Happier Challenge: The Power of Stillness

happier-challenge-stillness-091514Good Monday morning! I trust you had a happier weekend and are looking forward to an awesome week, ahead. In fact, if you’re like me, Monday morning is prime time to become convinced you need to do everything, and furthermore, you need to do it all quickly. And that’s the inspiration for this week’s Happier Challenge.

Take 5 minutes to be completely still today.

Maybe it sounds silly, or easy, but I suspect you’ll be amazed both at how hard it can be, and what you discover when you do.

Of course, I like to leave you with a few fun links to get you going for the week, too. Here you go:

Have a great week, and don’t forget to come share with the Happier community about all the small joys you’re collecting!

Happier Jump-Starts: Tips For Healthier Connectivity

happier-jumpstarts-091414One of my teenagers recently asked me how we found out the answers to everyday questions when I was a kid. “You know, before you had Google.” The idea that once upon a time you couldn’t whip out a device to figure out who that guy in that commercial is strikes them as foreign. When I explained that some of those burning questions simply remained unanswered—and others had to wait for the library to open—the pity in the room was palpable.

So yes, modern information availability and computer power are wonderful things, but as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Some of what we think makes us happier when it comes to digital involvement is, in fact, making us less happy. A few quick pointers should help keep you on track.

For a more productive day, never start with email. Most of us get on our email first thing in the morning, even though we know it’s a black hole of distraction. I love Sid Savara’s explanation of why it’s a bad idea, and switching to an “accomplish one big task before touching email” approach made a huge difference in my overall productivity. Try it!

Do as much in person as possible. It’s easy to fall into that trap of saying/doing things online you wouldn’t do in person; it’s happened to the best of us. Even when we remember good online etiquette and avoid this pitfall, many of us begin to prefer online interaction as easier, which leads to social isolation and other relationship damage, even as we perceive ourselves to be “very social.” There’s no substitute for real human contact when it comes to our happiness.

For better sleep, turn off devices (and take them out of your bedroom). It’s clear that engaging with a glowing electronic device prior to bedtime is disruptive to sleep; the research on this is unanimous. What’s less clear is whether this applies to all glowing screens (including the television, which is arguably more passive than email or gaming), and how long before planned slumber one should turn everything off. At a minimum, experts suggest stowing electronics an hour before you plan to sleep, and also that just having devices in your bedroom is likely to cause potentially sleep-disrupting hyper-vigilance for text messages and such.

Have rules for the whole family. Many parents bemoan their kids’ dependence on technology, but behave similarly (it’s just that we’re “working” while they’re texting). Decide as a household what is and isn’t acceptable, and then hold everyone to those rules. In our house, for example, phones and other devices aren’t allowed at the table when we’re eating, and that goes for kids and adults. We also have an “electronics bedtime.” What rules make sense for your family are your call, but do take the time to consider what you value and how to best implement it.

Make a point to unplug now and then. Connectivity is part of our world, now, and I personally use it for everything from work to keeping tabs on my kids. I’m not knocking it! On the other hand, the occasional day when we leave phones behind and go on a long hike or otherwise just commit to spending time together, in the moment, distraction-free, are pretty much my favorite thing. Unplugging periodically not only makes us happier, it’s a good barometer of the healthiness of your relationship with technology, too, so that you can make adjustments if needed.

So enjoy your gadgets and the ability to find information, look at cute kittens, and reach loved ones across the world… but moderation and mindfulness can be part of that, too.

Happier Spotlight: Aim High, Let Go

Here at Happier there’s nothing we like better than hearing that something we brought to your attention made your day a little brighter. And now that Happier Notes is going out to so many folks every day, our reach is growing and more folks are writing to let us know how their lives are becoming happier.

Although we try to vary the content of Happier Notes each day, we recently started including a daily mantra from our very our Dave “Yeah Dave” Romanelli. The idea was that a simple phrase could serve as a touchpoint throughout the day, as needed. We hoped it would resonate with the community, and wow, did this one make us smile.

Check out the email we received from Elizabeth:

I LOVED yesterday’s mantra of: Aim high. Let go. Relax. Trust the Flow. Yesterday was the defense of my dissertation. I got my technology set up, all things were a “GO” and I just relaxed. My husband was stunned at my confidence and calmness. But I even tweeted this mantra so I had a record of how I felt on the day of my dissertation defense, and the day I became Dr. Elizabeth Wallace!

Thank you!

Aim high. Let go. Relax.

Trust the flow.

Thank you, Elizabeth… er, Dr. Wallace. We’re thrilled Dave’s mantra helped you on your way to an awesome dissertation defense. It sounds like you aimed high, let go, and rocked.

How To Slow Down Time

Do you ever feel like every year time seems to fly faster and faster? Like this summer went by faster than the one before it? Like your kids are growing faster than before?

I do, all the time. And it turns out there are neurological reasons for this.

The older we get, the less new things we experience and learn. Our brains are built to preserve energy so when there is a lot of routine in our lives, we tune those experiences out. In a way, our brains go on auto-pilot and time seems to just float by. The less attention we pay to the moment we’re in, the faster it seems to move.

So what are we to do? The awesome news is that there ARE ways to slow down time — by introducing mobreathmomentre new experiences into our lives and by pausing to appreciate more moments in our every day.The more present we are, the more beauty we notice around us, the more we pause to actually be in the moment we are in, the slower time will run away from us.

If you feel me smiling as I write this, I am. We created Happier with the goal of helping millions of people find and collect more small happy moments in their lives. It turns out one of the cool things we can also help you do is slow down time just a bit. Yes, that makes me happier.

The weekend is almost here and I’d like to ask you to do something:

Notice and pause to appreciate at least 3 beautiful things around you this weekend. They can be anything – a beautiful sky, a beautiful taste, a beautiful person, a feeling. But really pause and inhale the beauty, be there with it. And notice if the time is flying by just a little bit slower.

Happier Hearts: Happy Feet!

Can we talk about feet for a minute? I don’t mean anything weird or creepy, just that… well… for me, if my feet don’t feel good—good being a relative term, meaning “correct temperature” or “pretty” or “free or pain,” depending—the rest of me doesn’t, either.

Having a stash of happy-foot-making tools in my arsenal tends to keep me happier. Is it true for you, too? If so, read on!

Minty fresh and moisturized
I wouldn’t consider myself a big mint fan, in general, but if I’m going to put lotion on my feet, I want it to be peppermint. It’s invigorating and soothing, all at the same time. I use a few different peppermint foot lotions, but Bliss Foot Patrol and Burt’s Bees Peppermint Foot Lotion are two of my favorites.

happier-hearts-pep-lotion-091114

Never underestimate the power of great socks
Can you be sad while wearing fabulous socks? Probably, but it’s a lot harder. For a huge assortment of great socks, I’d head to—where else?—Happy Socks, of course (and not just because they make fabulous orange giraffe socks), but for those super-special occasions, it’s hard to beat caped superhero socks.

happier-hearts-socks-091114

Flip flops don’t have to ruin your feet
I realize that those of you not living on the surface of the sun (a.k.a., the south) like I do may have already put away your sandals for the season, but hear me out: Whether they’re a staple of your footwear or something you throw on to putter around the house, cheap flip flops may be causing you foot fatigue. There’s tons of fancy sandals out there claiming to offer better options (with a price tag to match…), but for about the same price as “regular” flip flops, you could grab a pair of Okibashis and treat yourself. These Indigo Actives (pictured, below) are my absolute favorites—they’re cute, made eco-friendly in the USA, and they have juuuust enough arch support in the ergonomic footbed to keep my feet feeling good. And before you ask: Yep, you can get ‘em in orange!

happier-hearts-okibashi-091114

Awesome Humans: Jacob Cramer and Love For The Elderly

happier-jacob-cramer-091014While most early high schoolers are adjusting to a new school, figuring out how to open their lockers, and maybe hanging out and eating pizza with friends in their spare time, 14-year-old Jacob Cramer is busy coordinating Love For The Elderly, his project to collect and distribute letters of kindness to senior citizens throughout America.

The letters and cards are flooding in from all over the world, each one brightening the day of its recipient. Cramer says he wanted to do “something productive” with his free time. Spreading happiness, especially to those who might otherwise feel isolated? We’d say that’s out favorite kind of being productive.

We think Love For The Elderly is awesome, and you can get involved by writing a letter if you want to be part of it. Rock on, Jacob Cramer! You’re spreading happiness, and you make us happier!

Mindful Break: The Next Big Thing In Wellness Is…

Untitled9

She approached me after class and asked the question I never, ever thought I’d hear:

“Dave, how did you get such ripped abs? Is it the yoga?”

I couldn’t tell if she was being serious.

She had fancy workout gear, was in great shape, had a fantastic yoga practice.

And then she said, “Just kidding!”

As she walked into the Power Hour class, I looked down at my core, leaner than it used to be, but still showing evidence of late night adventures to South Brooklyn Pizza.

So be it… I have learned to be proud of what I got!

*****

Over the past few year, we have seen a proliferation of elite wellness on social media.

Maybe you’ve seen the pictures and words:

“Here I am in a one-handed handstand. Practice makes Perfect. #handstand #werkIt!”

“Crow Pose while surfing this sick wave on the Big Island.” #108inthe808 #GratitudePrincess #workNEVER”

“Green Juice Throwdown! #30LBSin30Days”

This is a form of wellness for people with a certain type of a body, a certain type of income, a certain amount of free time.

Should something as important as wellness be so exclusive?

Maybe it’s just me all the exclusive wellness stuff makes me feel hairy in the all the wrong places. (I know I know I know what the self-helpers are saying right now: “Dave, you are projecting.”)

I’ll tell you what I’m projecting: A NEW TYPE OF WELLNESS that is inclusive of the other 95% of the population.

-Here’s a shout out to anyone who, like me, feels like a Ford F-150 on the yoga mat and doesn’t care about doing fancy poses.

-Here’s a call to action for anyone who wants to embrace wellness but just can’t stomach green juice.

-Here’s a rally cry for those of you who can’t make the trip to Hawaii (work, kids, $$$$) but are all for a trip to your Inner Hawaii.

If you, like me, are part of The Other 95%… let’s be honest with ourselves. Wellness does not come when we can balance on our hands or bare our belly on the beach…

… but when we can find someone to hug (or high five)…

… when we can perceive beauty as a feeling (not a look)…

… when we can smile because we have surrendered (not dominated).

Try this on for size: HAPPY is the new Healthy!