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Posts tagged ‘happiness’

Choices

I read a friend’s blog post today about choosing happiness, and it was a great reminder that our state of mind…our way of being…is often a choice.  Not always, but often (at least for those of us in the developed world where all of our basic needs are met) it’s up to us to quiet our powerful inner critics and channel our true…honest…kind…open selves.  So instead of writing a post today, I strung together some words that I can use to remind myself of the choices I can make every day.  Here they are…

choose

What else would you add to the list?

Laugh More

laughter

When was the last time you laughed?  Like really, really laughed — maybe until your stomach muscles felt tired and your eyes watered?  I’ve been noticing something about laughing lately.  Kids do it constantly.  ALL. THE. TIME.  When they wake up…when they are supposed to be eating…basically, whenever they’re not screaming.  According to research, the average four-year-old laughs 300 times every day.  Considering the average four-year-old is only awake 12 hours/day, that kid is laughing 25 times per hour.  That kid is laughing more than once every THREE MINUTES.

But adults don’t do it very much at all.  The average 40-year-old laughs four times per day.  FOUR TIMES PER DAY.  When I think about it, I think I only laughed once today (yikes).  How does this happen?  What changes between 4-yr-old bliss and 40-yr-old seriousness?  Why do we forget how to laugh, and are there things we can do to remember?

Most of us know that laughing is good for us — it makes us less stressed, more optimistic, more hopeful, and more resistant to disease.  So I don’t think we need a reason to remember.  I think we need more examples.  One of the coolest things about laughing is that it’s contagious.   We see people doing it, and we want to do it.  We hear it, and we feel better.  We come across something other people say is funny (like the “Worst-End-of-the-Schoolyear-Mom-Ever” post than went viral in the mom community yesterday and made me laugh), and we read/watch it.  Joy breeds joy.  Giggles create giggles.  And we all feel a little bit better.

So this weekend, my intention is simple: laugh more.  If I find something funny, I”m going to make a point to share it.  Out loud.  With another person.  That might be all it really takes!

What’s the last thing that made you laugh really hard?  And if it’s watchable/readable, can you PRETTY PLEASE comment and share it?

Ten Things That Made Me Feel Happy This Week

photo(21)

1) Our 2-yr-old daughter told me multiple times how beautiful the flowers smelled as I was running her to school in the jogging stroller.  And she asked me whether it was winter again because it was raining.  It was a deeper than usual…and particularly awesome conversation.

2) I saw an elderly couple riding a tandem home from the grocery store.  He wore khakis and she wore a dress.  May we all be so lucky.

3) Philz Coffee.

4) My parents arrived for a weekend visit, and I was overwhelmed that they are my parents + friends + teachers all at the same time.

5) I learned something new (check out Michael Pollan’s fascinating new article on microbiomes) and felt better about the dirt on my floor.

6) I wished an old friend happy birthday and for a few minutes, was transported back to being a kid.

7) I ate a strawberry from our garden.  It was a little bit green, but it doesn’t matter.  We grew it!

8) We had dinner outside and the sky was pinkish.

9) A standing weekly meeting at work is now a standing weekly WALKING meeting.

10) I watched a few Granny Rock videos.  I CAN’T STOP!

The learning?  Only one of these things was purchased (Philz), everything was close to home, and most importantly…THE LITTLE THINGS CAN HAVE A HUGE IMPACT.  Happy Friday!

What brightened your spirits this week?

Less Dissatisfaction, More Desire

A short video entitled “What If Money Was No Object?” re-emerged in my Facebook feed last week.  During the past few months, I’ve noticed it sporadically gain momentum, die down, and come back again a few times.  I watch it every single time, and albeit a bit “self-helpy,” I find it grounding and compelling in its simplicity.  And lot of other people do too — I’m amazed by the range of people (ages, vocations, lifestyle) who post and/or comment on it.  If you haven’t watched it, consider taking three minutes and nine seconds to watch it now…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=2L_cGjQSR80 Read more

Warm Fuzzies

As I described in an earlier post, summer (sleepaway) camp was a formative experience for me.  It was the first time in my young life I felt truly independent.  It got me out of my sheltered world into a still-sheltered-but-not-as-sheltered place where vegetarians and musicians and people with dreadlocks and counselors with tatoos lived.  But most importantly, it reinforced that much of life’s meaning and joy comes from people and relationships and communities they form.  This focus on people wasn’t something we explicitly talked about; it was just one of the cultural norms of the camp.  It was the way people showed up every day.  One of the practical and concrete ways this manifested was overwhelmingly simple: every person in the 12-person tent taped a brown paper lunch bag onto her metal bed frame.  The purpose of the bag was to collect “warm fuzzies,” or short notes from tentmates about what makes them so awesome.  For example, warm fuzzies said things like “thank you for taking time to ask how I feel about being adopted,” or “I think you’re a beautiful singer,” or “I can’t believe you swam all the way across the lake this morning!”

I’ve thought about this exercise many times over the years, and wondered how this simple concept of proactive feedback could become more of a mainstay in our lives.  Maybe because of the warm fuzzy experience or maybe because “words of affirmation” are my leading love language*, I’ve tried to carry this through in my personal relationships.  Early in our relationship, I used to leave little handwritten love notes all over the place — in my husband’s suitcase, pocket, computer case, backpack, car, etc.  He started doing the same (maybe out of guilt, but I’ll take it), and my heart would leap when I’d find a warm fuzzy stuck on the mirror or on a bottle of juice in the fridge.  But as time has gone on and our lives have gotten more complicated, I’ve realized I barely ever do this anymore.

So in the spirit of wellness and connection and gratitude, I’m resurrecting it — for my husband and for my kids (what kid doesn’t like a love note in their lunch box once in a while).  This practice — a short message scrawled on a post-it — is for me, an easy and meaningful way to tell people I care about how awesome they are.  It can take less than a minute and can totally change someone’s day.  So if you do one thing today to support your relationships in a new way, give someone a warm fuzzy.  It might make their day — and yours — a whole lot better.

*If you’re not familiar with the concept of love languages, it can be a great relationship-building exercise.  You can learn more here.

In the News This Week: Happiness, Exercise, Food Labels, and WAT-AAH

Napa, California is the Happiest City in America…According to 10 Million Tweets (via The Atlantic)

happiestsaddest2The Vermont Complex Systems Center created a “hedonometer” – an analysis of 10 million geotagged tweets. The researchers coded each tweet for its happy/sad content, based on the appearance and frequency of specific words (happy = rainbow, love, beauty, hope, wonderful, wine…sad = damn, boo, ugly, smoke, hate, lied). Yes, this method lacks context (i.e., does wine mean happiness or drunkenness), but at this scale, researchers can make reasonable conclusions. There are some other concerns with the study, which The Atlantic does a good job of distilling (check out the article to learn more), but all in all, this is an interesting addition to the host of happiness data out there, and I’ll be excited to see where it goes. If you like this sort of thing, you might also be interested in a friend of mine’s project + beautiful book: We Feel Fine.

WAT-AAH Aims to Make Water Cool for Kids (via PSFK.com)

wataahMom and former marketing exec Rose Cameron makes a big bet that kids indeed judge a book by its cover. Her new brand WAT-AHH is designed to appeal to kids, giving them a reason to reach for water instead of sugary soda. Everything from the name to the bottle shape to the logo is designed by (her) kids, for kids, giving this a good shot if her hypothesis is true. Her own kids sure think it is: “Honestly, I think that my friends would rather drink a water that looks cooler than soda because it’s all about looking cool, honestly.” My take? Any effort to get kids off soda and onto water is a good one…but I’d also love to see a generation of kids drinking of the tap instead of plastic bottles!

Foods Might Have More Calories Than Food Labels Tell Us (via The Guardian)

garden carrotsHarvard primatologist Richard Wrangham convened a session about calorie measurement at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this week to voice his concerns that our current system of measuring calories (known as the Atwater system) may be flawed. He’s concerned that the system doesn’t account for the calories in fiber, while it overestimates (by up to 20%) the number of calories in some protein-rich food. Additionally, raw and cooked versions of the same food may have different calorie content. It will be interesting to see where this goes, as the thought of a new labeling system feels overwhelming (to me). In the meantime, this is a good reminder to eat whole, real foods in moderate quantities rather than obsess about calories (unless there is a medical reason we need to)!

Outdoor Exercise Trumps Indoor Workouts (via The New York Times)

running shoesAs someone who grew up and lived in a cold climate for much of my life, I’ve long wondered whether exercising indoors (on machines) gives us the same benefit as exercising outdoors. Gretchen Reynolds reported this week that there are irreplaceable benefits to exercising outdoors. Here are the key differences she reports: 1) Runners stride differently (more ankle flexion, more variety) and burn more calories when running outdoors versus on a treadmill, 2) cyclists use more energy outside (in large part due to wind drag), 3) walkers reported higher measures of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem after walking outside versus indoors, and 4) overall, people who exercise outdoors exercised longer and more often than those working out indoors.

At the end of her article, Reyonds quotes Jackqueline Kerr, profession at the University of California, San Diego: “Despite the fitness industry boom, we are not seeing changes in national physical activity levels, so gyms are not the answer.” It’s easy for me to say, now that I’ve escaped frigid Wisconsin for temperate California, but it sounds like the message is clear: LET’S GET OUTSIDE.

Body Chemistry Might Explain Differences Between Couch Potatoes and Exercisers (via The Wall Street Journal)

feetSo it turns out that working out might not just be about motivation and determination after all…biology might play a significant role. According to Panteleimon Ekkekakis, professor of kinesiology at Iowa State, everyone has a different physical capacity for exertion, after which point we start to feel really crummy during exercise. Knowing that we’re not all created equal, Ekkekakis sees people pushing beyond their natural limits too soon, versus trying to boost these limits slowly over time. This huge variance in thresholds might explain why some people exercise easily and stick with it, while others struggle and burn out. So what’s the big takeaway? Make workouts achievable, build slowly, and find ways to make exercise fun + social.

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