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?

Really Big Happier News: FREE Courses!

attitude-gratitude-ipadWe’re making some big changes here at Happier, and we shared some of the app changes with you already. (Side note: more information on specific changes there are coming, we promise!) But now we’re ready to share the really big news with you guys: Most Happier courses are now absolutely FREE to everyone!!!

Since we launched them earlier this year, thousands of our members have taken Happier courses and loved them. We’ve got a lot of work to do to make the experience even better, but we’ve already heard that our courses really make a difference, fit into your hectic schedule, and are simple and fun to do. Thank you!

We founded Happier on the belief that anyone can make the choice to be happier. And that’s why we decided to make most of our courses free: We want to make learning and practicing simple habits proven to make people happier accessible to everyone, everywhere.

I encourage you to give one — or many! — of our courses a shot. (I’d recommend starting with Attitude: Gratitude, if you’re not sure where to begin.) It won’t cost you anything, and you can try as many of our free courses as you like (and repeat them as often as you find helpful). It’s that simple!

To get started:

  1. Log into your Happier account (on your iPhone, tablet, or web — Android courses are literally only days away).
  2. Tap on Learn, and choose a course from My Courses to get going. You’ll see a prompt that says “Thank you for purchasing,” but don’t worry, we haven’t charged you anything.
  3. If you don’t have the new version of our iOS app yet, your courses might show up under Purchased, but again, we promise we haven’t charged you a thing.

Every once in a while, we’ll offer a Premium course, taught by world-class experts. We’ve made these ridiculously affordable (our first one, launching this Friday, is under $5), and we’re thrilled to be able to bring you this advice, inspiration, and practical expertise.

We remain grateful to and humbled by you, our amazing Happier community. You’re the reason we do what we do! If you have any questions/comments/feedback, go ahead and either leave a comment on this post or mail us at team@happier.com.

With awesome gratitude,
Nataly & the Happier Team

How To Slow Down Time

Do you ever feel like every year time seems to fly faster and faster? Like this summer went by faster than the one before it? Like your kids are growing faster than before?

I do, all the time. And it turns out there are neurological reasons for this.

The older we get, the less new things we experience and learn. Our brains are built to preserve energy so when there is a lot of routine in our lives, we tune those experiences out. In a way, our brains go on auto-pilot and time seems to just float by. The less attention we pay to the moment we’re in, the faster it seems to move.

So what are we to do? The awesome news is that there ARE ways to slow down time — by introducing mobreathmomentre new experiences into our lives and by pausing to appreciate more moments in our every day.The more present we are, the more beauty we notice around us, the more we pause to actually be in the moment we are in, the slower time will run away from us.

If you feel me smiling as I write this, I am. We created Happier with the goal of helping millions of people find and collect more small happy moments in their lives. It turns out one of the cool things we can also help you do is slow down time just a bit. Yes, that makes me happier.

The weekend is almost here and I’d like to ask you to do something:

Notice and pause to appreciate at least 3 beautiful things around you this weekend. They can be anything – a beautiful sky, a beautiful taste, a beautiful person, a feeling. But really pause and inhale the beauty, be there with it. And notice if the time is flying by just a little bit slower.

Why Fun Might Be The Answer

Today I want to share with you something that was part of the inspiration behind Happier.

Of course there were the many years I spent reading through research about the power of feeling more positive and the awesome health benefits that brings. And there was my personal journey from chasing the absolute wrong kind of happiness (that made me miserable) to realizing that the right kind, the in-the-moment kind, was right there all along (which made me happier).

But there was something else:

The power of FUN.

Yes, fun. Let me explain by asking you to watch this video:

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The Fun Theory: Piano Staircase

The Fun Theory is one of my favorite projects. It’s sponsored by Volkswagen and every year they ask people to submit a video about how they used fun to solve a problem. The Piano Staircase is my favorite. I also love this one about getting (lazy) people to throw garbage into garbage cans at a park.

The idea behind this is extremely simple: If you make a boring or annoying task just a little bit more fun, more people will want to do it. They may not take the stairs because it’s good for them or throw away garbage to be good citizens. But they will if doing those things is fun.

I think this is extremely powerful and here’s how it inspired Happier (and a lot of what I try to do in my own life):

Our days are filled with routines. And stress. And stuff we have to do but don’t want to do. Creating or finding a few moments of fun in every day won’t solve major problems, won’t always change a bad mood to good, won’t cure sickness or give you more money when you need it.

But adding a bit of fun to your days can and will help you deal with everything else you have to face and give you a bit of extra fuel. It will make you smile. It will help you chill out for a bit. And I think all of that is incredibly important and a big reason for why we started Happier: To inspire you to find and create more of those small happy/positive/content/FUN moments in your everyday life.

Last week I wrote about making omelets with chocolate chips and sprinkles with my daughter on a day when stress got to me. That’s one way I try to make fun part of my life — I use it as a way to get through really stressful times. I am not always successful but I love trying.

Have an awesome weekend and I hope you’ll find a few moments for fun!

Why you should put sprinkles in your omelet

As a CEO of a start-up my days are like roller-coaster rides. And sometimes when I get home from work I am a total stress mess. My brain is buzzing, I’m in a bad mood, and no amount of self-pep-talking is working. I really hate when I feel this way but it happens.

I also feel guilty when my stress spills over to my 10 year-old daughter — which it invariably does. So a few months ago when I came home at the end of one of these super-stressful days I told her that we’re going to start a new tradition:

When I feel insanely stressed we’re going to go and do something really fun and maybe a little crazy.

At first my daughter looked at me a bit suspiciously but then realized this could actually work in her favor. That night the fun and somewhat crazy thing was to go out to eat on a school night, which we never do. It was the two of us (my husband was working late), we sat at the bar at our local fave, and it felt like being out with a friend. Total success.

The other day it took me over an hour to drive 7 miles home from work, it was pouring rain, I was late, and this all after a pretty rough day at work. By the time kiddo saw my face after I came into the house she knew it was time for our “do something fun and crazy when stressed” tradition.

Since we needed to figure out something for dinner we decided to make crazy omelets. Really really crazy omelets: One side with veggies and cheese and the other side with sprinkles and chocolate chips. Yes, chocolate chips.

omelet

I’m not sure if it was more fun to make this, eat it, or share it on Happier (where some of our users seriously questioned my taste:), but we had a blast. And when I was putting her to bed that night, my daughter paid me one of my favorite compliments:

“You know mama, you’re kind of really cool. Because I don’t think many moms do crazy fun things when they are stressed. So yeah, you’re cool.”

I’ll take that 100 times over, with chocolate sprinkles on top.

(Last week I wrote about some of my favorite ways to deal with a really bad day. Check it out for more inspiration.)

Living Happier with Nataly: 5 Ways to Deal with a Really Bad Day

One of the most common questions I get is whether I am always happy. You know, I am the CEO of a company called Happier, with a mission to help people be happier and healthier in their daily lives. I guess the natural conclusion would be that I am generally happy all the time.

Well, that’s not the case. Not at all actually. I get anxious, I get stressed, I get down, I have bad days. I don’t think of happiness as some permanent state; in fact, searching for this nirvana state made me insanely miserable and led me to create Happier, but that’s a whole other story. So I don’t think having bad days makes me happy or unhappy generally — it’s just the reality of life and true for every single person I know.

I do, however, try not to let bad days fully own me. When a day is going off the rails early on or I get up feeling UGH, I try to do a few things to avoid it spiraling into a really bad day. This doesn’t always work and you know what, from time to time I think we are all entitled to have a really no good, very bad day. But here are some of my go-to strategies for turning a bad day slightly happier:

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  • Eat something awesome first thing in the morning. Food is a huge part of who we are and it’s a huge part of how we feel. Research also shows that how we feel in the morning affects our mood throughout the day. When I am having a really rough day I try to eat what I enjoy, but make it something strong and energizing (vs. you know, downing scoops of ice cream, which I enjoy, but which would do little to give me the energy I need.) The other day I was having a rough morning so I took a detour on my work commute to grab my favorite egg sandwich and a strong coffee. It wasn’t a day savior, but my strong and filling breakfast helped me get the morning started.
  • Make a plan to do something you absolutely love. Research shows that having something to look forward to makes you happier. So on a rough day I try to make a plan to do something I like. I can’t always do it the same day, but having it in my calendar gives me something to look forward to: a yoga class, lunch with a friend, anything at all, as long as it’s something I really enjoy doing.
  • Do something to make progress, however small. One of the things I hate about really tough days is they feel REALLY long and I feel like I am stuck in them. But just saying OK, let’s get a lot done today and work through the bad day isn’t enough — at least not for me. So I try to tackle some really small tasks that make me feel like I am making progress: organize my desk, clean up our office fridge (the Happier team I am certain thinks odd things about me when I do this), write an email I’ve been putting off, anything that gets a specific small task completed. Research shows that feeling productive makes us happier and I can vouch for this.
  • Over-share gratitude. I share a few happy moments in Happier every day (well, obviously!) The other day a friend texted me to say: “Whoa, you are having an awesome day — just saw like 7 happy moments from you! Keep smiling.” Here’s the thing: I was actually having a really rough day. But the rule I have for myself is that on those day I look for small happy moments even harder than usual and I try to find them everywhere — at work, in my routine, on my commute, in something I see around me. According to numerous studies, gratitude leads to feeling happier and not the other way around, so this is my most trusted and most helpful “bad day gone happier” strategy.

I’d love to hear what you do when you’re having a bad day!

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!)