good life

Link Love: Tips for a Good Life

April 26, 2024

Good morning and happy Friday! Today I’ll be working on a new writing project (yay for freelance work), practicing some yoga (yay for gentle exercise), and cleaning my house (yay for…having a house to clean). I have lots of fun links for you to check out today—hope you enjoy them.

It’s easy to think you have to make big changes to boost happiness, but “22 Small Things That People Say Made Them Drastically Happier” shows that sometimes the little things can be just as effective.  

More tiny habits to help you feel happier. 

In “5 Lessons from a Conversation with a World-Renowned Happiness Expert,” Sahil Bloom shares what he learned from a recent conversation with Dr. Robert Waldinger, the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest-running study on adult life, health, and happiness in the world. Spoiler alert: These five lessons all have to do with the importance of relationships for good health and happiness. (See below for link to Dr. Waldinger’s TED Talk about what makes a good life.)

Since relationships are so important, how can we strengthen ours? Check out “50 Ways to Show You Care Without Spending a Dime” for tips! Number 50 just might be my favorite.

I absolutely love this young man’s passion for libraries and books as well as his openness about mental health issues. His Instagram posts are a delight. 

While writing “For Your Listening Pleasure,” I stumbled on this website, where you can listen to the sounds of forests from around the world. 

In “On really, truly enjoying things” the Frugal Girl reflects on the fact that, “If you go through life only halfway observing what you experience, it stands to reason that you would not extract 100% of the joy that life has to offer. So, then you’d need twice as many joyful experiences in order to reach the joy level of someone who is more observant.” 

If you’d like to become more observant, click here to join writer and teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn on May 8 (via Zoom) to learn how to “befriend your mind” and live your life with more mindful awareness. Dr. Kabat-Zinn is the father of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, a modern, secular form of meditation, and the author of several books, including Wherever You Go, There You Are. This free event is hosted by Action for Happiness.

And finally, here is Dr. Waldinger’s TED Talk about what makes a good life:


For Your Listening Pleasure

April 19, 2024

Francis BarraudHis Master's Voice

After writing last month’s Happy Little Thoughts newsletter (click here to subscribe if you don’t already), I’ve been thinking more about listening. Not just the metaphorical act I wrote about—who/what we listen to, how often we listen to others, if we also listen to ourselves—but the literal “what” that enters our literal ears.

Here are a few simple listening pleasures we can incorporate into our lives to boost physical and mental health.


According to, music stimulates the neurotransmitters which affect pleasure by increasing dopamine production, reducing cortisol levels, and even increasing an antibody responsible for strengthening the immune system (immunoglobulin A). Can’t get much better than that!

Even though I love music, I hadn’t been listening to it as much as I’d like—or as deliberately as I’d like. I usually have the radio on when I drive, but that can get frustrating since I have no control over what comes over the airwaves (mostly personal injury attorney ads, apparently) and I’ve been listening to podcasts while I work around the house instead of music since my iPod died in an untimely coffee-drowning accident a few years back. (Yes, yes, I know there are multiple ways to stream music, but I am Old and Set in My Ways and haven’t taken the time to master them.) So I started playing old CDs in the car (yes, my car is also old and still has a CD player Do Not Judge Me), especially ones I can sing along with. Singing has many health and mood benefits, whether or not you can carry a tune, and I love to sing.

The CDs in my collection span many decades of music listening, and hearing certain songs brings back floods of memories. If I hear Devo’s Whip It, I’m instantly transported back to tennis team practice on my high school’s courts. Listening to Broadway musical soundtracks reminds me of fun theater-going with friends, and one Rob Thomas song reminds me of walking laps on a track in Texas with my sister-in-law.

One of my new goals is to explore newer music and artists and add to my collection, in either digital or CD formats.

Nature sounds

Sounds of nature—the breeze blowing in the trees, water rushing through a creek or pouring over a waterfall, ocean waves, rain pattering on the roof, birdsong—are soothing to our nervous systems and can help to improve health and mood. Even using a mobile app which mimics nature sounds can be helpful if the real thing isn’t possible. 

When I go outside to water plants or do yardwork, I try to pay attention to the sounds around me rather than fill my ears with words or music. It’s fun trying to identify different birds by their songs, and all the little rustles and creaks hint at worlds which exist at the edges of my awareness. I forget my frustrations in curiosity, and am reminded of the connection to all the living things around me.

Voices of loved ones

I’ve still got the last voicemail my dad left on my phone, and a recording of my son’s voice when he was a preschooler. They both make me smile when I listen to them.

Next time someone you love talks, really listen! What does their voice sound like? Do they use any particular words or phrases unique to them? You never know when their voices will fall silent. One of the hardest things when my mom was dying was that she stopped talking shortly after I arrived to be with her. What I would have given to listen to her during the last two weeks of her life.

And speaking of silence…

Silence, which is never literally silent, can be incredibly beneficial, too. 

I try to sit with the quiet, but that’s when my mind gets really LOUD and chattery, and all those emotions I’ve been keeping at bay come at me. This can be a bit nerve-wracking, but eventually even monkey mind settles down. I’m guessing we (I) fill our ears with so much noise because of the discomfort we feel when outward silence allows our inner monologue to take over. Still, a bout of soaking up silence does ultimately calm me down.

Whether you choose silence or music, loved ones’ voices or nature sounds, I hope whatever you listen to contributes to a happier, healthier day!

What are some things you love listening to?

Cleo Wade


April 12, 2024

I feel you, Luna

Since it’s been full week, with the anniversary of my mom’s death, a solar eclipse, and multiple errands and appointments, today I’ll share with you this poem I love from Cleo Wade’s Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life


I was tired of worrying

so I gave myself my peace back

I was tired of feeling intimidated by what I should do

so I pulled up my sleeves


got to work on what I could do

I was tired of not knowing

so I found out—about myself, my family, my

ancestors, my government, and the struggles of others

I was tired of seeing evil everywhere

so I found the heavenly spots and showed my

neighbors where they were

I was tired

of looking at the world as one big mess

so I decided to

start cleaning it up

and when people ask me if I am exhausted

I tell them no


more than anything

what I got the most tired of

was being tired

National Poetry Month

Returning to a Simple Pleasure: Celebrating Poetry During National Poetry Month

April 05, 2024

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

When things go awry, as they did for me last year, it’s easy to let go of certain practices that bring you joy. I never stopped reading last year—in fact, I read more than usual during plane rides and hours spent alone at my mom’s house. But I did get away from reading poetry on a regular basis.

I always enjoy reading poetry when I do it, and it doesn’t have to be time consuming. One of the beauties of poetry is that you can read just one poem and have something to think about. I mean, why don’t I have a book of poetry sitting where I can pick it up instead of picking up my phone to scroll mindlessly? How many funny cat videos does one woman need to watch?! Reading a poem does take a little more effort than scrolling on my phone, but arguably it’s a better use of my time.

One of the things I like best about reading poetry is that it forces me to slow down. Sure, I could skim over the words on the page, but if I want to get at the meaning of the poem, I have to slow my reading and think about the words. Slowing down has become a theme for 2024 for me, and I’m making an effort to live at a slower pace. Reading poetry on a regular basis sounds like a good way to practice slowing down. 

National Poetry Month to the rescue

Conveniently for me, April is National Poetry Month. There are plenty of resources for me, and anyone else, who wants to add a little poetry to their lives. I’m easing back into regularly reading poetry by starting with Knopf’s Poem-a-Day email. I’ve also recently enjoyed two short collections of poems, Maggie Smith’s Good Bones and Kate Baer’s I Hope This Finds You Well.  

If you’d like to join me in returning to the simple pleasure of poetry, here are a few ways to do so.

Celebrate National Poetry Month

30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

To find virtual and in-person poetry events and resources near you, enter your state or an event title in the search field here

Another poem-a-day option, featuring new work by today’s poets.

Want to try your hand at writing poetry? See for daily prompts in the month of April. 

American Life in Poetry discontinued its practice of sharing poems weekly with newspapers and subscribers at the end of 2022, but the poetry archive remains. Explore it here

Some of my previous posts about National Poetry Month can be found here, here, and here.

To get you started, here is poem from the American Life in Poetry archives (introduction by Kwame Dawes):

It seems clear enough that Quincy Troupe wants his poem, ​“Picking a Dandelion”, to achieve the coveted status of ​“timelessness” while being rooted in a historical moment. Here are Joe and Jill, two people with commonly available American names, enacting an ordinary gesture of affection. Yet this instructive love is heightened by the context: love, in other words, in a time of hate (borrowing from Gabriel Garcia Marquez) is the theme and the optimism lacing this poem.

Picking a Dandelion

walking along together

in the nation’s capital

Joe stopped, stooped, picked a flower—

a dandelion to be exact—

then he handed it to Jill—

who smiled in her white summer,

dress full of pretty flowers,

and someone snapped a picture

of this sweet, simple gesture,

it revealed something deeper,

profound, beautiful about

their love for each other here,

that taught all of us watching,

how to reach across time, space,

with a tender touch, a kiss

for one another here, now

in this moment of hatred

before time on earth runs out

Let me know in the comments below if you have any favorite poets or ways of enjoying poetry.