Tag Archives: happiness

Can you eat your way to happiness?

7 Mar

"Oh no, it's raining apples!"

Reclining on the couch and munching a piece of chocolate (or five) is one of my secret pleasures. But research reckons that we are happiest when we eat a wholesome and nutritious diet. Junk food, on the other hand, can increase our chances of suffering from anxiety and depression.

It seems the age-old adage that you are what you eat is now truer than ever.

On some days, that would make me a giant Tim Tam!

When I was 20, I fell ill with glandular fever and ended up with post-viral fatigue. I was then diagnosed with clinical depression. The world was bleak and I hated every inch of myself, inside and out. Every morning was a struggle and I have many people to thank for helping me shift my thinking and heal myself.

During that time, I found comfort in crap food. I could easily scoff an entire Domino’s pizza and follow it up with Cadbury’s chocolate and a few glasses of Coke. I was desperately, exhaustingly unhappy. Food was my crutch. I didn’t reach for nourishing foods. Instead, I fed my mind and soul with junk. As a result, my mind was junk and of course my body reflected that.

So even without the studies, I know that what I feed myself has a tremendous impact on my self-esteem and self-worth. Thankfully, I no longer have depression and I fuel my body with filling foods (well, most of the time!) It is sometimes still a struggle to detach my emotions from the foods I seek.

Celebrity trainer Michelle Bridges has just published an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on the topic. She cites a 2000 study, in which 1000 women were interviewed about their diet and mental health symptoms. The study found that the women who ate a lot of fatty, processed food were more likely to experience depression and anxiety, than those who ate a variety of nutritious foods.

Another recent study found a link between teenagers’ diet and their mental health. The author of the study, Dr Felice Jacka, has even proposed that the right diet may actually help prevent depression in young people.

I wish I had known as a 20 year old that my diet may have been keeping me on that frightening mental rollercoaster. However, I don’t regret a moment of my battle with depression, because it has allowed me to really understand it and those who suffer from it.

It made me appreciate my body and take steps to nourish my mind and spirit with the right thoughts, food and friends.

So can you eat your way to happiness? In my experience, absolutely! What do you think?

The pursuit of happiness continues…

2 Mar

This post continues on from part 1 of my Happiness & Its Causes musings…

As the Happiness & Its Causes conference rolled on, a common theme seemed to emerge: The time is now for our nations, and all of us living within them, to focus on wellbeing as a measure of our prosperity.

Mark Williamson, the director of Action for Happiness (a movement which began in the UK in April 2011 and already has 20,000+ members) said, ‘We’re getting richer, but we’re not any happier. We are obsessed with our wealth and not our wellbeing.’

Did you know that in the UK, the Prime Minister is driving a shift from thinking about wealth to focusing on wellbeing? In fact, the UK is apparently now leading the pack in the way it measures its citizens’ levels of happiness. There is a focus on GWB (General Well Being), not just GDP. How wonderful is that! And it’s not all fluff – it’s finally the realisation that happiness equals prosperity, which equals growth. Happy people are happy workers. Happy workers are more productive. Thus, the nation flourishes.

As Mark spoke, a series of posters flashed up on the screen. One that stood out to me was, ‘The meaning of life is a life of meaning.’ I love that! My meaning in this life is to live a life that is meaningful. 

Dr Seligman would later ask in a panel discussion, ‘Imagine your grandchildren are writing your obituary. What would they say about how you contributed to this world?’ This is how you find your meaning. Live according to your meaning, your mission, and you will be happy by default.

 

Another theme that today’s experts all seemed to agree on was the old adage that your thoughts become who you are. You become what you think about. Change your thoughts and you can change your life. Yes, it’s something which is sprouted by self-help gurus across the world. But there’s a reason for that – it is so darn true!

In the panel discussion, Langer said, ‘If you believe something will happen, you set yourself up to achieve it. You will grasp the things that will help you reach that goal and avoid things that will prevent it from happening.’ She cited study after study that showed that when you shift your mindset, you can influence your health. One such study involved a group of chambermaids who didn’t believe that, despite the fact they moved about all day changing beds etc, they did any actual exercise. You would think that people who bend and clean and lift and generally move about all day would be healthier than sedentary people. Not so! However, once these chambermaids were asked to believe that their work was exercise, they lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and even looked younger! That, my friends, is the power of the mind. Change your mind, change your life!

Half an hour for each speaker really hasn’t been long enough to really dip deep into the happiness field. But I hope my posts have helped you think about happiness and wellbeing in a new way, the same way the conference has shifted my thinking. Google the speakers I’ve mentioned, and you’ll find a wealth of information on how to be happier and live your life with love, zest and meaning.

If there’s one thing that has stirred me today, it’s this (and this is my own interpretation):

Forget trying to ‘be happy’. Instead, live with love, integrity, humility, gratitude and always, ALWAYS, help the person next to you. Happiness comes from helping. And that is how we can heal the world.

The quest to be really, really, ridiculously happy

1 Mar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why are we here? How can we be truly happy? How should we live to fulfill our purpose? As I wander along an unknown path to better health and happiness (and share my experiences with you via this blog), these are the questions I ask. No doubt they are the questions all of us ask.

What is the whole darn tootin’ point of this life?

To find out, I’m heading along to Happiness & Its Causes, a two-day event that claims to bring together 40+ of the world’s best and brightest minds in philosophy, psychology, spirituality, science and the arts.

I’m intrigued to discover what these inspiring minds have to say about our endless quest for happiness. What causes a truly happy life? And is there such a thing as a truly happy life?

I’ve always found the word ‘happy’ to be a bit blah. It’s the emotional equivalent to saying ‘good’ when someone asks how you are. It doesn’t really mean much.

Give me ecstatic! Fulfilled! Radiant! Joyful! ENLIGHTENED! I want to discover how to unlock these powerful states of mind and spirit.

I’ll be blogging from day 2 of the conference tomorrow, as I poke my head into a few of the keynote presentations, including:

  • Dr Martin Seligman and Professor Ellen Langer: discussing a visionary new understanding of happiness and wellbeing.
  • Action for Happiness director Mark Williamson: the importance of putting the things that matter first.
  • Psychotherapist and Buddhist lecturer Renate Ogilvie: exploring 16 guidelines for a happy and meaningful life.

Until then – don’t worry, be happy! 🙂

7 Lessons from 2011

3 Jan

Can you smell it? That sweet scent wafting in the summer breeze? Yes folks, 2012 is here! The year we have all been looking forward to. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to these past few weeks has said, ‘Boy, 2011 sucked!’ Mmm hmm. I heard dat! Aside from the horrible natural disasters that caused so much despair, it seems many of us felt last year was one big cauldron of crap. Made up of bad decisions, ‘meh’ moments and a general bah humbug-ness towards life.

As I stumbled and bumbled through the year, there were a few lessons I learned. There were probably way more than seven, but hey, it makes for a catchy title 😉

1. I am the queen of my own happiness

I played the blame game a lot last year. Instead of taking charge of my own happiness, I honestly believed it was other people who were making me miserable. It was their fault I was stagnant/grouchy/insecure. It was a shite game. I lost every time. Why? Because in the end, I was playing it by myself. No one can make us feel anything. Only we can do that.

This year, I vow to take responsibility for my happiness and own my feelings.

2. Shaking my booty = less booty

Well, maybe not shaking it. But moving it up and down a wooden seat while hauling a massive oar through the water sure did trim and tone my body! For so many years, I’ve been hung up on eating this, not scoffing that (but, of course, ending up scoffing it!) and endlessly obsessed with what was going in my mouth. Then I re-discovered rowing. Yes, those 4.40am wake up calls turned me into one cranky cow. No, I didn’t really enjoy the competitiveness of club rowing. But boy oh boy, my butt looked bloody amazing!

This year, I vow to be less care less about what’s on my fork, and more about how I move.

3. No meditation and no reflection time, makes Kat something something.

Go crazy? (Simpsons fans will know the rest). In 2010 I discovered meditation and yoga. It widened my mind, opened my spirit and allowed me to dream. Last year, I stopped. And the result was a meandering mess as I tried to figure out what I was doing with my life and why nothing seemed to be ‘clicking’. Last night, I dimmed the room and played a meditation track. Then I indulged in 80 minutes of sweaty, invigorating yoga. For the first time in a long time, I gave myself over to the practice. It was serene. It was special. It was right.

This year, I vow to meditate daily and invest time in nourishing my soul and cleansing my mind.

4. Compound interest is (wait for it) awesome!

As a neat and organised Virgo, I’ve always had a small obsession with building a healthy savings account. When I launched my business in 2009, I drained my savings and ended up with a nice little credit card bill (yay!). When I returned to full-time work in 2010, I spent much of the year paying off my business debts and a very generous loan from a family member. In 2011, I went full throttle. I consulted the wonderful Cindy Dahiya – a financial adviser who, with her husband Desh, actually provides independent and individual advice that makes sense to us non-accounting types. Yep, they do exist!

I set up a bundle of individual accounts with Ubank (check them out – their online tools and account flexibility will get anyone addicted to saving!). Each week, I diverted 40% of my pay into the accounts – a ‘pretty fund’ (for the oh-so-important clothes, make-up and hair expenses), as well as stashes for holidays and gifts. A further 10% of my pay was automatically deposited in an emergency account. I also set up one of the government’s First Home Saver accounts.

I’m thrilled to say I went from owing thousands in 2010, to saving just as much in 2011 (some was taken out for The Lad’s and my trip to America).

This year, I vow to keep saving (and avoiding daily deal sites!)

4. Americans are kind and interesting people

When The Lad and I were planning our trip to the US, the favourable exchange rate was really the only reason I wanted to go. I had an image in my mind of the typical American and the country’s culture. It wasn’t pretty. Then we arrived in America – diverse, beautiful, surprising America – and all my pre-judgements went out the hotel window. I now hope to live there one day. What a magnificent country it is!

This year, I vow to go into every situation with an open mind. 

5. I really don’t want to finish my counselling diploma

Ugh. It’s been hanging over my head for years now. And I just can’t, for the life of me, finish  the darn thing! I know I don’t want to be a counsellor any time soon (that’s not to say I won’t in later life) and I can’t find the motivation to finish it for the sake of ‘learning something new’. I’m yet to give up on it completely (another Virgo trait – we hate to fail), but I’m struggling with it. Big time.

This year, I won’t put pressure on myself to finish the diploma. If I do, great. If not, I haven’t failed. I’ve just moved on.

6. I’m not ready to give up sugar

I attempted to follow natural health guru Sarah Wilson’s quit sugar plan several times last year. Each time, the sugar-free stint ended when I found myself gobbling Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and loving every lick and gulp. I’m just not ready to go there yet.

This year, I’ll eat well and nourish my body with healthy foods. But I won’t deny myself those little pleasures. For surely, peanut butter mixed with chocolate is a delectable concoction sent from God.

7. Fear will get you nowhere

Do you know those people who throw themselves into wild situations? Whose Facebook statuses read like a Bear Grylls’ episode? I’ve always envied my friends who can just take off and explore and give something a shot. Hang the consequences. In 2011, I sat on my hands. And it didn’t get me very far.

This year, I vow to take charge. If I want to try something, I’ll leap into it. I’ll give it my all. I’ll jump (though not from an airplane. That is still n.e.v.e.r going to happen).

A wake-up call from a windscreen washer

5 Dec

Click image for source link.

On Saturday afternoon, the lad and I stopped at a set of traffic lights in Sydney’s inner west. I was feeling a little glum from a frustrating week and resulting vodka-induced headache. I was indulging in bleak ‘everyone is against me, life is really hard’ thoughts, rather than enjoying a stress-free summer afternoon with my lovely man.

We watched as the renowned local windscreen washer dashed from car to car – as he always did – wearing a vibrant costume and offering a quick wash. Today he was dressed as Santa Claus – albeit a very tanned, thin, pirate-like Santa. The lad waved him over to our car. It was the second time in as many weeks that we had him de-grot the windscreen and handed over a fiver as thanks. As the washer speedily squeegeed the glass, I was struck by the wide grin that wrinkled his sun-spotted skin. He was genuinely happy, even ecstatic to be wiping our windscreen. He squinted as he scrubbed a stubborn spot, determined to remove it. This was one happy man. A man who, even on wild windy and rainy days, or in sweltering heat, stands in the middle of that busy Parramatta Road intersection to scrub windscreens. In every traffic light sequence, he is seemingly waved away 9 out of 10 times. I like being the one who nods.

When he was done, the lad wound down the window and offered the usual fiver. The washer bent down and beamed. ‘Thank you very much! Have I done your windscreen before?’ We said yes. The washer thrust a folded A4 photocopy at us and wished us a merry Christmas, before he whistled and walked away. As the lights turned green and we took off, I unfolded the piece of paper. It was a handmade Christmas card. It read, ‘Dear the driver, Thank you for your contributions this year. From Maurice, your window washer.’

Click image for source link.

I then noticed a small scribbling in the bottom right hand corner of the page. It was accompanied by a grainy photograph of a young girl. It said ‘Thank you – 30c from your donation goes to help this girl in Kenya. $38/month.’

I was floored. Here was a man who, I felt, was really up against it. He seemed to have so little and surely needed (and certainly deserved) every cent that he made. Yet he saw there were people elsewhere in the world with even less. And so he donated the equivalent of my monthly mobile phone bill to help them.

I had just spent an entire week living miserably while eating good food, living in a clean home, drinking fresh water, and wishing I had a different life. One simple, photocopied Christmas card changed all that. It snapped me out of my selfish self-talk. It reminded me that life is precious. That I should never wish for the things I don’t have. That a ‘bad week’ in my life might be another’s dream.

I used to donate regularly to World Vision and Child Fund. Until I re-did my budget and decided I couldn’t afford it (because it would mean cutting down my phone usage or getting fewer manicures). That Christmas card spurred me to take up donating again. And stick with it.

That card made me see that it’s all too easy to frown. Live the life you’ve been given. Live it wholly, authentically and with purpose. Live to give to others. Live to count your blessings. Pass those blessings on to the person who battles wild weather to don a costume and collect a couple of dollars from cleaning a windscreen. Who then selflessly passes a portion of that hard-earned money to a little girl, on the other side of the world, who so desperately needs it.

You can find out more about Maurice the windscreen washer here.

Looking on the bright side

4 Dec

During the past week or so, anything that could go wrong, did.

Here is a sample of shitzer shiz that rained heavily on my parade:

1.       Someone (who shall not be named) accidentally spilt water on my beloved pink Vaio laptop. Now when I type certain keys, it adds another letter into the mix. So if I were typing on my Vaio now, tyiosd sdremntyremncver wweioklsd lkiooilk lkioklew tyiosd (this sentence would look like this).

2.       The Head of the Yarra rowing regatta, for which my crew and I had been painstakingly training for at ungodly hours for months (and each saved over $1000 to attend), was cancelled when wild weather caused the river to flood.

3.       When trying to force a Christmas present for a Perth friend into a pre-paid Post Pack, the whole thing split open. I responded by chucking scissors at the floor.

4.       I left my new camping tent in the boot of a GoGet car. When I raced out at 6am to fetch it, in the midst of the storm and wearing my PJs and sporting bed-head hair, the car was booked.

5.       Our fridge door was left open and the food went off.

6.       I loaded up my brand new washing machine, excited to be taking it for its very first spin. When I took the clothes out, I realised I’d accidentally added a new green cardigan. The result: lovely new pale-blue clothes that were once white.

7.       I found out my big brother, who I miss dearly as he is based in the US, can no longer make it to mum’s for Christmas.

8.       In response to all of the above, I snapped at my boyfriend – the one person who remains calm, caring and kind when I do things like throw scissors!

In isolation, each of these things would be just ‘kinda’ annoying. A miniscule ‘meh’ in an otherwise seamless week-and-a-bit. But the punches just kept on rolling and I was left with a bloody big black eye!

It got to the point (somewhere around the fridge door and washing machine incidents) where I was both laughing and crying at the same time. Ever had one of those moments?

In an effort to pull myself out of the slump and shake off the mishaps, I attempted a little positive self-talk:

‘It’s not what happens to you, Kat. It’s how you respond to it that matters.’

‘This too shall pass.’

And so on.

I also got guilty, telling myself, ‘Snap out of it! You’re lucky to even have these problems. Many people in the world don’t even own a fridge, or food to put in it. Or a washing machine and clothes to fill it.’ Which is, of course, absolutely true and incredibly grounding.

Then I stumbled upon an article about happiness. Not one of those silly ‘Top 10 Ways to Be Truly Happy’ pieces that tells you to drink eight glasses of water a day and meditate on your head. This was actually a really useful article (and as soon as I can find it, I’ll post it on here!) It said something like, ‘Happy people aren’t affected by their external environment. If the weather is bad or they are inconvenienced by a traffic incident or someone else’s error, they remain calm and don’t let it affect their mood.’ Basically, these peeps are a walking ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster.

Unfortunately, I read the article a little late. Those scissors were thrown (and thrown rather well, might I add) and there was not a moment of calm in any of my responses to the above list of ‘inconveniences’.

Though it’s something I’m going to work on.

The article also said that whenever something ‘bad’ happens to you, you should attempt to put a positive spin on it.

So here goes:

1.       Someone accidentally spilled water on my beloved pink Vaio laptop. Positive spin – I was getting sore wrists from the old un-ergonomic ‘puter anyway. Perhaps it’s time to get a new one.

2.       The Head of the Yarra rowing regatta, for which my crew and I had been painstakingly training for at ungodly hours for months (and saved over $1000 each to attend), was cancelled when wild weather caused it to flood. Positive spin – We turned the trip into a girls’ weekend away and I had a nice mini break from Sydney.

3.       When trying to force a Christmas present for a Perth friend into a pre-paid Post Pack, the whole thing split open. I responded by chucking the craft scissors at the floor. Positive spin – I found sticky tape and taped that little guy together so well, he was reinforced even better than before. 

4.       I left my new camping tent in the boot of a GoGet car. When I raced out at 6am to fetch it, in the midst of the storm and wearing my PJs and bed-head hair, the car was booked. Positive spin – I realised I don’t need to be dolled up to step outside my front door (Ok, I’m really struggling with this one!)

5.       Our fridge door was left open and the food went off. Positive spin – At least I have a fridge. And food.

6.       I loaded up my brand new washing machine, excited to be taking it for its very first spin. When I took the clothes out, I realised I’d accidentally added a new green cardigan. The result: lovely new pale-blue clothes that were once white. Positive spin – I now have a new wardrobe, featuring the latest Kat Collection of blue hues.

7.       I found out my big brother, who I miss dearly as he is based in the US, can no longer make it to mum’s for Christmas. Positive spin – more Christmas lunch for me! (Though I will still miss having my brother there).

8.       In response to all of the above, I snapped at my boyfriend – the one person who is able to remain calm, caring and kind when I do things like throw scissors! Positive spin – I got a nice big hug out of it. And I have an amazing partner who would do anything to make me happy.

I’ll be honest, that was a really hard thing to do!

But next time everything seems to pile up and cause me stress, I’m going to try to do three things:

1.       Be thankful for the good things in my life.

2.       See the positive in the negative. Shine a light at the darkness.

3.       Lock up the scissors.

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