Happy is as happy does, updates

Did you know there is a Happy Planet Index, (HPI)?

The HPI multiplies the subjective life satisfaction and the life expectancy of a country, and then divides it by the country’s ecological footprint.

The first HPI was published in 2006, the second one in 2009, the third in 2012. Guess which country has been #1 since 2009 . . .

Costa Rica!

In 2009 Costa Rica was #1 of the 143 countries reviewed. In 2012, it was #1 of 151 countries. Their medium level of environmental impact, very high well being and high life expectancy levels keep them at the top of the Happy Planet Index. (Their life expectancy is better than ours!)

The US was #114 in 2009; today it is 105 – that’s progress, but means 104 countries have higher HPIs than ours! (Didn’t you think ours would be at least in the top 10, 20, 50, 100?)

In 2009, Macedonia was ranked #111; unfortunately in 2012, they dropped to #127. (I lived in Macedonia for three years, have been back each year since 2009, and consider it one of my three homes.) I also lived in the Republic of Georgia for three and a half months, and fell in love with folks there, and I’m thrilled to say their current rank is #55! Their “relatively high life expectancy and a low ecological footprint” keeps them high on the HPI. Way to go Georgia! Happy is as happy does.

The HPI folks have set a target for nations to aspire to a score of 89 of 100 by 2050; “the highest HPI score is only 76.1, scored by Costa Rica.” (And, that was in 2009, it is lower now, but still higher than everyone else’s.)

Yup, we have a way to go, but I have no doubt we will get there both as a country and a planet because the topics of happiness and well-being are becoming mainstream and other positive indicators are getting attention throughout the world.

I’ve posted about Gross National Happiness (GNH) in the past. The King of Bhutan started that score rolling in 1972, when he decided that GNP, Gross National Product, a very commercial way of  looking at a country’s success, wasn’t the only way he wanted to assess his country’s viability. I like that. Here’s a new video that explains how Bhutan developed it’s GNH, and what happened after it did, including a 19 year increase in longevity and a 50% increase in literacy.

Did you know Australia, Britain, and China along with other major countries are developing new ways to assess their countries well-being? They, too, agree that GDP alone, is not the best indicator of how well their nations are doing. They’re putting time and money into well-being research, conferences and programs, which is good because even though household income for Americans has risen dramatically since the 1950’s, our happiness levels have remained relatively the same. Study after study shows that money is not the best indicator of happiness.

Would you like a free, quick and guaranteed way to raise your happiness level this week? Starting today, think about one thing you could do each day to make someone else happy, and then do it! Happy is as happy does.

Focusing your attention on finding ways to put a smile on the face of your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, children, neighbors, coworkers, friends and strangers will make you happier, too. We are social creatures and enjoy being connected to one another; by focusing your attention on others you can reinforce those bonds and bring depth and stability to your life and the lives of those around you. In fact, simply thinking about what you would like to do for someone or making yourself more aware of others and their feelings, can raise your happiness levels and mood because it takes your attention off yourself and your worries.

As you begin your happiness-raising week, remember it is the little things that count; no grand gestures necessary. And, don’t worry about being thanked in return; do it with an open heart and see what happens.

Happiness inducing tip: next time you feel the least bit slighted by a person or situation, instead of worrying, ruminating and plotting revenge – do something nice for someone else. Repeat as necessary, and you will be amazed at how quickly your world brightens. Happy is as happy does.

Let me know how it goes, and please share this post with your friends and family. If enough of us get involved, we just might raise the USA’s Happy Planet Index standing!  I’d like that.

Have a great week – do something happy!

PS This post was first published in July of 2011 and was updated for today’s posting.

PSS For a daily update on USA’s well-being, check out the Gallup daily well-being index. The data is free, and is broken down by state and congressional district, which by the way, makes a geeky gal like me very happy! (Please note: The HPI uses Gallup data in their formula.)

PSS For a nifty Gallup report on the U.S.’s well-being in 2011, click here.

If you would like help raising your personal well-being level, contact Patrice Koerper for her life coaching services.  Wishful Thinking Works life coaching can put you on the fast track to happiness!

Changing debates into dialogues

Have you ever been in a conversation that ended-up being more of a confrontation?

Do you often feel misunderstood, or even angry that people just don’t seem to get you or your point of view?

Do you spend time thinking about what you wished you had said?

Do you find yourself thinking about what you are going to say next, rather than listening to what others are saying?

I know I have! Each of these situations may be related to our tendency to engage in “debates” more often than dialogues. In fact, our conversational style may actually be preventing communication rather than enhancing it.

If you are interested in exploring and/or improving your conversational style, here are some thoughts on the subject. This chart was posted in 2011 on the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation web site. I believe it was developed for group and organized discussions – but I  could be wrong 🙂  I do think it can be applied to any and all conversations – personal and otherwise, and may be a great way to start a dialogue about dialoguing. Let me know what you think!

As you read it, take a moment to think about how you and your spouse or significant other converse, and how you settle differences or share information, ideas and opinions with co-workers, family and friends. And, remember that the one of the fastest ways to change a situation, is to change our role in it! It’s all part of being the change we want to see . . .

Dialogue Debate

Collaborative: two or more sides work together toward common understanding

Oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong
Finding common ground is the goal Winning is the goal
One listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning, and find agreement One listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments
Participants speak for themselves as individuals whose own experiences differ even from others on their “side.” Their behavior is likely to vary from stereotypic images others may hold of them. Participants tend to be leaders known for
advocating a carefully crafted position. Participants’ behavior tends to conform to   stereotypes.
Participant’s point of view is enlarged and possibly changed Participant’s point of view is affirmed
The atmosphere is one of safety; facilitators propose, get agreement on, and enforce clear ground rules to enhance safety and promote respectful exchange. The atmosphere is threatening; attacks and interruptions are expected by participants and are usually permitted by moderators.
Assumptions are revealed for re-evaluation Assumptions are defended as truth
Introspection of one’s own position occurs Critique of the other position occurs
There is the possibility of reaching a better solution than any existing solutions One’s own positions are defended as the best solution; other solutions are excluded   and new solutions are not considered
An open-minded attitude is created; participants express uncertainties as well as deeply held beliefs. A close-minded attitude is created; participants are determined to be right and express unswerving commitment to a point of view, approach, or idea.
Participants Search for basic agreements Participants search for glaring differences
Participants search for strengths in other positions Participants search for flaws and weaknesses in other positions
Holds that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution

Holds that there is a right answer and that someone has it

Your positivity ratio and how to raise it!

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson is a leader in the positive psychology field; her work has been on my mind a lot lately. Her research on positive emotions is groundbreaking, and is really good stuff that can change your life – if you let it! I’ve been sharing her work at my Wishful Thinking Women Meetups and workshops and with clients. One year ago I shared it with you, here’s what we talked about . . .

I’ve mentioned Dr. Barbara Fredrickson a couple of times in previous posts. She’s the researcher, who developed the “Broaden and Build Theory” of positive psychology, which states that positive emotions broaden our awareness and perception thereby increasing our curiosity, creativity and choices.

The “Broaden and Build Theory” is the other side of the coin, so to speak, of the “Fight or Flight Theory”, which notes that we are designed to focus and narrow our vision and responses in short-term, quick-decision, dangerous situations. Both emotional responses have value – there are times when we need to react quickly, with precision and almost instinctual intent and when we need to allow ourselves the freedom to fully enjoy and explore life and its options.

The good news is, our brains are hard-wired for both. The bad news is, many of us have allowed the occasional need for fight and flight responses to spill over into many or all of life’s everyday activities. We are constantly on the lookout for emotional and physical threats, or have come to believe that bad news (i.e., psychological danger) is lurking around every corner. Our preoccupation with all things negative, stresses our bodies and may be leaving us feeling frustrated, angry or depressed.

Not to worry, after identifying and qualifying the value of positive emotions, Fredrickson took her research one step further and in her 2009 book Positivity, she quantified their value. Fredrickson and her team of researchers formulated the 3:1 positivity ratio of positive to negative emotions. The ratio is a simple but valid mathematical equation for revealing happiness levels. I like to think of it as the psychological tipping point between getting by and soaring high. 

“80% of Americans fall short of the ideal 3-to-1 positivity ratio.”

Yikes! According to Fredrickson, 80% of us are not at our best. That’s not to say we are miserable, we’re not, but we are also not as happy or fulfilled as we could be.

Fredrickson’s research shows that we need to have 3 positive emotions for every 1 negative emotion to flourish. Her work indicates that our world’s do not need to be perfect for us to flourish – negativity can still be present (as represented by the “1” in the 3:1 ratio), but as long as the ratio is 3 to 1 we are good to go.

Fredrickson notes that a 2:1 ratio means we are getting by. We might be happy, but not at our best and when faced with negativity or hard times, we can easily slide to a 1:1 ratio. Is the difference between 3:1 and 2:1 important? Here’s what Fredrickson has to say on the subject:

” . . . experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions leads people to achieve what they once could only imagine. Far from frivolous, tapping into one’s own unique sources of positivity is a wise and healthy investment in the future.”     

And, here is the truly important aspect of Fredrickson’s research, with simple changes and targeted tweaking we can move ourselves from a 2:1 to a 3:1 ratio, or higher, which improves the likelihood that we will create the lives we really want! You can improve your internal environment and enhance your external landscape by:

  • becoming more aware and savoring what is good in your life;
  • focusing on your strengths and what you and others do well;
  • predicting better for you and your loved ones;
  • adding a bit of mediation to your daily mix;
  • doing more of what you love – even the simplest little things,
  • and maintaining and enriching your relationships.

If you are interested in assessing your positivity ratio, Fredrickson has created a free online survey to help take our emotional “temperature”. (My word not her’s). To get a true “temperature” reading, Fredrickson suggests taking the survey once a day for two weeks. The survey only take three minutes to complete. If you would like to give it a try, click away. (Taking the survey even once, provides valuable insight because it shares specific examples of positive and emotional states; I highly recommend it.)

If you would like to learn more about the “Broaden and Build Theory” or the positivity ratio, click here to listen to an online interview with Barbara Fredrickson discussing her theories and research.

PS A super special shout-out to all the new Wishful Thinking Women in Tampa. Really enjoyed meeting and talking with you on Saturday – hope you are still feeling the glow – I am!

If you are ready to improve your or your organization’s positivity ratio, you do not have to do it alone. Contact Patrice Koerper; Wishful Thinking Works life coaching, workshops and seminars for help!

Landing your dreams!

Talk about Wishful Thinking working, today NASA landed the rover “Curiosity” on Mars! 

The Curiosity’s voyage to Mars took more than eight months and spanned 352 million miles!

Curiosity is not the first rover on Mars nor will it be the last, so it might be hard to remember when landing anything on Mars was considered “wishful thinking”, a pipe dream, or impossible. And, as we all know now, the naysayers were absolutely wrong!

What dreams are circling your world? Which ones have you been ignoring, putting off, or too shy to even admit?

Don’t let the naysayers (include the ones in your head) hold you back. Start dreaming.

I truly believe wishful thinking works, that it is the first step in realizing our dreams.  Before we can do, we need to dream. I think the best way to do that is to figure out how we want to feel and how we want our lives to look and be.

In honor of the Curiosity’s mission to “see” what’s happening on Mars, why not take a new look at your dreams? Let your curiosity run wild. Click here for free Wishful Thinking Works resources to get you started.

If you already know what you want, then start doing – make the call, sign-up, say your sorry or goodbye, send the application, start saving, exercising, listening, loving, reading, writing  . . .  take a step in the direction of your dreams.

Don’t waste another minute, get started today creating the life you really want. NASA landed the rover on Mars- where will your dreams land you?

If you want help dreaming and doing, contact Patrice Koerper to get started with Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching. Your dreams are a terrible thing to waste!

One year ago this week . . .

Gratitude, happiness, a road trip and a wedding – 2011


I’m with three of my eight siblings and my oldest son for my niece’s wedding this weekend. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful and happy I am to be with them, which I think is the perfect segue to share with you author and positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky’s eight ways gratitude boosts happiness from her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.

Lyubomirsky notes:
1. Gratitude promotes savoring positive life experiences.

2. Gratitude may increase a sense of confidence and self-worth, by encouraging you to consider what you value about your current life.

3. Gratitude helps you cope with difficulties.

4. Gratitude encourages kindness and other moral behavior.

5. Gratitude helps strengthen relationships.

6. Gratitude inhibits envy.

7. Gratitude helps undermine negative emotions.

8. Gratitude keeps us from taking the good things for granted.

I do believe Sonja’s right, so when we set off at 4 a.m. yesterday morning, I immediately began savoring the moments. One of the things I love about road trips is drinking coffee and eating peppered beef jerky in the car. Strange but true, I love the combo, but only in the early a.m. in a speeding automobile! I guess it awakens my brain to the fact that life is good and fun is on the way!

By 5 a.m. I had opened the bag of jerky, gnawed a strip or two, and downed a cup of still piping hot homemade coffee, which sharpened my senses and allowed me to take special note of the fog-tipped marshes and slow-moving rivers of north Florida and Georgia as the sun rose, backlighting these natural wonders.

As South Carolina came into view, I spent time thinking  about my life and how happy I was for all the wonderful folks in it. I took the time to reflect and remember the good times I’d shared with my sisters, and how we’ve supported each other when times were tougher than we wanted them to be.

By the North Carolina border, I was convinced I was the luckiest woman in the world, and was brimming with gratitude and tears just thinking about it. These warm and cozy feelings helped me push aside my mental laundry list of things to do or left undone, and let me fully enjoy the moment and anticipate the fun that was waiting for me up the road.  I couldn’t wait to see my sisters, nieces and nephews, hang-out with my son, and to meet the bride and groom’s friends and extended family – I love the way marriage interlaces and connects us to one another.

Well, I am knee-deep in family and new friends, and loving it. I’m not taking one minute of this gathering or the beauty of the North Carolina hills and mountains for granted. I really do believe that each moment we are grateful makes our lives and our experiences richer and more rewarding.

Now, if I can just find a way to use gratitude to help me stop coveting the fabulous collection of shoes and dresses my younger sister brought with her, I think this will be a perfect weekend!

I hope that wherever you are this week – friends, family and a closet full of really great shoes are nearby.

PS I think I found a way – I am very grateful my kid sister is always willing to share her heart, her clothes, and her shoes with me! Thank you, Deb. I love you!

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