The Happiness Connection  

Christmas connection

As I got onto the tube (subway/underground) in London this morning, I stood in front of two mature ladies who were involved in a very animated and friendly conversation.

I tried hard not to eavesdrop, but when you are in a crowded, confined space, it can be difficult not to absorb a sense of what is being said.

At first glance you would think they were old friends. They were smiling, laughing and making small physical gestures, that come with long-term relationships.

The first indication I got that maybe they weren’t old friends was when the English lady commented on how much she liked the Caribbean lady’s accent.

It wasn’t until one lady stood up to make her way to the door that my hunch was confirmed. They wished each other well, commented on how glad they were to have sat next to each other, and then their paths separated again.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you met someone you immediately felt connected to?

I met my daughter’s in-laws when they came from Australia for the wedding, but within a very short time I felt totally at ease. It is as if I knew them in a previous life.

Connection is more than interaction. It is interaction that is accompanied by a special feeling of ease and comfort. When you connect, you feel able to reveal more about yourself and you don’t worry about choosing the right words, or offending the other person. You somehow understand each other.

The ladies on the train bonded in the way friends do, even though they were unlikely to see each other again. I didn’t witness any exchanging of numbers or promises to be in touch.

I’m sure both ladies went through the rest of their days feeling a sense of positivity. They may well have thought back on their meeting with smiles. Although it was short, their connection served a purpose. It allowed them to feel a bond with the world around them, and experience a boost of happiness.

With Christmas approaching, you may be feeling the excitement — or dread — of spending time with family and friends. Not everyone has family or friends to be with. For many, it is a time of loneliness.

Connection is one of the most powerful ways to boost your happiness. You may not need more connections, but the people you connect fleetingly with just might. Everything you say and do unknowingly impacts others.

You won’t connect with every person you strike up a conversation with, but the more people you talk to, the more chance you will find someone you bond with. You may even find a new connection with a person you’ve known for awhile.

Embody the holiday spirit this year by making an extra effort to smile as you pass people on the street and strike up conversations with people you are standing by in line

What’s the worst that can happen?

They may think you are strange, or scowl back at your smile. On the other hand, they may respond positively to your greeting and return home feeing better than they left.


Key to freedom's door

Do you value freedom?

Whether you answer yes or no may well depend on what freedom means to you?

I love having the freedom to make my own decisions and follow my own path. I don’t need to be free from commitment or routine, as long as they are routines and commitments I have chosen.

It also explains why being micro-managed is a definition of hell for me.

I expect I am not alone.

Autonomy, or being in control of your life, is one of the three elements of motivation, and has been proven to be an essential component of happiness.

Being able to make your own choices and decisions sounds great, but autonomy does not exist in isolation.

If you are in control of your life, you must also be responsible for it.

Responsibility and autonomy are partners. When one rises, so does the other.

If one falls, you can be sure the other will do the same.

For example, if you have a boss who watches over your shoulder to make sure you are doing things the way she wants you to, you will feel less responsible for your work.

You won’t worry as much about doing it to your highest standard, as you know she will check it, and change it if you didn’t do it the way she wanted.

However, if your supervisor ensures you understand what is expected and then leaves you to complete the task in whatever way suits you best, you will naturally feel it is up to you to get the work completed successfully.

If mistakes are made, or changes are necessary, you are more likely to feel it is up to you to get things fixed.

This can be useful to know as the holiday season approaches. You may be feeling overwhelmed because too much responsibility falls on your shoulders.

When this happens, pass some of the tasks to others.

When my children were young, Christmas shopping, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, decorating, communicating, and everything else fell on my shoulders. My husband helped, but I was responsible for making sure everything got done.

It wasn’t until I got wise enough to pass off both the tasks and the responsibilities that my load began to lighten.

The cleaning might be less thorough, and some people may not receive Christmas cards, but I now hand off tasks along with their corresponding autonomy and responsibility.

Once they are given to someone else, I stop worrying about them.

This is easier said than done, but, with practice, you can learn to do it.

I believe this is important for leaders, employers, and parents to realize. If you want anyone to take responsibility, you must also be willing to let them take control.

They need to own their decisions rather than do what you tell them to do.

If you take control of anyone’s actions you should also expect to take responsibility for them.

Accepting responsibility is a vital part of living a happy life. Help others do this by handing them a greater level of autonomy and remember with every mistake comes an opportunity to learn.

Always end with a bang

Let’s talk colonoscopies!

I’ll bet that isn’t the opening sentence you were expecting to see on a column called The Happiness Connection.

Recently, I stumbled on research conducted in 1996 by Donald Redelmeier, and Daniel Kahneman. They were interested in how memories of past medical procedures influenced whether a person would choose to have the procedure done again.

Colonoscopies and mammograms are just two examples of tests that can help detect cancers and other health problems. Neither would be described as enjoyable.

Finding ways to help these procedures to be remembered in a positive light might help them to be used more and therefore detect more health problems at an earlier stage.

That was the purpose of this study, but the findings have implications that you can use in many aspects of your life that have nothing to do with colonoscopies.

Let me start by describing how the study was conducted.

A group of patients requiring colonoscopies were divided into two groups. All the participants received the same procedure. Their self-assessed pain levels were recorded every 60 seconds.

When the data was looked at later, both groups had similar levels of pain at similar times during the procedure.

The difference between the groups happened when the colonoscopy was over.

The procedure was completed as normal for the first group and then they were given time to recover from the anesthetic. Just before they went home, the participants were asked to fill out a written questionnaire.

When the procedure was completed for the members of the second group, rather than being sent to a place to recover, they remained where they were for an additional few minutes.

During this time, the tip of the colonoscope was left in place, although not moved.

When these extra minutes were up, the instrument was removed and like the first group they were given time to recover before being asked to complete a questionnaire.

Which group would you have preferred to be in?

Before reading the findings, I would have chosen the first group. It makes sense that the shorter the procedure, the better the experience. I discovered that is not necessarily the case.

The second group had to assess their pain levels during the extra few minutes added to the end of their procedure. They consistently showed low pain levels, as the colonoscope was not being moved.

So far there is nothing remarkable from the data. Just remember that everyone had similar levels of pain at similar points during the procedure, regardless of what group they were in.

It was the questionnaire that uncovered some very interesting findings.

The people in the first group who had the shorter procedure with the more painful ending, remembered their experience as being painful.

The group that had a less painful ending to the colonoscopy, remembered it as not hurting as much.

These findings led to the formation of the Peak-end Rule.

When you recall an experience, the things you remember most are the highest peaks of pleasure or pain, and the end.

If you want to create an experience that is remembered favourably, make sure you pay attention to how it ends. Rather than letting it fizzle out, end with a bang.

Perhaps this is why every day at Disneyland ends with a magnificent fireworks display. It doesn’t matter how whiney the kids got, or how many lines you stood in, the fireworks are guaranteed to send you on your way with great memories.

You can take advantage of this knowledge, especially as you enter the season of staff parties, family gatherings, customer appreciation experiences and winter vacations.

It doesn’t matter as much how something starts, it is the ending that counts.

If you are organizing a concert, put the person who will provide the memory you want the audience to retain at the end. If you are a school, this may not be your best singers, it may be the gorgeous kindergarten class.

If you are planning any type of gathering, put your energy into the ending. This may mean putting the moving, thank you champagne toast at the end, rather than near the beginning. If there is some dry business to get through, do that at the start.

If you are out with tired youngsters and things aren’t going well, don’t worry about it. Your memories don’t have to be ruined by these things. Think of something you can do at the end of your time together that makes everyone smile and feel good.

Build peaks rather than trying to maintain a consistent level of fun.

I think this part of the rule is more applicable to longer events like a 10-day holiday in Hawaii.

Rather than spreading excursions and day trips evenly throughout your vacation, look to add peaks. Plan one or two days that will be spectacular among many days that are good.

If you can only afford to upgrade your plane tickets for one direction of your holiday, which should you choose? The homeward travel will have a greater impression on your recall of the experience.

I love learning about the way the human mind works. Store this information away for the next time you are planning a party or get together, and remember it is all about the ending.


Insights on a zipline

“He pushed me.”

That was a statement I heard frequently when I taught elementary school. It is something you tend to think of as an unwanted physical action. Someone is forcing you to go in a direction you don’t want to go.

There are times though, when being pushed is a good thing.

Let me give you an example.

When I was teaching in England, I had the opportunity to go with my class on a five-day adventure retreat on the Isle of Wight.

There were daily activities like the Leap of Faith, Abseiling, Archery and Problem Solving. The teachers could get involved, or just observe.

I wanted to be a good role model for my students, so I tried to do as many activities with them as possible.

One of the reasons for taking the students to a place like this was to expose them to new experiences in a safe environment. If I was going to encourage them to push themselves into a nerve-wracking situation, I had to be willing to do the same.

I am comfortable with heights — if I feel safe. If I think I could fall, I become extremely hesitant to participate. One activity that caused me a great deal of apprehension was the zipline.

The safety standards were stringent, so the chance of me falling and not being caught by the equipment was remote, but my head had no chance of being heard above my screaming emotions.

Despite the fear, I chose to push myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t mean a little step, I am talking about a giant leap.

The first challenge was climbing up the tree via metal rungs to reach the platform. My feet are big, and those things were small. I was afraid, but I reached the top without incidence.

I paused briefly to congratulate myself.

So far, all the pushing had come from within me, but a bigger challenge was yet to come.

When it was my turn to step onto the platform and be hooked up to the zip wire, I couldn’t stop myself from looking down. It was a very, very long way to the ground.

The fellow who attached me to the line, suggested I sit on the edge of the platform rather than start from a standing position. The challenge of moving on the platform was difficult enough, but I was able to do it.

Another win.

I looked at the faces of all the girls behind me eagerly awaiting their turn. I looked at the ground.

In that moment, I knew that propelling myself off the platform was going to take a lot more time than I wanted to invest.

I didn’t want to bring the zipline activity to a grinding halt while I tried to summon the courage to move from the platform into the air.

I looked up at the young man who was waiting patiently for me to start so he could get the next person into position.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I told him. “You’re going to have to push me!”

Without a moment’s hesitation, he put his hand on my back and shoved. Hadn’t he ever heard about having a countdown, so I could prepare myself?

Once I started down the zipline, my emotions turned into a wild bundle of exhilaration. Not only did I love the physical experience of racing through the air, I loved the pride and satisfaction that welled up inside me.

I went through the rest of the day with a smile on my face. I felt like I was walking on air.

I am sharing this story, because it mimics many areas of regular life.

When you encounter a situation that scares you, you may have the strength to push yourself into the experience knowing it will be good for you, or that it needs to be done.

There are times, however when you may need someone to push you.

If I had been on that platform by myself, I may have chosen to climb back down the tree instead of going down the zipline. The ladder made me nervous, but I had come up it, so I was pretty sure I could manage to get back down.

I believe I would have eventually worked up the courage to push myself off the platform, but realistically it would have taken a long time.

Having people in your circle of connections who will push you when you need it will fast-track your progress. This is one of the greatest benefits for aligning yourself with like-minded individuals when you have goals you want to achieve.

Having a circle of friends and family to help you overcome your challenges is important, but sometimes it is better to have outside help. Someone new to your life will see you in a different light and share their ideas and experiences.

If the challenges are personal, reach out to a life coach or counsellor.

If you are reaching for business goals, try finding a mastermind group, or business coach.

You may well be able to do it all by yourself, but if you want to speed up the process look for someone to give you a push.

If you choose wisely, they will not only help propel you, they will also be there to support you.

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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