Many of us are in constant search for happiness. I often hear comments like “I want to feel whole,” or “I do not want to keep searching or working to find happiness.”
What does it mean to be happy? Is it the state of a constant one mood over another, does it mean that you are never sad, depressed, stressed out or having negative feelings?
Peace of mind is a state of strength. This could mean that you have found a foundation for equilibrium and stability, confidence and trust in your ability to overcome challenges and your ability to be resourceful and proactive. When you have peace of mind you have the strength and the skills to empower and protect yourself and maintain stability. Peace of mind leads to happiness.
How can you find peace of mind that will lead to happiness?
There are physical and mental strengths that are within your control. There are steps that you can take and pay attention to, so that you can gain the skills that will lead to achieving and maintaining your happiness. The skills that you build, will help you face and cope with challenges that are not always within your control.
The steps that we would like to take are:
Here are some tips on how to go about the plan:
Sleep- Improving sleeping habits and maintaining a good night’s sleep is critical for our mental health. Studies show that if sleep is interrupted throughout the night, overtime, people become depressed and often dysfunctional. Some tips to improving sleep include:
-Making sure to give yourself ample time to sleep. The average recommended time is between seven to nine hours. Start preparing an hour before going to bed. Develop a cue that will remind you to start preparing for bed.
Create a conducive bedroom environment: cooler temperature, clean uncluttered bedroom, a comfortable bed and no interruptions. Think in terms of a five-star hotel suit. Your bedroom is a place that is yours for the night, where you are pampered and taken care of.
Establish healthy sleep habits and a routine that you are comfortable with. Give yourself ample time to unwind, eat and exercise up to two hours before going to bed, read or write. Listen to calming music or podcasts. Think in terms of putting your child to bed. Treat yourself well.
Movement- It is said that sitting for many hours is as dangerous to our health as is smoking. Studies show that people in Japan, Tibet or parts of Italy live longer because they walk and move a lot. They sit down and get up frequently, they prefer walking, hiking or biking over driving and incorporate movement into their daily activities.
Make movement a priority. Play and dance, have fun. Think in terms of a celebration.
Join a gym, block time to exercise and make it a habit and an ongoing activity. Prepare your gym bag in advance. For example, assemble clothes, a water bottle, headphones and material to read or listen to and put them into your bag well before you go to the gym. Plan your activities or exercise. Think in terms of a session with an experienced professional personal trainer. Treat yourself well!
Nutrition- Reports and recent studies show that there is a strong correlation between our diet and health. More specifically, our diets could contribute to particular inflammatory processes in the body and other illnesses and symptoms such as depression, anxiety or stress.
The concept of “mindful eating” is on the rise and considered to be a core value. Mindful eating is the awareness of how, where and what we eat. It is the daily activity that gives us the key to our health.
Read and get information on healthy food, replacements for junk food, new recipes and new ways to prepare healthy food. Make a weekly meal plan and know the quality and quantity of your food consumption.
When it comes to mindful eating, prepare your environment. Block time to have a meal in a calm environment, set up the table and sit down. Take your full blocked time to eat and listen to calming music. Enjoy the activity, taking one bite at a time and cherishing the taste. Think in terms of a patron in an upscale restaurant. Treat yourself well.
Gratitude- Start a gratitude journal. Pay attention throughout the day to things, situations or events that make you feel good, positive, and happy. Examples may include smelling flowers, a stranger complimented or smiled at you, and maybe you witnessed or made an act of kindness. Before going to sleep, write it down. Make a list of at least three things and read the list out loud. Make it a habit to look for the positives. Write and read them so that you can feel grateful for having the wealth of positives in your life. In time you will notice a pattern of items on your list that are recurrent. You will gain knowledge of yourself and of your own unique ways for lifting your mood and calming yourself down.
Think in terms of a researcher who collects data for the purpose of improving life. Treat yourself well.
The art of achieving peace of mind is an ongoing process, where once a habit forms, it becomes easier to maintain and refine.
Now let’s practice:
As always, I am here to listen, talk or consult with. I am looking forward to hearing from you. firstname.lastname@example.org
Many clients tell me that they are repeatedly upset, angry or frustrated with other people. We often characterize "the other people" as difficult people. In fact, we all encounter difficult people throughout our lives. Sometimes we deal with them on a daily basis and sometimes we interact with them less often. Who are these people and why are we so bothered by them?
Defining a difficult person is subjective and depends on many factors. A difficult person for us or our immediate group does not mean that this person is perceived by others the same way. They can be family members, friends, coworkers, bosses, neighbors and anyone in our circle of network.
We define a difficult person by the way they are related to us and by the way they affect us. Difficult people bring us down, let us feel bad about ourselves or our loved ones and even make us uncomfortable. It is difficult for us to deal with them and manage or regulate our emotions when we engage with them. The interaction may be repetitive and we often believe that there will be no change even when we try.
Generally, we use five categories to describe difficult people:
Here are some examples to illustrate interactions with difficult people.
Let's try to identify them. Which category will you assign them to?
How do you manage your interactions with them? What are the strategies that you can use?
If your boss criticizes you, will it make a difference how you react? It probably will. Develop a plan to manage criticism in a way that will not affect your mental health and your job (you can refer to my guide: how to manage criticism).
If your best friend keeps criticizing you over your clothes, will it matter if you get angry?
Examples could be,
"Mom, let's get back to our discussion about……what is your opinion here?
"I understand that you have some issues with… and that it is upsetting for you. Is there a way for you to talk with the boss directly?"
"I will be happy to help you. I am caught up in this project now and will probably finish by… Can I help you then?"
Now, let's practice:
As always, I am here to listen, talk or consult with.
I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Many people tell me that they have difficulty finding the right balance between work, home and other needs, wishes and daily activities. Many come up with a "to do" list that is often endless and keeps growing.
I often hear comments such as:
"I want to come home and spend quality time with my partner and kids, but there is so much to do."
"I want to be able to just relax, just be, but I can't. Everyone needs me."
"He says he spends time with us, but he is always on his phone"
"I cannot take one more thing on myself, I work so many hours a week."
Most of these comments convey a need or desire. We try to juggle between these responsibilities and duties, desires and wishes. We are in constant pursuit of happiness and fulfillment for us and for our loved ones. When one need is lacking, we feel deprived or guilty and the pursuit leaves us frustrated, exhausted and drained. No matter what we do, how hard or long we try, we have a sense of failure and imbalance.
We typically divide the areas in which we struggle to balance into five different themes. Each theme is equally important and at times more difficult to achieve. They are:
How can we find a much desired balance and stop the running around and juggling?
Finding a balance is an ongoing process. This takes time and patience to master, before feeling more comfortable with it. Embrace a positive attitude and be open minded. Along the way you may need to re-assess your approach and change it periodically.
Following these five steps will make the process more manageable:
- Work- specific projects, deadlines, meetings or presentations
- Home- calls or errands to run and other household chores
- Family- quality time with your loved ones
- Friends- shared activities or social interactions
- Spirituality- specific activities that contribute to your spiritual being, such as meditation, journaling, faith, yoga, nature or art
- Self-time- gym or exercise plan, relaxation time or list of hobbies to pursue
The list could be long, but it will be easy to sort out once you keep practicing.
Some examples include:
Break projects into small tasks. Take breaks every 30-45 minutes and limit or make time for "distractions." Set boundaries (you can refer to my previous guide on how to set boundaries).
Home- Delegate and decide on who is responsible for making important calls or errands, get help or experiment with when and how you handle household chores.
Family- Decide how you would like to spend quality time with your family and follow through. You can do this by putting your phone aside, being present, playing or having conversations with your loved ones.
Friends- Surround yourself with people who support you and stay away from people who bring you down. Here too, you can learn to say "no" and set boundaries.
Self-time- Plan fulfilling activities that will energize you and schedule guilt-free breaks.
Now, let's practice:
As always, I am here to assist you, consult with or to listen.
I am looking forward to hearing from you!
Very often, we feel unappreciated by others. We could feel taken for granted, taken advantage of or disrespected. When it continues, we develop resentment, stress, low self-esteem and self-disrespect.
In fact, this happens every day, everywhere and with people that are close and dear to us. Here are some examples that people are often challenged with:
Your boss calls or e-mails you long after work hours or expects you to finish projects on time, disregarding the amount of time you have already spent on them. You might not boss be valuing your time.
Friends or family show up unannounced just as you are sitting down for dinner, expecting you to pay attention to them. They show no respect for your time and space.
Your significant other goes through your personal stuff without your permission.
Your friend asks for your help even though they know you cannot help your friend right then. Or, your friend insists on discussing a topic that makes you uncomfortable. Many times we do not have a clear answer. We are afraid of confrontations and rejections, or feel guilty about saying no. As a result, we numb our discomfort and go along with the demands. In essence, we are enabling the people who put us in these positions to violate our space, time, thoughts, opinions and emotions. We allow people to continue with this behavior without setting limits or even telling them how we feel.
At one point our discomfort pushes us to set limits or establish guidelines in order to show others how we would like to be treated. By doing so, this frees us from feeling guilty and lets us feel equal in relationships. We find our voices and respect ourselves. Setting boundaries takes time and effort, it is an ongoing process.
Let's look at the steps that we can take:
The first step is awareness. Identify your discomfort. What happened to you that made you feel uncomfortable? Reflect on your values and recognize the violations of your values. For example, if your boss calls you in the middle of dinner with your family (time that you value) you can look at this as disrespecting your values. Here, you see the need to establish boundaries and set limits.
The second step is to make a decision with regard to limits. What is the extent of your limits and is it okay to sometimes be flexible and to allow crossing those limits? Third step is to make a plan. Think about what you want to say and write in your message. Practice until you are comfortable. It takes time to feel at ease when setting boundaries, but with practice it can be done. The message should be concise without much explanation and focusing on one limit at a time with clear expectations. A Simple "no" is sometimes enough.
Some examples below, show how this can be done.
What to say to your boss: "I am having dinner with my family. Let's meet tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM and we can discuss this issue then."
When people show up unannounced: "I am having dinner now. Please call me next time before coming, so that you can get my undivided attention."
Relationships: "Please do not go through my stuff. Next time please ask me first."
Friendships: "Sorry, I can't do it" or "I do not wish to talk about this topic."
There are times when stating limits only once is not enough. Expect resistance and do not let that deter you. This might take several times, or you might need to add consequences.
Setting boundaries is a challenging task, but when accomplished, it is empowering. Setting limits can reduce stress, boost your self-esteem and self-respect.
1. Recall a situation which you encountered in the last few weeks, when you felt uncomfortable and boundaries were crossed; one situation that stood out from the rest and kept you thinking about it for days after.
What was your core value? Why were you uncomfortable and why was it crossing boundaries? How did you respond then?
2. How would you respond now?
I am looking forward to hearing from you!
Very often we find ourselves subjected to criticism of some type.
Some of the comments are constructive, said in factual, helpful manner. We tend to agree with these and we are more motivated to take the steps to improve.
Some comments are unclear or said in a confusing, contradicting way. We can ask for clarification and decide if this is constructive or non-constructive criticism.
Unlike the constructive comments I mentioned above, some comments do not readily appear as useful, and may even be manipulative, ill meaning, harsh and meant to hurt. These comments from non-constructive criticism and often contain words such as: never, always, everyone and you. They are accusatory and leave us frustrated and hurt. We often feel that we need to defend ourselves instead of focusing on improvement.
Let's look at some examples of non- constructive criticism and figure out ways to manage them in a way that will minimize the hurt. Father to his son: “maybe you will figure out your life when you are forty. Look at your brother, he is younger than you and he has already made it." Supervisor to her employee: "You always spend too much time on details and you do not get the pressing things done. We keep losing clients because of you. What if everyone in this agency did that? We would have to close down."
When we hear these comments we first react with emotions. We get upset, hurt and feel that we were wronged.
How can we manage the hurt and the criticism?
The first step we take is to be aware of our reaction and separate emotions from actual facts.
Next, let's analyze only the facts and decide which technique to use.
There are several techniques that we can use when we respond to non-constructive criticism. To use the above examples:
1. To some degree technique-Acknowledge some of the facts and ignore the rest.
"I am still figuring out my life."
"I spend time on details."
2. Most likely technique- Figure out some facts that you can most likely agree on and still feel comfortable with.
"Yes, you are right. My brother has made it."
"Yes, you are right. I may have spent more time on details."
3. In general technique- Generalize the prediction.
"Some people figure out their life at the age of forty"
"If all of us paid too much attention to details, then yes, the firm would close down."
It takes time, patience and mainly practice to manage criticism. When successful, we are less angry, more peaceful and calm.
1. Recall a non-constructive criticism that you faced in the past few weeks. One that stood out from the rest and kept you thinking about it for days later. What was your response then?
2. Using one or more of these techniques, how would you respond now?
I am looking forward to hearing from you.