Just “Be happy” ?

by May Lim
Registered Psychologist
Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre

 

happiness

When someone says to you “Be happy”, does this actually help you to feel happy?

I think it is much more helpful to think of and engage in activities that promote happiness and a positive wellbeing.

Helping others

Have you had that feeling of ‘good’ when you have given a helping hand to another person? Call it satisfaction, sense of pride, glee, contentment, delight or appreciation. Whatever it is, there is a positive experience when help is given to a need identified. It feels nice to know you are able to impact someone else’s moment in a helpful way that is genuine and sincere.

This may involve providing companionship to another person.
Helping with a practical task.
Asking someone “Are you okay?”
Showing generosity towards someone just because.
Being available, interested and attentive to someone needing support.
Connecting people to others who can help in a more specific way.
Giving a hug or two…or three
Doing that important task that nobody wants
Sharing what you have or know with others

Deliberate acts of kindness adds to the wellbeing of many…yourself included.

Being good at giving and accepting compliments

When you notice something you like, admire or respect about someone, tell them.

Perhaps someone you know has a new haircut that makes you do a double take. Maybe you are pleasantly surprised by a new attitude someone has developed. You may have just witnessed newfound courage in another being. Someone you know has completed a project that they worked tirelessly on. You have just tasted a home-cooked meal that is so.good.you.need.to.have.the.recipe.

There is nothing wrong with being quietly impressed but there is certainly something positive and pleasant that happens when you articulate this in the form of a compliment to the person you’re impressed by. Maybe it’s the look of their face when they light up; the smile they break into; hearing it’s their first experience of being complimented or even your experience of wanting the other person to know your positive thoughts about them.

How good are you at accepting compliments? When someone gives you praise, do you feel embarrassed; politely dismiss it; create distraction by automatically highlighting something less positive about yourself or even reverse the attention by pointing out a positive element about the other person?

When you are on the receiving end of a compliment, do well at accepting it.
It means someone has noticed something positive about you.

Be in the company of kind and optimistic people

Wherever and whenever possible, surround yourself with others who are kind to you. The way someone treats you will usually leave imprints on your wellbeing. When you experience kindness, it’s likely you will feel something positive whether it be happiness, encouragement, gratitude, care, pleasant surprise, feeling blessed or even a desire to reciprocate that kindness in return to others.

Gravitating towards optimistic attitudes also adds to one’s wellbeing. When you are in the company of people who are hopeful, encouraging and give more attention and weight to past, present and future positive events, your own attitude will usually see an increase in optimism too. Optimistic thinking can be contagious; it breeds hope especially through challenging times though it needs to be practiced and experienced continuously for it to stay. Therefore, keeping optimistic company will contribute to the growth and maintenance of your own optimism.

Do something you enjoy

It is no surprise that most people’s wellbeing and happiness are enhanced during holidays. No alarm clocks ringing at some ungodly hour. Work and school schedules can take their own holiday. All of a sudden, time seems to work in your favour more often than not. Thinking of each tomorrow brings greater feelings of anticipation, relaxation and joy.

The message being conveyed here is to carve out regular time for yourself to do something that you enjoy. This can take the shape of whatever brings you pleasure. Take that holiday, day-trip or one hour break that would do wonders for you. Bake that chocolate molten cake. Watch a funny YouTube video clip. Go for a jog listening to your favourite music. Play a game with your family. Spend the day in your pyjamas at home. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a picturesque view. Whatever it is, making a regular priority for things you enjoy can help to give you experiences of reward, respite, excitement, rejuvenation and change.

Grateful Reflection

If there’s time for eating, driving, showering or other aspects of your daily routine, consider setting aside time for grateful reflection. This is when you think of things you feel grateful for and reflect on their place in your life and its’ meaning for you. More importance should be placed on the quality of your reflection time rather than on its quantity. What aspects of your life give you a sense of gratitude? What are your positive qualities? Who are the people in your world you appreciate? What past, current and future events in your life contribute to any feelings of gratefulness you have? What are the highlights of your day/week/month? Who said something nice to you and what did they say? What are the things/experiences/people you have in your life but take for granted at times? What wishes and goals did you have in the past and eventually managed to fulfil?

Reflecting on such questions can create mental shifts and magnify areas of your life that you truly feel fortunate about.

Be forever young

Growing older can bring a multitude of blessings, some of which may include wisdom, growth and experience. There are aspects of youth that one can retain or revive at any age, perhaps with more meaning and added confidence as time passes.

Take chances in life. Change the scenery in your life if that is something you have been wanting.

“Dance like nobody’s watching”. Leave self-consciousness behind. Take that last slice of cake without any guilt. Live life the way you want it. Run your own race. Create your own happiness. Being different is completely fine.

Be curious. Continue your exploration and learning in any form you like. Ask questions. Read widely. Strike up conversation with people from different ages and backgrounds. Visit places old and new. Learn a new skill. Reminisce on fond memories from your past.

Have fun. Follow that urge to play on the playground and swing on that swing. Maybe it’s time to revive an old pastime. Laugh lots and out loud.

What will you do today to look after your happiness and wellbeing?

May Lim is a Registered Psychologist at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre.
Visit her site @maylim

Hope

by May Lim
Registered Psychologist
Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre

Hope.

HopeA reason for surviving. A reason for living. A reason to keep going despite facing adversity.

I really do feel encouraged and hungry to know more every time someone introduces me to Hope. This thing called Hope – it’s amazing and powerful. I’ve seen it when it’s full and generous; when it’s fragile and fading and also when it’s been lost and found.

When I encounter people who have experienced suffering in their lives, I like to be respectfully curious about what has encouraged them to persevere. My experiences supporting asylum seekers and refugees living and waiting in detention has further allowed me to witness the significance of hope in keeping life alive. I would invite them to consider, “If you are a candle and your hope is your flame, what would your flame look like now?” Many responses communicated that their flames were weak and faint. Despite the condition of their flames, one thing was for sure – though their flames were often flickering unsteadily, they certainly were not extinguished. Though their hope was not at its strongest and at grand heights, it was still alive and served a purpose.

Despite living through trauma and torture, witnessing atrocities and death, being displaced from their homes, enduring separation from family as well as facing an uncertain future for an unknown length of time, just how did Hope manage to stay alive and keep its job?

From my conversations with people I’ve met, it was love.

A strong and steadfast love for their family and all of its members – children, their spouse, parents, siblings and grandparents. A hope for a future filled with safety, promise and new beginnings for themselves and their loved ones. How powerful is love in its ability to protect and engineer hope? I witnessed how individuals can grow and strengthen their hope as a result of deriving meaning from suffering. It is truly encouraging to experience the positive changes that occur when one’s relationship with suffering shifts into a purposeful one.

Friedrich Nietzsche stated “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how” ” , Viktor Frankl outlined in Man’s Search for Meaning (2006), detailing descriptions of life and spiritual survival in Nazi concentration camps.

Frankl continues to describe, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which would determine whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become moulded into the form of the typical inmate”.

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity- even under the most difficult circumstances- to add a deeper meaning to his life” (Frankl, 2006).

I am inspired and encouraged by people who have met adversity and suffering with a deliberate attitude of hope. Moreover, it is of such value when experiences of suffering become much more than just a narrative – when there is meaning accompanying it. This distinction often makes the difference in the growth of hope for the person as well as others who later learn from this.

It is also noteworthy to highlight that suffering is not necessary to find meaning, only that “meaning is possible in spite of suffering” (Frankl, 2006).

Hope has a beautiful recipe of turning challenges into triumphs. It can propel us to choose how to cope with difficulties, draw meaning from it and coax us in a forward facing direction. Hope can be instrumental in the formation of helpful attitudes and can also be contagious.

When we reflect on the “why” and our purpose for travelling through hard times, this may be unique for every person. Perhaps it’s out of love and commitment to loved ones, a promise made to ourselves, a test of our spiritual faith, a relentless goal for the future, a need to experience positive changes, a lesson longing to be passed down to the next generation, a desire to acquaint ourselves with a stronger developed self, a hope for healing and restoration, a want for reconnection to others or maybe a search for a deeper meaning in life.

Whatever your reasons are for persisting through hardship, may they arm you and fuel you with Hope and more of it.

 

 

Reference:
Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning. Massachusetts: Beacon Press.

May Lim is a Registered Psychologist at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre.
Read more about her @maylim

Healthy Sleep Tips

by May Lim
Registered Psychologist
Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre

“I can’t sleep!” is something I hear very often in my role as a psychologist.

Good sleep is so important in our lives as it helps us to function well daily. When people have difficulty sleeping, they often have problems with falling or staying asleep, waking up too early, feeling worried or depressed, racing thoughts before sleeping or in the middle of the night and often experience fatigue in the daytime.

Ongoing sleeplessness can be frustrating and can impair a person’s daily functioning at home, work or school. Sleeplessness can often occur during stressful periods of a person’s life leading to them to be awake and preoccupied with thoughts ranging from personal issues, finances, relationships, conflict, family, health, work stress, studies, important decisions and many other life concerns. If the sleeplessness continues for a period of time, it can progress to insomnia and it is common for a person to then have the added concern about having trouble with sleeping.

To promote better sleep it is useful to first apply some healthy sleep hygiene practices during the day, evening and at bedtime.

Healthy sleep tips during the day:

  • During the day, aim to establish regular times for achieving tasks, meal times, taking medication and other activities.
  • Engage in regular exercise during the day or early evening as it promotes good quality sleep at night as well as assists in being awake and alert during the day.
  • Allocate a portion of time to engage in brainstorming to solve current problems and make decisions. This can then ease pressure and decrease rumination of problems and decisions before and during bedtime.
  • Resist the temptation to take a nap during the day as long naps can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.

Healthy sleep tips during the evening:

  • In the event there are outstanding issues you are thinking about, write them down so you can deal with them the following day.
  • Stay away from beverages with caffeine after 4pm. This is because caffeine increases adrenaline production and obstructs sleep-inducing brain chemicals.
  • Engaging in light exercise in the early rather than late evening may assist with sleeping well at night.
  • Do not consume a large amount of food or smoke right before going to sleep.
  • Avoid having alcohol to assist with sleeping as it can actually contribute to fatigue the following day.
  • Before moving to your bed, relaxing activities like listening to peaceful music or reading can assist with preparation for sleeping.
  • Ensure the temperature of your bedroom is neither too cold or hot as well as not too noisy. Keep your bedroom dark. In the event you have difficulty with oversleeping, make sure there is an opportunity for the morning light to be present in your room.

Healthy sleep tips when going to sleep:

  • Develop soothing bedtime habits before going to sleep so your body and mind can prepare for rest. This can include doing relaxation exercises such as meditation and breathing exercises, listening to peaceful music or having a warm bath or shower. Refrain from watching television when in bed as this will keep your mind alert making it difficult to be relaxed and fall asleep.
  • It is helpful to only go to bed when you feel sleepy.
  • If you wake up too early in the night and are awake for more than 30 minutes, rise out of bed and engage in a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. Avoid sleeping in to compensate for time awake during the night.
  • Aim to wake up at the same time every morning.

I’d like to invite you to practise these healthy sleep habits regularly as it can make a difference to your quality of sleep. Like any healthy outcomes, it takes determination, patience and consistency to experience the benefits of these healthy sleep habits.

If there are negative thoughts which keep popping up in your mind that seem to keep you from sleeping well, it is often useful to share these thoughts with people in your life whether it be family, friends, a GP, counsellor or a psychologist.

All the best in your goals to try and sleep well!

Reference:
 Ashfield, J.(2010).Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family. 
South Australia: Peacock Publications.

May Lim is a Registered Psychologist at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre.
Visit her site @maylim

If you would like to make an appointment with May, please call (02) 9869 0377.