Something You Decide on Ahead of Time

“Do not allow the past or the future to rob you of your present.” I found this statement and the following story on I’m Happy Project website:

“A 92- year old, petite, well poised and proud man- who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind-moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready. As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. “ I love it “ he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight year old having just been presented with a new puppy. Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room: just wait” “That doesn’t have anything to do with it”, he replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged. It’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice. I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories is stored away, just for this time of my life. Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my Memory Bank. I am still depositing. Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

Free your mind from hatred

Free your mind from worry

Live simply

Give more

Expect less”

Main Lessons from Happiness Book

Happiness refers to a set of feelings that are pleasant and the evaluation the person makes that his or her life is going well. Life satisfaction depends on doing well in major areas of life – relationships, health, work, income, spirituality and leisure.

Subjective wellbeing = positive effect – negative effect + life satisfaction+ flourishing

When a person is doing badly in one of these areas, it can color his or her overall life satisfaction.

Most people in industrialized nations score above neutral on measures of happiness, however, high stress and burnout also characterize many people on modern societies. Many are not engaged at work or are often bored and stressed. Thus even though the majority of people are above the neutral point of overall happiness, and at least the slightly positive zone, for many people there is still much room for improvement.

Yes, you can change your happiness set point.

At the physiological level your genetic code determines how your brain uses hormones that are vital to a positive outlook on life.

Some of the most effective methods of increasing psychological wealth (and happiness) are those that involve reaching out to other people in positive ways. Ex, make 5 kind acts for others, or gratitude journal and try active positive responding to others. Ex., meditation practice loving kindness, in which people focus on how much they love someone and doing kind things for them. Many of interventions being tried involve some form of heightened caring about other people.

Life is roller coaster, full of ups and downs for all of us. So

-Direct your focus where possible to the positive aspects of life.

-Pay attention to how you interpret daily events and actively challenge and alter unhelpful thinking patterns.

-Savor happy moments, concentrate on recognizing them, and take the time to remember and bask in them later.

-Notice the good things that others do and express your gratitude to them.

We can change our thinking! Thinking as like any other habit – it can be changed with effort. What you think you become. Choose the way you see the world.

To have the highest quality life, we must live a life full of meaning, values, purpose, strong social connections, positive emotions and negative emotions in situations when they are helpful, and activities in which we enjoy working toward our values, that are not self centered.

Live as though happiness is a process, not a place. Enjoying the activities and the striving that create happiness and that getting the ducks provides only short-term boosts to happiness. Activities and striving for your goals is a lifetime endeavor.

The Power of Positive Thinking

Happy people naturally reinterpret events so that they preserve their self-esteem. Optimists are those who retain a sense of hope for the future and interpret life events in a positive way. One example, my friend and her parents went to a fancy pizza place, the food was great, but as she got home she had stomach problems. Later her father read her blog and was mocking her that she wrote it was a great dinner. My friend told him that to her the fact that she went out with her dear parents (both alive) to a very nice place and had a very tasty dinner outweighs that fact that she had stomach problems. That last part just wasn’t important enough to spoil her memory of that day.

Positive thinking is a mindset in which you recognize your blessings more than you pay attention to daily hassles. Research on subjective well-being and other psychological topics confirms that happiness is, to some degree, in your head. Not only it is easier to change attitude that it is to change your address, level of education or income, a shift toward positive thinking can often lead to more gains in happiness than a change of life circumstances. This is a big difference – focus not on how much you lose but on how much you have left. The other night after watching Red Dragon movie I thought about the blind girl in it. I imagined her living her life being blind and realized how much more we (not blind) can do now with our lives and how grateful we should be for it.

New research shows that with a little mental effort, recalling good events from the past can boost well-being. Psychologists have begun studying “savoring”, the process of active enjoyment of the present and of using active appreciation to enjoy a past success. Subjects are asked to spend some time reminiscing about a specific past event in a positive way, who report feeling happier.

Where we focus our attention has been shown to have a direct bearing on happiness. In research by Sonja Lyubomirsky, it was noticed that unhappy people had the tendency to ruminate on their own failings and character flaws. How did looking inward vs outward affect people’s moods? They found that focusing attention on oneself could make even happy people unhappy, and that directing attention away from the self had the power to make even unhappy people happier!!! Of course, some amount of self-reflection is probably healthy, even if it means small bouts of sadness or worry. But too much attention focused inwardly seems to drag down happiness over the long run.

Because there is always both plentiful good things and bad things a person can notice, the person with the habit of attending mostly to the bad inherits the problems of living in an ugly world. In contrast a person who develops the habit of attending to beauty, the small good works of others, and what is going right in life will enjoy a pleasant worldview. Ex. From forgiveness class, when you see someone angry and unhappy and view them as vulnerable and seeking help, it may change your attitude to that person…

When analyzing the power of positive thinking it is helpful to remember that we can have positive interpretations only of what we are attending to. We can only decide whether the glass is half empty or full if we are looking at the glass in the first place! Those who cultivate the habit of seeing life’s blessings and the beauty and goodness around them are happier. As Einstein said “I think the most important question facing humanity is, Is the universe a friendly place?”

Happiness Book: Seeing The Big Picture

The universal truth we have all experienced is people interpret the same objective events around them based on their own personal values, biases, selective attention, and sense of identity. How we interpret the world around us plays a large and important role in how happy we are.

Scientific explanation of why people are incapable of taking in the whole picture: Our brains are information processors and the world is just too full of stimuli to effectively take it all in. From the movie What the Bleep do we know – we can only process ½ of all we see. And even what we see we interpret in our own way, based on our assumptions and values, which may not be true/valid.

We pick and choose what we pay attention to, and our brains are evolutionary adapted to do this well. We tend to be on the lookout for potentially harmful things, are adept at reading social cues and are pretty good at integrating sights, sounds, smells without even thinking about it. But then the world around becomes complex, we tend to narrow our attention to the things that matter (up to the limit we can understand).

The focusing illusion occurs when one fact about a choice particularly stands out in our minds, so much that we tend to overlook other important characteristics. Divorced woman is only a part time divorced woman as the rest is a shopper, an employee and a friend. We are full time something only if we choose to dwell on it. Pathetic fallacy happens if you think that all poor people are unhappy, but forget that they have families, friendships, love lives, etc.

Change blindness occurs because people have tendency to encode things by broad category rather than any detail, as a means of simplifying complex information. We seem to notice general information during transactions, but not specific characteristics of a person if they aren’t relevant to the transaction. Many things to us are broad categories, such as that person is an employee, Australian, female, young, and then complexity is noticed when we get to know them better.

You can get around not seeing the full picture by talking to others and benefiting from their experience. You can do more research to learn about other people’s perspective online or from the books.

Mistakes we make forecasting our happiness and make choices:

  1. Focusing on a single salient feature or period of time in a choice, rather than looking at the big picture
  2. Overestimating the long-term impact of our choices
  3. Forgetting that happiness is ongoing process not a destination
  4. Paying too much attention to external info while overlooking personal preference and experiences
  5. Trying to max decisions rather than focusing on personal satisfaction
  6. Confusing wanting something for liking it later, and forgetting to evaluate whether we will enjoy the choice once its novelty wears off

Happiness Book Highlights

I just finished reading Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth book by Ed and Robert Diener. I find it the most entertaining and comprehensive books on happiness so far. The book describes psychological wealth, which includes life satisfaction and happiness. Even though I don’t agree with certain statements in the book, I’d like to point out some highlights.


Many people believe that their work is a drudge and their leisure is fun. But some activities are work for some and leisure hobbies for others. NBA players do for work what most of us do for fun – play and watch basketball. What farmers do for work, most of us do for fun – gardeners and hobby farmers. There is no clear line on what is work or leisure. Think about your job as something enjoyable half the battle. If you are not enjoying your job, perhaps you need to change job or change your attitude towards you job. Even if robots take over our chores, we will still do things we like to do.

When I was unhappy with my job, I couldn’t imagine what other job I could get to be happy. I feared that I will not be able to find anything better, but only worse, until one day I said to myself it is not about what I know or believe right now , not about being able to find a better job, it is about not being miserable now. I just didn’t see the point in living my life doing that job. It was the source of unhappiness for me and I decided to stop it.

There is misconception that some people complain no matter where they work. Not entirely true. People do find better jobs. I finally found the job I really like.

When people are the most happy at work, they like what they do and they can do it the way they want to do it, they utilize their core strengths and perceive their jobs meaningful.


Authors conducted a survey of 100 millionaires, out of which only 49 responded, 47 out of those said they were satisfied with their lives. It is possible that the rest 51 didn’t respond because they are not satisfied. But what is really important those who are satisfied said that they are happy not with the money itself, but pleasing family relationships, helping the world, fulfillment and pride from their work and accomplishments. So it is more about what you do with money than just having it.

Clearly there are well-off people who feel they don’t have enough money and there are people of modest means who feel that they have enough. No matter how much you earn, you can always want more, and feel poor along the way. Toxic effects of materialism or the “MBA trap” as I call it. It is all explained by one formula:

Happiness=What we have (attainments)/What we want (aspirations)


Individualistic societies tend to suffer from more social ills, such as divorce, suicide and homelessness while people in collectivistic societies can feel frustrated by their personal sacrifices. Take a moment and consider an unfinished sentence: “I’m…” What is interesting, in collectivistic societies people tend to finish it with words as roles like mother, woman, human, student, but in individualistic – with personal descriptions like hard-worker, beautiful, etc. In some cultures emotions, feeling, thoughts are not as important as actions or relationships. In Asian cultures happiness is more of a calm feeling of contentment compared to excitement in western countries.

Have an Average Day!

I found this Blog post by accident… or not! Check this out:

“This article neatly summarizes my feeling, but with a little bit of research to back it up; taken from the Utne reader, link following: “I once was talking to my friend and mentor Steve Chandler when he said to me, “Have an average day!” Taken aback, I asked him what he meant. Isn’t the idea to have great days, even exceptional ones? He told me a story about one of his mentors, Lyndon Duke, who studied the linguistics of suicide.

After receiving doctorates from two universities, Duke began analyzing suicide notes for linguistic clues that could be used to predict and prevent suicidal behavior in teenagers. Duke came to believe that the enemy of happiness is “the curse of exceptionality.” When everyone is trying to be exceptional, nearly everyone fails because the exceptional becomes commonplace, and those few who do succeed feel isolated and estranged from their peers. We’re left with a world in which a few people feel envied, misunderstood, and alone, while thousands of others feel like failures for not being good, special, rich, or happy enough.

When I was in the thickest cloud of my own suicidal thoughts, I was at university and I remember wishing that I could run away from my scholarship, change my name to Bob, and take a job pumping gas at a full-service station somewhere in the Midwest. Only in my fantasy, people would start to notice something special about me. They would begin driving miles out of their way to have “Bob the service guy” fill up their cars and to exchange a few words with him, leaving the station oddly uplifted and with a renewed sense of optimism and purpose.

I was, to my way of thinking, doomed to succeed. Delusions of grandeur? Quite possibly. Depressed and miserable? Absolutely. One of Duke’s breakthroughs came when he was dealing with his own unhappiness and heard a neighbor singing while he was mowing his lawn. Duke realized what was missing from his life: the simple pleasures of an average day.

The very next weekend, he went to visit his son, who was struggling to excel in his first term at university. “I expect you to be a straight C student, young man,” Duke said. “I want you to complete your unremarkable academic career, meet an ordinary young woman, and, if you choose to, get married and live a completely average life!” His son, of course, thought Dad had finally flipped, but it did take the pressure off him to be quite so exceptional.

A month later he phoned his father to apologize. He had gotten A’s on his exams, despite having done only an average amount of studying. This is the paradoxical promise of an average-day philosophy: The cumulative effect of a series of average days is actually quite extraordinary. If we put this together with another one of Duke’s discoveries—that the meaning of our lives comes from the differences we make with them, though these differences need not be huge to have a profound impact—we may well have the ultimate prescription for a happy, productive life:

Be an average, happy person making a small positive difference (and having a happy, average day).

In doing this, you create the kind of “exceptionality” that can be shared by everyone. ” Original artricle from Have an average day.

How The Imperfectionists Came About

The moment I saw the book The Imperfectionists at the Airport shop, I wanted to read it. It is on my list to read, and today I found writer’s review of the book. It is an example of resilience in action and reminds me of A Movable Feast, when Hemingway was in Paris trying to write a novel. Here is what Tom Rachman says about his book:

“I grew up in peaceful Vancouver with two psychologists for parents, a sister with whom I squabbled in the obligatory ways, and an adorably dim-witted spaniel whose leg waggled when I tickled his belly. Not the stuff of literature, it seemed to me.

During university, I had developed a passion for reading: essays by George Orwell, short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, novels by Tolstoy. By graduation, books had shoved aside all other contenders. A writer–perhaps I could become one of those.

There was a slight problem: my life to date.

By 22, I hadn’t engaged in a bullfight. I’d not kept a mistress or been kept by one. I’d never been stabbed in a street brawl. I’d not been mistreated by my parents, or addicted to anything sordid. I’d never fought a duel to the death with anyone.

It was time to remedy this. Or parts of it, anyway. I would see the world, read, write, and pay my bills in the process. My plan was to join the press corps, to become a foreign correspondent, to emerge on the other side with handsome scars, mussed hair, and a novel.

Years passed. I worked as an editor at the Associated Press in New York, venturing briefly to South Asia to report on war (from a very safe distance; I was never brave). Next, I was dispatched to Rome, where I wrote about the Italian government, the Mafia, the Vatican, and other reliable sources of scandal.

Suddenly–too soon for my liking–I was turning thirty. My research, I realized, had become alarmingly similar to a career. To imagine a future in journalism, a trade that I had never loved, terrified me.

So, with a fluttery stomach, I handed in my resignation, exchanging a promising job for an improbable hope. I took my life savings and moved to Paris, where I knew not a soul and whose language I spoke only haltingly. Solitude was what I sought: a cozy apartment, a cup of tea, my laptop. I switched it on. One year later, I had a novel.

And it was terrible.

My plan – all those years in journalism–had been a blunder, it seemed. The writing I had aspired to do was beyond me. I lacked talent. And I was broke.

Dejected, I nursed myself with a little white wine, goat cheese and baguette, then took the subway to the International Herald Tribune on the outskirts of Paris to apply for a job. Weeks later, I was seated at the copy desk, composing headlines and photo captions, aching over my failure. I had bungled my twenties. I was abroad, lonely, stuck.

But after many dark months, I found myself imagining again. I strolled through Parisian streets, and characters strolled through my mind, sat themselves down, folded their arms before me, declaring, “So, do you have a story for me?”

I switched on my computer and tried once more.

This time, it was different. My previous attempt hadn’t produced a book, but it had honed my technique. And I stopped fretting about whether I possessed the skill to become a writer, and focused instead on the hard work of writing. Before, I had winced at every flawed passage. Now, I toiled with my head down, rarely peeking at the words flowing across the screen.

I revised, I refined, I tweaked, I polished. Not until exhaustion–not until the novel that I had aspired to write was very nearly the one I had produced–did I allow myself to assess it.

To my amazement, a book emerged. I remain nearly incredulous that my plan, hatched over a decade ago, came together. At times, I walk to the bookshelf at my home in Italy, take down a copy of The Imperfectionists, double-check the name on the spine: Tom Rachman. Yes, I think that’s me.

In the end, my travels included neither bullfights nor duels. And the book doesn’t, either. Instead, it contains views over Paris, cocktails in Rome, street markets in Cairo; the ruckus of an old-style newsroom and the shuddering rise of technology; a foreign correspondent faking a news story, a media executive falling for the man she just fired. And did I mention a rather adorable if slobbery dog?”

The Tuesday Program

A Free Online Positive Psychology Program for Increasing Well-Being

Aaron Jarden from Canterbury University, Psychology, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Tuesday program is a free seven week online positive psychology intervention course which aims to increase general well-being by using already empirically validated approaches and techniques. Participants log onto the program website ( every Tuesday for seven consecutive weeks, learning a new topic each week. The seven topics include: strengths, growth mindsets, purpose and values, gratitude, communication, relaxation, and mindfulness. Participants learn these new skills in under 10 minutes by watching a short 4-6 minute animation, and then by downloading a short 2-3 page .pdf document which summaries what they have watched and provides instructions on implementing these new skills.

Forgiveness Class (Part Seven)

As we spoke of beautiful things in our life, someone said that the day is beautiful, and as if the day forgives you. I thought that the Universe forgives us too.

One girl said that when a couple of years ago she almost lost her sight but got it back, suddenly she saw that everything was beautiful, everything she could see again. It is always like that – when something tragic happens in your life and you survive, you realize that you are rich – you have your life, friends, and freedom – you have a lot.

Then the same girl said that we are not frozen, we are all changing. And those who hurt us change too. When you forgive you don’t keep them in the center where pain is generated, but you move them to the group of just people with their own weaknesses.

If it is someone who is dear to our heart, then we accept them the way they are. Love them for their flaws or say our good byes.

In the beginning all the phrases that the instructor was saying were just dry definitions read aloud, and I didn’t relate to them, as my heart was blocked by many walls. The committee inside was giving its verdict, “No, not forgive”. But as I went through a lot of emotional transformation, all our instructor described was exactly what I felt and understood completely.

”And soon you will die, life is too short to live with hatred.” ~Buddha.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Mahatma Gandhi.

“Stretch, extend your compassion, let forgiveness work on you.”

“What comes up in the present, arises from the past, but how I relate to it in present conditions the future.”

At the end we had cookies and talked more. I told everyone that I took notes after every class, which I will share on my blog. And here they are.

Thank you to our amazing instructor Maddy and everyone who attended the class!

Forgiveness Class (Part Six)

Then we switched to the second part of the meditation exercise, when we forgive ourselves. I started crying even more, as I realized that I did hurt myself over the years– not eating properly, not working out, stressing out, staying in miserable relationships, being stuck in unsatisfying jobs. Stress was eating me alive from inside out, and I should have released all negativity long time ago, instead of carrying it within me for so long. I forgive myself and I love myself. What’s done is done, but I will not do those things to myself again. I will take care of myself: exercise, eat healthy food, have no negative circles of thoughts damaging my soul. I will protect myself from now on.

In the third part of the meditation, I saw more people I held grudge over the years whom I couldn’t forgive but wanted to forgive. Again I imagined them for what they truly are – people who had a lot of issues themselves and out of fear, pain, anger, and confusion, but mainly out of weakness they acted harmfully, but I had so much love in me suddenly that I was able to forgive them. Let the Universe take care of them. Instead of bad things, I wished them happiness and inner peace that maybe they never had.

Then we were asked to think of five things we are grateful for and five beautiful things.

My five things on the grateful list: my parents, my sister, my friend in the class, myself, and my values and beliefs that keep me going.

My five beautiful things (I had to step out to the window to wipe my tears away and I saw immense beauty around me): sunset, clean air, trees, houses, warmth.

We shared our experiences with other people. The person who sat next to me thought that the sound of a gong was beautiful, the people and plants in the room.

Indeed, what a beautiful world around us.

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