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Today, 20th March, is the UN International Day of Happiness.  But can you create happiness by deliberate acts? And what happens if you don’t feel happy?

 

Psychologists have researched many ways to increase individual levels of happiness, community happiness and create a happier society.  Indeed, Action for Happiness, run their own 8-week course on Exploring what Matters to help individuals understand these different levels and encourage us all to take some action in anyone of those areas.

 

But what is happiness?

Happiness is a fleeting, positive emotion.  I like to use the analogy of a rainbow… there are times when you see it, there are times when you feel it but you cannot really touch it.  To experience happiness you need to also experience sadness and a whole spectrum of emotions in between; to see a rainbow there needs to be both sunshine AND rain.  So, today, the #internationaldayofhappiness please don’t feel compelled to be happy, just notice how you are feeling.

Having studied positive psychology for the past two years I have become increasingly aware that the media’s view of creating happiness is not the same as an individuals reality.  We might think the new car, the bigger TV, the flash clothes will bring us happiness. And to be fair, for a short while they do.  But not a meaningful type of happiness.  When we buy these material things, we experience hedonic adaptation… that is our spike of happiness soon fades and we return to our previous normal way of being and feeling.  To get the next spike of positive emotions it often needs to be an even flashier car, even bigger TV or more expensive clothes.

 

So what does bring happiness?

Rainbow over Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head

Living a meaningful life (defined by what you consider to be meaningful) is one way as that creates what psychologists call eudaimonic happiness.

 

I prefer a mix of both hedonic and eudaimonic happiness…

 

…by doing what I love (see more about my work at www.kateatkin.com), giving to others through volunteering activities, walking my springer spaniel and my own hedonic pleasure which comes in the form of 85% dark chocolate!

 

 

Happy New Year everyone!

Now we’ve entered into 2016, how many of you have made new year resolutions? There is, of course, some value in the making, reviewing and following resolutions, but as I’m sure you’re aware it doesn’t have to be a new year focus. However, this message isn’t about whether or not to make a resolution, but more about whether you have included one vital factor in your resolutions.

Most resolutions tend to be of the “lose weight”, “get fit”, “earn a big bonus” or “get new clients” type – of course if you’d made those, yours will be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. BUT are you missing a factor which will impact on your long-term happiness and mental as well as physical well-being?

If you’ve followed the research on happiness you are probably already aware of this factor… social connections.

Have you specifically decided to take action in this area? What resolutions have you made to stay in touch with friends?  How will you enhance your one special personal relationship (if you have a significant other).  What can you do to create more fun time with work colleagues?

There’s a wealth of research on the importance of social connections and relationships, and the link between these and longevity, happiness, mental and physical well-being.  Here’s a link to just one study, a TED talk about a longitudinal study lasting 75 years (wow!), which shows how valuable relationships are.

Enjoy watching, it’s only 10 minutes long… and create fun, love and laughter, and quality connections in your relationships during 2016.

Kate

Ps if you’d like to meet up for a cuppa to create a personal connection, just let me know 🙂

Impostor Syndrome dealing with the imposter phenomenon

reveal your imposter for what it is, a mask, not reality

How to banish your impostor or cope with imposter feelings

Having spent the past two years studying for a masters in applied positive psychology, and completing a dissertation on the imposter phenomenon and self-efficacy I should know enough about it by now to write a blog.  Yet my own Imposter rears its head when I go to put my fingers to the keyboard…. You probably know the sort of stuff, an internal voice which says “there are so many writing about this already, why you?”, “who’s going to want to hear your take?”, “are you sure you’ve got anything to add?” or “what if you write something that’s incorrect?”, “make sure there aren’t any spelling mistakes or typos” and “do you really know what you are talking about?”

Well do I?  I have read a few (ok, several!) books, numerous research articles and interviewed successful entrepreneurs, six men and six women, for my dissertation on the subject.  So does that qualify me to write a blog post?

What really qualifies me is my own experience of dealing with what I now know to be an Imposter for many years. Something which pops up every so often, or rather very often!  On coming across the term two years ago in the early part of my studies I realised that this is what I had been dealing with.

 

It wasn’t exactly a lack of confidence, more a crippling

“don’t put yourself out THERE as you’ll be FOUND OUT” feeling…

For those of you who, like me, can relate to the imposter feelings, there is often a huge desire to be successful, to do well and make a difference in the world, which contrasts big time with the internal struggle of what to do if you are successful, if you do make a difference because then you really have to work hard at not failing. To fail, so the imposter tells you, negates the success you have achieved and proves that you weren’t worth it after all.

Right from my early primary school days I have been subjected to ridicule, or “teasing” as it is often innocuously referred to. Harmless to many, for me it became something to avoid. If I didn’t do well, I would be ridiculed. If I didn’t succeed I was a failure. If I didn’t know something I was an idiot.  Not in other people’s eyes I might add…but in my own!  Others would tell me how well I was doing, how entrepreneurial I am to start a training business on my own (sixteen years ago), and how brave I am (to travel to Outer Mongolia on my own, for instance). Internally those comments only fueled the desire to work hard, to be 100% perfect… so as not to be found out.

 

Stop Hiding

Last weekend I spoke at the District 71 Toastmaster Conference and I let my Imposter completely out of the bag by pulling off my mask. I spoke about the ridicule, the internal angst, the perfectionism and also ways to overcome the feelings, which I confessed I was still working on.  Surprisingly (that’s my Imposter talking, to everyone else it wasn’t a surprise) I wasn’t ridiculed, I wasn’t run out of town for talking nonsense, instead I had people coming up to me to thank me for my honesty and to say how well I had connected with their own experiences.

Then just two days later I attended an event at the O2. A graduation ceremony for my masters in applied positive psychology. Again, I feel amazed that I not only now have a masters, but was awarded it with distinction!  Compare that with failing the 11 Plus, an examination all primary school leavers had to take in the UK to determine whether they were clever enough to go to the grammar school. I obviously wasn’t clever as I attended the Spilsby Franklin School, a secondary modern. But just two years ago, at the age of 48, at the same time as learning about the imposter phenomenon, I realised that I probably failed the exam as I took it at the age of 10 because my birthday is in August. How I hadn’t come to that realisation before I don’t know, but there it was staring me in the face.  My sisters both passed, I didn’t, yet I’m the only summer-born sibling.

 

What to do if you have experience imposter feelings

So what can you do to alleviate your imposter feelings?  The first step is to recognise them for what they are.  Feelings, not necessarily truths.  The second step is to start to talk about them.  You don’t have to go to the extreme of going on stage at a conference, but talk about them with family members or friends, or a work colleague you know you can trust.  Chances are they’ll go “yeah, me too”.

 

Further ways of banishing the imposter and boosting confidence will be the subject of subsequent blogs.  Meanwhile if you’d like me to speak at your conference, or to your staff or organisation, or for one-to-one coaching do get in touch. I’m on a mission to Banish the Imposter, my own included.

Contact me on kate@kateatkin.com or see www.kateatkin.com for more details.

Thank you.

yerkes dodson stress and performance

Yerkes Dodson Law: How stress can affect performance positively

Today, 4th November 2015 is the 17th national stress awareness day. Much of what is available on the internet about stress is about how to avoid it. The assumption is that stress = bad. But is that really the case?

For some people of course an overload of stress is unhelpful. But the focus on stress always being bad is in itself bad. There is such a thing as good stress, called eustress. Have you ever heard that being talked about? The term eustress was first coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye and can be helpful in differentiating between different types of stress.

A certain amount of stress, eustress, is good for you. Eustress can be a great motivator, provide challenge and purpose, both at work and in our home lives. The difficult thing is defining how much is good for you. It is different for different people. The level of stress I may be able to endure could be significantly different from the level you can cope with. It is also situational; we have different coping abilities and mechanisms in different situations. For instance a shouty work colleague may upset someone far more on one day than on another depending on what is going on elsewhere in their lives. Or the computer failing to pick up emails may be a blessing on one day allowing you to get on with other tasks, but a high stressor on another day when you are expecting an important contract to come through electronically.

The strategies for coping with stress, whether eustress or distress, are also varied. Mindfulness, meditation, playing squash (or other sport), walking or talking are all useful strategies. And there are many more. But remember, some stress is good for you and can help you achieve your goals. As can be seen in the Yerkes–Dodson curve when dealing with a difficult task, there is an optimum performance level. How will you achieve yours?

I am currently reading The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Simons and Daniel Chabris. Christopher Simons was one or the creator of the famous ball-passing perception test, which many of you will have experienced.  If you haven’t, concentrate hard on getting the right answer and you may be amazed at the result.

 

 

 

I recently watched this again and was struck by the fact that even though I knew the “trick” to the video, when I decided to concentrate on the task with full effort… guess what, my brain failed the perception test yet again.   Wow! How much am I missing out on? This is definitely worth a watch and if, like me, you have seen the video before, give it your full concentration on the task and see what happens. Perhaps your subconscious will deceive you too… I’d love to hear what you notice. Kate

Like many I have been shocked and saddened by news of Robin Williams’ suicide. Dead Poets Society is among my all time favourite films and Carpe Diem has long been my motto. While there are many laudable tributes to his work and many sites offering support to those suffering from depression, could I ask you to do one more thing?

Open up in the workplace about mental health.

Not just for those who are, or might be, in need themselves, but also for those who support people suffering from depression or another mental illness. It’s really tough to suffer from depression and it can also be really tough to understand it from the outside. However hard we try it isn’t possible – even those who have felt depressed still cannot truly understand what it’s like for someone else. Such is the nature of depression.

Being able to talk about it can be helpful. I’m not saying it will be in all circumstances, but with supportive workplaces at least one of the blocks or areas where stigma around mental health issues might be encountered could be removed. I know I’m dreaming a little, individual people will still hold their opinions, at work and outside. But could you, or your organisation promote mental health awareness a little more?

If you’d like to do so but don’t know where to start, contact Mind, SANE, Samaritans or another charity, or call me – Stuart and I have experience as both depression sufferer and supporter respectively as well as in promoting awareness.

If you’re reading this and in need of support right now follow this link to Mind’s website