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2021 Happiness or Wellbeing?

"If happiness is your focus for 2021 - then these posters are really important.

However, I’d suggest that “happiness is overrated” might be a better poster.

here's why...

As a life coach, I see the emotional pain, the obesity, the sadness such ambition causes. Instead, I’d say happiness might be one of the many outcomes that can drop out of a commitment to something more powerful - more real - less pain causing.

To achieve that alternative requires some discipline, something that the ambition for happiness bypasses at every opportunity. So, the quest for happiness is at the core of all mental health pain, all corruption and worse, all self harm and its friend, regret. And the pain of regret always outweighs the pain of discipline. So, for new year resolutions, avoid always and never, the language of extreme happiness targets, and, instead, set a goal that’s going to hurt. Then, break it down and commit to doing daily, what will cause that goal.

A goal without commitment is the fluff of happiness pursuit. Seven areas of life, seven goals, plus one big mt Everest for 2021. No regret and let happiness come from achievement, less pain, more gain this way. Happy new year .... I don’t think so, great, brilliant, shining, transformational, inspired new year - enjoy.”

Beware of the signals when you meet people who declare their goals in pleasure language. This always signifies trouble and a troubled soul will hunt pleasure thinking it is a fixed and permanent outcome of their endeavour. It isn't.

For yourself pick achievements, as goals and allow the pleasure or whatever flows from it to inspire you. This is wiser.

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Mental Wellbeing in 2021

1. Get Social

ONE OF THE MANY CRUELTIES OF COVID-19 IS that it has robbed us of one of the primary behaviours we can engage in to improve our mental health: being with other people.

When psychologists Ed Diener and Marty Seligman looked at people who scored in the highest 10th percentile on happiness surveys, they discovered that there was one activity that set happy people apart from the rest of us—happy people were more social. The results were so strong that these researchers deemed being around other people as a necessary condition for very high happiness.

We think that solitude feels good, especially when we’re having a tough time, but in truth being with other people will almost always make us feel better. Even if those people are strangers. Enter the "pub" where people go to drink but really, it's a social game for mental health.

Of course, social distancing has made connecting with other people a lot trickier over the past months. But if you want to feel happier, research suggests you should redouble your efforts to connect with the people you care about. Try a socially distanced walk with a neighbour. Or use online tools like Zoom and FaceTime to connect not just with people who live near us, but friends in far-off time zones. If you put in some work and get creative, the possibilities for social connection are endless, even during COVID. I’ve started a monthly virtual spa night with my college roommates, as well as an online morning yoga practice with some professor friends in four different cities. It requires a bit more of a start-up cost than running into a colleague at the water cooler, but if we put in the effort we can reap the rewards of a richer social life.

Network with like minded people. Ask "who do I need to connect with to achieve my 2021 goals and make that your social focus... not just t"he pub," or family or mates. - Leonardo da WALKER

2. Give Thanks

ANOTHER WAY TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR WELL-BEING IS WITH A DOSE of gratitude—the simple act of stopping to consider all the good things in your life.

Now, I freely admit that feeling thankful in the midst of a terrible pandemic isn’t always easy. But research shows that grateful people—those who count their blessings on a regular basis—experience a host of benefits. Grateful people tend to be happier and show lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Health care workers who keep a gratitude journal show reductions in stress and depression. And people suffering from chronic pain who practice gratitude show improvements in both sleep quality and mood.

The good news is that there are easy ways to boost your own gratitude level even if that’s not something that comes naturally. For example, grab a notebook and try jotting down three to five things you’re grateful for every day. It sounds simple, but research shows that this practice can boost your overall happiness in as little as two weeks. Or write a thank-you letter to a loved one, friend or co-worker. Not only do gratitude letters help you to organise all those grateful feelings into words, but they also strengthen your bonds to the people in your life who matter most to your happiness.

Most important, evolve yourself in the process by choosing things you would prefer to change and try to find a way to be thankful for it the way it is. This teaches you patience, mental strength, adaptability, relaxation, meditation, calm, centring, energy management and emotional intelligence (if there is such a thing).

Do the Walker "Total Recall" at night before sleep. Going back over the day hour by hour backward and be thankful for whatever occupied that hour. It's a guarantee for a deeper night sleep.


3. Turn up

THE NEW YEAR IS NATURALLY A TIME OF LOOKING BACKWARDS AND forwards. But that’s not the only time our minds tend to move away from the present moment. One study by a team of Harvard psychologists found that we spent more than 40 percent of the time mind-wandering—not paying attention to the here and now. Which is bad news for our mental health levels, because a growing body of research shows that focusing on the here and now makes us feel better.

So this new year, try getting your mind back on the present moment. If that feels tough, consider developing a meditation practice, something that has not worked wonders for me. Studies show that even five or ten minutes of meditation every day can boost not only your daily concentration but also your mood levels. Give it a try.

A regular competitive sport practice can also help you realise that your thoughts are just…well, thoughts. The practice of dealing with unhelpful emotions like fear, anger or jealousy—even for a few minutes—can help us start to put them in some perspective, and to notice that they often depart just as suddenly as they arrive in our minds, which can help us avoid letting our emotions dictate our actions.

And if signing on for a regular sport game practice feels like too much during the pandemic, you can take baby steps towards being present by engaging in a bit more savouring. Commit to noticing the taste of your morning coffee or how nice a warm shower feels. The simple act of intentionally noticing afresh what the world around you looks, sounds, and feels like can help you remember that there are good, pleasurable things all around, if you take a little time to pay attention.

But the big winner in turning up is "ACTIVE LISTENING" and you'll find more about this elsewhere in my blogs and writings. Just google Chris Walker Active Listening.


WHEN MY CLIENTS ASK ME WHAT'S THE FIRST STEP THEY SHOULD take to be more mentally engaged, my answer is always the same: Get some exercise and then, get some sleep.

We know that sleep is important for our physical health, but research shows that it’s also extremely important for our mental health. Having a solid eight hours of shut-eye is the foundation on which all the other happiness habits rest. The problem is that getting the right amount isn’t easy. For me, there’s always that one last email to send before bed. Or one more quick peak to take on my Twitter feed. Or that new Netflix show to check out.

So this year, try to embrace healthier sleep hygiene. Ban devices from your bedroom. Instead, read a book or magazine—one made of paper—before bed. And make sure your bedroom is as dedicated to sleep as possible. If you allow your sleeping space to become an office, lounge or home cinema, you end up confusing your body. A pre-sleep ritual (such as a glass of warm herbal tea or a nice bath) can also help reinforce the idea that your waking day is ending and your all-important sleep time is beginning.

But sleep isn’t the only healthy habit that promotes better mental health in addition to better physical health. Another great healthy mentally boosting habit is exercise. One study found that doing a half-hour of cardio on a stationary bike reduces the likelihood that we’ll feel things like tension, anger, depression, and even fatigue. And the effect was shown to last for over 12 hours.

I don't know why anyone would resist. It's free and fun.

Most people are committing slow suicide. - Leonardo da Walker

5. Be Kind

AT TIMES OF CRISIS, WE'RE OFTEN TEMPTED TO TURN INWARD: IT seems like feeling better requires putting our own needs first. Treat yourself, as the current mantra says. But the science suggests that these self-centred inclinations are wrong. In fact, the best way to promote your own self-care is to provide other-care.

Research shows that we get mental health from doing nice things for other people. The people who self-report being happiest are focused on those in need—they donate more of their time and money to charity and engage in random acts of kindness. So why not bolster your mental health in an evidence-based way by doing something good for another person? If you’re working remotely, donate the money you saved on gas this month to a good cause. Or just check in with a friend who’s struggling. Doing kind things for others is a surprisingly effective way of boosting our own well-being.

What's most interesting, and a huge part of 2021 coaching for me is that people feel you before they see you. So, being critical of others, angry with someone, judgemental of someone, even if you think you are absolutely golden blessed and your shit doesn't stink, it has an impact on them and it has an even worse impact on you. Every mental dart you send in the form of hate, anger, disappointment, frustration, judgement at another person, kills you slowly. In science of mind body medicine many cancers are caused by mental dislike for other people that bounces right back into the cells of our own body. The thinker dies from their own ugly thoughts.

So do be kind to yourself as well. The season of New Year’s resolutions can be a time when it’s easy to beat yourself up. We shame ourselves like an inner drill sergeant by ruminating on how badly we’ve done in the past year and how we need to turn things around for the new year. Or else.

But research shows that our inner brutal drill sergeant isn’t as motivating as we assume. Harsh self-criticism and unrealistic expectations will destroy your morale and make you give up before you even begin. A better strategy for the new year is to extend yourself some kindness, or what psychologists call self-compassion. Self-compassion means remembering that you’re human and that—just like everyone else on the planet—you’re doing the best you can in some pretty tough times. Giving yourself a bit of kindness doesn’t just feel good. It’s also a surprisingly effective way to meet your new year goals. Research by Kristin Neff and her colleagues, for example, shows that talking to yourself in the manner of a caring and helpful friend helps us reduce procrastination, eat healthier and exercise more. So try doing unto yourself as you would do unto others and give yourself the benefit of the doubt a little more in 2021.

The tips I’ve outlined here won’t make the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic disappear the moment the calendar switches over to 2021, but research shows these quick practices can boost your mood and give you a bit more resilience—more mental health, (which I call love and spirit of life) —in the New Year.

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