The Happiest Country in the World

Turns out the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland after all.

Just in time for the International Day of Happiness on March 20, Gallup released the results of their latest Positive Experience Index poll to gauge happiness levels around the world.

So what country topped the list? Bet you’ll never guess.

Happiest Country South AmericaOne of the poorest countries in the world, Paraguay, scored the highest on the happiness chart. In fact, all of the top 10 countries with the highest scores – above 80 percent – were in Latin America. Apparently, money isn’t everything because Guatemala, also one of the poorest countries, tied for second place.

“There is much to be learned from Latin America on this International Day of Happiness, because while they aren’t the wealthiest people in the world, they are certainly among the happiest,” Gallup officials said.

Surprised with the results?

I was and then I wasn’t.

A Little About Paraguay

About 10 years ago, my family and I visited the little-known country of Paraguay. Friends of ours, Mickey and Sherry, were serving as missionaries there. Sherry’s mother wanted to visit but was in her 80s and couldn’t make the trip alone. We had never been to South America before, so we volunteered to accompany her.

To be truthful, I wasn’t sure Paraguay would be my cup of tea. Let’s face it, this extremely poor and rustic country doesn’t top any tourist list of places to visit. However, the vacation turned out to be one of our best.

I’ve traveled around the world, but the sights in this land were extraordinary – a woman walking with a box of chickens on her head, monkeys in trees, a family of five riding on a motorcycle on a typical red, dirt road, a lizard dragon, Jesuit ruins in rural villages, and cute coatis with no fear of humans that climbed up our legs. We drove by cemeteries with small houses where families were buried above ground – some more elaborate than houses they lived in while alive. And if you want to visit one of the most spectacular places in the world, you can’t go wrong with Iguazu Falls, where the magnificent waterfalls – taller and twice as wide as Niagara Falls – play with the light and create stunning rainbows throughout the park.

The land is full of farmers and cowboys, humble, shy, honest, and extremely hospitable people. We met several people on isolated ranches in Concepción, deep in the heart of rural Paraguay while visiting Bible students with our missionary friends. As pigs, chickens, and parrots wondered around us, every one of the people invited us to come in and sit down and, even though of little means, all of them insisted on feeding us. Most often they served the ever-popular chipas – small delicious breads often seen balanced on top of the heads of street vendors and baked on banana leaves in a traditional brick and mud oven – along with the sweet cocido negro to drink.

And you know what? The people of Paraguay looked happy. Everyone I met had a big smile on their face. Most of them do not have big fancy houses, Internet access, sports cars, or cell phones. Most Paraguayans live the simplest of lives. Typically, they have close-knit families, are spiritually inclined, enjoy modest meals with friends, and appreciate the simple joys in life.

Other Interesting Poll Results

happyAccording to this Gallup poll, the good news is that the majority of people in the world are happy. To measure happiness levels around the world, researchers interviewed about 1000 people from each country and asked questions about how happy they felt the day before.

On average, more than 70 percent of the respondents worldwide said they experienced enjoyment, smiled or laughed, felt well rested, and thought they were treated with respect. Half of the participants said they had learned or did something interesting the day before the interview.

The United States was the 15th happiest country in the world, tied with 11 other countries including New Zealand, Sweden, and Canada.  The Middle East and North Africa countries were the least happy with scores that averaged 59. If you’d like to see a full list and more information, see the article,  Mood of the World Upbeat on International Happiness Day.

As the above article points out, one of the most surprising findings was that in places such as war-torn Afghanistan, while scoring low on the poll, still had a majority of people saying they smiled or laughed a lot the day before the interview – perhaps giving testimony to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Nepal, is another country struggling with poverty after a decade-long civil war and also scored low on the poll at 55. Yet, one of the country’s residents, Keshav Shiwakoti, 52, a former communist revolutionary who grew up in stark poverty, said in an interview for KCBX FM Radio:

“The small, fleeting moments make me happy – like the child I just saw on the street being breast-fed by her mother, or watching my baby goats play. It’s the joy in sunshine or rain. Sometimes I cry because I feel such great happiness.”

Likewise, Tara Devi, 45 years old, who has never attended school and has worked in the fields every day since she was a child, says she loves to laugh. Tara admits the government cuts the electricity off all the time so she can’t watch her favorite Bollywood movies and her disappointment in the government makes her sad sometimes. But in the end she says, “But I do not like to be sad. It is better to be happy.”

And so she is.

Proof that, no matter our circumstances, we can choose to be happy. There is joy to be found in the simplest of moments that each one of us experience every day. It’s just up to us to find it.

Images courtesy of digidreamgrafix and photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

International Day of Happiness Ideas

They have a day for everything, right?

happinessTurns out that tomorrow, March 20, has been deemed the International Day of Happiness. Who knew?

I found it interesting how some communities are planning to celebrate the event. Tucson, Arizona decided to adopt this fledgling holiday this year by engaging in “happiness sprinkling.” Flash mobs will hold signs throughout the weekend with positive messages like:

  • Share Your Happy
  • Breath
  • Live Your Dream
  • Life is Good
  • You Rock!

The city is also including happy movie screenings at their library and sing-alongs in their streetcars. I like it. Sounds fun.

A campaign launched Monday asked listeners around the world to list songs that make them happy.

A Worldwide Happiness Dinner is inviting people to host a meal and have a conversation about happiness, including what truly matters in our lives, our relationships, good food and health, and how we can make the world a happier place.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until tomorrow for an official happiness day. Why not put some of these great ideas to use today? Or any day will do.

For example, pin a happy note on your mirror using one of the “happiness sprinkling” ideas above. Or try writing one of the following sayings on a sticky note and tack in your office cubicle or on your refrigerator:

  • FunLaugh Lots
  • Be Grateful
  • Happy to Be Alive
  • Give Love
  • Think Happy Thoughts
  • Be Silly
  • Have Fun
  • Smile On

Watch a happy movie (you can check out my favorite feel-good movies that never fail to lift my spirits in my blog, Top 10 Movies to Make You Feeel Happy, or listen to happy music all day (check out a list of my favorite happy songs in my blog, Music and Happiness, for some ideas.)

Have a happiness dinner to talk about what makes you happy.

No matter what’s going on in your life, find those small moments of joy. And try and make every day a happy day!

Images courtesy of kong sky and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Grieving For a Parent with Dementia

Grief takes many forms.

A few weeks ago, I watched Julianne Moore’s Oscar winning performance in Still Alice with tears in my eyes. As I’ve shared before in this blog, my mother has Lewy Body dementia (LBD), a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Mom and I at the beach last summer before her symptoms began to worsen.

Mom and I at the beach last summer before her symptoms began to worsen.

Of course, all of these diseases are awful; however, although Alzheimer’s affects the mind and fine motor skills can be lost, it is more well known for causing mental losses. Parkinson’s affects the body, but people typically remain sharp as a tack. The twist with LBD is that it begins destroying a person both mentally and physically.

Recently, we watched Free Willy with my Mom and the grandkids. Of course, this is a cute movie that adults can enjoy; however, I’ve noticed that lately my mother prefers kid’s movies and old children’s TV shows like Full House.

She can hardly walk, but will practically run toward a piece of cake, relishing it with as much enthusiasm as a small child. My Mom now needs help getting dressed and showering. When she wants something, she wants it NOW. And sadly, she is losing some of her bodily functions.

In some ways, my Mom is like a kid, but in other ways she is clearly not, which makes things tricky. As a full-time caretaker, I have to constantly remind myself to treat her with the respect and dignity that she deserves.

We’ve always been extremely close, so at the same time, I am mourning the loss of the mother I knew and trying to accept and love the person she has become. We were best friends and I was dependent on her for advice and support; now I must adjust to her being totally dependent on me.

 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People with LBD have symptoms that swing wildly from day to day. She has her good days when she doesn’t shuffle as much, can hold her head a bit higher, and is more alert. Sometimes she’ll go days without any hallucinations. For a brief moment of denial, I can pretend she will get better.

In fact, this is a belief and statement my Mom often makes. “When I get better…” she says, which always gives me a pang of distress because I know it isn’t true.

And in my dreams, Mom is her former self, head lifted high, walking normally, standing straight, with no tremors, hallucinations, or confusion.

But then I am hit with reality.

One morning my Mom asked me if I was a Jehovah’s Witness like her. I said, yes, I’m your daughter, Julie, and you know that I am a Jehovah’s Witness. Oh yeah, she said and kind of giggled. A half hour later, she asked if I like sailing. I said, yes, you know I love sailing, I am your daughter, Julie. Oh yeah, I know that, she said. A few moments later she asked who my mother was. Trying to have a sense of humor, I said her name. She looked confused and I felt bad. You are my mother, Mom. I am your daughter, Julie.

She often starts sentences with, “My Julie….” and tells me about something I’ve done in the past as if explaining an incident to a stranger.

There are days when my Mom thinks a bear is in the laundry room, a tiger is swimming in the pool, or baby lions are squirming in the bottom of her bed.

She has lost her sense of balance and absolutely refuses to use a wheelchair and sometimes forgets to use her walker, so inevitably there are days when she falls. I must call my husband or brother to come home to help me because I am unable to lift her off the floor by myself.

Fortunately, these things don’t happen often right now, but they happen.

We try to laugh at these moments, but painfully, deep down in my soul, I know I have been given a glimpse into the future. That the day will arrive when she won’t recognize me and even though I explain who I am, she won’t understand like she does now.

As I said, grief takes many forms and it isn’t just for mourning someone who has died.

Of course, grief isn’t the only emotion I feel during these challenging years.

My feelings range wildly from a yearning for the mother I once knew and loved, to anger and frustration with the inevitable progress of this disease, to helplessness as I watch symptoms worsen with time, to guilt when I lose my patience, to fear that she will take a bad fall and truly hurt herself, to a deep and profound sadness.

I also grieve for the freedom I once knew. Although other family members give me regular breaks, I no longer can leave the house without calling a “babysitter” and often feel trapped. Fortunately, I can work from home, but writing takes concentration and the constant interruptions are frustrating to say the least.

Sometimes I feel downright resentful. Sometimes me and Mom bicker all day over stupid stuff.

Not pretty, but there it is.

These are all normal emotions and I know that I’m not alone. That’s why I like to write periodically about caregiving for all of you who are going through a similar situation.

Statistics show that nearly 10 million adult children, ages 50 and older, are caring for aging parents. So if you are in my shoes, what can you do? How can you retain your joy – and sanity – during one of the most challenging times in your life?

I thought I’d share some great tips from The Alzheimer’s Society’s website to hopefully help all of you who are caring for a parent or someone suffering with dementia:

  • Try not to bottle up your emotions: talk about your feelings. This may be with a professional (eg a dementia nurse), other carers (eg via a support group), a friend or family member.
  • Try to make time for yourself each day. This could be relaxing, walking outside, a hand massage or chatting to friends.
  • Consider your own needs. If you feel that you need a break to help you cope, speak to someone about arranging this.
  • Try to focus on the positives, for example things that you and the person with dementia can still do together, or other interests you have.
  • If you’re feeling low or anxious, or are very tired or not sleeping, speak to your GP. It’s important to look after your own physical and mental health.

Along my journey, I am trying to put all these tips into practice.

If you are in a similar situation, I’d encourage you to acknowledge all of your feelings – good and bad. Try writing and releasing your feelings like I just did in this blog.

Lean hard on God, family, and friends. Ask for help as needed. Focus on the positive things in your life and appreciate the small moments of joy you have each day. And as suggested in the above tips, be sure and take care of yourself spiritually, physically, and mentally.

As I wrote in a previous blog, Caring for Aging Parents, if caregiving is hard, it is also a labor of love. It is a chance to connect with a parent and pay them back for all those sleepless nights you cried incessantly and inconsolably and they comforted you. Caring for a parent is a life-changing experience and one that can be as rewarding and inspiring as it is painful.

For more information on caring for a parent with dementia, see my three part series: Caring for Parents with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

 

 

Celebrating 100 Blogs: The Pros of Blogging

Time to celebrate – this article marks my 100th blog for Baby Boomer Bliss.

Yeah, baby!

100 blogs

Yes, writing a blog is challenging and time consuming, but all in all, writing this blog has been a wonderful experience for me so far.

How so? Here are five ways:

Helps Me Stay on Track

As I face new challenges in my life, Baby Boomer Bliss serves as a reminder to keep a positive attitude, be grateful, and choose to be happy. Writing about my life has been downright therapeutic in fact!

Personal Rewards

When people write to tell me that information I’ve provided has helped them in some way or inspired them to make a positive change in their life, it touches my heart.

Creative Outlet

Even though I’ve been writing for over two decades, I still love writing both as a profession and a creative outlet. I’ve never written a blog before so it’s been a learning experience and provided new creative challenges.

Connecting with People 

Then there’s all the interesting people I’ve met along the way including readers, other bloggers, people I’ve interviewed for articles, and authors. As I’ve connected with other people, they have educated and supported me along my journey.

So, yes, blogging can be used as a great marketing tool and to help build that important author’s platform if you’re a writer, but it is rewarding in so many other ways!

I’ve been at this for a year and a half now and about 7,000 people have visited my site so far. About 200 of you have subscribed. I’m so grateful to all the people that have stopped by to visit, left insightful and thoughtful comments, or subscribed to my weekly updates. A BIG thank-you! 

When I reach these milestones, I’m always curious what articles performed best and generated the most interest, so I’ll share the results with you:

Numbers 1 and 2

menopauseEvidently a lot of you menopausal women related to my blogs. Keep Laughing with the Seven Dwarfs of Menopause and Staying Happy Through Menopause were my two top performers. The first article was based on a series of articles I was hired to write for Hot Flash Daily on the evil Menopausal Dwarfs: itchy, bitchy, sweaty, bloaty, sleepy, forgetful, and psycho. Oh, what fun I had writing these humorous articles! You gotta laugh or cry, ladies. Whenever possible, choose laughter.

Number 3

Five Ways to Become a Happy Go Lucky Person came in at number three. As I wrote in the article, perhaps being cheerful and endlessly optimistic is a bit annoying, but who cares? Actually, I am envious of those people because, although I have my silly moments, I am WAY too serious most the time. Evidently, a lot of you feel the same way.  If you want to discover five secrets to get you started on the path of that devil-may-care attitude, check it out.

Number 4

My very first blog came in at number four:  Why Older People Are Happier Than Baby Boomers. Don’t gasp, but in this article I proposed that our authority-averse, rebellious boomer generation just might learn something from the generation that precedes us to help us find our bliss now.

Number 5

grandchildren 2Finding Happiness with Grandchildren clocks in at number 5. I’m not surprised. As I wrote in the article, grandchildren are the living manifestation of who we are and what we’ve accomplished. They represent the best of what we’ve successfully instilled in our children and an opportunity to build on that heritage. Like many people, I find that the rewards of family life only grew richer and more fulfilling as each new grandchild was born.

Number 6

You probably know, music has the power to lift you out of a funk. Immersing yourself in a work of ethereal beauty that sends chills up your spine like a symphony or a great jazz player wailing the blues is an effective strategy to transcend sadness. Playing an instrument or singing is even better. Music and Happiness comes in at number 6. I listed 15 of my favorite songs that never fail to put me in a good mood. Check them out and see if you agree with my choices.

Number 7

We boomers are sentimental about our roots. Just listening to Hotel California, watching Jaws, or seeing an old episode of The Brady Bunch on TV can make me nostalgic for the 70′s. In fact, thinking about all the cheesy stuff that made that decade unique – bell bottom jeans, mood rings, earth shoes, the Hustle line dance, shag carpets, and ding-dongs – can still make me smile. Makes me pine a bit for the days when guys at school called me foxy. Looks like many of you feel the same way since my blog, Why Being Nostalgic Can Make You Happier, made the top ten.

Number 8

One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein: “Happiness never appeared to me as an absolute aim. The ideals that have lighted my way are kindness, beauty, and truth.” I listed 15 more of my favorite happiness quotes to share some tidbits of wisdom that you can try to incorporate into your life in this blog: Fifteen Awesome Happiness Quotes.

Number 9

Finding Happiness as an Empty Nester came in at number 9. I thought when my youngest son, Christopher, moved out, I wouldn’t be like those OTHER mothers who cry a river and mourn the loss of motherhood. No empty nest syndrome for me! Boy, was I wrong. You can read all about my experience along with tips on how you can find your bliss after your last child leaves home in this blog.

positive thinkingNumber 10

What’s wrong with being a Pollyanna? Absolutely nothing, according to experts who agree that a positive attitude benefits everyone, especially as we get older. My blog, Five Ways to Cultivate a Positive Attitude, rounds out the top ten.

So there you go. Going forward, I will keep in mind my most popular blogs as a way to select future subjects to keep my readers and subscribers interested,  informed, and hopefully inspired.

Once again, thank-you for supporting my efforts and stay tuned for more articles. I post every Thursday. Please subscribe if you’d like to receive the latest updates by email.

Stay blissful and I’ll see you next week!

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and Kromkrathog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Why do writers write?

There are a million reasons and the answer will vary widely depending on who you ask. But one of the reasons writers write is to inspire people. I know that’s one of my goals in writing this blog.

That’s why I was so touched when Cat Michaels, an author of chapter books for young readers and a blogger herself at Cat’s Corner,  nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger (VIB) Award. This award recognizes bloggers who work hard to keep the blogosphere a beautiful place.

BloggerAward

 

Cat is an inspiring woman herself. She earned a master’s degree in special education and helped students with learning disabilities from kindergarten to college for more than two decades. Cat builds on her teaching experiences to write illustrated chapter books for young readers. To connect with Cat, you can visit her website and blog. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this talented author’s literary offerings.

So, a big thank-you, Cat! It is indeed an honor to receive this award.

As part of the VIB tradition, I was asked to do two things: reveal a few things about myself and pay it forward by nominating other bloggers who inspire me.

So here are five things you may not know about me:

  • I’ve kept a diary since I was 12. Everyone, including my family, friends, and even my boyfriend (now my husband of 37 years), couldn’t keep their hands off them during my teen years. That’s when I decided, if people were going to read my stuff, I was going to make a living out of it! My first YA novel was loosely based on those diaries.
  • I have a chip on my tooth I cannot quit picking on when I’m nervous or thinking which drives hubby a bit crazy.
  • Writing is my only creative talent. Do not ask me to sing, paint, or craft.
  • I am a klutz. While white water rafting on a 5-plus rated river in New Zealand, our boat flipped; I had my first-ever panic attack while getting certified for scuba diving; and I almost ran into a building while parasailing in Mexico. I’ve wisely given up all thrill sports.
  • I love the taste of chocolate and beer together and for some unfathomable reason I cannot figure out, am addicted to The Bachelor. It’s my dirty, little secret.

Okay, now you know. (I’d love to hear five things about YOU in the comments in the below along with any thoughts on what you think makes a blogger inspiring!)

Drumroll. It’s now time for my three nominations. I am privileged to bring some attention to the following blogs that never fail to inspire me:

Marquita Herald

Emotionally Resilient Living: Embrace Your Inner Strength

I’ve been reading Marquita’s blogs for a while now and love her articles that are designed to help people not simply survive life’s challenges and adversities, but thrive by finding their inner strength. She aims to help people let go of fear, reject settling for ‘good enough,’ and become the person they were meant to be. I am always inspired by her insightful blogs that encourage all of us to create a more fulfilling life.

Marla Hunter-Bellavia

Wise Introvert

Like most writers, I am an introvert, which is one of the reasons I enjoy Marla’s articles so much. Her inspirational blogs encourage women to embrace opportunities and experiences, follow their curiosity and sparks of inspiration, and be brave, happy, and true to themselves. “Introversion is beautiful and powerful,” she writes. “Embrace it.”

Diane Howell Topkis

Your Next Chapter Now

Diane writes from the heart. She has personally experienced challenges that many face during midlife including being laid off from her job in a large corporation and facing divorce after her long marriage came to the end. She has turned her life around by becoming a Midlife Woman’s Career Coach and writes blogs to help women discover new possibilities and new levels of personal and professional success.

We bloggers absolutely love feedback. You’ll make their day if you visit these Very Inspired Bloggers and leave a ‘like’ and/or a comment. I encourage you to take a peek at each of one their blogs and get inspired!

Battling the Wintertime Blues

Are the wintertime blues destroying your bliss?

Wintertime Blues SADIt’s no wonder, with storm systems dumping record-breaking temperatures and snow this year and surges of cold arctic air in most of the country. And the latest weather reports are not offering much hope for a change anytime soon.

Don’t hate me, I live in the California desert where it is currently in the 80′s, but my heart goes out to you in the rest of the country suffering from the extreme weather. So, in honor of all of you in the Midwest and Eastern states buried in snow, I’m re-publishing information from a previous blog I wrote with some simple but effective tips to help you stay cheerful through this rough weather.

The “winter blues” are characterized by mild depression and low energy that can affect everyone during cold and dark days. Some people suffer from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which medical experts have officially recognized as a medical condition. Symptoms of SAD include depression, low energy, lack of motivation and less productivity, headaches, inability to sleep or an increase in the amount of time spent sleeping, lack of concentration, and decreased interest in activities that usually bring pleasure. In extreme cases, you may need medical attention.

However, the good news is, in most cases, you don’t need to suffer any longer with a few lifestyle changes. Here are a few tips to help you endure these brutal winter days:

  • Be sure and get some exercise. You’ll feel healthier and produce some of those “feel good” chemicals that improve your mood.
  • Winter HappySpend time with supportive and loving people.
  • If it’s safe, get more light by walking outside on a bright winter day. If conditions are too dangerous, try to bring as much light into the home by keeping drapes and blinds wide open. Sit close to windows.
  • Eat healthy and try to reduce stress levels. These are things you should be doing anyway, but are particularly important if you’re suffering from SAD.
  • Use light therapy with a specialized light box for 30 minutes a day. Make sure the box has more than 10,000 lux, which is more than 20 times stronger than the average light bulb. Some insurance companies cover the cost if patients are using the light under a physician’s supervision.
  • This is a no-brainer, but if you can afford to do so or you’re planning a vacation, visit a tropical destination. Or you can join the crowds of people we have visiting here in the Palm Springs area for a much needed break from the weather.

So my thoughts are with you. Follow these tips and don’t despair. Spring is right around the corner!

Images courtesy of dan and imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

What Are Your Life’s Happiest Moments?

If you look back on your life, which moments would you count as your happiest? What would be your biggest regrets?

time to evaluateThat’s the intriguing question online insurance company Beagle Street asked 1000 “life experts” aged 70 or older to mark the release of a new heartwarming, short four-minute film called “Happiest Moment.”

The film is produced by BAFTA-nominated Gary Tarn and features some of UK’s oldest couples – including Maurice and Helen Kaye from Bournemouth, who are 102 and 101 and have been married for 80 years.

Fascinating stuff, right? What did the older generation say and would you agree with their answers?

The Happiest Moments in Life

Happiest momentsPerhaps not surprisingly, the top three best moments in life the participants listed were the birth of their first child, their wedding day, and the birth of their grandchildren.

Other happiest moments included the day of retirement, moving into a new home, meeting the man or woman of their dreams, the first kiss with the person they love, and watching their child’s first steps and hearing their first words.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, the subsequent births of siblings rated number four on the list of happiest moments. As the oldest of four, maybe I feel just a bit smug about that.

One woman described the joy she felt seeing her wounded husband in a hospital during World War II as one of her happiest moments in one of the touching interviews that might have you dabbing your eyes.

What noticeably did not make the top ten on their list were any career-related achievements or anything to do with material gains. Obviously, job promotions and buying a fancy car were not as important as loving relationships.

We can learn from that, folks.

Regrets in Life

Interestingly, more than half the people questioned said they had absolutely no regrets in life.

The most common regret of those that had them was choosing the wrong career and not pursuing lifelong dreams.

Also in the top five were getting divorced and getting married too soon. One in ten of those with regrets wished they had worked harder in school and seven per cent regretted not traveling the world more.

old manAdvice from Life Experts

The short film, Happiest Moment, includes advice from the older generation aimed at the younger ones. What wisdom from their experience in life did they want to pass on to the generation following them?

The number one piece of advice was to never take the people you love for granted.

Other top pearls of wisdom were “believe in yourself,” “nothing worth having comes easy,” and
“don’t hold grudges.”

What Can We Learn?

Since it’s scientifically proven that happier people live longer, we should take some notes.

What makes life matter when you look back?

Me – I would agree with most of their choices. The primary difference is that I would include the day I got baptized and dedicated my life to God on my list of happiest moments. After that, I would definitely include the day I met and married my husband, our first kiss, and the births of my children and grandchildren at the top of my list.

Clearly, relationships with those we love are more important than money and the key to contentment according to this study of older people in Britain who were looking back at the high points in their lives.

Matthew Gledhill, managing director of Beagle Street, put it well when he said: “The overwhelming message from those with the most life experience is that the key to happiness is to worry less and live in the moment with the people you care about most.”

Still living in the moment, one 80-year-old woman said, “I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.”

True, this study is not exactly scientific and gives us a limited snapshot of happiness, but it supports countless research that suggests family relationships and social connections overrides career or monetary success when it comes to happiness and life satisfaction.

In other words, counting your blessings instead of your material gains will definitely give more meaning to your life at the end of the day.

How about you? Do you agree with their list of life’s most fulfilling and joyful moments? I’d love to know. If you’re so inclined, tell me what you would include on your list in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles, kangshutters, and taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Baby Boomers Becoming Happy Entrepreneurs

Sometimes I need to remind myself that, as a woman in her 50’s, I qualify for some senior discounts now. I certainly don’t feel like a senior citizen and I absolutely refuse to act like one!

I’m not alone. Baby boomers are changing the rules and redefining old age. Growing up during a time when everything seemed possible, perhaps it’s not surprising that we refuse to grow up and grow old, feeling a bit like Peter Pan. You can find boomers white water rafting, running marathons, zip lining, and traveling to exotic and adventurous places.

Starting New BusinessNot content to sit in a rocking chair, another way baby boomers are still blazing trails as they approach retirement is by starting their own businesses. Many boomers want to continue working – but on their own terms.

A new Gallop study showed adults over the age of 50 are one of the fastest-growing groups of entrepreneurs in the United States. In fact, boomers are twice as likely as millennials to say they plan to start a business in the next year.

The fact is that the majority of boomers are working a full decade longer than their parents. That’s not a bad thing since staying active into old age contributes to better health and a longer life. In fact, the average life expectancy of a baby boomer has increased dramatically – for those aged 65, their life expectancy has increased by 17.7 years for a male and 20.3 years for a female. In part, this is due to improved medical advances but it is also, no doubt, because of a more active lifestyle in our later years.

But why do boomers, who have already worked decades for established businesses, want to start over and launch an “encore career” as an entrepreneur?

When Gallup studied nearly 2,000 U.S. baby boomers, including entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs, they found that an overwhelming majority — 83% — say their main reason for launching a venture was a lifestyle choice or to increase their income.

I understand the attraction. Wanting to try something new and be my own boss has inspired me to launch this blog and try different types of writing jobs as a freelancer. Evidently, many boomers feel the same way. They are searching for independence and want to pursue their interests and passions before it is too late.

Money also plays a role. Many boomers haven’t saved enough for retirement and are looking for ways to increase their income.

Yet, it seems that our desires are outweighing practical choices when it comes to choosing a new business. Clearly, I am in that category. I love freelancing, but I’m not exactly getting rich. But still, I wouldn’t trade my freedom and happiness following my creative passions for a bigger paycheck.

Likewise, boomers typically aren’t looking for a grueling, high-intensity, high-growth venture. “Very few are pursuing an idea for a new product or service that solves a problem or meets an unfulfilled need in the market — the type of business that would typically have immense growth potential,” the study’s authors wrote. “Perhaps for boomer entrepreneurs, these reasons reflect their current stage in life.”

Therein lies the hitch. Although boomers are experienced in their careers, they still will have the same challenges and face the same risks as younger entrepreneurs face. In addition, they are looking to start businesses that will bring fulfillment and excitement to their lives which doesn’t always equal income.

Start New Business With that in mind, if starting a new business is one of your dreams, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Remember that running your own business is considerably different than working for a company. You will face uncertainty and failure, the study’s authors point out. Consider how hard you are willing to work, how you will acquire clients, how willing and adaptable you are to learning new skills, and how you will persuade others to buy your product or service. Understand your strengths and vulnerabilities before diving in.
  • Connect with local resources and network, network, network. In most cities, the AARP and Small Business Administration offers information, services, and training to help older entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Connect with other “encore” entrepreneurs’ professional networks. Form a support group to get you through the rough times. Take advantage of social media sites. Networking isn’t easy but it’s an essential key to success.
  • Even though you may have a lot of work experience, entrepreneurs over the age of 50 will still benefit from working with a coach, mentor, or business advisor. An established business owner can help you navigate through regulations and legal issues, develop marketing ideas, and learn how to promote your business in both traditional and new ways.

If you are one of those boomers considering starting a new venture, keep these tips in mind to help you succeed. Will launching a new successful business make you happy? Quite possibly. Despite the hard work and dedication required to start and run a small business, 94 percent of U.S. entrepreneurs are happy being small business owners, according to a new survey by the online small business community, Manta.

Now, that’s good news for you boomers with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Images courtesy of Ambro and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Benefits of a Happy Jar

Confession time: I am a Pinterest addict. I blame my good friend, Susie, who discovered the site first and gushed about it. When I first took a peek, I didn’t get the attraction. Then she told me Pinterest could help me promote my blog.

Well, that got me going. However, once I started pinning, it didn’t stop with Baby Boomer Bliss pins. Oh no, soon I was pinning healthy recipes, classy clothes, travel ideas, decorating hints, words of wisdom – well, shamefully the list goes on and on.

happiness jar 2But you do find some interesting things there. One day a pin caught my eye: a photo of a happiness jar.

When I googled “happiness jar,” I discovered that Elizabeth Gilbert, an author best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, started the idea. A couple of years ago, when she launched her Facebook page, Elizabeth posted a photo of her happiness jar.

People loved the idea and it soon took off. Now, you can find all kinds of crafty variations of the happiness jar online. Everything from decorated old Mason jars to beautiful antique bowls can be used for this purpose.

As Elizabeth explains, however, the concept of a happiness jar is an “almost absurdly simple idea.” Use an old pickle jar or Kleenex box. It doesn’t matter. All you have to do at the end of each day is grab a scrap of paper and write down the happiest moment you enjoyed in the last 24 hours and drop it into the jar.

That’s it, pure and simple. But I love this idea.

Another confession: this is not the best time in my life. My Mom, who has good days and bad days with Lewy Body dementia, asked me the other day if I liked sailing and who my mother was – obviously not recognizing me. I could focus on that. Or I could allow the pain and worry I am currently experiencing watching my oldest son and three grandchildren go through a rough and painful divorce overwhelm me.

Or I could take a certain Jedi’s advice who said: “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally guilty of allowing negative things overpower me at times. But then, I remember all the things I’ve written about and all the information I’ve read and researched for my blog. I know deep in my heart that we, as humans, are capable of finding happiness even in our worse moments.

That’s why this notion appeals to me. In less than one minute, you can document that one moment of joy you had – even on a bad day – that you probably would have forgotten all about if you hadn’t taken the time to write it down.

And no, your note doesn’t have to include a life-changing moment like getting married, getting a book published, traveling to Fiji, or having your first grandchild. You’ll discover that most often the happiest moment of your day is the simplest one – like enjoying the warmth of the sun on your face, sipping your first cup of coffee in the quiet of the morning, a loving smile from your spouse, a glance of a hummingbird joyfully taking a bath in a fountain, or indulging in a bite of your favorite candy bar.

No matter what’s happening in our lives, we all have those small moments we can cherish. Instead of unconsciously reliving the moment when a driver ungraciously cut you off in traffic or that rude thing your workmate said, you can relish the simple moment that brought you peace and joy that day.

Not only will this practice help you learn to be grateful for the small, everyday, sweet moments in your life and to be present in the moment, but it can provide comfort and inspiration on those awful days.

All you have to do is sit down and pull out one of your notes. Wrap those small but shining jewels of happiness around your soul and let it provide you with the knowledge that you will have those special moments in the future as well.

As Elizabeth points out, there are no hard and fast rules. Maybe you’ll have a jar you share with your spouse where you deposit notes of ways you make each other happy to strengthen your marriage. Maybe your jar will be a “Blessings of Getting Older” or “Get Me Through Divorce” or “Finding Happiness with Cancer” jar. You might include mementos like theater ticket stubs in your jar. Use whatever works for you during the different stages of your life.

When the jar is full, maybe you’ll sit down at the end of the year and celebrate your happy moments. Or you could make a collage or scrapbook with your notes and include photos. Like I said, whatever works for you.

So, grab that jar or bowl and place it somewhere in sight to remind you to write a quick note listing the little things that make you happy. By recording the best parts of your life, you can change the way you remember each unique day.

Now, that’s empowering!

Five House Paint Colors That Make You Feel Happy

I recently wrote a blog for a client on the top house paint color trends for 2015 which got me thinking. Since it’s been scientifically proven that colors can affect your mood, why not try out some happy mood-brightening colors in your house if you need a quick pick-me-up?

Happy Paint ColorsNeed some ideas for inspiration? Here are a few colors you may want to consider:

Mediterranean Blue

This is one of the new hot colors for 2015 that I mentioned in my article and one of my personal favorites. Tones of blue have been shown to slow down heart rate and lower blood pressure. Pair the color with bright white for some extra impact or combine it with the colors of sand to remind you of a beautiful, calm day at the beach.

Apricot

I love orange as a fun, energizing and cheerful color, but if you’re looking for something a little more subtle, apricot just might be your ticket. I like Glidden’s Apricot Nectar, a joyful shade of orange that is sure to lift your mood every time you walk in the room.

Celery Green

Want to be reminded of soothing gardens and bright green spring leaves? Mimic Mother Nature and evoke the same relaxation and refreshment as going for a stroll in the park. According to a study from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, adults feel happier around the colors green and yellow. “Bring in the colors of sunshine and spring fields,” an article on Health.com suggests. Which brings us to the next mood-boosting color…

Sunny Yellow

See all the bright happy faces on the heading of my blog? There’s a reason these smiley faces are typically a bright yellow. After all, who can resist smiling at a cheerful yellow sunflower? I actually had wallpaper in bright yellow with a touch of turquoise in my bedroom as a teen and loved it. If an intense, in-your-face yellow is not be to your liking, a light or soft yellow smacks of optimism and cheerfulness and will remind you of a bright, sunny day.

Velvety Violet

Visualize lush and lovely lavender fields in France and you’ll instantly feel a sense of calm and contentment. In the middle of a cold, dreary winter, a violet paint color will reflect light well and have a soothing effect. A deeper purple feels rich and regal. Or if you want a truly soothing color, check out Benjamin Moore’s lovely Lavender Mist.

If none of these colors suit you, the options are endless. Remember your home is a living space, so make it lively! Color is a powerful tool that can make your home feel more joyful, vibrant, and blissful.

Are you still reading? Stop. Go get rid of that drab and boring beige, grab a brush and some paint, and splash some of your favorite soulful colors on your walls!

Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net