Fast Way to Long Term Happiness

>> Sunday

Want to feel good more often? Do you want to feel good into your old age? It would really help if you didn't have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer's. And there is something you can do that may very well reduce your risk of all these at once — and possibly reduce your risk a lot. It is simply to go without food once in awhile for a short period of time.

Watch this one-hour program by a British journalist who talks to experts on longevity who are all, in one way or another, coming to the same conclusions. As Klassy Evans puts it, "The problem the developed countries are having with obesity isn't so much because we're overeating. The problem is we are underfasting." Apparently our bodies need to occasionally experience hunger. The good news is that the hunger need not be prolonged or very uncomfortable to make a difference.

Watch the video and see what you think. See what the scientists are discovering — that when we go without food every now and then, it stimulates our brains to make more brain cells. And that one of the effects of even a brief fast is that the body stops creating new cells and starts repairing existing cells instead — and that includes repairing the DNA in those cells, which may explain fasting's effect on cancer.

If you've never tried to go without food, it can be scary. But it is easier than you'd think and although sometimes you feel hungry, the feeling doesn't last very long and fasting also creates other positive feelings you don't normally have. This is definitely a practice worth exploring for those of us who want to feel good more often (and for a long time to come).

Watch the video here: BBC Horizon 2012: Eat, Fast and Live Longer.

Read more:
The Best Fasting Method
Under-fasting and the Fountain of Youth
Fasting, Metabolism, and Happiness

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot


Ikigai is Good For You

>> Saturday

The first time I took the "signature strengths" questionnaire at, I received an update on Martin Seligman's work, as I mentioned awhile ago. Here's another passage from that update, also an excerpt from Seligman's new book, Flourish:

There is one trait similar to optimism that seems to protect against cardiovascular disease: ikigai. This Japanese concept means having something worth living for, and ikigai is intimately related to the meaning element of flourishing (M in PERMA) as well as to optimism.

There are three prospective Japanese studies of ikigai, and all point to high levels of ikigai reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, even when controlling for traditional risk factors and perceived stress. In one study, the mortality rate among men and women without ikigai was 160 percent higher than for increased CVD mortality as compared to men and women with ikigai.

In a second study, men with ikigai had only 86 percent of the risk of mortality from CVD compared to men without ikigai; this was also true of women, but less robustly so.

And in a third study, men with high ikigai had only 28 percent of the risk for death from stroke relative to their low-ikigai counterparts, but there was no association with heart disease.

It is healthy to add more meaning and purpose to your life, and it will improve your mood. To explore this, start here:

Why Goals Are Good

How to Find a Purpose in Life

Immediate Practical Benefits to Having a Purpose

Visualizing Goals

"When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary projects, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind trancends limitations; your consciousness expands in every direction; and you find yourself in a great new and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be."

- Patanjali

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.


The Holstee Manifesto

Click here to watch a YouTube video version of the Holstee Manifesto (2 minutes and 37 seconds long).


Inside the Mind of Diana Nyad

>> Monday

My wife, Klassy, is reading Find a Way by Diana Nyad, who was the first person to successfully swim from Cuba to Florida. In her 20s Nyad attempted the swim but failed. Then she didn't swim at all for 30 years. But she knew in her heart she could do it, and she did — in 53 hours of non-stop swimming, at the age of 64.

Because swimming long distances is so challenging and requires so much dedication, what the swimmer does in her mind makes all the difference. And in much of the book, Nyad describes what she does mentally.

Klassy has been gaining a lot of value from these descriptions, and I've been gaining a lot from Klassy sharing it with me. Three principles in particular have been very useful for both of us, and I'd like to share them with you here.

1. Engagement or escape. That's all there is. This simple distinction has clarified so many things. Where you are alive is where you are engaged. If you want to feel alive, if you want to solve a problem, if you want to achieve a goal, engagement is what you're after. What gets in your way is escape.

2. Exercise your willpower, just like you would a muscle. Willpower is not binary. It's not on or off. You can have degrees of it, and you can improve it. When you look at the chocolate in the cupboard and you want to have some, you don't only have a choice between having it or not having it. Another choice is to exercise a little willpower to make yourself stronger. See if you can put off having the chocolate for five minutes. You'll be surprised at how little effort it takes to exercise your willpower, and how good it feels to do it. And it strengthens you for the next challenge. Exercising your will this way doesn't require force. It's more like a question or an experiment.

3. If your heart isn't in it, don't bother. This is always a question to ask and to answer honestly. Find a way to either find out that you really want something, or find a way to do something else instead. Nyad lives by a quote from Mary Wilder: "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" It's easy to forget that life is short and if you're going to do something, you'd better get at it and make it count. In the end, heart is all that matters.

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot.


How to Gain a New Perspective

When you say, "Thanks, that gave me a new perspective," it's usually because something was causing you stress, someone gave you a different way to look at the problem, and it made you feel better.

If you're like most of us, you usually gain a new perspective because someone you know gives you some good counsel. But you can gain a new perspective deliberately on your own, and it will change your mood (and the way you handle the problem) just as well. Here are three ways to gain a new perspective:

1. Make a comparison reframe. My wife and I were in line at a grocery store, commenting on how busy it was, and grumbling about waiting in line. The man in front of us got to talking with us, and in the course of the conversation, he said he wished his wife were alive. My wife and I both made the same comparison reframe in our minds. All of a sudden waiting in a long line seemed so insignificant! Comparison reframes can give you a sudden and dramatic change in perspective. Find out how.

2. In your imagination, look at it from someone else's point of view. Who do you think might have a good perspective on your situation? It could be someone you know, or someone from history. Think of someone you admire. How do you think that person would look at this setback? How about Abraham Lincoln? Or Gandhi? Of course, you don't really know, but you can imagine it. This five-minute process can often completely change your perspective.

3. Set a goal that will change your perspective. For example, I once lost my job. The company went out of business. At first I was stunned, but my wife and I talked about it and decided we'd make sure we were glad this happened, which meant the next job had to be significantly better that the old job. I sat down and listed all the things I liked in the old job, all the things I didn't like, and all the things I wanted in my next job. Then I went after a job that would fit all those criteria. This goal changed my perspective on my new (and potentially stressful) circumstances. I found the job I was looking for. And we did, in fact, become genuinely glad the other company went out of business. A goal can change your perspective dramatically.

When you gain a new perspective, you feel better. And you respond differently to your circumstances because your response depends on how you're looking at it. Because of your lack of distress or panic, you'll make better decisions.

You can change a perspective right now. Think of something stressing you out, choose one of the three techniques above, and use it today. Mastery of perspective is an important skill in your ultimate goal of feeling good more often.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.


Metaphors Can Make You Happy

>> Saturday

In an article in the Positive Psychology News Daily, David Pollay interviewed Clara Font, a 107 year-old woman with a great attitude. During the interview, Clara says two things in passing, but she says them as statements of fact. They are metaphors she lives by:

1. Life is a gift.
2. Every day is an opportunity.

Each one of these ways of looking at life are comparison reframes. Life is a gift compared to dying or suffering the horror of someone you love dying, for example. But life doesn't feel like a gift if you compare your life to some ideal like being a millionaire with no problems.

If you looked at your own life with the perspective (through the frame) of those two statements, you would find it raises your mood. Try it.

In other words, say to yourself, "Life is a gift." And then answer the question, "In what ways is life a gift?" Once you start thinking about it, the answers are numerous and they all stem from comparing your situation to something worse. Situations worse than yours are easy to come up with.

Several times today, say one of those statements to yourself and think about how it is true.

You are alive. You might as well enjoy that fact, and using Clara's two metaphors can help.

Read more here:
Are You The One?

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.


Goals Bring Out Your Best

>> Tuesday

Even if you have a large, overarching purpose, you can only take action in this very moment. It is an excellent practice to try to keep in mind one clear purpose for what you're doing now. And the question, "What is my purpose here?" can really straighten up and clarify your mind and your actions.

For example, if you are criticizing someone, ask yourself, "What am I after?" You may find what you're really after is to make the other person feel bad or punish them for something they did. That is an automatic, genetically-driven (and usually counterproductive) purpose.

In other words, you didn't really consciously choose to pursue that goal. It happened without you.

But now that you've asked the question, "What is my purpose here?" you can choose. You can think about what you really want in this situation. You may decide what you really want is that the person doesn't do it again. Then you'd have a clear purpose and a clear path for action — without games, without negative feelings. All you'd have is a simple request: "Please don't do that again."

Make it a regular practice to ask yourself what you want right now. What is your goal here in this situation? What are you after? What are you aiming for? Be clear, always and consciously, about what your purpose is in this very moment. It is effective. It is therapeutic. It is healthy. And it will make you more productive.

One key to a strong sense of purpose is the practice of focusing only on what you want. When your mind wanders to other things, bring your focus back. Again and again. Your mind is very easily taken off track, so you have to keep noticing your attention has wandered and keep bringing your focus back to your purpose.

When your mind starts worrying about problems that might happen, bring your mind back to your concrete assignment. When your attention becomes fixed on what you don't want (and it will), turn your attention to what you do want.

There isn't one "right" purpose which you must find and follow. Any (constructive) purpose is better than no purpose and some are better than others. Some are good for now, but not good if pursued too long. The important thing is that you like your purpose, feel it is important, and make progress in that direction.

A question that can help you make progress is: "What is my purpose here?" Ask it often. Throughout your day today, try to ask it of yourself ten times to see how useful this question can be. 

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot.


Partison Division

>> Friday

The following is an excerpt from an article in the Fresno Bee last July. It talks of partisan division, which was bad then, but is even worse now. It offers a helpful solution:

Our country is seriously divided. A recent Pew Center report indicates that we distrust and fear one another. Among committed partisans, “70 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans say they are afraid of the other party.”

And yet, partisan hatred leaves us unhappy. And it causes moderate people to disengage. That’s unfortunate, since partisan rancor is curbed by the common sense of the moderates.

One solution points beyond politics to friendship. The Pew Center report suggests that those who have a friend in the other party are less fearful of the other party.

But our polarization makes it difficult to be friendly. We do not socialize in mixed political company. Our preconceptions are reinforced by a closed loop of one-sided media choices and self-selected social networks. This allows self-love to grow – and with it, distrust and fear.

Here is a suggestion...Befriend someone from the other party. Search for common ground. Our disagreements are nothing to fear. We should accept them as part of human nature. And celebrate them as a sign of our freedom.

Read the whole article here.


The Pleasures of Political Partisanship

>> Sunday

One recent book uses brain science to explain partisanship. In “The Righteous Mind,” Jonathan Haidt traces partisan zeal to the brain’s pleasure centers. Partisan behavior unleashes a rewarding blast of dopamine. This reinforces preconceived notions and our sense of righteous superiority. Noting that cocaine and heroin operate on those same pleasure centers, Haidt concludes, “Extreme partisanship may literally be addictive.”

The above is quoted from an article entitled, Partisan Division, The Founders, and Moral Philosophy.

Feel free to post or distribute the memes above to help us all rise out of our partisan feelings for a moment and just be human.


Moodraising On Groundhog Day

>> Saturday

In the movie, Groundhog Day, Phil Conner (played by Bill Murray) is a weatherman who gets stuck in time, reliving the same day over and over, always waking up on the morning of Groundhog Day (February 2nd) until he finds happiness. Once he attains happiness, he makes it out of Groundhog Day into the next day.

When the movie starts, Phil is not a very nice guy. He is sarcastic and rude. He is egotistical and selfish. Later in the movie you discover Phil acts that way because he's not happy. He is busy trying to live up to the goals society or his parents have given him and the goals of his own self-centered ego — trying to be successful, well-known, and wealthy — rather than asking himself what would really improve his mood.

Phil's goals were the kind people have when they haven't taken the time to wonder what they really want with their life. They are the built-in, default kind of goals: Impress others and have lots of money.

When he discovers he is re-living the same day, his first response is to be unnerved. He loses his cockiness and some of his rudeness. He's uncertain.

Next he begins to revel in his freedom from the rules of society. He does whatever he feels like doing. The laws don't matter any more because even when he is thrown into jail, he wakes up the next morning back in his bed, and as far as anyone else is concerned, none of it happened.

He pretty much indulges his whims, using his unusual situation (being able to anticipate what's going to happen) to his personal, selfish advantage, but he's still unconnected to who he really is and what he really wants. He just tries to satisfy his appetites for food and sex and money. He steals. He takes advantage of women by lying and pretending. He buys expensive cars.

But it gets old. None of it is making him happy. Simply indulging his appetites, as many newly rich people discover, does not produce any real satisfaction. It is an empty gratification.

Every day he goes through the motions of doing his weather report, so he sees Rita (his producer, played by Andie MacDowell) every day and he begins to realize what a good person she is. He falls in love with her, but can't reach her. As far as she is concerned, up until today he has been an egotistical jerk, and she still thinks of him that way.

So he begins an elaborate seduction, getting farther and farther with her each day, pretending to like what he doesn't like as he learns more about her, pretending to be what he's not in order to win her over. He tries to be what he thinks she wants. But she always sees through his fake character at some point — no matter how cleverly and carefully he tries — and slaps him in the face, ending his romantic ambition for the rest of the night.

Eventually he gives up on this last attempt at happiness, feeling trapped in Groundhog Day forever, with no hope of love or happiness, and he decides to kill himself.

But he won't die. Every day he wakes up in his bed again. He tries electrocuting himself, jumping off a building, stepping in front of a bus, and driving off a cliff. But nothing works.

Finally he gives up on even that, and begins to just be himself. He starts being honest. He starts noticing what he likes and wants.

He walks by an ice carving contest and realizes it looks like fun to him. He never would have even thought of doing it before because he was so focused on becoming a rich and famous weatherman.

He hears a piano and thinks learning to play the piano might be something he would enjoy doing too. He sees people having trouble of one kind or another and finds pleasure in trying to help them, using his unusual situation (being able to anticipate what's going to happen) for good instead of evil, and he begins to relax and be himself. He finds he feels good when doing good.

He discovers he likes being himself.

Because he is stuck in Groundhog Day, he can't advance his career, which is what he was obsessively focused on before, so he is free to ask what else he might want. His mood rises to a state he has never felt before.

And he finds love — not by being a phony game-player, but by simply being his honest self. And he finds happiness. "No matter what happens tomorrow," Phil says, "I am happy now." The next morning is the day after Groundhog Day. He made it to the next day.

Every Groundhog Day, I think about this movie and the lessons it teaches: if you will bloom where you're planted, pursue what is deeply important to you, be yourself, and help other people, you will enjoy good moods more often.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.


A Lesson in Reframing From Groundhog Day

>> Sunday

In the movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a weatherman named Phil. Self-centered, bitter, and sarcastic, Phil is not a happy man and he tends to make other peoples' lives more difficult.

One day Phil has to go to a little town to cover a Groundhog Day festival, and the next day he wakes up and it is still Groundhog Day (February 2nd). The next day the same thing happens. He has to live the same day, Groundhog Day, again and again. Every morning he wakes up, he's in the same place on the same day. For weeks, months, years.

Phil feels trapped, and in his anger, he tries to take advantage of the situation. He steals money, drives like a maniac, tricks women to have his way with them. He may have gone to jail the night before, but the next morning he wakes up back in his bed and nobody is the wiser. But this doesn't make him happy.

All the while, Phil talks to Rita every day. Rita is the producer of the show. He slowly realizes he loves her. Of course, she only knows him as the egocentric jerk he has been so far, so he is frustrated. At first he tries to be phony, learning all about her likes and dislikes, and trying to get her to like him. But then every morning, nobody remembers anything about the day before except him, so she thinks he's a jerk again.

Finally he gives up, gets depressed, and decides the only way out of this nightmare is to kill himself. He drives his truck off a cliff, jumps off a building, gets in a bath and drops a plugged-in toaster in the water, etc. But every morning he wakes up in his bed again, not a scratch on him.

Finally he gives up and starts being his honest self. And when he does, Rita responds to it. One day he hangs out with her all day and tells her what is going on, and she reframes his situation for him. She says, "Sometimes I wish I had a thousand lifetimes."

He changes his attitude and decides to bloom where he is planted. He decides to accept his situation and make the best of it. He decides to fulfill himself and be happy. And he does. He learns to ice-sculpt and play the piano. He starts finding people in need and helping them. He becomes a happy, satisfied man.

And then, of course, Rita falls in love with him, and once that happens, he wakes up and it is finally the day after Groundhog Day.

The movie is a good demonstration of how dramatically life can change with a new perspective. All his objective circumstances were the same. When he thought of it as a trap, as a sentence, he was miserable and made everyone else miserable too. But when he saw the opportunity in the circumstances, when he chose to make the best of it, he transformed. And he was happier, and everyone he knew was happier too.

How can this apply to you? Watch the movie and think about what you have in your life that you think of as a trap. What unchanging circumstance do you have that you resist or hate? Now ask yourself, "What might be good about this? How might I take advantage of this? How could I thrive and fulfill myself right where I am?" Honestly pondering those questions shifts your attitude, improves your mood, and opens the possibility of surprising new opportunities for joy.

- Excerpted from the book, Viewfinder, which is all about reframing.


The Antidote to Witnessing the Recent Presidential Campaign

>> Monday

An interesting article this week described the results of several experiments showing that feelings of awe might be an effective salve for the disturbing feelings we have had of late. Below are some excerpts from the article (read the whole thing here):

2016 was rough.

America's grueling presidential campaign was full of anger, searing accusations, and fear. In its wake, our country's darkest differences have been brought to light. Many families and friends have been pitted against one another. We are exhausted. We are divided. We are perhaps even a little bit depressed.

So allow me to offer you some good news.

I'm here to tell you, downtrodden countrymen (and women), that there is a remedy for our particular affliction. It can be found in the flutter of a hummingbird's wings, or the determined eyes of a crouching snow leopard. It's in the gallop of a giraffe as it's pursued across the tundra, and the heroic leap of a penguin from razor-sharp cliffs. Mix in a cinematic score by Hans Zimmer and the soothing sounds of David Attenborough's voice, and the formula is complete. Lift your eyes to the TV screen, my weary friends. What we need now, perhaps more than ever, is a hefty dose of Planet Earth.

I'm a nature nerd and an awe junkie. Regular injections of natural beauty help keep me afloat in a world that would otherwise drag me down. I need brushes with wonder to maintain my sanity. I need that swelling in my chest and goosebumps down my spine, that tear-jerking act of kindness, or brilliant full moon, or stirring speech. Awe and wonder just make me feel good.

And I'm not alone. Scientists believe awe might actually be good for our physical health. In one groundbreaking study, researchers measured participants' levels of something called interleukin-6, a molecule known to promote inflammation in the body. Elevated levels of this stuff have been linked to chronic ailments like depression and autoimmune diseases. The theory is that the lower your levels of IL-6, the better your overall health. In the study, awe was "the strongest predictor" of lower levels of IL-6, the authors write, even stronger than regular brushes with other positive emotions like love and joy.

"We know positive emotions are important for well-being, but our findings suggest they're also good for our body," says positive psychology researcher Jennifer Stellar, the study's lead author.

Read the whole article here: The Scientific Reason You Should Be Watching Planet Earth.



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