4 Habits that Will Bring You Inner Peace

 

We all wish we had a little more inner peace in our lives.

After all, it’s hard enough to cope with the stress of workplace politics or family drama when your mind is clear and still. But when you’re trying to do it with a mind that’s buzzing with worries and insecurities, regrets and ruminations, frustrations and irritations, well… it can be overwhelming, if not completely debilitating.

But here’s the thing about true peace of mind:

Peace of mind is not something you do or find immediately. It’s something that’s cultivated slowly and intentionally.

If you want to cultivate a calmer, gentler, and more peaceful mind, these four habits are a good place to start.

1. Talk About How You Feel

Because painful emotions feel bad, our natural instinct is to avoid them… Naturally!

The only trouble is…

When you constantly run away from your emotions, you teach your brain that emotions are bad.

But painful emotions are bad, right?

Not exactly.

Think about it:

When you touch a hot pan on the stove, is the pain bad? Nope, not at all. Even though pain feels bad, it’s actually good! Pain is a messenger telling you to move your hand so you avoid the real danger — tissue damage resulting from third-degree burns.

Well, emotions work the same way.

Emotions themselves are not bad or dangerous. They’re just messengers trying to communicate something to you.

Just because your emotions feel bad doesn’t mean they are bad.

But if you treat your painful emotions like enemies by running away from them or trying to eliminate them, you train your brain to see them that way in the future — and this only makes you more reactive to them and keeps your mind constantly stressed out and worried.

Luckily, you can counteract this effect by doing the opposite:

By welcoming and expressing your emotions, instead of running away from them, you teach your brain to be calmer in the face of difficult feelings.

“Feelings are something you have; not something you are.

― Shannon L. Alder

2. Practice Feeling Bad on Purpose

We all feel bad sometimes:

  • We get a surge of anxiety or fear.
  • We go from on top of the world to grumpy and irritable in just a few minutes.
  • We feel sad and just can’t seem to shake it.

Painful emotions are unavoidable. But here’s the thing…

Life goes on whether you feel good or not.

Time passes, opportunities come and go, and our lives march forward whether we’re feeling good or feeling miserable:

  • If you wait to work on that novel you’ve been wanting to write until you feel “truly inspired,” it’s never going to happen (and you’re gonna feel bad about yourself in the meantime).
  • If you wait to start that new business you’ve dreamed of until you’re feeling confident enough, it’s never going to happen (and you’re gonna feel bad about yourself in the meantime).
  • If you wait to tell your kids you love them until it feels more natural, it’s never gonna happen (and you’re gonna feel bad about yourself in the meantime).

Many people can’t find inner peace because their minds are flooded with regrets about all the things they didn’t do.

The antidote, painful as it may sound, is to learn how to do what matters regardless of how you feel. This is the only way to stop the constant stream of regrets and disappointments.

Easier said than done of course. Obviously, it’s easier to go to the gym if you’re feeling energized, just like it’s easier to ask out that cute guy when you’re feeling confident.

And while hard things will always be hard, you can make them a lot less hard with practice. Specifically, you can practice doing things despite not wanting to.

Like an athlete building up endurance and strength, the more you practice feeling bad emotionally, the more tolerance to it you will build.

To free your mind from the constant stress of regret, practice doing important things no matter how you feel.

The next time you want to work toward a goal but don’t feel like it, ask yourself this question:

Should I look at feeling bad as an obstacle or as an opportunity to train?

“The only whole heart is the broken one because it lets the light in.”

— David Wolpe

3. Update Your Expectations

I think most of us know that overly-high expectations of people aren’t a great idea:

  • Expecting that your spouse will always be in a good mood is a set-up for excessive irritability and resentment.
  • Expecting that your employees will always act in the company’s best interest is a set up for excessive frustration and disappointment.
  • Expecting that your plans will always go well is a set up for excessive anxiety and stress.

Because here’s the thing about expectations….

The world and most of the people in it are surprisingly indifferent to your expectations.

This means that much of the time your expectations are going to be violated. And when that happens, you’re going to be chronically surprised — and not in a good way!

The issue is that surprise is like an emotional amplifier:

  • Seeing your spouse in a bad mood may be mildly disappointing. But seeing your spouse in a bad mood when you expected them to be in a good one is majorly disappointing.
  • Having your plans not work out is frustrating. But having them not work out after convincing yourself that they would is going to be majorly frustrating.

If you want more peace of mind, you must let go of unrealistic expectations for people.

Of course, you can’t just eradicate your expectations entirely. They have their uses now and then. The trick is to get in the habit of examining your expectations regularly and, if needed, updating them.

Life and other people will always disappoint you. But you’ll be a lot less disappointed if you stop expecting the world of them.

Make time to update your expectations regularly and you’ll be far more calm and peaceful for it.

“We have to be willing to confront the world as it is, not as we want it to be if we’re going to be successful.”

— Barry McCarthy

4. Enforce Healthy Boundaries

When I first drafted this article, the title of this section as “Set and Enforce Healthy Boundaries”

But let’s be honest, setting healthy boundaries isn’t really the problem…

  • It’s not that hard to ask your boss to stop emailing you on the weekends.
  • It’s not that hard to tell your adult child to get a job and move out.
  • It’s not that hard to tell yourself to go to the gym after work.

Sure, setting healthy boundaries can be a little uncomfortable. But the real issue here is enforcing the healthy boundaries you do set.

Because here’s the deal…

Setting a boundary and not enforcing it is worse than not setting it in the first place.

Think about it:

  • What are you teaching your boss if you tell her you don’t want to be emailed on the weekends but then go ahead and respond to her weekend emails anyway? You’re teaching her to not take your requests seriously.
  • What are you teaching your adult child if you tell them they need to get a job and move out but keep letting them live for free in your house and subsidizing their video game addiction? You’re teaching him that your requests aren’t actually all that important.
  • What are you teaching your own brain if you keep committing to starting a new workout regimen but then never following through on it? You’re teaching yourself that your goals don’t really matter to you and that you’re not a very reliable person.

Setting boundaries without enforcing them is just another form of self-sabotage.

The next time you think about making a serious request of someone or setting a new boundary, think carefully about what it will really take to enforce that boundary.

Because if you don’t, you’re training the people in your life not to respect you. And worse, you’re destroying your own self-respect. Both of which will lead to a lot of unnecessary emotional pain and mental stress.

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

— Greg McKeown

19 Beautiful Islands In Greece You Have To Visit

Greece is one of those countries that you’ll never get bored of visiting. With thousands of little islands and the gorgeous mainland, it’s a place that just gets better with every trip. That’s what makes a trip to some of the most beautiful islands in Greece a necessity.

With stunning islands like Kefalonia, to the big (and gorgeous) islands like Crete – each one has its own particular charm, mountains of yummy Greek food to devour, and plenty of stunning beaches to take a dip.

Oh yeah, and if you’re looking for someone to carry your luggage whilst you’re there, just pop me a message! I’m already itching to go back. Ha! 🤣

Take a look of 19 of the very best and beautiful islands in Greece you should visit this year. You’ll love it!

1.) Santorini

 

Yeah, I know… I’m probably starting with the most obvious of Greek islands, but with good reason. I’m pretty sure Santorini is the most famous and possibly the most beautiful islands in Greece.

With its clifftop villages and amazing views, it’s one of the unique Greek Islands that has been massively shaped by a volcanic eruption a few thousand years ago. Legend has it that the island is actually the home of Atlantis which was devoured by the sea quite a few millennia ago.

Whatever the case, you’re going to love it. Make sure to try some of the tasty dishes on the island and explore some of the prettiest sites to see once you’ve arrived.

2.) Mykonos

Mykonos is a stunner of a place, especially with all the little coves and quaint towns (that are soooo picturesque).

Make sure to wander around the cobbled streets of Mykonos Town, head over to Delos Island on a Kaiki (small boat) and visit the monastery of Panagia Tourliani. Oh yeah, don’t forget to see the island’s famous windmills too! They’re gorgeous at sunset.

For a tasty bite, head over to M-eating for some of their freshly caught sea bass. It really is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you should explore.

3.) Corfu

Perched on the west side of Greece, Corfu is one of the larger northerly islands you should definitely visit.

Now, there’s a common misconception that Corfu is all about package holidays and boozy lads nights out. This couldn’t be further from the truth for the majority of the island. Yes, there are a few areas that cater to the party crowd but the vast majority of the island is so gorgeous and the ideal spot for us travellers to explore.

Make sure to visit the dramatic Cape Drastis, visit the Vlacherna Monastery and see the stunning canal d’Amour.

4.) Crete

Crete is, without a doubt, the largest of the beautiful islands in Greece you should visit.

The best thing about Crete is that there’s so much to see, meaning you can easily justify a week or two just on the island itself. Heck, go for a month if you want!

Whilst you’re exploring the island, head over to Spinalonga Island to see the historic fort, take a boat to the isolated Greek village of Loutro and ramble around Balos Lagoon. You’ll get some epic views.

 

5.) Rhodes

Rhodes was the first ever Greek island I’d ever visited… and what an introduction it was. whilst you’re there, hop over to the village of Lindos, see the Acropolis and the medieval sites within the old town itself.

For some of the tastiest dishes, pop into Ta Kardasia if you’re hankering for some authentic Greek food. They make the best moussaka in all of Rhodes.

6.) Amorgos

Part of the Cyclades island group, Amorgos is one of those islands that’s a little off-the-beaten-track, especially compared to places like Santorini.

The best thing about Amorgos is that you can literally spend your trip on ‘island time’, chilling out, gorging on the fresh seafood that arrives every morning and seeing the stunning sites like; Hozoviotissa, the monastery on the cliffs.

For the best appaki chicken, head over to Chora and the restaurant of TranzisToRaki. Just make sure to arrive early, or be prepared to wait for a table. This place does get busy with locals and visitors alike.

7.) Zakynthos

Perched within the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos is one stunning island to visit. With places like Navagio Beach, the Blue Caves and Porto Limnionas, you’ll be spoilt for choice in places to explore.

Of course, most of us travellers to the island will definitely want to see Navagio Beach, meaning there’ll be lots of boat tours to get to the beach itself.

The waters really are stunningly blue and you’ll get some of the best views you could wish for. As a popular spot, expect it to get a little crowded but it’s a must-see spot whilst you’re on the island.

Don’t forget to visit the nearby Marathonisi Island, too.

8.) Kefalonia

Another gorgeous spot in the Ionian Sea, Kefalonia is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you should definitely visit.

Make sure to visit the historic hilly capital of Argostoli, explore the stunning Melissani Cave and visit Myrtos Beach too.

Although you’re not allowed to swim in Melissani Cave, you can still take a boat tour of this stunning place.

It has to be seen to be believed.

9.) Lefkada

Lefkada is one of only a handful of beautiful islands in Greece that is reachable from the mainland by road. Nestled just off the coast and connected by a bridge and causeway, it’s a really special island to visit especially after exploring the gorgeous spots in mainland Greece. You’ll find it’s quite a bit quieter (with visitors) than lots of the other Greek islands, too.

Spend your days taking a well-earned dip at Porto Katsiki and gorge on all the food at Basilico Restaurant (in Nidri) who cook the best-grilled calamari.

10.) Paros

Nestled in the Aegean Sea, Paros Island is about 80 km north of Santorini. Spend some time in the Old Port of Naoussa, take a dip at Kolymbithres Beach and gorge at the Markakis Restaurant (in Piso Livadi).

You really won’t find a more authentic Greek taverna.

11.) Andros

Andros is quite a mountainous and dramatic island you will want to visit. With a whole heap of mountain ranges and rugged coastal villages, you’ll definitely find Andros a throwback to times gone by. For a gorgeous, sandy beach, head to Agios Petros. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to explore some historical sites make sure to visit the Monastery of Panachrantos.

Also, if you want to feed your inner explorer spirit – pop down to the dramatic Cave Foros. It really is a stunner.

12.) Milos

Pretty close to Crete, Milos is a stunning little volcanic island that really reminds me of Santorini – especially with the dramatic covers and cliffs.

One of my favourite spots, especially for a little chill time is Firopotamos. It’s a great place for a dip. For dinner with a view, pop into Ergina Restuarant. You won’t be disappointed.

13.) Antipaxos

Antipaxos is a tiny little island with only around 20 people living on it, so expect a warm welcome! One of the easiest ways to get to Antipaxos is from Paxos Island itself (which is about 2km away) which is a pretty easy ride as long as you can rent a boat.

Now, the island really is tiny, so you might want to consider a visit for a day trip, especially in the summer months when the beaches and scenery are just too good to miss.

14.) Syros

Syros is a popular little island for city dwellers in Athens to head to for a little break and it’s easy to know why. This is a gorgeous island to explore. Wander around the narrow streets of Hermoupolis, see the pretty Apollon Theatre and head to Allou Yialou for some typical island food.

15.) Inouses

Inouses island is only about 3 km from mainland Turkey and is tiny in comparison to islands like Crete but that shouldn’t stop you visiting. The island is totally beautiful! You can even rent a boat and skipper and visit Pasas for a day trip too.

Just make sure to take lots of supplies like water and grub. It’s great for a little getaway.

16.) Lesbos

Lesbos is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you have to make time for. I mean, where else can you explore Molivos Castle, see a petrified forest and visit an Ouzo distillery (in Plomari).

For a pretty place to eat (with tasty food), head to Tropicana (in Molyvos) where they serve the best-roasted lamb and plums.  You’ll love it.

17.) Skiathos

Skiathos is one of the smaller Greek islands that’s great to visit for a relaxing break. After spending your days relaxing on Lalaria Beach, pop over to Il Kastro to watch the sunset and gorge on all the delicious Greek food in one of the hundreds of little tavernas.

The Windmill Restaurant (in Skiathos Town) is stunning if you’re looking for a special dining experience.

18.) Kea

Often forgotten by many visitors to Greece, Kea is a charming little island that’ll whisk you away to a more down-to-earth and local experience.

Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Lion of Kea. Don’t worry though, he’s made of stone! 🦁

19.) Symi

The colourful house of Symi is as picturesque as they come and easily up there as one of the beautiful islands in Greece to visit.

Quite a bit away from the white-washed houses of Santorini, Symi is a colourful affair filled with oodles of charm that I know you’ll love.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ask for Approval from Anyone

Are you one off those people who constantly need approval from everyone they know? Don’t you know that this is a damaging habit that will only add more stress to your decision making process and make it harder for you to do whatever it is that you want to do in life? Why do you think that other people should get a say in what you do or don’t do in life? By seeking approval from others you basically give them the power over your life and that’s completely and utterly wrong. It will not do you any good, on the contrary, it can only bring you misery and discontent so you need to stop doing it.

No one should have the power to decide what’s good for you and what’s not, other than yourself and here are a few other reasons that will convince you to never ask for approval from anyone but yourself.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ask for Approval from Anyone

You make your own happiness

It’s true that the people we love and care about make our life happier, but they aren’t the ones that make or break your happiness, you’re the only one responsible for that. Your happiness shouldn’t depend on what others think about you or what others say about you, you shouldn’t care about that. If you let your actions be guided by other people’s approval, you’ll never be truly happy. Remember that at the end of the day you are the one who needs to live with his decisions and you are the one who needs to be comfortable with them. No one else can know what you want in life better than yourself, so don’t worry about other people and make your own happiness. Remain true to yourself and to what makes you happy and make sure you follow that path.

You control your own life

You don’t just make your own happiness; you control your own life as well. Stop rushing to other people, asking for permission to do something, remember that you are your own master and you should decide what’s best for you. Listen to your heart and you’ll get all the guidance you need, from within. You are stronger than you think and wiser than you believe, you just need to let yourself follow your passion. People don’t know what they truly want to do with their own life, how can they know your life path? Trust yourself and let your soul guide you on this journey we call life.

You’re wasting precious time

Do you always run to your friends or family members whenever you need to make a decision about something? Can you imagine how much time you spend trying to convince everyone that you’re right or getting them to see things your way? And why? Just so that you’re sure in your actions, in your decisions? Asking other people’s approval only makes it tougher for you to reach a decision and it’s truly time-consuming. You’re wasting precious time; time that you could spend doing something you enjoy.

Don’t rely on others to support you, be your own biggest support. It’s OK to share your plans with your loved ones, but just that, inform them of your decision and don’t ask for their approval of support.

You can truly be free only if you rely solely on yourself

Can you imagine making a huge decision that will change your life all by yourself? Not to consult with anyone, not to ask for anyone’s advice, just follow your heart and gut? Yes, it’s possible to do it and you have everything you need to make this decision you just need to follow your gut instinct.

We can all be truly free only if we rely on ourselves and only if we know that we can make big changes in life without seeking anyone’s approval. It may seem scary at first but try it out, it’s so liberating. Rise to your potential and seize the day – that’s when you’ll experience true freedom.

Don’t even try to please everyone, it’s impossible

It’s completely normal to have people who don’t agree with what you say or what you do, that doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong. You just have different views and opinions in life and that’s all that is. If you try to please everyone and get everyone to like, you’ll end up feeling miserable because you’ll fail spectacularly. It’s absolutely impossible to get everyone to agree with you and you need to accept this and not let it affect your life. Moreover, the sooner you stop trying to please everyone, the sooner you’ll be happy.

This is the most fun way to make your life awesome (pandemic edition)

It was 1962, the girls wouldn’t stop laughing and nobody knew why.

And even stranger, the laughter was spreading. Like a virus.

This was at an all-girls school in Kashasha, Tanzania. A few students had started laughing and they couldn’t stop. And this inexplicable behavior spread from girl to girl until 95 of the 159 students were affected. After 6 weeks the school had to close because of it. But that didn’t stop the laughter.

It had already spread to a neighboring village, Nshamba. 217 more girls afflicted. And then it spread to Bukoba, “infecting” 48 more girls.

All told this “outbreak” lasted 18 months, closed 14 schools, and affected over 1000 children.

Sound crazy? It’s true. While certainly uncommon, this kind of thing is not unheard of. During the Middle Ages there were outbreaks of “choreomania” – uncontrollable, infectious dancing that spread throughout Europe sometimes affecting tens of thousands of people at a time. And, no, I’m not making that up either.

Viruses aren’t the only things that spread through networks of people. Attitudes and behaviors do too. Yale professor Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, has studied how this works. A network can perpetuate anything in it: not just fads, fashion, and trends, but happiness, unhappiness, kindness and cruelty can also spread like a disease. When I spoke to Nicholas, here’s what he told me:

We’ve shown that altruistic behavior ripples through networks and so does meanness. Networks will magnify whatever they are seeded with. They will magnify Ebola and fascism and unhappiness and violence, but also they will magnify love and altruism and happiness and information.

A happy friend increases the likelihood of you being happy by 9%. An unhappy friend means a 7% decrease. Yes, happiness is more contagious than unhappiness. It’s the scientific version of karma. With the effect spanning out three degrees, there’s a good chance making a small effort to make friends happier will flow back to you. Nicholas found that if a friend became happy in the past six months there’s a 45% chance your happiness will increase. Neat, huh?

Hold that thought, I’ve got a second story for you:

Julius Wagner-Jauregg won a Nobel Prize in 1927 for “pyrotherapy.” Other than having the coolest name in all of medicine, pyrotherapy would go on to save tens of thousands of lives. This was before antibiotics, when syphilis was a scourge. There was no cure for it. But there was a cure for malaria. Here’s the thing: the bacterium that causes syphilis really doesn’t like heat. Meanwhile, malaria causes high fevers. So Wagner-Jauregg deliberately infected syphilis patients with malaria. The high fever killed the syphilis. Then you treat the malaria. Patient recovers from both. Triple word score.

Clever stories. But what’s this all mean?

A network can spread a virus — but it can also spread happiness, help, gratitude and optimism.

You can use one infection to fight another. “Fight fire with fire.”

So what if we start our own “pandemic” and use it to fight the current one?

It’s just a metaphor but that’s okay; I recently had my poetic license renewed at the DMV. Look, I’m in no way suggesting that spreading happiness and kindness right now is magically going to kill COVID-19. And I do not want to make light of something so serious.

But we need to stay positive, optimistic and hopeful to keep fighting this. We need to help each other. We need to protect our health, but to do that we have to protect our mental health, our spirit and soul to stay resilient.

Our ancestors didn’t climb their way to the top of the food chain to have their spirits broken by a few rogue strands of debatably-alive RNA. We’re not giving up hope. Humanity is not just going to crawl back into the primordial slime and close the door behind us. We can’t let this get us down or tear us apart.

So let’s start our own pandemic of positive emotions to keep our spirits strong for the battle ahead. We’ll fight fire with fire. We’ll spread connection, help, gratitude and optimism. And we’ll win.

Ready to get infectious?

1) Spread Connection

70% of your happiness comes from your relationships with other people.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:

Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996

But with social distancing, some of us now have zero people around us. (Even yours truly lives alone.) And extended time without social contact is bad. Very bad.

Even months after they were released, MRIs of prisoners of war in the former Yugoslavia showed the gravest neurological damage in those prisoners who had been locked in solitary confinement. “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic head injury,” Gawande concludes.
Loneliness is the equivalent of being punched in the face. And that, dear reader, is not a metaphor.

Your stress response to both — the increase in your body’s cortisol level — is the same.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

Feeling lonely, it turned out, caused your cortisol levels to absolutely soar—as much as some of the most disturbing things that can ever happen to you. Becoming acutely lonely, the experiment found, was as stressful as experiencing a physical attack. It’s worth repeating. Being deeply lonely seemed to cause as much stress as being punched by a stranger.

We may be quarantined and cut off from others to varying degrees, but this doesn’t mean we need to be lonely. Sound weird? It’s not. Stick with me.

Ever felt lonely in a crowd or lonely at a party? Yeah. The late John Cacioppo was the leading expert on loneliness. He said feeling lonely isn’t caused by the mere absence of people. We feel lonely because we’re not sharing with others, not connecting with them. That’s why you can be surrounded by people and still experience loneliness.

So reach out. Our new pandemic of positivity needs to spread that feeling of connection far and wide.

Send a text. Pick up the phone. Do a video call. Smoke signals and semaphore. Whatever. Just let people know you care and are thinking about them.

Have any of your relationships fallen dormant? Time for a reboot. Estranged from anyone? The force majeure clause has just been engaged. Reconnect.

You know how good it feels to be connected to others? Research does. It feels pretty close to an extra $76,856 a year:

So, an individual who only sees his or her friends or relatives less than once a month to never at all would require around an extra £63,000 a year to be just as satisfied with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.

Reach out and tell people you’re thinking of them. We have the most powerful communication tools ever known to man at our fingertips, for free, 24/7. COVID-19 needs face-to-face contact to spread. Our pandemic of positivity doesn’t.

We have the advantage.

(To learn more about how to make friends as an adult, click here.)

Just connecting with others is huge. But our pandemic can do more to “fight fire with fire” and mitigate that other one…

2) Spread Help

Ask people if they need anything. Others might need a little more than well-wishes right now.

Everybody should be doing this. Everybody. Yes, even selfish people. Because being a little selfless can actually be the best way to be selfish.

As University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, one of the leading experts on happiness, explains in his book, Flourish:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

And what if you’re not only selfish but you’re also a narcissistic braggart? No problem at all. I encourage you to tell others about how much you’re helping and get credit for it. Yes, really.

When people see others helping, they’re more likely to help. Infect others with the altruistic spirit. Altruism is deeply wired into us as mammals. Even rats (yes, rats) believe in paying it forward.

From The Price of Altruism:

A recent study in rats showed that the more a rat benefits from the altruism of a stranger rat, the more he will later act benevolently towards stranger rats himself.

And on the flip side, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it right now.

Most of us (well, the non-selfish, not narcissistic ones) never want to be a burden to others but research shows we vastly underestimate how willing others are to lend a hand:

A series of studies tested whether people underestimate the likelihood that others will comply with their direct requests for help. In the first 3 studies, people underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help, across a range of requests occurring in both experimental and natural field settings.

Spread help. Spread word that you’re helping to encourage others to help. And ask for help where you need it. Keep the lines of communication flowing so that we can all be getting what we need right now.

(To learn the two-word morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)

So what can we spread that makes us all happier — while also strengthening the bonds of a relationship?

3) Spread Gratitude

Gratitude is the undisputed heavyweight champ of happiness. What’s the research say? Can’t be more clear than this:

…the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.

I know, some are saying there is very little to be grateful for right now. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not but guess what?

Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts, says UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb.

Via The Upward Spiral:

It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

Spread the gratitude. Sending a thank you text is an awesome way to make two people happy and spread our pandemic of positivity.

Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Achor has tested this — and it works. Here’s Shawn:

The simplest thing you can do is a two-minute email praising or thanking one person that you know. We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft. We had them write a two-minute email praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row. That’s it. What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations.

And don’t forget about the people you might be quarantined with. Right now some of us are participating in a 24/7 involuntary reality show with our spouses that can put a strain on any partnership.

So don’t forget to show them some gratitude too. Research by Eli Finkel at Northwestern shows when even just one of you feels gratitude, both of you are more satisfied with the relationship. How’s that for a bargain?

I know, people often mumble a perfunctory “thanks” and it doesn’t mean much, right? True. That’s why it’s important to dig deep and really feel grateful for what your spouse or partner has done.

Research shows it’s not the words that count — it really is that feeling:

…results indicate that one’s felt and expressed gratitude both significantly relate to one’s own marital satisfaction. Cross-partner analyses indicate that the individual’s felt gratitude also predicts the spouse’s satisfaction, whereas surprisingly his or her expressed gratitude does not.

(To learn how to use gratitude to make yourself happier, click here.)

What can we spread that not only makes us all happier but increases grit and even makes us luckier?

4) Spread Optimism

Research shows being optimistic increases happiness, health, resilience and even luck. (Yes, luck — because optimism boosts openness which leads to new opportunities that don’t happen when you say no to everything.)

Some will say there’s a danger in being overly optimistic, that we could go full pollyanna and not take problems seriously. And you know what? They’re right. We need to be careful with optimism so that we don’t neglect serious concerns. Penn professor Martin Seligman has a method to help you strike the balance:

Whenever you’re unsure if optimism is the right way to handle something ask yourself: “What’s the cost of being wrong here?”

Via Learned Optimism:

The fundamental guideline for not deploying optimism is to ask what the cost of failure is in the particular situation. If the cost of failure is high, optimism is the wrong strategy. The pilot in the cockpit deciding whether to de-ice the plane one more time, the partygoer deciding whether to drive home after drinking, the frustrated spouse deciding whether to start an affair that, should it come to light, would break up the marriage should not use optimism. Here the costs of failure are, respectively, death, an auto accident, and a divorce. Using techniques that minimize those costs is inappropriate. On the other hand, if the cost of failure is low, use optimism.

For instance, if you’re having serious illness symptoms, don’t be optimistic that they’ll clear up on their own and avoid medical care. But if the cost of being wrong is just a minor feeling of disappointment that things didn’t go your way, right now it’s better to stay positive.

And spread that positivity. The resilience-boosting effects of optimism are so strong the US military implemented a plan to teach optimistic thinking to soldiers. And we could all use a little extra resilience right now.

What’s the best way to keep others’ spirits high? Make’em laugh. Humor provides a powerful buffer against stress and fear.

Via Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool:

“Humor is about playing with ideas and concepts,” said Martin, who teaches at the University of Western Ontario. “So whenever we see something as funny; we’re looking at it from a different perspective. When people are trapped in a stressful situation and feeling overwhelmed, they’re stuck in one way of thinking: ‘This is terrible. I’ve got to get out of here.’ But if you can take a humorous perspective, then by definition you’re looking at it differently — you’re breaking out of that rigid mind-set.”

(To learn how to be more optimistic, click here.)

Okay, we’ve covered a lot. Time to round it up. And we’ll also learn what science says is the question that best predicts whether you will be alive and happy at age 80…

Sum Up

This is how we can start a pandemic of positivity:

  • Spread Connection: Just let people know you’re thinking of them and they are meaningful to you.
  • Spread Help: Offer help where you can and ask for it if you need it.
  • Spread Gratitude: Say thanks. And really feel it.
  • Spread Optimism: If the cost of being wrong is low, let yourself believe things will turn out right.

So what does Penn professor Martin Seligman say is the magic question that best predicts if you’ll be alive and happy at age 80?

“Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to?”

If your answer is yes, you will likely live longer than someone whose answer is no. For George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who discovered this fact, the master strength is the capacity to be loved.

Our relationships to other people are often the key to our survival and happiness. That’s something we need to remember right now.

And it’s an idea we need to spread.

So from me to you:

I hope you’re doing well right now.

I hope this blog post has helped you.

Thank you for reading this.

And I really do believe things are going to be better soon.

And with those 4 sentences, hopefully I have spread connection, help, gratitude and optimism to you.

I am proud to be Patient Zero in our new pandemic of positivity.

Now go spread good feelings to the people that you love. We all need them right now.

How Reading Books Helps Your Brain Recharge

It may seem counterintuitive, but absorbing information through old-fashioned books gives your brain a break.

 

Imagine being the founder of not one but two companies dedicated to books and not finding the time to read any. That’s the situation that Hugh McGuire, founder of LibriVox and Pressbooks, found himself in a few years ago. Like many of us, he was battling an onslaught of digital information, and his beloved paperbacks were collecting dust. After a while, though, he realized he sorely missed the quiet time he used to spend with a book in hand. He also realized that he was tired all the time, and struggling to focus in every area of life.

Writing for Harvard Business Review, he explained:

“I was distracted when at work, distracted when with family and friends, constantly tired, irritable, and always swimming against a wash of ambient stress induced by my constant itch for digital information. My stress had an electronic feel to it, as if it was made up of the very bits and bytes on my screens.”

He found that a slower form of information, books, was the antidote to his information overload. So he made them part of his routine again. According to McGuire, “Reading books again has given me more time to reflect, to think, and has increased both my focus and the creative mental space to solve work problems.”

As any entrepreneur will tell you, problem-solving is critical for launching or running a business. But so is giving our busy brains a rest, and books help with that too. According to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, focused reading uses about 42 calories per hour, whereas absorbing new information (e.g., scanning Twitter or the news headlines) burns around 65 calories per hour.

Research has found that reading novels improves our brain functions on a variety of levels, including the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and flex your imagination. It also boosts our innovative thinking skills. Take it from Elon Musk, arguably one of the most innovative minds of our time. He’s said that growing up, he spent more than 10 hours a day pouring through science fiction novels. In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation is necessary for any business to stay competitive.

Reading is the best, not to mention the easiest, way to shore up our creative thinking and give our brains a break from digital overload — which, according to a 2019 Workplace Productivity Report, more than half of the workforce experiences. With that in mind, here are some strategies for making quality reading time a part of your daily routine.

1. Stash your devices

It seems simple, but detaching from our phones and tablets is often easier said than done. New information — like the ping of a new DM or refreshing our Twitter feed — triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brains.

On top of that, our devices are designed to be addictive: Just ask a slew of former Silicon Valley big wigs, like Google’s former in-house ethicist, Tristan Harris, who have become whistleblowers for the addictive and unhealthy nature of our phones. Even the guy who literally wrote the book on getting people addicted — Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” — has done a 180°. More recently, he wrote a book with the opposite sentiment of his former title: “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.” It’s a guide to freeing people from the pull of their devices.

Say what you will about Eyal’s flip-flopping, his book includes smart tips for maintaining your attention: like don’t hang out on Slack, limit meetings to just one laptop, and keep your phone on silent. I like to go one step further by putting my phone completely out of sight — in a drawer or even another room — when I need uninterrupted focus time.

It’s impossible to concentrate and fully immerse yourself in a book when you’re constantly checking your messages. So stick with the old adage: out of sight, out of mind.

Related: Low Productivity? You May Need a Digital Detox.

2. If you don’t have hours, read in short intervals

As CEO of my online form company, I don’t have uninterrupted hours each day to dedicate to reading. But as Wharton professor Adam Grant writes, “Leaders who don’t have time to read are leaders who don’t make time to learn.”

If the most successful entrepreneurs manage to find the time, I can, too. Sometimes, that means being a little thrifty: like reading in short bursts throughout the day — on the way to work or waiting in line at the coffee shop. Or, instead of zoning out with Netflix before bed, try squeezing in a few chapters.

What’s more, research has found that we retain more information when we learn in short, spaced-out intervals, rather than trying to cram it all in at once.

If you’re struggling to concentrate or just having an off-day, the Pomodoro Technique can be highly effective. It entails setting a timer for 25 minutes, committing to concentrating during that time period, then giving yourself five minutes to do anything — grab a snack, take a quick stroll or something else non-work-related. Once you’ve completed four “pomodoros,” you can give yourself a longer break.

Even if you only do one or two pomodoros, you’ll be surprised at how the time flies.

Related: Reading One Book a Week Won’t Make You Successful

3. Choose your material thoughtfully

It’s no surprise that if you choose something you genuinely enjoy, you’ll be more likely to follow through with it. Plus, fully immersing yourself in one captivating book will give you so much more than speeding through a dozen books while your mind wanders elsewhere. Only when we’re fully absorbed can we reach that priceless state of flow: the “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”

Colleagues often tell me that it’s too difficult or time-consuming to find great books. True enough, there are thousands of titles to choose from. That’s why I recommend delegating the legwork. See who your favorite authors or experts are reading. You can puruse Adam Grant’s favorite leadership books or author Steven Pinker’s ten titles he’d take to a desert island. I also like using What Should I Read Next, a website that uses a huge database to offer recommendations based on books you’ve already enjoyed.

Simply put: For productive, intelligent leaders, reading books is literally the oldest trick in the book. It gives your brain a chance to recharge and absorb new information, and there’s no hacking your way out that.

The Happiest and Healthiest Beach Towns in America

News flash: Being near the beach is good for you (says science!). But, according to a report, some beach towns might actually be better for your health than others. Gallup-Sharecare polled more than 337,000 people across the country on their life satisfaction—from physical well-being to the amount of time they spend worrying—and it seems saltwater therapy might actually pay off (plus a margarita every now and then—that helps, too!). Of the top 25 cities with the highest well-being, 10 of them are on the coast. See which beach towns made the cut:

10. Crestview – Fort Walton Beach Destin, Florida 

The 25 best cities to move to if you want to be happy

Would you be happier if you lived somewhere else?

According to a new survey of a half-million people across the nation, those who call Boulder, Colorado home reported being the happiest in the country — based on 15 different categories ranging from physical activity and healthy eating to vacation time and financial stability.

The list of the 25 Happiest Places in the United States, produced by National Geographic in connection with author Dan Buettner — whose book Blue Zones of Happiness shares advice from happy people around the globe — and national polling organization Gallup, lays out the top places where you can be surrounded by chipper, cheerful people.

Here are the 25 happiest places in the country

Boulder, Colorado

“Bolstered by a sense of community, access to nature, sustainable urban development and preservation policies, and perhaps even that clean mountain air, Boulderites overwhelmingly feel ‘active and productive every day,’” National Geographic concluded. “Per capita, more people walk to work in Boulder than in any other city in the U.S. Low rates of smoking and obesity, and high rates of exercise, contribute to the satisfaction locals feel.”

Santa Cruz-Watsonville

With the nation’s oldest amusement park and extensive coastal access, Santa Cruz is a paradise for surfers and beach-goers. It’s also a short distance from the area’s breathtaking redwood forests.

Charlottesville, Virginia

 

 

Recent controversial protests notwithstanding, Charlottesville ranked high on the National Geographic/Gallup poll in terms of overall happiness — both for its educational outposts of the University of Virginia as well as its access to the picturesque and hike-friendly Blue Ridge Mountains.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Fort Collins has a wealth of natural beauty, including Arapaho national forest, the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, with waterfalls, and abundant hiking, biking and water sport activities. In addition, according to National Geographic, Fort Collins’ Old Town storefronts inspired the creators of Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A.

San Luis Obispo, California

With endless hiking trails, artists studios and outdoor markets — as well as a famous Bubblegum Alley where the walls are covered with, you guessed it, chewed bubblegum — San Luis Obispo is a hub of happiness.

San Jose, California

The epicenter of Silicon Valley, San Jose features a host of outdoor recreational facilities as well as the legendary Winchester mystery house, wildlife habitats and museums.

Provo, Utah

Provo boasts access to picturesque mountains, waterfalls and ample hiking, as well as museums and dining options.

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut

This metro area is just 40 miles from NYC, has plentiful public transportation, and features the highest concentration of corporations in the nation, according to National Geographic.

Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

Located on Cape Cod, Barnstable Town is a recreational paradise where residents and visitors can whale watch, boat, golf, check out wildlife sanctuaries and visit museums and historical sites

Anchorage, Alaska

In addition to being one of the happiest cities, Anchorage also was recently named one of the most hard working cities in the nation.

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida

This coastal town is known as much for its high-end real estate as for its pristine beaches, not to mention its upscale shopping. It also features botanical gardens, zoos and state parks.

Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California

The coastal town is flanked by the Santa Ynez mountains, features architecture dating back to its former Spanish inhabitants and has a stretch of beaches and quick proximity to a host of California wine tours.

Salinas, California

Located just south of the Bay area, Salinas was home to author John Steinbeck and boasts a museum in his honor, along with a number of parks, zoos and gardens.

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu’s reputation as a paradise is borne out by its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, as well as by abundant natural treasures including volcanoes, parks and hiking.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan and a collection of museums, botanical gardens and arboretums.

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California

The picturesque west coast city — which has been the set of countless movies and TV shows — offers abundant recreational options for those who love the outdoors as well as rich culinary and cultural offerings.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

The stunning natural beauty of Colorado comes through again in Colorado Springs, located at the base of the Rockies and near the glacier-carved Pikes Peak. The town also boasts the Garden of the Gods, a park with red sandstone rock formations.

Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire

The riverfront town is home to The Currier Museum of Art, which lays claim to original Picasso and Georgia O’Keefe works, a Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building, and historic sites tracing the town’s history as a manufacturing and textile hub.

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California

This coastal town has beaches for sunning, surfing and windsurfing and an historic main street with churches that dates back to 1809. You can also take an easy day trip to Channel Islands National Park, where wildlife including seals, foxes and birds await along with caves to explore.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, District of Columbia/Virginia

While its role as the seat of government gets all the attention, the greater Washington D.C.-Virginia area is a walkable city with many hiking, biking and walking trails and access to nightlife and dining. Locals are surrounded by museums, historical sites and public transportation

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota/Wisconsin

Home to the Mall of America, the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area also includes a sea life aquarium, football, hockey and cultural hotspots including the Walker Art Center sculpture garden.

San Diego-Carlsbad, California

The coastal city is home to a collection of surfing beaches, gorgeous flower fields with acres of seasonal wildflowers, and a Legoland California theme park.

Portland, Maine

The port city is a hub of culture, history and natural treasures, from a host of parks and water activities including kayaking and boating to easy access to skiing and beaches.

Austin, Texas

Rounding out the list is Austin, where the annual South by Southwest festival has catapulted the southern town into the forefront of music, art, film, food and tech. Homegrown artist and Boyhood writer/director Richard Linklater has set up his production shop Detour Filmproduction in town and University of Texas-Austin keeps a steady flow of young students cycling through the city.

Let’s rejoice and be happy – Hava Nagila הבה נגילה

Hava Nagila is a Hebrew folk song, the title meaning “Let us rejoice”. Though the melody is an ancient one of folk origin, the commonly used lyrics were written by the Jewish Latvian musicologist, Abraham Zevi ldelsohn, in 1918, to celebrate the British victory in Palestine during World War I as well as the Balfour Declaration (on the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, and British government support for a Jewish national home in Palestine, with the condition that nothing should be done which might prejudice the rights of existing communities there).

Perhaps the non-Jewish musician who did the most to populariseHava Nagila around the world was Harry Belafonte. In his live performances, he used Hava Nagila as his regular closing number because of its uplifting melody and hopeful, brotherly lyrics. His 1959 Carnegie Hall live concert recording became a best-selling record (and one I grew up hearing).

Let’s rejoice
Let’s rejoice
Let’s rejoice and be happy

Let’s sing
Let’s sing
Let’s sing and be happy

Awake, awake, brothers!
Awake, awake, brothers!
Awake brothers with a happy heart

Awake, brothers!
Awake, brothers!
With a happy heart

====================

בואו נשמח
בואו נשמח
בואו נשמח ונהיה מאושרים

בוא נשיר
בוא נשיר
בואו נשיר ונשמח

ער, ער, אחים!
ער, ער, אחים!
להעיר אחים עם לב שמח

ערים, אחים!
ערים, אחים!
עם לב שמח

 

Save The Best For Last

 

“Save The Best For Last”

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes round the moon
I see the passion in your eyes
Sometimes it’s all a big surprise

‘Cause there was a time when all I did was wish
You’d tell me this was love
It’s not the way I hoped or how I planned
But somehow it’s enough

And now we’re standing face-to-face
Isn’t this world a crazy place?
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

All of the nights you came to me
When some silly girl had set you free
You wondered how you’d make it through
I wondered what was wrong with you

‘Cause how could you give your love to someone else
And share your dreams with me
Sometimes the very thing you’re looking for
Is the one thing you can’t see

But now we’re standing face-to-face
Isn’t this world a crazy place?
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

la da da da – da da.-

Sometimes the very thing you’re looking for
Is the one thing you can’t see

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes round the moon
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

You went and saved the best for last
Yeah…

 

Merry Christmas Message

As you celebrate the glory of this miraculous season, may your home be filled with love, peace, and joy. May these blessings follow you throughout the New Year.

 

 

Joyous songs and Christmas cheer…
may laughter and friendship be yours all year!

May the miracle of Christmas fill your heart with warmth and love.
Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays!

Christmas Day with mirth and pleasure,
comes again with wondrous pleasure!

May your days be bright,
and your heart be light!
Merry Christmas!