Category Archives: Happy Holidays

24 Fun Ways to Celebrate the International Day of Happiness

Happy International Day of Happiness!  Tomorrow – March 20 – is the official date.  Please help me spread the word by sharing this message with others in your network. 

The International Day of Happiness was established by the United Nations in 2012 to 1) recognize the pursuit of happiness as a basic human goal and 2) acknowledge its importance in public policy objectives.  You can read more about that here.

Will you join me in celebrating?

Below is a list of easy and fun ways to cultivate and explore happiness.  Choose at least one, or come up with your own idea and share it by leaving a comment.  The possibilities are endless.  The boost in happiness is contagious!


  1. Take a photo of something or someone who brings you joy.  Keep it with you and look at it often.
  2. Listen to your favorite music for 5 minutes.
  3. Dance to your favorite music for 5 minutes.
  4. Read your favorite inspirational quote.
  5. Share your inspirational quote with someone else.
  6. Sing a song, and ask others to join in.
  7. Tell your best joke, and allow yourself to crack up.
  8. Perform a random act of kindness for someone else.  Buy coffee for the person in line behind you.  Leave a bottle of water for the postal carrier.  Wash your friend’s car.
  9. Watch one of your favorite feel-good or inspirational movies.  A few inspirational movies that come to mind are The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith, La Vita E Bella (Life is Beautiful) starring Roberto Benigni, even Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone.
  10. Listen to Sara Bareilles’ hit single Brave or Pharrell Williams’ hit single Happy.
  11. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for.
  12. Begin the morning with a note of thanks or praise to a family member, friend, or colleague rather than a review of your ‘to do’ list.
  13. At the dinner table, talk about what went well rather than review the day’s complaints.
  14. Get to know others through their strengths.  Listen for strengths and name them.  Discuss how strengths contributed to what went well.
  15. Go outside and take 5 deep breaths to reset your brain.
  16. Wish someone well in a heartfelt way.
  17. Walk briskly for 5 minutes.
  18. Complete one task you’ve been putting off.  Go do it now!
  19. Set an inspiring personal or professional goal for yourself.
  20. Spread the word by sharing this message with others in your network.


  1. Read a book on happiness.  A few of my favorites are:  10 Things Happy People Do Differently by PaulaDavis-LaackThe Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor;  Choose The Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create Your Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar;  and Flourish by Martin E.P. Seligman.
  2. Check out courses on “the science of happiness” at Wholebeing Institute featuring Tal Ben-Shahar, NY Times Best-Selling author and popular Harvard lecturer.
  3. Register for free webinars available on March 20, sponsored by graduates of MAPP (Masters of Applied Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania).
  4. Check out other newsletters.  Two of my favorites include  Positive
    Psychology News Daily
     and Greater Good The
    Science of a Meaningful Life

Still looking for an idea that resonates with you?  Contact me, and we’ll put our heads together.

As you celebrate the International Day of Happiness on March 20, may your heart be full of joy and inspiration while you explore, cultivate, and spread happiness!

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Create New Year’s Habits To Enjoy Lasting Change

Enjoy lasting, positive changes in your life by creating New Year’s Habits rather than a New Year’s Resolution. 

read time:  about 2.3 minutes

Happy New Year!

Did you make a New Year’s resolution this year?  Whether you did or not, you’re probably familiar with the most common ones.  Lose weight.  Get organized.  Spend less.  Save more.  Stay healthy.  Fall in love.  Spend more time with family.  Live life to the fullest.

I gave up making them years ago.  It’s not that I failed entirely –  I did manage to become a more patient parent one year and lose a few excess pounds in another.

The problem was that my results were temporary.  My renewed patience lasted only a few weeks.  I gained back the few pounds I lost.  Like a majority of people who set New Year’s resolutions, I didn’t enjoy any lasting changes.

Research shows that most change efforts, whether personal or organizational, yield only temporary benefits and aren’t sustained over time.  Consider the billions of dollars we spend annually on weight loss, personal training, skills training, and leadership development to get a sense of how important, and difficult, it is to achieve lasting positive change.

How is lasting change possible?

This question is not insignificant.  Our individual health and well-being, and that of our relationships, families, organizations, and society depend on the answer.

We know about strategies that increase the odds of success.  Set clear, value-based goals.  Work with an accountability partner.  Break larger goals down into smaller, more manageable parts.  But that’s not enough.

Lasting change requires an actual behavioral change.  Our behaviors form habits.  Our habits govern everything we do and don’t do.  We need to actually create a new habit and do things differently to see a different result.

According to brain scientists, healthy and unhealthy habits create connections that form neural pathways in the brain.  The more ingrained the habit, like brushing our teeth after meals, the stronger the neural pathway.  Picture a channel of water that deepens and widens as it rains.

Unfortunately, an unhealthy habit like reaching for a soda instead of water also has a fortified neural pathway in the brain.

Change is hard.

Habits are hard to break.  But when we form new ones, new neural pathways emerge and strengthen with the repetition of practice.  The old ones weaken and eventually cease to exist.

So this year, instead of a New Year’s resolution, try creating a New Year’s habit.  Instead of “losing 10 pounds by April 1″ work on adding more vegetables to each meal or replacing one daily soda with water.  Instead of “living life more fully,” work on using a strength in a meaningful way each day at work or expressing gratitude daily at family mealtime.

In other words, live the change you’d like to see. 

Below are some tips for making lasting change easier:

  • Repetition is key, so remind yourself to practice a new habit.  Set a daily reminder on your phone.  Schedule your practice into your calendar.  Create a visual reminder.  It takes about 14 days for the brain to begin changing and longer to strengthen the new neural pathway.
  • Give yourself permission to struggle as you create a new habit because change doesn’t usually happen on the first few attempts.  Picture those developing neural pathways.
  • Expect to struggle, but focus on returning to your practice when things aren’t going so well, not on berating yourself or giving up.
  • Work on only 1 or 2 things at a time to avoid stress and getting too far outside of your comfort zone.  Then move on to 1 or 2 more habits.

Over time, these small changes will snowball into many healthful habits you’ll carry into your relationships and daily activities.  This year, commit to living the change you’d like to see as you practice the habits of lasting positive change.

With gratitude for putting happiness first,


Please feel free to forward this blog to people in your network.  Or use the Subscribe button on this page to become a subscriber.  If you subscribe, you’ll receive an email asking you to confirm the subscription.  Make sure you complete this step in order to receive future blog posts in your inbox. 


Doidge, Norman, MD.  The Brain That Changes Itself  New York: Penguin, 2007.

Senge, Peter M.  The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization  New York: Doubleday, 1990.





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3 Ways to “Happy Up” Your Holidays

Treat yourself to a calmer, more joyful, and meaningful holiday season.

The holiday season is here in all its splendor!  The anticipation, the sparkly lights, the religious rituals, family traditions, favorite recipes and special songs.  The stalking mall shoppers for their parking spots, door-busting deals at 2 a.m. and long ‘to do’ lists.

Our lists seem to grow longer and more onerous each year as we squeeze working, shopping, planning meals, cleaning, wrapping, traveling, socializing and more into our already packed calendars.

We often act as if these are the only days available to share fellowship, gifts, and meaning.  And so we push forward, careening into the new year, tapped out socially, physically, emotionally, and financially.  Some of us began the holiday season that way.

Typical holiday stress-busting articles suggest a variety of ways to prioritize, simplify, and delegate.  Honing these skills, they say, help fend off  the stress, overwhelm, and sadness experienced by so many of us who already have too full plates or face difficult situations.

I’d like to propose a radically different approach.  Instead of doing more in less time, why don’t we all just take a deep breath and slow down?  Not to a snail’s pace, but a little bit.

Below are 3 research-based strategies that will jump-start the changes you’d like to feel, whether that means engaging more in the beauty and meaning of the season, freeing yourself from mental clutter, lowering your stress, boosting your creativity, or simply accomplishing more.

Treat yourself to one of the three strategies.  Use one a little bit each day through the end of the year – maybe just 4 or 6% more – to begin crafting a calmer, more joyful and meaningful holiday season this year.

Peace to you, my friends, this holiday season.




“When it comes to the things we value and the goals we most hope to accomplish…it is strengths that will help us be at our best, give us the greatest sense of meaning, and enjoy our lives to the fullest.”

-Robert Biswas-Diener

When we think of strengths, we often think of “achievement-based” skills and talents that contribute to our successes in work and life.  Problem solving skills, networking skills, or artistic capabilities readily come to mind.

Character strengths also contribute to success, though they’re often overlooked in everyday situations.  When we use our own character strengths, we feel fulfilled and morally valued without diminishing others.  They are the elements of personality that lead to meaning.

The 24 character strengths include creativity, curiosity, love of learning, bravery, perseverance, honesty, kindness, teamwork, fairness, and leadership.  Forgiveness, humility, prudence, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality.  And others.

The use of each character strength cultivates a specific virtue – wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.  Kindness, for example, cultivates humanity.

Performing a random act of kindness each day, like carrying someone’s groceries or giving the mail carrier a hot cup of cocoa to go, would be one way to exercise that strength and raise humanity.

If you’d like to learn more about character strengths or take the free assessment to learn your highest strengths, click on this link

Take a moment to reflect on the character strengths that help you be your best, provide a sense of meaning and purpose, or enhance your life.  If you were to use that strength a little bit more – maybe just 3 or 5% – what would you do?



“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

  -C. G. Jung

How would you answer the question “who are you?”  Your answer might reflect the roles you play in life – a parent, a spouse, a student, an executive.  But that doesn’t reveal the deeper substance of who you really are.

Many of us don’t know who we are.  We live our lives according to what our jobs, family, or friends expect of us because that seems easier than becoming who we want to be and doing what we want to do.

The price is steep.  Living someone else’s life leaves a feeling of emptiness deep inside and extinguishes that inner fire that fuels our potential to do great things.

Authenticity is knowing yourself and being yourself.  It sounds simple, but the pressures of the holidays make it easy to be less authentic.  Now is the perfect time to begin a practice of authenticity.  To reflect on what you value, find meaningful, and care about.  Then to express that and act on it.

Becoming who we truly are is the privilege of a lifetime.  If you could step into your authentic life…The dots are for you to reflect on and reveal how you can live just 4 or 7% more authentically this holiday season.



“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet.  It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.”

-Deepak Chopra 

Take a moment to think about your 50,000+ daily thoughts.  How many are anxiety- or stress-producing?

Our minds wander, often into the future.  What if the weather prevents me from getting home?  What if I can’t pay that bill?   What if I don’t get a job?  What if she doesn’t love me?

Future uncertainty is a source of high stress and anxiety.  The pressures and pace of the holiday season can intensify our worries and add new ones.

Neuroscientists have found that meditation shifts brain activity from the stress center to other parts of the brain.  This shift reduces stress, mild depression, and anxiety.  Meditation has also been shown to reduce migraines, pain and the risk of heart disease; enhance energy and immune system function; boost creativity, memory, reaction time, and IQ.

Before you decide you don’t have time to meditate or that you can’t imagine sitting still for even a minute, ask yourself how much time you spend checking emails, catching up on Facebook or LinkedIn, and surfing the web.  And consider whether a few moments of your time would be worth a greater sense of inner calm and focus.

To begin a simple meditation practice, try using a 4-breath meditation to reset your mind and body before a meeting, a family get-together, or any time you feel hurried or anxious.  With eyes closed and long deep breaths, use breath 1 for centering.  Breath 2 for gratitude for your practice.  Breath 3 for inner peace.  Breath 4 for setting the intention to carry this feeling forward.  Centering.  Gratitude.  Peace.  Intention.  Just four deep breaths.



Biswas-Diener, Robert (2010).  Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching.  New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Peterson, Christopher & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues:  A Handbook and Classification.  Washington, D.C.: APA Press and Oxford University Press.

Allen, Colin (April 1, 2003).  Psychology Today.  Based on studies conducted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, University of Massachusetts Medical School.




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