Writing Letters Brings Double Happiness

Showing gratitude consistently appears as a major factor of happiness.

When you show appreciation for the good in your life or thank someone for what they mean to you, it not only makes you happier,  but the recipient as well.

A Harvard Medical School article reports that  “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

While you can express gratitude through a phone call or a gift, the easiest, quickest and most powerful way to bring happiness to your life is to write personal letters.

In my experience, even people who don’t make time to send letters, admit that they love receiving them.

Handwritten personal letters build relationships in a way no other communication can.

When my children were young they grumbled as I insisted that they send handwritten thank you notes for every Christmas and birthday gift they received. From the way they moaned and whined, you’d think they’d grow up hating to send thank you notes. On the contrary, they even send thank you’s to each member of the interview committee following job interviews.

The greatest thing about letters, especially personal handwritten ones, is they create double happiness, touching the sender and the receiver.

Get encouragement and guidance from three heart-warming letter-writing projects.

Heartfelt letters create enduring bonds of appreciation

Lynette M. Smith, copyeditor and owner of All My Best, is on a mission to restore the art of showing our feelings of appreciation through letter writing.

She believes that even simple expressions of appreciation can return our world to joy and hope, one relationship at a time.

Lynette’s personal story illustrates how her book,
How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure: For Special Occasions and Occasions Made Special
came about.

On November 21, 2008, my husband and I attended the wedding rehearsal dinner of our son, Byron, and his fiancée, Rachael. That evening, they surprised us when the two of them each made a special presentation to their respective parents–a beautifully framed, one-page heartfelt letter. Their best man and maid of honor read the letters aloud as Byron and Rachael each stood beside their own parents.

Each letter described what they had treasured about growing up in their family, what they had especially appreciated about each parent, and what values they had learned and planned to bring to their marriage.

We were deeply moved–all of us: four parents, bride and groom, and the rest of the guests. And I can tell you, those framed letters will always hold a place of honor in our homes. To this day, whenever I tell someone about that night and our treasured letters, my hand automatically moves to my heart. That’s where I still feel the experience. And my love and appreciation for our son who expressed his love and appreciation for my husband and me so beautifully has truly strengthened the bonds we already felt.

In her book, Smith covers planning, writing, packaging and presenting your letters.

One of the reviews points out

There’s a little bit of etiquette that goes along with writing a letter. For example, when someone dies in the line of duty, one of the last things you want to write is “I know what you must be going through.” No you don’t and hopefully you never will. Lynette Smith helps guide you through those tricky situations, even if you are going to simply write a note on a card. Letter preferred. You’ll learn how to write that special letter and even how to present it. In some instances, you may be encouraged to present a letter in person, and if possible, in private.~D.Fowler

Her three-part reference book Smith addresses  milestone birthdays; special occasions for school, military, romance, family, rites of passage and career; and professional and personal relationships, aging, eulogies and mending relationships. A special bonus is her selections of positive words, inspirational quotes and sentence jumpstarts.

Your letters are powerful even when written to strangers.

Handwritten love letters to strangers can bring you and them back from despair

Hannah Brechner, a copywriter and creative consultant, was fortunate to have a mother who communicated via handwritten letters rather than the more efficient, but less touching, email and text messaging.

Here’s Hannah’s story in her own words of how she got into

the business of broken hearts.

i began leaving love letters all over New York City back in October 2010 as a way to try to fight off my own loneliness and depression. the callouses still have not faded from the following year as i spent nine months mailing over 400 love letters to strangers in need around the world. today i run The World Needs More Love Letters, a global love letter writing organization that harnesses the power behind social media to write and mail love letters to individuals across the globe. i’m like a proud mama when i tell people it’s spread across 6 continents and all 50 states. she is my labor of love. where i spend my days

Watch the video to hear Hannah’s story in her own voice. If you feel so inclined join her global letter writing campaign at The World Needs More Love Letters.

Handwritten letters and cards from the Word Chef can start a conversation

Tea SilvestreWhen Tea Silvestre, marketing coach at thewordchef.com, signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that takes place in November every year, she considered writing short stories. But then she remembered how much she once loved writing letters. Next she remembered how much stationery she has neglected since she turned her back on it in favor of email, Facebook and all the cyber rest.

So here’s what Tea said next in her own words

The Great Stationery Collection Beckons Me

Which is where YOU come in.

In exchange for your mailing address and a few choice details about yourself, I’d like to hand-write and send you a one-of-a-kind letter.

It might be a postcard, a love note or a thank you card. It might say Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary or my condolences. Maybe I’ll share a dream or a fear or the cool thing that happened to me that day. It all depends on what you’re willing to share.

AND (totally optional), if you write back — well, then! We might just get to know each other better.

And really — isn’t that what this ride around the sun is all about?

So, if you’re game for a little snail mail surprise from the Word Chef, use this form on http://thewordchef.com/2012/10/nanowrimo-project-postcards-and-love-letters-from-the-chef/ to add yourself to the list.

Showing gratitude, sending love letters to strangers or opening a conversation are all ways to bring happiness into your life.

Letter writing is always on time and always in season.

Whether you join in the letter-writing missions of Lynette, Hannah or Tea, you can be sure that your handwritten letters will not only make your recipient happier, but you too.

Are You Missing the Beam?

After I read a rautomaticdoorsresized--canstockphoto1828174ecently released longitudinal study about the spread of happiness in a social network, I noticed this comment from one of the readers.

 

In another more distant time, I was quite depressed, and found that walking up a corridor the automatic door would not open for me, although it would for anyone else walking up the same corridor … This happened over some weeks and did little for my self-esteem.


It was only later that I realised that I was walking along the edge of the corridor, and the others were walking confidently in the centre and that I was missing the beam.

This comment struck me of as the reason we miss the good that is available for us in life.
Staying along the fringes for whatever reason can certainly cause us to miss the sources
so readily available if we were in line with them.

If we are already suffering from low self-esteem or depression, it doesn’t take much to
confirm what we already believe to be true. A self-fulfilling prophecy sets in motion.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could put ourselves in position to receive good so we don’t
miss the beam?

Here are three things that have worked for me.

1. Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

This Golden Rule is so universal that various versions of it are found in over 21 religions.
Here are a few.

  • Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is
    commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
  • Sufism: “The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If
    you haven’t the will to gladden someone’s heart, then at least beware lest you hurt
    someone’s heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this.” Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of
    the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.
  • Yoruba: (Nigeria): “One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first
    try it on himself to feel how it hurts.”
  • Native American Spirituality: “Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he
    who you wrong, but yourself.” Pima proverb.

None of these sayings suggest you be a doormat or let others use you. But extending
kindness or refusing to knowingly hurt another, has a greater effect on you than it does on
others.

2. Give what you want to receive.

I recently shared with my sister that I had received a card from one of our childhood
friends.

She quickly shot back at me “I never hear from any of those people.”

To which I asked, “How many times have you written to them?”

She hadn’t kept in touch with our childhood friends over the years, and yet she wondered
why she hadn’t received the very thing she hadn’t given.

Are you guilty of wanting to receive what you’re not willing to give?

(Luke 6:38 NIV) Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you
use, it will be measured to you.”

3. Act as if

“If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.” Willam James

This is a tough one for me, but it has worked for me more than once, not just in terms of
qualities, but things as well.

Many years ago when I wanted to end a 37 mile commute and move closer to my job,
I spent every weekend combing the classifieds and traveling to model homes in new
developments and older homes in established neighborhoods. My plan was to find the
home I wanted and then begin plans to sell my then current home.

One Sunday evening when I returned from house-searching, I heard a very clear
voice say, “You don’t really want to move!”

It startled me since we were still unloading the car, and it was clearly not my kids’
voices.

“What are you talking about?” I thought back to the voice in protest. “I do want to
move!”

“No, if you really wanted to move, you’d sell your house first.”

I don’t know which was more shocking–a voice speaking to me, or the thought of selling my
house before I even had the next house in sight.

But I was convinced that this was a clue that I had to act as if the house I wanted was
already mine. So, I proceeded to put my house up for sale. It was a scary move, but I was
convinced that it was the thing to do.

From the moment the For Sale sign went up on my home, a series of events began to
unfold. The most miraculous was a friend calling to offer to sell me a house she had
inherited that was within 10 miles of my job. The remaining events unfolded like the
script in a well-written play. Within 7 months my house was sold, my new home was
out of escrow and I was moving into my new home two weeks before summer vacation ended and
my teaching job resumed.

If these three ways of getting in line with your good don’t resonate with you, think
instead of your cell phone, digital TV or wireless internet service. No matter how great
your equipment, surely you agree that it must be in an area where signals are present, and
you must be aligned to receive those signals.

The concept of wireless service does not mean no connections are required. You still
must have equipment that at some level is wired into a source.

We, as humans, must be aligned with a source as well. It doesn’t matter whether you call
your source God, Jehovah, higher being, Mother Nature, science, private intuition, the
goodness of mankind or Verizon.

Acknowledging your source and aligning yourself with it is what enables you to
successfully connect with your good.

Do you have a strategy that helps you avoid missing the beam? Tell us about it.

Skipping Along with Glee is Not My Daily Reality

kidsplayingWhen folks find out I wrote a book on happiness, they sometimes eye me with suspicious,  as if they are waiting to see if I will skip away with glee or float on air rather than walk to my car.  Seeking, attracting or maintaining happiness doesn’t mean you won’t encounter sadness, upset or sometimes downright disgust.  As a matter of fact, I can get disgusted, sad, upset with the best of them. Some days I feel like a failure and can find fault with every aspect of my life.

Creating a life of happiness means gathering tools, strategies, and behaviors that enable you to cope with feelings, events and people that come along.

Of course your happiness depends on arranging your life to steer clear of trouble and being ready for adversity, just as you own an umbrella to be ready to stay dry during the rain. But just as there’s nothing you can do to keep the rain from falling, you can’t prevent some of the events that will enter your life. What you can do is develop the ways, attitude and behaviors that allow you to deal with whatever comes up, to bounce back and  return to your own happiness set-point.

On a  recent radio episode, “How to Go from Overwhelmed to Overjoyed” I discuss seven steps that help you move from situations that have the potential to overwhelm you to a state of being joyful and appreciative of  your life. I encourage you to listen to this episode and share your take on what I shared. Listen to it here  “How to Go From Overwhelmed to Overjoyed

What are You Thankful For?

Hey http://www.aweber.com, here’s what I’m thankful for in my business in 2010.

Hey http://www.aweber.com, here’s what I’m thankful for in my business in 2010.

We can so easily slip into longing for what we don’t have, neglecting to notice the riches we enjoy. I hear people around me complaining about the smallest things while partaking of luscious meals, traveling freely to places they want to go and passing displays of Nature’s magnificence everyday.

“I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet.”

This Indian quote always pulls me back from taking my blessings for granted.

I made a promise to myself this year to start each day being thankful.

And so each morning when my feet hit the floor I say” Thank you God for this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It’s a slight variation on the scripture, but I don’t think that diminishes its power.

Starting my day in this way helps me keep uppermost in my mind the tremendous number of things around me that I could so easily take for granted.

When Justin Premick of Aweber, set up a social experiment asking his readers to post a photo holding up a sign about what we are thankful for in our businesses, I jumped at it.

We were to take a photo holding up a sign that says “I’m thankful for. . .” and list the things we were most grateful for in our businesses.

I listed health first because it is my physical and mental well-being that allow me the energy, flexibility and stamina to create and conduct my business. I don’t take my health for granted.

Then I listed family and friends next because they create the context from which I run my business.

And finally, I’m thankful for my clients who seek, value and willingly pay for receiving my products and services.

Take a look at the video in this post and reflect on what you’re thankful for as we enter this holiday season.

5 Ways to Be Happier That You Can Start Today

happygirlYou’ve heard it many times. Happiness is not a destination, but a journey along the way of life. What exactly must we do on this trip that results in happiness?

There are five ways to be happier that you can start today.

1. Eat right

Consult a room full of experts and you’ll never get agreement on what is “right” for us to eat. Most people think of healthy eating as a way to lose weight. That is certainly a worthy goal, but healthy eating is more important as a powerful connection to our happiness as well.

How so?

The food and beverages we consume are processed into various forms by the organs of our bodies. Our liver, for example, the largest organ in the body, has the important job of converting our food into useful substances we need for life and growth and neutralizing toxins and wastes.

The liver works fastest and best with real food. Processed and fake foods, loaded with chemicals and preservatives, make the liver work much harder than it should. It’s like asking one employee to do the work of two or more.

You don’t have to be a medical expert to know that overtaxing the liver can only lead to impairing and damaging it. When that happens, we can’t digest our food properly nor get rid of wastes in a timely manner. Even though the liver has the amazing ability to repair itself, there is a limit to how much it can repeat this.

I’m not recommending that you launch into a diet. Who wants to diet? It has the word “die” in it.

What I’m suggesting is that you pay attention to your body. It will tell you which foods and beverages are right for you.  Consult your medical adviser and resources to begin your search for what’s right for your body.

Start slow. Change one thing. Replace one “not-so-good” food choice with a better choice.

Practice portion control. Instead of letting your eyes be your guide, use the amount of food that will fill the palm of your hand instead.

Eat a rainbow each day. That is, choose fruits and vegetables of different colors.

When you discover the combinations of food that are best for your body you will notice that you have more energy, sleep better and best of all, your mood and spirit will be uplifted.  When you eat right, you feel good, and that contributes a big part to your happiness.

2. Get some exercise

You can consult fitness experts, charts and programs to get suggestions, but the best source is your body and mind.

When I was working on my book, Color Your Life Happy, after hours of writing I would sometimes hit a wall. I couldn’t think anymore and my body was craving activity. I would leave the house for at least a walk around the block. I found it helpful to start the morning with at least 20 minutes working with an exercise video and later expanded into daily one hours walks with a neighbor.

If you are blessed to have physical mobility, move your body in whatever exercise seems right and safe for you. Many everyday activities such as housework, walking the stairs to get to your office, parking further away from the entrance to the mall can all contribute to your physical activity.

To get excellent advice, tips, cool tools, recipes, community support, as well as fitness, weigh-in and nutrition trackers, join the free website Spark People, your companion for a healthy lifestyle. There is encouragement and guidance for everyone, plus incentives to keep you motivated.

In a recent article on Spark People, Dodge the Exercise Roller Coaster, Mike Kramer says

You can stay off the coaster and get into consistency. All it takes is a little planning–and a lot of fun. The key is to build an exercise program that’s not stale, boring or disruptive. Now–while you still have momentum–is the perfect time to set up some smart, convenient systems and motivating reminders.

Here are three things Mike recommends:

  • combining exercise with other goals such as exercising during commercials or while watching a TV movie
  • taking exercise out of the gym by gardening or having a walking meeting
  • creating an in-home 20 minutes a day workout
  • What does exercise have to do with happiness?

    You know the drugs that doctors prescribe for depression and anxiety?

    Your body makes those chemicals naturally when you exercise, but without the side effects.

    Add to that deep-breathing and meditation and you have just discovered your own mood-enhancers available to you any time you want.

    3. Connect with a higher power

    People who describe themselves as happy report that they believe in a higher power, a higher source.  There are many names given to this higher power and while organized religion claims to have a special connection to this power, I’m referring to a spiritual connection that is  available to all and is our source of intuition, creativity, insight, and hope.

    When we tap into this spiritual connection daily we receive assurance that the workaday concerns that present themselves to us can be resolved. This comforts us and enables us to move through life without being undone by the ups and downs that we all encounter.

    How do you access your spiritual source?

    Quieting your mind and thoughts is the simplest way to get started. If you’ve never tried to sit still for ten minutes without thinking of anything, you’ll be surprised at first at how challenging it is. It takes practice to accomplish this. But it’s worth the practice because you’ll find that meditating can be very beneficial.

    Extending quiet time into meditation brings not only comfort, but also sparks creativity and reveals solutions that elude you during your busy activities.

    Prayer works for many people throughout the world. Some pray to the deity of their religion; others pray to the Universe, the Universal Mind or a Higher Power.

    Tapping your spiritual source is powerful because you’re acknowledging there is a power greater than you in this universe and you’re recognizing your connection to it.

    Many people attend religious or spiritual services regularly as a way to stay in touch with their spiritual source, while also connecting with others who share their beliefs.

    Some people find help in communing with nature on walks, runs and retreats. One author created a sanctuary in his backyard where he could go to be still and meditate. But you don’t have to build anything if you don’t want to—many man-made and natural sanctuaries already exist for your use.

    Some find solace in Nature, others in beautiful music and dance.

    Music is called the universal language because it has the power to speak to all of us—regardless of our native tongue. It can lift us to unheard-of heights and some say it is the only language that can reach the traumatized and brain-damaged.

    Beautiful music seems to flow through the fingers of a skilled pianist out onto the piano, creating visceral excitement; at other times it calms us, brings tears or bridges barriers across nations.

    Art is another path to spirituality. Michelangelo’s passion for creating sculpture was deep and profound. He saw himself not as creating art, but rather as releasing a human form trapped in the marble. His famous David, though created in 1501 when Michelangelo was only twenty-six, still has the power to mesmerize those fortunate enough to view it in person.

    Once you’re in tune with your spiritual source, you’ll discover it’s not just a ritual, it’s a welcome part of your life. Spirituality even helps out with mundane challenges such as finding a parking space or finding those lost glasses or keys. Being in tune with your spirituality relieves stress and brings solutions.

    4. Pursue your passion

    If you’ve ever watched a dancer, singer, or craftsman performing with passion, you can remember how they get so lost in joy of doing what they love that the audience seemed to disappear to them.

    By contrast, people who hate their jobs, look forward to Mondays with dread and sometimes develop physical symptoms as well because they are not living their passion, but are torturing themselves in exchange for a paycheck.

    Pursuing your passion ensures you joy, not because it always makes you lots of money, but because it gives you a deep contentment and fulfillment that money cannot buy.

    Teaching is one of my passions. Sharing information, encouraging, and helping others see their own brilliance gives me so much joy that I get a tingle in the back of my neck when I see that they get it.  I’ve taught all of my life with and without pay.

    Find your passion by asking yourself what you enjoy so much that you would do it for free. What puts a smile on your face? What brings out your creativity and absorbs your attention for so long that hours pass before you know it?

    Is there something inside you that you are burning to do?  Is there something you just must try it even if others don’t see the benefit or payoff? You aren’t even concerned so much with failure, but with having never tried it.

    What things to you talk to your friends about when you swap daydreams? Ask your friends to share what they think is your passion based on what you talk about.

    Perhaps there is something you find so easy that you can’t believe that others can’t get it.

    Finding your passion doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found your life purpose.  And your passion may not be your source of income. That is something else.

    I’m not recommending that you drop your day job just yet to pursue your passion as a career, although that may be what you ultimately decide to do. There is nothing noble about starving or being homeless.

    What I am urging you to do is to tap into your passion. Find that something that makes your heart sing, that fills you up with joy and contentment.  When you find and enjoy your passion, many annoyances of the world will pass by you unnoticed or as minor occurrences.

    When you find your passion you will no longer be willing to tolerate a job you don’t enjoy, but will be attracted to one that celebrates you.

    When you find your passion you will no longer be willing to accept less than good treatment from those around you.

    Finding your passion makes embracing happiness easy.

    5. Express gratitude

    Saying thank you to others, yourself and God is one of the deepest and profound ways to open yourself to happiness.

    Express gratitude out loud, in writing, and mentally not only for the good things you’ve experienced, but also for the bad.

    Yes, the bad things have shaped our lives as much or more so than the good so we must be thankful for them as well.

    For example, I am very thankful that I didn’t get hired by the first community college to which I applied many years ago. I was teaching at a university at the time and the hiring committee thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to their students.  Because I didn’t get this job I started my own tutoring program which I successfully operated for eight years.

    Another example.

    I am also very thankful to my youngest sister who when she got frustrated with me for getting too heavy-handed in helping her raise her kids told me one day, “Get your own damn kids!”

    Wow! She was right. I was single at the time and too distracted with meddling in her childrearing that I was not focused on my own personal life. Thanks to her I turned my attention to getting married and starting my own family.  And what fun I had with every phase of my children’s lives. My husband and I raised four beautiful children who are now adults, plus I have the world’s most gorgeous grandchildren.

    I sometimes pause to think how miserable my life could have become as the old-maid aunt offering too much advice and help to my nieces and nephews. By being thankful for the jolt from my sister that turned me around, I bear no hurt toward my sister and was able to move into being her caregiver when I was needed.

    I’m very grateful to my children for still loving me in spite of the mistakes, miscalculations and misunderstandings committed in the name of childrearing.

    Be grateful for the large and the small. Sometimes we rejoice over the large sums or money or opportunities, but we must rejoice over the small as well and it will increase.

    When my feet hit the floor each day I say “Thank you God” and  “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

    I also say “Thank you God” when I find my keys, lost glasses or a misplaced check.

    Finally, be thankful to your former selves that have brought you to this place and this life.

    I’m grateful to my elementary-school self who loved school and reading and immediately fell in love with her teachers and teaching.

    I’m also grateful to my college self who didn’t want to waste my mother’s money so I used my study time wisely.

    Gratitude keeps you in the positive mode, puts the so-called negative in perspective, and  draws more of what you really want. By being thankful for the bad you let go of resentment and hurt. By being thankful for the everyday and small you avoid taking for granted that which you once didn’t have and could so easily lose.

    By eating right, exercising, connecting with a higher power, pursuing your passion and expressing gratitude you are ensured of being unified with happiness.