Equipped With Happiness


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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!

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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.


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A New Kind of Happy Meal

happy sandwichMoms, personal trainers, and food advertisers all like to remind us, “we are what we eat.” If they’re right, then it seems mankind has finally stumbled upon a key to lifelong joy. The secret to being happy must simply be eating happy-looking foods! And really, I think we all have a scientific obligation to test out this hypothesis. After all, even if it turns out to be a faulty theory, it still gives us an excuse to play with our food.

To ensure accurate results, it would be insufficient to simply eat some happy face pancakes and call it a day. Doing this experiment justice requires eating smiley foods at multiple meals. Here are just a few suggestions for how to proceed:

Breakfast:

Smiley-side-up eggs and bacon: Fry two eggs and put them next to each other on a plate to make eyes. Use a berry or a dab of ketchup for a nose. Then make a smile out of pieces of bacon (or sausage). If you’re really feeling adventurous, cut some toast into triangles and use them to make spikey hair or a goatee.

Fun fruit-n-nut oatmeal: Make a bowl of oatmeal thick enough to keep toppings on the surface. Arrange fruit (dried or regular) and nuts into a smiley face on top.

Happy face pancakes: It really wouldn’t be fair not to include the original smiling breakfast food. Not only that, there are so many awesome variations on this theme. You can use whipped cream, chocolate chips, fruit, syrup, and more, to customize this super-happy breakfast. And if you don’t mind entering a food coma, pancakes can even make a nice backdrop for smiley-side-up eggs and bacon.

Snack:

Goldfish crackers: These are advertised as “the snack that smiles back,” so they definitely fall into the category of happy foods. Not to mention they are deliciously cheesy. And for extra fun, you can always try to toss and catch them in your mouth or bite them in half perfectly (if you’ve never tried this, beware, it can get extremely frustrating).

Teddy Grahams: Basically like Goldfish, but sweeter. And possibly even cuter.

Orange smiles: Technically, these are just the smile, not an entire happy face. But if you eat them properly (i.e. by sticking them in your mouth rind-side-out and smiling a very orange smile) then your own face becomes the rest of the happy face. Problem solved! All you need to do is slice an orange into mouth-sized sections and enjoy.

Lunch and Dinner:

Smilin’ Sandwiches: You can make these open-faced (so your smiling creation is on display for all to see) or you can keep the happy face hidden between the bread. Either way, there are about a million ways to make happy faces on a sandwich. You can make a lunchmeat or cheese background and then use vegetables to make a face. Or you can keep it simple, and simply squirt your mustard in a smiley-face pattern. If you are looking for something sweeter you could start with a classic PB&J, and then make a face with banana slices. For an even sweeter experience, incorporate some Nutella or honey.

Peppy Pizza: Turning a pizza into a happy face can be as simple as some strategic pepperoni placement. Or you could go wild and create a perfect self-portrait out of every topping under the sun. Or perhaps a perfect portrait of your boss (any unhappiness that occurs if you decide to show them their pizza portrait should not be included in the results of this experiment).

Smile Salad: Start with a nice bed of lettuce. Then arrange any other toppings you like into the face. Some cucumber eyes with olives for pupils, a cherry tomato nose, crouton hair, and a black bean smile might do nicely.

Dessert:

Cheerful chip cookies: Take your favorite chocolate chip (or any other kind of chip) cookie recipe and give it happy twist. Instead of mixing the chips into the batter, bake the cookies without chips first. As soon as you take them out of the oven, while they are still warm, press the chips into them in the form of a happy face.

Friendly fruit and yogurt: Begin with a bowl of fruit. Use yogurt to create the happy face of your choosing. Just kidding. You could do it that way, but I recommend trying it the other way around. Also, maybe add some granola hair for a little extra pizazz.

Countenance cupcakes: The only way to improve a cupcake is to give it a face. Frost ‘em and then add some tasty decorations to make the face. If you can’t pick between all the amazing decorating options, don’t worry, because that’s an entirely reasonable justification for eating several cupcakes.

Okay, so maybe eating foods with happy faces doesn’t directly make us happy. But all the fun we have in the process definitely counts for something!


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Seven Special Things About Spring

Photo by Debbie Mann

Photo by Debbie Mann

The time for making snowmen is drawing to a close. But the end of winter means the start of spring, which is pretty great, too.  Here are seven reasons to smile this season:

Spring-themed candy: Everywhere you look there are Cadbury Crème Eggs, Peeps, jelly beans, and giant chocolate bunnies. It’s like the world suddenly got 10 times more delicious. Also, buying M&M’s or Reese’s peanut butter cups somehow feels more justifiable when they come in pastel colors and egg shapes.

Moderate temperatures: Spring is a nice middle ground between winter and summer; it’s sort of a weather compromise. It’s the easiest time of year to get dressed because the temperature outside is closer to the temperature inside. There isn’t the need to pile on five jackets just to take out the trash without getting frostbite, or the need to pour a bottle of water over your head in the hopes of surviving the sweltering journey between the car and the store.

Outdoor sports and activities: Some people know spring by a different name: “baseball season.” But this time of year is great for all kinds of sports, from tennis or golf to Frisbee. It’s also the perfect time for hikes, picnics in the park, playing fetch in the backyard, and any other kind of outdoor fun.

The end of flu season: Even though flu season can last until May, it typically peaks in January and February (according to the CDC). This means flu season should be winding down through the beginning of spring and be officially over before the season ends. Of course, there will still be plenty of allergies to keep us sniffling. But once again we will be able to go out in public without having to dodge the coughs of half a dozen sick strangers (or maybe that’s just germaphobic me).

The fruit: Strawberry season hits in spring, bringing strawberry shortcake, chocolate covered strawberries, smoothies, and a million other wonderful things along with it. And for anyone who isn’t a strawberry fan, spring is also the season for cherries, apricots, kiwis, pineapples, and avocados (if you don’t like any of these, fret not, you’ll just have to buy extra spring candy to compensate).

April showers: Spring skies are clear, for the most part. But every once in a while the clouds roll in and give the gift of precipitation to people who aren’t ready to let go of winter just yet. These rainy days are a chance to savor a few final cups of hot chocolate and sneak in some last cozy movie-watching moments. Not only that, spring rain helps bring life back to all the lovely plants that withered away during the colder months.

Pretty flowers and adorable animals: Everything gets more colorful and lively in spring. All kinds of flowers are in bloom, and the grass looks healthy and green. The animals seem to come out of hiding, and everywhere you look there are hummingbirds, squirrels, ducks, and little baby rabbits. Awwwww, cute!!!

So go forth, with a little “spring” in your step, and enjoy this wonderful season. But maybe try not to eat that entire chocolate bunny in one sitting.


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Natural Reminders the World is an Incredible Place

It is easy to become so focused on pursuing happiness in the manmade world that we forget all about the reasons Mother Nature gives us to smile. Sometimes stopping to enjoy the beauty of the natural world can be a chance to get away from the stresses of everyday life and remind ourselves of all the good in the world. While physically spending time in nature offers many rewards that no photo can capture, this slideshow is a reasonable substitute for those who don’t have the time, the means, or the tolerance of dirt and bugs to visit the outside world in person.

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30 Simple Ways to Spread Happiness

take a smile

Today, March 20, is International Day of Happiness, a holiday dedicated to increasing happiness throughout the world.  In its honor, here are some easy ways to bring happiness to others (and hopefully make yourself feel good, too).

1. Give sincere compliments.

2. Pay-it-forward.

3. Bring donuts to work.

4. Give someone a gift “just because.”

5. Leave post-it notes with kind messages around the house.

6. Plan a nice surprise for someone.

7. Offer to cover a shift for someone who needs a day off.

8. Watch that movie your friend has been begging you to see since last year.

9. Volunteer with a charitable organization.

10. Help someone with chores.

11. Share your lunch.

12. Remind your loved ones how much you care.

13. Let someone else go first.

14. Give someone an uninterrupted chance to talk about their day.

15. Bake treats and deliver them to friends.

16. Help pick up trash in a public place.

17. Give someone a massage (preferably someone you know).

18. Be polite. 

19. Cook someone their favorite meal.

20. Take an interest in things that matter to others.

21. Leave a generous tip.

22. Host a get-together.

23. Make extra efforts to express your gratitude.

24. Call/visit/email/text friends or family just to say “hi.”

25. Tell jokes (that are appropriate for the given context).

26. Fill out a positive comment card for a business you like.

27. Treat someone when you go out together.

28. “Like” some extra Facebook posts (or the equivalent on a different site).

29. Reminisce with others about shared fond memories.

30. Smile.

Happy people tend to pass positive feelings on to others. Sometimes all it takes is one kind gesture or friendly smile to start a chain reaction of happiness. As more and more people start feeling good, they, too, will spread happiness. If enough people join in, eventually there might just be worldwide happiness epidemic.


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20 Little Things to Smile About

Photo by Debbie Mann

Photo by Debbie Mann

Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it is inspired by grand experiences, like graduating, getting married, or winning a championship game. Other times, it simply comes from small pleasures found in daily life. The great thing about these little joys is, when we take the time to think about them, they seem to be present everywhere. Here are just 20 of life’s many little sources of happiness.

1. The feeling of warm sand between your toes

2. Flipping your pillow over to the cold side

3. The irresistible smell of popcorn when you walk into a movie theater

4. Reaching into your pocket and finding money you had forgotten about

5. Those rare occasions when the amount of cereal left in the box is the exact amount you were hungry for

6. Turning the radio on right as your favorite song starts

7. Thinking it’s only Thursday and then realizing it’s actually Friday

8. Getting into bed after a full day on your feet

9. The feeling when your ears pop

10. Getting an annoying bug that’s been buzzing around in your car to fly out the window

11. That moment when you are at a restaurant and you see your food coming

12. Waking up exhausted, looking at the alarm clock in dread, and discovering you still have plenty of time left to sleep

13. Stepping on a crunchy leaf

14. Dropping something small in the grass and actually being able to find it

15. Walking out into the sun after being in a cold room and/or walking into an air conditioned room after being outside on a hot day

16. Biting into a freshly baked cookie

17. Shaking a malfunctioning electronic device out of frustration, and having that actually fix the problem.

18. Seeing the bounty in the pantry on grocery day

19. Sitting in a chair that both rolls and swivels

20. Finally getting to use the bathroom after a long car ride

The best thing about life’s simple little pleasures is that they can always provide a reason to smile, even when a given moment is falling a bit short in the happiness department.