The Happiness Connection  

Visualize the life you want

Visualization: formation of mental visual images. Merriam-Webster.com

Visualizing yourself dealing successfully with a difficult situation, remembering the words you need to memorize, or seeing yourself winning a trophy, can improve your chances of achieving that goal.

It is a technique used regularly by top level athletes.

Exercise psychologist Guang Yue discovered that people who did a virtual workout regularly for three months, increased their muscle strength by 13.5%. In other words, they imagined themselves going through a workout instead of actually doing it.

Those people who actually completed the workout, improved their muscle strength by 30%. I find it amazing that by simply visualizing the gym routine, you could achieve almost 50% of the improvement made by those completing it physically.

Visualization is recommended by many people for a wide variety of purposes, including weight loss.

I’m sceptical about its success for this objective. Perhaps I lack belief because I’ve tried it and so far never managed to get positive results.

I was with a group of female friends recently. The conversation turned to the idea of using visualization to shed pounds.

One person suggested finding a photo of yourself when you were the size you want to return to, and putting it on the door of your fridge. Every time you look at it, imagine yourself being that size.

I voiced my skepticism for this technique. I believe it helps to remind yourself what you are striving for, but less convinced that by simply imagining yourself as thinner, it will happen.

Everything is created twice; once as a thought and once physically. If you believe it, you can achieve it. That includes being slimmer.

However, I don’t believe that visualizing the perfect you will necessarily make it happen, and can lead to major disappointment. Imagining yourself making healthier food choices, or going to the gym regularly, perhaps, but not being reminded what you looked like 20 years ago.

Having a very specific picture of what you want can lead to tunnel vision. You may come to a point where you are incredibly healthy and vibrant, but you don’t look like you did a few years or decades ago.

This can lead to dissatisfaction even though you have achieved something amazing.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a recently single, incredibly fit young woman. She shared her displeasure with the physical appearance of the single men she encountered.

I suggested that when she met the right person, she wouldn’t care so much what he looked like. She dismissed my words as crazy.

Before I was married, I always dated men over six feet. I didn’t give shorter guys a second look, until I met my husband. The fact he was only an inch taller than me didn’t make one ounce of difference.


Rather than visualizing a very specific picture, I suggest that you set an intention and lean into how you want to feel when that intention is fulfilled.

In the case of finding a partner, worry less about what they look like and more about how you feel when you are together. Decide what is important to you. You might appreciate loyalty, fun, or stimulating conversation.

When you meet someone, stop to see if how they make you feel matches your intention, rather than looking to see how tall they are or whether they are carrying a few extra pounds.

As far as weight loss in concerned, care less about what the scale says and more about how you want to feel. I suspect that a lot of people believe they would be happier if they were thinner.

I’m sceptical that would happen.

There are a lot of slender people in the world who are not happy. Learn to love the body you have not the one you fantasize about.

Decide how you want to feel in and about your body.

Rather than wanting to be a specific weight, set an intention to be healthy and vibrant. Visualize yourself living an active life with smart food choices.

I am accepting that my goal of feeling good about myself may be achieved when I am at weight that is different from the one I consider to be desirable.

If I feel my weight isn’t causing a health concern or stopping me from doing the things I want to do, I want to be able to accept it.

This won’t happen without effort. I am a work in progress. I have a lot of years of conditioning to undo.

So many times you may work toward something, only to discover that it didn’t transform your life the way you expected it to. Instead, be guided by how you feel rather than by a specific image of how it, you, or someone else should look.


Memory and menopause

Did you see that movie (long pause) about the queen?

You know, the one that stars (another pause) that actress who was in (yet another pause) that series about the murder?

For anyone who is trying to guess what movie my friend was referring to; it was The Favourite. Olivia Colman played Queen Anne. She was also in the English version of Broadchurch.

Does a conversation full of pauses and desperate attempts to find a name or word that insists on eluding you, sound familiar?

At first,  I wondered if I was experiencing early onset dementia. I relaxed a little when I realized that many of my girlfriends were having similar problems.

The chance of us all having Alzheimer’s was remote.

When I can’t think of a word, family and friends try to help me by offering vocabulary suggestions. Often they give me a similar word that works, but I know it isn’t the one I was searching for.

It’s as if the word is right there, but wearing camouflage that makes it difficult for my brain to pick out.

It was during a conversation like the one at the beginning of this piece that my friend and I got onto the topic of menopause. Why? Because having difficulty with your memory, especially when it comes to words, is a common struggle during this time of hormonal change.

There are three stages of menopause.

Peri-menopause is the time leading up monthly periods ending. This usually begins when women are in their forties, but can be earlier or later.

When periods have been absent for 12 months, you are considered to have reached menopause. You might think that is the end of the matter, but it isn’t. Once you reach menopause, you progress to post-menopause.

This is when some symptoms lessen. Some disappear completely in four or five years. Others last for a decade or more. There are some that never go away

You’ve probably heard about hot flashes and night sweats, but those aren’t the only symptoms that appear as estrogen levels decline.

I found a list of 34 Symptoms of Menopause. How can there be so many, and why had I never heard of many of them?

Let me share a few of them with you.

  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain – menopausal arthritis is a real condition
  • Burning tongue – pain can be widespread in your mouth including tongue, lips, roof of mouth, and cheeks
  • Electric shocks – you may experience more of these, especially just before a hot flash
  • Digestive problems – including bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramps, flatulence, weight gain, and nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Itchy skin – the result of thinner and dryer skin
  • Anxiety – as many as one in three women experience this
  • Fatigue – extreme tiredness affects about 25% of women during these years
  • Hair loss
  • Sleep disorders – as many as 61% of women experience insomnia during the years from peri to post menopause
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory lapses – fortunately this appears to be temporary and will apparently rectify when menopause is over
  • Unexplained dizziness
  • Stress incontinence – also a symptom of aging
  • Allergies – you may discover you have reactions to things that have never been a problem before
  • Irregular heartbeat – don’t assume this is menopause. Get checked by a doctor if this happens
  • Panic disorder
  • Irritability

You may think this is a woman only conversation, but it isn’t. This is important for anyone who’s life intersects with women in their forties, fifties, and sixties. Severity of symptoms and how long they last varies widely, but accepting it may a challenging time, is important for life partners, employers, and colleagues.

Consider how much of the workforce is made up of women who may be going through hormonal change.

Traditionally, this topic has been kept quiet. You might be suffering from headaches, depression, and sudden hot flashes, but ‘women’s issues’ were kept private from the corporate work environment.

Things are changing. This is a health condition that makes it difficult for many women to carry on as normal. Some sail through it, but those who suffer need to be able to talk openly about it and be given support.

Sometimes it can be as simple as supplying desk fans for anyone who needs some cooling down from time to time.

The first step is to raise awareness of the situation, whether it is at home or work. Be knowledgeable, compassionate, and open.

Believe it and achieve it

I’ve lived for most of my life with a lack mindset.

I went through school, subconsciously believing that there were only so many good marks given out. If too many other people got As, there wouldn’t be any left for me.

In fairness, the bell curve method of marking is built on this idea, but for most of my school experience, this wasn’t the system used. If you did well enough for an A, you got one.

I also believed there was only so much success to go around. One person’s victory meant one less opportunity was available for me.

Viewing the world like this makes it difficult to work co-operatively. It’s hard to root for someone else if you believe it lessens your own chances to achieve the same. It encourages you to see everyone as competition.

I had the same type of lack belief around money. There was only so much to go around. If I spent some, it might never be replenished.

These beliefs hid in my subconscious mind, planted by my upbringing and experiences.

It wasn’t until I began my quest to live more consciously that my lack mind-sight came to light.

I wasn’t conscious of making a decision to adopt this philosophy and I definitely wasn’t aware that there was an alternative way to think.

It’s important to know what your beliefs are, because your mind will search tirelessly for evidence to support them. Situations don’t change, but how you interpret them does.

If you believe your family is always criticizing you, you will construe everything they say as being judgmental and critical. If you believe they love you and are trying to be helpful, this is how you decipher their words.

I’ve been dealing with water and sewer issues in my house for the past few months. The costs continue to mount. My outgoing finances far exceed my incoming ones.

You can probably relate to my situation. Life throws curve balls. Unexpected expenses arise. You can’t control the situation, but you can manage your response.

I realized last week that a conscious conversation with myself was overdue. How did I want to interpret the things that were happening? Did I want to live in abundance or lack?

If you live in abundance, you believe that everything that is happening to you will work out and serve you in some way. Money flows. It is going out now, but it can just as easily flow back in.

That isn’t to say you should sit around and wait for a lottery win. Look at your finances and see if there is anything you can do to help the situation. Perhaps it is time to live more simply.

Create avenues so money can come to you. Offer a new service or product through your business or take on an additional job. You never know what unexpected connection can appear that changes your life completely.

I believe there is an opportunity or idea that this challenging time will help me find, as long as I am open to it.

A lack mindset means you believe there will never be enough for everyone, and you need to fight to get what you can. It is easy to fall into a pit of despair and inactivity if you look at life this way.

Rather than believing you have any power to turn life around, you may think you are just unlucky. Life is happening to you rather than for you.

Trust isn’t easy. It comes in part from your level of self-esteem.

I believe I am resilient and strong enough to handle whatever arises on my journey through life. I know I will be fine.

I’m not sure what fine will look like. I’m hopeful it will allow me to travel the world in business class, but I’m willing to accept it might not. Whatever it looks like will be perfect for me and I’ll enjoy it.

How do you want to live your life? Do you want to feel abundant, or are you willing to settle for a life of lack?

You have a choice.

Happiness research shows that having money and material goods doesn’t bring happiness. The happiest cultures are in third world countries. Places you might think are lacking in abundance.

When life is challenging, you aren’t helpless. There is always something you can do. Decide whether you want to worry that you won’t have enough, or to trust that you will be fine?

If you believe it, you will achieve it.

Create your own self-esteem

When I was growing up, complaining about my shoes, or clothes, got very little sympathy from my parents.

I was told to be thankful that I had clothes at all. Who was looking at me anyway?

This was typical of the parenting style of the time.

Things have changed. The 1970s saw the beginning of a self-esteem movement that has continued to gain traction.

It brought attention to the importance of valuing yourself and having a strong sense of self-worth.

Low self-esteem is linked to a plethora of issues such as depression, eating disorders, and being afraid to take risks.

As with any topic that involves the human psyche, it is a complex conversation. It isn’t possible to cover all the hidden depths of developing self-esteem, so I am choosing to keep this simple.

How you feel about yourself seeps into every area of your life. It can manifest itself in all sorts of different ways. Here are a few signs that your self-esteem is suffering.

  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • Focuses on imperfections in themselves and others
  • Negative self-talk
  • Is afraid to try new things or chase after dreams
  • Has difficulty saying no
  • Indecisive
  • Judgmental
  • Exhibits rebellious behaviour
  • Exaggerates their life when talking to others

Recognizing the symptoms is the easy part. The challenge is doing something about them.

Use the following principles as your guide.

  • Belief comes from experience
  • Self-care is imperative
  • Do no harm

In its simplest terms, you want to love and accept yourself for who you are today. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to continue to grow and learn.

It isn’t about settling, it is about loving the you that exists today. Tomorrow you should love the you that exists on that day.

Hopefully you are constantly working to be a better version of yourself, but you concentrate on what exists today.

The you that lives today is exactly who you should be right now.

It means that you believe you are worth loving, regardless of what you look like, the mistakes you’ve made, or how much you still hope to accomplish.

If you haven’t been doing the work to grow and learn, you want to love yourself anyway. Don’t look to others to tell you whether you are lovable. You decide and you do the loving.

I have been working on my self-esteem for a while now. Let me share what has helped me the most.

Love and accept yourself

My biggest challenge has been banishing an ancient and well-hidden belief that women should look like Twiggy. My skeleton doesn’t look like Twiggy did in the ‘60s. I was too young to realize I was being affected by magazines and society, but I was.

You may have a different part of yourself that you struggle to accept. It makes no difference. It all stems from the same place.

I started by putting post-it notes on every mirror in my house. They said, “I love you.” Every time I saw one, I looked into my eyes and said, “I love you” at least three times.

It’s nice if other people love you, but the person that really counts is you.

After a while, I escalated this action, so I would say it to the reflection of my naked body before I got dressed and undressed every day.

Forgive yourself and others

This is one of the most powerful exercises you can do. I’ve used this successfully to deal with feelings of shame when I’ve made decisions that didn’t work out the way I had expected.

Instead of berating myself, I write myself a letter of forgiveness. This works equally well when other people or influences are involved.

If you had a parent or sibling who said unkind things that affected you, forgive them. You don’t have to give them the letters. I burn mine to release the feelings into the atmosphere.

Be grateful

Instead of looking for flaws, be grateful.

In the case of my poor body image, I concentrate on the fact I am healthy, have given birth to two healthy children, and can do pretty much anything I want because of my body.

I aim for health over perceived physical beauty.

Be grateful for you, not a version of you that doesn’t exist.

Step way out of your comfort zone

Creating new beliefs comes from having experiences that support them. Do something that you may not be successful with the first time. This gives you a chance to prove to yourself that you can get up when you fall, and that success takes effort.

Write letters of forgiveness and practice gratitude as you work toward your goal. Don’t give up. Keep going until you succeed and then celebrate your success.

Limit the amount of time you spend around people and situations that make you feel bad

If you want to raise your vibration to a level of self-appreciation, stop spending time with low vibration friends. At the very least, reduce the amount of time you are in their energy.

Raising your self-esteem isn’t easy. Even when you think you have managed; you are likely to find more doubt and worry lurking in layers you hadn’t noticed before.

Like anything, learning to love, value, and believe in yourself is a process. Be quick to forgive and find reasons to be grateful.

If you struggle to do this alone, reach out to a professional. Find someone you trust and who you feel a connection with.

Knowing there is someone who believes in you, even when you have trouble believing in yourself can make all the difference to how quickly you progress.

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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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