Finding Life’s Little Things

As we wake to start our day, how many of us take the time to admire the morning moon? Something is awe-inspiring about that celestial pearl resting on a deep blue canvas. It’s one of those little things that most of us never stop to admire. 

As a child, I absorbed everything around me. Life was fresh, new, and exciting. The sound of laughter at an amusement park was my favorite or sitting on a bench while fishing in my grandfather’s pond. Life was not simple in the late ’70s, but for a child, it was. 

After I graduated Highschool, I joined the workforce. I now had bills to pay and learned why adults complained. I didn’t own or rent. Instead, I jumped from one friend’s house to the next. Some nights I slept in my car. $8.25/hr translated into a lot of Ramen Noodles, and without proper economic training, I splurged every cent I had. Yup, looking back, I shake my head at my ignorance. 

To escape my impoverished reality, I joined the military. I’m not going to say it was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. For one, I don’t particularly appreciate orders; asking is different from telling. “Can you help me move this box?” sounds more courteous than “Help me move this box?” That’s another little-thing I enjoy. I smile at the fact that the military has yet to catch on to that mindset. 

For the next decade, I worked my tail off. I changed my whole outlook on life. Although I was polite before I joined the military, it was me being cordial. I knew people reacted more favorable to a kind word or compliment. I didn’t have to mean it; I just had to say it. In the military, I had my attitude thrown back at me. Talk about a hard look in the mirror. This revelation is one of those little things I enjoy the most. Nothing opens our eyes like a good honest look in the mirror and only to see who we are. 

While stationed in Louisiana, I had a friend invite me out to fish. I hadn’t thrown a lure in over ten years at that point. Getting out on that morning water brought me back to my youth. I use to love the smell, sound, and feel of the outdoors. At that moment while watching my first sunrise on the inter-coastal waters, I realize the meaning of life; find happiness. I should have quit drinking and been a better person. But we aren’t robots. Some of us take forever to learn simple rules. 

And as life has it, just as I was learning to be happy, the Navy sent me to the worst squadron I served. Now before I go any further, this doesn’t mean the Command was terrible. It means the environment and my perspective were not aligned. There was much backstabbing by peers who fought to make rank. And a Master Chief who bragged about kicking First Classes out of his Navy. For four years, I followed my ambition to stay happy despite my circumstances. 

Then, I received orders back to Louisiana. Talk about a breath of fresh air. I finished my Navy career at the Base, where I re-found my happiness, and learned the value of staying humble. Many of my junior peers were fighting to get where I was. I was fortunate I never got processed out of the military. To this day, I am thankful for the life I live. I call “being thankful for life” a little thing, but in reality, it is enormous.  All of these little things are huge. This life would not be the same without them. Like salt on a steak, it makes all the difference. 

I implore you to stop and smell the roses, go on a road trip, and listen to your high school playlist. Life is raw. It is not good nor bad, but our perception is what deems it as such. Find your happiness and maintain it. Be free to change when our happiness changes. What makes us happy one year may not bring the same sentiments the next. 

Never be too busy to feel the sun on your cheeks. For a time will come when we will not have the opportunity, and it will be too late to enjoy. 

OCEAN-5 Traits- Extroversion

Extroverts are outgoing, love to chat, social butterflies of the world. Engaging in conversations or activities provides a chance to recharge their batteries. Solitude stand back! These people have hands to shake, topics to discuss, and parties to attend.

My earlier post, Extrovert Happiness, covered many aspects of this trait. So why review it. Because, like many things in life, we change. People who are extroverts as young adults may grow to become more introverted. Without an understanding of this trait one may assume they are depressed or chemically unbalanced. We all have that one friend who specializes in WebMD.

The Good:

A person with a high score in extroversion loves to engage themselves. This can include activities, conversations, or community events. Their skill at networking is unsurpassed. They appear to know everyone (or they know a guy who knows a guy). A resource like this is great for sales, advertising, and event planning. Because they often interject they control the mood within a crowd.

The Bad:

They control the mood within the crowd. But we just said that in The Good section. Welcome to the two edged sword of negative and positive personalities. Believe it or not, not all extroverts are positive. Ever know a person who has nothing positive to say, and yet, they still interject. Maybe we fall into that category. Extroverts have a hard time working alone. They prefer group setting. This trait is evident in our youth. Some children shy away from group activities. While other children seem lost when forced to work alone. Adults do the same thing.

The Truth:

Most of us are ambiverts. A quick look into this trait was covered in Ambivert Happiness. As with the other traits we covered, our level of extroversion can change over time. Understanding how to maintain a positive mindset will enhance our happiness. We need to charge our batteries from time to time. Different traits require different environments. Learning the difference may prevent depression or anxiety.

I’ve seen introverts grow into extroverts and extroverts into introverts. Our interests and appreciations change over time. How boring of a life this would be if we never changed. We were meant for growth. Therefore, we were meant to learn.

What makes us happy now, may not satisfy that need as we get older. It would be wise for us to keep an open mind and watch those who have found their happiness. Someday we may find ourselves in their shoes. It would be nice to already have the answer when it arrives.

Until the next blog, live life, be happy, and find life’s happiness.

Steve Curtis

May I Have Your Moderated Attention Please

Oh how some of us crave attention. And why not… what is wrong with wanting the limelight. Everyone has their turn in it, why shouldn’t we have our’s. A man wiser than I once stated attention is healthy. Far be it from me to dispute this. However, craving constant affection from a crowd or a person is not healthy. For one, it puts undue stress on the group or individual we are sourcing attention. Secondly, we do not deserve the emotional roller coaster. So, how do we find a balance? Let’s go back to the beginning.

Our parents started our cycle of wanting attention. But, wait! They aren’t the cause. Sorry Freud. Some of us were praised for doing good, while others received no recognition. The same can be said for when we did wrong. This brings us to two types of attention; positive and negative. I’m sure we can figure out which attention belongs to what scenario. So, I will jump to the next point. What if one only received attention when they did wrong. Enter the “mislabeled problem child”. Keep in mind that negative attention is still attention. As a child we need nurturing. We need a healthy amount of focus. Our inner voice screams:

“Recognize me.”

“Give me special treatment.”

“I want the spotlight.”

“Don’t ignore me.”

Even as adults we have the same inner voice. Maybe our parents gave us attention and we thought the whole world was going to give us the same amount. Or perhaps, we were neglected and the first positive attention came from our teachers. Have you ever heard of the child who was an angel at home and a little devil at school? (or the other way around). Does this shine a light on a possible cause?

This is where discipline comes in. No, not the belt, brooms, torches or pitchforks. I’m talking about self discipline. We must learn to refrain from our craving. This brings us to our favorite topic. BRAIN CHEMICALS. Bwhahaha. I mean, a positive experience provides dopamine. Oh, how we love dopamine…  Did you know getting yelled at can cause your body to produce adrenaline.  Its part of the fight-or-flight defense. If this pattern continues there is likely chance we will associate adrenaline with the getting attention. Thus starts a state of mental confusion. This is not to a mental illness. Think of it as a misunderstood word. One would have to relearn to associate dopamine with getting positive recognition; just as one would have to learn inflammable actually means capable of being set on fire. True life story.

Recognition should be a dopamine experience, not adrenaline. We should not experience an elevated heart rate nor fight-or-flight. That mindset is not healthy. Attention should feel relaxing and calming. A sense of “I did it.” should be at hand, not “Whew, I survived.”

We now take a look at ourselves. Do we need attention on a daily basis, hourly, or even each minute? Be honest. How often do we seek approval? “Look at what I did.” Have we ever asked for an opinion then debated why our opinion was better? I feel that at some point in our age of learning we have all done this. Let’s not look at whether its good or bad. Rather, we should see it shows that we all want attention. There is nothing wrong with wanting attention, but moderation is needed.

Our need for recognition is just as important as our peers need for recognition. When was the last compliment we gave? How sincere was it? Did we notice the smile we received? Giving attention is just as important as receiving. Sounds like a gift, doesn’t it? If we neglect our peers, what are the chances they will act out in a negative manner? Remember, negative attention is still attention. As juvenile as it may be, we need to recognize it. If someone is demanding more attention than we are able to give, then we need to explain why we cannot provide that attention. Yes, setting down and talking takes time away from other business matters. But, in doing so, we are setting ourselves up for future success. Communication is key. Stay positive. Stay professional.

Moderated attention is what we need and what we need to give. Take a moment and think of each person we interact with each day. Are we proactive with our praises and constructive with our reprimands? Is the attention we give positive or negative? Are we seeking too much attention? As one can see there is a lot to take in when factoring how we interact with others. The key is to exercise moderation in ourselves and in others. Find a balance that won’t cause one to be overtaxed.

Until the next blog here’s to living life, being happy, and finding life’s happiness.

Steve Curtis

Happiness and Catecholamine Deficiency

Dopamine, that feel good nectar within our system that has us facing the world with a case of Ric Flair. WOO!

But for some, our bodies produce too little dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. This can lead to depression. Now before we dig too deep into this, please do not rush out to your depressed friend and say “Hey! I just read a blog that says your chemically imbalanced.” Not cool dude. Instead, take a deep breath, relax, and keep and open mind.

Did you know that the neurotransmitters mentioned earlier are called catecholamines? They are released during the body’s stress response. The effects of catecholamines include: increased heart rate, sending more blood flow to your skeletal muscles, pupil dilation, constricting the blood vessels in the skin, increasing glucose in your bloodstream, opening up your lungs, and making you feel excited. AKA Ric Flair mode. WOO!

If a person were to produce to little catecholamine, then they may end up under responding to stress or an emergency. On the other hand, a person that produces too much may over respond. This paints a clearer picture and presents a possible reason why one person may “freak out” while another person may stay calm during and emergency.

The quantity of catecholamines our bodies produce have also been linked to anxiety and depression. Is there anything we can do to help regulate production?

Reduce sugar intake- I know someone out there is screaming “Not my gumdrop buttons!” Sugar can disrupt dopamine production. This, in turn, can deplete dopamine levels in the blood system. Next thing you know we are addicted to sugar. Yep, sugar addiction is a real deal folks.

It would be wise to reduce caffeine to a moderate level. It too has similar addictive results. But, I’m not going to touch that one. Nope, far be it from me to stand in the way of a mother and her coffee pot.

Low levels of magnesium can cause decreased levels of catecholamine. Tests can determine if one has such deficiency. What can cause this? If your diet consists of heavy in junk foods or processed foods, then chances are you may have a magnesium deficiency. Please consult a doctor and find out for sure before assuming anything.

Depression does not deem one as mentally ill. Often times our habits are the reason behind our emotional state. Reducing stress, staying on a set schedule, and maintaining a good diet will help with depression and anxiety. Consult a doctor if symptoms of severe anxiety or severe depression exists.

Take into consideration the reason for the anxiety or depression. A death of a loved one may send some into a deep depressive state. A job loss may cause a financial instability that presents insomnia and anxiety. These are natural reactions. We react to adversity in different manners. Don’t assume you’re a basket case. You are a human being with human emotions. We all are. But, if life is grand and there is no apparent reason to be depressed or anxious, then one may be experiencing a catecholamine deficiency.

We deserve to be happy. Understanding what can prevent that happiness brings us one step closer to ensuring that we maintain our peace of mind.

Until the next blog, live life, be happy, and find life’s happiness

Steve Curtis

Ambivert Happiness

For the last two weeks we have covered happiness concerning introverts and extroverts. Now enters ambivert. Behold! A person who is not fully introverted nor fully extroverted. For those of us who have been asked which “-verted” nature are we, this may feel familiar.

Believe it or not, there was a time when psychologists thought there were only two types of people; introverts and extroverts. And given the standard definition of happiness, extroverts were happier. TWO TYPES OF PEOPLE! That’s like saying water can only be hot or cold. [Buzzer sound] Wrong. In the same fashion that water can be a multitude of temperatures depending on the environment, we too can show different personalities.

Let’s create a scale (1-100). 1 will represent an absolute introvert and 100 will represent an absolute extrovert. Where on this scale would you feel comfortable saying you fall? If the scale was split into thirds, most of us would fall between 34-66 on the scale on an average day. Why did we say “on an average day”? Like water, we are affected by our surroundings. Our personality will slide up and down the scale.

Is there something within us that drives this reaction? Nerd Time! Scientists are beginning to understand the neural connection from the cerebellum to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain. Short story, the cerebellum contributes to our social behavior. What’s new is how it works with the VTA to produce a reward system that drives our social personalities.

So how do I know if I’m ambiverted? Do these apply to you?

I can work comfortably alone or with a group.

I can work at a station for some time, but being stagnant for too long is boring.

I can entertain small talk, but it’s not my forte.

Too much down time is boring. However, too much social time leaves me drained.

If this sounds like you, then you may fall into the ambivert personality class. The important thing to remember is to be honest with yourself. Don’t try to be a personality that you’re not. That would leave any of us drained. Knowing and understanding our personality and how they work is an important step in finding happiness. If you feel bored, get out and do something social. If you feel drained, find some alone time. As with any cycle there is a time to be out and there is a time to stay in. Here’s to finding that balance and finding life’s happiness.

Until the next blog, live life, be happy, and find life’s happiness.

Steve Curtis

Extrovert Happiness

Do we even need to cover how extroverts need happiness? I mean, look at them. They are so outgoing and doing their go-getter things. They don’t need us telling them how to be happy. Right?

Life as and extrovert can have its challenges. For one, everyone expect them to always be ready to perform. News flash: extroverts need down time too. Taking the time to reflect is just as important as social interaction.

This also brings up a good point. Extroverts can be shy. This may throw a wrench in the typical way of thinking, but its true. So how do we tell. It comes down to what charges them up. They are the ones that love to be in a crowd and mostly associate with those they know. They aren’t reaching out, or chit-chatting. When someone new comes over they may stay quiet, but they are not withdrawn. Never assume someone is an introvert just because they are shy.

Extroverts need stimulation, a change in scenery, something to break up the monotony. If you are extroverted then plan several quick breaks when working on a long project. This will prevent a burn out. Something simple as making one lap around the office once an hour can make all the difference.

As with my blog on Introvert Happiness, extroverts need to identify what recharges their batteries. Also take note of what drains them. Not all extroverts are the same. It takes being honest and knowing that we may be different than others. This difference is not a mental condition nor does it make us a freak. In fact, it makes us unique. There is nothing wrong with being unique. We owe it to ourselves to find our happiness.

Until the next blog, live live, be happy, and find life’s happiness.

Steve Curtis

Introvert Happiness

A large number of people are introvert and don’t even know it.

“I’m not an introvert. I like people.”

Sound familiar? Introverts are not always at home setting on the sofa setting in silence staring at the walls. I’m doing it right now because I want to. I can have fun… and stuff.

Some people love being in a crowd, while others prefer solitude. Which do you find more comforting? Can a crowd be too big? Can a room be too empty? Some introverts get positive energy from being in a crowd. They may not interact with the people, but being there is awesome. Introverts can also draw positive energy from solitude. There is nothing like the sound of silence that soothes my soul.

Does this sound confusing or contradictory. Just as there are different types of music, there are different types of introverts. Some introverts like quiet times and some introverts enjoy good company. What’s important is understanding where we draw our energy. We need moments to recharge in order to perform our best. This is why some of us go to the club before a huge presentation, while others will go home and nestle with a good book. A drained soul is not a happy soul.

Small talk is not a strong suit for introverts. Interactions with others will leave some of us drained. This is especially true when we run out of things to say and find ourselves listening to others ramble on about how they believe Boy George is such and under rated artist. I just want to hug these people, pat their heads and say, “There, there, there.” Then walk away.

My Navy Command use to throw picnics and it was a mandatory fun time. I disliked being in a crowd. I’d make my rounds, chat with enough people to let them know I was there, then stand at the grill and flip burgers. Yup, that grill master is a hidden introvert. I’m hiding behind that wall of smoke. (Not always)

I remember going to church when I was young. I did this up until my twenties. People walked out of the building all energized and ready to go. I didn’t. I learnt things and I gained insight, but I didn’t get that same power-up experience from being in a hot crowded room. I felt more energized from reading the scriptures in the solitude of my own home. For years I thought there was something wrong with me. But, with everything in life, we come to the realization that it’s OK to be different. It’s about finding what makes us happy.

Always be honest with yourself. Sure, we would love to be the life of the party and have everyone always wanting us to come over. Until we realize that we may like crowds, but not a lot of interaction. We may even get good at small talk, but not the lime light attention. There is a happy balance. Find it and embrace it. Everyone deserves to find life’s happiness; even if we do it in solitude.

Until the next blog, live life, be happy, and find life’s happiness.

Steve Curtis

Health and Happiness Part 2

Welcome to another fantastic day of sunshine and love. Grab a friend and came along as we conclude our exciting blog on health and happiness… Too cheerful? Yea I thought so too. But, there is a lot to say about a happiness. Mostly focusing on the physical effects, we can see three major benefits. So grab a friend and come along… wait I already said that… “Expletive!” Moving on.

Happy people have fewer aches and pains. This is not to say they are bullet proof. No, people with a positive outlook on life tend to handle pain better. Is it because they are one with the universe and their crystals are aligned with the Virgo constellation? Um… I’m not even sure what that means. But, what I was going to state is that they produce endorphins. As stated in the last blog, endorphin is a pain killer. That my friend, is how those happy hippies are able to handle their physical pain. It is also a good time to mention that during physical therapy, patients who mentioned they were in a positive mental state recovered faster. Move over bionic man, happy man is here. Wow, that really doesn’t have the ring I was hoping for.

Happiness combats disease and disability. Our immune cells have endorphin receptors. I like to think of those receptors as coffee mugs and the endorphin my body produces is their coffee. Java junkies unite! With a boost to the immune system our body handles disease and sickness at a better rate. This is compared to someone who always has a case of the grumpy pants. Ever had a cold or flu that caused aches and pains? Of course, we all have. Being happy didn’t cure the cold or flu. No one ever smiled and suddenly got relieved of all symptoms. However, those that did smile through the sickness did have a faster recovery time. Miracles are instant, healing takes time. How much time depends on our physical health + mental health. I’m not going to say it’s easy to be in a positive mindset when our nose is running and eyes feel like popping out due to sinus pressure. No, it’s a deliberate act that takes practice. Anything worth doing take some amount of work.

Happiness lengthens our lives. The web of internet has a plethora of evidence that suggests that being happy prolongs one’s life. I like it when a newscaster asks a 101 year old person how they lived so long. The best answer I heard was from an old war vet. The newscaster asked her question and leaned in to get her answer. The gentleman started to think. “Well,” he began, “I just keep waking up.” He chuckled at his own words as the newscaster’s face reflected her disappointment. Forcing a smile she turned to the camera, “There you have it folks, just keep waking up.” She missed it. She missed the “expletive” point. The gentleman wasn’t saying “just wake up.” No, he was showing how to find humor in just waking up. Being able to laugh is one of our greatest gifts. Sadly, there are those among us that choose to use this ability to bring others down. Sad! Being able to find a reason to chuckle makes an ordinary situation great. It softens the blow to a devastating event. We will experience a lot of drama and hard times. We will also experience hope, happiness, love, and joy. Which one will we choose to focus on? That ladies and gentlemen is what will determine the longevity of our health.

Until the next blog, here’s to finding life’s happiness, living life, and being happy.

Steve Curtis

Health & Happiness Part 1

Today millions of Americans are waking up unhappy, stressed, sick, and just plain tired. Doctors are prescribing medications that only numb the brain. Wake up Doc! You are not fixing the problem. However, truth be known, it’s not their problem to fix. It’s our’s. Our health is our responsibility. We can start with a little TLC. If you’ve read any of my blogs, you probably already know that I’m about to explain how our happiness affects our health. Let’s begin.

It is no secret that lower blood pressure is healthy, but did you know that a lower heart rate is too? The average resting heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). Tachycardia describes a condition where the resting heart rate is higher than this. With a little research one can find an undeniable relationship between how happy a patient felt and their cardio stats. When we are happy our mind is at ease. We feel more relaxed. The troubles of this world seem to melt away. OK that may be a little too much, but we are in a better state of health.

One can easily extrapolate that being unhappy will have the inverse effects. Mental unrest, higher blood pressure, and higher bpm. If prolonged one may develop insomnia. This, of course, would add to ones cardio discomfort. Yes, I believe happiness is not only good for the heart, but essential for it’s health.

Did you know happy people get sick less. As Kid Rock once stated in a song; it’s not bragging if you can back it up. I’m sure there’s some expletives in there. We’ll just let them be. Here is the logistical side of why being happy makes one less sick. Most immune cells have endorphin receptors. When we are happy we release endorphin into our system. These hungry little cells love endorphin as much as we love our coffee. In fact, imagine not getting your morning coffee then forced to talk to customers. Blah!

Happiness combats stress. Let’s face it, stress is intense. Blood pressure shoots up, heart rate increases, and our brain beings to race. Guess what! We do not release endorphins while being stressed. So our immune system takes a hit as well. Did you know that endorphins act as pain killer? Of course you did. This is why we feel more pain during times of stress. Keep in mind that some level of stress is healthy. However, as with anything in life, too much is not good.

There you have it folks. Three ways that being happy can improve our health. From our heart, to our immune system, and to our ability to deal with stress, happiness has a huge impact on our lives. This is why it is important to let no one steal our happiness. In doing so, they are stealing our health. We deserve to be happy. You deserve to be happy. Never take it for granted.

Until next blog, here’s to finding life’s happiness, living life, and being happy.

Steve Curtis

Third Person Happiness

I have came to the conclusion I want people-robots. Yeah, it was one of those daydreams. I’m conversing with someone when they begin yelling and screaming. Hands are waving in the air. Guess he disagreed with me. Anywho, I reached over and, like a radio knob, adjusted his nipple area of his shirt. His voice lowered. In a state of astonishment, I adjusted his other nipple shirt area. His point of view didn’t change, but the manner in which he presented it did.

[Think I need to get out more.}

I pondered for a while on how this could apply to me, to us, to everyone. Who is affected by our actions? Of course, we are affected; first person effect. People we direct that action towards; second person effect. Lastly, witnesses of our actions; third person effect. We are familiar with first and second person involvement, but do we understand the full repercussion of the third person?

Third person is often overlooked when it comes to people involved in a scenario. This is due to the fact they are indirectly involved. Our attention is on who is directly affected. By changing this, we learn to see a broader scope of who we effect. Pretend there is a sweet old man needing help crossing the street. Like any good citizen, we lend a hand. Think about who is involved with this moment. How does witnessing someone helping others affect us? Suppose we were walking slow and a young hipster begins to yell profanities at us. How is everyone effected now?

How often have we replicated the hipsters action due to being wrapped up in our moment and not looking around? Truthfully, we do it a lot. Fact: We want to be in control. If we aren’t in the driver seat, we aren’t happy. News flash people: We do not need to be in control at all times. To the person who exclaims, “If we aren’t in control, then we’re out of control.”, I would like to ask, “Is a passenger out of control?” If so, then they are the personification of the calmest “out of control” person I have ever seen.

Learn to get out of the driver seat. Look around. Enjoy the views you have missed. Who knows, you might see someone emulating your uncouth actions. Just remember, we affect everyone around us. No one is excluded. Everyone wants to experience life’s happiness, and we can give everyone a slice with a little attention to our surrounding. After all, the world doesn’t revolve around us. It revolves around our words and our actions.

Until the next blog, live life and be happy.

Steve Curtis