Awesome Humans: Greg Krueger Gets Creative For Cats

awesome-humans-greg-krueger-091714Sure, you love your pets, but do you love them as much as Greg Krueger loves his pets? Krueger has spent over 15 years turning his house into a veritable kitty playground for his cats. His house now sports over 100 yards of overhead catwalks, cat-shaped access cutouts, and a plethora of cat-sized hideaways.

Krueger credits his high-functioning autism for blessing him with “great focus” to not only conceive of new features for his feline friends, but to work on them to completion no matter how long it takes. Seriously, this is amazing. Take a look:

Today we’re inspired not just by this fantastic creation, but also Gary Krueger’s dedication to what makes him happier. We should all be so creative and lucky!

Mindful Break: Guess Who Is Happiest?

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yearbook-photosI stood in an airport security line waiting to fly home.

My ears perked up when I heard the TSA airport security guy say, “How come nobody smiles anymore?”

He had a good point.

We go to great lengths to look beautiful, dress nicely, and renovate our homes and bodies… but if you can’t smile, what’s the point?

A dour person with a great physique? Booooring.

A frowner with stylish clothes? Booooooooo.

A long face in a fancy home? Something ain’t right!

A SMILE CHANGES EVERYTHING!

If you’re terribly out of shape, but have a great smile, you get 9 out of 10 points on my scale of attraction… for what it’s worth.

If your career is at a standstill, make others feel happy with your smile and watch a work freeze melt in the warm glow of your heart.

Are you feeling like you are not accepted in your social circle? Just smile at the doubters and haters who will wrack their brains trying to figure out your secret to happiness.

Author Tim Sanders says that an average person in the US is smiled at over 15 times a day, but we are so blocked that we smile back less than 6 times.

Medical expert Jonathan Levine writes that “babies smile an average of 200 times a day. The average woman smiles 62 times a day and the average man only 8.”

In the famous “Yearbook Study,” researchers analyzed 114 pictures from the 1958 and 1960 yearbooks of a women’s college in the Bay Area. Young women who expressed genuine smiles (happiness) in yearbook photos, as middle-aged women, had better marriages and fewer setbacks. (See above photo and judge for yourself)

So how can we smile more often?

You don’t necessarily need to have a happy day or a period of good fortune in order to bust out an authentic smile… which is the way most people think of it.

There is a rip cord in every human heart.

Pull it and, at least for one glorious moment, say BYE BYE to your doubts, your fears, your darkness… and send your smiley-self exploding upon the world!

Maybe it’s thinking of something delicious you will enjoy today, or pondering the unconditional love of your children, or tilting your mind upward toward your life’s greatest possible dream scenario. Remember, as a sacred text says, “Vision is Creation.”

The infinite light of your soul is searching for a crack in your armor, dying to bust loose!

So take a moment to let go, break down, and let the angels of light blow through the seams of your heart.

There is nothing like a smile to heal your troubles and change your day.

As Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hahn said, “Sometimes joy is the source of your smile. BUT SOMETIMES a smile is the source of your joy.”

In other words, fake it til you make it.

My bad day gone happier story: First day of school

Hi, my name is Nataly and I am now a mom of a fourth grader. (AHHHHH!!!!!! Hold both hands to head, makes crazy eyes of disbelief, and wonders where the time flew!)

Here’s my “bad day gone happier story” about kiddo’s first day of school:

I was having a really bad day because I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before.

We went away for the long weekend, I didn’t do a lot of work for the first time in forever, and when we got back Monday afternoon, there was a bunch of cooking, cleaning, organizing to be done. By the time I opened my laptop it was 9pm and I had a lot of work to catch up on. I went to bed super late and woke up super grumpy and tired. (Sleep really does make you happier. Don’t follow my example.)

Being grumpy and tired on the morning of my kiddo’s first day of school sucked. I dragged my feet, got snappy about her not getting her stuff organized the night before, answered an email in a way I should not have, and I am sure was just a pain to be around.

But I managed to find some happy moments anyway when I decided that whip cream on pancakes was a really great idea to turn the morning happier.

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Kiddo was totally surprised. She loved it. And while it didn’t make me less tired, it certainly made me less grumpy :)

What’s your “bad day gone happier” story? Share it here and we may publish it on happier.com and in our app in the coming weeks!

What makes you happier, Michael?

Our community is full of amazing Happiers, and when Michael posted this epic photo on Facebook and we just had to get to know him better. So we did! Meet Michael.

Michael's Facebook post

What makes you happier, Michael?
Nature!! Human nature, Mother Nature… I’m truly fascinated by the world that we live in.

Describe your perfect happy day.
Bear with me now because I’m going to try and squeeze a lot into this day!

The day would begin with a sunrise walk with my wife, Kaitlin. I should note that I have a child-like obsession with trains, so our morning stroll would likely take place along the railroad tracks… preferably where they run through a natural landscape and definitely with our cameras in hand!

Michael's photos

Now this may sound a bit crazy, but the next part of my perfect happy day would take place at work. Aside from photography, I am an Irish step-dance teacher (yes, like Riverdance), and if I’m being honest, I really can’t imagine a perfect day that doesn’t include teaching my youngsters.

Later in the afternoon Kaitlin and I would head down to the beach. We’re both very close to our families, so our parents, Kaitlin’s siblings, and maybe a few friends would join us for some surfing, relaxing, and a barbecue in the sand. To cap off the night, Kaitlin and I would put on a movie (or watch Big Bang Theory) and have a nice, relaxing evening at home.

What’s your go-to when you need a boost of happiness?
I discovered a wonderful song by Paul Evans about 15 years ago called “Happy-Go-Lucky Me.”  I dare you to listen to this song without smiling!  If there were a movie about my life, this song would definitely be the hit song on the soundtrack.

What’s the last thing you smiled about?
I just came from my parent’s house and they have the NICEST mailman! He’s very jovial, very chatty, and always has a smile on his face.

As a professional photographer, what are your favorite parts of your job?
Smiles!! When I began my career as a lifestyle photographer, my approach was as an artist… composing creative photos that my clients would want to show off to their family and friends. As time went on I realized that my joy wasn’t in looking at the photos after a session, it was in the interactions i had with my clients during the session. By shifting my focus from the resulting photographs to the client’s experience, I found myself taking a genuine interest in getting to know each individual’s personality, making photo shoots more enjoyable for both the clients and myself.  Now I find that my clients often love their photos before they’ve seen a single image, all because it was a fun, positive experience!

What do you dig about Happier?
I love the positivity that fuels our Happier community! While other social networks have become venues for complaining and corporate advertising, Happier is built on optimism and the understanding that no joy is too small to appreciate. There’s something to be said about giving an otherwise fleeting moment of happiness, a tangible, physical presence in our lives by way of text or photo, and Happier really makes it an easy process.

The accessibility of the Happier team is wonderful, and being able to send a smile to another person’s moment has got to be the greatest idea on the Internet! I really just love everything about the Happier community; the staff, the app, the website… you’ll be hard pressed to find a bigger fan than me (though I’m happy to share my title of Number #1 Fan with each of you!

What makes you happier, Lexi?

Talking with Lexi was like getting a ray of sunshine right through the phone! I’m pretty sure I had a ridiculous grin on my face the entire time we were talking because she is just that awesome! But don’t take my word for it. Check out what makes Lexi happier and I dare you not to be happier yourself after reading it :)

So, what makes you happier, Lexi?
Everything has the power to make me happier! I’m not saying I’m easily amused, which I am, but I find happiness in everything! Setting my alarm to a great song can make me happy all day. Life is too awesome to sweat what is not in our control. Nataly [the co-founder of Happier] had a vision to make everyone see the little things & I, like her, have been doing that since I was little. I have a colorful mind & vision to share with the world & that in itself makes me grateful & happier.

What makes you happier, Lexi?

Lexi’s adorable family and too cute kiddo.

Describe your perfect day.
My perfect day cannot be described. As long as it has some yoga in it or a chance for meditation I am game for anything!  I love the mystery & spontaneity this life unfolds for us.

What have you learned about happiness that you wish you knew when you were younger?
I found out young how to achieve happiness. I, like every young girl, still struggled with wanting the cool clothes & popular crowd to like me, but I realized I was original and that I had something no one else had & that was my own self.  I do wish more people saw that happiness is always around if we take the time to see what we hold within. Our society is so goal-oriented. We all seem to be on this fast track of success & I, fortunately, blessed or destined, escaped that way of living. My friends & family always ask how I can be happy making so little money & working so hard, and I tell them that doing what I do brings those around me happiness as well as myself. The richest I’ve ever been was my very first massage client or my very first yoga class. Whether people do what I do or whether they go to work for the law, or in the medical industry, or as a barista at Starbucks, they know what a simple smile does & they know what it feels like to make a difference in someone’s life. It’s just up to them to recognize it.

The little things

If you could have anyone — past or present — in your yoga class, who would it be?
Past: I would love to have my grandparents see me teach. They see me now I’m sure, but to have them witness what they knew I possessed would be something unforgettable! Present: I would love my parents to come & watch me. To know that yoga works. Whether it’s mentally, emotionally or physically. They could use some time out of their heads, for sure! I thought of picking great leaders or someone famous, but they are just as normal as me, they’ve just been called to those roles & to do something great. My family are the ones that need that grain of knowledge, & everyday I give them a chance to see my path. That goes for everyone I encounter, really.

What’s your go-to when you need a dose of happy?
My daughter. I will go sit in her room when she is at school & just listen to the light. From the pink paint on her walls, to the energy she puts in her toys, I feel at ease & I am instantly grateful & reminded of the innocence we’ve all had & can still have. The mind of a child puts things back in perspective & I live life with that in mind & heart. An old soul with the ability to break out the slip’n slide on a whim!

What do you dig about Happier?
I dig seeing that the littlest things make people smile. Things that I haven’t yet noticed are being noticed! The yoga community, like any, still has drama! We aren’t all enlightened as some think! Haha. So, to see someone in Egypt or in Iowa enjoying & sharing a sunset fuels my day. I’m grateful to share little bits of my life with strangers & I hope to make a difference in any way I can for them! Happiness works!

What makes you happier, Rachel?

Our first introduction to Rachel and her extraordinary levels of awesome, was when we saw the epic photo that she created to celebrate her 100th happy moment. We absolutely had to get to know her. So we did what any super fan would do. We used our Happier super powers to find her contact info and we emailed her. And we loved her so much that then we called her. We think you’ll love her too.

What makes you happier, Rachel?
Traveling makes me super happy because I love exploring new places and capturing moments amid different landscapes. Blogging and writing love letters are other happy pastimes helping me record memories that my children will hopefully read and appreciate one day.  Watching my children play/draw/dance/laugh is always a daily dose of happiness. Memories of Caesar (my late golden retriever) flood me with happiness, and I hope to create new ones with another tiny pup by the end of the year. My home, nestled in a quiet part of a Midwest metropolis, creates happiness because it’s my sanctuary. It’s also a great gathering place for a bonfire or summer party…complete with me dancing to 80s music, if so desired!

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Describe your perfect happy day.
My perfect happy day would include my family and I waking up in a European destination with sunlight spilling through the window. After breakfast, we’d take a walk through the city center and local shops.  We’d collect groceries along the way to have a picnic in a cemetery. (Yes, some cemeteries I’ve visited are truly beautiful and {gasp} romantic.) For the afternoon, we’d go for a hike and take pictures of us doing cartwheels midway through the trek. We’d dine al fresco for dinner and top it off with beer for the mister, wine for me and ice cream for the kids. Our evening would be topped off by lazing on a balcony under a blanket and watching the sunset welcome a starry sky. (A girl can dream, right?)

What’s your go-to when you need a boost of happiness?
Music is my go-to without a doubt! Not a day goes by when I don’t listen to music. My phone is full of playlists like: Bop (for those extra long runs that need extra peppy tunes); Chill (for times when I like a soothing background ambiance); Newbies (for discovering new music that won’t get lost in my thousands of songs); and Zen (for centering myself with prayer time, which often happens in my car.)
To me, music is like this quote:
“Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling.  A song makes you feel a thought.” – E.Y. Harburg

RachelS_HappierWhat’s the last thing you smiled about?
I smiled while looking at old photos. I found myself lingering on pictures of my family’s Hawaiian adventure this past February. With each picture I clicked, I smiled remembering the story behind every snapshot. Photography is a happy outlet for me, whether it is my own or a friend’s or a total stranger. Besides the wonderful moments written on Happier, I’m delighted that ‘Happiers’ can share pictures with one another, too.

If you could high five anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?
My high-five (or perhaps, more appropriately, my curtsey) would go to the late Princess Diana. I’ve even blogged about her!  Her humanitarianism and charitable persona were quite inspirational to my young, impressionable self.  I would’ve been tickled to chat with Lady Di about her daily life, what she wanted most for her two young boys, and what inspired her. Oh, and I would’ve inquired whether she ever had braces because her smile was impeccable! :)

What do you dig about Happier?
Happier is, well…how do I put it? Okay, it’s AWESOME! I’m so glad I found this application because it is an uplifting, mood enhancing, little slice of heaven. It would be hard to not smile after viewing the countless joyful moments that people share. This community is lovely, and I’d go so far as to say that other social media sites better watch out ‘cause happiness is contagious! Keep up the great work, Happier team!

What makes you happier, Claire?

Meet Claire. She’s a former NCAA rowing champion (Go Badgers!) who’s worked in some of the country’s top kitchens, got a dual MBA/Masters in Sports Management, and all the while being a completely amazing person. We think you’ll like her.

Featured Happier: Meet Claire.So, what makes you happier, Claire?
Fantastic meals with wonderful people. Friendly dogs with personalities. The stillness of early mornings. Running with friends. Really good dark chocolate bars. The conversations I have with my sister.

Describe your perfect day.
Morning run with my girlfriends in some scenic place, followed by a trip to the farmers’ market with an iced coffee in hand. Next would be a walk down to the dog park, where I could get my fill of canine glee. Then perhaps a quick nap before I start preparing an al fresco dinner for friends using my farmers’ market bounty. And of course, delicious wine to be enjoyed by all.

What’s your go-to when you need a boost of happiness?
Typing “Welsh Corgis” into Google Images.

What’s the last thing that made you smile?
An email from my awesome boyfriend. And this.

Having just graduated with your MBA (congrats!) what advice would you give to students about being happy?
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in projects, papers, job searching and grades. Don’t lose sight of what makes you happy and keeps you grounded. At the end of the day, the piece of paper is useless if you’re unhappy. These two quotes helped guide me through grad school:

“Make space for the things you love.”

“Remember that some things count more than other things.”

What do you dig about Happier?
It rarely allows me to have an overwhelmingly bad day anymore. It also helps me stay connected with my beloved Boston friends all the way from Atlanta! Plus the design is clean, friendly and engaging.