Awesome Humans: Trisha Prabhu and Rethink

trisha-prabhu-rethink
Can a science fair project change the world? It’s happened before, and with the Google Global Science Fair announcing their finalists for 2014 last week, we’re wondering if a young teen from Illinois may just be on the cusp of something amazing. Trisha Prabhu’s idea was a simple yet brilliant one: Knowing that the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain responsible for both decision-making and moderating social behavior) isn’t fully formed until age 25 or so, and knowing that online bullying among teenagers is rampant, could a “prompt” of some sort to slow down and consider a potentially hurtful message before posting alter kids’ behavior?

Her study showed an overwhelming result: given the prompt to reconsider, almost all of her subjects opted not to post nasty comments to social media. Prabhu is now looking into how to turn Rethink into an actual product. If nothing else, it sure makes us happier to see confirmation that teens are impulsive a lot more often than they’re just plain mean.

Read more on Business Insider, or review her project for yourself. Keep up the good work, Trisha! We think you’re awesome!

Mindful Break: Happiness Requires THIS

say-it-beforePart of being happy is also being sad. So the following may make you sad, which will only shine a brighter light on what makes you happy.

In 1996, I received my first astrology chart from the great astrologer Joe Polansky.

He said something in that chart that stuck with me…

“Your powers will start to take off when you understand peoples’ emotions.”

I had no clue what that meant.

It took many years to get it.

And then, I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered how a few different people had told me to watch this video about a kid named Zach Sobiech.

Maybe you’ve seen this video already, but if you haven’t, get ready.

He was dying of terminal cancer and this was his way of saying goodbye.

No explanation can do it justice.

All I can say is that I have never, ever, cried like I cried watching this video. I looked up at the clock through my sobbing eyes and saw the time: 3:01 am.

For me, it was an historical moment.

This video has a message about not getting caught in the middle.

People caught in the middle kinda believe but kinda don’t, kinda try but kinda don’t, kinda care but kinda don’t. The hum of mediocrity is deafening to the soul.

But what awakens the soul is EMOTION.

This video, and Zach, makes you feel so deeply and so intensely.

You knew this kid Zach because he made you cry. He bypassed your mind and spoke to a much deeper place inside of you.

That is what my astrologer meant.

Forget trying to explain yourself.

Instead, make people feel you… make them feel your message, your mission, your passion.

Zach passed away last year, but reminds us, today and every day….

When talking to someone, don’t look them in the eyes. Look them in the heart!

P.S.: If by this point you have not been compelled to watch the video about Zach, do yourself a HUGE favor and watch this video. Your heart will explode in a million beautiful pieces.

Happier Challenge: Spread a Little Kindness

happier-challenge-081814Are you ready to be happier this week? Kick it off with our challenge and you’re sure to find a little extra spring in your step, we promise. Check it out, and get ready to make someone’s day:

Do something to make the world kinder, today.

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; you don’t have to save the planet, or anything. Here’s 35 little suggestions of things you can do, if you’re feeling stumped. Science tells us both that small acts make us happier than huge, life-changing events and that being kind to others boosts our own happiness, so altruism is good for everyone.

If you want a little more inspiration before you head out to make the world kinder…

Have a fabulous, happiness-spreading week, and [please come share your acts of kindness in the Happier community to inspire others, too!

Happier Jump-Starts: Tips for Indulging All 5 Senses at Work

happier-jump-starts-081714Everyone knows there’s all kinds of benefits to making your workspace one in which you feel comfortable—it impacts everything from mood to productivity—but so often, we don’t really pay it the attention it deserves. Or if we do, we attend to our visual sense (“There! I put up a picture of my family!”) and neglect everything else. We use all five senses every day; make your work environment one that makes you happy in every sense! (P.S., I work at a desk and know not everyone does, but I think all of the following tips can be modified for just about any environment, including for those whose work means staying home with the kids.)

Sight

Good news: sight is the sense we’re most likely to address when thinking about what we need to make our environment happier. So you’ve already got pictures of loved ones, maybe a pop of your favorite color here and there, a sentimental item that reminds you of a fabulous past vacation or something. That’s a great start! Now consider whether you have something in your immediate line of sight in your workspace that makes you laugh. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, either, but something that triggers humor will make you happier and help keep you grounded during stress, too. For me, one year when my daughter and I were making vision boards and cutting up magazines, as a joke she handed me a scrap that says “It’s like someone put a hot frying pan on my face.” It still makes me laugh (what?), and I have it on the bottom corner of my cork board for comic relief as needed. (Sometimes I look at it during conference calls.)

Hearing

If you listen to music throughout your workday, chances are good you already know how much sound affects you throughout the day. If you find music distracting, there are still ways to adjust your background noise to amp up your mood. I have a “soothing sounds” app on my phone I sometimes use during times of stress, and a playlist especially for my office. Because I work from home, I’m also lucky in that I don’t have to filter out a bunch of coworker noise, but if you work in a busy office or other noisy environment, invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones (even if all you want to listen to is ocean waves). If you work where wearing headphones isn’t compatible with your job—say, if you’re a teacher—consider what sort of sounds appeal to you and how you can integrate them. My single best office investment may be the set of wind chimes right outside my window. (And if that appeals but you can’t have actual chimes, there’s multiple wind chime apps out there.) Maybe you get one of those little perpetual fountains, or something else. Give it some thought.

Taste

I feel very strongly that every desk should have a chocolate drawer, but I take my treats very seriously. Treat yourself every day at work in some small way, whether it’s the aforementioned chocolate stash or your favorite beverage that you only ever have on the job, and you’ll soon come to associate work with happy taste buds. It really will make you happier to be there.

Smell

Modern technology has given us an assortment of ways to bring just about every scent imaginable into our homes, cars, even clothes. You have to be a bit judicious with this one—many people are sensitive to perfumes and heavy scents, you and don’t want to impinge upon your coworkers—but consider bringing a favorite scent into your workspace. Even a spritz of your beloved’s cologne on a scrap of paper you can slip out of your pocket, or taking a whiff of your lunch or a favorite old book (really!) can change your mood.

Touch

Most of us have no problem seeking out a more comfortable chair or a more ergonomic keyboard, if needed, but does it occur to you to wear something soft on a stressful day? What sorts of tactile sensations work for you may be something you’ll need to explore—a stressball on your desk may be a good idea, but maybe miniature Zen garden with sand you can rake is more your thing—but don’t neglect this last sense figuring it doesn’t matter. For me, the hands-down winning benefit of the home office is that I can pick up one of my dogs for a snuggle as needed. I know that’s a luxury most of us don’t have, but a favorite smooth river rock on your desk or velvet scarf…? You’ll figure out what makes you feel good.

Have a great week, and here’s to indulging all your senses at work!

Happier Spotlight: A Very Happier Recovery

Periodically we feature feedback we receive from folks who reach out to tell us how much they love Happier. We’ve been so busy moving and expanding and developing awesome new content that we haven’t done one of these in a while, but it’s definitely time to get back to it. I hope you’ll love this one as much as we do.

Hi Nataly,dinak-tmnt-moment

I have to tell you that I have so much respect for you and the Happier group. I admire your life story and how you made a change in your world and are trying to make a change for all of us now.

I cannot tell you the amount of times in which I have had a stressful day these last few months and turn to Happier at the end of my day and am so uplifted.

In the last six months I have spent a lot of time in bed due to a recovery for a double mastectomy and now again for reconstruction. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that Happier has helped me through it all.

Thank you for being true to your cause and allowing me to be a part of it.

Sincerely,
Dina Kuhlman

I reached out to Dina last week to ask for permission to share her email, and to ask her how she’s doing now. She reports that her health is “great” and she is “fully recovered and slowly getting back to her normal routine.” (Yay!! That makes us happier!) She not only said we could share her email, when I asked her to tell me what she likes best about Happier, she added this:

I love the community of friendship, support, and healthy positive energy. Having said that, what I appreciate the most is the transparency. This may seem like an odd comment, but when reading posts on Happier I realize that we are a community of people trying to be real but learning from each other to look for the positive in every situation. We all don’t have “great or stress free” days, but if we look for a positive amid the ick it softens the negative and makes it manageable.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Dina. Thanks for being a part of Happier, and may I just add that your daughters totally cracked me up. Please tell them that they—and you—are my heroes, too.

Living Happier with Nataly: Is there an equation for happiness?

As reported in The Atlantic, a team of British researchers came up with an equation that can accurately predict your short-term happiness:

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Wow. Even for a former math nerd like me that’s a lot of variables.

At the core of this equation — and this study — is the relationship between your expectations and the actual outcomes. Perhaps not surprisingly, what it shows is that when you expect a reward or good experience you are less happy when you get it if you expect nothing at all. The conclusion then seems to be that it’s better to not anticipate good results, outcomes, or experiences to maximize how happy you feel when they actually happen.

At the same time, many studies have shown that the act of anticipating or planning good experiences — like a vacation — makes you happier. So in many ways, it’s a tradeoff between feeling happier as you anticipate or feeling happier if you don’t anticipate, but it happens.

My reaction to this study was echoed by the researchers themselves, who pointed out that it only looked at short-term happiness spikes vs. longer-term life satisfaction. There are many variables that determine our overall life-satisfaction and it’s not really about finding some perfect formula. Instead, it’s about adopting certain simple habits — like practicing gratitude, staying connected with people we care about, learning to savor small moments and joys, investing energy into learning new things and pursuing what you are interested in — and making them a regular part of our lives.

(It would be really cool if I could come up with a crazy-looking equation for what I just wrote – next time!)

Happier Hearts: Pack a Fun Lunch

With back-to-school upon us, I am resuming my duties as master lunch-packer for the rest of the family. I pack a lot of lunches. My modest goals: create affordable, portable, balanced meals… with a minimum of waste… which my family will actually consume. Sounds simple, but years of packing have taught me that achieving all of those at once can be tricky. And while I’m not cutting fruit into cartoon characters, or anything (I don’t think my teens or my husband would appreciate that…), I still want to come up with something that’s more fun than a sandwich in a plastic bag.

Plastic should be cheerful and functional
I kind of have a thing for little lunch containers; I have tried just about every BPA-free, dishwasher-safe plastic container out there, searching for just the right ones for everything from sandwiches to yogurt. The winner, hands down, is Sistema. It comes in all kinds of bright colors (very handy when packing multiple lunches with different foods!), all shapes and sizes, and best of all, it opens and closes easily (with flip-locks even tiny hands can operate), but never leaks thanks to durable rubber gaskets. No more sticky lunch bags!

happier-hearts-sistema-food-storage

One utensil shall rule them all
We all remember sporks from the school cafeteria, right? The original was a fork/spoon hybrid, the spoon pointy, yet the fork’s tines too shallow for most foods. The revised Spork by Light My Fire is a true do-it-all utensil with a separate spoon and fork, plus the fork even has a functional serrated edge (sharp enough to be useful, dull enough to be okay to bring to school). No more complaints of “but I wanted a spoon for my fruit” when you packed a fork, and it’s fun to eat with, too. One and done.

happier-hearts-lightmyfire-sporks

Everything’s more fun in a pouch
My kids like all manner of snack food that comes in a pouch, but for years the idea of reusable ones was a pipe dream. Now there’s Squooshi, making durable, dishwasher-safe, zip-close pouches so you can pack whatever they like. Get the animal ones for little-kid fun, or go with the colored ones (hey, orange!) for the older crowd. Squeeze food isn’t just for babies! This is a great way to do yogurt, applesauce, smoothies, or even things like dips and salsas on the go.

happier-hearts-squooshi

Here’s to happier lunches!