Equipped With Happiness


1 Comment

Don’t Just Find A Happy Place—Bring One To You

photoWhen things get rough, everyone knows you just have to “find a happy place.” Maybe you picture yourself on a tropical vacation, or maybe you think about climbing your favorite childhood tree. Escaping to a happy place in your mind can certainly make you feel a lot better, but it might also pose a bit of a problem if you are in a situation that necessities being mentally present.

Fortunately, happy places don’t always need to be the result of mental escape. It is possible to make a happy place rather than finding one—all it takes is filling your current surroundings with things that make you smile! The possibilities are endless when it comes to ways to do this, but here are some ideas to start with:

Fill the room with stuff you like.

This could mean decorating with photos of family and friends, a vase full of your favorite flowers, stuffed animals or your best Lego creations. Or, it could mean covering everything in your favorite color. It could even mean hanging a giant picture of bacon on the wall, because hey, why not?

Satisfy your senses.

How could you possibly be happy in a room that smells like a combination of one of your coworker’s gym shoes and another coworker’s headache-inducing perfume? It would be a challenge, that’s for sure. But you can create a happier atmosphere by finding a candle or air freshener that makes you feel all good inside and keeping it with you at all times.

Of course, satisfying your senses goes beyond just smell. Try filling your cabinets with your favorite foods, and looking for opportunities to play music that inspires your happy dance.

Leave yourself happy notes.

You can take this to the extreme, and leave “you can do it” post its on every surface of your house, or you can do a milder version and simply add a smiley face to the top of your grocery list (or a drawing of Godzilla, if that’s what does it for you). The important thing is giving yourself a little reminder to smile.

Make a mobile-friendly happy place.

Even if you don’t have a stable location that you can transform into a “happy place,” you can still bring your happy place with you. This might mean carrying around a good luck charm, adding something fun to your key chain or wearing a friendship bracelet. Or it could mean changing the background on your phone to something that makes you smile.

After all, why settle for simply imagining a happy place when you could be in a real one, instead?

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Be Happier By Putting Bad Stuff In Its Place

bad mood cartoonIn a certain light, even the smallest objects can cast giant, menacing shadows. The same is true of negative events in our lives. If we view them in the wrong light, they can create a shadow that covers a much larger area than is warranted by their actual magnitude. This dark shadow can block the glow of happiness that shines from other parts of our lives.

Fortunately, by changing the light in which we view these negative events, it is relatively easy to prevent this shadow from forming. We simply need to focus on a few reminders that help keep our problems in perspective.

Reminder #1: Most bad stuff isn’t permanent.

When something goes wrong, or we find ourselves in a less-than-ideal situation, it is easy to get so caught up in the frustration of the moment that we forget our discomfort will not last forever. Often, negative circumstances are only temporary. For instance, we only need to tolerate an unpleasant job until we are able to find a better one (or until we can retire).  But even if the circumstances are permanent, usually our extreme aversion to them is not. As we get some distance from a bad break up, for example, we are able to adjust to the situation and feel less miserable.

It is important to remind ourselves that no matter how bad something seems, it’s only “for now.” It is easier to cope with unhappiness when we remember that eventually we will find some relief. Just think of how much easier the knowledge that Friday exists makes it to survive the workweek!

Reminder #2: Bad stuff has a tendency to create more bad stuff.

If a day starts with an alarm clock that doesn’t go off, followed by a flat tire, it is tempting to label the entire day as a “bad day.” But the second we decide we are having a bad day we severely decrease the chances that things will turn around. Once a day has been identified as “bad,” we’re more likely to interpret everything that happens in that context. A burnt dinner becomes yet another failure, when it could just as easily have been a good excuse to eat out.

Not only that, wallowing in a bad mood makes us unpleasant to be around, and may drive away people who could have made us feel better. When we bump into an attractive stranger, who might have offered us a flirtatious remark if we were smiling, they might respond to our obvious bad mood with a sharp, “Watch where you’re going,” instead. Of course, we will then take their rudeness as further evidence of our bad day. It’s up to us to avoid letting the bad things multiply.

Reminder #3: Taking time to appreciate the good helps keep the bad from taking over.

Knowing that it isn’t productive to let a bad mood influence everything else is one thing, but actually stopping that from happening is a whole different animal. It can be helpful to try to counter bad moods by actively reminding ourselves of the things we have to be happy about. These don’t even need to be big things; simply thinking about the taste of warm apple pie, or the feeling of sliding into a refreshing swimming pool on a hot day, can be enough to brighten our moods. The more time we spend thinking about the good parts of life, the less space there will be in our minds to fixate on bad stuff.

Life may not always be perfect, but, if we commit to reducing the shadow cast by less-than-ideal circumstances, these imperfections do not have to ruin our happiness.

 


3 Comments

25 Inexpensive Things To Do When You’re Bored

no boredom1. Bake something- Whether you are a master pastry chef or notorious for your overly salty cookies, baking can be a fun way to spend a few hours. And if you don’t want to eat whatever you make, you can give it away to friends, coworkers, or those in need.

2. Go for a walk- Take a stroll through your neighborhood, explore nearby strip malls, or find a hiking trail. Walking is a great way to get a change of scenery and fit in some exercise at the same time.

3. Text/call a friend- Often our lives get so busy that we put off maintaining relationships with others. Staving off boredom with friendly conversation is a great opportunity to reconnect.

4. Do a word search/crossword puzzle- These are a great way to fill short chunks of free time, and they help keep your brain active.

5. Dabble in photography- Even if all you have is a disposable camera, pretend you are a professional photographer and experiment with lighting, camera angles, etc. You might find a new talent, or at least get a good laugh at your blurry efforts.

6. Play handball/ table tennis- The great thing about these games is that you can play them with friends or alone (if you fold the ping pong table in half and push it against a wall).

7. Write a poem- It doesn’t have to be a fancy Haiku or a perfect sonnet (although it definitely could be). You can channel your inner Dr. Seuss with some fun rhymes or experiment with free verse.

8. Put together a recipe book- You know all those recipes written down on scraps of paper all over your kitchen? Get a binder and consolidate them into a custom recipe book. You could even add a few new recipes that you have been wanting to try.

9. Research something- It could be sharks, the history of hot dogs, or the latest developments in neuroscience. Pick anything, and learn way more about it than anyone should know.

10. Re-watch your favorite movie- Who cares if you already know it by heart?

11. Clean out your closet- Pull out old clothes you never wear. You can even sneak in an act of kindness by donating them to charity.

12. People-watch- This can provide hours of entertainment. Just try not to be too creepy about it.

13. Go to the pet store- You could get your adorableness fix by visiting the puppies, try to find Nemo in the fish section, or fantasize about buying a snake to put in your sister’s bed. The possibilities are endless.

14. Plan your dream vacation-Pretend you have been given an unlimited budget, and a week off to go wherever you want. Pick out the destinations you’ll visit, the places you’ll stay, the food you’ll eat, and the activities you’ll do. Hey, it never hurts to dream, right?

15. Try a new hairstyle- Just think twice before shaving your head.

16. Put together a puzzle- The best thing about puzzles is that they can be as easy or as difficult as you want them to be. Also, there is just something satisfying about fitting little cardboard pieces together.

17. Learn a new skill- Maybe you have always wanted to speak another language, play piano, or make a perfect pie. Whatever skill you want to add to your repertoire, go for it!

18. Memorize a monologue from a popular movie- Impress/ annoy your friends by reciting it every chance you get. Trust me, this will be entirely worth the effort.

19. Make Ooblick- Ooblick is a non-Newtonian substance (in other words, it obeys properties of both liquids and solids) and it is extremely fun to play with. To make it, simply mix 1 cup of water with 1.5 to 2 cups of cornstarch.

20. Do crafts- Watercolor, paint, scrapbook, knit, draw, or do anything else you can imagine.

21. Try Youtube exercise videos- Whether you’re a yoga nut, a Zumba fanatic, or a kickboxing fan, the internet has something for you. Enjoy the opportunity to try some potentially embarrassing forms of exercise in the privacy of your own home.

22. Write a letter to your future self- Write down some of your current interests, friends, worries, etc. Put the letter in an envelope and decide on a future date to open it. Write the date on the outside of the envelope and keep it where you won’t forget about it.

23. Watch a foreign language film without English subtitles- Try to figure out what’s happening in the story, then check a synopsis online to see how close you were.

24. Take a personality test- It can be a formal test, backed by psychological research, or a silly test along the lines of “What flavor of ice cream are you?” or “Which 80’s band should you have joined?”

25. Start a bucket list- Eliminate your current boredom by writing down all the fun things you plan to do in the future. You could even start making plans to do some of them!


2 Comments

Places You Go To Have Fun: A Crossword Puzzle

Each answer in this puzzle reminds one of a happy place,

By the time you’ve filled it out,

You’re sure to have a smile on your face.

But if you find yourself in doubt,

Just check the answer guide below,

And then get ready for your teeth to show.

 

Simply click the puzzle and print to begin!

fun places crossword

 

 

ANSWERS

Down: 1. Bowling Alley, 2. Pool, 3. Golf Course, 4. Ice Rink, 5. Beach, 6. Theater, 7. Lake

Across: 1. Zoo, 2. Six Flags, 3. Disneyland, 4.Restaurant, 5. Park, 6. Museum, 7. Mountains, 8. Carnival

 

 

 

 


1 Comment

Be Happier By Making Decisions Creatively

creative decisions cartoonSometimes we over-complicate our decisions by keeping them too simple. We view choices in terms of two polarized options, and often find ourselves dissatisfied with both. Then we spend hours, or longer, trying to determine which list of evils we might somehow be able to tolerate.

But decisions don’t necessarily have to be that way. More often than not, we really do have more than two options. If we expand our decisions by adding choices “c” and “d” to our original “a” and “b,” we may find an option that’s far better than tolerable.

The tricky part is identifying those alternate choices. Most of the time, the best options will not be the most obvious. Finding them requires creativity, and an understanding of where to look.

Don’t Look for “c” where you found “a” and “b.”

Usually, when we are faced with a seemingly black-and-white decision, our two choices aren’t options we have invented independently.  We often only see two options because someone else has presented the decision to us in those terms. For instance, if we are discussing budgeting with our partner, they might say, “We can afford either a new dishwasher or a new couch.” If this happens, we are likely to focus entirely on picking between those two options. In the process, we completely miss other ideas, such as cutting down on entertainment costs, getting a loan, or selling our old possessions so we could purchase both items.

The appearance of limited options may not always result from an explicit choice someone presents to us, however. Sometimes we also find ourselves trapped by our assumptions about “normal” or “common” ways to go about life. For example, we may feel we have to pick between starting a family and building a career because we frequently hear stories about people sacrificing one for the other. In reality, the “lonely, career-driven woman,” and the “family man whose kids cost him a job” are just stereotypes. There are many middle grounds between those two extremes.

Finding the route that will make us happiest requires deviating from our preconceived ideas about the options open to us. It also requires facing the challenge of developing new alternatives.

New options can be created from the best elements of our original choices.

Sometimes the simplest way to find an ideal option is to combine the things we like about our other choices. For example, consider the decision of whether to go out for dinner or cook a meal at home. We might want the freedom to stay in our current un-showered, pajama-wearing state (a point in favor of cooking at home), but also want the convenience of not having to prepare our own food. If we combine those options, we might come up with the additional ideas of ordering delivery, begging a friend to bring us food, or scrounging in our freezer for something quick and microwaveable.

New options can also be found by completely abandoning our original ideas.

When we find ourselves stuck with two options that seem to have no redeeming features, sometimes it is best to look for new options in a totally different direction. Take the decision of whether to spend date night at the movies or a sporting event, for example. If none of the movies appeal to us, but we know our significant other gets bored watching sports (and we dragged them to a game last weekend), it may seem like we are destined for an unsatisfying date. But wait, maybe we could change “date night” to “date day” and visit the beach, or Disneyland, or the zoo, or the park.

Once we learn not to limit ourselves to the obvious options sitting right in front of us, we open ourselves up to a whole world of possibilities. And out of all those possibilities, we stand a pretty good chance of finding at least one to get excited about.


Leave a comment

Inspiring Kids Who Have Made a Difference

kid changing the worldGiven the prevalence of news stories about disasters, violence, and crime, it is easy to start thinking the world is a scary, cruel place. But there’s also plenty of kindness out there, if we take the time to look. Not only that, we all have the ability to create positive change to combat the problems we see in the world.

Here are four amazing stories about compassionate kids that prove anyone, no matter how small, can make a big difference:

Nothing a Little Chocolate Bar Can’t Fix

It’s not every day that a 6-year-old publishes a book, sells 16,000 copies, and raises $750,000 dollars for medical research in the process. But that is exactly what Dylan Siegel did to help find a cure for his best friend, who has Glycogen Storage Disease Type 1b (a rare but potentially life-threatening liver condition).

To Dylan, “chocolate bar” means awesome, so that is what he decided to call his book. He started by selling 200 copies at a school event, and then held a book signing at a local Barnes and Noble. This led to appearances on several television shows, stories in magazines and newspapers, and massive success for Dylan’s efforts.

All of the money he has raised with Chocolate Bar has gone to a research fund at the University of Florida, and he hopes to eventually raise at least $1 million.[1]

Changing the World With Teddy Bears

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti inspired many remarkable acts of charity and support. One especially touching effort was made by Blare Gooch, who was 12-years-old at the time. Blare was watching a newscast of the quake’s destruction and saw a little boy in the wreckage crying. This gave him the idea to collect teddy bears to send to Haiti.

His school allowed him to announce the idea over the PA system, and pretty soon other kids began donating bears. Thanks to a little media attention, and the kindness of many other donors, Blare was able to send 25,000 bears to Haiti. He also gave another 22,000 to other nonprofits.

In the following year, he expanded his efforts and began collecting school supplies for children in Haiti, as well.[2]

Clean-Up Kid

When 7-year-old Mateo Maldonado saw bags of trash lining the streets of his community, he decided something needed to be done. So, he and his family set out to clean up the mess, collecting a total of 47 bags of litter.

But Mateo didn’t stop there. Instead, he formed a group called Mateo’s Litter Critters to continue the clean up efforts. The group meets once a month in bright green shirts, drives around to find a place in need of their services, and goes to work ridding the community of trash. [3]

In less than one year, Mateo and his Critters collected more than 200 bags of trash from parks and streets in their city of York, Pennsylvania.[4]

Blankets for a Brighter World

Charlie Coons was 11 years old when her brother returned from a trip to Egypt with stories about needy children he had seen in orphanages. Charlie wanted to do something to help, so she got some friends together to make blankets to send to the orphans.

She continued her efforts by starting an organization called HELP (Hope Encouragement Love Peace), dedicated to sending blankets to children in need. Since then, several other states have started their own chapters.

Charlie started her blanket project in 2008, and by 2011 her group had sent more than 700 blankets to children in several different countries.[5]

These kids are just a few of many people, young and old, whose acts of kindness remind us that the world really is full of happy stories and caring gestures.

 

References:

[1] “Chocolate Bar.” Accessed April 15, 2014. http://chocolatebarbook.com.

[2] Cooper, Andrea.“8 Amazing Kids Who Make a Difference.” Parenting. Accessed April 15, 2014. http://www.parenting.com/gallery/kids-who-make-difference?page=2.

[3] “Meet the Finalists for Kindest Kid.” Today. Last modified November 27, 2013. http://www.today.com/video/today/53677597/#53677597.

[4] Sawyer, Hannah. “Litter Critter Mateo a Finalist in National Kindest Kid Contest.” York City Limits. Last modified December 6, 2013. http://www.yorkblog.com/yorkcitylimits/2013/12/06/litter-critter-mateo-a-finalist-in-national-kindest-kid-contest.

[5] Flans, Robyn. “Simi Valley Eighth-Grader’s Nonprofit Takes Off.” Ventura County Star. Last modified February 15, 2011. http://www.vcstar.com/news/2011/feb/15/simi-valley-eighth-graders-nonprofit-takes-off/?partner=yahoo_feeds.