Happy Mindsets http://happymindsets.com Free Your Mind. Find Happiness. Achieve Your Goals. Mon, 12 Feb 2018 19:52:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 136594363 The Extraordinary Psychology and Mythology of Falling http://happymindsets.com/extraordinary-psychology-behind-falling/ http://happymindsets.com/extraordinary-psychology-behind-falling/#respond Mon, 12 Feb 2018 19:50:25 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=136 Life is a cruel, heartless bitch, I thought, why are so many good people falling? I was on the treadmill at the gym. I was trying to listen to the podcast my phone was playing, but my mind was wandering to all the people in my life who were sick. When one of those people …

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Life is a cruel, heartless bitch, I thought, why are so many good people falling? I was on the treadmill at the gym. I was trying to listen to the podcast my phone was playing, but my mind was wandering to all the people in my life who were sick. When one of those people is your own mother, laying in the hospital suffering, it changes your perspective on things. A flood of emotions rush over you. You feel sad, anxious, angry, confused…the list goes on. And you cycle through and repeat those emotions quickly.

One lone positive thought crept into my mind.  An old Japenese proverb that once inspired me so much came bubbling to the surface. Fall down seven times, stand up eight. But, for the first time, I didn’t think of it the way that it was intended. I usually saw it as this little motivational speech we give ourselves whenever life knocks us down. You know, Eye of the Tiger, I Ching, Rocky Balboa, and all that jazz.

This time, however, I came up with a theory. I thought that the average person will probably have what they consider a “fall” about six or seven times in their life. Of course, there are lots and lots of hard times in our lives. Plenty of bad days. And I am aware that there are many people in the world whose entire lives are a shit show from start to finish. Barring any outliers, most of us will have six or seven life-defining rough times in our lives. Granted, this is just my theory and it’s based on absolutely nothing substantial. If you look at this article, you might see that even the luckiest among us is going to average a few of those things on that list.

The point is that, unless you die very young, you will have a major fall several times in your life. That proverb in conjunction with my theory made me think about the science and psychology of falling. This is where my studies took me…

A Fear of Falling Can Cause You to Fall

If you like personal growth blogs, you’ll inevitably stumble onto The Law of Attraction. Several years back, Rhonda Byrne wrote the book The Secret and the world was ablaze with the idea that you can bring things into your life through your intentions. If you shift your focus onto what you want, more of that thing will come into your life.

Then came the secret haters. Those wonderful people who inevitably rise up against what is trendy and declare war on it. “The secret is nonsense!” They cried. “Get off your ass and go do something!”

I, being the little middle-of-the-roader that I am, think it’s a little bit of both. You will never achieve something without taking action. Period. However, you will never take action until you set your intentions to inspire you to take action. I also think that The Law of Attraction people have it backwards. They say that you draw things to you through your intentions. I say that your intentions draws you towards more of what you want.

This study suggests that a fear of falling can actually cause you to fall. It works like this:

  • Anxiety creates “stiffening behaviors.”
  • Stiffening behaviors cause your body to use resources that otherwise would be used to help you with complex motor tasks.
  • Because those resources are not being used to help you with balance, you are more susceptible to falling.

Ironic, isn’t it? You create more of the very thing you fear just by fearing it. Your body behaves differently on an unconscious level because you’re using those resources to worry.

This is why it’s important to set your intentions towards things that you want to happen in your life. For someone with anxiety, this might require you to do some mental gymnastics. The best way to interrupt a pattern of anxious thought is to find ways to take your mind off of it. You will never beat anxiety by focusing on anxiety.

When I get trapped in a loop of anxious thought, I play a game, do a puzzle, or any activity that causes me to engage my mind. Most of the time breaking the thought itself is enough to pull you from the anxiety. If the anxiety comes back, I break the loop again with another game or puzzle. Most of the thoughts that plague our mind require us to create a new habit of thinking. This will take time. Be patient and keep getting back up.

Your Fundamental Flaws Can Cause You to Fall

Our culture is wrought with mythology surrounding this concept. We LOVE a good “fall down, go through hell to get back up, and rise from the ashes like a Phoenix” story. There are three main reasons people fall in mythology, and each one is as fascinating and relevant as the next. Falling occurs as a result of ignorance, gullibility, or pride.

One of the most fascinating myths is the myth of Icarus. Icarus’s father, Daedalus, was contracted by  King Minos to build an incredible maze to house the half man-half beast created by his wife’s crazy actions. Daedalus built the labyrinth (so well that he almost didn’t get out of it), and the king rewarded him by imprisoning him and his son so that they couldn’t give away the secret of the labyrinth. Daedalus fashioned wings from feathers he had collected and glued them to their backs using wax. Icarus got caught up in the exhilaration of flying and, despite his fathers warnings, flew too close to the sun. The wax melted, and Icarus plummeted to his death.

Icarus represents to us the story both of pride and of the curse of creating the thing that causes your own downfall. Icarus’s flaw was overconfidence. Daedalus’ flaw was his own success.

Then we see the story of Adam and Eve. The story of the curse of humanity itself through one act of disobedience. I call it the choice that was never a choice. Consider this: you wouldn’t place a giant cake right in the center of your kitchen if you were trying to lose weight, would you? Not if you expected to stick to your diet. You will walk by that cake every day and be tempted by it. Placing a tree with this forbidden fruit right in the center of the garden is an ultimate act of temptation.

I think these stories speak to the inevitability of the nature of humans to fall. This relates to our lives because it exposes these themes of fundamental flaws. Icarus’s flaw was pride. Adam and Eve’s flaw was gullibility. Even Daedalus is considered flawed by his extreme smarts. These flaws led to their downfall.

Do you have a fundamental flaw? Don’t be so quick to answer that (yes or no). We are masters at keeping ourselves from our flaws. Our minds work overtime to help us synthesize the world in a way that makes what we do make sense. It’s not an easy thing to look inside and say, “Hey, I am the problem in this situation.”

But that is your challenge if you are to grow. The only way we grow is by changing something. We can’t change something until we see that something isn’t totally right. Just because you have these flaws doesn’t mean that you are flawed to your core. So, stop beating yourself up or stop being so skittish. Look at yourself objectively.

The best way to spot these flaws is to look at the bad things that have happened to you. Some of them may have been out of your control (i.e. death of a loved one), but most of them are brought about by decisions you’ve made. What do they have in common?

Another great way to spot these flaws is to look at the things people say about you when you are fighting with them. If you keep getting the same feedback from completely unrelated people in your life, it’s a good bet that you are communicating something that you don’t intend. This ultimately means that there is something driving you to communicate that way. These types of thoughts and flaws surface rather quickly when you start looking for them.

Not Every Fall Needs a Reason

This doesn’t get said enough. Sometimes bad things just happen. In his book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan Peterson spends considerable time breaking life into two categories: order and chaos. Order is our attempt at mastering the world around us, chaos is the thing that happens that throws us out of order. Chaos is the moment we fall–the moment our lives change.

One of the most famous questions ever asked is: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I spent a significant portion of my teen and young adult years pondering that question. It doesn’t seem fair when the good people in your life are thrown into suffering. It took me a while to realize that the problem with that question is the descriptions we use.

“Good” and “bad” are subjective concepts. This means that each individual person decides what is good and what is bad. Sure, there are many things we as people agree are good/bad, but it’s still based on how things affect us as people and not what is objectively true. Our concepts of good and bad are based on what is good for us as a group and what is bad for us as a group.

So, the answer to that question is that things just happen. Period. Things happen. We react. Our idea of what is fair or unfair flies out of bounds beyond that. The universe doesn’t care what’s good or bad for us. It just moves forward according to the laws of physics. Nature is brutal.

Does that mean our actions are meaningless? Why bother trying to shape the world if nature is going to destroy it all anyway? This is the kind of thinking that leads to depression/despair. It can be hard to come back from the thought that our actions, when compared to the scope of the universe, ultimately have little to no meaning. This is an existential crisis. The human condition.

In the face of this bleak and callous realization, we are challenged to find a perspective that gives our lives meaning again. When everything we thought about the world is destroyed, what is left is a fresh foundation on which to build again. And we are challenged to do what only makes sense when we fall…rise.

The Challenge to Rise

I can count three specific times in my life that I could reasonably say were “fall” moments. In each of those moments, I found that the path towards rising always began with one defining moment: a choice. A decision to change. We may fall for many different reasons, but the process of rising always comes from one very specific action. You make a choice.

Will Smith gives a powerful speech on this:

In the previous section of this article, I depressed everyone with an existential crisis. The thought that our actions are meaningless was one of the most frightening and depressing realizations that I had in my life. These thoughts led me to a fog, a zombie-like haze of going through the motions of my daily life without engaging in anything. Why bother?

I ultimately began to realize that I was thinking about something that didn’t exist. This future without me in it, the one where the sun destroys the entire galaxy and leaves all of our work here ultimately meaningless…it just doesn’t exist NOW. It’s a prediction based on what we currently know. You have no idea what the effects of your actions here and now will have a million years in the future.

Consider the notion of chaos theory. This is the notion that small changes in the initial conditions of a system can have massive effects at the end of it. A famous short story by Ray Bradbury, A Sound of Thunder, takes this concept and expounds on it. A futuristic corporation offers to take people back in time to hunt extinct species (such as dinosaurs). On one such hunt, a man steps on and kills a butterfly. When he returns to the future, subtle changes were everywhere.

The point is that one subtle change in the past can snowball into massive changes in the future. So, if the death of a butterfly could have such an effect on our present, then how might your presence here now affect the future?

I go through that long-winded diversion to convince you of one thing: your actions have meaning. Everything you do matters. Your mere presence here is affecting this place for generations to come. Are you going to continue to sit back and do nothing? Or will you make the choice to rise?

The Process of Rising

Once you make the decision to pick yourself up, there are three things that happen:

A period of learning. When your world gets turned upside down, you must learn new information to process it. This might mean reading books, taking a class, or just having a long discussion with somebody about your experience. If you don’t intend to repeat the experience and make the same mistakes, then you must learn something beyond what you already know. This allows you to do things that you haven’t already done.

A period of re-falling. A fall within a fall. Often you don’t just fall once, stand up, and go about your merry way. It’s more like a period of time when you keep falling and rising. This is necessary because you are learning a new way of living. New experience means you will make mistakes. Nobody gets it right on the first try.

A period of new habits. Once you work out what doesn’t work, you finally begin to find things that work for you. They still seem foreign, so you must continue the process consciously for a while until the new behavior or action becomes a habit. A good way to make these habits more manageable is to set a goal for thirty days. Do the new thing for thirty days and, at the end of that time, reevaluate.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. The bottom line is that we may not always be able to choose what happens to us, but we always have a choice in how to respond. There will be bad seasons in your life, and your attitude towards them will determine how much you will suffer. Bad times don’t have to be so bad if you choose to find ways to process what happens to you and move beyond it. If you can’t figure out why you fell, maybe you can come up with a reason to rise.

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5 Effective Actions You Can Take to Manage Depression http://happymindsets.com/5-effective-actions-can-take-manage-depression/ http://happymindsets.com/5-effective-actions-can-take-manage-depression/#respond Thu, 01 Feb 2018 21:20:53 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=126 Before I get into the meat of how you can effectively manage depression, I’d like to add a little caveat to this post. I’m not a doctor or psychologist. I also realize that there are many people who suffer bouts of depression the depths of which I will (hopefully) never know. There is a portion …

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Depression Quote

Before I get into the meat of how you can effectively manage depression, I’d like to add a little caveat to this post. I’m not a doctor or psychologist. I also realize that there are many people who suffer bouts of depression the depths of which I will (hopefully) never know. There is a portion of the population who may do all of this and still need pills to even begin to manage their moods.

That said, however, let me tell you just how deep depression has reached into my life. About a year ago, I was laying in bed watching TV. My mood shifted instantly and, like an avalanche, my entire psyche came crashing into myself.

I’ve faced depression off and on my whole life, but this made those bouts of depression seem like joy. It was a complete loss of control of my mood. When I say “avalanche,” that’s definitely the best way to describe it. One minute I was okay, and the next I felt intense fear and sadness. I cried harder than I have ever cried in my life.

From Bad to Worse

And then the suicidal thoughts crept in. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to live. I was pretty happy with my life. From the outside looking in, I have an amazing life (and I’m very grateful for that). But I couldn’t take this feeling. It was intense. It was dark. It was bleak. I felt hopeless. And I just wanted it to end. All I could think about was getting up, walking out to the nearest bridge, and throwing myself into the river. And, no matter what I tried, I could NOT shake that feeling or those thoughts.

That was the beginning of one of the hardest years of my life. I look back over 2017 as the year that really rocked the foundations of what I thought about life. I spent weeks after that in a haze, performing my daily tasks like a zombie, tears at the back of my eyes that could creep out at any moment.

I think the worst part of it was the feeling of utter hopelessness. It felt like nothing I did mattered. I felt like I was alone. I felt like that all that I had enjoyed about life had suddenly been stripped away and all that was left was this zombie-like state I found myself in. It was a rough time. And, while in the weeks following I started doing things to improve my mood, that feeling would creep back many times throughout the year. It was maddening.

I say all of that to say this: I am no doctor or psychologist, but I am someone who fights and has fought depression many times in my life. This article is a collection of the most effective things that I’ve done. As I write this, I feel that I am back to my old, happy self. And I feel that the things I suggest here have much to do with it. So let’s get started…

Action #1: Manage Depression Through Diet and Exercise

Every post you’ll find on depression will talk about this one. That’s because it’s one of the most effective ways to manage depression. One of the major factors in causing depression is hormones in your body that get thrown out of whack. Eating cleaner food and moving your body affects the chemical makeup in your body. An exercise session will cause a rush of endorphins that will improve your mood.

Eating better will also contribute to weight loss. Research suggests that weight loss can seriously reduce the effects of depression. If you’re overweight and inactive, your mental state is going to be less secure. When we carry extra weight, it can lead to insecurities that cause us to further retreat into the very habits that keep us locked in depression.

One of the first things I did after my bleak night was to start eating better. I also started going to the gym at least three times a week. This instantly improved my mood. It didn’t lead to a “cure” so much as it helped reduce the things that compounded my depression.

Action #2: Manage Depression Through Facing Your Fears and Insecurities

This falls into the category of “things that make depression worse.” In fact, psychologists now accept that there are many types of depression and that certain childhood traumas can lead to depression later in life. I’m a huge proponent of facing the “gunk” that we carry into adulthood. Pretty much all of us have it. Maybe we don’t all face major trauma as children, but there are thoughts, beliefs, and values that we make as children that affect us as adults.

The best way to face this is to talk to your therapist and work through it with them. You could also spend some time writing it out. Open a private Word document or get a journal and start writing about the things that upset you from your childhood. You won’t have to think too hard to remember them. Your unconscious mind keeps these thoughts right at the edge of your consciousness because they are things that drive your most negative emotions.

Byron Katie has an amazing (and free) process for deconstructing these old thoughts. There are things you believe about yourself that you decided at a very young age. With your adult mind you will see these thoughts as relatively childish. They will, however, create intense emotions because they have been unresolved for so long. Use Katie’s four questions to help you sort through these thoughts and emotions.

Action #3 Manage Depression Through Connection With Other People

This one was the hard one for me. I had spent so much of my life trying to prove my independence and decrease my reliance on other people, that it was hard for me to realize that connections with other people actual fulfill a fundamental need for us. Stephen Covey talks about the three phases that we move through as humans: dependence, independence, and interdependence. Here is a great article that talks about this spectrum.

Your depression might be telling you that it’s time to move up on the spectrum. If you are in a state of dependence, maybe it’s time to work on becoming independent. If you are relatively independent, maybe it’s time to start letting people back into your life in a more interdependent way. It’s necessary to assess where you are on the scale and take the steps to get to interdependence. Nobody is an island. If you cut yourself off from people, your emotional state will change.

This was probably my biggest wake up call when the shroud of depression fell over me. I had spent so much time pulling away from people, that I had weakened many crucial connections in my life. The idea is to create a network. I know the introverts reading this want to dismiss this, but I’m not saying that you need to be around people all of the time. You can still be a loner and have a network of interdependence.

One way you can do this is by joining clubs in your community. Join a meetup group. Start going to church. Become a volunteer. Get on Google and/or Facebook and look for groups that you can be a part of. The time commitment for most of these things might be, at most, one day a week. But the connections and (more importantly) the feeling of connectedness you get from this will seriously alter your mood.

Action #4: Mange Depression Through Brain-Stimulating Activities

This was a surprising solution. When I was facing depression, I decided to start doing jigsaw puzzles. I bought a puzzle board and everything. It was fascinating to me that this simple activity would pull me from my zombie-like state. Granted, it wasn’t a long-term solution. This activity by itself won’t change your depression.

These activities are best for breaking the cycle of negative thoughts that swarm you when depression hits you. They are effective because they do three things: they refocus your mind away from depressing thoughts, they give you a small sense of purpose, and they give you a sense of accomplishment. Completing these activities are intrinsically satisfying.

Other great activities you can do include: crossword puzzles, Sudoku, coloring, painting, and wood-carving/woodworking. Notice I left off things like video games and gaming apps on your phone. The idea is to interrupt the constant pull of technology on your life and bring you back to a simple, pleasurable, yet physical hobby. The tactile nature of the hobby adds to the sense of accomplishment you feel when you finish the task. It really is the simplicity of the activity that makes it so rewarding.

Action #5: Manage Depression Through Creating Purpose for Your Life

A huge reason for my meltdown had to do with a strong feeling of hopelessness. I was having a hard year anyway, so I was beginning to question why we ever bother doing things in life. My mind would trick me into thinking that if what I’m doing doesn’t really have any lasting effect, then why am I bothering to do them? If in a hundred years nobody is going to remember who I was or what I did in this life, then why bother doing anything at all?

The answer was a simple thought: all that matters is what is happening right now. In this moment many of the things that I do matter. You have to see this through the lens of your own life. The people who love you, the people you work with, the people you interact with…to them your actions matter a great deal. In fact, the only thing that saved me from my suicidal thoughts that night was the fact that I knew it would utterly devastate my children.

You must realize that your actions have meaning in this present moment. Meaning does not come from some future “sun will blow up and destroy everything so none of this matters” thinking. You have a good 70-80 years of constant “now-ness” to experience before that happens. You are throwing those precious years down the drain by thinking too far into the future.

Nobody needs to remember you for your actions to have meaning. You create meaning through your actions by doing the things that inspire you. There are things that you can do right now that will satisfy that hunger you feel deep in your core. You have a purpose in this life. Find it. I can’t stress this enough. This is probably the single greatest thing you can do for your depression.

You are not your depression. You are the person who is feeling depression. When you understand the difference, you will see things completely different. You have the power to break this cycle. And, more importantly, you are not alone.

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I got tired of it http://happymindsets.com/i-got-tired-of-it/ Tue, 23 Jan 2018 16:32:13 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=122 I got tired of feeling like crap, so I started eating more fruits and vegetables. I got tired of being out of shape, so I started going to the gym. I got tired of having back pain, so I started doing hamstring stretches. I got tired of living paycheck to paycheck, so I started making …

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I got tired of feeling like crap, so I started eating more fruits and vegetables.

I got tired of being out of shape, so I started going to the gym.

I got tired of having back pain, so I started doing hamstring stretches.

I got tired of living paycheck to paycheck, so I started making a budget and began working towards something that would bring me extra income.

I got tired of being alone, so I started socializing more, joined a church, and became more active in my community.

I got tired of laying in my bed, night after night, on the brink of suicide, so I did all the stuff I’ve mentioned above.

I had a million excuses as to why my life wasn’t the way I wanted it to be, but I got tired of all of them.

I had a million reasons to justify why my life was so shitty, but I got tired of all of them.

There’s always going to be struggles in life. There are always going to be reasons why we can’t do something. We can sit around and make excuses and revel in our bitterness, anger, depression, and/or frustration. Or we can get tired of living life that way and choose something different.

The path forward isn’t always clear, but our resolve can be. The road isn’t always easy, but you can be sure that it’ll be worth it in the end. My routine in the gym right now involves thirty minutes on the treadmill and fifteen minutes on the elliptical. There are many days that I step onto the elliptical and, within the first few minutes, I want to give up. But I’ve learned one thing in life: if you focus on everything you need to accomplish instead of your next step, you’re going to be overwhelmed. All you have is the present moment, and, if you keep your focus on that moment, that feeling goes away.

We spend a lot of time resisting change, thinking that we are procrastinating or that we are being lazy. But that resistance is our unconscious mind teaching us the utter disgust that comes from living a certain way for too long. There are moments of clarity in your life, moments where you boldly define a new direction from yourself. Those moments are born on the back of long periods of frustration, anger, depression, and pain. Sometimes you just need the time to get tired of the situation you are in.

What are you tired of right now? Isn’t it time you got tired enough of living this way that it forces you to make a change?

I got tired of this article, so I chose this really lame ending.

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The 3 Powerful Forces Behind Procrastination and How to Overcome Them http://happymindsets.com/3-powerful-forces-behind-procrastination-overcome/ Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:22:46 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=116 If I had to pick the main culprit behind every broken dream, it would usually be procrastination. When I was in my 20’s, fresh out of college and newly married, my favorite word was “someday.” When you’re young, you feel like you have all the time in the world. As the years pass and the …

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If I had to pick the main culprit behind every broken dream, it would usually be procrastination. When I was in my 20’s, fresh out of college and newly married, my favorite word was “someday.” When you’re young, you feel like you have all the time in the world. As the years pass and the weight of life bears down on you, those someday’s tend to fall by the wayside into “never will’s.”

Most of us know exactly what we need to do to be happy. Most of us know exactly what we need to do to accomplish our goals. Sure, there are many things we are ignorant about. When you jump into new territory, there is always a learning curve. I’m currently trying to break into the world of freelance writing. It’s a new avenue for me, and I know little about the nuts and bolts. In some ways, I find this incredibly intimidating. What if I do something wrong? What if the people I query see my amateur mistakes and decide to go elsewhere? New roads can be scary.

However, as I continue to take action towards this goal, the less intimidating it becomes. We can read and read and read about a subject, but until we experience it, no amount of book learning can prepare us for what is to come. Every person blazes their own path, and those paths are often littered with many mistakes. But what do you do when you find yourself stuck at the starting line?The trick is to understand that the same forces that cause you to procrastinate are the same forces that apply in a situation that you perceive to be dangerous. Imagine that you are hiking through the woods and you come upon a bear. What do you do? What’s the first gut feeling you have when you are standing there staring at this wild beast? Basic psychology will dictate that you’ll do one of three things: fight, flight, or freeze.

When you are put into a stressful situation, you will trigger one of these responses automatically. Some may argue that procrastination is actually the freeze response. However, I believe that procrastination is bigger than that. Procrastination is the response to perceived stress. The event you are putting off is the source of the stress, and procrastination is the mechanism that is used to shield you from that stress. If you read this article about procrastination, you’ll see that the overall consensus is that procrastination is more than just a response to a single situation. It’s a lifestyle.

This means that there are different ways in which we procrastinate. In this article, I want to look at three of those ways through the lens of the fight, flight, or freeze response.

Procrastination Force # 1: You Resist Change

This weekend I read an amazing book called Split Second. If you’re a sci-fi geek like me, you’ll love every minute of this thriller. The book focused on time travel, but did so in a very unique way. I won’t spoil the details of the book here, but it made me think about time travel. When I was younger, I was obsessed with the idea of time travel. In fact, until maybe a year or so ago, I would have given anything to be able to go back in time and relive the 80’s and the 90’s. I’d still love to do that, but the pull to do it isn’t nearly as strong as it used to be.

The reason for that is because my desire to relive those times was rooted in my resistance to change. Last year I faced some major changes in my life, and it forced me to come to terms with the fact that the past is the past and that there was nothing I could do to change it. So many of us live in the past. We live in a time that exists only in our heads. We glorify the past. In fact, I’ve realized that some of the WORST times of my life were during the 90’s, but when I look back on it, I only see the good times.

When you look back on the past, you recreate the memory in your head from scratch. So, instead of thinking about all those negative moments, you only think about the highlights. This paints the past in a much brighter light than it really was. You resist change because you fail to see how the present moment is no different with its challenges than the past was. You only perceive it that way because things look easier and clearer in hindsight. It’s a trick your mind is playing on you.

So, how do we overcome the resistance to change? You take your focus from your past (or your future) and you put it in the present moment. All you will ever have is a perpetual now. This moment is the only moment that you can take action. You can’t live in the past or worry about your future or you will find yourself in a state of depression and/or anxiety. Mindfulness and meditation help center you. Take some time to be alone with your thoughts, to clear your mind, and be in the present moment.

Procrastination Force #2: You Avoid Your Problems

When I was on the brink of bankruptcy, living paycheck to paycheck with a perpetual negative balance in my checking account, I fell victim to this force. I remember many times being scared to check my bank balance because I was afraid it was going to show another overdraft. There were many times when I’d have a negative balance of up to $400. Instead of checking my balance and knowing where I was financially, I buried my head in the sand and avoided checking it all costs. Out of sight, out of mind.

I didn’t realize that by avoiding my problems, I was actually making them worse. Imagine if, instead, I had been diligent about checking my balance every day. I would have known exactly what kind of money I had and could have used that information to inform my decision making. Instead, I avoided checking the balance so that I didn’t have to face one very real and cold truth: I was living beyond my means. I didn’t want to make the sacrifices necessary to get my fiances under control. My financial habits became so bad that my only option was bankruptcy.

There is only one way to overcome this force: YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO LOOK AT THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE. The truth about ourselves hurts, but there’s no way to fix a problem if we don’t face the truth about our problem. We are the source of our issues. We are responsible for the hand we’ve been dealt. There is no other way beyond this force than to face it with the totality of your strength, accept your role in it, and then take steps to change it.

Procrastination Force # 3: You are a Slave to Momentum

Here’s a truth about life: things change whether you want them to or not. Life goes on. Over time you are going to find yourself in a different place than you are today. And there is nothing you can do to stop it. I call this the “momentum of life.”

More specifically, however, there is a momentum to your habits. If you aren’t consciously trying to change your habits, then you fall back on your default programming. And most people’s default programming sucks. It usually involves spending hours in front of the TV or computer and eating processed garbage. It usually means spending money without thinking about where it’s going. It usually means trying to do the same thing over and over again so that you can feel like you’ve mastered the chaos that exists in the world. It’s the illusion of control, that you are able to control your life and the people in it.

This year I’ve made the conscious decision to cut out processed sugar (as much of it as I can) and to go to the gym at least four times a week. My first day back on the treadmill after putting it off for a few months was BRUTAL. I was out of breath. My leg muscles screamed in pain. You see, when you are a victim of momentum, any change you make occurs as pain. Since we try to avoid pain as much as possible, we avoid potentially good things that can make our lives better (such as going to the gym).

The only way to overcome this momentum is to embrace the mightiest commercial tagline in history: JUST DO IT. Don’t give yourself time to talk yourself out of it. Don’t sit around and think about it too long. Don’t dwell on the negative thoughts that arise when you think of the changes you need to make. Just focus on the solution, drag your butt out of your chair, and go do something. Action, pure unadulterated action, is the only way to overcome momentum.

Here is the beauty of it: when you take action, and you repeat that new action enough, it creates a new momentum in your life. It’s been two weeks since that first day on the treadmill, and I’m finding that not only do I feel better, but it’s getting easier to just go and do it. There are so many sources from self help books and blogs that blow smoke up your ass and try to get you to get in the right mindset before you take action. But, at the end of the day, you have to summon the grit to get up and start working on the thing you’ve been putting off. No excuses. No bullshit. Just do it.

A great mindset for accomplishing this is to use your imagination and make a game out of it. Pretend like you’re the protagonist in a video game and that the goals you have for your life are missions that you’ve been assigned. You can even go crazy and make game sheets, whiteboards in your house, etc. As you achieve your goals, you level up and take on new powers. You’ll see that that actually becomes true as action becomes your default state of being. This is your life. Are you really living it to the fullest? There is only now. And if not now, when?

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Looking for Happiness in all the Wrong Places http://happymindsets.com/looking-happiness-wrong-places-2/ Tue, 09 Jan 2018 02:11:18 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=111 For the millions of people looking for happiness, there is a question that my former mentor teacher used to ask that challenged me to think about how I was teaching. He was kind of a pitiful old man who had lost his parents, been divorced, and had a heart attack all in the space of …

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For the millions of people looking for happiness, there is a question that my former mentor teacher used to ask that challenged me to think about how I was teaching. He was kind of a pitiful old man who had lost his parents, been divorced, and had a heart attack all in the space of a few years. Despite all of that, you could tell that he was a good man who really cared about the kids he taught. He was just tired and beat down by life.

In every meeting we had, he’d ask the same question: “Is today the day?” I think he was trying to be sarcastic, and I never understood what he was getting at (and never asked him). I just know that that question made an impression on me. It challenged me, and I didn’t really know why. Looking back, I think the question was making me think about how I viewed the potential of any given day. In the movie, In Time, the main character (played by Justin Timberlake) repeatedly said: “You can do a lot in a day.”

The movie was an exaggerated allegory for how we trade time for money. Except in this case, their money was literally their time. If you didn’t do something in a day to earn enough time, you were killed instantly the minute your clock hit zero. The movie is a stark reminder that how we choose to spend our time determines whether we are alive or dead. So many of us walk around dead inside, looking for something external to bring us happy. Today, I want to challenge you with one thought: Is today the day?

Looking for Happiness in the Stuff We Own

I’m currently in a phase of my life where I’m focusing on shrinking the amount of my possessions and considering how I’m spending my money. I’ve spent the past few years spending money freely, buying things, and going the places I’ve wanted. I was blessed with a period of extra income where I didn’t really have to think about where my money was going because I had plenty of it.

In the past year, however, I’ve entered into a season of “famine” in my finances, and it has been forcing me to consider how I’ve been spending my money. I’ve always lived a life of semi-minimalism, but for a while I was able to enjoy not thinking about it too much. I know that many of my readers live paycheck to paycheck, and you know what it is to be hard up for money. I remember the days when I had to get seriously creative with my meals because I only had so much to spend on food. It seems that everybody gets a finger on my money before I even see it, and there was a time when I was only taking home 40% of what I earned. That is a frustrating place to be.

My point is that, during those times of lean finances, I found myself anxious and worried. I found myself constantly worrying about what I was going to do if an emergency happened. I was one bad day away from being completely screwed financially. At one point in my life, I was living with a constant negative bank balance. As the paycheck came into my account, it brought the account back to a positive balance, but it was nowhere near what I needed to cover my bills. So, I’d plunge headfirst back to a negative balance, being absolutely raped and pillaged by the overdraft charges.

I noticed that when I had money, I was happy. When I didn’t have money, I was constantly on edge. It’s interesting that we allow something like that to dominate our feelings. Being in dire financial straights can be stressful, but it does not have to rob you of your happiness. Consider this: despite what your bank balance says, you can learn to be grateful for what you have. But you have to practice gratitude daily. You have to shift your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have. In all the financial hardships of my life, I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve always had enough to get me from day to day. And that is a powerful thing to think about.

Looking for Happiness in the People we Love

From a psychological point of view, there is a fundamental internal need that is met from our social interactions with people. There’s a fascinating video about isolation from the guy who runs the Vsauce channel on YouTube. If you have a half hour or so, give it a watch:

The gist of the video is that shutting ourselves off from people entirely (and any social stimulation like movies, books, etc.) can have a huge effect on our mind. It can disorient us. It can cause us to go crazy. At the end of the day, we need people.

However, I would argue that we don’t need people to BE HAPPY. We need social interaction to not go crazy, but social interaction itself does not lead to happiness (if that makes sense). There are so many people, however, who hitch their happiness to certain people in their lives. If something were to ever happen to those people, they would be completely lost and broken. We see this all the time with death and divorce.

What if I told you, however, that those people do not create happiness within you. They take the happiness you create and they amplify it. Like a microphone. If you aren’t a happy person, no amount of social interaction is going to make you happy.

Looking for Happiness in Religious Experience

Some of you believe in God. Some of you don’t. Religion is a hot-bed topic, and I imagine what I’m about to write is going to ruffle some feathers among my religious readers. I want you to keep in mind that I believe in God, and that I am a spiritual person. I go to church every week. Granted, I believe quite differently from your typical church-going person. At any given moment, I’d say I disagree with the preacher about half the time he is preaching. I don’t hang on every word from the bible (but do read it regularly and use it for spiritual and personal growth). And I *gasp* love to read writings from Buddhist authors and study other religions.

I go through that spiel so that I don’t alienate pretty much everybody reading this. To the religious and christian people out there, I go to church and believe many of the same things you do. To my atheist readers, I’m not a crazy fundamentalist. I fall somewhere in the middle, and I am perfectly comfortable with that.

That said, I see many people trying to hinge their happiness on religion and God. I just watched a video from one of my religious friends on Facebook. The video was basically saying that we can’t find happiness without God and that Jesus is the only thing that will fulfill us. As a religious person who goes to church and reads the bible regularly, I beg to differ. That’s insane. And I think God would agree.

If you believe in God and that God wants you to be happy, then you believe that he created you to be an autonomous being. What that means is that you’ve been given the ability to create whatever experience you choose to create, with or without God’s help. That’s the definition of free will. If you weren’t able to do that, then you’d be in a very unhealthy co-dependent relationship with God. God would be sort of like your drunken step father who punishes you every time you try to get away from him.

What if I told you that the meaning of God, the bible, salvation, and/or religious experience is NOT to create happiness, but, again, to AMPLIFY it? The comfort we gather from things like faith, hope, and love are meant to guide us in how we relate to people and how we relate to God. They aren’t magic happy sticks that zap us with fluffy feel good feelings.

So, where the heck do we look for happiness?

I’d like to take a moment to talk about where to look for happiness. The simple truth is that happiness already exists within you. Even if you are on the brink of suicide, there is a place inside of you that you could go right now and find happiness. What happens is that we tend to pile all of our problems on top of it. We lose touch with it. We stray from the core of what makes us happy and then we wonder why we can’t find it.

The core of happiness, that place inside of you, is that emotional “muscle” that allows you to synthesize the world in a way that brings you joy. It consists of having hope that things will turn out okay. It consists of having a child-like wonder at the things that exist around you. It exists in your ability to unite your dreams to the present moment.

You’re the wizard! You are the man behind the curtain. Do you ever notice how a child does not have to ask what to do to make them happy? Have you ever heard a child talk about how miserable they are? What’s the difference between the grown up version of you and the child-like version of you? The answer: the child-like version of you did not have a bunch of stories on what does and does not create happiness!

Your default state is happiness. That is, until something comes along and distracts you from it. As a child you dealt with this by crying until the adults in your life met the needs that were distracting you from happiness. The adult you is looking for happiness in money, love, and religion not realizing that those things are only tools to help you meet fundamental needs that distract you from your already default state of happiness. If you don’t meet those needs, they will lead you from happiness. But those things will never create happiness that does not already exist in you.

So, I ask you one question: Is today the day? Is today the day that you remember that happiness exists under all those layers of bitterness, grief, and depression? Is today the day that you decide to go back to your default, child-like mode of happiness? You can do a lot in a day. So, why not get started?

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3 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Being Happy http://happymindsets.com/3-lies-tell-happy/ Fri, 05 Jan 2018 22:40:17 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=103 There is no shortage of advice out there on being happy. Happiness is such a subjective idea that it’s hard to nail down things that are true for everybody. Even the most ancient of wisdom can occur to us as nothing but simple platitudes that have no bearing on present day life. There’s also a …

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Being Happy Quote

There is no shortage of advice out there on being happy. Happiness is such a subjective idea that it’s hard to nail down things that are true for everybody. Even the most ancient of wisdom can occur to us as nothing but simple platitudes that have no bearing on present day life.

There’s also a plethora of bad advice. Things that sound good, but have no real meat to them. Their intentions are good, but they really have no substance in reality. We’ve all heard this type of advice. “Just be yourself.” “Don’t cry.” (How many times do you want to punch someone for telling you that one?) If you could just DO those things, you’d have done them a long time ago, wouldn’t you have?

This post is not about those types of things. These are the lies we tell ourselves about being happy. Our biggest setbacks come from our blind spots: things we don’t see about ourselves until someone points them out. If you’re a growth minded person, you appreciate those people who point out your blind spots. However, most of the time our response to such things is anger. Aggression. When someone challenges a deeply held belief, we struggle to let it go because it serves to protect us (even if it’s doing more harm than good). 

I want to challenge you to look at the lies you are telling yourself about being happy, because I want you to grow beyond who you think you can become. You can’t reach new ground until you leave the old ground behind. You can’t have new experience until you let go of the past. We cling to the past because it’s comforting, but if we live in the past we miss the opportunities of the present.

Lie #1: I will be happy when I ____

This is a good one. I’ve been through many periods of financial struggle in my life. There have been moments when I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, and my next paycheck was a week away. Figuring out what you intend to eat during those times is fun. You get awfully creative with the food you have laying around the house. Tell me you’ve never tried to doctor ramen noodles before.

There’s a twofold happy sucker getting at you during those times. First, your focus is no longer on the present because you keep counting the days until your next paycheck. And, second, you are filled with anxiety and worry about not being able to make it to your next paycheck without something major happening to you. It’s the double sided sword of worry and anxiety, and it slices through your happiness like a sushi knife.

But what if you could be happy in that state? Your happiness is a product of the things you believe and the things you expect. Your expectation is that you can only be happy if you have enough money to live comfortably. It’s the security of knowing how you will solve a problem if it arises that gives you peace when you have money.

The point is that your happiness isn’t dependent on anything you have. You would be no more happy with a million dollars than you would with a salary of $80k per year (I’ve linked to this research before, but here it is). Money can’t buy happiness. That’s the cold truth. So stop pretending you’ll be happier when you have more money. Or more time. Or ____. You fill in the blank. Any answer you put there will be a lie. Happiness is a product of the way you perceive your circumstances. If you want to be happier, practice cultivating more gratitude.

Lie #2: Being Happy is a Journey, not a Destination

This one is a dark lie. It suggests that you can only be happy when you are pursuing something rather than when you have it. I suppose it comes from our capitalist society that dictates that we must always be doing something or buying something to keep our economy strong. The trouble is, our bodies break down. We get old. There comes a time when we are no longer able to pursue. So, do we resign ourselves to quiet misery until we die?

Again, I’ll reiterate: happiness is a mindset. It’s a collection of thoughts, beliefs, and expectations about the world. You create these thoughts best through experience, but it’s not the only way to create them. Experience is just the most efficient way to do so.

In this sense, then, being happy is neither the journey nor the destination. It’s your thoughts about the journey and its destination. When you are able to change your circumstance, do so. However, there are some things we cannot change. There are some things we will just have to accept. Or sacrifice our happiness wishing them away.

Lie #3: I can’t be happy with a certain person in my life

This may be the hardest lie of all to face, especially if the person you are talking about is someone that you love who has died. I’ve been faced with the potential loss of my mother this year. The idea tears me up inside. The loss of someone so fundamental to us can really shake up our lives and what we perceive our role to be in life.

We also are struck with a bit of guilt. How can I just move on from someone I loved so much? Isn’t moving on a disservice to their memory? First, the people who love us want us to be happy. Second, we can still honor the memory of someone and move on to a happy life without them. Grief is a very real part of life. We should never avoid it or pretend like it doesn’t exist.

In this life, this beautiful but hard life, we are challenged to break through our lowest moments until we become who we know we are meant to be. You don’t achieve breakthrough by avoiding those negative emotions. You feel them. Process them. Live with them. And then we let them go. If there’s anything that is constant about this life, it’s that we are constantly challenged to let go. We must live in the present, not the past. But we need not forget our past, just don’t dwell on it.

What is the mindset that allows you to honor the memory of the person you love without forcing you to live your life wallowing in grief? I challenge you to find that mindset today. Cry the tears that are welling up within you. Feel the loss and pain left by the absence of that person in your life. Acknowledge that they will always be a part of you because they took part in shaping you. Then, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and take another step forward. It’s time to create something new.

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5 Tips for Effective Communication in Strange Political Times http://happymindsets.com/5-tips-for-effective-communication-in-crazy-political-times/ Tue, 02 Jan 2018 18:32:43 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=91 If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we live in strange times and that effective communication is in short supply. The division between the two major political parties in America is astounding. If you ever read the comments on political news stories on social media, you can see just how crazy it …

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If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we live in strange times and that effective communication is in short supply. The division between the two major political parties in America is astounding. If you ever read the comments on political news stories on social media, you can see just how crazy it can get. Everybody is edgy and angry, and nobody is listening to each other. If you don’t read the comments, I urge you to read them on a few posts. Especially on any posts that have to do with Donald Trump.

I feel like most of the problem has to do with the way we are communicating. We are fairly new to communicating so frequently through text. A person can sit safely behind their computer screen and have little risk that the person they are talking to is going to punch them in the mouth. Because it’s a low risk type of communication, it’s made people more brash, direct, and less empathetic to the people they communicate with. There are things that people say on social media that they would never dream of saying to someone face-to-face.

So, how do we bridge this gap and get back to more mature discussions? How do we heal the ever worsening wounds of political discourse? Does effective communication have anything to do with happiness? I would answer that last one with a resounding yes! Your ability to communicate with people effectively is probably one of the most powerful skills you can develop in life. Effective communication drives all of your social interactions, which ultimately helps you build relationships — a key foundation to a happy life.I also want to speak direct and clear about communication. I don’t want to give you some politically correct, feel-good advice. Lacing your sentences with “I feel” doesn’t help much if the thing you’re saying after is some hurtful, selfish nonsense. So, let’s look at five tips you can try today that will improve your communication skills.

Tip 1: Learn to Listen for Understanding

This is standard advice that any article, book, seminar, or class on communication will give you. Our egos will immediately shout into our heads: BUT I DO LISTEN! Nonsense! If you’re in the middle of arguing with someone, there’s a high probability that you aren’t hearing them the way they are trying to be heard. The meaning of communication is the response you get, not what you intend to convey.

We spend so much time trying to get the other person to understand us, that we completely forget that we have a duty to understand them as well. If you don’t understand the person you are speaking to in the way that they want to be understood, then real communication has not taken place.

I see this all the time in debates and discussion on social media. I’ve seen two people who essentially agree with each other argue for hours because nobody took the time to clarify what they meant by certain words. Do you realize that people have different meanings and associations for the same words? That not everybody defines certain words or phrases in the same way you do? I bet everybody reading this article is interpreting it in a slightly different way.

The key is to learn to listen for understanding. This is different than just hearing what people say. For example, if a person says that they are “pro-choice,” people will interpret that in different ways based on their feelings about the subject. Another pro-choice person might give them an air high five. A pro-life person might interpret that to mean that they are for the killing of babies.

It’s an interesting thing, the abortion debate, because the two sides aren’t in direct conflict with each other. It’s not “pro life vs. pro death” nor is it “pro choice vs anti choice.” A pro choice person puts a higher value on the rights of the woman, whereas a pro life person puts a higher value on the rights of the baby. Neither side is completely wrong. It’s okay to value both of those things. However, given the volatile nature of such a discussion, you’d think people were going to straight up murder each other over what they perceive the other side to believe.

Learn to listen. To check for understanding. Ask questions of the other person before you share your point of view. If you embrace this type of active listening, your conversations and discussions will go a lot smoother.

Tip 2: Don’t make things personal

One of the most common themes in poor communication is that any emotional discussion of a topic devolves into a shouting match. People hurl insults at each other instead of discussing the topic at hand. I understand that many of these topics hold deeply personal roots for people, but you have to understand that an effective communicator doesn’t get bogged down with emotion. Or, at the very least, they learn how to channel that emotion into more constructive discussion.

It’s okay to attack someone’s point. It’s not okay to attack them personally. I also understand that it’s not easy to do this, especially when you’re dealing with someone that you perceive to be a total idiot. We want to call a person who doesn’t see our point of view moronic because, to us, our point of view seems so clear. However, the person you are speaking to has not had the same experiences as you. They grew up different than you, and they have a whole other perspective that you haven’t considered.

We have to move beyond the personal insults. It’s okay to disagree with people, but to attack them isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Tip 3: Don’t participate in win/lose discussions

A win/lose discussion is one in which the goal of the interaction is to win someone to your point of view. There are a lot of extremely negative people who only communicate in this way. A lot of people will try to drag you into this type of discussion. A person in this type of discussion is not interested in what is factually true, they are only interested in how they might persuade people to join their side.

The U.S. is currently in a pickle politically because the two sides have forgotten how to communicate with each other. The two major parties have become almost tribe-like in nature, where no compromise is even considered. So, we have this constant back and forth. One party takes over, undoes everything they can from what the previous party did, and then pushes their own agenda. People get tired of that, so they push to elect the other party and they do the same thing. The only way to overcome this is to elect people who are willing to listen to both sides and end this win/lose paradigm we are all living in.

The hardest part of avoiding the win/lose mindset in discussions is that it means you will eventually have to eat crow and admit you were wrong (or misinformed) about an issue. Understand that your knowledge of whatever your discussion is not a reflection of who you are as a person. We take our mistakes and failures so personally. It’s time to understand that we don’t know everything, and that we are all learning new things every day from our own perspectives. Be willing to admit you are wrong. Be will to concede a point you don’t agree with. Be willing to tell a person that you understand why they believe the way they do. These things go a LONG way to taking the heat out of a discussion.

Tip 4: Treat people the way you would like to be treated

This is an oldie but goodie. You don’t like it when people get personal, call you names, and ignore your point of view. So, why do you do it to others? Sometimes you have to be the bigger person — which means you are the first to step out of the win/lose paradigm. Even if you feel yourself getting emotional, take a step back and breathe.

If you are communicating online with someone, open up your notepad and type out that nasty response you want to give them. Then delete it. We do better with communication on our second pass. Be willing to write and then edit/delete parts that you know are going to cause unnecessary conflict. Train yourself to be the bigger person and take the high road. You may not always get there, but the more your do it, the better you get at ignoring and filtering the stuff that isn’t worth a response.

Tip 5: Ignore those who refuse to follow these tips

The most powerful ability you can cultivate in yourself is the ability to learn when to walk away. When to keep your mouth shut. When to just straight up ignore something that doesn’t deserve a response. But sometimes the most powerful thing you can do to someone is to ignore them. They are offensive, mean, and nasty because they want your time and attention. To not give it to them will actually make them more upset than any mean thing you can conjure up.

Some people simply don’t deserve our time and our attention. If you find yourself being drawn into these types of drama-laced discussions, then it’s time to look inward at yourself and see what’s driving you to do that. Sometimes the people we attract can give us huge insights into unresolved issues that we have.

At the end of the day, communication is just a tennis match. You have to listen as much as you talk. You have to see the other person AS a person. See them, hear them, feel them, and try to understand them. The more you empathize with a person, the less likely you are to ineffectively communicate with them.

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How I Ate Healthy on a $100 Per Month Grocery Bill http://happymindsets.com/ate-healthy-100-per-month-grocery-bill/ Wed, 20 Dec 2017 18:55:55 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=85 A $100 a month grocery bill might sound extreme, but one of the biggest sources of unhappiness in our society is money. According to statistics, the magic income at which money no longer buys happiness is somewhere around $80,000 a year. If you look at this article, you can look at what the exact income …

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Grocery Bill Quote

A $100 a month grocery bill might sound extreme, but one of the biggest sources of unhappiness in our society is money. According to statistics, the magic income at which money no longer buys happiness is somewhere around $80,000 a year. If you look at this article, you can look at what the exact income is for your state. The idea is that if you are making less than that income, money can be a source of unhappiness for you. However, any money made beyond that has no significant effect on happiness.

Understand that this is based on statistics and studies where people answer questions about their well-being on a survey. It’s highly subjective but it’s interesting none-the-less. It makes sense that if you are making $25,000 a year and trying to feed a family of four that you’re going to be significantly more stressed than someone making $80,000 a year. So, your income can affect your mood to a certain degree, but only if you aren’t making enough to cover your needs and live comfortably.

That said, however, those in the minimalist community might disagree with you. One of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Money Mustache, talks about ways to live life on extremely low budgets. There are a whole swath of minimalist bloggers that talk about extreme ways to stretch your income. And, while I’m not going to tell you to ride a bike everywhere you go, I do fall somewhere in the realm of living a minimalist lifestyle. I just don’t take it to an extreme. I believe you should go over your finances with a fine tooth comb and look at how you are spending your money. Then, you should decide if what you are spending your money on is really necessary or bringing you joy.

For example, you don’t need an SUV. I don’t care how many kids you have or how bad you think your roads are in the winter. I can already hear the excuses in the comments…”but I have a special situation.” No you don’t. You can get by with something smaller, especially if you only have two kids. I’ve driven small calls for years, and I have two kids that I take everywhere under the sun. I could make a whole website about how we are over-spending on things that ultimately don’t bring us happiness and are actually increasing our anxiety and depression.

The easiest place to start is your grocery bill. I know that the notion of spending $100 a month on groceries seems preposterous, but I did it for a while a few years ago. Understand that $100 isn’t a strict figure. I was spending AROUND $100 a month. Sometimes it would be a little more. Doing it today would probably be slightly more expensive due to inflation. But I guarantee that it’s cheaper than most of you are currently spending. I hear people talk about spending $800 to $1000 dollars a month on groceries, and I just shake my head. No way. If you’re spending that much, you are most likely taking a very lazy approach to your cooking and eating habits.

So, how did I manage to eat healthy on a $100 a month grocery bill? I did these things…

I embraced the power of the bean

My bean of choice? Lentils. They are small, filling, tasty, and they don’t leave you gassy like other beans. And you can get a 1-lb bag that will feed 1 person for a week for $1. There is a dry beans section in your grocery store somewhere. Go find it. Embrace it. Love it. These little buggers are packed with nutrition and protein and will definitely leave you feeling satisfied after a meal.

Pro tip: if you take in more bean protein, it allows you to eat less of the thing that is most expensive in your grocery bill: meat. Now, I’m not a vegan or vegetarian by any means, and I love me a good steak. But if you’re trying to save money, meat is the most expensive purchase you’re going to make in the grocery store. If you eat a lot of beef, I suggest you buy it in bulk. It’s a big out of pocket expense once a year, but you are ultimately paying half (or even a third) of what you pay for it in the grocery store. And it makes the stuff you buy in the grocery store seem like slop.

I ate more chicken

At the time, I didn’t have the means to store a bunch of beef bought in bulk, so I had to get creative with my protein. Did you know that you can buy whole roasted chicken in the grocery store for $6? For me, a whole chicken would last a couple of days. It’s also one of the most versatile foods you can eat. You can eat it by itself. You can put it on a sandwich. You can wrap it up in a tortilla with spinach and buffalo sauce or make a fajita with it. You can grind it up and make chicken salad. You get the picture. There’s a huge variety in how you can consume chicken. And it goes great in a pot of chicken noodle soup.

I embraced my wizardry kitchen skills

I know this isn’t Depression Era 1930’s America, but by gosh isn’t it time you learned how to make some stuff from scratch? I learned how to make kick ass bread, cinnamon rolls, fry bread, cakes, cookies, etc. I made the decision that if I did not make a dessert from scratch (such as cookies and chips) that I simply would not eat it.

Trust me, if you know you have to go make them from scratch, you’re less likely to want to eat them. I did make them from time to time, however, and they are always better than what you can buy in the store.  In fact, everything that you make from scratch is going to be better than what you buy in the store. And there are videos and recipes for everything out there. There’s no excuse for not learning how to cook.

If you learn to cook in chunks of time, you can make food for a whole week (or at least several days) in a few hours one day. Nothing beats making stuff fresh, but if you simply don’t have that kind of time every day, then make it fresh one day and freeze it.

One thing I’m learning as I get older is that there is something immensely satisfying in making something from scratch. All of those tasks that I thought were tedious and time-wasters as a young person actually turn out to be the things that have brought me the most joy. It’s the simple things in life that bring us joy. When we use our talents to create things, it satisfies something deep within us. There’s no substitute for that.

A typical grocery list

So, to conclude this post, I thought I would make a list of what a typical grocery list might look like for someone on about $100 per month budget. As a separate list, I will make a list of things that you should buy in bulk and/or keep stocked in your kitchen at all times to make it work. This was a list for mostly me (and my kids on various nights of the week and weekends). If you have more people in your house, your bill might get larger, but not by much. Things like beans, rice, etc. can be bought in larger quantities than I would buy and the cost won’t double or triple (i.e. as you buy more in bulk, the price per unit goes down).

Grocery List:

4-5 Whole Chickens

4 1-lb bags of lentils

1 10 lb bag of potatoes

4 small bags of spinach (1 per week)

4 stalks of brocollis

4 heads of cauliflower

4 small bags of carrots

2 Green peppers per week

2 bags of vidalia onions

4 watermelons

1 bag of apples

Ream of bananas per week

Tortilla wraps

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

4 dozen eggs

4 half gallons of milk/almond milk

Possible additions/substitutions to this list:  Large bags of rice, steel cut oats for oatmeal, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple (get a real pineapple and not canned), canned tuna. Also note that I rarely eat breakfast because I do intermittent fasting, but there are items on this list that can be used for breakfast.

Things you should have in your kitchen already: Flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, powdered sugar, brown sugar, tea bags, coffee, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, yeast (for bread).

I’m sure I’m missing some stuff, but that’s the gist of it. With those items you can make all sorts of stuff from scratch. Notice there’s very little pre-packaged stuff on that list. You have to do the work. It takes some time, but you really only spend a few hours one day a week prepping for the whole week.

For example, on Sunday I would cook up one of the chickens, cut it off the bone and put it in a container in my fridge. I would cut up all the vegetables (including 2 onions) and put them in various dishes in my fridge. I would cut up the watermelon and pineapple (if I got one) and put it in the fridge.

Once that stuff is cut, most of the grunt work is done. One night I might come home and load up two tortillas with chicken, onion, peppers, shredded cheese, and toss in the microwave for some bangin’ fajitas. Add a little salsa and BOOM! Dinner is done. If you cooked up your lentils in a crock-pot, you can have two fajitas and a bowl of lentils and leave the table feeling like you just had the most amazing dinner ever.

Another night I might come home and throw some of the chicken into a pan and fry it. Take the veggies out and steam them and bake a potato. Again, a nice, healthy easy dinner. Another night I might throw the spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cheese, and chicken into a bowl and have a kick ass salad. Like I said, the chicken makes things pretty versatile. I kept watermelon and pineapple around for a snack, or I would make some popcorn or eat mixed nuts (the kind that you crack yourself).

At the end of the day you have to do what works for you and your family. I hope I’ve given you some stuff to think about and a place to start. Good luck and happy shopping!

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This One Incredible Shift Will Change the Way You See Happiness http://happymindsets.com/one-incredible-shift-will-change-way-see-happiness/ Sat, 09 Dec 2017 20:36:36 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=75 If you have ever taken a psychology class, the picture I’ve attached with this post will seem familiar to you. I’ll pitch to you one question: what do you see? If you saw a young, beautiful woman, then you are right. If you saw an old lady, then you are also right. If you can …

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If you have ever taken a psychology class, the picture I’ve attached with this post will seem familiar to you. I’ll pitch to you one question: what do you see? If you saw a young, beautiful woman, then you are right. If you saw an old lady, then you are also right. If you can see both, then you are probably a pretty flexible and open-minded person. If you struggle to see both, you’re probably pretty rigid in your thinking.

It’s a great exercise to get you thinking about how you perceive the world. We all have paradigms (i.e. beliefs and values) for how we see the world. Someone once said that we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. Others suggest that there are things about ourselves that we can’t change because they are programmed into our DNA at birth. I would say that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

A significant part of who we are is defined by our genetics. You shake what your mama gave you. Your IQ is comprised mostly of the genetics you were born with. Some people are born lucky. Others are…well…not so lucky. It’s what you do with what you’ve been given that defines you.The most fascinating thing about the picture is that people tend to see whatever they are primed to see. Studies done with this particular photo suggest that if you are primed to see a beautiful woman, you will most likely see a beautiful woman. You are also less likely to see the old lady if you first saw the beautiful woman. This is because our brains are wired to make sense of the world by putting things into categories. Once we assess a situation and make a decision about it, our brain files it away and moves on to other important tasks.

I am currently part of a book discussion club at work, and we are discussing Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. This picture shows up in the first chapter where he talks about paradigms and how we perceive the world. In our discussion group we talked about this picture and how that often the struggles we face as teachers comes from the way we frame a problem to our students. I often get questions from confused students in my math classes, not because the material is confusing them, but because the way the problem is written is confusing.

I just encountered this last night with my son. I was helping him with his homework. He is studying arithmetic sequences, and the formula is as follows:

an = a1 + (n-1)d

The problem I was helping him on was asking us to plug in a value for an and d so that we could find n. I had an awful time explaining to him that an was a single term and not two separate variables. For all intents and purposes he understood how to use the formula, but one little change in how they asked the question completely threw him off.

We see this type of struggle all the time in communication. How often do you stop to clarify what the other person meant before you reply to them? I would wager that you rarely, if ever, do that with any sort of frequency. But if you do it regularly, you will save yourself an enormous amount of grief. I’ve watched people argue online for hours only to find out later that they agreed on the issue and simply disagreed with how to express themselves on the issue. In our current political climate it’s easy to do. We get so emotional over another person’s opinion because we perceive them in a certain light.

The Power of Perspective

So, how does this pertain to happiness? What is the shift you can make that will change how you see happiness? I’m asking you to challenge your paradigm. Most of the advice you can find on the subject will often deliver the same platitudes:

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness IS the path.”

“Happy is as happy does.”

“Money can’t buy happiness.”

“Happiness comes from within.”

On and on it goes. Same stuff, different blog post. Not that any of that stuff is wrong. It’s just that we are so used to seeing it that we never stop to challenge our perspective on those things. How often do you repeat what you’ve heard someone else say about happiness but never really internalized? I do this sort of thing ALL THE TIME. When you’re going through something tough and someone gives you the same advice you’ve heard a thousand times, do you get annoyed?

What if, however, the message you’ve heard a thousand times is the very message you need to hear this time? I’m not saying that these platitudes are what will help you. I’m saying that maybe there’s a way of interpreting them that you haven’t looked at yet. So, what is the one incredible shift that will change the way you see happiness? The answer is in the question.

SHIFT

Shift your perspective on what you already know. Shift your idea of what you think brings you happiness. Shift your feelings on what you have. The power to SHIFT, to step out of the situation you are in, rotate yourself, and see it from another vantage point. The picture I posted in the beginning of this article challenges you to do just that. If you want to see both the old lady and the beautiful woman, you’re going to have to shift the way you are looking at the picture.

Even the very title of this article changes now that I’ve revealed to you what I am talking about it, doesn’t it? You came into this article expecting something else. Maybe you were expecting me to give you some nugget of wisdom that you haven’t heard before. Maybe you were expecting me to say something like “Okay, if you look at happiness like THIS, then you’ll see it in a new way.” You had that expectation because you were putting the emphasis on happiness. You were expecting something about happiness. But in this post I changed your perception and put the emphasis on the word shift. The answer to the question you were seeking: This incredible shift. Incredible was describing the answer to the question you had rather than just being a part of describing the happiness you expected to get from the post.

If you want to be happy, shift your perspective. Sometimes that means releasing the death grip you have on the problem you are facing so that you can see beyond it. Sometimes it means looking at the picture as a whole instead of a laser-like focus on the problem at hand. Shift! Move! Get up, walk around your problem, and see it from a different point of view. Your ability to do this will be the single most important thing you can do to achieve breakthrough in your life. Don’t scoff and write this off as a funny play on words. Challenge yourself to see things in a different way. This is the secret to happiness.

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The 3 Foundations of a Happy Life http://happymindsets.com/3-foundations-happy-life/ Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:55:19 +0000 http://happymindsets.com/?p=66 I want to talk about the 3 foundations of a happy life, but first let me clear something up. I am tired of apologizing for using biblical quotes and for qualifying everything that even hints at religion with conditions that won’t make people flip out and lose their minds. We have a serious issue in …

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The 3 foundations of a happy life

I want to talk about the 3 foundations of a happy life, but first let me clear something up. I am tired of apologizing for using biblical quotes and for qualifying everything that even hints at religion with conditions that won’t make people flip out and lose their minds. We have a serious issue in this country right now where people get offended and outright reject anything that they don’t personally believe with. I chose to use a scripture from the bible as the quote for this article, and I am drawing from the bible in this post, not because I intend to preach to you and tell you that you need to accept God as your savior before the devil casts you into hell with a pitchfork.

I am using a biblical quote (and will likely do so in the future) mostly because I feel like this particular quote nails the fundamental ideas that I think are at the core of a happy life. If you spend your life rejecting certain ideas because they come from a certain source, then you will live your life in ignorance. And I am talking to atheists and christians alike. In the future, I may quote something from Buddha. That doesn’t mean I am a Buddhist monk asking you to switch religions. I quote things from all sorts of sources that I’ve read because I want to use it to enhance what I have to say. That being said, let’s begin…I built this website on the idea that happiness, true happiness that arises from within you, is based on certain mindsets that often run in the background of your unconscious mind. Anybody can drum up a happy moment. It’s the reason why people drink, do drugs, and engage in risky sexual behavior. So many people try to medicate themselves, to believe their happiness exists in something external, that they often forget that true happiness springs from within. If you want to live a happy life, then you must find a way to embrace certain beliefs about your circumstances.

In this article I want to address three mindsets that I feel are foundational (i.e. you can’t build happiness for any length of time without them) to a happy life. So, let’s look at those mindsets.

Foundation 1: A Happy Life is Created from the Ability to Imagine Things that Don’t Currently Exist in your Life

The short way of saying that is: a happy person knows how to have faith. I don’t mean “faith” in the religious way (although it’s one of the reasons religious people find happiness). I mean “faith” in the sense that you need to have the ability to imagine new possibilities in your life. If you are unhappy, you’re going to have to do something that you aren’t currently doing. That’s just common sense. You can’t change how you feel by embracing old mindsets. Those mindsets are the reason you feel the way you do in the first place!

No, you need to cultivate more faith in your life. Imagination. An ability to dream up scenarios that can guide your goals. You have to believe that your circumstances are temporary, and that things can and do change over time. Even if you do nothing, this fact about life holds true. Things are going to change whether you want them to or not. You might as well embrace the change and cultivate the imagination necessary to be proactive about how that change occurs for you. A happy life is built on faith, the skill of knowing that everything is going to be okay even when your current circumstances seem to say otherwise.

I call faith a skill because it’s not just a belief you have. It’s a belief you practice. It exists within you and permeates to your core. You practice faith every day. You hold onto the notion that, when things go south, you have the ability to bring yourself back to happiness. Faith is like a compass. When moments of grief hit you, faith is that part of you that tells you you need to adjust something to get back on course.

Foundation 2: A Happy Life is Created from the Ability to Know Things will Turn out Okay

If faith is the compass, hope is an anchor. Faith and hope are very similar in that they both require you to see beyond your current circumstances. Where they differ, however, is in how you do that. Faith is imagination, hope is peace of mind. Faith will get you excited, hope will keep you grounded. It’s a deeply rooted notion that exists in your gut that speaks to you when you have doubts.

One of the biggest causes in suicidal feelings comes from a feeling of hopelessness. People struggle to describe how that happens over time. A bad thing happens…then another one…then another one. They keep happening (like a storm that won’t go away), and it beats against you to the point where you break and give up hope.

I remember this moment in my life. I remember the moment when I was lying in my bed believing that my life was not worth living and that everything was meaningless. A complete loss of hope is one of the most painful things you’ll ever experience in life. Perhaps someone reading this is experiencing that now. You lay in bed day after day wanting to kill yourself but not really wanting to die. It’s excruciating and bleak and it will rip you up from the inside if you allow it to continue.

So, how do you cultivate more hope in your life? The answer isn’t easy. I say you should start looking for the signs that your life has meaning. Your life matters. You feel hopeless because you are focusing on things that are beyond your control (i.e. the environment, the state of the world, politics, etc.). You have to refocus — zoom in on the things that are within your power. Begin to believe that good things CAN happen. They may not be happening right now, but the possibility exists that they will happen in the future.

You must also see the ways good things ARE happening. You have so many things that you take for granted. A place to sleep. A hot meal. A person or animal that loves you. Your life matters to someone. You just can’t see it. Start looking for the ways your life matters, and you will embark on the path that leads you back to a happy life.

Foundation 3: A Happy Life is Created from the Ability to Create and Cultivate Connections with Others

As a fierce proponent of individualism, I’ve always scoffed at this one. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that I don’t hate individual people, but, rather, that I hated large groups of people. My faith in people only exists on an individual basis. One-on-one people can be funny, hilarious, inspiring, etc., but in groups they can go either way.

If you’re introverted or libertarian-minded, you probably have similar thoughts. But just because groups of people get under your skin does not mean that you can never make a connection with people. I find that I thrive in small groups (groups of 3 to 5 people). I prefer situations where I’m with two other people and that neither of those people truly hog the spotlight. A good rapport between three people can literally change the world.

However, the point of this isn’t to discuss whether you like groups of people. It’s to say that each of us craves, at our core, a connection with other human beings. Even if you hide out in your basement all day, every day, there is a part of you that needs to make connections with people or it will mess with your state of mind. It’s important that you find people you care about (and who also care about you).

I understand that this post may reach people who have been routinely abused and/or neglected for most of their lives. Helping you may be beyond the scope of this post, but it’s still important to find ways to overcome that life and set yourself on a path of self love. You can’t truly love another person until you learn to love yourself. We crave love at our core, and the only way to find it is through trial and error. Find community events in your area and go to them. Attend a church. Use resources like meetup.com. Realize that deeper connections take time and that you may not find people you enjoy being around overnight, but if you persist you will eventually find a person (or group of people) who fulfill this basic need for you.

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