Inner Wisdom: Your Template for a Happy Life

ancient roman

Social feedback theory reminds us that our nature leads us to look to others for feedback and ideas. How many times have you headed straight to family or friends –or even a therapist—to run a situation by them, or get their advice? Often we get some very valuable insights into ourselves from those around us. They may open our minds up as to what options we have available when we face a challenge. Sometimes others can offer comforting words and a feeling of solidarity when we are healing from a broken heart.  They validate our accomplishments when we are doing well, and hopefully offer constructive criticism that allows us to do better when something goes wrong.

But let’s face it: While it’s important to keep an open mind and consider the perspectives of others; the only one who actually makes the choices and decisions about your life—is YOU.  Deep inside, we can all feel what actions, thoughts, and situations will keep us on the road to a happy daily existence.  Yet often, we don’t trust ourselves to know what is best for us. We ignore or discount the very gift that can consistently guide us to satisfying life—our own inner WISDOM.

When all is said and done, you know yourself better than anyone else. You have been the protagonist of your own life since you first began to think for yourself. Yet even when you know what to do, you look to others to tellyou what to do—as if your own perspective on YOU is the least valuable of all!

In Letters from a Stoic, the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca, wrote:

..Wisdom’s course is toward the state of happiness; thither she guides us, thither she opens the way for us. […]She bestows upon us a greatness, which is substantial, but she represses the greatness which is inflated and showy but filled with emptiness; and she does not permit us to be ignorant of the difference.”

Sometimes it takes practice to be able to “hear” your inner wisdom, especially if you have been used to ignoring it habitually. The solution—- is to keep strengthening it! While it is true that often wisdom develops with age, experience and learning, you can also develop wisdom as you would any muscle in your body—by USING IT. Start small by making daily decisions yourself without asking anyone else what you should do (What should I make for dinner? What color shirt should I buy? How should I respond to this email I got from an ex?). Accept the outcomes of your decisions and learn from themas you move forward.

Rest assured; you have a unique gift of wisdom inside of you. Feed it, water it, and give it the respect it deserves. Let it see light of day and it will provide you with the most magnificent template to guide you to your best life ever.

—————

As always, I thank you, Dear Readers, for taking time out of your day to read my articles. Soon, I will have a YouTube channel ready for you–and I hope you will follow me there.

 

 

Healthy Eating Plans Out the Window by 4PM? Here’s What You Can Do!

Chips.png

Are you someone who wakes up with an energetic resolve to eat “right”, but by late afternoon on throughout the evening you graze, overeat, guzzle junk food—and then go to bed at night feeling physically uncomfortable and emotionally defeated?

I want to reassure you that you are not alone. Moreover, it is not your fault, nor does it have anything to do with being a failure, weak-willed, or personally flawed.  In fact, let’s start by cleaning out all of those negative thoughts that form a network of bullies in our mind.

“See, you’ve failed again.”

“You just can’t do it, can you?”

“You keep treating your body like a trash pail”.

“How many times has it been now, since you resolved to eat healthier”?

“Now, look at what you’ve done! No wonder why you are out of shape and feel crummy”

“You will never look good in your clothes.”

“Why don’t you just throw in the towel and buy another bag of chips?”

“Just accept it. Your metabolism is too far gone.”

“Ok, now you get punished and get along tomorrow with only lettuce.”

You  might look at these statements and feel horrified, but the truth is, most of us, at one time or another, become our own biggest bullies. These are real statements that people admit to having said to themselves when their healthful eating intentions unravel towards the end of the day.

If you can relate to this familiar scenario, the good news is, there IS something you can do about it—and it does NOT involve scolding yourself; which we know doesn’t work anyway.

Researchers found that what we call “self-regulation”, that is the ability to direct our own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors—despite outside influences or interruptions (or even temptations), is stronger in the beginning of the day, and towards the end of the day it weakens as we become more tired.  So something else needs to happen when our personal resolve dwindles—and that something is renewed motivation in the form of reminders. We need to remindourselves of our goal and give ourselves a “booster” of encouragement  in late afternoon or early evening, when we begin to think or act contrary to the goals we set for ourselves.

In a research experiment when participants were “primed” or reminded of their healthy eating goals LATER IN THE DAY—either by watching advertisements for healthy foods or doing word searches that contained healthy food target words—their afternoon snacking decreased!  That reminder served as a motivator, which overrode the drop in self-regulation.

Here are some ideas for putting this finding into practice:

  1. WRITE DOWN your healthy eating plan for the day. Do this in the morning and tape it to your refrigerator or pantry door, so you will see it and be reminded to reach for a fruit—even a nice ripe tomato, instead of a sleeve of Oreos later in the day.
  2. POST A PHOTO OF A ROLE MODEL, where you will see it when you get home from work, or when you are preparing dinner and are tempted to “graze” as you cook.
  3. CREATE 5 AFFIRMATIONS that resonate with you. Then SAY THEM around the time you get a craving for something sweet or salty as your day wears on. Affirmations are self-statements that bolster your morale, motivate you, and encourage you like a best friend of life-coach would. Your affirmations could include the reason you CHOOSE to stick to your goal, a reminder of how good you feel when you feed your body what it needs, or a description of how you want to look as a result of eating right.

Consistently do these things and you can free yourself of those automatic unhealthy eating habits that harm your body —-and make you feel disappointed in your ability to stick to your goals.

Today is a new day. Let’s make it happen!

————————————–

Reference:

Bolland,W., Connell, P., & Vallen, B. (2013) Time of day effects on the regulation of food consumption after activation of health goals. Appetite,V 70, pp47-52

 

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)