Happier Jump-Starts: Tips For Game Night

happier-jump-starts-gaming-092114There’s little I love more than a game night either with my family or a group of friends. These days we’re likely to spend time with loved ones doing things in parallel rather than truly together, and a few hours of group gaming changes the dynamic and forces a more intimate interaction. I never laugh as hard as I do during game night!

If you’re not already doing game nights, try it out! Even if you already are, hopefully you can pick up a few ideas for making it even more awesome. Here’s how we do it:

Game time is festive snack time. We could get into the philosophical implications of most social occasions being paired with food—that’s a different discussion, entirely—but the fact remains that some “special” food during a group activity just makes it more fun. No need to bust diets, either; just have fun nibbles that feel special (popcorn is always a hit at my house), pour your seltzer into a fancy glass, whatever makes it feel like a party.

Mix it up. My son would—and does—happily meet up with his fellow Dungeons & Dragons nerdlings for their weekly adventure, but when it comes to a mixed group of game-lovers, change it up each week. Do Pictionary one week, Taboo the next, etc. Part of the fun is learning new games, finding out who’s good at which ones, and learning new things about your fellow players.

Be competitive, but only as long as it’s fun. There’s a certain amount of fun inherent in competition—you don’t want a group that doesn’t take the game seriously—but do be mindful of not crossing the line into a place where those who are losing stop having fun. (This is more of a concern if you’re playing with kids.) Play for real, in other words, but not to the point of bloodshed and/or tears.

Practice kindness while you play. It may seem odd to suggest game night as a good time to practice kindness, but think about it—it’s a controlled environment with clearly-defined rules, and a great opportunity for young and old alike to demonstrate good sportsmanship and encouragement. Someone else made a fantastic play? “Wow, that was epic! Well done.” Again, this is the kind of thing you might think of while playing with kids, but who doesn’t like being complimented? You can be competitive and complimentary, and everyone will have even more fun.

Step out of your comfort zone. We know that trying new things and having novel experiences make us happier. Invite a new friend to join you. Try a game no one has tried before. Offer to host when usually you have game night somewhere else. Have game afternoon instead of game night—it’s up to you. Find a way to make it different, each time, and maybe surprise yourself how much you enjoy the change!

Go forth and enjoy your game night. And don’t forget to share a happy moment about it with the Happier community, too.

Carson Kressley is here! On our actual blog!

photoEvery once in a while we’ll bring you a special series of Premium courses with exclusive content and access to world-class experts that you can’t get anywhere else. We think you’ll love what you get and we’re working hard to keep these unique opportunities ridiculously affordable and easily accessible to anyone.

Our first Premium course is Happier Makeover with Carson Kressley, an inspiring 7 day course to help you feel great from the inside out. To get you as excited about it as we are, we asked Carson to stop by and share some thoughts before the first day of class.

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Hi Happiers! It’s me, Carson! Just to prove that I practice what I preach — and teach — about choosing to be positive about yourself — here are Ten Things I Like About Me:

1.  I’ve got great legs.  Shopping is my cardio and it’s paying off.
2.  My smile.  It’s not perfect but it cost a lot of money and I love it.
3.  My hair.  Somedays I like it more than others but at least I’ve still got it. For now.
4. My skin. I drink lots of water and try to take care of it but I’m just lucky, I guess, as it’s naturally good.
5. My ab. Yes, you read that right.  Just the beginnings of a two-pack.  But it’s better than nothing…
6. My clavicle.  It’s one of my best features. Boat neck sweaters anyone?
7. My hands.  People always comment on them.  I really think I could have been a hand model. #itsnevertoolatetofollowyourdream
8.  My lips.  (Here’s a case of making lemonade out of lemons:  As a kid, I was playing “make your own seesaw” with my brother.  Bad idea.  The board went flying and whacked me in the face.  I got a dozen or more stitches in my upper lip.  It gave me a pouty look that people now seem to love.  Always a trend setter and way ahead of The Real Housewives with this look!)
9.   My waist. It’s pretty good for a guy who basically lives on champagne and Swedish fish.  Again just lucky – and grateful!
10.  Did I mention my nail beds?
Now it’s your turn to be positive about yourself! See you in class!

Mindful Break: Are You Loyal? Take The Test

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Loyalty.

What does it mean to you?

  • MARRIAGE

To the married women out there, what if you were on a girls trip in Vegas and Ryan Gosling made the moves on you in the wee hours of the morning?

Could you walk away or would you succumb?

One sacred text says to be really careful as lust, along with anger and greed, are the 3 great dangers on the human journey

  • FRIENDSHIP

When you are down and out, which of your friends stays true?

Take a moment to think who that person is and send them a little love today!

  • SPORTS TEAM

Look at Captain Cleveland, the most hardcore Cleveland Browns fan.

He has been committed for 35 years; even though the Browns haven’t been to the playoffs in 10 years and haven’t won a playoff game in 20 years.

  • ANIMALS

I love the story of a dog named Tommy who would accompany his master Maria on errands and to church.

When Maria died, Tommy would still show up at Church everyday when the church bells rang, paying homage to Maria.

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Of course, we could always be more loyal to our spouse or our teams or even our pets.

But how about loyalty to THE MOMENT.

If you are not present, you miss all the encounters, revelations, and visions that Life delivers right to your doorstep.

It’s like going to a 4 star restaurant and ordering the most amazing meal, but leaving before the food comes.

Sometimes we all get restless when we have to wait.

As it says in the Tao Te Ching, if you feel weak, it is only because you were once strong. If you feel poor, it is only because you were once rich. If you feeling hungry, it is only because you were once full.

Presence is Loyalty.

Show up fully and watch what happens.

Your Meal is coming, your Team will win, your Sun will rise again!

Happier Jump-Starts: Tips For Healthier Connectivity

happier-jumpstarts-091414One of my teenagers recently asked me how we found out the answers to everyday questions when I was a kid. “You know, before you had Google.” The idea that once upon a time you couldn’t whip out a device to figure out who that guy in that commercial is strikes them as foreign. When I explained that some of those burning questions simply remained unanswered—and others had to wait for the library to open—the pity in the room was palpable.

So yes, modern information availability and computer power are wonderful things, but as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Some of what we think makes us happier when it comes to digital involvement is, in fact, making us less happy. A few quick pointers should help keep you on track.

For a more productive day, never start with email. Most of us get on our email first thing in the morning, even though we know it’s a black hole of distraction. I love Sid Savara’s explanation of why it’s a bad idea, and switching to an “accomplish one big task before touching email” approach made a huge difference in my overall productivity. Try it!

Do as much in person as possible. It’s easy to fall into that trap of saying/doing things online you wouldn’t do in person; it’s happened to the best of us. Even when we remember good online etiquette and avoid this pitfall, many of us begin to prefer online interaction as easier, which leads to social isolation and other relationship damage, even as we perceive ourselves to be “very social.” There’s no substitute for real human contact when it comes to our happiness.

For better sleep, turn off devices (and take them out of your bedroom). It’s clear that engaging with a glowing electronic device prior to bedtime is disruptive to sleep; the research on this is unanimous. What’s less clear is whether this applies to all glowing screens (including the television, which is arguably more passive than email or gaming), and how long before planned slumber one should turn everything off. At a minimum, experts suggest stowing electronics an hour before you plan to sleep, and also that just having devices in your bedroom is likely to cause potentially sleep-disrupting hyper-vigilance for text messages and such.

Have rules for the whole family. Many parents bemoan their kids’ dependence on technology, but behave similarly (it’s just that we’re “working” while they’re texting). Decide as a household what is and isn’t acceptable, and then hold everyone to those rules. In our house, for example, phones and other devices aren’t allowed at the table when we’re eating, and that goes for kids and adults. We also have an “electronics bedtime.” What rules make sense for your family are your call, but do take the time to consider what you value and how to best implement it.

Make a point to unplug now and then. Connectivity is part of our world, now, and I personally use it for everything from work to keeping tabs on my kids. I’m not knocking it! On the other hand, the occasional day when we leave phones behind and go on a long hike or otherwise just commit to spending time together, in the moment, distraction-free, are pretty much my favorite thing. Unplugging periodically not only makes us happier, it’s a good barometer of the healthiness of your relationship with technology, too, so that you can make adjustments if needed.

So enjoy your gadgets and the ability to find information, look at cute kittens, and reach loved ones across the world… but moderation and mindfulness can be part of that, too.

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.

Happier Hearts: Happy Feet!

Can we talk about feet for a minute? I don’t mean anything weird or creepy, just that… well… for me, if my feet don’t feel good—good being a relative term, meaning “correct temperature” or “pretty” or “free or pain,” depending—the rest of me doesn’t, either.

Having a stash of happy-foot-making tools in my arsenal tends to keep me happier. Is it true for you, too? If so, read on!

Minty fresh and moisturized
I wouldn’t consider myself a big mint fan, in general, but if I’m going to put lotion on my feet, I want it to be peppermint. It’s invigorating and soothing, all at the same time. I use a few different peppermint foot lotions, but Bliss Foot Patrol and Burt’s Bees Peppermint Foot Lotion are two of my favorites.

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Never underestimate the power of great socks
Can you be sad while wearing fabulous socks? Probably, but it’s a lot harder. For a huge assortment of great socks, I’d head to—where else?—Happy Socks, of course (and not just because they make fabulous orange giraffe socks), but for those super-special occasions, it’s hard to beat caped superhero socks.

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Flip flops don’t have to ruin your feet
I realize that those of you not living on the surface of the sun (a.k.a., the south) like I do may have already put away your sandals for the season, but hear me out: Whether they’re a staple of your footwear or something you throw on to putter around the house, cheap flip flops may be causing you foot fatigue. There’s tons of fancy sandals out there claiming to offer better options (with a price tag to match…), but for about the same price as “regular” flip flops, you could grab a pair of Okibashis and treat yourself. These Indigo Actives (pictured, below) are my absolute favorites—they’re cute, made eco-friendly in the USA, and they have juuuust enough arch support in the ergonomic footbed to keep my feet feeling good. And before you ask: Yep, you can get ‘em in orange!

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Mindful Break: The Next Big Thing In Wellness Is…

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She approached me after class and asked the question I never, ever thought I’d hear:

“Dave, how did you get such ripped abs? Is it the yoga?”

I couldn’t tell if she was being serious.

She had fancy workout gear, was in great shape, had a fantastic yoga practice.

And then she said, “Just kidding!”

As she walked into the Power Hour class, I looked down at my core, leaner than it used to be, but still showing evidence of late night adventures to South Brooklyn Pizza.

So be it… I have learned to be proud of what I got!

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Over the past few year, we have seen a proliferation of elite wellness on social media.

Maybe you’ve seen the pictures and words:

“Here I am in a one-handed handstand. Practice makes Perfect. #handstand #werkIt!”

“Crow Pose while surfing this sick wave on the Big Island.” #108inthe808 #GratitudePrincess #workNEVER”

“Green Juice Throwdown! #30LBSin30Days”

This is a form of wellness for people with a certain type of a body, a certain type of income, a certain amount of free time.

Should something as important as wellness be so exclusive?

Maybe it’s just me all the exclusive wellness stuff makes me feel hairy in the all the wrong places. (I know I know I know what the self-helpers are saying right now: “Dave, you are projecting.”)

I’ll tell you what I’m projecting: A NEW TYPE OF WELLNESS that is inclusive of the other 95% of the population.

-Here’s a shout out to anyone who, like me, feels like a Ford F-150 on the yoga mat and doesn’t care about doing fancy poses.

-Here’s a call to action for anyone who wants to embrace wellness but just can’t stomach green juice.

-Here’s a rally cry for those of you who can’t make the trip to Hawaii (work, kids, $$$$) but are all for a trip to your Inner Hawaii.

If you, like me, are part of The Other 95%… let’s be honest with ourselves. Wellness does not come when we can balance on our hands or bare our belly on the beach…

… but when we can find someone to hug (or high five)…

… when we can perceive beauty as a feeling (not a look)…

… when we can smile because we have surrendered (not dominated).

Try this on for size: HAPPY is the new Healthy!