Happier Challenge: Find Beauty

happier-challenge-beauty-082514Gooooooood Monday morning! The last days of summer are upon us, and it’s a perfect time for this week’s challenge. Ready? Here you go:

Look for something beautiful outside today and pause to appreciate it.

It doesn’t have to be anything super big or significant; in fact, we know that small happy things bring us more lasting joy than the bigger stuff, so go with whatever strikes you. In fact, this is a perfect challenge to try every single day this week. Why not? The world is filled with beauty!

Need some inspiration to help your week along and get you excited for the challenge? Ask (or don’t; I’m psychic!) and ye shall receive:

  • Speaking of seeing beautiful things, did you know there may soon be an app to help you plan your happiest walk vs. the quickest one? Fast is nice, but happy is better!
  • If you love beaches (or, really, even if you don’t), check out these fantastic photos of unusual beaches in nearly every color. Yep, there’s an orange one.
  • This little video may be a plug for Caitlin Freeman’s pastry cookbook, but seeing her modern-art desserts is truly a thing of beauty. Mondrian cake! It’s almost too beautiful to eat, I think.

Get out there and enjoy your week and all of the beautiful things you see around you! And don’t forget to come share about it on Happier, too. We love to hear about what’s making you happier!

Happier Jump-Starts: Tips for an Awesome Midday Break

happier-jump-starts-082414I know that Nataly recently shared some great tips for dealing with a bad day, but that got me thinking—there are some tips that can make your day better no matter what kind of day it is. And then I started thinking about how likely we are, as a society, to rush through lunch (particularly if we’re working) rather than to take it as the perfect time to set ourselves up for a great second half of the day.

Try the following and I guarantee more awesome, happier days ahead!

Stop and eat. No, really, stop. Don’t just have lunch at your desk or in your car or over the sink. Stop. Sit down. Enjoy your food while you’re not doing anything else. Your food will taste better, research suggests you’re less likely to overeat, and you’ll feel more satisfied for the rest of the day. Pinky swear.

Go outside. Even if you only have a few minutes, or even if it’s just parking a little further away while you’re out and about, give yourself an outdoor jaunt to stretch your muscles and get some fresh air (especially if your job is a sedentary or indoors one).

Connect with someone you love. Call your spouse, text a friend, or chat with your favorite coworker (but not about work). Make a point of reaching out for a personal connection as part of even busy days. (Once you start doing this, you may be amazed to discover how little you used to break for “frivolous” interaction throughout the day, and how much better it makes you feel.)

If you must keep going, treat yourself. We all have those busy days when we can only take a long enough break to run errands or go to the doctor or run the kids somewhere. It happens. On those days, make sure you do a little something nice for you in there. Stop for your favorite beverage, listen to your favorite music in the car; it doesn’t matter what it is, only that it’s a treat for you.

Take at least one minute to be still and breathe. You breathe all the time, right? No biggie. But how often do you really just stop everything else and sit with yourself and empty your mind and just… be? If you have time for yoga or meditation, all the better, but whether you do or not, try taking a minute or two midday to consciously re-ground yourself. You may be surprised to discover how great it feels.

Have a great day… and an awesome midday break!

Happier Science: Size Matters

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… but not in the way you might think.

There’s tons of science out there supporting the theory that small, mundane things make us happier than large, unusual events. While some have tried to tease apart whether this is due to the boomerang of emotions after a “big happy” or something else, the bottom line is the same: small, happy moments do, over time, bring us more and longer-lasting joy.

Remember this week’s challenge to spread some kindness? It turns out that the “less is more” happier science applies here, too: A recent study by Dr. Melanie Rudd and colleagues demonstrated you’re better off thinking small. Specifically, subjects were happier when they set (and met) a goal of making someone else smile, vs. a goal of making someone else happy. But when asked beforehand which would make them happier, subjects predicted the “make someone happy” goal would bring them more satisfaction than just going for a smile.

The takeaways here are interesting. First, it’s not just about size—it’s about concreteness. Make someone smile? You’ve done it when they smile. Easy enough. Make someone happy? Well… how happy? And how would you know for sure? How do you go about it? It’s more abstract, feels harder to both achieve and measure, and ultimately doesn’t make us feel as good. Second, our intuition is often wrong when it comes to what makes us happier (and that’s a little bit mind-blowing).

So there you go; if you want to be happy, set small goals. You’re more likely to meet them, and feel more satisfaction when you do. Size matters!

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!

Happier Hearts: Trick Out Your Bicycle

As the weather finally starts to cool off a little bit, we’re thinking about one of those simple joys—riding a bicycle. It combines all sorts of happiness-making components (getting outside, exercising, maybe even time with others), and nothing reminds me of the joy of childhood quote like coasting down a hill on my bike.

Looking to add some fun to your ride, or maybe get the family excited about hitting the road? Check these out:

Safety first!
If you want to go biking, you need a good helmet. If you don’t want to hate wearing a helmet, I suggest getting one that makes you smile. Nutcase helmets were developed as an answer to the “boring or licensed character” helmet dilemma, and while they do protect your noggin, they’re also just plain delightful. I am especially smitten with the watermelon one.

nutcase-sport-helmets

Ding ding… behind you
Do you need a bell? Probably not. Do you want a bell? If it’s one of these Kikkerland bells, I’m going to guess yes. These are pretty sweet for little kids, of course, but I’m not going to judge you if you want one for yourself.

kikkerland-bike-bells

Light up the night
This one is pure luxury for the fun of it, but if you’re going all out, you have to check out MonkeyLectric’s Monkey Light. It’s a series of LEDS that they bill as “not just a practical bike light, but also a cutting edge digital art platform.” It can create thousands of different patterns, rendering your after-dark ride a traveling art display.

monkeylectric-bike-lights

Of course, you don’t really need to spend any money on your bike to make it an awesome, happier experience. I’m still down for a couple of clothespins and some playing cards on the spokes (anyone remember doing that??)….

Awesome Humans: Trisha Prabhu and Rethink

trisha-prabhu-rethink
Can a science fair project change the world? It’s happened before, and with the Google Global Science Fair announcing their finalists for 2014 last week, we’re wondering if a young teen from Illinois may just be on the cusp of something amazing. Trisha Prabhu’s idea was a simple yet brilliant one: Knowing that the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain responsible for both decision-making and moderating social behavior) isn’t fully formed until age 25 or so, and knowing that online bullying among teenagers is rampant, could a “prompt” of some sort to slow down and consider a potentially hurtful message before posting alter kids’ behavior?

Her study showed an overwhelming result: given the prompt to reconsider, almost all of her subjects opted not to post nasty comments to social media. Prabhu is now looking into how to turn Rethink into an actual product. If nothing else, it sure makes us happier to see confirmation that teens are impulsive a lot more often than they’re just plain mean.

Read more on Business Insider, or review her project for yourself. Keep up the good work, Trisha! We think you’re awesome!

Mindful Break: Happiness Requires THIS

say-it-beforePart of being happy is also being sad. So the following may make you sad, which will only shine a brighter light on what makes you happy.

In 1996, I received my first astrology chart from the great astrologer Joe Polansky.

He said something in that chart that stuck with me…

“Your powers will start to take off when you understand peoples’ emotions.”

I had no clue what that meant.

It took many years to get it.

And then, I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered how a few different people had told me to watch this video about a kid named Zach Sobiech.

Maybe you’ve seen this video already, but if you haven’t, get ready.

He was dying of terminal cancer and this was his way of saying goodbye.

No explanation can do it justice.

All I can say is that I have never, ever, cried like I cried watching this video. I looked up at the clock through my sobbing eyes and saw the time: 3:01 am.

For me, it was an historical moment.

This video has a message about not getting caught in the middle.

People caught in the middle kinda believe but kinda don’t, kinda try but kinda don’t, kinda care but kinda don’t. The hum of mediocrity is deafening to the soul.

But what awakens the soul is EMOTION.

This video, and Zach, makes you feel so deeply and so intensely.

You knew this kid Zach because he made you cry. He bypassed your mind and spoke to a much deeper place inside of you.

That is what my astrologer meant.

Forget trying to explain yourself.

Instead, make people feel you… make them feel your message, your mission, your passion.

Zach passed away last year, but reminds us, today and every day….

When talking to someone, don’t look them in the eyes. Look them in the heart!

P.S.: If by this point you have not been compelled to watch the video about Zach, do yourself a HUGE favor and watch this video. Your heart will explode in a million beautiful pieces.