Unhappy woman covering her face.

Positive People Aren’t Always Happy People

The terms “positivity" and "happiness" are often used interchangeably, leading to misconceptions about their true meanings and implications. As a happiness expert, I emphasize the need to distinguish between a positive outlook and a deeply satisfying, meaningful existence. Positivity revolves around adopting a favorable perspective on life's events. It's the choice to focus on the bright side, to maintain an optimistic outlook even in challenging circumstances, and to embrace the sunny side of situations more often than not. Cultivating positivity is cultivating a mindset, fostering resilience, and a constructive approach to life's challenges. On the other hand, happiness transcends the immediate positivity of a given moment. It is a state of contentment and satisfaction with life as a whole. Unlike positivity, happiness doesn't center around cheerfulness. Instead, it encompasses a broader range of emotions, allowing room for both joy and pain. A happy life involves experiencing more pleasant, feel-good emotions than painful ones, but it doesn't mandate perpetual positivity. True happiness extends beyond fleeting moments and is rooted in a sense of meaning and purpose. It's about finding fulfillment in one's journey and feeling deep connections in the world. Happiness is a multi-faceted concept, encompassing various elements that contribute to a sense of well-being. One crucial aspect is the belief that life holds meaning and purpose. This depth distinguishes happiness from mere positivity, as it requires introspection and a holistic evaluation of one's existence. Understanding the distinction between positivity and happiness is vital for individuals on their journey to a more fulfilling life. Embracing positivity can serve as a tool for navigating daily challenges and fostering a healthier mindset. Simultaneously, recognizing the depth and complexity of happiness allows individuals to seek a more profound sense of fulfillment beyond fleeting moments of positivity. Experts like me acknowledge that maintaining a positive outlook at all times is neither realistic nor necessary for a happy life. Acknowledging positive and challenging emotions is an integral part of embracing the complexity of human experience. So, as you embark on your journey toward well-being, remember that positivity is a valuable companion, but it's not the destination. Happiness, with its depth and complexity, awaits those who embrace both the ups and downs, finding meaning in every twist and turn of life's remarkable journey. Tia Graham is a Chief Happiness Officer, founder of the workplace wellbeing company Arrive At Happy, and author of the best-selling book, Be a Happy Leader. To learn more about Tia, watch her Ted talk, visit her website, or check out her Arrive at Happy podcast. You can also follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
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Family baking gingerbread cookies during the holidays.

5 Tips for Better Mental Health this Holiday Season

For many people, the holiday season is far from happy. Not many people come from fairy tale families, and others are isolated and lonely, feeling they don’t have anyone who truly cares about them around. Add to this the number of people struggling with mental health problems like depression and anxiety, and the expectations of the season become even more difficult to manage. Whichever of these groups you fall within, I offer a few suggestions below to help make this holiday season a hopefully happier, or at a minimum easier, one. 1. Take time to connect. Social connections are good for your mental health. Share the important moments and stories of your year. Ask questions and create space to really listen and understand the people you are with. You might be surprised by what you hear. 2. Take a break from social media, and perhaps from technology in general. The last 20 years have seen a fundamental decline in the quality of interpersonal relationships as we have moved too much of our lives onto online platforms. Put away your phone, stay off technology when you are with friends or family and spend time in the physical world. If you feel bored, don’t reach for your phone and distraction: talk to someone, go for a walk, or just sit with the feeling. 3. Think about who you are connecting with this holiday season. Not all social connections are good for your mental health. You know what the people around you are really like, who is going to be supportive and who will just drag you down further. Don’t be afraid to let this guide whom you spend meaningful time with, and as importantly, with whom you don’t. 4. Discover what it is truly you want to do for the holidays. Holidays don’t mean the same thing to everyone. If you are uncertain, spend some time reflecting on what is important to you at this time of year. How can you express your values, what will be meaningful, what is your way of acknowledging the end of the year, and of nurturing your relationships? If your thing is to cherish others through food, embrace this, be the family cook and throw yourself into it with all your passion. If it is to be the entertainer, be so, tell stories and do so with enthusiasm. Whatever it is, ensure it is what is true of you. 5. Make sure you find a way to reset and recharge. For some this will come through social reconnection but certainly not everyone. Others may need to be in nature or at least outside somewhere pleasant: if this is you make the effort to do so. Bring along someone who you really want to be with, or not, choose what you need to do. Paul Fitzgerald, PhD, MBBS is director of the School of Medicine and Psychology and a professor of psychiatry at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and the author of Curing Stubborn Depression.
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How to Cultivate Joy in a Challenging World

Young children awaken joy in me—their adorableness, funny comments, and unbridled enthusiasm are contagious. In my professional life, I champion the needs of the young child so I have both knowledge and experience in human development. After more than three decades, I still marvel when I witness the growth and learning that happens in the early years. It is truly a wonder! When we welcomed two grandsons into our family within two years, I knew both the delights and challenges awaiting me. And I knew the importance of cultivating joy because young children learn through imitation. If we want children to know happiness, we need to embody it. Joy is the embodiment of the outward expression of happiness and it is a choice. Cultivating joy is a learned skill that requires a level of brain development beyond the capacity of the young child. Children cannot self-regulate because they do not yet have the neural pathways to process feelings and make choices about them. They do, however, pick up on the adults’ internal experience which behooves us to bring joy to our encounters with children. Mastering your thoughts But how do we cultivate joy in a world full of challenges? When my children were young, I made a decision to learn to master my thoughts. This involves awareness and recognition that events are neither inherently good or bad. Yet they can be uncomfortable, difficult, trigger past experiences, and conjure up fears of the worst possible outcomes. In those moments, our bodies secrete adrenaline preparing us for fight, flight, or freeze but instead, we need to pause. Pausing creates space to witness and name thoughts rather than reacting to them. It is a practice, one that has taken me years to learn. Leaning on the skill of objective observation I developed in early childhood education was helpful. It is applicable in moments when I am triggered—to notice the physical and emotional experience but not identify with it. And to help my body release the adrenaline, the tools I use include vigorous house cleaning, going for a walk, or shaking my limbs which may feel so funny that it makes me chuckle. Being aware of my triggers and ways to release adrenaline helps me circumvent blocks that thwart joy. Creating a joyous atmosphere In the early childhood center I founded, there were some difficult moments when unexpected things happened, adults were out of sorts, and children imitated them. It is normal to have days when we are not happy. That’s when we rely on practices to cultivate joy from the inside out. Learning how to create a joyous atmosphere is a part of the training for parents and early childhood educators. I find them useful for life in general. Having rhythms of the day and week is one of the practices. Habits for my morning routine, meals, work, chores, and afternoon walk energize and support me. They give form to my days and weeks which provides a feeling of security and reduces the stress of decision-making. There is joy in knowing that there is time and space to do everything I need to do including rest and relaxation. I lean into my rhythms to cultivate joy. While sitting at the desk in my second floor office, I often look out the picture window and notice the trees. Now they are full of colored leaves but before long, they will be bare. The cycles of nature bring me joy so I take time to notice the expression of the seasons outdoors. While taking a car trip with the grandchildren, we often sing just like we did with our children. When we sing, we breathe and smile together while filling the air with music. It uplifts our spirits and opens our hearts to joy! Just thinking of our grandchildren brings me joy as I recall the glimmers—moments of joy, safety, and connection that we share. And how happy we are together. Judith Frizlen is a writer, teacher, mother, grandmother, and founder of the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center. Her newest literary treasure, Where Wisdom Meets Wonder: 40 Stories of Grandma Love, celebrates the unique bond between Grandparents and Grandchildren and embraces aging. Her other books include Unpacking Guilt: A Mother’s Journey to Freedom, Words for Parents in Small Doses, and Words for Teachers and Caregivers in Small Doses. For more, judithfrizlen.com.
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woman meditating with candle lit.

5 Effective Stress Relief and Mindset Tools That Really Work!

In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become an all-too-common companion, leading to dire and significant consequences that impact our physical and mental well-being. If unchecked and unaddressed, prolonged stress can lead to many physical ailments such as a weakened immune system, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, digestive problems, insomnia, and fatigue. It can also significantly compromise our mental emotional health, contributing to anxiety, irritability, mood swings, depression, overwhelm, difficulty concentrating, and an inability to make sound decisions. Unfortunately, in our modern world of hustle, it’s all too easy to fall into a lifestyle punctuated by chronic or constant stress. Now, more than ever before, it’s vital to find effective ways to relieve stress and cultivate a positive mindset in order to live a fulfilling and happy lifestyle. About a decade and a half ago, living in a chronically stressed state pushed me into obesity, depression, infertility, and burnout. It was the lowest point in my life, and quite frankly, I wasn’t sure if I’d survive it. The five mindset tools I want to share with you today helped me pull myself out of burnout, rebuild my life and create Power of Positivity by creating relief from the stress that I was putting on myself and begin thriving. If you’re feeling like you’re being buried under the burdens of your stress, give these simple strategies a try. 1. Deep Breathing Exercises: The Power of Breath Deep breathing exercises have been used for centuries to promote relaxation and reduce stress. When you’re stressed, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. This signals your body to enter a stress state often referred to as “fight, flight, or flee.” In my book, The Comfort Zone: Create a Life You Really Love With Less Stress and More Flow, I talk in depth about how pushing yourself out of your comfort zone into your survival zone can push you into a stress response, where your physical and mental health become compromised and you become more susceptible to illness and burnout. By consciously practicing deep breathing, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby guiding yourself back into your comfort zone where you feel more safe. This counteracts the stress response, normalizes your heart rate, and returns clarity to your thinking. Scientifically, oxygenating your body with deep breaths has shown to reduce anxiety, promote calmness, and alleviate overthinking. Next time you’re in a stressful event, are about to enter a meeting, or even before bed, take a few deep breaths. Actually, do it now! Close your eyes and take three deep, deliberate breaths, filling up your lungs with as much air as you can, and then releasing slowly, making sure that your exhale is longer than your inhale. If you do this several times every day, you’ll start to rewire your brain, organs, and neural system for more calm, clarity, and health. 2. Auto Suggestions and Affirmations: Harnessing the Power of the Mind Your thoughts and beliefs have a profound impact on your emotions and behaviors. One of the easiest and most effective ways to rewire your mind for positivity is by incorporating positive auto suggestions and affirmations into your daily routine. Using these science-backed techniques completely transformed my life and I still use them to become the next level version of myself. You can do this by journaling your favorite affirmations in the morning. I do this every morning in my 3 Minute Happiness Journal. The key is to use the same affirmations and harness the power of repetition until you full embody them. You can write your affirmations or you can use them as auto suggestions by listening to the recordings of affirmations during the day or before bed and reading your affirmations throughout the day. One way that I’ll incorporate affirmations into my daily life is by recording myself reading my personal affirmations and then listening to this recording on my morning walks. I’ll also set reminder timers on my phone that will pop up throughout the day with my affirmations. Whenever this happens, I’ll take a moment to close my eyes and repeat the affirmation to myself a few times and feel the feeling of it’s truth. One powerful tool available to you is the Power of Positivity App affirmation texts by going here. 3. Go Outside: Nature’s Healing Touch It’s easy to underestimate the healing power of nature. Stepping outside, immersing yourself in sunshine, and breathing in the fresh air can have a transformative effect on your well-being. Not only does being in nature provide a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, but it also allows you to ground yourself and find pockets of inner peace. One of my favorite things to do when I feel stressed is walk barefoot in the grass. I’m always amazed by how quickly the stress and negativity of the day drains out of me when I establish a direct connection with the earth. I also feel more energized. Physical activities outside of the house or out in nature are also very powerful. Next time you feel stressed, take a few moments and go out for a power walk or a bike ride. If possible, feel the earth under your bare feet and the sun or wind on your face. Allow the healing, grounding power of nature to reset, recharge, and boost your energy. 4. Supplements: Nurturing Your Body and Mind The right supplements can play a supportive role in managing stress and promoting health and happiness. However, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare professional such as a doctor or nutritionist before incorporating any new supplements into your routine. For me, supplements like magnesium, B vitamins, and those targeted at supporting adrenal and cortisol health have helped reduce stress level. Your specific supplemental needs may be different from mine. By nourishing your body with the right supplements, you can complement your stress relief efforts and support your body’s natural functions. 5. Journaling: Expressing and Releasing Dormant Emotions One of the favorite and most powerful tools that I use for self-reflection and emotional release is journaling. In her book Atlas of the Heart, researcher Brene Brown talks about the healing power of identifying, understanding, and expressing the emotions that lie dormant within you. As you give voice to what you’re feeling, the negative emotions you’re experiencing begin to release and you’re able to feel more positive emotions like relief, hope, calmness, and gratitude. Both morning and evening journaling are powerful ways to counter stress, release negativity, and foster a happier mindset. In the morning, journaling allows you to set intentions for your day, express gratitude, and release lingering concerns. In the evening, it helps you process your experiences, let go of negative emotions, and cultivate a sense of closure. This is why I have created two journals to help my audience harness the power of positivity and happiness within their own life by developing a daily journaling habit. In addition to these five practical and simple tools, there are numerous other practices that can help you reduce your stress and access a happier life. Some of my favorites are expressing gratitude, engaging in acts of service, reading personal development books, using lavender oil for relaxation, and spending quality time with my family and loved ones. What are some ways you release stress? Let me know in the comments below. Kristen Butler is a bestselling author and the CEO of Power of Positivity, a community with over 50 MM followers globally. Kristen was awarded SUCCESS magazine's Emerging Entrepreneur in 2022. She is a leader, writer, and visionary in personal development with a huge heart and captivating authenticity. Her mission is to uplift the planet!
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Freshly cut flowers.

Doing Good Feels Good For All

One of the unexpected positive changes of the past three years is that people around the world have become more willing to help others — and that is raising our happiness level overall. The 2023 World Happiness Report, released on March 20 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, not only unveiled the latest rankings of the world’s happiest countries but also looked at long-term happiness trends in a post-pandemic era. The report shows that, despite the many overlapping crises of the past three years, people around the world are showing just how resilient they are. In fact, life satisfaction overall has returned to pre-pandemic levels. This year’s report took a deep dive on altruism and pro-social behavior, and found that for the second consecutive year, everyday acts of kindness have been at a higher level than they were before the pandemic. During a press conference about the report’s findings on Monday, Shawn A. Rhoads, postdoctoral research fellow at Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai, explained both the cause and effect of such altruism. Rhoads co-authored the report’s chapter on altruism with Georgetown University Professor Abigail A. Marsh and defined altruism as “any costly behavior that improves the welfare of another person and does not bring any tangible benefit.” This can include things like giving money to strangers or charity, volunteering, and donating blood, bone marrow and organs. In the post-pandemic world, such forms of giving are on the rise, the study authors noted. The Joy of Giving “More people donated to charities, committed to volunteer work and offered help to strangers,” Rhoads said. And, while the benefit to the recipient of the good deed seems obvious, its effects go far beyond that, the research found. Recipients report greater life satisfaction, more positive emotion, and less negative emotion as the beneficiary of such kindness. They also may have feelings of gratitude that leads them to pay it forward and help others in the future. However, the person doing the good deed gets just as much of a dopamine reward. “People’s happiness increases after helping strangers,” Rhoads said, noting that people who have higher levels of positive emotion are more likely to help others, while at the same time, they boost their positive emotions — creating an upward spiral of happiness. The report explains that stress and fear often motivate people to take action, and in challenging times, that can emerge as helping others: “People with the most stress show higher altruism,” Rhoads said. “That could help explain the surge of altruism during COVID.” The Benefits for Bystanders Even observing acts of kindness can have a positive effect, Rhoads said. Research shows that witnessing altruism increases observers’ mood and energy, motivates them to do good things for others, and increases their desire to become a better person. It results in what the report calls “moral elevation,” which encourages them to adopt a more altruistic approach in their own lives. Rhoads said the increases in well-being around the globe that were seen during the pandemic and in the difficult times that have followed are “almost certainly” linked to the global altruism that has emerged. “This leaves me optimistic for the future,” he said.
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Man looking through camera lens

Discovering the Power of Gratitude

Louie Schwartzberg is accustomed to looking for the good. Best known for the stunning imagery he creates using time-lapse photography, the renowned cinematographer, director and producer has shown us the beauty of nature in films like Fantastic Fungi and the 3D IMAX film Mysteries of the Unseen World with National Geographic. With his new film, Gratitude Revealed, Louie once again shares his powerful, inspiring cinematography and reinforces it with a lasting lesson about the different ways gratitude presents itself in our lives. He also explores the role of gratitude and how it helps us through difficult time. Louie says this film came to him naturally because he has practiced gratitude his entire life: “Part of it, I think, has to do with growing up with parents who are Holocaust survivors,” he says, adding that it taught him to consciously appreciate all life’s many gifts — such as food on the table, a roof over your head, a steady job, or a family. “Those are all things that created like heaven on earth for [my parents]. So I've always been very conscious of just being grateful for the little things in life.” Awakened by Covid During the pandemic, as people became increasingly isolated and anxious, Louie knew he wanted to create something that would be purposeful, calming and could help create a sense of connections. “I was moved by how society was disconnected and the small things in life — whether meeting a friend for coffee or hugging a family member — were taken away from them. I felt compelled to show my gratitude for our world during such a complex and unpredictable time. So I decided to make Gratitude Revealed.” The film features interviews with a wide range of people who embrace and embody different attributes of gratitude. Like his previous films, Gratitude Revealed is an immersive experience that says as much with images as it does with words. Louie says that he had already filmed many of these interviews, and during the pandemic he saw the opportunity to thread them together with the theme of gratitude. He sorted through thousands of hours of footage to create a story that he manages to tell in less than 90 minutes. From respected thought leaders like Jack Kornfield, Michael Beckwith, and Deepak Chopra to entertainment industry names including Brian Grazer and Norman Lear, he covers a surprising range of practices and insights. But he also was intentional about telling the story of gratitude through the eyes of everyday people. “I didn't want it to be a bunch of like thought leaders strung together because you could certainly say, ‘Well, this is sort of an elitist movie, and people in Middle America wouldn’t maybe relate to it.’ I've got people in the Deep South. I got people in red states. I want us to be able to look at those folks and go, ‘What can we learn from them?’,” he says. As part of the gratitude journey, viewers will meet a blind ice climber, an Appalachian rug weaver, a Louisiana bluesman named Little Milton, a group of cliff dancers, and go inside a program that teaches comedy skills to women who were formerly incarcerated. With each interview, listeners hear a compelling story that offers another window into the power and practice of gratitude. “There are all these like remarkable people, as well as ordinary people, that are sharing their wisdom with you,” Louie says. He hopes that, in a time when political divides continue to widen and the evening news delivers dire reports that can leave people feeling hopeless, watching Gratitude Revealed can provide a bit of healing. “I think this can be the antidote to that,” he says. “It's not the total solution, but it's a baby step in the right direction.” To learn more about the film, which was released September 16, visit gratituderevealed.com.
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Live Happy: Calm During Panic Storm

6 Ways to Find Calm Intervention During a Panic Storm

With greater access to technologies and more individuals now declaring themselves informants or reporters, a wave of panic can be set off instantly with a simple opinion or post. How does anyone know what to believe? I may not know the answer to that, but I can offer some valuable advice on how to stay calm and not panic when you hear or read of alarming epidemics, such as the global sickness COVID-19. Here are a few things that you can do to maintain your control and stay harmonious: Don’t Punish Yourself With Guilt Being human means feeling.  Getting stuck on feelings is what can become a problem. Anxiety serves a purpose. In this case - fear of illness. Reframe this thought positively. For ex., desire to be healthy. Think of a word that is the opposite of sickness.  Use a thesaurus if you must.  Sometimes just focusing on this search can steady your breathing—even before you have found the word. Find a Positivity Partner Sometimes the anxiety is just too much to handle alone. It happens.  Choose someone who will help distract you, but who also can dive into positive space when needed. Set a code word with this person. I use a code word with my buddy, which means that all I need do is say “jellybeans”. My buddy knows immediately that I need her, and she knows her job is to get my mind off whatever is troubling me. We can discuss the actual problem later when I am in a calmer state. Sometimes we enter or return to the positivity zone by watching a silly movie or by going out for tapas and a glass of wine. Walks in the local park help when the weather is right. Choose a buddy and find what works for you. Limit Your Exposure to the Media This one is a no-brainer; however, it still needs emphasis. This is a great app/site to help accomplish this—Freedom.  The site allows you to block certain feeds/posts and to choose “no news” hours or even days. No news on the weekends is a great way to start. Another way to deal with the barrage of depressing news is every time you see something in the media (even though you are trying to avoid it) and it upsets you, choose a calm word that will deflect your thinking about it and take you on another thought path. Words that make you feel happy or conjure memories.  For ex., Disneyland. Better yet, plan that trip to Disneyland or Bora Bora in your mind. Even if you haven’t quite reached the budget needed for this getaway, visualize it and stockpile links to take you to your positive getaway spot(s). Get Grounded With Nature Find some grass, take your shoes off, and walk barefoot. If you can’t find grass, the concrete beneath your feet will do. Putting your bare feet on the earth helps you reconnect and realign with yourself and nature. Do Not Forget About Meditation or Journaling One of my favorite and quickest meditations is the ancient Ten Finger Meditation. With eyes opened or closed, you stand in one spot, take a deep breath and touch, press, or pull each finger. As you pass each finger take a deep breath and say one thing to yourself (or aloud) for which you are grateful. It takes 20-30 seconds. Focus on What You Have Control Over You have control of things like your breath, your thoughts, your self-talk, gratitude, body language, fitness, diet and sleep. Do a quick check-in on each area here. You can identify/implement tools to get healthy sleep patterns in place. Look at what you’re putting into your body too by doing a nutrition and chemical check. You can also do things like carry hand sanitizer and wet wipes and use them when you are out and about. Remember that although you cannot control everything—such as the media—you can control your reactions to everything. Calm intervention is a great opportunity to reevaluate your relationship with your health and your mind. I suggest that you do this once a week or month, regardless of your circumstances. It is an excellent way to maintain balance in your life.
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Close-up Of Gratitude Word With Pen On Notebook Over Wooden Desk

Gratitude in Practice

Practicing gratitude helps strengthen your existing relationships, fosters goodwill with strangers and makes the world a nicer place. More importantly, it just feels good when you do it. We asked our readers to share what they are most grateful for, and this is what they had to say. New Beginnings I am grateful that God has put a man in my life who loves me for who I am, loves my boys as though they were his own and wants to spend the rest of his life with me. Second chances are wonderful!—Kathryn W. I’m grateful for this baby that is growing inside me! It has taken years to get here, but it will finally be arriving in February!—Angie L. Today, I’m grateful that my sweet baby granddaughter arrived safely by cesarean after a difficult 24 hours! The new family is all healthy and happy. That makes me very happy!—Victoria S. The Gift of Life What’s not to be grateful for? I woke up healthy, went to a job I love, participated in Rotary, had enough money to pay some bills and had pizza and lime sorbet for dinner with my son. In short, I’m grateful I have a life that I don’t need a vacation from.—Brenda A. Today I am grateful for my eyes to see…my ears to hear...my heart to beat ...and the warm sunshine on my face.— Karrie W. I am grateful for the breath I just took.—Peter B. Good Friends I’m grateful for the friends and neighbors I have known for the last 20 years and how we are always there for each other, in good times or difficult times.—Sallie H. I’m grateful for the co-workers I’ve worked with for several years who are just like family. We went on a long walk this evening at the park for exercise but talked and laughed the whole time. Good for the health and good for the soul.—Veletta T. Getting up and having Lola by my side (she’s my dog).—Mary M. True Love My siblings and I feel grateful to still have our parents who have been married 60 years! My father will celebrate his 80th birthday in October!—Susan C. I am grateful for my two daughters, my son and my seven grandchildren. They have helped me get through the loss of my husband. I feel blessed every day for the memory of him and the love we had together. Not too many people get to experience that love in their lifetime. I am so grateful for that love.— Rebecca H. I am grateful for three wonderful years of marriage to an amazing man! So thankful he chose me to spend the rest of his life with!— Amanda R. From the Experts “Bring a few things to mind that you feel grateful for before going to sleep each night. Tal Ben-Shahar, a positive psychologist, has been doing that regularly for 10 years. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, has been doing it even longer—for 30 years! As gratitude fills your mind, you feel a warm glow in your heart. This not only strengthens your “positivity quotient” over the long run but also helps you fall asleep faster. It fills your mind with positive thoughts, not leaving room for the worry and anxiety that sometimes keep us awake at night.” —Joseph Emet, author of Finding the Blue Sky. “To be truly happy, you have to realize and appreciate what is already in the world around you: the people who add to your daily experiences; the beauty in nature around you; the physical ability to participate in activities to the degree that you do. That appreciation is gratitude. We all have so much for which to be grateful; we simply need to notice and appreciate what’s there.” —Susie Wolbe, author of The Empowered Teacher.
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Illustration of businessman yoga meditation, calm and meditating

How Dan Harris Became 10% Happier

On our podcast, Live Happy Now, we bring you ideas and research on how to live a happier and more meaningful life. You’ll find dozens of interviews with positive psychology and well-being thought leaders as well as media personalities like veteran newsman and bestselling author Dan Harris, whose talk we’ve excerpted below. How do you ­find the time to meditate? I prioritize a few things. I make sure I get enough sleep, enough exercise, that I get to spend time with my family, and I make sure to meditate. I try to not get overly worked up over any one thing at any one moment. I do my best to get it all done, and sometimes things fall by the wayside and I try to pick it up tomorrow. This is where meditation is very helpful. I think in some ways, counterintuitively, making a little bit of time to do mental hygiene actually makes you more effective because you spend less time engaged in useless rumination and worry. We spend a lot of time working on our home décor, our stock portfolios, our hair, our bodies, but most of us spend no time working on the one ­filter we experience everything through and that’s our mind. And it’s just common sense to tune the thing up. What advice do you have for people who are hesitant to get inside their own heads? First of all, you’re not alone. It’s not a strange concern to have. A lot of people are worried that if they look into their own mind they might not like what they see. It’s there anyway and it is having an impact on you whether you choose to see it or not. So your options are whether to be yanked around by it unconsciously or to deal with it forthrightly. What is a good starting practice to jump into meditation? I’m a Type A person and when I do things I expect a certain result. I expect a win, but you don’t really win at meditation. It’s not that kind of endeavor. You have to go in expecting that you’re going to be distracted. In most forms of meditation you’re focusing on your breath and you’re going to get lost a million times. People think that if you’re getting lost you’re doing it wrong, but in fact the act of meditation is simply to notice when you’ve become distracted and to start over again. And that act of failure is success. It’s like a bicep curl for your brain. Every time you notice you’re worrying and you start again that is a bicep curl. It changes your brain. It may feel like failure, but it isn’t.
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Young woman enjoying hot coffee and reading favorite book, looking at window.

4 Books to Help You Take Charge of Your Happiness

52 Small Changes for the Mind: Improve Memory. Minimize Stress. Increase Productivity. Boost Happiness. by Brett Blumenthal    By making one small change a week all year long, we can feel much less stressed and more fulfilled, writes author Brett Blumenthal. Read 20 minutes a day. Choose books and articles you actually want to (rather than should) read. When you read what you love, your interest in reading grows. Reading keeps your brain healthy and protects against memory loss. Go on a screen diet. How much of your day is spent in front of a screen? Brett reports that some Americans spend up to 10 hours a day online, on mobile devices and in front of the TV. Try to reduce digital time by an hour a day. Attend a lecture in person instead of online or go to a concert instead of watching YouTube videos. Too much screen time can result in stress and sleeping problems, research shows. Deal with demons. Holding on to regret for past mistakes can hurt your potential and your future. Ask yourself: What past mistakes still upset you? Acknowledge your regrets and ask yourself what lessons you have learned. Start viewing your mistakes as “invaluable blessings,” Brett says. The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success by Emma Seppala, Ph.D. In her book, The Happiness Track, Emma Seppala, Ph.D., writes that working in a stressed-out overdrive mode isn’t the best or only pathway to success. With the latest findings in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, she shows us how happiness has a profound effect on our professional lives by increasing our productivity as well as our emotional and social intelligence. Tap into your natural resilience. Do something restorative to shore up your resilience like taking a hike in nature or getting a massage. Emma says that the best way to immediately gain resilience in a difficult situation is to focus on your breath, a “rapid and reliable pathway to your nervous system dedicated to helping you regain your optimal state.” Succeed through compassion. A compassionate culture at work results in improved employee productivity and well-being. Inspire each other at work, look out for one another, emphasize the meaningfulness of the work and treat each other with respect and gratitude. Manage your energy well. Letting your emotions rule you can be exhausting. Instead, cultivate calm.  “When you are calm, you are better able to manage your thoughts and feelings,” writes Emma. Being calm allows you to be more observant, listen better, communicate more skillfully and make better decisions. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage, writes author Brené Brown. When we try to prevent ourselves from feeling vulnerable, we also are shutting out experiences that can bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Let go of perfectionism. Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame. Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Instead, she advises to move toward healthy striving, which is self-focused: How can I improve? Practice being seen. Share a product, article or piece of art you have created. To become more courageous, we have to risk being vulnerable. You can want people to like what you share without attaching your self-worth to how it is received. Without your self-worth on the line, you are more likely to risk sharing your raw talent and gifts. Connect. True belonging can only happen when we are self-accepting and present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Want to live a connected life? Spend less time and energy winning over people who don’t matter, and see the value of cultivating your true relationships. With vulnerability, you can welcome more love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation and creativity into your life. The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work by Christine Carter, Ph.D. Do you ever feel like you are in a rut of busyness? With her expertise on happiness, productivity and elite performance, author Christine Carter shows you how to step off the merry-go-round of busy and find your sweet spot. Start a new happy habit. The brain starts to wire itself for greater automaticity the first time we repeat a behavior, so you can make huge strides in forming a new habit in just a day or so. Select a new habit that would make you happy if you did it every day—one that has the greatest built-in reward for you. It could be taking a walk at dusk or starting a gratitude journal. Show compassion for strangers. It’s easy to do nice things for people you love, but you can become an Olympic-level giver by giving your time, money or love to strangers. Acts of compassion can help you shift from self-preoccupation to true connection and community. Gain mastery. Mastery is the purest example of finding your sweet spot, where strength and ease intersect. When you master an activity, you have great power with little strain. Gaining mastery often means facing difficulty, persisting and practicing. Christine writes that we should stop trying so hard to do everything right and gain the freedom that comes from doing the right things instead.
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