Diane Lang, Positive Living Expert
- Monday, 22 October 2012
Do you have trouble finding balance and joy in your life? Naturally Savvy interviewed Diane Lang, Therapist, Educator, and Author of 'Creating Balance and Finding Happiness' and 'Baby Steps: The Path from Motherhood to Career' about what it means to have a postive attitude.
NS: You describe yourself as a Positive Living Expert. Can you please explain what that means and how you incorporate that into your work?
DL: I’m a psychotherapist, but I am trained in ‘positive psychology’. I deal with patients who have mental illness, depression and bi-polar depression, but I am specifically trained on what makes us happy.
My work focuses on teaching people how they can live a better, happier life. There is a lot we can do to make our life happier. I like to focus my work on the functioning person who deals with everyday life issues such as stress, environmental issues, unemployment, kids, etc. I teach people how to live their best life.
Sixty percent of our personality is genetic, 40 percent is nurtured. We have control over that 40 percent, so we can learn new traits, change habits, and improve how happy we feel.
NS: What is your interpretation of a happy, positive life?
DL: Like love, everyone has his or her own definition of happiness. I feel happiness comes from external circumstances and joy comes from within. Joy is something we carry within ourselves. It is our true self. We can be joyful people even when bad things happen.
Unfortunately, I cannot say we live a happy life 365 days a year. Things are going to happen that we have no control over, like losing a loved one, sitting in traffic, or getting fired.
However, I believe the key in dealing with such stressors is resiliency, so when bad things happen, you can work through your issues quickly and effectively. You don’t have to allow situations to escalate out of control.
NS: Can you share some tips that are easy to implement for those who are looking to incorporate more happiness and joy into their lives?
DL: Sure! The most important thing we all need to do is to make sure our basic needs are met. When I work with patients, I ask them to keep a journal for a week and write down everything they are eating and drinking. This exercise helps them to measure their water intake. I find that many people are dehydrated because they aren’t drinking enough liquids or eating enough water-soluble foods. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, which in turn, can lead to feeling down.
Another important basic need that must be met is sleep. Most Americans get between four and six hours of sleep a night. Research shows sleeping less than six hours a night for three nights in a row is equal to not sleeping for 24 hours cognitively. Sleep is so important.
Exercise. I stress the importance of walking four times a week at least 30 minutes. This amount of exercise is equivalent to taking an anti-anxiety pill.
I also recommend changing our perspective. Happiness is a perspective. You can look at a glass half full or empty. The choice is ours. Gratitude is a great way to change our perspective, and it’s free!
I teach something called a “Gratitude Check”. When you wake up in the morning, lie in bed with your eyes closed and ask yourself “what am I grateful for today? This can really help to put things into perspective for you. I also recommend doing it again before going to bed. This time, ask yourself “what am I grateful for in general?” It’s important to do it at night is because whatever thoughts you have before bed is what you sleep on (usually stressful thoughts). Once we change our thoughts, we can also change our attitude and behaviors.
Another suggestion I make is to pay it forward with random acts of kindness. When we do something nice for someone, we get a boost of happiness that lasts from 24 to 48 hours.
NS: What are some effective strategies for mothers who work outside of the home and are looking to find a work-life balance?
DL: This is something working mothers are always going to struggle with. Balance isn't about time management. Finding balance in your life is about finding your true self. If you love what you are doing and have flow, then you are happy. If you enjoy work and you are happy, then your family will be happy. A happy mom equals a happy family.
NS: What types of personal challenges do you struggle with as far as happiness is concerned?
DL: My biggest personal challenge is fighting the negative tape recorder in my head. I became a psychologist to help others because I understand them. It isn't a daily challenge at this point, but rather a weekly one. The key is that I use my own tips to overcome the negativity in my head and work through the challenges faster. I try not to hold onto anything for too long.
NS: How do you maintain balance in your life?
DL: I feel most balanced when I am enjoying what I am doing. I live in NYC and love a chaotic life. I visualize being busy. So that’s my balance and I am ok with that.
Learn more about Diane and her work on her website.