The Truth About Happiness

March 31, 2010 by  
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The feeling of being happy is the ultimate human quest but what does it really mean to be happy?

According to Michael J. Fox,“Your happiness grows in direct proportion to your acceptance, and in inverse proportion to your expectations.”  Now according to Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World, “the source of our unhappiness is expectations. Greed fulfilled makes us ‘happy’ for awhile, but when our expectations are no longer met, we’re miserable.”  And finally the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says that happiness is a state of well-being and contentment.

When I’m feeling blue I ask myself “if this or that happened would I feel happy?”  When I think about the answer and imagine my life with this or that happening, the answer is almost always “no”.  The knot is coming from some place else and it is then I realize happiness is independent of this and that.  Happiness is how we feel inside our minds and hearts.  So the good news is that while this can be complicated, because it does not have a quick fix, it is 100% dependent on us.  We have within us everything we need to reach a more fulfilling life or as the dictionary says; a state of well-being.

If you don’t believe what I’m saying ask yourself if by meeting he or she the loneliness and depression you sometimes feel would go away completely.  Close your eyes and really give yourself a few minutes to day dream.  I know my answer is: meeting him (in my case) would be lovely but that which sometimes grabs my insides would still be there.

What about earning lots of money? Would that make us happy? Yes and no.  Money can make things easier and more exciting but the knot would still remain once the novelty subsided.

I am not advocating for celibacy and poverty but I’m suggesting we should also peel the layers of the onion. Learning about ourselves and becoming our own best friends help us understand why the knots are there. And once we know, when he or she arrives, or the job, or the money, we can embrace these gifts with delirious gusto.

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The Impact Of Loneliness

March 30, 2010 by  
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March 30, 2010 in raw foods by Srinivasan Pillay – www.radishgreens.com

A recent study of 50-68 year old men and women in Chicago, found that being lonely at the beginning of the study correlated with increases in blood pressure two, three and four years later. People with higher levels at the onset of the study had greater increases in systolic blood pressure. This effect was not accounted for by age, gender, race or ethnicity, cardiovascular risk factors, medications, health conditions, and the effects of depressive symptoms, social support, perceived stress, and hostility (Hawkley, Thisted et al.). This study was remarkable because it was not a cross sectional study but instead, people were followed over time. In an earlier study of people examined all at one time, this association was also seen. Why would loneliness lead to your blood vessels being more resistant to blood flow, or your heart straining more to pump out blood?

While the answer to this is not known, a few things about lonely people are worth noting. Did you know that lonely people are rewarded more by things than by the faces of pleasant people? (Cacioppo, Norris et al. 2009) That means that when lonely people see happy people, their brains do not respond with relief. Instead, they turn off. Things, which are probably less threatening, are more rewarding. Furthermore, the brains of lonely people are also more sensitive to unpleasant people. If this is the case, it is conceivable that they suffer at both ends-the heart and the brain. The brain, being less responsive to pleasant things, does not spend much time quieting down the heart or relieving it. And the heart, needing more effort to pump blood to the brain, actually deprives the brain of the blood it needs to relieve itself with pleasant things. What a vicious cycle!

It is no wonder then, that we become nervous when we are lonely, for our bodies are telling us that something is going wrong. We may rationalize all we want about being self-sufficient or about being able to take care of ourselves, and that is true but it seems that denial of loneliness is not really helpful. Your brain and heart know anyway.

In this era of self-sufficiency, single parents, one driver cars and an increasing reliance on superficial modes of connecting, we are jeopardizing our hearts and brains without knowing this. The tendency to act as though nothing is happening does not do much either.

So what should one do about loneliness?
Firstly, if you are lonely, instead of being ashamed, know and understand this deeply. Know too, that filling your life with events and people does not remove loneliness. One of the biggest causes of loneliness is not expressing yourself as fully as you can; not being the complete success that you can be. When people are in the zone, they are usually not lonely.

This is in part because being “in the zone” removes the observing self. Paradoxically, we are most alone when we are split into an observing and experiencing self — when a part of us provides a narrative about life. We are least lonely when the observing and experiencing self are one. This oneness is where we need to be operating from and this oneness is the place where loneliness cannot exist.

Whenever you find yourself having an internal observing narrative: “I am so stressed”, “I feel anxious”, “I can’t believe I did that” — recognize that this is the way of loneliness. The only way we can get our observing voices to stop talking, is to give our all to every moment in our lives; as challenging as that is, it is critical to removing loneliness.

My main message here: removing the observing voice from your head will make you feel much less lonely than having a hundred people in your life. Do this as a favor to your heart. Your brain will thank you.

References
Cacioppo, J. T., C. J. Norris, et al. (2009). “In the eye of the beholder: individual differences in perceived social isolation predict regional brain activation to social stimuli.” J Cogn Neurosci 21(1): 83-92.
Hawkley, L. C., R. A. Thisted, et al. “Loneliness predicts increased blood pressure: 5-year cross-lagged analyses in middle-aged and older adults.” Psychol Aging 25(1): 132-41.

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Slow Down And Unplug

March 29, 2010 by  
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Video Blog 3

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Take A Day Off

March 27, 2010 by  
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I want to remind you to take a day off this weekend.  Either today or tomorrow please don’t work, don’t clean and don’t run around from task to task.

We must unplug and recharge to have satisfying and healthy lives.  Working non-stop doesn’t make us more productive and it doesn’t get us ahead of anybody else.  Working non-stop burns us out and creates stress in our lives.  Stress creates bad relationships and unhappiness.

Technology has in many ways made our lives and communication easy but it also keeps us “on” all the time.  If we don’t slow down we can’t appreciate the gifts life gives us every day.  If we don’t slow down we choke on a beautiful meal or on a complex wine which is meant to be savored sip by sip.

As I grew up in another country and have family living all over the world, I intimately know how other people live.  While the whole world is plugged in nobody is as plugged in as we Americans are.  We work seven days a week and maybe take one or two weeks off a year while the rest of the world takes a least four weeks off a year.  We have very few national holidays while other countries have double or triple the amount of holidays.

Relationships need attention.  We need to slow down and spend quality time with our friends, family and mostly with ourselves.  How can we check within if we continuously go from being super busy to super stressed?  Life needs creativity and creativity needs space to flourish.

Last March 19th and 20th, from sundown to sundown, a national unplug day, was promoted by the Sabbath Manifesto.  Below are the principles they promoted.

The Ten Principles

01. Avoid technology

02. Connect with loved ones

03. Nurture your health

04. Get outside

05. Avoid commerce

06. Light candles

07. Drink wine

08. Eat bread

09. Find Silence

10. Give Back

Please join me in taking a day off every week.  This ancient concept of rest is as important as anything else we might think of doing for our health and work.

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Ten Things To Do This Weekend To Make It A Superb One

March 26, 2010 by  
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1                    -  Make one of the two days 100% work free

2                    -  Run a bath, light candles, read a book or watch a movie

3                    -  Go for a walk or a hike

4                    -  Make lunch or dinner plans with a friend and/or a partner

5                    – Take 30 minutes on Saturday or on Sunday and sit quietly.

Concentrate on your breathing and let the thoughts do their dance your head without attaching any importance to any of them.

6                    – Try smiling all weekend long no matter how you’re feeling.

7                    – Do something nice, big or small, for someone else; either a friend or a stranger.

8                    – Rent a nature DVD like Planet Earth.

9                    -  Wake up late one of the days and spend some time in bed before jumping up.

10                 -  Imagine how you want your life to be.  Make it good.

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The Paradox Of Success

March 25, 2010 by  
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Good post by Roger Fransecky on the Huffington Post on the push and pull of work or personal happiness.

“We are wired to be goal-striving creatures who quest for the prize: the corner office with a breathtaking view, the new BMW 7 series, the prom queen with a Harvard MBA, the staggering bonus, seat 2A, the hole in one.

But the past few decades have been unkind to our definitions of “winning.” Our politics are arm-wrestled by pragmatists eager to appear on “Meet the Press,” who fear change and would rather tweak policy at the shadowy edges. In management we hunger for new ideas and inspiration from the parallel streams of business authors and wily gurus, and we are, too often, left undernourished…Continue

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Politics As A Template For Relationships

March 25, 2010 by  
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This week, John McCain, the senator and the former candidate for the Presidency, who returned to the senate after being defeated by Barack Obama, was so incensed at the Democrats for pushing through a health care reform bill, that he thought it was unwise legislation, that he said he was through working with the Democrats. “There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year”, he stated.

Part of McCain’s popularity that brought him the Republican Presidential nomination when it was clear he was not the darling of the Republican leaders, was the feeling by the moderate Republicans who supported him in the primaries that he was a highly principled conciliator. That he could find a way to take his personal positions and by moderating them and finding a voice in the Democratic Party similarly inclined, he could move the country forward. His record in the Senate proved that, he ran on that, he received the nomination and he almost won the election in a year where a broken economy should have insured an easy Democratic victory.

Now, let’s talk about a relationship like a marriage or a friendship or a business partnership. Let’s assume one of the parties in the relationship does something that the other finds completely onerous. Let’s use cheating in a marriage as our topic. I am using it as an example because of the BIG business that is today in the media with Tiger Woods, Sandra Bullock, John Edwards moving from page 6 to page 1 in the newspapers. Is marriage doomed? Are years of living together, sharing love, children, major life events simply anecdotes in the relationship to be swept away by a cheating mate?

Maybe. It all depends on where the parties are in their relationship when the information is revealed. It depends on how both parties feel about the structure they built together and whether it’s worth saving.

One thing is sure. If one party in the relationship says the equivalent of “There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year” or some other statement or position that shuts the door to talking together, working together, analyzing cause, seeing whether the relationship is salvageable, the relationship is indeed over. But, if the parties take a breath, give it a moment, then see if after the initial shock there is still enough left of the structure to work together and change the dynamics, there is hope. If there is a way to find building blocks to a rejuvenated relationship with the possibility of new happiness and new dividends, then keeping your mouth shut, or at least watching what you say and controlling what you feel may be worthwhile.

How John McCain, who clearly loves his country, can make a statement like the one I quoted is perplexing. Certainly, if, for the good of the country, he can find a way to cooperate, he should. I think he will. How the life of Tiger Woods and his wife unfolds is personally none of my business. But how people in general deal with each other in times of stress is my business. I don’t want to live in a world where people can’t take a breath and suppress their anger enough to try to find a rational solution to their problems. That world is an unpleasant and frankly a dangerous one in which to live.

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Through Grief Into Life

March 24, 2010 by  
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After my husband passed away I put his wedding ring on a chain and wore it around my neck.  Then I wondered when my own wedding ring should join his in the same chain.  Then one day his ring, my ring and the chain were placed in a velvet box in my closet.

Life goes on.

I miss intimacy.  Not just sex but lying in bed with someone and watching TV, having candle lit dinners, and falling asleep with another person’s arms around me.  I also miss having a man around the house doing things I can’t.  And I miss my husband.

The other day a friend came over and hung the house numbers – I had taken them down while having the house painted – which had been resting in a drawer for the last six months.  His presence in a way made me feel as if I was again one half of a couple and I realized how much I like that feeling.  I love sharing.  I specially like to share the good things I accomplish in work, the fun stuff I do or the nice things I hear from others.  When I’m blue I most often prefer solitude.

After my friend or as a girlfriend called him – borrowed husband – finished the house tasks, I cooked a meal and felt compelled to light candles.  I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t add that I also felt physically attracted to him.  While handing him tools our hands touched and I felt his skin to be soft and smooth.  I watched his arms flex as he worked and my heart skipped a beat.

Life goes on.

This was the first time since my husband passed away nineteen months ago that I felt attracted to anyone.  But it was not the first time I thought about the possibility of being intimate with someone else.  Last month I bought online two sets of sexy lingerie that have been living in a plastic bag in my drawer since their arrival.  They are laying low waiting for the right time to adorn my body.

Of course all these feelings are in my head and heart.  I don’t know how or when they will manifest as a reality but when I daydream my needs for giving and receiving love exist without a hitch.  Kisses and touches happen in a most harmonious way and the shock of being in a new man’s arms after years of being with my husband do not stop me from experiencing the moment.

Reality could be somewhat different.  Fear and guilt might populate my heart. Do my feelings mean I love Chris less than someone else who forever will keep their hearts shut?

No.

I know I will always love Chris and he will always be my husband.  But I also know I have in my heart the space for loving and receiving love from another man.

Life goes on.

I won’t rush anything.  I try my best to live one day at a time as life has shown me that plans often go astray in life’s rambunctious nature.

But I do know one day all the love I have in me will find a worthy recipient and then again on a Sunday I will again wake up late with my man and make him brunch.

I am part of a community of men and women whose scars run deep but whose hopes and love for life keep us all going.

Life goes on.  We love, laugh, and cry but above all else we must live with the hurt and the hope.  It is our gift to ourselves and the ones we have lost.

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I Hear You

March 23, 2010 by  
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Below is John’s writing.  He wrote it thinking about his wife who has recently past away.

Your voice is as subtle
as the sound of silence.
I hear your whisper
steady and intense.

Your breath is as natural
as the scent of fresh air.
I inhale and exhale
in meditation and prayer.

Your touch is as soft
as a swift gentle breeze,
I feel the chills
in one heart squeeze.

Your sight is as clear
as a crisp sunny day.
I have insight
when I meditate and pray.

Your taste is as pure
as water from a stream.
I am afloat
in the wake of a dream.

Your wisdom is as bright
as the truth you bestow.
I am inspired
by what you know.

John

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Video Blog 2 – The Teflon Method

March 22, 2010 by  
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