Happier Jump-Starts: Perfect Thanksgiving Recipes

happier-jumpstarts-112314If you’re in the US, chances are you’re getting ready for Thanksgiving this week—whether that means hosting, traveling, or just hiding out and eating ice cream straight from the carton (don’t worry, we don’t judge). I’m not sure how any of us ever cooked before the Internet, but nowadays, any sort of event means turning to various resources online to figure out your food.

Or, um, maybe that’s just me. Let’s pretend it’s you, too. Go with me, here. If you find yourself looking at recipes online, keep these helpful tips in mind before the big day:

Read the comments. Reading the comments on recipes can often clue you in to reviews, helpful substitutions, cooking time adjustments, and other tweaks you might find useful. On the other hand, reading the comments may incite rage. (See also: All the Comments on Every Recipe Blog.) Gauge your mood and resilience before proceeding into any comment section.

Go with old favorites. If ever there was a holiday suited to Grandma’s time-worn recipe cards, Thanksgiving is it. There’s some allure to a new recipe, of course, but one day a year, go ahead and use the butter and whatever else you “shouldn’t” be eating. There’s a reason those recipes have stood the test of time (they’re delicious). If you have a tried-and-true recipe everyone loves, go for it.

Stop worrying about perfection. There’s no such thing as a perfect meal, and fretting over making it so is a losing game. Remember—memorable meals require happiness, not perfection, and you can serve that alongside any dish.

Be realistic and call in reinforcements. If you’re not a cook, buy pre-prepared food, or ask others to help. I love to cook, but I also know lots of folks who don’t who insist on putting themselves through the paces for a big meal while hating every minute. Life is really too short for that; there’s no such thing as a perfect recipe if cooking it makes you miserable.

When all else fails, improvise. Smooth over any food issues seamlessly with a beautifully-set table. And by “beautifully-set table,” I of course mean “booze.” (Kidding! I kid! Mostly!) Any food tastes better when served on a pretty platter or at a gorgeous table or even accompanied by a good story. In other words: The food isn’t just food, and you and your style and personality are what make it great. You don’t need a recipe for that.

Ready for the big meal, or dreading it? You can cook up amazing memories either way.

Happier Science: Walk This Way

happier-science-112214There’s no shortage of research to support walking as the so-called perfect exercise; human beings are, after all, designed to walk! (We’ve discussed walking here before.) Walking is beneficial for our muscles, bones, circulation… even our mood and sleep patterns are improved by walking. (If only we could put a brisk 20-minute walk into a spray bottle to apply to all any life problem, much as the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding uses his Windex….)

So: walking = better health and greater happiness. This isn’t new news. What is new, though, is a new research on how purposefully walking in a “happy” or “depressed” manner may influence mood. Researchers designed a study utilizing already-proven biases about the connection between mood and memory. People in a happier state are more likely to remember positive information, while those in a more negative state are more likely to remember negative information. Lifehacker India describes the findings:

It was found that the respondents who had adopted the happy, confident gait and stance remembered more of the positive words from the list while those whose walking style had reflected depression and dejection, recalled more negative emotions from the selection of words that were read out.

Their findings, therefore, imply that one’s walking style has the potential to impact one’s mind – where one is more likely to process and retain information that matches how one is feeling.

“It is not surprising that our mood, the way we feel, affects how we walk, but we wanted to see whether the way we move also affects how we feel,” elaborates Nikolaus Troje, professor, Queen’s University, Canada as well as the co-author of the research paper.

Talk about a mind-body connection—the implications here for affecting mood via the body are huge. If just walking in a depressed way can make you feel worse, and walking “like a happy person” can pick you up… with the accompanying memory changes the difference in mood can bring… well, then, maybe that whole fake-it-’til-you-make-it idea applies to more than we thought. Sure, even faking a smile is good for you, but what about thinking about how you sit, stand, and—yes—walk?

Food for thought. Or maybe something to consider on your next walk.

What chance will you take today?

This morning I was lucky enough to give a talk as part of Creative Mornings, right here in Boston. Creative Mornings is a lecture series for the creative community and I had a chance to talk to a few hundred of them bright at the coolest venue I’ve ever spoken in — a climbing gym.

IMG_9334The topic of my talk was chance: the chances I’ve taken that got me where I am, the chances I missed, the chances I gave to others as part of my journey.

One of the things I talked about was this idea that with every chance you take you increase the surface area for luck to hit. I think of luck as timing — timing of meeting the right person, the right trend, the right dynamic, being in the right place, at the right time. The more chances you take the more opportunities you create for luck to intersect with you.

The more people you connect with, the more likely you are to meet someone who can lead you to your next opportunity or help you make another connection that you need. The more new things you try the more likely you are to find something that makes your life more awesome. There are no guarantees but I guarantee that nothing awesome will happen if you don’t take a chance.

So my Friday challenge to you is to take one chance today.

Do something you’ve been putting off. Do something you’re nervous to do. Do something you’ve not done before. It doesn’t have to be huge or epic, but you do have to do it. (I’d love to know what chance you are taking – please share in the comments!)

Oh, and if you need a little something extra, here’s some musical inspiration.

Happier Science: Gratitude is as powerful in children as adults

As a mom of a 10 year-old, this is awesome to read. Actually, it’s just awesome:

According to new research, kids and teens experience the same benefits of expressing gratitude as studies have shown in adults.

Kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families and schools than those who don’t.

In one study mentioned in the article, sixth- and seventh-graders were divided into three groups. One group recorded five things each week they appreciated, second group recorded five things that annoyed them, and the third wrote down five events that occurred. Kids in the gratitude group reported higher satisfaction with school and more optimism.



Awesome Humans: Daan Roosegaarde Modernizes Van Gogh

awesome-humans-bikepath-111914Ever been to Eindhoven? It’s a city in the Netherlands, and its main claim to fame is that this artist named Vincent Van Gogh used to live there. Perhaps you’ve heard of him…?

The city is about to embark on a Van Gogh theme year for 2015 (the 125th anniversary of the artist’s death will be in March), and to kick it off in the most appropriate way possible, artist Daan Roosegaarde designed the Van Gogh Bicycle Path, which opened to the public last week. Together with Heijmans Infrastructure, this Smart Highway path (which utilizes solar energy and other technology to operate) illuminates the night in a beautiful and modern homage to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

I never cycle at night, but I would if I had a path like this to ride along. What a lovely treasure for the city, and a perfect nod to an artistic master. Roosegarde’s design is amazing!

Mindful Break: Why He’s The Hottest Artist In The World


Last year, legendary street artist Banksy set up a stand in Central Park selling his stencil art for $60 a piece.

(See pic of the man that Banksy posted at the stand to handle the transactions)

Only three people bought Bansky’s art, with one bargaining for a 2-for-1 deal.

Note: these were original Banksy pieces that you could have picked up for sixty bucks! A mere print of Banksy’s “Love in the Air” recently sold for $249,000.  

The same type of experiment was performed in 2007 when the Washington Post placed legendary, world famous violinist Joshua Bell in a DC subway stop during rush hour.

Of the 1,000 people who raced by Joshua Bell on their way to work, only 1 person stopped to listen.

I don’t think I would have stopped to buy a Banksy or listen to Joshua Bell. Would you?

What does this say about our culture?

Good art makes us feel and good artists have bleeding souls, they are gushing with passion.

But if you aren’t living with passion, you probably won’t recognize passion in art, people, or life.

So here’s a challenge for you today: More feeling, less thinking.

The world will respond to what you are selling, teaching, living, buying… if they feel your passion. That is Universal Law.

What gets you going these days? What song, what painting, what food makes you stand up and pump your fists and say “I’M FREAKIN’ ALIVE!”

I don’t know about you, but I am a passionate being living an increasingly dispassionate life.

What we stand up for, what we shout about, what makes us cry… those are the footprints we leave behind.

When our souls bleed with feeling, we become the Banksys and Joshua Bells…

… we become the souls knocking at the doorways of our minds, saying, “LET ME LEAD US. LET ME HEAL US. LET ME SAVE US. NOW!”

Happier Challenge: Blast Holiday Stress With Gratitude!

I’ll start with a confession:

When I think about the upcoming holiday season, the first thing I feel is my entire body tightening up and all the stress hormones starting to act up. Traffic! Decisions about where to go and what family to try not to offend! Family reactions to us making the wrong choice! Traffic! Eating too much food and then regretting it! Traffic! Gifts, gifts, must find the right gifts, no time for shopping, this shouldn’t be so important, stuff doesn’t make you happy but still need gifts! Traffic!

You get the point. My bet is that most of us feel some – a lot? – degree of stress about the holidays. There is also this nagging pressure to be REALLY HAPPY ALL THE TIME BECAUSE, HOLIDAYS! And if you don’t, then you feel guilty for not feeling happy, which makes you less happy, and more guilty. Believe me, speaking from serious experience here.

There’s no way to completely eliminate holiday stress but there are things you can do to not let it fully eat you up. To help you, we’ve come up with our Blast Your Holiday Stress With Gratitude Challenge:

For the next 10 days until Thanksgiving, find something to be grateful for every single day. Share your moments of gratitude in the Happier app and add them to our “gratitude challenge” collection. At the end of the challenge we will put them all together and show the world what gratitude looks like. In your words, in your photos, in your small moments of gratitude.

It’s easy to find thingnatalymoments to be grateful for when you feel good and everything is going well. It’s a lot harder to do when you’re down or stressed or your life is throwing you for a loop. But that’s also when you need to do it the most because gratitude is incredibly powerful. It doesn’t solve all of your problems and it’s not a miracle cure. But making gratitude a regular part of your life helps you build resilience and you need resilience when times are tough. Evolution has trained our brains to look for the negative to protect ourselves; practicing gratitude helps you train your brain to look for the positive. The more experience and people and moments you appreciate, the more you start to look for things to appreciate — and that’s a pretty awesome virtuous cycle. Always, but particularly during the stressful holiday time.

So are you in? We’d love for you to join us for the Blast Holiday Stress With Gratitude Challenge!