Action for Happiness

If It's Friday, It Must Be Time for Link Love

March 23, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad it’s Friday. I have some writing to do today, and then my husband and I are going to the movies tonight! And then…ah, the weekend. I hope you have some fun weekend plans in store. And if you have a few spare minutes, here are some links to love. Enjoy!

Just because it’s almost the end of March (already?) doesn’t mean we can’t use the prompts on Action for Happiness’ Mindful March calendar. So many great and simple ways to become more aware of the happiness all around us.

I know this isn’t in the usual Catching Happiness wheelhouse, but Shakespeare’s Top 50 Insults made me smile. (“Thine face is not worth sunburning”).  Be sure to scroll to the bottom for the Shakespeare Insult Generator. (If you don’t, you’re a spleeny, onion-eyed foot-licker!)

I adore solitude. If you do, too, you’ll probably recognize these “23 Things Only People Who Love Spending Time Alone Will Understand.” So many of these resonated with me.

If you’re in the market for an everyday adventure, consider trying something for the first time. Dani DiPirro at Postively Present has a list of some possibilities here. Pick something and do it!

Speaking of adventure, my friend Laure Ferlita just announced the possibility of an art retreat in the south of France, in addition to her already-scheduled Blue Walk tour in Paris. This sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any artists out there.

Gretchen Rubin’s “My Best Advice for Graduates: 12 Tips for a Happy Life” is worth reading, even if your own graduation, like mine, is far in the past.

Cats and yoga. Namaste.

Have a happy weekend!


International Day of Happiness Is Almost Here!

March 19, 2018

Since 2009, I’ve been writing about happiness and related concepts—and even now I sometimes struggle with the feeling that happiness is frivolous—a topic that doesn’t really matter in the face of the real and pressing problems of the world. I’ve even wondered if it’s OK to be happy.

But happiness is only frivolous if you define it as the fleeting feeling you have when you’re only pursuing your own pleasure and everything is going your way. True happiness is more than that—it’s a lasting feeling of well-being. What could be more important?

Happiness is so important that on March 20 in 2013, the United Nations declared the first International Day of Happiness “as a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.” As we observe it each year, it serves as a reminder that happiness is important on a global level. 

On a personal level, I think we should each be mindful of what makes us truly, deeply happy. Then we should go about filling our lives with things that matter in the long-term, not futile pursuits and thoughtless busy-ness. When we are happy, we make others happy. We operate from a place of abundance rather than lack, opening our hands to let happiness flow to others rather than clutching it desperately for ourselves.

So today, tomorrow, and every day, I wish for you, and for myself, a life of meaningful, deep happiness and true well-being.

How will you celebrate the International Day of Happiness?

For more information:

The latest World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. The United States dropped four places to 18th, and Canada was 7th. (Finland ranked number one.) 

Kristen Ulmer

Let Them Be

March 16, 2018

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

“Honor your moods not by forcing a different reality, but by just letting them be. It’s very Zen. When you’re sad, just be sad. When you’re afraid, just be afraid. When you’re overwhelmed, just be overwhelmed. When you’re unfocused, can you find a way to let it be and simply enjoy that state?

“This is how—like water through a hose—these states will come into, through, and out of your life. Do this and that reality will always run its course, and there will be space right behind it for something else to enter.”
—Kristen Ulmer, quoted in Tribe of Mentors

Life lessons from the barn

Life Lessons From the Barn--Relax Your Mind

March 12, 2018

I rode Tank on Saturday while a lesson was taking place, and I heard the trainer call out one of my favorite expressions to one of the students: “Relax your mind.”

I’ve heard her use this phrase often, usually when a student is stretching outside her comfort zone and becoming uptight about it. In riding, if you’re anxious about taking a jump, for example, your horse will pick up on it and might refuse the jump, or spook at it. After all, if you’re worried about it, there must be something to worry about…

So much of horseback riding—and life—depends on our mental states. Our anxiety levels, expectations, intentions, our ability to let go of fears and worries. It’s all too easy to get worked up about specific situations, or even life in general, until our minds resemble spinning hamster wheels of thoughts (I’m especially prone to this at around 3:15 a.m.).

The antidote?

Relax your mind.

It’s a good skill to learn, and one that I’m still working on. Here’s what I do when I remember to relax my mind:

  • Stop holding my breath and start taking deep, slow breaths. This sends a calming message to my nervous system.

  • Unclench my muscles, releasing physical tension.

  • Open my eyes, ears, heart, and mind to the entire situation—i.e., stop staring intently at whatever I’m worried about, expecting it to blow up in my face.

When I’m able to relax my mind, the outcome is always better, even if it’s not ideal. 

How would you follow the direction to “relax your mind”?


Feathered Friday--Birds at the Backyard Feeder

March 09, 2018

“I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.”
—Pete Hamill

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the backyard with you-know-who lately. While I supervise playtime (she eats, or at least chews, everything and we’ve already been to the vet once because she ate something she shouldn’t have), I have the chance to slow down, be quiet, and observe. Our yard is full of birds, some of which I’ve never noticed before. The simple pleasure of observing the birds coming and going has made my backyard jaunts happier. Today I thought I’d share a few of our pretty feathered visitors:

Rufous-sided towhee 

Red-bellied woodpecker


Mr. Cardinal

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Bonus Butterfly:

Zebra longwing
What’s making you happy today?

Look for my travel writing here