Top 10 Movies to Make You Feel Happy

Sometimes when you’re feeling down, there’s no better cure than a favorite, classic, make-you-smile movie.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My taste in movies has changed over the years. As a teen, I grew up on movies like Jaws, Poseidon Adventure, and Alien and couldn’t get enough of those adrenaline pumping thrillers – that are actually tame by today’s standards.

Although I still enjoy an adventurous sci-fi movie, I shy away from all those violent movies that mimic today’s harsh realities. Give me an old-fashioned, nostalgic, feel-good movie or a comedy that makes me laugh out loud instead.

In an earlier blog, I listed my favorite 15 songs that make me feel happy along with the benefits of music if you want to check it out. Today, I’ll share my list of top 10 movies that never fail to chase the blues away and lighten the day:

1.       Captain Ron

Captain RonMaybe it’s because my husband and I love to sail, but this movie never fails to crack us up.  The funny Martin Short plays the main character who inherits a sailboat formerly owned by Clark Gable. The family can make money on the boat if they sail it from a Caribbean island and deliver the relic in good condition to a yacht broker in Miami. His wife is against the idea until their 16-year-old airhead daughter announces her engagement. So off they go with crazy, one-eyed Captain Ron, played by Kurt Russell, guiding their trip. Of course, hilarity and family bonding ensues.

2.       The Shawshank Redemption

shawshank redemptionBased on a Stephen King novella, this movie features the wonderfully talented Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. The touching and inspiring tale is based on an innocent man, Andy, sentenced for life for the murder of his wife and her lover. Although he is introduced to the harsh realities of prison early on, Andy never gives up. He is able to bring dignity and self-worth to some of the other inmates and manages to find small moments of serenity and gratitude even in dire circumstances. Most inspiring of all, this resilient man never, never gives up hope.

3.       The Blind Side

blindsideWho doesn’t love this heartwarming true story of a young homeless football player who is able to miraculously turn his life around with the help of Leigh Anne Tuohy. Brilliantly played by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, Leigh Anne finds Big Mike wandering aimlessly without a coat on a cold night and becomes his strongest supporter. The film shows what is possible when you open up your heart to generously help someone in need and what can be accomplished when someone wholeheartedly believes in you.

4.       Up

upIn ode to my grandchildren, I’m including an animated film that is funny and wonderfully heart touching. This cartoon features a grumpy old widower who rediscovers his joy in life with the help of an earnest kid that won’t give up on him and a lovable talking dog. This beautifully written story proves that you’re never too old to take a risk and it’s never too late to have an exciting adventure. In fact, a kid’s movie is the perfect way to get in touch with your inner child and forget life’s troubles. Some of my other favorites include Despicable Me, Toy Story, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Shrek, and Mary Poppins.

 5.       Overboard

overboardA beautiful, snobby, and cruel heiress named Joanna (Goldie Hawn), screws over a widowed carpenter with four kids named Dean (Kurt Russell). When Joanna falls overboard and suffers from amnesia, her husband takes advantage of the situation to rid himself of his demanding wife while Dean plots revenge and claims her as his wife. Watching the spoiled Joanna deal with four rowdy boys living in a shack convinced by Dean that previously she was a fat slut who ”jumped his bones” the first night they met in the parking lot of a Seven-Eleven tickles my funny bone every time. “I don’t belong here, I feel it, don’t you think I feel it?” she asks at one point. “I can’t do any of these vile things and I wouldn’t WANT to. Oh, my life is like death. My children are the spawn of hell, and you’re the devil.” Of course, it all has a happy ending. Fun stuff.

6.       The Sound of Music

sound of musicNow it’s time to share my all-time favorite movie as a child. I must have driven my Mom crazy singing Edelweiss and My Favorite Things from this enchanting classic. Julie Andrews was my idol. The romance between the stern Captain and the free-spirited Maria, their daring escape from the Nazis, along with all those adorable children mesmerized me. To this day, whenever I see this playing on TV, I can’t resist watching.

7.       The Family Man

family manCritics called this movie predictable, but I loved the message. The film reminded me of Parenthood which also helps us appreciate the importance of family.  Nicolas Cage plays a materialistic, self-involved investment broker who wakes up to find himself in an alternative reality married to his college sweetheart along with a couple of kids. At first he is horrified that his sports car has been exchanged for a mini-van. Then the whole family thing begins to grow on him. This movie asks the question – are you living a life consistent with your values?

8.       Blazing Saddles

blazing saddlesMel Brook’s silly spoof of Westerns about a black sheriff (Cleavon Little) and his sidekick (Gene Wilder) coming to an all-white town is a classic comedy from the 70s. Add several eccentric characters including Madeline Kahn mimicking Marlene Deitrich, a bigoted preacher, a lecherous governor played by Brooks himself, and an Indian chief who speaks Yiddish to the mix. Yes, this movies is in bad taste, vulgar, crude, and absolutely scandalous with its racial humor, but it’s also funny! If you want to watch another hilarious slapstick spoof that changed movies forever, try Airplane!

9.       You’ve Got Mail

you've got mailIf you’re in the mood for a romantic feel-good comedy, you can’t go wrong with this update of The Shop Around the Corner (1940). This film has a couple of my favorite actors in their heyday – Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan – and is directed by the talented Nora Ephron. Maybe it’s because I love bookstores or maybe it’s the innocent romance, but I find this movie delightful. By the way, I’m also a sucker for Sleepless in Seattle.

10.   Arsenic and Old Lace

arsenicMy Mom introduced me to old 1940s movies as a kid and this one is hysterical. Okay, the premise doesn’t sound funny since it’s about two old aunts who have a nasty little habit of killing single old men. But with Raymond Massy playing the escaped murderer and his cousin who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and best of all, Cary Grant trying to clean up the sordid affair as he learns his family is insane on his wedding day – and you have some funny stuff.  Another movie that never fails to make me laugh is Auntie Mame (1958). Love it!

So there you go. I’ve shared some of my favorites, but I’d love to hear what movies make you instantly feel better. What movies did I forget to include in my list? Please share your choices in the comments below!

Five Reasons You May Be Unhappy

Just as important as finding out what makes you happy is knowing what makes you unhappy.

Reasons you are unhappyAlthough circumstances can zap your joy, in the end, it is your attitude, thinking, and behavior that dictates whether you are happy or unhappy.

Like Marcus Aurelius wisely said, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

With that in mind, the following are five destructive habits and negative attitudes that can get in the way of your happiness. I’ve also included a few thoughts on how to overcome these behaviors and thinking patterns so you can retain your joy even during difficult times.

So here we go:

You Hate Change

I’ve lived half a century now. When you’re my age, it’s easy to find your comfort zone and stay there. Keep in mind though that boredom can lead to unhappiness. Click here to read my article on why it’s so important to embrace change.

I’m not saying you have to go sky diving or swim with the sharks. However, don’t be afraid to try new things. Take a weekend trip to somewhere you’ve never visited before, try a new food, listen to different music, or learn a new language.

Don’t settle either. Happy people get themselves out of ruts and those same-o boring routines and make the necessary changes to meet their ever-changing needs, wants, and goals. In other words, they start heading in the direction they want go.

You Worry Too Much

Okay, confession time. I am so guilty of this one.

Even though I know worrying doesn’t solve problems or stop something bad from happening. Even though I know my energy would be much better spent changing what I can control and letting everything else go. Still, I have a tendency to overthink situations and feel anxious over things I can’t control.

So what do I do when I catch myself stressing out? Meditate on spiritual matters, try to get enough rest and sleep, write in my journal, do some Pilates, or read a book. I ask myself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? If the answer isn’t death, I force myself to move on.

For some more tips, check out my past blogs, Five Ways to Manage Stress, Five Ways to Quit Overthinking,  Five Easy Relaxation Exercises, and Five Ways to Stop Worrying.

You Hold Grudges

There’s a great quote by Mark Twain: “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

Anger, bitterness, and resentment are toxic. Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. For all you know, the person you’re so angry with could be having the time of their life without giving you a second thought while you waste all your time stewing in negative energy.

As I wrote in my article, The Value of Forgiveness, it is only through forgiveness that you will find peace, freedom, empowerment, and happiness.

You Are a Perfectionist

When I was younger, this was a real problem. Although I’m much better at being happy with “good enough,” every once in a while I catch myself wanting life to be perfect. Which, of course, it isn’t! Social media can make this problem worse if you constantly compare yourself to everyone else who is bragging about their jobs, weight losses, or families.

Not only does perfectionism lead to frustration because it is unattainable but it is also a bad habit that contributes to low self-esteem.

So let go of perfectionism. Learn to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Quit worrying about what other people think. Don’t take life and yourself so seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself and the absurdity of life. In other words, lighten up!

You Hang Around Negative People

Do you have people in your life that literally drag you down with their negativity? Maybe they are selfish, vicious gossipers, complainers, manipulative, overly dependent, or just plain miserable people.

What can you do?

Walk away. Yes, I mean it! Detox your life of negative people. True, they may become angry or act like a victim at first, but you must stick to your guns for your own emotional well-being. Don’t beat around the bush or defend yourself; be consistent and firm. It’s okay to fire your friends if the relationship is not working anymore.

Perhaps you can’t completely eliminate some of the negative people in your life. In that case, establish boundaries for your own sanity. Don’t be afraid to let them know when they cross them. Limit your time with them as much as possible.

So there you go. Do any of these five habits ring a bell? If so, make the necessary changes and find the joy and balance in life that you deserve.

 Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How to Find Happiness in Retirement

At age 54, retirement is not yet in sight for me. In fact, without pensions, my husband and I will likely work until we are 70. Am I depressed? No. If you’re in the same situation as us, check out my articles: Why Boomers Can Be Positive About Working Longer and Finding Contentment in Your Career.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

However, I realize that some of you may be fortunate enough to retire in your 50s or 60s. And since this blog is targeted at baby boomers, which includes those born between 1946 and 1964, the oldest of this generation are now approaching 70 years old.

Interestingly, according to a recent study based on data from the MetLife Mature Market Institute, more than half of the 1946 boomers are not working until they drop as predicted, but are now fully retired. Although 21 percent of this group remain employed full-time and 14 percent are working part-time, most of those plan to retire fully by age 71.

So if you are retired or approaching retirement, what are the keys to happiness during this stage of life?

While planning properly and saving for retirement so you don’t have to struggle to get by can contribute to happiness, there are other factors involved as well. Here are a few tips to help you find your bliss:

Focus on Your Spirituality

Along with a positive attitude, studies show that the older generation’s willingness to embrace their spirituality side contributes to their happiness. In fact, people who attend religious services regularly frequently live longer than those who do not; thanks, in large part, to faith, hope, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life. In addition, the social support that comes from being part of a community with shared values and beliefs can also contribute to happiness.

Find New Challenges

Retirement is no longer a word used to signal the end of a productive working life. Now many see retirement as a transitional point for the beginning of a new phase in life. Challenge yourself through meaningful volunteer work, starting a new business, learning new skills, or trying new activities.

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Take Care of Your Health

No surprise, studies show that good health is an essential component of a happy retirement. The fact is that people who suffer from chronic, severe illnesses tend to be less happy. The good news is you’ll have more time to focus on your health. Use some of your extra time to plan and prepare healthy meals, exercise, and stay mentally active.

Nurture Your Relationships

Nearly 20 percent of retirees say they are experiencing lower levels of overall well-being than they were before they retired. Although insufficient funds can contribute to depression, isolation can also be a factor. Married people tend to be happier during all stages of adulthood and retirement is not any different. However, retirement and being together 24-7 can put stress on your relationship, so you may want to plan for some time for individual activities. Interestingly, a recent Pew study showed that having been a good parent plays a large part in being happy during retirement. You’ll also find that children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can be sources of much happiness when you’re retired. Find ways to let them know they’re an important part of your life. And of course, now that you have more time, nurture your friendships as well.

So if you’re already retired, try some of these tips. If you are still working, start planning now for your retirement and you’ll be happier.

For those of you with experience with happiness during retirement, please share your secret to success in the comments below!

Happiness As an Introvert

Earlier this year, a report touted that extroverts are happier than introverts.

Really? As an introvert, I protest!

In June, The Journal of Research in Personality published an article, “Why Extroverts are Happier: A Day Reconstruction Study” written by Wido G.M. Oerlemans and Arnold B. Bakker. The article was based on research asking introverts and extroverts how they remembered feeling during different activities. Overall, extroversion equals more happiness, the researchers said.

This backs up another study published in 2012 by The Journal of Personality which reported that introverts are happier when they act more like extroverts.

I disagree! How can forcing ourselves to be the social butterflies we are not make us happy?

Introverts define happiness differently than extroverts.

Introverts define happiness differently than extroverts.

Susan Cain, author of the New York Times bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, makes a good point. She says the latest report might be less about who’s happier and more about how we define happiness.

She is quoted in an interesting article by Gwen Moranas saying, ““I hear from thousands and thousands of introverts. When they talk about the things that they most love to do, it’s very often activities like reading, hiking, cycling, being with their spouses, being with their children. It’s a quieter type of contentment that often fuels introverts and that we don’t pay proper attention to,” she says.

Extroverts get energy from other people and recharge by being social. So it makes sense that extroverts define happiness as feeling energized and excited. For example, going to parties or meeting new people makes those with extroverted tendencies feel happy.

On the other hand, introverts like myself, tend to recharge by spending time alone. Constantly being with people, especially large crowds, saps our energy. We introverts find happiness in a different way. We define happiness as serenity, peacefulness, satisfaction, and contentment.

Nothing wrong with that.

Of course, I think that introverts have to fight the tendency to totally isolate ourselves. No one is happy living the life of a hermit.

On the other hand, we do have to pay attention to our need for time alone, our need to recharge our batteries after a social event, and our need to indulge in quiet activities like reading a book.

So if you have a tendency to be an introvert, can you be happy? Heck, yeah!

You can also be successful as I pointed out in my guest post for Wise Introvert. Check out the article for tips.

If you’re an introvert like me, feel free to share your thoughts and ideas on what brings you happiness in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Recovering From Stressful Events

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever undergone a dramatic, shocking, or painful event that made your body shut down so you couldn’t sleep or eat? A distressing situation that left you literally shaking and unable to function normally in day-to-day life?

I certainly have and I’d lay bets that most of you have had this experience as well. When this happens, how can you heal and move forward in your life?

Here are a few life lessons I’m learning along the way:

Refuel

This means a lot of different things to different people. Personally, refueling during stressful times in my life has meant focusing on my spiritual needs and constant prayer. It means forcing my mind away from all the drama, stress, and worry to make room for more positive thoughts. It means leaning on those who support and love me.

Step Away

When you are in an overwhelming situation, remove yourself from the situation long enough to gain perspective, calm yourself, and regain your composure so you can move forward.

Image courtesy of khunaspix  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Be Still

“Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time,” Hermann Hesse said. When an event leaves you completely rattled, it’s helpful to leave the TV, computer, and electronic gadgets off to allow time for some quiet introspection.

Nurture Yourself

Do something peaceful and comforting that slows down frantic thoughts and emotions. This may mean reading something uplifting and inspirational, praying, journaling, taking a relaxing walk, or listening to soothing music.

Seek Lessons

Sometimes the best way to get past the melodrama and move on is to try to learn from the experience and look for any life lessons. Allow the painful situation to help you develop strength and resilience.

Be Grateful

Now is the perfect time to remember all the reasons you still have to be thankful. Keep a gratitude journal or make a list if you need help remembering.

Admittedly, keeping your sanity through a dramatic event is never easy. However, if you can keep these tips in mind, it will help you get past the emotional, psychological, and physical distress. Then you can regain the balance and peace in your life that everyone desires and deserves.

How to Express Your Feelings

“That was one of the saddest things about people–their most important thoughts and feelings often went unspoken and barely understood,” wrote Australian author Alexandra Adornetto.

Express Your FeelingsDo you tend to keep your feelings bottled up? Do you have trouble identifying and expressing your emotions?

It’s a common problem. There are several reasons people suppress their feelings. Maybe they grew up in a family that has trouble talking about their emotions. Or they’re afraid to say something that may cause an argument. Some people use the “silent treatment” assuming that those close to them should instinctively know how they feel.

Then there’s the perfectionists that don’t want to admit they have feelings they consider “bad” or “weak” such as depression, anger, shame, anxiety, jealousy, or guilt. Those who have self-esteem issues may feel like they don’t have the right to express their emotions and fear ridicule or rejection. Instead, they simply try to please people and meet their expectations.

Whatever the reason, constantly holding in our emotions is a recipe for disaster. If we’re not in touch with our feelings and never learn to properly express them, those emotions can overpower and overwhelm us leading to more anxiety and depression. It can even cause physical problems like headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure, or cardiac problems.

So what can you do to become better at expressing your feelings? Here are a few tips:

Understand Your Feelings

Do not label your feelings as right or wrong or judge yourself harshly because you have negative emotions. Everyone is imperfect. Feelings simply exist and everyone is entitled to have them. It’s also important to understand that although feelings cannot be controlled, they can be managed. For example, if you are feeling stressed or anxious, simple relaxation exercises may be helpful. A quick jog around the block may help dispel angry or irritable feelings. A good cry can help relieve sadness.

Share Your Feelings

Get in the habit of talking to someone you trust about your emotions. This can be your spouse, a close friend, a minister, a counselor, or a family member. Make sure you choose someone who is a good listener, can offer you emotional support, and encourages you to freely express your emotions without interrupting or judging you. You’ll immediately feel relief. A word of caution: Don’t get mad if others don’t feel the exact same way you. Also avoid re-hashing an upsetting event or bad situation over and over again which will only keep negative feelings alive.

Write Down Your Feelings

Okay, I’m a natural born writer and a big believer that keeping a journal to vent your feelings is a great way to express your emotions. In fact, I wrote a three-part series on the benefits of keeping a journal along with different methods and inspirations to keep you going. If you’re the creative type, try expressing your emotions in a poem or a song. Writing down your feelings is a wonderful outlet and a great way to learn more about your emotions.

Learn How to Express Anger Properly

Yes, it’s good to express your feelings, but be sure and “let it out” in a positive and healthy way. For example, if you are feeling angry with your spouse, start sentences with “I feel ________when ________” instead of an accusing, “You always…”  Be assertive without being aggressive. When you calmly express your emotions and needs, you are more likely to get the desired results.

Use the above tips to learn to identify and express your feelings in a healthy way. And don’t forget to give voice to positive feelings such as happiness and gratitude as well!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Build Resilience

Build Resilience“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” said Nelson Mandela.

So true. We all fall, stumble, fail, and make mistakes. We all have problems, setbacks, and challenges in our lives. No shame in that. Our true strength shows when we are able to rise back up when we fall. That means we must be resilient.

What exactly does that mean? The word “resilient” refers to people who have the ability to bounce back from adversity. People who persevere, persist, and never give up – no matter what life throws at them.

Are you resilient? Want to find out? Be brutally honest with yourself and answer the following questions:

  1. Do you let difficulties or challenges paralyze you from taking action?
  2. Do you dwell on your failures?
  3. Do you learn from your mistakes?
  4. Do you look at challenges as opportunities for personal growth?
  5. Are you deeply committed to your spiritual beliefs, relationships, and goals and willing to overcome any obstacles or setbacks that stand in your way?
  6. Do you spend time focusing on situations you can’t control?
  7. Do you have an optimistic and positive attitude about the future?

If you answered “no” to numbers 1, 2, and 6 and “yes” to numbers 3, 4, 5, and 7, then you are one of those irrepressible people that can adapt when things don’t go your way or according to plan. You are able to cope and move forward when tragedies or life changing events occur.

Don’t despair, however, if your answers are don’t match the ones I listed above. Resilience is not a trait or quality that people automatically have but involves thought patterns and behaviors that anyone can develop or change.

If your answers reveal that you need to improve on developing some resiliency in your life to help you overcome life’s challenges, here are some steps you can take:

Take Care of Yourself

Who can cope when they’re exhausted or run down? That’s why you need to focus on your spirituality, get enough sleep, eat properly, and nurture yourself by making time for activities that you enjoy. Also learn how to manage your stress (for tips see my previous blog). The stronger you are physically and emotionally, the easier it will be for you to overcome life’s challenges.

How to Build Resilience: Be FlexibleBe Flexible

If you tend to resist change and cling to comfort zones, learn to become more flexible. Sometimes even unplanned and unexpected changes in your life can be beneficial – even though it may not seem like it at the time. In fact, change can even bring excitement and adventure to your life. So learn to go with the flow. Resilient people realize that nothing stays the same and embrace change.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Every mistake teaches you an important life lesson and encourages personal growth. As William J. Clinton said, “If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.”

Build Self Confidence

Resilient people strongly believe in themselves and fully trust that they will succeed eventually despite any obstacles or setbacks standing in their way. If you need to build up your self-esteem, make a list of your strengths and accomplishments. Set specific and achievable goals that will build your self-confidence when accomplished. Give yourself a pat on the back whenever you are able to deal with a crisis successfully.

Develop Strong Relationships

During times of calamity or stressful situations, it’s important to have a network of people that will support you. Caring people allow you to share your feelings and give you positive feedback. Focus on helping and comforting others during their difficult times instead of focusing on yourself and you will not only develop strong relationships but also experience inner peace and joy.

Think Positively

Try not to blow things out of proportion or panic when faced with adversity. Instead remain calm and optimistic that things are going to get better. As I wrote in a previous blog:  “A positive attitude empowers you to make better decisions, opens doors to opportunity, and helps you overcome obstacles. Optimists tend to devise a plan of action, marshal their resources, and ask others for assistance and advice instead of dwelling on their misery.” Sometimes we can’t control situations but we can control how we react to them.

Resilience may take time to build, but don’t give up. As Jodi Picoult wrote in  My Sister’s Keeper: “The human capacity for burden is like bamboo – far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.”

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Five Ways to Manage Stress

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you have a tendency to feel stressed out and worry excessively?

Look out!

Maybe you heard the bad news last week. A new study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden followed a group of women in their 40s, whose disposition made them prone to anxiety, moodiness, and psychological distress, to see how many developed dementia over the next 38 years.

Turns out that women who were the most easily upset by stress were two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

That means now’s the time to get stress under control, ladies! No more ignoring the problem. And although the study didn’t include statistics for men, we all know that stress management is essential for both sexes since anxiety has a profound effect on our health and well-being.

So how do you take charge of your thoughts and emotions to manage your anxiety? How can you change the way you deal with problems and your schedule to control your anger, frustration, and worries?

To help you get started, I’ve outlined five steps you can take to relieve stress:

Identify What Makes You Anxious

The purpose of this step is not to eliminate every stressful situation in your life. That’s impossible. Everyone is going to have problems. Sometimes you must accept what can’t be changed and concentrate on coping strategies.

However, knowing what triggers anxious feelings can help you concentrate on what can be changed. For example, perhaps you can limit your time or even remove negative people from your life that constantly stress you out. Or maybe you need to let go of perfectionism or stop being so hard on yourself.

Be aware of signs that you are feeling stressed such as feeling irritable, fatigued, or anxious and make changes when possible. If a situation can’t be changed, then use the following steps to stop these feelings in their tracks.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Quit Ruminating and Cultivate a Positive Attitude

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude,” Maya Angelou famously said.

How can you quit ruminating and develop a more positive attitude? Change your thought pattern, start a journal to release angry or stressful thoughts, meditate, enjoy a relaxing hobby, or simply breathe deeply.

As I brought out in a previous blog on Cultivating a Positive Attitude, you don’t have to be a victim of your circumstances. Instead of dwelling on what’s wrong in your life, start thinking about how you can make better decisions in the future, what you can learn from the experience, and ways you can use the situation to build character and strength.

Bottling up emotions can lead to a complete meltdown. Instead of holding it all in, communicate any problems quickly and honestly. Resolve conflicts and learn to forgive.

Appreciate the good things in your life, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Be grateful for what you have instead of lamenting what you lack. Smile and laugh more. Humor can help combat fear and frustrations by relaxing your body. Do something nice for someone to lift your spirits.

Learn to Manage Your Time

Sometimes stress can be a result of poor time-management skills. If a project seems overwhelming, try dividing it into smaller tasks giving each one a deadline. Delegate responsibilities whenever possible. If your schedule is cluttered with unnecessary activities that are stressful, learn to say no. Check out my previous blog for ways to do so. Eliminate words like “should” and “must” from your vocabulary.

Even if your life is full with exciting and fulfilling activities, you can feel stressed if you’re constantly rushing around. Cultivate inner peace by scheduling down time. Write it down in your calendar. Spend time in nature, play with a pet, call a friend, enjoy a hobby, listen to soothing music, or take a long bath. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stresses.

Exercise!

I know, duh! You already knew that exercise can help you feel less stressed, right? But sometimes when you’re feeling anxious, exercise seems unappealing and more like a chore.

Get past that attitude and don’t give up. As I wrote in my blog, How Exercise Makes You Happier, twenty minutes on a treadmill doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, but endorphins produced by exercise can help you feel happier by reducing stress and anxiety and lessening feelings of sadness or depression. I’m not talking about running a marathon here. Actually moderate exercise works best for relieving stress. Choose relaxing exercises like swimming, walking, or Pilates.

While you’re at it, adapt a healthy lifestyle with nutritious food and adequate sleep. Learn to breathe deeply and practice relaxation exercises. Click here for five basic ones I listed in a previous blog that you can try.

 Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Read a Book

This is one of my personal favorite ways to relax and escape from life’s problems.

Although often overlooked as a form of stress relief, research by Mindlab International at the University of Sussex shows that reading is great for your mental health and can reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent.

Yea! I have a new reason to delve into the latest best seller. Turns out the human mind processes reading in much the same way as meditation. When your head is in a book you can shut out distractions by focusing on one specific thing. Your muscles relax and your mind is given a much needed break from everyday frustrations.

If you are middle-aged or older, this new study is a wake-up call. Not only will you reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s but learning to reduce stress brings countless emotional and physical health benefits.

By knowing yourself well enough to tell when you’re under stress, you can take action as soon as possible, let go of all that anxiety, and find your bliss!

Long Term Happiness versus Instant Gratification

We all know that self-gratification doesn’t bring true happiness, right?

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But did you know that instant gratification – like eating a giant bowl of ice cream or pulling out a credit card to buy a fabulous pair of expensive shoes – can have the same physical effect on your genes as being depressed or stressed out?

An interesting article on CNN Health discussed the findings of a groundbreaking study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year. The study found that people who experience the “well-being” that comes from self-gratification had high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression similar to people who are depressed or experiencing extremely stressful situations.

Whoops. I think that means we’re all in a bunch of trouble since instant self-gratification rules the world today.

You know what I mean. Think about ATM machines that provide instant cash, fast food supplying instant meals, the Internet with its access to instant information and entertainment – all of which has turned us into impatient beings that can’t tolerate waiting for anything.  We don’t want to take the time or energy to lose weight the sensible way. We’d rather take a pill for extra fast results. Instead of waiting for our hair to grow out, we spend thousands of dollars on hair extensions. Who cares if tanning beds increases our chance of skin cancer? We choose that over laying out in the sun for days. Why work on a marriage when we can get a quick divorce and move on to the next relationship? Instead of taking the time to sleep, we’d rather skip it and drink a Red Bull in the morning for instant energy.

You get my drift.

Now I’m going to show my age. I’ll try not to sound too preachy. But if you’re a baby boomer like me, you’ll remember that in the not so distant past we worked hard and waited for the things we wanted. When I got married over 35 years ago, my husband and I didn’t go on an expensive honeymoon, buy a luxurious house along with brand new furnishings, or even own a credit card. Nor did we expect these things. We lived in a modest apartment with used furniture our parents gave us, drove old cars, and waited patiently until we could afford to buy something with cash. And we were happy.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now we live in a society that wants everything right NOW and not a minute later.

Unfortunately, decisions made for the purpose of instant gratification are often made impulsively without much thought about future consequences. In addition, this attitude leads to frustration, anger, impatience which can cause health problems.

Family psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein makes some sobering observations. She explains that “we have become an immediate gratification culture, and we expect things to move quickly, efficiently and in the way we want. When that doesn’t happen, we tend to become increasingly  frustrated and irritable, [a sign] of impatience.” She adds, “We’ve lost the art of just slowing down and enjoying the moment.”

According to the CNN article, there are two types of well-being. Hedonic well-being comes from a self-involved experience that gives us instant pleasure and requires continuous action to constantly feed our positive emotions. This type of well-being is reliant on external factors and the satisfaction typically leaves as fast as it comes. For example, buying an expensive pair of shoes creates a temporary high but to keep that euphoric feeling we must keep shopping for the next quick fix. If something threatens our ability to seek out this kind of personal happiness – for example, all our credit cards are maxed out – our entire source of well-being is threatened.

The second type, eudaimonic well-being, is a kind of happiness that comes, not from consuming products, but from working toward something larger than ourselves that gives true meaning to life. If we’re pursuing something worthwhile that involves collaborating with other people, we’ll also find well-being in the connections we make and these associates can help us get through hard times. This type of well-being can bring long-term happiness.

That’s not to say that we should never reward ourselves with a bowl of ice cream or a great pair of shoes as a special treat every once in a while. We don’t have to wait to enjoy the present or our lives.

However, we’ll all be happier if we develop some self-control and avoid the habit of wanting everything this instant. As pointed out in the beginning of this article, constantly giving into momentary desires can actually make us feel depressed in the long run. Advertisers have become experts at convincing us that instant gratification is the key to happiness. Don’t buy it.

Shoot for long-term satisfaction and fulfillment instead.

The Arrest of Mr. Menopause

Every once in a while, I like to include a blog for those of you going down the road of menopausal madness.

I’m a firm believer in humor and after thinking about how much menopause steals everything near and dear to our hearts – including our sleep, our sanity, and our figure, I came up with an idea for a funny blog I wrote for Hot Flash Daily. By the way, if you’re going through menopause, be sure and check out some of the great and informative articles on this site.

Since I worked as a newspaper reporter for a few years, I envisioned how I would write up a news article about the justifiable arrest of Mr Menopause who preys on innocent women typically in their late 40s and early 50s. And yes, I assume Mr. MENopause is male. Just look at the name and besides, we know that the male population is to blame for all our woes.

So here’s a portion of that article. Hope you enjoy!

Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At approximately 07:00 hours on May 10, 2008, Mrs. Julie A. Gorges, resident at 45 Hormonal Hell Avenue, reported a series of robberies.

During the early morning hours, the victim reported that Mr. Menopause had stolen her sleep. Gorges contends that previously she slept like a baby but was helpless when Menopause brandished the weapons night sweats, anxiety, and frequent urination. Not even Gorges’ friends, Netflix and Candy Crush, could save her from the ensuing misery.

She also reported her figure. was missing. While admitting that her waistline may not have been perfect previously, the robbery took away her ability to zip up her dresses and snap her pants. Thus, Menopause not only stole her shape but her dignity as well.

Around the same time, Gorges noticed all her skin moisture was gone. She asserts that previously she never experienced dry skin but now needs a bottle of lotion in every room in the house as well as the glove box in the car. Living in the desert, this is a serious loss, she lamented.

Gorges added hair loss to the list of alleged robberies. She suggested that perhaps Menopause was conspiring with the moisturizing and wig industry for their mutual benefit.

Finally, Gorges reported that her patience was missing. Once a reasonable woman, the victim stated that she is often annoyed with random people because they are breathing too much. However, it must be noted that when the officer smiled sympathetically, Gorges became agitated and warned him that he was one snarky smile away from a smack. She then promptly burst out in tears, reporting that Mr. Menopause had also heartlessly stolen her sanity.

Officer Tactless requested that they stick to the facts of the case and suggested that Gorges not allow the robberies to make her irrational. Gorges politely informed the officer that she would prefer the term “delightfully difficult” and it was in his best interest if he agreed.

Unfortunately, the interview took five hours since Menopause had also stolen Gorges’ memory and all her brain cells. When describing the toll that the robberies had taken on her family, it must be stated that the alleged victim couldn’t remember their names. “You know, that guy I married over 30 years ago and the two sons I gave birth to – their names escape me right now – but I can describe them for you,” she offered.

Gorges’ menstrual cycle was also stolen, but although she alleged Menopause was responsible, Gorges declined to press charges on that particular theft, whispering “good riddance” under her breath.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After a three-month investigation by the Hotflash Police Department, Menopause was taken into custody on Monday at his home located on Devilish Drive. Menopause was arraigned before Justice Michael Merciful and remanded to the HRT County Jail on one million pounds of chocolate bail for each charge to be dispensed to the millions of menopausal victims.

Why not give the story a happy ending?

As you can see from this article, Mr. Menopause attempted to steal Mrs. Gorges’ sense of humor, but she was able to hold on to that valuable asset.

;)