Woman giving present wrapped in white paper with red heart

Live Happy’s Holiday Campaign Celebrates the True Gift of Giving

Now that the holidays are here, it’s important to remember what the giving season is all about.  Prosocial acts, which are intentional behaviors that benefits others, truly is a gift that is given and received. While the person on the receiving end may be impacted in a positive way, the giver also receives those emotional rewards that make us feel good. These acts of kindness, no matter how big our small, create positive connections between people for a better society because the good cheer will carry on months, to even years later. According to science, there are plenty of other positive reasons why giving is good for you, including benefits to your physical and mental health. Research shows that giving—whether it is time, money, or gifts—contributes to our happiness and well-being, by: Lowering blood pressure Boosting self-esteem Reducing effects of depression and anxiety Decreasing levels of stress Increasing overall life satisfaction 12 Days of Giving During the month of December, we are embarking on a new kindness campaign in the holiday spirit of giving and it’s our Live Happy followers who will receive. Our 12 Days of Giveaways kicks off 12/02/2022 and each day is a new opportunity to receive a gift donated from one of our participating sponsors. We have partnered with brands who think and act like us with the greater good in mind. These brands not only offer great products but also have missions with a higher purpose of making the world a happier place. Here’s How to Win To enter Live Happy’s 12 Days of Giveaways, just follow us on Instagram @mylivehappy. Each day will be a new chance to win simply by liking that day’s post. All you have to do is follow Live Happy and the sponsor featured in the Instagram post. Then, just tag someone you know in the comments and that’s it. Live Happy staff will randomly select a winner and contact you to let you know you’ve won. Here is a list of our wonderful partners during the 12 Days of Giveaways: Neora, Bold Made, Emotion Wonderland, Type K Studio, Just Made, Big Shifts 31-Day Kindness , Yipes!, Taco vs. Burrito, Wholly Guacamole and (of course) Live Happy. So, be sure keep an eye out on December 02 on Live Happy’s Instagram so you don’t miss a chance to win one these great gifts. Happy Holidays!
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Live Happy Stands with Ukraine

Put Empathy Into Action

Practicing happiness in uncertain times often begins with doing something for others. Research suggests that happier people are more likely to be empathetic to others, especially when it’s needed the most. Our empathy gives us the ability to want to understand what someone else is going through as well as the desire to help alleviate the suffering. In essence, we are trying to share the pain so we can heal together. We understand that there is great sadness and strife around the world that is seemingly out of our control. It may seem futile to even attempt to help and you may not even know where to begin. The good news is you can turn those feelings of helplessness into helpfulness with empathy. You can start by asking yourself these important questions when you see people in unfortunate situations: What are these people feeling right now? How would I feel if I were in that situation? What would I need if I were in that situation? This exercise can help build your empathy by making you more willing to help and may even give some good ideas on how you can make a difference. A good place to start your empathy journey is by putting it action to where people in this world are really suffering. Currently, the people of Ukraine are in dire need of assistance due to an unprecedented attack on their country. Organizations like UNICEF have a long history of relentlessly helping children and mothers get emergency food, water and health care in countries being ravaged by war, such as Ukraine. Even though you may never see the end result of your acts of empathy, if we all collectively continue to focus on others instead of ourselves, a tiny ripple of goodness can turn into a tidal wave of greatness that may just make the world a better place for all to live.
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Syrian chocolate factory in Canada

Syrian Family Spreads Peace Through Chocolate

For a Syrian refugee family now living in Canada, the link between chocolate and happiness is especially sweet. More than three decades ago the family’s patriarch, Isam Hadhad, made a dramatic career switch from civil engineer to chocolatier. He got into the chocolate-making business precisely because he realized how much joy it could bring people, explains his 26-year-old son Tareq. “He wanted to make the world a happier place,” says Tareq, who speaks English and is his family’s spokesperson. “(My father) says that if you want to build a connection to someone, you go and give him a piece of chocolate.” Then came the war in Syria and the family lost their chocolate factory—the second largest in the Middle East—to a bombing. But just two years after arriving in Canada as refugees, they have rebuilt with the help of a small, rural community in their adopted home country. Naming their new venture “Peace by Chocolate,” the family is using their success as an opportunity to serve up peace and happiness in each bite. “We feel that in every piece of chocolate we make, there is a taste of peace,” says Tareq. “We left our home because we lost peace in the community, in our homeland, so we felt that we should promote this great value in our new home country.” A small-town welcome After fleeing Syria in 2013, the Hadhad family lived for three years in Lebanon, reminded every day of what they had lost. What they didn’t know was that a tiny town on Canada’s East Coast was preparing to welcome them. When they heard about the Syrian refugee crisis, volunteers in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, decided to sponsor a family to come to Canada. Community members raised money, rented a house and recruited volunteer translators and English teachers. “It was a tremendous, overwhelming response from the community. People all wanted to contribute,” says Lucille Harper of Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace, the organization that sponsored the family. Starting anew The Hadhad family arrived in Antigonish, a college town of just 10,000, in the dead of a Canadian winter. But it wasn’t long before they had proved their resilience. Just two months after arriving, Isam started making chocolate out of their rented home and selling it at local farmers markets. Soon, he needed more space for production, and local carpenters, plumbers and electricians all volunteered their time to help build him a tiny shop. Business boomed, and finally, in September of 2017, the Hadhads opened a real factory. Kindness begets kindness As the family found success in their new home, they made giving back a core part of their company’s mission. When wildfires ravaged the town of Fort McMurray in Western Canada, they donated some of their profits to support those who had lost their homes. Shipping across Canada and making plans for U.S. distribution, Peace by Chocolate also quickly began making an economic contribution to a region that traditionally lags behind the rest of the country. The company has created jobs for more than two dozen employees. The Hadhads’ ambition of spreading peace and happiness through chocolate has already stretched beyond Canada’s borders. In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared their story at a United Nations summit on refugees as an example of the contributions newcomers have made to the country. Tareq says he hopes the company’s efforts will help to counter the bias and xenophobia that refugees often face around the world. “Whenever anyone hears any negative stories, they should check out Peace by Chocolate’s story. They will learn more about how kindness begets kindness.”
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Great Holiday Gifts

15 Fabulous Holiday Gifts That Give Back

1. Made With Love Zazzle Heart Leather Tote from UBUNTU Made ($149.00, zazzle.com). Each piece from the Adventure Collection, a collaboration with UBUNTU and Zazzle, is handmade by artisans in Kenya. The proceeds from the sale of each tote bag directly benefit the health and well-being of the Maai Mahiu village. 2. Good Stewards Blabla (blablakids.com) was founded on the principles of fair trade and sustainability. The company’s handcrafted dolls are made responsibly, and 5 percent of the profits support environmental organizations including “Beauregard the Wolf,” $46 (edf.org), and “River the Elephant,” $58 (charitywater.org). “Now that our environment feels more threatened, we want to make a difference. We hope this new initiative will inspire others to make a difference, too!” —Blabla founder Susan Pritchett 3. Save the Turtles Support the Nature Conservancy by purchasing a Sea Turtle Nest gift set, which includes a bookmark, certificate and plush toy (minimum donation $25, gifts.nature.org). 4. Glimmer of Hope Light up your life with the Luci Color Essence Mini Trio of solar-powered lights in colors like violet, sky, coral and mint ($44.95, mpowerd.com). With each purchase, a community somewhere around the world will have access to a Luci light. 5. Stampede of Cuteness These Baby Stuffed Elephants are made by artisans in Laos using natural dyes ($24–$40, stfrank.com); Peace Coasters are created in the same traditional weaving technique of the Agaseke and handmade by women of Rwanda, providing them with socioeconomic opportunity to rebuild their communities and support their families. 6. Giving Grins Humble Brush is an earth-friendly toothbrush made from biodegradable bamboo. Each purchase helps support oral health education around the world ($4.99, humblesmile.org). 7. Baked Goods Satisfy that sweet tooth and help raise funds for childhood cancer with this Commemorative Cookie Gift Box in oatmeal chocolate chip, citrus shortbread and snickerdoodle. ($29.99, cookiesforkidscancer.org). 8. Sparkle & Shine Each bottle of bubbly California Brut Sparkling Wine Rainbow Glitter Edition supports The Trevor Project’s suicide prevention helpline, while each purchase of the California Brut Sparkling Wine Gold Glitter Edition provides 15 meals to a child in need ($59, onehopewine.com). 9. Spat and Happy Make holiday baking extra fun with these wildly eclectic spatulas designed by celebrities like Bobby Flay and Faith Hill—exclusive to Williams Sonoma ($12.95, williamsonoma.com) and 30 percent of the proceeds will benefit nokidhungry.org. The winner or best-selling design will have $5,000 donated on their behalf. 10. Scarves That Save Wrap up in style with these colorful Handcrafted Raw Silk Scarves. The women who make them are from the Community Trade Link in Kathmandu, Nepal. Through fair trade, they support themselves and their families and ultimately improve their lives ($50 each, sushannatural.com). 11. Good Food Two socially conscious businesses, FEED and Mouth, have partnered to curate a fabulous foodie FEED + Mouth Gift Bag, including sweet and savory treats and a wine tote. Each set provides five meals to hungry children around the world ($48, mouth.com and feedprojects.com). 12. Deck the Halls Hand-embroidered by artisan women in Kyrgyzstan through fair trade, the festive Holiday Brights Red Garland is made from responsibly sourced wool ($52, craftspring.com). 13. Close-Knit Beanies Both Camp Pom and Colorblock Beanie help support the United By Blue Cleanup initiative aimed to clean up trash from the world’s waterways ($38, unitedbyblue.com). 14. Bracelet Beauties Spanish jewelry brand UNOde50 has designed a special Rett Awareness Bracelet, which supports research and treatments for Rett syndrome, a neurological developmental disorder discovered in girls within the first two years of life ($45, unode50.com). 15. Share Your Happy Shop T-shirts from our Live Happy store ($19.95; store.livehappy.com)
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Grilled cheese sandwich

Ruthie’s Rolling Cafe Puts Kindness on the Menu

On the morning of July 8, 2016, news cameras gathered outside the Dallas Police Department’s downtown headquarters following the deadly police shootings that shocked the country the previous night. Amid the frenzy, a brightly painted food truck and purveyor of grilled cheese sandwiches—Ruthie’s Rolling Cafe—scooted past the barricades and crime scene tape to feed officers who had worked through the night after the tragedy. “We were their nourishment for that morning,” says Ashlee Hunt Kleinert, owner of Ruthie’s. “When you feel helpless, a lot of times what you do is bring a meal. The beauty of a food truck is that we’re a restaurant on wheels—we can get up and go.” While serving warm bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, Ruthie’s team members also offered hugs and words of appreciation to the officers—and their heartfelt gestures didn’t go unnoticed. “It really showed us how much they cared about us and how much they mourned with us,” says Officer Kimberly Mraz. “The officers felt that and really appreciated the support.” Labor of love Caring for the community is part of the company’s DNA: Not only has Ruthie’s—a regular on the Dallas food truck scene—been responding to tragedies since its founding nearly six years ago, but also in January, the company launched Ruthie’s Snacks of Kindness, a program centered on giving back. Each month, Ruthie’s selects an organization, either chosen by a staff member or nominated by the public, to receive a snack of kindness. The team works with a contact at the organization to surprise a specific group of people with gooey grilled cheese variations like The Boss, made with smoky barbecue brisket and melted cheddar. First on its list for 2017 was the Notre Dame School of Dallas, which serves children with developmental disabilities. In February, Ruthie’s surprised the school’s tireless staff to thank them for what they do. “When a business can share their resources, the kindness spreads,” says Elizabeth Garrison, assistant development at the school. “Ruthie’s Snacks of Kindness gave our staff a boost in morale, which in turn, enables our staff to be more positive in the classroom.” Spreading sunshine While the program formally launched this year, Ruthie’s has been surprising women in homeless shelters, passengers at a bus station, military veterans and many other groups over the years. “You can do little things to brighten someone’s day,” Ashlee says. “When your day is brightened, hopefully it carries forward and the person who is affected treats somebody else differently, and it continues. It’s just spreading a little bit of sunshine.” Just ask Jeff Hensley, former Navy fighter pilot and director of clinical and veteran services at Equest, which provides equine therapy for special needs populations. A couple of years ago, Ruthie’s surprised one of the graduating classes of Equest’s Hooves for Heroes, a program designed for military veterans and their families. “This kind of thing restores my faith in other people and reminds me that at our core, we really are all connected,” Jeff says. Amanda Gleason writes regularly for Live Happy magazine. Check out her feature story Make-a-Wish: Where Science and Hope Meet.
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Birthday girl doing hula-hoop.

The Birthday Party Project Gives Homeless Kids a Day to Sparkle

Each month, 31 homeless shelters across the country serve as the backdrop for children’s birthday celebrations, transforming into magical settings where dance parties, spirited renditions of “Happy Birthday” and gleeful squeals combine to form just the right amount of controlled chaos. The organization behind the magic is The Birthday Party Project (TBPP), a North Texas-based nonprofit with event planner Paige Chenault at the helm. Its mission? To throw birthday parties for kids in homeless shelters—an idea that was originally sparked in Paige during a flight in 2008. Running her own successful events company at the time, Paige was pregnant with her daughter, Lizzie. As she read an article about kids’ birthday parties, she grew excited at the possibilities for Lizzie. On the same flight, she picked up another magazine and flipped to an image she says she’ll never forget: a young Haitian boy with sunken eyes, standing barefoot and shirtless in a crowded street but seemingly unnoticed. “Here I was dreaming about all the things I could do for Lizzie, and someone like him will never feel celebrated the way I knew I could celebrate her,” Paige says. By touchdown, the seeds of TBPP were planted. “I realized I could use my talents to throw birthday parties for kids who need it,” Paige says. “I felt in the core of who I was that I was being called to this.” Let the Games Begin Fast-forward to January 2012: TBPP hosted its first party at Family Gateway, a homeless shelter in downtown Dallas, committed to throw one bash each month there for the entire year. Paige, along with her husband, Colin, and a group of 15 close friends, entered that first event excited but unsure of what they were about to do. “We wondered if the kids would even like us,” Paige says. Luckily, the bracelet-making, balloon keep-away and spontaneous dance party helped win over the 50 children in attendance. After the party ended, 11-year-old Micah, whose demeanor had shifted from reserved to free-spirited, said, “Thank you, Miss Paige. This is the first birthday party I’ve ever had.” That powerful moment stuck with Paige. “I knew we were on to something great,” she says. Five years later, TBPP now partners with 31 homeless and transitional living facilities in 12 cities. Each month, shelters identify children ages 1 to 18 who will be celebrating a birthday. Paige, a team of six employees and an army of volunteers—dubbed “party enthusiasts”—then plan a group party, complete with an individual cake and gift for each birthday boy or girl. All of the children staying at the shelter, as well as parents of the guests of honor, are invited to attend the one-hour celebrations. Annie Fernandez, director of magic for TBPP, devises each month’s party theme: “Art Party,” “Mad Science” and “Olympics” have all made the lineup. This March, the theme is “Spring Fling”—think relay races incorporating gardening tools—while April brings “Superheroes,” giving kids the chance to create their own masks. Last December, 9-year-old Alicia celebrated her birthday at People Serving People in Minneapolis. A memorable moment? Teasing a staff member dressed as Frozen’s friendly snowman, Olaf, she said she was going to “eat his carrot nose with ranch.” The birthday parties can leave a lasting impression on the parents, too—just ask Lakechia Thompson, whose 3-year-old son, Kaden, celebrated his birthday at Detroit’s Coalition on Temporary Shelter. “The best part was the intent—to make the children feel important, regardless of their circumstances,” Lakechia says. Ready, Set, Grow To date, TBPP has celebrated about 3,400 birthdays, leading Paige to focus on the organization full time in 2014. This year, TBPP aims to increase its number of monthly parties from 31 to 45, helping spread joy to more of the country’s 2.5 million homeless children. Plenty of ways to get in on the magic await: Besides volunteering at a party, “sharing” your birthday is also an option. Instead of asking for presents on your birthday, collect gifts for TBPP, or set up a fundraising page on their website. “Every week, the children ask, ‘Is this the week of the birthday party?’” says Kathy Kidwell, director of community engagement at Family Gateway. “It’s life-changing changing for them—there’s nothing like it. It’s priceless.” Find out how you can get involved with The Birthday Party Project. Amanda Gleason writes regularly for Live Happy magazine. Check out her feature story "Make-a-Wish: Where Science and Hope Meet."
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KIND Foundation Winner Sandra Goldberg (right)

Community Heroes Awarded $1.1 Million for Kindness, Compassion

When he was a child, Daniel Lubetzky’s father told him about the Holocaust. In his father’s stories it wasn’t the death, hatred and inhumanity he had experienced at Dachau concentration camp that stood out. It was the kindness, like when a Nazi guard sneaked him a potato. “My father never forgot that soldier, he always said that potato—that fleeting moment of kindness—helped him stay alive,” Daniel says. That is why, when Daniel established KIND Snacks in 2004, he set company goals of promoting kindness—and of course making a really good nut-and-fruit granola bar. A little over a decade later, Daniel established the nonprofit KIND Foundation to further his mission. In December 2016, the foundation announced the annual winners: KIND People who “show us how to live a life rooted in purpose, forge an inclusive society and lead our communities with determination and humanity,” according to their website, kindsnacks.com. Honoring KIND people Doniece Sandoval, featured in Live Happy’s December 2015 issue for her work with the homeless, was awarded $500,000. Six other winners received $100,000 each. Although their work ranges from water access to prison rehabilitation, they all share one quality—the ability to put kindness into action. These are not the people who are going to see something and just stand by,” said KIND Foundation Director Dana Rosenberg. “All of them saw something and did something." In Doniece’s case, that meant converting old buses to mobile shower units and driving them to locations in San Francisco where the homeless could use them. Although her creation, Lava Mae, is innovative, Doniece said the most incredible acts of kindness she has seen are simple. “We think kindness has to be big,” Doniece says. “But sometimes it’s just the little things.” Little things like when a homeless man ran up to a shower unit announcing he had a job interview and everyone in line let him go first saying, “Go ahead man,” “Get it done,” and “Go get that job.” Many ways to give back Fellow award winner Jodi Rae Ingstad of Valley City, North Dakota, is known for doing little things—lots of them. Her most recent mission is delivering meat to needy elderly residents. Another winner, Jo Dee Davis of Columbus, Ohio, created a holistic rehabilitative prison program. In all, there were almost 5,000 entries—far more than the foundation had expected. Finalists were chosen by a group of judges that included Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and media mogul Arianna Huffington. Nominations had to come from someone other than the nominee; Jodi Rae, however, was recommended by her husband. “When we shared the nomination with Jodi Rae (Ingstad), she was so taken aback by the stories of kindness that her husband shared about her she said, ‘I didn’t realize he was seeing and understanding all of this,’ ” Dana explains. Promoting kindness According to Doniece, hearing about kind acts “lifts you up and makes you realize there’s plenty of good in the world.” Which is exactly what the foundation is about. By recognizing and promoting kindness, in this case by showcasing the winners’ work in videos and stories, they hope to inspire other acts of kindness. The response has been promising. Jodi Rae has been flooded with thank-you notes and offers of support. Jo Dee has also heard from people interested in her work. Doniece—even before the award was announced—received 1,500 requests to bring similar programs to other communities. She plans to use the award money to complete a toolkit that outlines the steps to do that. This year, KIND Foundation plans to work with Harvard University to develop tools to create kinder school environments and will continue awarding $10,000 to worthy causes each month. “Kindness is a magical power,” Daniel says. “We call it a net-happiness aggregator. Both the person doing the kind act and the recipient are better off afterward.” See videos of the winners and read more about their stories at https://www.kindsnacks.com/foundation/kindpeople/ Katya Cengel reports from around the world and teaches journalism at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, National Geographic and Foreign Policy.
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Woman sitting at a desk working on laptop with Christmas decor.

5 Apps to Make Holiday Giving Last All Year

‘Tis the season, and giving is on the mind. We’ve made our lists and checked them twice. Friends? Check. Teachers? Check. Co-workers? Check. Charities? Check. As we hustle and bustle to engage in this mass-scale giving exchange, it can be easy to lose sight of why we are doing all of this giving in the first place. Is this annual tradition just a test of our credit cards and tax write-off limits…or perhaps something more? Why we give Despite occasional grumbling over excessive consumerism and crowded stores, we return to this tradition year after year because giving makes us happy. We love knowing that our gift of time, talent, or treasure can make someone else’s life better or happier. But the truth is that the giver often receives far more than the recipient. In one study, Sonja Lyubomirsky asked students to commit five random acts of kindness each week for six weeks. Interestingly, the control group (who did not do acts of kindness) experienced a reduction in well-being, whereas those who engaged in acts of kindness showed a 42 percent increase in happiness. Giving not only releases a dopamine high that makes us feel happier, but it also improves our physical health, increases our life satisfaction, and lengthens our longevity. Another study found that we’re also happier when we spend money on other people more so than when we spend money on ourselves. So giving to charities is actually a great way to put a spring in your own step! Why we don’t give Given all of these benefits, the question remains: why don’t we give to charities all the time? Frankly, because giving takes a lot of time, money, and mental energy. Despite our best intentions, we get overwhelmed when we stop to think about to whom to give. The top three reasons that people cite for not giving as much as they would like: I don’t have enough money to make a difference. I don’t know where to give my money. I don’t know if my money will really be used for good. But what if we could make giving to charities easier for all? How to Make Giving a Way of Life Thanks to technology, giving back has become simpler and more efficient than ever. App developers understand that the best way to facilitate giving is to make it easy, straightforward, automatic and tangible. To that end, they have begun creating a new wave of apps that dovetail with your existing activities but leverage corporate sponsorships to raise money for charities. Orange Theory Fitness, for example, has a partnership with Sweat Angels through which it makes donations to a designated charity for every member’s “check in” on Facebook. With the power of crowdfunding, these small donations add up to big benefits for charities. In my upcoming book The Future of Happiness, I share examples of how technology can help make giving a way of life. Here are five of my favorite apps to help you do so: Charity Miles Charity Miles donates ten cents to your favorite nonprofit for every mile you bike and twenty-five cents for every mile you run. Feedie Use the Feedie app to post a photo of your food on social media and participating restaurants will make a donation to help feed orphaned and at-risk schoolchildren in South Africa. Spare Round up your dining-out bills to the nearest dollar to fight hunger in your own city. Donate a Photo For every photo you share through Donate a Photo, Johnson & Johnson gives $1 to a cause you want to help. Check-in for Good Using geo-targeted advertising, the app connects businesses and individuals that share a passion for the same causes. Then all you have to do is check-in when you visit, and the business will make a donation on your behalf and give you exclusive promotional offers as well. By developing a habit of giving, not only do we increase our happiness levels, but we also create a ripple effect of positivity in our families and communities. So this holiday season, take time to give—and then carry that glow into the New Year by infusing your everyday life with a habit of giving. Amy Blankson, aka the ‘Happy Tech Girl,’ is on a quest to find strategies to help individuals balance productivity and well-being in the digital era. Amy, with her brother Shawn Achor, co-founded GoodThink, which brings the principles of positive psychology to lifeand works with organizations such as Google, NASA and the US Army. Her upcoming book is called The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-being in the Digital Era (April 2017).
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happy gift books

9 Gift Books to Spark Joy This Holiday Season

A book can be a magical gift. The right book can show someone how well you know them. Share a smile, a laugh or some inspiration this holiday season by gifting a book from our eclectic list of books to suit every taste, from the family foodie to the photography lover. Make your gift book even more personal by including a handwritten notecard or inscription inside. 1. Alton Brown: EveryDayCook by Alton Brown Beloved TV host Alton Brown (best known for his 14 seasons of Good Eats and his role on Iron Chef America) has written a new cookbook that puts easy weeknight meals front and center. Bits of science and food lore—along with photos that he took on his iPhone—accompany the 101 recipes. Look for Alton’s take on American comfort food and plenty of his signature humor threaded throughout. It’s the perfect gift for the family foodie. 2. Cats in Paris: A Magical Coloring Book by Won-Sun Jang This charmant coloring book of intricate pen-and-ink drawings is perfect for the friend or family member who loves to relax with a box of colored pencils but is tired of mesmerizing mandalas. Of course, it will also please the crazed cat lovers in your life. Take a trip through Paris with a gaggle of finely drawn felines—allergenic fur not included. 3. Little Humans by Brandon Stanton A celebration of little humans everywhere. Brandon Stanton, creator of the popular blog, Humans of New York, which has spawned a series of equally popular coffee-table books. Here Brandon has compiled 40 of his favorite photos of kids expressing their individuality. These fun, beautiful and moving images of kids from his website are intended to inspire a sense of community and imbue the reader with the free spirit of childhood. The book makes a perfect gift for a child, parent or child at heart who appreciates the way that children just radiate joy. 4. My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman How do the objects in our lives tell a story? Bestselling author and illustrator Maira Kalman captures the human experience by exploring the significance of the physical things we have in our lives. With artifacts, recollections and selections from the collections of the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and her own personal collections, My Favorite Things features more than 50 special objects to view and ponder. See the pocket watch Abraham Lincoln was carrying when he was shot, original editions of Winnie-the-Pooh and Alice in Wonderland as well as photographs taken by Maira. An ideal gift for the art or design enthusiast. 5. National Parks of America: Experience America's 59 National Parks by Lonely Planet Ideal for the nature lover or travel enthusiast, this book celebrates America’s 59 awe-inspiring national parks. The year 2016 was a big one for the parks; the 100th anniversary of their founding meant renewed interest and a slew of new documentaries and books for all ages. This book highlights the best activities and trails of each park, proposes ideal itineraries, explains how to get there, and even gives advice on where to stay. What’s more, the stunning color photographs will inspire wanderlust and a burning desire to hop in the car and see the magnificent views—of the world’s tallest trees, towering cliffs and snow-covered mountains—for yourself. 6. Queen of Your Own Life by Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff Actress Kathy Kinney and comedian Cindy Ratzlaff have created a successful series of fun, fabulous books that feature vintage images and wry, inspiring quotes. The quotes are “queenisms,” and each book invites women to recognize and celebrate themselves as the queens they are. Their latest venture, Queen of Your Own Life, reminds women to take control of their relationships, happiness and destiny. A great gift for any woman who loves the vintage aesthetic and could use a couple positive affirmations once in a while. 7. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu The title and author byline pretty much say it all: Two of the world's greatest spiritual leaders—both winners of the Nobel Peace Prize—have come together to collaborate on a book about joy. Written with compassion and humor, The Book of Joy includes personal anecdotes from the two men, teachings about happiness, as well as some of the science behind it. They also offer suggestions of daily practices to increase your own happiness, turning it from a fleeting emotion into an authentic way of living your life. 8. Think Happy: Instant Peptalks to Boost Positivity by Karen Salmansohn Happiness guru and author Karen Salmansohn has collected 50 inner “peptalks” for readers to employ in different situations, as needed, punctuated with adorable color illustrations and watercolors. The situations vary from “trying something new” to more serious perils such as “facing failure.” You can think of this book as a charming and quirky form of cognitive behavioral therapy. The perfect gift for anyone you know who needs to occasionally quiet their inner critic. 9. Zen Dogs by Alexandra Cearns Who can resist this photo collection that captures some very cool canines—just chilling. Award-winning animal photographer Alexandra Cearns celebrates the serenity of dogs by finding them in joyful moments of relaxation. See 80 beautiful color photographs of a variety of breeds from the beloved golden retriever to the unique French bulldog. To emphasize the mindful, Zen feel, the book includes inspirational words of wisdom from the Buddha, Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh and others. A perfect gift for the mellow dog lover in your life. Read more: 10 Life-Changing Books That Will Stay With You Forever Read more: 7 Best Books to Boost Your Brain Health Read more: 10 Must-Read Books for Happy, Healthy Eating Sandra Bienkowski is a regular contributor to Live Happy and the founder and CEO of TheMediaConcierge.net.
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Woman volunteering in a garden with a group of people.

17 Ways to Give Back According to Your Strengths

Use your gifts. You’ve probably heard this advice before. Identifying your unique skills, character traits and innate talents can help guide you to a career you love, where you get to use those strengths every day. Your strengths also can be guideposts for how to give back and make the world a better place. Using your strengths—those things you are good at and enjoy—gives you energy and boosts your sense of well-being. And you can get the same benefits from helping others. According to Harvard Health Publications, people who volunteer their time and talents feel more socially connected (which can ward off loneliness and depression) and may experience better physical health, including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. When you combine your skills with giving back, you’ve got a powerful combination to make a difference to the community at large. This year, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, we celebrate "Giving Tuesday," a global movement and day that celebrates and encourages giving back. Unlike Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which emphasize material gifts or discount purchases, Giving Tuesday celebrates philanthropy and kicks off the charitable season. Giving Tuesday is a great reminder to write a check to your favorite nonprofit organization. But beyond money, when it comes to planning where and how you will spend your time and energy, let your strengths guide you to the most impactful ways you can help the people and community around you. And keep in mind that giving to a friend, neighbor or family member can be just as significant as giving to an organization; you are still making a difference in someone’s life. Discover your strengths The first step is to identify your strengths. “Don’t go looking for them,” says Michael Mantell, Ph.D., a transformational behavior coach. “Your strengths are within you, not to be looked for or searched for, rather, to be revealed.” If you aren’t clear on what those strengths are, tune in to the compliments people give you. “Sometimes, it’s someone else who sees something inside of us that reveals our strength,” Michael says. If you are still unsure, look for what you are doing when you don’t notice time passing. Or, pick up clues by remembering what you loved to do as a child. Or you can take VIA’s free 10-minute survey to reveal your character strengths. Writing a check or volunteering your time with your favorite nonprofit organization is always a great idea. But we’ve pulled together a list of 18 creative ways for you to put your strengths to work when giving back this year. Ways to give back Are you a savvy businessperson or entrepreneur? Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, came up with a twist on tithing: Instead of giving away 10 percent of your money, he suggests giving 10 percent of your fantastic business ideas to nonprofits. Are you an animal whisperer? Consider fostering some furry friends from your local animal shelter. Expert swimmer? Volunteer to teach children how to swim at your local gym or YMCA. If you are an Eagle Scout, volunteer to work with Boy Scouts or a similar organization. You can work with kids or help the organization with its fundraising efforts. If you’re an avid reader, pass on a bookthat could change someone’s life. The right book could help someone start a business, improve a relationship or provide a confidence boost. Love fitness? Sign up for a charitable walk or run and give to a cause you care about. Or, ask someone to work out with you and be a fitness mentor. Is your thumb green? Lead a community garden project or teach kids how to care for flowers and plants. Are you a talented teacher or an expert in a specific subject such as writing or math? Talk to a local school about volunteering to be a tutor. If you have skills as an event planner, you can donate your time and talents to a fundraising event for a worthy organization. Well connected? How could you use your network to help someone else? The right introduction could lead to a job prospect, an increase in revenue or a new friendship. Are you great with children? Volunteer to watch your friend’s kids for an evening or host a slumber party for your kids and their friends. If you are highly empathetic? Use this powerful emotional tool to lend an ear to someone in need. Look into organizations that work with at-risk youth or with teens who have gone through the juvenile detention system. Have a little extra cash in your wallet? Think about buying something for a stranger. Pick up the tab for the person behind you at the coffee shop or at the tollbooth on the bridge. Do you have a knack for photography? Offer to photograph a friend’s wedding, a home someone is putting up for sale or the birthday party of one of your friend’s kids. Are you a good mentor? If you’re in the position to do so, hire an intern who is interested in doing what you do and show him or her the ropes. Do you have the eagle eye of a copy editor? Volunteer to review and polish a resume for someone in need—or better yet, volunteer your services to a deserving nonprofit. Love to cook or bake? Volunteer your talents at a local soup kitchen. Stay true to yourself by giving in the realms that make you the happiest. When you give back with your own talents, it doesn’t feel like work—it feels like an expression of who you are.
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