Monday, August 11, 2014

Downloading Happiness


Wouldn't it be amazing if we could simply download happiness into our brains? According to Harvard researchers, that actually might not be so far-fetched. 

Though our experiences in life shape us, we are all born with a certain type of temperament. Some of us tend to be generally happy-go-lucky, and some of us aren't. For me, tragic experiences led me into some years of depression and PTSD, but because I have a generally resilient and optimistic temperament, I was able to eventually bounce back. But what if you are a glass-half-empty kind of person - is it possible to actually re-wire your brain for optimism? Positive psychology researcher Shaun Achor, who taught Harvard’s most popular “Happiness” class, says it is.

Achor lists three simple things you can start doing right now to rewire your brain for optimism, and they only take two minutes. If you do these things for 21 days, research has shown it will actually change the patterns in your brain.

1)    Start every day by writing down three things you are grateful for. Each day should be three different things. Starting the day with gratitude, rather than stress or worry, is an instant mood lifter.

2)    One of the most significant factors for achieving happiness actually has nothing to do with money, success or love, but about knowing that your work has meaning, and that your life matters. At the end of each day, single out a moment from that day that had meaning for you, and then write about it in detail. Write every single thing you can remember about it. Our brains are excellent at replaying hurts, injuries and insults, but quickly drop the good stuff. By replaying the good, you are programming yourself to look for and remember the good in each moment, and actually changing your brainwaves.

3)    Every day, thank someone. Call, send an email, or write a card and let them know you are grateful for who they are, what they’ve done or what they mean in your life.

Achor’s research has proven that if these three things are done every day for 21 days, a significant shift will take place in the brain, and you will be happier.

I started this practice a few months ago, but in the aftermath of a few hard losses this summer, I became so depressed I forgot to do my happiness exercises. Like anything else, achieving happiness is a practice. Just like eating healthy, working out to stay fit, you have to do it every day for results.

A 21-day trial is great, but I know the best action to take would be to make this my lifestyle. So I am back on the horse, and feeling better already.

If you’re interested in trying it yourself, check out this video of Shaun Achor talking with Oprah:

Saturday, August 9, 2014


When I got fired from my job in June, it pretty much knocked me flat. Not only had this been a job, it had been a calling. Add to that the betrayal by people I'd thought were my friends.

My true friends rushed in to lift me, like emotional EMTs.

Amy said, “You haven’t lost anything. I know you will find the medicine in this poison.”

Dani said, "You’ll get through this, and I will help you.”

Erin said, “Fuck them. I’ll be right over with wine and take-out,” which at the time were my favorite words.

My facebook inbox lit up like a Christmas tree as my friends across the country got wind of the news. They said, “We love you. We’ve got your back. Nothing can erase all the good work you did.”

A few days later I talked with my friend Julie, and she said, “They haven’t knocked you down. They have elevated you.”

“Elevated me? How?”

“Because I know you. You will find the good in it. You’ll write about it, and you’ll share your story with others. In the end you will be stronger because of it. You will rise above this, and that’s how they have elevated you.”

Of course, I hadn’t thought of it like that.

Author and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson says that when someone deflects a miracle from you, when they block goodness that is meant for you, the Universe will hold the miracle in trust, and will find another way to make sure you receive it. It may come from another person or a different job, or another door will open that you never knew existed.

In other words, when someone tries to knock you down, you should really thank them for teaching you courage and strength, and also for teaching you who you don’t want to be, because in the meantime, all the good things that are your due are still on their way.

No one can really ever take anything from you. It’s up to each of us to lay down in defeat, or to elevate.

I choose to elevate.