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.
I’ve always been amazed to see how people can be so passionate about football, dance, piano or drawing for instance. When we hear a dancer talking about dance, it’s just part of his life and he actually needs to practice. Hobbies can be so beneficial to us. Even though we may have to work, to study or some other duties to be done, we should take time for our hobbies. At first, we may think that’s a waste of time but finally we can get much more than we expect from it.
1- Cultivate enjoyment!
Yes, we all know a hobby is a past time, a leisure something that we do with pleasure. But sometimes we may forget to engage with it that way. The dancer, for instance, may dance not anymore for fun but for perfection, efficiency or even worst dance as an obligation. It can be caused by an external pressure but it also comes from an internal one. We can personally decide how we engage with things and with which things we engage! A hobby is pleasure first!
2- Cultivate fulfilment!
Either we suck at football or we can’t hold a pen in our hand it doesn’t matter after all, that’s for fun! And if we go for it and try we will eventually do something that we didn’t think we were capable of. As a child who is so content with the colouring he has just finished, we will have a better self esteem knowing that we can achieve something. Imagine the painting which could be created. We don’t necessarily need the technical skills if we aren’t aiming for a masterpiece we naturally know how to draw or paint something.
3- Cultivate a stress reliever!
When life is a rush, stress is inevitable. Nowadays, things go faster. We have the possibility to over come the distance, the lack of space or the lack of time. We have access to trains, we can store virtually and we can program repetitive works to be done for us. The result is not spare time, regarding to those possibilities we are finally being asked more. But if life is a journey, as we usually hear, and not a sprint, slowing down and taking time to relax come spontaneously. Practicing a hobby enables us to disconnect, we focus on that activity and live the present moment. We unconsciously reconnect with ourselves. Hobbies can calm us down.
4- Cultivate an activity!
We may spend more time in an office where physical activity is lacking or on the other hand doing physical labour and seeking for different intellectual stimulations. Having a hobby is a pleasant way to find a balance. And in fact taking up a hobby or going back to one will either require a physcial or intellectual activity. That will be beneficial for our health. And the less sick we are, the easier it is to handle life and enjoy it!
Hi! That’s my last quote for the 3 Days, 3 Quotes challenge. I thanks despeinadaporloslibros who made me discover this blogger challenge. The quote I share today is about simplicity and acceptation. Hope it will inspire you.
”There’s no magic bullet; there’s no pill that you take that makes everything great and makes you happy all the time. I’m letting go of those expectations, and that’s opening me up to moments of transcendent bliss.”
Hi! It’s now the second day of 3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge and I thanks despeinadaporloslibros who made me discover this blogger challenge. The quote I share today is I think thoughtful and relevant in today’s world. Hope it will inspire you.
”Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.”
John Stuart Mill (an influential philosopher and political economist)
Hi everyone! Hope you’re all well at this end of October. Today, I would like to share with you a quote. I have recently discovered the 3 days, 3 quotes challenge thanks to Laura. She has the blog despeinadaporloslibros which is a lovely one full of amazing writings, you should have a look! I’m glad she did. I think there are some quotes small and simple but they convey much more than they appear. They say the essential. The quote I’m sharing with you is, for me, one of them and it’s a quotes I would like to bear mind everyday.
”You have succeeded in life
when all you really want
is only what you really need.”
Vernon Howard (a great spiritual teacher, writer and philosopher).
We sometimes hear the expression seeing life through rose-tinted glasses. The translation in French ‘voir la vie en rose’ makes me think of Edith Piaf’s fascinating song. When I listen to ‘La Vie en Rose’, I have a feeling of lightness and pleasure. Piaf makes life appear delightful . Her words convey a deep joy of life. What strikes me is her positivity. And it arises from love. Love of people and of life. This a pretty romantic vision which can seem to ideal but shows how lovely life can be when it’s filled with positivity. Here are the song if you want to hear it:
In our everyday life it’s less romantic and more realistic.
The world is not only rose but also dark, blue or simply grey. Such as a painting it’s made of different colours. However any painting as a prevailing tint, that could be a positive one after all. I’m not thinking that life should only be pink. In fact, joy would not exist without the contrast of sadness so positive emotions wouldn’t either without negative ones. But a more positive life is just more attractive. And it’s the same with people. It’s so pleasant to spend time with a positive person, it makes you feel good. On the other hand when you are surrounded by sadness or anger, your mood usually goes down… Here is some tips to feel better!
Negative emotions, sadness, anger, hopelessness, fear … make us complain.
I guess you’ve already heard about the cliché that French are grumpy, I can’t say that it’s completely false. Hearing a French complaining about anything
and everything is quite common. I think it has even become an habit. But finally after having met people from different places, I think that everybody tends to naturally remember more the negative events. It can come from a survival need because those are dangerous and our lives depend more on avoiding them than having pleasure. Even though, we sometimes react negatively without purpose. Like those days, when we completely freak out and later on realize that we had no reason to do so. It’s just that at that moment the fear completely blurred reality… How could we come back to reality?
Let the negative emotions go. It is not pleasant but it can be useful.When we are aware of the clouds disturbing us, we can do
something against them.
Breath and calm down. Take a time to be aware of what’s going on inside to be conscious of our feelings and thoughts.
Think about solutions and act instead of going in circles and procrastinating. When the mind is less foggy it’s easier to take action. But well, the concrete solutions depend on the situations.
Positive emotions, joy, gratitude, serenity, love, … We flourish.
It is said that for every negative emotion, 3 positive are necessary to cheer us up. Indeed with negativity we languish more than we flourish. And usually we close ourselves. Being positive suggests openness. With hope for instance we open our mind and heart. When we become more open we get ride of the rigid expectations that we can have and we are more thankful. Plus, good news, being thankful seems to improve our health. Some studies showed that gratitude is bound with a better sleep, amelioration of blood pressure and stronger immune system.
One way to be more grateful is to write in the evening things that you are thankful for. It’s writing down what did you like, what interested you, what amused you or what inspired you, … It’s quite similar to the morning and evening rituals we can find in some philosophies and religions. Actually that can be really pleasant and beneficial to take those moments to reflect on each day.Once the negative emotions are away the positive ones can come in.
And in the morning, I learnt that the Stoics wanted to remind themselves of what they were going to face today, so they would be prepared and less anxious about it. Well, why not trying to clarify our mind before setting off. And if we see some positive events it will had some rose shades to our glasses.
Some interesting articles if you want to read more about it:
I discovered the documentary Happy a few months ago. And there is no better way to learn about happiness than by watching it. Roko Belic, the realisator did an amawing job. He travelled around the globe to meet people driving tuk tuk, living with more than 5 other family or spending hours meditating. Their stories give a different views of what bring happiness or not. For instance, a man spending is time between the river and his family shares his everyday life and explains how fulfilled he is. With other stories we hear about Karoshi which means in Japanese to work oneself to death. And we are surprised how far we can go when we bury our heads in the sand…
To illustate all those features, there are interviews from professors, psychologists or neuroscientists. With them we learn how much happiness was actually studied. They are many courses in Harvard largely attended. Plus positive psychology is a field emerging and beginning to be known. It’s not as old and developed as abnormal psychology but there are already many researches done and books written about it. The explanations we have with those scientists broad our understanding and sometimes reveal what happens in our head!
Well, I won’t tell you much more otherwise there is no surspise. So if you feel like going on a trip in pursuit of happiness you should definitely delve into it.
I leave you the trailer down to give you a flavour!