Newsletter 9/20/22; Embracing and Sharing Joy!

Flip the Script on the Sunday Night Blues

 

Set the Tone for your Week with these 6 Pro Tips

Does anxiety creep in when you think about the upcoming week?  Do those thoughts get you to feel a little blue on Sundays?  The anticipation of what the next week has to bring can leave you feeling stressed and depressed.  Often people can get worried about unfinished tasks at work or home that need to be tackled come Monday morning.  Creating a work-life balance can be challenging with the demands of our jobs and our children’s school and activity schedules.  Some simple shifts can be done to help manage overwhelming feelings and take the dread out of the approaching week.  Practice these ideas to start your week on a positive note and gain joy back in your Sundays.

1. Be Proactive with your Tasks

Many people save Sundays as their weekend task day.  Try switching things up.  See if you can tackle your chores, shopping, and meal prepping on Friday night and early Saturday morning.  If you can tackle your task list early in the weekend, then you can spend the rest of your days off doing leisure activities.

2. Spend some Time on Yourself… READ MORE


How Do I Find Joy When I Am Stressed and Overwhelmed

Ok, let me start by saying I’m a pusher. Not the kind selling drugs around the schoolyard, but the kind whose natural response to difficulties in life is to put my head down and push my way through. I’ve pushed my way through anxiety and exhaustion, pain and sadness. In my freshman year of college, I pushed my way through both studying and partying, so hard that I ended up pulling a muscle in my chest during finals and requiring painkillers. Then I pushed through that too, taking my finals while dosing up on Percoset.

During graduate school, finishing my thesis (on the topic of joy!) took so much effort that I holed up in my apartment for nearly a month, sleeping four hours a night and taking a break only for a couple of hours to see my mom for Thanksgiving. In my first year at IDEO, out of my depth on a complicated project, I cried in the bathroom and then returned to my desk and kept working, never asking for help lest anyone think I couldn’t handle it. Once, I got so sick on a research trip that a coworker found me huddled on the floor of a car dealership bathroom. (That was low.) READ MORE


The Science Behind the Joy of Sharing Joy

Positive experiences happen to us every day, yet we don’t always take full advantage of them. Have you ever noticed that it could be a great day (you had eight hours of sleep, it’s the weekend, had a great conversation with a friend, etc.), but that it takes just one harsh word from someone or one piece of bad news to ruin the day? Research by Shelley Gable and Jonathan Haidt suggests that we have three times more positive experiences than negative ones. What keeps us from fully capitalizing on all the good in our lives, making us a slave to the bad?

Researchers have identified two main tendencies that keep us from experiencing, extending, and expanding our joy: negativity bias and habituation. The negativity bias refers to our mind’s innate tendency to give more weight to the negative; Roy Baumeister has shown that we tend to remember and focus more on negative experiences. Habituation, discussed in research on the hedonic treadmill, refers to the fact that while we receive boosts of happiness from new positive experiences, over time, we get used to these experiences and they no longer have the same effect. READ MORE


Defining Happiness: The Four Elements

The reason is understandable; it refers to an internal human experience, all of which to some extent are subjective.

It may be preferential, therefore, to use the word ‘happiness’ as an umbrella term. In doing so we can use it as a reference point, rather than a simple noun.

We could agree that to be happy is essential to feel ‘well’; that is, the sense of living through a ‘good’ experience, or a ‘good’ life.

So, what constitutes a feeling of ‘wellness’? There are four key elements I suggest are not only essential but primary in a life that can be described as happy.

1. Exhilaration, 2. Resilience, 3. Meaning, 4. Transcendence… READ MORE

 

Flip the Script on the Sunday Night Blues

Set the Tone for your Week with these 6 Pro Tips

Does anxiety creep in when you think about the upcoming week?  Do those thoughts get you to feel a little blue on Sundays?  The anticipation of what the next week has to bring can leave you feeling stressed and depressed.  Often people can get worried about unfinished tasks at work or home that need to be tackled come Monday morning.  Creating a work-life balance can be challenging with the demands of our jobs and our children’s school and activity schedules.  Some simple shifts can be done to help manage overwhelming feelings and take the dread out of the approaching week.  Practice these ideas to start your week on a positive note and gain joy back in your Sundays.

1. Be Proactive with your Tasks

Many people save Sundays as their weekend task day.  Try switching things up.  See if you can tackle your chores, shopping, and meal prepping on Friday night and early Saturday morning.  If you can tackle your task list early in the weekend, then you can spend the rest of your days off doing leisure activities.

2. Spend some Time on Yourself

Make sure that you take some time for yourself during the weekend before the hustle and bustle begin.  Doing this on Sunday is a great way to relax and unwind as you enter the week ahead. Weekend self-care doesn’t need to be something big like going to the spa.  It can be something simple like reading a good book, going for a walk out in nature, resting, taking a bath, journaling or spending time with friends and family.  Whatever activity brings you joy and peace is what you want to seek.  It could be as simple as 20 minutes of quiet alone time.

3. Put Down Your Phone

Don’t waste your few days off with your face on your phone.  Take a break from social media, emails, and text messages.  We tend to compare ourselves to others when we scroll on social media. There’s nothing worse than lying on the couch on a Sunday and seeing people on your social media feed appearing to have the perfect life while you feel buried in a never-ending to-do list.  We waste so much of our precious time looking at our phones.  Use your free time wisely.  Spend actual face time with the ones you love instead of looking at what your acquaintances are up to.  Your emails will wait till Monday.  Focus on activities that make you feel good.

4. Be in the Moment

When we are anxious about the future week, we can get the Sunday Scaries. During the weekend, focus on shifting your thought process and be more present in the current moment instead of letting your mind worry about the week to come.  Be mindful of the fun and relaxing activities you are partaking in with loved ones or the peaceful time alone. Simple habits like these can foster a sense of calmness and reduce the anxious thoughts that come with the Sunday blues.

5. Practice Gratitude

Staying in a state of gratitude can help to make your body feel more relaxed.  As you move through your weekend, focus on the things that bring you gratitude.  If your mind starts to worry about work on Monday, try to change that thought to be thankful for your job.  Start and end each day with a short list of things that you are grateful for.

6. Make the Most of Mondays

Mondays don’t have to be dreaded.  They can be a great way to reset and refresh.  Set a positive intention for the week to come by listening to a motivational playlist or podcast on your way to work.  Then, make sure to create some space in your Monday for something you enjoy, such as a weekly lunch date with a coworker or taking the kids for an after-school treat. Planning something you enjoy will keep the positive weekend vibes going and help kick off your week on an upbeat note.

Source: marpewellness.com ~ By: Julie Paiva, CHHC ~ Image: Canva Pro

Defining Happiness: The Four Elements

It’s one of the worst words in the dictionary to define.

The reason is understandable; it refers to an internal human experience, all of which to some extent are subjective.

It may be preferential, therefore, to use the word ‘happiness’ as an umbrella term. In doing so we can use it as a reference point, rather than a simple noun.

We could agree that to be happy is essential to feel ‘well’; that is, the sense of living through a ‘good’ experience, or a ‘good’ life.

So, what constitutes a feeling of ‘wellness’? There are four key elements I suggest are not only essential but primary in a life that can be described as happy.

1. Exhilaration

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: The smiling face. There’s no doubt that laughter, liveliness, passion, zest, and ecstasy are all feelings associated with happiness.

However, it’s vitally important to know this is the very tip of the iceberg. Experiences like this are wonderful but they are not all we are capable of knowing.

Feelings of exhalation are brilliant and of course, should always be welcomed, but by nature are temporary and fleeing.

And that’s good.

True happiness is not always feeling positive. It encompasses innate characteristics such as empathy, compassion, sacrifice, and service. All of which, at times, would not be described as ‘positive’ experiences. But I’m sure we can agree they are elements of a life well lived.

2. Resilience

I would go as far as to suggest every single person would have a richer, more productive, and enjoyable life if they developed the skill of resilience.

We all are presented with enormous challenges at one time or another. Our ability to face these obstacles with enduring psychological strength has unfathomable importance in our lives.

This is where the deep concern of covering one’s problems with temporary highs and attractive objects plays a part, and another reason it’s important to have perspective on the ‘smiling face’ notion of happiness.

Grit and determination give us the ability to navigate through the toughest of days with hope and the desire to see ourselves through to a better life.

3. Meaning

This is where we begin to experience real happiness. Knowing your day has been spent productively – towards goals that are meaningful to you – this is a happy life.

Often this comes in the form of service to something of personal importance or the expression of creativity within your specific skill sets or passions, later being a source of joy to others.

Meaningful activities are ones we are fully enthralled with. Activities that we lose ourselves in can only speak about how enjoyable it was in the past tense. Activities where time and self are not in existence.

To partake in meaningful activities also brings a sense of fulfillment. Expressing one’s natural capacities and strengths in the pursuit of excellence feel worthwhile and fruitful, almost as if we are partaking on a mission, completely oblivious to the notion of attainment or successfully committed to the process, the journey, the labor.

Living with meaning – that is; to create meaningful things or experiences, or to spend time helping a cause deemed meaningful to us, allows the fullness of the human experience to unfold. It’s the sun to the flower, the fuel to the engine.

4. Transcendence

And the crux of it all. A risky word for many, but desirable for all. Transcendence can be otherwise described as the sense of internal freedom or inner peace.

This is the knowledge that there is simply more to life than work, things, experiences, achievement, and fulfillment.

It’s a deep understanding that the course of our history had a beginning and will surely have an end. Our lives on Earth are to be enjoyed, explored, and endured, but not to be obsessed with.

It could be said, transcendence is the feeling of carelessness. The ability to approach all things in life with playful negation and unidentified, unattached exuberance.

In this state, we are less affected by the lows of life, less sensationalized by the high-spirited attractions of our creations – simply at peace.

Arguably it’s more than an aspect of a happy life. It’s to have won.

Source: kulraj.org ~ By: ~ Image: Canva Pro

The Science Behind the Joy of Sharing Joy

Positive experiences happen to us every day, yet we don’t always take full advantage of them. Have you ever noticed that it could be a great day (you had eight hours of sleep, it’s the weekend, had a great conversation with a friend, etc.), but that it takes just one harsh word from someone or one piece of bad news to ruin the day? Research by Shelley Gable and Jonathan Haidt suggests that we have three times more positive experiences than negative ones. What keeps us from fully capitalizing on all the good in our lives, making us a slave to the bad?

Researchers have identified two main tendencies that keep us from experiencing, extending, and expanding our joy: negativity bias and habituation. The negativity bias refers to our mind’s innate tendency to give more weight to the negative; Roy Baumeister has shown that we tend to remember and focus more on negative experiences. Habituation, discussed in research on the hedonic treadmill, refers to the fact that while we receive boosts of happiness from new positive experiences, over time, we get used to these experiences and they no longer have the same effect.

How can we counter this tendency to assign greater weight to the negative experiences in our life? A recent study by Nathaniel Lambert and colleagues at Brigham Young University gives us a clue. Their research shows that discussing positive experiences lead to heightened well-being, increased overall life satisfaction, and even more energy.

This research may seem surprising because we are often reluctant to talk about our good fortune. We don’t want to show off. Sometimes we don’t want to “jinx” ourselves. Or we may feel guilty that good things are happening to us in the face of the suffering that exists in other people’s lives. Bonding over complaints, commiseration or even gossip somehow feels more proper, realistic, and grounded. However, Lambert and colleagues’ research suggests that describing our happy experiences to close friends and romantic partners is a better idea.

Several studies have shown that making daily lists of the things you feel grateful for—which helps draw our attention to the positive experiences in our lives—improves our psychological and physical health and well-being. For example, gratitude improves our ability to connect with others, boosts our altruistic tendencies, makes us optimistic and happier, decreases envy and materialism, and even improves health for people with physical ailments (neuromuscular disorder, in one study). Lambert’s new study, however, extends research on gratitude to show that verbally expressing the gratitude we feel to people close to us helps increase and sustain our well-being above and beyond simply feeling or writing down gratitude. Great literary figures have long known that happiness grows in sharing. In one of her letters, Charlotte Brontë observes “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” In The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf writes “Pleasure has no relish unless we share it.” Lambert’s research provides empirical validation of their wisdom.

The researchers found that people who habitually tend to talk to people they are close with about the good things that are happening to them also tend to feel happier and more satisfied with life. They also found that the more these people shared their happiness with someone on a given day, the happier and more satisfied they were on that particular day. To determine whether sharing happiness caused this boost in well-being, the researchers then invited participants into a laboratory with a romantic partner or friend. Participants were asked to write down a positive experience or a neutral experience like a fact they had learned in class and either share it with their partner or not. Those that shared a positive experience with their partner experienced a greater boost in well-being than those who did not share their experience with their partner or who shared a neutral experience with their partner. These findings suggest that it is the act of sharing happiness (and not of just thinking about happiness but not sharing it, or of sharing neutral information) that boosts well-being.

Next, the researchers investigated the effects of regularly sharing happiness over a longer period (four weeks in this case). New participants were asked to write daily in a journal about experiences they felt grateful for, or about neutral subjects they had learned in class. They were then either given no further instructions or were instructed to share these with a partner twice a week. Those who shared their grateful experiences with a partner reported greater satisfaction with life, happiness, and vitality (level of energy and zest for life).

One reason that the study asked participants to share their experiences with close friends or romantic partners may come from the fact that these people may be more likely to support us. In the study’s last experiment, the researchers noticed that participants that received constructive, encouraging, enthusiastic, and positive messages after a successful experience (a high achievement on a test) showed greater signs of happiness, love, and appreciation. We’ve all experienced sharing an exciting event or plan with someone who did not respond in kind or, worse, criticized our idea and left us deflated. When sharing a positive experience, it is important to select a supportive listener.

The bottom line: sharing our joy increases joy. Telling people about our happiness has far greater benefits than just remembering it or writing it down for ourselves. This research may also help partially explain research by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler has shown that our well-being influences that of those around us, up to three levels of separation. To try and be happy may seem like a selfish endeavor but it is a worthwhile goal to pursue not just for oneself but for our community. In turn, we can help support others’ joy by encouraging them to share their most positive experiences, and the things they feel grateful for. Supporting a friend or acquaintance’s well-being in turn may impact not only ourselves but the well-being of all the people connected to that friend. Albert Schweitzer, a German physician and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was right when he said “Happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it.”

Source: psychologytoday.com ~ By: Emma Seppälä Ph.D. ~ Image: Canva Pro

How Do I Find Joy When I Am Stressed and Overwhelmed

Ok, let me start by saying I’m a pusher. Not the kind selling drugs around the schoolyard, but the kind whose natural response to difficulties in life is to put my head down and push my way through. I’ve pushed my way through anxiety and exhaustion, pain and sadness. In my freshman year of college, I pushed my way through both studying and partying, so hard that I ended up pulling a muscle in my chest during finals and requiring painkillers. Then I pushed through that too, taking my finals while dosing up on Percoset.

During graduate school, finishing my thesis (on the topic of joy!) took so much effort that I holed up in my apartment for nearly a month, sleeping four hours a night and taking a break only for a couple of hours to see my mom for Thanksgiving. In my first year at IDEO, out of my depth on a complicated project, I cried in the bathroom and then returned to my desk and kept working, never asking for help lest anyone think I couldn’t handle it. Once, I got so sick on a research trip that a coworker found me huddled on the floor of a car dealership bathroom. (That was low.)

I used to think that this was a strength, a form of grit that made me resilient. But after an incident a few years ago, where I experienced a level of anxiety and burnout that surfaced as a persistent tingling sensation that wouldn’t go away, I began to see this in a different light. It was true that pushing through obstacles had helped me survive the difficulties of my childhood — my parents’ divorce and my mother’s illness — and that it had contributed to my career success. But at what cost? If my body was trashed in the process, was this really resilience?

I share this story because it helps to give context to why I feel like this question is so important. When we get stressed and overwhelmed, that’s often when we forget to look for joy. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I’ll see friends when I get through this test/presentation / rough patch.”
  • “I wish I had time to go see a movie / take a walk in the park / leave my desk for lunch but I’m just so behind on everything.”
  • “I don’t feel like I deserve to go get a massage/read for fun / take a vacation.”
  • “I feel guilty being joyful when my mom/partner/friend is struggling.”

When we are faced with persistent stress or overwhelming circumstances, many of us respond by postponing joy. Joy becomes something we either have to earn or deserve, through patience, hard work, or self-denial.

But here’s the thing — the science says that this is all backward! We shouldn’t put off joy until after we’re out of a stressful situation. Instead, we should see joy as a tool for coping with stress. Joy is a form of resilience.

Let me say that again: Joy is a form of resilience.

Small moments of joy help the cardiovascular system recover from stress. When we feel stressed, our bodies flood with chemicals like cortisol and epinephrine which raise our heart rate and blood pressure, keep us alert and focused, and help us respond to the challenges at hand. This is an adaptive response to stress, and it works well when it’s temporary. If stress becomes chronic, on the other hand, this places strain on the body and can lead to exhaustion and illness. But when we experience joy, such as by watching something funny, taking a little while to become absorbed in play, or spending time in nature, it gives our bodies a break from this stress response, enabling us to recover.

Joy also helps us recover mentally. According to psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, emotions can cause upward or downward spirals. When we feel sad or anxious, this can cause us to withdraw from social support and things we enjoy, which makes us sadder and more anxious, creating a negative feedback loop. Positive emotions like joy break this feedback loop, stopping the downward spiral. And they can also kickstart the opposite — positive spirals — that lead to greater connection, happiness, and wellbeing.

So this helps to explain why we should bother looking for joy when we’re feeling stressed. But how can we go about it?

START SMALL

In a moment of stress, it’s common for a scarcity mentality to set in. We feel we don’t have enough time, money, or energy to spend it on joy, so we hunker down and wait for better times. Rather than feel like you have to battle this impulse, just start small. Can you afford 5 minutes or $5 worth of joy? Most of us can. You might find that the energy boost you gain from the break will pay dividends, making it easier to allocate more for joy in the future.

WIDEN THE APERTURE

Stress narrows our focus, causing us to ruminate on our worries and fixate on our challenges. Joy might be right in our midst, but we simply don’t notice it. One way to broaden our attention back out is to get out into open space, preferably at some elevation. Giving our eyes room to focus on the distance not only lets the rest after hours spent staring at things up close (like our devices) but also helps us take in more of our surroundings.

As a child, I used to climb a tree in the backyard or go up on the roof when I was feeling upset or overwhelmed. James Taylor’s well-known song “Up on the Roof” describes this feeling:

When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I’ll climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space.

Research helps explain this effect. Studies show that moving upward in space, even if only the distance of a flight of stairs, helps broaden what’s called a perceptual scope, helping us to zoom out and focus more on the big picture than on the details. When we’re up on the roof, our problems start to feel smaller, giving us more space for joy.

GET A NATURE FIX

The power of nature is that it not only elicits joy; it also reduces stress. Studies show that being out in nature quiets a part of the brain called the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which decreases our tendency to brood over problems, making us literally feel more carefree. Even if you can’t get outside, you can try bringing the outside in by sitting somewhere with a view of trees or greenery, incorporating plants or nature imagery into your decor, or listening to nature sounds like birdsong.

PLAY A GAME

Play is, in many ways, the opposite of stress. One of the key characteristics of play is that it is an “apparently purposeless activity.” While it might seem excruciating to do something that seems purposeless while you’re overwhelmed by stuff to do, play does something interesting. It makes us temporarily forget about two of the things that often make us most stressed out: our sense of time and our sense of self-consciousness. Think about what it felt like to play tag as a kid. You became absorbed in the moment, thinking only about running away from the person who was “it,” not worrying about whether you were late for dinner or what your hair looked like. Play gives us a powerful break from stress, restoring our resources so we can handle the other things that life throws our way.

PHONE A FRIEND

When we’re in distress, we often have an inclination to isolate ourselves or commiserate with someone who’s also stressed out. But emotions are contagious, so if we want to find joy amid stress, it benefits us to seek out our most joyful friends in troubled times. Because emotions can be transmitted even just by the tone of voice, a brief call with an upbeat amigo can be a joyful break that can have lasting effects. Not to mention that reinforcing our social connections can help remind us that we’re not as alone as we think we might be.

This topic is one that I’ve written a lot about over the years. For more ideas on how to find joy amid stressful circumstances, check out the post: 5 Ways to Find Joy in Tough Times. And for perspective on how to stay joyful when life isn’t going your way, check out this excerpt of my book Joyful, on the power of renewal.

Source: aestheticsofjoy.com ~ By:  Ingrid Fetell LeeIngred ~ Image: Canva Pro

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