Category

Personal Development

Find joy in life by being mindful of every moment

By | Personal Development

Mindfulness, experts say, is a practice that helps us self-regulate our attention — in other words, mindfulness helps us pay attention to our thoughts. Staying mindful, or in the moment, allows us to appreciate life as it happens. When our minds are busy focusing on the present, it’s impossible to also be ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.

Beyond the reduction of negative thought patterns, a host of benefits can be reaped simply by staying in the moment, research shows.

“When I start talking about all the things mindfulness can do, I sound like a snake-oil salesman,” jokes Richard Sears, of the Center for Clinical Mindfulness and Meditation at Union Institute and University in Cincinnati. “It increases happiness, improves relationships, helps alleviate
conditions like depression and chronic pain….But really, what’s going on is awareness. It’s about paying attention, bringing us back to what is going on right now.”

Based on a 2,600-year-old Buddhist practice, mindfulness has sparked global interest in recent years. Today, mindfulness is frequently practiced independently of any religious context. But if sitting in the lotus position doesn’t sound very comfortable to you, don’t worry.

Although mindfulness is a form of meditation, it doesn’t necessarily require chanting or sitting cross-legged on the floor. (But if a certain position or phrase helps you focus, have at it!)

“It doesn’t have to be done in the same formal way as what we would normally think of as meditation,” Sears explains. “Mindfulness can be taking a breath, taking a moment to notice the trees while taking a walk; it’s more about setting aside time to be with yourself — in whatever form that may take.”

Happy Act: Break the Rules

What do you do on a regular basis simply because “everyone” likes it? If you don’t like it, stop doing it! Carve your own path to happiness.

The Wisdom of Mindfulness

The mind-body connection has been well-proven over time, and mindfulness proponents and practitioners say it holds many keys to creating a healthier, happier life by positively influencing the body. “It’s not a cure-all, but it will assist in whatever a person is struggling with, whetherthat’s physical, mental or emotional,” says Ryan M. Niemiec, education director at the VIA Institute on Character and author of “Mindfulness and Character Strengths.” “It offers support and assistance in whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Take, for example, someone with chronic pain; to learn how to face that directly is a huge challenge. But to bring an honest
awareness to your own suffering can completely change your relationship with it.”

“Before” and “after” brain scans show that certain areas of the brain develop new neural connections after practicing mindfulness for about eight weeks. Richard Sears equates these physical changes in the brain to building muscle by lifting weights—over time, you get stronger, but it has to be maintained in order for the results to continue.

Some clinical studies have focused on how mindfulness can influence specific ailments, including substance abuse, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, autism, cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, AIDS, high blood pressure and headaches. On the broadest level, mindfulness is seen as a tool to improve health, because it boosts our immune system. Scientists explain that, when practiced regularly, mindfulness can lead to lower secretions of cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that suppress the immune system.

Happy Act: Smile

Smile at strangers today. Pay attention to how you feel when you share a genuine smile with someone.

Four Ways to Get Started

  • Take a breath. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Feel the air come into your body and fill your lungs and diaphragm. Hold your breath for a beat, and then exhale slowly, noticing how it feels when the air leaves your body.
  • Take a bite. Pay attention to the food in your mouth—the texture and flavor. Chew slowly. Enjoy the taste.
  • Take a moment to be aware of your body. From head to toe, notice how you feel—from the inside out. Notice any tension and consciously relax those muscles.
  • Focus on the moment. Practice doing one thing at a time. Give your full attention to the task at hand.
Excerpted from Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy by Deborah K. Heisz and the editors of Live Happy magazine.

3 steps to put your personal narrative on a positive footing

By | Personal Development

Everyone has a story. Our personal narrative plays a role in how we approach situations in life, other people and our own self-concept. Our story contains countless pieces of information, some random and insignificant, others full of meaning. Although the facts of our history are immutable, the way we react to them and weave them into our personal narrative is not. When we feel a need to make changes in our lives, we can rewrite or revise our story any time we like. It is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to start over, and to behave in new and different ways.

Start to think about rewriting your story by looking at your past, and deciding what changes to make for the future. Often our stories are connected to events from our past. Positive chapters such as a happy childhood, successful career trajectory or healthy relationship can impact our personal stories in an inspiring and uplifting way. These happy events can make us more kind, provide us a more positive outlook, and even improve our self-esteem.

On the other hand, negative life events such as trauma, addiction, illness, divorce, etc., can impact our story in a negative way. These often leave us feeling isolated, depressed and anxious. They affect how we deal with people and circumstances later in life. Challenging and painful chapters can make it harder for us to rewrite our story because we feel stuck in the past, powerless or even unable to make a change.

You can transform your story.

Timothy Wilson, Ph.D., a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, is an expert in what he calls “story editing,” a way to edit our stories by rewriting the path we are taking. “Our experience of the world is shaped by the stories we tell ourselves and our interpretations of it, and these stories can often become so distorted and destructive that they completely hinder our ability to live balanced, purposeful, happy lives. So the key to personal transformation is story transformation,” he says.

1. Assess who you are

The first step in rewriting your story is to assess who you are, how you have been feeling and behaving, and what circumstances have impacted your life. Ask yourself, “What is my story and what would I like to change about it?” Take time to truly figure out who you are, what is missing, what needs to be improved and how you want to be in the future. An important part of this step is to realize that you can be resilient and rise above challenging times, and a challenging past, by taking steps toward positive change.

Read more: Are You Facing Your Addictions?

2. Identify what changes you want to make

The second step is to begin to work on the changes needed to rewrite your story. I have a client who I will call Lisa. She is an intelligent woman who balances working and raising a family. She is responsible, educated and kind-hearted. However, due to a troubled childhood, Lisa has always been the type of person who gets very wrapped up in her own life. Only her husband and children are included in her circle. As a result of this, her co-workers and friends feel they cannot count on Lisa for guidance or support. Lisa is the “fun friend,” but not someone her pals can rely on.

While she has enjoyed being known for a good laugh, this has always bothered her. After serious contemplation, she decided to rewrite her story and make a more concerted effort to be what she calls a “heart friend” along with being a fun friend. A “heart friend” checks in on friends when they were going through a tough time, makes offers to help in times of need, and listens to people’s stories of pain and struggle. It has taken some time, but Lisa has succeeded and is now not only an attentive friend, but she also feels more balanced in life and more able to reach out for support when she needs it.

3. Continue to revise as you go along

Finally, in rewriting your story, take time out on a regular basis to remind yourself that you can always take steps to change your behaviors, your path and even your life.

When we forget we have this power, we tend to feel stuck. When we remember that we have the power to change the trajectory of our narrative, we feel strong, hopeful and happier overall.

Read more: 10 Steps to Become a Fully Loaded Grown-Up
Read more: 10 Reasons to Tell Your Story in Public

Stacy Kaiser is a Southern California-based licensed psychotherapist, author, relationship expert and media personality. She is the author of How to Be a Grown Up: The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know and editor at large for Live Happy. As a former weekly advice columnist for USA Today with more than 100 appearances on major networks, including CNN, FOX and NBC, Stacy has built a reputation for bringing a unique mix of thoughtful and provocative insights to a wide range of topics.

8 tips for better, more restful sleep

By | Personal Development, Wellness

Imagine your health is a triangle, and nutrition, exercise and sleep represent the three sides. Until recently, sleep had not received the same kind of serious attention as nutrition and physical fitness. However, it is just as important to your health, according to new research.

Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours per night can have serious consequences on your health, says Matthew Walker, Ph.D. He is a sleep scientist and the Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. In his book, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”, he writes that sleep deficiency is associated with a compromised immune system, greater risk of cancer, problems with concentration and memory, and possible shortened life spans.

Matthew recommends eight hours sleep a night and is actually lobbying doctors to prescribe sleep. (Sleep, not sleeping pills.)

While some people may cut short their sleep on purpose to gain more waking hours, many others long for a solid eight hours of rest, but have trouble getting or staying asleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, approximately $63 billion is lost each year due to insomnia; it has become a national crisis. For many of us, active, stressed-out brains — our monkey minds — keep us in overdrive.

How can we make our racing minds relax so we can get that badly needed sleep?

“Count backwards from 300 by 3s,” says Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, sleep expert and author known as “The Sleep Doctor.” “It is mathematically so complicated you can’t think of anything else, and it is so boring you are out like a light.”

Stress and anxiety are the big culprits for making us toss, turn and lose our ability to will ourselves back to sleep. Both cause physical tension in the body, Michael explains, and they also cause the body to release hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, which boost energy and alertness and raise heart rate and blood pressure, priming the body for fight or flight.

Fortunately, several approaches have proven effective to help you get back to sleep.

Tips From Matthew Walker

1. Get out of bed
If you are having trouble falling asleep for more than 15 minutes, he suggests getting out of bed so your brain doesn’t associate that as the place where you don’t sleep. He recommends going to a dim room to read a book—no digital devices, no screens. When you get sleepy again, go back to bed.

2. Meditate
Scientific data supports meditation as a powerful tool for falling asleep and getting back to sleep. Meditation can be as simple as paying attention to your breathing.

3. Keep it cool
Sleep in a cool room if you can; a temperature of around 68 degrees is ideal.

Visit Matthew’s website to learn more about the importance of sleep, and how to get more of it.

Tips From Michael Breus

4. Realize that how you spend your day impacts your night
Think of consistent attention to relaxation as a round-the-clock investment in your nightly sleep. Are you drinking excessive caffeine in the afternoon? Watching a scary movie right before bed? Expect to see an affect on your sleep.

5. Use self-directed phrases that promote relaxation
Quietly or silently repeat words or phrases such as “I feel supremely calm” that cultivate sensations of warmth and heaviness in different regions of the body.

6. Try 4-7-8 breathing
Inhale for four seconds, hold breath for seven seconds, exhale slowly for eight seconds. Repeat several times. “A long slow exhale has a meditative quality to it that is inherently relaxing,” he says.

7. Use visual imagery
Imagine yourself on a restful journey — such as floating peacefully in a calm ocean, being rocked by gentle waves and caressed by a warm breeze. This can help separate you from a stressful day.

8. Try progressive relaxation
Working with one area of the body at a time, tense and then relax each muscle group from your toes to the top of your head. As you do this, be aware of what your body feels like when it is relaxed.

Visit Michael’s website to find more advice for getting to sleep, articles, apps and more.

Sandra Bilbray is a contributing editor for Live Happy, and the CEO and owner of themediaconcierge.net.

This week’s #HappyActs: Hugs, heroes and hope

By | Personal Development

It’s the last week of Happiness Month, but we hope you have been inspired to continue practicing Happy Acts all year long!

This week’s #Happy Acts

Monday: Tag Your Happiness Hero
A teacher who inspired you. A parent who uplifts you. A friend who has kept a positive attitude through the toughest of times. If someone makes you happy, let them know it!

Tuesday: Hug it Out
Everyone needs a hug sometimes. So give someone (preferably not a stranger) a hug to show you care!

Wednesday: Paint Positivity on a Stone
Unleash your inner artist and paint a stone with an image that evokes happiness. Keep it on your desk, share it with a friend or put it in your garden for a reminder to stay positive.

Thursday: Donate Used Books
Schools are often looking for fresh reading material and some libraries will take donations. Do a good deed and clear some clutter at the same time!

Friday: Exercise Empathy
Do you ever catch yourself annoyed and starting a sentence with “Why can’t they just …”? Today, take a second to REALLY consider that why.

Saturday: Write a Hope Letter
Try out a new restaurant, or visit a local trade fair and check out the artisan offerings.

Keep the happiness going all year long with livehappy.com – your source for the latest ideas to make the world a happier place!

This week’s #HappyActs: Celebrate the big day with a Happiness Wall!

By | Personal Development

The International Day of Happiness is this week, so have fun celebrating! Make the month of happiness last by sharing Happy Acts all month long! Choose your favorites, or make a commitment to complete every Happy Act – the choice is yours!

This week’s #HappyActs

Monday: Make Someone Laugh

Everyone has someone that thinks they’re funny. Make their day!

Tuesday: Celebrate the International Day of Happiness

Thank you to everyone who contributed to a record number of Happiness Walls! Our last count was 675. What a happy world!

Wednesday: Forgive Someone

This is a chance at double happiness, because this will brighten your day and the day of the person you forgive.

Thursday: Call or Spend Time with a Family Member

Strong family ties have been proven to increase life expectancy, so here’s to your health!

Friday: Hang Out with your Pet

Make this an extra-special day. Buy your pet a special treat or toy, or maybe take an extra-long walk!

Saturday: Support Local

Try out a new restaurant, or visit a local trade fair and check out the artisan offerings.

Sunday: Write Your Partner a List of Things You Love About Them

Does their laugh make you smile? Are they good in the kitchen? Do they have good handwriting? Whether big or small, everyone loves knowing they’re appreciated.

Did you know that free stuff can make you happy? We’re giving you a free 31 Ideas for #HappyActs Calendar, Digital Wall Kit and a Printable Happiness Wall! Download them today to begin celebrating the International Day of Happiness in March at www.happyacts.org.

Get creative to discover new possibilities

By | Personal Development

One of the definitions of creativity is “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.” That’s something our world desperately needs! Thankfully, creative ability doesn’t belong to the select few.

Everyone—regardless of age, hair color, piercings (or lack thereof), style or personality type—possesses the potential to be creative. That’s why we see breakout authors like John Grisham, Toni Morrison, Robert Ludlum and Frank McCourt, who began writing seriously for the first time in their 30s, 40s or later. (We know a woman whose first book was published when she was 93!) Grandma Moses started painting at age 75—and continued creating art until she passed away at 101.

The desire and ability to create and innovate are part of our DNA. But busy schedules, conflicting messages about the value of creativity, and the tendency to compare our creations with others’ (Hello, inferiority complex!) have a way of snuffing out this inborn gift. We want to give you permission to be OK with imperfection and to enjoy the creative process as you play, explore, experiment and, yes, fail. Heck, post a picture online of your lopsided cake, misshapen pottery project, your rejection letter or the warbly video in which you missed a few notes, and join millions of others who have learned to laugh at and grow from so-called failure. In truth, our creative mistakes often lead to new ideas and better techniques—so they can’t really be called failures at all.

Happy Act: Schedule Some Fun!

Make an appointment with your creative, playful self. Set aside time on the calendar this week to do something you enjoy.

 

The Wisdom of Creativity

Creativity is essentially the act of putting fresh, new ideas into action. Although scientists and artists may dispute the “true” definition of creativity, Shelley Carson, Harvard psychologist and author of Your Creative Brain, explains that creativity must have two specific components: It must be or involve something novel or original, and it must be useful in that it either benefits you or someone else. That benefit could be something tangible, like crocheting a baby blanket to give to a new mom, or intangible, like the feeling of satisfaction that comes from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Or it could be the benefit of reinventing your career—or yourself. When creativity is viewed in that context, we can apply it to virtually any aspect of our lives.

Intertwined with the idea of creativity is the concept of flow. Researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notes in his book Flow that our best experiences come not when we are relaxed, but when we are exceptionally focused. “The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

Martin Seligman explains in Flourish that we don’t necessarily have good (or bad) feelings while in this state, which scientists define as optimal consciousness. After a period of flow, however, we often feel happier, less stressed and generally more satisfied with life. Flow can lead to better creativity and productivity. It also has a happiness holdover effect that continues even after you return to less exciting or enjoyable tasks.

Happy Act: Do Something That Makes You Stretch

You never know what you’re capable of until you do something that takes you outside your comfort zone. To stretch your creative muscles, try a new challenge. Write in a different genre or format, try cooking a new recipe, work on solving a problem at work. Then, whatever your results are, pat yourself on the back for your efforts.

Five Ways to Get Started

Daydream. Find a quiet space and let your mind wander, question and invent without boundaries.

Be curious. It’s easy to think, “Been there, done that” in your daily routine. Rather than walking mindlessly through your day, take notice of the way things work (or don’t work) in your home or office. Ask, “Why do we do it this way?” “Why do I take this route to work?” “Is
there another way to do this?”

Learn something new. Take a class or find a YouTube video to help you master a new skill. Make a creativity playlist of your favorite instrumental music and allow your mind to wander … and create.

Give yourself time to get into flow. Getting into flow, that optimal state of consciousness, isn’t like flipping a light switch. It requires a bit of time and concentration. To get in the zone, find a quiet place to work or put on music that helps you block out distractions, so you can really focus on your creative task.

Have fun! Play a game, swing with your kids at the park, schedule time for a hobby you enjoy.

Excerpted from Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy by Deborah K. Heisz and the editors of Live Happy magazine.

Move with purpose for a long, healthy life

By | Personal Development

People go to all kinds of extremes and expense to hold on to their youth. Yet there’s a simple, healthy habit that will not only keep your body looking fit but also trigger an internal makeover that could add years to your life. I’m talking about exercise.

With a sustainable exercise strategy that focuses on consistency, protecting your body and achieving balance, you can be strong and healthy at any age. You don’t need a fancy gym membership. You don’t have to spend hours a day working out. You simply need to commit to a realistic approach that will keep you looking and feeling your best.

Get moving—and stay in motion.

One of the best ways to achieve a stronger, healthier body is through purposeful movement. It’s an important tool in your fight against disease, mood disorders and early death. No matter your age, you should do your best to move with purpose every day. You need to make it a habit and then stick to it.

As you get older, you tend to become more sedentary. You need to fight this every step of the way. It’s not only seniors who fall into this pattern. Those in middle age find themselves in the same trap. The problem is, the less you move, the less you’re motivated to move. You become lethargic and lose energy. The less you move each day, the more your risk increases for falls, sprains and other injuries. Find ways to stay in motion during the day. Get up from your desk and take a walk outside. Do some gardening. Start your morning with some gentle stretching. Ditch the couch and go run some errands instead. Bike rides, yoga, hiking, dancing…whatever you enjoy. Just get moving.

Give your body what it needs

In your 20s, you were probably aiming for big biceps and flat abs. Don’t worry, you can still have both later in life! As you age, your physical needs change. You begin to lose muscle mass, flexibility and balance. Therefore, it’s important to expand your focus and incorporate strength training and other exercises that will combat these losses and help prevent injury.

The good news is there are plenty of options that will keep you fit and add variety to your routine so you don’t get bored and give it up. These are some of my personal favorites:

Strength

Retaining muscle mass will keep you stronger, stimulate bone growth, lower blood sugar, reduce lower back pain and combat stress. And yes, keep you toned and fit.

Weight training and dumbbell presses are effective, and using light weights will get the job done. If you don’t have access to equipment, try planks, knee extensions, squats or sit-backs. Many exercises can be modified and even performed sitting in a chair or leaning against a wall. Do what’s best for your body.

Flexibility

When your muscles and tendons are more flexible, you enjoy increased range of motion and much less risk of injury.

I highly recommend that you grab a yoga mat. Even a few minutes of yoga a day will do the trick. Yoga significantly improves your physical health and transforms your body into one that is firmer, leaner, stronger and more flexible.

You might also try Pilates (a system of low-impact exercises to develop strength, flexibility and balance), static stretching (where you hold a stretch for a designated amount of time) or myofascial release, a type of massage provided by a health professional to improve range of motion and increase flexibility after an injury.

Balance

Maintaining your balance becomes increasingly important as you age. Your bones become more brittle over time, so taking a fall later in life can cause significant damage. Aim to strengthen your core to feel more physically centered.

Yoga and tai chi do wonders for improving your balance, but they aren’t your only options. Simple exercises like balancing while standing on one foot or walking heel to toe (with your eyes opened or closed) can help you become steadier on your feet.

Everything in moderation

The best way to keep any good habit going long term is to keep things easy and sustainable. Staying strong and healthy doesn’t have to feel like a full-time job. The key is to implement small, manageable changes. Devoting even five minutes a day to movement and exercise is all it takes to get started. You’ll see results, and that’s when your motivation kicks in and you make that leap to do more on a regular basis.

When you take this approach to exercise, you can transform your body into one that is fit and strong. You’ll not only look younger, but you’ll feel younger and significantly increase your chances of living a longer and healthier life.

4 Exercises to Try

Planks

Planks can help tone your belly, reduce back pain, and improve your mood, balance, flexibility and posture.

Lie facedown with legs extended and elbows bent and directly under shoulders; clasp your hands. Feet should be hip-width apart, and elbows should be shoulder-width apart. Contract your abs, then tuck your toes to lift your body. You should be in a straight line from head to heels. Hold for as long as you can.

Knee extensions

Knee extensions strengthen muscles in the front of your thigh and shin and can restore mobility and strength to a painful knee.

Sit in a chair with the balls of your feet and toes resting on the floor. Extend your right leg in front of you until your knee is straight. With right leg in this position, flex your foot so that your toes point toward your head. Hold in this position for three seconds. Take three to five seconds to lower leg back to starting position. Alternate legs.

Squats

Squats strengthen your quads, glutes and hamstrings, and many trainers believe help to reduce knee injuries.

Stand as tall as you can with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Pause. Now slowly push yourself back to the starting position.

Sit-backs

Sit-backs stabilize your lower back and help with your postural stability. They can increase flexibility and range of motion.

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your arms folded across your chest. Slowly sit back as far as comfortable while maintaining a flat back, then return to the starting position. Make sure your feet stay in contact with the floor.

Read more: The Healing Power of Yoga

Listen to our podcast: Health and Happiness With Dr. Partha Nandi

Dr. Partha Nandi is the creator and host of the internationally syndicated, award-winning medical lifestyle television show Ask. Dr. Nandi and author of the book Ask Dr. Nandi: 5 Steps to Becoming Your Own #HealthHero for Longevity, Well-Being, and a Joyful Life.

This week’s #HappyActs: Flowers, songs and something new

By | Personal Development

The International Day of Happiness might not be until March 20, but Live Happy wants to make the world a happier place for the whole month of March! Pick and choose your favorites, or make a commitment to complete every Happy Act – the choice is yours!

This week’s #Happy Acts

Monday: Plant a Flower

Put that green thumb to work!

Tuesday: Donate Your Time

This is a great opportunity to start volunteering for a cause close to your heart.

Wednesday: Host a Happiness Dinner

Make sure everyone knows only positive vibes are allowed at tonight’s family dinner.

Thursday: Pick Up Trash

This might not be the most fun day for you, but you’ll definitely be making someone else happy!

Friday: Focus on the Person You’re With

We can all agree this is something we should always do, but today especially, put that phone away!

Saturday: Sing Your Happy Song

Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be in public. But nothing lifts your spirit quicker than a happy song!

Sunday: Try Something New

A new restaurant, a new author or a new hobby. The possibilities are endless!

Did you know that free stuff can make you happy? We’re giving you a free 31 Ideas for #HappyActs Calendar, Digital Wall Kit and a Printable Happiness Wall! Download them today to begin celebrating the International Day of Happiness in March at www.happyacts.org.

How to fulfill your purpose in life

By | Personal Development

One key element of a flourishing life is a sense of purpose, which allows us to find our passions, pursue important goals and ultimately live lives of authentic happiness. Most of us go about our daily lives without actively thinking about what purpose we are trying to accomplish. However, there are steps we can take to develop a more deliberate awareness of our goals and live lives that are filled of meaning.

1. Define your goals

First, be clear about your purpose and intentions: Who do you want to be? How do you want to live? What do you want to do? How are you going to do it? Then explore the roads that lead to your goals and the obstacles in your way. Often, these obstacles will become opportunities for growth and change.

Purpose is about intention—having goals that help build the framework for your plans and fulfillment in life. Those goals can be large or small in scope. If you want to eat more healthfully, you’ll be motivated to buy more fruits and vegetables. If you want to have a positive effect on the environment, learn more about the issues and join like-minded people so you can get your cause on the next ballot.

2. Look at the big picture, then fill in the details.

From the time you are small, those around you—from your parents to the society at large—influence you, tell you what is important and how they expect you to live. While these influences can be helpful, it is crucial to find your own meaning and purpose. The easiest way to begin is to look at the big picture and then work out the small details.

Recently, I began working with a client I will call Kelly. Kelly was raised by a single mother who barely scraped by financially. If it weren’t for the help of close friends and community organizations, Kelly felt she would not be the successful businesswoman she has become. In a big-picture sense, Kelly decided her purpose in life should involve giving back to others. She began to think about ways she could give back. The most obvious was to write a check, but that did not feel like it would fulfill her true intention. After some reflection together, we came up with a plan to give back in three categories: money, hands and heart. The money was the checks she would write to deserving organizations. Her hands would dish out food at a local shelter on Saturdays. Her heart came into play when she aligned with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and mentored a young girl. Her tactical goals led to the fulfillment of her overarching purpose in life.

3. Consult your morals and values.

If you want to live with purpose, you need to understand and explore what you value most. If you value teaching children, you can focus on that area. If you value creating beauty, you can grow a beautiful garden or express yourself through art or music. If you value helping others, we can find a way to make that happen.

4. Use strengths and build up weaknesses.

Often we need the weaker parts of ourselves in order to accomplish what we desire. If you feel stuck in an unsatisfying job because you are averse to risk-taking, work on building up your courage. If you struggle with time management and don’t have time to add volunteer responsibilities you’re interested in, work on your organizational skills and start small with just an hour every other week.

We all want to live a life of purpose. The key is to figure out what in life creates meaning for you, and then create goals and behaviors that support your intentions.

A longer version of this article was first published in the October 2017 issue of Live Happy magazine.

This week’s #HappyActs: Breakfast, games and more!

By | Personal Development

The International Day of Happiness might not be until March 20, but Live Happy wants to make the world a happier place for the whole month of March! Pick and choose your favorites, or make a commitment to complete every Happy Act – the choice is yours!

This week’s #Happy Acts

Monday: Create a List of Goals

Goal-setting is a great way to keep you motivated!

Tuesday: Leave a Happy Note

Has it been awhile since you left a note in your child’s lunch pack? Today’s the day to start it up again! No kids? Let a coworker know you’re thinking about them!

Wednesday: Bring Breakfast

Donuts. Danishes. Breakfast tacos. Bacon and eggs. Biscuits. The possibilities are endless!

Thursday: Take a Break

Even if it’s just for a few minutes, take some time for yourself!

Friday: Learn Something New

Google is definitely your best friend today!

Saturday: Create an Experience

We all get stuck in routines. Break out of the routine today and shake things up with something special.

Sunday: Play a Board Game

Monopoly, anyone?

Did you know that free stuff can make you happy? We’re giving you a free 31 Ideas for #HappyActs Calendar, Digital Wall Kit and a Printable Happiness Wall! Download them today to begin celebrating the International Day of Happiness in March at www.happyacts.org.