PAY ATTENTION!

Bluebird

Happiness is not about being in a “Zipadee-do-dah” mood 24/7. As we all know, Mr. Bluebird is not going to be cheerfully tweeting on our shoulder the minute we step outside.

Life hands us lemons at times; an often those challenges are the very moments that ask us to grow stronger and gain a deeper understanding of how precious our time on earth really is.

While the definition of happiness is unique to each one of us—overall it paints a picture of being content with our lives.

What you also might have noticed, however, is that when you are depressed, sad, or even angry, you tend to color everything around you and everything you are experiencing as negative, or bad in some way. It is called the attentional bias; in other words, we start to see everything through a gray lens, based on one event.

A Few Examples:

Fact: My best friend just moved to Alaska.

My reaction:  I eventually lose everyone I love.

 

Fact: Dinner was overcooked and dried out when I had guests over.

My reaction: I am a lousy cook and better not have another dinner party ever again.

 

Fact: My neighbor barged in unannounced and asked me to give her a ride to the store.

My Reaction: Why does everyone think I’m a taxi and at their disposal whenever they need something?

 

In reality, when we are in the throes of negative emotion, we rarely stop to remind ourselves that there are still plenty of wonderful thingsgoing on in our lives. Let’s take another look at the examples above and switch attention:

 

Fact: My best friend just moved to Alaska.

My reaction:  I eventually lose everyone I love.

Reality Check: I have loving friends and family still around me (such as x, y z), and also have the ability to make new friends anytime I want.

Fact: Dinner was overcooked and dried out when I had guests over.

My reaction: I am a lousy cook and better not have another dinner party ever again.

Reality Check: I have cooked dinner for guests many times in the past (cite examples), and the meals turned out great. I can always go back and see what went wrong with this recipe and try it out again before I serve it.

Fact: My neighbor barged in unannounced and asked me to give her a ride to the store.

My Reaction: Why does everyone think I’m a taxi and at their disposal whenever they need something?

Reality Check: It is actually just this one person that keeps asking me for favors. I just need to tell her honestly that there are times when I really can’t drop everything to help her out, but when I can I will.

 

Apart from severe depression, which might require therapy and/or medication if there is a chemical imbalance, my expertise centers on methods of self-help; that really work to soothe life’s everyday ups and downs.  We take care of our bodies, so why do we often neglect to nurture our frame of mind– one of the most important keys to happiness?

I was fascinated by a recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research,which looked at the therapeutic value of modifying what we focus on. It is called ABM or attentional bias modification.  Specifically, in sad or depressed participants in the study, modifying their focus on negativity, actually improved their mood. Interrupting a negative thought pattern with positive images or thoughts made a huge difference in the way people felt about themselves, their relationships, and their life’s circumstances.

One way you can guide yourself to pay more attention to the positive aspects of your life, and give less attention to the negative emotions of sadness, fear, anger, and anxiousness—is to complete what I call “The Happy Hundred”.  Here is how to do it:

  1. Get a couple of sheets of paper and number down the left side from 1 all the way down to 100.
  2. At the end of each day, write down everything that made you smile that day. Every thought or interaction, every experience that you are grateful for; no matter how big or small. Keep doing this each day until you have listed 100 positive things about your life.
  3. Once you get to 100 things that are good about your life, keep the list handy. Put it in your pocket or handbag and take it wherever you go.
  4. When something upsets you during the day—even if it’s your own thoughts, pull out your Happy Hundred list and re-read it.

Let this exercise become habit and you will experience the power of switching your focus from the negative to PAYING ATTENTION TO THE GOOD in each day, to the positive in people around you, to the strength within yourself.

 

 

Got Music? Get Happy.

Blog Music

Last Saturday as I performed at a large outdoor Italian festival with my fellow musicians of our band ENTERPRISE (Facebook.com/ENTERPRISE-LIVE-MUSIC), I was overjoyed to see so much happiness began to snowball in one place. Hundreds of people dancing, eating, chatting, laughing—it seemed like every age group was represented, and the cares of the world slowly drifted far away from all of them, as if encapsulated inside a helium balloon that progressively shrinks down to the size of a pen point just before it disappears totally into the horizon.

As our music filled the air you could see people’s hearts get lighter and fill with merriment. Even the oldest of the crowd got up from their chairs and began to dance with the energy of teenagers.

Of course, it wasn’t just the fact that ENTERPRISE was playing (as partial as I may be to our music); rather, this kind of mood—and even physical —transformation happens commonly from the positive effects that music in generalhas on human emotions and even on human health. People exposed to music are less focused on aches, pains, worries and problems because music elicits positive emotions and “feel-good” brain chemicals, like dopamine. Positive emotions, according to some studies are also inversely related to inflammation—which can be a trigger for many short and long term illness.

Music has been used in rehabilitation settings after heart attacks and strokes, in stress reduction, sleep regulation, and according to one study—music can also strengthen social bonding by making us feel more relaxed when in social settings. Music can bring back beautiful and important memories that connect us to our personal history and family members who may no longer be here. Who amongst us doesn’t remember certain songs that came on the radio when we were with some special high school friends; or the song that played when we went out on our first date; or what was playing on the radio when as a kid we watched our grandmother cooking?

The benefits of filling your life with music are endless. Music provides the backdrop for good times—parities, dances, concerts—and it can act as a comfort in the tough times, for when there are no words that can quite as effectively reach the heart.

Whether you create music, listen to music, dance to music, or just let music provide the background as you move through your day; filling your life with music can be a super-effective source of happiness. Let’s all do more of it!

What kind of music provides the backdrop for YOUR life?

THIS is who you are.

Lightbulb.jpg

No, we are not meant to fit into a common life template. By that, I mean going through the motions of routine and responsibilities that have to be taken care of, while neglecting the part of you that reflects the very soul of who you are—your creativity.  In ancient times, creativity was viewed as a gift from God. It is what sets you apart from others and deserves its unique expression. If you like to draw, for example, you must draw. If you like to bake, then bake up a storm. If you like fashion, then dress to the nines.  Do you feel the music? Make time in your day to sing, or play your instrument! Write that book. Make those flower arrangements. Dance? Choreograph your own steps and just blast the music!

At the top of the renowned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the human drive towards “self-actualization” –that point at which, once our basic needs are met we work on personal growth–we gravitate towards truth (including the truth of who we are), beauty, spontaneity, spirituality, and creativity. We are in the process of becoming all that our potential allows. We cannot do this if we are always living our life inside the box—confined by the rules and routines that we must abide by, without also taking the time for self -expression.

Don’t stifle your creativity because you don’t have time to express it. Make the time; just as you would for any other priority in your life. Your creative expression—or that unique “gift from God” is which is also imperative for your personal growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Yourself Be In The Moment

IMG_2005.JPG
Nonna to Grandson: Wow, how did you make that hole-in-one? I wanna make one, too! Did you think about a straight path from the ball to the hole, or the distance or the speed of the ball?
Grandson to Nonna: No,nonna; You don’t think about it; you just hit it!
Moral of the Story: We don’t have to sacrifice spontaneity to overthinking and calculation. Just being in the moment is often the most joyful moment of all. Nice going, Brendan! xoxox #fromthemouthsofbabes

3 Steps to Mastering Your Life

Master

 

I am thinking about a passage I once read in a book by Italian psychiatrist Raffaele Morelli, called: “La Felicita’ e’ Qui” (happiness is here). He described the qualities of a real “maestro”, or teacher.   A master of agriculture, for example, is not necessarily one who has studied for a degree in the field, but rather someone who has been a lifelong farmer—one who knows the soil, the climate, the seed, the fertilizer, and the conditions that help and hinder the crops. Moreover, a real master has no expectations, after doing all of the groundwork. For example he/she can hope that the crops will grow and flourish, but unforeseen conditions could arise that foil even the best of preparations. Thus, a real master is prepared to accept the reality of the outcome, knowing that there are always elements we have no control over. A real master exudes serenity and inner strength. We can all be “masters” of our own life and here are three suggestions for doing that:

  1. Work hard for your desired outcome; then
  2. Accept whatever happens with grace and dignity, knowing you did all you can.
  3. If the outcome was desirable, give thanks. If undesirable, learn to distinguish if you could improve your efforts, or if it makes more sense to let go and move on.

 

Copyright 2019 Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D.

 

Walk Forward into Positivity

Sadness, regret, mistakes, failures–they are all part of being human. But so is the human capacity to use our past experiences to gain insight, learn to do better, and recognize our inner resilience. Let your heart be light as you move step by step into a new day of peace, tranquility, and self-confidence. #LetGoOfNegativity

Follow Your Inner Light

Candle

One thing I have discovered in my research on the topic–Happiness is not a utopia that guarantees you won’t ever have to face dark times. Rather, happiness comes with recognizing the gift of the brand new day you were given, and with it— another chance to make this day count. #FollowYourLight. Do share this post with someone who could use some encouragement today. xoxo

How to Make Positive Affirmations Work for YOU

brain

There are plenty of books and recordings of “positive affirmations”; but the ones that have the best chance of working in your favor, are the affirmations that are specific to YOU. The brain has a filtering system that shuts out the unimportant “white noise” and helps you focus on what you need to pay attention to.  That is why when you are at a noisy party, someone on the other side of the room can say your name and it will grab your attention above any of the other words that are floating through the air.

In this world of busy-ness, multi-tasking and fulfilling our roles and responsibilities, it is easy to lose sight of our hopes, dreams and goals—because we don’t seem to have time to reflect and refine them.

Here is one way to turn that around; and a method that I have used myself for many years.  It’s called “self-talk”,  and I have written about it in my books. Self-talk directs our focus, and it can either destroy our confidence or become the fuel that feeds our success. One way to make your self-talk work for—and not against—you, is  by creating 3 of your own positiveaffirmations. Yes, affirmations really do work.  Write down the one-sentence descriptions of what you would like to be yourreality, and read/recite them to yourself at least twice a day.  Phrase affirmations as if they have already come to be, (e.g. I eat only foods that keep my body strong; I attract wonderful friends that love and care about me; I am doing work that I am passionate about;  etc—whatever is most important to you) and your brain will come to your aid by helping you to notice information and opportunities that will keep you on track towards achieving your desires.

COMING IN NOVEMBER: PROJECT HAPPINESS: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO EVERYDAY CONTENTMENT ( Linden Publishers)

 

Expecting the Best–And Getting It!

My little Bella just loves to prop herself on the window sill and wait with kid-like excitment for so many wonderful things to happen! After all, a neighborhood dog could pass by any minute, or a squirrel could be flitting up and down the tall tree trunk outside–maybe even a cat could dash by. In Bella’s mind (if I may anthropomorphisize), an endless possiblitiy of good things could happen at a moment’s notice! In his classic best-selling book THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING, Norman Vincent Peale dedicated a whole chapter to “Expecting the Best–And Getting It”. When you approach the day with dread and negativity, he believed you actually repel the good things that could potentially happen for you. Your challenge for today: No matter what obstacles you run into, stay focused on the positive, and expect wonderful things. Comment below and let me know if your mindset makes a difference. xoxox . Window watching

The DARKER side of Social Media

Cruise

Last night I had the most FABULOUS date! He was a true gentleman. He opened doors, pulled out my chair at the 5-star restaurant he took me to, spoke intelligently, and had really good hygiene, to boot!  We talked about going on a luxury cruise together, and maybe doing some traveling around the world. Luckily I have been working out like crazy and using a new miracle wrinkle cream so the pounds–and wrinkles—have become a thing of the past!

Well I have to cut this post short because it is time for my laughing-yoga-with-a-goat session, and then on to my wild greens lunch—which I foraged myself alla Euell Gibbons.

OH WAIT—none of that is exactly true! Or rather a few major details might have been left out. Such as I get extremely seasick and would rather camp out in the wild (my LEAST favorite activity in the world) than ever get on a boat again. The last Mr. Clean-cut Gentleman, showed up in cargo shorts, flip flops, dirty fingernails and took me to a dimly lit bar where the beers were on sale. And I buy my greens at the local health food store.

Oh, and this photo? It’s not really of me (surprise!) and I haven’t found that perfect miracle diet or wrinkle cream yet—because THEY DON’T EXIST!

Friends, there is a phenomenon called “Facebook Depression”, although it can be generalized to all social network site usage. I recently came across a fascinating article published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, where researchers did a meta-analysis of all articles published on the connection between a negative mood and social media exposure. They looked at time spent on social media sites; frequency of checking social media sites, and social comparison, a theory put forth in 1954 by social psychologist Leon Festinger. Social Comparison Theory says that we humans have an innate drive to evaluate ourselves based on a comparison with others. Of course there is a lot more to this theory, but the interesting finding the present study, was that “upward” social comparison had the greatest effect on producing a negative mood—even more so than generally comparing our lives to social media posts, the amount of timewe spend on social media, or the frequencywith which we check our social media throughout the day.

In other words—when we read a post like the one I began with, and then compare the reality of our own NORMAL lives to posts that make it appear there really issuch a thing as the PERFECT life—we are more like to get depressed.

The solution is not to swear off of social media—in fact, social media sites do a lot of good when used consciously. We can learn things, get ideas, stay in touch with friends and family we normally wouldn’t see in person that often, and even share announcements that others might be interested in.  However, when it comes to posts that push the FANTASY of a perfect life—don’t buy it, and don’t allow yourself to compare your own life to those posts. Most people DON’T post the things that go wrong in a normal human life—and we ALL have various ups and downs; challenges and victories. The key is to cherish our OWN beautifully imperfect lives, each and every day. The very fact that we are here, alive, and in full human attire—is perhaps the finest gift of all.

Reference:

Yoon, S., Kleinman, M., Mertz, J. & Brannick, M. (2019). Is social network site usage related to depression? A Meta-analysis of Facebook-depression relations. Journal of Affective Disorders, v.248, pp.65-72.

MY UPCOMING BOOK “AGING HAPPY” IS AVAILABLE NOW FOR PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON.COM.