Happiness and gratitude can do a body good

Benefits of being happy

Most people want to be happy. Yet, it’s common to hear people putting happiness off to some elusive future date. I’ll be happy when… (you fill in the blank).

Why wait? Start now, you’ll be glad you did.Our happiness matters, as happy people tend to:

• Be healthier

• Have better relationships

• Experience greater vigour and energy

• Have a better sense of humour

• Live longer

Not surprisingly, happiness affects both the quality and the quantity of our lives.

Cultivating greater happiness in our lives isn’t as difficult as you might think. Happiness isn’t contingent on external circumstances—it’s a inside job.

Interestingly, environmental circumstances only account for 10% of our happiness, while our genetics and personalities are 50% responsible. Yet, we don’t have to be victim to these factors.

Our power abides in the remaining 40%, in which we are able to influence our happiness with intentional activities. There are simple, quick, and easy things we can do to increase our own levels of happiness.

Happiness and gratitude are hot-topics in the research world. Interestingly, multiple researchers have found a strong positive correlation between happiness and gratitude.

Back to the riddle of what comes first: are we more grateful because we’re happy, or are we happier because we’re grateful?

Multiple studies reveal one sure-fire way to increase happiness is to, first, be grateful.

Practicing gratitude boosts the production of neurochemicals and hormones that support well-being. Our brains and our bodies benefit from practicing gratitude.

We can re-wire our brains for gratitude. When we engage in gratitude practices over time, there are lasting changes in the brain, particularly in areas associated with decision-making and learning.

Even if we can’t find anything to be grateful for, the mere practice of stopping to look for something to be grateful for creates a shift. A simple, yet powerful practice is pausing daily to list three good things from the day. Set a reminder on your phone to help you remember to pause and canvas your day for what’s been good about your day.

Or, you can up the power of gratitude to improve happiness. While merely listing what we’re grateful for is helpful, thinking of why we’re grateful for the items on our list enhances the benefits we receive.

Try this out for yourself, paying attention to how you feel inside. Think of something you’re grateful for, pause for a moment, and notice how you feel. Then list the reasons why you’re grateful. How do you feel now? And what we appreciate grows, it appreciates.

According to scientist and author, Joe Dispenza, gratitude is the ultimate state of receivership. We receive and experience our good when we acknowledge it and are grateful. For me, life has become a gift that keeps on giving.

Don’t save gratitude for just the big or fancy stuff. I practice gratitude for some of the most basic things that are easily overlooked, such as a warm and comfy bed to sleep in, the sunshine, or new growth on the trees.

The use of my gratitude journal improved dramatically when I started storing it on my pillow with a pen tucked inside. I can’t forget like I used to. Considering the many blessings of my life just before going to sleep is the perfect way to both start my day and to enter dreamland.

Even my most challenging days are filled with reasons to be grateful, and the focus on negative thoughts is reduced as I remember to look for the good. What we focus on increases in our experience and why would I cause myself to suffer by dwelling in what’s difficult?

Another of my favourite gratitude practices is the old-fashioned thank-you card. I keep a stock on hand. I love to send thank you cards, all jazzed-up with colourful and fun stickers.

I take every opportunity I can to genuinely express gratitude to others who shine goodness and support into my life. I never want to take them for granted and I want them to know the difference they make.

Gratitude is such a simple practice, it’s portable and it’s a proven method to increase happiness.

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

Dealing with the inner turmoil of emotion

What's wrong with me?

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m irritable and cranky, everything annoys me and what’s worse, my whole system feels off and I can’t sleep.”

I’ve been hearing this more and more lately, from people confused because they don’t feel like themselves. So many people are trying to outrun uncomfortable feelings and trying to avoid or manage what they’re feeling by getting busier and busier, until they can’t. Too many are hitting the wall, and don’t know what to do to quell feelings of anxiety and pain bubbling up from inside.

Some feel desperate to feel better, but don’t know how to and blame or judge themselves as wrong.

While we all have emotions, too many of us don’t know what to do when uncomfortable or painful feelings arise.

I know the drill far too well because I was in the same boat for many years. I tried to talk myself out of my feelings, not knowing we can’t think ourselves out of an emotion. I created carnage along the way with the irritability I felt, and often had to do clean-up duty in the wake of it. It was a mess and so was I.

I tried to stay busy to avoid feeling what was going on inside, but often sleep wouldn’t come, those feelings only resurfacing when I needed to rest. As many of my readers know, that led to anxiety, depression and burnout for me.

Learning about emotions, and how to support myself through uncomfortable emotions changed my life for the better. My past mess became my message of hope for people—there is a way through difficult emotions.

It may be surprising to learn any emotion will last only 60 to 90 seconds and then diminish, unless we try to suppress it or feed it with a thought. The emotion may come back, but it will have less intensity if we can learn to breathe through the emotion and let it pass. I didn’t believe that at first, and when I learned it was true, it changed my life.

Learning to pause and breathe, and ride the wave of the emotion with the breath helps to relieve the pressure that is often experienced with strong emotions. Being able to receive support from another is helpful.

The challenge is many of us are conditioned to suppress our emotions and they start to look quite unlike what they really are. Anger and irritability frequently arise as a cover-emotion for some of our most uncomfortable emotions, such as shame, fear or grief.

I’m curious if much of the irritability and anger we’re seeing in society today is related to the fear and grief that’s been stockpiled inside of us through the events of the past several years. It may not be the only emotion at play, but I am curious how much grief is being played out as irritability and anger.

Many experts reflect feelings of grief, of mourning the world the way it used to be, may have put the world in a prolonged grief disorder. People who experienced losses during the pandemic and were often left unsupported in their loss. Other losses experienced were often unacknowledged or camouflaged as something else.

While grief is expected following the loss of a loved one, it is not reserved for death alone. We experience grief following all kinds of losses in our lives. Ours is a grief-avoidant culture, so many of us don’t know enough about this very human experience. The symptoms of grief are often unrecognized for what they are, and therefore knowing how to help ourselves and one another is difficult. That leaves us unequipped when inevitable losses occur.

We can support ourselves with learning more and talking about death and grief to remove the mystery and fear that often accompanies the topics. This is an important topic and shying away because of our discomfort with the topic of loss, grief and death leaves us unequipped when we need it most.

Resources are available through a variety of sources, including Central Okanagan Hospice Association and Springfield Funeral Homes. Kelowna death doula, Keri Brekveld hosts Death Café’s on the second Thursday of each month at the downtown Kelowna Library.

This is my personal invitation to all of you to attend the Kelowna General Hospital’s Walk of Memories, to take place this Sunday (Sept. 24 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Dolphins sculpture in Waterfront Park in Kelowna. (Arrive between 2 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. to complete the walk before the closing ceremony at 3:30 p.m.)

The KGH Walk of Memories is a free, interactive, ceremonial walk through four-stations along the waterfront in a supportive, caring atmosphere. Participants are invited to stop and reflect on their loss while remembering the legacy that remains.

This special day is sponsored by the KGH Foundation, Springfield Funeral Homes, the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna and McDonalds. The closing ceremony at 3:30 p.m. will feature music by Mr. and Mrs. Strauss, harp music by Caroline McKay, refreshments and an informative talk by local grief expert, Clair Jantzen.

I hope to see you there, if not for yourself, then to help support other people in their grief.

If you’re struggling with difficult emotions, reaching out to a therapist can be so helpful. You might find you’re not alone in your experience.

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

Bullying yourself is not a tactic that works in the long run

Critic or coach

I was horrified by a post from a woman fat-shaming herself publicly.

She called herself horrible names as she invited people to challenge her if they saw her eating in an unhealthy way. It was brutal.

While she may have believed this was the road to a slimmer body, it did not work and I’m not surprised. We may think being hard on ourselves is helpful to create positive change in our lives, but we’re wrong.

While taking stock of ourselves and desiring to make positive change is wonderful, using shame, guilt and negative self-talk isn’t as helpful as we may believe. If we want to create lasting positive change in our lives, catching negative self-talk and noticing the voice of the nasty self-critic, is important.

This self-critic isn’t helpful in creating lasting change in our lives. We can only bully ourselves into change for so long. The trail of failed changes is a result of a self-bullying mentality.

Research shows we don’t learn or create lasting change when we’ve bullied ourselves with a critical voice. Negative self-talk engages the fight-or-flight response in our brains and bodies. Our brains aren’t able to create new and lasting habits when the stress response is engaged.

According to psychologist, Elizabeth Scott, positive and motivational self-talk is the greater predictor of success. That means we do better when we encourage ourselves kindly. https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-self-talk-and-how-it-affects-us-4161304

Not unlike children and students, we learn and grow best in an atmosphere of safety and self-compassion. I’ve learned best when my teachers created an atmosphere of caring and safety for me to learn and even make mistakes. My best teachers had compassion.

According to Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, an attitude of self-compassion is an important ingredient to positive change. https://aeon.co/essays/learning-to-be-kind-to-yourself-has-remarkable-benefits

Self-compassion is not putting on blinders. Self-kindness helps us to see even challenging situations in our lives more clearly. Becoming a compassionate coach rather than chastising faultfinder supports us in being successful.

Repetitive thoughts are just old, well-practiced neural pathways. They’re like ruts in a well-travelled road. We can get stuck in the ruts that take us to the same old places we’ve always travelled. When we have a habit of thinking negative thoughts about ourselves it becomes the default mode.

We can make new habits of thought. Stopping and noticing what we’re thinking and what we’re saying to ourselves is key.

I’ve long used an exercise that was helpful in changing the inner-critic to a compassionate coach. I call it “becoming your own best-friend.”

1. When you become aware of negative self-talk rolling through your brain, stop! Stop and notice how it feels. Get curious about where that voice comes from.

2. Don’t believe everything you think. You are not your thoughts. Just because you had a thought doesn’t mean it’s true.

3. Once you catch yourself being self-abusive, ask yourself what you’d say to your own best-friend on the same topic. Would you tell them they’re lazy, stupid, fat or a failure? Would you chew them out by reminding them of every time they’ve failed in the past? I doubt it.

Offer yourself, instead, the same compassion and advice you’d offer to someone you care about.

Consider becoming your own best friend. Consider being compassionate toward yourself, wanting the very best for yourself. Consider how you’d coach or support your best friend, and then do the same for yourself.

Encourage yourself. Self-compassion and kindness are key to positive change.

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

Random acts of kindness are the perfect antidote for what ails us

Random acts of kindness

I’m declaring this week to be Random Acts of Kindness Week for all of my readers. Are you up for the challenge?

The kindness movement has already started with the many kind acts being performed through recent fires in the Okanagan area. We’ll all benefit greatly from stoking the flames of kindness in our lives, both the givers and receivers.

I was again uplifted and inspired by a video-clip of singer/songwriter Jann Arden, and students of the Doane USchool performing the song Try a Little Kindness. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

There was wisdom in the lyrics of the chorus being changed to reflect the possibility people today may be more broken-hearted than narrow-minded, as was written in Glen Campbell’s original song.

It’s important to consider sadness and fear may be the source of much of the challenging behaviour we’re witnessing in the world today. While it’s easy to judge another who appears rude or abrupt, being gently curious about what lies beneath this veneer often reveals someone who’s stressed, exhausted, afraid or lonely. Reaching through what appears on the surface creates connection that’s so needed in today’s world.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Let’s show up in a way that reflects the world we want to live in. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Random acts of kindness are always in season. There can never be too many.

Don’t mistake random acts of kindness (RAK) as some airy-fairy thing that’s just nice to do. Don’t reserve them only for challenging times. Performing random acts of kindness offers great health benefits that may be the perfect antidote to what’s happening in the world today.

RAK are of interest in the scientific and psychological world today, as researchers delve into the benefits.

While recipients of kind acts benefit in a variety of ways, we don’t have to wait for them to happen to us. The greatest effects of RAK are experienced by those who perform such acts: (https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness)

• Reduced depression and anxiety

• Increased self-worth and happiness

• Increased confidence

• Increased sense of personal connection

• Reduced stress hormones

• Decreased blood pressure and heart rate

• Increased heart health

• Decreased pain

• Increased cognitive function

• Strengthened immune system

• Increased energy

We can rewire our brains and reset our body chemistry for the better, as acts of caring find their way into our brains and bodies and we make the world a better place.

I love hearing about other people’s kind acts and am inspired by them. I’m uplifted and smiling as I write this column because some sweet person performed a RAK in treating the cars behind him to a free lunch at Tim Horton’s.

Our daughter and her family were recipients of his kind act, but so am I in hearing about it.

This uplifting effect isn’t an aberration, as research reveals even witnessing or hearing about acts of kindness benefits others. Others are uplifted and more likely to extend kindness, compounding the effects.

Research shows successful people incorporate kindness into their lives, and this is certainly true for many successful people I know.

As research into the benefits of RAK continues, encouraging such acts is being considered as an intervention to support mental well-being.

Performing RAK can be as simple as:

• sending a kind text to your friends

• mail a handwritten card (they’re rare these days)

• holding a door for another with a smile

• offering a compliment

• buying a coffee for the person behind you in the line-up

Kindness may be the perfect antidote for us all right now.

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

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

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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