12 Scientifically Proven Steps to Happiness

12 Scientifically Proven Steps to Happiness

(Taken from -

"Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life." ~ Omar Khayyam

Happiness, just like everything else in life, takes time, takes practice and takes work but the rewards are endless. And once you truly commit to crafting your life in a way that will make you happy, nothing and no one will be able to stand in your way.

If happiness is something you're interested in, here are the 12 scientifically proven steps to happiness discussed by Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book, The How of Happiness.


1. Expressing gratitude

The life you are now living, express your gratitude for it, the mistakes you made in the past and all the lessons you've learned, express your gratitude for them. Look for the good in your life and appreciate it.

"The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get." ~ Oprah

2. Cultivating optimism

Expect the best from life and you will receive the very best. Life doesn't care whether you are a pessimist or an optimist, whether you focus on the good or the bad, whether you expect the worse or the best from life. Life will treat you exactly the way you expect to be treated and if that's the case then you should definitely start cultivating your optimism.

"The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose." - Kahlil Gibran

3. Avoiding over-thinking and social comparison

Our lives and where we are right now are the result of all the thoughts we had since birth up until now. If you don't like something, see if you can change it but if you can't change it, don't stress about it and just let it go. Change your attitude towards life and life will change its attitude towards you. Look for ways to be better than you used to be and not better than anyone else. Spend your time and energy improving yourself and your life and you will no longer feel the need to compete and compare yourself with others.

"Stop thinking, and end your problems. What difference between yes and no? What difference between success and failure? Must you value what others value, avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous!" ~ Lao Tzu

4. Practicing acts of kindness

Be kind to others and to yourself and you will be happy.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.~Dalai Lama

5. Nurturing social relationships

Go out and meet new people, socialize, get interested in what others are doing and they will automatically get interested in what you are also doing.

6. Developing strategies for coping

Work on developing strategies for coping by observing your thoughts and playing with your mind. Be the lab scientist and not the rat.

"There are times in everyone's life when something constructive is born out of adversity... when things seem so bad that you've got to grab your fate by the shoulders and shake it." ~ Anon

7. Learning to forgive

Learn to forgive yourself and those people who might have hurt you in the past. The moment you forgive, you free yourself from pain and you allow happiness to enter your life once again.

"Forgiveness means that you fill yourself with love and you radiate that love outward and refuse to hang onto the venom or hatred that was engendered by the behaviors that caused the wounds." ~ Wayne Dyer

8. Increase flow experiences

Work with your unique gifts and talents, work with your passions, manage your weaknesses but cultivate your strengths and by doing so you will increase the flow experiences and become more happy.

"Everyone has unique gifts and talents. What you love is what you're gifted at. To be completely happy, to live a completely fulfilled life, you have to do what you love." ~ Barbara Sher

9. Savoring life's joy

Look at the Sun, look at the trees, look at the beauty of nature, beauty of life and savor it all.

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." ~ Robert Brault

10. Commitment to your goals

If you want to be happy, you have to have goals. Know what is it that you want from life, ask for it and trust that in the end you will receive it. Make sure you set all kinds of goals, personal goals, career goals, adventure goals, contribution goals and by doing so you will have a sense of direction, security and trust into your life.

"If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things." ~ Albert Einstein

11. Practicing spirituality

The practice of spirituality makes people feel safe and secure, it gives them strength when in danger and faith when in doubt. There is an invisible force that created us all and this force is watching over us. By knowing this you become a lot happier and at peace due to the fact that you feel you are not alone.

"The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge." ~Einstein

12. Taking good care of your body

"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live." ~ Jim Rohn

Your body is your temple and the way you feel internally will reflect externally. Exercise whenever possible, make sure you drink plenty of water- water is life, and eat as healthy as possible.

"Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other." ~Henry David Thoreau

5 Ways to Bring Mindfulness Home

5 Ways to Bring Mindfulness Home

(Taken from -

Connecting with your family is crucial to everyone's well-being. Here are some things to keep in mind as you make the effort.

By Elisha and Stefanie Goldstein

1. You do have time
Balancing all of life's demands can be stressful and time-consuming. It can often feel like there isn't enough time to really connect with your family-it can even feel like another chore on your to-do list. See if you can slow down enough to find small moments in each day to make a connection with each other-from saying "good morning" to your children in a loving way or doing something thoughtful, there are so many small moments ripe for connection.

2. It's not all about you
It's hard not to take things personally when someone speaks to you in a rude or unkind way, but often these behaviors are coming from a place of discomfort within the other person. When you can take their action as a message that the other person is having a difficult time rather than as a personal attack, you can begin to relate to him/her differently. Doing this can open you both up, releasing defenses and leading toward communicating and connecting in a different way.

3. Really listen
We often confuse hearing for listening. Hearing is just perceiving the sounds around you. You can hear someone while typing a text on the phone. Listening is the intentional choice to fully pay attention to the other person-from the tone and texture of their voice to their emotional state and body language. Next time you ask your loved ones how their day was, make sure to really listen. Take in what they're saying without projecting what you feel or expect onto their words. Remember how you feel when someone is actually listening. Offer that to others.

4. Keep in touch with loved ones
Families need to be in touch with each other, literally. Not everyone is "touchy-feely," but touch can be soothing and communicate both a feeling and a sense of connection that words alone cannot convey. From a gentle hand on a shoulder to lingering in a hug a bit longer, see if you can reach out and touch your loved ones a little more.

5. Have an attitude of curiosity
Close family members often see each other as having a fixed identity and assume they know how the other is going to act in any given moment. By doing this you become closed to seeing each other as you really are in moment-it prevents you from having the ability to see the change that's happening as those around you grow. We're constantly changing and evolving, especially in small, subtle ways, so rather than assuming you know the other person completely, see if instead, it's possible to be open and have an attitude of curiosity. See what's new.

5 Steps to Wind Down and Fall Asleep

5 Steps to Wind Down and Fall Asleep

(Taken from -

How to stop tossing and turning and get some quality shut-eye.
By Shelby Freedman Harris

As someone who works every day with patients struggling with insomnia, the most common thing I hear is once the head hits the pillow, the brain doesn't stop. They know sleep should come, but the brain just wants to think about both pressing and mundane things, such as reviewing the day's events and tasks that need to be completed.

When we lose awareness of the present moment, our minds get stuck in maladaptive ways of thinking. For example, you might be trying to go to sleep but your mind gets lost thinking about all the groceries you need to buy. Deep, relaxed breathing is forgotten. And once you realize sleep isn't happening, your muscles tense and your thought process quickly shifts to "I'm not falling asleep! I have XYZ to do this week and I won't be able to function tomorrow." The body seizes up, breathing and heart rate can both quicken, and falling sleep becomes more difficult.

Newer models of insomnia treatment are beginning to incorporate mindfulness. Here's a grounding exercise to help you get some quality shut-eye.

1. Dim the lights 1 hour before bedtime. Start winding down the brain and body by dimming the lights. Engage in relaxing activities outside the bedroom that pass the time quietly.

2. Avoid looking at anything with a screen. Stow away your tablet, phone, computer, and TV for the night-the light can keep you awake and alert.

3. Ten minutes before bedtime, begin a focused mindfulness exercise. Sit in a comfortable chair in the same dimly lit room. Imagine the outline of your body and slowly trace it in your head. Keep in mind the amount of pressure you're feeling against the chair or the ground and be mindful of where there's more pressure and where there's less. Start with your head. Is it touching the back of the chair? How heavy does it feel against the chair, wall, or just the air? Then slowly move down to your ear, then shoulder, arm, and leg. Work down to your feet and then back up the other side of your body. Take about five minutes for this exercise.

4. If your mind begins to wander, notice that it wandered and get back on track. Try to avoid judging yourself-your mind will indeed wander; the skill lies in getting it back on track.

5. Get in bed and focus on your breath. If you are unable to fall asleep, get up, sit in the comfortable chair again and repeat the exercise. Don't get back into bed until you're sleepy-and don't sleep in the chair!

How to Say No (without Feeling Guilty)

How to Say No (without Feeling Guilty)

(Taken from -

How to Say No (without Feeling Guilty)
By Ellen Hendriksen, Ph. D.

This week's episode is for listener Stephanie from Adelaide, South Australia, who sent me a lovely email that inspired me when I was dragging.

We've all been there. We're minding our own business when we get a call, an email, or a "whaaaat's happening?" Office Space-style cubicle visit, and that other f-word gets lobbed at us: favor.

Sometimes, of course, we say yes. We're delighted to help out-it's fun, rewarding, or win-win. But sometimes we feel anything but delighted: we feel bad, obligated, resentful, or pressured. And it's almost guaranteed: we feel guilty.

So today, let's talk about why not to feel guilty when you say no to coming in on Saturday, coordinating the preschool fun fair for the third year in a row, or loaning your pickup truck to your friend who's moving this weekend. That, plus seven concrete ways to say no, from beginner to ninja.

Let's start with why you shouldn't feel guilty about saying no. First, guilt is an emotion reserved for when you do something wrong. If you hurt someone, it's appropriate to feel guilty. Now, saying no might create a little extra work for the person you're declining because now they have to ask someone else or otherwise rethink, but it falls well short of hurtful.

To make this more visual, picture a flowchart-saying no simply sends someone in a different direction. People are scrappy and creative. If you say no, they'll recalibrate and take another path. You're no Obi Wan Kenobi-seldom it is true that you're really someone's only hope. There are almost always other options out there for them and the favor they need.

Second, we often feel guilty because not only do we with think we're hurting the other person, but we expect retaliation. We think, "She's going to hate me," "He'll get mad," or "I'll get fired." Our brains jump to the worst-case scenario. So instead, let's take a step back and look at all the other, much more likely possibilities that our brains leap-frogged over on the way to the worst.

Ask yourself instead, what's a more likely scenario? Maybe your requestor will be momentarily disappointed, but understand and then get help elsewhere. Or, let's generate a most likely scenario this way: what happens when someone says no to you? Do you fly into a rage, burst blood vessels, and froth at the mouth? I'm assuming you don't. So why the double standard? Expect reasonable others to react as you do-that is to say, reasonably.

OK, now on to seven ways to say no!

Method #1: Offer an alternative. This is the easiest way to say no. Decline the request, but offer a consolation prize. "My schedule just doesn't allow me to proofread your dissertation before your deadline, but here's a link to a great article on the five biggest dissertation errors to watch out for." Just make sure you're not offering an alternative solely out of guilt-your goal is to actually be helpful to the requestor, not just to make yourself feel less guilty.

Method #2: Connect with empathy as well as saying no. Demonstrating that you've truly heard and understood the person's request can make them feel good, even if you ultimately can't take on the task. Affirm that they're working hard, or that they're dealing with a challenging task. For instance, "You're working so hard to make your sister's wedding a success; I wish I could take organizing the shower off your hands, but I just can't right now."

Method #3: Blame something objective. Make your unavailability the fault of your schedule, your workload, other duties, or another external, objective circumstance that's out of your control. And avoid the awkwardness of hearing "You're busy this week? Then how about next week?" by adding, "I'll let you know if anything changes."

Method #4: Blame something subjective. Along the same lines as blaming an external circumstance, you can blame something internal and individual to you. For instance, blame your taste, your skills, your style. For example, "I'm going to have to say no to emcee-ing the recital; being onstage just isn't my style."

Method #5: Turn it into a compliment. Say no to the request, but turn it into a compliment for the requestor. "Thanks so much for thinking of me! That's so nice of you." Or, "I appreciate the opportunity-it was so lovely of you to ask me first." Personally, I always try to do this when fundraisers stop me on the street-I won't always donate, but I always tell them they're doing important work and wish them the best of luck.

Method #6: Stick to your guns. Now we're getting more advanced. Some folks will push you and ask more than once, or will pester you to try to wear you down. (Some of these people may have an age in the single digits; two of them live in my house).

In this scenario, it's OK to use the classic Broken Record Technique-just give the same answer again and again when they ask again and again. You don't have to be soulless about it-you can empathize with them and give them a hug, but don't let your answer morph from "no" to "maybe" to "well, ok just one" to "fine go ahead." Just stick to your original "no."

Method #7: Say no without apologizing. This is graduation from 'no' school. Just like guilt, apologizing is for when you've done something wrong. It may seem like a fine line between not apologizing and being rude, but done well, "no" can be gracious and polite. Your requestor won't even miss the "I'm so sorry." For instance, "What a lovely idea to make handmade decorations for the reunion! I have to admit I'm just not the woman for that job. But I can make a mean sangria." Tah-dah! No apologies needed.

A final tip: Make your "no" swift and clear. Don't delay your answer, say you'll think about it, say maybe, or say yes and then back out. It may feel wrong to say "no," but in the long run a clear, timely answer is more polite and in your requestor's best interest.

For those of us who like to think we can do it all, starting to say "no" may come with a cost. We may not be the super mom, jack-of-all-trades, or I-can-always-count-on-you friend we've come to see ourselves as. But when we stop trying to do it all, oddly, we gain time, energy, and, best of all, respect.

The Path of Fearlessness

The Path of Fearlessness

(Taken from -

How to Say No (without Feeling Guilty)
By Leo Babauta

The more I work with people who are struggling with habits or life problems, the more I see how fears are holding us back.

Fears stop us from building healthy and productive habits. Fears cause us to procrastinate, keep us from finding work that is meaningful (or doing that work if we've found it). Fears keep us from finding friends or connecting with people on a deeper level. Fears keep us from being happy in each moment.

Underlying all of those fears are a few key fears:

  • Fear of failure or being unprepared
  • Fear of uncertainty
  • Fear of being inadequate or being rejected

The two key fears are the fears of uncertainty and not being good enough, and in my experience, they're both the same thing. We're afraid of the uncertain future (and uncertain situations) because we don't think we're good enough to handle whatever might come out of the chaos.

These two fears (uncertainty and inadequacy) affect our lives in so many ways, and yet we rarely face them. We don't want to feel these fears, so we run. We distract ourselves. We keep busy instead of being still to feel them. We find comfort in food and smoking and alcohol and TV.

In the end, the running doesn't work, but only makes things worse.

There's an alternative: the Path of Fearlessness.

Three Keys to Developing Fearlessness
We might find the freedom and joy that comes in being present with each moment.

We might find the underlying goodness that's always there in each of us.

We might be able to finally live the lives we've always wanted to live.

So how do we walk this Path of Fearlessness?

Three practices to work with:

1.) Facing the fear mindfully. The truth is, we rarely allow ourselves to feel our fears. We run from them, pretend they aren't there, distract ourselves, lash out at others, trying to find control. But we don't even admit we have these fears, most of the time, let alone actually allow ourselves to feel them. So the practice is to just sit there when you notice yourself feeling any fear, and see if you can stay with it for awhile. Don't stay with the story about the fear in your head, but rather how it feels in your body. See that it is stressful or painful or uncomfortable. Notice the particular physical feeling of this fear, this time. See if it changes. See what you can learn about it. See if you can be compassionate with it.

2.) Seeing your underlying goodness. As we sit in meditation, we can see that this moment is actually pretty wonderful. And this moment includes ourselves. We are part of the unconditional goodness of every single moment, and if we sit still we can start to feel that. There is goodness in our hearts, all the time, if we allow ourselves to feel it. There is the ability to appreciate and wonder, to feel and to love, to be present and to be grateful. Start to appreciate this, and you'll start to develop confidence that you'll be OK, even in uncertainty, even if you're being judged, even if you put yourself out there with vulnerability.

3) Embracing the joy of groundlessness. Uncertainty is scary because we don't like the feeling of not having stable ground under our feet. We want certainty, control, stability, permanence ... but life is filled with uncertainty, impermanence, shakiness, chaos. This causes the fear. Instead, we can start to embrace this uncertainty, see the beauty in impermanence, see the positivity of groundlessness. This uncertainty means we don't know what will happen, which means we can be surprised by every moment! We can be filled with curiosity about what will emerge. We can reinvent ourselves each moment, because nothing is set, nothing is determined. There is joy in this groundlessness, if we embrace it.

No, these are not easy practices. But you can practice with them right now, and set aside a few minutes each morning to practice. You'll see your confidence emerge, your fears dissipate a bit, your ability to appreciate each moment and yourself grow.

The Path of Fearlessness is one of mindfulness, of daily practice, and of finding the courage to face and push past the fears into joy.