How to boost happiness and contentment in your life- part 1

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“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” –Aristotle

Adapting healthy habits, reducing or eliminating unhelpful behaviors and formulating more rational and helpful thoughts will improve your well- being. This blog article and the following one will focus on 12 things that you can do to boost happiness and contentment in your life.

1.Identify and define what specifically happiness means to you – What makes someone happy may not necessarily be what makes you happy. Being happy is thus subjective as every individual perceives and experiences it differently. In order to make that goal more achievable and realistic you need to specifically define it and focus on what exactly happiness means to you; what needs do you have that need to be fulfilled in order for you to feel happy and what do you need to do or which steps will get you there.

2 Self- acceptance–  Know yourself, acknowledge who you genuinely, believe in yourself and in your worthiness. Appreciate that your flaws, limitations, imperfections are part of your individuality just as strengths, beauty, passions, capacities, achievements, successes and talents are. By giving yourself permission to embrace and accept the whole you, you can be more authentic in your life. Focusing on who you are right now not on whom you could become or should have been, or were in the past,  will bring more acceptance, contentment, self- compassion and happiness to your life.

3. Find deeper meaning and purpose– Set goals and implement them; follow your passions , mission and find deeper meaning in all that occurs. Living purposeful and intentional life empowers and fills us with more happiness. Additionally, connect with people who inspire you, support and care about you.  It will give you a sense of hope, purpose, direction, motivation, fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction.

4.Reduce worrying and complaining – both do not contribute to the level of happiness and contentment that you feel but only take you in a slippery sloop towards negativity, passivity, stagnation  and the development of psychological symptoms. Try problem solving, action taking, mindfulness and acceptance instead.

 5. Be flexible with your need to control- Find the fine line when it comes to controlling. Trying to control and change e.g.  people or situations that are out of your control will lead to frustrations, over-preoccupation and unhappiness. Differentiate between what is out of your control and what you can control and change. Making the distinction can make a difference in the way that you perceive and experience your life.

6. Gratitude- Counting your blessing ( about 5 things for which you are currently thankful) intentionally focuses your attention on the positives in your life, thereby adds some balance to a negative emotional state and lowers stress levels. Keeping a daily journal is a helpful habit that raises level of happiness in your life ,although for some people a weekly entry is also effective.

The next article will list 6 additional strategies so stay tuned.

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High Self-Esteem VS Narcissism

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Although sometimes high self -esteem and narcissism get mixed up by the way people perceive others, there are distinct differences between the two concepts.

Self-esteem represents the sense of worth and value one has for the overall components of the self e.g. characteristics, accomplishments, values, skills, roles we play in others’ lives etc. Bednar, Wells and Peterson (1989) defined self-esteem as” a subjective and realistic self-approval…self-esteem reflects how the individual views and values the self at the most fundamental levels of psychological experiencing”(p. 4) .

Narcissism is expressed in “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and an exaggerated sense of self-importance.” (Oltmanns, Emery & Taylor, 2006)  Narcissism is based in deep-seated insecurities, fears of failure and underlying belief of inadequacy and weakness that drive one to want to be seen as superior to others be it in material possessions, status, knowledge etc.

Narcissists crave and depend on praise, power and the possession of status markers (external factors) to feel good about themselves, whereas a positive and healthy self -esteem is dependent more on one’s own perception of stable internal factors to feel loved and worthy. The core belief of narcissists  is of being unworthy or inadequate  influences and motivates their behavior tendencies, the emotion intensity and thoughts to overcompensate and hide  it from others. Allot of effort is invested in the exposed image of the self , maintaining the mask and preoccupation with others’ perceptions rather than in finding meaning, love, self -acceptance  and  improving the feelings about the self, which are more the focus of someone with a positive or high self-esteem.

Narcissism thrives on dominance, manipulation, arrogance, showing off and putting others down, where as having high self- esteem and confidence in own self- worth demonstrate the expression of more humility and compassion. There is no need to be better than others in order to feel worthy; hostile or putting others down in order to feel good about yourself. It is futile because the self-esteem is based on the personal evaluation of own worth not on how others think of you.

Instead of extreme competitiveness and destructive criticism, which is characteristic of being narcissistic, there is more constructive feedback and collaboration. Others are not perceived as a threat to the self worth but as individuals with their own separated individual uniqueness and value.

Part of the way in which we value ourselves is influenced by the perception of self in relation to others be it as friends, parents, family members, role models in the community. How we value the way we function in a relationship,friendships or in the community shapes our perception of our worth too thus not only on the perception of the self as a independent and separate being. We value how we as individuals add to the life of others. That implies finding importance and value in our ability to give, care, help, support, empathize, love, be compassionate and share with others.

Narcissists do not see the added value in building the self –esteem on these factors. There is a sense of entitlements and lack of  reciprocity within the relationships.  The main goal in relationship is not so much intimacy, warmth, love and connection but the fulfillment of need of admiration, attention ,power and superiority, as well as, the fulfillment of own wishes and personal goals.

The last difference between having high self -esteem and narcissism is in the perception and coping with failures, mistakes and problems. Individuals with high self –esteem accept it as part of the growth process and as challenges. They also can easily admit lack of skills or knowledge. There is thus a recognition that one is not perfect and has room for improvement, learning and further development, which implies that criticism or negative feedback are not immediately nor automatically perceived as extremely threatening to the self-worth.

Narcissists, on the other hand, who are more preoccupied with grandeur will deny that a failure occurred due to internal causes and will find it intolerable to publicly state or admit that there is something about them that needs changing or a weakness that needs strengthening. Their reactions will be more defensive or aggressive when confronted with criticism. Mistakes, shortcomings or failures of others will , however,  be perceived and utilized as confirmation of own self-esteem.  Emmons stated this tendency as unique part of the definition of narcissism  “…accept responsibility for successful outcomes and deny blame for failed outcomes” (p. 11).

Did you like this article? Yearning for more? subscribe here and you will get a FREE easy step-wise know-how guide to problem solving that will reduce stress in your life.

 

Bednar, R. L., Wells, M. G., & Peterson, S. R. (1989). Self-esteem: Paradoxes and innovations in clinical theory and practice. Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.

Brummelman, E., Thomaes,, S., & Sedikides.C. ( 2016) Separating Narcissism From Self-Esteem .Current Directions in Psychological Science,  25 ,1,8-13.

Collins, R.D.,& Stukas, A.A.(2008). Narcissism and self-presentation: the moderating effects of accountability and contingencies on self-worth. Journal of Research in Psychology , 42, 1629–1634.

Emmons, R. A. (1987). Narcissism: Theory and measurement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 11-17.

Morf, C. C.,& Rhodewalt, F. (2001). Unraveling the paradoxes of narcissism: A dynamic self-regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry, 12, 177–196.

Oltmanns, F.T, Emery, E.R., & Taylor, S. (2006) Abnormal psychology. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada.

Weiten, W. (2004) .Psychology themes and variations. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.