The Happiness Connection  

Don't measure yourself by the achievements of others

"The thief of joy"

When I first started teaching in England, I loved the idea of school uniforms.

I’d seen how cruel students could be about the clothes their classmates wore and thought this was a much better system. Of course, I was being naïve.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that people will always find something to compare. In the case of these prep school students, it was footwear, the cars their parents drove and holiday destinations.

Theodore Roosevelt called comparison “the thief of joy.” I wouldn’t argue with the sentiment of his words, but comparison is harder to avoid than you might think. It’s a fundamental human impulse. As with many innate behaviours, it served an important purpose for our ancient ancestors.

It was vital for primitive people to work together if they were going to survive. If one hunter was particularly good at tracking, then it made sense for him to lead the rest of the hunting party. He could then pass the baton to those who were better with their spears.

There are times in modern society when it still serves us to know who’s got the best skills for a specific job. It’s also helpful when the time comes to choose a career path. Being creative and good with words is important if you want to be an author. You need a benchmark to come to those conclusions.

Comparison can be a problem when it’s not understood and managed. Used in the right way it can motivate you, but it can just as easily lead to feelings of deep dissatisfaction, guilt, remorse, and destructive behaviours like lying or eating disorders.

When you know comparison is challenging your happiness, you may decide to pretend you don’t care what car the neighbours drive or how many times your sister goes to Mexico, but that isn’t helpful either. Emotions always surface at some point in some way, often when you least expect or desire them.

So, if comparison is virtually impossible to avoid, how do you keep it from stealing your joy?

Opting out of social media is one way that can be helpful, but like the students I used to teach, there’s always someone and something you can compare yourself to.

People you identify closely with, like family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, are the ones you’re most likely to use as a measuring stick. The areas you’re likely to notice are the things you value like wealth, physical appearance and relationships.

From there it’s a simple step to believing the grass is greener somewhere other than where you’re standing.

Rather than attempting to purge yourself of this programming, I recommend you change your source of comparison. Take a look in the mirror. That’s the person you should be thinking about. How do you measure up to the you of last week, last year or even a decade or two ago?

If you can look in the mirror and know that you’re doing better than all the versions of yourself that came before, congratulations. If you can’t reach that conclusion, maybe it’s time to make some changes.

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


Why a shower helps solve some problems

The power of the shower

In my last home I had an amazing shower. It was one of my favorite features in the entire house. I came to view it as a magic portal to clarity and creativity.

My column used to be due in my editor’s inbox by Saturday at 11 a.m. Whenever that day arrived and I still hadn’t produced anything worthy of being emailed, I didn’t panic. Instead, I got into the shower. I’d emerge from my steamy refuge inspired and ready to write.

Finding answers to problems or being struck by an “aha” moment when you’re in the shower is by no means unique to me. Why does a good shower have such a powerful effect? There are a couple of reasons for this.

The human brain is an amazing organ, but it has its limitations. It can only give its attention to so many things at one time. That’s why multitasking frequently results in more errors than if you focused on each task individually.

Doing multiple things at the same time means your brain is flipping its attention back and forth between tasks. Food can burn, a scheduled call be missed, or the sink overflow if your brain’s attention is elsewhere at a critical time.

Being overly busy makes it difficult for your brain to find time to discover the clarity or creativity you may be craving.

Another reason why you can shower your way to inspiration is that it allows your mind time to wander. When your brain relaxes it opens up to new ideas and perspectives. Sometimes the thoughts you need aren’t actually in your consciousness.

Your senses take in everything they encounter and send all that information to your brain. You’d be overwhelmed if you were made aware of all of that data. Your mind helps you by only sending information to your consciousness that it thinks will be helpful. That’s why setting intentions can be so powerful.

Your brain sends data that it believes will support your values and beliefs, regardless of what they are. This is why you may know something but have no idea how you know. You just do.

Information that’s being stored in your subconscious isn’t lost. It’ll bubble up to the surface if your brain decides it’ll be helpful to you.

Studies show that when you don’t know the answer in a multiple-choice test, your best strategy is to go with your first instinct. Don’t overthink it. Allow the information in your subconscious to assist you.

What do you do if you run into a creative block or problem when having a shower isn’t possible? There are other things that will give you the same result. Look for a solo activity that requires minimal attention.

Take a walk someplace where you don’t need to concentrate on traffic, wash the floors, vacuum, or weed your flower bed. The trick is to disconnect with the outside world.

So, the next time you have a problem to solve, or have hit a creative roadblock, carve out some mental space, jump in the shower or head off on a walk by yourself.

You may be amazed by the result.

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

What every woman should know

Advice too good to pass up

On Facebook last week, I came across a post from my friend Pamela. She shared “What Every Woman Should Know” by author Pamela Redmond Satran.

It started me thinking about my own life.

My dad joined the RCMP in the 1950s. He interacted with women who were in difficult domestic situations but unable to leave because they had nowhere to go and no money to support themselves and their dependents.

This shaped what he believed I should have or know before I ventured out into the world on my own.

Before I had my first driving lesson, he made me learn to change a tire. He and my mom started a university fund for me before I was a year old. Not only was there no question about post-secondary education, but I understood I needed to have a profession I could always fall back on to support myself. When I moved to Vancouver Island for my first teaching job, he presented me with my own tool kit comprising of a multi-head screwdriver, wrench, tape measure, and hammer.

I’m sure if my parents were still with me, they’d have more items to add to the list. I suspect they also had a list for my brother, although they probably never thought about it in those terms.

Redmond Satran’s list is much longer. According to her:

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…enough money within her control to move out and rent a place of her own even if she never wants to or needs to…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…something perfect to wear if the employer or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…a youth she’s content to leave behind…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to retelling it in her old age…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…one friend who always makes her laugh…

and one who lets her cry…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honoured…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…a feeling of control over her destiny…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…how to fall in love without losing herself…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…how to quit a job, break up with a lover and confront a friend without ruining the friendship…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…when to try harder…and when to walk away…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…that she can’t change the length of her calves, the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…that her childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…what she would and wouldn’t do for love or more…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…how to live alone, even if she doesn’t like it…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…whom she can trust, whom she can’t, and why she shouldn’t take it personally…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…where to go, be it to her best friend’s kitchen table or a charming inn in the woods, when her soul needs soothing…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW…what she can and can’t accomplish in a day, a month and a year…

Not all of these items apply to me at this stage of my life, but they can be adapted for any age. The one that caught my attention most was having a past juicy enough that I look forward to retelling it.

I can’t change my life to this point but just because I’m a woman of a “more interesting age” doesn’t mean I can't keep having story-worthy experiences.

What do you believe every woman or man should know or have? It’s an interesting exercise to invest some time in.

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

Why we should embrace aging

Aging gracefully

Whatever the date on your birth certificate, there’s something we all share. We’re aging and that seems to be an easier process for some than others.

When you first find yourself old enough to take advantage of seniors discounts, you may be horrified. Our culture doesn’t celebrate aging. It tends to be viewed with fear and resistance. You may not like the prospect, but you can’t avoid it. You can, however, learn to view aging through a more positive lens. Perhaps it’s time to find joy in getting older.

One thing many people struggle with is seeing the changes in their physical appearance. Are you pretty? You may not have all the signs of classic loveliness, but it isn’t just your features that determine beauty.

I know that many people consider me to be attractive. This opinion, first expressed in my youth, has continued into my more senior years. Honestly, I can’t see what they do. I don’t see a beautiful face when I look in the mirror.

What I’ve come to appreciate is that they see an energy that I don’t when I look at my reflection. Attractiveness has more to do with expressions and vitality than whether your mouth is 1.618 times the width of your nose (a proportion believed to be ideal.)

This is an important understanding to have if you want to shift your thoughts around aging. Research shows that facial expressions are nearly as important as physical features when determining attractiveness.

The lines and wrinkles that appear in your face are the result of your facial expressions. That’s a good thing.

Actor John Cleese suggests that as you get older your expressions become etched into your face and show what type of person you are. That’s something to think about, especially if lines are just beginning to show in your face.

"If you're beautiful when you get older," says actor John Cleese, "it's not a free gift. It's because your face shows qualities that are timeless—strength, kindness, dedication, wisdom, enthusiasm, and humor, intelligence, compassion."

People are drawn to faces that are smiling or exude warmth. Expressiveness is beautiful. Take Princess Diana for example. She had lovely eyes, but it was the way she looked up with them that made her so memorable.She’d now be in her 60s and I’m sure she’d still be viewed as beautiful. Getting older doesn’t mean you stop being attractive.

When you look in the mirror, you’re probably viewing a still face. You aren’t able to see the energy and expressions that other people do. Are your eyes shining? Is your smile genuine? This is why a photo that you know is being taken often can’t capture what an impromptu one can.

Being a thriving senior has more to do with attitude than anything else. Rather than trying to stop the aging process, embrace where you are and make the most of whatever phase of life you’re in.

Eat well, stay physically active, and keep your mind engaged. Have friends of all ages. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Whether you’re twenty, forty, sixty, or eighty, it’s never too early or too late to think about making next year better than this one. See those wrinkles as expression lines and your grey hair as wisdom highlights.

March is Embrace Aging Month in the Okanagan. Check out the event calendar if you’re interested in helping yourself or someone else rethink aging.

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.

Previous Stories