When a Gratitude Journal Fails: How to Stay Happy in the Face of Suffering

gratitude-suffering

The following is a cross-over post from my other blog, JonGuerrera.com. On that blog, I write about topics I consider very personal, but in the case of today’s post, it was applicable to Living for Improvement as well. The topic? The interplay of attachment and gratitude, and how one doesn’t work without the other. If you’ve ever tried gratitude journals before, you’ll appreciate this post. Enjoy!


 

In your first few minutes of reading about positive psychology, you’ll likely come across the recommendation to start a gratitude journal.

There’s strong research demonstrating the power of gratitude. Anyone serious about improving his or her happiness should be looking into ways to express more gratitude throughout the day.

However, like anything that deals with emotions, gratitude can be tricky. When I started out, I would write three things I was grateful for each morning. I’d express gratitude for my youth, my relatively good health, the health of my friends and family, the ability to afford things that make me happy, and more.

After a few weeks, it dawned on me: I had an easier time seeing the positive in my day. For me that’s huge, and all it took was a few minutes each morning. Talk about a win!

However, things took a turn for the worse… Continue Reading…

The Secret to Happiness: An Important Lesson From 75 Years of Research

The Internet is full of opinions about how to best live a fulfilling, meaningful life. But what if I told you that a study has been underway for the last 75 years to answer this very question?

Enter Robert Waldinger.

Waldinger is the Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. This study is arguably the longest, most thorough longitudinal study in history. The question it seeks to answer: What allows us to remain healthy and fulfilled as we progress through life? Continue Reading…

Hiding Your Uniqueness May Be Turning People Off

don't hide who you are

dataclysmIt’s 10:52pm on a Thursday. Having consumed too much caffeine, I lay in bed, tired but unable to drift off into slumber. With a sigh, I turn on the bedside lamp and grab the nearest book: Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder.

In Dataclysm, Rudder takes absurdly large datasets from OKCupid.com, the dating website he co-founded, and uses this data to tell the stories of how we behave online and why. It’s fascinating.

The particular chapter I read tonight focuses on how “controversial”, polarizing women get more messages and dates on OKCupid.com than those who are conventionally attractive. For example, if a woman with many piercings and tattoos has an average rating of 3 – comprised of some men rating her a lowly 1 (not a fan of tattoos) and some men rating her a perfect 5 (love the tattoos) – she will, on average, find more success than the bombshell blonde where most guys rate her a 3, 4, or 5.  In other words, an average rating is misleading. What’s important is the distribution of ratings.

Wow, that’s weird. Why does that happen?

Who knows. Rudder’s data shows correlation, not causation. Nevertheless, Rudder ventures a few guesses, first focusing on the perceptions of the men who choose to message her:

“Her very unconventionality implies that some other men are likely turned off; it means less competition. Having fewer rivals increases his chances of success.”

This is a solid guess, but probably doesn’t tell the whole story.

Of greater interest, Rudder also proposes that this phenomenon is related to the well-documented pratfall effect (i.e. an individual’s attractiveness increases after committing a small blunder). If that’s even partially true, it would indicate that we often appreciate things more, not because of a lack of flaws, but by their very presence.

To quote Rudder one more time:

“So at the end of it, given that everyone on Earth has some kind of flaw, the real moral here is: be yourself and be brave about it. Certainly trying to fit in, just for its own sake, is counterproductive.”

This was the idea that caught my attention.

We feel such a strong pull towards appearing “normal”, lest we expose ourselves to judgment and ridicule from others. Yet here we are with a case study demonstrating the triumph of the unconventional. Perhaps this call to uniqueness carries over into other areas of life as well? Or maybe it’s an isolated case in the wacky world of online dating.

It’s an idea worth exploring.


Photo Credit: Enrico Policardo

 

You Should Remind Yourself of Your Mortality. Here’s What People Remind Themselves of Instead.

Remind yourself that...

The truth is . . . once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.
—Morrie Schwartz

Ever since reading Tuesdays With Morrie, I’ve been quite taken with the idea that in order to live, you must learn how to die. In other words, in order to get the most out of life, you should live each day with the understanding that your time on this planet is limited.

The problem is, we’re not very good at remembering our mortality—especially while we’re young. As such, we end up binge-watching Netflix and overeating McDonalds far more often than we should.

Morrie isn’t the only one to recognize the power of keeping mortality in mind as often as possible. In his book Show Your Work!, artist Austin Kleon recommends reading the obituaries every day to inspire you to take action. It’s a good suggestion, but the idea of reading obituaries every day doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

Thankfully, the internet is chock-full of people finding creative means of remembering their own mortality.

Yet, it seems that mortality is far from the most popular thing people like to remind themselves of. How do I know? During my research, I started typing remind yourself that you will die someday into Google. The Google search box, in an attempt to show me popular searches, gave me the following auto-completed results.

Remind yourself that...

Nothing about mortality? Ok then.

Not quite what I was looking for, I’m afraid. It seems one’s mortality isn’t top of mind for people searching on the web.

Nevertheless, after sprucing up my Google search, I found some interesting techniques for keeping mortality top of mind, whether to boost your motivation to act on goals or for greater mindfulness of our time on this beautiful planet.

1. The Colored Beads Technique

I came across this technique on Boing Boing. In a nutshell, game designer Chris Crawford owns 29,216 small plastic beads, which he transfers into a jar with each passing day, representing his numbered days on earth.

beadjars

Similar to the colored beads technique is using jelly beans to represent your life in days. Even if you can’t replicate this, the video describing it is a powerful reminder of our limited time on Earth. Continue Reading…