Designing a Happy Life

Have you ever noticed what you think will make you happy really doesn’t make you happy?

Maybe you’ve recently reached a goal or fulfilled a dream. You finally published that book, married your first love, lost 20 pounds, or started a new business.

So why don’t you feel on top of the world?

Perhaps it’s because in reality selling books takes a lot of promoting, marriage is work, thinner people still have problems, and starting a business is stressful.

Searching HappinessSometimes goal-oriented, ambitious, thoughtful, and driven people are so busy reflecting on what makes a meaningful life and striving for happiness that they miss the whole point.

Other people are creatures of habit going through life on autopilot and don’t notice which daily activities actually make them feel good, bring them joy and feelings of pleasure, or give them a true sense of purpose.

 

That’s the theory of Paul Dolan, a professor at the London School of Economics, author of Happiness by Design, government well-being adviser, and one of the world’s leading happiness scholars. And yes, that’s a real job and a field of study.

“I think we should be paying attention to how we feel day-to-day and moment-to-moment,” Dolan said in an interview for Fast Company. ”We do a lot of what we do because we’ve always done it, not because it is good for us or because we enjoy it.”

Do either one of those scenarios in the beginning of this article ring true for you? If so, how can you design a happy life?

Do a Happy Audit

Focusing too much on your happiness can backfire and actually make you feel unhappy. So, Dolan suggests in his book that you take one day a week or month to observe yourself and tune into what you are doing, who you are doing it with, and how it makes you feel. Of course, in our modern world, there are even free apps to help you do this as I pointed out in a previous blog.

Whether you use an app or a simple piece of paper, do a quick happiness audit and see what activities stress you out or make you angry and which activities bring you peace and contentment. Then design your life so it’s easier to do the things that make you happy.

In other words, create more happy moments in your life. Yes, it’s a simple and basic idea but it can work.

Making Happiness Easier

Sometimes, relatively small changes can make us happier.

In the past, I typically watched the news or read a newspaper in the morning, but in reality, the news depressed me. I started work by reading and answering emails, but it was a stressful way to begin the day. When I wrote for a long period of time, I began to sit and spin my wheels until my head hurt.

Just a few small changes and my life improves.

Now, I start my day by reading something inspirational and spiritual. I make it easier with an app on my phone. I listen to music as I begin to work. I make it easier with a playlist. I get up and take an afternoon walk which actually helps me think more creatively. I make it easier by keeping my walking shoes next to my desk.

You get my drift. If you love spending time with a friend, set up a regular monthly date so you don’t have to constantly schedule time to meet. If you want to eat healthier, fill your kitchen with fruits and vegetables. If you feel better when you exercise, choose a gym close to your house and put workout dates in your calendar.

Make happiness easier.

Bigger Changes

Other times, larger and harder changes are in order.

For example, maybe your job is making your life miserable, but the idea of changing careers is overwhelming.

Dolan has a good idea. Don’t ask yourself if you should take that new job. Instead, ask someone you are close to with good judgement. A friend or family member won’t likely be swayed by indecision and anxiety and can give you an honest answer. Try phrasing the question like this: “How do you think my day-to-day life will be in a couple of months if I take the new job?” A loved one you trust can provide an unbiased opinion and support.

Dolan says that it is worth confronting these realities because escaping unhappy situations can have an enormously positive impact on your mood and your health in the long term, even though the short term transition might be painful. The key, he says, is to be gentle with yourself and not rush into major life changes.

So happiness doesn’t have to be elusive or hard to achieve. Don’t overthink it. Instead, simply pay attention to those blissful moments and make the necessary changes to put more of those moments in your life.

“Listen more to your real feelings of happiness than to your reflections on how happy you think you are or ought to be,” Dolan writes in his book.

Most of us would benefit from that advice.

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maddening Menopausal Nails

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared an article about meandering down menopausal madness, so I’m republishing one of my articles I wrote for Hot Flash Daily. Be sure and check out this site for useful information on menopause, menopausal humor, and shared experiences of this bizarre life experience.

This article has to do with Mother Nature’s cruelty when it comes to our fingernails during menopause. Enjoy!

Nails 1EVEN YOUR NAILS, DANGIT!

Just when awesome and fun nail art for every occasion – ranging from stripes, bow ties, and even funny sock monkeys – becomes all the rage, I hit menopause.

I mean, who doesn’t want beautiful nails during this time in our life to distract people from noticing our unflattering weight gain, sweaty foreheads, and five-inch long chin hairs? But, NOOO… menopause has other evil plans.

If you’ve noticed that your nails constantly break, split, and chip since perimenopause started, it’s no coincidence. Fluctuations in estrogen along with dehydration can lead to weak and brittle nails. Yup, it’s that darn lack of moisture causing more problems again. On top of that, we suffer from extra stress and anxiety due to menopausal madness that makes us want to mangle our fingernails into mannish stumps. As a result, nail biting can reach new heights.

So while other women are busy admiring each other’s manicures, I’m self-consciously hiding my ugly, brittle fingernails behind my ever-growing behind. Often tardy on trends, I wanted to be in on this one, darn it!

So some research was in order to do something about my ragged, dreadful nails. Here’s what the experts recommend:

Drink More Water

Really? Again? I’m drinking more water than I ever have in my life – and it hasn’t been the cure-all for all my menopausal woes like bloating, hot flashes, and dry skin like these experts have promised. In fact, if I hear this piece of advice one more time, I am personally going to hunt down these know-it-alls and help them to a glass of water – down their pants.

Wear Gloves

Gloves remind me of painful and humiliating pelvic and rectal exams, dentist offices, and hospitals. Why would I wear them around the house? Do I really want to look like Mickey Mouse? Although it might be a good idea to wear a pair when I visit those experts mentioned above so I don’t leave any fingerprints.

Nails 2Get a Manicure

This advice is meant for nail biters like me. Supposedly, if you pay to get your nails done and your nails look pretty you won’t want to chew on them. The trouble with this advice is that when the manicurist inevitably starts lecturing me on biting my nails, or asks me why my nails are so brittle, or wags her head in disgust, I want to kill her.

Distraction

This one is also for nail-biters. If you have an urge to put something in your mouth, experts suggest chewing a stick of sugarless gum or gnawing on a carrot or celery stick. Forget that. Now, eating chocolate and drinking wine would distract me and make me feel better about this whole ugly nail problem at the same time.

Keep Your Hands Occupied

Does keeping my hands busy by choking irritating people count?

Use a Buddy System

How about forming a “No Nail Nibbling” team to support each other? Seriously? Am I 12? Supposedly sharing the goal of getting your nails back into shape and holding each other accountable is a great way to succeed. Except when my nail buddy nags me about nibbling my nails for the ninth time, I can’t guarantee what will happen.

Stay Hydrated by Avoiding Caffeine and Wine

No and no.

Moisturize Hands and Cuticles

Use a good quality moisturizer and massage a small amount around your cuticle and nails several times a day. Or soak your fingernails in warm oil once a day. Moisturize your hands at night and wear white cotton gloves to sleep to keep moisture in. Stay away from nail polish remover that contains formaldehyde and acetone since they dry out your nails.

All right, all right. Maybe this last one is doable. Because I want those cute little sparkly stars and tiny cupcakes on my nails too! Or maybe I’ll just skip all this annoying advice and get acrylic nails instead.

Images courtesy of stockimages and imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking Personal Responsibility Ticket to Happiness

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Here’s a simple fact of life: We will never find happiness if we play the blame game.

Personal ResponsibilityWe all have this tendency. It’s so easy to fault our spouses, parents, friends, or circumstances for everything that goes wrong in our lives.

Maybe we blame a dysfunctional childhood, claim we have no choice in the matter, or argue that others forced us to act a certain way. Or we simply proclaim, “There’s nothing I can do; I can’t help it.”

Self-justification distorts reality. The trouble is that if we blame others for our bad choices and the bad repercussions that come with those choices, we’re not acknowledging our mistakes. We’ll never learn from our errors and even worse, we’ll be destined to repeat them.  As long as we refuse to accept responsibility for our own actions, we’ll miss out on valuable life lessons. We’ll never make positive changes in our lives. Happiness will always remain elusive.

In the end, we all must take responsibility for our own life choices, thoughts, actions, and decisions.

Of course, taking responsibility for our lives is a challenging lifelong process. But taking this important positive step will enable us to create the life we want, let go of anger, resentment, and bitterness, learn forgiveness, move forward, and earn the respect of others. In the end, taking personal responsibility for our lives is empowering.

How do you know if you have this bad habit and need to make some changes? People that do not take personal responsibility for their actions tend to:

Look for a Culprit

Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others.” ― Confucius

When something goes wrong, do you immediately find someone to blame? Stop it! Blaming others is just a sorry excuse for taking actions that bring you pain and unhappiness. True, you cannot control other people’s actions. But nevertheless, you and you alone are responsible for how you think, act, and feel in response to what other people say and do.

Make Excuses

Making excuses is similar to blaming others. The only difference is it involves blaming your behavior and actions on circumstances instead of people.

Excuses are a way of defending bad behavior, justifying wrong actions, or negating responsibility.

When people attack, lose self control, lash out, or throw tantrums and say, “I couldn’t help it, my childhood made me this way,” or “These circumstances bring out the worst in me,” they are essentially placing blame of an internal problem on an external situation.

Play the Victim

When you constantly blame others and make excuses, you’ll eventually develop a victim’s mentality. This type of thinking is the direct opposite of taking personal responsibility.

In his excellent article, Are You Playing the Victim to Manipulate Others? Donald Miller writes: “In order to play the victim we need an oppressor. And when we manipulate by playing the victim, we turn people who are otherwise innocent (or perfectly human) into a bad person in our minds. Instead of forgiving somebody who has wronged us and moving on, we demonize them in our minds and play them up as a villain so we can be their wounded victim.”

As he wisely points out, it’s an unhealthy game to be sure and the ironic thing is that by manipulatively demonizing others and portraying them as oppressors, you may in fact, become the oppressor.

We all are guilty of these bad habits occasionally, but refusing to take personal responsibility on a regular basis will only lead to unhappiness and misery.

Sadly, blaming others, making excuses, or playing the victim can seriously backfire. These negative behaviors can stop you from reaching your full potential, prevent personal growth, lead to bad judgment calls, and result in a persistently pessimistic outlook on life.

You’ll also start losing the ability to empathize. Instead of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you’ll be focused on defending your actions as a part of your identity. “That’s who I am.” “I can’t help it.” “You’ll just have to accept it!” If you find yourself uttering those phrases, take an honest look at who you are and the ways that this attitude is detrimental to those you love as well as to yourself.

Denis Waitly put it well when he said: “A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.”

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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?

There are some great tips on the The Alzheimer’s Society’s website to hopefully help all of you who are caring for a parent or someone suffering with dementia. Here are a couple of their tips along with a few from a previous blog I wrote:

  • Don’t bottle up your emotions. Express your feelings to someone who will listen and empathize with you to provide a release. That person could be a spouse, good friend, family member, professional, spiritual adviser or a support group. If you are a spiritual person, prayer is invaluable.
  • Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise. If you become exhausted, you’re more likely to get sick yourself and lose your ability to be an efficient and effective caretaker.
  • As I’ve learned the hard way, watch for warning signs such as mounting frustration and out of control emotions. This may be difficult, but that means you MUST schedule time for relaxation. By doing so, you’ll be in better condition, both emotionally and physically, to take care of your loved one. Nurturing your own body and spirit gives you the strength and endurance to continue.
  • Try to make time for yourself each day. Boomers are often juggling caregiving with demanding jobs and caring for their own families. Do not sacrifice your sanity for the sake of caregiving. Delegate, ask family members or friends for help, or consider hiring professional help.
  • Try to focus on the positive. Enjoy things that you and the person with dementia can still do together or talk about interests you still share. Remember, 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.

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.

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