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What Ben Franklin Can Teach Us About Character

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”- Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, a brilliant, once Benin a generation personality whose influence lasted well beyond their lifetime. Franklin was a scientist, author, political theorist, inventor, diplomat, politician, and was the chairman of the Constitutional Convention, which authored the Constitution of the United States. In addition to these accomplishments he was the inventor of the lightning rod, an improved wood-burning stove, bifocals, and was the first postmaster general of the United States and created one of the nations first, free public libraries. A list of his accomplishments could easily fill this entire page.

To many Americans who grew up in the age of television and mass advertising campaigns however, Franklin has become something of a cartoonish character, used by corporations to sell insurance, promote fraternal organizations and political causes, and sell a host of products that never existed during his day. His image has become so iconic that we often forget that he was a real person who had far more important things that he could have sold us on.

Born into a working class family in Boston in 1706, Franklin’s life represents the quintessential American rags to riches story. One of the most brilliant minds in American history, Franklin never graduated from high school, dropping out of Boston Latin Academy at age 15. A voracious reader, virtually everything he learned was self taught, and he seldom forgot anything he read. He was also one of the first American self help and personal development authors, beginning his writing career at the age of 15 while writing anonymously for his brother’s newspaper. He wrote anonymously because no one, not even his brother, would take seriously the ideas of a 15-year-old. It was during the years from age 15 to his mid-20s were Franklin did most of his work on his personal development and developed most of his ideas on self-help.

Realizing at age 20 that he came from humble origins, Franklin set out to develop his own writingpersonal character through what he called his “Thirteen Virtues,” by which he attempted to live the rest of his life. These 13 virtues are worth repeating and can form the foundation for anyone’s personal development. The fact that they came from a 20-year-old shows the innate brilliance of Benjamin Franklin. He listed these 13 virtues in his autobiography, aptly titled The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin:
1. “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
2. “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
3. “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
4. “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
5. “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
6. “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
7. “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
8. “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
9. “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
10.”Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
11.”Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
12.”Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
13.”Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

Franklin did not try to work on all these virtues at once, he would choose one per week and work exclusively on that, “leaving all others to their ordinary chance.” To record progress, he carried a small notebook with the virtues and when he found himself in violation of a precept, he placed a small dot in a column next to it. Over time he found the number of dots diminishing next to each one as he became more automatic in his positive behaviors and attitudes.

Franklin quite often fell short on these virtues, like many great men he had some pretty notable flaws. He was a womanizer and fell short as a husband and father on many occasions. He fathered an out of wedlock son, William, that he acknowledged only after he was born, and spent three years in Europe away from his wife Deborah. Deborah died in 1774. Franklin, “too busy” at the time, did not return until the following year. While living in France, he indulged in fine wines and food, growing into the portly persona that most of us know as Ben Franklin. Franklin admitted his faults and explained it this way, “Tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.”

It Franklin lived today, undoubtedly the media would have a field day with his personal life. The secondary lesson in this is that we do not necessarily need to be perfect in order to strive for perfection. We do need to be willing to face our flaws, fears and imperfections when trying to improve our character. We are going to fall short, that’s inevitable. The realization of this should not deter us from trying to better our character and lead a more virtuous life. Maybe that’s the reason why so many of us enjoy sensationalized media stories about politicians’ and celebrities’ moral failings. Perhaps savoring their failings and shortcomings is a distraction from facing our own.

We are often told to dare great things, dream big, and shoot for the stars. Maybe we Ben_Franklin_510should apply the same logic to our character. What’s to be afraid of? After all, are we really going to find out anything that we didn’t already know anyway? As Franklin said, honesty is the best policy.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”- Benjamin Franklin

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Going With Your Gut: The Gut Health-Mental Health Connection

“Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it’s enough.”-Robert Heller

Our gut is perhaps the source of the human animal’s most visceral experiences, responsible for countless ways that a human being perceives his existence. For the gutbiologist, it is merely a tube by which animals, including humans, transfer food to the digestive organs. Recent scientific investigation and thousands of years of human experience confirm that it is far more complicated than that. Studies have confirmed that not only does the gut transfer food to vital organs, but it plays a role in our physical health, mental health, emotional stability, and impacts the study of human immunology, neurology, endocrinology, and pathology.

Since 2007 scientists have been attempting to catalog the over 100 trillion microorganisms that live in the human gut. Although your initial reaction may be one of disgust, the majority of the 500 species living in your bowels are an essential part of human health. Most of us have become familiar with the term “good” bacteria and the positive role that it plays in digestive health. Science is just now beginning to realize how this good bacteria also influences the human brain and the state of a person’s mental and emotional health.

While studying the impact of good bacteria on digestion, scientists were surprised to find that the ingestion of probiotics modulated the processing of information that is strongly linked to depression, anxiety, and the human stress response. A study of 45 subjects conducted over a three week period showed a significant increase in the efficacy of prebiotics on the subjects capacity to handle stress when compared to a placebo. The study concluded that the consumption of prebiotics reduced the production of cortisol and aided in the maintenance of emotional control. Most people are somewhat familiar with probiotics supplements, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, but are less familiar with prebiotics that can be gained by eating chicory, artichokes, raw garlic, onions, asparagus, wheat bran, and other carbohydrates that contain soluble fiber. These prebiotic sources nourish the microorganisms that contribute to positive mental health, allowing them to proliferate and grow. While this study concluded that additional research is necessary, they stated that the effect of these foods in this particular study was similar to what has been observed in individuals taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. “I think pre/probiotics will only be used as ‘adjuncts’ to conventional treatments, and never as mono-therapies,” the study’s lead author, Philip Burnet, told The Huffington Post. “It is likely that these compounds will help to manage mental illness… they may also be used when there are metabolic and/or nutritional complications in mental illness, which may be caused by long-term use of current drugs.”

Gut bacteria interacts with the enteric nervous system, which regulates a host of human activities that most of us take for granted such as digestion, production of hormones, and regulation of thyroid and adrenal activity. The enteric nervous system also produces 95% of the serotonin in your body, a neurotransmitter that has been associated with feelings of well-being and happiness, and is enhanced by the prescription drugs Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and other SSRIs. Scientists now know that it is not the brain which regulates gut activity, but the gut which helps to regulate the brain. Michael Gershan, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, refers to this as the “second brain.” He states that, “The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.”

Our bodies respond to stress, physical or mental, in the same manner making no distinction. Any stress or bodily inflammation will impact the entire nervous system. What we eat will impact the enteric nervous system. Our gut communicates with the brain through the vagus nerve which interacts with our parasympathetic nervous system, controlling our ability to calm ourselves down. Quite simply, the food that we consume will impact how our bodily systems communicate and, as a result, the state of our emotional health, well-being, and the way that we perceive the world around us.

Prebiotics and probiotics have the potential to be used as adjuncts to more conventional 21-kinds-of-fermented-vegetables-prebiotictreatments for mental health, but not as replacements. The effects of psychotherapy and psychopharmacology can be impacted greatly by a diet rich in prebiotic’s/probiotics. Whether a person is suffering from emotional issues or not, everyone can benefit from a diet that has gut health in mind. It is recommended that you you eliminate the following from your diet as much as possible:
· sugar
· gluten
· industrial vegetable oils
· soda
· antibiotics
· oral contraceptives

Be sure that your diet is rich in:
· foods that contain soluble fiber such as chicory, artichokes, dandelions, asparagus, raw garlic, and leeks
· active culture yogurt. Read the label and avoid those that are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients
· kefir
· kimchi
· sauerkraut
· pickled fruits and vegetables

While the research on the efficacy of the use of prebiotics/probiotics is promising, none of the researchers are saying that it will ever replace psychotherapy or psychopharmacology. It can and should serve as an adjunct therapeutic intervention. Statistics indicate that approximately 70% of Americans take prescription medications of some type and 20% take psychiatric medications. The vast majority of those taking psychiatric medications do no other therapeutic interventions such as psychotherapy, meditation, or nutritional supplementation. It is quite possible that many who initially run to a doctor for a pill when they are experiencing difficulty and problems in living may do better with a few months of psychotherapy, a cleaner, healthier diet, and a consistent exercise regimen..

Even if your emotional health is sound, being aware of and attending to gut health is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to keep the human engine running smoothly.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”- Hippocrates1748-7161-4-6-12-l

Hippocrates’s advice may come across as fourth century BC hyperbole, but he’s probably right about one thing. We all should be a little more aware of the medicinal effects of the food that fills our gut.

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

What Rocky And Bullwinkle Can Teach Us About Fear

” Eenie meenie chili beanie, the spirits are about to speak.”- Bullwinkle J. Moose

The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was an American cartoon series which aired from 1959 to 1964. It was structured as a variety show, but it’s main feature was the adventures of rockBullRocket “Rocky” J. Squirrel and his best friend, Bullwinkle J. Moose who lived in the town of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota. Like most comedy duos, there was an intelligent one, played by Rocky and a dimwitted, but good-natured one, played by Bullwinkle. There were a variety of other segments, such as Fractured Fairy Tales, Peabody’s Improbable History, Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, and Aesop and Son, but the highlight of each episode was a two-part episode featuring The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Rocky and Bullwinkle’s adversaries for most of these episodes were two Russian-like spies whose names were Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, spies for the nation of Pottsylvania. Pottsylvania was determined to destroy the United States by obtaining a secret rocket fuel called Upsidaisium, which could only be mined in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota. Each episode consisted of hijinks, silliness, and some very sophisticated Cold War humor which was lost on the minds of most of their young viewers. The series was the ultimate Cold War satire. Boris and Natasha were bumbling agents of a Soviet Union like nation and Rocky and the Bullwinkle were anthropomorphic James Bond like American heroes.

Boris and Natasha received their orders from an intermediary from the Pottsylvanian government named Fearless Leader, who relayed the information from the ultimate head 330px-Boris_natasha_fearlessof Pottsylvania, Mister Big. Mister Big was the power behind Fearless Leader, a now obvious parody of the doctrine of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. When Boris and Natasha or Fearless Leader spoke to Mister Big you never saw him. Instead you saw his shadow, a gigantic image projected through a spotlight on a wall. Mister Big was the ultimate threat, the ultimate fear, and the ultimate enemy. Mister Big was what Rocky, Bullwinkle, and the citizens of the United States ultimately had to fear. The enigmatic Mister Big was viewed in only two of the 156 episodes of the Rocky and Bullwinkle series. The irony was that Mister Big, the ultimate power, fear, and force to be reckoned with was the size of an insect, his presumably huge and looming presence was merely a shadow projected on a wall by a flashlight.

If you’ve been following my rant down memory lane thus far, thank you. There is a lesson to be learned from this about the nature of fear. As part of my day job, I conduct group therapy five mornings a week at a hospital program that I direct in Boston. I use the Rocky330px-Mr_Big_Himself and Bullwinkle Show to illustrate and put into context the nature of fear. Most of us have fears, we wouldn’t be human or mentally healthy if we didn’t. Fear however, is something that exists entirely in the human mind, an anticipation of something terrible that may happen in the future. When we spend too much time projecting negative outcomes of things that might happen, we are much like that flashlight projecting the image of Mister Big on that wall. Fear and negative expectations of the future are not only counterproductive, but they can be paralyzing and render us incapable of making logical and rational decisions.

When I have used this Rocky and Bullwinkle, Mister Big metaphor it never fails to grab the attention of the group. As soon as I mention this cartoon smiles begin to emerge on most of the faces, patients begin to display that ‘oh yeah, I remember that’ attitude and seem to hang on every word, wondering where I’m going with all this. When I make the analogy of our fears being like huge shadows that we ourselves cast I usually get the thrill that every therapist looks for, that ‘ah hah’ moment of insight that emerges in a client.

What the Mister Big metaphor can teach us is that we alone determine, based on our own internal projections, how big and bad our fears, negative self image, negative interpretation of events, and negative expectations of the future are. Understanding and an awareness of this are the keys to our managing our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately our own actions and behaviors. Negative thoughts are a natural part of being human. Let’s just not blow things out of proportion.

“You busy-bodies have busied your last body.”- Boris Badenov

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?: The Positive Benefits Of Pessimism

­”First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.”- Dale Carnegie

What separates the human animal from the rest of the animal world is our unique ability to plan ahead, enabling us to foresee obstacles that could arise. This ability has protected our species, allowing us to survive and thrive virtually anywhere and everywhere on the worryplanet. Much has been written in the last 100 years on the power of positive thinking and positive visualization. Undoubtedly, there is tremendous benefits from positive thinking, but it’s not the panacea for all man’s problems and it has become one of the most misused of personal development tools. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/secret/ ) Our ability to foresee negative possibilities and potential outcomes is hardwired into us as humans, serving us well for over 5 million years. Maybe there is a way to more effectively use this capability to improve our quality of life and increase our capacity for happiness.

Any thoughtful person will occasionally consider the potential negative outcomes of almost any action or behavior. The logical and obvious reason for this is to prevent these negative outcomes from occurring. For example, you have your car inspected periodically, in part because of the “what if something is not safe” logic. You may check your car door upon parking because of “what if somebody tries to steal it” logic. You watch your diet, exercise regularly, and see your primary care physician for annual checkups because “what if there’s something wrong with me” logic. These thought processes, although negative, are part of the logic system of living safely in the 21st century, a way that humans continue to use this hardwired skill in an age where sabertooth tigers do not exist, weather can be predicted accurately down to a period of a few hours, and many parts of the world suffer from health problems because of an over abundance of food. Despite these quality problems and creature comforts many of us still struggle with “what if” thinking and the negative visualization of dreadful and dire things that could go wrong.

Albert Ellis was an American psychologist and one of the founding fathers of cognitive behavioral therapies. In 1955 he developed a cognitive therapy which he called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy which was largely based on the human mind’s capacity for rational thinking, Ellis’s own life experiences, and his interest in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. Ellis used a Socratic method with his clients to good effect, asking them to question and consider all the possible outcomes of their thought processes and behaviors. Very often the question, “What’s the worst that can happen?” provided the necessary therapeutic grist for the mill to create positive change and improve a client’s potential for happiness.

This question leads one to automatically engage in a strategy that Ellis referred to as negative visualization, where a person briefly indulges themselves in a frightening fantasy of just how bad a situation or event might be. The premise of Ellis’s strategy is that the things that we worry about most virtually never happened, at least not to the degree and severity that we forecasted. And, if they do, we will find some way to survive. Some examples were provided in his book, How to Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable. In it he discussed people’s fear of terminal illness, job losses, death of loved ones, and a wide variety of exceptionally bad human adversities that he had worked with in his therapeutic practice. In each case he would ask his clients “What’s the worst that RS_J_North-by-Northwestcould happen?,” and he would artfully explore just how the client could survive the imagined disaster. Ellis wrote, “You can accept the reality that we have no control over what we call “fate” and over the many accidents that may happen. If you frantically think that you have to control all the dangerous events, you greatly limit your freedom and your life. Thus, if you avoid “dangerous” airplane flights, you still may be killed in a car crash and limit how far you can travel. If you “safely” stay in your apartment, you still may get killed in a fire. No matter how you restrict yourself, you still may fall victim to some germ or other hazard. Tough! But you do not fully control your destiny.” By accepting the uncertainties of life, a person is able to let go of the futility of trying to control, in advance, that which is uncontrollable.

Negative visualization illustrates that we spend a disproportionate amount of our lives worrying about things that may never happen and, even if they do, they are things we cannot control anyway. Rather than being a depressing and negative exercise, negative visualization is meant to increase our appreciation of what we have, now, in the present moment. For example, as parents many of us take for granted time spent with our children. Work, golf, our own leisure activities, and “I’m too busy,” often keep us from spending time with our children in the day to day routine of their development. A negative visualization activity would be to imagine suddenly not having your child due to some tragic circumstance. The reality is that you would probably survive this loss, but your life would be filled with grief and regret at not having devoted more time and attention to your child. If visualizing your child’s death is too overwhelming, keep in mind that the 18 to 21 years of their childhood will be over in the blink of an eye. This activity, although initially pretty depressing, allows you to fully appreciate the gift that you have now, right in front of you, of sharing your child’s formative years. Negative visualization allows you to appreciate what you have.

It’s easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of these day-to-day routine events of your life.dad-wearing-gas-mask-while-changing-diaper Maybe your job is difficult and tedious. Imagine for a moment what it would be like if you suddenly lost your job. What would that feel like? What would you do? Imagine your husband, wife, or partner who you’ve been annoyed with lately, suddenly decided it’s over and walked out. What would that feel like? What regrets might you have? What can you focus on or work on right now to improve that relationship? Maybe you haven’t been taking care of your physical health, haven’t been exercising, and have been eating poorly. What would it be like for you if suddenly you couldn’t walk, exercise, or even move? That brief, yet depressing, thought may just be enough to allow you to appreciate the gift of your current health and prevent you from squandering what you have right now.

Negative visualization is certainly not for the faint of heart. It is a bold and brave strategy that takes advantage of the human tendency to, as Albert Ellis said “awfulize.” Negative visualization enables us to appreciate the present through the hindsight of the future. By fully appreciating the simple, routine, and mundane of life we can become more joyful in the present moment and avoid future regrets. Tapping into our natural tendency to ask “what if” and taking a fearless look at the answer to that question can be scary. The realization, however, that the awful event hasn’t taken place, at least not yet, can allow us to be more fully appreciative, grateful, and happy.

Life isn’t necessarily about being happy with the big things. It’s more about appreciating the everyday simplicity of the things that we could easily take for granted.

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?.”- Joni Mitchell

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Hedonic Adaptation: Why Some People Will Never Be Happy

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”- Abraham Lincoln

“I just want to be happy…” How often have you heard someone utter these words or even RTEmagicC_samba_1_txdam130200_0f08e7.jpgsaid them yourself? The pursuit of happiness is so important that it is mentioned in the American Declaration of Independence and is considered to be one of the “inalienable rights” that all Americans have. Few people ever attain lasting happiness and even if they do it may be almost impossible to hold onto. What makes happiness so elusive and what can be done to increase our potential to attain it?

The pursuit of happiness is not just something that is unique to 21st century living. Man has been chasing happiness ever since Adam took a bite out of that apple. During the time of ancient Greece and Rome, philosophers and sages pondered the question of how one can gain a measure of happiness and hang on to it for as long as possible. The pursuit of happiness is also a major focus of contemporary life as well as of modern social science. It appears that third century Greek philosophers and modern-day researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are in agreement on why happiness can be as difficult to grasp and hold onto as water.

Stoicism is a school of philosophy that was founded in the third century BC by an Athenian sophist named Zeno of Citium. The philosophy taught that humans experience “destructive emotions” when their thinking and desires are not in harmony with reality or virtue. To the Stoics, virtue meant living a life where a person’s behavior was in harmony with natural principles such as justice, fairness, kindness, and other pro-social values and behaviors. One became out of sync with virtuous living when they behaved in a way contrary to those values or desired something that was out of line with nature and what was possible. They were also in agreement with the researchers at the University of Pennsylvania that some people, no matter what they possess, won’t ever be truly happy or will have difficulty maintaining the emotional state which we refer to as happiness.

The ancient Stoics taught a principle that they called hedonic adaptation which explainedelvis why some, no matter what they gain in life, will return to a basic level of happiness. According to the theory, no amount of money, fame, nor possessions will allow a person to maintain the elevated level of happiness which comes along with these conditions. Unmet desires and expectations rise along with the acquisition of these improvements, quite quickly resulting in the loss of joyful emotions and a return to their original state of happiness. We’ve all heard stories of lottery winners who blow through millions of dollars and return to their prior financial condition, pro athletes who lose everything from poor decision-making, and celebrities who self-destruct. People prone to these situations are victims of hedonic adaptation. Like I saw on the bumper sticker the other day, “Never Enough.”

Martin Seligman is an American psychologist and educator who has studied the pursuit of happiness over the course of the last 20 years. He and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania School of Positive Psychology have done extensive research and concur with the Stoic idea of hedonic adaptation. Seligman proposes that people have a set point for happiness which they carried into adulthood. The setpoint is influenced by genetics, childhood events, a person’s successes and failures, and how they interpret and process their life experiences. The setpoint becomes their baseline potential for happiness. Seligman argues that all of us have a setpoint for happiness, just as we do for bodyweight. Unlike the Stoics however, Seligman believes that there are ways that a person can elevate this setpoint for happiness to avoid the inevitability of hedonic adaptation.

Seligman, author of numerous books on the subject, teaches a five letter mnemonic, PERMA, that provides guidelines for the adjustment of our setpoint for happiness. Here are Seligman’s five elements to well-being:
⦁ Positive emotion — Can only be assessed subjectively. What emotional states make you feel happy?
⦁ Engagement — Like positive emotion, can only be measured through subjective means. It occurs in the presence of a flow state where time seems to stand still and you are fully involved and absorbed in a meaningful emotional experience.
⦁ Relationships — The presence of friends, family, intimacy, or social connection, sort of like the John Donne “no man is an island” idea.
⦁ Meaning — Belonging to and serving something bigger than one’s self. For many, spirituality, religion, and transcendent experiences serve this purpose.
⦁ Achievement — Accomplishment that is pursued even when it brings no positive emotion, no meaning, and nothing in the way of positive relationships. This is in line with what the Stoics would call living a virtuous life.

Seligman’s research found that people are most happy when their beliefs and action are congruent. Happiness is not just a state of mental well-being, actions and behaviors matter. Satisfaction with life is more likely to occur when people are engaged in activities that they find absorbing, meaningful, and significant, putting them into what positive psychology refers to as a “flow state.” While in this emotional state, people are truly absorbed, time seems to stand still, and people find themselves so in the moment that anxiety, worry, and fears, temporarily cease to exist. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/find-flow/ ) In addition, people possess what Seligman called “signature strengths,” positive behaviors and activities that are sources of pride and self-esteem. People that are happier find ways to use this strength more often.

People who are happy also are more grateful than most of us. They instinctively cultivate a daily attitude of gratitude which becomes a constant focus of attention. Anyone can be grateful for the big things that life sends our way, but people who are happiest are grateful for even the smallest things and they are grateful more often. No need to wait until the last Thursday in November to be thankful for what comes our way. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/attitude-gratitude/ )

Happier people also tend toward altruism, and are more other orientated. They tend to be less self absorbed and derive pleasure from engaging in positive behaviors for the benefit of other people. While we can’t always control what we receive, we can control what we give. This creates a feeling of happiness, coming from a state of empowerment and doing something that is in our control. Research indicates that positive action for others is the greatest way for anyone to develop a sense of self-esteem and a positive self image. This goes hand-in-hand with true happiness. ( See also http://mindbodycoach.org/groucho-marx-syndrome-and-how-to-build-real-self-esteem/ )

The happiest people tend to place less emphasis on material possessions. Although they may have a lot of possessions, they value relationships and positive actions far more than their material wealth. A minimalist lifestyle is by no means a necessity for a happy life, scroogerich122111what is necessary is prioritizing those material things that give us happiness. There are many examples of wealthy people who find happiness and self-worth from sharing what they have with others. Bill Gates is a prime example, having quietly given away more than $28 billion through a charitable foundation he created to improve global health. For every Ebenezer Scrooge they are is a contrasting philanthropist who understands where true happiness comes from. For us folks of average means, being content with what we have is a key component of happiness. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/george-carlin-michelangelo-accumulation-stuff/ )

The bottom line on happiness appears to be this: happiness is an internal state which we create ourselves. It’s not guaranteed or granted to anyone. The Declaration of Independence mentions the right to the pursuit of happiness, not the right to happiness. We have the right to pursue happiness, but happiness itself is not guaranteed. Ancient philosophers and modern researchers are in agreement that happiness is for each individual to define, pursue, and ultimately attain. Happiness lies within the journey, not the destination.

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”- Socrates

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

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