Tag Archives: Courage

Happy 2014



I love the Beatles as much as the next guy; maybe even more. But current research clearly demonstrates that there is quite a bit more to Happiness than a ‘warm gun.

(For those of you who may not be up on your Beatle lyrics, I’m referring to a son, written by John Lennon, off their eponymous double-disc album “The Beatles,” also known as “The White Album.”)

I think attitude and perspective are major players in people’s lives, but many times it is way too easy to ignore our hard-wiring, our genetic make-up. It seems the happiness-DNA connection hasn’t gotten much of a voice, but in their article “Genetic Influences on Psychological Well-Being: A Nationally Representative Twin Study.” that appeared in April 2013’s Journal of Personality, researchers Thomas M. Olino,
C. Emily Durbin, Daniel N. Klein, Elizabeth P. Hayden and Margaret W. Dyson found that up to 50 percent of our happiness could be linked to the way we are ‘hard-wired.’

What makes happiness really difficult to pin down and research is how subjective it is, but researchers are far from throwing in the towel.

I’ve found some new and ‘quirky’ leads on happiness and for some reason they haven’t been given top billing. Being that I live in a part of the world where we still have two full months of winter ahead of us and last night’s temps reached below zero again, I for one, can use as much help and direction for pick-me-ups as I can find.

Here are five pieces of information about happiness I was not aware of, that I hope warm a cockle or two of your heart as well:

• A Degree of Happiness – 57.02 degrees Fahrenheit
According to a study out of Osaka University in Japan, the correlation between a person’s environmental temperature and happiness was researched. The winner, not the mild temps of tropical islands as once thought, but a milder, balmy 57.02 degrees was found to produce the highest number of happy people. I’m still have quite a way to go, but once we get through this artic freeze, its not as far away from 57.02 as say 70 or 75.
• Happy Music for our Happy Feet
Not only does listening to ‘happy’ music help elevate the mood, it also stimulates what scientists refer to as the “reward” part of the brain. I know we are being a bit subjective here when we say ‘happy’ music, but that goes with the turf. Lyrics and combinations of sounds are so varied this is likely to remain quite subjective. What is no longer subjective is the scientific backing.

Possum Sniffing Flowers

Possum Sniffing Flowers

• The Nose Knows
Dr. Jeannette Haviland-Jones, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey determined that there is a connection between happiness and floral scented odors. With the advances in fragrances available, we can sniff a little happiness into our day.
• Yes … Master
Remember that saying about being a ‘Jack of all trades but master of none?’ Well, according to a 2009 study, Jack would not have been a very happy boy. Although there is a certain amount of stress associated with pushing oneself to
master an activity, the long term benefit of knowing we really “got this”
(whatever the activity,) leads to feelings of happiness.
* Giving vs. Receiving
Its true…its true! A 2012 study confirms that both mean and women feel happier after purchasing something for someone else than when they buy something for themselves. Although there isn’t much more research other than confirming that
more people are happier giving gifts than receiving them, it will be interesting tosee what scientists find when they dig deeper into the whys and wherefores about this.

There are other new findings about happiness popping up through studies all the time. And without a doubt, the correlations between happiness (and other internal moods and emotions) and environmental stimuli (external factors) will grow as far as researcher’s imaginations can take them.

Humans may be simple on some level, but extremely unique and individualized on others. We are a combination of our hard-wiring (genetics or nature) and our environment (nurture). The discussion will continue through the ages.

Whatever the outcome of the study being conducted, we are human…we are made up of both, internal and external factors in various combinations. And there are many things we can do to improve our lives, make ourselves more of the people we want to become, reach our goals and fuller potentials.

Serenity Prayer

Serenity Prayer

The key to it all, for me, is found when we live what is known by millions as the Serenity Prayer. We ask for courage to change what we can (external, nurture) acceptance for who we are and for what is (internal, nature) and finally, the ability and wisdom to be able to know the difference so we can avoid the frustration and failures that come from trying to change things that are hard-wired and pretty much just the way they are.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Kindness to a stranger


On the page “Let`s change the world” you find our idea for a better world. We have now created a group where I will post information about a competition we will have, and where I will publish ideas for acts of kindness we all can do. You will also find a lot of inspirations and ideas here on the blog. For those who don`t know what kindness to a stranger mean, I`ll repost the idea:


Project: Kindness to a stranger


Give a smile to a stranger, and you might have made the world a little better  ”validation project”

Project kindness to a stranger

To introduce the idea, I will ask everyone to watch this short movie first. Even if it takes 18 minutes, and afterwards you will feel good.

We go about our everyday lives wanting things to always be getting better. We hope that our work makes a difference and those who came before us are proud and we wish for our children to have more than what we were given. As anyone knows who has heard Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech—delivered fifty years ago this August~ dreams are at the center of any effort to make things better. And today we have something with more power than we might realize: The internet. It’s not without reason that China and North-Korea tried to keep their inhabitants away from news.The media also have immense power, and even if some might argue that they focus on the wrong things, a lot of journalist really want to make the world a better place. Combine the knowledge, motivation the internet and the media and you have a wonderful recipe: People who actually do something.


So, by now you might be thinking: Yeah, sure, but what can I DO?

If you have watched the movie, you have seen the immense effect some words can have. When we have the possibility to help, by little effort, we do it. For example, most people help the world by sorting our paper and throw it in a separate garbage bin, thereby saving the rainforest. So, what about potentially making somebody happy by smiling a little?

trueResearch shows that our mirror-neurons respond automatically by creating a smile on your own lips. This means that smiling AT someone, actually MAKE them happier. Research also shows that being happy yourself, gives you more energy to be there for others. So, like in the video, I would challenge the readers of this blog to do JUST one nice thing for somebody else (preferably a stranger, because that would have the biggest impact) the next week.

When you have done that, write WHAT you did, and if you want, leave your email at the end. This will be like signing a petition for releasing a political prisoners. For every one of you who does that, you might have made the world just a little better. This is what your story means: You are signing a petition for a better world



The group can be found here (you must have google + to join). I will start to interview people next week, and I will then focus on good things they`ve done, or good things others have done to them. The interviews will be posted on the group:


twitter: @Freepsychology

Facebook page (have you liked it yet?): https://www.facebook.com/freepsychology

A Lesson in Life from a Tennis Player


Some people don’t like Lleyton Hewitt. Call me crazy, but I like him.

For those who don’t know, he’s an Australian tennis player, and I can understand why people wouldn’t like him, but I think he typifies the Aussie spirit.

He’s tenacious, feisty, determined, gritty, and never says die.

He isn’t flashy or showy, he doesn’t have any big weapons, but he fights. He is the battler and the underdog against the players with bigger weapons.  If he has a weapon it’s his mental toughness. But he also has good court sense and good shot selection. Basically, he’s got a good head. Plus he has speed.

I just love that he’s always up for the challenge. He doesn’t back down and always fights to the end. I think everyone could learn from that attitude. To not run from challenges but to face them head on, not because you have to, but because you love to. He enjoys the fight and he has courage.

I love that he also loves Australia and it’s what he’s about. He wants to win for Australia and loves Davis Cup because of his Aussie pride. Loving Australia means he also supports other Aussies and the team, and just as he plays with passion, he’s passionate in his support. There’s the Aussie mateship, and I love the encouragement.

This post was inspired by watching the Davis Cup where Australia was playing Poland in the doubles. Lleyton wasn’t playing but when one of the Aussie players got out of a tight spot with a winning serve, you could hear Lleyton say, “Good serve,” in his intense passionate way from the sidelines. I loved it—his will to win, to see Australia win and for his teammates to get them over the line. That’s some fantastic passion there. It’s fantastic support that comes from passion.

So say what you want about him, but I think we can learn from him. If we were as passionate about something the way he is about tennis and Australia, imagine how dynamic and exciting life would be because we’d be doing what we loved, chasing after it with everything we had. And we’d be supporting others in their passions too. He’s got a great attitude and heart.

I believe sport can teach us so much about life. This was just one example.

The How To’s of Mindfulness



If we wish to learn a new habit, there is much documentation to support that we need to spend approximately a month repeating the new behavior in order to get it to become routine in any way. We learn better slowly, giving our brains time to process and absorb and finally retain important pieces of information and behaviors that we wish to repeat and incorporate as part of our regular activities.

Having said that, mindfulness cannot truly be effective until it becomes a habit. And as we have stated earlier, mindfulness is something that we practice, allowing it to become more comfortable and familiar the more we practice.

Digging deep inside to learn more about who we are and what we feel takes determination and courage. Self exploration into the depths of our being means we will be confronting the sensations (feelings) associated with some of the most significant events we have faced in our lives. There are going to be intense emotions that will most likely come up.

Strong Emotions1

But if we choose to follow a path of mindfulness, we are willing to face them anyway. I strongly encourage anyone willing to follow this type of path of self-discovery to keep this in mind and take some time each day to recognize just how wonderful what you are doing is. Realize how brave you are being and praise yourself for taking these steps. I am 100% certain you would do at least as much for someone else if you learned that they were undertaking something like this.

Be gentle with yourself throughout the process. Make sure you have set up a system of support for yourself, a friend or two who you can talk to anytime about what you discover. You are looking for someone who will listen to your experiences and not judge or have their opinion over-ride your actions.

And please remember to continuously grant yourself permission to experience all the feelings you encounter without dwelling on them for too long. The purpose is to experience all your feelings, but not to get lost or stuck in them. And the glorious part of mindfulness is that you don’t have to stop feeling as you go through the rest of your day. You can do both at the same time. The trick is not to stay deep in the emotions. Just know they are there and validate them and feel them.

If what you find yourself feeling strongly is a sense of numbness, remember that is a feeling as well. Come face to face with your feelings as being a significant part of yourself (because they are) and breath through them, maybe even asking yourself when you first started having this feeling. No judging, no analyzing, just experiencing, learning and accepting.

Here is a small trial run you can try, starting today. If you place one of your hands on your stomach and the other on your chest and feel if your breath is shallow or deep, if you haven’t practiced anything like this before, you will more than likely find it is fairly shallow. If your hands move an inch or less when you inhale and exhale fully, your breathing is shallow.

Don’t get discouraged. Most people don’t breathe deeply. This is mostly because in our crazy world of multi-tasking, diversions and interruptions, we don’t take the time to even think about how we breathe. If we did, more of us would breathe deeper.

So, over the next week, make a point of becoming more present to your breathing throughout the day. I understand you will not be able to do this for hours on end. Gently bring your awareness back to your breathing from time to time throughout the day more often than you normally would.

Then see how far your hands move when you measure how shallow or how deeply your breathing is. If you’ve done this routinely for a week, you should find a significant increase in how deeply you breathe.

The reason for the change is because you have brought your level of awareness regarding your breathing to the forefront. You have become mindful of what your body is doing and the outcome is improved breathing.



This is how mindfulness works in all aspects of our lives. By becoming more in touch with what we feel and who we are, we improve it automatically.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!