Cute portrayal of a range of different emotions

Make Your Happiness Last Longer by Embodying All Emotions

To embody an emotion is to expand the experience of an emotion to as much of the body as possible. When we do that, we are able to tolerate and stay with the emotional experience for much longer; and our thinking and behavior in relation to the emotion improve. The practice of embodying emotion is of value to both unpleasant emotions such as sadness and pleasant emotions such as happiness. The strategy of embodying emotions is based on the latest research findings in affective neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and body psychotherapy. How can embodying the emotion of happiness improve a person’s well-being? When we expand the experience of happiness to as much of the body as possible, we are able to increase, stay with, and enjoy our happiness for a much longer period. Our thinking and behavior will improve to support that we remain happy longer, by making our thinking and behavior more positive to enhance and support our happiness or by exposing and resolving our thinking and feeling that do not support our happiness. And, because unpleasant emotions are associated with states of increasing stress and dysregulation and pleasant emotions with states of decreasing stress and increasing regulation in the brain and body physiology, embodying pleasant emotions such as happiness can improve our health and energy as well as make us more resilient in the face of life’s challenges, consistent with the findings in positive psychology that people who are happier tend to be healthier and more resilient, physically and psychologically. How we can enhance the practice Positive Psychology through the Practice of Embodying Emotions Positive psychology emphasizes the important role positive cognitions, emotions, and behaviors can play in increasing our wellbeing any therapeutic process. Just as there are any number of positive cognitions and behaviors, there are also any number of positive emotions. However, most if not all psychotherapy approaches work with only a limited number of pleasant and unpleasant emotions, influenced by the academic research on emotions that usually focuses only on a limited number and vocabulary of emotions. Integral Somatic Psychology (ISP) in its primary clinical strategy of the practice of embodying emotions works creatively with a large range of emotions including the always-present and often-overlooked sensorimotor emotions, psychologically meaningful body states such as  feeling good or feeling as though each cell in the body were eating chocolate, for example. We often have more access to such positive sensorimotor emotions and are able to embody them with greater ease than the basic emotion of happiness. At times, expanding positive emotional experiences in a body is made difficult by the body shutting down due to its inability to tolerate an unpleasant emotion. When the chest is constricted against the experience of grief, it is hard to feel joy there let alone expand it from there to other places in the body. In such instances, practitioners of positive psychology can work to free the body for the experience and expansion of positive emotions in an efficient manner by having the unpleasant emotion of grief embodied first, as expanding unpleasant emotions has been shown to be quite effective in increasing one’s ability to tolerate them and in freeing the body from defenses against emotions. RAJA SELVAM, Ph.D., is the developer of Integral Somatic Psychology, an approach based on the paradigm of embodied cognition, emotion, and behavior in cognitive and affective neuroscience. He is the author of The Practice of Embodying Emotions: A Guide to Improving Cognitive, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes.
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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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Live Happy’s 7 Day Gratitude Challenge

November is National Gratitude Month. Practicing daily gratitude gives us a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us. Research has shown that exercising gratitude regularly can enhance our moods, strengthen social bonds, and improve physical health. Take the 7 day challenge and share your favorite moments with us on social media! Day 1:  Think of 2 challenges you're grateful for and what positive things you learned. Day 2:  What skill are you grateful to have? Think about it and thank it. Day 3: If you had a positive experience at a business, write a kind review. Day 4: What foods are you thankful for? If you can, donate whatever it is to a food bank. Day 5: Think of 3 memories you're most thankful for. If it involves someone, send them the memory via text. Day 6:  What exercise are you most thankful you're able to do? Do it! Day 7:  Make a list of all the material comforts you're thankful for.
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Eight Years Later and We’re Still Making the World a Happier Place

Live Happy continues to be your guide on your journey to finding authentic happiness. In 2013, Live Happy launched with a mission of promoting and sharing authentic happiness through education, integrity, gratitude, and community awareness. As we celebrate our eighth-year anniversary this month, we are continuing to bring the happiness movement to you by keeping you informed on the science of happiness and well-being as well as providing you with the tips and tools to live a flourishing life. Founded in 2013 by veteran entrepreneur Jeff Olson and CEO Deborah Heisz, Live Happy has accomplished many milestones over the years, including being the first mainstream lifestyle magazine based in the science of positive psychology, the opportunity to address the United Nations on the importance of happiness, multiple industry awards and garnering more than 1 million downloads of our Live Happy Now Podcast. While we are certainly proud of everything we have achieved (and achievement is important to happiness), it’s not so much what we have done that is important, it’s what we have learned over the years. We have taken the science of happiness out of the halls of academia and shared it with you. Here is a list of happy practices you can do every day to make your world a happier place: Be Kind Kindness is the goodness glue that holds us all together. When we practice kindness, we are telling others that they matter. Kindness is also associated with other important character strengths, such as gratitude, leadership and love. It takes very little to make someone's day a little brighter. The next time you see someone, try viewing them through kind eyes and less judgment. You don’t even have to be verbal about it. You can just wish them well within the confines of your own mind. Of course, random acts of kindness are great, too, because it creates a ripple effect of niceness that spreads happiness. Be Grateful Practicing gratitude is more than just saying, “thank you,” it is a mindset of thankfulness that is quite possibly the magic elixir to happiness. According to science, when practiced regularly, gratitude can improve your mental and physical well-being. Gratitude strengthens relationships, improves life and work satisfaction and increases happiness. Once you get into a groove, it can even keep those happy vibes going for weeks and even months. Best of all, gratitude doesn’t cost a thing, so the emotional investment is well worth the return. Be Humorous Humor is a strength that literally lightens your mood. That’s what it is designed to do. Humor brings out a playfulness that eases our stress and lets us know we are in a safe place. What’s more, a good belly laugh can release all the happy hormones in your body, such as oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, and opens up the reward centers in your brain. You don’t even have to be inherently hilarious to benefit from humor, you just have to look for the funny. Studies also show that you can even fake your laughter and you’ll still get the same benefits. Eventually, your fake chuckles will turn into real bonafide yucks. Don’t believe us, give it a try. We’ll wait. Be Resilient The global pandemic has surely tested our mettle. Stress levels have been pushed to a tipping point, isolation has made us lonelier and many have experienced extreme grief from losing loved ones to COVID-19. If there was ever a time in your life when you needed resilience, it’s now. Resilience is the ability to persevere through adversity, no matter what obstacles stand in your way. People who rely on resilience find hope in dire situations, view setbacks as challenges and not a failure and oftentimes end up being stronger for having prevailed. If you are a resilient person, then odds are that you have overcome adversity in your life and have developed the skills to get you through it. Be Happy The most important lesson we have learned at Live Happy is that happiness truly is a choice. While it does take work, you can choose the happiness you want in this world. Happy people find more positive outcomes in theirs lives, enjoy higher life satisfaction, find more success at work, and are generally healthier. We at Live Happy have spent the last eight years giving you the information you need to live a happier life. We will continue to do so because whether you are living in a small village at the end of the earth or in a large booming metropolis, we believe everyone deserves more authentic happiness in their lives. For more on our conversation about what we have learned about happiness, check out our latest podcast on Live Happy Now.
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8 Easy Practices to Enhance Gratitude

These simple exercises will improve your sense of wellbeing all year. We have read it over and over again in positive psychology research, from Martin Seligman to Shawn Achor: If there is a one-word answer to the secret of happiness, it is gratitude.Gratitude may just be the strongest tool in the kit when it comes to pulling ourselves and others out of a funk, or rebooting a terrible blue mood. Here are some simple exercises that can enhance your sense of gratitude and all year round. 1. Savor Slow down! Stop, breathe, take notice, and delight in the present moment. Let yourself get excited about little things. Cultivate tiny moments of joy, and notice those times when they spontaneously happen. 2. Plan experiences What can you plan this season that will make your holidays more memorable? Be purposeful about planning and creating special experiences, and you will reap the rewards. Is there a tradition you can renew? An activity you can plan with your family in town that will create a cherished memory? It could be as simple as taking a photo of extended family or tossing a football together in the backyard. 3. Play music Listening to music can make us feel more alive. When you play music that resonates with you, it heightens your senses and gives you a greater feeling of awe and reverence for life. Create a playlist that you feel deeply connected to personally. Tune into it when you need a gratitude lift or a shift in perspective. 4. Write a letter to your younger self Happiness researcher and author Shawn Achor suggests writing a letter to your younger self with the wisdom you have today.  This simple act can transform your past (by showing yourself compassion) and can transform your present. Read your letter and you will likely find advice you can still use today. 5. Make a highlights list What are your stand-out experiences for each month of this year? Capture those in a simple list. You will experience more gratitude as you recall special experiences, trips and treasured memories. Sometimes time moves so fast we miss the gratitude that comes from reminding ourselves of how fulfilling our lives already are. 6. Fall asleep to gratitude In a journal, write down what you feel thankful for each day. Capture specifics and small details. Make this the last activity you do before you fall asleep. Not only are you immersing yourself in all that brings you joy, you are putting your mind in a thankful and positive place before you drift off to sleep. 7. Make a resilience list Write down five tough times and how you made it through. We all need reminders that we are stronger than we think. When you know you can cope with what comes your way, you can put worry down and more fully live in the present moment. 8. Take the focus off you Do something nice for someone else that is totally unexpected. Leave a happy note for your waitress, pay it forward and buy that eggnog latte for the car behind you in line at Starbucks, or call someone you haven’t talked with in a while. Happy acts for other people give you a sense of contentment, too.
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Stressed young woman looking at her laptop

SNAP Out of Stress With Mindful Self-Compassion

This simple self-care technique can help reboot your brain Many of us don’t take the time to properly care for ourselves. We are so busy working, caring for and raising families, paying bills, and keeping up with the demands of daily life that we may not prioritize self-care. If this sounds like you, I want to share something that can help refresh your mind and spirit in the midst of your often chaotic life: mindful self-compassion through a strategy I call SNAP. SNAP stands for: Soothing Touch Name the Emotion Act Praise Back in 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn coined the acronym STOP as a simple way for people to grasp the concept of mindfulness. STOP stands for stop, take a breath, observe, and proceed. It’s been a wonderful tool that has helped countless people. However, we have learned a lot more about neuroscience and our ability to calm our minds and emotions over the past 40 years. Take soothing (or supportive) touch as an example. Today, we know that if you put your hands on your body with intention and attention, this releases oxytocin and endorphins, providing an effective way to pause, switch into a mindful state, and calm your nervous system. Naming the emotion we feel is also a key part of SNAP. When we name what we are feeling, we put some distance between our emotions and ourselves. We begin to recognize that feelings come and go, but don’t define us. This is not a matter of avoiding difficult feelings but letting them flow through us. Here’s how SNAP works: S: Soothing Touch When you feel stress, place your hands where you find it soothing, which might be your chest, belly, face or arms. Try different locations and see what feels most soothing. This touch releases oxytocin and endorphins to help calm your nervous system. Then when you are experiencing stress, take a moment to see if the stress is causing a tightening in your body? Move your hands and rest them over the area that feels contracted. It might be your chest or your belly. If you feel stress in muscles of your face, try cradling your face in your hands. Some people feel a pain in the back of their head or their temples when stressed. Place your good hands on wherever feels tight and imagine a soothing warm compress softening the area. N: Name the Emotion What are you feeling in the moment? Is it worry? Sadness? Anger? Frustration? Naming what you feel helps calm your body’s stress response. It also gives you time to locate it in your body, dovetailing with a soothing touch so that you move your hands to that location. Naming the emotion also widens the perspective to know that you are not your emotions. A: Act Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” Then do what you can reasonably do in the moment. For example: While driving: Try controlling your breathing, making your exhale longer than your inhale to lower your blood pressure and slow your heart rate. I often put one hand on the wheel, and the other hand on my heart. When toddler tantrums or teen drama erupt: Try dropping your attention to the soles of your feet as you control your breathing to slow the whole show down. When teen or adult family drama makes you want to flee: Stay focused on your body and your breathing. Breathe in compassion for yourself because it’s so difficult, and breathe out compassion for them because they are suffering (even if their behavior is distressing). This helps calm your nervous system and your emotions. At work: Depending on your work situation, you may have more options for relief in the moment if you have a door you can close (even if it’s in the bathroom stall! Give yourself a few minutes for quiet reflection. Ground yourself by touching a polished stone that you keep on your desk, or focus your attention on the soles of your feet. Take a break at the water cooler and exhale longer than you inhale for a few rounds of breathing. Look out the window, go for a walk, or call a friend. Do whatever you can to shift your attention and your mood. P: Praise  Many people think of praise in relation to religion, but it is not necessary to be religious to cultivate a sense gratitude and all the benefits it brings for your health and happiness. When you give thanks, the gratitude you feel starts an upward spiral of positive emotions. This can help you to be more compassionate with yourself and others and can reinforce your desire to take care of yourself. So the next time you feel anxious, exhausted, depleted, or overwhelmed, remember to practice SNAP. Take the time to care for yourself through mindful self-compassion can help you feel refreshed so you can meet whatever challenges you face with greater calm, ease, and confidence. Julie Potiker is a mindfulness expert with extensive teacher training in a variety of tools and methods, including Mindful Self-Compassion through her Mindful Methods for Life program offerings and her book —Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm in the Midst of Chaos—Julie helps others bring more peace and wellness into their lives. For more information, visit MindfulMethodsForLife.com.
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Listening With Your Heart

Healing the world—and building your own happiness—one conversation, one breath at a time. When Vermont music teacher Sue Detweiler and her pastor husband Larry were looking for a new house, a key concern was that it have extra bedrooms. Sue, who believes in radical hospitality, wanted to make sure they had enough room to throw open their doors when people arrived on their doorstep in need. They found the house, bought it and before they’d even unpacked, a family of four filled the extra bedrooms. And just as that family got back on its feet and was ready to leave, an abused woman and her small child arrived. Sue’s house hasn’t been empty since.And when Toni Dudley, a South Carolina woman who had worked on an assembly line at the local Honda plant, discovered that a former co-worker had advanced cancer and no one to care for him, she rolled up her sleeves, cleaned his house, brought him food. Then, as he got worse, she moved into his home and cared for him every moment of every day for the rest of his life.What drives us to selflessly care for others? Plain and simple, it all comes down to compassion, that inward emotion that leads to outward acts of kindness. It’s what moves us to help one another and heal the breaches between us. And it’s key to our survival—as people, as nations, as a planet. “Despite what people think, ‘survival of the fittest’ is not something Darwin ever said,” says Emma Seppala, Ph.D., associate director of the Stanford University Center for Compassion & Altruism Research and Education in California. “Darwin’s message was more ‘survival of the kindest.’ ” We survive not because we’re the biggest, strongest or most intelligent beings on the planet, but because we live in a community of people who reach out to us in times of trouble. We are amazing, compassionate creatures. It’s what makes rescuing stray dogs on the streets of Los Angeles a passion, stuffing neighborhood food cupboards in Maine a commitment, and sending Doctors without Borders to the victims of hurricanes in the Philippines and Haiti a reality. What makes us do it? It’s part of who we are. Empathy in Action While we use the word “compassion” freely, we may be hard-pressed to come up with an actual definition. In its literal form, the translation of “compassion” is “to suffer together.” What it means in our daily lives is that we are compelled to relieve the suffering of others. The Dalai Lama is among those who say compassion is essential to overall wellbeing; he calls love and compassion necessities in life, not luxuries.  But compassion is more than just kindness to others—he says it is the sensitivity to the suffering of others, combined with a commitment to do something about it. In other words, it is empathy in action. Rev. Molly F. James, Ph.D., and an ordained Episcopal minister, understands the action side of compassion: “When I was a hospital chaplain, we referred to it as ‘getting in the boat.’ It’s being where the person in pain is, doing whatever it takes to become a companion for them and letting them know that they’re not alone. It’s letting people tell you their story and concentrating on their words, rather than thinking of your solution to their problems.” “You don’t have to be a minister to do this,” Molly says, “It’s about care and compassion—we are all born with a capacity for both.” Compassion is also a commonality among numerous religions. “Compassion is a shared value and virtue across many faith traditions,” the adjunct professor says. “It’s probably one of the strongest correlations between them.” Witnessing others in the act of compassion can have long-term, positive effects on us. When Molly needs to gather strength in her life, she calls one particular example to mind. It took place as she was helping organize a prayer service and funeral for a victim of the Newtown, Conn., shooting. Adding to the unthinkable grief and despair of the time was a troubling rumor: Picketers would try to disrupt the funeral procession. “I have a powerful image of the day,” Molly says. “When we reached the church, we saw a wall of people around it.” In the human circle she remembers Boy Scouts at attention—in their shirtsleeves even in the cold December weather. “There were boys not much older than the one who was killed. People formed this human wall around the church, and they stayed there the entire time. I saw the community do a beautiful, good, compassionate thing in light of the horrific tragedy of that dark week when so many hearts were broken.” “Sometimes compassion is about being kind and understanding,” says Monica Hanson, a senior teacher for Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. “But when it’s combined in someone with a longing to make a difference in people’s lives, it becomes a fierce compassion that can change the world.” Wired for Compassion Today, many psychologists embrace the notion that compassion is an instinct, a natural trait that has evolved over time and helped ensure our survival. Its benefits are both physical and mental, and some believe it can speed up recovery from disease and even lengthen our life. That’s because compassion provides us with pleasure. National Institutes of Health neuroscientist Jordan Grafman headed up a brain-imaging study proving the “pleasure centers” in our brain are activated by charitable acts. His research shows the great feeling that comes from enjoying dessert, spending time with friends or by spending money on ourselves can also be experienced by offering charitable acts to others The benefits, however, go beyond simply feeling good. A study from the University at Buffalo says people who practice compassion tend to be less affected by stress, while other studies have shown that compassion is directly linked to stronger social connections and improved physical and psychological health. There’s actually an underlying biological response to seeing someone in need, explains Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., science director for the University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. “We are exquisitely built to be sensitive to other people,” she says. “When you encounter someone in trouble, your chest and the back of your neck tighten, your forehead rises, and you mirror the feelings of the person who’s in need,” Emiliana says. Then the brain’s circuitry triggers other neuronal networks that appraise the situation and toss in their 2 cents about what’s going on. Dacher Keltner, also of the Greater Good Science Center and author of Born to Be Good, says we are wired for compassion. He points to studies conducted at Princeton University showing that certain areas of the brain light up when subjects were asked to contemplate harm being done to others. Study authors Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen concluded, based on the brain activity, humans are designed to respond compassionately to others’ suffering. “When we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the bonding hormone oxytocin and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people,” the Greater Good Science Center says on their website. While compassion is as old as humanity, Dacher notes that scientific studies into how it affects us—and what triggers it—are relatively new. However, recent research has looked at the role of oxytocin, called “the cuddle hormone” or “the love hormone,” as a factor in compassion. In fact, studies into oxytocin indicate that our base level of compassion may be genetic. Oxytocin has four types of nucleotides—A, T, C and G—and each of us receive one copy of this nucleotide from each parent. A study published in the November 2011 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says the level of compassion an individual possesses varies based on the combination of genes, with A genes creating the least amount of empathy and compassion and G genes providing a greater amount of compassion. There are numerous combinations, but the study showed that individuals with the GG combination had a much higher level of compassion than all other subjects. However, Dr. Heike Tost of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Germany points out that even though an individual may be genetically wired to be less compassionate, empathy is “a complicated behavior regulated by more than one factor.” Another factor is the vagus nerve. Starting at the top of the spinal cord, the vagus nerve runs throughout the body and is interconnected with the oxytocin network. The vagus nerve has been associated with a stronger immune system and can regulate inflammation throughout the body, help regulate the activity between our breathing and heart rate, support our communication and, because of its connection with oxytocin, help us empathize and feel compassion. In a 2012 presentation, Dacher called it “the caretaking nerve” because it reacts to both tragic and inspiring news. He found that when people indicate they are feeling compassion, the vagus nerve has a stronger response, meaning everything in the body—from our heart and breathing rates to immune activity—are affected. “In that state of having a strong vagus nerve response, [we] feel common humanity with many different groups,” he says. “These deep ethical intuitions of common humanity are tracking a physiological practice.” Individuals with a stronger vagus nerve response have been shown to possess increased positive emotions overall, are more resilient, more sympathetic, have stronger social networks and tend to be trusted more by strangers. In children, he says, this often shows up as “the kids who intervene when [another] kid is being bullied” or will donate time at recess to help other children with their homework. What this proves, Dacher concludes, is that while we tend to think of compassion as a core emotional component, “it really is part of our nervous system as well.” He adds that a higher vagus nerve response can be cultivated by actively practicing compassion and through mindful acts, such as meditation and deliberate acts of kindness. So even if compassion is, at certain levels, a genetic and biological factor, it can be enhanced and further developed through self-awareness and practice. Creating a Compassionate Brain Even those who don’t feel they have a naturally compassionate brain can fine-tune it to become more compassionate. “If you take a deep breath and exhale slowly—breathing out longer than you breathe in—you can trigger the vagus nerve that runs from the brain to nearly every part of your body,” says Berkeley’s Emiliana. “It will immediately lower your heart rate, help you relax and give your brain’s caregiving and reward circuits the opportunity to come online. It will flood you with the feel-good chemicals oxytocin and dopamine—and the warm glow of heroism, motivated by compassion, will negate those feelings of discomfort.” You’ll hear yourself say, at the deepest level, “That person is just like me.” Few of us can remember to breathe deeply on the fly without training, so in the past few years, a bevy of researchers from Stanford and Berkeley to the University of Wisconsin and Emory have investigated whether or not we can be trained to do so—and whether or not doing so would, in fact, encourage us to become more compassionate. At each institution, researchers turned toward meditation techniques that focus on deep breathing. In a recent study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for example, researchers Richie Davidson, Ph.D., and Helen Weng found that two weeks of training seemed to double study participants’ inclination to behave in a compassionate manner toward others—to reach out and help someone, even when they had to spend their own dollars to do so. What’s more, when Richie and Helen scanned study participants’ brains, they found neural changes that supported the behavioral changes, suggesting that not only are we wired for compassion, but that we can actually change our brain’s biology to increase compassion and the acts of kindness it triggers. A second study, this one from Stanford University’s Center for Compassion, Altruism and Education Research, found that the benefits of a daily compassion meditation emphasizing deep breathing over a nine-week period enabled participants to strengthen their awareness of others’ suffering and increase their compassion. What’s more, study participants also increased a sense of self-compassion—and reported a substantial increase in happiness. Sharing the Love One of the many wonderful things about compassion is that it is contagious, meaning your simple act of kindness could have a greater effect than you will ever know. James Fowler, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego, and Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard University, conducted a research project in which participants could receive large sums of money—and found that those recipients, in turn, rewarded others with generous gifts. It’s something we’ve seen over and over: Small acts of compassion, such as paying for the coffee of the person in line behind you can start a “pay it forward” chain reaction that lasts for several hours. Beyond the physical gift it provides, there’s an uplifting psychological benefit that lets us simultaneously enjoy happiness and give it to others. And, as we see the happiness of those who receive our compassion, we become happier. And the best part is, it doesn’t take a large act of compassion to make a difference; it just takes a little action. With additional reporting by Paula Felps.
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Raising Kids Who Give Back

Now that we’re in the heart of summer—and school vacation—many parents are left wondering how their children can best spend all of this free time. While some opt for camps to fill the summer months,as a parenting expert for Brainly, I think it is the perfect time to get your kids involved in volunteer work.Here are six volunteer ideas to help your kids add a little more purpose to their lives this summer. Identify Your Kid’s Interests Before Deciding on Any Activity If your child is not interested in sports, volunteering with the Special Olympics will most likely be a flop. On the other hand, if your kid loves art, volunteering for a local museum may be a great match. Focus on what your kid loves, and then use that to find philanthropic inspiration. After all, you do want your child to enjoy giving back so that he or she continues with the charity throughout adulthood! Match the Activity with your Child’s Age While volunteering positions offer a fantastic foray into the worlds of both philanthropy and work for teenagers that are middle school- and high school-age, there are countless ways for younger children to give back. The developmental importance of more elementary philanthropic activities should not be underestimated. Start off your young kids with fun, age-appropriate activities. Think of charitable day camps or even simple at-home activities like going through a kid’s possessions and deciding what they would like to donate. Opening a dialogue on privilege and disadvantage, especially among other children, is vital for helping your children cultivate a benevolent attitude. Consider Collaborating with Your Kids You don’t want your child to feel overwhelmed, or else they may grow to resent philanthropic work. Instead, choose an altruistic activity that can be used as a means of spending time together so that you can bond, work together, and give back all with the same project. This way, your kid can feel proud to be part of something bigger than he or she could accomplish alone. Such an endeavor may look like a toy or food drive, where you and your child can gather toys from your community in order to donate them to less privileged children. Explore Opportunities that are Educational in Nature Volunteering gives kids a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills, and it can also help them reinforce knowledge and enhance their academics. You and your child can opt to volunteer virtually, adhering to CDC guidelines and staying out of COVID-19’s way. For example, by becoming avirtual volunteeron a peer-to-peer learning community such asBrainly, volunteers build lasting relationships, get access to special tools, features, events, and contests, and gain recognition across the broader Brainly community. There are various volunteer tasks and responsibilities that students can choose from based on their personal preferences and unique skills. Whether that’s welcoming newcomers, sharing tips and tricks on creating a great question or answer, or sharing feedback on Brainly features – their contributions help the Brainly community thrive and grow each and every day. Teenagers and high schoolers can also earn the prestigious title of being a certified moderator on the world’s largest online learning community, which looks great on college applications or resumes. Emphasize Togetherness Whether your kid is more interested in spending time with friends or getting quality family time in, use philanthropy as a social activity. For example, you can either accompany your kid to a soup kitchen or better yet bring his or her friends along so that they can have fun spending time together while simultaneously giving back and doing something great for the community. Utilize the Power of Virtual Philanthropy Consider a simpler means of giving back: online philanthropy. As an example, you could use the internet to research ways you can help your child sponsor a child in need or protect an endangered species. You would be surprised how much change can be made with just a small investment of time.From video chatting with lonely senior citizens and operating crisis call lines to provide at-risk youth with guidance, or transcribing historical documents for nonprofit museums to make their collections more accessible, there’s something out there for everyone.Catchafireis a volunteer search tool exclusively for online volunteer projects, and it’s a great place to start.You may find this approach excites your kids, as they can establish connections with kids, causes, or animals around the globe! These are just a few ideas for students of all ages—from elementary school to high school and college—can step up to give back to their communities during the summer downtime (notto step up their resumes or college applications a notch above the rest during their summer downtime.
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6 Ways to Choose Happiness Today

Gratitude Why it works: Practicing gratitude has a profound effect both on the people who practice it and those who receive it. Gratitude can refocus your brain to start looking for what’s good in life, overcoming your natural negativity bias and making you feel more content about what’s going well in your life. How to practice it: Start keeping a gratitude journal; each day, write down three things you’re grateful for and soon your brain will find more to appreciate. Compassion Why it works: Compassion is the act of feeling the pain of others—which causes you to feel empathy—and then taking action to help. Practicing compassion takes you out of the space of focusing on your own needs. It slows breathing and releases the “bonding hormone” known as oxytocin and lights up areas of your brain related to pleasure. How to practice it: Perform acts of kindness for others and consciously notice—and try to help alleviate—their suffering. You both will benefit. Savoring Why it works: Noticing what is good and pleasurable around you allows you to be in the moment. Basking in the positive emotions you’re feeling, like awe, hope and love, increases your appreciation for the moment. How to practice it: When you’re experiencing something good, take a mental picture or “emotional snapshot.” This encourages you to explore more deeply what is happening so you can remember it later, which also heightens the appreciation you’re having at that moment. Optimism Why it works: Looking at the bright side has an upside: Optimists statistically not only live longer, but they live better, with a much lower risk of dying from diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke. Being optimistic lowers your stress response, which leads to better health (and happiness) overall. How to practice it: Start each day by writing down what you’re most looking forward to that day; just as with gratitude, you’ll soon automatically start looking for things to be excited about. Mindfulness Why it works: Much of our anxiety comes from worrying about the future; often depression is linked to regrets about the past. Mindfulness reminds us to stay in the moment and focus on what is happening to us right now; the more we practice it, the more we learn to live in the moment. How to practice it: There are many ways to practice mindfulness, but it all comes back to being in the moment. Whether this means noticing your breath, walking with mindful intention or eating with awareness, it’s all about slowing down and embracing the present. Giving Back Why it works: Multiple studies show that giving back makes us happier. Whether that means giving money to a stranger in need, volunteering with a favorite charity or doing something for a friend or family member, it gives us what’s known as a “helper’s high”—and makes us want to do more good. How to practice it: There are countless opportunities to practice giving back every day. Give blood. Volunteer your time. Donate items you no longer use. Do something kind for an elderly neighbor. Look around, and you might be surprised to see how many ways there are to give back—and how much you have to give.
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What Happiness Does for Your Health

According to the 2012 U.S. Census, people who consider themselves healthy are about 20 percent happier than the average Joe, while those who are unhealthy are about 8.25 percent less happy. So what can happiness do for your health? Here’s a look at five great health benefits of happiness: It boosts your immune system. Repeated studies on the immune system show that people with a high level of positive emotion who were exposed to viruses were better able to ward off illness. It strengthens your heart. Chronic anger and anxiety take a toll on your cardiovascular system; studies show that people with a high level of hope and optimism have a lower risk for coronary heart disease. It may help reduce pain. Many studies dealing with arthritis have shown happier people have less pain and stiffness; it also has been shown to reduce pain related to other conditions. It helps you sleep better. Sleep’s role in our overall health is becoming more widely recognized. We know now that when you sleep better, it improves your cognitive function, your ability to regulate your weight and boosts your immune system. (Not to mention making you way less grumpy!) Studies show a link between happiness and better sleep, contributing to that much-desired “upward spiral” of happiness. It lengthens your lifespan. There’s a strong link between positive well-being and longevity. Even with chronic conditions like heart disease, happier people tend to outlive their grumpy counterparts. Healthy Happiness Habits If you want to boost your happiness so you can increase your health, try some of these scientifically proven methods: Get outside. Being in nature is a natural mood-booster. Practice gratitude. Gratitude refocuses your attention and makes you appreciate the good things in your life. Develop a mindfulness or meditation practice. Slowing down and looking inward has medically proven benefits, and also helps you sleep better. Exercise. It’s good for your physical well-being but also plays a key role in boosting your mood. Eat a healthy diet. Healthy foods lead to a happy brain—and you’ll improve your health, too! This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of Live Happy magazine.
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