Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time, just like it does for you and me.
Have you ever felt angry and didn’t want to speak to someone ever again for hurting your feelings? It’s a common scenario: someone says something that’s rude, wrongly accuses us of doing something wrong, or in some other way makes us get reactive or defensive.
This can take us to the point where we most certainly don’t want to wish them well. But does harboring dislike, revenge, even hate, do us any favors? Does it really make us feel better in the long run or does it just get us more stressed?
It’s definitely important that we acknowledge what we are feeling—all the anger, unfairness, and aversion—and really honor how hurt we are. Repressing our feelings means they’ll most likely just come up again at some point, probably when another situation triggers a similar response.
But negative emotions can sap our energy, especially when we hold on to them. And they spread like wildfire, soon affecting our behavior and attitudes towards other people, like a single match that can burn down an entire forest.
And they create an emotional bond with the abuser that keeps our feelings alive, so that we keep replaying the drama and conflict over in our heads, justifying our own behavior and disregarding theirs. In the process, we become a not-very-nice person.
Anger, aggression, and bitterness are like thieves in the night who steal our ability to love and care. Is it possible to turn that negativity around and chill out so we can wish our abuser well, without necessarily needing to know them as a friend again? This may sound challenging and absurd but it can make life’s difficulties far more tolerable. How can we do this?
1. Recognize no one harms another unless they are in pain themselves.
Ever noticed how, when you’re in a good mood, it’s hard for you to harm or hurt anything? You may even take the time to get an insect out of the sink. But if you’re stressed or in a bad mood, then how easy it is to wash it down the drain.
2. No one can hurt you unless you let them.
Hard to believe, as no one actually wants to be hurt but it’s true. When someone hurts us, we are inadvertently letting them have an emotional hold over us. Instead, as spiritual teacher Byron Katie often says: If someone yells at you, let them yell, it makes them happy!
3. Respect yourself enough that you want to feel good.
Do not respond with negativity to those who hurt you, turn it around and continue to wish them well. By doing this, you will be able to feel total closure.
4. Consider how you may have contributed to the situation.
It’s all too easy to point fingers and blame the perpetrator but no difficulty is entirely one-sided. So contemplate your piece in the dialogue or what you may have done to add fuel to the fire. Even when you feel you’re 100 percent right, always look at a difficulty to see what was your part in it.
5. Extend kindness.
That doesn’t mean you’re like a doormat that lets others trample all over you while you just lie there and take it. But it does mean letting go of negativity sooner than you might have done before so that you can replace it with compassion. Like an oyster that may not like that irritating grain of sand in its shell but manages to transform the irritation into a beautiful and precious pearl.
Meditation takes the heat out of things and helps you cool off, so you don’t overreact. A daily practice we use is where we focus on a person we may be having difficulty with or is having a difficulty with us. We hold them in our hearts and say: May you be well! May you be happy! May all things go well for you!
So, can you see how to bring more kindness into your life? Do comment below.
No matter how hectic or stressful our days are, whether we’re sitting at our desks or waiting in line, we have the opportunity to pause and adjust our perspective.
We have the opportunity to be kinder — both to ourselves and others. We have the opportunity to relax and slow down. And we have the opportunity to refocus. Even if it’s for a minute or two.
In her book Self-Meditation: 3,299 Mantras, Tips, Quotes and Koans for Peace and Serenity, bestselling author Barbara Ann Kipfer offers a wealth of inspiration for practicing kindness and breathing in the beauty of daily moments and the miracles that are our lives.
Here are 20 of my favorite suggestions from her book.
1. Let small chores act as a stop sign to “breathe, relax and experience peace.”
2. Sit down and “become a human still life.” Don’t do anything. Just breathe.
3. When you’re driving, focus solely on that experience. “Feel the steering wheel, the pedals, the seat.”
4. “Listen for the quietest sound.”
5. Focus on your sense of smell. Take something you’d like to smell, such as a flower or food, and put it up close to your nose. Notice the changes in the aroma. Focus on the sensations in your body as you inhale and exhale. Then try to focus on other fragrances around you throughout the day.
6. Focus on your sense of touch. Focus on the sensation of your hands touching each other, “your clothes brushing against your skin, and the air moving across your face.”
7. In the beginning of the week, pick an activity you normally do on autopilot, such as washing your hands, applying makeup or getting into your car. Pause for several seconds before starting the activity. Then perform it with your full attention.
8. “Imagine that you are a kite soaring in the sky. Surrender to the wind, but be aware of the string that anchors you to the ground and keeps you safe.”
9. When you’re performing a chore, focus your full attention on your hands. “Note all the sensations in your fingers, your palms, and your wrists.”
10. Send yourself some loving-kindness (or “meta”). Focus your attention on an aspect of your mind or body that you feel separated from. Acknowledge this. You might say something like: “May I accept this. May I be filled with loving-kindness toward this. May I use the pain of this experience for the welfare of all.”
11. As you’re trying to fall asleep, “imagine that with each breath you are melting into an ocean of light and space.”
12. When you turn on the faucet, focus on the bigger picture. “See the water flowing down from the glaciers and mountains, running deep into the earth, sustaining you and all life.”
13. When you wake up, feel your feet touch the floor. “Be aware of their weight, the floor supporting your body, and the motion of your feet and legs as you begin to walk.”
14. When you get home from work, every day, stand in front of your door and appreciate the moment. Rejoice in it. “Breathe in and out three times.”
15. Set an alarm to ring every hour to remind yourself to “wake up and appreciate the miracle of every moment. Say, ‘[Your name], wake up!”
16. Picture your thoughts as balloons floating by.
17. Visualize a mountain lake with a smooth, glassy surface. A breeze sends ripples across the water. As the breeze quiets down, so do the ripples, and the water returns to being smooth. When something ruffles you, return to this visualization. “Feel the ripples and then let them settle.”
18. Think of your mind as a swinging door. “Thoughts and feelings come in and out, like people. Be the door, not the doorman.”
19. Picture a person or pet you love greatly. Imagine they’re “giving you a look that melts your heart.” Think about the things you love most about them. With each breath you take, let your heart fill with love. “Imagine your two souls connected by the caring you have for each other.”
20. “See yourself as a small child, fragile and vulnerable, and breathe in. Smile with love to this small child within yourself, and breathe out.”
In a new study from Washington University, researchers find that quitting smoking does more than improve physical health as stopping the habit also improves mental health.
Typically, health professionals who treat people with psychiatric problems often overlook their patients’ smoking habits, assuming it’s best to tackle depression, anxiety, or substance abuse problems first.
However, the new study shows that people who struggle with mood problems, or addiction can safely quit smoking and that kicking the habit is associated with improved mental health.
The study is published online in the journal Psychological Medicine.
“Clinicians tend to treat the depression, alcohol dependence or drug problem first and allow patients to ‘self-medicate’ with cigarettes if necessary,” said lead investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, Ph.D.
“The assumption is that psychiatric problems are more challenging to treat and that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment.”
In the study, Cavazos-Rehg discovered that quitting, or significantly cutting back on cigarette smoking was linked to improved mental health outcomes.
Specifically, quitting altogether or reducing by half the number of cigarettes smoked daily was associated with lower risk for mood disorders like depression, as well as a lower likelihood of alcohol and drug problems.
“We don’t know if their mental health improves first and then they are more motivated to quit smoking or if quitting smoking leads to an improvement in mental health,” Cavazos-Rehg said.
“But either way, our findings show a strong link between quitting and a better psychiatric outlook.”
Naturally, the serious health risks associated with smoking make it important for doctors to work with their patients to quit, regardless of other psychiatric problems.
“About half of all smokers die from emphysema, cancer, or other problems related to smoking, so we need to remember that as complicated as it can be to treat mental health issues, smoking cigarettes also causes very serious illnesses that can lead to death,” she said.
Researchers analyzed questionnaires gathered as part of the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions.
This survey was administered in the early 2000’s and just under 35,000 people were surveyed. As part of the study, participants answered questions about drinking, smoking, and mental health in two interviews conducted three years apart.
The researchers focused on data from 4,800 daily smokers. Those who had an addiction or other psychiatric problems at the time of the first survey were less likely to have those same problems three years later if they had quit smoking.
And those who hadn’t had psychiatric problems at the initial survey were less likely to develop those problems later if they already had quit.
At the time of the first interview, about 40 percent of daily smokers suffered mood or anxiety disorders or had a history of these problems. In addition, about 50 percent of daily smokers had alcohol problems, and some 24 percent had drug problems.
Forty-two percent of those who had continued smoking during the years between the two surveys suffered mood disorders, compared with 29 percent of those who quit smoking.
Alcohol problems affected 18 percent of those who had quit smoking versus 28 percent who had continued smoking.
And drug abuse problems affected only 5 percent of those who had quit smoking compared with 16 percent of those who had continued smoking.
“We really need to spread the word and encourage doctors and patients to tackle these problems,” Cavazos-Rehg said.
“When a patient is ready to focus on other mental health issues, it may be an ideal time to address smoking cessation, too.”
When the holiday season comes to an end and all the festivities are over, you’re left with a new year. It can be a time to set in place new things to learn and do or it can be a time of consolidation of things you’re already passionately pursuing. Another alternative might be to simply contemplate where you’ve reached in life so far. Whatever your preferred approach to the New Year, it’s nice to start feeling refreshed and focused, ready to get back into things you’re working on or to get started on new things. Here are a few ideas to give you a boost.
1. Put away the holiday decorations in a timely manner. When the holiday festivities are over, the decorations, ornaments, and other festive trappings can be popped back into their boxes and bags. If you leave this too long, it can feel like a chore and can also have the effect of holding you back from moving into the next experiences. Don’t feel like you have to get rid of it all in one day. Remove things little by little, ideally between Christmas and New Year’s.
• Ask family and friends to help tidy away the seasonal decorations to make it easier.
2. Look over your New Year’s Resolution list. (If you haven’t made one, skip this step.) Write the list out on a planner, chart or calendar where you can make notes. In order to get your resolutions underway, it’s probable that you’ll need to do some planning and organizing, and perhaps even some purchasing. It helps your focus to make notes and lists to direct your efforts in starting new habits. For example:
• Is there any gear, equipment, food, clothing, etc. needed to start your new fitness/eating/exercise regime? Or perhaps you need new hobby or craft materials or new sports gear. Write down the needed items so that you can work out whether you already have what’s needed or need to buy, beg, borrow or freecycle it.
• Do you need to book memberships, travel, subscriptions or any other service to aid the resolution? If so, write this down too.
• Write down anything else of relevance, alongside those resolutions.
• In some cases, breaking the goals into short term and long term milestones is necessary to ensure you don’t flag in your willpower. Write down any milestones you think will work for you.
3. Focus on the organization. If you’re already wonderfully organized, skip this step. But many people aren’t and this can inhibit feeling like the New Year is a fresh start.
• Are there piles of papers and books on the desk and floor? Clean them up in short bursts here and there (stealth cleaning!).
• Do you have trouble finding things, from keys to socks? Look for simple solutions, such as hanging up a key holder and setting up a special lost sock basket. One method is about training, the other is about acceptance––for example, you can train yourself to put things away but you can’t account for missing socks until the mate turns up, so have a safe-keeping zone for such items.
• Hate cleaning? You could try to convince yourself its exercise, a moment of Zen or a chance to throw out your mate’s junk but it’s better to find help. Delegate the cleaning jobs to others as much as possible and try to arrange it so that you’re doing what you’re best at. It’s overwhelming to be the person responsible for it all, so stop trying.
• Take decluttering in gradual steps. Perhaps, the first sort through your desk on Monday, organize your closet on Tuesday and Wednesday, go through your bookshelf on Thursday, vacuum on Friday, dust on Saturday, and organize whatever else needs to be organized on Sunday. Once you’ve organized specific high-use areas, you will realize it’s much easier to concentrate and find what you need with a clean room.
4. Relax more. If you’re not in the habit of relaxing, start the New Year with a resolution to add this important activity (or lack of activity) to your life from now on.
• Spend a little time browsing through books and websites devoted to relaxation ideas. What sorts of relaxing opportunities appeal to you? Not everyone agrees that the same things are relaxing––some people find adrenalin-packed activities relaxing while others would rather slump in the hammock with a good book. It’s your choice, just so long as it relaxes you.
• Almost everyone finds spa-style activities relaxing. This might mean a weekly bath by candlelight with big bubbles (and maybe some bubbly), a massage (at home with a loved one or paid for at a spa), yoga, meditation and the like.
• When you get a chance, take a relaxation break on Saturday or some other appropriate free day or afternoon. Get your rest, have some friends over for a spa party if you want, or just be alone. You can give yourself an oil treatment, manicure/pedicure, and whatever else will make you feel good and look good.
5. Clean your work or study space. Going back to work or college/school after the holiday break can leave you feeling a little out of sorts. Tidying up your desk, locker, backpack, or whatever else you have where stuff accumulates can help you to feel refreshed for the New Year. Throw out last year’s junk, file away important information where it belongs and give everything a good dust or wipe down. Refill anything that you’re running out of and if you can, place a pretty plant or photo on your desk to cheer yourself up.
• For backpacks, satchels, handbags, laptop carriers and other bags: Don’t carry around unnecessary items! Things you don’t need in the bag are clutter that increases the bulk and weight and might scratch items like laptops, phones, and valuables.
6. Reflect over the past year. Think about things you’d like to do better this year, new things you’d like to try to people you’d like to make amends with or start over with. Have you achieved the things you wanted to in the past year? What specific things would you like to change or redirect? Asking yourself questions about progress, change and where you want to be right now can help to keep your perspective fresh, giving you new motivation to make this year a more fulfilling one.
• Anything you regret saying? Anyone you wish you could apologize to? If there are people that you owe an apology to, apologize and make things right with them. You don’t want to worry or regret anything when you start the New Year.
• Was this past year so great you don’t want it to be a new year? Great, make a scrapbook or diary entry about how great this year has been. But tell yourself the New Year will be even better. Build on the lessons you’ve learned and keep the good things coming.
• Was this past year such a terrible year for you, that you worry the New Year will be more of the same or even worse? Thinking that way may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nobody expects you to fly when your wings feel broken, but it’s important for your own well-being to start finding small ways to mend your dreams. Treat yourself with greater compassion and hang out more with folks who have kind hearts. Focus on making this coming year a much gentler, kinder one. This might include letting go of things that are causing you anxiety––scary at first, but really liberating when you finally do it.
The quest of finding happiness is possibly the only goal shared among all human beings – past, present or future. Who doesn’t want to find happiness in his or her life? It’s a silent goal nonetheless. We don’t mutter much about it and most of the time it lurks in the deep inner workings of our minds. Curious isn’t it?
The odd fact is we spend billions of research dollars & euros into treating mental illnesses with drugs, but not much effort goes into understanding the science of happiness or mental well-being. This fact alone compels me to write about the subject.
The title of this article is in itself revealing – “how to find happiness within yourself” suggests from the outset that you should look for happiness within yourself and that happiness is general to be found within. This is also a very curious thing to me. Why are we always trying to find happiness in all kinds of places but hardly ever attempt to find happiness within?
Harry is 67. He lost his wife to cancer almost three years ago now. He saw his daughter pass through a marriage breakdown and divorce. He hardly gets to see his grandchildren because his daughter moved to another city after her divorce. He misses the fishing trips with his brother Joe who also passed away recently. He is relating less and less to a changing hostile world where he is constantly reminded he is an unwanted burden.
Yet there is one major twist to the story. Harry is happy, radiantly happy. How can this happen? I mean if there are people who have passed through all sorts of heartbreaking episodes and hardships but are happy, what’s their story? Conversely, if there are people (and lots of them) who have acquired all sorts of merit, possessions, and good fortune yet is deeply unhappy, what does this say about finding happiness?
Finding happiness by losing old mental models:
One major flaw in the way we live our lives is that we have learned how to be unhappy rather than how to be happy. We have built certain mental models of our reality and these limit us or lead us astray from finding real happiness. Naturally this leads us to the understanding that finding happiness requires us to unlearn certain things and look for it in different pathways. It requires us to look into flaws in our belief system and change them.
One of these mental models we adopt is the belief that we need to reach a certain goal or outcome to be happy, the so-called ‘if-then model’ (if this happens then I will be happy). For example that we should get a better income, financial freedom, recognition of our work, sexier bodies, satisfying relationships and so on. It’s always something around the corner which needs to happen first before we reach happiness.
I know you have many times got to the realization yourself that it just doesn’t work that way. Once you reach that corner there is always another corner to reach. Happiness is not found in anything outside ourselves. We already have all the material at hand to be happy. It’s a matter of shifting our perspective and beliefs completely.
Some mental models to take note of and debunk:
• Happiness is the pleasure: No. Pleasure is instant gratification – physical or mental. Happiness is knowing that you are where you should be or accepting that you are not and doing your best while you’re there.
• Happiness is comfort or security: We live most of our lives in constant security threats – our jobs, our children out at night, our health, etc. The truth is that security or lack of it is based on perception. Happiness is living well in a very unstable world.
• I don’t deserve happiness: Yeah, says who? Another human quirk – self-inflicted limitation. Happiness is for everyone, wherever you come from, whatever you did and no matter what’s your idea. Happiness is open-source.
• It’s impossible to find happiness in this world: Another example of self-limiting beliefs. Wrong. Happiness is as possible to find as unhappiness.
• People who reached their goals are invariably happy: Again, says who? People who reached their goals are not happy because they reached their goals. On the contrary, some are eternally dissatisfied and keep on seeking, other goals in life – a real source of unhappiness. But yes some people found happiness while reaching those goals since they were living their true purpose and enjoying every moment of it. Their eyes were on the doing and not on the reaching.
Finding Inner Happiness Through Finding Inner Peace
So many stories around us, like that of Harry, seem to point at the overlooked obvious – that you will only find happiness within yourself. Well, that’s very good news since you don’t need to look far away to find happiness – like for example running after expensive, energy-consuming and ultimately unsatisfying goals. It’s there right within you. As scientist Zen Buddhist Jon Kabat-Zinn perfectly immortalized in one of his book titles: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
When life rocks your boat to the point of wrecking it or when the proverbial crap hits the ceiling fan you will reach a y-point which will either make you or break you. So many people like Harry managed to find happiness & inner peace through the most turbulent and upsetting moments of their lives by making use of their internal resources, by finding happiness within rather than in external points of reference.
The key to happiness, or, in other words, that of finding true inner happiness, is by finding your inner peace – that center of calm inner knowing which is the real source of your being rather than those mental projections or models imposed by your social background.
There are many pathways to find your inner peace but before I start sounding too metaphysical I’d reckon that the greatest and shortest path is that of acceptance. Let go of your expectations, inner struggle, and frustrations when things don’t turn out exactly, the way you want them. Acceptance is an extremely powerful tool to finding inner happiness. It shouldn’t be confused with resignation or passiveness.
We often fail to understand the power of acceptance because it comes from the heart, not the mind. Its power, in fact, comes from transcending the resistance and inner currents of the restless mind which are often the source of our anxieties, stress, and inner conflict.
Acceptance is when we drop all, our mental models (like the if-then model), often in a moment of clarity or awareness where we become conscious that there is another life outside this madness, outside this huffing and puffing trying to acquire one goal after the other in the wrong belief that there is an ultimate goal post called happiness somewhere on the finishing line.
Ask yourself – how much of what’s going on in your life do you accept? Are you constantly feeling you should be at some other point in your life? Or do you somehow feel at peace with all aspects of your life and make use of them with all their limitations?
Other pathways to inner peace:
• Compassion: Some people admirably manage to find the time and energy to help other even when they are facing rough seas themselves. Even though this comes out from an act of compassion and selflessness, it is also a doorway to their own inner peace. In fact although it seems quite hard to do in moments when we are down and out, giving attention to others’ needs is a way of getting ‘out of your head’ which, ironic as it sounds, is a fast remedy to unhappiness.
• Seek the support of others: Well, it works both ways too. Helping others is a way to shift your center of attention away from your ailments. However seeking any form of support from others is a way of finding reinforcement and encouragement and is highly recommendable.
• Be grateful to everything around you: Because we so often forget of the little miracles happening around us on a daily basis. We only think about what’s missing instead of counting our blessings. Being thankful to life is not some wishy-washy magical spell that washes away all your troubles. Rather it is an exercise in which you become aware of the positive and meaningful things happening in your life, a real booster.
• Do men and women react differently after trauma? Yes.
• Does it mean one suffers more than the other? No.
• Do the differences confuse and often create tension for couples? Too often.
What we find across cultures is that in the face of traumatic loss, women need to speak about what has happened and men need to do something about what has happened. In one scene from the devastation of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2005, the women gathered, crying for their lost children while the men rebuilt the homes.
In their 2006 review of 25 years of research on sex differences in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Psychological Bulletin, David Tolin, and Edna Foa reported that although men have a higher risk for traumatic events, women suffer from higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. In their analysis, they suggest that the different rates of PTSD may actually be a function of the fact that men and women manifest their emotional pain in different ways.
In the aftermath of a traumatic event, women are more likely to have feelings of anxiety and depression, while men are more likely to express distress and depression in terms of irritability, anger and increased alcohol consumption.
Caught in the physical and emotional pain from a traumatic loss or event, couples often have very little patience for differences. It is hard for them to believe that their partner could feel different. It is even more difficult to believe that their partner could feel the same and react so differently.
When she suffered a miscarriage in the beginning of her fifth month, Claire was devastated. Then in her late 30’s, she was worried that this might have been her only chance to have a child. Even when she regained her strength, she was often unable to concentrate or sleep. She would ruminate and blame herself for waiting until her career was set before starting a family.
Claire was further upset by her husband John’s reaction. He was upset by the loss, but he seemed confident that there would be other chances. Claire wondered why he wasn’t blaming himself for their decision to wait to have kids. When she questioned him about this, he felt judged and blamed her for making it worse. They would end up fighting.
According to Dr. John Gray of Mars and Venus Starting Over, in the aftermath of the loss, both men and women need time to grieve. As such, it is often more common for women to blame themselves and for men to blame others.
Differences Don’t Equate to Lack of Love
If you find yourself struggling with your partner in the aftermath of a traumatic event, it does not mean that you don’t have a good relationship, or that you were never truly in love.
• Traumatic events are beyond what we ever expect. No one is prepared to respond.
• Differences in response don’t mean that as a couple you won’t cope or can’t heal.
If you take your time and give yourself and your partner a chance to grieve, cope and regulate stress in your own way and different ways, you will be able to use your relationship as an asset for coping.
• She joins a bereavement group at the church.
• He increases his workout schedule.
• She doesn’t want to socialize on the weekends, but he needs to get out—they settle on a movie date together.
Couple Considerations for Coping
• Everyone deals with trauma in their own way and in their own time – there is no right way.
• When in doubt don’t assume the worst about your partner – assume you don’t know.
• Interest and acceptance of your partner’s reactions invite sharing and empathy, which enhance healing.
• Being physically next to someone you love is a natural buffer for stress and emotional pain.
• Talking about the pain at times for her, valuing the shared silence for him—reflects the resilience of connection.
Sometimes the best-traveling companion in life is someone who sees and reacts to things in a way you would never have considered.