Fill Your Heart with Christmas – A special holiday post

Merry Christmas!

This time of year is the perfect time to reflect and show appreciation. Christmas is a time of giving, I want to give my love to everyone. I am truly grateful for all of my readers, family, and friends that have and continue to support me in my journey. Honestly, I could never have done it without you all.

Take some time this holiday season to be appreciative of those who work when they should be with family and friends, those who are away from those they love, and those who sacrifice for our needs.

 

Among all the memorable events of the year, Christmas is one of the most-awaited festivals. And preparation for this day starts much before the day arrives.

People start planning for the festival, buying gifts for friends and family, making travel plans, preparing cakes and selecting the Christmas Tree and the festivities add warmth to the cold December days.

Christmas Day, which is celebrated on December 25, marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Given the importance of the day, prayer sessions are held in churches and people’s houses from the night of December 24 itself.

The true meaning of Christmas is giving and sharing the love and reaching out to those who have touched our lives. It is a time to count our blessings and be grateful for them. You have touched my life in so many ways, and I thank you for being a wonderful friend. I wish you the best of Christmas.

As you celebrate Christmas, make wonderful memories that will linger in your home, make great friendships that will last a lifetime and may this season filled with peace and joy. Have a merry Christmas.

 

Morning Habits, Jump-Start Your Brain For Success

Ever wondered why most successful people have morning habits? No, it’s not because they’re OCD or odd in any way. They develop habits for this one simple reason: to reduce friction in their lives so they can focus on what they do best. Makes sense, right?

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” — John Dryden

Those who have tasted success, whether it’s big or small, will come to realise that time holds the most value in life — there is simply never enough time and there is always too much to think about. So, by adding, changing, or developing habits or routines will simplify our lives and save us time.

Here are a few questions to help you jump-start shaping your own ideal morning habits:

  • If I could plan my ideal morning, what would it look like?

Your First Minutes

About one year ago, I watched this YouTube video from Jim Kwik, Brain Coach, where he shared his morning habits on how he jump-start his brain for success, focus and productivity.

According to Kwik: “The first 60 minutes of your day can either set you up for maximum productivity and bring you closer to your long-term and short-term goals or cause you to lose another day to distractions and mental fog. Just like an athlete takes care of his body, we need to take good care of our brains to become who we aspire to be.”

And he’s right. What you do to start your day determines how the rest of your day will look like. Therefore, your morning habits are critical for lifetime success. Therefore, I started to change my morning habits bit by bit.

Do keep in mind that morning habits are different for everyone. For example, my morning habits usually take 120 minutes. Yes, that’s two hours. Knowing exactly how the first 120 minutes of my day looks like is powerful. It helps me feel in control, which in turn reduces anxiety and increases my productivity throughout the day.

Here are my top five morning habits to jump-start my brain towards success:


1. Remember Your Dreams

Often when you’re awake, you live your life through the everyday learning, facing challenges, and thinking about solutions and ideas in different aspects of your life. However, it’s not always the case that you find them in that exact moment of time.

So, when you’re asleep, your mind is still working on this search for solution and ideas. Did you know your dream could contain the very advice and insight you needed? Most of us don’t remember our dreams or don’t make the effort to remember them. When dreams are properly interpreted, they bring guidance to achieve what may seem impossible in the first place.


2. Brush Teeth With Your Non-Dominant Hand

This one is fun and challenging. Try to use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth. You will notice it is harder to be precise with your movements. When I first started to brush my teeth with my non-dominant (right) hand, it was hard to move my hand instead of my head.

Here is why it helps you jump-start your brain: Your brain is an organ that improves through mental stimulation, which adapts and rewires itself non-stop through the growth of new neurons.

Therefore, by using your non-dominant hand will support neural connections in your brain, and even grow new ones. Basically, it is similar to how physical exercise improves your body’s functioning and grows muscles.


3. Drink Up To Two Glasses Of Water

The recommended nightly sleep of six to eight hours is a long period to go without drinking water. Hydration is a must when it comes to daily productivity because your brain is made up of 73% water. So, staying hydrated is critical for maintaining optimal brain activity. Of course, it is a daylong process, but starting with a glass or two of water right away is a step in the right direction.

One of the biggest underestimated indicators of weariness or low energy is that you are dehydrated. Water helps in both body regulation and brain function. Also, it is closely related to balancing out our moods.


4. Hit The Gym

A recent study published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice suggests: “Exercise affects the brain in a variety of different ways, from preserving the brain’s nerve network that starts to decline with age, to boosting the function of neurons and improving blood flow to brain cells, as well as promoting the production of growth factors to help cells involved in higher level thinking tasks.”

Therefore, living an active lifestyle with regular physical activities greatly helps to keep every bit of tissues in your brain as young and active as those throughout the rest of your body. In fact, it seems to help slow or even reverse the brain’s physical degeneration over time.


5. Eat Healthy Brain Food Breakfast

Eating a healthy breakfast can jump-start your brain and boost your productivity and focus throughout the morning. Try combining these five “brain foods” in your morning meal to give yourself a mental edge.

  • Blueberries — These tiny berries are packed full of antioxidants that protect your brain from oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, helping to improve cognition and memory.

You can be creative in how you combine these five brain foods. Whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast, even if you’re short on time. By skipping a healthy breakfast, you might save some time but at the cost of your creativity, as well as problem-solving ability. So, head to the kitchen before heading out the door in the morning. Your brain will thank you.

  • What is your current morning habit?

Focusing on “We” Instead of “Me”

Getting your first leadership role is exciting, isn’t it? There’s the office with your name on the door. Being invited to meetings once closed off and mysterious. Getting to make the big decisions. People asking for your advice.

Heady stuff that sends the wrong message to people who think being a leader is all about them.

Being a leader is a little bit about you, but mostly it’s all about others.

One of my first bosses told me that it would be impressive performance metrics and my contribution to the bottom line that would determine my success. It took a while before I understood that his advice about results was only partially right. Managing just to the numbers only gets you so far.

A few epic fails highlighted the reality that results don’t miraculously deliver themselves. They’re delivered by people. Treat people well, they deliver—and everyone succeeds. Treat people like crap and, well, results falter.

Listening with the eyes and the heart, not just the ears and the brain, requires a deeper level of paying attention and understanding. It requires we hear the heart and soul. ~Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge

My way of describing the inclusive reality Kouzes and Posner defined was leading with your heart and managing with your head.

Inclusive leaders know the value of balancing opposing goods, rather than labeling one right and the other wrong. Inclusive leaders deliver results and maintain relationships. They watch both the bottom line as well as employee satisfaction and engagement. They think about today and five years from now.

How do inclusive leaders pull off this balancing act?

They are curious.

One boss I had worked very hard to fulfill the unrealistic expectation that he had every answer. Two sentences into describing a problem to him, and he had the solution—without bothering to ask a single question. Other bosses of mine had the inclusive thing down pat. They were knowledgeable and knew where to go to find answers to what they didn’t know. They openly asked questions, invited debate, poked holes in the status quo, and encouraged those around them to do the same.

They trust.

That know-it-all-boss-with-zero-curiosity didn’t realize it, but he was conveying to his team that they were without skills, knowledge, and the ability to figure things out for themselves. Inclusive leaders surround themselves with bright, inquisitive people and trust them to do their job.

They explain.

At one company, my boss assigned me the project of improving customer service. When I asked for specifics, he told me that since I had to ask, I obviously wasn’t as smart as he had thought I was. Because he couldn’t or wouldn’t or both clarify his expectations, my finished project didn’t please him, and everyone lost.

They listen.

Organizational development and management consultant Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communications is hearing what isn’t said.” Employees perceive reality through their own filters, values, and biases. Deeply, empathically, and actively listening to what employees say—and don’t say—enables inclusive leaders to expand their perspectives, thus entertaining diversity of thought, opinion, and experience.

They care.

Years ago, a woman told me her boss treated her no differently than the file cabinet in the corner—both utilitarian objects there to do a job. Isn’t that a sad story? Inclusive leaders keep both logic and emotion in their management toolkits. They know both are necessary for success, satisfaction, and engagement over the long-term.

Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin. ~Hermann Hesse, poet and novelist

If asked, would those around you describe you as being curious, someone they trusted, a thorough explainer, a good listener, and a leader who cares about them as a person? Would they say you’re inclusive and can balance opposing goods? Ready to find out?

Gratitude makes you happier, healthier, and more popular

What does it mean to “give thanks?”

Well, it depends. It depends on who, where, when, and how.

If you were around in October 1621 at the Plimouth Plantation, you might have been part of the “First Thanksgiving”. Here, the Native Americans and Pilgrims came together to celebrate the first harvest in the New World.

The settlers had struggled the previous winter due to a lack of supplies and food. Many had starved or became ill and died as a result. Yet, a number survived. Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag tribe, had given the colonists food to get through their first winter.

After the snow thawed, the Pilgrims gradually learned to live off the land. Squanto, from the Patuxet tribe, taught them how to grow corn and catch eel. After this successful harvest, they threw a three-day feast that included waterfowl, turkey, venison, corn, and various shellfish.

Although such festivities were held intermittently in the years since, Thanksgiving finally became a federal holiday in 1863, thanks to Abraham Lincoln. Since then, Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the U.S. on the fourth Thursday of every November.

Fast Forward to Gratitude Today

While roast turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce are staples for the Thanksgiving holiday today, how often do we really practice gratitude?

We complain about this and that. We get agitated when deciding what to wear if we’re not served right away at a restaurant, and after a store doesn’t stock our favorite brand of coffee. But is it a surprise, given we live in an age of abundance?

When it comes to our everyday needs and wants, we have variety right at our fingertips. We can have any type of food delivered right to our doorstep. Our phones ping notifications on today’s trending news. And if you’re looking for entertainment, just open up your internet browser. While these are all good things, we easily take what we have for granted.

People’s acts of kindness often go unrecognized. In many cases, the recipient fails to say a simple “thanks” or give any acknowledgment. In an everyday quest to get things done, people are consumed by their own lives and forget to take the time to thank others.

It seems as if the original intent behind that first Thanksgiving feast has been lost with time.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Both giving and receiving thanks are important. But in order to understand why we need to see the benefits.

There are three main benefits to being thankful:

1. Strengthening social relationships

Gratitude can help us befriend others, improve existing relationships, make amends, and recognize others’ good deeds. In romantic relationships, practicing gratitude for the little things can make all the difference. In one study, expressing gratitude towards the partner improved the relationship quality for both people.

Letting someone know that you’re grateful for the person’s actions, or simply for being in your life, can improve your relationship. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a stranger, friend, parent, relative, or whoever. Thanking others breeds positive feelings all around.

2. Improving our personal sense of well-being

In a study, one group of participants wrote about the things they were grateful for, a second group reflected on the daily things that irritated them, and a third group wrote about their week with neither a positive nor negative slant. 10 weeks later, the grateful group was more optimistic and happier about their lives, while the group that focused on negativity was more likely to visit the doctor.

Giving thanks is not only rewarding intrinsically, but it also helps us feel better about what we have. We’re more joyful overall. Even if you’re having a bad day or things don’t go the way you want, there are definitely some things that you have to be grateful for.

3. Maintaining good health

According to one study, gratitude is linked to the quality of your sleep. People who reflected on the positive things that happened in their day had a better night’s sleep than those who with a negative outlook.

The quality of your sleep is directly related to how you feel during the day and your overall health. Those who were less grateful were more stressed, anxious, and depressed. The opposite was true for those who were more grateful.

To sum it up, here’s a quote from the Wall Street Journal article “Thank You. No, Thank You” on how gratitude affects our lives:

“Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections, and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics.”

How to Practice Gratitude

Now that we’ve seen all the benefits of gratitude, we need to incorporate more of it into our lives Practicing gratitude can easily be done using these three ways:

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Jot down a few things you’re thankful for. Place a notebook on your bedside table so that it’s convenient. The best time of the day to write in your journal is right before sleeping. That way, you can reflect on everything that’s happened during the day and you get a happier night’s rest.

To start and end your day on a good note, try The Five Minute Journal.

Remember to be specific. Instead of writing that you’re “thankful for your friend”, think of a specific example, such as “my friend shared her own experiences with work conflict, which helped me navigate a similar situation.” Thinking of particular instances forces you to think hard about the good things that have happened.

2. When in doubt, say “thanks”

We often forget to thank people for the little things, such as lending a pen. Sometimes, we even forget to say “thanks” for the bigger things, such as gifts or loans. If you’re not sure what to say, a simple word of thanks does wonders in making the other person feel valued.

If you met someone interesting at a networking event or completed an academic course, reach out and send an email to the person to thank them for what they taught you. Opening up the lines of communication can lead to opportunities down the road.

3. Use positive phrases

When you’re faced with a dilemma, switch out those negative phrases for positive ones. For instance, I had a power outage that lasted for days. While it was definitely inconvenient, at least I had a chance to interact with people, free of electronics, and catch up on good old-fashioned books.

Whether something is a problem or an opportunity depends on how you look at it. And the way you look at things changes your mindset, attitude, and actions.

A Simple Act of “Thanks” Can Blossom into Something More

The Pilgrims held a feast to celebrate the promise of a bright future. They made it through a difficult winter and recognized how much they had to be thankful for. They saw a place where they and their descendants could thrive.

It’s interesting how such a simple, seemingly insignificant event would go on to become an important annual tradition. If only the Pilgrims who celebrated in those early days recognized the weight of their actions then.

Who knows what significant events can unfold from the small actions you perform today?

Fathers & Daughters – Michael Bolton

“Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad, and that’s why I call you dad, because you are so special to me. You taught me the game and you taught me how to play it right.”

 

Fathers & Daughters – Michael Bolton

Lyrics:

If I could catch a star for you
I swear I’d steal them all tonight
To make your every wish come true
And every dream for all your life

But that’s not how the story goes
The world is full of perfect plans
If there’s a promise that I broke
I know one day you will understand

When times are hard I know you’ll be strong
I’ll be there in you heart when you’ll carry on
Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye

An Angel I will read to sleep
Gave me one dream of my own
So learn to love and spread your wings
And find the one to call your home

When times are hard I know you’ll be strong
I’ll be there in you heart when you’ll carry on
Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye

When times are hard I know you’ll be strong
I’ll be there in you heart when you’ll carry on
Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye

Audio & Video Produced by Boyce Avenue
Engineered, Mixed & Mastered by Adam Barber
Directed by Alejandro Manzano & Adam Barber
Filmed by Adam Barber & Fabian Manzano
Edited & Colored by Adam Barber
Cello by Isaac Mingus
Violin by Joy Chatzistamatis
Video Assistant: Blake Gregor

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 

7 Destinations in Europe You Wouldn’t Think to Visit (but Really Should)

Ania Kropelka/Getty Images
As one of the most accessible and beloved parts of the world, Europe is home to plenty bucket list–worthy places. History will draw you to ancient cities like Rome, Athens, and Lisbon, while culinary feats on nearly every corner call from Paris and London. And we can’t forget the rolling, robust lands of Ireland and Scotland. It could take a lifetime to fully immerse yourself in every destination.

While these iconic stops are definitely worth your attention, there are others that might not have as much search traffic, but can give you a whole new perspective on a place and its people. These little-known wonders — most of which are not-so-far from larger metropolitan areas — will add depth and dimension to your getaway, offering a unique opportunity to see and experience something beyond the usual circuit.

Below, seven underappreciated European gems you need to know about.

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Scotland’s Outer Hebrides

Scotland’s Skye and the Hebrides snagged the seventh spot in this year’s World’s Best Islands in Europe ranking, but the former is arguably the most popular with travelers. Take a ferry ride beyond the Isle of Skye to explore what’s considered to be one of Europe’s last natural habits, the Outer Hebrides. This collection of islands — the largest being the Isles of Lewis, Harris, and North and South Uist — offers a full immersion into Celtic history, heritage, and charm.

You can hear locals speaking or singing in Gaelic, marvel at medieval churches, and see Neolithic standing stones up close. On Harris, where tweed fabric was originally woven, local artisans continue to craft capes, bags, and more traditional goods with the makings of an excellent souvenir. To visit, carve out your own schedule or book one of the many the tours that explore this region. This 11-day, 10-night optionthis link opens in a new tab from CIE Tours International includes whiskey tasting, beach hopping, and more. Depending on the season, you’ll want to pack layers, as summers can be ideal beach weather, but winters are often unforgiving.

Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images

Sardinia, Italy

The expansive island of Sardinia is just an hour-long flight away from Rome. If you’ve ever been to the Algarve on Portugal’s southern coast, you might recognize the jagged — and breathtaking — landscape that defines Sardinia’s 1,200 miles of coastline, blending beaches into mountains. There are two special qualities that set this destination apart from others: its Bronze Age stone ruins that look like beehives and its microclimate. Thanks to the headland behind Santa Margherita di Pula, which shields the coast from cold north winds, this region has 300 days of sunshine. Though it’s lovely to visit from March through December, June and July will give you the warmest ocean temperatures. For a luxe, beachfront stay, book the Forte Village Resortthis link opens in a new tab in Santa Margherita di Pula.

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Thessaloniki, Greece

On your next trip to Greece, hop on an hour-long flight from Athens to spend a few days in the country’s “second city,” Thessaloniki. This Northern port offers plenty for history lovers, but it’s also got a modern liveliness to it. You can wander through ruins from the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans — thanks to its numerous occupations — and then make your way to Valaoritou Street for stylish cocktail bars and plenty of music. Since the heart of the city was entirely rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1917, the 20th-century architecture of this area will feel far away from the traditional Greek vibe. The city is also popular with locals because the beaches are also less crowded than on the islands. Don’t miss White Tower, Roman Forum, and the cobblestone streets of the historic quarter, Ano Polithis link opens in a new tab.

Belgrade, Serbia

If you’ve already experienced the bath scene in Budapest, danced ’til dawn at the infamous five-story club in Prague, and ordered just-one-more cocktail while admiring the moonlit sea in Dubrovnik, set your sights on a lesser-known party destination: Belgrade. The capital of Serbia is becoming quite the watering hole for young travelers who, thanks to its many teeming bars and restaurants (and coffee shops to wake you up when morning comes). Here, you can experience splavovi — splav, for short — floating lounges anchored along the Danube and Sava rivers, each featuring a different musical genre. These tend to rage every night of the week, but if you need a break, make sure to see Beogradska Tvrđava, the historical fortress representing the city’s part in the Ottoman, Serbian, Austrian, Byzantine and Roman empires.

Chiara Salvadori/Getty Images

Vicenza, Italy

You’ve heard of Venice and Verona, but a short 30- to 40-minute train ride from either of these known Italian destinations is Vicenza. Within the country’s northeastern Veneto region, you’ll be amazed by how little foot traffic this beautiful town hosts. It’s most known for its unique buildings, specifically those of 16th-century architect Palladio. If you enjoy spending hours winding through halls of art, you’ll find yourself sipping cappuccinos in between visits to the Basilica Palladiana and the Palazzo Chiericati. You might even catch a movie at the Teatro Olimpico, an outdoor theater that’s indoors. As a bonus? You can add “wandered through a UNESCO World Heritage Site” to your checklist, since the longstanding value and importance of the architecture in this town earned it a nod. If your budget allows, consider staying for a long weekend where you can talk about the beauty you’ve witnessed over wine al fresco at the Villa Valmarana Ai Nanithis link opens in a new tab.

Christine Phillips/Getty Images

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Though small in size, Slovenia is big on personality, led by its diverse and robust capital, Ljubljana. As a college town, you might find a younger crowd here, but they bring plenty of outdoor cafes along the river. Here you can stroll through plenty of green patches, most notably Tivoli Parkthis link opens in a new tab (not to be confused with the amusement park in Copenhagen). As a true melting pot squished between Italy, Croatia, and Austria, the food scene has recently become one of Europe’s most intriguing. Don’t miss the tasting menu at Strelecthis link opens in a new tab and the pastries at Zvezdathis link opens in a new tab. When you’re in town, book your stay at the Intercontinental Ljubljanathis link opens in a new tab and ask for a top floor in this 20-story high hotel, so you can wake up to one of the city’s best views.

Ania Kropelka/Getty Images

Vence, France

It’s hard not to fall for the refined charisma of France — from the quaint, streetside cafes of Paris to the glittering grape vines of Bordeaux. But if you want to go off the grid? Head 45 minutes east of Cannes to find Vence, a small commune in the hills of the Alpes Maritimes. You might want to speak French, or at least attempt, when you pull into to this town, which is known for its landscape and the luxury destination spa at the Chateau Saint-Martin & Spathis link opens in a new tab. You may also want to pack your watercolor palette, as inspiration struck for many an artist — Picasso and Matisse, namely — in this idyllic Côte D’Azur perch.

5 habits of truly happy marriages, according to a marriage expert

Positive psychology is the science of strengths and looking at what makes individuals and couples thrive.

Marriage takes work. Everyone knows this. But what many don’t realize is that they might be working on the wrong things. Or even working on the right things in the wrong way.

“In our culture, there’s so much focus on getting together rather than on being together and staying happy together,” says Suzann Pileggi, who, along with her husband, James Pawelski, director of education at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, authored Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. “Looking at positive psychology research and seeing what is it that can actually lead to a happier marriage.”

Positive psychology is the science of strengths and looking at what makes individuals and couples thrive. “The research shows that, if you’re focusing more on growing the nuggets of what’s good, you have a better chance of having a happy relationship.” In other words, know your strengths and spend time maintaining them. Here, then, are five tips that Suzann and James say will lead to better days for you and your spouse.

1. Cultivate a healthy passion

That idea of starry-eyed lovers who are forever on each other’s minds and obsess over each other daily? Total B.S. In fact, per Pileggi this thinking is detrimental, as it can give rise to the idea that obsessive passion is a healthy thing.

“In the beginning of a relationship, you can’t stop thinking about your partner, you might be distracted at work, you might cancel plans with friends to see your girlfriend or future spouse,” she explains. “But if that continues months or years into the relationship and you’re not seeing your friendsanymore, you’re not engaging in activities that you did before the relationship, and you can’t focus on anything else, that could be more of an obsessive passion.”

In order to create a healthy passion, Pileggi says to be sure to make room in your mind for your other interests and other people. Then, when you are with your partner, find ways to connect over things that you both enjoy. “It’s about forging a deeper bond, not trying to be competitive,” Pileggi says. “So don’t choose something that you really like and enjoy and your wife has no interest in. The idea is to connect, not to compete.”

2. Embrace the upside

At the beginning of a relationship, positive emotions are flowing with regularity. Excitement, joy, passion are all right at your fingertips. But, as the relationship progresses and you both get more comfortable with each other, some people expect that those positive emotions will just happen without any effort. Not so.

“The research shows that the happiest couples with the most sustainable marriages are the ones who actively cultivate them all the time and prioritize them as opposed to waiting around for them to happen,” she says. “Because, like with anything, the newness of something, those heightened positive emotions, the level and the frequency just naturally don’t occur as much as in the beginning of a relationship, the falling-in-love stage.”

So, couples in long-term relationships who are looking to cultivate positive emotions have to ask themselves what can they do each day, what activities or actions can they do in order to keep positive emotions flowing in a marriage.

“Imagine if you just bought a gym membership and went once and then said, ‘Okay, now I’m going to be fit,’” Pileggi says. “No, you work out regularly and throughout your lifetime.”

One activity that Pileggi and her husband discuss in Happy Together is a ‘Positive Relationship Portfolio,’ And yes, it is actually a portfolio: of pictures, mementos, and other such items that mean something in your relationship. If that’s your style or not, we get it. The point of the exercise is to devote time to thinking about the fond memories, which, per Pileggi, is extremely important. However you do it is up to you.

3. Savor experiences

Positive emotions and moments are fleeting. Pileggi says that it’s important to slow down and take time to enjoy them. “Research shows that if you spend at least 15 minutes savoring something you could increase your satisfaction,” she says. “One way to do that is sharing secrets with one another. Ask your spouse about a favorite childhood experience, or a secret they never told anyone or big idea or dream they always had for the future.” The point is this: The more you open up and talk about these sorts of things, the deeper a bond you’re able to create.

4. Locate and focus on character strengths

What are your partner’s strengths? Do you know? Positive Psychology researchers have identified 24 character traits that people possess in different measures. Things like creativity, curiosity, zest, love of learning, leadership. Pileggi recommends taking a Character Strengths test with your partner (one is available here). Then, once you’ve determined what your strengths are, you can have conversations with each other about them. From there, Pileggi says, you both can go on what she and her husband call a “strength date.”  Sounds weird right? But the idea is sound: each of you to pick a top strength and go on a date that plays to — and satisfies — both of them.

5. Emphasize gratitude

“If your partner feels taken advantage of and not acknowledged, they’re not going to be satisfied,” she says. And just saying “thanks” isn’t enough.

An example: If your spouse gives you a gift or does something kind for you, don’t just thank them, but also say something like, “You really know what I need and you’re such a good listener.” or “You’re so thoughtful, and I can see how thoughtful you are with our children and the way you are at work.”

It’s about being deliberate and specific in how you express appreciation for your partner. “Express your thanks and express it well,” says Pileggi. “Which means focusing on your partner and her actions and her strengths rather than solely on the gift and the benefit to you.” The end result: Per Pileggi, couples who did this decreased their chances of breaking up six months later by 50 percent.

If Tomorrow Never Comes – Engelbert Humperdinck

If I knew it would be the last time that I’d see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly, and pray the Lord your soul to keep.
If I knew it would be the last time that I’d see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss, and call you back for just one more.

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

Title: If Tomorrow Never Comes – Engelbert Humperdinck

 

Lyrics: If Tomorrow Never Comes

 

Sometimes late at night

I lie awake and watch her sleeping

She’s lost in peaceful dreams

So I turn out the lights and lay there in the dark

And the thought crosses my mind

If I never wake up in the morning

Would she ever doubt the way I feel

About her in my heart

 

If tomorrow never comes

Will she know how much I loved her

Did I try in every way to show her every day

That she’s my only one

And if my time on earth were through

And she must face the world without me

Is the love I gave her in the past

Gonna be enough to last

If tomorrow never comes

 

‘Cause I’ve lost loved ones in my life

Who never knew how much I loved them

Now I live with the regret

That my true feelings for them never were revealed

So I made a promise to myself

To say each day how much she means to me

And avoid that circumstance

Where there’s no second chance to tell her how I feel

 

If tomorrow never comes

Will she know how much I loved her

Did I try in every way to show her every day

That she’s my only one

And if my time on earth were through

And she must face the world without me

Is the love I gave her in the past

Gonna be enough to last

If tomorrow never comes

So tell that someone that you love

Just what you’re thinking of

If tomorrow never comes.

The USA’s 13 Coolest College Towns (Did Yours Make the List?)

Back to school is seriously cool in these scholarly destinations. With food, nightlife, and art scenes that are anything but elementary, these 13 spots are the best college towns in the U.S. to visit this fall.

  

  1. Eugene, Oregon

Nike gives Eugene serious athletic cache—just look at the fashion-statement uniforms the Oregon Ducks unveil every season or the state-of-the-art sporting facilities on campus. It’s also where frat-bro favorite Animal House was filmed and home to New Max’s Tavern, the inspiration for Homer’s famed hangout Moe’s Tavern on The Simpsons. Willamette Street is lined with art galleries like White Lotus, which showcases Asian works, and Sattva Gallery, where local artists display handcrafted ceramics and jewelry. Bonus: Portland is only a two-hour drive away.

 

      

2. Athens, Georgia

Athens is an incubator for artists and rock musicians—R.E.M and the B-52’s got their start here—and it oozes southern charm with its historic Georgian mansions in the Five Points neighborhood. Two music venues are the heart of the nightlife scene: 40 Watts Club, the legendary spot for big-name acts; and Georgia Theatre, which reopened in 2011 after a fire (the Grammy Award-winning and local group Zach Brown Band donated $250,000 to bring it back to life). Fun fact: Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia doubles as a pet cemetery; every English bulldog mascot since 1956 is entombed in wall mausoleum near Gate 9.

   

3. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis may not have the distinct curb appeal of LA, NYC, or Boston, but the major city does have a pretty sick Frank Gehry-designed landmark that earns them major bragging rights. The Weisman Art Museum, a monolithic stainless steel page out of the famed architect’s book, sits on a bluff over the Mississippi, sprawling out on the U of M campus. Follow the college crowd and at some point or another, you’ll wind up in Dinkytown (yes, that’s its actual name) – a tiny neighborhood overflowing with restaurants (look past the chains for eclectic indies like the Kitty Cat Klub), bars, specialty stores and theaters.

 

     

4. Santa Cruz, California

Massive swells, redwood-filled forests, an abundant haze of “medical” marijuana—it’s easy to see the appeal of Santa Cruz. Along with miles of misty beaches and endless bike trails that run through the nearby mountains, the city has killer microbrew and coffee scenes. Two standouts: the organic suds at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, in the Swift Street Courtyard, and single-origin promoter Verve Coffee Roasters, which has locations scattered around town.

  

5. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison’s historic downtown is perfectly situated on an isthmus flanked by the Mendota and Monona lakes, with the 1,200-acre Arboretum and various biking trails nearby. But make no mistake, Madtown is a tailgaters paradise (game day favorite: fried cheese curds). Ask a Wisconsin grad about his alma matter and he’ll tell you the following: the Kollege Klubon Saturdays, Dotty’s for the Melting Pot burger, and the Terrace at Memorial Union for snapshot-worthy water views.

  

6. Bozeman, Montana

Who would have guessed that one of America’s coolest college towns is the middle of cow-country Montana? Bozeman, home to Montana State University, has been drawing more and more visitors north. In summer, there’s world-class fishing at the nearby Madison and Yellowstone rivers; come winter, snow junkies flock to Bridger and Big Sky resorts. The town itself has a laid-back college vibe, with bistros, galleries and watering holes like Molly Brown bar, a note-perfect dive in the “bar-muda triangle.”

            

7. Ithaca, NY

Ithaca may weed out a few (hundred) prospective students each year with the promise of a brutal winter and somewhat middle-of-nowhere locale (it’s 4+ hours from NYC), but the picturesque city is a hell of a lot more than blizzard country. First and foremost, Ithaca topples the scenic scale with rolling hillsides, more than 150 cascading waterfalls (hence all the “Ithaca is GORGES!” merch) and winding trails. Extremely walkable, and home to a generous handful of breweries and wineries, the town also maintains a young crowd, with a population that’s more than 50 percent college kiddos thanks to Ithaca College and a place you probably haven’t heard of–Cornell.

        

8. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel Hill might have the strongest foodie cred of any college town in the country. Here, sports bar nachos and divey burger joints take a back seat to James Beard-nominated chefs like Andrea Reusing, whose Asian-inflected Lantern sources from local farms; and the Pig, a nose-to-tail Carolina-style barbecue joint that’s perennially packed. Beyond food, there are plenty more diversions, from the Carolina Basketball Museum to the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

   

9. Charlottesville, Virginia

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819 and his legacy lives on, from the grand 18th-century buildings to the secret societies like Seven and Z. In addition to a surprisingly cool art scene ⎯ check out art collective C’ville Arts⎯ lively restaurants (we love the rustic-chic C and O ) and the open-air pavilion on the Downtown Mall, one of the country’s emerging wine regions is right outside of town, shadowed by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

 

10. Burlington, Vermont

Burlington’s granola roots run deep. This is the place Ben and Jerry bestowed their psychedelic flavors on the world, and where a generation of LSD-charged roadies discovered Phish. These days an organic food movement and highly acclaimed craft beer scene have taken hold in and around UVM. See it firsthand at the City Market, where local purveyors hawk everything from freshly brewed kombucha to high-point ciders to pasture-raised pork.

  

11. Oxford, Mississippi

Home to William Faulkner’s 19th-century estate Rowan Oak, the storied paperback palace Square Books, and chef John Currence’s destination Cajun spot City Grocery, Oxford is the quintessential Southern small town. The magnolia-lined streets have added luxury boutiques and new-wave restaurants in recent years, but original treasures remain ⎯ Neilson’s, for instance, is the oldest department store in the South. The hotel of choice: the Z, a classic B&B run by two twenty-something Ole Miss-alum sisters. Don’t miss their breakfast cheddar biscuits.

12. Williamsburg, Virginia

Cheesy historical reenactments have long defined Williamsburg, but a growing arts district is giving the town of William & Mary College a polished new edge. Don’t miss the Sculpture Gallery, a public art initiative that features 21 pieces from East Coast artists, including terra cotta works by Barbara Kobylinska, and Century Art Gallery, a showcase for contemporary paintings inside a 1920 Sears Roebuck house. And if you do happen to enjoy colonial history, visit the Jamestown Settlement, eat at one of the many 18th-century-style taverns, or take a tour of the Berkeley Plantation.

  

13. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Football season in Ann Arbor is no joke—just ask the University of Michigan team, who basically acquire star status every September. For non-collegiates and non-sportifs, life is still pretty swell with post-grad job prospects at big name companies like Google AdWords and Toyota making the town a comfy locale for former co-eds. Plus, pair all that with a bustling downtown–say hello to a multitude of late-night bites and plenty of beer at local faves like Ashley’s—and residential charm courtesy of tree-lined streets and Ann Arbor just about has it all.