Monthly Archives: April 2013

Finding Happiness–Today’s Post


This is a new post in a series, so please check out the earlier posts on this topic.

Today’s thoughts and inspiration come from the book Unstuck by James S. Gordon.  I’m going to share with you information and insights from his book, and expound from there.

Gordon starts off the preface of his book by writing “Depression is not a disease, the end point of a pathological process.  It is a sign that our lives are out of balance, that we’re stuck.  It’s a wake-up call and the start of a journey that can help us become whole and happy, a journey that can change and transofrm our lives.” 

Do you think that this fits for you–that is, do you feel like your life is out of balance?  In earlier posts I’ve talked about evaluating what things might be missing from your life, what “happiness needs” you have.  Perhaps your life is out of balance because you have too much perceived negative things on your scale and not enough positive.  Or perhaps there are things missing.  Stop to think about the current balance in your life.  If you’d like to do this visually, make a drawing of a scale and sketch or list it out.  Here’s an example below:

happiness balance illustration

Again, refer back to earlier posts.  We’ve talked about what your personal obstacles are that are blocking your path to happiness.  This is part of what Gordon is referring to about being stuck.  If we can remove some of these obstacles, if we can make some changes, then we can begin to get ourselves unstuck. 

Gordon presents a case study and talks about how his client had “…a sense that life would never measure up to her generous hopes for it.”  This made me think of the quote “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.”  I think this is a huge obstacle for me.  I am such an ambitious person that I often get frustrated (read: feel very stuck) because I am not meeting some exceedingly high goal that I’ve set for myself.  I can’t be happy with all I’ve achieved in the past, or be happy that I am well in this moment.  I am too uber-focused on all these goals I have.  It even prevents me from relaxing.  Instead of just sitting and “being,” I feel that I need to be doing something, anything but sitting and “wasting” time.  What a strange paradox–one would typically imagine “stuck” as something rigid, fixed, like a root or a rock.  But for me, being stuck is evidenced in restlessness! 

Gordon talks a lot about the body’s response to stress, particularly chronic stress.  He writes: “These beautifully intricate and indiviudally variable but still imperfectly understood biological responses to stress and loss do not, however, constitute a disease.  Nor do they exist in isolation.  They are intimately connected to and can be profoundly influenced by:  the way we think and feel; how we act and express ourselves; what we eat and whether or not we meditate or exercise; how we relate to others, and how close we are to them; what work we do and where we do it; as well as our income and our gender.”  Everyone copes differently, and has a different arsenal of available coping skills.  It is also important to know that there are positive coping skills and inappropriate methods of coping.  Using alcohol as a method of coping is an example of inappropriate coping skill; a person is attempting to cope with a problem, but not in an adaptive or helpful manner.

Gordon helps his therapy clients to come up with their own prescription for happiness.  He asks them about what things make them feel good, things they are already doing in their life that they enjoy or that bring them happiness, and encourages them to do it more.  This information, along with skills and techniques taught by Gordon, are then formed in a person’s personal prescription.  I like the term that he uses:  sweet spots.  He writes “Just about all of you–no matter how troubled or confused–have these occasions of relief, these ‘sweet spots’…”   A few that he lists are talking a walk in the park, eating comfort food, or watching a favorite show on TV.  He suggests taking a few moments to become aware of what these ‘sweet spots’ are for you, and to “consciously choose to use or experience them.”

Gordon offers a 7-stage journey to happiness and goes into detail in his book about each stage or step.  As I read through this book myself, I’ll keep posting more information for you.  At the moment, I will end with a final quote from Gordon:  We need to know that we are stuck–depressed, unhappy, troubled–before we can do something about it; we need to acknolwedge our pain, so we can hear its Call to change.  This is actually discussed in the first step of his journey, and it’s also something that I pointed out in my post “Help! I’m stuck in the fog!”  If you are here reading all of these posts, then you likely already have an awareness that you aren’t happy, and are beginning the essential process to change that.  Congrats!  Keep going!

I’ll be back soon with more posts on Finding Happiness……


A Huge List of Things To Make You Happy!!!


Today I am offering you a huge list of things that can bring you happiness.  I bet you can find one thing on this list that will make you at least smile:

  • Sing—seriously or as loud and obnoxious as you can so you’re even laughing at yourself
  • Do something creative or crafty (e.g. draw, paint, sew, knit)
  • Escape in a fresh new book
  • Watch one of your favorite movies, go out to the movies
  • Talk a walk through the woods, paying attention the birds/flowers/nature around you and taking time to appreciate their beauty
  • Take pictures of things that you find beautiful or that inspire you.  Go for a drive and stop periodically to take photos of things that strike your interest.
  • Call up a good friend for a chat
  • Take a long, luxurious bubble bath
  • Get some chocolate and a glass of wine
  • Indulge in a rich, chocolaty dessert
  • Look  through an old photo album that brings you fond memories
  • Go shopping—buy yourself something new that makes you look and feel fabulous
  • Do something to help others—putting a smile on someone else’s face will bring you one, too
  • Dance—seriously, or do a silly one (how about doing ‘the potty dance’ with your toddler??)
  • Do something you would have found super fun as a kid, like going bowling or to an arcade, and having childish fun [if you have kids, join in their play with them which will bring you even more laughs, smiles and happiness]
  • Improve something in your home you’ve been meaning to (every time you see the new change you’ve made, it will make you smile)—putting a bright colored coat of paint on a wall in your home can be an instant mood booster
  • Watch some stand-up comedy [I particularly love the show Nick Mom Night Out]
  • Go on the internet and google yourself some cute baby or baby animal pictures (there are tons of those types of sites out there)
  • Sign up for free on Pinterest, which has a huge collection of beautiful pictures of everything you can imagine.  Make your own collections of beautiful things you can look at any time you want. (I have a virtual shoe closet which always makes me smile!)
  • Reading inspiring and motivational quotes
  • Read inspiring poetry
  • Spend time with your children or someone that you love, in an activity of your choice.  Maybe go someplace you’ve been meaning to go, or do something you’ve been meaning to do.
  • Exercise:  ride a bike, swim, run, dance, go for a walk
  • Take a class to learn a new hobby [your local craft stores offer regular classes on things like knitting, crocheting, cake decorating, scrapbooking and more]
  • Go to an amusement park.  Get on a ride and let yourself feel the rush of wind and freedom.
  • Engage in imagery.  Close your eyes and imagine a relaxing, peaceful scene; a happy memory; a place from your past that always made you feel happy or at home.
  • Play a game—board game, video game, outdoor game, any kind of game!  Challenge your spouse or friend to some fun competition (perhaps with some “high stakes” involved, like special favors from your spouse if you win?)
  • Sit down and color in a coloring book.  I think you will discover that coloring is a really calming, therapeutic activity.
  • If you enjoy cooking, find a new recipe to take on.  Put on some music.  Enjoy the reward you’ve made.  Share some with a friend or neighbor—people love being given free food!
  • Eat some of your favorite comfort foods (don’t binge though as this will just make you feel worse later!)
  • Read a book about happiness or positive psychology, like Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (see my previously posted list for other titles)
  • Try to teach your pet a new trick.  Watching his/her attempts to learn it may prove hilarious.
  • If you love animals, visit a pet store or zoo to watch or interact with the animals.  Volunteer with a local rescue or at a shelter to help care for the animals.
  • Climbing into your bed at night onto fresh sheets, especially if they were hung outdoors to dry
  • Go for a picnic in the sun.  Picnic at a beach, by a lake, or by something else scenic if you can.
  • Fireworks!  They don’t just have to be for a holiday. 
  • Think about your “bucket list.”  Make a list of your future plans/goals/dreams. 
  • Journal about positive thoughts.  Brainstorm about your future or just write about what is good right now in your life.  I highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Journal
  • Sing along to your favorite song
  • Listen to the sound of a baby laughing
  • Ask your spouse or a friend to make a list of the things that they love/like about you.  Keep this list someplace special so that when your self-esteem needs a boost, or you need to be reminded, you can read it over again.
    • Make a list for someone else and give it to them.  Shared happiness!
  • Take a “mental health day” off from work, just for you.  Spend that time doing only things that you enjoy (i.e. no cleaning!).
  • Breathe in your favorite scents.  Smells have a strong connection to our memories,  so a particular smell may bring you positive images or a happy memory.  Burn a scented candle.  Go to a department or specialty store and try the different perfumes.  Take a bath with new, fragrant soap.  Bake a dessert that makes your house smell wonderful, like banana bread or cinnamon rolls.  Take a walk through the woods or a park for smells of fresh cut grass, that smell after it rains, or just for the smell of fresh air.
  • Buy yourself flowers and put them on display.  (Waiting for your boyfriend/husband to buy you flowers may only make you unhappy.  Take charge of your own desires and bring yourself happiness!)
  • Make love, have sex or even just cuddle with someone you love
  • Go to your favorite restaurant for a meal
  • Hang out at a coffee shop with a good coffee and a great book, and just chill
  • Eat ice cream or cake!  (can you do this and not feel happy??)
  • Watch a cartoon you really enjoyed when you were younger (for me, it’s Scooby Doo)
  • Meditate, engage in deep breathing, do yoga
  • Accomplish a task you’ve been procrasting, or a task you’ve been meaning to do for awhile (that sense of accomplishment will bring you both relief and, hopefully, some happiness)

And finally….

  • Sit down and make your own list of the things that make you happy!!!  Keep it as a reference so you can look at it in the future when you’re feeling down

What books have helped you through a tough time?


This month’s issue of Real Simple magazine (April 2013) has an excellent column entitled ‘”What book helped you through a tough time?”  Readers sent in names of books and brief explanations as to why a particular book was helpful to them.  The list is very brief; however, I thought this was a great topic to discuss and I hoping that we can expand on this list. 

In general, I think that reading is an excellent coping skill because it allows us to escape from our reality and into whatever story we are immersed in.  It distracts us from whatever else might be on our minds.  And the places or adventures or stories that we can escape to can be so varied.  Depending on what we are reading, it can possibly help to make our situation look less stressful/overwhelming/stark/____ (fill in whatever word might be fitting for you in your life).  I’m currently reading a historical fiction that takes place in winter in Minnesota.  It makes me cold just reading it–let alone imaging how difficult it must have been to be a woman, struggling alone in a cabin with very little to eat, little social contact and constantly feeling cold.  It gives one perspective!

Here are a few books from Real Simple’s list:

Blue Jelly by Debby Bull

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci

When Good Things Happen to Bad People by Harold S. Kushner

Can all of you out there send contributions to this list–books that have inspired, moved you, helped you through a difficult time in your life?

Inspirational Quotes for Today


quote progress

It’s great to strive to be a better person, to be ambitious, or have many personal goals.  But if we set our standards too high, we may find ourselves constantly frustrated and unhappy.  Instead, we need to accept that right now, we are doing as well as we can.  We are trying, and that in itself is good.  We can’t withhold love from ourselves at this moment because we aren’t who we want to be, or because we don’t look how we want to look–because we may never be that other person.  It’s not fair on our now-self to give her that hate.  Accept her–yourself–for who you are at this moment in time.  Here’s a great and very inspiring quote by Maya Angelou to sum this all up:




Finding Happiness–today’s follow up


If you haven’t read the previous posts on Finding Happiness, please go back to #1.  This is the next post in this series.

Now that you’ve brainstormed, and made your list of “happiness needs” or things that you would like to work on promoting in your life….how will you go about achieving them?? So begins what is quite possibly the harder part of this journey. Maybe some of you struggled to even name things that would make you happy, or had difficulty coming up with a list. If this is the case for you, please see the special post that I added entitled “Help! I’m stuck in the fog!”

Look at the list you’ve made. Ask yourself and think about these questions (writing down your thoughts as you go or journaling on these questions might be helpful):
— If you were to make changes in your life to achieve more happiness, where would you begin?
— What aspects of your life would you be able or willing to change? What would you be most invested in working on?
–What are the more pertinent or significant things on your list? In other words, when you look at your list, are there certain things that stick out to you as being most important or most integral to your feelings of happiness?
–If you were to make some changes in your life, where would you begin? Can you imagine what kind of steps you would begin to take to make that change?
You might also want to consider: What are static things versus permanent things? What are things that can be more easily changed, versus things that would much harder to change?

Another way to think about this is to consider what is preventing you from being happy. Generate a list of some of the obstacles that are blocking your perceived path to happiness. You can do this in the bubble-and-stick form that I demonstrated in the last post. Look through this list:. Review those things that you are identifying as being obstacles in your path to happiness. Think about what is in your power to break down and remove those obstacles.

If you’re still feeling stuck, think about this. A question often used in therapy, called the miracle question is this: If you could wake up tomorrow and everything would be perfect, what would your life be like? What would be different? What would have changed? Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine this. Think about this. Once you have envisioned what this scenario would be for you, compare it with your “now.” This can further help you to identify your obstacles and your desires/wishes/wants. [If this leaves you feel worse, see the “Help! I’m stuck in the fog!” post].

I want to help illustrate this for you, so here’s a rough, basic example. Let’s say that you believe yourself to be a creative person, and when you engage in an artistic/creative/crafty project it always makes you happy. But when you look at your life, you realize you’re not doing anything that makes you feel creative so this is leaving a gap—or lack of happiness—in this area of your life. Some obstacles you may have identified are your job (perhaps it is very scientific and not at all creative in nature, or you travel so aren’t home often), time (how are you going to fit time in for something like this), money (you can’t afford a hobby), etc. But if you begin to break some of these obstacles down, you might realize this: you are spending two hours a night watching TV. Is that really how you want to be using the free time you have? Or, you discover you are spending an extra $50 per week on Starbucks coffee and going out for lunch at work. Is that money you’d be willing to divert into a hobby? These are some basic examples of choices in your life you can re-evaluate and consider.

Finding Happiness extra: “Help, I’m stuck in the fog!”


“Help! I’m stuck in the fog!”  What I mean by this is you’re feeling so stuck, so mired down with negativity or bittness or some other negative emotion that you can’t see clearly.  You can’t get in touch with that distant thing called happiness. 

Maybe you are feeling so unhappy or so miserable in your life that you’re having difficulty even thinking of things that would make you happy. This is a special post I am adding just for you, to help you work through this.
First of all, the fact that you are even here reading this is a great sign. Because to me it indicates that you are motivated, invested in yourself, and willing to make an effort. It also means that you are recognizing that you could be happier and want to be happier. This may not seem like a huge distinction, but believe me, there are people who just embrace their misery, take their negative emotions out on others, and aren’t interested in making changes.

Another useful thing that Rubin writes in her book is her realization that the opposite of happiness is unhappiness, not depression.  [if you are feeling very depressed, please see the end of the post stat!].  When I work with clients, I often try to help them distinguish between situational sadness and actual clinical depression. Then, of course, there is also dysthymia which is sort of a mixture of all of these things, but typically goes on for a much longer period of time. I would like you to think about (or maybe you already have) what is the case for you. Have you always been a sad/negative/pessimistic type person? Or is this something new? Are there circumstances, events or situations in your life—either currently or recently—that have led to these emotions you’re having now? For example, did you recently suffer a break-up or divorce and now find that you’re down on yourself?
I think that dysthymia can sometimes be more about our mind-sets. When you go around life in this constant state, it can put a damper on your whole world. You know the saying ‘seeing the world with rose colored glasses’? Well there are some of us who see the world with black colored glasses, so to speak. And it can be really difficult to change this outlook. There is research which attests that pessimists actually have a more realistic, practical view of the world and that this type of mind set can make it easier to cope with the things that happen in our lives. But living like this on a day to day basis…it’s a drag!

Can you imagine what it might be like to go through your day feeling lucky, or waiting for something wonderful to happen, or feeling on top of the world??? Maybe not…especially if you came here to read this because you feel like you’re stuck in the fog. But there are really (seriously) people who do go through life this way! I have a cousin who is constantly saying that she is “blessed.” When you are the negative person in the room, people like this can be really annoying! But let me tell you this—this same cousin of mine is one of the luckiest people I know. One of those people who just always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Coincidence? Maybe… but maybe it isn’t that she’s “lucky,” but that her positive manner and embracing of the world present these opportunities to her. Let me explain that more… Because she’s always so happy and positive, people want to be around her. She has tons of friends. She’s social and involved in many things. She’s also generous, and kind, and the type of person you can’t hate even though she seems annoyingly perfect in every way (i.e. smart and beautiful). Some people might describe this as karma—she’s getting back what she’s given, or possibly more, in a positive way. But what I’m trying to explain is that perhaps the way she has lived, the way she is viewing her world, has opened doors for her that might have seemed closed, non-existent or unavailable to others.

However, if you’re a really negative person, you might also say “Well, maybe she’s happy because she is so lucky!” Like ‘the chicken or the egg’ kind of thing. And this is a valid point. BUT… the whole point of these posts is that we’re trying to change the way we think. Ok, I’m inserting a funny joke for you here, to make you smile and keep you going here…..

bacon joke

(if you are a vegetarian…let’s not even go there right now!!!!  just laugh anyway…)

So, here is our plan for working on this—some things I want you to think about….

(1) What is preventing you from being happy? Generate a list of some of the obstacles that are blocking your perceived path to happiness. You can do this in the bubble-and-stick form that I demonstrated in the last post. (e.g. can’t go on vacation because you don’t have enough money)

(2) Look through this list:. What are static things versus permanent things? What are things that can be more easily changed, versus things that would much harder to change?

(3) If you were to make some changes in your life, where would you begin? Or, in other words, what aspects of your life would you be able or willing to change? (e.g. if you hate your long work commute, or are miserable at your job, can you find a different one or one closer to home?)

(4) When looking at your list, are there things that bother you more than others? When you look at your list, are there certain things that stick out more, that you think you’d be more invested in working on? (e.g. perhaps you’re really sick of a boyfriend who puts you down, and this is a prominent concern for you right now)

(5) And finally…just sit and look at this original list you made. Once again review those things that you are identifying as being obstacles in your path to happiness.

(6) A question often used in therapy, called the miracle question is this: If you could wake up tomorrow and everything would be perfect, what would your life be like? What would be different? What would have changed? Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine this. Think about this. Once you have envisioned what this scenario would be for you, compare it with your “now.” This can further help you to identify your obstacles and your desires/wishes/wants.

But what if your perfect vision is just that—too perfect, too impossible? What if thinking about that in itself just gets you more bummed? Let me share with you some of my own “dream life”: I wake up in a huge mansion filled with designer furniture, that is sparkling clean because my maid was just there to scrub and organize the whole place, and my husband is just finishing making me a 4-course breakfast which he would then deliver me in bed on a silver tray with fresh flowers, and I wouldn’t have to worry about being late for work because—oh yes!—I’d be a famous author with beaucoup money and never had to work a regular job again.

RIGHT…Keep dreaming, right??? So, as you can imagine, there is a huge contrast between what I desire and what I perceive that I have. And herein lies the catch. The contrast is just so vast that it becomes difficult to bridge that gap. This is where many of us may struggle. And notice the word I used—perceive. We may be so caught up in the things we don’t have to focus on what we really do.

As a final step here, if needed, I want you to process that last statement and think about how it fits for you.  You can even include the most basic things you have.

I could probably go on and on….but I will add more another day!!!  Plus, I think you have a bit of homework here already to work through.  🙂



*****these posts are not meant to be a replacement for therapy!  If you are seriously depressed, and/or suicidal, please call 911, a national suicide hotline, or your local crisis line for immediate help!*****

Finding Happiness…post #2


Building off of yesterday’s post about Finding Happiness, here is today’s post.  I’m currently reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and am excited to share pieces of this book with you. 

Rubin wrote: “One April day, on a morning just like every other morning, I had a sudden realization: I was in danger of wasting my life. As I stared out the rain-spattered window of a city bus, I saw that the years were slipping by. ‘What do I want from life anyway?’ I asked myself. ‘Well, I want to be happy.’ But I had never thought about what made me happy or how I might be happier.”

Rubin offers the quote by the writer Colette: “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” She adds, “I didn’t want to look back, at the end of my life or after some great catastrophe and think ‘How happy I used to be then, if only I’d realized it.’”

For her own happiness project and her book, Rubin did a comprehensive literature review dating back to ancient philosophers and up to current names in the field of positive psychology. She discovered that many of these wise people suggest keeping a chart, or list, of the things they believe will bring them happiness. She mentions Ben Franklin, who kept a list of 13 virtues he wanted to nurture in his daily life.

So, building on the exercise that I posited yesterday, can you look at the paper you made and use it to develop a list like this for yourself? Remember I said to include even those things that aren’t present in your life now, but you believe would bring you happiness? Here’s a good example. Let’s say that you identified “friendship” or “hanging out with friends” as something that makes you feel happy. But perhaps, right now in your life, you aren’t getting the amount of social time you desire, or you don’t have many friends. This could be an excellent thing to put on your chart as a happiness need for you to develop. Don’t make your list too difficult for you to achieve. I think mixing a blend of things that are present in your life, and things that you need to work on cultivating in your life would be ideal.

What if this step, or even the step before, was too difficult for you? Then read my additional post, “Help! I’m stuck in the fog!” next…

I’ll end with a great quote: “Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” –Wayne W. Dyer

Today’s Inspirational Poetry


To go along with our happiness and inspiration theme today, here is a poem that I wrote recently.

I’ll show you a secret path

Out of the bog that has mired you.

Do not let the fear in your mind,

Overcome the hope in your soul

And the love in your heart.

I can take your hand,

I will lead you.

Do not be afraid of the journey.

Leave behind the weight of your burdens

And embrace the power to heal.

–Elise Stein, written 3/2013

Finding Happiness…


I went to a professional seminar recently, and was surprised to see how the instructor, Shawn Christopher Shea, took a completely unique approach to the topic. He talked extensively about happiness, and obstacles to happiness. This has since inspired me to read more books and info in the area of positive psychology. I still have a lot of reading and thinking to do about the material, but I will continue to share with you some of this material as I go along. But the seminar was so inspiring it itself, so I will share with you some of the material and the subsequent thoughts I had about it.

Julian of Norwich was a (female) 14th century mystic, anchorite and could probably be considered a feminist as well. Despite the circumstances of her life, including the fact that the plague was rampant at that time, she appears to have been an extremely happy person. In one of her books, she wrote “All is well, and every kind of thing will be well.” She also wrote, “During our lifetime here, we have in us a marvelous mixture of both well-being and woe…And now we are raised to the one, and now we are permitted to fall to the other.” She believed that in order for us to truly know and experience happiness, we also had to acknowledge its opposite. That is, one cannot fully know joy if one has not also experienced sorrow, or pleasure without pain. She talked about how, although there is suffering in the world, there is also unnecessary suffering. A key component of this is the role of bitterness. Bitterness makes the feeling of suffering exponentially worse. If we can begin to strip away the bitterness that we hold, or help someone else to do this, than we can begin to accept our past and experience the world as a less hostile or malicious place. Yes, easier said than done—how exactly does one go about doing this?

Shea discussed how happiness could be viewed as a process, a moment in time. It could be defined as a “gentle confidence,” or a sense of trust that a person can cope with his/her life. If a person can trust and have confidence that his/her future will be okay, then that person can function better in the present moment. And this is where we ultimately function best–in the present. I often tell the clients I work with that dwelling in the past allows one to be stuck with their depression; if one is worrying about the future, this welcomes anxiety. But to be right here, in your present, allows you to fully embrace ‘now’ and focus on what is going on in your life right now. It also helps you to deal with your challenges as they come up. If there is an issue, you face it head-on, work to solve it–taking baby steps if needed–and then move on. You aren’t bogged down by your past, you aren’t pushing away the problem to some future time which will cause you anxiety. Rather, you are fully present and engaged with the moment.

What if someone’s past was so traumatic or damaging that it seems impossible for that person to be happy? Shea argues that it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to be happy, it’s just harder. Often it can be the case that the person is so caught up with what his/her future might hold that it veils his/her present. For example, an abused child who was always told “you will never amount to anything” may hold this belief in his head, despite its fallacy. It may even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It may cloud his past, cloud his future; he may live his life as if this belief is true (e.g. why bother finishing high school, I’m never going to have a good life no matter what I do). It is impossible for this child to ever be happy? No. Might it be difficult? Yes.

So, this still doesn’t answer the question of how one actually finds happiness, or becomes happy. Well, I have a lot more to say on this topic. Perhaps we can travel through this journey together. Today, I am going to posit an exercise for everyone to do. I want you to get a plain sheet of paper and a pen. In the center of that paper, write the word “happiness” and circle it. Then, I want you to think of all the words, things, activities, etc. that come to mind when you think of “happiness.” Draw a line from your center word circle to connect each new word [see my example below]. There might be other key words that come to mind, and then you can branch out from them. For example, you might connect “money” to happiness and from there “vacation.” One key to this exercise is to make sure you aren’t just thinking of your current life or situation, but that you are thinking of all the things that come to your mind. What I mean by that is perhaps you are broke right now, and can’t afford a vacation. But this is still something that would, in theory, make you feel happy. So include it!

happiness brainstorm

I’m going to sum up this post now by including a few references for you, if you’d like to begin doing your own readings on this topic. (Please note—I haven’t reviewed all of these books yet, I’m just posting books on the subject in general). More posts on this to come!! And if anyone tries this exercise and wants to share any enlightenment they had, please let me know.

Shea, Shawn C. Happiness Is: Unexpected Answers To Practical Questions in Curious Times
Julian of Norwich. Revelation of Love
Watts, Alan. The Meaning of Happiness
Rubin, Gretchen. The Happiness Project
Burkeman, Oliver. The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
Seligman, Martin.  Authentic Happiness

Book Review


A friend passed along the name of this book, and a review from online (see website noted for reference).  I will be checking it out soon, and then I’ll give you my feedback too.

Oxygen by Carol Cassella. 

 “Oxygen” is a riveting new novel by a real-life anesthesiologist, an intimate story of relationships and family that collides with a high-stakes medical drama.Dr. Marie Heaton is an anesthesiologist at the height of her profession. She has worked, lived and breathed her career since medical school, and she now practices at a top Seattle hospital. Marie has carefully constructed and constricted her life according to empirical truths, to the science and art of medicine. But when her tried-and-true formula suddenly deserts her during a routine surgery, she must explain the nightmarish operating room disaster and face the resulting malpractice suit. Marie’s best friend, colleague and former lover, Dr. Joe Hillary, becomes her closest confidante as she twists through depositions, accusations and a remorseful preoccupation with the mother of the patient in question. As she struggles to salvage her career and reputation, Marie must face hard truths about the path she’s chosen, the bridges she’s burned and the colleagues and superiors she’s mistaken for friends.”