Wednesday, November 23, 2011

12 Things Happy People Do Differently (+1 more from me)

I came across this article today on 12 Things Happy People Do Differently. As I went down the list, most of these items called out an aspect of my life/psyche I feel I've cultivated quite well, but some could use some work. My personal notes are in italics after each point from the article below. I felt compelled to add my own 13th point to the end. Take a look and see what you think.

  1. Express gratitude. – When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything. It makes sense. We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have. [When I was a teenager, something inside me clicked and I realized happiness doesn't bring about gratitude nearly as much as gratitude brings about happiness. It helps to live in a naturally beautiful place as well, but maybe that just the grateful granola in me. More on that on #9 below. (Many of these points overlap, I’ve found)]
  2. Cultivate optimism. – Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times. [I think healthy ambition fits in this category too - say "Yes. I. Can." with confidence and optimism and then do it, and do it well. That way it's not just optimism (read: hope) in the face of challenges, it's a proven track record of accomplishments that serve as a comfort and positive outlook before the next hill to climb. This is very much linked to #10 below.]
  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority. Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out! If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made. What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an older version of yourself. [We all do this to some degree. This one seems to be a big deal these days with the 99% vs. the 1%, the London youth rioting because they want what the wealthy seem to have in the media, people wanting to look like Hollywood celebrities, etc. There’s not much I can say here except that a sense of self-worth and respect is best instilled at the early age, as a child. Tough to train adults in this. Also I think #4 below helps avoid this rut of comparison. Give of yourself to others, especially in service to those who are less fortunate.]
  4. Practice acts of kindness. – Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.) Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness. How extraordinary is that? Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on. A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin. Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names. [As I spent 3 hours early Saturday morning volunteering to vacuum, mop, scrub and dust my church building, I felt surprisingly happy in my labor. A Gordon B. Hinckley quote that stuck with me since my teenage years: "Generally speaking, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves; the happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others...By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.”]
  5. Nurture social relationships. – The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely? WHOA! There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with. We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence. [I love my friends and I’m very grateful for them. I hope they know that. That said, I’ve added a 13th point below about being okay with solitude.]
  6. Develop strategies for coping. – How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character. Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable. Forrest Gump knows the deal. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan. It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal. [Make decisions in advance. Are you a jerk when you’re stressed? Have you ever seriously considered the possibility that your spouse or dog may unexpectedly die one day? What if you lose your job? How will you handle it and what will help you get through it with wisdom and grace? Give some general ‘craptastic’ scenarios some serious thought before they happen, even if it’s uncomfortable to consider. This leads to some soul searching. Don’t run away from it, you’ll come out stronger if you take the opportunity.]
  7. Learn to forgive. – Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being. You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion. When you ‘hate’ someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system. You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day. [Life’s too short to hold grudges. Actually, life is too long to hold grudges. Either way, let it go.]
  8. Increase flow experiences. – Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus. [This is guitar for me. When I sit down in a quiet room and play well-crafted guitar and sing to nobody but myself, I get lost in it. There’s no self-consciousness of a performance for others, no worries about my bills or my job or my future. Just the current acoustics of the room. Find that thing you can do with your hands or your senses that lets you reach that state of flow.]
  9. Savor life’s joys. – Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them. [This is going to sound cheesy, but then you’ll do it (or you already do) and you’ll agree, it’s magic: Listen to good jazz in your dark living room. Live somewhere beautiful where you can take morning and evening walks and savor the scenery. Find foods you love to cook from scratch. Add to this list with your own simple joys you savor.]
  10. Commit to your goals. – Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing. Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose. [Related to #2 above. Make a list of "impressive or difficult things I will do." Write out a plan for each one, and then do each one. If it's the prospect of bragging rights and a level gained expertise that keep you motivated, that's what works for me - just make sure to harness the bragging once you've actually achieved the goal. Be the nice guy that does cool/hard things. You'll still be left with a satisfying sense of fulfillment, and more people will like and respect you.]
  11. Practice spirituality. – When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.” [My eternal perspective and desire to be spiritually in tune definitely contributes to overall happiness. No doubt about it. If you’d like to know more about what I believe, let me know, or watch some videos on J]
  12. Take care of your body. – Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth. [Jaime has commented many times that I look happiest when I walk in the front door after having come down some mountain. No matter how exhausted I may be, I’m also genuinely happy from the inside out. I think half of this is simply being out in nature and the other half is the natural exercise I get from it. Lately I’ve also been training myself to feel the mental and physical benefits of simply eating better, stretching every day (my own amateur version of yoga) and doing pushups and sit ups. Doing these things leaves my mind clearer and happier directly afterward.]
  13. Find joy in solitude. The original list only had 12, and I’m adding this one. I love time alone to think, listen to the radio, play guitar, write or cook. Some things are great to share, and some things are great to do alone. It’s an overlapping venn diagram, and I think it’s important to be okay with solitude. Embrace it when it’s available. I worry about people who can’t handle solitude even in small doses. When their loved ones aren’t readily available, they tend to be miserable because sharing, talking and directly interacting is the only way they know to be happy. This is not to diminish the very real gift of friends and authentic social stimulus (# 5 above). It’s just to say that if they aren’t around, happiness should still be within reach and life should still be an adventure.

Posted via email from eric forsyth's posting place

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Health - Thanksgiving, part 1

I have friends and family that aren't healthy and suffer through some serious physical challenges. Having just completed a full physical with blood and urine analysis, I feel humbled and very grateful to be really healthy. It's probably a good idea to dwell on this gratitude while one is healthy. I thought I'd record it here on my blog to make sure I never caught myself saying "You don't appreciate what you have until it's gone." I think I'll take a hike this afternoon with Annie. If/when I get sick one day, I'll look back and be able to say "I used my healthy days well."

I have daily allergies and my vision isn't perfect, but that's about it. It makes me want to reach out and be whatever kind of support I can to my friends and family that are going through tough illnesses, cancer, chronic pain, etc.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dad, two years later

Two years since my dad died. If you ever want to examine the ingredients that made me exactly who I am today, take some quiet time to listen to tracks 4-7 that were recorded from his memorial service here.

My simple song "Mourning is Love" is the epitome of what I meant in titling my EP "The Thin of Thick Things." That song is a meager thin expression of the thick feelings, thoughts and truths surrounding his unexpected passing. If you want to hear the inspiration behind the song’s title, you can listen to Tim Flanigan's eloquent words on track 9.

The story behind the picture above (taken just several months before his accident) is also in Tim's talk. :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ideology can be annoying, I know.

But I can't help it sometimes.

The more I look at the presidential field, the more I think that if a person really, really wants to be POTUS, and he feels he should be sitting in that seat, that pretty much makes him the type of personality I don't really trust in that seat. If on the other hand a good, balanced, educated, humble, prayerful leader type is reluctantly dragged by his colleagues and fellow citizens into the election and office and then simply does what he feels is best, that would make for a situation I feel better about. I don't think that's happened since George Washington, though I may be mistaken. 

A guy can dream, right?

"He did not infringe upon the policy making powers that he felt the Constitution gave Congress. But the determination of foreign policy became preponderantly a Presidential concern. When the French Revolution led to a major war between France and England, Washington refused to accept entirely the recommendations of either his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who was pro-French, or his Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who was pro-British. Rather, he insisted upon a neutral course until the United States could grow stronger.

To his disappointment, two parties were developing by the end of his first term. Wearied of politics, feeling old, he retired at the end of his second. In his Farewell Address, he urged his countrymen to forswear excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions. In foreign affairs, he warned against long-term alliances.

Washington enjoyed less than three years of retirement at Mount Vernon, for he died of a throat infection December 14, 1799. For months the Nation mourned him."

Just a quick little history reminder for you and me. Carry on.

Posted via email from eric forsyth's posting place