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Friday, February 29, 2008

Achieving Happiness!

Surveying 80 countries and 2 million people, we learned that we are happiest in the beginning and the end of our lives, with our middle years as the most depressing times of our lives. Tonight we will look at some ways you can change that trend and increase your happiness.

CBS’s 60 Minutes reporter, Morley Safer just did a story about the happiest country in the world… what did he discover?

~~Denmark had the happiest people in the world. Why do they say they are so
1. Expectations are low, so they can’t be disappointed
2. Little violence, little disparity in wealth
3. Free education and health care
4. People feel safe.
5. Work week is 37 weeks with 6 weeks vacation

The United States may not have rated as high as Denmark in happiness, but what are some keys to enhancing our happiness levels?

• Be social. Research concludes without a doubt that being social, spending time with friends, and mingling with others lowers our anxiety and helps us achieve happiness
• Realize that you have the power to change your mind. Change that negative thought that plays in your mind by confronting the distortion and finding something positive about yourself that changes the message.
• Practice compassion. As we have discussed in the past weeks, doing something for others will enhance your mood and increase your happiness level.

Are there other things we can do to achieve happiness?
• Create a dream. People need goals and the movement towards achieving those goals creates satisfaction and a sense of worth.
• Think about the positives in your life. You have a choice, you can focus on all the negatives and wallow in your pain, or you can choose to see the positives that surround you. Give thanks, and express gratitude.
• Find humor in the world. Research indicates that those who can laugh increase their mood and are happier.
• Get out and move. Studies show that 10 minutes of walking is all you need to have a mood benefit. Unlock those feel-good neurotransmitters and your serotonin levels will rise and your happiness will too!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Little Light Couldn't Hurt

The days are gray and cold. Days pass without ever seeing the sun. Welcome to the time when many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Many of us have heard about Seasonal affective disorder or SAD… but what are the common characteristics?
• Approximately 17 % of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which
is commonly called "winter depression."
• It is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression, carbohydrate
craving, weight gain that begins in autumn and continues through the winter
• Many people experience fatigue, loss of energy, and feelings of worthlessness
all due to the loss of sunlight.
• Typically SAD occurs 4 times as many times in women. The average age of onset
is 23 years old.

Does Seasonal Affective disorder only occur during the fall and winter?
Actually, research indicates there is also something called "summer depression" which occurs in spring and lasts during the summer. It is characterized by depression, decreased sleep, weight loss and poor appetite.

What is the typical treatment for Seasonal Affective disorder?
• Light therapy has been the most successful form of therapy. This is usually done with a light box, which is 10,000 lux and the patient starts with 10-15 minute sessions per day and increases the sessions to 30-45 minutes per day. Light boxes range in cost from $200-$500 depending on the features of the unit. Most recently, some companies have developed new full-spectrum bulbs (with a blue light) that can be placed in lamps and are purchased at a fraction of the cost of traditional light boxes.
• Counseling- therapy that helps patients deal with issues of depression, coping
strategies, and mechanisms for dealing with issues in their lives
• Therapy combined with medication as needed
• Despite claims, there is no evidence to indicate that tanning beds (where the
eyes are generally covered) are useful in the treatment of SAD. Actually,
tanning beds are relatively high in UV rays, which can be harmful to the eyes
and the skin.

Surprising Research on our Happiness Levels

British and American researchers just released some new information about our happiness factor. 80 counties, and 2 million people were studied in this massive study and the results might be a little surprising to many of us.

What was discovered?
• People are most likely to become depressed in middle ages
• We are happiest at the beginning and end of our lives
• We tend to be the most depressed between 40-50 years of age.
• Peak time for depression is 44, and American men are most depressed at 50 and
American women at 40.
• Socio-economic status, marital status, nor number of children affected the
statistics worldwide

Why do people tend to be happier in their golden years?
• People learn to adapt to their strengths and weaknesses and are grateful for
what they have attained
• People who work at being happy have discovered their health and longevity
• Comparing their lives to those who have deceased, makes many happy for their
remaining years.

What can we do to increase our own personal happiness?
• Focus on the half full glass
• Practice gratitude on a daily basis (keep a list of positive things in your
• Create a list of things you still want to accomplish (a bucket list or wish
list), and experience the happiness as you achieve those goals.
• Embrace the love around you, and spend time with people who are your
cheerleaders and friends.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness

Next week we celebrate Valentine's Day, but it is also National Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 11-17th). This holiday is celebrated around the world, and it expands the love and kindness to not only those we love, but also to strangers.

Who originated the concept of Random Acts of Kindness?
The origin is unknown.
o Some say it began with the Old Testament
o Others say it was something that was popularized by Oprah Winfrey when she
encouraged her audience to take part in random acts, as she popularized the
concept by paying for the toll of the person beyond her in line.
o Some say it was popularized by the media with the release of the Kevin Spacey
movie Pay It Forward. In this classic
movie a young boy is assigned a life-changing homework project. The boy decides
to change the world by performing 3 acts of kindness for three strangers, hoping
they will do the same to three other strangers, and continue to astronomical

What is the basis of these acts of kindness?
o The simple practice that allows one to give without receiving a material reward
o The act is impulsive and driven by inner compassion
o There is no repayment of the act, just the process of resurrecting the deed to
o Simply stated it is doing something kind for someone else

What are some simple suggestions for acts of kindness?
o Visit a sick friend or call a lonely person
o Share a smile and say hello to a stranger
o Put a quarter in someone's parking meter
o Leave a thank you note on the table of a kind waiter
o Pay for coffee for the person behind you in a drive through
o Clean your neighbors driveway or walk

Can Your Relationship Endure the Test of Time?

Relationship experts would generally agree on two things about lasting & enduring relationships: First, relationships are BUILT not FOUND. Secondly, that lasting relationships are sustained and kindled in many small ways throughout the years.

We are seeing more and more divorces and separations today in America. What do couples who have sustained long relationships suggest are common keys in their lasting success?
o good communication based in good listening and reflecting skills
o shared interests and hobbies
o mutual respect for each other without needing to change the other person
o ability to give and take-learning the skills of compromise & negiotation
o equality in the relationship which encourages individuality
o playfulness & humor

How do these partners create this type of enduring love?

o accept differences in each other
o maintain strength during adversity-work together when times are difficult
o provide nurturing, kindness and gentleness
o build togetherness
o use positives- be a cheerleader for each other

What are some simple things you can do each day that will take less than 5 minutes to nurture your relationship?
o Make time for touching, hugs, and kisses
o Bring attention to “us” This means make the relationship the number one
priority in your life
o Give compliments to your partner. Try to say at least 5 positive things to your
partner each day
o Express appreciation & gratitude to your partner
o Have “meaningful” communication about things that matter. Talk about your
dreams, your purpose, and things that are of value to both of you.
o Say “I love you” and let your behaviors exhibit it!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Popularity... does it define our children?


High school can be the best of times, or the worst of times for many teens. Popularity or the lack of it can be a major issue for teens. Let's look at recent research and the current trends as it relates to teen popularity and the price teens may pay for their social acceptance.

What are some of the research findings related to popularity?
• Popular teens tend to be well adjusted and have heightened social skills
• Research shows that popular teens display increases in alcohol and substance abuse (risky behaviors are seen as cool). Popular teens are more likely to get into trouble for minor alcohol, drug and minor deviant behaviors vs non-popular teens
• Popular teens tend to be lower levels of hostility
• Popular teens are attuned to the norms of the group and can read what is allowable within the group.

There has been a recent study related to popularity and weight. What did they discover?
• Girls who believed they were unpopular gained more weight in a two year period than those who see themselves as popular
• Popular girls tend to gain typical (normal) weight during adolescence, while unpopular girls tend to gaining an average of twice that of popular girls.
• Weight gain is determined by where a girl views herself in the ladder of popularity… that is to say it is all based on her self-evaluation of her position within her peer group.

What are some tips for helping our teens with social acceptance and popularity?
• Reinforce our children’s unique talents. If teens learn to believe in their assets and talents their self esteem will soar
• Be a cheerleader for your child and remember the power of positive words in their life. Words hold an amazing power, especially related to teens and their self esteem and worth
• Help your teen find a group that fits them. Popularity is based on social acceptance and having friends who are there for you. Reinforce your teen’s need to find devoted friends who have similar interests and talents.
• Lead by example. Teach your child to embrace others, and let the lessons begin with you.

• Teach your child about diversity and celebrating everyone’s specialness