Three Counter-Intuitive Ways To Be Happier As A Family

I may run a company that helps people be happier but believe me, it’s not like I have some super wisdom about happiness. Especially when it comes to family. Our family is small — it’s just my husband, myself and our 10 year-old kiddo — but with three people, three different personalities, crazy schedules, demanding jobs, and endless juggles, it’s not always easy to find our awesome place.

But we manage, and when I was thinking about writing this post I realized there are a few things we do that, if you had asked me a few years ago, I would have thought odd when it comes to helping us be happier. Those are usually the best little habits, the ones that surprise us, so I wanted to share them:

Skip meals

OK, of course I don’t mean that you should go hungry. But when life gets crazy, one thing we often do is skip having a sit-down meal. Instead, we grab some random food from the fridge and if it’s warm enough, we go outside and eat it on the deck; or when it’s too cold, we have a mini-picnic in the living room. This totally removes the pressure of cooking something, and chills all of us out a lot.

Ignore bedtime

When my daughter was younger I was obsessed with sticking to a routine. Everyone was happier when she went to bed on time and woke up refreshed and well, happy. There were many times whenicecream we were at family events or with friends and I would be militant about getting home for bedtime. Nothing wrong with that — and when your kids are really little that’s probably the best thing to do — but sometimes having extra hanging time together as a family turns out to be more important. So from time to time, especially when we’ve all been running around a lot and not had a lot of hang time together, we’ll stay up way past kiddo’s bedtime, either watching a movie together or just hanging out.

And sometimes we’ll go out and get ice cream when we have no business eating ice cream that late. Life is short!

Make a big mess

Hi, my name is Nataly and I am a total neat freak. I have a really hard time dealing with messes and yet what I’ve learned is that sometimes a happier family means a messier one. (Seriously people, this is a really big deal for me to say, so it really must work.) The other day we came back from a short trip and instead of unpacking — first instinct! — I suggested we go for a walk instead. We ended up not unpacking for two days and you know what? We had extra chill time together and the clothes went back where they were supposed to be eventually.

Then last week in the morning I realized we had a bunch of bananas that were going to rot if we didn’t do something — so with 20 minutes before we had to leave for school kiddo and I whipped together some banana bread dough. We made a serious mess in the kitchen doing this, and we had to leave it there until end of day, but we had so much fun with our last-minute baking project.

I’d love to know if there are any other surprising or counter-intuitive things you do that help you be happier as a family — share, please!

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!

The Awesome Power Of Tiny Family Traditions

Most of the time it feels like our little family of three — my kiddo, my husband and myself — are literally running through our days during the week. It’s like a whirlwind of work, school, activities, dinners, breakfasts, events… and often it feels like a race that leaves us exhausted.

I’d love for us to have more time to just chill out and catch our breath, but that’s not happening in the short-term. Instead, what I try to do is come up with tiny traditions we can make part of our crazy busy days. It’s nothing fancy, but turning a regular moment into a small tradition makes it more special, more fun, and makes it feel like our daily race has some pauses in it.

Here are a few of my favorites:

“Civilized mornings”vivaldi

When my husband travels kiddo and I have “civilized mornings.” We put on classical music, make a nice breakfast, I drink tea, and we even speak with a British accent sometimes. It’s our little girls’ tradition and it makes a hectic morning a bit more, well, civilized.

Gratitude lunchbox notes

Every morning I write a little note and put it in kiddo’s lunchbox. I take a few seconds to think of something to thank her for or to tell her something I am looking forward to us doing. It’s my little gratitude ritual every morning and I know it’s something she looks forward to at school.

Friday family movie night

By the time we all get home on Friday we’re exhausted, so cooking is out of the question. We get takeout and have a picnic with it while we watch a movie in the living room. It’s like a big collective family exhale.

Random dinner Sundays

On Sunday nights I cook up a storm for the coming week — I make and prep dinner for four days ahead. So for dinner that night we have our very official “random dinner.” Sometimes it’s leftovers. Sometimes it’s breakfast for dinner. Sometimes it’s really just a collection of random stuff we find in our fridge. It’s chill and relaxed and lets us finish out the weekend on a great note.

Do you have a tiny family tradition to share? Share it in the comments for inspiration — I’d love some new ideas!

 

 

 

 

 

How to deal with a bad day: BUST IT!

Every once in a while we stop what we’re doing at Happier and have a Hack Day. Everyone picks a fun or interesting project they want to work on and we crank all day, with lots of pizza and coffee as fuel. The idea is to explore different ideas that aren’t currently on our product road map and learn something that we could make part of the Happier experience.

I’m really psyched to share one of the projects with you guys. Colin (our co-founder and product lead), Erin (our creative director), and I worked on it together and without further introduction here it is:

All of us have bad days. They suck, they aren’t fun, but they happen. The key is not let them own you but to shift your perspective and find something positive, however small, to hold on to.

To give you some extra energy to do this, next time you’re having a bad day we want to help you BUST IT!

(And for extra credit, share this with a friend who might need a pick-me-up. After all, the simplest way to feel happier is to help someone else smile.)

 

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.