Life Journey: Important Travel Information

jpegSomeone recently asked me, “Imagine if the current version of you could go back in time, take a walk with the 5 year old version of you, and have a conversation. What would you say?”

I thought for a while; it’s one of those questions that gets you thinking. And here’s what I’d say to the 5 year old version of me:

  • “Go to a few more Grateful Dead shows because everyone is right… Jerry Garcia really is going to die!”
  • “That total eclipse of the sun you’ll see in Mexico in 1991, don’t stare at it without the protective glasses. I think that ends up causing permanent damage to your eyes.”
  • “Andrea Sarrity, the beautiful blond with whom you think you have no chance when you’re 16? Just ask her out. It will feel like a Hail Mary but trust me, she really does like you.”
  • “And make sure to tell your little brother to go to the hospital and be with Grandma Evelyn in October 2010, because she doesn’t make it through the night.”
  • “Just relax, don’t squeeze so tight. Enjoy the ride. You need some dark to enjoy the light.”

Can You Answer That Question?

If the current version of you could go on a walk with the 5 year old version of you, what would you say?

Here’s a thought.

Gabrielle Roth said, “In shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

On that note, I challenge you… get into a dreamy space and tell the 5 year old version of you some secret, some story she needs to hear to make this life journey easier and remind her to keep dancing, singing, and allowing enchantment to endure.

But do it right. Set the tone. Pour yourself a lovely glass of wine, relax the lighting. Put on a crisp, beautiful song with timeless ambition (i.e., the Grateful Dead’s Sugaree or Hendrix’s Angel or Mumford’s Awake My Soul).

Most important, be a storyteller. Because if the current version of you can tell the 5 year old version a good story and put a beautiful spin on your life…

… and if you can capture the imagination and ease the fears of the 5 year old version of you…

… magic happens on the timeline.

It might go something like this, “Listen, a lot has gone wrong. But so much has gone right….”

As Ellen Goodman said, “We walk through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe today, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.”

Happier Challenge: Be Contagious

happier-challenge-friends-oct14Good Monday morning! Are you ready for another fabulous themed week here at Happier? Last week we challenged you to focus on your family, and this week we’ll shift focus just a little bit. Did you know that happiness has been proven contagious through social networks? It’s true! Check this out:

[R]esearchers found that when an individual becomes happy, a friend living within a mile experiences a 25 percent increased chance of becoming happy. A co-resident spouse experiences an 8 percent increased chance, siblings living within one mile have a 14 percent increased chance, and for next door neighbors, 34 percent.

And that brings us to this week’s theme—connecting with friends—starting with our challenge:

Reach out to at least one friend every day this week, and share some small happiness with them.

Be creative—make plans to get together (that’d be enough to make me happy), or share a small piece of good news, or just text ‘em to say you’re happy they’re in your life. Experiment! You’ll never regret reaching out to a buddy.

Need some more inspiration to get you going? Here you go:

  • Need a little bit of bolstering to start reaching out? Check out Lifeboat, “a movement of people rediscovering deep friendships.” They make us happier.
  • Far be it from me to miss an opportunity to insert a video of kids and puppies. Sometimes our best friends have paws!
  • Need a shortcut to reaching out, and also appreciate some cutting humor? There’s a Someecards for that.

Go forth and pass your happiness around to the folks you appreciate this week—you’ll all be happier!

The Happiest Age, And The Factor That Matters Most

happier-family-science-102514I receive a daily digest highlighting new research on happiness, and I’m not going to lie—sometimes, my eyes roll pretty far back in my head while I’m scanning through them. Having basic needs met makes you happier? You don’t say! Having more control over your own choices increases feelings of esteem? How unexpected! But every now and then a piece of research comes through that just stops me in my tracks while I ponder it.

This past week, the results of a survey in Britain concluded that people are happiest at age 58, presumably, it is concluded, because this is when our best work-life balance is achieved. I found this fascinating, and weirdly specific, but it makes sense—it’s young enough to not be old/sick and/or retired and bored, but old enough that probably the daily stressors of child-raising or even just caring about what other people think are either over and greatly diminished. I can dig it.

This, however, was not the piece of information from this study that I found the most interesting. Nope, the best part was this:

The biggest key to contentment was spending time with family, according to almost two-thirds (63%) of those who took part[.]

So all of those family-themed posts we’ve been bringing you this week? It’s not just for fun (although I hope you found it fun). It’s because family plays a huge role in our level of happiness, no matter what our age. And we’re not talking textbook-definition family, either—no need to have a specific structure mirrored in a Norman Rockwell painting, or anything; this is about spending time with the people you live with and love the best. That’s it.

Sure, family may sometimes drive us nuts, but they’re also the most important factor in making us happier. That’s a big deal.

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!

Happier Hearts: Happy Family, Happy Life

This week we’re all about connecting with your family in wonderful ways, so what better time to share some of the make-your-family-more-awesome-er resources we love? Exactly!

Do It By The Book
If you’re the sort who likes to grab a book and read up on new things, we have two to recommend; both Bruce Feiler’s The Secrets of Happy Families and Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families are worth the read if you can spare the time and are looking for some great ideas on how to make your family even more fabulous.
happier-hearts-familybooks-102314

Unplug, Reconnect, Love No Matter What
Prefer to watch a couple of videos? Over at HuffPo this short video about unplugging to reconnect with your family, and if you have more time, Andrew Solomon’s TED Talk about loving children who are different is difficult but moving.

Still Working On Family Dinners?
Hopefully you’re making great progress on this week’s challenge to eat together, but if you’re still struggling, I have a few more great online resources for you that made us happier.

Do you have a favorite resource that’s helped your family be happier? Please tell us about it!

Mindful Break: What The Heck Is Sacred?!

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 1.47.38 PMCan you be bought for a price?

Seriously.

If someone offered you $10,000,000 to expose all your life’s secrets on reality TV… would you do it?

Carolyn Myss calls it The Prostitute Archetype, meaning one who is willing to compromise their integrity for financial stability.

Whether it’s a value that defines you, or an object that represents your Truth…

… in order to be spiritually whole, we need to have something that is totally off-limits, something that is super sacred.

In today’s world, there is very little that cannot be bought.

For instance, take the sad story of the Hopi Indians.

A contested auction of sacred Hopi Indian masks went forward last year in Paris and generated more than $1 million.

One featured item, a headdress known as the Crow Mother, drew intense interest.

Bidding soared to $210,000, drawing applause from the crowd.

Except for one protestor who stood up and shouted: “Don’t purchase that. It is a sacred being.”

Reading that BROKE MY HEART.

The Hopi Indians believe these masks are divine beings which were stolen from tribal lands in Arizona.

The Hopi Indians had made quite a stir leading up to this auction…

… but the auctioneer in Paris rejected their protest saying that the “objects were no longer sacred and had become important works of art.”

Can you imagine?

That’s like someone saying, “She’s no longer your wife, she’s too pretty and everyone deserves a chance at her!”

The devastated Hopi Indians said of their lost masks, “They are truly sacred to us. We feed and care for them. And to see people walking out with them in bags, like some object, I feel really helpless and hurt.”

******

C’mon! If we don’t stand up for that which is sacred, our souls will literally die and we will become soulless Freakazoids!

Think of what in your life is SACRED, untouchable, off limits!

For me, it is my career. There are many times where it would seem easier to do something with more stability, with benefits, more security.

But some part of me has to keep going, through thick and thick, on this journey for a more meaningful life.

There are days when we all want to give in, sell out, take the easy road.

And those are the days when we need rituals, sacred texts, Hopi masks to “anchor us in our Truth!”

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!