Enough said . . .

Out-foxing cabin fever

Patrice Koerper  Life Coach Wishful FoxMost of the country is snowed in or slowed down again this weekend by one of the coldest, whitest winters in years. Snow is piled high and deep or melting into a mushy mess, and taking everyone’s good mood with it. It’s natural to feel a bit down; Christmas is long gone, the sweet fun of Valentine’s may still be on our lips, but the fear it (and the 5 pounds we gained over the holidays) will stay forever on our hips may be making us feel even more sluggish and surly.

Sounds dreadful, but it truly doesn’t have to be. Don’t let cabin fever make you feel trapped. Here are 6 quick tips for out-foxing the effects of cabin fever, and for using cabin fever to light your fire and put you in a much better mood.

  1. Take cozy to a whole new level.
    • Create a home spa atmosphere for yourself. Light some candles, pour some bubbly and luxuriate in a softly scented, warm tub overflowing with foam.
    • Spend time scrubbing, rubbing, and moisturizing! Use your best body washes and creams to wash away and soften your stress.
    • Then put on your most delicate or coziest jammies and slip into bed beside the one you love or with your favorite book or movie.
    • If you have a guest room, why not use it? Be your own guest and treat yourself to chocolates, cloth napkins, special coffees or teas – anything or everything that makes you feel you are relaxing in a fancy hotel. It’s an inexpensive, surefire way to lift your spirits.
  2. Eat with the ones you love.
    • Plan a picnic on the living room floor with your spouse, significant other or family. Use a big old blanket, table cloth or even beach towels to create a soft spot for to enjoy sandwiches of all  sizes,  pizza or whatever goodies make you smile.
    • Use paper plates and plastic silverware to reduce the clean-up, but make sure to include some sort-of special presentation pieces you will all remember. Serve the pizza off stacks of books piled high in the center of your gathering, line the edges of the blanket with pillows – Kasbah style and/or make up games such as eating the food without touching it with your hands! (If you’re worried about messes and spills, place a plastic shower curtain under the blankets.)
    • Make everyone wear costumes or their bathing suits! Get silly, make it fun and enjoy each other’s company.
    • If you are alone, I hope you are still eating with someone you love! Plan an equally special evening, by eating off fine china with a glass of wine on the side. (A sweet friend did just that recently, and when she shared her precious moment on Facebook, we all got to enjoy the fun.)
  3. Tackle a project.
    • Clean the closet, scrub the floor, organize your drawers, books, photos, crafts. This is the perfect time to finish whatever you’ve been meaning to start!  The sense of accomplishment you’ll get will not only raise your happiness levels, it can spur you on to other tasks.
    • If it is tough getting started, buy yourself something special to help with your task: cute and colorful rubber gloves, organizing baskets or trays – anything that doesn’t bust your budget, but makes the task a bit more appealing.
  4. Embrace the cold.
    • I know of a couple, who were planning on a flight to Florida that was waylaid by cancellations here, there and everywhere. Instead of basking in the sun, they quickly shifted gears and headed for a nearby outdoor ice festival in the cold climes they call home. They plan to top it off with a little outlet shopping, and maybe a lunch of hot soup or  a cup of rich, hot chocolate at one of the small town shops or cafés at the festival.  They found a way to turn a detour into a right turn!
  5. Plan a vacation.
    • Did you know detailed planning at least a month in advance can increase the level of happiness your vacation brings you, and that size really doesn’t matter?
    • A recent study from the Netherlands was shared on the New York Times blog . . . “‘The study didn’t find any relationship between the length of the vacation and overall happiness. Since most of the happiness boost comes from planning and anticipating a vacation, the study suggests that people may get more out of several small trips a year than one big vacation, Mr. Nawijn said. ‘The practical lesson for an individual is that you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the holiday trip,’ he said.”
    • So pull out the maps, go online and create the vacation of your dreams – real or imagined. Either way you will raise your spirits and learn something new in the process.
  6. Invite someone in or out!
    • If you are feeling a bit down, chances are others are around you are feeling the same. Altruistic acts make everyone feel better.
    • Make a call, send an email or post on someone’s FB page to let them know you are thinking of them.
    • If you are not completely snowed in, ask them to coffee at your place or at the corner coffee shop. Lunch and dinner are good too, but even the smallest gesture can make a difference.
    • Bring along a sweet treat and they will remember your kindness for weeks, months and maybe even years to come.

Whatever you do in the weeks ahead, dive into it and be creative. Even if you decide to do nothing more than perfect your favorite couch potato position, give yourself permission to do it and go forth with gusto! By merely making it your plan, you increase the likelihood that you will enjoy it and reduce the chance of lingering regrets or recriminations.

PS Here’s a bonus tip for an instant change of attitude. Click here to get happy with  Pharrell Williams’ Happy (Official Music Video). The video was shared by a fun friend on FB, and it has me dancing inside and out!

 

Reach-Out Monday

Photo Courtesy of Luann Koerper

It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving and for those of us celebrating, we’ve either had a fabulous, fun-filled weekend; quiet cozy moments with family and friends; tough times littered with hurts and regrets or we’ve experienced the more common Thanksgiving weekend combo of all of these emotions and activities.

No matter how your weekend went I have the perfect back-to-work or return-to-normal strategy, which I call “Reach-out Monday”.  In fact, I have declared the Monday after Thanksgiving to be now and forever more – Reach-Out Monday. Spread the word!

Here’s how to be part of this very special day:

Be a bit more patient today.

Use your patience to reach out to someone you might not normally reach out to, or not often enough, or not as willingly, or with such kindness.

Sit with them or stay longer by their side.

Hold their hand, or look into their eyes.

Look into their eyes, or show more interest

Show more interest, or respond more calmly.

Respond more calmly, or share your stuff.

Share your stuff, or offer a helping hand.

Offer a helping hand, and you’ll both feel better.

After all, that’s what Reach-Out Monday is all about.

This post was inspired by another of my posts in 2011, which was inspired by the non-seasonal photo above 
of my sweet grandson reaching out to his little brother. Please post how you participated in Reach-Out Monday.

Never underestimate the power of happiness . . .

International lecturer, author of the “Happiness Advantage”, and former Harvard instructor Shawn Achor recently shared the following research at the Commonwealth Bank’s two-day “Wired for Wonder” conference in Sydney, Australia. The figures are staggering, the research is interesting, and the impact amazing.

MH900448318Happiness matters.

“Ninety percent of our long-term level of happiness is . . . not based on the external world, but how your brain processes the external world,” Achor said. “If we could change that lens some incredible things could happen.”

“If you take four-year-old children, prime them to become more positive and have them put blocks of shapes together, it turns out the children in the positive category will put blocks together significantly faster than children in a negative/neutral category.”

IQ doesn’t matter as much as we think it does.

“If I know everyone’s IQ here in the room and I’m trying to predict your job successes, cross-industry, over the next five-year period, it turns out that IQ and technical skills are only responsible [for] and only predict 25 % of your job successes,” Achor told the conference.

The pattern has been observed again and again: “Happiness and optimism can be much better predictors of productivity than IQ and technical skills,” Achor said. According to research undertaken in the late 1990s, doctors who had been primed to be more positive were 19% faster and more accurate with coming up with a correct diagnosis and were more “intellectually flexible” when presented with a misdiagnosis.

Success and Happiness

MH900401133“… if you raise your levels of happiness, it turns out every single business and educational outcome improves. Our success rates rise dramatically. Raising success does not raise levels of happiness but raising levels of happiness dramatically increases your success rates.”

Before Happiness

Achor’s second book, “Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success” is due out in September, I’ll be sharing more info from it with you as soon as it’s available.

Have a great weekend, and make it even better by asking yourself each morning, what one thing can I do today to bring more joy into my life. . . and then do it!

Gain “The Happiness Advantage” in just 21 days!

Positive Psychology studies show happy, positive people are healthier and enjoy more creativity, success and have better relationships. Are you interested in adding more happiness to your life? Would you like to gain a “Happiness Advantage”? If so, keep reading to learn about Shawn Achor’s 5 Steps for creating your Happiness Advantage and to get a free copy of my Wishful Thinking Works tracking sheet to make the process just that much easier!

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor “graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics. For seven years, Shawn also served as an Officer of Harvard, living in Harvard Yard and counseling students through the stresses of their first year. Though he now travels extensively for his work, Shawn continues to conduct original psychology research on happiness and organizational achievement in collaboration with Yale University and the Institute for Applied Positive Research. . . . By researching top performers at Harvard, the world’s largest banks, and Fortune 500 companies, Shawn discovered patterns, which create a happiness advantage for positive outliers—the highest performers at the company. Based on his book, The Happiness Advantage (2010 Random House), Shawn explains what positive psychology is, how much we can change, and practical applications for reaping the Happiness Advantage in the midst of change and challenge.”

Shawn understands “The Happiness Advantage” and has created “The 21 Day Challenge” to help each of us get started on a positive future. The 5 steps of the Challenge are free and easy to do. (Please note: Shawn’s notes are in bold and are from a Huffington Post article he wrote in 2011. My notes are in italics.)

1)    Bring gratitude to mind

Write down three new things you are grateful for each day . . . Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even six months later, and raises your success rates significantly.

You’ve probably heard it from Oprah and by now from dozens of other sources, but do you do it? If not don’t worry, you can start today. For more info on gratitudes and savoring them, click here, here, and here.

Here is a bit more from a Shawn Achor interview about why it works . . . “What they’re training their brain to do is to scan the world, not for the stresses, hassles, and complaints first, but actually training their brain, like an athlete, to look for the things that they are grateful for.  Now, you might assume that that advantage might only help them for about 45 seconds after writing down these three things that they are grateful for, or saying them out loud.  But what we found that after a period of 21 days, the pattern gets retained in the brain, it’s what I call the Tetris Effect where if an individual plays Tetris for five hours in a row, their brain retains this pattern where even when they’re not playing Tetris, it’s still parsing the world into how do I make straight lines, which is exactly what you do in that video game.”  

2)    Focus on the Positive

Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours.  This is a strategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker, to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos.  This dramatically increases work happiness.
This step really helps you key in on why something matters to you and can help you truly understand what makes you happy. Take time throughout the 21 days to review what you wrote about and see if there are any patterns emerging. 

3)   Exercise

Exercise for 15 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.

In a TED Talk Achor mentioned 15 minutes of cardio a day, which is I shoot for since it gives the most bang for its buck – BUT getting into the habit is the most important part, so if you need to start with 10 minutes, do it! Walking, stretching, working with weights, go for it!  No matter what you start with, get started and keep at it until the 15 minutes of cardio is a regular habit.  Exercise increases your mood by increasing the amount of endorphins and decreases cortisol levels – the stress hormone. So any exercise is a good thing, but remember 15 minutes a day, of cardio will have multiple pay-offs.

4)  Meditate

Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out.  This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. Research shows you get multiple tasks done faster if you do them one at a time.  It also decreases stress and raises happiness.

Two minutes makes a difference! If you are meditating longer, keep it up. If you aren’t meditating at all or never have, get started by thinking about one of your positives/gratitudes and why it mattered to you and then simply close your eyes, breathe in through your nose, out through your nose, in long, slow, deep, belly filling breathes . . . and release . . . and inhale . . . and exhale . . .

I call this Step “Take 2″; it’s amazing how refreshed you will feel, and it can quickly become a healthy habit. Use it as many times as you like throughout the day. I love to “Take 2″ before I start a new task, and find it particularly refreshing before meetings, presentations, and working with clients. It helps me focus and really enjoy the moment and to redirect my energy exactly where I need it!

5)  Send A Positive Email

Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team.  This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which in my study at Harvard was the largest predictor of happiness for the students.

If you aren’t working, or run out of folks to email, no problem, share the love by including friends, family members or people from your past you think of, but have fallen out of touch with. The key is to reach out to those you care about in a detailed, positive way. And, if you are working, remember your “team” can include colleagues in your department or beyond, vendors, customers, etc.

Here’s the really great news about Achor’s 21 Day Challenge you can add all 5 Steps to your life for 21 days, or you can start by simply adding 1 Step to your life for 21 days, and then try another each new 21 day period! The choice is yours. And remember, any step in the direction of happiness will give you an advantage!

To make the process even easier I’ve created “Your 21 Day Happiness Advantage” tracking sheet. To receive your free copy, simply fill out the form below and I’ll email a copy to you. (Don’t forget to share this post with your family and friends so they can gain the Advantage, too.)

Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching

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Today is First UN International Day of Happiness = Be Happy!

Today, March 20, is not only the spring equinox, it is also the first International Day of Happiness! The origins of this new, worldwide celebration can be traced back to the actions of Bhutan, a teeny, tiny country perched high in the Himalaya Mountains between China and India.

I first wrote about Bhutan and their approach to happiness in June of 2010. In 2008 Bhutan took a totally different approach to determining the well-being levels of the people of their nation when they developed and adopted the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH).

Because of their groundbreaking acceptance of the GNH instead of the worldwide standard of  Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which focuses on economic standards, Bhutan began tracking indicators such as:

Psychological wellbeing  Ecology Health
Education  Culture Living Standards
Time Use  Community Vitality Good Governance

I revisited the topic in my “Happy is as Happy Does” posts in 2011 and 2012. I was, and still am, fascinated and encouraged by Bhutan’s peaceful version of the “David and Goliath” story – a very small nation is changing the way the world looks at success. To learn more about how the first International Day of Happiness came to be, please read author’s Frances Moore Lappé’s Huffington Post’s article, which I have copied below in it’s entirety . . .

Got Happiness? First UN International Day of Happiness” by Frances Moore Lappé

Don’t laugh. It’s true, and it’s serious business. Today is the world’s first International Happiness Day, declared by the UN to signal the importance of going beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of progress. We need, says the UN, better measures of society’s real wellbeing — including happiness.

GDP was never meant for the job. In 1934, Harvard economist and Nobel Laureate Simon Kuznets devised the measure to help the U.S. climb out of the Great Depression, but he was clear about GDP’s limits, warning congress that “the welfare of a nation can…scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income…”

How right he was. Since the 1960s, U.S. GDP per capita has doubled, but average happiness? It hasn’t budged.

Finally, people are starting to pay attention. Noting what a poor guide GDP has been, an international movement is underway to create metrics of progress that incorporate multi-faceted wellbeing. And, it could be game changer, if you consider this finding of the Gallup Millennium World Survey: Polling almost 60,000 people in 60 countries, Gallup ranked ten things that matter most to people. At the top were health, a happy family life, and a job, while “Standard of Living” — what the GDP supposedly captures — was one of the least important.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALeading the movement to remake what we measure has been the tiny, mountainous Asian nation of Bhutan, population of 740,000. Its goal is “Gross National Happiness.” Six weeks ago, as a member of a UN-promoted International Expert Group for a New Development Paradigm, I traveled to Bhutan where, with a couple dozen others invited from around the world, I deliberated on how to measure wellbeing.

Why Bhutan?

In 2005, after the Fourth King relinquished the throne to his son and instituted a British-style parliamentary democracy, Bhutan began in earnest to build the world’s first Gross National Happiness Index — a comprehensive approach to measuring well-being that includes not only psychological well-being (life satisfaction, emotions, and spirituality) but also subjective assessments in eight other “domains” that include health, education, good governance, and ecological diversity and resilience. Five years later a Bhutan survey found 41 percent of its people happy, meaning they’d attained “sufficiency” in two-thirds of (weighted) indicators, such as work, literacy and housing. Only 10 percent were “unhappy.”

Then, in 2011, Bhutan took leadership on the world stage. In July it sponsored, with 68 co-sponsors, UN resolution 65/309, “Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development,” which flatly stated that GDP doesn’t reflect the goal of “happiness” and declares that a “more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach is needed…”

UN General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus and invited member states to take action. So in New York City last spring Bhutan hosted a meeting on new wellbeing indicators, attracting 800 enthusiastic attendees and exceeding all expectations.

Already, a number of countries, including Canada, France and Britain “have added measures of citizen happiness to their official national statistics.” Just one year ago, Japan launched its first Quality of Life Survey that leads off with “a sense of happiness.” Italy is also a leader, in part using online consultations with citizens to develop twelve domains for measuring well-being, including health and the environment, along with specific indicators like “quality of urban air.”

Here in the U.S., two state governments, Maryland and Minnesota, have gotten serious about happiness — generating more realistic, comprehensive measures of progress. Maryland’s Genuine Progress Indicator both subtracts and adds about two dozen things that GDP doesn’t capture: from, on the negative side, the costs of lost leisure time (as much as $12.5 billion a year), pollution clean-up and crime to, on the positive side, the value of volunteer work.

And in 2011 the city of Somerville in Greater Boston became the first U.S. metropolitan to survey its residents on their happiness and wellbeing — finding, among many discoveries, that the city’s “beauty and physical setting” are “relatively important” in how residents value Somerville.

On the first International Day of Happiness, just knowing these initiatives are getting underway and taken seriously by the United Nations, makes me happy.

# # #

Upcoming Wishful Thinking Works events you wont want to miss:

Patrice Koerper will be presenting two special Wishful Thinking Works workshops in Cleveland, Ohio: on Saturday, April 20 “Reenergize and Redirect Your Life” and April 27“Flourishing Together” for mother and daughters ages 9-12. On May 17-19, she will host a Wishful Thinking Works weekend retreat at the world renowned Safety Harbor Spa in Tampa, Florida. Plan to join us, if you want to discover new ways to create beginnings and balance in your life

For ways to develop more happiness in your life, follow Wishful Thinking Works or visit Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook. Later this week I’ll be sharing ways to create your personal happiness index!

For free Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching information, click here.

Have a great day!

Guidelines for living from a very valuable perspective

Today’s post truly is about how we live, but I did take my cues directly from Susie Steiner’s online article in the Guardian about Australian-born palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware and Ware’s book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”.

You see, after numerous, but unfulfilling, adventurous twists and turns in her life, Ware spent time taking care of folks who were dying. Those experiences led her to blogging and eventually to sharing the thoughts and regrets of those she was helping, along with her personal journey, in her book.

Both her work and their thoughts are touching and valuable, which led me to turn them into “Guidelines for Life”, since all of us reading them still have time to act on them!

Here are my “Guidelines for Life” fashioned from the”The Top Five Regrets” Ware shared in her book and Steiner outlined in her article.

  1. Have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not one shaped by that others expect of you.  Not doing so is the number one regret Ware reported in her book.
  2. Don’t focus time and energy on your career to the exclusion of your children, spouse or significant other. Ware notes that this was one of the top regrets of men. (Most of the folks Ware nursed were from a generation in which men were the primary breadwinners.)
  3. Find the courage to express your feelings. Don’t keep silent about issues and people who truly matter to you; let folks know you care and where you stand. Silence can lead to confusion, resentment, and bitterness.
  4. Stay in touch with your friends. Continue to seek ways and find the time to connect with those your care about throughout your entire life.
  5. Let yourself be happy, even silly. Happiness is a choice, choose it.

For tips on how to craft your life around courage, being true to yourself, and creating rich and rewarding relationships browse through the past Wishful Thinking Works posts or start following Wishful Thinking Works today. No reason to live a life of regret, when creating the life you really want is always an option.

Wishful Thinking Works life coaching can help you build the life you truly want.

Having a coach in your corner, is a great way to quickly move forward with the changes you want to make in your life.

For more information, click here.

Visit Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook!

 

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