Category Archives: What is happiness?

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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A Plea for Happiness

Living in modern society poses some tough challenges.  Putting happiness first helps. 

Welcome subscribers and visitors!  Feel free to share this post with others in your network. 

read time:  about 2 minutes

“Can we please show a little more happiness, people?  Where are the smiles?  Where’s the energy?”

It was the demand of a frazzled volunteer mom in my junior high school production of “The Pirates of Penzance.”  She was struggling to assemble twenty 13-year-olds in a dance number.  As you can imagine, those of us in the chorus were more interested in chatting about the upcoming sock hop.  (Yes – that was many, many years ago.)

Understandably, it was a desperate plea for our attention.  But if you remove the desperation, the question is still valid today.

Can we show a little more happiness?

Consider the following news headlines and statistics:

  • 70% of workers report burnout at work.  That includes high stress, extreme fatigue, and a lack of control.
  • 50% of first time marriages end in divorce.  The rates for second and third marriages are even higher.
  • Depression levels are 10 times higher today than in the 1960s.  The average age of onset has declined from 30 to less than 15.

We live in a world that provides more than we need to live our best lives – opportunity, technology, education, medical advancements – and yet we’re struggling more than ever at work and home.  I include myself when I say “we.”

How can we struggle less, become happier, and flourish?

Unfortunately, our brains don’t make it easy.  Biologically speaking, the brain is wired for negativity.  It processes negative events more thoroughly.  Negative events and people have greater impact.  In other words, bad is stronger than good.

We develop skills and strategies for managing negativity, conflict, and adversity.  We gain proficiency in conflict management, difficult conversations, and stress reduction.  We need these skills to navigate our daily lives.

But when do we invest in positivity?  How many of us intentionally cultivate happiness, which raises outcomes in all important life domains including work, relationships, health, and longevity?  We need these skills too.  But cultivating genuine happiness isn’t typically taught at school or work or even at home.

Why don’t we cultivate happiness the way we cultivate other important things?

I can think of a few reasons:

  1. Individual beliefs about happiness.  Some of us live under the illusion that reaching a certain destination is the key to our happiness.  Others believe that fate, circumstances, or genetics determine happiness.  Still others, that volunteer mom perhaps, believe that a forced smile or a temporary burst of energy equals happiness.  All of these views are out of synch with the scientific framework for happiness.
  2. Nature of change.  Change is hard.  We want things to be distilled into a Top 10 list or a sound byte so we can move on to the next thing on our long “to do” lists.  Shifting from negativity to positivity may sound simple, but it’s not always easy.
  3. Brain science.  Most of us don’t study how the brain works, but genuine happiness is all about the brain.  The key to becoming happier and flourishing is cultivating positive habits and skills that create new neural pathways and literally re-wire the brain.
  4. Growing body of knowledge.  Positive Psychology is only about a decade old – a “new” field – with a growing body of knowledge and research-based tools.  Word hasn’t yet spread to all corners of the earth.  That’s where I come in, hopefully with your help.

The plea for happiness is a worthy one.  “Showing a little more happiness,” the scientific version, is exactly what’s called for in modern society.

Will you answer the call, and help me spread the word?

With gratitude for putting happiness first,




Baumeister, Roy F., et al (2001).  Bad Is Stronger Than Good.  Review of General Psychology.

Ben-Shahar, Tal (2007).  Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, New York:  McGraw Hill.

Lyubomirsky, et al (2005).  The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect:  Does Happiness Lead To Success?  Psychology Bulletin.


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What Is Happiness?

If you’re a new subscriber, welcome!  Feel free to share this post with others in your network. 

read time:  about 2 minutes

Happiness isn’t just a fleeting emotion.  Get ready to broaden your thinking about the pursuit of happiness.

We’re all familiar with the standard definition of “happy.” defines it as 1) an array of emotions – delighted, pleased, or glad – as in “I’m happy to meet you” and 2) characterized by pleasure, contentment or joy, as in “My happy place is on the beach at sunset.”

My personal view of happiness goes much deeper than feelings of delight or contentment.  It also includes:

  • Making a meaningful contribution to the world,
  • Expressing myself through my unique talents, skills, and strengths,
  • Connecting with others in deep, satisfying relationships, and
  • Accomplishing everything possible.

Happiness means flourishing.  According to science, these aren’t just ideals or nice-to-haves.  They are the building blocks of flourishing individuals and organizations.

The five building blocks are 1) positivity and the experience of positive emotions, 2) engagement, 3) positive relationships, 4) meaning and purpose, and 5) achievement.

Positive emotions open our hearts and minds, enable learning, and boost creativity.

Engagement creates peak performance and experiences.

Positive relationships provide acceptance, support, and a sense of belonging.

Meaning and purpose connect us with something bigger than ourselves.

Achievement enables mastery, using our unique strengths, skills, and talents.

These building blocks work together to form a strong foundation of happiness and flourishing.  Let me demonstrate with an example from my own life:  publishing this blog.

Of course, my primary goal in publishing this blog is to help you cultivate happiness in your life!  But I’ll explain how it also cultivates happiness in mine.

By publishing this blog, I’m able to:

  1. Experience positive emotions when I create new content, read your comments, and watch visitor stats increase.   Publishing this blog is a source of inspiration, joy, gratitude, and hope for me.
  2. Get into “the zone” while writing new blog posts.  Publishing this blog engages me fully.
  3. Build relationships with new readers and deepen relationships with clients, colleagues, family, and friends, as we exchange ideas and learn new things from one another.  Publishing this blog deepens my relationships.
  4. Connect with a purpose that’s bigger than me – a movement to help other individuals and organizations flourish.  Publishing this blog is personally meaningful and promotes a higher purpose.
  5. Hone my writing and critical thinking skills, and utilize my signature strengths of creativity, love of learning, and humor.  Publishing this blog allows me to use my unique talents and skills to build mastery in applying Positive Psychology knowledge and tools.

You can see how happiness goes way beyond “I’m happy to meet you.”  Cultivating happiness is like putting deposits into a bank account.  The greater the deposits, the bigger the balance.  The bigger the balance, the larger the cushion when withdrawals are made.  Withdrawals, of course, are daily stresses and adversity.

This framework for understanding happiness is empowering.  It demonstrates that we have a large measure of control over whether we flourish or not, through daily choices and actions to cultivate positive emotions and relationships, engagement, meaning, and achievement.

Maybe one day, the definition of happiness will be updated.  In the meantime, take a moment to consider your own views on happiness.

What are you doing right now to cultivate happiness in your life?

With gratitude for putting happiness first,




Csiksentmihalyi, Mihaly (1999).  If We’re So Rich, Why Aren’t We Happy?  American Psychologist.

Fredrickson, Barbara (2009).  Positivity:  Top Notch Research Reveals the 3:1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life.  New York:  Three Rivers Press.

Seligman, Martin (2011).  Flourish:  A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being.  New York:  Free Press.

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Welcome to Positively, Disruptively Happy!

read time: under 2 minutes

Happiness causes success.   Happiness inspires productivity.  Happiness provides an advantage.

Hello, my name is Jane Anderson.  Welcome to my blog!

These are a few discoveries from the burgeoning field of Positive Psychology, the scientific study of happiness.  According to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and happiness expert:

“Some people think if you are happy, you are blind to reality.  But when we research it, happiness actually raises every single business and educational outcome for the brain.”

Fascinated by headlines and TED talks, I dabbled in the readings and research.  What I discovered was so compelling that I enrolled in an intensive 1-year Positive Psychology study program to learn and apply the research-based tools of happiness.

Why would a lifelong business professional, dedicated to the pursuit of business, study the pursuit of happiness?  Burnout, mostly.  Far too often, I felt depleted and unable to be my best due to life’s daily stressors plus a steady stream of unexpected challenges.

I worked hard to make the best of things, but my brain had a hard time reaching happiness.  I now understand why.  You can read more by clicking on the “My Story” tab at the top of this page.

I wasn’t the only one chasing happiness.  As a society, we believe that hard work leads to success (which it often does) and that success leads to happiness (which it often doesn’t).  We subscribe to this approach as parents, leaders, and educators.

Science tells us to reverse this approach.  In order to achieve success in all key life domains, we should cultivate happiness.  We should put happiness first.

“…happy people are more likely than their less happy peers to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health, and a long life.”  (Lyubomirsky, King, and Diener, 2005)

Happiness leads to success.  Happiness inspires productivity.  Happiness provides an advantage.  Thus, cultivating happiness is arguably one of life’s most worthy goals.  It’s my goal. 

I’m on a mission to put happiness first, to nurture the positive genius in myself and others, and to build flourishing lives, teams, and workplaces.

I created Positively, Disruptively Happy! to take a step in that direction.  By sharing research-based, often counter-intuitive knowledge and tools, I hope to:

  1. Challenge contemporary thinking about sources of happiness and success,
  2. Inspire you to put happiness first, and
  3. Show you the way.

Will you join me?  To subscribe to this blog, enter your email address in the box and click Submit.  You’ll receive a confirmation email at the address you provided – please activate your subscription by following the simple instructions in that email.  I promise to respect your privacy and send only my periodic blog post updates to your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time.  Feel free to share this with your network, as well.

Until next time,

Jane Anderson


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