Tag Archives: Inspiration
If we had to pinpoint the source of unhappiness, stress (in all its forms) would be a likely culprit. It comes from every possible angle, from work responsibility to romantic relationships, things beyond our control like weather and equipment malfunctions to anxieties and problems that are entirely self-generated. Stress is everywhere – it just comes in many, many forms.
Not only are there many types of stress, it also affects different people in different ways. Some people thrive on it, others buckle – and everything in between. It’s something we can relate to in others, but never quite fully understand because we all experience stress differently – and get stressed out by different things.
Stress doesn’t really go away with career success, money, family, healthy relationships, or any of the other stuff we seek out to build our happiness. It may change forms, but it will never truly go away.
Poverty is stressful, so is managing a massive and lucrative investment account. Loneliness can cause stress, so can navigating social circles or large families. Jobs of all kinds, mundane activities, huge existential questions, anxiety about the unknown, fear, physical injuries, illness – these are potentially stress inducing experiences that just about everyone has to face. There’s no getting around them.
So if there’s no escaping stress, what are we supposed to do?
The short answer: learn to deal with it.
Just as we all experience stress in different ways, and from sources unique to our own lives, we have to develop our own ways of coping with it. The most important thing to understand about this need to create your own path to stress relief is this: there are healthy ways and unhealthy ways to deal with stress, and you have to know the difference.
Turning to drugs, alcohol, binge eating, self-harm, lashing out at others, and other destructive behaviors are certainly the unhealthy route, and should be avoided – no matter how much better they may make you feel. Any relief gained in this way will be temporary, and likely lead to even more stresses in the future.
On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of healthy ways to relieve stress like yoga, meditation, exercise, music, a walk in nature, and a host of other nondestructive activities.
The point is to recognize that stress is just a part of life. You can develop your own ways of coping, and when the stressors start to pile up, you’ll have a way to handle it in a way that you know works for you.
I’d love to hear what you do to relieve stress. Leave me a comment below.
If you want to be happy, make others happy.
That seems counterintuitive and oversimplified, right? What does the happiness of others have anything to do with the amount of happiness you experience on a personal level?
Quite a bit, it turns out!
Putting effort into improving the lives others, in fact, is one of the most direct and measurably effective ways at increasing levels of happiness in ourselves, from giving gifts and spending money on friends, to volunteering for a charity or simply helping a stranger on the street.
Psychologist, author, and happiness expert Martin Seligman says, “…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.”
Our own experiences support this, if you think about it – doesn’t watching a loved one open a gift fill you with joy? Doesn’t the money spent on an event with people you care about yield more happiness than simply buying an object for yourself?
Simply doing good, engaging in altruistic behavior that somehow brightens the day of another person, makes you feel good about yourself. These boosts to your self esteem, your perceived sense of self-importance, your understanding of the impact you have on the world around you, even your sense of community with the people around you – all of these serve to make you happier.
People who volunteer (including kids and young adults) gain levels of self-esteem and happiness that remain present outside of the acts of kindness, and become a permanent state of improved well-being!
It’s almost as if you reward yourself for helping others with a more positive view of the world (and your place in it) – and this makes perfect sense! When you can make someone else’s life better, shouldn’t you feel great about it?
So there you have it, a sure fire way to boost your own happiness while making the world a better place. If you want to make your own life better, make someone else’s life better!
There are volunteer opportunities around every corner, and people all around you could use a kind word, help with a project, some friendly advice, even just the pleasure of your company.
Now roll up your sleeves and get out there to lend a helping hand!
What makes you happy? Have you ever thought about what exactly it is?
Recently, psychologists have scientifically proven that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in your life is how much gratitude you show. The SoulPancake team decided that it would be a great idea to test this out.
They began by gauging the happiness of a group of volunteers before asking them to think of someone who was truly influential and important in their lives. The volunteers then wrote down as much as they could about why this person was so important. After this moment is when the true experiment took shape.
SoulPancake gave the volunteers a telephone and had them call up the person they had written about. Each person read his or her statement directly to whoever they had found most important; the reactions were extraordinary. Tears were shed, laughing erupted, and a few people got the chance to reconnect with friends and family they had been separated from by time and distance.
One volunteer, breaking down crying, read aloud, “Erica is my older sister and my best friend. Sometimes it even feels like we are twins. She is my number one fan and my number one supporter. She makes me happy because despite all my mistakes and all my decisions, she still loves me no matter what. I will never forget when she flew three thousand miles at the drop of a phone call to save me from a breakup.” The immense feeling behind this display of gratitude was palpable and the sisters’ connection shined through, even over the phone.
After the phone calls, one final aspect of the experiment remained: testing the volunteers’ happiness levels a second time. Rewording the test so they weren’t aware it was the same thing, host Julian notes that, even for the few individuals who could not reach the object of their gratitude, happiness levels increased between 2 and 4%. Simply thinking about and writing these notions down made a small difference.
However, the volunteers who got to express themselves personally found increases of happiness between 4 and 19%, a substantial difference.
The most notable finding was that the person who walked in with the lowest happiness levels had the biggest jump after the experiment. What you can take away from this is that, if you’re having a particularly down day, or a really tough time, trying this exercise in gratitude will more than likely have a great impact on you.
So, show your gratitude to someone important in your life, someone who deserves it. You’ll both feel better off. It’s scientifically proven!
Can happiness manifest itself as aggression? Have you ever seen something so cute, you just wanted to squeeze it a little too hard?
Researchers at Yale University coined a term for this phenomenon, calling it Cute Aggression. The team at SoulPancake wanted to try the study out for themselves, gathering a group of volunteers for a quirky experiment involving everyone’s favorite packing material, bubble wrap.
Volunteers were shown slides of increasingly cute animals – giraffes, monkeys, and especially puppies – while supplied with a pile of the bubble wrap. They were told to do with it as they pleased. Naturally, what started out as a bit of random popping snowballed into something much noisier.
“For neutral photos you popped four bubbles. For the cute pictures you popped forty-five bubbles,” host Julian exclaims to one volunteer. The people were found to routinely pop far more bubbles, more frequently, when cuter images flashed on the screen. For one woman, the impetus was puppies. Another woman popped the most when seeing an ant. Although their definitions of cute varied, everyone shared the tendency to fidget, squeeze, twist, and pop as their eyes lit up with something adorable.
This begs the question: why would cute aggression exist? It doesn’t literally mean that we want to hurt cute things; the opposite is actually true. When humans see something cute, we have an impulse to take care of it. But when that image is on a screen, where we can’t reach, it frustrates us. The emotion is then expressed as aggression. It’s an example of positive emotions being exhibited in negative ways. Crying when we’re happy is the most obvious example. This one just happens to be a little more fun!
Twice a day, five days a week – the commute to work day in and day out is something most us are all too familiar with, but did you know that it can actually have a direct effect on your happiness?
While traveling to and from a job is something of a necessary evil (we have to get to work somehow, right?), the further you have to go every day, the more apt it is to impact your happiness.
The problem comes from unpredictability. While we might be able to get used to other forms of daily drudgery (doing the dishes, for example), the fact that traffic, road conditions, and other delays/problems crop up with no rhyme or reason makes commuting all the more stressful.
The longer the trip, the higher the chances for something to put a wrench in your daily routine.
This unpredictability, combined with the absolute necessity of making the trip time and time again, creates the potential for all kinds of stressors – which you have to face over and over without knowing what to expect.
The resulting unhappiness can overshadow even the best job or nicest house, since those stressors are impacting happiness every single workday.
So, what’s the obvious solution?
Work closer to home, or move closer to work!
Cutting down on that commute time essentially reduces the chance that traffic, accidents, construction, idiot drivers, nasty weather, or any other road hazard will negatively affect your mood on any given day.
Now, I understand that the prospect of moving and/or changing jobs seems like a lot of trouble, but when you realize what a big influence a commute can have on your overall happiness… you just might adjust your priorities!