“There is a lot of negativity in the world, and we’re not going to be Pollyanna and think the world is great because that’s not the truth. It’s just a matter of how we respond.” -Margie Bissinger
Many women with PCOS put happiness on hold. “I will be happy when I lose the weight,” “when I have a baby,” “when I get a new job,” etc. The truth is, we cannot wait. Happiness has a metabolic effect. Our health literally depends upon choosing happiness now. Margie Bissinger is an expert in this area and explains how we can take steps every day to enhance our happiness. Listen in or read the transcript below.
Mentioned in this podcast:
- PCOS Diva manifesto
- Happiness meditation & 7-day Happiness Habits Journal
- Happy Me, Happy Life Online program
Amy Medling: Today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about happiness. And I wanted to talk about happiness because recently I put together a PCOS Diva manifesto. So being a PCOS Diva is so much more than just what you eat and how you exercise. It’s really how you think and how you choose to live your life. So, the very first sentence of my manifesto is, “A PCOS Diva is a woman with hope. She has taken charge of her happiness, her health, and takes steps every day to enhance both.” So, as I was thinking about new topics for my podcast, I think I wanted to talk about how we can take steps every day to enhance our happiness. Because happiness is a choice, and I think so many women with PCOS kind of put their happiness on hold. It’s kind of like, I’ll be happy when my PCOS symptoms are under control, or I’ll be happy when I get pregnant, and we really need to be happy in this moment.
So, I’ve brought on a wonderful expert about happiness. It’s Margie Bissinger. I’ve known Margie for several years now, and she’s an expert in osteoporosis, but she’s also an expert in happiness. So, I’m just so thrilled, Margie, that you’re joining us for today’s PCOS Diva podcast.
Margie B.: Oh, well thank you so much, Amy, for inviting me, because I love being with you and this is going to be so much fun.
Amy Medling: Well, you just really exude such a positive light energy. I spent quite a bit of time with you this summer at a conference that we both attended, and you just lift me up, and I’m really excited about talking to you about this topic. But I just wanted to give listeners a little bit about your background. You are a physical therapist and integrative health coach, and a certified happy for no reason trainer. You merge your expertise in these disciplines to assist your clients and program participants in a comprehensive approach to your health through whole foods, exercise, mind-body relaxation techniques, and happiness training.
So, I wanted to, just for PCOS Divas who have family members that that struggle with osteoporosis, I know for women with PCOS that’s one positive. I think the extra testosterone sort of helps us maintain our bone strength as we age. So, that is a positive for PCOS. But tell us a little bit about your work with osteoporosis first, and where we can learn more about that, and then we’ll dive into happiness.
Margie B.: Okay, sure. I think that thing with osteoporosis that’s so exciting to me, it’s just not known, is that there’s a lot that can be done. So many people, whether they had, who knows the reason, there’s so many root causes, but the good news is that a lot of people think, oh, they find out, they have a bone density test, they find out that they’ve lost bone, and then they just images of frailty, and images of falling, and images of the hump, and thinking that their life is over, they’re no longer going to be able to engage in life. That just doesn’t have to be. I look at it as a reset, because there’s so much that can be done at every age. So for even the Divas who aren’t really concerned that they’re at risk for osteoporosis, minor things at all ages can help.
So, there’s exercise. And the type of exercises are either weight bearing, or resistance training, or even doing jumping, because the bones respond to forces placed upon it. So exercise at all ages is going to make such a difference. The diet, there’s so many things that we’re lacking in our diet that are important to our bones. So a comprehensive diet. And it’s very similar to what you preach, your wonderful diet for PCOS. But a nutrient dense diet is so helpful. And then stress reduces bone density. So, stress and happiness all improve bone density as well. Also important to find the root cause. What is causing the bone loss? So oftentimes it’s a good opportunity for people to figure out, oh, do they have a food sensitivity? Or are they not getting their nutrients? Do they have a digestive issue? And then they can deal with the root cause.
And the good news, I’ve seen thousands of people, and people get better with approaching this naturally. So if anyone is interested in pursuing, my website is just margiebissinger.com, or I can give you a link to a webinar or other things that would be helpful for people.
Amy Medling: Great. You can send those to me and I’ll put them in the show notes.
Margie B.: Great. Great.
Amy Medling: So, you brought up something that I had no idea, that stress actually increases your risk of bone loss. And obviously the more happy you are, I think the less you focus on your problems and the stress. I know that’s been true in my life. I can tell you that stress is such an issue for women with PCOS. We’re kind of hardwired to, I think, experience more stress, and our cortisol is often more elevated than women without PCOS. So why don’t we just start there? Why don’t you talk about the connection between stress reduction and happiness?
Margie B.: Okay, great. Well, I mentioned with the bones, so they’ve done studies, and it actually shows that increased cortisol, as you mentioned, the stress hormone, there is a reduction in the osteoblasts, which are the bone building cells. So, yes. So in terms of stress and happiness, they’ve actually found in studies that happier people have a 32% reduction in cortisol. So their cortisol is reduced. Which, as you said, has so many effects.
Because when we think we’re running from the tiger and our body’s under stress, so many things happen. We want to get that blood to our extremities so we can run from the tiger, and so it increases our blood sugar, which is going to affect PCOS in so many of us, it’s going to increase our blood pressure, and it also is going to shut down digestion, it’s going to shut down fertility, it’s going to shut down immune system. They found that happier people have 35% reduced risk of getting sick. There’s actual studies that show happiness improves your immunity, and happiness, it improves your sleep. People, on average, live nine years longer, happier people.
Amy Medling: Wow.
Margie B.: So there’s all sorts of health benefits for being happy. Besides, who doesn’t want to wake up in the morning a little happier than they are today? But there’s actual true physiologic health benefits. And a lot of times a lot of the people that I’ve seen with the osteoporosis will come in and they’re so worried. What are they doing for their bones? And they only want to know what to do for exercise and nutrition, not realizing that the stress itself has so many negative consequences.
Amy Medling: So, Margie, I find that I am a cup-half-full kind of person. I find that I sometimes dwell kind of on the negative of life. It’s really hard for me to shift to looking at things glass-half-full. And I can tell you that my husband is an absolutely a glass-half-full person. So I’m just curious, has there been studies done on maybe like a set point of happiness? Like do people actually have different set points, like where they start from?
Margie B.: Yes, yes. There absolutely is. Just like a thermostat, you seem to keep it on a certain temperature, we all have our own unique happiness set point. And what they found in the research is that 50% of that is determined by your genetics, only 10% is dependent on your circumstances. And that’s where everybody thinks, everyone thinks, oh, just like you said before, if only I was in a better marriage, or if only I had a better job. But circumstances are only 10% of the happiness set point, and 40% are habits.
So, the best news is that science has found that you can increase this set point. And that’s by learning the happiness habits that people choose. It’s really wonderful. And I’ve seen this all the time, that it doesn’t matter where you start. You know, there are people who are totally glass-half-empty, and you can increase it. So sure, it’s easier if you’re starting at glass-half-full, but it doesn’t matter where you start, you can increase your happiness set point. Even the genetic part, now, with epigenetics, they found you can even improve that area. So there’s a huge amount of space and room to really increase your happiness, which I think is so very exciting.
Amy Medling: So I think that when I look at genetics, I think there’s several people in my family that also have that sort of glass half empty viewpoint. So that’s interesting that genetics could possibly play a role. But as you said, 40% is habit. So it doesn’t have to be that way. And I know I’ve had to work really hard with habits, and I’ll share a couple things that have really worked for me.
I think number one is gratitude. And my first inclination is to think about all the things that are going wrong in my life, and I have to really make a conscious effort to shift to a place of gratitude. First, as soon as I wake up in the morning, being thankful for all the blessings I have, and then before I go to bed, to kind of cap the day on that note as well.
So gratitude has been really helpful for me, but I’m curious what other habits that you could share with us that could help increase happiness?
Margie B.: Oh, sure. I mean, in my class there’s over 21 habits. There’s so many.
Amy Medling: Oh my gosh. Okay.
Margie B.: But let’s just start with a few. So gratitude, I love what you said about gratitude, because we get more of in life what we focus on. And gratitude is really the antidote to stress, because in a place of gratitude, stress cannot live. So, that’s a wonderful, wonderful habit. It also leads to living with an open heart when you have gratitude. So I love that. In the morning, gratitude, in the evening, gratitude. But even during the day, I call them appreciation breaks. Just to stop, to stop and appreciate what is working in life and what is good. And it doesn’t matter how small it is, just to appreciate makes such a big difference. So, I love the gratitude, and that’s just a total win-win situation. And so that’s number one.
I think the other thing that’s so important, you talked about this, was we are wired for negativity. And the reason for that is because way back, you know, way back in the caveman days, we had to be aware if there was a tiger lurking, for our safety. So that was much more important to us than something happy going on, or something positive. So we’re actually wired for negativity. And the sad thing is that 80% of the average person’s thoughts are negative. So that’s where we start from. But the good news, as I said before, is that we can rewire.
So, some easy things that people can do is just sort of see the world through a different lens. So when you wake up in the morning, look for the good. Because so often we think, oh this is going wrong, that’s going wrong. You know, we focus on the problems, what’s not working, instead of focusing on the solutions and focusing on what is working. But if you pretend you’re a detective that day and you’re going to just look for the good, I think everyone will be surprised how much good does exist in their day. So you look for the good, and then when something good happens you want to take it in.
So, it’s often someone will give you a compliment and you just say, oh yeah. You know, someone says you look nice. Oh, I think I look terrible today. Or whatever it is. But instead, what you want to do is soak it into every cell for like 20 seconds. Like if someone says, oh, you did a great job on that presentation. Instead of saying, oh, it was nothing. Oh, thank you. I really worked hard. And just feel the good vibes. Take it in, absorb it. Same thing with a sunset. You know, you see it, don’t just look at it and move on to the next problem, take it in, absorb it. So when we see more good, we take it in.
And then the third thing is when you do get the negative thoughts, which again, being happy doesn’t mean you can’t be sad, you can’t feel frustrated, you have all those normal emotions. It’s just the reaction to it, and how resilient you are. And so when you build up these habits, you become more resilient. But one thing that’s a really good one, because we are all going to have negative thoughts, but it’s not to absorb the negative thought, and instead counter each negative thought with three positive things that are happening that are true. You’re not making them up, but true three positive things. And it makes such a difference.
And again, everything takes time, just like when you’re changing your diet. I believe change is slow, but if you do it slowly and one step at a time, that’s where you make change that lasts. Which I know you speak about, Amy, with all your great programs.
Amy Medling: Well you know as something that really stuck out that you just said, and I call it relishing the moment.
Margie B.: Yes.
Amy Medling: I know I, for a long time, if people gave me a compliment, I sort of brushed it off, or if I achieved a goal, I was like, okay, what’s the next? I’d be right onto the next thing and I would never take time to truly relish in that moment. And I’ve really worked hard to do that. And I can tell you, we have to take those moments to appreciate a job well done before we go onto the next mountain that we’re going to climb. And I love that you’ve found that that’s also attached to happiness, because it’s been true for me.
Margie B.: Oh, it really changes lives. And what we appreciate, appreciates. So when we just appreciate ourselves, because as you know, so often we don’t, and we give out so much and we don’t take it in. But we need to take it, we need to absorb it, and we can rewire. I mean, I’ve seen so many people who are completely glass half empty, and when they started practicing these habits, all of a sudden they’re much happier, and they are no longer glass half empty, because you can change the way you look at the world and the world changes then.
Amy Medling: I love what you said about being happy, like appreciating yourself. And I think a lot of women with PCOS struggle with this because we feel so betrayed by our bodies, and they’re not what we want our bodies ideally to look like. Here we may be struggling with acne, and weight gain, and hair loss, infertility. Do you have any tips for us to learn to be happy with our bodies and ourselves in this moment?
Margie B.: Yes. First of all, I love what you’re saying, and I know that’s part of your program, because I know in your book you talk about being a victim. And I think when we put ourselves in that victim role, I think that’s the quickest path to unhappiness. You know, oh poor me, oh poor me, I have this, this, this. The minute we are focusing on what the problem is versus two things. One, the solutions. Instead of focusing on, okay, well I have this, this, this. What are my solutions? That that helps switch us into a happier way. But also, you know how sometimes we can’t connect the dots until we look back?
So if there was some gift, some lesson, some silver lining to this, what would it be? I know that’s hard to do when there are issues. But if we think that, you know what? Because of this I’m going to get myself into a great exercise program, and I’ll be stronger and able to do all these things. Or because of this, I’ve completely change the way I’m eating, and I’m just so much healthier, have more energy. Or because of this, something else has happened that is really very positive. Or maybe it’s made you do some stress reduction, or do happiness training, and that your life is going to be happier.
Margie B.: So, I think accepting it, and what benefit could be from it, and going looking into solutions, and just knowing that focusing on the problem and being a victim is just going to really lead to more unhappiness. Where the minute you say, you know what? What’s going right, and what are my solutions, and what could the gift be? And I think there are so many gifts that when you follow your program, or I know that you’ve seen this in your work with people with PCOS, that when they do these things, there are many other benefits that they never expected would happen, and they end up being a lot of positive results even though they had the PCOS.
Amy Medling: And I think sometimes that’s why it’s nice to work with a coach, because a coach can kind of help point out those silver linings for you. You know, I know my husband often helps to point out the silver linings for me. So I think don’t be afraid to ask a positive, happy person, one of your friends, for help finding those silver linings if it’s hard for you to do that.
Margie B.: It’s true because my daughter has PCOS, and because of that she’s on an incredibly healthy diet, there’s just so many positives. She realized she has a gluten issue. So because of that she found all these other things that have made her life so much better. And I think you’re right though, you may not see it. It might be hard when you’re in this situation and feeling bad for yourself, or whatever it is, to just stop. But I think if you know that the victim hood is going to just rob your happiness, if you know that that’s true. And sometimes we don’t realize, people don’t realize.
Ways to know you’re in victim-hood? Three things. Shame, blame, and complain. Those are three ways to know. Oh, yeah. If you’re just complaining, or shaming, which is self-blame, and complaining, those are ways that we’re being a victim. And so the more we can reduce that, even though sometimes it’s hard, and I think that’s great with a coach or a person says to also see the silver lining, it’s very helpful.
Amy Medling: As you were talking about this, something else kind of jumped out at me. I find that I can be stuck in procrastination, especially in sort of this victim place, and I find that taking action helps move me out of that victim place into empowerment, and ultimately happiness. Just curious if you find action, like taking action, helps with happiness?
Margie B.: Oh, absolutely. It builds momentum. Because the worst thing we can do is just sit in that place. So the minute we start focusing on a solution, and that’s what taking action is, we get out of that place, and then we get the momentum. And that’s exciting and that just propels us. And it can be one small step where they follow the breadcrumbs. One small step, the next step. But yes, that’s a great way to get to the next level and increase your happiness. Absolutely.
Amy Medling: So, I know that you have studied happiness for a while now, and you’ve put together a really successful happiness program to help increase your happiness, and I was able to take a peek at it. And you talk about the seven pillars that are important for happiness, and I’d love for you to share that with listeners.
Margie B.: Sure. Because it’s not one thing. Yes, we can do lots of things to improve our happiness, but we need to look at our whole life, and we need to look at different areas. So the first is the foundation, which we talked about, taking responsibility, and being a victor in life and not a victim.
And then the second is the pillar of the mind, where we really rewire the mind so that we are not focusing on the negative thoughts. And we, it’s hard to say rewire, rewire for positivity, and I gave you a few ways to do that.
Then there’s the pillar of the heart, which we also talked about. How do integrate habits so that you can live with an open heart? Which gratitude is one, forgiveness, loving, kindness. And they are actual habits that you can learn that that really help you live with an open heart.
Then there’s the pillar of the body, because we have to take care of our body. And that would be nutrition and our physical body, because we have to keep ourselves happy. If we are eating junk food and not exercising, that is not going to be a body where happiness thrives.
And then there’s the pillar of the soul, learning how to connect to an energy that’s greater than you are. And when you do this, life becomes easier, because you’re in alignment. And when you’re out of alignment, you have the tools to get back into alignment, so that you’re able to have a genuine smile. You don’t feel like you’re putting a mask on. Because we all know how painful and exhausting having a mask can be, living like that, with that fake smile. You want it to be a genuine smile that comes from true happiness within.
And then there’s the roof, which is your sense of purpose. So it’s like a house, my seven pillars. And the roof is having passion and purpose in your life, and sort of figuring out how to make sure. Because people can be living a life that’s okay, but they’re really not in their mission, or they’re not finding purpose, and they’re not having their passion. So how to integrate that more into your life.
And then the seventh pillar is the garden. Who do you surround yourself with? Because you want to cultivate relationships that nourish and support your happiness. So some people surround themselves with a garden of weeds, and others are roses and gardenias, and it makes a very big difference.
Amy Medling: Oh, it’s huge. And you know, after doing work with women with PCOS for so long, I don’t know what it is, but it seems like we tend to surround ourselves with the weeds. And in order to heal, we’ve really got to pull out those weed relationships in our lives.
Margie B.: It’s really true. People don’t realize it’s contagious. You know, when you’re with people who are focusing on the negative, it can really bring you down, versus, I mean, I’m sure everyone’s felt this, when you’re with someone who’s really positive, that positive energy uplifts you. But when you’re surrounding yourself with people who bring you down, and we’ve all been in that situation where you leave a meeting or you’re with a person and you just feel awful. And as a physical therapist, I would have this experience, because you’re working on people with chronic pain, now I know techniques that that no longer happens, but I would lead a session, and I’d wanted to just go to sleep and crawl under the covers because I felt so horrible.
Amy Medling: Yeah, that’s such a great point. Because I think, and I write about this in my book, that women with PCOS, I think, tend to be highly sensitive persons, and we tend to be empaths, and I think we take on other people’s energies. So we do need to learn techniques, how to sort of protect ourselves from that negative energy.
Margie B.: Yeah. So there’s two ways. One, protect yourself. Absolutely. And there is just some times where you have to set boundaries if there are people that are just going on, and on, and on. Because there are some people that you don’t need to have in your life, and others you can’t help it. But also when you raise your positive energy, it’s amazing how it’s sort of like whose energy is stronger? So when you raise your internal positive energy and do all these good habits, then it no longer affects you the same way. Does that make sense?
Amy Medling: Yeah, absolutely.
So, the pillars are really important. In your program, you talk about techniques, how to sort of tackle each of those pillars.
Margie B.: Yes, exactly. And they’re habits. And again, we go through them systematically, because you can’t just all of a sudden say, do this, do this, do this. Implementation is the key. And doing it in a supportive environment where other people are around for support. Because it’s not easy. It’s not easy. And you want to commit. You want to commit to one thing at a time. Okay, you know what? This week I’m going to look for the good, and I’m going to savor the good. And that’s it. You do one thing, then that becomes part of you. It becomes a habit. And then you move on to the next. So that’s sort of how it works. Each week there’s different things to do.
Amy Medling: Yeah, and that’s how I think it becomes a sustainable lifestyle change. It’s those little, like you mentioned, those little steps that build momentum.
Margie B.: Right. Exactly.
Amy Medling.: So, I have a question for you. I can tell you right now that one of my struggles is with media. You know, there’s so much negativity, right? Like my newspaper, you turn on the TV, and I’m on social media on all of these different platforms for PCOS Diva. So I’m on there and you come across so much negativity. And I think that really pulls my happiness set point down. What would you advise me to do to try to shield myself from that negativity? But you know, I can’t bury my head in the sand. I need to be informed, and I’m out there on social media for work. What would you do?
Margie B: Okay, well first of all, bring in as much good as you can. You know, whenever you can. Besides doing your gratitudes in the morning, write down your wins, and maybe keep a notebook with your wins. And also maybe even reframe, because think about the positive, how many lives you impact when you’re doing all your broadcasts. All these people who didn’t know what you teach, that nutrition, all these things can help them, and that there is hope for PCOS, that there’s a lot of amazing things that can be done. So I think maybe reframe that a positive occurs with this, and there’s a positive aspect. Like the lining that, yes, this is negative, people have to deal with this, but because they’re dealing with this, all these good things are going to happen, and you’re going to really change their life.
So, I think if you could put a positive spin, and then write down your wins like throughout the day, just write down your wins. You know, I was on this podcast, changed lives on this podcast. And just think of it in that sense. And maybe do whatever works for you. If it’s meditation. Oh, and also I’m giving everyone listening a happiness meditation, which really sets the tone for a positive day. But if there’s any tools like that, that will just help counteract some of the negativity.
And otherwise you can also, when you’re doing these, send out love. I call it HPH, health, prosperity, happiness. When you send out positive feelings to others, it increases your own happiness. I mean, there’s actually a study done at Iowa State where they had people walk around the building, and every person that came in touch with, they didn’t say anything to, but they just wished happiness to that person. And they came back and they did measures of happiness, and they were happier. So by just sending happiness and loving kindness, so when you’re doing all these things, it just really sends out the positive vibes and send good thoughts to other people, that will help keep your happiness higher.
Amy Medling: I love that. I love that idea of writing down your wins. And I pray for a lot of people, and I do think that it’s kind of the same idea as sending out loving vibes.
Margie B.: Exactly.
Amy Medling: And that helps. And I think, also, these little random acts of kindness are not even random. There was somebody in my life that really touched me recently, and I just sent him some chocolates. And it was out of kind of just randomly, my favorite Lake Champlain chocolates, and it just said, for adding so much sweetness to my life, I wanted to add a little to yours. And I’ll tell you just doing that just made me feel so good.
Margie B.: Right, exactly. That’s beautiful. I love that. And that’s the thing, so more of that. That’s amazing, right? When you can do those acts, you feel so good. We can do things that are bigger than yourself, like contributing to the greater good of the world. There’s just nothing better. And that’s sort of involved with the passion and purpose when you’re operating at that level, helping people. But even just sending, even if you do nothing but just send them good thoughts. And it doesn’t have to be anybody you know. I’ll go on a bike ride, and every person I pass I’m just sending, as I said, I like health, prosperity, happiness. HPH to you, HPH to you. And you feel amazing.
So, the more you can add these good things in the day, it helps balance out those times where, because there is a lot of negativity in the world, and we’re not going to be Pollyanna and think the world is great, because that’s not the truth. So that’s not what we’re trying to do, cover up. It’s just a matter of how we respond. Just like there’s traffic, one person could be ready to pull out their hair, and the other person is using it as a time to plan something. And so one person’s cortisol is off the roof, and the other person is just taking it in stride.
Amy Medling: Well, you gave us some great tips on raising our happiness set point and to really be proactive and help us to, as my manifesto says, and if you don’t have a copy of that, go to pcosdiva.com and print out a copy, but working every day to enhance our health and happiness.
Amy Medling: You had mentioned that you’re going to give us a happiness meditation? Tell us more about that.
Margie B.: Yes. So there’s two tools, because my goal is really to help as many people as possible, and it’s so exciting when people can increase their happiness and bring the joy back into their life. There’s just nothing better. And it affects every aspect, like we talked about, of your health.
So, there’s two things I created. One is a happiness morning meditation. It’s seven minutes, and it’s just some of the happiness habits. It’s just a way of you get rid of negativity, and helps you bring happiness into your day. And the person who did the music, Jim Oliver, it’s just really great music. So the music also is uplifting, and he has a certain vibration he uses. But anyway, so try that. And then the second thing was it’s a seven day happiness habits journal. So it’s seven days of different happiness habits that you can try and see which ones you like and resonates with you. So it gives you some tools to get started on increasing your happiness set point, which is totally possible to do. And that’s the good part.
Amy Medling: Oh, well thank you so much for those tools. And listeners can find those on pcosdiva.com. If you just search for Margie, you’ll find those in the show notes, and the transcripts are also provided on that page as well.
But Margie, it was so nice to have you join us today and share your happiness tips.
Margie B.: Oh, so much fun being with you, Amy, and all the great work you’re doing. This is just my pleasure. So thank you so much for having me. I loved it.
Amy Medling: Well, thank you everyone for listening, and I look forward to being with you again very soon. Bye-bye.