5 Ways a Daily Mindfulness Practice Will Increase Your Happiness One of the most effective ways to increase your happiness and reduce your stress level is to engage in a daily mindfulness or meditative practice. You don’t have to spend hours a day in order to achieve results, but you do need to do a little research and gather some helpful tools, like a quiet space, perhaps an app or video to guide you through your practice as you learn. The goal is pretty simple. Mindfulness is a type of meditation that helps you to focus on what you feel or think and accept it without judging. You can do this in really short sessions—as little as two minutes to begin. There are a number of great free apps that offer guides to mindfulness practice. My favorite is CALM. Before you know it, your daily practice will begin to bring results. Here are 5 ways a daily mindfulness practice will increase your happiness: 1. Reduce Stress Level Regular mindfulness or meditation practice lowers the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the brain. A regular practice—and this can take just a few minutes each day!—can actually physically change the activity in your brain and alter your hormone levels so you feel less stress and anxiety. 2. Reduce Depression It may seem counterintuitive to think that spending more time in your head would help reduce depressive thoughts and feelings, but the science doesn’t lie. A study at Johns Hopkins found that the effects of meditation were moderate, about the same as for antidepressants. 3. Reduce Job Burnout Here’s something exciting to note: the research on mindfulness as a way to reduce workplace stress and burnout is so compelling that some companies are beginning to offer mindfulness training to their employees, such as nursing staff, who routinely experience high stress situations. 4. Increase Attentiveness Spending a few minutes quieting your body and focusing your thoughts not only has an impact in the hormone levels in your brain, but also helps increase your ability to focus. A mindfulness or meditation practice is a great way to help teach your brain not to rush from thought to thought, but to be able to pause and hold one thought at a time. 5. Grow a Happier Brain In my book, 21 Days to Happiness, I talk about some exciting studies that show how meditation and mindfulness practices can actually help you grow a happier brain. This is really exciting research, and it means that happiness really is something we can choose to pursue. Just like targeting a particular part of your body in a strength-training workout, you can target the happiness centers in your brain with a meditation or mindfulness practice of your own. Are you ready to give it a try? Ingrid Kelada Owner of KCC Positive Business Psychology & Happiness Expert Try all 21 Days to Happiness in My Book There’s never been a better time to pursue happiness with my book, 21 [...]
5 Ways to Happily Celebrate the Holidays in a Socially Distanced Season With the challenges and losses we’ve faced this year, gearing up for happy holidays may feel more overwhelming than usual. Some of our traditions may be altered or impossible this year. It’s easy to get focused on the things that are missing, to notice the empty spots on the calendar where a holiday party might once have been. It’s okay to grieve for those things. What we don’t want to do, though, is let the losses swallow up our attention and steal the possibilities of other happy holiday celebrations. Instead, take some time to reimagine your holidays. Are there things you can update or reinvent that allow you to celebrate in a socially distanced way? Here are 5 ideas to jumpstart your imagination and help you reframe your traditions and help you keep the happy in your holidays. 1. Send Videos to Friends and Family Use an app like Marco Polo or another app that lets you record a video message and send it to a loved one. Then record yourself or your family. Make it as serious or as funny as you want. A quick Internet search will give you lots more ideas. 2. Have a Holiday Movie Marathon Fix your favorite snacks and warm drinks and curl up on the couch with your household to watch holiday movies together. My favorites are Elf and Love Actually. What are yours? Some movie apps have a feature where you can set up a “watch party” and invite other households, so you can watch the movie together, even if you’re not in front of the same TV. 3. Make or Send a Gift Basket or Stocking Many families will choose to forego or postpone an in-person gift exchange this year, but you can still send something special to the ones you love. Personalizing the gifts with notes on why you chose each item or what made you think of the receiver will help bring you closer together. 4. Choose a Special Holiday Dish to Prepare Lots of holiday traditions center around food and sharing big meals together. It may be impossible to recreate those on your own, but choose one dish—maybe a favorite dessert or treat or Aunt Lucy’s famous sweet potatoes, whatever makes the holiday special to you—and ask your family member for the recipe for that dish. Serve it with whatever you want, even order the rest of the meal prepared if you prefer. Share some pictures of your baking experience with your loved ones. 5. Volunteer and make someone else happy In my book, I mention that one of the most effective way to increase our happiness is through acts of kindness. There are so many ways you and your family can pay it forward. Some people may be alone this year, why not make cards or cookies to let them know that they are special? Make These Holiday Happiness Boosters Your Own Try the ideas [...]
Creating a Happy Family is an Investment Family relationships can be some of the most challenging and most rewarding relationships in our lives. When relationships at home are going well, we feel much happier and better equipped to endure stressful situations in other parts of our lives. What better way to increase our overall happiness than to invest in happiness in our family relationships? Here are 5 tips for creating and increasing happy family relationships that you can start doing right now. Each of these things takes only a minute or two to do. Try them all. See how they improve your family’s overall happiness. 1. Create Opportunities to Express Gratitude Set up a bowl or jar with some scraps of paper beside it. Each day, perhaps just before dinner, ask family members to write down something they are thankful for. Periodically—such as when the bowl gets full, as part of your New Year’s celebration, etc.—read the thankfulness notes together as a family. This creates opportunities for you to hear what’s meaningful in your family members’ lives. It also means you get to relive those positive moments together. 2. Give Positive Feedback Often Everyone loves feeling appreciated and knowing they did a good job or that something they did was special to you. Make a point to compliment the people in your family when they do something helpful or good. Relationship Tip: If you’re noticing a lot more conflict than usual in your home, try this. Suspend all criticism for two weeks. Don’t say anything critical, and instead focus on pointing out the good things your family members are doing. Be specific and genuine. See what happens after two weeks. 3. Display Pictures from Family Events Around the House Frame that picture of the fish you caught while you were on the lake with your son. Hang the one of you with your daughters at the zoo on the refrigerator. Print the picture of you and your partner at the top of a hike and put it on your dresser. Use a digital frame to scroll through multiple experiences. You can even add new pictures over WiFi with some types of digital frames. Posting these pictures where you can see them in your home means that as you go about your normal routines, you see images that remind you of those positive moments with your family, and you feel happier. 4. Create Electronics-Free Zones This might mean no phones, TV or other devices at the dinner table, or no phones or devices for the first ten minutes in the car. Use the time to talk to each other. Ask open-ended questions. Listen without always expecting to have a chance to respond. 5. Eat Together Regularly For some families, gathering around the dinner table every night is impossible with everyone’s varied schedules, and that’s okay! But it doesn’t have to mean that you never have the opportunity to gather over a meal together. Try crafting at least one regular meal time [...]
If you're a creative person, a pack rat, a shopper or a collector, minimalist living and the idea that fewer things equals greater happiness may feel impossible to you. It doesn't have to be! And you don't have to be a true minimalist in order to decrease the amount of possessions you own and increase your happiness. Who’s in Charge Here? If you’ve seen the movie Fight Club, you may remember the scene in which Tyler Durden talks about the paradox of owning things. “The things you own,” he says, “end up owning you.” It’s especially easy to feel this in our lives when things aren’t going well. For example, when something breaks can mean having to take time to find someone to fix it and then squeeze extra funds from our budget to cover the costs of repairs. Even maintaining and cleaning out stuff can end up making us feel like a slave to our things because we of the time it takes to care for them. Do you have things that sit gathering dust, or memberships that are going unused? Are you working extra hours or skipping other activities because your budget is tied to paying for things you’re not even using? Evaluate Your Needs and Hobbies Take a moment and try to look at your home the way an outsider would see it. Think like a minimalist as you walk room to room. What items do you rarely or never use? What things do you never have time to clean, take care of, or enjoy? Think of Marie Kondo as you walk through your home and look at what you have. Do these things bring you joy? Or have they become a burden in some way? Sometimes things represent a guilt burden as well as a financial one. If you feel a twinge in your chest every time you walk past the treadmill you’re not using, it’s probably time to come up with a different approach to your fitness. Guilt isn’t an effective exercise! Get rid of the treadmill and find a fitness opportunity that energizes or excites you instead. Take Time to Divest Yourself of Unused Things Take ownership of your things and decide what you really need. What’s taking up too much space? What’s eating up your budget that you simply don’t need or use anymore? Evaluate options besides ownership. If you love to go out on a jet ski but only find time for it a few days of the year, it may be more cost effective for you to rent one for those days when you go out on the water. That way the burden of caring for, maintaining, insuring, and storing the jet ski doesn’t fall on you, and you can be sure you’re only spending money on a jet ski when you’re actually using one! Create a place for items you’re ready to donate, like a box in your garage. Get into the habit of actually giving away items. It may [...]
More Work Doesn’t Equal More Productivity According to the American Dream Project, the average American works between 43 and 51 hours per week. That’s a lot of hours! One key question to consider as you plan your own workweek is, are you getting the best productivity from your work schedule? Does working extra hours actually make us more productive? The truth is, it doesn’t. In fact, the United States is ranked 5th in productivity behind countries like Norway, Belgium, and Ireland. Yet people in those countries work fewer hours than we do. So, how do we make our working hours more productive? Work Time Versus Productive Time Here are some interesting facts to consider: The average person is only productive 5 hours a day, yet our average workday is 8 hours, or more! Fewer people take breaks and vacations than ever before, which means people spend more time working than in past decades. Working more means feeling more exhausted, which also decreases productivity. Why Do We Work So Much? North Americans tend to have a higher living standard than some other countries. A lot of this comes from convenience spending, which is largely driven by our long workdays. But having more things and having easier access to food and entertainment don’t actually promote happier or more productive lives. Instead, those things can be a kind of escapism. We work hard, we’re tired, so we buy ourselves a treat—a fancy prepared dinner or a new outfit—rather than treating our bodies and minds to the things we really need, like rest and companionship. Happiness Equals Productivity Want to know how you can maximize your productivity while decreasing your stress? The answer might surprise you. Happiness! Taking time to invest in your happiness has a significant impact on your productivity at work. According to the Great Place to Work Institute, the companies with the happiest employees are also the most productive. Happy people have more energy, are more resilient, and suffer from fewer health problems. In other words, taking regular breaks and limiting your work time so that you allow yourself to rest and spend time with people you love actually makes you a better, more productive worker. Try This For Increased Productivity Set a timer on your phone to remind you to take regular breaks at work. While on your break, go outside and take deep breaths. Focus on a distant object or building to let your eyes rest, especially if you work on a computer. Listen to a favorite song or watch a funny video on YouTube. Get your mind away from your work for a few minutes. When you return to work, notice how your body feels. Do you feel more awake? Do you have more energy? Is your focus sharper? More on Breaks and Happiness For more information on how to improve your productivity by using breaks and managing your time to boost happiness in your life, check out chapters 15 “Take a Break: Life is Not a Race” [...]
What do You do When Feel Unhappy? Everyone has days when they feel down. What do you find helps you on those gloomy days? Do you go out for a meal? Maybe see a new movie? Visit a friend? Take a walk? Do you get a buzz from jogging or going to the gym? Maybe you find it energizing to go shopping. Or perhaps you treat yourself to an ice tea with friends to overcome your unhappiness. We all have our preferred methods to shake off a dreary day. Sometimes those things are enough to make us feel better in the moment. But science tells us something interesting about achieving real happiness. Right now, scientists are in the process of showing us how happiness can only come to us through internal change and positive daily habits. Other things might lift our moods for the moment, and that’s not a bad thing to do. But real, lasting happiness doesn’t come from keeping up with the latest movies or sharing a round of cocktails or beer with friends. Learn Meditation as a Happiness Habit Consider the research by Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin and Jon Kabat-Zinn from the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre. The study involved 41 stressed, but otherwise healthy, individuals working in a biotechnology firm in Wisconsin. 25 participants were taught mindful meditation, in which you focus on what you’re experiencing in the present moment, such as emotions, thoughts, and other sensations. The group of 25 met for a few hours each week to learn mindful meditation. Each member of the group was also asked to meditate at home using a guided meditation for one hour per day. Then after six weeks of training, all attended a meditation retreat. The other 16 were held as a control group and did not receive meditation training until the study was completed. After eight weeks, researchers collected data on brain function in areas that activate when we feel positive and happy. The results confirmed that the participants who were taught meditation had increased brain function in these areas as well as a measurable boost in their immune systems. Not only did using their minds help these study subjects feel happier, it also helped their bodies become healthier, too! Not for You? Try this! You think meditation is not for you? You’ve tried it a few times and it didn’t work for you? You’ve read the research but you are just too busy or active? That’s what I thought, and then I learned that there are many ways to meditate. If you can breathe, you can meditate! I have explored different ways of meditating that fit with my “excited” personality and my favorite is walking meditation. I even have downloaded a guided walking meditation app from here. You can learn more on how to increase happiness in my book, 21 Days to Happiness. Chapter 18 guides you through setting up your own simple daily meditation practice. Try it today! [...]
Creativity or Problem-solving One of the amazing things about humans is our constant endeavor to create or improve things. When we are inspired to create something, we demonstrate our passions or talents. When we run into a problem, we want to fix it and come up with a solution. These days it’s not unusual to complain about something and hear someone say in response, “There’s an app for that!”. Whether we are trying to express our creativity or simply improve our lives, coming up with something new seems to make us happy! Inventions are all around us. From books and music to sports and games to comfort items to technological gadgets aimed at making life simpler. Someone created every one of them! Any form of creativity is enough to fill us with happiness. Think of the joy that comes from cooking a special meal, decorating your office, coming up with a tool for your job or playing a song. The creator enjoys this happiness that comes from the pride of putting in the effort and seeing the final result. Creating is great, sharing is better But the joy goes far beyond the creator. We feel happiness and wonder when we see an amazing photograph or a winning touchdown. Creating something is an incredible way to share joy with the people around you and to fill your own life with happiness, too. Each day, develop the habit of noticing created things, from complex tools like the internet to the simple necessities so easily taken for granted, like a doorknob. Celebrate the examples of artwork or inventions you pass in your day to day life. Maybe you spot a magazine on the table with a great cover, hear a great song at the coffee shop or a colleague just shared something to improve things at work. What Can You Create? We live in an amazing world, and when we remember that, it helps boost our happiness and sense of wonder. And as part of the human race, that ability to create resides in all of us. What sorts of things are you good at creating? Maybe you’re good at cooking or organizing. Perhaps you’re a great fisherman, handy with your hands or gifted at spontaneous one-line jokes. Celebrate your talents and share them with others around you. Here’s one final thought to leave you with: “The secret of happiness is this: let your interest be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile”—Bertrand Russell. BE HAPPY! Looking for more happiness tips? Check out chapter 20 in my book, 21 Days to Happiness, in which I share how to use your talents at work to boost your happiness. You can also find out more on the power of creativity in chapter 2 which teaches how music affects our happiness. Ingrid Kelada Business Psychologist/Happiness Expert KCC Inc.
This is the perfect time of year to boost your happiness by going outside every day. What's amazing is you don't have to spend hours outdoors in order to receive the happiness benefits. Just a few minutes each day is usually enough to make a big difference in our levels of happiness and energy. Going outside is free. It's easy. And it offers some pretty significant benefits to our health. Here are just 3 of the reasons to put going outside on your daily calendar starting this week. 1-You Need Sunlight to Make Vitamin D Your body makes vitamin D while you're out in the sun. Researchers believe at least 1 billion people suffer from vitamin D deficiency. When we don't get enough vitamin D, we can begin to experience symptoms of a vitamin deficiency, such as fatigue, increased vulnerability to illness, back pain, and even depression. OMG! All those things would make it difficult for anyone to experience happiness. The great news is that all you have to do to "right the ship" so to speak is to start spending time outside. Try to spend at least 15 minutes outdoors at a time of day when the sun is high in the sky. At least 15 minutes on a daily basis is enough for many people to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D. The darker your skin is, the longer you need to be in the sun to create vitamin D. 2-Nature Brings Us Peace The sound of the wind in the trees or waves gently lapping the shore can ease tension in our bodies and help us relax and forget about daily worries. Watching living creatures like birds, butterflies, and even fish can lower our stress levels and help us remember how big and beautiful our world is. Going outside also allows us to mentally clock out and get away from our computer screens. Staring at something only a few inches from our faces for long periods of time can stress our eyes. Taking a walk outside allows our eyes to focus on objects far away and lets those muscles we use on the computer have a rest. 3-Nature Allows Us Opportunities to Connect Another benefit to spending time in nature is it allows us opportunities to authentically connect with others. Take a friend or loved one on a picnic and notice the difference in the way you connect while you're out and away from distractions like your computer and TV. Try leaving your phone in the car or in a bag where you won't be tempted to keep checking it. Be present in nature, in the moment shared with your friend or loved one. Those authentic connections also allow us opportunities to relax and ease stresses we may be feeling. They also allow us to create new memories with people we care about, which gives our happiness another boost every time we think back on those great experiences. Try This Look at your calendar for this week and [...]
Did you know... According to the Statistic Brain website, 76% of people cite money and work as the main causes of their stress. As an organizational psychologist and happiness expert, I can tell you that people think it's normal to be stressed, overwhelmed and tired, but it's not! Certainly, when experiencing it, stress gives energy, but in the long run, it hurts our performance. Stress is the answer to a perception of danger. In difficult situations, the adrenaline released allows us to be fast, strong and agile. It's very practical in the moment, but in the long term it harms our physical and psychological health. Here are the 2 most effective tips I recommend in my practice. 1-Breathe Slowly and Deeply By slowing down our breathing, we send a signal to our brain that we are in control. This allows us to react better because we are more effective when we are calm than when anxious or exhausted. A practical tool to control our breathing is cardiac coherence. This method of monitoring heart rhythms was discovered by American researchers and then widely publicized by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. It is believed that the average number of complete breaths that is related to positive emotions and well-being is between 5 and 7 per minute, depending on the person. By "complete breathing" we mean long, deep inhalations and total exhalation: the cycle is about 10 seconds in total (5 seconds of inhalation, 5 seconds of exhalation). Quick tip: try this…To guide you with your breathing, here is a video with instructions. In addition, I suggest you download the APP RespiRelax-iOs or RespiRelax-Androidon your smartphone, so you can easily "de-stress" between crises in about five minutes! 2-Learn to De-dramatize Stress, as previously mentioned, is caused first and foremost by our perceptions or interpretation of events. If you think a situation is severe or negative, your stress automatically increases. Conversely, if you think there is a solution to everything and that things could be worse, your stress decreases. One thing I love to do to help de-dramatize comes from the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. The book poses the question “will it matter a year from now?”. Usually, the answer is NO! Most of the time, we are stressed with things that are usually quickly resolved. We tend to manage multiple emergencies and crises per week to which we most often find solutions. I always say: “if there is not a solution, there is a lesson!” Quick tip: try this… Since I am not a physician, when dealing with problematic situations at work, I often say to myself: "There are no lives in danger" and this allows me to regain my composure in order to find the best way to deal with the issue. Do you want to know more? You can learn more tips on managing stress in my book, 21 Days to Happiness, in chapters 12 and 13. 21 Days to Happiness is a practical guide offering 21 different simple techniques to try for 3 weeks in order to increase your happiness, productivity and energy. Do you have [...]
What do you buy the person who has everything? Have you heard people ask this question? Sometimes it seems overwhelming to try to think of a gift for a friend, coworker or loved one when they seem to have everything they could ever want already. It's probably because you're thinking of giving them a thing, an object, something they could easily buy. I'm going to tell you a secret about gift giving that will change how you think about birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas celebrations. Ready? Here it is: the best gifts aren't items. They're experiences. Opportunities to Buy Experiences Are All Around Us Look around your community for local events and experiences. Take a music-loving friend to hear a community orchestra or a jazz ensemble. Find a new park or trail to hike together and pack some fun snacks to share along the journey. Is there a show or an exhibit coming to a museum or gallery near you that your spouse or coworker might enjoy? You can also help your friends and family members by suggesting these kinds of experiences as gifts. Doing something together to celebrate your birthday creates a memory that lasts. It gives you new stories to share and gets you out of your routine to add a little freshness to your life. Celebrate with Experiences Any Day Giving experiences doesn't have to be expensive. You can bring them muffins, take a picnic lunch somewhere fun. Pick up smoothies and walk at a local park. Invite someone for coffee or for a meal. Spending time together and getting away from daily distractions allows you a chance to connect to the people who matter most to you. You don't even have to wait for a special day to celebrate. You can give this happiness-boosting gift any day! So this year, as the people around you celebrate milestones, keep experiences close in mind. Look for opportunities to share them with the people you appreciate to show how much you care by giving them a lasting gift of happiness. Get More Tips and Information on Improving Your Happiness Learn more about how experiences impact happiness in Day 16: Money: Buy Experiences, Not Things, in my book, 21 Days to Happiness.