Gratitude Makes You Happy

being grateful makes you happy

Warm sunshine on your face. A hug from a good friend. A delicious meal.
All of these are things to be grateful for, even though they seem small and insignificant.

When you practice gratitude, you can’t help but feel happy. Research has shown that people who count their blessings experience better health, build stronger relationships, and find it easier to deal with problems.

This is also great news for couples. If you express gratitude for your significant other, you will have more positive feelings toward them, and ultimately, your relationship will benefit from it, leaving you more satisfied.

All of that sounds good in theory, but how do you actually practice gratitude? Thankfully, there are many ways to do so. Here are three of them:

1) Start a Gratitude Journal. This is not your regular type of journal. In this little book, you’ll be writing only positive things. People, places, events – anything that you appreciate can be included. It’s important not to filter your thoughts but to let your creative juices flow.

2) Say Thank You to Someone. Make it a habit to thank people for their help and the positive impact they have on your life. This is a great way to make them happy, and you will also feel ten times better about yourself.

 3) Try Gratitude Meditation. Pick something you’re grateful for and focus on it. If negative thoughts keep popping up, simply let them go and refocus on the good ones again. Do this as often as you like.

Feeling grateful comes easy to you when you’re already in a happy state, but for someone who’s going through hard times, it might be more of a challenge to allow these feelings.

What’s important is to not feel frustrated if you can’t think of too many things you’re grateful for. The more you practice, the easier it will get.

In Praise of Gratitude

Why You Need a “No-Tech” Hour

one hour without technology

Technology is fascinating, I agree. These days there are countless smart devices on the market that offer you all the features you would ever want. People absolutely love these fancy gadgets!

Therefore, it comes to no surprise that these electronic devices are becoming increasingly popular all around the globe. If we take a look at Apple’s iPhone sales in 2010, we see that they sold almost 40 million phones that year! How many do you think they sold three years later? 90 million? Nope, they sold over 150 million iPhones! And let’s not forget all the MacBooks and iPods and iPads they sell. That’s a huge amount of electronic gizmos for all those tech-hungry people out there.

While there are certainly many benefits to owning tech devices, it’s not all rosy.

There are downsides to being constantly connected and immersed in technology, one of them being the slow death of our face-to-face conversations.

When we’re waiting in a public place, we don’t initiate small talk with strangers anymore, instead we bury our heads in iPods or smartphones or tablets or ebook readers. It’s so easy to use technology to distract ourselves. Far too easy.

Striking up a conversation with the friendly-looking girl next to you seems more complicated and simply takes too much effort. After all, tapping on your smart device is easy as pie and very familiar.

Times have changed, and this is the new normal, especially for the younger generations. I’m not saying I condemn this kind of behavior, even though I think it’s not necessarily a good development. Unfortunately, I’m guilty of it too.

Technology can be very addictive. And the Internet even more so.

That’s why I have a suggestion for what we all can do in order to not turn into tech zombies.

We need to unplug every day for at least an hour. Yes, that’s right. One hour without any kind of technology, including the TV, stereo, and so on. No checking of phones allowed. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. It’s incredibly hard, isn’t it?

During this one hour we can do the following:

1) Be active and exercise, i.e. go for a run, do Yoga, or lift some weights. Even taking a walk in the park would be beneficial.

2) Have an actual face-to-face conversation with a friend! Particularly important when you can’t remember the last time you talked to a real face and not a screen.

3) Read books and magazines that are made of paper. Yes, they’re still around. Not only can we avoid exposing ourselves to radiation, but we also get to touch actual paper, which feels quite nice, doesn’t it?

4) Be creative. Write, draw, knit, or maybe compose a song. Even if you think you’re not good at it, do it anyway. Doesn’t it feel awesome to express yourself in creative ways? You don’t even have to show your work to anyone. The simple act of creating is therapy for your soul. While technology can help with creativity, it’s also a great deal of fun without it.

If you experience withdrawal symptoms, don’t give up. You can turn this into a challenge for better motivation. When your hour is up, you can reward yourself and scratch that itch: check your phone.

If one hour is too easy, take it up a notch and go for two or three hours!

It’s important to unplug once in a while – for your overall health and sanity. Don’t you agree?

iPhone sales per quarter

How to Deal With Disappointment

tips to avoid disappointment

When was the last time you were disappointed with someone or something?

Did it bring you down for the rest of the day or even week?

Being disappointed sucks. We can probably agree on that. Who wants to have their expectations and hopes crushed? No one.

So let’s look at some quick tips that will hopefully fix this:

1) Don’t set your expectations too high. This is the number one thing that leads to disappointment.
You expect your significant other to be perfect, to basically read your mind and cater to all your needs? That would indeed be nice, but it’s highly unrealistic. After all they’re only human, too. Know that they will make mistakes, and that they will hurt your feelings (hopefully not on purpose). Therefore, set your expectations of them a notch lower. This might just save your relationship.

2) Realize that rarely in life do things go exactly as planned.
You can plan an important event and put in as many hours into the preparation as you want, but most likely things will turn out differently than planned, and that’s OK. It helps to be flexible and let go of the need to control everything.

3) What looks like a negative event can turn out to be just what you needed to grow.
Losing your job might have been tragic, but maybe that’s exactly what you needed. And then a much better opportunity comes along. That’s what’s called a blessing in disguise.

4) When you don’t get what you want, don’t be disappointed, because life often gives you something better than what you wished for.
You really wanted to catch that last bus, but it drove off seconds before you arrived. Don’t be sad, because how else would you have met your future spouse who was late for the bus as well?

Disappointments are an opportunity for you to learn and grow. Try not to blow things out of proportion and get a crying fit (like my toddler loves to do) but realize that life is not always fair; it can seem rather cruel indeed, but it usually happens for a good reason.

Keep these things in mind when you feel like blaming other people or life for making you disappointed. After all, it’s simply your reaction to the external world. You react with disappointment. Next time you might choose to react with forgiveness instead, which is harder to master but much more enjoyable to experience.

Bye-Bye Coffee, Welcome Green Tea Goodness!

tea helps you stay awake without side effects

My new appreciation for green tea started when I quit drinking coffee cold turkey. I had abstained from coffee for almost four years but started drinking my caramel macchiatos again this year for a period of about four months.

Those were wonderful four months, but they also reminded me of the ugly side of coffee: the jitters, the afternoon low, and the addictive qualities it has.

After drinking one last cup of coffee way too late in the day, causing me to stay awake until 4 am or so, I swore to myself to stop my coffee addiction for good.

From one day to the next, I gave up my daily cup of joe and haven’t looked back!

What made it so easy for me?

I consciously chose to not restrict myself from caffeine completely. If I felt really tired, I was allowed to drink black or green tea. I did and still do sometimes, but not daily (more like once or twice a week). It’s been great!

I can still enjoy a warm beverage but without any side effects.

I’m really glad I made this decision. If you feel like your coffee consumption is getting out of hand, give green tea a try. It might be a bit strange to switch from coffee to tea at first, but you will get used to it eventually.

And if you can’t give up coffee for good, that’s no big deal either, as long as you don’t feel like you’re a slave to it.

Remember to Live in the Moment

slow down and enjoy the moment

Take a moment and slow down. Really slow down.
Put down your phone, and learn to see the world again. See the colours, see the lights, see life.

Do you remember what it was like to see everything for the first time? Do you remember the excitement? Tune in to that feeling, and look through those brand-new eyes again.

Isn’t the world amazing? Miracles are around every corner.

Watch other people, watch them interact with each other. Real people – not actors – your neighbours, your coworkers, complete strangers. Everyone is interesting in their own way.

If you can feel as excited as a child, you know true happiness. You don’t feel bored. You couldn’t care less about that mobile device in your hand, because life is happening right in front of you. And it’s amazing!
It’s juicy, crunchy, tasty. Take a bite and savour it. Life is good.

Bored and Frustrated? Time to Declutter Your Closet!

pare down clothing for sense of peace

You’re at home, bored, nothing seems to be fun? You don’t even want to watch TV or play with your phone? You’re sick of it all?

I have a little project for you. Declutter your closet! And I don’t mean taking out that one shirt that’s pretty much falling apart.

I mean:
1) Take out all your clothes.
2) Look at each piece.
3) Make a decision whether to keep it or not.

It seems fairly easy in theory, but when you get down to it, you realize that, for some reason, certain items that you haven’t worn in years are still hard to get rid of.

You might say to yourself, “but I paid a lot of money for it!” or “but it was a Christmas present from my grandma!” or simply “but it’s still in good condition.”

Those things might all be true, but they are excuses not to make a decision that is uncomfortable to you.

What good is a practically new sweater when you never wear it? It just takes up space in your closet. If you donate it, someone else can wear it and take great joy in it. Whereas, if you keep it in the back of your closet where it never sees the light of day, it will make nobody happy, and at least to me, that seems more wasteful than donating it.

After you’ve taken out all your clothes and analyzed each piece, you will have a pile of clothes that will be donated and possibly a pile of clothes that are no good anymore (Tip: holes and stains don’t mean you have to throw the item in the trash; you can always reuse it as a cleaning rag), and of course there will be a pile of clothes that you are keeping. The latter you can safely put back in the closet.

What you will notice is that all of a sudden you have more space in your closet. And not just that; now it’s filled only with clothes that you love and wear on a regular basis.

Every time I pare down my clothes like that I feel a sense of accomplishment and peace afterwards. Give it a try and see if it makes you feel just as good.

When You Need to Get Things Done

getting things done

There is an important email I have to write. I was going to do it yesterday, but for some reason that never happened.
I thought, OK, I’ll do it first thing in the morning.
Next day, it’s 8pm.. Still haven’t sent that email. It’s not that I’ve forgotten about it. I keep thinking about it every hour or so.

Then why don’t I just write that damn email? The longer I think about it, the harder it seems for me to actually sit down and get it done.
Hello procrastination! Nice to see you again. No, not really..

Does that sound somewhat familiar to you?
How do you stop yourself from procrastinating?

When I catch myself putting something important off, I know that I’m avoiding it because it is a) out of my comfort zone and/or b) overwhelming/a lot of work. As soon as I realize what I’m doing subconsciously, I make the decision to take action. Because once you’ve snapped out of that state of avoiding it at all costs, it gets infinitely easier to get things done.

But how do I start?

Coming back to that email example.. I need to sit down, open my email app, shut off any distractions like YouTube or iTunes or whatever I have been doing to avoid writing.
And then I get down to it. I actually start typing words.

But since I know this email is not going to be easy to write, I allow myself to write the most horrific sounding, grammatically incorrect crap that comes to me, because at this stage it’s all about getting my fingers moving and tackling that thing I’ve been avoiding for so long.

This simple first step, a first shitty draft, creates momentum, and now I can feel that “kick in the butt” that I need to complete this task. It’s magic. From here on everything else seems easy, maybe not comfortable, but certainly doable.

I hope that helps you deal with your own procrastination. You can also check out the video I did on this, which has a couple of other tips.
Take care.

Happy in Times of Adversity

choose happiness in bad times

Let’s be honest. When you’re in the midst of a challenging situation, it can be difficult to keep your spirits up. It’s all too easy to fall into a dark hole and let your circumstances bring you down.

And oftentimes, there are a million reasons you can think of that justify your unhappiness. If this is short-term, there’s no harm done. But what do you do when adversity won’t leave? What do you do when the dark clouds seem to follow you wherever you go?

Just give up, and be depressed and miserable for the rest of your life? That’s the first reaction for a lot of people, and it’s probably the most natural, but it doesn’t have to be the only way. You have more than one option. You can also choose to be happy, even though life might suck at the moment.

In times of crisis, people tend to want to escape their pain. Instead of drowning your pain in alcohol, pills or other drugs, you could start the healing process immediately.

One way to do this is through creative work, be it writing, drawing, or pottery. Translating pain into art is incredibly useful and healing. You take something negative (your emotions) and create something beautiful (or at least interesting to look at).

Creative work is not the only channel for ridding yourself of negative energy. Exercise is another option to consider. Going for extensive walks, joining the gym or swimming in the ocean – it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you keep moving. Being passive and stagnant is the opposite of what you want when you’re dealing with a tough situation in your life.

Sure, letting your mind escape while watching endless hours of TV is easy and comforting, but it’s also passive and it doesn’t allow you to deal with the roots of your hardship.

Therefore, I say, actively choose happiness, choose activities, choose healing, choose life. There will be resistance; there will be lack of motivation. But those things can be overcome. Just keep trying and you will succeed.

How to Deal with Stress (Self-Imposed or Not)

dealing with stress

It happens to everyone. You’re late for an important meeting, or maybe you have a million things to do but only a couple of hours left before a deadline. You could be stuck in traffic, or you have to deal with an annoying person. All these situations will put you in a state of stress.

Feeling stressed out is uncomfortable to say the least. And it can happen to you when you don’t expect it, for example while you’re on vacation, which is exactly what happened to me recently.

I was traveling with my toddler daughter (and if you’re a parent, you know that traveling with young children can be quite challenging), and it’s certainly quite stressful. The worst part for me was eating at restaurants when my daughter felt more like running around and climbing.

Naturally, I wasn’t very relaxed. Sometimes I was boiling with anger (and also feeling guilty about that – yay for being a mother).

But I knew I couldn’t get stressed out about everything. I wouldn’t live very long if everything that went wrong made me a mental wreck.

So this is what I did to keep my calm (at least some of the time):

1) Think: Who cares?! Most people are way too self-absorbed to notice you.

2) Take a deep breath and think of something relaxing. For me this might be imagining walking along a sandy beach at sunset.

3) Go for a walk. Getting some fresh air while taking in new scenery is going to get your mind off whatever is bugging you. It can put things into perspective and help you think more clearly.

4) Let out your frustration. Sometimes nothing else helps. Then feel free to cry or shout or throw a pillow. It’s better to free yourself of bad energy than keep it inside.

This is what worked for me, and I hope it will help you stay calm too.

4 Things Successful People Do Before They Start Their Day

routines of successful people

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Every morning carries a huge potential for success… if you start it right! So let’s take a look at the morning routines of some of the most successful people in the world.

1) Ask powerful questions. In 2005, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave away his secret to starting an excellent day. He kept asking himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” Whenever his answer was ‘no’ for several days in a row, he knew he had to make a change.

 2) Practice gratitude. Life coach Tony Robbins spends each morning in a state of gratitude, thinking of three things that he is grateful for, including seemingly trivial things such as the feeling of wind on your face.

3) Exercise. President Obama chooses to exercise first thing in the morning before having breakfast and reading the newspaper. Early workouts are certainly among the most popular activities successful people incorporate in their days.

4) Meditate. Best-selling author Tim Ferriss makes sure to meditate 5-10 minutes every morning before he gets his day started. It gives him a clean slate and acts as what he calls a “reset-button”.

1) Morning Routines of the Most Successful People
2) Barak Obama’s Daily Routine
3) Tony Robbins’ Morning Ritual
4) A Day in the Life of Tim Ferriss