How To: Make Yourself Happier The Easy Way

how to make yourself happier the easy way

Start a gratitude practice.

I know, I know. It sounds lame, but the science supports it. UC Berkeley studies gratitude. UC Davis studies gratitude. More brain study research here.

And the science shows, if you want to feel more joy, optimism, and happiness, have a stronger immune system, lower your blood pressure, experience more generosity and compassion and feel less lonely and isolated – you have to practice gratitude.

For years, I resisted keeping a gratitude journal because I thought it was eye- rollingly New-Agey and so simple I thought it wouldn’t do anything. I pretty much mocked the very idea of practicing gratitude. But after reading the Happiness Project, I decided to give it a try because I really wanted to prove it wouldn’t work.

When I started, I kept it really informal. I just kept a running list of little things I was thankful for on my mobile device as I noticed them throughout the day: a cup full of sharpened pencils, a stack of graded papers, a really good hair day, a compliment from a student’s parent, a tasty lunch. Mostly pedestrian stuff.

Random at first and then I got more formal in that I asked myself to track five things every day that filled me with a sense of joy or thanks. Little things. Big things. But especially the little things.

And you know what happened?

I started feeling happier.

gratitude changes everything

Dammit.

Another thing I thought was lame and wouldn’t work, totally proved me wrong. AGAIN.

Today my gratitude journal lives as a document on my Google drive. Each morning after I finish my meditation I write five things I am thankful for and then I close the file.

When my day sucks, as it does occasionally, I open the file and remind myself of all the things that make my life not suck.

And you guessed it, I feel happier.

Interested in starting your own gratitude journal?

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My Attitude of Gratitude 2011 Edition including a link to our shout out on the Oprah Life Blog.

My November Yoga Pinterest board is full of all things gratitude including fancy art journaling ideas and inspirational quotes.

Do you have a gratitude practice? Will you try it for the month of November and see if it works for you?

Noticing the Good Stuff: A Life’s Practice

good stuff

I’ve recently gone through my archives for a project I’ve been working on and noticed that, by and large, my posts are positive snapshots of my life and about people and things that inspire me.

For some of you, the people who have known me for a long time, may be wondering who I have become – if I’ve swallowed some sort of yoga kool aid. For those of you that are new to me or only know me through this blog,  I want to be clear this is, in no way, to be taken as an accurate picture of my day-to-day life.

Lest you get the wrong impression about me and my life – everything isn’t always swell and great and easy. It is not. In fact, August was one of my most emotionally draining months ever.

But….

I’m just not interested in airing my dirty laundry on the internet or putting my still-in-progress troubles out there for the world to see. It’s not how I roll. I’m more of a work things out by myself/with a close friends/counselor kind of person.

In this space, I choose to highlight the awesome things I do every month because if I didn’t, these amazing things would go unnoticed and unappreciated. Mostly by me.

My natural tendency is to see what is wrong in a situation – to find the pieces that don’t fit and to make commentary on those (sometimes in a really funny way, if I do say so myself)- leaving my brain filled with the impression nothing in life is quite right.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this part of myself. Both for the observational humor as well as the I like to fix things part. But here’s the thing, my brain sometimes gets stuck in seeing what is wrong in life and I’m raising a kid now and I don’t want to nit pick life in front of her. Or nit pick her.

So pointing out what is going well – however small it may be – helps me notice the awesome things in my life.

Much to my surprise, I’ve also figured out that I like seeing the beauty in the smallest things. It really does fill me with a sense of wonder and gratitude (I know, I may also have thrown up in my mouth a little bit too).

Noticing the good stuff, my friends, is a practice for me. Much like yoga and meditation are things I have to practice – do a little each day in the best possible world – in hopes that some day it becomes an actual habit or something that comes more naturally.

Do you take time to notice the good stuff in life? Do you share your life online? How do you deal with this issue?

Attitude of Gratitude Re-Cap

Day 1 – thankful for Ruby and adoption for making us a family.

Day 2 – thankful for Jed – best husband and father.

Day 3 – thankful for sometimes waking up before the baby.

Day 4 – thankful for books. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read and watching Ruby play with hers is the best gift.

Day 5 – thankful for healthcare coverage for my entire family and a clean bill of health for all.

Day 6 – thankful for sweater dresses and boot socks.

Day 7 – so thankful for my It’s All Yoga family.

Day 8 – thankful for generous friends.

Day 9 – thankful for a union job and parental leave so we can be at home to bond with our baby without worrying about our jobs.

Day 10 – thankful for massage.

Day 11 – thankful for the people in the armed services and their dedicated service to this country.

Day 12 – thankful for social media because it keeps me in touch with the outside world.

Day 13 – thankful for year round farmer’s markets.

Day 14 – thankful for long, hot baths after the baby goes to sleep.

Day 15 – thankful for music that inspires me to sing out loud.

Day 16 – thankful for the restorative powers of showers.

Day 17 – thankful for uninterrupted sleep in a way I never dreamed possible.

Day 18 – thankful for daily account summaries from my bank which remind me I’m not completely broke.

Day 19 –  thankful for warm cozy blankets for naps on cool days.

Day 20 – thankful for central heat (and air).

Day 21 – thankful for early morning walks with lovely friends.

Day 22 – thankful for all the blogs I read and the Google Reader to keep them organized.

Day 23 – thankful for my yoga props: bolster, eye bag, strap, blankets, mat.

Day 24 – thankful for Ruby’s birth family. Our family wouldn’t be complete without their generosity.

Day 25 – thankful for the middle path.

Day 26 – thankful for whole days with nothing planned.

Day 27 – thankful for free shipping.

Day 28 – thankful for our house cleaning fairies.

Day 29 – thankful for YOU, my readers.

Day 30 – thankful for It’s All Yoga for the Attitude of Gratitude inspiration.

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A special thank you to Amy Shearn over at The Oprah Life Life blog for the Attitude of Gratitude post.

Want to see where it all started?

What are you thankful for?

Saturday Senses

tasting :: steamed lentils and beets with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

hearing :: fox confessor brings the flood and blitzen trapper.

smelling :: the change from the heater in the morning to the air conditioner in the afternoon.

seeing :: the sidewalk drawing above in front of my house. a sweet note from the neighborhood kids.

feeling :: relief our last bit of adoption paperwork has been sent off , gratitude for the wide open weekend and proud of myself for slogging through report cards friday afternoon instead of having that albatross hanging around all weekend.

wishing/hoping :: everyone experiences some space for absolutely nothing this weekend.

What about you?

What are your senses this Saturday?

Looking back, how was your week?

Leave a comment and tell me all about it. I’d seriously love to hear about your week. Now’s not the time to be shy.

This weekly tradition inspired by Pink of Perfection’s Five Sense Friday.

Don’t forget to click the links!

In Case You Missed It Edition, Volume 16

{via}

Each week I’ll give you links to posts that made me laugh, cry, think or at least raise an eyebrow. Please click the links and check out the posts. You may find something that rocks your world too.

Leave me some feedback in the form of comments below on what you liked, what you hated and what you’d like to see more of. I’m here to help you find the best of what is online.

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My Best Of…

Teaching Simplicity got it right with Nurturing the Nurturer – teachers take note. Take the time to take care of yourself. Of course, we need to take care of ourselves when we’re sick but wouldn’t it be nice to nurture and nourish ourselves so we don’t get sick?

Another reason to get more zzzzzzzs…. to look prettier! It’s scientific.

Having a hard time thinking of things to add to a gratitude list? This blogger writes a thank you note a day and some of what she is thankful for is not the usual. Love, love, love it.

Are you a sunflower too? I find I perk up like a blossom with the lengthening days. Here’s a sunlight calendar to help keep track of your daylight minutes.

In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore {one of my favorite reads of the last few years} – he talks about it here. Slow down and stay awhile…

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Cleanse update:  a cold takes away a lot of desire to cook nourishing food. I really wanted someone to cook for me.

So I ate out.

Twice.

I didn’t follow all the rules, however I didn’t give in to all my comfort food throw backs either. I wanted a cheeseburger (I know, huh?). Instead I had a burger sans cheese. I ate some of the bread and threw the rest away.

The next day I went to a pot luck and skipped the dessert and soda table – my usual favorites.

The bowl of M&M’s sitting right in front of me didn’t go untouched, however after I realized I was eating sweets (the cold medicine made me really, r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w), I hid them behind the centerpiece on the table and promptly forgot about them.

Baby steps.

Things I have noticed: comfort food isn’t just about the food when I am sick, it’s also about someone else cooking. Processed foods are convenient, but don’t taste nearly as good as not processed foods. My cold isn’t nearly as devastating as ones I’ve suffered from in recent years. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

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That is the In Case You Missed It Edition for this week, folks.

Remember to click the links and leave some comments. This is a conversation, you know.

In Case You Missed Edition Archives -click it to see them all.

In Case You Missed It Edition! Volume 6

Each week I’ll give you links to posts that made me laugh, cry, think or at least raise an eyebrow. Please click the links and check out the posts. You may find something that rocks your world too.

Leave me some feedback in the form of comments below on what you liked, what you hated and what you’d like to see more of. I’m here to help you find the best of what is online.

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My Best Of…

In honor of November being National Adoption Month –

10 Misconceptions About Adoption – a must read

Thanksgiving is coming! Marissa Bracke is showing her gratitude all month with the 30 Thanks Gratitude Adventure

Ever wonder what to wear to work or how to throw an office party or organize your ever-expanding must read list? Sacramento’s The New Professional Angeline shows you how.

Is all this talk of the holidays starting to stress you out?

Yoga For Holiday Stress with Madeleine is the best yoga workshop I went to last year. I’m going again. It’s going to sell out (there are only a couple spots left even though it is still weeks away), so sign up today if you want to come.

Have you heard of Postcards from Heaven? Every month I receive a postcard with a message I need to hear. I keep these personalized messages on my desk at work to remind me what is important to me. Elizabeth is doing a December special and if you need a little pick-me-up during the busiest time of year order a set for yourself.

Brene Brown’s TEDx courtesy of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (a goldmine!) – take the 20 minutes and watch it. She’s funny and I think she may have some of the secrets of life. Seriously.

That is the In Case You Missed It Edition for this week folks.

Remember to click the links and leave some comments. This is a conversation, you know.

In Case You Missed Edition Archives: Volume 5Volume 4Volume 3Volume 2Volume 1

Yoga+Music365 (day35) – Live A Little by Pernice Brothers

I have a confession.

I never understood why yoga teachers thank their students for sharing their practice with them. I honestly just thought it was something that they say to end a class. Or they wanted to be polite or whatever. In any case, I just didn’t get it.

Then at the end of my first class, with everyone smiling at me, I felt it.

Gratitude.

Like that welling up, spilling over, where the hell did this come from – gratitude.

They (gulp! WE) truly are humbled and grateful for you sharing your practice.

I thought you’d like to know… we aren’t faking it.

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Today’s yoga brought to you by Madeleine at It’s All Yoga.

Today’s music is Live A Little by Pernice Brothers.

Don’t forget FREE Fridays at 4:30 with the new It’s All Yoga teachers (21st and X in Sacramento) – you’ve got to sign up online www.itsallyoga.com

I’m teaching 3/5/10 – so mark your calendar.

For the month of February, I’m teaching a Level 1/2 on Mondays at 5:45. Come join me.