The Happiness Connection  

Moving from frustration to calm

Dealing with frustration

I spent more time than I care to think about on the phone with CRA last week.

I didn’t expect it to be easy and it wasn’t. I found myself with a blue fog circling my head from the language that was exploding in my brain.

While I was on hold for the second time, I tried to do something productive by going through my emails. The first one that burst onto my screen included an Aldous Huxley quote.

“Experience is not what happens to you – it’s how you interpret what happens to you.”

Let me be honest, although I totally agree with these words, I wasn’t in the mood to receive them with an open heart. Even happiness mavens have their moments, and that’s OK.

I’m sharing this incident because what I experienced is common. Everyone encounters challenges, although sometimes that’s an easy thing to forget. People are far more eager to share the positive things that happen than the negative ones.

If you ever feel that you’re the only one whose life is frustrating, disappointing or depressing, rest assured that isn’t the case. No one has a life that’s devoid of challenges.

Don’t be fooled by the fact people are slow to share the horrendous parts of life but quick to post all the things they’re grateful for. Practicing happiness doesn’t mean you should ignore your negative emotions. Everyone has experiences of vexation, annoyance and heartache. It won’t serve you to pretend you don’t. Burying negative emotions isn’t healthy.

Huxley was right. You get to interpret what happens to you. You can choose to bath any situation in darkness and gloom or shine a little light on it. It’s another way to say, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

And it does, but don’t think you have to start hunting for it the minute you sense yourself beginning to melt down. Sometimes it’s important to feel all the emotions that are welling up. Allow yourself a few tears if that feels right.

The key to success is not to pretend that everything is fine, but to avoid sinking into a place of limitless wallowing. Pulling yourself out of self-pity is often the challenge. But that’s the step that allows you to see any situation from a more positive position.

You have to be in a clearer, less emotional headspace if you want to move forward.

1. Set yourself a time limit for venting, crying, or ranting.

2. Indulge in some self-care. Watching a feel-good movie, getting outside for a walk, or having a long soak in the tub are all good options.

3. Do something that will move you towards resolving your challenge.

In my experience, the last step is often the most difficult. Challenges can leave you feeling helpless. Action is the best way to step back into empowerment.

It felt like I’d exhausted everything I could do on my own, so I reached out for help. This is something I’m learning to do more as I get older. For most of my life, I’ve considered this to be my last option. I’d hunt for any alternative before resorting to it. It was as if asking for help was a sign of weakness.

There are many reasons why individuals are reluctant to ask for help. They include:

• Not wanting to be a burden.

• Thinking that getting help means you’re losing control of a situation.

• Believing you aren’t worthy of assistance.

• Shame.

• Not wanting to admit you can’t figure it out on your own.

As with anything, the more you get used to doing something the easier it becomes. If you find yourself hesitant to ask for help, start by making small requests. On the flip side, make sure you’re open to helping others whenever you’re asked for help. As with so many things, the flow goes in both directions.

Did I resolve my frustrating situation? I’m not sure.

The one thing I know is that after reaching out for professional help, my mood lifted. In my world, that’s a win.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Finding wisdom beyond your fears

Don't let fear stop you

Recently, scrolling through Facebook, this statement caught my attention: “We don’t need to be wise beyond our years. All we need is to be wise beyond our fears.”

I’m well acquainted with the assertion of being wise beyond one’s years. Sometimes the same sentient is expressed by saying someone is an “old soul.” But the idea of being wise beyond one’s fears made me stop and think.

As I considered the two statements, the thing that stood out the most was the level of empowerment each one offered. You don’t necessarily have control over whether you’re wise beyond your years. It’s something that’s bestowed on you through circumstance and genetic makeup. Being wise beyond your fears, on the other hand, is about conscious choice.

That idea appeals to me. It moves you from victim energy to liberation, from being chosen to consciously choosing.

Wisdom involves using knowledge and experiences to make good judgements and decisions. What does that have to do with fear? Wisdom also involves having a tolerance for the uncertainties of life.

If you cling to what’s familiar, you may find yourself making decisions that help you avoid the unknown, even if it isn’t a wise choice.

How many people stay in relationships or jobs they don’t feel good about, or vacation in the same place every year? If that sounds like you, rest assured you’re not alone.

What motivates this behaviour? A fear that there might not be anything better than what you currently have. It encourages you to settle rather than reaching for the stars. This is part of what’s known as a “scarcity mindset.” Society has convinced many of us the things we value most, like loving relationships, jobs where we’re valued and happiness are rare. They are limited to a few lucky people and sadly we aren’t the few fortunate ones. This subconscious belief encourages you to hang onto what you’ve got. It doesn’t matter if you’re spending time with people who treat you badly or are in a job that’s slowly killing you, at least you have a friend and a paycheque. It could be worse.

Believing you aren’t worthy of anything better than what you presently have, can keep you stuck in mediocrity. Having a scarcity mentality isn’t only limiting, it can be downright dangerous to your mental health. It’s part of a vicious cycle that involves your self-esteem. Low self-esteem causes mental scarcity, which, in turn, teaches you to think less of yourself.

Breaking this cycle is often easier said than done. At the heart of a scarcity mindset is the belief that you don’t deserve or can’t have more. In order to fight that thought you need to disprove it. In my experience, the best way to do that is to work towards outcome independence. Outcome independence is exactly what it sounds like. It involves becoming liberated from making decisions based on desired outcomes and instead focusing on the experience that results from your choice.

Like scarcity, outcome independence is a mindset. If you believe losing what you have is the worst thing that could happen, you’ll put all your time and energy into hanging on to whatever you’ve got. Your fear of being left with nothing will fuel that fire.

Lots of people are afraid to try something in case they fail to achieve their desired outcome. Dating without finding the person of your dreams may feel like a waste of time, or even embarrassing. But is it really?

Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen? Is still being single after six months or a year of dating the end of the world? Have you actually lost anything? You may have new friends and memories as a result.

Outcome independence involves realizing you can cope without the things you’re afraid of losing. It fosters self-esteem because it helps you realize you can handle whatever comes your way, even if that involves your job or relationships.

The only way to truly understand this is to experience it. You need to fall to prove to yourself that you can get up. Once you accept this belief, an abundance mentality is an inevitable result.

That doesn’t mean the things that happen and the decisions you make won’t be difficult or leave you feeling hurt or upset. But when you know there are other opportunities out there, it’s easier to rebound or change directions.

If you want to live your best life, take a few minutes to consider whether fear is motivating your decisions. If it is, give outcome independence a try. It might be just what you need to find the wisdom that lives beyond your fear.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Creating helpful habits increases happiness

Creatures of habit

About half of everything you do during any particular day, is habitual. That means you do it automatically with a minimal amount of conscious thought.

My day usually starts with coffee. I may consider how much I’m going to enjoy my first sip, before I get out of bed, but I rarely stop to ponder whether or not I should make it, or the steps involved in its creation.

As I reach the kitchen, I feed the dogs then pour myself a mug of java. It’s an automatic behaviour. Habits are your brain’s way of conserving energy. If you had to consciously consider every single thing you do during the day, you’d soon be exhausted. That’s the upside to habits, but as with most things, it also has a downside.

Rather than mindlessly making your way to the office, store or friend’s house, taking time to notice your surroundings will help foster positive wellbeing. But there are times when habits serve you more than being mindful.

This is especially true if you’ve made a commitment to live differently in 2023. Perhaps you pledged to live more healthily or to be less dependent on your phone. Developing some supportive habits could be just what you need to make intentions like these come true.

Humans have a limited amount of willpower. If you count on determination to get you off the couch and to the gym, you may find yourself giving up before your desired goal is realized. You can increase your chances of success by creating a few helpful habits.

Rather than stopping to decide whether or not you should go for a walk, wouldn’t it be wonderful if daily exercise was a habit, you didn’t even think about?

Habits are formed when you repeat actions often enough that they become automatic.

Let me share three things you can do to increase your likelihood of turning a conscious behavior into a habit.

Stack your habits

Make a list of some of the habits you already have. This could be brushing your teeth, eating regular meals, or going to work. Attach your new behaviour to an existing one.

Have a glass of water before or after every meal. Do some squats while you brush your teeth. Park further away from the office to get a few extra steps in. Adding to an already existing behaviour can give you a much-needed boost towards success.

Give your action consistency

Time of day is a good example of this tip. Go for a walk first thing every morning or stop at the gym on your way home from work. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to move every hour.

Having a consistent context is a great way to increase your chances of success when it comes to forming habits.

Involve others

If you decide to go to the gym, play pickleball, or swim regularly, find a buddy to keep you company. You’re less likely to miss your sessions when you know there’s somebody expecting to see you there.

It’s hard to say how long it’ll take to turn your action into a habit. That depends on you as an individual, the behaviour you’re trying to ingrain, and the number of interruptions you experience.

Sixty-six days is commonly considered to be the time needed to make an action habitual, but don’t get discouraged if it takes longer. That’s only an average. Research shows it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a habit to be formed.

Happiness is boosted by breaking free of mindless actions and living more consciously. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon all your routines or automatic behaviours. It’s about finding balance.

Afterall, making exercise a habit doesn’t mean you can’t stop to smell the roses while you’re there.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

A word can improve your year

Setting goals for new year

As the new year arrives, I’ve started to turn my attention to what I want to accomplish in 2023.

I’m more excited about the potential and possibilities that may be lurking around the corner than ever. This is probably because it felt like much of the last three or four years haven’t been my own. Between a separation, looking after two aging parents on my own, their deaths nine months apart and all of the stuff that comes with that, there’s been little time to devote to my own goals.

This year, I’m determined to focus on a few things that have been on the back burner because other things demanded my time and energy.

Will I be successful? I’m not sure. If the past few years are anything to go on, there may be unexpected circumstances ready to jump out and throw me off my anticipated course.

At first, I found the unexpected change of plans frustrating. I felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything. Of course, that was far from the truth. I’d simply achieved a different set of tasks than I’d expected to.

This situation led me to appreciate more strongly than ever, a tradition I started practicing about six years ago. Rather than creating New Year’s Resolutions, or specific goals, I set intentions.

This year I intend to further my writing career and work towards becoming even healthier. I hope that will include traditionally publishing my novel and improved physical and mental wellbeing. As long as my writing is moving forward, and I’m healthier in some way, I’ll consider the year to be successful.

I’m learning to leave room for the unexpected rather than trying to unsuccessfully avoid it. I’ve come to realize that life is better when you leave a little space for a few surprises and more importantly for a little magic.

It may not feel amazing at the time, but it’s astonishing how much good can come out of adversity and chaos.

I’m sure there are many possibilities that I haven’t even considered when it comes to my work and health. Maybe I won’t get my novel published but it’s possible that I could write another book this year and that becomes an amazing success, or maybe someone will want to turn my novel into a movie.

When you consider the year ahead and what you want it to contain, there may be wonderful possibilities that you haven’t even contemplated.

As my good friend Meaghan Alton said to me recently, “The Universe knows better than I do.”

To help you navigate whatever happens in the coming year, I recommend choosing a theme word that summarizes your intentions.

I find this to be an exceptionally successful way to keep myself focused. When an unexpected situation arises, I use my chosen word to consider how best to keep myself moving towards my intentions.

My word for 2022 was “authenticity.” This helped me navigate the numerous decisions I had to make during the year. I took time to consider what felt right and whether it was in alignment with my intentions.

In an effort to be more authentic, I took time in 2022 to rediscover aspects of myself that I’d forgotten or ignored. This led me to choose “liberation” as my word for the coming year.

There are many definitions of the word, but the one I’m focusing on is from Dictionary.com.

Liberation: freedom from limits on thought or behaviour.

If my situation resonates with you, I highly recommend you try setting some intentions for the year and then choosing a word to guide you.

If, in 12 months’ time, you feel like you haven’t accomplished any of the things you thought you would, review your year with your word in mind. It may be reassuring to know you moved in your chosen direction, even if your route was different than the one, you’d originally selected.

Don’t feel this has to be done by Jan. 1. It’s a long year. Take the time to choose a word that feels right for where you are at this moment in your journey.

The English language is full of amazing vocabulary. Have fun choosing the right one to improve your year.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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