The Power of Vulnerability – Connection, Contentment, Success

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Be vulnerable enough to share your story – warts and all. For that is the path out of suffering; that is the path to success; that is the path to connection.

Part of self-compassion is understanding that you are not alone in your struggles, in your suffering. And that shared suffering gives us relief.

#selfcompassion #angermanagement #executivecoach #spiritualawakening #guidetoself #drjohn #assertiveness #depressioninmen #happiness #success

7 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Increase Your Happiness

7 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Become More Happy

By John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self and WebAngerManagement.com

If I had to live my life again, I would   read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept alive through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”  – Charles Darwin

The questions   “Where can I find happiness?”,   “How can we be happy?”, and   “How can I be happy?” have been asked by philosophers for thousands of years. Only in the past 20 years has science taken a research approach to answering such questions. This burgeoning field is known as positive psychology and tests which exercises, mindsets and activities truly add to our happiness, our well-being.

Here are 7 of the top scientific answers to the question,  “How can I be happy?”

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Positive psychology answers the burning question…How Can I Be Happy?

1.     How Can I Be Happy? Practice Self-compassion

While self-esteem has to do with how you feel about yourself generally, self-compassion involves how you treat yourself when things go badly. The goal is to treat yourself with the same type of kindness and compassion that most people extend to loved ones when they fail. When someone else makes a mistake, most people will react with some degree of kindness and understanding. Self-compassion seems to turn down the volume on anger typically associated with huge mistakes while still maintaining your sense of personal responsibility. A 2007 study at Duke University found that ‘inducing self-compassion may decouple the relationship between taking responsibility and experiencing negative affect.’ The way in which you do this is to speak to yourself as if you were a three-year-old child. This allows for mistakes (which are a major path for learning), screw ups, and errors. Self-compassion seems to be related to greater resiliency (i.e., the ability to bounce back from difficulty). Work at speaking to yourself with kindness.

 

2.     How Can I Be Happy? Pursue life goals with meaning.

What is the meaning of your life? Having life goals which are personally meaningful is a major facet of happiness, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at U.C. Riverside and author of The How of Happiness. Those folks who pursue wealth or fame won’t boost their satisfaction with life because, just like new possessions (think of the new BMW!), they bring only passing joy. This is due to the idea of the hedonic treadmill  “you adjust to new situations and possessions remarkably quickly. Once you adjust, the happiness fades. On the other hand, goals that increase happiness are challenging yet attainable, involve personal growth, and have some internal value. So, what is it you love to do? In what areas of life does time seem to stop? In which activities do you lose yourself? Look at these questions to discern where your meaningful goals lie.

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3.     How Can I Be Happy? Breathe.

Most adults only use 20% of their lung capacity. This means that you are frequently oxygen deprived. As the brain runs on oxygen (and glucose), it is critical to remind yourself to take deep breaths throughout the day to increase happiness, psychological flexibility and the more positive emotions.

Take a deep breath in through your nose for 6 seconds. Hold your breath for 2 seconds. Breathe out for 8 seconds. Breathe into your abdomen or belly. As you breathe in, your belly should inflate like a balloon. As you exhale, your abdomen should collapse or be pulled in toward your spine. Focus on breathing out all the old stale air in your lungs. Repeat 5 times. Your breath is one of your most powerful tools to break the cycle of negative emotions and cultivate positive ones.

 

4.     How Can I Be Happy? Get out in nature.

Take a leisurely stroll outside. Gaze at the trees, the clouds, the plants and the birds. Studies have shown that a mere 20 minutes spent in a natural environment has a restorative effect on the mind. Remember to breathe deeply during your stroll. Recently, a study came out in the Journal of Environmental Psychology showing the vast mental health benefits of spending 20 minutes per day in nature. Twenty minutes surrounded by trees, birds, plants and fresh air decreases anger, increases vitality, energy, mood and happiness. One of the best ways to get feeling better is to reconnect with nature. Numerous studies have linked increased energy and well-being to exposure to nature.  A simple wilderness walk leads to increased feelings of happiness, less anger, and better immune system functioning.

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5.     How Can I Be Happy? Exercise.

Studies show that individuals who exercise more than 20 minutes per day, sleep at least 7 hours per night, and eat healthy foods that are naturally colorful have reduced feelings of anger and irritation, higher levels of happiness and well-being.  Have you worked out today? If not, take a brisk walk for 15-20 minutes (outside in nature of course!) to increase your level of happiness and satisfaction with life. Studies show that sweating three times per week reduces symptoms of depression roughly as well as antidepressants.   Exercise ups the production of “feel good” neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, and of proteins that improve connections between brain nerve cells.

 

6.     How Can I Be Happy? Focus on Gratitude

Practicing gratitude, the simple act of counting your blessings, has been demonstrated to increase levels of happiness, according to Lyubomirsky. One critical component to cultivating happiness seems to lie in spending time with others who are less fortunate than you. This is largely because the mind naturally makes comparisons. When you compare yourself to someone more fortunate than you in some way (e.g., wealthier, prettier, smarter, more successful), you feel worse about yourself. Yet when you compare yourself to someone less fortunate than you, you feel better about your situation.  So volunteer, visit an old relative, and be grateful for all that you have the clothes on your back, a bed to sleep in, a roof over your head, the ability to walk on your own, and so on. Get specific. Get back to basics. Appreciate all that you normally take for granted. It will make you happier!

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7.     How Can I Be Happy?  Learn Realistic Optimism

The simple explanation of realistic optimism is that it is the practice of looking for the best in each person and situation. Studies show that practicing being more optimistic can improve your outlook on life. Martin Seligman found that participants who learned realistic optimism had a significant increase in happiness and a reduction in depressive symptoms.  Lyubomirsky had volunteers write for 10 minutes per week about their dreams for the future and ways they could achieve them. Six months later, she checked in with them again, and found that they were happier, even if they had stopped their journaling.  What’s more, you can start with little steps.  Whenever something bad occurs, think of the positive that might come out of it.  It takes practice. It feels uncomfortable at first. But it gets easier. Keep at it!

Borrowing a Big Idea from Improv Comedy to Master Life

By Dr. John Schinnerer

One of the best ways to heal from pain and deal with the vicissitudes of life is laughter.  Over the years, I have made a conscious decision to be quicker to laugh; to be more open to poking fun at my self and to seeing the humor that is all around me.  And research has shown the benefits to doing so are massive – less depression, less anxiety, better cardiovascular health, higher quality relationships and more satisfaction with life.

One of the ways I’ve cultivated more laughter is by going to see live improv comedy as often as I am able. I’ve been to see Whose Line is It Anyway live several times. I go to stand up comedy clubs. I seek out top of the line comedians like Kevin Hart, Christopher Titus, Louis C.K. Sarah Silverman and more. I’ll even go with my teenage children to  watch improv at their high school.  The last time I went, I was really amazed how often I laughed at the teenagers – teens who had little comedic training or experience.  And this made me wonder, “How do improv actors build on other actors’ lines to create laughter?”

The answer is that improv relies on building upon whatever the last person who spoke provides you.

Imagine you are on stage performing improv comedy: It is your turn to speak next in a ridiculous scene where you are at a dentist trying to numb up a patient with a shot of novocaine. The patient is nervously waiting for the shot and asks you how often you use the laughing gas. For improv to be successful and funny, you must build on that premise. You don’t question it. You don’t negate any part of the scene. You build upon it. So, one possibility is to tell the patient that you had a large dose of laughing gas that morning and you begin to act drunk; shooting the novocaine into your own arm, and then your leg, and then you have a numb arm and leg (a la the classic Carol Burnett sketch).  The main rule is that you build upon what came before.

This is seen in daily language as “Yes, and.”

As in…

“Yes, I hear you, AND have you tried this?”

“Yes, I would like to go to the movies, AND I’d like to see a comedy.”

This approach draws other people closer to you, gets you engaged in life and generates stories which you can share with others, particularly when you say yes to fun activities with friends and family that lay just on the other side of your comfort zone.

On the other hand, one of the thoughts that fuels depression and pessimism is ‘Yea, but…” I hear this frequently with certain clients who are anxious, angry or depressed. For example…

“Yea, but I’ve tried all those things.”

“Yea, but that will never work for me.”

“Yea, but I could never do that.”

“Yea, but that’s too much work.”

As I’m teaching certain clients proven tools that could alleviate their suffering, they are ‘yea, butting’ me. This error in thinking prevents people from actually trying new tools which could improve their lives. It shuts down the flow of ideas. It kills conversations. And it keeps people safely in their comfort zone. Unfortunately, real personal growth only happens outside of the comfort zone.

Here are some examples of better ways to reframe these ‘Yea, but…’ statements:

“Yes, I tried that before. And perhaps I didn’t grasp it entirely. I’m going to try it again!”

“I haven’t had much success with that. And I know people don’t always learn on the first try. I’m open to another attempt.”

“I haven’t done that in the past.  However, what I’ve done in the past hasn’t worked so well for me. Let me try something different. I’ll give it a shot!”

“It seems like that will take some work. And no change has ever come without effort and perseverance. I’ll try it!”

In the 2008 comedy, Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays Carl, an introverted, pessimistic single guy with a dead end loan officer job (the ‘Yea, but’ guy).  Carl hides from life and friends in his apartment until he attends a personal growth seminar with a ‘Yes Guru,’ Terrance. Carl makes a reluctant ‘covenant’ with Terrance to say ‘Yes’ at every opportunity. And this simple change to ‘Yes, and’ transforms his life. Carl has a series of adventures which make his life more interesting and fulfilling – even when the story isn’t altogether pleasant. When life hands you an invitation, accept the invitation.

Life is all about the story. Today’s story may be good or it may be bad. Regardless, it’s an interesting, emotionally-compelling story to share with those you love.  And stories are the main way in which we connect with others. And connection is key.

So try saying ‘Yes, and’ to life. Pay attention to what you say for a week. When you hear ‘Yea, but’ change it to ‘Yes, and’. It takes practice. It will push you out of your comfort zone. This one tiny change has lead to impressive improvement in the lives of many of my clients. Try ‘Yes, and’ for yourself for one week. Be a Yes Man (or a Yes Woman). Your future self will thank you for it down the road as you will be significantly more satisfied and happier with life.

 

Laugh for Better Health – The Funniest Websites to Crack You Up

By Dr. John Schinnerer

Everyone knows ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ right? It’s an old saying yet recent studies have coaxed it up to the capstone of credible clichés.

Laughter is known to have all sorts of short term and long term benefits. It aids in relaxation, improves cardiovascular health, increases pain tolerance, releases powerful painkilling endorphins into the bloodstream, and of course, improves your mood. There is even evidence that laughter increases T-cell activity which benefit your immune system functioning.

A recent study from the University of Maryland looked at the physiological reactions of a group of participants to funny compared to intense movies. The group who viewed a comedy had an increase in blood flow in 95% of cases, thereby increasing cardiovascular health. On the other hand, the majority (74%) of those who watched a sad movie experienced decreased blood flow. In the “comedy” group, the cardiovascular benefits lasted up to 24 hours.

Given the scientific evidence that’s stacking up, it seems that laughter is good for us on many levels. So being easy to laugh is a trait to which to aspire.

With that said, here are some 7 of the funniest videos and websites to induce laughter whenever you need some quick relaxation or an emotional pick-me-up…

Funny Or Die

A great Youtube channel which includes Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis.
It also includes a classic skit by Will Ferrell and his daughter called The Landlord which I find hilarious.

Barats and Bereta

Of the many funny videos online, this skit by these two is one of my favorites. It’s of two brothers trying to record a video greeting for their mom for Mother’s Day. Anyone with a brother gets this piece at a deep level!

S*&% My Students Write

This site offers bits of writing from confused students.

Example: “There actually doesn’t seem to be a definitive thesis. There is however a statement that overviews what the entire chapter is going to talk about.”

Clients From Hell

Amusing exchanges between clients and freelance programmers and writers. Like this prime conversation…

After sending two invoices for payment, I sent another and called the client when the receipt that they had received it came back.

CLIENT: Why are you calling me?

ME: You haven’t paid and this is the third invoice I’ve sent.

CLIENT: It’s even more than the last one!

ME: Yes. The contract you signed stated that I would add a late fee for payment.

CLIENT: You mean I have to actually pay you? I thought you were joking!

ME: What on earth made you think that?

CLIENT: You’re a freelancer!

ME: And…

CLIENT: Well, you work for free! If you were supposed to be paid, you’d be called a paidlancer or something!

Parents Shouldn’t Text

This site puts up mistaken, tongue-in-cheek and/or sarcastic texts from new-to-the-texting-world parents to their children.

 

Funniest websites funny videos
Funny Parent Texts

 

Reddit – Funny Jokes

There is some great material on Reddit in the Funny Jokes subreddit but be warned, the material is not typically PG-13! However, much of it is funny. For example, this (old) joke…

Three old ladies are at the park talking when the topic of how wonderfully devoted their children are comes up.
The first lady says: “I have a daughter like you wouldn’t imagine. Every winter she takes me to Florida for two weeks!”
The second lady, not to be outdone, says: “Pfft, you think you’ve got it good? My daughter takes me to Hawaii every summer for 2 months!”
The third lady looks at both of them and says “You two think you have good daughters. You don’t know what it means to have a good daughter. You know what my daughter does? Every Sunday, she goes to her psychologist and pays him $200 an hour, just to talk about me!”

 

D*%$ You Autocorrect

A site that posts some of the funniest autocorrect errors ever.

Funniest Websites Funny videos
Funny Autocorrect Errors

To life, love and laughter,

Dr. John Schinnerer
Executive Coach
Anger Management Specialist
Award-winning author of Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion & Thought
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
Positive psychology blog: http://DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com
Anger management blog:
http://WebAngerManagement.com
Happiness blog: http://HowICanBeHappy.com
Twitter: @johnschin

 

Positive psychologyWikipedia: Positive psychology is the branch of psychology that uses scientific understanding and effective intervention to aid in the achievement of a satisfactory life, rather than merely treating mental illness.

New Pixar movie on emotions – Inside Out trailer

I am an emotion geek. And I am psyched for this movie to come out in June of 2015.

Dr. John Schinnerer
Executive coach
Emotion expert