Thursday, October 29, 2009

Self Image and Individual Happiness

A significant factor which influences our happiness levels is our ‘self-image’. If you sit back and think about yourself, how do you perceive yourself as in general? Do you see yourself as a serious person, as a grim person, a no-nonsense person, a melancholic person or a happy person? Our perceived self-image makes us seek and enact accordingly. A person who has a melancholic image will find reasons to burden himself with heavy thoughts even under happy circumstances. A person who has an image about himself which communicates humour or happiness will find reasons to smile even at the dullest occasion.

An American cosmetic surgeon Maxwell Maltz noted that after corrective plastic surgery some patients experienced an immediate increase in self-esteem. However, in some cases the patients continued to feel inadequate. He then recognized that reconstruction of the physical image would not help, if there was no reconstruction of the ‘non-physical face of personality’ or ‘self-image’. He developed Psycho-Cybernetics, a system of ideas through which, one could improve one's self-image and, in turn, lead a more successful and fulfilling life. The book Psycho-Cybernetics includes several techniques and is considered a classic personal development book.

The self-image in general and that related to happiness is imbibed at various moments subconsciously and soon we start identifying that image as ourselves (‘this is me’). The fact is that this is how we have come to consider ourselves as, slowly over a period of time. The self-image can be changed through deliberate intent.

The initial step would be to relax and then create an image of yourself as happy and joyful. Imagine how you would behave, act and feel if you had the new image. Associate words like happy, joyful, cheerful, jolly, blissful, humourous, mischievious etc with this image. This may need to be practiced frequently, particularly when you recognize that you are exhibiting the previous unhappy behaviour. Several experts mention that a behaviour practiced over twenty one days becomes a habit. Each time while practicing add more details (like speech modality, appearance).

It would be very useful to align this image with the individual definition of happiness.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Individual Happiness

It is essential that individuals are clear about their definition of happiness. In the absence of a clear definition there is all probability of a person being swayed by each propounded concept targeted towards him.

Though there are various concepts of happiness, I find the concepts of hedonia and eudaimonia to include a lot of aspects and easier to comprehend.

Hedonism: The doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life. A hedonist strives to maximize the net pleasure (pleasure minus pain).

Hedonism has been expressed in many forms and expressions have ranged from a narrow focus on bodily pleasures to a broad focus on appetites and self-interests. Hedonism is broadly said to include pleasures of both the mind and body.

Eudaimonia: Eudaimonia has been defined as the subjective experiences associated with doing what is worth doing and having what is worth having.

The adjective eudaimon is a compound word comprised of ‘eu’ meaning “well” and ‘daimon’ (daemon), which refers to a sort of guardian spirit. Eudaimonia could literally translate to “the state of having a good indwelling spirit, a good genius”.

As per the Aristotelian definition, people achieve eudaimonia by developing their ultimate potential and bringing this excellence and virtue to action.

According to positive psychologists, eudaimonia occurs when people’s life activities are most congruent with deeply held values and are holistically or fully engaged.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle mentions three prominent kinds of lifestyles (1) the life of pleasure, (2) the life of practical activity (politics), and (3) the philosophical (contemplative) life.

Within the definitions of a pleasant life, good (engaged) life and meaningful life, I find the concept of the ‘meaningful life’ appealing. A meaningful life consists of using characteristic strengths in the service of something you believe is larger than yourself. I would add to it the perspective of developing the strengths to the level of excellence. This would be an acceptable definition. Well, just to be a bit greedy I would maybe sprinkle in some hedonistic moments.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Personal Energy

Personal energy has been mentioned to have four dimensions: Physical energy, Emotional energy, Mental energy and Spiritual energy. For a greater sense of well being these aspects of energy can be expanded and regularly renewed by intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled behaviours.

The personal energy audit below helps to identify the state of our energy management skills.

__ I don’t regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and I often wake up feeling tired.
__ I frequently skip breakfast, or I settle for something that isn’t nutritious.
__ I don’t work out enough (meaning cardiovascular training at least three times a week and strength training at least once a week).
__ I don’t take regular breaks during the day to truly renew and recharge, or I often eat lunch at my desk, if I eat it at all.

__ I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient, or anxious at work, especially when work is demanding.
__ I don’t have enough time with my family and loved ones, and when I’m with them, I’m not always really with them.
__ I have too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy.
__ I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation to others or to savor my accomplishments and blessings.

__ I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time, and I am easily distracted during the day, especially by e-mail.
__ I spend much of my day reacting to immediate crises and demands rather than focusing on activities with longer-term value and high
__ I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing, and creative thinking.
__ I work in the evenings or on weekends, and I almost never take an e-mail–free vacation.

__ I don’t spend enough time at work doing what I do best and enjoy most.
__ There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life and how I actually allocate my time and energy.
__ My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose.
__ I don’t invest enough time and energy in making a positive difference to others or to the world.

How is your overall energy?
Total number of statements checked: __
Guide to scores
0–3: Excellent energy management skills; 4–6: Reasonable energy management skills; 7–10: Significant energy management deficits; 11–16: A full-fledged energy management crisis

What do you need to work on?
Number of checks in each category:
Body __; Mind __; Emotions __; Spirit __;
Guide to category scores
0: Excellent energy management skills; 1: Strong energy management skills; 2: Significant deficits; 3: Poor energy management skills; 4: A full-fledged energy crisis


Schwartz T, McCarthy C. Manage your energy, not your time. Harvard Business Review. October, 2007. [Full text]

Friday, October 16, 2009

Energy Quiz

Lack of energy is one of the reasons for lack of joie de vivre. There is a previous post with a questionnaire which helps to identify if one is stressed. The following quiz helps to identify energy drains. Most of us know what should be done, yet few do it. The quiz is an indicator.

Questions 1 and 2 are indicators towards sleep and rest; 3 to 7 deal with diet; 8 with exercise; 9 and 10 with lifestyle.

1. Do you usually sleep for at least seven and a half to eight hours each night?
2. Do you rarely wake during the night?
3. Do you eat three well-balanced meals a day at regular intervals?
4. Do you always eat breakfast?
5. Do you eat at least two portions of protein food everyday (meat, fish, eggs, dairy, pulses) as well as two portions of wholegrain carbohydrates (bread, pasta or porridge)?
6. Do you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day?
7. Do you drink at least one and a half litres of fluid a day, not counting very strong coffee, alcohol or energy drinks and keep your alcohol levels within recommended levels?
8. Are you active, on the go for at least an hour or more a day?
9. Do you feel content and happy with your lot?
10. Do you feel that you have a good work-life balance?

A ‘no’ answer to a question indicates a requirement of attention to that particular aspect.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thoughts and Reality

Masaru Emoto is a Japanese researcher and author. Dr. Masaru Emoto’s water crystal experiments consist of exposing water to different words, pictures, or music, and then freezing and examining the response in the form of aesthetics of the resulting crystals with microscopic photography.

It is claimed that depending on the different focused intentions, water appears to ‘change its expression’ and images of the water crystals are beautiful (in one study beautiful crystals were defined as symmetric, aesthetically pleasing shapes) or unsightly depending upon whether the words or thoughts were positive or negative.

The children’s version of the book ‘The Message from Water’ is available on the net. It is available in different languages.

Commentators have criticized the research for insufficient experimental controls, and for lack of sharing of sufficient details of the approach. In other experiments scientists have not been able to either accept or reject the findings.

At least there is proof that thoughts and feelings affect physical reality and it would be preferable to maintain an environment of positive thoughts, words and actions.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tips for Happiness And a Novel Term

Robert Holden shares the following ten tips to increase happiness.

1. Define Happiness – A person’ definition of happiness, influences significant decisions in his life.

2. Accept Happiness – Be willing to accept that happiness already exists inside you.

3. Follow Your Joy – Notice what truly inspires you, listen to your heart’s desires and recognize your soul’s purpose.

4. Choose Happiness – Choose instead of chase happiness.

5. Free Happiness – A lot of happiness is overlooked because it doesn’t cost anything.

6. Love Someone – People who give their time, energy and attention to their important relationships are happier.

7. Forgive Now – Forgiveness releases people from their past and positively affects their happiness course.

8. Vocal Gratitude – The more grateful a person, the happier he/she is.

9. Beware Martyrdom – The person and the people around him are happier when he treats himself better.

10. Be Present - Happiness is where you are. The more present one is in each moment, the more happiness he/she will find.

The above tips are discussed more in the slideshow ‘10 Ways to Find Happiness’.

While discussing the satisfaction levels of some individuals, in another related resource, he uses a term "happy-chondria" for a condition based on a belief that any happiness carries an eventual fall and price (A related technical term could be cherophobia). Dr. Robert Holden says that a person has got to dare to let life be great, and trust that happiness can happen and that it can last.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Endorphin Visualization

Robert Holden is a psychologist, author and broadcaster with expertise in the field of positive psychology and well-being. He holds a Ph.D. in the Psychology of Happiness. He is a personal and professional coach and coaches in business, healthcare, education and sport.

Endorphins are endogenous opioid compounds and have the ability to produce a sense of well-being. Holden suggests the following visualization for a wave of good feel in the body and mind.

Imagine that your body is filled with golden light (It can actually be whatever colour you like – any colour that brings a smile to your face when you think about it.).

Now imagine that light flowing throughout your body like a warm liquid, nourishing every cell and organ along the way.

If you look closely, you can see tiny little ‘en-dolphins’ swimming in the light. Each ‘en-dolphin’ is a carrier of joy.

Imagine yourself diving into the light and swimming with the en-dolphins. You can continue doing this for as long as it feels good.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kindly Happy

Kindness is the act or the state of being kind and marked by charitable behaviour, marked by pleasantness, tenderness and concern for others. A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual or in some cases an animal. There will generally be no reason other than to make people smile, or be happier.

A close association has been reported between kindness and happiness. Kind people experience more happiness and have happier memories. A simple intervention of counting acts of kindness daily for a week (‘counting kindness’ intervention) has been shown to increase happiness. By acting kindly and being aware of the acts of kindness, people appear to become happier and more grateful. Variety in the acts of kindness can positively moderate the effect of such strategies.

There is a beautiful, phrase "Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty", which may have been coined by peace activist Anne Herbert.

The ‘acts of kindness’ website provides resources and ideas for spreading kindness.


Otake K, Shimai S, Tanaka-Matsumi J, Otsui K, Fredrickson BL. Happy people become happier through kindness: a counting kindnesses intervention. J Happiness Stud. 2006 ;7:361-375. [Full text]