Happier Challenge: Break Bread Together

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoooood Monday morning! We’re kicking off our first-ever theme week here at Happier, and we’re starting with a focus on family connection.

It’s no secret that the history of human beings is full of rituals around food. “Breaking bread together” is considered a sacred activity in nearly every religion, and eating together is a universal symbol of connection. Is this some sort of mysticism at work? Nope—science repeatedly shows that family dinners strengthen relationships, make kids more resilient, and are generally one of the easiest ways to lower teens’ risk of everything from eating disorders to substance abuse. Even if you don’t have kids and are a full-grown adult, eating with people you love confers plenty of benefits, from increased emotional well-being to actually increasing your odds of eating more nutritious foods. So that brings us to this week’s challenge, all about your family and food:

If you don’t normally have a sit-down, home-cooked family meal, have at least one, this week. If this is already part of your routine, invite a guest to join you!

Here’s some inspiration to get you jazzed to embrace family meals:

Will you take our challenge and share a moment about it in the Happier community? It would make us happier!

Happier Jump-Starts: Super-Charge Your Snacks

happier-jump-starts-snacks-101914It’s not socially acceptable to list “snacking” as one of your favorite hobbies, but I totally would if I thought I could get away with it. The truth is that I love food. I am not a health food fanatic by any means (all things in moderation, and that includes indulgent items!), but I do try to keep meals balanced and nutritious. Lately—inspired by our recent release of Kristin McGee’s Eat, Move, Feel Strong course—I’ve been trying to be more conscious of those between-meal morsels that make their way into my mouth, too.

The goal is to make sure snacks fill me up with the good stuff (protein, healthy fats, fiber) without leaving me feeling deprived. Here’s a few (hopefully new) ideas for you to try, based on my own snacking habits:

Do a protein with that fruit. Fruit is delicious and good for you, but whenever I feel virtuous snacking on an apple, I’m hungry again half an hour later. Have an apple with some almonds, or a pear with a slice of cheese, or smear some peanut butter on your banana. Find a pairing you love, or experiment until you do.

If you must dip, dip it good. I know tons of kids and even some adults who won’t eat raw veggies without some sort of dip. Hey, that’s fine; just make sure your dip has some nutrition! Go for a ranch or onion dip made with Greek yogurt (I like Gimme Some Oven’s recipe), whip up some guacamole (healthy fat!), or learn to love hummus. Speaking of hummus…

… roasted chickpeas are a great alternative to chips and crackers. Even if you’re not normally a fan of chickpeas, they’re super-easy to roast with the spices of your choice and make a fiber-filled, crunchy snack free of guilt. Yum.

Learn to love chia. The debate continues on whether chia seeds are a superfood (or if there’s any such thing as a superfood…), but chia is definitely packed with fiber, calcium, essential minerals, and even protein. Try some new recipes with it or just toss some on your salad, in a smoothie, etc. They’re a great source of nutrition and they help you feel full.

Don’t give up your favorites… just make them a little healthier. Remember what I said about all things in moderation? I am never going to be the kind of person who scolds you to give up cookies or anything, nor do I believe in “healthifying” recipes to the point where they no longer taste good. So, chocolate chip cookies made entirely with whole wheat flour and raisins instead of chips? Blech. (I’d rather skip the cookies.) But chocolate chip cookies made with a little bit of whole wheat or almond flour subbed in, or with the addition of some rolled oats? Sure! There’s way to make the less-healthy stuff a little bit better for you, and that—along with moderation!—means you can still feel okay about the occasional indulgence.

Have any great snacking tips to share? Lay ‘em on me.

Happier Spotlight: Better Than Facebook

happier-spotlight-101814Far be it from us to toot our own horn… haha! Just kidding! We love to toot our own horn, especially when our awesome users do most of the work for us. You guys always say it better than we could, anyway.

Meet Maria—she writes a blog called Be Grateful, and recently she posted about how she gave up Facebook and turned to the Happier app. Her whole post made us smile, but here’s the part that really gave us the warm fuzzies:

It’s similar to Facebook in a couple ways; post moments and pictures for others to see and you have a mini profile. The huge difference is Happier is like a family, a support system, a judgment free zone, full of open hearts, love and compassion. I have friends all over the world now and they are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. [...] Thank you Nataly and super awesome team for continuously making us a Happier place!

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Maria. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! You’re part of what makes Happier so awesome!

Hacking Productivity: Do This To Your To-Do List And You Will Be Happier

I’m big on to-do lists. And while my entire life revolves around technology, I like to write my to-do list by hand, usually in my orange (of course!) Moleskine.

I used to write my list in the morning, to start the day. Then at some point in the evening I would go through and cross off what I had accomplished. I don’t think I’ve ever crossed off more than 50% of my to-dos and… well, that didn’t make me feel very productive.

Recently I realized what happens: as the day goes on, new stuff comes up that I need to take care of, which wasn’t on my list to begin with. I AM getting things done but when I look at my to-do list, it doesn’t feel that way.

IMG_8909So I’ve turned my to-do list into a Did It / To Do list instead. I still write down what I need to do every morning (well, most mornings), and then try to have the list handy throughout the day as a reminder. But at night, I sit down and as I cross off things, I also add ones that I accomplished but that weren’t on the list to begin with. I used to feel like this was cheating, but it’s actually kind of awesome. I get to see all the stuff I got done in a day and for a moment feel a bit like a superhero.

When I feel productive, I am calmer and happier. So any little hack helps, especially when most of my days feel like I’m juggling while riding a skateboard on uneven ground. (And I say this having actually juggled never, and been on a skateboard once.)

If you have a fave productivity hack, I’d love to hear it!

Whoa! Happier Is Getting Famous-er!

We’re on the Hallmark Channel!

You know Carson has been sharing tips, tricks and advice in his Happier courses, but did you catch him offering advice and talking about Happier on the Hallmark Channel? We just did and we’re sooo excited! And that’s not all –- he’s going to give us a shout out on EXTRA tonight, too! We’ll be sure to share that clip as soon as we have it! (Ummm… did we mention that we’re a little excited…?)

Here’s the segment:

Happier Hearts: Pumpkin Spice Latte Alternatives

Here we are, smack-dab in the middle of October pumpkin spice season, and that means that absolutely everything is pumpkin-flavored. While the occasional fancy pumpkin spice latte is fine—more power to you if it’s what you love—I get a little concerned when everything’s turning up pumpkin, because some of it is better than others. Don’t waste the calories (or consume a ton of chemicals) if you’re just looking for a sweet autumnal treat; you can get orangeliciousness (that’s totally a word, meaning orange deliciousness) in plenty of other ways.

If you need your PSL fix…
happier-hearts-PSL-101614If nothing less than a hot, pumpkin-y coffee will do, try making your own at home—this recipe from The Kitchn is simple, delicious, and uses real pumpkin puree. You can make half a dozen at home for the cost of one at that place that rhymes with… ummm… Farmucks.

If you prefer it cold…
happier-hearts-pump-icecream-101614Is there ever a wrong season for ice cream? No; no, there is not. If you must have pumpkin, may I suggest these two fine dairy confections? You can’t go wrong with Turkey Hill’s pumpkin pie ice cream or my boyfriends, Ben & Jerry, and their pumpkin cheesecake ice cream. (Well, I guess you can if you can’t eat gluten, in which case you can join me in having this Edy’s Pumpkin Patch ice cream, instead. But I would much rather have the pumpkin cheesecake if I could.)

Happy Cookieween!
happier-hearts-TJs-101614Yes, I absolutely bake my own from-scratch cookies for my kids—featuring pumpkin—as often as I have the time. And I also grab seasonal Joe Joe’s (Trader Joe’s answer to the ubiquitous sandwich cookie) whenever I see them in TJ’s. The pumpkin flavor ones are a nice alternative to a vanilla cookie, and the jack-o-lantern ones are the regular flavor, but with orange filling to make them more festive. These are always a hit in lunch bags, no matter how old my kids get.

Go forth and indulge in pumpkin flavor, and let me know if there’s a pumpkin-flavored something wonderful I’m missing.

Awesome Humans: Malala Yousafzai

inspiring-humans-malala-101514It’s old news by now (at least by Internet standards, where news travels faster than a texting teen), but last week Malala Yousafzai was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize (along with Kailash Satyarthi). At just 17 years old, she is the youngest recipient in history. At an age when most teenagers are concerned about little beyond friends and homework, she has already been a tireless education advocate for years.

This (brief) piece on 8 Ways Malala Has Made the World Better for Women is the perfect summation of why she is such an extraordinary young adult.

Congratulations, Malala! You are a credit to Pakistan, ambitious teens, and the whole human race. Knowing you’re in the world makes us happier.