Equipped With Happiness

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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.

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Be Happier By Treating Yourself Lovingly

treatyourselfwithlovecartoonAt some point in their lives, most people have felt mistreated by someone else. But sometimes the greatest cruelty we face actually comes from within ourselves. When this happens, we often aren’t even aware we are treating ourselves poorly.

That’s why we might benefit from living by a new “golden rule”: Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. Before we perform actions or engage in thoughts directed towards ourselves, we should stop and consider whether we would appreciate that same treatment if it came from someone else.

Of course, each of us has unique desires regarding how we would like to be treated, so the way we should act toward ourselves may also differ. But the following guidelines might be a reasonable place to start. After each “don’t” is a happier, alternative “do.”

Don’t criticize yourself too harshly: No matter how much we wish it wasn’t true, we all have less-than-perfect moments.  When we make mistakes, we often fling mental insults at ourselves. Sometimes we are so good at this that we manage to convince ourselves we really are terrible people. But I think most of us would feel abused if another person tore us apart over our failures that way. So, we should be careful to show ourselves compassion, even when we are disappointed by our imperfections.

Do praise yourself: Compliments make us feel good, and we like it when others notice and express positive things about us. We can extend the same courtesy toward ourselves by acknowledging our personal successes and valuing our strengths.

Don’t Make Excuses For Yourself: While it is important to avoid being overly critical, we should not go to the other extreme of allowing ourselves to get away with everything. Almost anything we do wrong can be justified somehow, and it is tempting to accept questionable justifications to avoid the pain of admitting a mistake. The problem is, doing that means being dishonest with ourselves (which is treatment we wouldn’t want from others). It is better to acknowledge our errors, forgive ourselves, and try to do better in the future.

Do Encourage Yourself to Grow: Moments of imperfection can be great opportunities for self-improvement, if we take the time to analyze them and correct whatever went wrong. Rather than feeling bad about mistakes, or pretending they don’t exist, we can take on the challenge of bettering ourselves by not repeating them.

Don’t Punish Yourself:  Sometimes feeling bad about ourselves escalates into a belief that our shortcomings are so severe  we don’t deserve happiness. We end up undermining relationships, missing opportunities, and denying ourselves satisfactions because we feel unworthy of them. But the natural consequences of our mistakes are punishment enough. After all, if we accidentally spilled tomato sauce on a friend’s shirt, we would hope the friend would simply allow us to pay for a new one, rather than seek revenge by attacking our own wardrobe with grape juice.

Do seek enjoyment for yourself: When other people take the time to do nice things for us, it generally makes us happy. So, we should take the time to do nice things for ourselves, too. This could mean indulging in a favorite dessert, taking a day off from work, going for a long run, planning a day with friends, or engaging in any other activity that brings us pleasure.

Frustrating as it is, we can’t always control the injustices inflicted on us by others. But we can avoid mistreating ourselves, and we even have the chance to create some extra happiness in the process.


Smile-Worthy Holidays to Celebrate in March

Photo by Debbie Mann

Photo by Debbie Mann

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t the only opportunity for fun in March. Here are some other great chances to celebrate this month:

Oreo Day (March 6)On March 6, 1912 an invention was made that would change waistlines forever… the Oreo Cookie. Now there are over 20 different kinds of Oreos. Why not celebrate the day with one of each?

International Fanny Pack Day (March 8, always the second Saturday in March): According to an article in Boise Weekly, it all began when a man named Nick Yates stuffed some fruitcake in a fanny pack on his way to the bus. He came across a homeless man, who complimented him on the fanny pack, and Yates decided to give the man his fruitcake. After that, Yates began a tradition of feeding the homeless from his fanny pack and officially established the holiday in 2007. Now, it is an opportunity for all of us to honor charity, as well as a questionable fashion accessory.

World Sleep Day (March 14)This holiday was established by the World Association of Sleep Medicine, and it is a day for celebrating sleep and raising awareness about sleep-related issues. Sounds like the perfect excuse for a nap!

Awkward Moments Day (March 18): We’ve all faced those painful situations that turn the cheeks uncomfortably pink and make us wish we could just crawl into a hole and hide for all of eternity. But, this is one day for us to put shame aside and proudly acknowledge our embarrassment.

International Day of Happiness (March 20)This holiday, established by United Nations, is simply a day dedicated to spreading happiness. Join the festivities and offer a smile, a compliment, or a helping hand to everyone you can!

National Corn Dog Day (March 22, at least for 2014): The date for this holiday changes from year to year, because it’s planned to coincide with the Saturday on which the NCAA basketball tournament is down to 32 teams. It is a day for celebrating basketball, as well as that tasty fried delicacy known as the corn dog.

International Waffle Day (March 25)This holiday began in Sweden, where it is called Vaffeldagen. It’s an opportunity for people around the world to indulge in the deliciousness of waffles. So whip up a batch and make sure not to miss any squares with that syrup!

Grass is Always Browner on the Other Side of the Fence Day (March 30): Sure the title’s a bit of a mouthful, but the idea it stands for is certainly worth celebrating. This holiday gives us a chance to focus on curbing envy and finding joy in what we have.

Have a happy March full of Oreos, fanny packs, sleep, acceptance for awkward moments, happiness, corn dogs, waffles, green grass, and many other amazing things!


Morgan, T. (2010, March 10). International fanny pack day. Boise Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.boiseweekly.com/boise/international-fanny-pack-day/Content?oid=1515848.

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Be Happier By Finding Your Self-Discipline Sweet Spot

self discipline cartoonSelf discipline is a tricky ingredient to work with. It is often difficult to determine exactly how much of it we need and the best ways to mix that amount into the rest of our lives. But when we are able to use it effectively, self-discipline can help us find tremendous satisfaction. If we want to optimize our self-discipline, there are some common mistakes we need to avoid.

1. Having too much or too little self-discipline.

It is undeniable that all of us need a basic amount of self-discipline in order to avoid getting fired from our jobs, letting down those who depend on us, or permanently fusing to our couches from lack of movement. But beyond that basic level, we actually have a fair amount of choice about how disciplined we are. That’s why it is important to recognize the signs that we need to adjust our level of self-discipline.

You might need more self-discipline if: You are constantly frustrated by how little progress you are making toward your goals, you know what steps you could take to make more progress, and the reason you aren’t taking those steps can really only be described as “laziness.”  

You might need less self-discipline if: You are constantly working toward achieving your goals, no amount of accomplishment ever feels like enough, and you are starting to feel burnt out and exhausted.

2. Using self-discipline in all the wrong places.

Unfortunately, life often gives us responsibilities we would rather not have, and handling those responsibilities requires self-discipline. When we give those things our best effort, we often find ourselves with no energy left to be self-disciplined about anything else.

In order to ensure that we have enough self-discipline to go around, we have to budget it carefully. We need to determine where in our lives we can afford to make some self-discipline cuts, and where we might benefit from some extra self-discipline. This means evaluating which areas are most important to us, and focusing our resources on those areas.

Sometimes this gets confusing, because there are certain things we would rather not put effort into that are actually very important to us. For instance, we might dislike going to work, but having a source of income is important to us. So we have to use up some of our self-discipline on work. However, if we don’t care about being promoted, we may be able to put in slightly less effort, giving us more self-discipline to use on something else.

3. Basing our own self-discipline needs on the opinions of others.

It is important to realize that there is no universally accepted ideal for self-discipline. Some people are happiest with more self-discipline, and others are happiest with less. Neither way is right or wrong, so we just need to figure out which type of person we are and embrace it. Most of us fall somewhere between the following categories.

 A) People who benefit from high self-discipline. These people are happiest when they are actively engaged in a challenge. The feeling of satisfaction they get from putting in a full day of work is worth any stress they encounter in the process. They are easily bored with downtime, and spending a while relaxing makes them feel lethargic, rather than recharged. People like this might be able to maximize their happiness by pushing themselves as hard as they can.

B) People who benefit from low self-discipline. These people are happiest when they are able to put their feet up.  A full day of hard work is likely to leave them feeling frustrated and exhausted.  They don’t mind taking a longer time to accomplish a goal, if doing so prevents stress. For them, downtime is rewarding and enjoyable. People like this might be able to maximize their happiness by not pushing themselves all the way to their limits.

Once we finally master the use of self-discipline, we can create our own perfect recipe for happiness. Then, all that’s left is smiling and enjoying the delicious rewards of our labor.


Be Happier By Celebrating Small Victories

victorycartoonThere is no denying that accomplishing a major long-term goal feels fantastic. But, unless you’re superhuman, that kind of thing doesn’t usually happen on a daily basis. What happens more frequently are small successes which, if we stop to acknowledge them, can actually be great sources of happiness.

However, sometimes recognizing little, daily victories can be harder than it seems. In some cases, this is because we’re simply not in the habit of noticing them.  Other times, it’s because we deliberately downplay them, which happens for a couple of reasons:

1.  Having a big goal, such as getting a promotion or losing a significant amount of weight, can lead to a fear of getting excited too soon, and being let down later. We think that if we allow ourselves to do a little victory dance when our boss gives us a compliment or the number on the scale goes down, we set ourselves up for disappointment. We worry that the compliment was only a one-time thing, and remind ourselves that our weight loss could easily plateau the next day.

The best thing to say to these concerns is, “So what?!” If our success doesn’t last, we will still be disappointed, whether or not we let ourselves be happy about it first. So we might as well get some joy in the meantime. A more effective safeguard against disappointment might be to just make sure we don’t kid ourselves ( i.e., “The boss complimented me … I bet I will be vice president of this company by lunch!”). Not only that, it is always possible our success will continue and we actually won’t be disappointed. So, why not get even more mileage out of a big achievement by celebrating along the way?

2. Another thing that can stand in the way of enjoying small victories is the feeling that we aren’t pushing ourselves hard enough if we celebrate anything short of complete success.  Those little milestones might seem so far below our ultimate goal that we think we don’t deserve congratulations. We also might fear losing motivation by building a small accomplishment up too much (e.g., “Hmm, I guess 5 pounds is a lot of weight. Now I can EAT ALL THE COOKIES!!!!”).

Those kinds of thoughts are actually fairly unproductive. Even if an accomplishment is way smaller than whatever we ultimately plan to achieve, giving ourselves an internal high-five can be the encouragement we need to keep working hard. If we never stop to admire our progress, it’s much easier to burn out. Building up an accomplishment is good for our confidence, and it is in our power to prevent any potentially negative effects (e.g., “Five pounds is a lot of weight, good job self! I guess turning down those cookies is worth it!”).

Once we commit to letting ourselves enjoy small victories, we just have to figure out where to find them. A lot of the time, these victories do come in the form of progress toward a long-term goal. They might also come from achieving small goals, like finishing up some repairs around the house or making a successful attempt at a new recipe. Small victories can even come from unexpected successes that aren’t related to any predetermined goal. Maybe you managed to bring all the groceries inside in one trip, or maybe you caught a dish that fell off the table before it hit the ground.

Whatever form they take, little victories happen all the time. Go ahead and cheer for yourself the next time you climb a flight of stairs without keeling over. No accomplishment is too small to smile about!

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Wonderful Things About Winter

According to Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most accurate (and furry) weatherman, winter will be sticking around for a few more weeks. Sure, cold weather can be inconvenient at times, but there are still plenty of reasons to celebrate the season. Here are some of the best things about winter:

Photo by Debbie Mann

Photo by Debbie Mann

The foods/drinks. Winter is that amazing time of year when baked goods attempt to take over the world, and the best part is, no one tries to stop them. It’s also the perfect time for warm, hearty soups. And of course we can’t forget about those overflowing cups of hot chocolate,  topped with copious amounts of whipped cream and marshmallows. Or all the decadent holiday meals. Or the seasonal flavors of ice cream…

Playing in the rain/snow.  Splashing in puddles, building snowmen, having snowball fights, and going sledding are basically the whole point of winter. And I don’t care what anyone says, these are things you never outgrow.

Bundling up. It doesn’t matter whether you look forward to trying out the latest winter fashions or, like me, view winter as that awesome season where sweat pants, wool socks, and ugly sweaters are perfectly acceptable attire; there is something cozy about having the cold on your face while your body is all warm under every article of clothing you own.

The sights/smells/sounds.Winter treats the senses with snow-covered landscapes, rainbows, the welcoming aromas of baking and warm fires, the smells of fresh rain and snow, the pitter patter of raindrops on the roof, the silence after a snowy night, and so much more.

Winter sports. This is the season for skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, bobsledding, hockey, and just about every other athletic activity that requires precipitation. Whether you play these sports yourself, watch them, or enjoy making fun of them (curling, that means you), winter is the only time of year you get the opportunity.

Being cozy inside. There really is something great about the feeling of coming in from the cold, snuggling up under a blanket, and settling down with your favorite book or movie. Every type of indoor hobby, from knitting to building model airplanes, becomes instantly more fun when it’s chilly outside.

So, that being said, a few more weeks of winter could actually be kind of nice. I guess I don’t have a groundhog to strangle after all.

Did I forget any of your favorite things about winter? Please feel free to share them in a comment!