For this month’s AMC Newsletter I’ve been asked to give my tips on “How to Be Happy and Love the Moment and How to Get the Most Out of Life”.
I thought I’d start by asking; Can we measure how happy we really are?
According to a mate of mine, well-respected psychiatrist Dr Anthony Durrell, we can. When he treats patients, especially children in extreme crisis, he implements a method he developed called a ‘mood-pie’ that allows anyone, no matter what age, to easily measure their emotions and for him in turn to easy monitor them.
He has them draw a pie (circle) and divide it into portions showing how Happy, Angry, Sad, or in Fear they felt throughout the day. He reassures them that no one can possibly be happy 100% of everyday and how important it is to keep track of all their emotions from day to day.
You might like to try it. It becomes a simple blueprint of your daily moods and allows you to identify the things that make you happy so you can try to do more of those. Most importantly it helps to find out what’s causing the negative emotions so you can try to minimise or even better still, eliminate them.
- Attitude and Perspective
I’ve always seen the glass as half-full, not half-empty and have never taken anything for granted and I know much of that has come from my upbringing.
I have far more appreciation of my family’s very humble beginnings in Australia now as an adult than I ever did living through it as a child.
My parents & eldest brother arrived as refugees in 1950 aboard a converted American tanker from war torn Europe. My Dad was a Holocaust survivor and all he had with him was £5 ($10) in his pocket and a suitcase of clothes and belongings. Life was tough but they worked hard and achieved so much.
It makes me very happy that my family was given a new start in the greatest country on Earth. We were taught from a very early age to value and appreciate what this country has to offer and to be grateful and give back.
- Focus on your ‘Haves’ and not on your ‘Have-Nots’
I’ve spoken about my nephew Matthew before; he is an incredible inspiration and puts life into perspective for me.
Matt’s a bicentennial baby born 3 months premature in 1988, where he died several times during his birth. As a result, he is severely disabled with cerebral palsy and legally blind. Matt has little or no control over any part of his body yet his mind is as sharp as a tack and he has the wickedest sense of humour.
Despite his enormous physical disabilities, being in chronic pain and an in-ability to do anything for himself requiring 24/7 care; Matt still manages to put a huge smile on his face and on everyone else’s he comes in contact with.
He used to have a great sticker on his old wheelchair that said, ‘See the Person, Not the Problem’.
Whenever I find myself getting what I think is the ‘wrong end of the stick’ and start feeling down with the ‘poor, poor pitiful mess’, I think of Matthew and what he goes through every single day of his life and it makes me realise how minor my issues are and how easily I can pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.
- Have a bucket list
I’m talking about making a list of goals and aims that you want to achieve just for your own pleasure and enjoyment…this is aside from your career goals to do with work.
This bucket list shouldn’t just to be full of exotic far away locations that you can only dream about visiting once you’ve figured out how to win the lottery.
Make it a list of achievable things of interest to you.
I recently did a fabulous free jewellery class, which has not only allowed me to make some gorgeous pieces of jewellery but I’ve now fixed and worn lots of broken pieces that have been sitting for years in the bottom of my jewellery box. Doing the class gave me a tremendous sense of achievement and still makes me smile whenever I think about it.
- How others make you feel
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
Our self-confidence and happiness can sometimes be undermined, (consciously or unconsciously) by the people around us. It’s impossible to go through life avoiding everyone, who will impact adversely on our self-esteem; instead we need to arm ourselves with ways to deflect the negative and start believing more in ourselves.
When I was getting bullied severely as a very young child for being a ‘Wog’, surprisingly I found repeating my Mum’s mantra of “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”, actually gave me some mental strength.
- Help others
Making other people happy is a sure way to make you feel happy too.
The best way to stop focussing on or feeling sorry for your self is to do things for others.
Volunteering is the backbone of our Aussie society and there are lots of ways you can lend a hand without having to spend a cent.
Your local council, community or church group will certainly point you in the right direction. For instance; Local animal shelters are always looking for dog walkers, that way you’re getting beneficial exercise while helping man’s best friend stretch their legs. Feeling wanted and needed are important emotions that fill us with lots of positive energy.
Smiling is a simple thing to do to make us and those around us feel much happier. If you smile at someone they’ll invariably smile back and before you know it, it becomes contagious.
Apparently, it takes a lot less major muscles in your face to smile than it does to frown, so there really is no excuse.
- Singing Out Loud to Help You Feel Happy
Both sides of my family suffer from high anxiety and severe bouts of depression.
I remember going to a local doctor in desperation some years ago and asking her did she have anything that would tame ‘the black dog’ other than prescription medication and she immediately suggested for me to sing out loud….and it works!
Find a radio station with music you like or program your electronic device to play songs you enjoy singing along to and whenever you go for a walk or you’re in the car or around the house, start singing like nobody’s listening. It will definitely help to lift your mood.
Exercising also releases the feel-good endorphins that make us happy.
- Get your head out of technology
I’m always gobsmacked at the amount of people I see with their head buried in their mobile phone despite being with others, especially in restaurants. I’m surprised more accidents don’t happen to pedestrians, who don’t seem to look up from their mobiles. Try disengaging from the isolated electronic world once in a while and stop and smell the roses. Enjoy the simple things in life and communicate face to face with the people close to you. Likewise, with social media, embrace and enjoy it but don’t let it consume you and don’t allow the faceless trolls to undermine your happiness.
- Don’t Carry a Grudge
More and more information is showing us that negative thoughts can have an adverse physical impact on our health and well-being.
There’s a great quote I’ve heard worded a few different ways but the gist of it is; Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
How long are you going to let it or them take up rent-free space in your head?
It’s always best to try and communicate how you feel and release the anger and not bottle things up inside. Even if you write it down and never show it to anyone, just getting it out of your head will feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders and before you know it you’ll start feeling better.
Another good mate of mine is three-time world boxing champion Jeff Fenech and whenever he autographs his boxing gloves for fans or to auction them off for charity, he writes Robert Schuller’s inspirational quote; Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do.
- Unsolved Problems
My closest friend gave me another great quote from the Readers’ Digest decades ago, when I was going through a really tough time getting over a long-term relationship. It basically said that Unmade Decisions and Unsolved Problems dwell unnecessarily on our mind, it can make us apathetic at work and rob us of our precious free time. The question isn’t if we have problems but if they are the same ones we had a week, a month or a year ago. If so, why can’t we try and resolve some of the issues and get on with our life.
- Serenity Prayer
I’d like to leave you with a Prayer that I’m sure will help you calibrate your mind to find inner peace and happiness.
It was written by an American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971).
Commonly known as The Serenity Prayer and was widely used in his sermons as early as 1934 and first published in 1951 in a magazine column. It was later adopted and is still popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. There are various versions and its best-known form is:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference
Keep smiling, cheers Susie
Susie Elelman AM
Author, TV & Radio Broadcaster