Oh, precious gifts.

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Woman at beach with arms outstretched

Oh, how precious life is. Oh, how precious are the gifts we are given each day…health, comfort, freedom, family, joy, suffering…I awoke this morning to my sweet daughter crying in pain from an earache. My heart struggled seeing her in such pain. I took little soothing remedies and got her calmed down. I looked at her and prayed that she would sleep in comfort and feel better. I also looked at her and had a tinge of sadness for parents who watch their children struggle with harsher illness and feel like they are helpless. I instantly had a feeling of relief and gratitude that she does not suffer daily.

These are the moments where I find myself even more grateful to have those I love close to me. We often take those closest to us for granted, so here is an opportunity for all of us to gain a greater understanding of our feelings, of our gifts of the wonderful people around us. *Think about the following questions regarding any important person in your life: What would I be missing if that person were no longer in my life? In what specific way would I miss that person? And, What would I like to say to this person if I only had one more chance? 

Pensively, James A Farley adds other questions he asks of himself and others: “How much do most of us appreciate the countless little daily acts of…kindness by others that make our lives more comfortable? How grateful are we, really, for the privilege of living in a country where most of us can take freedom, justice and security for granted? How much thankfulness do most of us feel for the marvelous gift of life itself, and how adequately do we express this to the Giver?”     In hostly assessing his own answers, Farley faced the painful truth: He was not nearly as appreciative as he should, or would, like to be. So he committed to the following resolutions:

“To thank the people who make my world run smoothly…not just with a casual word or an impersonal tip, but with some expression of genuine interest in them as fellow human beings.”

“To make myself more aware of the miraculous privileges involved in simply being an American, and to show my thankfulness by working without thought or reward to make my country better.”

“To remind myself every day of the infinitely precious value of every minute of existence, and to show my gratitude to God not only with prayers of thanksgiving but by living as close as possible to the way He wants me to live.”

And Farley finishes: “A basic rule in showing appreciation, I have found, is this: do it now. Do it while your sense of gratitude is fresh and strong. If you feel a flash of thankfulness, act on it before the impulse dies away.”   [taken from The Heart of Goodness]

So, here and now I am giving thanks and gratitude for those closest to me, for their health, our happiness and the gift we find in one another. Love and peace to you. May you find the precious gifts within your life and give thanks. -H

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Is Happiness a Game?

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The word happiness is derived from the thirteenth-century Old Norse word hap, which means “a chance or luck occurrence.” Thus, our question—or perhaps, our QUEST—can be framed as “If happiness is a game of chance, then how might I increase my odds of winning?” -Dr Craig Rodgers

According to a Harris Poll in 2013 of 2, 345 U.S. adults, just ONE in THREE say they’re very happy.  According to another source, 70 percent of Americans hate their jobs.

According to Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology,  says 60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment, the remaining 40 percent is up to us. In his 2004 Ted Talk, Seligman describes three different kinds of happy lives: The pleasant life, in which you fill your life with as many pleasures as you can, the life of engagement, where you find a life in your work, parenting, love and leisure and the meaningful life, which “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are, and using them to belong to and in the service of something larger than you are.” [huffington post]

The pursuit of happiness is not uniquely American either—in a study of more than 10,000 participants from 48 countries, psychologists Ed Diener of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia discovered that people from every corner of the globe rated happiness as being more important than other highly desirable personal outcomes, such as having meaning in life, becoming rich, and getting into heaven.[Psychology Today]

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Here are some tips to TIP HAPPINESS in YOUR direction:

I took & combined ideas from huffingtonpost, Inc, Psychology Today

HAPPY PEOPLE…

Express thankfulness.  Whether it is your personal relationships, those at work or on a personal level, actively expressing gratitude increases good feelings. One study showed people who wrote down five things they were thankful for once a week were 25 percent happier after 10 weeks; in effect they dramatically increased their happiness set-point.

They enjoy being outdoors. Want to feel alive? Just a 20-minute dose of fresh air promotes a sense of vitality, according to several studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. “Nature is fuel for the soul, ” says Richard Ryan, Ph.D, the lead author of the studies.      I know for me personally, getting outdoors is definitely fuel for my soul. I feel like something is missing from my day if I don’t get outside.

They exercise. Exercise lowers symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. I can personally tell you from experience–my husband has had some depression and exercise has been a huge key in being able to bring him out of such a dark space. Exercise give you a natural ability to feel happy through the endorphins that are created through exercise. It is like a natural, happy pill.

Surround themselves with other happy people. Joy is contagious. Researchers of the Framingham Heart Study who investigated the spread of happiness over 20 years found that those who are surrounded by happy people “are more likely to become happy in the future.”

They have to allow a certain bit of curiosity and adventure into their lives.  Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Happy people, are, simply put, curious. In a 2007 study, Todd Kashdan and Colorado State psychologist Michael Steger found that when participants monitored their own daily activities, as well as how they felt, over the course of 21 days, those who frequently felt curious on a given day also experienced the most satisfaction with their life—and engaged in the highest number of happiness-inducing activities, such as expressing gratitude to a colleague or volunteering to help others. Curiosity, it seems, is largely about exploration—often at the price of momentary happiness. Curious people generally accept the notion that while being uncomfortable and vulnerable is not an easy path, it is the most direct route to becoming stronger and wiser. In fact, a closer look at the study by Kashdan and Steger suggests that curious people invest in activities that cause them discomfort as a springboard to higher psychological peaks.

They actively pursue goals.  Pursuing goals, though, does make you happy. According to David Niven, author of100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life, “People who could identify a goal they were pursuing [my italics] were 19 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 26 percent more likely to feel positive about themselves.”     If you want to envision a happy person’s stance, imagine one foot rooted in the present with mindful appreciation of what one has—and the other foot reaching toward the future for yet-to-be-uncovered sources of meaning. Indeed, research by neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison has revealed that making advances toward achievement of our goals not only causes us to feel more engaged, it actually helps us tolerate any negative feelings that arise during the journey.

They Bounce back up after they fall. Happy, flourishing people don’t hide from negative emotions. They acknowledge that life is full of disappointments and confront them head on, often using feelings of anger effectively to stick up for themselves or those of guilt as motivation to change their own behavior. This nimble mental shifting between pleasure and pain, the ability to modify behavior to match a situation’s demands, is known as psychological flexibility.

Do what you excel at as often as you can. the more you enjoy what you do and the more fulfilled you feel by what you do, the happier you will be.  In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Anchor says that when volunteers picked “one of their signature strengths and used it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed.”

They get plenty of sleep. Anyone knows if you don’t get enough sleep you are more irritable, cranky and not enjoyable to be around. When you get the right amount of sleep–all is well.     Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center told Health.com. “You get more emotional stability with good sleep.”

They laugh. Laughter releases the same ‘happy’ chemicals as exercise, so laughter truly is one of the better medicines.  I can personally attest for laughing to fight of sadness and depression. When my husband was out of work, we would put in comedies to take away our worry and pain. It definitely helped.

They TRY to be happy. You have often heard the phrase–“fake it to make it” Well, I LOVE the word TRY. You truly can’t “TRY” anything. It is like “trying” to push a pencil. You either have to or not. there is no middle, so if we are “trying” to be happy—we are doing it.

They enjoy the simple things. When you begin to notice the small things that make your life beautiful happiness will fill up the empty spaces. It’s just being grateful for the small pleasures…the evening walk & the way the light plays on the forest floor, the yummy taste of a waffle cone, the warm shower

They understand that money does NOT buy happiness.  Money is important. Money does a lot of things. (One of the most important is to create choices.)  But after a certain point, money doesn’t make people happier. After about $75,000 a year, money doesn’t buy more (or less) happiness. “Beyond $75,000… higher income is neither the road to experience happiness nor the road to relief of unhappiness or stress,” say the authors of that study.   “Perhaps $75,000 is the threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure.”  

I have also head another statistic—there was a study done on 22 people major lottery winners & 22 people who had become crippled. A year later—the lottery winners were not any happier than the paraplegics.  Doesn’t that make you think!

They “give” They enjoy spending money on other people, they enjoy the “high” of doing something that makes a difference for another. They take the time to write a thank you note, to make cookies for others on the weekends, to help build conscious awareness about a cause, they volunteer for a local organization, they do little things that make a difference—big or little, it is about the giving feeling.

They look on the brighter side. Optimism creates less stress & better health. When you look at the world with rose colored glasses you are choosing a better life.

They power walk. Ever notice your joyful friends have a certain spring in the step? It’s all about the stride, according to research conducted by Sara Snodgrass, a psychologist from Florida Atlantic University.     In the experiment, Snodgrass asked participants to take a three-minute walk. Half of the walkers were told to take long strides while swinging their arms and holding their heads high. These walkers reported feeling happier after the stroll than the other group, who took short, shuffled steps as they watched their feet.     Try it! See if you feel happier. I think even holding your posture straighter makes you feel better too.  I always tell my daughter to sit tall & when you walk to pretend there are strings pulling you up from the tip of your head that run all the way down your back. It helps to visualize. I know I definitely feel better when I have better posture and walk the walk!

The sound of music. Music is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it could match up to the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy. Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages.

They unplug. Whether you do big, belly breaths, meditate, go on a walk, or just deliberately unplug from our world of technology, you will have happiness advantages. Talking on your cell could increase your blood pressure and raise your stress levels, while uninterrupted screen time has been linked to depression and fatigue.

They get spiritual. When you create sacred space, a place that allows for stillness, gratitude, compassion, you are opening a door that will allow calm moments, time for reflection, a deeper space.

Be HAPPY.

A great, big question for you!

“A hundred years from now will the world be any different because I was important in the life of someone?”

I don’t know about you, but I always am hoping of touching someone’s life, whether it is through my writing, sharing a story, giving something of myself to a friend, sharing life lessons with my daughter. I am always seeking and hoping that little parts of me will make a difference some how. But, I do often have a greater yearning of doing more and often my heart becomes troubled wondering what I am missing to share. I often question if I will ever be selfless enough that I will not miss opportunities, that I will be in tune to my greater purpose, that I will not miss every moment that is suppose to bring something greater to this world. I am constantly inspired by great stories of others who sacrifice, who give unconditionally, so this week I am going to be sharing a few different stories that move my heart & prove they are making the world a little better through their giving hearts.

Here is a great example of someone making a difference to his family each and every day—My heart was truly stirred as I was watching a re-run of American Ninja Warrior a couple of nights ago. The Kansas City qualifier was on & there was a story that moved me. I have tried to find the actual video that was on ANW, but to no avail. The actual story was so good—a husband that was out of shape, turned Ninja through the necessity to move and carry his wife since she couldn’t walk because of a quick genetic disorder that is slowly taking her life. They drove over 24 hours to wait in the walk on line because she was not sure she would be around another year to watch him. Wow!! I didn’t even hear or understand that the couple was from my home state of Utah, so here is their story. http://www.ksl.com/?sid=34855384

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Here are a some little ideas that will make a big difference to someone else…SMILE.   Teach a skill you have to someone who would like to learn.   Give HUGS.   Give a sandwich to someone in need.   Send someone a nice note of thanks, encouragement or just a friendly hello.   PRAISE people.   Spread a little LOVE by putting together a Bag of JOY (fill it with things that will lift or inspire, a funny movie, comfort food, a great book, uplifting music, etc).   Just be there to listen.   Offer to babysit someone’s kids that just needs a break.   Share a sincere compliment.   Volunteer at your child’s school or for a community program.   Buy someone lunch.   Pay a toll.     Always say Thank you with a smile.   Write and article or post that will influence others in a positive way.   Take your family and pick up trash at a local pond or park.   Donate your old clothes and toys to a good charity.   Bake up something for your co-workers or neighbors.   Ask lots of questions in a conversation and then just listen.   Choose to strive daily for ways to inspire others.    Listen for inspiration and direction that will touch others lives.   Just LOVE.