristotle recognised friendship as one of the most important virtues in achieving happiness – but not just any friendship, it was a particular type of friendship we needed to seek. The type of friendship he encouraged us to have is one “based on a person wishing the best for their friends regardless of utility of pleasure”. This type of friendship is long-lasting yet tough to obtain because it takes a lot of work to have complete and honourable friendships. It’s worth it though, as it brings us the most enjoyment by combining pleasure and integrity which brings our emotions and intellect the most fulfilment of any other friendship. For this reason, Aristotle would conclude we couldn’t have many friendships because of the amount of time and care that a virtuous friendship requires.

In more recent times Drake Baer has spoken about why our friendships shape our happiness, creativity and career saying the people we know “affect us in subtly major ways”. His reasons touch on the fact that our friendships broaden our perspective which encourages us to take new avenues and they continually shape our behaviour and ideas.

Whatever the size of your friendship circle, ensure your friends know you are grateful they are in your life. This post is dedicated to all my friends and family for their constant support, love and help with weeding the garden. I love you!

In what ways do your friendships evoke happiness in you?

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