Tara Parker-Pope has written a fabulous article for the New York Times (thank you Tara) that provides tools, simple tools, to help bring happiness a little closer. It can be accessed on:
Meanwhile, here is a brief take on it. I have added video links if you want to expand on any of the points. At the end I have added my own contribution which include nature and connectedness. And I am sure you also have some points to add. Please feel free to leave comments.
But right now, lets have a look at these simple and effective steps plus a few more:
1. I love how Parker-Pope draws the distinction that happiness doesn't just happen to us, it is also within our power to "make small changes in our behavior, our surroundings and our relationships" that can put us on track. One point she makes is the need to conquer negative thinking by having a down to earth conversation with ourselves and she provides several dot points including asking ourselves what evidence is there to support this negative thought? Facts or feelings? Am I misinterpreting this situation (or as Miquel Ruiz talks about in his Four Agreements (you can buy this online...I have it on my Kindle). Am I taking things personally and am I assuming things that should not be assumed?). She then suggests we move into another position, viewing the issue from someone elses point of view, followed by "How might I view this situation if it happened to someone else?"
2. Then there is controlled breathing, "breathing practices can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder" (Parker-Pope). Disorders aside, it makes sense that if we slow down our breathing, and become more aware of ourselves in this space at this particular time, then things will begin to take on a different perspective (see
3. Parker-Pope talks about reframing our stories, or as she says "rewrite your story". This is something we do in therapy: we find small ways of changing the way we are telling the story so that there is room for change. Parker-Pope suggests 15 minutes of writing a day. Gillie Bolton has written some fabulous books on journalling. Check this out:
4. Parker-Pope reminds us to embrace optimistic thinking, even if it is not the default position. Catch yourself when you find that critical thoughts come more easily than happy or grateful ones...optimism can be learned! See this:
5. And of course, we all know that we need to move our bodies: I find actors love to dance, walk (often learning lines at the same time), jog, practice yoga, swim and cycle. Myself, I love walking and take every opportunity.
It is often the incidental movements that we engage with that help elevate our mood. Rather than the elevator, take the stairs! Walk to the shop. Get up from your chair and stand as you write. I also love listening to upbeat music while cleaning house, cooking, gardening.
Thank you New York Times. I have really enjoyed the points above: restorying (rewriting), moving, checking our patterned ways of thinking, noticing our breathing and I want to emphasise the two things that work for me: acknowledging and mastering Miguel Ruiz's suggestions (in The Four Agreements) including not taking this so personally and not assuming anything. Check out more about Miguel Ruiz's suggestion not to take things personally on:
To finish, I am going to suggest another two interventions that I embrace wholeheartedly: go to Mother Nature. The power to heal can be felt walking under a canopy of trees, sitting on the foreshore watching the world go by, walking the beach and breathing deeply.
The importance of connectedness: relationships are crucial for happiness. Much research has been done to suggest that connectedness expands our lifetime. Susan Pinker has done an interesting Ted Talk that can be accessed on:
PS: Thank you Dr. Sue Levin and Sylvia London for directing me to the NYT's article in the first place.