Tag: Mental 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.

Is Confidence Linked to Appearance?

Image courtesy of inbetweenathlete.com

We’re going to a company picnic – my husband’s company picnic – and I pull shorts and tank tops out of the dresser. After all, it’s late July and the temperature is predicted to be near 90.

These shorts pinch my waist. All those sleeveless shirts will draw attention to my less-than-firm triceps. Shorts that hit mid-thigh will ride up when I sit down and the flabby part of my leg will peek out.

It’s official. I have nothing to wear. I look terrible in all of these outfits. Even though I’ve been walking or running every weekday morning throughout the summer and lifting weights two days per week, my over-40 body doesn’t become the summery outfits which would best suit this event.

I pull the capris out of my closet and the process begins again.

If this is you, I’m glad to know I’m not alone. Not really. I think the fact that women spend so much time thinking about their appearance is a travesty. Especially when I read this:

“In general, women are much more concerned about their appearance than men are. The key reason for this is that their appearance is central to how they are evaluated by others” (Jackson, L. A. from Physical Appearance and Gender).

Why are women evaluated by others based on appearance? Whatever the reason, it makes 90% of all women want to change something about their appearance according to these statistics.

According to Dr. Nigel Barber, “Women also spend huge amounts of money on clothes, cosmetics, and other products and services that enhance their physical appearance.” Is this because women feel insecure about their appearance? After all, society will judge them based on the way they look.

Unfortunately, society as a whole may judge us on external standards, such as physical appearance. Women need to build up an arsenal to fight against the negative impact this can have on our confidence and self-esteem.

Some weapons against the warped standards society sets for women are:

  • Positive self-talk: You are your own worst enemy. I avoid mirrors once I’m done getting ready in the morning. This helps me forget about my bad hair day or the extra roll above my waistband. When I look and think, “Ugh. I need to lose weight” I immediately remind myself of the three miles I ran that morning or check out a picture of the two healthy sons my body sustained for 10 months and then brought into the world. (By the way, Victoria’s Secret is that no one looks like a supermodel in their underwear.)
  • Healthy relationships: It’s comforting that my husband doesn’t think I need to wear makeup. He tells me I’m beautiful first thing in the morning (even when I still have morning breath). Don’t put yourself in a relationship with someone who puts down your appearance.
  • Realistic friendships: If you befriend the pretty girl, you’ll be surprised to realize she’s even more insecure about her looks than you are. How can that be? Looks are fleeting. We age and faces wrinkle while skin sags. It’s inevitable. If we put our confidence in our appearance, we know it’s a time bomb. Surround yourself with people who value the inner characteristics that make a person beautiful. When you’re encouraged by the truth from people who see the real you, it inspires confidence (but don’t mistake healthy self-esteem for over-confident pride).
  • A different focus:  In this article, one woman admits: “I realized that there was a marked difference between staying strong and healthy and being critical of every curve of my body, hyperaware of how things drape and present to the outside world.” We need to focus on our purpose in life. Even the supermodel and actress can’t hang all their dreams on their physical appearance. Focus on being the best mother, wife, writer, teacher, lawyer or whatever. As women, we have more than one role and none of them really need us to weigh 100 pounds and have a 36-26-36 figure.

Really. They don’t.