Reprogram your brain for happiness in 3 simple steps

little moments for happiness

Happiness is something you can build. Little by little, each time someone says something mean to us or ignore us, it creates a “hole in our hearts” and make us less confident and less happy in the long-term. But a simple way exists to change your brain into a positive mood.

Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says as simple as it may sound, brain science backs the well-known popular wisdom, “positive brings positive.”

Positive brings positive

During a talk, “Taking in the Good” for Chicago Ideas Week in 2013, he explained how to create positive connections in our brains.

He said that as a child he was repetitively bullied by other children. He did not face any major life trauma but still, years later, he realized during his studies that those negative moments had changed him and made him feel empty inside. Hanson said he felt like he had “…a hole in my heart.”

One of our basic needs is to feel valued, included, recognized and appreciated. Hanson said he began to notice a reaction that seemed amazing at first.

“If someone was nice to me, or wanted me on their team, or hired me, or if a good thing happened, and if I stayed with the experience by focusing on the good, I started gradually feeling better,” he said.

The longer you stay with a happy feeling or memory, the stronger the connection will become in your brain and gradually, you will reprogram your brain to be happier.

3 steps to happiness

To “reprogram” your brain to happiness is very simple. Follow these 3 good practices:

  1. Appreciate little pleasures of life even when it is hard: a nice flower, a good moment with a friend, the taste of coffee. Finding the good in small things, day by day, is not naïve but a way to change your brain.
  2. Don’t rush. When you live a happy experience, take the time to really feel it in your body for at least 10 seconds. This way, a good small fact will become a great memory.
  3. Make a conscious effort to remember happy experiences. (We suggest to write them down in a notebook). If you practice those methods day by day, you will be able to close your eyes and think of a good memory or loving experience very easily!

 

To finish, if you choose to concentrate on the good each day, you will fill yourself with calm, joy and confidence. It is good for you but also good for the people you know and love.

More about Rick Hanson: he is the author of Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thin – books that have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He is also senior fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom in San Rafael, California.

Build your life wisely : the story of the old carpenter

build life

Each day, we build our own life, and sometimes without realizing it. The story of the old carpenter is a good example…

An old carpenter wanted to retire. He told his employer about his plans.

The employer was sorry to see his good carpenter leave and he asked him if he could build just one more house. The carpenter said yes, but it was easy to see that his heart was not into it. He was clearly not doing his best.

When the carpenter finished his work, his employer came. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter and said, “This is your house… my gift to thank you.”

The carpenter was shocked!

What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all much better.

Same happens with our lives. We build our lives, day after day, without doing our best. Then, with a shock, we realize we must live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we would do it much differently.

But, you cannot go back. You are the carpenter, and every day you hammer a nail, place a window, or erect a wall. Someone once said, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” Your attitude, and the choices you make today, help build the “house” you will live in tomorrow. Therefore, build wisely!

What does this story inspire you to do differently?

You want to become a decision master? Find out here 6 steps to follow.

Job interviews : the rules to get better and succeed

job interviews

Get better at job interviews and find the best employer for you!

8 things to know before

  1. Ask for advice on good ethical agencies, try free platforms like Helper Choice   or direct hire so you don’t have to pay fees. Always check if the agency is licensed and how much they will charge you (it is maximum 10% of your monthly salary in Hong Kong and 2 months salary  in Singapore)
  2. Start interviewing two months before the end of your contract or as soon as possible so you have enough time for job interviews and don’t  feel pressured.
  3. Look at the job offer. Only accept job interviews if you really consider the offer and if your profile meets the employer’s requirements. Don’t waste your time and employer’s time if you already know that you or they will say no.
  4. Go to all job interviews with employers that you are happy to consider. Don’t wait for an answer before accepting another interview. Employers do the same with domestic workers, so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable. Don’t hesitate to register in an agency (with no fee for domestic workers) even if you may find trough direct hire. You don’t have to feel bad for the agent.
  5. Let friends know where you go for job interviews (give address and interview time) so they can react in case of emergency. Send them a message afterwards, so they know you are safe. Don’t go to an interview in a private place if you feel the employer is strange. If you want to come with a friend, don’t let the employers know about it. She should wait for you outside.
  6. Be on time, search on Google maps before for directions and allow 15 minutes extra buffer time in case you get lost. If you need to cancel, try to do it at least 24 hours in advance.
  7. If you are running late, don’t cancel, send a message or call “I am really sorry I am running late. I will be there in … minutes. If that’s not possible for you, can we please reschedule? Many thanks and all my apologies again.”
  8. Prepare your answers to questions employers generally ask to domestic workers (see below) and come with copies of your referral letters and certificates if you have some.

Know how to answer these questions

  • Experience – Describe a day with your current employer. What is your schedule? What do you like/dislike? Do you think your work is too easy or too hard? How many employers have you had and how long have you worked for them? Can I contact them?  Do you have referral letters? Why are you looking to change employer or not renewing your current contract? If it is your employer’s decision, explain why.
  • Cooking – What kind of food do you know how to cook? (Western, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, vegetarian …?) Did your employers ask you to follow recipes before and how (in a cookbook, on YouTube?). What are your favorite recipes? Can you explain 1 recipe now?
  • Children / Elderly people. What experience do you have (how many years taking care of children / elderly people). What qualifications and certificates do you have? Did you attend any specific training/classes here or in your country of origin? Do you know first aid?
    • Children. How old were the children you took care of? Did you already take care of a baby? If my child falls on his head and then seems sleepy, what would you do? If my child is talks to you in a rude way and don’t accept your orders, what would you do?
    • Elderly people. How old where the elderly people you took care of before? What did you have to do to help them? What would you do I my old mother falls and does not reply to you?
  • What are you better at? Household chores, children, elderly people, cooking? What do you like best?
  • Salary – What is your current salary? What do you want? If it is above minimum salary, what makes you think you are worth more?
  • Are there other things you could do for us (sewing/baking bread …)?
  • Are you autonomous, willing to take initiatives or do you prefer to be told exactly what you should do hour by hour? How would you describe yourself or how would your friends describe you?
  • What are your interests and hobbies? What do you during your days off?
  • Why do you work as a domestic worker? How long do you plan to work abroad? What are your dreams for the future?

3 rules during job interviews

  1. Tell the truth. For example, don’t say you can cook if you can’t. Your employer will quickly find out and be disappointed. If you think you cannot do what they ask, just let them know. There will be many other employers who may be looking for you.
  2. Ask questions about the family and the job. The job interview is not only for the employer to know if they want to hire you but also for you to decide if you want to work for them. Ask questions about what they expect of their domestic worker, how old are the children… Don’t ask immediately questions about the salary and days off, employers will think you are only after the money and an easy job. It’s better to let them tell you first about the salary or only ask about it after they made you an offer. However it’s fine to ask where you would sleep, food arrangements, if you are allowed to practice your religion if you want to pray during the day and/or fast.
  3. Don’t give in to pressure. Take time to decide, don’t say yes during the job interview. Once employers have made you an offer, it’s time to ask all your remaining questions. You need to have a clear idea of the job duties and the working conditions if they haven’t told you about it already (salary, approximate schedule, days off and national holidays…) Don’t hesitate to negotiate the salary if you have experience and don’t accept a lower salary than your actual one unless specific circumstances (very high actual salary, no more time…).

Making your decision

  • Don’t say yes and sign a contract to say no afterwards because you find an employer you like better. Wait for answers from all the employers you liked, then say yes to the best one for you.
  • Write down all you remember from the job interview, so you can easily compare job offers in the future. If you go to many job interviews, you may forget who said what otherwise.
  • Consider the duties and the salary but even more importantly the working conditions and the employer’s attitude: are they respectful? Do they seem kind people?
  • If you are waiting for another employer’s decision, reply politely: “Many thanks for your kind offer. I am happy that you liked my profile. I want to take a little bit of time before deciding, but I will quickly let you know my answer. I know you can’t wait long.”
  • Once you’ve made your decision, say politely no to other employers who offered you a job: “I want to thank you once again for your offer. I really took the time to think about it. I made my decision and I am sorry to say no. I wish you the best finding the perfect helper for you.” If they ask you why just say “Your offer was good and I am really grateful but I liked their offer better”. If they insist, say that you already signed the contract.
  • Show your happiness to the employer who is hiring you: “I am really happy to accept your offer. I am looking forward to working for your family”.

Good luck with job hunting and share your experience and advice here as well!

Develop your confidence and boldness easily

confidence

Confidence can be in ourselves when we born, but if not, it is possible to develop it. You doesn’t need long training, only make some exercices and you will feel much more boldness !

Dare to challenge yourself

Be kind with yourself but don’t accept fatality. Being shy or reserved is totally ok but if you want to become more confident, this is something you can learn as well! In order to be successful, you need to learn to stand up for yourself and dare more.

For that, psychologists found that the best technique is to give yourself regularly some new challenges to accomplish, things that you are a bit afraid of but are not totally impossible and out of your reach.

It will be different for each person but what is important is to do these challenges alone.

Some ideas to help you to develop your confidence

  • eating alone at the restaurant.
  • going alone to a place where you’ve never been.
  • going into a luxury shop (like CHANEL or DIOR), ask to try some products or clothes and of course not buying them.
  • Talking to a stranger in the bus

Self confidence is an important mindset to realize your dreams. 

Did you do it? How did it make you feel?

 

 

Breathe!

9 out of 10 people don’t breathe correctly. They only use their lungs and no their belly to breathe. Take a deep breathe. If your shoulders go up, it means that you don’t breathe correctly. Breathing affects your sleep, back, memory, digestion and anxiety level. Breathing is directly related to how long you will live and your health. You must learn to breathe horizontally and not only vertically – it means you must learn to expand your belly when you breathe in and squeeze when you breathe out. Doing a breathing exercise several times a day will positively impact your mood, stress, health and make even help you make better decisions. It will help you feel stronger.

3 times a day, breathe in with your belly (not only chest) for 4 seconds, then hold your breathe for 4 seconds, breathe out for 6 seconds and then hold empty for 2 seconds before breathing in again. Do 5 repetitions. When you breathe in, your belly inflates and when you breathe out, it deflates. You can just count in your head, use your phone timer or download the free app Breathe +. You can also adjust the length of each part and slowly increase them. The more repetitions, the better.

OPTIONAL – Watch this video to find out more!

Source: How to breathe – Belisa Vranich

“Believe you can and you are halfway there.”

Here is a powerful story about the importance of a positive mindset to make our dreams come true.

A group of frogs were walking in the forest. Two of them fell into a pit. When the other frogs saw how deep it was, they told the two frogs that the situation was hopeless.

However, the two frogs decided to ignore what the others were saying, and they to tried to jump out of the pit.

The group of frogs at the top of the pit were still saying that they would never make it out.

Eventually, one of the frogs listened to what the others were saying, and he gave up. The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to just give up and accept his certain death instead of suffering so much.

He jumped even harder and finally made it out. When he got out, the other frogs said, “Did you not hear us?”
The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

What you believe has a big impact on what you can achieve.
And you, do you sometimes doubt of yourself?

The 5 most common regrets of people dying

regrets of the dying

Do you know the most common 5 regrets of people dying? Read about them and decide what your next steps should be to create a life free of regret.

Bronnie Ware was a nurse working in palliative care and she soon noticed that people who were going to die had all the same 5 common regrets.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This is the most common regret of all. It’s important to try to fulfil at least some of our dreams and especially when we still have a good health. Many people take health for granted.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. People regret to have spent so much time working and not being with their loved ones. It’s especially true in the situation of migrant workers apart from their families. You need to discuss your situation with your family and come up with a plan so, you can go home quickly.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people don’t express their feelings because they are afraid to hurt others or to be rejected. But it makes them sick and accept things they should not accept. If people love you, they will appreciate your honesty. If they don’t, they will be out of your life and this is better to get away from these unhealthy relationships.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Many people are so busy that they don’t devote time to their friends or to make new friends. They find themselves lonely at the end.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. Many people don’t realize until the end that happiness is also a choice. Smile, laugh and appreciate the little joys of life.

“Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.” Bronnie Ware

Read more about it here: http://www.bronnieware.com/blog/regrets-of-the-dying

The two wolves in your mind

wolves in your head
An old Cherokee wants to give is grandson an important lesson about life.
Watch the video or read the lesson below:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is black – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is white – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith”
He added, “The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
His grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked him, “Which wolf will win?
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
The emotions we nurture determine who we will become. And you, did it happen to you to be caught in a negativity cycle?

The old woman at the door – Listen to your emotions as painful as they can be and then let them go

story of an old lady

Maria was very upset. An old lady that she did not know kept banging at her door all day and night and would not leave. She was very stubborn and would come more than 10 times a day, asking to get inside the house. Maria was scared of her, so, at first, she tried to ignore her.

She put music loud and organized dinners with friends. She kept herself busy with activities she enjoyed like cooking and reading. She even went on vacation on a beautiful beach in the hope that the old lady will not be there when she returns. But whatever she did, the old woman always came back.

Then, Maria got angry at her, shout at her, told her not to come. But the old lady kept coming back, banging at the door in the middle of the night.

As nothing was working, Maria tried to bargain with her, “it’s ok you can come but only between 4 and 5 pm”. But the old lady kept coming anytime!

Finally, she decided to let the old woman in.
The old woman started to talk about her life, she had a lot of things to share.
At some point Maria felt she had listened enough but she did not know how to make the old woman stop.
She listened a bit more until she was sure she had listened to it all. Then, she took the old lady by the hand, thanked her and brought her back to the door.
The old lady never came back.

Everyone in life faces hardships and sadness. What happens if you don’t listen to your emotions? What happens if you get overwhelmed by them? Keep the picture of this old woman banging at the door whenever you deal with grief, sadness and anger. Express them fully but then bring them back to the door.

Emotional First Aid – your kit to face life’s hardships

Practice emotional first aid to deal with rejection, failure, guilt and loss, and improve your mental health.

If you cut your finger while cooking, you would immediately clean the wound and apply a bandage. So why don’t we use first aid for our mental health?

Anyone who felt rejected, lonely or suffered the loss of a loved one knows that emotional injuries can be just as painful as physical ones.

Psychologist Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid, recommends 7 ways to practice emotional first aid.

1. First, know to recognize when you are in emotional pain and treat it before it gets worse. These are the common psychological injuries:

  • Rejection:  by friends, partners, employers…
  • Failure:  when we don’t reach our goals or make mistakes…
  • Loneliness: living abroad make us even more prone to loneliness but you can also feel lonely in your own home if you don’t feel connected to others.
  • Loss: when relatives pass away, a friend moves out of town. How we rebuild ourselves determine if we become emotionally stronger or weaker.
  • Brooding or Rumination: you keep having sad or angry feelings and find it difficult to think of anything else. But doing so doesn’t allow them to heal.
  • Guilt: Moderate guilt is normal but when it makes it difficult for us to concentrate on our work and responsibilities then it’s time to act.
  • Low Self-Esteem:  this is also normal to feel low and critical about ourselves sometimes but if we always feel like this it’s like having a weak immune system: it makes us more vulnerable and more likely to sustain further psychological injury.

Just like physical diseases, emotional injuries get worse if they are not treated. Untreated rejection for example can cause a low self-esteem, which can make us be defensive and push people away, which can makes us become more lonely at which point we find ourselves ruminating about how our friends have stopped caring about us, which can lead to a full depression.

2. Regain control after a failure. Failures make our goals seem even more out of reach and lower our self-esteem and confidence.

Once we feel that we cannot succeed, we become demoralized and lose our motivation. Instead, make a list of what was in your control: effort, planning, alternatives you could have taken, etc. It will help your fight against misperceptions and improve your chances to succeed in the future.

3. Protect your self-esteem as you would protect your own child from aggression. Self-esteem is like an emotional immune system that protects you from depression.

It is very important to monitor it and avoid putting yourself down, particularly when you are already in pain after a failure or a rejection. Many of us become self-critical in these situations, kicking our self-esteem when we are already down. Don’t make it harder than it is already! You are only adding pain to pain…

When you’re feeling critical of yourself, imagine a dear friend or your own child is feeling bad about him or herself for similar reasons and write a letter expressing your support. Then read the letter to yourself.

To revive your self-worth after a rejection, you can also make a list of your positive qualities that you value and read them to yourself.

4. Break the cycle of brooding and ruminating negative thoughts with positive distraction. Negative only brings negative. When you keep having negative thoughts, it only leads you to deeper pain.

To stop ruminating, ask yourself this question: “Can I do something about it?”. If yes, then do it. If no, distract yourself to stop thinking of it. The best way is to engage in a task that requires concentration (like doing a breathing exercise, recalling the names of the children in your school for example or completing a crossword). Studies shows that only two minutes of distraction will reduce the need to have these negative thoughts (it’s true as well if you are trying to stop yourself from eating chocolate by the way – all our urges reduce dramatically after 2 minutes).

5. Find meaning in loss.
Loss is a part of life, but it can keep us from moving forward if we don’t treat the emotional pain it creates.

Know the “normal cycle” of loss that psychologists have defined: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Sadness and Depression; 5. Acceptance. Read more about it here: the 5 stages of loss and grief.

If a lot of time has passed and you still can’t move forward, try to find meaning in the loss. It might be hard, but think of what you might have gained or understood from the loss (for instance, “I lost my husband but I’ve become much closer to my kids”). Think of how you can help others to appreciate life more, and the changes you can make in your own life to live more fully.

6. Avoid excessive guilt by repairing damaged relationships

We feel guilty when our action or inactions have hurt another person (often a friend or loved one) who has not forgiven us.

Often our apologies are not “good enough” for the other person to “let it go”. Apologies require “empathy”. The other person must feel that you totally understand how they felt and how they were badly impacted by you. (Read more about making effective apologies here).

7. Don’t think loneliness is your fate.

Loneliness is much more common then we realize – especially when living abroad as a migrant domestic worker.  It has a negative impact on our emotional and physical health. The worse is that when we feel lonely, we often want to minimize the risk of rejection by ignoring opportunities to connect with people.

Make a list of excuses you’ve used to avoid taking initiative —I won’t know anyone so why go?; They don’t call me so why should I call them?; They’re probably too busy to meet up; I can’t just introduce myself to a stranger. 

If this is not you, but your employer who doesn’t allow you to go out on your days off or calling friends or relatives outside of your working hours, look immediately for help from a NGO like Home in Singapore or Help in Hong Kong. This is not normal and it put yourself in a very vulnerable situation.

Now make a list of people whose company you’ve enjoyed in the past (go through your phone book, Facebook friends, and Email contacts) and reach out to one or two each day to initiate plans until your social calendar is full. Challenge yourself to avoid using excuses when you feel anxious.

“Mostly, get into the habit of taking note of your psychological health on a regular basis — and especially after a stressful, difficult, or emotionally painful situation. Yes, practicing emotional hygiene takes a little time and effort, but it will seriously elevate your entire quality of life. I promise.” Guy Winch

You can also watch this Ted Talk by Psychologist Guy Winch where he explains how he practices emotional first aid for himself.

And read this story about dealing with emotions

The old woman at the door – Listen to your emotions as painful as they can be and then let them go

 

 

Reference

Winch, G. (2014). Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts. New York: Plume – Penguin Group.