LINCCK Civility • Compassion • Kindness seeks to inspire adults and children to be compassionate to themselves, and make long lasting change improving their mental health and level of happiness for vibrant well-being
The Principles of Science of Happiness and Positive Psychology – SoHaPP – have been receiving acknowledgement lately. In the past the medical community primarily treated the symptoms of mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety and bipolar with therapeutic drugs and programs to cure or suppress those illnesses. This is critical to the patient. Imagine the difference in our world if they had equally focused on healthy habits or practices. The medical community is now directing us on how to get there, and it’s in part the same message! As a component of the recovery process from mental illness, some mental health treatment can be enhanced with the cultivation of three life qualities: a positive outlook, a giving spirit and a healthy brain.
Additionally, these same qualities can create or increase vibrant well-being for those not suffering from such illnesses. We now can take advantage of this principal, and pro-actively make life better for ourselves. There is an important need for treating mental illness with medicine and therapy, and just seeking new life practices alone falls short. Individuals lacking essential necessities, such as food or housing, or facing abusive situations must have their life situations addressed as well. We encourage anyone experiencing symptoms of mental illness to seek services from the medical and mental health community. But that shouldn’t deter others not facing such dire circumstances from reaching higher levels of vibrant well-being by utilizing the same principles and tools.
People think happiness comes from getting a nice house, lots of big toys or a good income. In the short term there is satisfaction in those items, but not for the long term. Most people often end up wanting more to keep themselves happy, creating a cycle of wanting – a better neighborhood, a bigger boat or more money. Searching for happiness outside of ourselves is not the best way to long term success, and we need to reverse the way we think! Happiness can lead to a rewarding job, better health and developing better friendships. Take intentional steps to improve well-being, and those real, desired outcomes could occur.
Generally speaking it’s not your genes or life’s circumstances, but your intentional every day activities which brings you vibrant well-being. Some neurological studies suggest five particular activities, done daily, are especially well suited for fostering happiness and well-being. These might not be the only way to obtain vibrant well-being, but LINCCK believes these are the best.
1. Create Positive Experiences 2. Perform Random Acts of Kindness 3. Openly Express Gratitude 4. Support Physical Wellness 5. Clear Your Mind
DEVELOP A POSITIVE OUTLOOK Our brains become naturally wired for the negative, and this bias needs to be corrected. Re-wire your brain to foster positive thinking. Go with the positive when you have choices in life. The positivity ratio contends it takes three positive comments, experiences or expressions to counteract just a single negative one. For the majority of us, long-term happiness can be fostered by how your brain processes the world you find yourself in. Is your brain processing information negatively or positively? Interpretation of your surrounding reality may change the experience of that reality. Hope and optimism fuel performance and change the lens of how you perceive your world, so improve your mental wellness with a positive outlook on life. Your typical day, like being at work or school, if seen as a chore can lead to stress and pressure. Seeing such pursuits as a privilege can give motivation towards greater achievements and a rewarding experience. A difference in attitude changes realizations gained and eventual outcome.
1. Create Positive Experiences Determine positive triggers for yourself and start every day with one, like looking out a window and thinking of a blessing in your life. Simple, but it can work. Purposely expand the experience of a positive emotion. ‘Stop and smell the roses’ has ‘Stop’, and it should be more than just an instant. Why not a minute? When coming upon a positive experience – a child zealously playing, a particularly pretty scene – push yourself for extra time to savor it. With specific intention teach yourself to enjoy life more, every day.
Consciously add three smiles and 15 minutes of fun activity to your day. Think of a meaningful experience for two minutes, writing down every detail you can remember. Develop deep connections with other positively minded individuals. Believe and feel life is meaningful, and what you are doing is making a difference. When you find yourself in difficult circumstances, look for positivity in the moment. It helps immensely in getting through it.
ENRICH A GIVING SPIRIT A giving spirit can be enhanced with two daily practices: random acts of kindness to others and expressing gratitude for the joys in your life. We are really social creatures, having a strong inner desire for meaningful relationships with others and to be part of a community. Generally speaking, some of the happiest people are very socially productive, spending significant time developing relationships and engaging in their communities.
2. Perform Random Acts of Kindness One quick way to increase feelings of happiness is to perform random acts of kindness. Greater service to the community and your environment, as well as altruism to strangers and friends alike promotes one’s own happiness. Listen attentively and non-judgmentally when another speaks. Studies show acts of kindness with no expectation of reward decreases stress and enhances happiness. This influences how individuals associate with others, and significantly impacts bystanders reacting to bullying and intimidation or to aiding those caught in controlling relationships.
Whether it is by your time, energy, money or thoughtfulness – helping a neighbor, volunteering or donating goods and services can result in a ‘helper’s high’. Food Banks, Plateau Outreach Ministries, the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation and White River Communities Families First Coalition can always use assistance, and there are many other ways to help in your community. Volunteer!
Doing something nice for others can give a rush of euphoria, which releases endorphins, our body’s natural painkiller. Many people report a decrease in awareness and intensity of physical pain after doing a good deed for someone else. When people benefit from kindness they ‘pay it forward’ by helping others who were not originally involved. This creates a cascade of cooperation, influencing others in the social network and further expanding the effect. We increase children’s feelings of happiness and well-being and improve their friendships by teaching them to be givers of kindness.
Consciously add acts of kindness each day – even small ones work wonders.
3. Openly Express Gratitude Contemplate a source of gratitude, and provide an outlet to express this thought of thanks. With an attitude of gratitude you will have a purposeful appreciation of life. Gratitude is a personality trait, and some have more of this than others. People of faith are generally strong in this characteristic. You won’t change your personality overnight, but practicing expressions of gratitude can eventually change your personality. With daily practice, you might even begin to change after just several months. Studies show gratitude can be a strong relaxant, helps us bounce back from stress and may bring longevity to life. Expressing gratitude is a great way to fight the ‘always wanting a little more’. We become less materialistic, less self-centered and feelings of envy are reduced. You won’t be so concerned, deeply appreciating what you already have. Gratitude makes us nicer, more optimistic, trusting and social.
Every day say out loud to another or keep a gratitude journal on at least three new things happening within the last 24 hours you are grateful for. Directly thanking others for their actions may increase their sense of well-being. Your expressions of gratitude can bring peace and contentment to yourself and the community – a recipe of great mental health for all.
In November gratitude stops will appear on the plateau. Having gratitude boards available brings us ‘Gratitude Graffiti’, a movement creating a place to share our gratitude in society. When you come across one, stop and add a reflection of gratitude. It will be another opportunity to express gratitude, and also fun for the rest of the community to get caught up in this endeavor. See how life can be appreciated by others, and after reflection, even by you!
NURTURE A HEALTHY BRAIN
Think of the brain as just body tissue like the rest of your body. How will it be the healthiest and most productive? It values physical wellness and periods of time with complete rest.
4. Support Physical Wellness The brain appreciates physical work-outs. Just like your heart, muscles and bones, the brain gets healthy when your body does a physical work-out. A cardio fitness program is needed, with a variety of activities being good to ensure continued long term engagement. Oddly enough, weight lifting is beneficial for brain tissue. Both cardio and weight lifting are good for supporting physical wellness. Very intense work-outs are not needed necessarily, and to start with a two-pound weight or just lifting a limb for some may be sufficient. Exercise can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and assists avoiding diabetes, which is associated with Alzheimer’s.
One study suggested a daily five-minute form of exercise correlates to the same amount of happiness in the long term as significantly increasing your income. Daily, five minutes of exercise can be fun and could be free. What makes more sense? Doing these work-outs, you should eat wisely to fuel this activity. Eat appropriate portions of a wide range of nutritious foods, properly balanced with each other. Try cutting back on empty calories and any extra and potentially damaging sugars. You should get enough of the ‘essential fats’ necessary for brain functioning and development, as 60% of the brain is composed of fat cells.
5. Clear the Mind Rest. The quantity and quality of your sleep is important and you should give the brain a special type of rest during the day. Meditate, and clear your mind! Studies have shown this activity can make a huge difference to your overall well-being when done on a daily basis. Simple breathing techniques can accomplish this, even if done for a few minutes. Focusing on the sensations of your body, or utilizing other visualization techniques can bring a special ‘Mindfulness’, improving sensory processing and eventually boosting performance and productivity.
Our minds are constantly thinking, moving from one thought to another often without a particular focus. Sometimes we get stimulated to an incredible degree. We need to quiet the chatter. Bring stillness and peace to the brain. You may see physical health benefits such as increased immune function, lower cholesterol levels, decreased blood pressure and hypertension, and decreased general pain in the body. You also may get mental and emotional benefits such as decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. You could improve your ability to regulate your emotions, and might not be so prone to immediately react in a potentially negative way. Of particular importance is an increased ability to focus and give attention. Being solely focused allows for getting into the ‘flow’ of a project without distractions, and can build greater creativity and better achievements for your other endeavors in life.
The Goal for Each Day – for Every Day • Every day create positive experiences. • Every day perform random acts of kindness, • Every day openly express gratitude to others, or journal such thoughts. • Every day be physically active with various types of workouts, and eat wisely. • Every day clear the mind, creating mindfulness and intensifying singular focus.
THE INITIAL PLAN All of us, in little or big ways, have some of these practices in our lives. Evaluate your day.Are you doing these practices enough? Beginning a new practice is not always successful, and attempting all five of them might seem like a huge undertaking – but it won’t be. Accomplishing the first step, even in a small way is the key. Don’t try to figure out a plan for the rest of your life, just plan for that first day, that first week. The rest will come. Small steps, taken daily, compounding over time and intensifying with practice achieves the greatest rewards.
Make the start of these practices easy. Concentrate on just one practice each month. Consciously direct yourself to do something in that regard, even if it’s just a little bit, every day for a month. The brain takes repeated patterns and turns them into automatic behaviors. The practices will become a habit and a part of your subconscious hopefully for the rest of your life. You might choose to associate a ‘trigger’ of another event to remind yourself to commence a particular practice. After performing one of these activities, give yourself a pat on the back, a quiet little fist pump, or with a smile say to yourself “Way to Go!” or “Awesome!” Say it out loud so your ears can hear it. Acknowledging the act and rewarding yourself in some fashion will further encourage similar such activities.
The main thing is to turn these practices into habits, so you will do each one, at least a little bit, every day. To persuade yourself, add variety as it is the spice of life. Implement these intentional activities in new and unpredictable ways to foster one’s well-being and best guarantee success. One of the surest ways to start a new habit is to be accountable to another, so include your friends by sharing your experience. Others may even join in this journey with you. To help promote these healthy habits, as communities on the Plateau, we can join together to practice each habit for a given month:
• EXPRESS GRATITUDE: In November it will be easy to do with Thanksgiving prominent for the month, with extended family gatherings and Gratitude Graffiti.
• CREATE POSITIVE EXPERIENCES: For December you can ‘power the positive’ with the holiday spirit to create and savor positive experiences.
• CLEAR THE MIND: In January start off the year with daily meditation. Quiet reflection brings rest and a single focused effort of mindfulness, making your brain more productive.
• PERFORM RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS: February has Kindness Week (Feb. 9 to 15), Random Acts of Kindness Day (Feb. 17), and Valentine’s Day. It’s pretty easy to reach out with acts of kindness this month, and for a lifetime.
• SUPPORT PHYSICAL WELLNESS: In March better weather comes, and outdoor activities will be more enjoyable. Each day do some physical activity, cardio and/or weight lifting. Without stressing over each calorie, renew your concentration on eating wisely. Your brain and your body will thank you for it.
The International Day of Happiness is always on March 20, and it’s time we all celebrate this event! Many Washington cities observe this holiday. Do you?
A week before each of these five months, a detailed statement for the individual practice will be made available around the communities and will be posted at www.SoHaPP.org. You can find them on our FaceBook ‘SoHaPP’, and follow us at #SoHaPP. COMMUNITY BOOK READ: LINCCK suggests as a community book read The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, or other age appropriate book. The Enumclaw and Buckley Libraries will be having a number of resources relating to SoHaPP. Seek a variety of ways to explore this new ‘Science of Happiness’ and encourage the practice of ‘Positive Psychology’.
Awaken a new perspective on how great life can be with the intentional pursuit of life strategies. Enjoy great mental health, happiness and vibrant well-being!