Mindful Break: How To Cure Worrying Too Much

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I was at a trendy breakfast spot in Soho.

Modern, super delicious food, hip New Yorkers.

In the far corner were three people who stood out from the crowd.

That’s hard to do in New York City.

You could wear phosphorescent green, ultra-skinny jeans… and in NYC, you’d fit right in.

You could be a conjoined twin with two heads of different ethnic origin… and in NYC, you’d fit right in.

You could say out loud, “Jezamachafreeakmakamaka!” And in NYC, somebody would say “Screw you!” but somebody else would say “I hear ya brother!”

Point being… it’s hard to stand out here!

So just who were these three people who stood out from the crowd in Soho?

They were monks in full robes enjoying Sunday brunch.

As one of them walked passed me I said to him, “I have to let you know… your energy is awesome. Do you have any worries whatsoever?”

He said, “Of course I have worries. I live in this world. But I have learned to trust the Universe completely. I always have exactly what I need.”

His Complete Trust was calming and soothing. It made me feel spacious in my mind and heart, as if I was 22 and lying on the beach listening to Jerry Garcia play an acoustic version of Ripple. I had not felt this way in so long. 

And it really hit me. My spirituality has become shallow.

It’s easy to collect Pinterest quotes, and watch Super Soul Sunday, and do your meditations, and practice yoga, and talk about Trust all you want over almond milk chai lattes with extra cinnamon.

But real Trust is not what you say, but what you DO when you keep bumping up against the same frustrations, the same daily blues, the same obstacles day in and day out.

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Scholar Joseph Campbell describes the origin of “panic.”

In Greek mythology, the god named PAN would instill “a sudden groundless fright” into anyone who ventured into his domain.

Even the slightest sound like the breaking of a twig would flood the trespasser’s mind with great danger.

Thus, the origin of the word “PAN-ic.” 

But wait. 

The mythology states that if you paid your respect to PAN before venturing into his territory, he would bestow all the wonders of nature upon your lucky soul. 

It’s a message so perfectly embodied by the three monks brunching in Soho. 

Come to it differently.

Show your faith.

Pay your respect.

Take the rest of the day to Trust completely. 

Worst case scenario? You relax into a soothing energy and take a load off.

Best case scenario? You bust loose and become the all-time greatest version of you.

Happier Challenge: There’s Always A Reason To Smile

happier-challenge-smile-092914Can you look at a smiling baby and not smile, yourself? Most of us can’t. Children smile way more often than adults, and there’s ample research showing that smiling is beneficial for our health, mood, and ability to connect with others. Smiling is just plain good for us, but as adults we tend to squelch our natural smiling instincts. That’s why this week’s challenge is…

Find a reason to smile. Just flexing those muscles tells your brain to be happier.

Of course, I will seize any excuse to share cool stuff that makes me smile, so here’s some inspiration for you this week:

Have a fabulous, smile-filled week! (And don’t forget to share your happy moments in the Happier community while you do.)

Happier Jump-Starts: Tips For Instant Pick-Me-Ups

happier-jump-starts-092814Sometimes, it’s all about the little things. (There’s an argument to be made that they’re all little things, but that’s a different conversation, entirely.) My own personal journey in learning to be happier has a lot to do with figuring out how to stay small. I need to stay in the moment, focus on what’s right in front of me rather than on my Chicken Little-esque inclination to run around screaming about the sky falling, and have an arsenal of tools for lifting my spirits in a hurry. Some steps towards a happier me need to be planned out, but it’s the anytime/anywhere ones that I find easiest and most useful. Here’s a few of my favorites:

A good snuggle. Never underestimate the power of positive touch. A hug is good for you both physically and emotionally, and yes, it counts if you’re getting some love from your pets. I feel like I should’ve named my dogs after antidepressants.

After you. For me the best antidote to feeling rushed or stressed is to purposely let someone go ahead of me—at the 4-way stop, in the grocery line, or even just walking through a doorway. It’s a reminder to me that there’s always time for kindness, and I usually get a smile in return.

Dark humor. I realize this isn’t everyone’s thing, but sometimes what I really need is to say something ridiculous and inappropriate to someone who loves me, just to make them laugh and/or ask me if I know that I’m demented. (Yep, I know.)

A tiny treat. This one can sometimes veer into eating-your-feelings territory, which is why I say “tiny” rather than just “treat.” A single square of dark chocolate or a fancy peppermint can impart an instant mood lift, though.

Take a moment. Close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and think about something that makes you smile, even just for a few seconds. It can be something meaningful or something silly, either way. The point is that you can use pleasant memories to bolster yourself whenever needed, and when you open your eyes again, you’re in a better place.

Have a tip or trick to share about an instant get-happier boost? I’m all ears!

Happier Science: The Sticking Points

happier-science-092714We spend a lot of time here at Happier sharing what science has taught us about learning to be happier, and of course we try to keep the emphasis on the positive stuff. That’s the goal, after all!

But this recent piece by Thai Nguyen about the 10 culprits potentially robbing you of happiness is fascinating—for anyone who struggles with just following the good advice out there, seeing the connection between common pitfalls and their overall impact may be particularly helpful. This is a tidy list of ways in which we often get it wrong (and why we do). It turns out that we’re not always very good at figuring out what’s best, and as a result a lot of us spend a lot of time “stuck.” Lucky for us, Nguyen is also there to tell us how to turn it around and be happier (phew).

Note that the very first item on the list is:

1. The Cart Before the Horse.

“I’ll be happy as soon as I ________________.”

That’s typically how we view happiness — on the other side of achievement. We put the cart before the horse and then attempt to drag them both along.

Hmmmmmm. I almost feel like I’ve heard that one before… somewhere…. (Everyone together, now: Stop saying “I’ll be happier when…” and start thinking “I am happier now because….”)

Go read the whole piece; I bet you’ll see yourself in at least a few of the items listed, and there’s easy pointers to turn around those decidedly-not-happier habits, too. The science is clear. We just have to figure out the best ways to implement it!

What Yoga Taught Me About Getting Through The Storm

I’ve been taking a few yoga classes a week for three years now. I don’t consider myself a serious yogi but I love my practice and I’ve been focused on learning more about it, beyond just the physical movement and poses. This has meant reading a few books and also actually listening to what my yoga teachers say during class and trying to be thoughtful about it.

Yoga is much more a state of mind than it is twisting into a crazy shape (although if I am honest, I will tell you that I totally get pose envy when my mat-neighbor does something I can’t do.) And one of the things I’ve been trying to do more is bring what I learn in yoga into my life off the mat.

A few months ago my teacher said something that has stuck with me since. And for the first time I actually put it to use this week — and I wanted to share it with you.

revolvedtriangleDuring that class, we were in a revolved triangle pose. It’s REALLY really difficult. And it hurts in lots of spots if you’re as tight as me.

Our teacher looked at our pained faces and said:

“I know you are hating this pose right now. I know it hurts. I know it’s difficult. But can you breathe through the difficult and find a way to be OK with it anyway.”

This really struck a chord with me. As I’ve shared here before, my life is pretty nuts and stressful most of the time. And sometimes I find myself waiting for the storm to calm down to feel calmer and OK. I feel like I just need to deal with it, get through a stressful time, and then I will chill out and catch my breath.

Thing is, that is a really bad idea. There are always going to be stressful periods in life, there are always going to be storms, there are always going to be difficult times. Waiting for some perfect stress-free time to breathe and to carve out a little time to catch your breath might mean you’re waiting forever. Instead, I think we all have to develop and nurture the skill of finding islands of rest and taking care of ourselves while we are in the middle whatever storm is going on in our lives.

So the next time you’re in the middle of a stress storm — at home, at work, with friends, anywhere in your life — can you find a way to breathe through it instead of waiting for it to be over?

Carson’s Top Fashion and Style Tips For Fall

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Hi Happiers!

This time of year always reminds me of back-to-school shopping with my mom, headed to Hess’s: Allentown, PA’s most glamorous shopping destination in the 70s. Armed with new corduroys and a silk print shirt, I felt new and improved and ready to take on the world! (At least in 3rd grade!) Anyway, the tradition of back-to-school shopping forever instilled in me the power of a fresh fall wardrobe! Here are 10 tips to start fresh this fall:

 

  1. Go back-to-school shopping even if you’re not actually going back to school. (Note: taking the Happier Makeover course counts as going back to school!)
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  3. Get some new nail lacquer: Try hot new moody colors like Navy and Merlot.

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  1. Killer outerwear. The key piece for fall is the parka. Since you wear it every day as the cold weather approaches, get a good one — it’s worth the investment.
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  1. Go for a long skirt.  It’s great for every figure and can add drama to pieces you already have (like a simple white blouse).
  1. Try pleats. (Just try them. You might really end up liking them.)
  1. Add a touch of leather. You don’t have to invest in leather jeans – who looks good in them anyway? — but try adding touches of leather or faux hides in sweater-patch details, leggings with racing stripes, or a cute motorcycle jacket. For even more edge, go for the new liquid-like faux leather.
  1. Refresh your intimates! If you haven’t bought new bras and panties since the Reagan administration, it’s time to freshen up the underwear drawer. Undergarments affect how you feel and improve how everything on top of them fits. Change your bra = change your life!
  1. Buy some new kicks to motivate a back to the gym mentality. If I think I look cute, I’m more likely to go to the gym.
  1. Add a bit of animal print. I always have some in my collection for shopHQ and this fall is perfect for touches of muted cheetah and python. Muted versions in grays and browns act like a neutral and pair with everything!
  1. Go green. Green is having a moment. While everyone is still rocking cobalt and deep purples, stand out from the crowd with green — the color that’s about to be the next big trend. Try emerald all the way to olive drab.

Happier Hearts: Pamper Your Pooch

Here at Happier, we feel strongly about our furry friends. That was great news for me, because my children love to tell me I like the dogs better than I like them. (I plead the 5th.) (But seriously, the dogs never roll their eyes at me.) If you love your dogs as much as we love ours, today’s Happier Hearts is for you!

Indestructible!
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Have a dog who feels obligated to perform emergency squeakerectomies and complete defluffings on every toy you try? The only toys in our house that have withstood two hyper chewers are from Dura Doggie, and every purchase means some money donated to a designated charity, too. We give these five paws up (and then one of the dogs falls over, probably.)

Because dogs want to be all-natural hippies, too
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I love all things Burt’s Bees, already (it’s a love affair that started years ago with their apricot baby oil when my oldest was an infant), but I was thrilled to discover they have a line of products just for dogs. My dogs have sensitive skin and finicky ears, and while I’m sure all of the options are lovely, the peppermint witch hazel ear cleaner does a good job and seems to make sensitive ears a little happier.

No more choking on walks
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I know, I know; a properly-trained dog will not pull on a leash. My dogs are maybe a little spoiled, plus they’re small, so their leash manners aren’t always the best because… ummm… I’m a terrible doggie mommy. But! With the Yuppie Puppy Anti-Pull Mesh Harness I no longer worry about my over-eager walker choking herself, and the harness slips over her head and adjusts with a single slider. The mesh keeps ‘em cool, and the sherpa fabric on the straps means no chafing. I love this harness.

Tell me about your pampered pooch? I love hearing about other folks’ canine babies!