11694-A-Contented-Heart

Wrapping up the year with an emphasized focus on attitude felt appropriate. November’s “Keep a Contended Heart” echoed former resolutions, tying many of them together. Life would only feel more difficult without a positive inclination in regards to maintaining a marriage, raising children and working effectively towards your career goals. Plus, upbeat attitudes tend to slump during winter. With the rapid approach of daylight savings, research suggests  preventative measures to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Author of the Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, explained why she deemed her contended heart scheme necessary:

My happiness project year was almost over for November, and I had to be sure to cram in everything I hadn’t covered. Instead of focusing on my actions, I focused on my attitude. I wanted to cultivate a light-hearted, kind and loving spirit. if I could put myself into that frame of mind, it would be easier to stick to all my other resolutions”

Ultimately this chapter reminded me to lighten up and stay positive. The read provided insightful psychological personality tests, but Rubin appeared to stretch for gems to pass to readers, and that’s okay. The author didn’t turn up completely empty handed, though she could have focused more on the effects of treating others with kindness versus how her attitude influenced those in her immediate circle. Regardless, read ahead for Rubin’s advice concerning how to remain chipper and cheerful.

Laugh Out Loud

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Chit chattin with my love

Rubin admits she finds it challenging to practice laughing more often. Her failed attempts to execute a conjured exercise left herself asking, “Was I really so humorless that I had to employ these extreme, un-spontaneous measures?” Rubin’s short supply of tactics didn’t sit well with me either. Instead, I opted for a list to identify the different dimensions of laughter.

Who

My boyfriend makes me laugh the most… maybe I’m biased? I love a man that can make me laugh. His memorable sense of humor stood out to me long before we begun dating. With friends, I find myself in hysterics with Matthew, Dustin, Ferdinand, and Brett. I started to write a list of amusing girlfriends, but when it reached 12 I realized how blessed I am to have so many.

Cooking provides humor oftentimes. A quick peek at Pinterestfails.com proves how many of us have fucked up recipes at some point or another. Sometimes good intentions aren’t enough. All you can do is laugh when the costly ingredients are sacrificed, and you’re left with nothing.

With that being said, I do gleefully welcome baking challenges during November. Pinterest robs me of funds, and tempts me with food. The idea is to bake 8 new recipes, only twice a week, to broaden my baking horizons. Worst case scenario, the disastrous photos may suit Pinterest Fails well. Click here to view the tasty recipes chosen.

What

For “what makes me laugh”, I turned to media. Parks n Rec, Trailer Park Boys, Louie and Arrested Development rarely disappoint. Also, our cat’s amusing antics never fail to entertain us.

When

Rarely does anyone enjoy my presence in the mornings. How can I “lighten up” before work? Still have yet to decide what to do, other than listen to stand-up on Spotify bright and early? Stumbleupon remains my go-to site first thing when I wake up. Maybe I should create a humor category on Stumbleupon. Thoughts? Suggestions, anyone?

Where

When it took a minute to determine where I “needed to laugh the most” my thinking steered towards work. Implementing a cheerful attitude towards clients catches on and become contagious. It’s a win win I could afford to further develop.

Use Good Manners

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Next, Rubin tries her hand at the Newcastle Personality Assessor test. The short quiz allegedly determines  accurate, general personality characteristics based on the “Big Five” model which many recent psychologists have coined a comprehensive framework. The surveyed score in 5 areas on a scale of 1-10:

1 Extroversion: respond to reward

2 Neuroticism: Response to threat

3 Conscientiouness: Response to inhibition (self-control, planning)

4 Agreeableness: Regard for others

5 Openness to Experience: Breadth of mental associations

Rubin determines she needs to work on manners based on a low agreeableness score. On the other hand, I scored medium-high on every question. Two 8’s for Neuroticism and Openness to Experience, two 9’s with Extroversion and Agreeableness, and a perfect 10 for Conscientiousness. To take the test for yourself click here.

In terms of friendliness and living with a contended heart, the quiz revealed I should loosen my grip, totally accurate. A close friend told me earlier this summer, “We hold others accountable to the same expectations we place on ourselves“. Makes sense that I scored so high in conscientiousness, a double-edged sword. I’m always making plans and organizing details to the nitty gritty with the drive of an over-the-top extrovert. Luckily, my agreeable nature prevents me from completely steam-rolling others. As mentioned in last month’s Happiness Post, one thought that comes to mind daily is “Validate”, especially with clients and those experiencing turmoil.

Give Positive Reviews

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The best point Rubin makes compares the arrogance of sarcasm with the humility of genuine enthusiasm. Rubin argues that “It’s easy to be heavy, hard to be light”. Bingo! “Aha” moment for the chapter. Arrogant, cynical people can quickly deflate a group’s morale which takes little to no effort, as it’s easy to be heavy. Snide remarks escape our lips with much ease compared to dishing out compliments, making it hard to be light.

Rubin explains the effort it takes to maintain a contended heart which is more….noble and admirable. The author reiterates the need to live for brief periods of time complaint-free. I actually tried this last year for a week; you never realize how condescending you’ve become until you consciously decide to cut it out.

Thus, refraining from convoluted, unnecessary criticisms does two things: First it removes the ego and the need to feel correct. In addition, a heightened sense of awareness clears space for ambiguous, progressive thinking.

Find an Area of Refuge

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Finally, finding an area of refuge wraps up her advice. Negativity bias defines the instances in which humans react more strongly to received negative information versus the proportional good. Rubin renders anxious, drifting thoughts as harmful and insidious. To emulate a positive spirit, free of exasperated thoughts, keep (another) list to snap you back in the present. (Yes, the author and myself thrive on handy, quickly-jotted notes to get us through the day) I decided to share a few of my “gotothinkhappythoughts”

The beach, Christmas night, by ourselves

That one conversation with Jessica

Atlanta with Caitlin

Memphis with Tika

The first smoke

Radiohead live

The silent auction at Bonnaroo

24th Birthday Party

Meditation on the Greenway

Candles and music with baths

Deep conversations in the garage

This advice made sense, recalling the basic fundamentals behind The Secret.

Thoughts —> Feelings —> Behaviors

Thoughts affect feelings and behaviors. Thus, reducing negative thoughts could lead to a stronger, healthier attitude. On top of everything else, I’ve scheduled an appointment to balance my chakra’s towards the end of the month.

If anyone has advice on how to keep a contended heart, please share.