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Creating Happiness Lawyers Assistance Program Facilitated by Robert Bircher.

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Presentation on theme: "Creating Happiness Lawyers Assistance Program Facilitated by Robert Bircher."— Presentation transcript:

1 Creating Happiness Lawyers Assistance Program Facilitated by Robert Bircher

2 What Makes us Happy? If only I were rich, famous and beautiful-then I would be happy When I get/achieve/complete ____ then I will be happy Many people have these thoughts and recently psychologists are researching happiness and finding out what really works Their results may surprise many

3 Happiness Research Happiness researchers have determined that about 50% of the variance in happiness is genetic,10% relates to circumstances and 40% is as a result of intentional activity i.e. changeable and totally within our control For most people it is hard to accept that wealth, health, beauty, or marital status have such little influence The research is extensive and has been done in many cultures

4 Happiness Tests Complete happiness tests, exercise, discussion- think- pair – share Happy people leave clues-in a nut-shell happy people are: very relational, express gratitude, are helpers, optimistic, live in the now, are physically active, committed to goals that are meaningful to them and are resilient in the face of crises

5 Hedonic Adaptation Most people believe that changing some life circumstance will make them happy-a new job, new car or house These things do work temporarily, but people quickly adapt to the change. This is similar to coming into a warm house after being out on a cold winter day-you quickly get used to it and may soon complain of being overheated

6 Hedonic Adaptation Even marriage only increases happiness for about 2 years then people go back to their old set point!! Even lotto winners are happier only for about a year, then go back to their previous set point!! This also works for negative events like disease-people adapt to the limitation after a period of time and go back up to their set point

7 Happiness Set Point Research of twins shows that about half of the variance in happiness is genetic. Identical twins, even those separated at birth and raised by different families, have similar levels of happiness-whereas happiness in fraternal twins are uncorrelated

8 What Works? What can you change to influence your own happiness? We will look at 12 things you can do to increase your own happiness Many of these require a change in thinking or attitude, in other words they are cognitive behavioral changes You are as happy as you make your mind up to be-unfortunately few people actually believe this and fewer still do what it takes to change their thinking

9 Expressing Gratitude Gratitude: a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life Gratitude is the antidote to negativity and depression-you can’t be grateful and depressed at the same time Daily gratitude by way of journal or writing a list of 10 things you are grateful for are some of the ways to do this-also being grateful for everyday things-someone brings you coffee etc. Shifts focus on what you have -not what you lack

10 Cultivating Optimism Looking at the bright side, noticing what is right with the world-assuming a positive outcome Can be big “I have a great future” or small “I’ll do great in my interview” It is really positive spins on any given event-reframing in a positive way Best possible future exercise: if everything went super well for you in 10 years what would your life look like?

11 Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison Self focused rumination does not solve problems-it makes them worse Sustains sadness, fosters negatively biased thinking, impairs problem solving, saps motivation, interferes with concentration and initiative It is negative, repetitive and useless Fairly common with lawyers Comparison with others is a losing game-there will always be people with more or less of what you have. Attachment of your identity to “winning” or “being the best” is always doomed to failure

12 Overcoming Overthinking Detachment from your thinking You are not your thoughts-you are the observer of your thoughts You can stop thinking! You are not destined to be tortured by your own thinking Focus on the now –this moment, not past or future Be present and refer to past and future only when required for practical purposes Many teachers focus on this: Eckhart Tolle and many eastern philosophies teach how to live in this moment and not obsess about past and future

13 Kindness The outcome of kindness is happiness for the giver!! Helping others out creates positive feelings The happiest person I know in Vancouver is a chronic “do gooder” and does many acts of kindness each week Bill Gates has given half of his money away-he is smart and realizes helping is better than hoarding- benefiting him and the world

14 Nurturing Social Relationships Happy people are very good at nurturing their relationships with friends family and partners Happy people are relational people Great partners have several things in common-they spend 5 or more hours a week talking, they express a lot of gratitude, admiration, appreciation and affection for each other, they manage conflict well, they share their deep inner life Lawyers need to create time for their relationships or face the inevitable consequences

15 Coping Strategies that Work Life is rarely free of problems, healthy coping creates happiness What works is to accept what is and solve the problem-skip the part about poor me or self blame Finding the blessing in the curse-all events have a positive side even disease and death Anything that doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, almost all personal growth is through suffering Recall a negative situation you have transformed into a positive one

16 Developing Strategies for Coping Your life situation will always be complicated and problematic-if all of your problems were solved today you would have a totally new set of them within 6 months-problems are in fact, interchangeable-trying to solve them in hopes your life will improve puts the locus of control outside of yourself What can be changed is your consciousness or attitudes towards your problems and adapting healthy ways to deal with them as they arise

17 Cognitive Behavioral Systems These are forms of reframing events as they occur in life, a death for example can be framed as a total disaster or some value or meaning can be derived from it People who reframe quickly and automatically are much happier-they can put a positive spin on almost everything There are many ways you can react to a life event-one explanation is as good as another, why not pick the most helpful

18 Cognitive Behavioral Systems What prevents most people from doing this is their egoic need to be “right” about their thoughts As anyone who has done CBT knows many of our thoughts contain serious distortions and are very inaccurate (we are talking here about judgments about ourselves and others not factual thoughts like -today is Wednesday In many cases in life you can be “right” (about your judgment about a situation) or you can be happy-one must make a fundamental choice here

19 Learning to Forgive Hanging on to past resentments is certain to increase unhappiness “Love thine Enemies” which means have no enemies-is ancient wisdom There are many good reasons for forgiveness-the obsessive rumination of hate only burns the person doing it-in essence you torture yourself with your ruminations-it makes good practical sense to forgive

20 Learning to Forgive You do it for yourself, not for the person who wronged you Resentment often causes much more damage than the original act did-i.e.30 years of resentment and anger for sexual abuse occurring as a child Forgiveness can be in the form of a letter, may require therapy, and can be enhanced by talking to others who made a major forgiveness (Bill Clinton talked to Nelson Mandela)

21 Learning to Forgive The reason most people have trouble with forgiveness is that there are huge benefits in not forgiving-you get to be “right”, you can “revel” in your victim- hood, you get to relive the problem and blame the other forever, it's easy, everybody agrees with you, you don’t have to change etc. Forgiveness is not condoning or erasing what happened-it starts with “acceptance of what is” Exercise-examples of people you have forgiven-and those yet to be forgiven

22 Savoring Life’s Joys Really means enjoying the present moment or activity fully, not considering the present moment or activity as a means to an end Smell the roses rather than rush by-takes conscious attention to do this-most of us habitually are so busy in our rush to the next moment we don’t savor much of this moment Celebrate good news, be open to beauty and excellence, practice mindfulness-Zen Buddhism-you can savor with your camera or by writing Exercise: Is it possible to be too much in the now? i.e.-most homeless people and Alzheimer's patients live for the present. What is the difference between living for the now and living in the now?

23 Committing to Goals Self absorbed and aimless people are chronically unhappy!! People who are striving for something personally significant are happier than those who don’t-working toward a meaningful life goal is almost certain to increase happiness The following 6 types of goals work best Authentic goals: are consistent with our own values and skills, we actually “want to” achieve them-ideal self goals are what we think we “should do” what the culture or mom and dad want-getting a law degree can be motivated by either

24 Committing to Goals Intrinsic Goals: are those that are personally involving and rewarding to you-it is pleasurable and meaningful to you i.e. training for a marathon; these tend to be much more effective than extrinsic goals- Extrinsic goals reflect more of what other people approve or desire for you-goals that are ego boosting-making money, seeking power or fame Nothing wrong with extrinsic goals if they allow you to achieve your intrinsic goals i.e. making money to travel the world-but if you believe the extrinsic goal is the end result you will be disappointed-the classic “Christmas Carol” story by Charles Dickens beautifully illustrates this

25 Committing to Goals Approach goals: involve a desirable outcome (learning to play an instrument)-avoidant goals seek to avoid an undesirable outcome (not to be fat) Research shows that approach goals work better and result in happier people that avoidant goals i.e.- “I eat healthy meals” vs. “I will avoid junk food” Consistent goals: goals need to complement each other rather than conflict-spend more time outdoors vs. build my business

26 Goals that Work Flexible Goals: goals tend to change over time depending on our stage of life Activity Goals: for example joining a gym or yoga class tend to produce more happiness over the long term than a change in circumstance goal i.e. buying a flat screen TV or a new car-due to hedonic adaptation

27 Achieving Goals Having goals is one thing, achieving them is another Some tips follow S.M.A.R.T acronym is a good start Small steps work best even if the overall goal is big-you climb a mountain one step at a time Measurable-”I want to lose weight” is too vague “I will lose I pound a week for 15 weeks” is specific and measurable

28 Achieving Goals Achievable-being grandiose usually results in abandonment and failure Realistic-is the goal something you have passion for and is it realistic for you? Trying to become the heavyweight boxing champ of the world at 40 is a delusion not a goal Time bound-if you say exactly when- it changes from a dream to a goal Activity-what are your goals in each of the 6 goal types as described above?- what are your SMART plans to achieve these ?Wheel of Life exercise

29 Religion and/or Spirituality Much research shows Religious/Spiritual people are happier and healthier than non R/S people are- in some cases the differences are huge (i.e. if you are recovering from heart surgery you are three times more likely to be alive 6 months later!!!) Spirituality-a search for the sacred or a felt assurance of life Religion is the same but with a formal doctrine or institution

30 Religion and/or Spirituality One reason may be healthier lifestyles, another may be more social support and connection It may be due to having a big picture view –in order to be depressed you must be self centered with a focus on “me and my problems” rather than being part of an inconceivably large picture and divine plan-also the focus is outside of yourself It may be due to cognitive behavioral reasons-if you believe God will take care of you and loves you and has a plan for you-this is a very comforting base or ground

31 Religion and/or Spirituality Non R/S people say these beliefs can’t be proven or that such beliefs are an “opiate for masses” but the research is clear -if they want to believe that, then they will pay a heavy price-more unhappiness The paradox; from a cognitive- behavioral view point it is utterly irrelevant whether a belief is “true” or not-you will always act or react as if it is true-you can believe you are part of a divine and beautiful plan or a carbon based organic life unit that will live a short time

32 Taking Care of Your Body If you don’t take care of your body where will you live? Meditation is one of the most extensively research proven ways of creating inner peace It is based on the idea of cultivation of attention or consciousness-watching your thinking-it is based on Eastern thinking, not Judeo-Christian, and is thus hard to grasp for most westerners Basic principles: Be nonjudgmental -evaluating creates problems-comparing yourself to others is always egoic

33 Meditation Be non-striving- wanting only begets more wanting, you can be in the moment and still accomplish things- living for the moment and living in the moment are opposites Be patient -one moment is the same as any other moment Be trusting, have faith that the universe will unfold as it should Be open -beginners mind, as if you were seeing something for the first time Let go -nonattachment, free of obsessive ruminations There are many methods and ways of meditating-check it out!!

34 Physical Activity One of the most bullet –proof ways to overcome depression is physical fitness-studies show conclusively it is as effective as antidepressants or most forms of therapy There are so many proven benefits to fitness that it is as close to a miracle cure as anything out there. If you are unhappy, job one is to find a fitness regime that works for you

35 Physical Activity Why is it so effective? It gives a sense of being proactive in your life-whereas taking drugs to improve mood is totally passive Vigorous exercise puts focus on your body and away from your mind ruminating or obsessing-who ruminates in a 100 yard dash? It blows off stress and tension without therapy It allows for an experience of presence, consciousness without thinking-it is easy to be hooked on it –a positive addiction!

36 Physical Activity It is one of the few remedies for unhappiness that is virtually guaranteed-I recommend a fitness regime to all lawyers-it is one of the most positive things you can do for your career These are just the psychological benefits-the physical health benefits are equally impressive Some tips: start slow, do what you love to do, do what you will do, make it fun and easy, book time for it like it is an important client, try and do 30 minutes five days a week

37 Acting Happy As they say in AA “fake it till you make it”-act happy and you will be! Acting happy actually makes you happy-if you fake a smile for 5 minutes in the morning it will change your mood As people age their usual state becomes frozen on their face as a caricature-a happy person will have a happy expression etc. Even faking laughter works! Lets try it now for a few minutes


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