Category Archives: Positive Psychology

Pursuing Happiness

Recently, on the CBS Evening News Morley Safer reported on “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  He quoted the main scientific survey on international happiness conducted by Leicester University in England, noting Denmark is the happiest country in the world with the U.S. ranking 23rd (above Iraq and Pakistan).  Many topics are discussed as to why the United States ranks so low and Denmark so high on the list.

Among others, Safer interviews Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches Positive Psychology – the Science of Happiness at Harvard University about this study and about how American’s view happiness.

A 2006 NPR article also interviewed Ben-Shahar, who lists his six tips for happiness.  Although in the article his best advice is #4, it would do us all some good to consider this list, and figure out how we’d like to implement it daily.


Judging Others

When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself. – Wayne Dyer

Judging others can happen quicker than we may realize. Most of the time, we judge others in small ways, sometimes as simple as just labeling someone. See what you think of these examples:

  1. We see someone driving “poorly.” We label the person incompetent, stupid or idiotic.
  2. We get poor service while in a check-out line. We think the person is rude, mean or apathetic.
  3. A person you work with seems to be always trying to “upstage” you or put you down. You label them as petty, arrogant, mean or egotistical.
  4. We don’t like someone’s choice of music. We label them stupid, silly or crazy.

We don’t have to judge people in big ways like by “attacking” their religion, race, heritage, intelligence or etc. I believe that more judging happens in these small ways than in the big ones. I don’t know about you, but it seems like people have a tendency to label people’s personalities instead of discussing their behavioral issues. I’m not saying that there aren’t people who do “bad” things or make bad choices. My point is that we’re not perfect either and as long as we judge others we cannot possibly keep an open mind to the possibility that the person can change. I also think that if you are around someone whose behavior you don’t like, then just leave. No need to judge, just get out. Find people that treat you differently.

Judging others only limits our view of the world, affects our actions/behaviors in negative ways, limits our possibilities and prevents us from being as happy as we can be. Be aware of what you are thinking and saying in situations. Watch for judgmental comments so that you can stop them before they grow.


Treasure Maps

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with local Art Therapist/Yoga Instructor Andrea Atherton-Nollet and four other creative souls for a few hours of treasure mapping.

Andrea presented insights from Lynn Siprelle  who discusses the art of treasure mapping and her treasure mapping process.  She writes of its role in her life in creating visual pictures of things she wanted and how after 15 years, it all has come true.

Although we were a small group, we intently focused on the task at Andrea’s art table.  Tearing magazines, drawing with pastels, and cutting with scissors, we searched for pictures of the Eiffel Tower, discussed the recent talk we heard by Caroline Myss and created our 2008 Treasure Maps.

I hung mine up immediately in my office when I got home.  Never one to declare myself an artist, the circular shape is unusual for me, with the outside representing my outer self and the inner part representing my quiet, secret inner self.  Parts of it continue to roll around my head.  Each day I see it inviting me to move, step, even jump in the direction where the pictures and words beckon. I’m sometimes slow to approach things. Maybe that will change this year.


[If you’re interested in pursuing this creative method for manifesting, many suggestions are available online.]


Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat. – Napoleon Hill

I’m a firm believer in this philosophy. In fact, I think it’s more than a philosophy. I believe it is a fundamental “law” that most people either don’t know about or can’t see when they are in the middle of a crisis.

Misfortune, temporary defeat and other types of crisis events in our lives are messages that something needs to change. The stories of many successful people (not just financially successful) typically start with a challenge, problem, crisis or etc. from where they make some change in their life. This “change” propels them towards the success they are now famous for. The misfortune or failure was the pivotal moment. What they did different than most was view this strained period of their lives as an opportunity for renewed creativity, a different mode of thinking or a chance to change outmoded belief systems.

It has taken most of my life to fully appreciate what Napoleon Hill so eloquently states. When events happen now that would be judged as bad, misfortunate or viewed as a defeat, I am able to quickly get back into a positive viewpoint.

You can do this to. When “bad” things happen to you, take the opportunity to review your life. Do you have out of date beliefs that can be adjusted? Have you been following some sort of negative behavior pattern repeatedly? Are you really unhappy in your current situation but need a kick in the rear to make a change? Are you not doing something you love because of other “responsibilities”?

Opportunity is as close as you want or think it to be. Foster this belief and watch your life change. Remember we are supposed to be having fun and enjoying our life.

Have a great day!


Our Faults

Our faults irritate us most when we see them in others. – Pennsylvania Dutch Proverb

Do you ever stop to wonder when you feel irritation towards someone else? Have you stopped to examine the fault that is bothering you and objectively looked inside to see if you posses the same “fault?”

Generally speaking, what bothers us the most in others is something that we unconsciously possess, judge ourselves harshly or don’t like about ourselves. Because we don’t like that aspect of our self, we are tuned into that issue with others. We see it clearly on the outside, but find it difficult to see on the inside.

It’s really important when we have a reaction to someone that we quickly begin to look at the exact issue that is causing us grief. Next, we should immediately and objectively (this can be the hard part) look inside ourselves and determine if we have the same fault or something close. Our reactions to others are almost never about the other person. It’s all about internal issues that we are not facing.

Don’t forget that sometimes a perceived fault of another person triggers something quite different inside also. For example, someone who is not conforming to rules may trigger a response if you are a controlling type person. Or maybe somebody does something that you don’t like but you don’t speak up for yourself. The anger may be about you not speaking up and nothing at all about the other person.

Dig deep, you’ll eventually find the reason why you are upset. It will not be the other person.


Don't Look Back

I was so in the present moment the past was no longer part of me. – Laurel Hoodwrit

What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment.  And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new.  Right now. – Author Unknown

Many people constantly look back at their past and think or fret about “mistakes” they have made. If you have done this, I’m sure you have not felt very good. Most of us don’t enjoy looking at bad decisions we have made. We constantly think after the fact about how we could have done better.

At this time of year, more people reflect back over the negative events of the previous year before looking ahead to the future. My advice is too not look back at all. Don’t look back last year and don’t look back at any prior years.

All of the so called bad decisions, mistakes, mishandlings and etc. have created who you are in this very moment in time. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The reason we don’t need to nor should we review the past is simple. At any moment in time, in other words right now, we can choose to go in another direction or be something else. We always and I can’t stress this enough, always have the power to change what we are thinking right now. No one can take that away. Only us. Once we change what we are thinking then we can change who we are and where we are going.

So as this year winds down, take the time to concentrate on how you are feeling in this very moment. Ask yourself, “How can I feel a little bit better? Can I change or tweak my thoughts to get just a little bit more satisfaction?” Don’t look back and judge all of your decisions. They really are irrelevant. Focus on the now, the present moment, while keeping an eye towards where you want to go.

You can change your life now. You can’t change the past. So don’t focus on it.

Have a great day and a coming New Year!


Make Mistakes

Whenever you make a mistake or get knocked down by life, don’t look back at it too long. Mistakes are life’s way of teaching you. Your capacity for occasional blunders is inseparable from your capacity to reach your goals. No one wins them all, and your failures, when they happen, are just part of your growth. Shake off your blunders. How will you know your limits without an occasional failure? Never quit. Your turn will come. – Og Mandino

Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it. – William Durant

Do you cringe when you make a mistake? Do you feel like the world is judging your every move? Do you feel like you have to be perfect all the time? Do you accept mistakes in others but not yourself? Do you still remember the mistakes you made years ago? Do you have trouble forgiving yourself?

Guess what? There isn’t one person on this planet that doesn’t make mistakes, regularly and consistently. It’s one of the ways we learn. It’s how we gain experience and wisdom. Its how we figure out what we truly desire and what we feel passionate about.

If you aren’t making mistakes then you’re not living, or growing or learning. If you aren’t making mistakes then you aren’t taking risks. If you aren’t making mistakes then you’re not growing.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that “you can’t get it wrong.” It’s about being. It’s about doing. It’s about living. If you can learn to like and love yourself now, whoever and whatever you are, and then all of the mistakes you have made in the past are irrelevant.

In fact, I suggest that you go out and make some good mistakes. The lessons you’ll learn will be invaluable. As you learn those lessons, you’ll be guided to make more mistakes which will increase your experience even more. Some of your lessons will help others to make different mistakes than those you have made.


Holding on to the Past

At many times in our lives we go through traumas, major crisis situations or just plain rough moments. Sometimes if the situation is exceptionally challenging, with a large dose of negative emotions, we tend to hold on to the bad feelings. We may not even know we have repressed those feelings, but they lurk under the surface and can subtly affect how we act and interact with the world around us.

Unfortunately, we may not even know this is happening. We may feel that the event or situation has passed and we came out the other side feeling good. But, if not faced directly and consciously, these small and unconscious memories sit in our mind hidden and active.

Today, I realized that I had been holding a negative memory from my high school years. High school was not a pleasant time for me. In fact, it was probably one of the worst periods in my entire life. My self-confidence and self esteem were at their lowest points. I never felt like I really fit in. Each day was a struggle. Graduating was one of the best moments as I felt like I had been freed from a prison.

So, those are my memories. But, they are not who I am at this time. I’m not the person I was back then. I believed that I had worked through all of those issues many years ago. So, I was quite surprised when these feelings of hurt, struggle and pain resurfaced today. They only lasted a few minutes, but I just sat through them, breathed deeply and observed from a different perspective.

It’s really good when repressed feelings like this surface. This gives you an opportunity to examine them and let them go. Holding on to these old memories and events takes energy that you may not know you are using. Once the emotion has been let go, you get the energy back. That’s one of the reasons why people feel better after a good cry.

If this happens to you, just let the process happen, breathe deeply, allow the emotion to move through you and then let it go. Don’t try to repress it again. You don’t need it anymore.

Have a great day!


Chanukah – Festival of Lights

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah – the Festival of Lights.  At dusk every night for eight nights one more candle is lit and by the eighth night the menorah is alight with candles with an extra one the Shamash – the guardian candle raised above the rest.  The family gathers around the lighted menorah and sings Maoz Tzur which praises God for his salvation and remembers the times of persecution in Jewish History.

It is traditional to eat fried foods especially donuts throughout this festival, chocolate money is given to the children and a game is played with the Dreidal or Sevivon – this is a four sided spinning top with letters on each side that spell out Nesh Gadol Haya Shem – ‘A Great Miracle Happened There’ to remember the miracle of the oil.

In the Jewish religion this festival is all about miracles.  Chanukah tells the story of when the second Temple was destroyed by the Greeks and there was only enough olive oil to light the eternal flame for one night, but the Rabbis prayed for a miracle and the olive oil lasted eight days (enough time for more oil to be pressed and prepared).  Every year Jews all over the world light candles for eight days to remember the miraculous event.  By following this ritual we are reminded that miracles are happening at every moment. It also represents the miracles that help us through our trials and tribulations and give us hope for the future.

A lot of the time we are too attached to experiencing miracles that have huge impacts on our lives. This month become aware of the miracles that are happening in your life, however big or small.  So often we take things for granted and do not see the wonders that are all around us; a breathtaking sunset, dinner with friends, laughter and sharing, good food, a hug from a loved one.  These small miracles are what make the world magical. They enrich our lives and remind us of how good it is to be alive.

Love and Blessings

Rebekah Shaman xxx

Towards Fear

We must travel in the direction of our fear. – John Berryman

Our greatest moments and our greatest growth come from facing our fears. If something you are about to do makes you uncomfortable, than you should make sure that you do it. It’s a signal from yourself letting you know what you need to work on.

I’m very familiar with fear since I didn’t face most of mine for the majority of my life. I know now that the other side of fear, when you get past it, is infinitely more desirable than staying in fear. But, we adapt so well to lower standards of living, that we tolerate being miserable. We forget what it is like to not be in anxiety. We accept this as “just the way it is.”

After living in fear for some time, we no more have a comparison to something better, something freer, something happier. So, subtly we acclimate. The longer we hold back working through a fear, the deeper we become entrenched.

Fortunately, this pattern can be changed at any moment. You have the power to decide when, where and how you will get break through. The first step is deciding to do it. Recognize the fear for what it is; an opportunity to grow and become more of who you really are.

Start small. Have friends to support you. Seek counseling if you need. Have faith that a better life is just around the corner. Travel in the direction of your fear and you travel in the direction of your ultimate happiness.

Have a great day!