How Clearing Clutter Can Make You Happy

After living 15 years in the same house, we’re moving. Oh my, the STUFF we’ve collected and stored.

So the process begins. Last night, I was packing up my kitchen with my daughter-in-law. The cabinets were full of cookbooks I’ve never cracked open, expired food in the pantry, small kitchen appliances I never used, and then there was the dreaded “junk drawer.” As I was filling up trash bags and putting aside things to sell, I felt incredibly FREE.

Why hadn’t I done this sooner?

ClutterIn fact, why do we Americans love to collect stuff? A Self Storage Association study showed that by 2007, the normal family in the middle of a move that was using storage short-term did not represent most of their clients anymore. Half of renters were simply storing what wouldn’t fit in their homes, even though the size of the average American house had almost doubled in the previous 50 years. These clients, who often pay $1000 a year or more to store their excessive belongings, are contributing to a $154 billion industry.

Those who don’t rent storage units are packing clutter into their homes. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that one-quarter of people with two-car garages have so much stuff that they can’t park a car inside. Another study reported 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late and incur fees because they lose them.

Why are we doing this to ourselves when cleaning out all that clutter is so beneficial?

Think about it. Conquering clutter can clear the way for a more productive life.  Without physical obstructions like piles of unopened mail, old clothes, and Tupperware without lids getting in the way, you can get organized and do more in less time.

The National Association of Professional Organizers reports we spend one year of our lives looking for lost items. According to the National Soap and Detergent Association, getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40 percent of housework in the average home.

So are you ready to get rid of the clutter and make your life easier and happier? Here are some common things you can get rid of to get you started:

  • Any object you don’t love, enjoy, or use
  • Clothes and shoes that don’t fit, are damaged, or you haven’t worn in over a year
  • Things that might come in handy someday – but never do
  • Recipes and cookbooks you’ll never use
  • Half-finished projects
  • Photographs, letters, and cards from people you don’t remember
  • Books you’ll never get around to reading
  • Email and social media clutter
  • Old toiletries
  • Expired food and medicine
  • Old magazines and newspapers
  • Excess paper clutter in your home office
  • Any object or photograph that triggers bad memories

And the list goes on. You know what you need to do. Quit resisting the idea of letting go of stuff you’ll never use. Stop procrastinating. Get rid of all those projects you’ll never finish, all the junk you’ll never fix, and things that need to be handled but you don’t want to confront.

You’ll get rid of unwanted stress, improve the energy in your home, and make room for new opportunities, ideas, and possibilities.

The simple act of clearing out clutter enables you to see clearly what is working in your life and what no longer suits a purpose. This insight can give you the confidence to make other empowering decisions such as how you want to spend your time and who you want to spend it with.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Simply take it one step and one room at a time and work toward the goal of a clutter-free home.

As you donate, recycle, or dispose of your clutter, think of the happiness and freedom it will bring you. You’ll have more time to do things you want to do.

Conquer that clutter and begin living a life that you love!

 Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why Losing Weight Doesn’t Bring Happiness

Image courtesy of sattva/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sattva/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m forever trying to lose those 10 extra pounds. But a recent study shows that I shouldn’t worry about it so much.

We all grew up with the myth that if our thighs weren’t slapping together and we could fit into that pair of skinny jeans or wear a bikini again, we’d be SO much happier.

Think again. Although there are reasons to watch our weight – like improving our health – it turns out chasing after happiness shouldn’t be one of them.

According to a recent survey for So Fabulous, a plus-size clothing line from the U.K.-based retailer Littlewoods.com, losing weight doesn’t necessarily make you happier. The survey asked 2,000 women about their current size, happiness, and body confidence. Researchers discovered that 49 percent of those whose weight had fluctuated in the past few years were happiest at a size 12 to 14. Fifty-two percent of size 2-4 women would prefer to be curvier. In addition, women who wore smaller sizes (2-8) were more critical of their bodies than those women who wore larger sizes.

Even more startlingly, according to a new study from the online journal, Plos One, researchers found those who slimmed down were 80 percent more likely to be depressed.

Should this come as a big surprise? Maybe not.

As a society, we tend to admire all those super skinny celebrities. But are they happy? How often do we read about their addiction problems, painful divorces, serial cheater husbands, and miserable lives? However, we often push those facts aside as we diligently imitate their latest crazy fad diets and weight loss methods.

“It’s not the external achievement of some goal that’s going to make us happy,” says clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. “You think that will automatically change your life in some meaningful way, but it could be that your life pretty much remains the same.”

Let’s face it. Happiness doesn’t—nor should it—depend on your weight. Your spirituality, finding purpose in life, your relationships with loved ones, and your overall health are much more important. These are the keys to finding joy, fulfillment, and happiness.

Most of us are aware of that fact, but can’t seem to quit striving after that perfect number in our heads. Even if the constant stress of dieting and depriving ourselves of foods that we enjoy makes us cranky and then depressed when we inevitably gain those 10 pounds back.

This obsession reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite books, Lonesome Dove, when  Gus McCrae tells a prostitute who thinks if she can only get to San Francisco, she’ll be happy: “If you want one thing too much it’s likely to be a disappointment. The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk—and feisty gentlemen.”

I’m not suggesting drinking buttermilk or seeking out feisty gentlemen, but hopefully, by now we’re older and wiser. Most of us have watched our weight yo-yo over the years and know that skinny doesn’t always equal happy.

Don’t get me wrong. I still would like to lose those extra 10 pounds (or maybe it’s more like 15 now). But that’s because I’m aware of the health benefits, not because I want the perfect body or because I think losing weight is the key to enjoying life.

And if I never lose those extra pounds, well, I can live with that.

Five Quick Pick-Me-Ups

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Day five of a nasty summer cold and I’m feeling a little blue. Isn’t it so much better to get sick during the winter when you can cuddle up next to a fire and read a book?

But since I write a blog about happiness, that’s enough whining.

However, this whole feeling miserable and a little depressed got me to thinking.

How can you make yourself feel better without much effort or time? I know exercise or taking a quick walk around the block can lift your mood (see How Exercise Makes You Happier ), but what can you do if you’re stuck at home?

So I made up a list of instant mood-lifting tricks that will make you smile in five minutes or less – even if you’re housebound with a box of Kleenex like me:

Listen to a Happy Song

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Music can soothe the soul and refresh the spirit, as I wrote in my blog, Music and Happiness, I listed 15 of my favorite happy songs if you want to check it out.

One more song to add to the list, a friend posted a different rendition of the Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” by Walk Off the Earth on Facebook. Love, love this! Makes me feel ever-so-happy and feel so much better! Watch the video and it is sure to make you smile.

Pet Your Dog

When you pet your dog even for just a few minutes, your body releases feel-good hormones like serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. That means lower blood pressure, less stress, and even a boost in immunity. As I wrote in my blog, Friends with Benefits: How Pets Make Us Happier, our adoring furry friends make us feel loved, provide companionship, and put us at ease. Of course, not only dogs make you feel better. Any pet will do.

Laugh

Mirth
Rishi S / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Watch a funny movie.

Laughing can improve our immune system, help dissolve stress, and increase our relaxation response. In fact, a good laugh can relax our muscles for up to 45 minutes after we’ve finished chuckling. There’s an increase in dopamine, the pleasure center of our brain, and laughter produces endorphin, feel-good chemicals that can even temporarily reduce pain.

As we all know, day-to-day life drags us down and a good laugh can seem a million miles away. So how can we lighten up and bring more humor into our lives? For some suggestions, you can check out my blog, How to Bring More Humor and Joy to Your Life.

By the way, you don’t even have to laugh out loud. Even being quietly amused or smiling can bring on some of these wonderful benefits.

Take a Deep Breath

Deep breathing sends oxygen surging through your bloodstream, helping to calm your entire body. Or try a whiff of lavender or rosemary. Add a few drops of either oil to a room diffuser. Aromatherapy isn’t just for spas. Inhaling those aromas can lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Flip Through Old Photos

When you’re feeling down, break out your kids’ or grandkids’ baby albums or browse through pictures from your favorite vacation and stroll down memory lane. Upload your favorite photos to your computer and set them as a rotating screensaver. Or splurge on a frame that flips through digital photos.

Studies have shown that viewing pictures made people feel 11 percent better. And as my last blog, Why Being Nostalgic Is Good For You, pointed out, reminiscing is good for you.

So there you have it. Five instant mood lifters when you’re feeling blah. I don’t know about you, but I feel better already. :)

Why Being Nostalgic Can Make You Happier

Image courtesy of Idea go/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea go/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

I think we baby boomers are especially sentimental about our roots. It’s no wonder marketers take advantage of that fact and abundantly use images and music from our youth to tempt us to buy their products.

Lucky for me, it turns out reminiscing is not a bad thing – especially if we view the past through rose-colored glasses.

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Feeling nostalgic can give us a positive outlook about the future, according to research from the University of Southampton published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin last year.

In fact, various studies have shown that nostalgic memories can help combat loneliness, provide psychological comfort, raise self-esteem, foster feelings of belonging, help us deal with adversity, and increase optimism about the future.

An article by Psychology Today pointed out that this is because “many nostalgic experiences are connected to personal accomplishments and momentous life events.”

“Life is not one great success after another,” the article continued. “Our daily existence can often be tedious and sometimes depressing. Using nostalgia, we can inject some meaning and excitement into life.”

On top of that, nostalgia helps us feel more connected to others. When we think of past experiences, objects, movies, and music, we often think of good friends or fun times with our family. It’s a reminder that we can form and maintain relationships, that we are lovable, and that people care about us.

Of course, thinking of the past can be bittersweet at times since we all have painful memories. And I’m not advocating living in the past. As I’ve discussed in a past blog, it’s much better to savor the moment and enjoy the present than wallow in the past or stress out about the future.

But the fact remains, as these studies show, as a whole the effect of nostalgia is positive. Most of us tend to focus on the good times and only reminisce from time to time. That’s why nostalgia, as a rule, makes us happy.

So when you’re feeling a bit down or vulnerable, nostalgia may be just what the doctor ordered. Especially if you think about all the successful, worthwhile, and fulfilling moments in your past. Those cherished memories can contribute to a brighter outlook which we all know is good for us.

Does Chocolate Really Make Us Happy?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before I get to the question posed in the title of this blog, I have to vent just a little.

Don’t you wish that experts would quit changing their mind? At first, researchers adamantly told us that dark chocolate had the same type of antioxidants found in red wine and the flavonoids were good for our heart. In fact, they told us that chocolate was good for our blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, prevented cancer and fixed practically everything that’s wrong with us.

Okay, everything except that darn expanding waistline.

Then they went and ruined my day and changed their mind. Now experts claim chocolate isn’t so healthy for us after all.

But I’m not buying it. They change their minds every two minutes, right? Besides, the former studies totally make sense to me. I’m sure you’ve heard this argument before. Chocolate is derived from cocoa bean. Beans are vegetables. Sugar is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. Both are plants – which correct me if I’m wrong – puts them in the vegetable category. (By the way, I don’t really mean that, you must know that you correct a menopausal woman at your own risk.) In addition, chocolate candy also contains milk which is a healthy dairy product. Enough said.

Of course, keep in mind that you’re listening to someone who owns T-shirts that say, “Will work for chocolate.” I’m a Chocoholics Anonymous dropout. As the joke goes, “My version of the 12-step chocoholics program is as follows: Never find yourself more than 12 steps away from chocolate at any time.”

Image courtesy of ponsuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ponsuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As I wrote over at Hot Flash Daily in my article, Confessions of a Menopausal Crack Head, I’ve always been a chocoholic, but with menopause it’s SO much worse now. In fact, menopause has turned me into a bit of a selfish, hoarding, and yes, mean chocolate addict. As I confessed in the article, when my three-year-old granddaughter somehow found the last piece of chocolate hidden deep in the cupboard, I found myself uttering menacingly, “Give me the chocolate and no one gets hurt.” Poor thing couldn’t hand it to me fast enough and run for her little life. Hell hath no fury like a woman whose last piece of chocolate has been stolen.

Oh, of course I’m kidding! Well, sort of.

Anyhow, to get back to the question in the title of this blog, does chocolate really make us happy?

In short, the answer is yes. Chocolate contains a variety of chemicals, some of which make us feel good by boosting our endorphins (the feel-good hormones).  Tryptophan, also found in chocolate, is used by the brain to make serotonin which helps us feel relaxed and happy. Caffeine gives us an extra boost of energy along with a calming effect.  Scientists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego even suggested that chocolate contained substances that produce a cannabis-like effect on the brain. Who doesn’t want a bit of happy high?

Several years ago, one study surveyed 1,367 men in their 70′s with similar socioeconomic backgrounds and asked questions about their health, satisfaction in life, and emotions like happiness and loneliness. In addition, they also sneaked in a question asking what kind of candy they preferred. Guess what? Those who preferred chocolate showed lower frequencies of depression and loneliness and had a more optimistic outlook on life. 

So there, experts! Even if you take away health benefits, we still have all the mental benefits of this beloved substance.

As the funny Dave Barry said, “My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.”

Even Thomas Jefferson agreed. “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain,” he said.

What a wise person. Who can argue with Thomas Jefferson?

And if I need more validation, Baron Justus von Liebig said in the 1800s, “Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”

“Exhausted power” = hello, that’s me, a tired woman who needs this beneficent restorer.

“Best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits” = writer = once again, that’s me. No wonder I need so much chocolate!

So the addiction continues. Last night I found an old Tootsie Roll that had rolled under the refrigerator and was so stale, I almost broke my front tooth biting into it. No matter, chocolate was drooling down the front of my shirt and I was in hog heaven enjoying every last morsel.

Chocolate is good for me. It makes me happy. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As the Partridge Family sang, “Come on, get happy with some chocolate.” Okay, I made up the last part – but so what? It’s true!

(If you’re menopausal like me and need more humor in your life, you can check out my latest articles at Hot Flash Daily: Cry Me a River, Go With the Flow, and Even Your Nails, Dangit.)

Happiness as a Writer

Image courtesy of Feelart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of Feelart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Don’t get me wrong. As a professional writer, I am eternally grateful to make a living from what I love to do best.

However, following your passion certainly has its ups and downs. There’s the financial challenge of earning a living, the constant deadlines, the inevitable rejections, and the isolation.

 

Famous writers have explained the torture well:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” —George Orwell

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.” —Robert Benchley

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” —Harper Lee

All true. Writing is one heck of a rollercoaster ride!

Rollercoaster
Alexis Gravel / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Twenty years ago, I decided to jump into writing full-time after having several articles published in magazines. Let’s just say, it didn’t go so well. Writing as a hobby was different; it was a thrill just to see my byline. But as a business, writing was super frustrating. Editors didn’t answer my queries. Smaller magazines paid on publication, not acceptance, which often meant waiting months or even a year for payment. A few editors held articles for possible publication for months then sent a standard rejection letter.

By jumping the gun too soon, I was forced to temp as a receptionist at a hotel chain to make ends meet – a job I absolutely detested. Some days were spent crying in frustration and I swore off writing – not for the first or last time.

Many years later, I was finally able to write full-time, but the highs and lows continued. For instance, when an agent agreed to represent my first YA novel – oh, what a high that was! I was dancing on tables. But when the book didn’t sell and my agent dumped me, my self confidence and emotions took a dive. Later, I received three journalism awards and had a book I co-wrote published by McGraw Hill. I was on top of the world! Then my second novel was rejected by agents and publishers sending me crashing to the ground.

You get the picture.

So how do you stay happy through the crazy ups and downs if you want to be a writer?

Here are a few tips:

  • As I learned the hard way, don’t quit your daytime job before you have a steady income. By the way, most writers have a source of back-up income or a part- or full-time job so they can live out their dream.
  • If you want to write full-time, come up with a plan of action. List your monthly and yearly goals. It’s great to have a passion and a dream, but if you don’t have a plan in place, it won’t become a reality. Be prepared. Becoming a professional writer takes time, effort, patience, perseverance, and sheer determination.
  • Talk to your partner. You are going to need his or her support. Be honest and realistic. Have a time-frame for meeting your goals. If it takes longer than anticipated, and there’s an excellent chance it will, have a good backup plan.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. In other words, don’t make your whole world about writing and publishing or you will go completely bonkers. Have a well-balanced life that includes time for your spirituality, your loved ones, and other interests.
  • Writing should be a satisfying experience on its own. Getting into print is just a bonus. Don’t live and die by whether you get published or not. As Allen Ginsberg said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” Simply writing in a journal can be rewarding as I wrote in my blog. Or expressing yourself through poetry is a wonderful creative outlet.  Financial success is not the measure of your success as a writer.

If you are truly meant to be a writer, you won’t give up or allow all the many setbacks to discourage you to the point of quitting. Use the tips above to retain your joy and enjoy the journey.

If you’d like more advice on becoming a writer, you can check out a recent guest blog I wrote on how to get published on Editing Addict. Or if you’re interested in writing in retirement, take a look at an article I wrote for Retirement and Good Living.

Ray Bradbury, who I was privileged to hear speak at a writer’s conference years ago, always had the best advice. I’ll end this article with one of his great quotes:

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

The Connection Between Health and Happiness

Image courtesy of marin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of marin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Everyone knows there’s a link between health and happiness. I know, duh, right?

However, there’s a bit of a twist you may not be aware of, which I’ll discuss in a bit.

First, let’s talk briefly about the connection between health and happiness. No doubt, you already know that if you remain healthy and physically strong, you’ll be happier. And you’re probably aware that since negative emotions harm the body, a positive, optimistic, and happy outlook on life will help your physical health.

For example, a 2012 review by Harvard School of Public Health researchers published in the journal Psychological Bulletin looked over the results of more than 200 studies and found a connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

All the more reason to take care of yourself physically by eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising as well as having a positive attitude – especially as you age. By the way, if you want a pep talk to help you get you off the couch and start exercising, check out my blog, How Exercise Makes You Happier.

But want to hear something surprising?

While it’s true that good health is a major predictor of happiness, studies have shown that people in poor health – including those with life-threatening illnesses like cancer – are often happy as well.

I know – watchu talking ‘bout Willis, right? I was as surprised as you.

A study that appeared in the Journal of Happiness Studies a couple of years ago found this was the case, excluding those whose daily lives are disrupted by their condition, such as people with chronic severe pain or urinary incontinence. Psychiatrist Bryan Bruno, MD, Chairman in the Department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says many people adapt remarkably well to changes in their health status as long as the decline is not too rapid. The exception to the rule is people with a history of depression or anxiety.

Why is this good news for baby boomers?

These studies show that people can adapt to health impairments that often come with old age. So if you’re one of those people who worry excessively about the inevitable health declines that accompany old age – stop stressing out so much!

As a matter of fact, getting old may not be as bad as you think it will be. A recent Pew study found a sizable gap between the expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and the actual experiences reported by older Americans themselves. People in the study generally reported feeling happy, touting the many of the benefits of growing old. The list included having more time to be with their families, traveling, volunteering, and enjoying hobbies, as well as more financial security, less stress, and having fun with their grandchildren.

So as the famous song says, “Don’t worry, be happy.” And in the meantime, stay healthy and happy so you can enjoy life to the fullest.

What America’s Unhappiest Cities Reveal about Life Satisfaction

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was fascinated by the results of a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research that listed the unhappiest cities in America.

The results say a lot about human nature and happiness.

So, what city came in dead last and was rated as the least happy?

It seems that people living in New York City are bummed out the most, followed by Pittsburgh, Louisville, Milwaukee and Detroit, in that order.

On the flip side, it turns out residents of Louisiana, home of Dixieland music and Creole cooking, are jumping for joy. Five cities in that state were ranked as some of the happiest areas with Lafayette winning top prize.

The study was based on a questionnaire administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the last several years and asked respondents: “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?” Researchers then tweaked that data for control factors such as race, education, income, marital status, and family size.

And in case you’re curious — and you know you are — the top 10 states on the happiness scale are, in descending order:

  • Louisiana
  • Hawaii
  • Florida
  • Tennessee
  • Arizona
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • South Carolina
  • Alabama
  • Maine

Like many of the states in the Top 10, Louisiana has a good climate with warm weather. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story since my own state, sunny California ranked way down on the list at No. 46.

Image courtesy of Photokanok/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Photokanok/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Americans who described themselves as satisfied tended to live in places where the quality of life was good by most standards. The cost of living didn’t cause a lot of financial stress, traffic congestion wasn’t too overwhelming, crime rates were lower, the air was reasonably clear, the climate allowed an outdoorsy life, and people in these happier cities generally enjoyed a slower pace of life.

Considering all that, you would think that residents of New York City would be fleeing the Big Apple for happier locations. But that’s not the case, as evidenced by the city’s  exploding all-time-high population of 8.4 million.

People still flock to that city despite all the congestion and a cost of living that is through the roof. Why? In large part, because they’re looking for success in their careers and are hoping to strike it big. The same reason that many people come to California.

One of the reasons I found the results of this study so fascinating was that it suggests that people may be deciding to trade happiness for career prospects and financial gain.

Like Frank Sinatra’s song, New York, New York, when he sings: “These little town blues are melting away. I’ll make a brand new start of it in old New York. If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York.”

The trouble with that ideal is that people run to these cities willing to sacrifice everything – including their happiness – to achieve their goals.

The authors of the study agree with this assessment and wrote: “If we choose only that which maximized our happiness, then individuals would presumably move to happier places until the point where rising rents and congestion eliminated the joys of that locale. An alternative view is that humans are quite understandably willing to sacrifice both happiness and life satisfaction if the price is right. … Indeed, the residents of unhappier metropolitan areas today do receive higher real wages — presumably as compensation for their misery.”

So evidently, people are willing to sacrifice happiness and life satisfaction when the price is right. Really, people? Is that the way you want to live?

I believe you can be happy no matter where you live, but think again about what’s most important in life. What about taking time to focus on spiritual matters, your family life, as well as fun, contentment, and relaxation?

Just think. People in Louisiana on average earn 14% less than the rest of America. But in the warm and sunny state, life moves at a more comfortable pace. Fishing and other outdoor sporting activities have earned Louisiana the nickname “Sportsman’s Paradise.” Food, festivals and fine arts are year-round affairs. Statistically, residents of this state spend more time on leisurely activities like playing board games, relaxing, socializing, and simply goofing off. 

This study should be a wake up call. Is chasing the “American dream” really worth sacrificing your happiness?

How Baby Boomers Can Build Self-Esteem

julie robe 3Yesterday, I posed in my 77-year-old mother’s bathrobe. Do I get a brownie button?

Like many people, I was appalled when Bethenny Frankel – who is 43 and should know better – snapped a picture of herself proudly posing in her four-year-old daughter’s pajamas. If you keep up on celebrity news, you may have noticed she quickly realized her mistake and posted another photo a few days ago wearing oversized men’s clothing.

Too little, too late, if you ask me.

First of all, the whole selfie thing is getting on my nerves. Second of all, her impulse to brag about fitting into children’s clothes reveals a lot about middle-aged women basing their self-confidence on looks and weight.

As I’ve shared before, I’m currently 53. Thank goodness, at this age I’ve let go of striving after perfection when it comes to being a “skinny girl” and am focusing on my health instead. Let’s face it, as we enter our 50s that perfect body is pretty much unattainable without the help of plastic surgery – a road I refuse to go down. And hopefully, we’re at the age when we can finally become more comfortable in our own skin.

In fact, a few years ago researchers discovered that Americans’ experience the highest self-esteem at age 60, which is good news for all of us approaching that age. Of course, education, income, health, and employment status all affected self-confidence, especially as people aged. In addition, people in satisfying and supportive relationships tended to have higher self-esteem.

An article by Psych Central noted that “it’s possible the peak in self-esteem comes about at the point in many people’s lives where they have achieved some professional success, have formed good track records in personal relationships and have some leisure time.”

Unfortunately, but not too surprisingly, the study showed that women tended to have lower self-esteem than men.

The other bad news is that there is a drop in self-esteem after 60 during old age. This may be due to a change of roles and challenges such as empty nest syndrome, retirement, caring for aging parents, and declining health.

The good news is that the lead author of the study, Ulrich Orth, PhD, doesn’t think baby boomers will experience this decline in self-esteem the same way as previous generations. With medical advances, he thinks we’ll be healthier longer and thus work and earn money longer. “It is possible that the decline in self-esteem might occur later in life for baby boomers,” he said.

Let’s hope so, since people with low self-esteem often feel reluctant to express and assert themselves and as a result can miss out on experiences and opportunities and feel helpless about changing their lives. Who wants that?

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re getting older and wiser, right? Hopefully as we age, we can give up the inclination to base our self-confidence on what we look like or how much we weigh or what we wear.

Instead of beating yourself up because you can’t fit into a certain pair of jeans anymore or perhaps because you’re going through some kind of negative life experience, think positively about yourself and take note of all your strengths, good qualities, and achievements.

Remember that you are a special, unique, and valuable person in this world.

And in the meantime, if you can fit into your mama’s muumuu like me, wear it proudly!

Fifteen Awesome Happiness Quotes

Image courtesy of Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Since I’m a writer, it’s no surprise that I’m in love with words.

Words can inspire, motivate, comfort, uplift, and encourage us. Words can help us have a positive outlook on life and even make our spirits soar.

With that in mind – since this blog is all about finding happiness – I wanted to share several of my favorite quotes on the subject.

These sayings are brief and to the point, but will help you feel a bit wiser and happier. Why not ponder on these tidbits of wisdom and try to incorporate their messages into your life?

Before you begin reading, perhaps it’s good to remember that happiness itself should not be our ultimate goal. As Albert Einstein said, “Happiness never appeared to me as an absolute aim. The ideals that have lighted my way are kindness, beauty, and truth.”

Well said!

So ready, set go! Hope you love these quotes as much as I do!

Image courtesy of graur codrin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of graur codrin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1.  It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about. ― Dale Carnegie

2.  There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. ― Apostle Paul quoting Jesus

3.  Sometimes  the things you are most afraid of are the things that make you the happiest. ― Kiara Leigh

4.   The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us. ― Ashley Montagu

5.  We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. ― Frederick Keonig

6.  Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need. ― Matthew 5:3

7.  When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us. ― Helen Keller

8. The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does. ― James M. Barrie

9.  A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. ― Leo Tolstoy

10. Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. ― Nathaniel Hawthorne

11. Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. ― Abraham Lincoln

12. Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. ― Eleanor Roosevelt

13. Joy is a flower that blooms when you do. ― Author Unknown

14. Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond imperfections.― Gerard Way

15. If you want to be happy, be. ― Leo Tolstoy

What are your favorite quotes on happiness? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to share in the comments below.