The Happy Factor 2018 – Why Some People are Happier Than Others (and what to do if you’re not)

Why are some people inherently happier than others? Does it start at childhood where children first learned at home with their parents? More importantly, why does it seem that children are happier than most adults? If you could recall a happy time in your childhood, you’d probably think of many occasions. But as we get older and responsibility starts to set in, we push happiness to the background and let other things get in the way.

Famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle once said, “Happiness depends on ourselves,”. He asserted that happiness is a long-term goal—achieved throughout the course of a lifetime—rather than something that promises instant gratification. While this may hold more accurately for adults – based on experiences – we can also teach our children to apply this ethic to their lives; teaching them that happiness can be long term and comes from within. There’s something to be said about choosing one’s own happiness, for being happy truly is a choice. It’s not always about status or money or getting the best things. Happiness stems from the innate desire to let things go, to not dwell on things or circumstances that can drag us down.

In a 2012 article for Harvard Business Review titled “The History of Happiness”, history professor Peter N. Stearns  of George Mason University stated that while happiness seemed to have improved over the years due to incline of social and cultural status as well as improved health systems, it is a perceived form of happiness that stems from possessions of things rather than something else. And that something else is “that happiness depends on ourselves and not on our circumstances.” But throughout the recent years happiness has also seen a gradual decline and that seems to stem from “poor social support, both governmental and associational.”

Happiness is difficult to measure and can range from person to person, and even day to day. Modern studies expand on Aristotle’s work by focusing less on what happiness is and more on how happiness can be increased and sustained in our lives. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a psychology professor at University of California–Riverside, conducts most of her research in a relatively new field called “positive psychology”. She estimates that only 10 percent of our happiness is attributable to external circumstances like socioeconomic status, marital status, ethnicity, religious beliefs and age. This seems counterintuitive; people tend to assume circumstances play a much larger role in our happiness. But Lyubomirsky asserts there’s a wealth of evidence to support her conclusion, including a study showing that “Americans who earn more than $10 million per year are only slightly happier than nonwealthy office or blue-collar workers.”

So how do we become happier, you might ask? Is it from becoming wealthier and a rise in social status? Or is it living humbly with less possessions to worry over? In a research conducted by Professor Lyubomirsky, she found that truly happy individuals construe life events and daily situations in ways that seem to maintain their happiness, while unhappy individuals construe experiences in ways that seem to reinforce unhappiness.

If you look at the pie chart above, happiness can be mostly controlled by our own actions rather than our circumstances. And while we can’t really do much with our genetic disposition, we can do things in our daily lives to live happier. Things such as doing acts of kindness, nurturing your social relationships and learning to forgive those who have hurt you all help in the long run. These are wonderful lessons to learn for adults, but what about with children? Very young children are still learning that their actions cause consequences which may affect their lives and those around them. That is why it’s crucial for children to learn at a young age that the things they do or say can hold great impact. Children learn best by hands on experiences and every thing they experience and see is a learning lesson.

Below are some ideas you can do to be happier. While you can not always seek happiness, practice these exercises daily to help you get a better and healthier life:

  • Practice mindfulness. It is a state of being aware of the moment and who you are. Take your time to enjoy the simple things in life such as delicious food, beautiful artwork, or a great book.

  • Be in nature. Being out in nature such as mountains, parks, and oceans, help connect us to what is innate. We are all a part of nature and if we listen closely, we can hear the trees rustling, feel the gentle breeze that caresses a flower, and see the waves move symbiotically with the wind.

  • Be kind. The easiest and yet the hardest thing to do is be kind when you are facing adversity. It’s easy to be kind when things are going well but it’s even more important to remain kind when things are not. Be kind to yourself and be kind to especially those who need it.

  • Reduce screen time. In this new age where practically everyone has some kind of electronic equipment on them, learn to reduce the limit of such distractions so that you don’t become dependent on them. Keep your phone with you but don’t make it a bad habit of checking it every 3 seconds. Don’t spend all of your downtime watching videos on your tablet or laptop. And set timers for your children to limit their usage as well.

  • Be proactive. Make plans ahead of time by writing them down so you can have access to your list. When you have an idea of what you are going to do today or a week from now, you won’t feel as stressed when that time comes.

  • Eat healthy foods. Nutritious foods such as vegetables and fruits are full of important vitamins and minerals to keep your mind and body healthy. When you’re sick, your natural mental and physical states could cause more distress and stress.

  • Limit alcohol or cut out alcohol. Alcohol is a temporary fix and can only give you a temporary idea of happiness. Plus, it will drastically ruin your health and livelihood if you become dependent on it.

  • Get plenty of health-inducing exercise. Taking relaxing walks, gentle running, and any kind of health building exercises such as Taiji and Yoga will help you long term. Try to limit excessive weight lifting and anything that can tax your body.

  • Think positively! There can always be something that can get in the way of your inner happiness and peace. Remember that you are in control of your own actions and no one should dictate whether you should be happy or not.

If you have children, whether young, old, or in between, remind them of some of these practices. Children are like sponges – they soak up everything around them so show them and teach them that happiness begins within themselves and they’ll grow to appreciate the little things in life when they’re older.

*Sources: :Delicious Living Magazine/New Hope Network

 

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

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Lessons of Compassion – And why kids need to learn it

Compassion comes in many forms. Whether it’s saving an injured animal, helping an old lady carry her heavy grocery bags, or getting to know the new kid who’s being ignored. It can be considered acts of kindness, but compassion goes way deeper than every day kindness. It’s an innate ability to understand the other side and to not judge. It’s hard for a lot of people to feel compassion but children are the starting point to learning why it’s such an important trait.

Growing up, my mom and my grandmother were model citizens of compassionate beings. They would not only tell me about being compassionate, but they would show me in their daily acts. At first, I didn’t truly understand it – I just thought it was normal to be kind to the “weird-looking” kid at school or to help an injured butterfly away from her predators. Then again, I was a child and I didn’t know a lot about how the world worked and why. But as I grew older and wiser, I remembered the lessons of compassion that my grandmother showed me and explained in story form – after all, it was easier for a child to understand through storytelling then saying “why you have to do this, or that”. Kids are born kind and innocent and it’s that innocence that can be so magical and wonderful and yet can be completely exploited. That’s why it’s doubly important to have good influences around your children since children are basically like sponges – soaking everything up around them.

So how do you teach compassion, you may ask? First of all, you have to understand it yourself. Compassion isn’t usually rewarded or praised or even recognized. Compassion comes from within and no one should really tell you to feel it or do something compassionate – it should be learned through important life lessons. Many adults nowadays don’t even know what compassion is – since the daily stress of life can put a toll on your kindness meter. Sure they may think of Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama as compassionate individuals and they truly are – but their compassion was innate and learned through hard lessons in life. We can all learn how to be more compassionate and more understanding. It may not be easy to do in this day and age, so that’s why it’s incredibly important to teach kids about it now.

For the most part, I became a vegetarian because of my compassion for animals. I witnessed at a very young age the abuse that was inflicted upon an innocent animal and from then on, my instincts told me not to eat animals – because I didn’t want them harmed. And back then, a vegetarian kid wasn’t necessarily the coolest thing to do. But I didn’t become a vegetarian because it was cool or uncool. I just became one because I felt the compassion for innocent animals being harmed for no particular reason.

I was reminded of an occasion when being compassionate would have been the better choice. Several years ago I had a co-worker who was overly demanding, complained constantly, and was always grouchy at work. To say the least, she was very hard to work with and she had problems communicating her needs without being rude and abrasive. When I told my mom about how my co-worker was affecting my work and life, my mom reminded me to try to find out if there were problems in my co-worker’s life and that’s why she was so difficult to work with. Well, it was either her or me, so I decided to heed my mom’s advice and tried to get to know my co-worker better (although I admit it wasn’t easy to do). As I found out, my co-worker was often ignored growing up and her parents doted on her brother all the time, thus causing her to be bitter and very unhappy as she grew up. I realized that maybe that was why my co-worker was so hard to work with and as I got to know her better, I noticed a change in attitude in her. She became nicer, more accommodating, and even smiled when she talked. I thought to myself at the time – was this a result of my being more compassionate to her and trying to understand her? Maybe. Either way, I looked at it as helping her getting out the better side of herself rather than her being stuck in her destructive shell.

We don’t always realize when a situation arises where our ability to be compassionate takes over. It could be helping a stranger stand up from a bad fall. It could be helping those in need. It could be watering a dried up plant. It could also be understanding an obnoxious co-worker. No matter what, the best ways of teaching others about compassion is to show it yourself. It may not always be easy but it will come out when necessary. I try to teach my son to be compassionate whenever possible. My mom always told me that teaching your children important life lessons are best when they are not in that situation, rather when they are calm and in a learning state. Whenever my son and I are walking around our neighborhood or at the park, sometimes we’ll see an injured bee on the ground and I’d tell my son that we should not hurt it further, rather, move the bee somewhere safe if possible. I wanted him to understand that it wouldn’t be right to further injure someone who is already hurt – rather, help them if possible. After all, it could go both ways: either he learns to help the injured bee or step on it. I’ve seen other kids older than him torture animals and I often wonder where they learned to do that. Was it instinct or learned?

Sometimes I wonder if bullies become bullies because they weren’t shown compassion or they never learned about compassion. Bullies don’t consider other people’s feelings and they project their own anger onto others. Perhaps if  they were shown some kind of compassion at a point in their lives then the turning point from good to bad would never have happened. After all, we learn from our own personal experiences and from what others show us. It saddens me when I see school-aged kids finding joy in torturing and bullying other kids their age. And then they wonder why they have no real friends – only other bullies who end up in trouble along with them.

So when is a good time to learn and teach about compassion? First of all, I believe it should start at home with the parents. If parents are good examples of not deliberately being hurtful to one another and to their children, then their children will see that form of kindness and respect. Then, parents should make it important that their children hang around other good examples – people who do not hurt others for sheer pleasure and personal gain. When we’re too selfish or want something for personal reasons, our good judgement flies out the window and feelings eventually get hurt.

Although it’s not easy to always know when to use compassion, we should always try to remember that although there are weaker beings out there, it does not mean that we must weaken them more. Instead, we should show compassion to their hindrances so that someday, hopefully, they can become better beings as well. So whether it’s an injured animal that needs our help or an old lady with her grocery bags, compassion comes in any form and can be tested upon us at any time. Being compassionate doesn’t mean we have to be softies or bend to the will of others. It simply means that we can transcend beyond what is considered good or evil and do what is cosmically moral.

Children in the US go hungry

Just the other day I read an article in Parents magazine that deeply touched my heart. It was an article about malnourished children in the United States in the July 2011 issue of Parents magazine. The article points out that one in four children in the US do not have enough food to eat. Wow – one in four children. Imagine a family of four kids – only 3 of them are estimated to eat a meal while the other does not. I think of my brother who has four kids and luckily they all have enough food to eat, but I can’t fathom the idea of one of my beloved nieces or nephews sitting in her or his bedroom starving. Of course, my brother would never let his kids go hungry but what happens when a parent can’t feed all of his/her children? The article also states that in a larger family, it’s usually the parents that end up going hungry just so they could feed their children.

It saddens me to know that while the US is helping malnourished children in other countries, they are forgetting that children in this country are also going hungry. And yes, although third world countries may need more help, we’ve got to find a better solution for everyone – in this country and in other underprivileged countries. Food is the number one priority in almost everyone’s life. Without enough food, we not only go hungry, but we feel sad, tired, and distraught and often that not, we end up doing things we regret. Food fuels the brain and the body, and I’ve read stories about people who steal and hurt others in order to be able to put a plate of food on their dinner table. Parents may go to extremes to feed their hungry children, but it shouldn’t lead to further downfall.

In the Parents magazine article, titled, “The Hungry House”, the author noted that when a child becomes malnourished, the child will need 50 percent more quality nutrition than a typical child does in order to regain his/her health. And unfortunately, that would have to happen rather immediately for their health to recover. Which is pretty ironic when, how do you gain 50 percent more quality nutrition when you have even less of that to begin with? Where will these malnourished children get the extra nutritional help? Fortunately, on some small scale, there are facilities and groups in the United States that can help those who do not have enough food to eat. There are local food pantries, public schools (as long as it’s during school season), and private and public fundings. But as the author points out, what happens to these children when it’s summer? Most of them rely on at least one free regular meal during school season which is provided by the school (or at least a very inexpensive meal), but when school’s out, and there’s no longer free food offered at school, families must rely on their local charity or donations for regular meals. The author also notes that donations for food are usually made around the holidays but what about throughout the year? I see supermarkets with their meal donation coupons of $1, $3, or $5 posted at the checkout and seldom do I see people pick them up during checkout unless it was a holiday. However, I did hear a great story that a cashier told me about last Christmas season. She said that one man came in and purchased $1000’s worth of meal donation coupons without batting an eye. She thought apparently it was quite natural for the man to be doing something so charitable.

Food pantries are great, but they’re not available everywhere and sometimes their food gets distributed so quickly, that they don’t replenish fast enough. And donating the right type of food is crucial as well. Food pantries look for food that are easy to use in most families, have a long shelf life, and are substantial. They want food that can feed an entire family which includes canned beans or any canned vegetables, flour, milk, basic staples such as sugar, salt, etc. and they also welcome toiletries such as paper towels, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. I know whenever we sponsor a family during the holidays, we also include toiletries in the gift basket along with food that families don’t normally get to treat themselves with.

In the Parent’s article, the author notes that states with the highest “food-insecurity” rates are typically Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina but I personally feel that all of America are affected by hunger. It could be a single income family or a single parent raising several children, or just a family that does not have the means to earn enough income to provide a steady stream of food every day. And I think it’s doubly important to point out that when children go hungry and do not get enough proper nutrition, it leads to further complications down the line. America can be a wonderful place, but it can also be a glutinous place. There are many families who wastes food and teach their children that wasting food is all right. I think it’s important to teach kids to know about portion control – kids should take only what they need instead of filling up their plates with stuff they’ll never finish. If you’ll also notice in restaurants, A LOT of food goes to waste when a family could have easily shared their food with one another instead of ordering more than what they can consume. Or take the rest to go and eat them for dinner or for lunch the next day. Every time there’s food leftover on our plates, I take them to go and jazz them up a bit for another meal. You just have to remember that there are families out there who don’t have the luxury to eat out and would do anything for a complete meal.

My suggestion would be that if you have extra staples in your home and you’d like to donate them, then keep a bag handy in your kitchen. When you know you won’t be eating or cooking with that staple, then place it in the bag. Once the bag fills up, take it to your local food pantry. Many times staples such as canned goods or flour or sugar gets thrown out because they expired or because we forget that we bought a truckload of them to stock up on. If you would like to read more about the article in Parents magazine, here is the direct link: http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/hunger-american-children/?sssdmh=dm17.541612&esrc=nwpmmdailytip080911&email=1937670098.

Disney vs. Nickelodeon

I have to admit – I’m a big Disney fan. I remember going to Disneyland for the first time when I was a kid and the initial memory of the entire experience forever stuck in my head. From then on, it was pretty much Disney here, Disney there, Disney everywhere. I don’t remember watching a bunch of Disney television though but I do recall watching Disney movies in the theaters. I even played with a few Disney dolls and probably still have them hidden somewhere in my parents house.

And then when I had my son, I got turned onto Nickelodeon. We used to watch Disney quite a lot and now there are only a few choice shows we watch specifically. But lately, our TV is turned to Nickelodeon all the time. Mind you, I don’t really let my son watch TV all that often and he’s not a big TV watcher as it is, but when he does watch television, it’s gotta be Nickelodeon. Or more specifically, Nick Jr. since the other Nickelodeon shows are geared  towards tweens and young adults. Except Sponge Bob and Squarepants – I really don’t know what age group or category that show falls under.

I think we grew tired of Disney after too many Hannah Montana reruns and whether she’s staying on the show, leaving the show, staying one more season, leaving altogether – it got to be a bit irritating. But we adore the Imagination Movers(and you’ve gotta check them out since they’re great for all ages), Phineas and Ferb, and the occassional Jonas Brothers (all right, I have to admit, it is I who makes my son watch that show).

As a mom, I think I’ve made many sacrafices when it comes to what my son wants to do. I no longer get to watch my soap operas or my crime shows and I’ve become best friends with the employees at the Disney stores. Now if only there’s a Nickelodeon store somewhere, then I’m all set. But honestly, there really isn’t much difference between the two companies. My husband even pointed out that some of the shows between the two looked familiar but you really can’t prevent that since both corporations target pre-K to teenagers. But then sometimes I wonder who had the idea first? Take for instance, The Imagination Movers – their episodes are geared towards problem solving and finding creative solutions in a funny and unique way. Then there’s The Fresh Beat Band on Nickelodeon who pretty much has the same concept, except where you have only 4 guys and an occasional “Nina” as the female counterpart with the Imaginatin Movers, with The Fresh Beat Band, you get the same 4 stars except there are 2 guys and 2 girls. And they pretty much problem solve in every episode and both shows use music as a guideline for problem solving. So to me, they’re both equally fun to watch, but my son seems to enjoy the differences between the two shows and can catch the difference and similarity without missing a beat.

Both shows have their qualities and their weaknesses. As previously mentioned, there were too many Hannah reruns and quite a lot of spin-offs as well. One great virtue of Disney is that almost all of their TV shows and movies will directly and indirecty teach the audience a lesson in the end. The movies are mostly tear-jerkers (in my opinion) and you’ll most likely cheer for the good guy but feel sympathetic towards the villain because the villain himself learned his lesson as well. Nickelodeon are known for their award shows and music shows such as the recently aired Mega Music Fest which featured John Leguizamo as the host and a mostly-annoying Sherri Shephard appearing frequently to “remind” John of his duties. It was a great “music fest” with their most popular animated cast members as guest stars and musical guest stars such as Colbie Caillat and Wyclef Jean as the highlights. Yet, it was still a bit disappointing to me in the way that it was only an hour long (probably to prevent the younger kids from getting bored) and that both John and Sherri were dressed way too casually for a musical extravaganza. Still, it was entertaining at its best for a first time music “fest” from Nickelodeon. And I have a feeling they’ll put on another one next year with even bigger names from the music industry.

So, as I was once a big fan of Disney, I think I’m really on the fence as to which syndicate I like the most. They both produce quality, fun, and family-bonding shows and they both have unique characters that children can relate to. But if Disney decides to take Jonas off the air, then there will definitely be a controversy!

So which company do you like and prefer?