13. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – TAKE THE 21-DAY GRATITUDE CHALLENGE (DAY 5)

Record one thing you’re grateful for (flatmates with the same shoe size, a FaceTime chat with your mum, that free coffee in Pret – it’s all relative) each day for three weeks. Research says it can improve your mood, sleep and energy.

DAY 5 – The Existence of Starbucks

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I am grateful for the existence of Starbucks, because it is what got me drinking coffee in the first place, my first taste, in my mid-teens. It all began with the Iced Coffee Latte. Without Starbucks coffee, I wouldn’t know how I would cope in the mornings. I would not be myself. It has become an addiction streaming in my blood. No other coffee would be like my Starbucks, the way I must have it 🙂

Starbucks, I am grateful for your existence.

12. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – ONE EMAIL TO READ BEFORE WORK (DAY 5)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 5 – The Impact of Positive Emotions

From Highbrow:

Positive emotions have a very interesting impact on the human brain. This impact is explained by the so-called ‘broaden and build theory’. To understand this theory, it’s helpful to first understand how ‘negative’ emotions work. Emotions like fear and anger close down your mind and heart and narrow down the number of possible reactions for the brain to only very few choices.

Think about our ancestors in pre-historic times. When a wild animal was about to attack them they felt either fear or anger. In response to this life-threatening situation, their brain triggered what we call the ‘fight or flight or freeze’ response. This instinctive reaction was responsible for their survival at times of danger. In these situations, the brain had only three options to choose from:

  1. They could fight the animal
  2. They could try to run away as fast as possible or
  3. They could pretend to be dead.

The very same mechanisms still work in our brains today. In the face of danger, we respond to threats either by mobilizing our energy for combat or for flight, or by freezing in helplessness, collapsing in the face of an overwhelming situation. Speaking scientifically, those (negative) emotions limit our thought-action repertoire.

Positive emotions, however, have a different function. Instead of narrowing down the possibilities available to us, they open our minds up to new ways of thinking and acting. In the moment, they help us be more creative and think outside the box. When we feel positive emotions we become more open to new experiences. We feel more comfortable making connections with other people, consider alternative solutions to old problems and are able to zoom out of a situation. Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good but also make our brains function at higher levels. All in all, these emotions broaden our thought-action repertoire: the results are short-term increases in creativity, problem-solving ability, and attention.

What all this does for us in the longer-run is transform us for the better. Over time, positive emotions allow us to form new friendships, develop new skills and gain new knowledge. These ‘resources’ last much longer than the emotion itself and are the reason why positive emotions can gradually transform our lives. This transformation does not happen overnight. It needs continuous reinforcement and dedication. The brain can only be changed gradually.

10. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – ONE EMAIL TO READ BEFORE WORK (DAY 4)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 4 – Benefits of Happiness – The Nun Study

From Highbrow:

Probably the most influential and mind-blowing study done that demonstrates the power of positive emotions is the so-called ‘nun study’. It started in the 1930 when a group of almost two hundred nuns were about to enter a convent. Back then, they were asked to write autobiographical sketches of themselves, reflecting on their lives and thinking about what will lie ahead.

About 70 years later, psychologists decided to go back to these diary entries and analyzed them. The researchers wanted to find out if what these 20-year old nuns wrote in their diaries could predict how the rest of their lives turned out. In particular, they were interested in predictors of longevity. They looked at how complex their sentences were – an indicator for their intelligence. They also looked at where the nuns lived. They also looked at how much they expressed their beliefs in good, measuring their devoutness.

None of these factors had an impact on how long the nuns went on to live. But there was one factor which did have an impact – a very significant one! The nuns whose journal entries had more positive content lived nearly ten years longer than the nuns whose entries were more negative or neutral. At the age of 85, more than 90% (!) of the happiest nuns were still alive, whereas only about a third of the unhappiest nuns.

The research community was amazed by these findings. Clearly, the nuns who were happier when they were young lived longer because of their happiness; not the other way around. Their conclusion is very relevant for everyone going through this course. Putting effort into becoming happier will not only make you feel better. It has the potential to literally prolong your life.

9. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – TAKE THE 21-DAY GRATITUDE CHALLENGE (DAY 3)

Record one thing you’re grateful for (flatmates with the same shoe size, a FaceTime chat with your mum, that free coffee in Pret – it’s all relative) each day for three weeks. Research says it can improve your mood, sleep and energy.

DAY 3 – Bloggers, readers and fans

Today, I am thankful for having amazing bloggers, readers and fans in my life, because without them, my books would not be known. The last time I checked the sales for the latest book/autobiography Made in Thailand, it had surpassed my expectation, all thanks to the bloggers, readers and fans.

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As a writer/author, it is always important to remember to stay humble, no matter how big of a star we may become, because at the end of the day, the bloggers, readers and fans are the main people who will be buying the books and spreading the word. They are the ones doing the main ‘marketing’.

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Thank you to those who have been buying and supporting Made in Thailand. You have no idea how truly thankful, appreciative and grateful I am.

8. The Positivity Project – One Email to Read Before Work (Day 3)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 3 – Myths of Happiness

From Highbrow:

Nearly all of us buy into what Sonya Lyubomirsky – one of the leading happiness researchers – calls the myths of happiness. Those myths are beliefs that certain achievements in our lives will make us forever happy and that certain failures will make us forever unhappy. People believe they will be happy once they’re married or have a certain job or income. At the same time, many people tend to believe that having health problems or having only little money will leave them forever unhappy.

The beliefs are called myths because research has convincingly shown that they are wrong. There is no ultimate life event that changes people’s feelings forever. The myth is not that achieving those dreams won’t make us happy. They almost certainly will. The myth in this belief is that we tend to think the happiness we get will last forever. The problem, though, is that the happiness we get is not as intense and by far not as long-lasting as we believe it will be.

So here are the two kinds of happiness myths: The first myth of happiness is our mistaken belief that we need certain events or situations in our lives to finally become happy. It is the notion that I’ll be happy when ____ (fill in the blank). I’ll be happy when I get that promotion, when I have a baby, when I’m rich, and so on.

Similarly wrong is the other kind of happiness myth. This myth is the belief that I can’t be happy when ____ (again, fill in the blank). For example, I can’t be happy as long as I don’t have a partner. I can’t be happy when I’m broke. Or I can’t be happy as long as I’m so much overweight.

When something negative happens in people’s lives, they often overreact. They feel that they can never be happy again, and that their life as they know it is now over. That’s the second type of happiness myths and it’s equally wrong. People adapt to almost all circumstances over time. Lottery winners for example are just as happy as people who never won the lottery. Even many people with paraplegia return – after some time – to the level of happiness they had before they became disabled.

7. The Positivity Project – One Email to Read Before Work (Day 2)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 2 – What is happiness?

From Highbrow:

A course to increase one’s happiness cannot help but start with a definition of happiness. That’s important because if the goal is to increase happiness, we have to first understand it.

Psychologists look at happiness from various different angles. The definition of happiness we use here is based on the work of Paul Dolan (author of the book ‘Happiness by Design’) and includes two components. Happiness from this perspective is best understood as experiences of pleasure and purpose.

Pleasure is about feeling good versus feeling bad. Pleasure as part of our definition of happiness refers to the range of positive emotions we can experience. From joy and excitement to fun and contentment. Feeling bad, on the other hand, means to suffer. This suffering encompasses all the negative emotions we can feel – from anxiety and stress to sadness and anger. Happiness – from the pleasure perspective – is having more of the positive feelings and less of the negative ones.

However, there is another component to happiness: Feelings of purpose versus feelings of meaninglessness. Feelings of purpose always come up when we do something worthwhile, something that’s meaningful and fulfills us. These feelings are different to feelings of pleasure, even though they often come together. An example would be working on a project that you really feel makes a positive difference in other people’s lives. Or teaching your child how to ride a bicycle.

The opposite of purpose is meaninglessness and many of us won’t have to think hard to come up with an experience that falls into this category. It can be anything from washing the dishes to preparing a report at work that you know will end up in the drawer.

To sum up, happiness consists of pleasure plus purpose. To be truly happy you need to feel both. Different people want different combinations of pleasure and purpose. But real happiness requires both to some degree – feelings of pleasure and purpose.

6. The Positivity Project – Take the 21-day Gratitude Challenge (Day 2)

Record one thing you’re grateful for (flatmates with the same shoe size, a FaceTime chat with your mum, that free coffee in Pret – it’s all relative) each day for three weeks. Research says it can improve your mood, sleep and energy.

DAY 2 – I’m sexy and I know it!

Today, I am grateful for feeling sexy and fabulous. It is no surprise many women are cautious about their body image, especially after when they have had children, which is perfectly normal. I am amongst those many women…or I was.

Before I had my boy, I had a slim and beautiful figure. I felt sexy, and I would get loads of attention…if you know what I mean.

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But my body changed after giving birth. I felt ugly and fat. A family friend even said I looked so fat my tummy looked as though it was carrying another child (ouch). That put my self-esteem all the way down. My brain began creating an image of how I saw myself…fat. I guess it was also my postnatal hormones that was causing me to have the self-esteem issue.

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It took me a year to get over my self-esteem. By then, I saw the real image of myself. I didn’t have the same body size/image like I used to. Instead, I’ve become curvy. And to be honest, I liked it, because the new body really showed off my a**, especially when I walk…the catwalk.

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Over the years, I’ve learned to love the way I look. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that my body image will never be the same as it was, which was fine. Sometimes we just have to embrace what we already have rather than what we had. It can be a good thing with a positive impact.

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So stay beautiful and fabulous, my sexy people!