Imagine in only five minutes each morning you could be happier? When you awaken each morning, you have the opportunity to set the tone of your day. If you wake up smashing the alarm and wildly getting ready for your day, you might be harming your health as well as your attitude. Here are five simple one minute activities that can change the way you live. Yes, the way you live! Using these tips, you will find your five minutes to happiness or at least begin to become happier.

First minute: Take a mindfulness moment for morning mediation.

Consciously slow your breathing, taking deep breaths. Feel the air as it enters your body and as it leaves. Deep breathes help to diminish any pain and feed your mind. Attempt to focus only on the sensations around you. How do you feel? What do you smell? What do you visualize?

Second minute: Become conscious of gratefulness for the gift of life.

Identify at least three things you are grateful for. Starting with gratitude sets us up to think with a grateful attitude for the rest of the day. It can be simple, such as I am grateful for my family, for a roof over my head and for a chance to start over today!

Third minute: Surrender any grudges and bitterness.

Realize that a lack of forgiveness pulls you into the world of negativity.  Strive to forgive everyone for everything, that doesn’t make their behavior ok, it just frees you . Example: “I forgive my ex-spouse for his behavior and attitude towards me. Although I do not condone certain behaviors, I will not keep the bitterness within – it only poisons me.

Fourth minute:  Tell yourself something nice about yourself each day.

Tell yourself something you really admire about yourself, and this reminder will help you start the day off right by thinking straight to feel great! So often, our internal dialogue is nasty when it comes to how we think about ourselves. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend or loved one, don’t think it about yourself! Example:  “I am proud that I keep trying new things and I embrace change.”

Fifth minute: Think victory not victim.

Notice your thoughts and then remember to WAIT, or ask yourself What Am I Thinking? Identify irrational, judgmental thoughts and replace them with more rational thoughts. Separate fact from fiction! Let go of any negative thoughts from the previous day and decide that today will be better, brighter and more successful.

Now, as you get up and begin your day, enjoy the morning. Wishing you the best on taking a time out as you work on transforming your life and yourself 5 minutes at a time! Then take time through out the day to pause, spend those minutes in complete silence with your eyes closed, taking a couple of deep breaths. You will be glad you did.

happiness month is every month

Is it time to make your happiness pit stop?


Can you really have too much happy?  There are those who act happy to a point of giddy, they want to make a party out of a disaster and tend to negate other valid emotions. That is not what this celebration is about. August is National Happiness Month and I want to help you find yours. First thing you might consider is what NOT to do. In this article I have shared some things that the unhappy make habit, HABITS OF THE CHRONICALLY UNHAPPY.

Sometimes in order to be happier, we have to do something that isn’t fun, but will result in long happiness.  I recently had a client share with me how attending a family reunion as a kid was so boring that it was almost painful for her. Now she is so glad she did, as there are many fond memories and connections from those events. She now drags her daughter to family reunions, kicking and screaming. Although I cannot say that scrubbing my bathroom plumbing is a joy, the end result makes me happy.  To be happy in the long-term, we may have to stretch ourselves in the short-term. A willingness to try new things or see old things in new ways may be a prerequisite for lasting happiness.

There has been a lot of research in recent years with regard to happiness. While we tend to believe that we will be happy when we achieve a goal, research has found the opposite. It is the thought of the goal and the work that goes into achieving it that brings us happiness. Although we think winning the lottery will bring us happiness, once again, research says that is a fallacy as well. After three years of winning the lottery, the winner acclimates to the new normal and returns to their previous level of happiness or unhappiness.

So, what is happiness and how do we sustain it? According to Acacia Parks, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hiram College, “The research suggests that happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are with your life (for example, finding meaning in your work) and how good you feel on a day-to-day basis. Both of these are relatively stable—that is, our life changes, and our mood fluctuates, but our general happiness is more genetically determined than anything else. The good news is, with consistent effort, this can be offset. Think of it like you think about weight: if you eat how you want to and are as active as you want to be, your body will settle at a certain weight. But if you eat less than you’d like or exercise more, your weight will adjust accordingly. If that new diet or exercise regimen becomes part of your everyday life, then you’ll stay at this new weight. If you go back to eating and exercising the way you used to, your weight will return to where it started. So it goes, too, with happiness.”

Furthermore, researcher Daniel J. Siegel, MD has concluded that with a daily habit of mindfulness the brain changes in ways that cause us to feel happier and more contented. Being mindful means being more fully aware of what is around us – what we can see, hear, touch and taste. Also, aware of what is happening inside us, our thoughts and our feelings. It’s about learning to observe all this without getting caught up in worrying or ruminating about it. We are then able to choose where we place our focus.

Tips For Making August Your Happiness Month


So, how do we begin a practice of happiness/mindfulness? Start with noticing your thoughts. What do you place your focus on? Focus on lasting meaning, not momentary feelings. Things that make us feel good in the moment may actually be unhealthy for us, creating guilt, remorse and negative health consequences down the road.  All types of addictions fall into this category, as does mindless materialism.  If we can focus on building a life in which we act authentically and are guided by our core values we can achieve more lasting happiness. This feeling may not be as intense as a momentary high, but it is deeper and more enduring. When we build authentic relationships and contribute to our family and community, we feel good about ourselves.


If we deliberately savor the good times, they will be there for us to draw upon in the not so good times. We have become pros at practicing for disaster, yet when it strikes we are no more prepared to handle it then we would have been had we not spent time worrying.  Ironically, research shows we can extend our enjoyment of special times by deliberately thinking about them.  We need to practice every day to rewire our brains for happiness. This means deliberately focusing attention on the positive parts of our day, such as the morning hug from a loved one, the adorable way our puppy wags her tail when we get home or the magnificent sunset outside our door.


When we allow our relationships to go onto autopilot, we lose our connections with others. Instead of thinking about what we are going to say next in a conversation, imagine just listening. Open your heart and listen to the feelings behind the words being spoken. This kind of attention will help your friends and loved ones feel that you really care about them and what they have to say. It will also help you to truly understand what they are trying to communicate.  When you are focused on the experience of being with others while you are in their presence, you immediately make that quality time.

Give Thanks

There are volumes written on the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. Taking time each day to review the things you are grateful changes the neural pathways of your brain. This will help you overcome the negativity bias you had hardwired into a more positive thought flow, improving your health and sleep! Being thankful fills us with optimism and self-confidence. Gratitude dampens our desires for “more” of everything—and it deepens our relationships with loved ones. And when we express our gratitude to someone, we get kindness and gratitude in return causing immediate increases in happiness and decreases in depressive symptoms.


Taking time to breathe deeply and notice your breathes allows the mind and body to slow down and get into synch. We get busy and forget to notice our breathing, yet without breath, there is no life. So take time throughout the day to breathe deep. Feel the air going in and out of the body and notice the feelings that happen in the body when breathing long, slow breathes.

Mind your mind.  Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Opening our awareness beyond the narrowness of negativity can help bring back more balance and positivity into the picture. In other words, know what makes you happy and get happy!

The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.
Benjamin Franklin

The month of August has been declared Happiness Happens Month by the “Secret Society of Happy People” since 1999. The group defines its mission as “to help people recognize more happiness and encourage them to talk about it”.

The Society has three purposes for this month:

  1. Recognize and express happiness
  2. Listen to others talk about their happiness
  3. Don’t rain on other people’s parades

They also have some fun ideas to help celebrate. Here are a few:

  • wear a pair of silver shades (because happy people always see the silver lining)
  • laugh (laughter is still the best medicine)
  • smile (and the world smiles with you)
  • post on Twitter about what makes you happy, using the hashtag #HappinessHappensyou

The group has a Happiness Happens Month 31 Day Challenge on Facebook. So far, I have been challenged to walk barefoot in the grass, wave at strangers, do something spontaneous and sing out loud to name a few. Even if you haven’t started the month’s challenges, you can join in right where you are and always go back to the beginning next month. After all, once you hop on the happiness train, you are going to want to stay onboard!

Happiness protects your health

I have repeatedly mentioned that I often asked my sons to find a reason to smile and laugh on their way out the door when they were younger. I am glad I did, because even now if I say that, they giggle. Therefore, I have started the day in a happier way! According to studies being done, I was not only encouraging a good mood, but I was helping them remain healthy.

You have most likely heard that getting upset or angry can raise your blood pressure.  In fact, in the worst-case scenario, those emotions can lead to a heart attack or stroke. But did you know that positive emotions can lower your blood pressure and risk for cardiovascular disease?

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson researched and found that when stressed people watched a film that left them feeling amused and content, that led to quicker recovery of heart function. She also noted that stressed subjects who smiled while watching a sad movie had a more rapid heart rate recovery. Her thesis is that positive emotions undo the effects of stress and, therefore, protect a person’s health.

There are even more health benefits to being happy. This infographic (created by happify) I found while surfing says it all in a neat package.

happiness and good health

After posting my blog yesterday about the habits of unhappiness, I happened across this Ted Talk today that was given by Matt Killingsworth. Matt is a researcher on the subject of happiness. In this talk he explains how his research led him to understand that a wandering mind can rob us of our happiness and that by staying in the moment, we remain in a state of happy.

Matt has also created an app for smart phones called Track Your Happiness. The intent is to assist you in tracking what makes you individually happy. I am going to download this for fun, so I thought maybe you too would like to.

A girlfriend of mine told me when she got a divorce that she would be happy when she finally found her soul mate. Well, that was eleven years ago and she is still searching. Funny thing, she still tells me the same thing. That makes me sad, after all, that is eleven years of not being happy! Many of my clients tell me when they reach a goal they will be able to be happy. I am in favor of them working towards those stated goals; I help many people along the journey of change they desire. Still, why must people wait to be happy?

By waiting for a future of happiness, we are living in a state of future thought, missing out on the now. How can one be mindful if they are always living in a fantasy of future times? It seems to me that happiness shouldn’t be something dangling out there in tomorrow or someday. It isn’t a feeling to experience once something else happens. Happiness is to be experienced now, in this moment. When our focus is on the future and we connect happiness to future events we can miss out on any immediate opportunities for joy and fulfillment.

You will find that happiness is more powerful when experienced as an immediate emotion instead of a carrot to be sought after. Ironically, people often discover that when they place future conditions on happiness, when those conditions are met, the pleasure is not what they had expected. The key is to learn how to release the unknown future and the past and allow the goodness of the moment to fill you with inner peace. The present moment is all that we have. It is when you find meaning and satisfaction in the present; you’ll discover that your future will take care of itself.


October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month. That is a time for families to eat together. According to Washington State University making time to eat together is not only important to the family unit, the meals tend to be more nutritious. There are even more benefits including:

  • Children do better in school and have fewer behavior problems
  • Teenagers are less likely to use alcohol or drugs
  • Communication between children and adults improves
  • Children better understand their families values and traditions
  • Children and teenagers appreciate the sharing of information about other family members activities and the opportuity to laugh together

Sitting at the table should be a pleasure time, not a battlefield. I advise parents of young children to encourage good eating habits by example. Take time to savor the aromas, the appearance of the food and the textures as well as the flavors. Enjoy and appreciate the preparation of the food as a part of the experience. Keep conversations positive and include everyone at the table. This allows for improved digestion.

Eating together doesn’t mean the meals have to be fancy. It is about the time together that counts! Not sure if you can fit eating together into your hectic schedule? Below are some ideas to help you get started.

How to Start to Eat Better, Eat Together

  1. Ease into it: Try setting a goal of eating together once or twice a week.
  2. Start simple: Prepare a meal ahead of time. Just store it in the fridge until it’s time to reheat and eat it!
  3. Create calm: Phones, TV, computer, video games and even the radio can interrupt your meal. Turning them all off will help everyone relax.
  4. Get everyone involved: Let your family help you shop, choose their favorite dinner, set the table and make the meal.
  5. Relax and connect: Talk about problems after dinner.

Include all of the family in planning and preparing meals. It adds to the fun when each person has a specialty they can contribute. However you find the way to fit eat together, eat better into your family, give it a try. You will discover the many benefits of a family meal. Make eat better, eat together a year long practice!

This month is my birthday. I have decided to make it a whole month of Happy, as in happy birthday.  It is after all, America’s birthday too. So, I decided to do something every day this month that would make me happy. Sounds simple, right?
Before I made this decision, of course, I had to research what actually creates happiness and what doesn’t. (There goes the simple!) Something I discovered, much to my husband’s delight, is that buying/acquiring new stuff is only a momentary happy, nothing that lasts very long. In fact, buying something new can become part of the new normal and have no impact or worse, there are reasons that it can actually rob you of happiness.
So, what does make one happy? Having a connection with others is first on the list. This includes our families and friends. Improving those relationships helps to improve our lives. Good health is another contributor to happiness. It is actually a drain on our happiness when we avoid taking care of our health. Getting our finances in order is helpful. It isn’t that money can buy happiness, but rather that creating a budget and living within it lessens our stress. Eliminating clutter can leave us more time and space for creative thinking and living. Having and fulfilling a purpose is important. Each of these concepts can be further broken down and that is what I am working on this month.
Day one of July, I made my Happiness Proclamation. I decided that I would do one thing each day for the sole intent of creating a happier life. I was about to embark on my personal Happiness Happenings. I posted this on Facebook, making it “official”. Next, I decided to go out to lunch with my husband. This would help me begin my effort to improve an already good relationship. We had a delightful meal and actually ran into someone who knew us when we first met. This allowed for some fun reminiscing.
Knowing that good health is important, I went for a bike ride. The ride was a good amount of exercise in the sun. I ended up at my favorite dolphin watching spot and was mesmerized by the dolphins.
Day 2 of my Happiness Happenings I remembered that spending money on others brings more joy than spending it on yourself. It is almost the 4th of July holiday and I hold sessions in a doctor’s office where there are several women, many of whom have young children. On my way there I stopped at a fireworks tent. I bought a few things for each of the employees. As I delivered them, I told each person that this was my Katy Perry impression of Firework. They all smiled and laughed and I felt happy!
De-cluttering is on my list. During the month of June, with Let It Go Day being a special day, I began the practice of 3 a day must go away. Every day I found at least 3 things to give away or throw away. By months end, not only had I eliminated 90 items from my home; I would venture to say it was more like 900. Still, there is more to be released. Therefore, I am continuing the 3 a day through the month of July.

I am writing this very new into my Happiness Happenings process, I plan on updating what I have done. However, I ask you dear reader, what makes you happy? What small changes in habits can you start in order to bring more happiness into your life? If you were to be happier, regardless of how happy you are right now, how would you be different?
June is Rebuild Your Life Month. Whether it is that you have been thrown a curve ball by life and desperately need to make changes or more simply you just feel this is the time to make changes, this month can be a great time to kick off powerful ways to recreate yourself. This is a wonderful opportunity to reexamine your life and take charge of it by removing stressors as you are able.
Recognizing what your stressors are is the first step.  Job stress can, and often does, lead to an increased stress level at home and conversely a difficult home life can lead to an increase of stress while on the job. Therefore it is important to narrow down where the stress is coming.  
Sometimes this is as easy as removing clutter from your home and giving the home a thorough cleaning. Numerous studies have shown how physical clutter can create a mental clutter and cause an increase in stress elsewhere in your life. In Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project, she devoted an entire month to ridding her life of clutter. She extols the virtues of how she truly enjoys the belongings she has chosen to keep and the freedom eliminating the clutter has given her.
Other times, the stress may come from conflict in your life. This may bring about the harsh recognition that a person (or persons) in your life are simply not good for you. There are those in life that we permit, that don’t have our best interest at heart. Cleansing those people from our lives is the healthiest option, even when the initial removal of them can be stressful. The removal of a toxic person from your life can cause an entire shift in how you experience life.
A job can be just as harmful. While it may be a challenge to extract yourself from a toxic workplace, it is important to take the steps to do so. You spend far too much of your life in the workplace, it can create serious health issues to be unhappy that much of the time. In fact, just beginning to look for other options whether it is a change in where you work or returning to school one class at a time in order to change careers can bring about an improved attitude.
Here are some changes you might consider making to lead a healthier, less stressed lifestyle as you rebuild your life.
  • Healthy Eating

In my opinion one of the best changes people can make for creating a healthy lifestyle is to eat healthy. Because of the negative health consequences of obesity, the positive influence fitness has on our self-esteem, and the effects of nutrition on our stress levels and our longevity, switching to a healthier diet brings some of the greatest benefits for wellness. I won’t tell you the best way to eat, as it is different for every individual.  I can tell you that a diet full of fast foods and snacks is NOT in your best interest.

  • Regular Exercise

Getting regular exercise is another wonderful way to keep your weight in check, manage overall stress levels, and stay connected with others. Exercise has been proven repeatedly to help not only the physical body, but also the emotional part of you. Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist who has written numerous books on the brain and brain health (How to Make A Good Brain Great and Unleash the Power of the Female Brain are two of his books I’ve enjoyed) repeatedly says that 20 minutes of vigorous exercise is better than any drug he can prescribe. 

  • Get Good Sleep

People often underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep, and getting good quality sleep. However, lack of adequate sleep has many negative consequences. Stress can rob you of a good night’s sleep. It is important to utilize stress reducing techniques to enable you to sleep better. It is also important to include good sleep habits so that you are better able to handle the day’s stresses. Self-hypnosis and meditation are two great tools to improve sleep while better handling stress.

  • Create A Happiness Ritual

Whether it is a daily cup of tea and quiet contemplation, coloring in a coloring book or a daily yoga session, find something that brings you joy and practice it. Practice it on a regular basis, so that you are reminded of your value. By consistently practicing your ritual you have those feelings to draw on when you are feeling stressed or sad.


No one has ever promised that life is going to be easy, although, it has been said that everything happens for a reason. Rebuilding your life can be as simple as de-cluttering your home (and your mind) or changing the relationships in your life. By readjusting the sails to navigate away from the past towards a new and improved future can be the best decision you will ever make. So, use this month to start rebuilding your life now. Your destination just might surprise you.
More and more I see the hashtag First World Problems. It is a humorous look at ourselves, after all people often say that we in western modern societies have it really easy. For example:  A possible infection, another root canal and the removal of two wisdom teeth; starting to look like a fabulous summer #firstworldproblems, or this: I’ve received new honors from my college, so the old resumes I have printed are useless now. #FirstWorldProblems.  Someone worrying about which job offer he is going to take might seem frivolous to a man who’s wondering if he’ll be alive tomorrow, or whether he can feed his family for another week.
When we are suddenly facing real problems, we often start to wonder how we could ever have been so worked up about what we thought were problems before. Why did we spend so much time worrying and fretting that we could have spent enjoying? Still, if during that time we are given the adage, there are people who are much worse off than you, it feels flippant. Harken back to the times our parents told us we should be grateful for our least favorite dinner, after all, there are children starving in Africa. I didn’t know a kid who didn’t wish they could ship that meal off to the starving!
I once heard a therapist suggest that her sister in another war torn country had real problems, so the client she was seeing should be grateful that being left by her husband with small children to support is all she had to deal with.  How did that make the client feel? Guilty as well as terrified, hurt and unappreciated would be my guess.
You can be sure that the client she was speaking to was not unaware of human trafficking  or war or starvation that goes on around the world, still that awareness didn’t make a difference to her because she was living her life.
The fact is that fear, anxiety and hopelessness are correlated with life circumstances, but only up to a point.  Living in a nice safe environment is also correlated with feeling safe and secure, but the correlation isn’t as exact as you might think. You see, fear is fear, whether it’s fear of starvation or fear of riding an elevator to your office. Someone who is frightened or depressed in an outwardly perfectly safe and secure environment still feels as if they are living an unsafe life.
Furthermore, recent research has shown that only 10% of our happiness is due to our external circumstances. A full 90% is based on our inner environment.
So, I make the case that while we don’t want to trivialize anyone for their fears or worries, there is something to be said for practicing gratitude.
Over the ages, many philosophers and sages have celebrated gratitude. Many of the world’s great religions and spiritual practices, have all at various times endorsed the idea that being grateful encourages reciprocal kindness, as well as individual and collective well-being. When people focus on gratitude on a regular basis it has been found that they enjoy increased alertness, enthusiasm, optimism and energy. In one study with hundreds of participants, the gratitude group experienced less depression, exercised more regularly and made more progress towards personal goals. According to these research findings, people who feel gratitude are more likely to feel loved and respected than the non-grateful. They also showed better immune function and less physical illness!
So rather than just noting the bare fact that there are people physically worse off than us, it may be better for us to actively focus on what we do have. When we start to actually notice and appreciate that we have access to clean water, or the internet, or other people who aren’t trying to kill us we can create a shift in our awareness. Keep in mind that comparing yourself to another (she got a promotion and I didn’t even though I work just as hard as she does) will result in more bad feelings. Your bad feeling comes from focusing on what someone else has that’s more than what you have.
Next time you feel really worried or down, think of three ways in which it could be even worse. Not how someone else has it worse, but instead it might be worse for you (but isn’t). For instance, you were stood up because your friend “got a better offer”. You might think, yea that sucks and hurts being dissed, but at least I have other friends to call and chat with. Or, at least I have a great job and my kids are safe at home with me.  
Follow this by trying to imagine your life without those blessings. Imagine losing that great job and being unable to get another in the foreseeable future or having your kids being taken away from you. Take time to imagine what that might look like, how that might feel if you didn’t have those blessings. Do this for a few moments to get the impact of how things might have been. Just be sure that you are focused on a blessing you truly appreciate and not the thing that started this downward spiral in the first place. Be sure what you focus on is something that, while it would be worse, it is not likely to ever occur. So, if anything has been of concern (you are concerned that your kids will be taken by an angry ex for example) eliminate that one from your imagining.


Try this, then go back to feeling the gratitude for those blessings. Really spend a few moments enjoying the benefits in your life of living your life. Practice a smile, because it is true that it is very difficult to feel bad when smiling, even a fake smile.  To quote Young Frankenstein, “It could be worse, it could be raining.”

Today was my first in a new series of Brown Bag Lunches with the offices of Dr Cesar Lara. My topic (as the title above says) is The Benefits of Gratitude. I explain how gratitude affects our body, our mind, even our career! Then I offer ways that you can increase gratitude in your life.

1 2 3