When Caregiving Becomes Complicated

Caregiving just got much more difficult for me.

Caregiver A couple of weeks ago, my Mom had an hallucination that scared her and got out of bed at midnight while we were sleeping. She forgot to use her walker and was carrying a pillow. Evidently, Mom was trying to bolt out of the room when she fell in the doorway.

As I’ve explained in past blogs, my Mom has Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) with Parkinsonism. The Parkinson part of her disease has taken a terrible toll on her body physically. Even though she uses a walker, falls are becoming more and more frequent. It seemed inevitable that she would eventually break something despite all our family’s efforts to watch her around the clock.

We took her to Urgent Care the next day. The X-ray came out negative and the doctor told us that in all likelihood she sprained her hip, so we took her home. After a few days, her hip was only getting worse. She could not walk at all and I had to have my husband or brother physically lift my Mom from a wheelchair to the toilet. As her primary caregiver, I felt totally overwhelmed at this point.

Surgery for LBD Patients

We took her back to the doctor and they ordered a CT scan for the next day. That scan showed that Mom had fractured her hip – substantially – and we landed in the ER. The fracture required a partial hip replacement surgery.

Hip ReplacementThis was one of my biggest fears. Almost three years ago before we knew Mom had LBD, she had a hip replacement in her other hip. After the surgery, she didn’t know where she was or who I was for six weeks. Her mind never came back completely. After her diagnosis, we became aware that this is not uncommon and general anesthesia can cause permanent damage in LBD patients.

This time around, we requested spinal anesthesia along with “twilight” anesthesia as is recommended for LBD patients. Fortunately, the surgeon was able to accommodate our wishes.

Right now, it’s hard to tell if there will be any long-term consequences or if the surgery will speed up symptoms as it did last time. LBD patients are extremely sensitive to pain medication and as a result my poor Mom has been hallucinating non-stop since the surgery. But we are hopeful that once they wean her off the drugs, she will become more lucid.

My heart breaks and we’ve all shed tears over the situation. My Mom is in rehab now and my siblings, children, and my father are all rotating to stay with her.

Caregiving Statistics

Just another part of this journey into an unknown world. From time to time, I like to share my experiences as a caregiver because I know that I’m not alone. Far from it. In fact, I fit right in with all the statistics.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 43.5 million of adult family caregivers care for someone 50+ years of age and 14.9 million care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Of those caring for someone aged 50+, the average age of caregivers is between 50-64. A Gallup Healthways Wellbeing study found 72% of caregivers cared for a parent, step-parent, mother-in-law, or father-in-law, and 67% of caregivers provided for someone age 75 or older.

In other words, if you are a baby boomer, chances are good that you are helping to care for mom and dad.

If you’re a woman, the statistics go up. An estimated 66% of caregivers are female. The majority of caregivers (55%) in one Gallup study reported they had been caregiving for three years or more.

The Home Alone study―a study of family caregivers who provide complex chronic care―found that nearly half of the caregivers surveyed performed medical and nursing tasks. More than 96% also helped their loved one with daily activities such as personal hygiene, dressing/undressing, getting in and out of bed, giving prescribed medications, shopping for groceries, and providing transportation.

Yup, check-check-check, that’s my life right now. And evidently, a lot of your lives out there as well.

Getting Help

Like most caregivers, I work part-time as a writer as well as caring for my mother full-time. I absolutely want to love and care for my Mom. This has been my choice; however, because of all the complications and some burnout I am experiencing, our family will be looking for a part-time caregiver to help us out. It’s definitely time.

Because here is a sobering fact: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “the close relationship between the caregiver and care recipient is a shared relationship with involved emotions, experiences, and memories, which can place a caregiver at higher risk for psychological and physical illness.”

That’s the thing. We caregivers have to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our loved ones. As I pointed out in a previous blog, several friends and family members who have gone through this experience have strongly advised me to care of my physical, spiritual, and emotional needs and recognize my limitations. 

So as I continue down this path, in a future blog, I’ll share my experiences with finding the right caregiver for my Mom to hopefully help those of you in the same boat.

In the meantime, if you are a caregiver like me, please feel free to share your experiences and any advice you have in the comments below.

Images courtesy of olovedog and patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Baby Boomers Blazing New Trail as Grandparents

Several years ago, I reunited with some of my old high school friends. The heartthrob and biggest flirt of our crowd was the first of us to become a grandparent. We middle-aged girls couldn’t quit giggling like teenagers when his grandchild called him Bopa! The whole thing was hysterical to us!

Flash forward and now almost all of us are grandparents – myself included.

Baby Boomer GrandparentsWe’re not only used to the idea by now, but true to our roots, we are determined to reinvent ourselves and be the grooviest, hippest, most involved, and greatest grandparents ever. We’re embracing our new role with the same excited enthusiasm we once had for macramé plant hangers and bell bottom jeans.

So exactly how are we baby boomers different than our grandparents and how are we finding blessed baby boomer bliss through our grandchildren?

We’re More Active

If you haven’t noticed, our generation of hula hoops and tie dye isn’t exactly taking old age lying down. Gray haired baby boomers can be seen pedaling bikes uphill, kayaking, lacing up sneakers and heading to the gym, zip lining, scuba diving, and shooting jump shots.

Camping and Staying Young with Our Granddaughter

Camping and Staying Young with Our Granddaughter

My grandchildren, ages 7, 5, and 4, are keeping me young and in shape and I’m loving every minute! I’m jumping on the backyard trampoline, playing volleyball, teaching them how to play tennis, and in general, my grandkids keep me running in circles.

Heck, they are better than having my own personal fitness trainer!

They not only keep me physically active, but mentally active too. Their silliness, creativity, and enthusiasm as they discover the world are contagious. And I know that’s good for me.

We Don’t Believe in a Generation Gap

Our relationship with our children was different than the previous generation. Haven’t we shared Facebook likes and Tweets with our kids?

Now our grandkids are introducing us to a whole new world filled with new ideas and possibilities.

K.C. Summers in an article, Grandparenting the Baby Boomer Way, published this month in the The Washington Post, put it well. She wrote: “Becoming a grandparent for the first time is like revisiting an exotic country that you loved long ago, only to find that everything’s changed — the layout, the customs, even the language. The experience is just as wonderful as ever, but it takes a while to get your bearings.”

As she pointed out in the article, we boomers are enthralled and embracing all the new gadgets like diapers with indicator strips that tell you if the baby’s peed or not, car seats that click into place, then morph into strollers with cup holders, and even the Snotsucker, a simple Swedish invention that takes infant nostril unclogging to a whole new level.

As they get older, our grandkids keep us up-to-date with all the new cartoons on Netflix, Disney movies, and the latest video games.

Aren’t we boomers accused of being self-centered? Of refusing to grow up? Maybe we connect with our adorable grandbabies and grandchildren on that level.

At any rate, we’re not about to be left behind. We’re not even sure what exactly “generation gap” means.

We are Gaga for our Grandchildren

My three adorable grandchildren, ages 7, 5, and 4.

My three adorable grandchildren, ages 7, 5, and 4.

As you can tell from my author’s Facebook page, where photos of my grandkids are proudly displayed on a regular basis, we boomers are blotto about our grandchildren.

Yes, our grandparents loved us, but they didn’t seem to be quite as obsessed as we boomers are today with our grandchildren.

I’m not sure why that is the case. Perhaps because many of us were working while we were raising our own kids in a world where we were trying to have it all. The freedom to spend quality time and be playful with our grandkids feels luxurious.

Or maybe with the staggering divorce rates today, the new Millennials, who think of their parents as best friends, need our help and we are more than happy to provide it.

At any rate, baby boomer grandparents are more engaged than their predecessors.

“The boomer generation is cresting, their kids are having kids, and they want to be involved,” says Ellen Breslau, editor in chief of the popular website Grandparents.com. “It’s a two-way street: The kids keep the grandparents young, and the grandparents can share their wisdom and learning. It’s a very symbiotic relationship between the two, in a way that’s very different from their relationship with their own kids.”

We are Conscious Grandparents

“Baby boomers were the first generation to approach parenting in a conscious way,” Barbara Graham a self-described “child of the 60s,” Grandma, and writer of a column for  Grandparents.com says. “Now we are trying to be conscious grandparents.”

Graham offers guidelines for grandparents that include letting go of all our expectations, abiding by the rules of new parents, and a warning to “seal your lips.” We are an outspoken bunch, but Graham took her cue from writer Anne Roiphe in an essay from Eye of My Heart, a collection of essays about the pleasures and perils of being a grandmother edited by Graham. Roiphe wrote: “Not speaking your mind is the number one commandment for would-be beloved grandparents. Silence on certain issues is not just golden; it’s essential.”

So we boomers try and shut up and respect our children wishes. Hopefully, that makes us less judgmental and less likely to ask annoying questions such as, “Have you started feeding the baby solid food yet?” Or to make a critical remark about our child’s decision to not circumcise their son.

Those are a few ways I think we boomers are paving new roads as grandparents. Agree? Disagree? How do you think boomers are different than previous generations of grandparents? I’d love to hear. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happiest Countries According to World Happiness Report 2015

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

Switzerland named happiest country on earth.

Switzerland named happiest country on earth.

According to the just released World Happiness Report, people in Switzerland clap the loudest as the happiest people, followed by Iceland and Denmark.

Canada, New Zealand and Australia also made the list of the top 10 most cheerful nations. The United States ranked 15th.

The least “happy” countries were noticeably ravaged by war and poverty and included Togo, Burundi, Syria, Benin, and Rwanda.

What is the World Happiness Report?

The World Happiness Report is an initiative of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network, first published in 2012. This study focuses on people’s evaluations of their lives based on life expectancy, wealth, freedom to make life choices, social support, generosity, and government corruption.

This report is somewhat different than this year’s Gallup’s Positive Experience Index poll, which I wrote about in my blog, The Happiest Country in the World. In that study, Latin America countries dominated the top 10 list with Paraguay coming in as number one, Interestingly enough, the US also ranked 15th in that poll. Apparently, we’re happy, but not ecstatic.

Researchers for the Gallup poll questioned people from different countries and asked how happy they felt the day before. Had they experienced enjoyment, smiled, or laughed? Had they learned something new or did something interesting the previous day? Were they treated with respect?

The World Happiness Report is more geared toward using happiness research to come up with better government policies. Researchers asked questions such as: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life? Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?

Personally, I take the Gallup poll more seriously since it questioned participants specifically about their feelings. However, since the World Happiness Report reviews the state of happiness in the world today and shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations of how joyful people feel, we can definitely take a few lessons away.

So what is the Swiss secret to happiness? True, Switzerland is extraordinarily beautiful and the people seem relaxed. They have a high standard of living, great public transportation, excellent healthcare, and the best chocolate.

And it’s hard not to notice that the countries at the top of the list were some of the wealthiest countries. But is there something else useful we can decipher from this report?

What Can We Learn?

World Happiness Report 2“There is no single key to happiness,” US economist Jeffrey Sachs, who led the team behind the World Happiness Report, explained. “Being rich? That’s good, but it’s only a modest part of the story.”

He pointed out that according to this study, living in a society where people are generous and volunteering are also important for happiness. No surprise there.

As I pointed out in my blog, Be a Giver, “givers” report an improved sense of well-being, lower stress levels, better physical and emotional health, and yes, increased happiness. As seen from this latest study, it also helps if you are surrounded by other people who give generously. Obviously, it pays to choose your friends wisely.

Come On Get Happy!

The good news is that in general, the world is feeling happier. Over the past three years, 51 per cent of categories measured – which included people’s happiness with their work, health, material well-being, relationships, social support and local environment –had improved or showed no change.

Moreover, the proportion of people selecting the highest ratings for each aspect of personal well-being had increased significantly, with over a quarter (26.8 per cent) of people rating their life satisfaction at the highest levels, compared with only 5.6 per cent at the lowest.

So join the crowd and get happier. You don’t have to live in Switzerland to know you’re happy and clap your hands proudly!

Images courtesy of dan and Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy Sweaty People Can Make You Happy Too

Want to feel happy?

Take a good long sniff of a happy person’s stinky armpits and you’ll be good to go – joyfully  skipping off into the sunset.

Happy SweatSeriously?

Sometimes during my research for this blog, I run into articles that tickle my funny bone. I mean, they really did a study on this? The answer is yes – it was a legit study published in the journal, Psychological Science.

Visualize serious scientists from the UK, the Netherlands, and Portugal sticking 12 men into a room and showing them clips of happy and scary movies to evoke feelings of joy and fright, and then playing weather forecasts to produce neutral feelings.

Then they collected sweat from those stinky, hairy armpits. Eeew!

Wait, it gets better. Then, 36 lucky female participants were asked to smell the sweat samples with their facial expressions traced by electrical impulses. Eeew again! Did they get paid or were they volunteers? Inquiring minds want to know.

And, by the way, that seems downright sexist to me. Why didn’t the men have to smell the women’s sweat? Isn’t it enough that we females have periods, give birth, and go through menopause?

Okay, NOT fair, but back to the subject at hand. So, according to the results from this fun study, they discovered human body odor contains chemicals known as “chemosignals” which carry information about emotional states.

In other words, they claim that BO controls emotions.

Supposedly, the women who smelled the “happy sweat” showed facial muscle activity associated with a genuine smile.

Really?

So, if you buy into the results of this study and want to boost your happiness levels, just find the happiest person in your vicinity and take a good, strong, whiff of their delightful sweaty armpit and VIOLA! Pure joy!

And if your armpits are so stinky that you make Right Guard turn left, Speed stick slow down, Secret tell all, and Sure confused, as the joke goes – don’t feel bad. In fact, if you’re a happy person, offer your armpits to the nearest depressed person and proudly share the joy.

Just not with me. I’m finding easier ways to boost my happiness levels, thank-you very much!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Problems Can Lead to Happiness

Problems Lead to HappinessProblems result in happiness?

Say what?

Sounds crazy, I know, but just hear me out for a second.

Think about it. If you were happy, content, and secure all the time, then you wouldn’t grow, learn, or change. You wouldn’t discover who you are and become a stronger person.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”

A life well lived does not mean an easy life without any problems. Real happiness comes from loving and helping others, learning life lessons, personal growth, and a sense of achievement from reaching worthwhile goals. All those things come with problems, challenges, and obstacles that are meant to be overcome to help us become better persons and, yes, to help us find happiness.

Learning Life Lessons from Problems

Problems 2When you’re going through a challenging experience, why not ask yourself how the experience will make you a better person, stronger, or more loving? If you can adopt a more positive attitude about your problems and stresses and what you learn from them, you just might discover happiness along the way.

For example, as readers of my blog know, I am caring for my mother who has a form of dementia that is a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Without a doubt, this has proven to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done so far in my life. You can read about some of my struggles in my blog, Grieving for a Parent with Dementia.

What has this experience taught me and how is it making me grow as a person? Caring for my Mom has shown me how to depend on God more fully, to be more empathetic and patient, and helped me develop the important quality of endurance. To be sure, this is a journey and I am still learning all these things and there is plenty of room for improvement. But the fact remains, I’m learning some important life lessons along the way even though it is a tough and painful path.

Maybe you’re going through an agonizing divorce. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that divorce is a blessing in any way. As I’ve personally witnessed from my son’s divorce, it is a traumatic experience for everyone involved. Divorce takes a devastating toll, ripping families apart, adversely impacting the lives of children, shredding self-esteem, and ruining finances. I also believe that all marriages except those involving repeated infidelity and abuse can be saved if both partners are motivated and willing – which admittedly in some cases may be lacking.

So, if you find yourself getting a divorce despite all your efforts to save a marriage, what can you learn from this painful experience? Plenty. While helping your children get through the divorce, maybe you become a better and more loving parent and come to value your time with them even more. Perhaps you’ll realize that you lost your own identity in your marriage and divorce allows you to find yourself again. When you find happiness again – and you will – you will be a stronger and more resilient person for surviving the experience.

If you’re unhappy or stressed by a situation, maybe those feelings are telling you that it’s time for a change. If a situation cannot be changed, allow navigating and overcoming problems to mold you.

Happiness Can Be Achieved Despite Problems

Problems 3

Remember that problems can’t hold your happiness hostage. It is your life and your choice. Your life can be great, no matter what problems you’re facing, because you opt to see it that way. As I’ve pointed out in previous blogs, happiness depends on your outlook, not on your current situation.

Even if things aren’t perfect right now and problems abound, you can still enjoy those small moments of joy everyone experiences in every day. As I suggested in my blog, Savor the Day, stop, take a deep breath, and take note of everything around you – the beauty, the people, the smells, the sounds. Take time to enjoy the beauty of a sunset, the laugh of a child, a hug from a friend, the sound of a bird singing, or the smells after a rainstorm. Savor simple things like the first spring day in your garden, the kindness of a stranger, or that first sip of coffee.

A good reason to smile is always one thought away. Think that thought. As a quote I saw says: “Sunshine is good for your teeth.”

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles, patpitchaya, and Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Designing a Happy Life

Have you ever noticed what you think will make you happy really doesn’t make you happy?

Maybe you’ve recently reached a goal or fulfilled a dream. You finally published that book, married your first love, lost 20 pounds, or started a new business.

So why don’t you feel on top of the world?

Perhaps it’s because in reality selling books takes a lot of promoting, marriage is work, thinner people still have problems, and starting a business is stressful.

Searching HappinessSometimes goal-oriented, ambitious, thoughtful, and driven people are so busy reflecting on what makes a meaningful life and striving for happiness that they miss the whole point.

Other people are creatures of habit going through life on autopilot and don’t notice which daily activities actually make them feel good, bring them joy and feelings of pleasure, or give them a true sense of purpose.

 

That’s the theory of Paul Dolan, a professor at the London School of Economics, author of Happiness by Design, government well-being adviser, and one of the world’s leading happiness scholars. And yes, that’s a real job and a field of study.

“I think we should be paying attention to how we feel day-to-day and moment-to-moment,” Dolan said in an interview for Fast Company. ”We do a lot of what we do because we’ve always done it, not because it is good for us or because we enjoy it.”

Do either one of those scenarios in the beginning of this article ring true for you? If so, how can you design a happy life?

Do a Happy Audit

Focusing too much on your happiness can backfire and actually make you feel unhappy. So, Dolan suggests in his book that you take one day a week or month to observe yourself and tune into what you are doing, who you are doing it with, and how it makes you feel. Of course, in our modern world, there are even free apps to help you do this as I pointed out in a previous blog.

Whether you use an app or a simple piece of paper, do a quick happiness audit and see what activities stress you out or make you angry and which activities bring you peace and contentment. Then design your life so it’s easier to do the things that make you happy.

In other words, create more happy moments in your life. Yes, it’s a simple and basic idea but it can work.

Making Happiness Easier

Sometimes, relatively small changes can make us happier.

In the past, I typically watched the news or read a newspaper in the morning, but in reality, the news depressed me. I started work by reading and answering emails, but it was a stressful way to begin the day. When I wrote for a long period of time, I began to sit and spin my wheels until my head hurt.

Just a few small changes and my life improves.

Now, I start my day by reading something inspirational and spiritual. I make it easier with an app on my phone. I listen to music as I begin to work. I make it easier with a playlist. I get up and take an afternoon walk which actually helps me think more creatively. I make it easier by keeping my walking shoes next to my desk.

You get my drift. If you love spending time with a friend, set up a regular monthly date so you don’t have to constantly schedule time to meet. If you want to eat healthier, fill your kitchen with fruits and vegetables. If you feel better when you exercise, choose a gym close to your house and put workout dates in your calendar.

Make happiness easier.

Bigger Changes

Other times, larger and harder changes are in order.

For example, maybe your job is making your life miserable, but the idea of changing careers is overwhelming.

Dolan has a good idea. Don’t ask yourself if you should take that new job. Instead, ask someone you are close to with good judgement. A friend or family member won’t likely be swayed by indecision and anxiety and can give you an honest answer. Try phrasing the question like this: “How do you think my day-to-day life will be in a couple of months if I take the new job?” A loved one you trust can provide an unbiased opinion and support.

Dolan says that it is worth confronting these realities because escaping unhappy situations can have an enormously positive impact on your mood and your health in the long term, even though the short term transition might be painful. The key, he says, is to be gentle with yourself and not rush into major life changes.

So happiness doesn’t have to be elusive or hard to achieve. Don’t overthink it. Instead, simply pay attention to those blissful moments and make the necessary changes to put more of those moments in your life.

“Listen more to your real feelings of happiness than to your reflections on how happy you think you are or ought to be,” Dolan writes in his book.

Most of us would benefit from that advice.

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maddening Menopausal Nails

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared an article about meandering down menopausal madness, so I’m republishing one of my articles I wrote for Hot Flash Daily. Be sure and check out this site for useful information on menopause, menopausal humor, and shared experiences of this bizarre life experience.

This article has to do with Mother Nature’s cruelty when it comes to our fingernails during menopause. Enjoy!

Nails 1EVEN YOUR NAILS, DANGIT!

Just when awesome and fun nail art for every occasion – ranging from stripes, bow ties, and even funny sock monkeys – becomes all the rage, I hit menopause.

I mean, who doesn’t want beautiful nails during this time in our life to distract people from noticing our unflattering weight gain, sweaty foreheads, and five-inch long chin hairs? But, NOOO… menopause has other evil plans.

If you’ve noticed that your nails constantly break, split, and chip since perimenopause started, it’s no coincidence. Fluctuations in estrogen along with dehydration can lead to weak and brittle nails. Yup, it’s that darn lack of moisture causing more problems again. On top of that, we suffer from extra stress and anxiety due to menopausal madness that makes us want to mangle our fingernails into mannish stumps. As a result, nail biting can reach new heights.

So while other women are busy admiring each other’s manicures, I’m self-consciously hiding my ugly, brittle fingernails behind my ever-growing behind. Often tardy on trends, I wanted to be in on this one, darn it!

So some research was in order to do something about my ragged, dreadful nails. Here’s what the experts recommend:

Drink More Water

Really? Again? I’m drinking more water than I ever have in my life – and it hasn’t been the cure-all for all my menopausal woes like bloating, hot flashes, and dry skin like these experts have promised. In fact, if I hear this piece of advice one more time, I am personally going to hunt down these know-it-alls and help them to a glass of water – down their pants.

Wear Gloves

Gloves remind me of painful and humiliating pelvic and rectal exams, dentist offices, and hospitals. Why would I wear them around the house? Do I really want to look like Mickey Mouse? Although it might be a good idea to wear a pair when I visit those experts mentioned above so I don’t leave any fingerprints.

Nails 2Get a Manicure

This advice is meant for nail biters like me. Supposedly, if you pay to get your nails done and your nails look pretty you won’t want to chew on them. The trouble with this advice is that when the manicurist inevitably starts lecturing me on biting my nails, or asks me why my nails are so brittle, or wags her head in disgust, I want to kill her.

Distraction

This one is also for nail-biters. If you have an urge to put something in your mouth, experts suggest chewing a stick of sugarless gum or gnawing on a carrot or celery stick. Forget that. Now, eating chocolate and drinking wine would distract me and make me feel better about this whole ugly nail problem at the same time.

Keep Your Hands Occupied

Does keeping my hands busy by choking irritating people count?

Use a Buddy System

How about forming a “No Nail Nibbling” team to support each other? Seriously? Am I 12? Supposedly sharing the goal of getting your nails back into shape and holding each other accountable is a great way to succeed. Except when my nail buddy nags me about nibbling my nails for the ninth time, I can’t guarantee what will happen.

Stay Hydrated by Avoiding Caffeine and Wine

No and no.

Moisturize Hands and Cuticles

Use a good quality moisturizer and massage a small amount around your cuticle and nails several times a day. Or soak your fingernails in warm oil once a day. Moisturize your hands at night and wear white cotton gloves to sleep to keep moisture in. Stay away from nail polish remover that contains formaldehyde and acetone since they dry out your nails.

All right, all right. Maybe this last one is doable. Because I want those cute little sparkly stars and tiny cupcakes on my nails too! Or maybe I’ll just skip all this annoying advice and get acrylic nails instead.

Images courtesy of stockimages and imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking Personal Responsibility Ticket to Happiness

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Here’s a simple fact of life: We will never find happiness if we play the blame game.

Personal ResponsibilityWe all have this tendency. It’s so easy to fault our spouses, parents, friends, or circumstances for everything that goes wrong in our lives.

Maybe we blame a dysfunctional childhood, claim we have no choice in the matter, or argue that others forced us to act a certain way. Or we simply proclaim, “There’s nothing I can do; I can’t help it.”

Self-justification distorts reality. The trouble is that if we blame others for our bad choices and the bad repercussions that come with those choices, we’re not acknowledging our mistakes. We’ll never learn from our errors and even worse, we’ll be destined to repeat them.  As long as we refuse to accept responsibility for our own actions, we’ll miss out on valuable life lessons. We’ll never make positive changes in our lives. Happiness will always remain elusive.

In the end, we all must take responsibility for our own life choices, thoughts, actions, and decisions.

Of course, taking responsibility for our lives is a challenging lifelong process. But taking this important positive step will enable us to create the life we want, let go of anger, resentment, and bitterness, learn forgiveness, move forward, and earn the respect of others. In the end, taking personal responsibility for our lives is empowering.

How do you know if you have this bad habit and need to make some changes? People that do not take personal responsibility for their actions tend to:

Look for a Culprit

Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others.” ― Confucius

When something goes wrong, do you immediately find someone to blame? Stop it! Blaming others is just a sorry excuse for taking actions that bring you pain and unhappiness. True, you cannot control other people’s actions. But nevertheless, you and you alone are responsible for how you think, act, and feel in response to what other people say and do.

Make Excuses

Making excuses is similar to blaming others. The only difference is it involves blaming your behavior and actions on circumstances instead of people.

Excuses are a way of defending bad behavior, justifying wrong actions, or negating responsibility.

When people attack, lose self control, lash out, or throw tantrums and say, “I couldn’t help it, my childhood made me this way,” or “These circumstances bring out the worst in me,” they are essentially placing blame of an internal problem on an external situation.

Play the Victim

When you constantly blame others and make excuses, you’ll eventually develop a victim’s mentality. This type of thinking is the direct opposite of taking personal responsibility.

In his excellent article, Are You Playing the Victim to Manipulate Others? Donald Miller writes: “In order to play the victim we need an oppressor. And when we manipulate by playing the victim, we turn people who are otherwise innocent (or perfectly human) into a bad person in our minds. Instead of forgiving somebody who has wronged us and moving on, we demonize them in our minds and play them up as a villain so we can be their wounded victim.”

As he wisely points out, it’s an unhealthy game to be sure and the ironic thing is that by manipulatively demonizing others and portraying them as oppressors, you may in fact, become the oppressor.

We all are guilty of these bad habits occasionally, but refusing to take personal responsibility on a regular basis will only lead to unhappiness and misery.

Sadly, blaming others, making excuses, or playing the victim can seriously backfire. These negative behaviors can stop you from reaching your full potential, prevent personal growth, lead to bad judgment calls, and result in a persistently pessimistic outlook on life.

You’ll also start losing the ability to empathize. Instead of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you’ll be focused on defending your actions as a part of your identity. “That’s who I am.” “I can’t help it.” “You’ll just have to accept it!” If you find yourself uttering those phrases, take an honest look at who you are and the ways that this attitude is detrimental to those you love as well as to yourself.

Denis Waitly put it well when he said: “A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.”

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Happiest Country in the World

Turns out the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland after all.

Just in time for the International Day of Happiness on March 20, Gallup released the results of their latest Positive Experience Index poll to gauge happiness levels around the world.

So what country topped the list? Bet you’ll never guess.

Happiest Country South AmericaOne of the poorest countries in the world, Paraguay, scored the highest on the happiness chart. In fact, all of the top 10 countries with the highest scores – above 80 percent – were in Latin America. Apparently, money isn’t everything because Guatemala, also one of the poorest countries, tied for second place.

“There is much to be learned from Latin America on this International Day of Happiness, because while they aren’t the wealthiest people in the world, they are certainly among the happiest,” Gallup officials said.

Surprised with the results?

I was and then I wasn’t.

A Little About Paraguay

About 10 years ago, my family and I visited the little-known country of Paraguay. Friends of ours, Mickey and Sherry, were serving as missionaries there. Sherry’s mother wanted to visit but was in her 80s and couldn’t make the trip alone. We had never been to South America before, so we volunteered to accompany her.

To be truthful, I wasn’t sure Paraguay would be my cup of tea. Let’s face it, this extremely poor and rustic country doesn’t top any tourist list of places to visit. However, the vacation turned out to be one of our best.

I’ve traveled around the world, but the sights in this land were extraordinary – a woman walking with a box of chickens on her head, monkeys in trees, a family of five riding on a motorcycle on a typical red, dirt road, a lizard dragon, Jesuit ruins in rural villages, and cute coatis with no fear of humans that climbed up our legs. We drove by cemeteries with small houses where families were buried above ground – some more elaborate than houses they lived in while alive. And if you want to visit one of the most spectacular places in the world, you can’t go wrong with Iguazu Falls, where the magnificent waterfalls – taller and twice as wide as Niagara Falls – play with the light and create stunning rainbows throughout the park.

The land is full of farmers and cowboys, humble, shy, honest, and extremely hospitable people. We met several people on isolated ranches in Concepción, deep in the heart of rural Paraguay while visiting Bible students with our missionary friends. As pigs, chickens, and parrots wondered around us, every one of the people invited us to come in and sit down and, even though of little means, all of them insisted on feeding us. Most often they served the ever-popular chipas – small delicious breads often seen balanced on top of the heads of street vendors and baked on banana leaves in a traditional brick and mud oven – along with the sweet cocido negro to drink.

And you know what? The people of Paraguay looked happy. Everyone I met had a big smile on their face. Most of them do not have big fancy houses, Internet access, sports cars, or cell phones. Most Paraguayans live the simplest of lives. Typically, they have close-knit families, are spiritually inclined, enjoy modest meals with friends, and appreciate the simple joys in life.

Other Interesting Poll Results

happyAccording to this Gallup poll, the good news is that the majority of people in the world are happy. To measure happiness levels around the world, researchers interviewed about 1000 people from each country and asked questions about how happy they felt the day before.

On average, more than 70 percent of the respondents worldwide said they experienced enjoyment, smiled or laughed, felt well rested, and thought they were treated with respect. Half of the participants said they had learned or did something interesting the day before the interview.

The United States was the 15th happiest country in the world, tied with 11 other countries including New Zealand, Sweden, and Canada.  The Middle East and North Africa countries were the least happy with scores that averaged 59. If you’d like to see a full list and more information, see the article,  Mood of the World Upbeat on International Happiness Day.

As the above article points out, one of the most surprising findings was that in places such as war-torn Afghanistan, while scoring low on the poll, still had a majority of people saying they smiled or laughed a lot the day before the interview – perhaps giving testimony to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Nepal, is another country struggling with poverty after a decade-long civil war and also scored low on the poll at 55. Yet, one of the country’s residents, Keshav Shiwakoti, 52, a former communist revolutionary who grew up in stark poverty, said in an interview for KCBX FM Radio:

“The small, fleeting moments make me happy – like the child I just saw on the street being breast-fed by her mother, or watching my baby goats play. It’s the joy in sunshine or rain. Sometimes I cry because I feel such great happiness.”

Likewise, Tara Devi, 45 years old, who has never attended school and has worked in the fields every day since she was a child, says she loves to laugh. Tara admits the government cuts the electricity off all the time so she can’t watch her favorite Bollywood movies and her disappointment in the government makes her sad sometimes. But in the end she says, “But I do not like to be sad. It is better to be happy.”

And so she is.

Proof that, no matter our circumstances, we can choose to be happy. There is joy to be found in the simplest of moments that each one of us experience every day. It’s just up to us to find it.

Images courtesy of digidreamgrafix and photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

International Day of Happiness Ideas

They have a day for everything, right?

happinessTurns out that tomorrow, March 20, has been deemed the International Day of Happiness. Who knew?

I found it interesting how some communities are planning to celebrate the event. Tucson, Arizona decided to adopt this fledgling holiday this year by engaging in “happiness sprinkling.” Flash mobs will hold signs throughout the weekend with positive messages like:

  • Share Your Happy
  • Breath
  • Live Your Dream
  • Life is Good
  • You Rock!

The city is also including happy movie screenings at their library and sing-alongs in their streetcars. I like it. Sounds fun.

A campaign launched Monday asked listeners around the world to list songs that make them happy.

A Worldwide Happiness Dinner is inviting people to host a meal and have a conversation about happiness, including what truly matters in our lives, our relationships, good food and health, and how we can make the world a happier place.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until tomorrow for an official happiness day. Why not put some of these great ideas to use today? Or any day will do.

For example, pin a happy note on your mirror using one of the “happiness sprinkling” ideas above. Or try writing one of the following sayings on a sticky note and tack in your office cubicle or on your refrigerator:

  • FunLaugh Lots
  • Be Grateful
  • Happy to Be Alive
  • Give Love
  • Think Happy Thoughts
  • Be Silly
  • Have Fun
  • Smile On

Watch a happy movie (you can check out my favorite feel-good movies that never fail to lift my spirits in my blog, Top 10 Movies to Make You Feeel Happy, or listen to happy music all day (check out a list of my favorite happy songs in my blog, Music and Happiness, for some ideas.)

Have a happiness dinner to talk about what makes you happy.

No matter what’s going on in your life, find those small moments of joy. And try and make every day a happy day!

Images courtesy of kong sky and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.