Choose Happiness Even If It’s Raining Crap and You Can’t See the Sun

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Everywhere you look there seems to be upset, conflict and events that threaten your peace of mind and happiness.

How can you remain upbeat and content under such circumstances?

Research, such as that done by David T. Lykken, noted geneticist, famous for the Minnesota Twin Study and author of Happiness: The Nature and Nurture of Joy and Contentment, discovered that about half of your sense of satisfaction with your life stems from your genetic makeup.

Your mother was right

Yep. Your mother was right, at least in part, when she said you’re just like your father.

But what of the remaining half?

According to Lykken, eight percent can be attributed to circumstances in your life such as your upbringing, education, marital status and income.

The remaining forty percent is a reflection of your attitude and the choices you make.

There is good news

In other words, you have control over a huge chunk of your happiness.

“Happiness is not, except in very rare cases, something that drops into the mouth, like a ripe fruit. … Happiness must be, for most men and women, an achievement rather than a gift of the gods, and in this achievement, effort, both inward and outward, must play a great part.” Bertrand Russell

The happiness that emerges from the research is not that giddiness that comes over you while skipping through the meadow.  It’s the well-being and sense of satisfaction you create as a by-product of your choice of thoughts and outward actions.

Happy people have their share of troubles, problems and heartbreak. What sets them apart and enables them to enjoy happiness are the choices they make.

Dance teacher, Adrianne Haslet-Davis, 32, suffered the unimaginable loss of her left leg in the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. But three weeks later, on May 1, 2013 she appeared on the TV show, Dancing with the Stars, did ballet stretches and vowed to dance again, according to this Sun article.  Although the host and several of the contestants were in tears, it was clear that Adrianne has made a positive choice in the face of a personal tragedy.

Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, is best known as a Holocaust survivor who showed us by example that even though we cannot control all circumstances, we can choose our attitude toward what happens to us. His book, The Search for Meaning, chronicles his experiences as an inmate in a concentration camp. He discovered that the inmates with the best chance of surviving those horrible situations were the ones who found a reason to live.

In this 22 minute interview, Frankl explains how having a meaning to live brings about happiness.

From a large body of research conducted by psychologists such as Martin Seligman, Jon Haidt, Edward Diener, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Sonja Lyumborisky,  people who describe themselves as happy

  • Engage in meaningful work
  • Believe in a higher power
  • Trust their ability to overcome adversity
  • Express gratitude
  • Build on their strengths
  • Discover their weaknesses and get help for them
  • Surround themselves with nurturing relationships
  • Restrict the amount of television and news they watch
  • Eat healthy diets
  • Get physical exercise
  • Feed their minds with uplifting and enriching thoughts
  • Avoid brooding over their mistakes and failures
  • Focus on the present and what they can do here and now


Happy people use tools and strategies

Most of all, happy people identify tools and strategies to restore balance, harmony and positive feelings.where-is-happiness-set

To encourage you to awaken the power within you to create a life of mindfulness, meaning, gratitude and joy,  I created Everyday Happiness, a set of inspirational cards designed as gentle reminders to take and keep control of your happiness.

Add these cards to your happiness arsenal and consult them daily for inspiration. Each card presents a cartoon on one side and words of advice or inspiration on the reverse side. Read through all the cards, noting which ones resonate with you. Or pick a card at random, letting that message speak to you.

The cartoons and messages are based on my book, Color Your Life Happy: Create the Success, Abundance and Inner Joy You Deserve, available in paperback and Kindle versions.

Once you get your own deck of cards, you’ll want to get them as gifts for the folks you care about in your life.

If this sounds exciting to you, grab your Everyday Happiness cards at now.


What Do Our Reactions to National Tragedies Say About Us?

Image from CreativeDonkey on flickr

Image from CreativeDonkey on flickr

When a national tragedy occurs such as the recent Boston Marathon Bombing and the Newton shootings before that,  many of us are tearful, angry, confused and frightened. We struggle to cope with and quell our own anger as well as offer comfort to children and loved ones.

With our sense of safety and security shaken, it’s natural to seek plausible explanations and quick resolutions to bring the guilty to judgment.

Twitter becomes key source of news and reactions to it

To learn of the senseless shootings, bombing and other tragedies is traumatic enough. Since the wide use of smartphone cameras and other recording devices, however, we not only witness the tragedies and reactions as they happen, but we get exposed to them over and over as they are replayed, and as they are analyzed and evaluated on Twitter.

Because of the marathon, Boston was already in the news on April 15th. When the bombings occurred,the Twitter mention of Boston increased 20,000% according to Mashable. This article points out that when something happens we hear about it perhaps first on Twitter.

Paul Sturdivant, senior executive editor of Publishing Executive magazine shares in his article, Twitter’s Self-Balancing Act Proves Its Value, the views of newsmakers in the publishing industry.  While one points out that Twitter is the best and worst place to get our news, another decides that even though Twitter shows us the ugliness of the news, it should stay the way it is.

What do our reactions to these national tragedies tell us about ourselves?

Christine Cavalier of put her observations of people into categories in her article, How People Grieve Online When National Tragedies Strike
  • Newsers feel more comfortable by tweeting and retweeting everything they can learn about the incident. It gives them a sense of control in a situation where they have none.
  • Extreme Newsers don’t create their own news but curate what others are reporting, similar to what I’m doing here.
  • Carry-on-ers who keep tweeting their normal topics without mention of the incident.
  • Backlashers go immediately into the blame game.
  • Mourners express their sadness and leave words of compassionate.

Examine Christine’s full list to determine where the following tweets fit on her list. Then share in the Comments where you fall on her list.



Whichever group you fall in, I expect that psychologists would say that it is healthy to speak about how you’re feeling. It seems offering words of comfort and aid are beneficial to the giver and recipient as well.

Lashing out with unsubstantiated blame or worse, offering violent solutions, seem less helpful and maybe even problemmatic.

We have expectations during these times

  • We expect  major companies, our leaders and news channels to  pause to make comment and extend condolences to families and praise to first responders.
  • Even though we know that Twitter is full of reports from common citizens, we put some trust in these witnesses on the scene who also provide visual and very graphic first images often before the professional news reporters can even get to the site. Even major news sources urge eyewitnesses to send their photos and accounts.
  • We search for accounts of what police investigations have uncovered even when the first few minutes before we’re even clear about what has happened.

Do you follow breaking news on Twitter? Do you tweet your reactions to your friends? What do you think our reactions to these tragedies say about us? Share your thoughts in the Comments.

Make Your Feet Happy and the Rest of You Will Follow

happysocks“It takes a lot of confidence to wear those socks!” remarked a fellow customer at the beauty shop.

I laughed, “Not necessarily. Wearing these socks makes my feet happy. And when my feet are happy I feel good all over.”

Of course I realize that to some extent she was right. It did take confidence, or maybe just a lack of concern about what people think.

Part of this is hereditary.

My mother lived to be 92 and she certainly was concerned with doing the “right” thing in many ways, except fashion. She wore patterned nylons that went in and out of style at least twice over the years. When I see my youngest daughter wearing those patterned nylons, leggings, tights, I chuckle with delight.

So many people worry about what other people will think about what they wear and what they do, that it does take some confidence to do what you want without concern for others.

But I also see wearing my “happy” socks as an announcement to the Universe: these socks make me smile, put pep in my step and make me happy, whether anyone else likes it or not.

Being happy is about finding joy in simple things.

What simple thing makes you happy?

Remember that poem that starts “When I get old I shall wear purple?”

You don’t have to wait until you are old?

Wear happy socks or a wild tie or whatever makes you feel good all over.

My happy socks don’t have any magical power. They aren’t even expensive. They were $1 at one of my favorite stores. Their power is what my mind gives them and I give them a lot.

So, if you aren’t ready to embrace happiness all over, maybe you could just make your feet (or hands, or head,or other part) happy for now.

How about it?

If you liked this idea, you’ll love my inspirational cards, Everyday Happiness. Learn about them at

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 can start a conversation

When Tea Silvestre, marketing coach at, 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.


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.

How excited are you about sending and receiving handwritten letters and cards? Tell us in Speak Your Mind below.

Want That Happiness for Here or to Go?


Waiting my turn in line at a popular coffee shop in San Diego, CA I listened as customers ordered breakfast:

“Breakfast quiche,” said one customer.

“I’ll have the ham and cheese croissant,” said the next customer.

Following each food order the clerk asked “Do you want that for here or to go?”

Over and over he asked the same question, “Do you want that for here or to go?”

That’s when it hit me.

We answer that question everyday when we make decisions about our lives.

Now or never?

Daily we make choices about pursuing  this or that goal or dream, or  delaying for some future time.

Unlike deciding to eat a croissant later,  however, pushing our goals into the future may result in running out of time and never accomplishing them.

In a  Reader’s Digest article years ago a woman shared how she and her husband longed to take a trip around the world. Not  wanting to go into debt to pay for the trip, they decided to save the money for their trip so they could travel worry-free.

Year after year, they socked away money in their dream vacation account. After ten years they agreed that they had saved  enough and eagerly made reservations to embark on their trip.

One week before they were to leave, the husband died of a massive heart attack.

As the wife grieved her loss, she deeply regretted that they had not made that trip earlier even if it meant taking years to pay it off.

She wrote the article to warn us to not delay our dreams.

How to get happiness for here

Have you delayed a dream, a goal, or a desire until the time, circumstances or money are right?

There’s nothing wrong with setting goals, making plans, and dreaming dreams.

Unfortunately, there is seldom a right time other than now.

The problem is not acting on our goals or dreams immediately, even if we only take small steps.

“Many people think that if they were only in some other place, or had some other job, they would be happy. Well, that is doubtful. So get as much happiness out of what you are doing as you can and don’t put off being happy until some future date.” — Dale Carnegie

If you  are ready to get your happiness here and now, here are three ways to do it.

1. Give yourself permission.

We are often our worst enemies since we stage a war with ourselves in our heads. If you find yourself hesitating to start toward a goal, you are afraid of success or failure.

You are definitely concerned about whether you deserve the wonderful things you imagine.

Maybe you are worried about what other people think or waiting for approval from others before you start.

We all want the best for those we love.  So learn to love yourself. Then give this amazing person called “you” permission to do, be, and embrace whatever makes you happy.

2. Find out what you really want.

This may sound simple on the surface, but discovering what we want requires research and exploration. We often judge what we want by the fun others seem to be having with it.

You may think, for example, that  you would enjoy living in a quaint cabin in the woods where you could spot a deer now and then, off the main road miles away from the nearest shopping center and city noise.

Explore this first by daydreaming the way you did as a child.

Sit quietly and imagine yourself in the place, situation or experience you think you want.

Then check with your feelings.

If you feel elated, energized and excited, you are on the right track.

If, on the other hand, if visualizing yourself having what you think you want makes you feel heavy, nervous and uneasy, your feelings are warning you that pursuing this goal doesn’t hold the happiness you seek.

In addition to visualizing, here’s another idea.

Before you pull up your city roots, give this tranquil life a test drive in the form of a vacation, a visit or a short stay. While this living style may be very appealing from the comfort of a movie theater seat, it may not be what you really would enjoy in its entirety once you’re there long term.

3. Gather the resources to help you reach your goals.

Once you decide what you really want, it’s time to line up the people, information and tasks that will help you achieve your goal. When I decided to write my book, Color Your Life Happy, here are a few steps that helped me reach my goal:

  • Read or heavily skimmed the major books, articles and blogs  in the happiness field
  • Bought a laptop
  • Attended a Positive Psychology conference to learn from researchers what findings they had discovered
  • Hired  a life coach
  • Hired a publishing coach
  • Changed my main workspace to my living picture window where I could get light.
  • Visited the library and bookstores sometimes to browse, sometimes to write in a different environment
  • Set up a writing schedule
  • Attended a publishing institute where I met other authors actively involved in the writing process
  • Joined Toastmasters to work on speaking skills
  • Joined an Internet marketing group to learn more about promoting my book
  • Made notes on my experiences and observations on vacations and trips away from home

In addition to taking these and many other actions, I also had to accept my flaws and shortcomings.

I accessed inner resources such as prayer, meditation, and exercise to help me

  • fight procrastination
  • bolster my confidence
  • resist distractions

Without condemning myself for not being perfect, I accepted my limitations and weaknesses and got help with overcoming them.

No one of these tasks got my book done by itself.  Each one played a part in moving from idea to successful completion.

It’s certainly up to you whether you want to have your dream life or happiness now or for another lifetime.

I urge you to try the steps I’ve shared if you want to choose happiness for here and now.

Have you ever caught yourself putting off going for a goal or delaying a dream?

Or perhaps you resisted the urge to do so, and went after a dream even though outside circumstances didn’t seem just right.

In any case, share in the comments what happened.


This post is based on one I wrote in Jan. 5, 2010.