Friday, March 13, 2009
by James Tighe
Happiness, wellbeing, contentment, harmony, enjoyment and peace don't all mean the same thing, but they all suggest self-esteem and a positive outlook on life.
Secrets of everyday wellbeing
Someone once said the secret of happiness is having someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. There's probably some truth in this, although it doesn't mean you have to have an adoring spouse or partner, a high-powered job and a world cruise coming up to enjoy life.
The 'someone to love' could be a friend, relative or pet, and the 'something to do' and 'something to look forward to' could be just about anything you enjoy.
But even if you have those three 'somethings', there may be times when you don't feel very happy. Our mood can be affected by all sorts of things, including lifestyle, past experiences and genetic factors.
Scientists think that people who always seem to be in a good mood may simply have naturally higher levels of certain substances - endorphins (types of hormone) and the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
These are released by the brain and make us feel good when we're enjoying ourselves or when something pleasant happens.
Our state of mind is only partly influenced by the past or by physical factors. The rest is down to us - the way we think about things and how we manage different aspects of our lives. Most of us have much more influence over our feelings than we may think.
We can't always avoid negative thoughts, but one of the secrets of mental balance is being able to notice when you're 'choosing' or 'allowing yourself' to think negatively rather than positively, and keeping an eye on the way your lifestyle affects your mood.
• The ability to express your feelings
• Aiming for achievable goals
• Time for the things you enjoy
• A healthy diet
• A sport or exercise you enjoy
• Work you find rewarding
• A comfortable balance between work and leisure
• Time to yourself, to do the things that interest you
• time for friends and family
Things to minimize:
• Too much stress
• Feelings of rage or frustration
• Expecting too much of yourself
• Negative thoughts and feelings
There's no instant recipe for a sense of wellbeing - but these are some of the main ingredients.
One important ingredient in wellbeing is self-esteem. Definitions vary, but all agree that high self-esteem means we appreciate ourselves and our own worth. More specifically, this means we have a positive attitude, are confident of our abilities and see ourselves as competent and in control of our lives.
Low self-esteem can mean we feel helpless, powerless and even depressed.
Our self-esteem has huge implications for our life paths: our history of self-esteem begins as children and continues throughout our lives, affecting all our decisions.
Rejections, disappointments and failure are part of life and even our best efforts aren't always successful, but high self-esteem can help us get through the bad patches.