Kathie Melocco - Health Activism

Blog dedicated to Social Justice and Health and Wellbeing Activism

October 26, 2010

Apply the new science of happiness in: • Education • Health • Business • Your Life.

You can change your personal capacity for happiness. Research psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky's pioneering concept of the 40% solution shows you how.

After yesterday's blog post where I discussed that we all have the ability to be creative, I thought I'd keep the focus on emotional well being and the importance of using tools that we now know scientifically improves our happiness quota. Being creative and innovative at work requires us to address our lives in very different ways, to invest in our emotional well being. In fact, I continue to be astounded how companies can expect the best from employees when so many work surroundings are dull in atmosphere, many even lacking a window to the world. The space you occupy to do your most creative and innovative work is important and so too is the way we savour our lives.

It is for this reason that I thought I'd share with you The How of Happiness. I heard Sonja Lyubomirsky speak at the Happiness and its Causes Conference in Sydney last year and her book The How of Happiness is an excellent read and guide to how to increase your own happiness in life. I know it's sounds trite to some who think happiness is a given but try it for yourself, it really does work. There is also an excellent and fun app available for the iPhone that can assist you on your happiness journey.

You can change your personal capacity for happiness. Research psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky's pioneering concept of the 40% solution shows you how.. Drawing on her own groundbreaking research with thousands of men and women, research psychologist and University of California professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky has pioneered a detailed yet easy-to-follow plan to increase happiness in our day-to-day lives-in the short term and over the long term. The How of Happiness is a different kind of happiness book, one that offers a comprehensive guide to understanding what happiness is, and isn't, and what can be done to bring us all closer to the happy life we envision for ourselves. Using more than a dozen uniquely formulated happiness-increasing strategies, The How of Happiness offers a new and potentially life- changing way to understand our innate potential for joy and happiness as well as our ability to sustain it in our lives. Beginning with a short diagnostic quiz that helps readers to first quantify and then to understand what she describes as their "happiness set point," Lyubomirsky reveals that this set point determines just 50 percent of happiness while a mere 10 percent can be attributed to differences in life circumstances or situations. This leaves a startling, and startlingly underdeveloped, 40 percent of our capacity for happiness within our power to change. Lyubomirsky's "happiness strategies" introduce readers to the concept of intentional activities, mindful actions that they can use to achieve a happier life. These include exercises in practicing optimism when imagining the future, instruction in how best to savor life's pleasures in the here and now, and a thoroughgoing explanation of the importance of staying active to being happy. Helping readers find the right fit between the goals they set and the activities she suggests, Lyubomirsky also helps readers understand the many obstacles to happiness as well as how to harness individual strengths to overcome them. Always emphasizing how much of our happiness is within our control, Lyubomirsky addresses the "scientific how" of her happiness research, demystifying the many myths that unnecessarily complicate its pursuit. Unlike those of many self-help books, all her recommendations are supported by scientific research. The How of Happiness is both a powerful contribution to the field of positive psychology and a gift to all those who have questioned their own well- being and sought to take their happiness into their own hands.

Here are some tips for getting started:
(1) Count your blessings: Expressing gratitude for what you have (either privately,
through contemplation or journaling, or to a close other) or conveying your
appreciation to one or more individuals whom you've never properly thanked.
(2) Cultivate optimism: Keeping a journal in which you imagine and write about the
best possible future for yourself, or practicing to look at the bright side of every
(3) Avoid over thinking and social comparison: Using strategies (such as
distraction) to cut down on how often you dwell on your problems and compare
yourself to others.
(4) Practice acts of kindness: Doing good things for others, whether friends or
strangers, either directly or anonymously, either spontaneously or planned.
(5) Nurture relationships: Picking a relationship in need of strengthening, and
investing time and energy in healing, cultivating, affirming, and enjoying it.
(6) Do more activities that truly engage you: Increasing the number of experiences
at home and work in which you "lose" yourself, which are challenging and absorbing.
(7) Replay and savor life's joys: Paying close attention, taking delight, and going
over life's momentary pleasures and wonders – through thinking, writing, drawing, or
sharing with another.
(8) Commit to your goals: Picking one, two, or three significant goals that are
meaningful to you and devoting time and effort to pursuing them.
(9) Develop strategies for coping: Practicing ways to endure or surmount a recent
stress, hardship, or trauma.
(10) Learn to forgive: Keeping a journal or writing a letter in which you work on
letting go of anger and resentment towards one or more individuals who have hurt or
wronged you.
(11) Practice religion and spirituality: Becoming more involved in your church,
temple, or mosque, or reading and pondering spiritually-themed books.
(12) Take care of your body: Engaging in physical activity, meditating, and smiling
and laughing.

Footnote: The new science of positive psychology has a lot to offer us to enhance our lives. It is a pity with the wealth of scientific research now available to us that more of these tools and techniques are not mainstream yet and so many unproven self help courses and books still survive.

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October 25, 2010

What is this thing called.. ‘Creativity’

What is creativity? The dictionary defines creativity as “to make or bring into existence something new.” You’ve probably heard of right- and left-brain theory. That is, the right hemisphere of the brain is the intuitive, abstract thinking part of the brain, while the left hemisphere is the seat of rational, logical thought. The right side handles big-picture stuff, while the left handles the details. Creativity is commonly thought of as purely a right-brain activity... head in the clouds, nothing logical about it at all. Well, through my own research and personal experience, I’ve discovered that creativity is actually a three-phase process. It’s the right and the left hemispheres of the brain working together in a balanced way combined with a physical act to bring the idea into form. It’s a holistic process of body, mind, spirit. My definition goes like this: Creativity is to make or bring into existence something new by generating ideas (right brain); developing, reorganizing, and refining them (left brain); and taking physical action (body).

Creativity began about 40,000 years ago when our ancestors first made tools out of bone and ivory. Before that they just made do with whatever they could find. A rock for a hammer, a sharp stick for a knife. Once human beings began making things, they began to take control of their own destiny –– thus embarking upon a path of intelligence and consciousness separating them from other animals. Human beings used creativity to survive and prosper, as well as to express themselves through art, music, and dance.
Human creativity grew steadily over the millennia until something rather interesting happened in the not too distant past –– the Industrial Revolution. Creativity brought forth incredible scientific discoveries, including the invention of the steam engine which lead to railroads and factories. These changes did much to add convenience to our lives, but there was one problem. People were needed to do the monotonous, non-creative jobs of operating the machines and working in the mills. Ironically, human creativity had gotten us to a place where creativity itself was no longer a requirement for survival –– we could exchange our time doing a repetitive task for a day’s wages. Creativity became optional, some might say a luxury, and like an unused muscle, creativity began to atrophy in the masses.
Even in the days of the Industrial Revolution, those with a more rural existence often expressed their creativity through music, quilting, and storytelling. Then another product of our amazing creativity, the invention of the radio, caused an even deeper divide between the “creatives” and “non-creatives.” Now, rather than telling stories or bringing out the instruments after dinner, the family would gather ‘round the radio and passively listen to music played by the most accomplished musicians in the world. We began to believe that creative expression was for the truly talented –– not for regular people like us. This “great creative divide” was further deepened by the advent of television. Now we were not only passive listeners, but watchers too. The steady stream of images and sounds from an outside source (when taken in on a regular basis) tends to numb our senses and diminish our creativity, while on the other hand, active entertainment –– like going to a concert, dance, or theater event –– stimulates creativity. Don’t get me wrong, I love radio, and I think both radio and TV have an important place in our lives, but it’s interesting to notice how they’ve affected our creativity.
So where does this leave us here in the beginning of the 21st century? If you take a look around, you can see that we live in a society in which about 90 percent of the people are left-brain dominant –– really good analytical thinkers –– and many people don’t think that they’re creative at all. Now this isn’t much of a surprise since we’re just beginning to come out of the Information Age. For the better part of a century, success has been defined by our ability to manipulate and analyze information, and as a result our educational system is almost entirely focused on developing left-brain analytical thinking. So, yes, it’s not surprising that we live in a world where creativity is indeed undervalued.
Can you see that there’s an opportunity here?  As someone who has based her entire professional career on using creativity I can tell you that creativity was often undervalued until recently. The tide is turning.
Take note of all the rapid innovation appearing around us, often it is the result of the young rejecting the sometimes stifling education system and using creativity and innovation to surge forward. Take the rise of Facebook for example, or Google. Both at their lowest denominator are simple concepts using technology to facilitate and both are outstanding examples of creativity.
If creativity is seriously lacking in our society and indeed your business, wouldn’t we have an advantage if we just invested a little bit of time and energy into exercising our creative muscles and tapping into our inner creative brilliance? Think of the advancements we can make around sustainability, social good and of course, the planet. Creativity and innovation are needed. Your thoughts... •

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October 24, 2010

The inspiring story of how one man found his 'passionpulse' in life and is changing the world, one school at a time!

The inspiring account of one man's campaign to build schools in the most dangerous, remote, and anti-American reaches of Asia  Three Cups of Tea is a must read adventure and a great cause

In 1993 Greg Mortenson was the exhausted survivor of a failed attempt to ascend K2, an American climbing bum wandering emaciated and lost through Pakistan's Karakoram Himalaya. After he was taken in and nursed back to health by the people of an impoverished Pakistani village, Mortenson promised to return one day and build them a school. From that rash, earnest promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time—Greg Mortenson's one-man mission to counteract extremism by building schools, especially for girls, throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban.

Award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin has collaborated on this spellbinding account of Mortenson's incredible accomplishments in a region where Americans are often feared and hated. In pursuit of his goal, Mortenson has survived kidnapping, fatwas issued by enraged mullahs, repeated death threats, and wrenching separations from his wife and children. But his success speaks for itself. At last count, his Central Asia Institute had built fifty-five schools. Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time.

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