Behind the scenes of Happier Courses (literally!)

There are a lot of times when I wish we could take our entire awesome Happier community and bring all of you into our Happier HQ or behind the scenes of what we’re working on. The day we shot our course videos for Meditation Vacation and Everyday Yoga series was one of those days: I really really really wish you guys could have been there.

Instead, I took a lot of photos and wanted to share just a few impressions from what was, for me, personally, and for Happier, as a company and a team, a really freaking amazing day.

First, our awesome experts: Dave Romanelli and Chrissy Carter. You ever meet someone and feel like you’ve known them for a long time? That’s how I felt hanging out with these inspiring, funny, and fun people. We had a blast shooting our interviews, changing outfits so the cinematographer and director could decide what worked best in the light, and talking about everything from yes, yoga and meditation and what it means to us and how we each discovered it, and our fave NYC spots.

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(Can we also just agree that they look like they are brother and sister?!)

Next, Josh Seftel and his amazing team, whom we’re lucky to have as our production partners for the videos. I knew it took a lot of people to shoot video but whoa, we had one serious crew: camera people, producers, director, sound, lights, and several awesome assistants who were kind enough to sit in for the takes so I and the experts could chill out while the crew set up the set.

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I was asked to bring a “few” outfits for the shoot (I am in two of the videos, doing the interviews with our experts to kick off each course). This, of course, meant that I brought a suitcase of clothes, that I wheeled around rainy, cold NYC, up and down lots of subway stairs. Being told that “I could go up with the best like Barbara Walters” totally made it all worth it. (Well, that, and the fact that Josh, our awesome director, and his cinematographer, both approved my outfit choices and made feel kinda awesome.)

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(To be honest with you, seeing myself close up on camera is completely terrifying.)

The crew worked from 6am until about 10pm, with just a short break for lunch. It is incredibly hard work to shoot just a few short videos and I have a completely new deep sense of admiration for people who create movies and videos we enjoy.

I am so excited about how the courses and the videos are coming together and really grateful to have a chance to work with such talented, inspiring people. One of the things that makes the (yes, really stressful and challenging and roller coaster-like) gig of running Happier completely awesome is a chance to meet great people and have so many new experiences. Our first day of shooting videos for Happier Courses is one I won’t forget.

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Everyday Grateful Course launches in Happier!

EGIt’s a big day here at Happier: We’re really excited to announce that we’ve just launched Everyday Grateful, our very first Happier Course, right in the Happier app!

When spreading happiness is your mission, it feels like there’s always more to be done. We’re really proud of the start we made with the Happier app, and then we moved on to the first Happier course, Everyday Grateful, to offer a guided tour of sorts to those wanting more assistance in cultivating the happiness habit. It’s only been a couple of months, but the feedback on the course has been humbling.

I’m getting so much out of this course, not least because at the moment, I’m going through some hard stuff in my life. Your daily reminders help me stay focused on being as grateful as possible every moment, because bad stuff is transitory but the happy stuff sticks around. This is a big deal for me because it’s changed my entire outlook on everything: I don’t worry as much, I sleep soundly and I’m a much more positive person now.

-Hannah

I could each day’s task really quickly but realized it had a lot of impact. I notice now when I am becoming grumpy and can stop it before it gets worse.

- Tracy

Great feedback is awesome (OK, to be honest, it’s amazing and means so much to us!) but wanted to see if we could make the course even better. And I think we have.

Everyday Grateful is still:

  • A 3-week interactive course designed to cultivate the “attitude of gratitude” which research proves makes you happier and healthier
  • Chock-full of tips and advice (practical and never preachy, pinky swear) to help you focus on the positive

  • Videos, inspiration, and guided activities designed to increase your happiness in just a few minutes a day

  • Supported by a coach you can reach at any time (just shoot me an email!)

In addition, Everyday Grateful is now:

  • Accessible through the Happier app on your iPhone whenever and wherever you like
  • Perpetually available — go back and repeat activities that really spoke to you, do the whole course again as many times as you like (how you use it and pace yourself is up to you)

  • Enhanced with new content (based upon user feedback and the latest research; we take our happiness seriously!)

We’re offering the new and improved Everyday Grateful for just $24.99. Think about it; for the cost a week’s worth of lattes, you could be cultivating a lifetime of increased gratitude (which, in turn, means greater overall happiness). We’re so sure you’ll love it, it comes with a full money-back guarantee, too.

Thank you for being part of our amazing Happier community and I hope you’ll join us for Everyday Grateful!

A Gratitude Resolution to kick off 2014 (and introducing Happier Courses!)

I love writing things down – in a notebook, with a pen :) – and I still have the notebook in which I wrote down the first idea of what I wanted Happier to do:

“Help people be happier. Encourage them to do more of what makes them happier. Inspire them to improve different parts of their lives without feeling pressured to make dramatic changes. Make improving your life something that’s fun to do, not a chore.”

I remember how excited I was at the opportunity to build a company that could do this. (Also intimidated at the challenge of doing it — getting people to change behavior is insanely difficult and promising someone that we will make them happier sets a really high bar.) We decided that we would start with a simple, fun, and social mobile application to encourage people to notice, appreciate, and share small everyday moments that made them happier. Thousands of scientific studies have shown that practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to feel more positive, optimistic, and less stressed, and even has important health benefits like improved sleep and reduced anxiety.

We released our iPhone app in February of 2013 and wow, we’ve been blown away by the response from our users. We’ve gotten thousands of emails, cards, and even hand-written letters from people all over the world, telling us how Happier has changed their lives for the better, inspired them to become more grateful, positive, optimistic, and significantly less stressed. There is a lot still to do and every day we are working hard to make the Happier experience more awesome, easier to use, and more engaging, and we are fueled by knowing that we are on our path to building something that can truly positively impact people’s lives.

Almost from the day we launched we started hearing from many of our users that while they enjoy using Happier, they would like more guidance from us to help them develop a more grateful mindset. They told us their lives are busy and they don’t have time to go read some of the books and research that inspired Happier or that while they would love to improve certain areas of their life, they aren’t quite sure about how to do it. We had always envisioned one day extending the Happier platform to offer more guided experience so hearing this feedback encouraged us to think about this even more.

And today I am psyched, thrilled, and excited to announce that we’re launching Happier Courses! Our vision is to create interactive, mobile, 1 to 3 week courses that combine daily activities, inspiring videos and other content to help people learn and practice new ways to become happier and healthier. We will work with leading wellness and lifestyle experts to bring their expertise to our users in a brand-new interactive format. Happier Courses will never be preachy or boring — we want them to be something you want to do instead of something you feel you need to do. And we are designing them to fit into your busy life because we believe that improving your life should be something you do while you’re living it. (We are working on courses in everyday meditation, improving your dating mojo, a personal style makeover, and more that we will be launching in the next few months – so get excited:)

skitch_iphoto.export.skitchOur first course is Everyday Grateful and it’s taught by yours truly. It’s a 21-day interactive course to help you develop a more grateful mindset and start on a path to feeling more positive, less stressed out, and more optimistic. More than 11,000 studies have shown the positive impact of gratitude on your outlook and health and that science is the foundation of the course. It’s been incredibly fun to design and I’ll go as far as to confidently say that I think it’s as fun as it is meaningful. (Oh, and it comes with our limited-edition Make Your Life Happier Kit!)

Everyday Grateful kicks off on January 6th (you’ll be able to sign up at any time after that as well, but January 6th will be the first day) and we timed it this way for a reason. New Year is when many of us make resolutions and we wanted to inspire you to make a Gratitude Resolution: to find something or someone to appreciate and feel grateful for every single day in 2014. I hope you’ll give this a shot and if you do, I can promise you that it will change your life. Becoming more grateful and appreciative of the small things and experiences I encounter every day and expressing thanks to people in my life changed my life a few years ago and inspired me to start Happier. It’s so simple and yet so incredibly powerful.

Happy New Year and here’s to a more awesome — and grateful! – 2014!

Happy New Year from Happier!

 

 

 

How our Happier community turned me from feeling bitter to feeling insanely lucky

It’s 4pm on Friday after Thanksgiving. Having spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, we came to stay with our dear friends for a few days.

As I write this, the kids are playing upstairs and the adults are drinking wine and eating snacks in their awesomely relaxing living room. I am in the kitchen, where I found a plug close to the counter, and I am working. I have been working for the last 3 hours without taking a break and before then, I was working — on my phone or laptop, whichever I could get to easiest — from the car on our drive down to Thanksgiving, at night after everyone went to bed after the big turkey dinner, and early in the morning before everyone got up.

As an entrepreneur I work all the time but during this holiday weekend I was starting to feel really sorry for myself. I wanted a break. I wanted to not worry about anything for a few days. I wanted to turn off my work email and not check it. I wanted to not think about raising money or scaling user growth or prioritizing features or any of the other 100 topics that race through my brain at any given minute. I wanted to eat too much, drink too much, hang out with family and friends, watch stupid TV, and not worry about anything. And I caught myself feeling pretty bitter about not being able to do this. (I read this blog post by Michael Carney about why holidays for entrepreneurs can be anything by happy and my neck hurt from emphatic nodding.)

While feeling bitter and sorry for myself, I clicked over to Twitter and saw this tweet, from one of our awesome Happier users:

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I am not sure there are actual words I can find to describe how it feels to be able to create something that can impact people’s lives in a positive way. My fellow entrepreneurs will know exactly what I mean — it’s a magical feeling.

After thanking Neil I went back to cranking through my emails, where I found an email from another user, sharing with me how Happier has helped her gain a much more positive perspective on life after she went through a difficult few years. A few emails down was an email from one of our users who just signed up for our brand new gratitude course and was so excited to take it she wanted to make sure we got her email correctly.

And this is when I realized that instead of feeling sorry for myself I should be feeling really freaking lucky.

Yes, being an early-stage entrepreneur is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — and this includes immigrating to the US and becoming a mom, both of which have challenged me in so many ways I am not sure I get it all yet. It is an endless emotional roller coaster, an endurance run that tests you in every way you can imagine and more, and it’s also just pure hard endless work. It’s exhausting and there are no breaks.

But to have a chance to create something, from scratch, that actually can impact someone’s life in a positive way, that can help people be more optimistic and with that optimistic mindset do more in their lives that makes them feel awesome is incredible. And I get to do it for a living. I am the lucky one. Tired, in need of way more sleep, but really damn lucky.

So on this post-Thanksgiving day, this is my thank you to my team, investors, advisors, friends, family, and most of all, the amazing Happier community, for being part of my feeling this lucky. And if you’re a fellow tired entrepreneur wishing you could have a little less crazy or stress or work in your life — which we all do, if we’re honest about it — ask yourself in what ways you’re lucky to be doing what you are. My bet is that your answer will make you happier :)

I’m a crazed, busy startup CEO. Here are 5 habits that keep me sane and make me happier.

Let’s get this out of the way first:

Just because I run a company called Happier doesn’t mean I’m naturally, without any effort, happy. Not at all. Running an early-stage startup and juggling that with being a mom, wife, daughter, grand-daughter, friend and well, a woman who also wants to have more than a second of time to herself, is freaking hard. I stress a lot, I have totally off days when I just want to go hide under the covers, and there are many days when I am not sure how to get it all done.

But I am lucky: I’ve spent the last few years living and breathing research on happiness and I get to be part of the amazing Happier community every day. I have learned a LOT about being more positive and optimistic, managing my stress, and yes, being happier, and I want to share some of my favorite happiness habits with you. (I don’t think you need to be a crazed start-up CEO to find these useful but if you are, I think you will.)

  1. Write down at least 3 things every day that I am grateful for. OK, I don’t write them down, I capture my happy moments in our Happier app, but it’s the same idea. Mountains of research shows that practicing gratitude has incredible benefits for our overall well-being — from helping us be more positive, joyful and optimistic, to feeling less stress and anxiety. And you do have to actually practice it by writing down what you’re grateful for; just thinking it is not enough. I have two types of days: On some I share my happy moments throughout the day; on others, I share them at night, in “bulk”, before I go to bed. Both work, just depends on how much running around I am doing.
  2. IMG_3128Go for an early morning walk. I get up at 6am every day and go for a 3+ mile walk. I do it in the sun, rain, freezing wind, and even snow (I think I skipped a few huge snow storm days, but that’s it). There are days when I think I’m half-asleep when I start walking but my body just goes. For me this is like my daily meditation. I listen to music — not news — I move, I breathe. I travel a lot and try to get a walk in on business trips as well, although this is more challenging. Having this one daily ritual that doesn’t shift due to schedules, that’s just there, always, is incredibly helpful. It anchors my day and gets me started on the right foot. (Plus getting your heart pumping and getting fresh air have been shown to lead to less stress and more positive thinking.)
  3. Get one thing done before I check my email. This is a hard one but makes a huge difference. I try to get something done on my to-do list before I open my email — which also means no mindless email checking in the car or while getting stuff done with my family in the morning. Research says being productive makes us happier and I can absolutely attest that days when I stick to doing this are better and less crazy stressed.
  4. IMG_3129Have small fun family traditions to anchor the week. I work a lot. My husband works a lot. Our awesome nine year-old kiddo has a lot of activities. So our week is pretty nuts. I realized a while back that having rituals — even really small ones — that we can all look forward to, helps a ton. For example, on Friday nights we do sushi and a movie together. On Tuesdays I get home for dinner with our daughter and it’s quesadilla night. Every morning I put a small note with a sticker into her lunchbox — it’s 30 seconds during which I smile and think about her day and 30 seconds when she opens her lunchbox and smiles. Our family traditions aren’t complicated, but they are huge for keeping us all saner and happier.
  5. Always have one thing on the calendar I’m looking forward to.  I try to schedule a lunch or dinner with a friend, catch up with my parents, or have a plan for something fun with my husband and kiddo at least once a week. Having it there is a great pick-me-up if I’m having a rough day and it’s just fun to look forward to. (Which science says is actually a thing — looking forward to good experiences makes us happier. When you plan a vacation, for example, the anticipation and the planning make you as happy – or sometimes happier – than going on it.)

I’d love to hear about your favorite happiness habits, small or big. Someone called me an expert on happiness the other day and it bugged me — I don’t think anyone actually is. Being happier is a way of life, and like with everything else, I’m always learning, just like you:)

How fancy wine glasses can make you happier

Can I confess something? This week kicked my butt. Actually, it kicked the collective butt of our entire family. Among other things, our long-time sitter (who was with us for more than 5 years and is beloved by 9 year-old kiddo) got sick, my grandmother ended up in the hospital and I caught the death-cold-or-something going around. A week of juggling lack of babysitters (thank you grandparents!), interviewing new sitters (thank you amazing husband who was like a rock doing background research and finding them), hospital calls (thank you doctors!) while doing all the other usual crazy-busy stuff we do left me feeling like a deflated balloon by Sunday night.

Never mind, I am not a fan of analogies. By Sunday night I felt like crap. Physically and emotionally.

It was time for dinner and at first I started to dread it. UGH, more stuff to do. While thinking about what to make for my crew I was putting away the new wine glasses I got for us this weekend. (OK, secondary confession: They are inspired by the wine glasses Olivia Pope has in the absolutely addictive show Scandal. Yes, I bought wine glasses because I liked them on a TV show.) And that gave me an idea:

I was going to make us a fun “fancy” Sunday night dinner.

photo 2Dining room instead of kitchen table.

“Cocktails” (juice and lemon) in fancy wine glasses instead of just water in regular water glasses we use.

Candles.

Cloth napkins and nice silverware we usually use for company.

A geometric tower made from sweet potato fries instead of just piling them on the plate.

A little music.

I baked a quick salmon steak and threw together a quick cucumber and corn salad to go with sweet potato fries tower and the entire fancy dinner, from start to finish, including setting the table, took me about 20 minutes. When I called my guys over to the dining room table, their surprised smiles were all I needed to start turning this rough week around :)

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3 simple things you can to do make work travel happier

I travel a LOT. Two weeks in a row without travel is rare and more often than not, there is a suitcase ready to be packed once a week. Some of the travel is fun, some of it is less than fun, and all of it is tiring to some degree, especially when changing time zones or delayed flights are involved. One of the most difficult part of traveling for work is not being with my family. Not only do I miss them, but because my husband and I both work, when once of us travels this means a lot of stressful juggling of pick-ups, drop-offs, breakfast, lunch and dinner making, and more.

I’m coming off a particularly travel-packed few weeks and it really wore me down. So the other day I came up with a list of things that help me make work travel less stressful and well, happier. I’m going to focus on making them a priority and thought I would also share them with you:

  • Plan at least one fun thing to do while away. Most of my work trips are packed with meetings or speaking engagements, but I know I feel a thousand times better when I squeeze in a tiny bit of time for myself. It could be a yoga class or meeting up with a friend who lives in the city where I’m traveling to or even making time to grab breakfast at my favorite spot and actually enjoying it without rushing. Even if it’s just one of these fun plans per trip, it all goes much better, and that probably has to do with the fact that just anticipating this great experience makes me happier. (Research backs me up on this.)
  • Spend money to reduce hassle. (Disclaimer: What I am about to suggest took me a LONG time to actually do. Once I did it, my travel became a lot less stressful.) Money doesn’t buy happiness but a little bit of money can reduce a lot of hassle. For example, one of the best investments I’ve made is to have a second set of all my makeup and skin-care items in my suitcase, ready to go. I save time packing my stuff from home and avoid the hassle of inevitably forgetting something I need. I get cold on flights and trains so I treated myself to a really soft long shawl to keep me warm. Investing in a good piece of luggage that fits what you need for most of your trips and is easy to carry / wheel around is another smart move, as I’ve learned myself. Think about your travel and the small moments of annoyance; can a little bit of money help you avoid them?
  • Come up with a fumianotesn family tradition for when you travel (or come back). Every day I leave a note in my daughter’s lunchbox and when I travel, I write them ahead of time so we don’t skip a day. We also have this journal in which she and I pass notes to each other and while it’s not specific to when I travel, we do use it more after I come back (she usually has it ready and waiting for me, with her latest writing in it). The other day I came back from a grueling 5-day trip and the first thing we did was to go have a fun brunch as a family — before I unpacked or looked at my loooong to-do list at home. It was great and I think it’s a new post-business trip family tradition from now on.

Please share any of your favorite tips and tricks for making work travel happier in the comments – I’d love to hear them.

You Are Awesome!

Thanksgiving is a few weeks away and at Happier, we were thinking about ways we can energize our community to say ‘thank you’ more often during this month. Expressing gratitude towards others is one of the absolute best ways to feel happier and a great way to make someone’s day light up. And if you say thanks maybe it can inspire the other person to say thanks to someone else — wouldn’t we all dig a world where we did this more often?

And then we came up with another idea: Don’t just say thank you to someone, tell them they are AWESOME!

It’s no secret that I over-use the word ‘awesome’. I think it’s one of the least offensive words to over-use (but funny enough, someone complained the other day that we use it too much as part of Happier and it was ruining their experience). Our lives are filled with enough difficult, stressful, annoying things that I think a little more awesome doesn’t hurt.

So I hope you guys will join us in making the world a little — or a lot — more awesome by taking on our challenge:

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It can be a friend, family member, colleague, classmate, anyone else in your life whom you appreciate. Send them an email, text, FB message, Tweet, letter or give them a call — imagine how great it is to get a call from someone who just wants to say “Hey, you are awesome!”

Try to do this once a day in November, then come to Happier and share happy moments about reactions you get because you will inspire others to do it. How many people can we tell that they are awesome and make their day? 100? 1000? 1 million?

Here’s to turning the world more awesome! Take on the challenge and help us do it.

Oh, and one more thing:

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This is the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a while

If you guys think the title of this post is too serious, wait til you hear what I have to do:

For 24 hours, starting at midnight tonight and until midnight on Wednesday, October 30th, I CAN’T USE HAPPIER.

Yep, that’s right, I can’t share happy moments, look at happy moments from our community, zip, nada.

WHOA.

Parker – our lead backend developer – asked me earlier today if I could refrain from using Happier for a day. My immediate question was WHY? Apparently, as a user with thousands of happy moments and thousands of smiles and comments on my happy moments, I am a good test for some code optimization work he is working on. Which of course is important but not using Happier for an entire day?

This is going to be a seriously crazy challenge.

The last time I didn’t use Happier was in April of 2012, which is when we developed our first Happier prototype. Every single day since then – and that’s 576 days! – Happier has been a core part of my life. Not just as the CEO, but as a user. It’s the first thing I check in the morning, it’s where I look when I need a pick-me-up, it’s where I share my happy moments and the last thing I check at night.

Not using Happier for a full day is going to be crazy difficult and to get through it without losing my sanity I need your help!

Tomorrow, October 30th, share as many of your happy moments to Twitter as you can. This way, I will at least be able to have a Happier feed on Twitter and it will be a huge help in getting through my 24-Hour Happier Withdrawal.

I am counting on our awesome community to help me survive the day sans Happier and we will be live-blogging throughout the day to let you know how it’s going. I expect a lot of dark chocolate and yoga breathing will be in order:)

 

 

So, what makes parents happier?

Wow, you guys, we loved seeing all of your happy moments for our ‘What makes you happier as a parent challenge’. I don’t think you need to be a parent to appreciate them — they are just these wonderful, inspiring, funny, simple, and awesome snippets of life you captured about your kids.

As I was browsing through them, I realized that as parents, there are some common things that makes us happier. We are different, our kids are different, and yet, we all have a lot in common. So, inspired by your happy moments, here are just a few things that make parents happier:

Celebrating kids’ small triumphs

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Watching kids invent new ways to do things

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Coming up with fun family traditions to make routines happier

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Getting unexpected compliments

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Seeing kids become awesome humans

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Having their own comedy act on call

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And without a doubt, at the end of exhausting, busy, hectic days of juggling a bajillion things and trying to keep their sanity, all parents I know love and appreciate one kind of happy moments:

Watching their kids sleep

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Thank you for sharing your parent happy moments with us and the Happier community!