Clutter does not create happiness

Do lifestyle changes make a difference to your happiness and well being? At Lifetree News we have shared the importance of honoring your strengths.  Another focus has been the “challenge of materialism.” As you reduce your clutter and become more mindful about your “stuff,” you become happier, get more done and improve your relationships.

 We live in a “world of consumerism.”  Consumerism has encouraged us to define ourselves, communicate our identity, and seek meaning through acquiring “stuff” more than through our deeper values, activities and community. But once basic needs are met, continually acquiring more material goods does not lead to more happiness.  Instead, it becomes a deterrent to happiness.  Researchers find it leads to greed, anxiety, and depression. We are much happier when we are honoring our strengths, connected with others, and serving a deeper purpose.

People today are becoming informed of the human cost of “stuff” - trafficking, sweatshop exploitation, forced and child labor and many other ills. As people become more aware of these inequalities and problems, many are redoing their relationship with stuff.  Beyond being mindful individually, activists are generating collective efforts for greater structural change toward creating a world that works for all.  Can we do “stuff” differently?  It depends on what it means to us.

Can we do “stuff” differently?

What does stuff mean to you?  When we define ourselves as continually needing more stuff, it is often motivated by feelings of inadequacy, scarcity, and lack – of not enough.  When we recognize our strengths and values as human persons, we recognize we are enough. Our existence as persons in and of itself provides extraordinary value. We find other ways of creating happiness.  

As you reflect your own unique view towards “stuff,” I encourage you to acknowledge your strengths.  Acknowledging your strengths can help you in five ways.

1. It will help you see that happiness and well being is more than just experiencing pleasure. Enjoying the pleasures of stuff is important, but once the pleasure wears off more is not better.  Chocolate is great, but too much is not. 

2. When you tap into your strengths, you will discover the kinds of activities and work that engage you.  This is where you are enthusiastic and excited, leading to a deeper level of happiness than pleasure.  Find your areas of strengths, and, use them more.  It will help you to make decisions and cut through what is important and what is not.

 3.  You will discover that you can use your strengths to serve a purpose greater than yourself.   For example, the character strength of justice may be important to you. If so, learning about the working conditions of those producing the goods and purchasing Fair Trade products can be deeply gratifying because it promotes equality.

4.  As you discover your strengths, you will better appreciate yourself and others.  When you become more positive, your relationships strengthen and improve.

5.  Aligning your activities and goals with your strengths helps you to get things done.

Try an experiment:

Take one small area in your home – such as your clothes or the kitchen pantry.  Then reflect, how much is enough? What do you really need?  Is there an excess you can donate to others? When you donate, do you feel happier and more connected?  Try it.

Jeff Shinabarger’s book, More or Less has a series of little experiments that can help you discover how much is enough for you. You will also discover the benefits of generosity, connection and joy of sharing with others.  Check it out.

To your generosity,

Dr. Alice

 

Resources;

Annie Leonard:  How to be more than a mindful consumer.  www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-human-cost-ofstuff/annie-leonard-more-than-a mindful-consumer.

Jeff Shinabarger.  More or Less:  Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity. Colorado Springs, CO. David C. Cook, 2013. www.moreorlessbook.com

Discover your strengths.  Take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths at www.authentichappiness.org.

 

 

Back to The Future

Back to the Future

In early May, my family and I took a badly needed break and visited the Spring Planting Festival  in Central Missouri.  We visited a Heirloom Seed Farm out in the country at Bakersville, MO.  The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company was cofounded by a young couple, Jere and Emilee Gettle, fifteen years ago.   Very local, it is also well connected internationally to Heirloom seed growers and collectors around the world. It has a unique combination of the new with the old, local and global.

Why search for Heirloom seeds? Heirloom seeds are cultivated for their purity and quality.  This is often   lost in the consumer trends of commercial agriculture.  Heirloom seeds are part of a movement for a healthier, simpler, back-to- earth lifestyle.    It is a desire of many to honor that which has sustained us over the generations, as well as present day innovation.  Many families are choosing to create a life style that is simpler, better connected, and grounded in healthy nutrition by growing their own gardens and plants.

Creating a Space for New Growth    

Over the last year Three Wise Women, Sam, Jane, and I, have been giving you tips and teleconferences to help create the space for new growth.  Sam (short for Samantha) gives tips on reducing clutter and discovering what you like to create a supportive, comfortable physical space.  I focus on appreciating our relationship strengths to create a harmonious family space.  This facilitates more effective teamwork.  What kind of strengths?--character strengths, gender strengths, and the strengths of the generations.  Jane, the anthropologist, helps us to value community and nature.  She brings in the wisdom of the ages as well as an appreciation of diversity as we become more local and global.

 A Three Prong Focus:

Simplify –   What do you really need and want?  You can increase your energy by reducing clutter.  Your physical surroundings have a strong impact on your relationships and effectiveness in getting things done. 

Unify- We need to honor our uniqueness as well the strengths that connect us all.  This expands our vision, builds teamwork, and helps us use our resources more effectively.

Amplify – As we focus on the positive, connect with nature and place, as well as with technology, we increase our ability to make a difference, one step at a time.  

Watch for our ongoing tips and upcoming teleconferences.

Dr. Alice

 

Creating New Visions for Home and family

Here in St. Louis trees are budding and flowers are in bloom.  Many gardeners are already are tilling the soil, pulling up old roots and planting new seed.  Spring is a time when we can create new visions for our home and family life.  What do you want to plant in the garden of your life?    

Simplify to Care

We live in a materialistic consumer oriented culture.  Often the focus has been on money and stuff.  We believe that our things reflect our importance in the world.  The deeper truth is that who we are as persons has a much more powerful impact.  Let this spring be a time to acknowledge the gift that you are.  What are the gifts and strengths within yourself that you can now begin to express?  What purpose would you like to serve?  When you acknowledge the gifts that you have and that which gives you meaning, it is easier to let go of material items that no longer serve you.   For example on Earth Day, it was a pleasure for me to recycle because it served a deeper purpose.  I was glad to let go of the items that I no longer needed that others could use.

 Caring  Relationships

Research over the last years has shown that our relationships bring a greater sense of well being and joy than status or the accumulation of stuff. Releasing your extra stuff allows you to share your compassion and feel connected to community.  It gives a renewed sense of appreciation for others and yourself.    It helps you feel connected to a broader purpose.   Enjoy your community celebrations.   Take a moment to acknowledge your value as a person, connect with your strengths and share.  Happiness comes from connection. 

Appreciate Nature

Take time to get out and appreciate nature.  As we enjoy the sun, the air, the blooming flowers and the trees, it helps us to slow down and become more grounded.  As we appreciate nature, we are reminded that we are a part of a much larger whole.   Nature can give us a sense of awe.  It helps us to reduce stress and put things in perspective. 

 

Joy in The Face of Pain?

All of us lose loved ones over the course of our lives. The pain of those losses especially sharp during the holiday season.  The events in Connecticut this last week have been especially tragic.  We find ourselves dazed, sad, angry, and fearful.  We want to do something to reach out to reassure ourselves that our world can be safe and caring. How can we experience the joys of the Holiday season at a time like this?

Many times, when we face tragedy, we look at it from the present moment.  It can fuel quick action. Other times, after the initial emotions subside, we dismiss it and go on with our lives. Rather than acting on the negative emotion or dismissing it we can choose the practice of calming, embracing, and looking deeply into the pain, honoring our suffering in an empathetic and supportive way.   It taps into our hunger for the sacred and a deeper spiritual power.  A deeper spiritual message emerges and we begin to view it from a broader perspective.  The pain transforms to an energy the helps us to create new intentions and new actions. 

When we look at the challenges of the shootings this year, we can see deep societal issues -- a need to reduce the emphasis on violence, healthy role models for boys, and the need to have restrictions on assault weapons to name a few. We can each be sensitive to these issues and take new actions within our awareness of the values that are important to us.  All actions count, no action is too small. When we honor our deeper values in memory of those important to us, they stay with us in spirit.  

Let us heal ourselves by using these painful experiences to honor the those in Connecticut increasing our awareness of the problems, and taking new action in their honor.  It gives deep meaning to our lives and an appreciation of the power of spirit to bring us through adversity. 

Perhaps this is the essence of the Joy of this season, -- the ability of our higher spirit to bring us through pain and tough times.

Celebrating the Family Meal

 Family get-togethers remind us of the importance of celebrating the family meal. Family meals bring us together, nourish us, and uplift our spirit.  All too often, however, family meals can create a lot of stress. Who is family? With whom can you get together?  Are you stressed out from buying all the stuff and the work?  Are you worried about family arguing and people getting along?  Has it actually been a hard time this year?  Come join us to help you transform your challenges into joy.

Listen to Three Wise Women give you tips on celebrating the family meal.  You can listen to the replay of our teleconference call in the Seminars section.

Build your family spirit.  Here are three tips to get you started.

·         Be Grateful – What you seek you will find. If you focus on the positive, you will get more of the positive.   Learn how to simply by looking at the positive. It will increase your happiness and joy

·         Co-Create – Honor your strengths and the strengths of others.  It will increase your ability to unify and work together to find co-creative solutions – ones you can all enjoy. People commit to that what they help create.

·         Celebrate - Cherish your family stories, especially the ones where you overcame a challenge to create success.  It will amplify your good will. 

Samantha Shields, a home energy specialist will be giving us her insights on simplifying, and managing the challenges of time and stuff.  I will be giving you tips for gaining cooperation and building positive family energy. Dr. Jane, a cultural anthropologist, will help us reflect on family meals and the larger community.

Warmly,

Dr. Alice

Can Everyone Be a Leader?

As we watch the news on the elections, it becomes clear.  The issues are complex.  No one approach has all the answers.  Often we look to leadership outside of ourselves to solve our problems.  There is no question that outside expertise is important.   Still, there is another kind of leadership, the kind that exists within you and me.  This kind of leadership may have more power than you think.

So often we see a leader as someone who has authority and control. Actually, leadership may have more to do with our self knowledge and personal integrity than getting others to agree. Then we lead by our example.  Knowing yourself and maintaining your values while staying connected to others is fundamental to our personal health and success at home and at work.  This, I believe, is true leadership. 

Within your contacts every day, someone could be watching you, closely observing your words and actions. Someone could be inspired by what you say and do. When you are aware of that influence and use it wisely, you are being a leader. Here are three tips for exploring this kind of leadership.

Tips for Managing Family Differences

I recently visited my roots, my family of origin.  We had a successful gathering.  We enjoyed being with each other, and also had to make decisions regarding our larger family goals, such as managing the family farm.  In almost every family, individual members often can have different views.  While this can give rise to potential conflict, it can also lead to stronger and more effective teamwork. The challenge is to stay positive, working in individual perspectives, while also looking at the best interest of the whole. Here are three tips for managing differences so as to create success.  

Focus on the Positive

Celebrate your strengths. We all have individual strengths and at the same time share deeper values and strengths with the people we love. Recognizing your character strengths, such honesty, love of learning, sense of humor, is important because it focuses on what you love to do that also serves the greater good. Family is a good place to discover and share them.   When you can use your

Celebrate Your Strengths

What is it that enables you to cultivate your talents, build deep lasting relationships with others, feel pleasure, and contribute to the world?  What is it that allows you to develop a sense of well being?    We all have character strengths that empower our lives.  When you tap into your strengths, it leads to a solid foundation of self esteem and increases your optimism, enthusiasm, and joy.  Here are some ways in which they show up.

 Discover your Strengths

During the day, when do you feel the most strong, enthusiastic, and deeply absorbed in your work?  These are the times you are in your strengths.  Your strengths are the areas where you can become deeply engaged.  When you use your strengths more frequently, it increases your happiness, sense of well being, and joy.

The Heart of Home

The Heart of Home"

Come join our teleconference July 24th," The Heart of Home."   A home is more than a physical building.  It is at the heart of our relationships -- with ourselves, with others, and the environment.   As we release limiting beliefs within ourselves, it impacts how we relate our surroundings.  We develop a broader perspective and an increased capacity to act for the benefit of all.

Three of us will be sharing:  Dr. Jane Granskog, cultural anthropologist, will share on the meaning of place.  I will share on the psychology of happiness and wellbeing, and Samantha Shields, a home energy specialist, will share how to relate to your home surroundings to create positive energy.

This Teleconference will be held on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 from 9:00 -10:00 AM CDT.  Call 760-569-9000 Access code 308311.

Home ought to be a clearinghouse, the place from which we go forth lessoned and disciplined, and ready for life.  Kathleen Norris

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice

Create Peace and Harmony - Be Kind

Today more and more people are simplifying their lives, reducing their material consumption, developing a sense of place, and investing in restoring a healthy balance with the earth.  Rather than continually consuming more stuff, people are building their relationships with family, community, and nature.  When we act considering the needs and well being of all, it becomes deeply gratifying because it serves a deeper purpose.

In a world menaced by all kinds of destructiveness, loving kindness is a necessity.  Loving-kindness, whether in deed, word, or thought is the only constructive means for promoting accord, peace, and mutual understanding. 

Loving-kindness is a source of well-being and safety.  To promote one’s own self interest is a primitive motivation of human nature.  When transformed into the desire to promote the interest and happiness of others, the basic urge of self-seeking overcome, and the mind becomes universal by identifying its own interest with the interest of all.  Doing so actually promotes one’s own well-being in the best possible manner.   Here are a three ways you can be kind.

    To Yourself – Take to time to appreciate the things you do well, to care of yourself, and rest.  Pace yourself, reduce expectations, create meaningful experiences.  It will bring you happiness and joy.
    To Others – On a daily basis, let others know what you appreciate.  It builds your relationships and good will.
    To the World –   Consider donating to charity or giving a helping hand.  Serving a purpose larger than yourself is deeply gratifying and lasting.

Psychologists estimate, on average, that more than eighty percent of your happiness comes from relationships, health, spiritual life, friends, and work fulfillment.  Only seven percent is about money.  Take time to be kind.

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