Archive | March 2014

With a little help from our friends


A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities. William Arthur Ward

Whenever there’s a catastrophe in your life, who do you turn to?

Generally during times of adversity, we turn to our family and friends for support as we know and trust they have our best interests at heart while we rebuild ourselves. Despite all the hard times I have come up against in my time, I am so fortunate for the friendships I have made and the family I have. I never have to look far for someone to talk to; my social calendar is always full; human contact is never far away – I always have the phone glued to my ear or I’m texting. I can honestly step back and say my life right at this point in time, without doubt, is the best it has been in several years because of the people I currently have in it.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing and my friends can testify to that. I’ve had to weed the odd person out, and some of them were so deeply implanted that getting them out of my life was almost impossible. There were even times I actually believed poison ivy could grow into a rose bush – and when I was disappointed, my friends gave me that extra strength to dig that ivy out. What I learned? Some people genuinely want you to be unhappy. I can’t tell you how much trouble I had accepting such a simple fact: psychopaths exist. They walk among us, just like normal people. On several occasions it has taken me a while to snap out of the denial, stop trying to help the ivy in hope of roses and accept: it is what it is. Unfortunately I got hurt in the process.

Oscar Wilde said it best “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”.

So despite the immense pain I felt, I weeded my garden and in the process I started to accept that sometimes there are people who simply can’t be helped. So, although it was difficult to get rid of some of the weeds, it proved worth it because once the weeds were gone, there was so much space in the garden for more roses, daisies and sunflowers. This week Happiness Weekly looks at friendship and how it can inspire happiness – whether you’re sad or already happy – having friends to share your life with is essential to a happy existence.

Often I harp on about the best things in life being free and it would appear this philosophy is supported by the Daily Mail with their article Money DOESN’T buy happiness: how friends and family – not flashy possessions – bring true contentment. The article talks about the happiness that lies in gratifying relationships, and says research has shown a close circle of friends and family is most important for happiness and that material possessions such as iPhones, computers, wealth and owning a sports car do not provide the same level of contentment.

This Emotional Life said close, loving relationships are crucial to our wellbeing and happiness because they create a psychological space that makes us feel safe to explore and learn and it’s in that environment that we can build resources for times of stress and adversity. It’s like a squirrel stockpiling their acorns for the winter, because winter is sure to come, just as with times of adversity.

The Connection and Happiness article by This Emotional Life says belonging to something such as a group or community gives us a sense of identity. Plus, people with strong social connections have been found to have less stress-related health problems, are lower risk of mental illness and recover faster from trauma or illness.

Both introverts and extraverts are happier in the company of others than on their own. It makes us more pleasant, helpful and sociable. “So being around people makes us feel happier, and when we are happier we are more fun to be around, creating an “upward spiral” of happiness,” This Emotional Life concluded.

Happiness is contagious according to Psychologist James H Fowler, who found that it benefits other people through three degrees of connection and the effects can last for a year. “We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends’ happiness, but between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ friends’ happiness,” James said.

Some people, such as Alex Roberts, believe having fewer friends is most important to your happiness because they are real friends. It’s our close relationships that gives us greater meaning and support. This supports that quality not quantity is most important when it comes to our friendships, which is why we must weed our gardens and have an overall clear out from time to time.

Others, such as this article found on the Huffington Post believe a larger circle of friends is the key to happiness. It’s been discovered that broad social networks contribute to our happiness by making us feel more connected and increasing our sense of belonging and self-esteem. Whatever it may be, it’s undisputed that with a little help from our friends, our overall happiness and wellbeing is improved.

But why?

Action for Happiness says research shows people who have strong relationships with a partner, family or close friends are happier, healthier and live longer than those who don’t. According to 32 Keys interacting amiably with friends and family is good for your health because it reduces stress. When we’re healthy we’re able to be happier because our worries and anxieties are reduced.

The Pursuit of Happiness talks about happiness according to Aristotle. According to the article, Aristotle recognised friendship as one of the most important virtues in achieving happiness – but not just any friendship, it was a particular type of friendship we needed to seek. The type of friendship he encouraged us to have is one “based on a person wishing the best for their friends regardless of utility of pleasure”. This type of friendship is long-lasting yet tough to obtain because it takes a lot of work to have complete and honourable friendships. It’s worth it though, as it brings us the most enjoyment by combining pleasure and integrity which brings our emotions and intellect the most fulfilment of any other friendship. For this reason, Aristotle would conclude we couldn’t have many friendships because of the amount of time and care that a virtuous friendship requires.

In more recent times Drake Baer has spoken about why our friendships shape our happiness, creativity and career saying the people we know “affect us in subtly major ways”. His reasons touch on the fact that our friendships broaden our perspective which encourages us to take new avenues and they continually shape our behaviour and ideas.

Whatever the size of your friendship circle, ensure your friends know you are grateful they are in your life. This post is dedicated to all my friends and family for their constant support, love and help with weeding the garden. I love you!

In what ways do your friendships evoke happiness in you?



How to stop questioning yourself

Stop questioning yourself

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Albert Einstein

When we live through a traumatic event we generally find ourselves coming out with a million questions that whir around our brains like a broken record. The same questions come up over and over again – depending on the trauma and the scale of how bad it was, you could literally feel as though you’re driving yourself crazy. This constant questioning that can become like an obsession is a form of hyper self-analysis.

By questioning ourselves after a traumatic event we are looking at ways we can take responsibility for our situation. We question ourselves, making ourselves accountable as a way to avoid blaming anyone else and keeping us in control. This is healthy. But when the questioning become obsessive and continuous, and starts adding to our anxiety, this is where it becomes a problem. It’s important to know when to stop.

The types of questions we ask ourselves following a traumatic event can be narrowed down to: What is wrong with me? What else could I have done? What is going to happen? How will I get out of this? This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can stop questioning yourself so you can start living a more fulfilling life that enables you to let go of the past.

Realise there is nothing wrong with you
Let’s get something straight right now – there is nothing wrong with you. In fact, most of the time when we are questioning ourselves on things, there is nothing wrong with us, instead our constant questioning of ourselves can be a direct result of someone deliberately hurting us and our self-esteem. Be confident that there is nothing wrong with you – it’s the first step in moving forward.

Understand that continually questioning yourself feeds anxiety
Stop and ask yourself what the benefits are in continuing to question yourself and going over what has already happened. It’s likely you’ll quickly decide there are no benefits to the questions and if anything, they may more likely just lead you to have more questions. So drop it! Make a conscious effort to stop yourself from going over it because it’s only adding to your torture.

Accept the past – it is what it is
There’s nothing we can do about the past. It’s done. No matter how traumatic the event that has happened to us, there is nothing we can do to go back and change it – no matter how much we wish we could. This is why it’s so important to live in the moment and never to hurt someone you love – because you can never go back. Just like memories – nothing from the past can’t be altered. Make peace with it and leave it where it belongs.

Know that you did your best
Take comfort in knowing that you acted the best way you could, with the knowledge and skills you had at that time. Perhaps the traumatic event has given you a steep learning curve and you’re asking why you didn’t know before. Take the lesson, surround yourself with positive people who have your best interests at heart and continue to move forward with your new knowledge.

Watch your self-talk
The best advice I’ve been given for those moments where we constantly question ourselves over things is to watch your self-talk over the situation. We are constantly talking to ourselves, and it’s important to be mindful that we are also always listening. One tactic in being mindful of your questions is to talk to yourself (in your mind or out loud) as though you’re talking to your best friend or a child. By taking this approach you will quickly discover your attacking questions become more empathetic and your anxiety begins to ease.

Spend time growing your inner confidence
Instead of spending your time questioning yourself over and over about the past, spend your time looking for ways that you can grow your inner confidence so the situation doesn’t repeat itself. I have found some great clips on YouTube that assist with this including this one that I shared through my social media channels the other day where Justine Musk helps us find our deep yes.

Focus on self-love and self-nurturing
Focus on self-love and self-nurturing activities – you can find some tips in my previous blog: Discovering your self-love. Recognise all the things you have learned in your time, not just from this one event, and the strengths you have built on. Practice mindfulness and distract yourself from the questions by listing all the things you know you’re good at and how you make a positive difference to others. Concentrate on being in the present as much as possible to stop you from looking back.

Respect the answers you receive, accept the answers you don’t
As I mentioned, if you continue questioning yourself and seeking answers you will lead yourself to directly ask more questions and the answers seem to leave you more and more unfulfilled. Sometimes when you step back and wait long enough for things to play out, all your questions will be answered loud and clear. They may not be the answers you wanted, but at least you didn’t need to look for them. In the case that an answer never comes, that is something we need to accept – sometimes questions have no answers.

Avoid any self-criticism
Generally while we’re questioning ourselves we are also criticising ourselves for not behaving differently during an event or situation. Another way to look at this is to put doubt in the doubt or to simply question any self-criticism that comes up. Consider what message you are giving yourself behind the questions you are asking and whether that message is helpful or not. If you decide the question or thought isn’t helpful, don’t forget to thank it for coming – it’s only trying to protect us – and send it on its way. You may want to spend some time reading as opposed to asking questions.

Give yourself permission to put yourself first
Following a traumatic event the best thing we can do for ourselves is to quickly learn how to put yourself first and as you heal you’ll really start to do only the things you want to do. Give yourself permission to put yourself first. Stop worrying about the traumatic event or what others think. A great book that helped take the sting out of my situation, and was recommended to me, is called God on a Harley by Joan Brady – it’s a spiritual book about finding yourself. What you learn in this process is that all that matters in order to lead your best life is what you think and feel. You can find more Tips for your inner confidence by Christine Arylo.

Find the funniest way you can to express yourself
Relax. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It sounds clichéd but to every negative, there is a positive and, not to continue with the clichés but what doesn’t kill you definitely makes you stronger! When things are fresh and the traumatic event is serious it can be hard to see the positives let alone laugh. But when you reach the point that you’re ready to let go, learn from the situation and set yourself free – through laughter! Laugh at the situation. Laugh at the person who hurt you. Laugh at your actions. Laugh at whatever you can. Remember, if you can’t find a way to laugh at yourself, find someone else who can, or join a laughter therapy group in your area. It only takes one person to start laughing before you find yourself joining in and when you can laugh at a situation – you win!

We’ve all done it at one stage or other – how did you stop questioning yourself?




Happy International Happiness Day!

Today is International Happiness Day. Look within to find your happiness. Enjoy your day as Happiness Weekly shares what Google says happiness is:

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Live it! Thank you to all my readers x

The importance of time


Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Rick Warren

As I tell my friends – your time is the most valuable gift you can give someone. It’s something you can never get back. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can best use your time.

There are three very basic yet important things you should do to maintain good time management:

–          Use a calendar so you always know what’s on and schedule appointment reminders to give yourself enough time to get wherever you’re going – and try to always be ten minutes early

– Prioritise and delegate activities to assist in getting tasks done on time

– Learn to say “no” – if you can’t make an appointment, don’t waste people’s time trying. Moral: Don’t try to do too much because when you fail, you’ll let other people down.

OK, now that’s out of the way, you should have more time. The question is – what are you going to do with it?

Finding what to do with free time can be challenging and frustrating until you find exactly what it is that you enjoy doing. Many people forget that while time is the most important gift you can give away – it’s also the most important gift you can give to yourself. When we don’t give ourselves time out from our usual daily grind we risk getting burn out.

Here are a few ideas for how you can give yourself time as a gift:

– Review your goals, see how you’re tracking – it’s motivating!

– Get reading, learn something new by reading an online article or just snuggle in and read something fiction – whatever takes your fancy

– Exercise! Keeping fit and healthy is great for managing your stress levels

– Check in with yourself. Keep a diary, meditate, talk to your inner child about their day

– Make yourself a playlist. Select songs that YOU like and that make YOU feel good (no judgement!)

– Speak to your inner child about the day’s events. Like your parents or guardian would talk to you as a child, talk to yourself – explain things as though you’re talking to a child when you start to feel yourself grumble about something

– Make yourself a scrapbook of your favourite things

– Practise some mindfulness techniques. Sit by water (beach, lake, bay) and list all the things you can see in your mind. Then list all the things you can hear in your mind.

Need more ideas? Fifty ways to have fun by yourself on the cheap by the frugal introvert.

I also wanted to share a few ideas for how you can give someone else time as a gift

– Write a handwritten letter to someone telling them how important they are to you

– Help someone to do something they can’t do on their own

– Do something nice for someone who least expects it

– Write a blog or create a YouTube clip about something you’ve learned to teach others your lessons

– Listen to someone when they need you

– Buy someone a gift you know they’ll like, just because

For more ideas check out How you can pay it forward or Happiness Weekly’s best tips for helping others.

Personal boundaries: why we need them and how to set them


Good fences make good neighbours. Robert Frost

Every healthy relationship needs boundaries, which is difficult for many of us to accept particularly when we care so much for the happiness and wellbeing of others. It’s easy to let boundaries lapse when we like someone, but it’s important to respect yourself and the other person enough that you don’t because boundaries are essential to healthy relationships.

If you have a hard time standing up for yourself, or agree to do things you don’t want to do, tolerate rude comments or pushy people … this blog is for you! This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can set boundaries to attract healthier, more positive relationships into your life.

What are personal boundaries?
According to Darlene Lancer from PsychCentral boundaries are rules and principles you live by when you say what you will or won’t do or allow. There are various types of boundaries including material, physical, mental, emotional, sexual and spiritual. Setting a boundary is all about self-preservation.

According to Wikipedia, personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what is reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits. They are built on a mix of beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning.

Happiness through Humanism says a boundary is a definite place where your responsibility ends and another person’s begins. It stops you from doing things for others that they should do for themselves. It also prevents you from rescuing someone from the consequences of their destructive behaviour that they need to experience in order to grow.

Knowing your boundaries
Knowing your boundaries is really about self-awareness. You need to be able to define your likes and dislikes and set distances to allow others to approach. Consider what you can tolerate and accept, and what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed – based on your beliefs, emotions, intuitions, self-esteem and social learnings – within the physical, mental, psychological and spiritual realms.

While working out your boundaries, pay particular attention to any situations where you lose energy, feel a knot in your stomach, want to cry or feel panic or frustration. If you start feeling discomfort or resentment in a situation, it’s generally because someone is encroaching on your boundaries – this blog post is designed to help you stop ignoring your needs and start respecting yourself.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Reinhold Niebuhr


How to set healthy boundaries

1. Change your perspective about what a boundary is
If you’re new to setting boundaries, don’t think of it as something you are doing that will cause you to lose friends or respect from others – because it will actually do the opposite. When we have boundaries in place, we start to filter out the bad and enable only the good, positive energies into our lives.

2. Be direct in what your boundaries are
If someone is crossing a boundary, which generally your intuition will say there’s something not right with the situation, use it as your opportunity to clearly tell them what your boundaries are. Be assertive and in the most respectful way, tell them what is particularly bothersome to you and how you can work together to address it. The clearer you are with someone about your boundaries, the more they will respect them.

3. Be honest with yourself
Being honest with yourself about your boundaries and not making excuses for your feelings of fear, guilt and self-doubt is very important because when we start questioning our feelings we impact the power we have behind the boundary. Boundaries not only impact relationships in a healthy way, they are also a sign of self-respect so it’s really important that we preserve them as best we can.

4. What do your values say
Consider the way you were raised and your values and beliefs when setting solid boundaries. This is where you put learning from previous mistakes into practise. Use this as an opportunity to really get to know yourself and what you like and dislike. Are the relationships in your life healthy and reciprocal is there give and take? Really look at your values when setting your boundaries and make sure they align.

5. Put time and effort into self-care
Have you been self-nurturing lately? This is important because it gives you permission to put yourself first. Self-care gives you perspective and enables you to be more present with others and be there for them.

6. Get a boundary buddy
If you’re having difficulty setting boundaries, get yourself a boundary buddy – someone who is either really good at setting boundaries, who you admire or someone who also needs assistance with their boundary-setting and you can lean on each other for support.

7. Monitor your boundaries
Step back and continually monitor your boundaries. See how they are serving you and others. Are they too rigid or too flexible? Ensure you are getting something out of them and the people around you are respecting them. It’s important to be flexible enough that you can change them, but not so flexible that they get overlooked and feel insignificant.

8. Clearly communicate your boundaries
Once you’ve set your boundaries, it’s really important that you clearly communicate them to people, particularly if they are impinging on them. It may be a difficult and uncomfortable conversation to have but don’t be a doormat because the consequences are much greater than five minutes of awkward conversation. Say “When you …” “I feel…” “Can you please do … instead.” For example “When you yell at me, I feel intimidated, could you please talk calmly with me instead?”

9. Reward your friends
If you have friends who are supporting you and respecting your personal boundaries, make sure you reward them and acknowledge them. Acknowledgement can be by telling them that you appreciate their support and friendship, or it could be taking them out for a drink – it’s entirely up to you.

10. Let go
Learn to let go of anything that no longer serves you. According to the Sanctuary for the Abused, toxic people will use guilt to keep you enslaved and bludgeon you back into place if you begin to detach or upset their status quo. Resist this by learning to recognise the guilt trip and letting go of the people trying to control you and hold you back.


Before dropping a boundary
If you are tempted to drop a boundary, you are looking directly at a red flag. Ask yourself what has changed for you in order to drop the boundary. Consider what you or the other person are doing in order to make you want to forget this boundary. Focus on what the situation is really about at the current time and also what implications dropping this boundary may have on you. Consider some other alternatives to what you can do about the situation and how you can maintain your control and preserve your boundary – don’t forget, they’re there for a reason and self-preservation is essential to our happiness and wellbeing.

In protecting the boundary it is again up to you to clearly communicate what you want with the person. You could do this by following this format: “If you …” “I will…” “And if it continues…” For example, “If you continue to yell at me, I will switch off from you completely, and if that continues you won’t be able to communicate with me any further at all”.

Not sure where you stand with boundaries?
Take this quick online test provided by Psychologies Magazine – it reveals the hard truths behind where you’re up to with setting boundaries and gives some tips on the next steps to take from here.

Recommended reading:
7 ways to protect your energy and enforce healthy boundaries by Dr Susan Biali, M.D.

Characteristics of healthy boundaries by Charles Whitfield, M.D.

How to set healthy boundaries by Britt Bolnick

Begin to set Personal Boundaries by Oprah

Setting personal boundaries – protecting yourself by Robert Burney

Setting boundaries with difficult people by

Setting and enforcing healthy boundaries by Terri Cole

Want to boost self-esteem? 10 ways to establish personal boundaries by Barrie Davenport

Why most boundaries don’t hold up by Melanie Tonia Evans

Setting emotional boundaries: stop taking on other people’s feelings by Alana Mbanza


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