Tag: emotional health

Making a Habit of Happiness

Recently, I was stuck on my latest fiction-in-progress so I was surfing the Internet and Facebook. I found this meme created by Do the Right Thing that extolled thirty habits for happiness.


I read through the list and some of the comments on the post. One person said it was too long to read through, and I thought that was a shame.
Then I decided to make my own, much shorter list.

But how do I know what should go on the list?

And who am I to say I know anything about happiness?

What is Happiness Anyway

Oh, happiness how fleeting! Here for one heart’s beating!

According to my wise friends at Dictionary.com, happiness is the quality or state of being delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing.
In short: happiness is a moment in time where something goes right and you feel a surge of success.
It’s a moment in time. It’s not meant to be a continual state of being. However, if you’re going to choose an emotion to characterize your life, wouldn’t happiness be preferable to sadness or anger?

But when the property tax bill comes and it’s a couple hundred dollars more than the previous year, no one is very pleased. (Well, Mr. Tax Man probably is.)

However, practice #2 from my top ten list below and you’ll start thinking, “Plenty of people didn’t get a tax bill because they don’t own a home. I’m blessed to have such a nice house. I’ve worked in the schools and I know education is important. I’m glad that if there’s a fire, the fire department will come and take care of it. If not for my taxes, those things wouldn’t be possible.”

I might not be happy about the bill even after all that, but now I’m feeling less disgruntled.

So while I doubt anyone will be happy all the time, having a positive outlook and practicing gratitude can alter your “state of being” from irritated and grumbling to accepting and smiling.

Narrowing Down the Choices

To narrow down this list of thirty, I did what most people in this social media dominated culture of ours do: I asked my Facebook community.

How did we cull answers from a larger population before there was Facebook and Instagram and all the others?
Most kids can’t imagine not being able to search the Internet for answers to any question. Somehow, those of us born before 1980 managed it. Go figure.

Within the first twelve hours of posting my Facebook poll, I had two clear leaders among the thirty options. And a five-way tie for third place. No surprise.

This list contains thirty good habits to form for better mental health. Because in reality, that’s what happiness brings. It can also lower blood pressure and drop adrenal levels associated with stress.

Of course, no research is “one and done.” I ended up with a four-way tie for third place. So I made this meme and let my friends help me narrow the choices down a second time.


I have an amazing tribe. Although this second request didn’t gender the same flurry of interest, enough people responded that I could determine a clear third, fourth and fifth place.
In the end, my peeps helped me build this “Top 5” list (for those of you who like it short and sweet):


My Top 10 Habits for Happiness

Of course, my personal list doesn’t coincide with the masses of public opinion. It rarely does. I’m unique that way.

Here’s how I would prioritize the habits for happiness. The first two directly coincide with recent annual themes for me. I focused attention on the area of showing gratitude (remember #365DaysofGratitude) and thinking positively.

1. Show gratitude
2. Accentuate the positive
3. Smile. Smile. Smile
4. Choose faith over fear (As one person pointed out, meditating on scripture and prayer should be on the list. I think they’re incorporated here. How can I have faith without them?)
5. Let go of the baggage (Don’t hold grudges. Don’t rehearse wrongs. Don’t look for fault everywhere. Sing with Elsa, “Let it Go.”)
6. Live truthfully and honestly (yes, I combined two because they are twins)
7. Dream big and work hard for the dream (dreaming big alone is the path to disappointment and discouragement, but if you dream it and planto achieve it and then work your plan…good times!)
8. Build a healthy body (yes, I’m a cheater because eating well, exercising, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep go here)
9. Listen to understand
10. No excuses or self-justification. Own it.

I’m a writer, so a few things about the original list bugged me. Some of the points meant the same thing. Or close enough. Others were tied together–inseparable to my way of thinking.

What is your top habit for happiness? If you do this ONE THING, you will have a better day.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Change

One quarter of 2018 is past. It’s supposed to be a year of metamorphosis around here, but what has really changed? If nothing else, I’ve learned a few things about the process of making changes.

In January, I posted my word for the year. I made a lovely graphic.

And then a few weeks later, I adopted a new branding design. Which included a lovely new logo.

Things were off to a metamorphic start. Oh yes.

I penned blogs about what was changing: career,website and me. And maybe a few people even read them.

But when change happens to someone else, it doesn’t affect us. I mean, really. Other people move or find a new job or send a kid to college. We might feel for them (especially if we’ve experienced these changes before), but there’s no metamorphosis in our life when that happens.

1. Change Takes Purpose

Let me explain this. Things change in our lives without our PERMISSION. That’s a circumstance.

In order for us to truly “become something better” there has be be purposeful change.

For example, we get laid off. That was a job we loved and felt called to do. Now we hit the streets to find a new job. After a few dozen applications and some not-so-fruitful interviews, we are offered a new position and we accept it.

However, the new job might end up being only a circumstance. If we don’t embrace this new place and employ our gifts toward this different mission, we won’t change.

WE won’t change.

Just because circumstances change, it doesn’t follow that we will change.

So when life throws you a new circumstance, be a good Marine. Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. And most of all, set your mind to making the most of it so you become a better person.

2. Some Change is Excruciating

I have no idea what the caterpillar feels inside a cocoon. I’ve always imagined the little guy spun his secure bed, fell asleep and woke up as a butterfly.

We aren’t caterpillars. If we sleep through a change, nothing will happen.

My experience this past year is that the longer I’ve been in one place, the more difficult it is to change. More than that, it’s often an unpleasant experience.

Think of it this way, your car is stuck in the mud. You rev the motor. Wheels spin. You sink further into the mud. The more you struggle to get out of the rut, the deeper you get into it.

So it is with changing something that has been static for many, many years.

In order to pull ourselves out of the rut, there’s going to be external force needed. And then there will be internal struggles to accept that application of brutality.

Metamorphosis in the human arena is agonizing.

3. Change Can Be Small

We want big and flashy. This is most often true in areas where we’re making physical changes.

We start a diet and exercise plan. Three days later, our muscles scream and our stomach rumbles. We step on the scale and see:

We’ve lost one pound

One pound?!? For all this misery? Why am I doing this again?

Because big changes start small. Think of the avalanche. It can start with a single pebble sliding down the slope. It hits a larger boulder which rumbles. Dirt loosens around it. When it goes, it takes trees and more rocks with it, leaving behind a corridor of destruction.

The thing about a small change might not even be that it becomes bigger. Often it remains a small, simple thing: filling out a gratitude journal every evening before falling asleep.

But that ONE LITTLE THING bleeds into every area of life. It might begin as, “I have to pay attention to what I’m grateful for so I have something to write in the journal.” Soon enough it becomes a habit to give thanks for all the little things.

The rain stopped when I walked out to get the mail. The cat didn’t run away when I needed to load him into the carrier (and I’m not wearing scratch marks in the aftermath).

The truth is:

4. Real Change is S-L-O-W

Weight loss is another one of those things we want to happen now. Nope, actually, yesterday.

How long did it take me to pack on that extra fifteen pounds? A year? Two years? And yet I think I should be able to drop it in a couple months.

What I’ve discovered is that when I try to be diligent about eating a low calorie diet and exercise every day until my muscles STOP aching, I get burned out. My limit for persevering in both of these things is about one month.

One month? Can I even lose FIVE pounds in that time?

But when I think about it like that, it discourages me. So instead, I look at things as progressive. My sister the Beachbody coach has lots of motivational memes, and they make me feel like a failure if I let them.

Instead, I pull out my calendar and see all the times I know it will be difficult to stick to low calorie eating. I make sure I can up the intensity of my workouts during that time, but I don’t plan to follow the restrictive eating plan.

Why set myself up for failure? Instead, I shoot for MAINTAINING the strides I’ve already made.

After the week of vacation, I return to another 21-day focused eating and exercise plan. At the end, I give myself a week or a weekend to relax in the kitchen.

No, I don’t eat everything in sight. Usually, I’ll reward myself with pizza (and I don’t eat the whole thing) or baked goods (that I give away or share so I don’t eat them all). Then my head is in the right spot to do another 21 to 30-day focused weight loss plan.

It could take me six months or ten months to lose those fifteen pounds, but that’s still LESS time than it took to gain them.

5. Change isn’t always Better

Sadly, change isn’t always the best course of action. It’s difficult to admit this in a post extolling the virtues of metamorphosis.

I’m not talking about YOU attempting to improve something and it falls apart. That’s failure. And failing is the key to success.

Sometimes we were OKAY in an area of life we decided needed to change. Maybe we’ve decided to double the number of books we read in a year. Reading is great, right?

But if we forfeit family time, sleep and preparing nutritious meals (because we’re reading!) then we’ve missed the point of making a change.

Sometimes, we are healthy even if we aren’t a size six anymore. This doesn’t mean we should indulge in a daily dose of ice cream or cookies. Let’s not become UNHEALTHY. But we don’t have to strictly count every calorie. If we miss a workout, there’s no need for self-flagellation.

If reading self-help books makes me adopt a negative self-image, this isn’t a change for the better. We must weigh the change from every angle.

The world is filled with excellent things that I’ve never tried. And if I tried them they could hurt me or deter me from the best course for my life.

So it’s important to remember that a change doesn’t have to be permanent. If you make a change and discover it’s actually detrimental to your life purpose or mental or emotional health, you can change back. Or better yet, re-evaluate WHY you wanted to change that and see if there’s another way to achieve the end result you desire.

What have you learned about change? Have you experienced any of these five lessons about change first-hand?