Dr. Young is a Clinical Psychologist, and director of The Health & Happiness Center. She has an amazing story of battling breast cancer and working through the various emotions that come with that diagnosis. She shared with us some of her own personal story and integrated it with studies and evidence of how happiness is essential to our well being.
Happiness is a pretty cool thing. It’s not something that comes once we achieve, or obtain anything in particular- it’s actually an important survival tactic. It has loads of positive biological and psychological effects like creativity, intelligence, productivity, and an increase in energy levels.
I learned this at the Take Back Your Health Conference in North Hollywood where they had Clara Young, Ph.D who’s an expert on happiness speak on the subject.
Here’s a recap for Dr. Young’s talk and a little bit of insight from me too!
“Get busy living or get busy dying”
Dr. Young was a “chronic waiter”. She used to wait for the bigger house, the better car, the perfect marriage, and that lottery win, thinking that she would be happy when and if any of those things happened. Somehow prolonging the state of happiness until it happened.
It wasn’t until her diagnosis that she realized life is happening now, and that happiness would never be attained from outside, events or things. She realized it was actually a choice, something inside of herself.
She dove into the science of happiness and found some pretty remarkable and simple things. Here are some amazing nuggets from Dr. Clara.
“Happiness will help you achieve goals and dreams, and not the other way around”
It turns out that the daily habit of happiness has a lasting and positive impact on our lives long term- not the grandiose events.
In fact, money is not a huge factor in happiness. Studies show that there is no happiness level difference in people making 5k and 50k a month. Dr. Clara says that higher incomes come with baggage and 85% of lottery winners said their lives got worse after they accumulated more wealth.
Doctor recommends taking a look at what happiness looks like to you, recognizing where it is in your life, and to be mindful of the distortions we see everyday- media, trends, strangers, peers etc.
To increase happiness start with 1-2 habits. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Every little bit counts, keep it simple and doable.
These changes don’t have to be dramatic, the point is to incorporate happiness into your normal life. To start this journey, Doc recommends to sit in a quiet place and to jot down some things that make you happy for no reason that you would do for no money. You get to decide what happiness is, not someone else.
Here are some fascinating facts about happiness an some tips of how to mindfully recognize what happiness looks like in your life, and how to make small changes by Dr. Young…
Happiness & Your Health
Harvard is big on studying happiness and has found that when the brain is in the positive mode, it performs significantly better than when its in the negative stressed mode. When we’re stressed or worried, our master glands release immune supporting hormones, and on the contrary, when we’re happy those same glands have the ability to release immune boosting hormones. Our bodies are AMAZING!!
Five minutes a day of laughter or happiness can significantly boost the number of white blood cells, our natural killers, in our bodies. Hallejulah!
We can recondition the brain consciously
A five minutes a day practice for 2-3 weeks we can rewire the brain to be more optimistic and positive developing a pattern leading to success and happiness which in turn leads to increased creativity, intelligence, better energy, and helps to achieve goals.
Take an honest look at what’s going on around you and in your life. Unhappiness has a price and can affect our emotional and spiritual lives, causing medical and psychological problems.
Self-defeating behaviors are some indicators to what’s really going on; overeating, drug and alcohol abuse, messy house, being mean to others etc. However, these are all just symptoms, not the root cause.
Identify and acknowledge the unhappy in your life: things, places, and people. What triggers your unhappiness? Who triggers your unhappiness? Avoid, reduce, eliminate things and people
*Doc’s funny exercise: She mentally goes to Hawaii when someone is complaining, or going on and on about something negative. She smiles and nods politely but barely hears a thing! In her mind she’s enjoying the tropical paradise, while the other person was able to vent. She doesn’t take the negativity in, and the other person has no idea 😉
Turn off the news!
I LOVE this. I purposely avoid the news and don’t have cable because of this. I even go further to avoid reading certain magazines due to the way they play on our societies’ sense of lack. I realized one day that I never really feel that great after reading most magazines.
Break the cycle of automatically tuning into the negativity in our world out of habit. Avoid the bad and sad stories on the news- crimes, murder, natural disasters, war, diseases, corruption, and presidential race are all very depressing.
There’s not much you can do right now when watching the story so why go there emotionally? The only thing that can probably help it is to pray.
Doc says to start and end the day with positive sites, places & people.
Carrying around your frustrations, anger, and sadness will lead to serious medical problems and physiological disorders that can manifest itself through negative behaviors unconsciously. Happiness will have a hard time coming out if you have a lot of emotional garbage.
Let it out in a safe and confident environment.
- Doctor recommends
Psychotherapy, or something similar in a safe and trusting environment.
Talk it out with someone you trust who really listens
Expression: art, dance, writing therapy etc.
Exercise: sweat it out!
Car exercise :: Park far away and let it rip! It’s safe and you won’t hurt yourself or others.
When we let it out in a positive way we’re able to avoid the symptoms that come with sadness and frustrations when they’re not expressed properly- eating badly, sarcasm, rudeness, crime etc.
Work & Happiness
We spend more energy and time at work than we do with family and friends. Companies have discovered that if they have happy employees they can make more money.
87% of workers are unhappy and disengaged costing companies $550 billion per year, with high turnover.
Work in a place you love, and if you’re employer, treat your employees well!
If you want a happy partner, you have to be happy yourself. When you’re happy and confident, they come to you.
Disclaimer: Get a physical, before starting new activities or diets.
“Food is happiness- Isn’t this what we live for?! To eat!”
Almost every happy event involves food, and the food that we eat shouldn’t have consequences. Focus on eating healthy and delicious foods to avoid any feelings or regret to sickness after indulging. What we eat becomes our blood, our cells, our mind. Everything in our body is affected by the food we eat.
When reducing and eliminating things like meats, dairy, sugar, alcohol, sodas, processed and fast foods you’ll begin to notice a natural feeling of happiness and more positive thoughts. Doc says eat more veggies, fruits, nuts, grains.
Countless studies show how exercise it’s good for our body and mind. Moving our bodies helps with our emotions, enables us to live longer, help with weight loss, circulation and elimination, and it increases endorphins. Because there isn’t a pleasure factor attached to the act of exercising for most, there’s a lack on motivation to do it.
To help combat this, Dr. Clara suggests diversifying your exercise regiment. Exercise alone, with a friend, and try something new!
Body & mind go together.
“If you don’t have it you’re not alive. We really need it.”
Dr. Clara shared that she really had to force herself for this one. She really made an effort to talk to people. In her research she found that isolated people tend to be unhappier, have more psychological issues, live shorter lives, and become hoarders! She cannot say enough with how important social connection is.
When we retreat into our head, perception can be distorted. (Oh man, do I know what that’s like!)
Harvard studies say that people with good relationships with family, friends, and spouses were happier long term.
Pets are also a great happiness increaser. Good relationship with pets increase happiness and longevity and pets in the workplace increase energy, moods, and productivity.
*Say hello to a stranger! It’s not much! Just saying hi to someone makes you feel good!
“If you can find the humor in it, you’ve conquered it!”
Laughing decreased both physical and emotional pain- heart disease, blood pressure, stress, cholesterol are all lowered from laughing. Some hospitals incorporate laugh therapy in their treatment plans.
Dr. Clara had us get up and laugh for ten seconds and the energy in the room completely shifted.
She says that sometimes we gotta search for the laughter! She suggests laugh therapy, laughter yoga, searching for websites, favorite shows, jokes, photos, videos, uncle bob, etc.
I’m so glad this is included in this list. Dancing is the best! I dance alone in my apartment almost every day. I really get a kick out of myself 🙂
Dancing dates back to beginning of time. It’s fun, you sweat out toxins, you can do it alone, with friends, in private or public! It’s not about being a good or bad dancer, so get up, and get down!
Dr. Clara had us get up and dance a little too! So fun!
Harvard studies show consistent evidence that people with a sense of gratitude are healthier, happier, and live longer.
- Doc recommends
Keeping a daily/weekly journal
Making a gratitude list and carrying it with you
Say thank you to others and to yourself
MEANING & PURPOSE
“This is your life you’re living”
It’s up to you to find what gives your life meaning and purpose. Finding something that makes you want to get up in the morning brings a great deal of happiness. It can be a worthy cause, children, pets, art, dramas, your children, star wars etc.
Whatever it is do it! If you haven’t found it, that’s okay. Do some soul searching and self discovery to find that thing that gives you energy and life.
FUN! // A MUST!
Doctor tells us to keep it simple, keep it light, and keep it silly! Fun shouldn’t have consequences- no hangovers, no extra bloat in the morning, no waking up in vegas married. Good clean fun. It should be free or relatively inexpensive.
We as humans want to give and connect. When we’re feeling down, giving helps to ground us and bring gratitude into our lives. Volunteering is a great way to show others compassion while giving yourself a gift a well.
Random acts of kindness is a great way to show compassion to others. But giving a bit more than an act of kidness is show to increase happiness. That is compassion.
NATURE is happiness
Nature is the shit. I was feeling the other morning and went for a 40 minute hike near my house and left feeling light and bright! Doctor recommends surrounding yourself with plants, getting your hands into the earth by gardening, and spending more time outdoors and around animals and pets.
Nature is cheaper than therapy, and animals and pets improve health and longevity. Pets are able to give unconditional love which can be elusive among humans.
Take a break, relax, meditate and smell the roses. A let us all help heal and preserve nature for our sanity and happiness.
“YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH RIGHT NOW AS YOU ARE”
I love this. Take that in for a moment. You are good enough right now as you are.
We live in a society where we are always trying to achieve things to validate our lives and get other people’s approval. In any given day, you can just be. And that’s okay.
Decide what makes you happy. Do what you love. Keep it simple. We are constantly changing and evolving through our life experiences, so keep an open mind and be gentle with yourself.
- Benefits of Daily Happiness from Dr. Young
Difficult people don’t get under your skin as much
Healthier state of mind, less emotional, calmer.
Body feels lighter and mind feels balanced
Enjoy the day more
Friendlier, giving, nicer. family will thank you!
Helps you live in the present and keeps you moving forward
It can have a global effect
And so much more!