The Happiness Index

Common dilemmas and nifty solutions –  Treat your body and mind to a fine new year.

WORDS Alexander Ponsonby

The daily demands of work, family, and relationships are daunting to say the least. Add in bills, traffic and the myriad distractions of a life online, and it’s enough to make you want to set up home in the jungles of Cameroon.

This 2013, it’s not about punishing resolutions. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for the amazing things that you have achieved in 2012 and remember, whatever the dilemma, there is a way to feel more positive.

How To Balance Life’s Demands

Physical Load up on vitamin D. Research shows strong links between low vitamin D levels, fatigue and low mood. If you live in or near London or New York, the winter months can be gruelling. Lagosians, and residents of any crowded city, don’t get smug too quickly. Pollution significantly blocks vitamin D. To load up on the ‘sunshine supplement’, take pills or eat salmon,eggs and soy products like tofu.

Mental Take a moment to delegate. Dr. John Demartini, leadership expert and founder of the Demartini Institute, says: “Often people carry around so many tasks in their mind that they think they have to do, should have done or could do. The mental energy expended just thinking about this ‘never-ending’ to do list can leave one feeling drained, lethargic and completely overwhelmed. In today’s fast-paced world, it is essential we learn how to delegate and not try to take responsibility for everything. I suggest putting this imaginary list on paper, reviewing it and then separate what only you can do from what you know you can give to someone else to do. Once you have done this, you will not feel as overwhelmed, and you’ll immediately be more inspired.”

How to Feel Positive About a Situation

Physical Sit up straight. Richard Petty, Professor Of Psychology at Ohio State University, conducted a study and found that people who were told to sit up straight were more likely to believe thoughts they wrote down concerning whether they were qualified for a job. Those who were slumped over their desks were less likely to accept the feelings that they had written down about their own qualifications. “Most of us were taught that sitting up straight gives a good impression to other people,” Petty explains. “But it turns out that our posture can also affect how we think about ourselves. If you sit up straight, you end up convincing yourself by the posture you’re in.”

Mental Tune in to positivity. Paul McGee, author of S.U.M.O (Shut Up, Move On) compares feelings to radio stations. “Think of your mind as a radio. You’re currently tuned into your inner critic; you need to retune to hear your inner coach.” If you catch yourself feeling negative, get up and walk around and say “stop” out loud. Then pretend to change the dial to your inner coach. At this point, call in to the inner coach radio station. “List three things you would do differently next time,” says Ball of his technique. “Processing a problem, rather than dwelling on it, creates a positive emotional memory.”

How to Build Willpower

Physical Get some exercise. As you become more active during the day, your body starts circulating more  oxygen. Oxygen is needed for your muscles to work properly, your brain to work well, and your blood to clean out toxins. More than that, exercise is proof that sticking to a goal has benefits and they’re instant. One hour of brisk walking, martial arts, a zumba class or cycling will leave you feeling re-energised and focused.

Mental Develop a sense of urgency. Hollywood therapists Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, authors of The Tools, a confidence-building book favoured by A-List stars, say:
“We can always find a good reason to quit. The urge to give up is a formidable opponent. Consumer culture leads us to expect immediate results – but you must fight against the idea that there is a ‘magical something’ that will fast-track your progress.”

The pair suggest creating a sense of urgency. Imagine you’re lying on your deathbed. Having nearly run out of time, imagine your older self shouting at you to not waste the present moment. A fear that you’ve been squandering your life will work to fill long-term goals with a sense of urgency.

How to Feel Inspired

Physical Be childlike. “Remember when you were younger and you would gather your family around you to watch you do something – perhaps sing? Or dance?,” says the Law Of Attraction movement. “Whatever it was, you would believe in yourself 110 per cent, and demand that everyone watch. Even if it wasn’t even that amazing,  they would all be smiling and clapping.” The confidence and belief a child has is often lost in adulthood. Children have a strong drive to succeed, and they often know
no boundaries to creativity or imagination. They are not afraid to be judged by others.
“Believe in yourself like your five year-old self believed in you, look to your inner child for inspiration,and you will achieve more.”
Try spending the rest of today moving, reacting, and projecting your voice with the curiosity and confidence of a child.

Mental Travel somewhere. A change really is as good as a rest. Whether you can afford a five-star trip or a day in the next town, learning holidays and retreats such as a yoga weekend, are a fantastic way to meet  people and to gain fresh insight.

The Nigerian Field Society (nigerianfield.org) conducts excursions throughout the country. Try a photography course in London’s East End, or a couples coaching retreat in upstate New York (harmonyhillretreat.com).

Online Inspiration

Four sites for foresight, in travel, leisure and life

Channel your inner Indiana Jones and get away from it all.

Exodus is the great site for adventure travel packages, bookable right on the site, from city trips to jungle jaunts. Exodus.co.uk

Shimmy up the career ladder

This site has great productivity advice about everything from time management, achieving a good work/life balance, and starting up your own business, for everyone from CEOs to entry-level jobseekers. Workawesome.com

Never worry about money again

Money ‘check-ups’, budgeting tools, financial knowledge bootcamps, and more. This is a one-stop site for learning how to manage your money better. LearnVest.com

Laugh loudly and often

Full of the kind of hilarious, diverting inanities that are sometimes exactly what your brain needs when you need a quick fix of fun and a five-minute break from the daily grind. Buzzfeed.com

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