Christmas Wishes

December 25, 2017

Will there be carrots under the tree for me?

Wishing you happiness, love, and peace today and every day.

I'm taking a break from posting this week. I hope you and your family enjoy the last week of 2017.
See you in the New Year!

Dan Buettner

The Blue Zones of Happiness: How to Design a Happier Life

December 22, 2017

“This is a book about designing your life to make it happier.”

With a description like that, how could I resist picking up this book?

There’s plenty of food for thought in Dan Buettner’s new book, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People (2017, National Geographic). Buettner, the author of several best-sellers about the “Blue Zones”—five places in the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives—focuses this book on what makes people live happier, not just longer. He introduces readers to some of the happiest people in the happiest cities in the world, shares the research-based “Three P’s of Happiness” (pleasure, purpose, and pride), and plenty of strategies and suggestions for creating healthier and happier habits for a greater sense of lasting well-being.

I especially liked the recognition that there are multiple factors that boost happiness. I think everyone is different in what makes them truly happy, and it’s reassuring to think that if one area of your life isn’t bringing satisfaction, other areas can help to make up for it. 

Other takeaways:

1. We should set up our lives to make it easier to feel happy—no willpower involved. We have finite amounts of willpower, and even something as seemingly no-brainer as doing something to make yourself happy shouldn’t rely on willpower:

“What does lead to greater happiness is making changes to your surroundings—to your home, workplace, community, and ultimately your nation. The more you design your home to favor good habits, the better your family will feel simply by living in it. The more friends you make at work the more you’ll look forward to getting the job done. The more your community nudges you out from behind the steering wheel and onto your feet, the better you’ll feel. The more trust you put in your government, the more secure you’ll feel. The challenge is to reshape your life so that you’re constantly being nudged into well-being.”

2. How many moments of happiness we should have to offset negative experiences and feelings:

“Moments of joy, serenity, or inspiration can be easily quashed by worries, doubts, and demands. As a result of their urgency, negative emotions such as fear or anxiety packed a bigger punch than positive ones such as amusement or awe. So people who want to experience an upward spiral of positive experiences could start by organizing their days to include at least three ‘heartfelt’ positive feelings for every ‘heart-wrenching’ negative one. That appears to be the difference between people who are flourishing and those who aren’t, [Barbara] Fredrickson said.”

3. Seeking happiness doesn’t just benefit us—it helps others, too. People who experience more happiness are more resilient when setbacks occur. And happiness ripples through social circles, so that if you become happier, you will likely help those who know and love you become happier also.

4. Happiness boosters, if done too often, can become routine and fail to provide the positive feelings we seek. Learn which happiness boosters to try and how often, and keep varying them.

There are plenty of suggestions throughout the book of practical (though not always easy) steps to take in order to boost happiness. Towards the end, you’ll find the “Happiness Power Nine,” which includes such things as sleeping 7.5 hours+ a night, engaging with the world by getting out of your house and participating in a club or team, volunteering, living in a community that supports well-being, and looking forward by setting goals and monitoring your progress.

If you’re interested in creating a happier life—one of true well-being, not just superficial pleasure—The Blue Zones of Happiness is a worthwhile read.

Please share your happiness habits in the comments below!

For more information:
Take the Happiness Test to see how you rate on the Three P’s of Happiness 

The Blues Zones of Happiness website

Ada Limon

You Say, I Say

December 20, 2017

Photo by Ciprian Boiciuc on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Sit for an hour in any national airport and you’ll see how each of us differs from others in a million ways, and of course that includes not only our physical appearances but our perceptions and opinions. Here’s a poem by Ada Limón, who lives in Kentucky, about difference and the difficulty of resolution.

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use

All these great barns out here in the outskirts,
black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.
They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.
You say they look like arks after the sea’s
dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,
and I think of that walk in the valley where
J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,
No. I believe in this connection we all have
to nature, to each other, to the universe.
And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,
low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,
and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,
woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Ada Limón, whose most recent book of poems is Sharks in the Rivers, Milkweed Editions, 2010. Poem reprinted from Poecology, Issue 1, 2011, by permission of Ada Limón and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


No Time to Think? Why and How to Make Reflection a Part of Your Life

December 08, 2017

Despite the hoopla surrounding the holiday season, December is a great time to develop the habit of reflection. To reflect is to think deeply or carefully—a practice especially useful as we wrap up an old year and approach a new one.

But reflection is more easily discussed than practiced. The culture in the U.S. is not conducive to reflective thought. Instead, it’s devoted to making us too busy or too distracted by information overload to pause for reflection. (I don’t think it’s just me—but correct me if I’m wrong.)

In addition, reflection is sometimes uncomfortable. It can reveal to us areas of conflict, deep desires that have gone unmet, ways we fall short, things we’re afraid of. I guarantee that if we have a few minutes of thinking time, whatever problem we’re facing will pop up and demand attention.

Even though it can be uncomfortable, if we use our reflection time wisely we may be able to make some progress solving those issues that come to mind, rather than pushing them aside. We should be careful, however, that we don’t turn our reflection time into a way to beat ourselves up for not being and doing enough.

Reflection doesn’t always have to be about problem solving, of course. It can—and should—also be a time simply to think about what’s happening in our lives, what we’re grateful for, that great book we read, or some new thing we recently learned. Reflection gives us the opportunity to pay attention to our lives, rather than just living them.

Taking the time to reflect fosters growth, insight, and wisdom. We make connections between seemingly unrelated things, solve problems, and see new ways of approaching challenges. When we’re especially busy—like while we’re prepping for the holidays—it’s even more important to take time for reflection.

I’ve gotten out of the habit of making time to think, so I’m going to take my own advice and start making reflection a regular habit. If you want to join me, here are some simple tips that should help:

Schedule time for reflection. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but it should be regular. Say every Sunday night from 8 to 8:30, for example.

Make space for reflection. A comfortable chair in quiet area is ideal. Or, if the weather permits, take a walk and let your thoughts wander with you.

Keep a notebook or journal handy. If you’re like me, you’ll likely have something to jot down.

What should we think about? Anything we want! We can let our thoughts drift, or we can make note of a question we want to ponder. We may want to think through a particular challenge, reflect on an experience, or some new thing we learned.

(One way to jump start your reflections is to use prompt questions. One of my favorite end-of-the-year tools can be found in this post on Sandra Pawula’s blog, Always Well Within.)

Do you have any tips for establishing a habit of reflection? Please share in the comments!


The Noblest Way to Learn Wisdom

December 06, 2017

Photo by Josh Adamski on Unsplash

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge: 2017 Edition

2017 Gratitude Challenge Recap

December 01, 2017

Yesterday was the last day of Positively Present’s 30-Day Gratitude Challenge. I’ve done this challenge four times now, and every year I learn something new about gratitude.

The point of the challenge, for me, is to become more aware of the large and small things I’m grateful for. So many times they get lost in the shuffle of daily living. I’m ashamed to say that I take many things for granted. (I also loved reading other people’s #Gratitude30 entries. We’re all so different, yet somehow the same!)

Here are a few of my favorite 2017 prompts (entries have been slightly edited to remove Instagram-ese):

Day 1 (Beauty): I didn’t have to go far to find today’s prompt… Just out my back door. Thanks to my husband, I have the backyard I’ve always wanted. I’m grateful for his efforts, and for the beautiful flowers that bloom nearly year-round in Florida.

Day 9 (Feelings): I used to be afraid that my feelings would overwhelm me. Then I started taking yoga classes and learning about meditation. I learned I could watch my feelings and thoughts, and that as long as I didn’t cling to them or push them aside they would simply…flow (like the ripples in this photo). Sometimes I write out my feelings, both to figure out what they are, and to help with the flow process. I’m grateful for the peace of knowing this, too, shall pass.

Day 14 (Challenges): Some of the best rewards in life come with a heaping helping of challenge. Like this guy here. Learning how to ride and care for a horse as an adult has been physically, mentally, and financially challenging, but worth every minute. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from him and from all the horse people I’ve met along the way.

Day 17 (Memories): These photos were taken in New Orleans back in 2010, on a trip with Laure Ferlita, and they remind me of “les bon temps” we shared exploring that fascinating city. Oh, how I would love to go back to New Orleans. The food, the music, the people, the architecture…and did I mention the food?

Day 30 (Growth): 2017 has been a challenging year in many ways, and it forced me to grow, even when I’d have preferred to stay in my comfort zone. I hate to admit it (and this is not an invitation to the universe to send me adversity), but I’m grateful for the growth from those challenges. And I intend to keep growing like this little flower, blooming in a crevice between rocks.
What are you most grateful for in 2017?