When you have a bad day, feel low or just want to have a good time, some inspirations about what to do can be helpful!
Personally, I sometimes keep doing the same thing and don’t try new activities. I thought that people would be inspiring. I spent a day asking them what do they usually do when they want to feel good… This is what they told me:
A walk on the beach, ”I feel the fresh air and it clears my mind”
To take care of myself, ”I spend time in the bathroom to look after my body or take a warm bath”
To practice cardiac coherence, ”I recently read a book about the cardiac coherence, it’s amazing. So now, I like to take 5 minutes to just breath”
To cook, ”Once I cooked something, I enjoy coming back home and degusting it”
To go slowly, ”I just take my time and it makes me feel really good”
To put the watch away, ”I take off my watch and enjoy a moment without imperative
A time with friends, ”I go and see my friends or I call to have a chat”
To focus on something, ”I watch a film, a serie or a video games. I focus on it and forget all the rest”
When we want to get things done, it’s not just about going fast. Slowness has actually a role to play.
SLOW DOWN TO WORK BETTER
Slowing down at the right moment enables us to work better, learn better and in general to perform better. It’s not because we go slowly that we are unproductive. But in fact, by going slow we could also achieve great things. Some neuroscientists have studied the influence of speed on our brain activity. They observed that slowing down can have benefits on our mental state. When we don’t rush but take the time needed, we are less excited. The result is that we are more concentrated and aware of what we are doing. It improves our performance and work quality .
At a mental level, we can notice a transient hypofrontality which means a temporary reduction of the precortex activity. To understand better the benefits of that deactivation I had a look at Steven Kotler’s work. He explains that it shuts down our sense of self-doubt and our brain’s inner critic which instead boosts confidence and creativity. It is seen as a flow state. This state is found in hippie community but not only there. It is present in every altered state from dreaming and mindfulness to psychedelic trips. By losing the ability to assess past, present, future we are plunged into the deep now and the flow. Scientists start to explore the subject because it can sometimes result in higher efficiency.
Daydreaming is not about working slow but rather about letting your imagination go. Thoughts come and go in our mind. It’s natural, spontaneous and unexpected. Sometimes we don’t even understand the origin of our thoughts, it’s unconscious. One of the most famous daydreamer I heard of his Einstein. He spent hours looking out of the window in silence. And those moments have been source of inspiration and creativity, leading to ingenious ideas. The connotations attached to slowness such as laziness or boredom are not always accurate.
That’s why the idea of constant stimulation is being questioned. We should accept not to be restlessly in movement. Sometimes it’s beneficial to stop moving, to stop thinking and just be. We usually keep in our mind worries, duties, deadlines or homework and we stick to them. Even some kids do that. A study at Harvard revealed a positive impact on children when we give them time and space. It allows them to discover the world by themselves, work on who they are, think, reflect and even get bored. But as the child in us never really dies, it could also be applied to adults.
A SLOW REVOLUTION HAS ALREADY STARTED
The slow food has been popular for a few years now, in reaction to the fast food. But the slow revolution actually goes further. I recently came across a talk about the International Slow Movement and I have been amazed by all the different fields tackled. It goes from hobbies to fashion and from travel to urban design. Some new trendy past time are colouring mandala, jigsaw puzzle or even knitting and slow cities are being developed all around Europe. When even speed yoga classes are being created, it seems that the world is obsess with speed. The slow revolution is a response to that. It promotes an alternative: instead of going even faster, let’s take our time.
Tomorrow is a documentary which has been realized by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent. It has been showcased at the Climate Change conference in 2015 and since then it keeps inspiring people. I had the change to watch it at university as a student had borrow the DVD. That afternoon, I sat down and went on a journey of discovery. I learnt about the environmental challenges but more precisely about some solutions for a better future.
The climate change and the growing population are current-worrying topics. It has been source of inspiration and produced moving dystopian stories taking place in a future where the world has been destroyed and humanity is in grave danger. As exciting as they can be, it can sometimes freak you out and give you a pessimistic vision of the future. This is when we need to talk about and share hopeful solutions.
The documentary shows emerging and alternative ways of growing food in Detroit, of educating children in Finland or also of producing energy in Denmark. We discover solutions at a local and global level. The film is divided into 5 chapter Agriculture, Energy, Economy, Democracy and Education, all giving realistic and practical ideas. If you feel that even though the challenges, the world could flourish enjoy Tomorrow and get inspired!
To give you an idea:
Let me know what you think about it or share your own ideas!
Winter is one of the best time to head to Laponia because it means that you will wander in winter wonderland. It’s time to contemplate the snowy trees along the frozen lake. While walking in the forest or mountains you may not meet so many people but when you do, you can learn a lot about their way of life!
A prevailing aspect of their life is the closeness to nature. They live surrounded by endless forests and wide range of mountains and take advantage of it. Wilderness is the place they resource in, have fun or work. In fact they can go for a walk where they enjoy the calm, the beauty of the landscape and sometimes they may observe animals appearing behind a tree or a leaf. The more sporty appreciate nature through skiing, hiking, ice climbing or even dogsledding. They don’t undergo their environment but rather delight in. One thing they really like is the feeling of adventure they can have. For them, it’s fun to challenge your body and even bypass fears you may have. It’s exciting and it makes you feel alive!
They are also living simply in the sense that the natural realities come first. It’s about being warm and not about being good looking. They are better not worry about superficiality, that actually makes life easier sometimes. A big and old fashion puffa jacket is perfect. Besides they live simply because they go for the natural instead of the artificial which means that they don’t have to make something up or get it from somewhere. They appreciate what they have around them. And this year the northern lights replaced the firework on New Year’s eve!
Wild Warm Heart
I also found interesting the fact that in spite of the cold and rough environment they are warm and welcoming over there. Well, it does warm you up to be close to people! But anyway I don’t think that’s the main reason. I talked about it with a Swedish girl. She told me that they have their space and are not surrounded by a crowd all the time. So according to her, they are more likely to smile and say hello when they encounter someone rather then ignoring them.
How to love the cold and dark winter?
Of course they face some difficulties. It’s cold, isolated or dark most of the day but still they find a way to enjoy life up there. Here are some of their simple and lovely tricks:
warm and cosy lights such as candles and garland which definitely create a place you want to linger in.
go for burgundy tinted chalets which contrast with the white and soft colours all around
warm up in the sauna (it’s more common in the north of Sweden, Finland and Norway to have a sauna next to the bathroom, convenient and really pleasant!)
far from everything, enjoy the calm or make as much noise as you want it won’t be a big deal
I have visited the 16 Guidelines office in London recently. I heard about it thanks to a friend who showed me a book they had published. I won’t tell you anymore about it because Alison Murdoch explains it to us!
”The 16 Guidelines are a direct and practical tool for making life better. They provide a simple yet robust framework for reflecting on the way we think, speak and act, and for creating the causes to experience lasting happiness and meaning.
The latest research being carried out by neuroscientists suggests that each of us has the potential to continue developping and transforming our minds, from birth right up until death. The 16 Guidelines show us how to do this in a way that will benefit both ourselves and others.”
From the ancient wisdom to the modern sciences, meaning in life seems to be a key to happiness. The Greeks were already wondering about it and more recently positive psychology uses it to help people find a more fulfilling life.
Some say life is absurd, others that life comes before eternity… Who is actually right? And who knows the truth? We sometimes see something as true, true enough to make it known to everyone. But it happens that later on we finally realize that what we have believed in is based on inaccurate information. Truth is not true anymore but will evolve, it changes along with time.
The truth about life is mysterious. The theories about our origin which would give a purpose to our existence are only hypotheses. Even science, seen as an objective and faithful reference, is only temporally true. We thought the atoms were the smallest particles until we discovered quarks.
We are definitely not born with an explanation for our existence. What we aim at in life can be defined by a culture, a society, certain institutions and by ourselves. We are meaning maker. Since ancient times, we have been created stories to give sense to the world and to our life. With our ability to think we are conscious of ourselves, it goes beyond instinct and feelings. That’s how we can wonder why are we alive or what do we want to do in life.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” once said Nietzsche.
And the meaning or meanings may not be so obvious. However, sometimes it’s simply something or someone that we love. For the musicians, music is a reason to wake up every morning, for a mum it’s her children and for others it may just be to experience life one more time.
Happiness is linked with purpose which actually arises from fulfillment and pleasure. Those are two things personal that vary for each one of us. So motivation comes from inside. If we want to find a purpose to our life we should look inward and see what drives us.
Meaning is what is intended to be and when we think of meaning as a message the question would be: what do we want to say? We all have one voice and an advantage of not having a predetermined purpose is that, to some extent, we are free.
A helpful equation to remember is the one from Scott’s Dinsmore, the founder of Live your Legend who thought that “the intersection of your true values and super powers, backed with relentless passion, is where the magic happens”:
Your Values + Strenghts + Passions = Your Purpose.
Life is mysterious and it’s a journey which leads us we don’t know where but in the meantime we are the one with the compass. ☸
I haven’t really noticed being in autumn last year as I was living close to the centre. I’m now in a pretty green area with several parks around and trees along the road. So I can observe the change of season and I’m finally amazed by the paradoxal autumn. It’s a cold season revealing warm colours.
During its months, the pavement becomes a bed of purple leaves and when the wind is blowing they swirl all around. It’s raining leaves slowly falling down on our feet, covering up the gloomy concrete. I enjoy going out just to hear the leaves crakling and see them flying away. It can be really pleasant to contemplate nature.
It is a pleasure, a delight and a fascination.
We tend to think that we are above nature but if we have a look at other cultures such as the Native American culture we have an example of a different relationship with nature. They remind us that we live within and as a part of it. We are born from it, after all. And just like us, nature is life. It can give us a lot and that’s why we use it. But we could find a deeper enjoyment in our relationship with nature. “You say that I use the land, and I reply, yes, it is true; but it is not the first truth. The first truth is that I love the land; I see that it is beautiful; I delight in it; I am alive in it” once said N. Scott Momaday, a Native American writer.
I had the opportunity to ask Pierre Blockelet, a French psychologist based in Normandie, some questions about happiness, more precisely positive psychology.
Q: How would you describe happiness?
P.B: Well, happiness depends on each individual. It’s different for each one of us. There isn’t a precise and concrete definition to it. It’s diverse and personal. We also have different happiness depending on our age. Even for an individual the definition of happiness changes along with time. I would say that happiness is individual and temporal.
Q: As you point out, a general definition of happiness may not be the most relevant. However, as we notice with positive psychology, the question of happiness is a point of concern for many.
P.B: Yes and that’s an interesting observation. Actually people have the freedom to ponder about what is happiness because they already have their physiological needs met. I refer here to Maslow’s pyramid which suggests that our basic needs are satisfied, people don’t have to worry about starvation, thirst or lack of sleep. But then, whether we are aware of it or not, we are still expecting something else to reach a higher state of wellbeing. At the same time, I don’t want to say that expectation of change is negative. I’m currently working with eldery people who don’t have many hopes for the future. The few years they have left does little to raise their expectations of any improvement in their situations. They don’t have future perspectives. For students and younger generations this is generally different. Their lives can get better and knowing this alone can improve levels of happiness.
Q: Do you think happiness is connected with being hopeful?
P.B: We could say that happiness is the possibility to hope for a state of improvement. However to come back to my first point, we tend to keep waiting. And the younger we are, the more we are waiting for something, for love, for a life change, for a material improvement or something else. So happiness and hope go together and at the same time acceptance is necessary in finding balance.
Q: Let’s talk more precisely about positive psychology. It’s a field which seems to have emerged quite recently, isn’t it?
P.B: Yes, when I studied psychology we didn’t talk much about it. In psychology like in medecine, the urgency is to first treat what is ill, what is severe. Then we can think about wellbeing. Even though, people looking for this can aslo have an abnormal behavior. For instance they may fear that their state of happiness won’t last long and constantly feel anxious. In this case it may be a form of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) where a background stress is permanent which is abnormal and unhealthy. However, it’s not as serious as some other mental disorders.
Q: Could you explain what is positive psychology about exactly?
P.B: It’s about helping people to have a satisfactory life. Being more content with what they have. You have everything to be happy but you may not be aware of it. Happiness is relative. Someone else in your shoes would probably tell you that he would be really fulfilled. Dissatisfaction is complicated when we think of it as depending on living conditions. But the end of the day it’s more of an internal factor, a way of seeing.
Q: Do you have some advice to improve our wellbeing?
P.B: Get to know yourself. It will help you to be more satisfied and appreciate your life. And thinking ‘I’m not happy because I don’t see what I already have‘ instead of thinking ‘I’m not happy because I miss this’.
Q: I would like to come back to living conditions and the insecurity that comes with life. It’s something that generates stress, fear and un-ease. How could we cope with that insecurity?
P.B: There is a theory that illustrates well this insecure aspect of our lives which is the “cork theory”. Like a cork in the ocean, we can’t control everything, hazard is simply part of our future. To appreciate life we should be like this cork following the movements of the waves. It is accepting this part of uncertainty. There is a nice proverb, Buddhist I think, saying ”If your problem has a solution, then why worry about it? If your problem doesn’t have a solution, then why worry about it? You won’t find one’‘. In my work with elderly people this phrase makes so much sense. Either they accept that their time is limited or they remain dissatisfied, fighting against life’s process. Well, I have an other example. If you think about a ginger-haired guy who doesn’t accept his hair colour he may dye it. He’s hiding his issue but the dissatisfaction remains. A more helpful behavior would be to just accept it.
Q: However when we think about injustices in life, acceptance may not always be the best solution. As a final question, I would like to ask you what do you think about this.
P.B: Yes I agree, acceptance doesn’t mean inhibiting our actions. It’s also important to look for improvements otherwise we would never evolve. We can work on things but without confining ourselves to utopia. If we are too far removed from reality, we will end up being disappointed and dissatisfied. I hope this answers your question.
Q: Yes, it does. Thank you very much. It has been a pleasure to discuss with you. It was a really interesting discussion.
P.B: You’re welcome. It has been a pleasure as well.