Gratitude

7 Major Ways to Train your Brain for Happiness!

Neil Pasricha states it perfectly in his book, “The Happiness Equation” – most people have their happiness model completely backwards. For instance, we think great work leads to big success which leads to happiness. Neil Pasricha challenges this model saying it doesn’t work like that in real life. That model is broken. We do great work, have a big success, but then instead of being happy we just set new goals. We never get to happiness! We just push it further and further away. But if we take “be happy” off the end of the equation and move it to the beginning? Everything changes.

If we start with being happy, then we feel great. We look great and we end up doing great work because we feel great doing it. There are seven big ways to ways to train your brain to be happy, and you may be surprised how simple these are! You don’t have to do all of them at once, do one a week, or find one you really enjoy and do it weekly!

#1 – Three Walks

Happy people don’t have the best of everything, they make the best of everything. Be happy first.

Penn State researchers reported in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology that the more physically active people are, the greater their general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm. How much? Just a half an hour of brisk walking three times a week. The American Psychosomatic Society published a study showing how Michael Babyak and a team of doctors found that three thirty-minute brisk walks or jogs even improve recovery from clinical depression! Yes, clinical depression. Their results were even stronger than studies using medication!

#2 – The 20-Minute Replay

Writing for twenty minutes about a positive experience dramatically improves happiness. Why? Because you actually relive the experience as you’re writing it and then relive it every time you read it or remember it! Your brain sends you back into the experience. In a University of Texas study called “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words,” researchers Richard Slatcher and James Pennebaker had one member of a couple write about their relationship for twenty minutes three times a day. Compared to the test group, the couple was more likely to engage in intimate dialogue afterward and the relationship was more likely to last. What does the 20-Minute Replay do? It helps us remember things we like about people and experiences in our lives. You don’t have to do this daily, you can of course, but try it once a week to begin with.

#3 – Random Acts of Kindness

Carrying out five random acts of kindness a week dramatically improves your happiness. Most of us don’t naturally think about paying for someone’s coffee, mowing our neighbor’s lawn, or writing a thank-you note to our apartment building security guard at Christmas. But Sonja Lyubomirsky did a study asking Stanford students to perform five random acts of kindness over a week. Not surprisingly, they reported much higher happiness levels than the control group. Why? They felt good about themselves! People appreciated them, and they had a greater sense of self-worth.

#4 – A Complete Unplug

“The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal.” A Kansas State University study found that complete downtime after work helps us recharge for the next day. Turning your phone off after dinner [gasp!]. Not using the Internet on vacation. Be present in the moment…for more than one moment!

#5 – Hit Flow

Get into a groove. Be in the zone. Find your flow. However you characterize it, when you’re completely absorbed with what you’re doing, it means you’re being challenged and demonstrating skill at the same time. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this moment as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Do you get that from playing drums? Lifting weights? Taking pictures? Make time for it!

#6 – 2 Minute Meditations

A research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at brain scans of people before and after they participated in a course on mindfulness meditation and published the results in Psychiatry Research. What happened? After the course, parts of the brain associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, while parts associated with stress shrank. Studies report that meditation can “permanently rewire” your brain to raise levels of happiness!

#7 – Five Gratitudes

Remember this: If you can be happy with simple things, then it will be simple to be happy. Find a book or a journal, and write down five things you’re grateful for from the past week. The key is actually writing them down! Back in 2003, researchers Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough asked groups of students to write down five gratitudes, hassles, or events over the past week for ten weeks. Guess what happened? The students who wrote five gratitudes were happier and physically healthier! Charles Dickens puts this well: “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

This post is adapted from an article by Neil Pasricha titled, “7 Ways to be Happy Right Now”

Learn more at The Institute for Global Happiness!

Attitude, Grattitude and What It Means For Your Happiness

At Ellipse Fitness Training Center we focus on giving you the tools to not only build a healthy body, but a healthy mind as well because we know that the two are unbelievably interconnected! So let’s talk about your attitude…

Not like that! We mean your approach to life, the way you respond to situations, and the way you are affected by things you have absolutely no control over.

Let’s face it though – just reading this post will not make you happy. There is no magic happy pill (at least none that doesn’t come with a laundry list of horrifying side-effects). BUT these suggestions will help you to live a life filled with more gratitude, awareness, and joy – and those are foundational building blocks of happiness and fulfilment!

RESPOND

You have probably heard the old saying that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond. Two different people can go through the exact same experience and respond completely differently! Although the future is unpredictable we can work on responding to uncertainty in a healthy way. Pay attention today to how you respond to different situations, and reflect on what is at the root of your anger, disappointment, or fear. Reactions often emanate from the fear of something being taken away. Which leads to our next point…

YOU'RE NOT ALONE!

Always remember this! When going through challenging times or unfamiliar situations it is easy to feel alone and outnumbered. Working in the fitness industry, we often hear others tell us how they are afraid to workout because they are self-conscious, do not believe they can perform certain moves, or think they are not “fit enough”. Remember that everyone started somewhere. No one was born with six-pack abs, coming out of the womb doing perfect push-ups… We are all in this together!

SMILE!

Yes, you! It sounds cliche, but smiling legitimately helps improve our moods and attitudes throughout the day! Going grocery shopping? Try making eye contact and giving a warm smile as you pass a stranger. What have you got to lose? Really? You might even make a new friend! Did you know smiling naturally releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin into your body? All good chemicals that make you relax and feel happy!

CONTROL

LET GO! You have none – or at least very little – over most of the situations presented to you on a day-to-day basis. We stress ourselves out by worrying how things will turn out, or trying to change the people around us. Then the moment something does not go our way? We lose it. Whether you prefer to subscribe to the belief that everything happens for a reason or not, recognizing that you have much more control over your reactions than anything else is not only liberating but will greatly impact your mental health.

CONNECT

500 friends on Facebook, but you’ve never felt more isolated… With social media on the rise, feelings of loneliness and isolation are also increasing. In 2004, a study showed that over 25% of Americans said that they had no one to share a personal problem with. 13 years ago! Although real friendships are not born overnight, when nurtured they can grow into something you wonder how you ever lived without! Here at Ellipse Fitness we love that our membership is a close community! Those who feel connected to others on a personal level are much more likely to have higher self-esteem, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of anxiety.

Now, this next one may be the most important…

PRACTICE GRATITUDE DAILY

Let’s break that down

• Practice
– performing an activity repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. You’ve got to put it to work! And do so in REAL TIME! Not quietly at home in the evening. Is it cold out? Get in your car before leaving your home for work and take a moment to say to yourself, “It is incredibly fortunate that I do not have to walk to work today.”

• Gratitude – readiness to show appreciation. Not just the act of showing appreciation, but the state of being prepared to show appreciation. Expect nothing, and just observe as fortunate situations present themselves to you. Then actively show your appreciation. Smile and say thanks to a co-worker who held the door for you. Did your spouse over-cook your favorite dish at dinner? Someone just made you a meal, a hot one at that. Few things are as deserving of gratitude.

• Daily – hopefully you don’t need a definition here, but this is the operative word. Daily put into practice the action of appreciation, and try to always remain prepared to show appreciation at any moment. This one small shift in perspective can and has changed the lives of many!