Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: V - Values #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

What are your values?

If I were to ask this question today on my Facebook wall, majority of the answers will either be vague, or they'll be generic traits that are considered desirable in the section of society where that particular respondent belongs.

It is true. Our societal and familial backgrounds do shape our values to certain extent, but not completely. The reality is, that most of us blindly do whatever our parents tell us, or the society expects from us. We never even bother to stop and think about what WE want in life, what are OUR priorities, what inspires us and what doesn't.

And that's where our unhappiness begins.


Values

How Do Values Affect Our Happiness?


They Give Purpose To Our Life.


Our personal values are the driving force in our life. They are a central part of who we are. They define what's important to us. They define us. They could be anything... family, career, ambition, service, honesty, reliability, punctuality, independence, selflessness... there are dozens of values, and any number of them could be important to us.

All of us have our own set of personal values. For example, my Dad could have some values, but the values that drive me could be different from his. And if I try to live my life according to his values, I will never be happy.

That is why, we use our values to identify what is right or wrong... for US. We use them to identify our priorities. We use them to understand what we want from life. They are the guidelines based on which we take decisions in life. When we face multiple options in life, our values point us in the right direction.

Whether we recognize them or not, they continue to mold us and our life. They give us goals, and they give us the INSPIRATION (Covered under 'I') to achieve those goals.


They Remove Clutter From Our Life.


Mahatma Gandhi said - "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

When our words and actions are in sync with our personal values, we are content. When our life is in direct conflict with our values, we experience feelings of frustration, guilt, confusion, discontentment, and even anger or resentment, if those conflicting decisions have been forced upon us. In short, we become unhappy.

For example, if you are a family oriented person, but you're in a job that frequently requires overtime, you will always be stressed. If you value honesty, and you're in a sales job where you have to constantly bend the truth to meet your targets, you will never be satisfied with your job. If you are an ambitious career-oriented girl, forced to quit job to take care of family, you will eventually lose all your self worth and become very frustrated with your life.

That is why, it is important to acknowledge our values, and then make life choices that align with those values. Knowing our values helps in removing the unnecessary distractions from our life, things that do not add meaning to our life, things that deviate us from our life purpose. It helps in SIMPLIFYING (Covered under 'S') our life.


They Keep Us Going When The Going Gets Tough.


So many times in life, we face setbacks and disappointments. Everything seems to be going uphill for us. We lose focus of where we were going, and why we were going there anyway. We lose the urge to fight. We feel like quitting.

Remember this popular quote? "When you want to give up, remember why you started." - author unknown

Our values do that for us. They remind us why we started.

Whenever we come to a point in life where we find ourselves fumbling in the dark, we should stop for a moment and rethink about our values. If we have lost track of our goals somewhere along the way, reassessing our values will set us on the right path once again. And if we are on the right track, the sight of our goals ahead will encourage us to keep going.

Remembering our values in times of adversity, gives us the strength to overcome our challenges. It make us RESILIENT. (Covered under 'R'.)


When we know our values, we can make decisions with clarity and confidence. Some choices in life may seem difficult, but we are able to make them anyway, because they feel right... for US. Remaining true to our values gives us a sense of integrity. It gives us a reason to be happy.

Do you ever feel restless and frustrated, but you can't put a finger on why? Do you ever feel "scattered" in all directions at once? Or that you have a little too much on your plate? How do you sort things through then? Do you know what your personal values are?

This is my 22nd post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: U - Unplug #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z ~ Ten On Tuesday

A decade ago, who would have thought that an A to Z list of happiness will have an entire article on unplugging from technology. But addiction to social media, internet, television and mobile phones is a very real thing in current times. So much so that there was actually a news item on Akashvani (All India Radio) last year, that several Facebook de-addiction clinics have opened up across the world!

My Dad started using Facebook in April last year, and today, he is more addicted to it than me! I used to wonder what he did on it for so long, because he has hardly 10 people in his friend list. So I took his phone one day and decided to check things out. (I must confess... I was a tad jealous! :P) Turned out that Facebook was busy "suggesting" videos to him! Funny videos, 5-paperclip-hacks kind of videos... you know. (His FB timeline is actually quite engrossing! I like it more than mine!)

But the thing is that he decides to check Facebook for just "5 minutes", and he doesn't even realize when those "5-minutes" turn into an hour! And this happens with all of us, doesn't it?


Our Addiction To Technology


The moment we wake up, we plug into technology, sometimes, without even getting out of bed. And we don't unplug throughout the day. There was a time when I used to chat on yahoo messenger till 2 in the night! And my computer remained 'on' round the clock, unless we had to lock up and go out of the house or we had a power cut. Now, we don't even need a computer, we have our "smart phones". We eat with them, sleep with them, travel with them, and even watch TV with them! If we wake up in the middle of the night, we immediately reach out for them!


Unplug

The usefulness of technology cannot be doubted. We are more connected to people who matter. It is a fantastic medium to learn new things. It has created so many new career opportunities. But there has to be a moderation in all things we do, right? Same with technology. It is a good servant, but it shouldn't be allowed to become our master. We need to unplug from technology periodically, if we want to remain truly happy.


10 Happiness Benefits of Unplugging from Technology


  1. Remember how we discussed under QUIETUDE (Covered under 'Q') that the things we hear and read during the day, continue to replay in our minds long after? Setting aside technology-devoid time every day helps in reducing this unnecessary chatter, so that we can free our mind to focus on what's important to us.

  2. Constant information download, and then the repeat chatter in our mind, creates "brain fog", or a "mental blur". We go on auto-pilot mode, doing our mundane things, without actually noticing anything. A break gives us the space to become MINDFUL (Covered under 'M') again.

  3. Social media provides us constant updates about what everyone else is doing. And we get so caught up in the FOMO syndrome (Fear Of Missing Out), that we start doing what they are doing. Irrespective of whether it has any benefit to us or not. A conscious break will help us realign our strategies and actions with our goals, and SIMPLIFY (Covered under 'S') our life.

  4. Too much time on media increases our exposure to negativity. Politics, shootouts, terrorist attacks, rapes, murders... these are the things that hog mass media these days. Personal insecurities are growing. Relationships are getting more superficial. We need to limit media to DISREGARD (Covered under 'D') all this negativity.

  5. I just found out that one of three Facebook users report feeling more dissatisfied with their life after spending time on Facebook! It is natural, isn't it? If we are constantly bombarded with "happy" updates of other people, we will find it difficult to ACCEPT (Covered under 'A') our own life and circumstances.

  6. When we are constantly exposed to negative news, and feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, it can be absolutely impossible to keep our THOUGHTS (Covered under 'T') positive. Thoughts of lack and loneliness can only create more of the same in our life. We should make a habit of going offline every once in a while, to ensure we don't get caught in a negative loop.

  7. If we keep thinking about the vacations we can't afford, or the family we don't have, we'll forget to appreciate what we DO have. Unplugging ourselves from technology allows us to remember our many blessings and be GRATEFUL (Covered under 'G') for them.

  8. Too much of technology consumption keeps us distracted throughout the day and is a huge time-waster. We are unable to focus on our work, due to which our productivity suffers. We miss deadlines, we commit mistakes, we forget to do things. All this leads to a build-up of anxiety. We need regular breaks to maintain our CALM (Covered under 'C').

  9. Did we have this constant sense of emergency back in the 90s? This pressing need to remain "connected" at all times? To reply to work mails even on weekends? Then why now? This constant "connectedness" has stolen everyone's "YOU" time. (Covered under 'Y'.)

  10. Lack of exercise, bad postures, constant eye-strain, plus all the health issues that arise because of stress and negative thinking. We even tend to eat more when we are distracted by the TV or internet! Regular "time-outs" are, therefore, essential to take care of our physical WELL-BEING. (Covered under 'W'.)

Technology is a boon, yes. But it can also be a curse if we don't unplug from it periodically. Real life doesn't happen on screens, it happens in the real world. We need to disconnect from technological distractions if we want to increase our productivity, and nurture our relationships. We need to spend at least some quality time every day with our loved ones, and not with our eyes and ears glued to screens!

How much time do you spend on social media or phone every day? Do you feel the urge to check your phone even when it doesn't beep? What about television and news? Do you experience "withdrawal symptoms" if you don't get your minimum daily quota of news?


Here's more in "Ten-On-Tuesday"!


This is my 21st post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: T - Thoughts #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Human mind is a fascinating thing. It can be our biggest strength, but it can also be our biggest weakness. If allowed to run amok, it is like a wild elephant, creating havoc wherever it goes. But, if tamed, it can be our very own, wish-fulfilling, magic genie!

Throughout centuries, a lot has been written about the "secret" power of mind. Ernest Shurtleff Holmes and Norman Vincent Peale, Buddha, Swami Vivekananda, and, in most recent times, Rhonda Byrne, they have all emphasized upon how we can shape our own destiny with what we choose to give space in our mind.

Majority of us, of course, shrug it off as fantasy, but the few who DO decide to give this "secret" a try, manage to create a life of their dreams. If you learn to harness your mind, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Financial success, professional success, health, love and, above all, happiness!


Thoughts

How Do Our Thoughts Affect Our Happiness Quotient?


Our lives and our happiness depend upon what thoughts we choose to hold in our mind, because it is our thoughts that create our feelings. And our feelings create our moods. But the process doesn't stop there, because our moods affect our decisions and behaviors, which, in turn, can create further happiness or sorrow for us.

For example, when I'm in a happy state of mind, and a customer at my shop asks for something that I cannot provide, I will say no to him with a smile, and will also suggest alternatives. He might settle with one of those alternatives, or he might just smile back at me and say "no thanks". But, if I'm already in an irritable state because of something that might have happened half an hour ago, I will reply curtly to him, and I won't bother to give him any other suggestions either. The customer will think I am rude and unhelpful, and might decide to take his business elsewhere. Or, if he's also in a bad mood, he could even give an angry retort, making things worse for the both of us.

Bottom-line is that if we think negatively about any situation, it gives rise to negative emotions within us, which make us react negatively, creating MORE negative situations. And we get caught in this loop of negativity. On the other hand, if we try to remain positive about things, then we can avoid creating further negativity, and maybe even turn possible stressful interactions into positive ones!

But how do we think positively about something bad that has happened in our day? For example, the maid did a no-show without prior information. Or the kid accidentally knocked over his glass full of milk. Or someone else got in the cab that we flagged over, in the morning rush hour. Or we reached office and discovered that we forgot an important file at home.

There could be hundreds of other things like this. Is is even possible to NOT get upset at them? I don't think so. Not for majority of us anyway. So how do we keep our thoughts positive in these situations?


How To Remain Positive In Negative Situations?


  1. ACCEPTANCE (Covered under 'A'.)

    Bad things happen to the best of us. And there will always be some people in our lives who bring our energy levels down. Instead of giving these circumstances and people any more space in our mind than the bare minimum, we should just accept what happened and move on.


  2. MINDFULNESS (Covered under 'M'.)

    The longer we remain in a negative state of mind, the more likely it is to become a habit. The good news is that we can hold only one thought in our mind at any point of time. The moment we think of something else, the first thought is gone, until we think of it again. And here's where mindfulness comes in. If we recognize that our chain of thoughts is going negative, we can consciously choose to think of something positive. In this way, we can replace all our negative thoughts as soon as we become aware of them.


  3. JEST (Covered under 'J'.)

    Finding humor in adversity is one of the best ways to come out of negative situations as quickly as possible. It not only keeps our spirits high, but also keeps us emotionally detached from our stressful situation, so that we are better able to find our way out of it.


  4. INSPIRATION (Covered under 'I'.)

    When we are in an inspired state of being, we are not affected so much by the "small stuff". It does not hold significance for us anymore. We are driven by something stronger, something within us. And we derive our strength and positivity from our inspiration.


  5. DISREGARD (Covered under 'D'.)

    If we spend too much time surrounded by negativity - negative people, negative work environments, stressful situations - it becomes difficult for us to keep our spirits up. (I speak from personal experience.) We should let go of negative people and environments before they start affecting us in any major way.


By using these five techniques, it is possible for us to keep our "dominant" thought state positive. Our dominant thoughts are the ones that have a greater impact on our happiness and life. They occupy maximum space in our mind, and are recurring. They are the ones that shape our BELIEFS. (Covered under 'B'.)

By using these techniques, we can ensure that our negative thoughts become transient, or "non-dominant". The non-dominant thoughts are merely superficial "reactions", that disappear as quickly as they flare up. These thoughts don't stay in our energy field long enough to create any substantial effects.


Summary: Benefits of Positive Thinking


Inculcating a habit of "Positive Thinking" has several benefits.

  • It has a positive effect on our health and WELL-BEING (covered under 'W'), reducing chances of depression.
  • It helps us remain CALM (covered under 'C') in times of stress.
  • It makes us more OPTIMISTIC (covered under 'O').
  • It increases our RESILIENCE (covered under 'R').
  • It helps foster an attitude of GRATITUDE (covered under 'G').

All of these, in turn, add to our "happiness meter".


What is your dominant state of thoughts? Do you tend to dwell more on the positive or negative? Is it easy for you to move on from negative situations in life? Or do you get stuck there for quite a while?

This is my 20th post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: S - Simplify #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Simple living is usually thought of as minimalist living or spartan living, or even miserly living.

Grow your own food.
Don't keep a car.
Give away ALL your possessions.
Don't outsource.
Cut off from the world.


In short, go to the Himalayas and live like a monk!

Personally, I don't see anything wrong in doing that. I think it would be an immensely empowering experience to be so self-sufficient. But, if everyone took off to the Himalayas, wouldn't it get too crowded?

Jokes apart, I have a slightly different interpretation of simple living... a SIMPLER interpretation.


Simplify

What Is Simple Living?


Every individual in this world is different. And we all have different roles to play in the grand scheme of things. So how can one size fit all? It can't.

I believe that simple living is all about removing the UNNECESSARY clutter and noise from our life. The stuff that we don't really NEED. The stuff that DISTRACTS us from what is really important in our life.

If a car helps you do your work more efficiently and lets you spend more quality time with the people who matter, then what's wrong in keeping a car?

If using a mixer-grinder-juicer in your kitchen allows you to eat healthier, then why give it away?

If outsourcing your cooking gives you more time to do stuff that gives you greater satisfaction, then what is the harm in it?

If an internet-enabled smart phone lets you make video calls to your grand-children, halfway across the globe, then how can it be a bad thing to have?

Simplifying our life doesn't mean that we give up all worldly possessions, dreams and desires. It just means that we set our priorities, and then align our life with those priorities. It is a simple 3-step process.


3 Steps To Simplify Your Life


  1. Identify your goals.

    Personal goals - could be related to health, travel, education, hobbies, etc.
    Professional goals - your career ambitions and financial targets.
    Relationship goals - marriage, kids, social clubs, etc.

    Make sure these goals are not in conflict with each other. Remember what happened in the movie Cheaper By The Dozen?

  2. Identify what you need for those goals.

    Do you need more sleep and exercise? Or maybe a course in photography and a new camera? Or a new job with flexi timings? Or perhaps you need to move to a smaller town, so you can afford a bigger house for a bigger family?

    Figure it out in simple actionable statements.

  3. Remove everything else.

    Let go of all the habits, beliefs, possessions, and even relationships (Yes, those too!), that don't align with your higher goals. Most importantly, let go of all the secondary goals that conflict from your higher goals. Majority of them will anyway be things that the SOCIETY expects you to do, not what YOU want to do.

    Yes, this won't be easy. But this is all the difference between a "simple life" and a "complicated life."


3 Tools For Simplifying Your Life


These are our three sharpest tools for simplifying our life.


  1. MINDFULNESS (covered under 'M')

    Watch what/who you let in your life. Watch WHY you let them in your life? Do they take you closer to your goals? Or do they deviate you from them?

  2. GRATITUDE (covered under 'G')

    Always appreciate what/who you have, and remember how they are helping you fulfill your dreams.

  3. RESILIENCE (covered under 'R')

    And once you identify that something/someone is important for you, then commit to them. Don't let anything/anybody else come in between you and what makes you truly happy.


10 Things We Can All Do With A Little Less Of


Here are a few things that we all can do with a little less of. And they are:

  • Worry less.
  • Complain less.
  • Compare less.
  • Think less.
  • Want less.
  • Talk less.
  • Doubt less.
  • Hate less.
  • Fear less.
  • Say 'Yes' less.

Have you got all your priorities sorted out in life? Do you need what you're chasing after? Do you need what you already have?

This is my 19th post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: R - Resilience #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Life is full of all kinds of challenges, hardships, setbacks and disappointments. So many times, things don't work out the way we planned. We fail in our endeavors, we suffer financial losses, or health issues, or heartbreaks... or all of them at once! (Oh yes! For some, all hell DOES break loose!)

But the thing about life is that it WANTS to live.

What Is Resilience?


We all have an inherent survival instinct within us. And I'm not just talking about us humans, but about ALL living things. The whole planet, in fact. We are NOT made to give up. Perhaps, that's the reason for evolutionary adaption.

Our "default setting" is that of resilience. It is the ability to bounce back up after a fall. It allows us to come out of difficulties and adverse life conditions, by adapting and learning.


Resilience

So if "resilience" is in our very nature, why do SO MANY of us find it so difficult to "come back"? Why does it take so many years for some of us to heal, to recover, and to move on? And why do some people just quit? On their very existence?

As I was researching the internet on this topic, I learnt that resilient people have a specific set of characteristics. And surprisingly, all of those characteristics are present in my A-to-Z list of happiness! Which means that resilient people are naturally HAPPIER people! Have a look at these characteristics:


10 Ways In Which Resilient People Are Happier


  1. They have faith in their own strength and ability to overcome challenges. And they BELIEVE in life (Covered under 'B'), that it will give them a second chance.

  2. They have a goal to fight for, a goal they believe in, and that gives them the HOPE (Covered under 'H') and INSPIRATION (Covered under 'I') to get back on their feet and continue chasing their dreams with renewed vigor.

  3. They are OPTIMISTIC people (Covered under 'O') who look for the silver lining in every situation. For them, even their failures are opportunities to learn something new and better.

  4. They have a childlike desire to experiment and EXPLORE new possibilities (Covered under 'E'), which makes them more resilient. Their interest in "what was" is very quickly replaced by their curiosity of "what could be".

  5. They ACCEPT (Covered under 'A') that there are certain things they can't control, and simply DISREGARD them (Covered under 'D'), so that they can focus all their energy towards those battles which they have a chance of winning.

  6. Resilient people don't take life too seriously. They don't take their successes and failures too seriously either. They tend to look for the humor in every situation. And this element of JEST (Covered under 'J') is what helps them bounce back up so easily.

  7. They keep trying to find innovative solutions for their problems. When confronted with a challenge, their focus automatically shifts to "How can I better equip myself to deal with this?" They are seekers of KNOWLEDGE (Covered under 'K')... about themselves, about others, about their business/profession.

  8. They have a set of VALUES in life (Covered under 'V') that are important to them and that give a sense of purpose and direction to their life, like a "Vision/Mission Statement". When they face setbacks, they just pause for a moment, and then realign themselves with those values.

  9. Above all, they take responsibility for their health and WELL-BEING. (Covered under 'W'.) Because they know that they'll be able to fight again ONLY if they have sound physical, mental and emotional health.

  10. And lastly, they understand the importance of having a strong social support network, for dealing with personal tragedies. So they continuously strive to BUILD such a network around them, by being XENIAL (Covered under 'X') and spreading LOVE (Covered under 'L'.)

What these characteristics show us is that resilience and happiness are very closely linked to each other. But, MORE IMPORTANTLY, it also gives us an implementable action-plan to become more resilient, so that problems don't break us that easily. (Or at least not in so many pieces that we, like poor old Humpty Dumpty, cannot be put together again!)

And HOW do we become more resilient? By adopting the above characteristics as a part of our own personality.


What Makes Resilient People Different From The Rest?


Resilient people don't let adversity and stress define them. They always remember that things tend to work out in the end, because that's how life is. They live by the motto "this too shall pass", and believe that "what doesn't kill them, makes them stronger".

They experience grief, anger, pain, and all such negative emotions, just like everyone else, but they don't get "stuck" in those emotions. And, because of all the characteristics discussed above, they tend to find greater contentment from their lives.


I think I'm fairly resilient. And I think it's mostly because of my curiosity for learning new things. Although I DO need to work more on numbers 9 and 10.

What about you? Do you find it easy to bounce back up? How many of these characteristics do you think you have?

This is my 18th post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: Q - Quietude #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Most people, when asked about their top 5 sources of inspiration, will list 'laying in bed', 'taking a shower', and 'a quiet walk'. What is common between these three sources? The quiet.

We live in times where quietude is a rarer commodity than real estate! Honks of traffic, TV debates, mobile phones buzzing at every Whatsapp message... that's the world we live in. Add to it the silent (i.e. non-verbal) chatter of social media. Constant information bombardment! Even when we are alone, our minds keep replaying most of this chatter back to us. And we probably don't even need to know 99.99% of this information, but because they occupy so much space in our mind all the time, we often miss hearing the 0.01% that actually might be useful for us.


Quietude

When I was in Patna, we stayed at one of the busiest intersections of the town. Right in the middle of the market. But when we moved to Jaipur, we selected an apartment towards the outer end of the town. Know why? Because of the greenery, the clean air, and the quiet. After years, I could finally hear the sound of birds chirping in the morning, instead of the honks of school buses.

What is the co-relation between quietness and happiness? What positive effects do peace and quiet have on our life?


5 Ways In Which Quietude Leads To Happiness


  1. Quietude Abates Anxiety

    While it's true that man is a social animal, it is also true that we need a little bit of peace and quiet too, to function optimally. Constant noise sends our mind into hyper-drive, whereas quiet surroundings have a settling effect on our minds. With practice, of course we can learn to quiet our minds even at noisy parties and busy malls, but for most of us, CALMNESS (covered under 'C') comes easier in undisturbed silence.


  2. Quietude Sparks Creativity.

    It is in silence that we are able to reach into the most creative and resourceful parts of our subconscious minds. That's when we are able to find solutions to our most challenging problems. That's when the "bulb goes on". That's why most of us find our muse in the stillness of mind. INSPIRATION (covered under 'I'), apparently, speaks in low volumes.


  3. Quietude Increases Awareness.

    Quiet and peaceful environments create a stillness within us. When our mind is not jumping around all over the place, like a hyperactive kid, we begin to notice things more. We become more aware of our surroundings and of ourselves. We are able to individually identify all the thoughts and feelings crossing our consciousness. In short, we become MINDFUL. (Covered under 'M'.)


  4. Quietude Cuts The Negativity.

    In my personal experience, too much of "connectedness" with the world only exposes us more to negativity. Be it TV or social media, or even social calls and visits. Most of the time, we only end up gossiping about others or comparing ourselves with others. I remember, during the few occasions when I went off Facebook for a month or more, I've been the most productive and most self-content. We need such moments of quiet to DISREGARD (covered under 'D') the negativity in our life.


  5. Quietude Intensifies Learning.

    Quiet environments facilitate alpha and theta brain states, the state of heightened learning and concentration, of insights and intuition. Children are naturally in alpha state most of the time, but, as we grow older, our default brain state shifts to beta, the state of reasoning and alertness. Beta is the state where we apply what we've learnt, but for absorption of KNOWLEDGE (covered under 'K'), we need to be in alpha.


In silence, the world seems full of possibilities. In silence, the past and future cease to exist, and we become content in the now. In silence, we hear voices we never get to hear in the rush and turmoil of life.

Quietude is perhaps a stimulating conversation for our spirit.

How much peace and quiet do you require in a day? Several hours or just a few minutes? How do you take a break from the noise of technology these days?

This is my 17th post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: O - Optimism #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

We've all heard of the famous quote by Winston Churchill that "a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

But, there is also a not-so-popular quote by Marianne Williamson that sums up optimism quite brilliantly. She says - "Children are happy because they don't have a file in their minds called 'All the Things That Could Go Wrong.'"

I think that's all the difference between an optimist and a pessimist.


What Is Optimism?


Optimism is a mental state that expects things to get better, even during times of hardship. It is the belief that negative situations can be transformed into positive ones, and that we HAVE enough control over our lives to shape it in whatever manner we choose to.

While pessimism would have us believe that every little mistake or obstacle is "THE END", optimism lets us see it for what it actually is, and motivates us to find solutions and better ways of doing that task.


Optimism

Both pessimism and optimism are ways of thinking though, and not a permanent part of our personality. It means that we can CHOOSE to be either of them - a pessimist or an optimist. Our experiences during our growing-up years do tend to shape our inclination towards one of them, but it doesn't mean we are "hard-wired" and cannot change. And I know this from personal experience.

Why then should we choose to be optimistic rather than pessimistic?

Research has shown that optimism offers a lot more benefits than pessimism, in practically all areas of life, and ultimately, all these differences add up to making us happier individuals. Here are some of those benefits discussed in detail.


How Does Optimism Lead To Happiness?


Optimism Keeps Us Detached From Negativity.

If you are an optimist by default, then you wouldn't know how a pessimist thinks. I do, because I am one. Pessimists blame themselves for everything. Even if someone else is being a jerk, our first instinct is to see what we did wrong! Remember that "inner-critic" we discussed under DISREGARD (covered under 'D')? That inner-critic is especially loud and active in our cases. Add to it a critical environment too, and that's it. You'll never get us to do anything! I've learnt that adopting an optimistic way of thinking is the best way to remain unaffected by both the inner as well as outer demons.


Optimism Makes Us Hopeful.

While pessimism is rooted in our own lack of self worth, optimism is the belief that we have the ability to change things around us. Optimism is the feeling of "empowerment", as against the "helplessness" of pessimism. Optimism fulfills two out of the three HOPE postulates of Snyder (covered under 'H') - 1. Agency and 2. Pathways.


Optimism Prevents Us From Quitting.

Pessimistic people think along the lines of "This well never work!", "What's the use?", "I'm destined to be doomed!" They quit very quickly, be it a new diet plan, or a new exercise schedule, or jobs, or relationships... you name it! Whereas optimistic people bounce back more easily from setbacks and disappointments. "It didn't work out today. Maybe I'll have better luck next time!" That's how they think. In short, optimism makes us more RESILIENT. (Covered under 'R'.)


Optimism Improves Our Health.

Research has shown that optimism has a positive effect on our physical and mental WELL-BEING. (Covered under 'W'.) It gives us a stronger immune system and helps us recover from illness more quickly and completely. It also makes us less prone to anxiety and depression. Besides, people with optimistic way of thinking naturally make healthier lifestyle choices, because they believe that they have control over their health.


Optimism Helps Us Maintain Good Relationships.

Optimistic people are mentally and emotionally better equipped to dealing with relationship challenges. They are more willing to give things another shot and try other ways of interacting. They are also more open to working upon themselves. Pessimism makes us withdraw from people, but optimism encourages us to go out and patch things up, or "put in the effort", as we call it. In short, it makes us look at all our relationships with LOVE (covered under 'L'), including the one with our self.


With so many benefits, it only makes sense to inculcate a mindset of optimism. I have realized that the "shift" happens when we take control of our own life. When our thought process changes from "there is nothing that I can do about this" to "what can I do to make this better". That is the point of transformation from pessimism to optimism.

What is your default state of mind - pessimism or optimism? What tactics do you use to get out of pessimistic situations and recharge your "hope meters"?

This is my 15th post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: N - Nature #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

With the advent of cable TV, internet, and now mobile phones, our pastime activities have got more and more confined to the indoors. A lot of us spend weeks and months without any proximity to natural surroundings. But studies have shown time and again that getting involved with nature makes us healthier and happier, and not just because of the little bit of exercise we might get in the process!


Nature

Spending time with, interacting with, or even just observing and appreciating nature can have a marked difference on our happiness and vitality. Here are some ways in which being connected to nature promotes a sense of happiness.


How Does Spending Time With Nature Make Us Happier?


  1. Creates Acceptance.

    Spending time outdoors and interacting with nature, causes a shift in our perspective. We remember that we are not alone, that we are a very tiny part of something infinitely bigger and grandiose. And that helps us ACCEPT things as they are. (Covered under 'A'). We understand that everything around us has a role to play, and so do we.


  2. Reduces Anxiety and Hyper-Tension.

    There is something about nature that takes our stress away. Whether it is the deep blue of the ocean or the earthy greens and browns of plant life. Or maybe it is the realization that a force so much bigger than us has created all of this. And, in comparison, all our worries tend to fade away into insignificance. And CALMNESS descends over us. (Covered under 'C'.)


  3. Encourages Us to Explore.

    Being in nature brings out our sense of wonder. The different patterns on sea-shells, the varying colors on butterflies' wings, the shapes in the clouds, a new nest in the trees... we keep striving to discover more. The "new" doesn't frighten us anymore. Rather, it excites us. It fills us with a sense of possibilities. We become more open to EXPLORE. (Covered under 'E'.)


  4. Promotes A Sense of Gratitude.

    My shop is just a 2-minute walk from my building, but even that little bit of time fills me with GRATITUDE (covered under 'G'), as I notice all the trees along the way and the clear blue sky above me. And I'm reminded how nature provides for all my needs. Most of all, it reassures me of my own place in the grand scheme of things.


  5. Inspires Creativity.

    You look up any article on dealing with writers' block, and one of the suggestions will be to spend some time in nature! nature fuels our curiosity. Why do apples fall down and trees grow up? How do birds fly and fish swim? nature is perhaps the biggest source of INSPIRATION (covered under 'I') for human minds.


  6. Brings about Mindfulness.

    Spending some time with nature, just experiencing it and observing it, can help us become more grounded in the present moment. Whether we are gazing at the stars billions of light years away, or listening to the birds chirping at our window sill. (In my case, it's the top of my shop shutter! And they are busy chattering away right now, as if the fate of this world rested upon their tiny shoulders!) A connection with nature makes us more MINDFUL. (Covered under 'M'.)


  7. Makes Us Kinder and More Generous.

    In a research, one group of participants were made to stare at some very tall trees, and another group spent the same time looking up at high-rise buildings. The first group showed a measurable increase in feelings of awe, and demonstrated more helpful and ethical behavior even long after the experiment was concluded. Being in nature enhances our ability to connect with others and feel a part of one whole, making us more XENIAL. (Covered under 'X'.)


  8. Improves Our Health.

    Exposure to nature has scientifically proven benefits on our physical and mental WELL-BEING. (Covered under 'W'.) It strengthens our respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and alleviates depression. It relieves the attention fatigue and "burnout" caused by constant information overload in these times of ubiquitous technology, and restores our depleted mental circuits to their normal health.


Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, says that "nature is fuel for the soul". His advice to us is that when we feel tired and reach for that cup of coffee, we should instead go for a stroll in the park.

Nature makes us "feel more alive". No matter how busy our schedule may be, we must always try and find some time to appreciate the beauty and oneness of nature around us.

How do you make time for nature in your life? Do you have your own vegetable garden to nurture? Or a dog perhaps, to lead you in search of rabbit holes? Or are you a part of some photography group that holds weekly "photo walks"? How do you get your daily dose of nature?

This is my 14th post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: M - Mindfulness #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Mindfulness is a centuries old therapeutic technique, used for focusing our awareness on the present moment... on our thoughts, feelings, actions and bodily sensations RIGHT NOW... so that we don't get distracted by our environment and the inherently flighty nature of our mind. Mindfulness reduces stress and improves effectiveness in our day-to-day life. It helps us control our mind, so that we can use it to our maximum advantage.


How Do We Define Mindfulness?


Jon Kabat-Zinn, a well-known author and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts, says - "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."

Psychologist Scott Bishop describes mindfulness as a “nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, sensation that arises... is acknowledged and accepted as it is.”


Mindfulness

When we are mindful, we do things "purposefully", not just for the sake of completing them. When we are mindful, we don't keep switching to and fro between regrets about the past and worry about the future. When we are mindful, we don't "react" to our experiences, we simply witness, and, if required, we "respond".

So how exactly does mindfulness affect our happiness quotient?


5 Ways In Which Mindfulness Leads To Happiness


  1. Mindfulness Makes Us More Grateful.

    Our life is full of countless blessings. From the air that we breathe, to our bodies, which we so carelessly neglect. But our minds our usually so "full" that we never notice how blessed we are. If we start paying attention to our life, moment by moment, we will find that we have a million things to be grateful for every single day. An attitude of GRATITUDE (covered under 'G') makes way for happiness in life.


  2. Mindfulness Increases Productivity And Knowledge.

    When we do something with all our focus and attention, our memory and concentration automatically increases. We are able to learn more, faster. We are able to recall things better. With this enhanced sense of acquiring and applying KNOWLEDGE (covered under 'K'), we work with greater confidence. We tend to make fewer or no mistakes. Our quality of work improves. We are able to complete the task at hand quicker.


  3. Mindfulness Leads To Inner Contentment And Calmness.

    When we are fully focused in whatever we are doing, we know that we are giving it our best. Whether it is the preparation of an important client presentation at work, or something as mundane as brushing our teeth in the morning. We know we haven't forgotten anything. We know we haven't made any careless mistakes. We are confident that we have given our hundred percent. And that gives us a sense of inner satisfaction. It also does away with the stress associated with tackling too many things at the same time, allowing us to be more CALM. (Covered under 'C'.)


  4. Mindfulness Cuts the Negative Chatter In Our Minds.

    Human minds can hold only one THOUGHT at a time. (Covered under 'T'.) Most of the time when we get caught in a loop of mental negativity, it happens because we don't even realize that we've started on thoughts that make us unhappy, because we haven't been paying attention to what we were doing. When we learn to be mindful, the moment we notice that a negative thought has crept into our mind, we can instantly change it with some other positive thought. Mindfulness helps us see thoughts as clouds floating by through our consciousness. It shows us that WE have the POWER to decide which thoughts will stay and which won't.


  5. Mindfulness Improves Our Inter-Personal Relations.

    Would you like it if your partner, despite knowing the fact that you're an asthmatic and allergic to cigarette smoke, started smoking around you? Forget allergies, let's talk about likes. Have you never been annoyed at your mom for packing something in your school lunch box that you hated? We expect our closed ones to be "mindful" of our needs, don't we? Likewise, we also tend to get closer to people who show sensitivity to our needs. Mindfulness is the tool that helps us live our life with LOVE. (Covered under 'L'.)


Despite all its benefits, mindfulness is not our "default" state. It has to be developed by conscious effort and practice. Here are the three key elements required for practicing mindfulness.


3 Key Elements For Practicing Mindfulness


  1. Intent:
    You must consciously WANT to be fully aware in your present moment (and do this repeatedly, whenever your awareness shifts).

  2. Focus:
    You only need to pay attention to what is happening RIGHT NOW. What you are doing, what you are feeling, what you are thinking, what does the air feel like around you?...

  3. Attitude:
    Just watch. Do not judge. Do not react. Only witness.

Do you try to practice mindfulness in your daily life? If yes, then how do you do it? How has being mindful improved your life or your relationships?

This is my 13th post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: K - Knowledge #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

What makes us humans different from the rest of the animal kingdom? What makes us more "evolved"?

It is our ability to process and store knowledge, and to use it not just to survive, but to thrive. The rest of the animal kingdom adapts or goes extinct, but we have the ability to think and innovate. This applied "knowledge" is what makes us an "intelligent species".

Seeking knowledge is intrinsic to human nature. Knowledge about our world, knowledge about how things work, even knowledge about ourselves and our very existence! (Of course, there are some things you're better off remaining ignorant about. For example, knowledge of what it's like to have kidney infection or UTI!)


Knowledge

According to some schools of thought, acquiring knowledge could perhaps be the only reason for our existence. We are born, we learn things, we pass on our knowledge to the next generation, and then we die. Remember the movie Lucy?

How does pursuit of knowledge lead to happiness then?


4 Ways In Which Knowledge Leads To Happiness


  1. Pursuit of Knowledge Gives Us A Goal.

    Pursuit, of anything, gives us a sense of purpose, or a goal. When we go after our "goals", it activates the "seeking" neurological structures in our body, which in turn generate Dopamine - a chemical, responsible for increased alertness, focus and concentration. And doing something with all our concentration creates a state of MINDFULNESS. (Covered under 'M'). It leads to a sense of greater satisfaction, making us happier.


  2. Knowledge Helps Us Shape Our Destiny.

    Knowledge is power. Knowing our VALUES (covered under 'V') and PASSIONS (covered under 'P') helps us identify our goals. Knowledge, then, gets us closer to those goals. Whatever we want to achieve in life, we need to take constant steps in that direction. And knowledge gives us the power to decide what steps to take. Our life is the sum total of the outcomes of our decisions. And "informed decisions" can influence those outcomes towards a course that makes us happier. A very small example... if I KNOW that kids will come looking for friendship bands at my shop, in the first week of August, I can plan ahead and stock them in time. Satisfied customers, AND more sales for me! That is the power of knowledge.


  3. Expansion of Knowledge Increases Our Self Confidence.

    Snyder's HOPE postulates (covered under 'H') included creating "pathways". Multiple routes to reach our goals. Keeping an open mind and always pushing our self to learn new skills and new things, ensures the creation of those multiple channels. Knowing that we have more than one way of achieving our dreams, makes us more confident of our own abilities, and increases our self esteem and OPTIMISM (covered under 'O') in life.


  4. Knowledge Improves Inter-Personal Relationships.

    Being knowledgeable about the world and the things around us gives us something to talk about with strangers. Makes it easier to engage with others, whether it is at work, or during "solo" train journeys. Having knowledge about the people around us... what motivates them, what shaped them in the past, their likes and dislikes... helps us interact better with them, leading to fewer conflicts. It enables us to ACCEPT them for who they are (covered under 'A'), and FORGIVE them (covered under 'F') for any mistakes. And lastly, knowledge about our self makes us aware of our "buttons", so that we can avoid reacting when they're pushed.


Without knowledge, we cannot progress in life. And without progress, there can never be happiness. But sometimes, too much knowledge can also seem overwhelming. For example, if I had known ten years ago that blogging would require such a lot of work, I might not have started it. But then I would have missed out on a secondary source of income. And some lovely friends.

So maybe not "all" knowledge is right for "all" of us. And maybe not "all" of it is right at "all" times. But knowing the "what" and "when" requires more knowledge. Ignorance, then, is not bliss... it is chaos. We need knowledge to be happy in life, but we also need the knowledge of "selection" of that knowledge.

Have you ever made a mistake in life, because you didn't "know better" at that time? Have you ever missed any opportunity in life because you didn't have the required knowledge for it then? Did an unexpected "door" ever open up for you because of some knowledge you acquired years ago but never thought you'd use?

This is my 11th post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: J - Jest #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

There are these two 10-11 year old girls in my neighborhood, who come to my shop very often to buy pens and other small stationery items. And they always have jokes to share with me.

"May I tell you a joke?", one of them will ask me, and then continue on without waiting for an answer! :D

Then there is this other girl, probably 7 year old. She usually comes with her grandpa, and she has him totally wrapped around her little finger, with all her wit and playfulness! Always manages to coax him into buying more than he'd originally agreed to! (But you don't see me complaining at that, do you?)

A lot of kids at my store are like that. Everything seems funny to them. When they run short of cash, that's something to laugh about. When that expensive pen they bought 2 days ago got "lost" at school and they got scolded at home for it, naturally that was one of the funniest things to happen to them. So was the time when they fell off their bike and scraped their elbow. (Oh yes! I get to hear "those" stories too! Little boys love to brag, don't you know?) One 12-year-old finds it most amusing when his mom threatens to lock him out of the house if he spent more than "X" amount of money in my shop that day!


Jest

Kids don't take life as seriously as us adults. They simply find the humor in everything, jest their way out of any tricky situations, and win everybody's hearts with their innocent laughs. Nothing fazes them. They know, then, what we tend to forget somewhere between getting voting rights and becoming grandparents.


3 Ways In Which Humor and Jest Lead To Happiness


  1. Humor Improves Our Physical Health.

    A good, hearty laugh is good for the heart. No, really! It's a fact. Laughter exercises those muscles and blood vessels, and increases blood flow. It releases endorphins in our blood stream, that act as temporary analgesics and promote overall WELL-BEING. (Covered under 'W'.) It also reduces stress hormones in our body, and boosts our immune system.


  2. Humor Keeps Us More Positive.

    Remember Bruce Willis in the Die Hard series? Even in hostile enemy territory, he never stops making wisecracks and funny one-liners. Humor not only puts a stop to feelings of anxiety and anger, but also helps release stress and recharge our energy, leading to a state of CALMNESS. (Covered under 'C'.) It shifts our THOUGHTS (covered under 'T') and perspective from "I am doomed" to "Anything is possible". And, most importantly, it helps us get emotionally detached from our stressful situation, putting us in a state of mind from where we can find better solutions and ways out.


  3. Humor Enhances Inter-personal Relationships.

    Humans naturally gravitate towards jovial, optimistic people. We bond more easily with people whom we laugh with. Our jocular colleagues are the ones who are considered first for that promotion at work. Humor makes people forget their hurts, resentments, disagreements, and doubts. It helps us FORGIVE. (Covered under 'F'.) And nothing diffuses conflict faster than humor. Besides, remember Jim Carrey in that boardroom scene in Liar Liar?


One of the best ways to develop our sense of humor is to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Everyone loves a person who can laugh at himself.

You want proof? Alright!

These are my two most popular blog posts on social media (i.e. Facebook):

  1. When I blushed
  2. When I got locked in the bathroom at my best friend's wedding

See? Everyone loves a good laugh at someone else's expense! :P

So... do you have any such personal "goof-up" stories to share that could tickle my funny-bone?

This is my tenth post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: I - Inspiration #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

The Oxford Dictionary defines inspiration as:

"The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative".

People usually associate inspiration with the creative sorts - artists, musicians, writers, scientists. But inspiration isn't limited to only a select few. The fact is that all of us, regardless of what our profession may be, need inspiration to remain happy and productive.

It is very easy to spot an inspired person among us. He could be a doctor or a teacher or even your neighborhood shop-owner. (Like me!) He could be anybody who does his job with love and imagination. Anybody who keeps discovering new, creative ways to solve the challenges in his line of work. A person who is FUELED by problems, not discouraged by them. A person who is inherently curious, and every new challenge is an opportunity for him to learn something new.


Inspiration

6 Ways In Which Inspiration Leads To Happiness


  1. Inspiration gives us a purpose in life, or a GOAL. Like that apple did for Newton. It gives us something to strive for. Remember Snyder's first HOPE Postulate? (Covered under 'H'.)

  2. Inspiration opens us to new possibilities and changes the way we perceive our own capabilities. Inspired people have higher self-esteem. They have greater confidence in their own competence and creative ability to achieve their goals. (Snyder's second and third HOPE Postulates - Covered under 'H'.)

  3. Inspiration makes us more receptive to new experiences. Inspired people are naturally more willing to EXPLORE. (Covered under 'E'.) They are like kids. A little spark can set them off on new "treasure hunts"!

  4. Inspiration leads to greater absorption in our work. And it is a scientifically proven fact that whenever we do something with all out heart in it, we enjoy it more. MINDFULNESS leads to contentment. (Covered under 'M'.)

  5. Inspiration motivates people intrinsically rather than extrinsically. That is why, when we are truly inspired, we are not affected so much by our work conditions. Workplace clutter goes unnoticed. We forget to have our meals. (I know I do that!) We can thrive on fewer hours of sleep. We don't care what others around us are doing. In short, the "small stuff" doesn't affect us anymore. Inspirations fuels our inner drive... our PASSION. (Covered under 'P'.)

  6. Inspiration inculcates GRATITUDE in our life. (Covered under 'G'.) Ask anyone who was ever "hit" by inspiration, and he'll say it felt as if the idea was suddenly "planted" in his mind by some "higher force". The more inspired we are, the more grateful we are... to whatever it is that guides us.

If inspiration gives us so many reasons to be happy, it naturally makes sense to remain inspired, right? So how do we do that?


How Do We Find Inspiration?


Well. Inspiration is like lightening. It can hit us anywhere, and at any time. So, obviously, there cannot be a set "formula" that might work for everyone, right?

At the most, what we can do is to learn how to create a state that attracts that bolt of lightning to us. In other words, we can figure out what works as a "Lightning Rod/Conductor" for us.

All we need to do for this is:


  1. Monitor the things and situations that inspire us most.
  2. Incorporate them in our natural work flow, so that we become constant "magnets" for inspiration.

Some Common Sources Of Inspiration


Different people find their muse in different places and situations. My top five sources of inspiration are:

  1. Stimulating phone conversations
  2. Spending time with kids
  3. Necessity (that makes me very innovative!)
  4. Quiet (at night in bed, or in the shower)
  5. Reading (books, blogs, even Facebook updates)

Your turn now. What are your top 5 sources of inspiration? Do you feel happier when you are inspired?

This is my ninth post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: H - Hope #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

Life is full of challenges, disappointments, and failures. At times, we feel so stuck in our life situations that we feel like giving up... on our dreams, on our health, on the people in our lives, even on ourselves. But Nature didn't create us to quit. Nature made us RESILIENT (covered under 'R'.) We're not meant to give up. Not without a struggle, no. And that is why we possess something called "hope".

Hope is the belief that things will fall into place, even if it doesn't seem so right now. Hope shows us a better "future", even when the "today" looks bleak. When logic screams in your head - "This will never work!"... hope whispers gently - "Anything is possible!" Hope is what keeps us going, when the going gets bad. Hope is that state of mind that allows us to believe that things will change for good.


Hope

10 Documented Effects and Benefits of Hope


  1. reduces anxiety and depression
  2. brings about positivity and optimism
  3. induces a greater sense of meaning in life
  4. increases productivity and makes you persistent
  5. enhances self-esteem and builds self confidence
  6. leads to physical, emotional, and financial well-being
  7. promotes healthy living and increases longevity
  8. makes you more tolerant, inspired and grateful
  9. improves your relationships and social life
  10. helps in easier and quicker recovery from illness

So if hope is so beneficial and is supposed to be a "natural" mental state for us, how come so many of us end up without it?

Psychologist Charles Richard Snyder states -

"hope is a process of goal-directed thoughts that reflects both - the belief that one can find pathways to the goal, and has motivation based on one’s perceived capabilities or thinking."

Snyder postulated that hope requires the following three thought components:


  1. Goals: Clearly defined, meaningful objectives, that give you a sense of PURPOSE in life.

  2. Agency: The sense of empowerment, that you have what it takes, to facilitate CHANGE in your life conditions.

  3. Pathways: The knowledge that you are capable of figuring out MULTIPLE channels/routes to achieve your goals.

And how exactly do these three things add up to form hope?


Snyder's Hope Postulates (Requirements for Hope):


  • Hope Postulate 1 - GOALS:


    Human beings are dreamers. We dream, and then we work to make those dreams come true. And when we achieve them, we weave some more dreams. It is what we live for. It is what makes us jump out of our beds every morning. And look forward to the day in hand.

    But sometimes, our dreams get broken, leaving us without anything to aspire for. And sometimes, they can be so brutally trampled upon by other people that we might even become too scared to dream again!

    Not knowing where you want to go or what you want to do in your life can easily suck you into feelings of despair. You lose your sense of purpose in life. You don't know what you're here for. You don't feel like you're adding any value to the world in any way. You are merely... existing.

    You try to picture yourself five years into the future, and you see yourself exactly where you are right now, doing the exact same things. You're stuck here, in this very spot, for the rest of your life. You cannot move, well... because you DON'T KNOW where to go! That's when you start questioning your very existence. "Why am I even still alive?"

    That is why, dreams are important. In order to have hope, we need to have realistic goals in life. Always. No matter how badly we failed in the past, or how much it hurt in the past.

    And what do we need for setting goals? We need knowledge about the following three things:


    1. Our VALUES (covered under 'V'):
      What are your priorities in life? What drives you from within?

    2. Our INSPIRATION (covered under 'I'):
      What ignites your creative spark? What makes you even think of stepping out of your comfort zone?

    3. Our PASSION (covered under 'P'):
      What are the activities that you enjoy doing so much that you even forget to be depressed while you are doing them?

  • Hope Postulate 2 - AGENCY:


    Human beings need to feel empowered. We need to be able to believe that we have some amount of control over our lives, that we CAN affect change when required. Feelings of "helplessness" can very easily turn into "hopelessness".

    This is probably where most of us get stuck. We grow up in such critical environments that many of us aren't even aware of our own capabilities. Oh we all know what we're bad at... we keep hearing it so often, both from others as well as our own inner critic... but what we're GOOD at is something that we're never quite confident of!

    In order to have hope, we need to be able to recognize our own strengths and skills. Ask yourself:

    What are you good at?
    What can you do?
    What do you know?
    How can your specific skill-set help you realize your goals?


    If we have conviction in our abilities, and believe that we can reach our goals, we will never despair.

    And for that, we need to learn to DISREGARD the negativity in our lives. (Covered under 'D'.) We need to allow only those people in our lives who are appreciative of us, who help us see how wonderful and amazing we are.

    We need to network with people who BELIEVE in us, so that OUR self-belief becomes strong. (Covered under 'B'.) And we need to keep doing more of what we know we're good at.


  • Hope Postulate 3 - PATHWAYS:


    We've all heard of the saying, "Do not keep all your eggs in one basket", haven't we? Well... Snyder's "Pathways" are our multiple "baskets" of hope. Even if we drop one basket, we still have other ways to get to our destination. And all it requires is a little bit of proactive thinking.

    You need to prepare for multiple options/ways of reaching your goals. (Plan A, Plan B, Plan C... the more the merrier!) Some of those options may be less desirable than the others, but the fact that they ARE there, in case you need them, provides a higher probability of reaching your goals. The knowledge, that you have multiple cushions to fall back upon, automatically makes you more optimistic of achieving your goals.

    So invest in the diverse... be it your financial portfolio, or your relationships, or your skills.


    1. EXPLORE new possibilities and ideas. (Covered under 'E'.) Take up new challenges and hobbies. Interact with new people.

    2. Gain KNOWLEDGE (covered under 'K') of new skills, technologies and trends. Work on your own imperfections and limitations.

    3. Most importantly, work on your physical health and WELL-BEING. (Covered under 'W'.) Because health, truly, is the real wealth.

    Always keep striving towards creating new channels and pathways towards your goals. (See? That, in itself, can be a goal to wake up for!)


People without hope are not just unhappy, they are depressed. They are stuck in a tunnel with NO LIGHT at the end. They are the ones who flush their medicines down the toilet and put a knife to their wrist, or a rope around their neck. They hide in their "cave" and refuse to come out.

I am no psychologist. And I'd never heard of Snyder or his three postulates until yesterday (when I started doing research for this post). But I DO know what living without hope means. And I know that Snyder's theory is correct. I had to work upon all three of these to come out of that mental state. And I wish now that somebody had told me about them back then. Maybe my phase of "despair" wouldn't have lasted for so long.

Today, I'm only going to ask you ONE question at the end of this post.

Do you know of anyone who might be exhibiting signs of such acute despair or depression?

If yes, then PLEASE share this article with him/her. Just knowing that they're not losing their mind, and that there actually IS a step-by-step method they can follow, to restore positivity and meaning in their life, will give them the hope they so badly need. Thank you.

This is my eighth post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A to Z of Happiness: G - Gratitude #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z

The root of our unhappiness lies in the fact that human beings, as a general rule, are inclined towards hedonistic adaption. Seeking pleasure, by itself, is not so bad. But getting used to it and taking it for granted, feeling a sense of "entitlement" towards it, that's a perfect recipe for disappointments, frustrations and unhappiness.

Most of us keep waiting for something big to happen in our lives, so that we could take out our fine china and open that bottle of expensive wine to celebrate. But that gives us so few opportunities to celebrate in life, doesn't it? If we only focus on the "big" things in life, we'll spend most of our life being unhappy.


Gratitude

The last decade of my life has been tough. There were a lot of setbacks, harassment and illnesses, and hardly any of the so-called "big" things that I could celebrate. (Except for my sister's wedding and my move to Jaipur perhaps, and even these were lined with so many little frustrations!)

That's when I learnt to appreciate the "little" blessings in my life. Most of all, my own body. (Which is probably the one thing that is taken most "for-granted" and abused!)

I don't want to start a list here of all the things I learnt to be grateful for... (maybe some other time, in some other post) but I do want to share what I realized about the importance of gratitude in staying happy.


5 Ways In Which Gratitude Leads To Happiness


  1. Gratitude checks our hedonistic adaption tendencies.


    I first noticed this tendency when I used to play FarmVille on Facebook. We all had become addicted to getting ALL the new stuff released in the game! It didn't matter whether we had any use for them or not, we wanted them anyway. If only to dump them in our "storage"! We'd become hoarders! And we hardly spent any time enjoying the things we'd already won in the game, because we would immediately start trying to get the "next" thing!

    Our happiness, on achieving something new, is so short lived! The more we get, the more we want! And the more dissatisfied we become with what we have! Because most of what we have is just occupying space in our life, without adding any meaning. It is like a madness!

    Practicing gratitude for all our little achievements puts a stop to this insatiable insanity. It removes the meaningless clutter from our life and helps SIMPLIFY it. (Covered under 'S'.) It prevents us from taking the good for granted, and helps us in remaining detached from the positive circumstances in our life. "This too shall pass." So enjoy it while it lasts.

  2. Gratitude helps us sail through tough times.


    This is actually just the reverse of the above point. Gratitude keeps us from getting attached to the positivity in our life, but at the same time, it also helps us maintain an emotional distance from our rough times, because we realize that even they will pass!

    Good times, bad times... they're BOTH merely passing through our life. We don't identify with either. We're not "entitled" to either.

    Practicing gratefulness helps us remember that. Consequently, it reduces the intensity of our suffering during stressful and traumatic times, by allowing us to DISREGARD the negative circumstances. (Covered under 'D'.)

  3. Gratitude raises our self esteem.


    We are usually conditioned to focus on our shortcomings and failures... all the things that we don't have in life.

    I can't do this!
    I'm so bad at this!
    I don't have this!


    This takes a huge toll on our OPTIMISM quotient. (Covered under 'O'.)

    Making a conscious effort to remain grateful shifts our focus to our virtues, accomplishments, and all that we DO have in life.

    I am awesome at this!
    I did that!
    I have this, this, and this!
    I have soooo much!


    How can we suffer from self-worth issues and pessimism, when we KNOW, for a fact, that we are living in so much abundance?

  4. Gratitude improves our interpersonal relationships.


    If we were to make a list of the most "taken-for-granted" items in our life, our family and friends (people who love us and are always there for us) will probably take second place (after our own body). They're the ones who are most exploited and unappreciated!

    All of us like being appreciated. Yet, all of us are so miserly when it comes to appreciating others. If WE feel so happy when someone sincerely thanks us for something, doesn't it then follow that OTHERS will also feel equally happy on receiving a sincere word of appreciation from us?

    It is basic human nature, isn't it? We like being with people who appreciate us. We tend to do MORE for the people who appreciate us.

    Remembering to appreciate the people in our life for whatever value they add in our life, helps us treat them with LOVE (covered under 'L') and kindness. It also allows us to FORGIVE (covered under 'F') them easily for any mistakes.

  5. Gratitude attracts more of things to be grateful for.


    This follows logically from the previous point. If we express our sincere gratitude to the people in our life, they automatically do more for us. If we express our gratitude for that as well, they do even more.

    Thus forms a cycle that feeds and strengthens itself. This works not just with people, but with the entire Universe. This is the "Law of Abundance".

    Our THOUGHTS (covered under 'T') create our destiny. And practicing gratitude is one "mental trigger" that can instantly change our state of mind from negative to positive.

I know from personal experience that it is almost impossible to remain thankful when nothing seems to be working in your life, when whatever you do goes wrong. But, I also know (again, from personal experience) that it is even more important to stay grateful during such times.

Gratitude is not just a word. It is a way of living, acquired through diligent conscious practice and mindfulness. Being thankful for the little things. The food on our plate and all those random strangers who've worked to get it there. Our family and friends. Our sometimes shitty jobs that still help us make ends meet. Our newspaper vendor, who gets up at such ungodly hour in the morning, just to ensure that we get our daily dose of news with our morning tea. The guards in our building, who open the gate for us so that we don't have to get out of our car.

If we start thinking about it, the list will be endless, you know! We'd end up saying "Thanks" at least 10,000 times a day! How can we remain unhappy if we have so much to be thankful for?

Do you practice gratitude as a part of your daily life? I know some of my regular blog buddies do. Would you care to share your experiences since you started expressing gratitude?

This is my seventh post for A to Z of Happiness.

I have completed this challenge once before, and published it as a kindle ebook. You can get it on amazon: A to Z of Blogging: Take Your Blog To the Next Level.