Thursday Thought

Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.”
— Joseph Chilton Pearce

Friday Inspiration: Elevator Joy Bomb

Go ahead: really smile while you watch this. Maybe even get up and dance! Advanced challenge: Go out and do something that is playful like this. How could you have fun for 5 minutes?)

Thursday Thought

In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends.” — John Churton Collins

Happiness Tip: Catch Someone Else’s Joy

When was the last time someone else’s happiness became your own?

Last weekend I was at a fundraiser where several musicians were playing live. I was close enough to the guitar player, Jack, to be able to watch his expressions while I listened to him play. As I watched, I noticed myself grinning right along with Jack. He was totally in the moment, happiness flowing through him and his instrument, sheer bliss radiating from his face.

I realized that as I paid attention to Jack’s joy, my own emotions were mirroring his: I was feeling an expansive happiness. This is a phenomena my mentor James Baraz calls “vicarious joy,” and it is something that is easy to cultivate in our everyday lives.

Take Action: Watch for other people’s positive emotions. Who around you is feeling deep gratitude, or giddy happiness, or profound compassion? Let yourself “catch” their emotions, and take in the good feelings that occur in your own body as a result.  Even the joy of a dog can be contagious; my children frequently fall to the ground giggling as they watch our friends’ labrador play in the park.

Join the discussion: What is your favorite source of vicarious joy?  Share in the comments!

Friday Inspiration: Straighten Up

Following on this week’s Happiness Tip, this TED talk is about how hugely our posture can impact our success.

Thursday Thought

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” –Rumi

Happiness Tip: Straighten Up

Starting in 6th grade — about the time when I became painfully self-conscious, and really didn’t want my mother’s advice — my mom started to nag me incessantly about sitting and standing up straight. She got my pediatrician to talk to me about it, and she even created a code word for us that meant, “for god’s sake, improve your posture!” so she could remind me in public, theoretically to avoid embarrassment.

Oh, how I wish I’d listened to my mother. Turns out I probably would have been happier and more confident in middle school if I’d tried harder to sit up straight. Research shows that in adults, a straight spine increases confidence, while “a slumped posture leads to more helpless behaviors,” writes Emma Seppala from the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford. Hunching or slouching makes research subjects feel more stressed, and makes them more likely to give up in the face of challenge.

Take Action: Set an alarm or a timer that will remind you to stand or sit up straight once an hour. BONUS benefit: Research subjects who make an effort to improve their posture ALSO tend to improve other areas of their lives — for example, they tend to watch less TV and eat less junk food!

Friday Inspiration: Look In Your Neighbor’s Bowl

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Although the lesson is clearly lost on this little girl, I like the message: If you want to be happy, stop looking in your neighbor’s bowl to compare it to what you have — and to access whether the amount you have is “fair”. Look in your neighbor’s bowl to make sure that they have enough.

Thursday Thought

The stuff of life never ends. That is life.You will never clear your plate so you can finally get to the good stuff. So you have to decide. What do you want to accomplish in this life?”
- Brigid Schulte

Happiness Tip: Memorize Part of a Poem

We often forget that inspiration — along with its cousins elevation and awe — are positive emotions that make us feel more content, joyful and satisfied with our lives. One way to bring more of these positive emotions into our lives is to memorize a part of a poem that inspires us.

This is one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems:

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The lines I say to myself for inspiration are, “the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

Take Action:
Use the Internet to find a poem you remember loving. Print it out, highlight your favorite lines, and commit them to memory.

Join the discussion:
What is your favorite line from a poem? Inspire others by commenting below.