My Dad is gone but …….

My Dad died in 1996 but I continue to be Happy Anyway because of all that he was to me. You see, he is not gone in my mind. I still turn to him regularly for advice, opinions, guidance and praise.

Any guy can beget a child but it takes lots more to be a Dad.

  • A Dad loves the child unconditionally and allows that love to show all the time.
  • A Dad “plays” with the child in ways that teach great life lessons without needing to nag and pester.
  • A Dad lives and openly demonstrates the values that are important to live by and this is what the child will see and emulate.
  • A Dad will correct and impose age-appropriate discipline so the child learns how to operate in our society in ways that will bring success in whatever the child eventually chooses to do.
  • A Dad will offer age appropriate advice when it is requested (or needed) and then will trust the child to make his/her own decision.
  • A Dad will respect the right and need of the child to make theses decisions as part of the maturing process ( that never stops it seems :-)).
  • A Dad will sometimes say no.
  • A Dad will never stoop to “I told you so”. Rather, a Dad will be there and listen and give advice as and when requested.

A Dad does lots of other things. My Dad did all of these things and much more. I was always amazed that he continued to be “Dad” even as I approached middle age and beyond. What is a wonder is that he remains “Dad” and is there when I need him even though he is no longer with us. I don’t think a guy could ask for more.

Dads, be a strong and loving example to your children. Live your values. Do what you say! Give them the tools and then stand aside.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day with you children.

Analysis or Cognitive?

I see so much about how people are spending years in psycho-analysis in order to be happier. I really do not get it. I am not saying there is no place for it, but what is it that you want?? To understand why your life sucks, or who you can blame for the way you are? Or do you just want to be happy anyway?

Then there are the folks who are in Cognitive Therapy. I sort of wonder what that is about as well. Really all it seems to be about is to decide what you really want and then make a plan to get it! I know it is a bit more than that but it is pretty practical and focuses on outcome. You only need to look at the why question to see if it can happen again. If it can, develop a means to handle or avoid it. If it can’t, ….!!

What we really, really, really, REALLY want is to just be happy anyway! What has happened is done. At worst, it is a trail that you can still see. It does need to equal the future. What might happen is in the future. If we can really control it, make plans and deal with it. If it is not in your control, just get on with today!

So, how do we be happy anyway? There are so many books and courses on this I am always surprised that we are not all just plain happy. Actually, most of us, most of the time. We instinctively know what to do to be happy. We just loose track once in a while. Here are a few focus reminders to consider:

  • Intend to be happy.
  • Look for the good, even in bad things! Lessons learned.
  • Expect good things to happen – be optimistic.
  • Hang around happy people.
  • Give yourself time to be angry, sad, to grieve. But decide when to look for the happiness again. Set a deadline! Limit the time.

There are lots of tips here at this site and around the world. Look for the good ones that make sense to you. Remember the outcome you desire – to be happy anyway!

What Do YOU Do To Be Happy Anyway?

Quick – what do you do to feel happier when you are having a bad day? How many ideas can you list in just a minute or so?

We all have them. A day when things just don’t work out. Everything you do turns to mud. Someone lost your order. Every road you drive on has construction and delays that make you actually miss meetings! Your dental plan does not cover that but you still need it. You know what I am talking about here. A “bad hair day”! You just feel anything but happy. So, what do you do to get back to feeling happy?

I have notes saying “Be Happy Anyway” placed in strategic spots where I will see them during the day. I change them up on occasion so that my mind’s eye does not just ignore them and not see them. The reason that helps me so much is because I have something else that I can use and the notes remind me to use it if I really need a boost.

Actuall it is 2 things. Two lists to be precise. I have a list that I call my “Feel Good List”. I also have a list that I call my “Joy List”. I’l describe what is on each list and how I use it to return to feeling happy when I need a boost. Then, make your own lists up and use them the same way. It will help.

“Feel Good List”
I actually have a file where I keep notes about successes that I have had and events that made me feel good. It includes testimonials from others, letters of thanks or congratulations, newspaper articles that had an uplifting effect on me, notes of things that made me feel proud (of myself or of a loved one), places I enjoyed visiting (and what it was that I enjoyed), and so on. Feel good things! I can take this out and just look through it for a minute or so and in just that short amount of time I start to feel better. I shift my focus away from the ugly and over to the beautiful.

“Joy List”
This is just a simple list of the things I love to do that make me feel happy. A list of the things that bring me joy. Things that I can actually do. Favourite music to listen to. Walk in the park. Talk to my grand-kids (the Kiddies!).  Go to a play or live show. Work out. Read a book. Plan a meal with my wonderful wife. I think you get the idea. Make a list of things that bring you joy. Include things that are big AND small. Just looking at your list will start the juices flowing. But, make sure that you actually do something on the list so that you can bring back those feelings of happiness on those “bad hair days”.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day! 🙂

How You React Determines Happiness!

Men are disturbed not by things that happen, but by their opinions of the things that happen.
Epictitus (55-135 AD)
Greek Stoic Philosopher

I read this in a book a while ago and was struck to my core by how simply it states the obvious. It is not the events that determine our happiness. Events just happen. It is our mind (thinking) that establishes how we will experience the event – how we will permit it to affect us! It is our ability to form an opinion that sets us apart from other species. That ability to form an opinion is the absolute joy of being alive and experiencing life with happiness as the basis.

That person did not cut you off just to irritate you. The game was not rained out just to ruin your day. You did not fail to do that thing you wanted to do – the result was just different than you wanted. Things happen to us and around us. They just do! If we did not have a mind to form an opinion, the things would just happen and we would move on. That is what other species do.

I watched a bird build a nest in a hard to reach spot, find a mate, start a family, make hundreds of trips in and out just to feed the babies, stick nearby when they had left the nest, show the “youngsters” how to find food and stay out of harms’ way, and finally leave the area to head south for the winter. The next year they will do it all again. They did this with no big celebrations, no frustration at the huge workload, no show of pride, no anger at the rain that made them wet. They do not have the mind to form an opinion about the events that are going on around them and that they are a part of. They were not happy nor sad nor angry nor any of the other emotions we experience. They just were!

Our blessing and sometimes curse is that we do have emotions. We form an opinion in our minds that decides how we will feel. When “good” things happen, we can decide to feel joy or contentment or happiness. We can also decide to feel apprehension and worry in case something “bad” is going to happen to ruin the happiness. It makes more sense to decide to feel the joy, contentment and happiness! Decide that way! When “bad” things happen, we can decide to feel anger, frustration, and sadness. We can also decide to feel those feelings and quickly look for what we can do with the experience to learn, avoid in the future, adjust to new reality and see how we will meet the challenge to feel happy anyway! We get to choose. Choose calmness and happiness!

Of course we will have the negative emotions. That is how we can really enjoy the happy emotions. Knowing the difference. We should not deny the negative emotions. Rather, experience them, feel them, and as soon as we can, look to see how we can find ways to move back into the light and feel happiness again. How you react determines your happiness. Do not focus on the “bad”. Remember that the outcome we all want is happiness.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day!!!!!

Brain Plasticity

Our brain is like any other part of our body. It will loose its abilities if it is not used regularly. It will atrophy just like any other muscle if it is not used. I have heard an expression long ago that has resonated throughout my life – we start to die when we stop learning new things. I took that literally for a long while. Part of being alive is to be learning all the time. Learning stimulates the brain. But it is much more than that.

The brain has billions of neuro-transmitters that form connections that serve lots of functions. Memory, speaking, moving, understanding concepts, and so on. When we learn to tie our shoe laces, our brain forms a series of connections that are a pathway and that pathway is triggered when ever we need to tie our shoe laces. That is stored and accessed with very little effort so as to keep the brain ready for higher and new things coming in.

Dr. Doidge, in his great book, “The Brain That Changes Itself”, shows us how the brain is quite plastic. We have thought that the brain has certain functions that are exclusive to certain parts of the brain. If that area is injured or destroyed, we loose that ability forever. Not necessarily! Our brains have a remarkable capacity to form new networks and linkages if properly trained.

Where am I going with this? The brain is a sort of muscle. If we work it out and exercise it, it will stay healthy and actually grow (and I mean that literally). Our brains have stem cells that regularly form new brain cells all the time. So we have room for lots more capacity if we have new brain cells being formed throughout life. However, most of the new brain cells die quickly because they are not given a function. We don’t use them, so they simply die!

How can we keep more of the new brain cells? How can we keep our brain active and working? How can we stay sharper as we age? Can we fight off the ravages of time?

Our brains work a lot like our muscles. They build in a “memory”. We can do most things without thinking about it very much at all. What about if we just did things differently sometimes? Studies have shown that if we change up how we do a regular activity, our brain adapts and forms new pathways and that stimulates other areas of the brain to be able to do more. In other words, we can work our brain just by doing things differently once in a while. That has the effect of keeping some more of those new brain cells.

What can we do?

Change things up to exercise your brain and slow down the aging process. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand for a week. Drive a different way to work. Try using other senses when you are taking a shower (close your eyes and keep them closed while you undress, turn on the shower, get in, find the soap, wash yourself, shampoo your hair, turn off the water, get out, dry yourself, get dressed having set out your clothes in advance). Give your other senses a chance to show you what they can do. This forms more and new pathways.

In short, do regular things in different ways. Life-long learning is not just “book learning”. It is everything. Stay engaged. Observe and experience always. By all means learn new stuff, but also enjoy new experiences and regular experiences in new ways every day.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day! (And brush your teeth with the other hand ;))