Category Archives: Positive Psychology

Mother’s Day and Brain Science?

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I recently read an interesting article on the Greater Good Science Center website: Why “Mom Brain” Is Good for Mothers and Babies by Elise Proulx. The article explains that a woman’s brain actually changes after having a baby. The change is a decrease in gray matter! Hold on, don’t laugh dads! I know what you are thinking.

Mom’s tend to share with each other their “fuzzy brain” feeling while pregnant or becoming more forgetful than usual after having children. However, what research is showing is that the decrease in gray matter actually creates a mother who will connect with their child and will be more aware of their children’s needs and feelings.

“The researchers found that the change in gray matter “significantly” predicted the quality of mother-to-infant attachment, as assessed through a survey. The more gray matter lost, the more positive the mothers felt about interactions with their baby.”  Elise Proulx

However you became a mother, father or caregiver, I believe our children shrink our gray matter. 🙂 What I mean to say is, our children are deeply connected to us and we completely grow into warm, nurturing people because of them. Our children shape who we are far greater than I ever imagined.  I am beyond grateful for my three beautiful children who are making me the mom I am.

Happy Mother’s Day to My Happy readers! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Happy Mother’s Day!

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_mom_brain_is_good_for_mothers_and_babies?

Happy International Day of Happiness!

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Happy International Day of Happiness!

International Day of Happiness

Monday March 20, 2017

This year I am bringing you a video which explains the International Day of Happiness. Happiness is for each of us. Let’s take even the smallest action today, like a blog post, time for fun, extra hugs, or any act of kindness to encourage everyone with ways to be happy and positive. Being negative or neutral doesn’t take much effort, unfortunately. Being positive and happy takes effort and time. Remember to take time for yourself to focus on the things that help you to be happy, you deserve it!

Please take a minute to watch this video to be inspired by people around our beautiful world.

Take the pledge: I will think happy thoughts and I will do what I can do to make the world a happier place. 🙂

You can also visit http://www.dayofhappiness.net to learn more about 10 Keys to Happier Living

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The United Nations, UNICEF and The Smurfs have teamed up to teach that even the smallest smurf can make a difference! You can watch this video to learn more…

Visit http://www.globalgoals.org/worldslargestlesson To join UNICEF and Team Smurfs to make the world a happier place visit http://www.SmallSmurfsBigGoals.com and celebrate World Happiness Day with the United Nations and Team Smurfs on March 20th.

I hope this made your day happier! Thank you for reading “My Happy”!

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Summer Reading

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Summer Reading

Happy News

This summer dive into these good reads! While reading a Happy blog (ha ha… yes, many others are sharing their happy stories), I learned about this great newspaper:  “The Happy News”.   A newspaper to celebrate all that’s good in the world…The Happy Newspaper is a platform to share positive news and wonderful people. The line up in this issue was: General News Stories, Everyday Heroes, Celebs/Showbiz, Poems, Lifestyle, Food, Travel, Your Year, New Year Tips, Meet the Writers, From me to You. All written from a positive perspective.

One of my favorite sections included positive news about celebrities. It was great hearing about good news like Pharrell Williams turns ‘Happy’ into a children’s book. Malala Yousafzai, youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize celebrates her 18th birthday by opening an all girls school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Prince Harry and Prince William join BBC home improvement program ‘DIY SOS’ in renovating an abandoned street in Manchester into 26 homes for homeless war veterans. Another section I enjoyed reading was Everyday Heroes. There you can find people and organizations trying to make the world a happier place.  One organization, Free Cakes for Kids UK network is a community organization of volunteer bakers who provide birthday cakes to families who are struggling and find it difficult to provide a cake to their child.   www.freecakesforkids.org/uk  The paper includes many websites and other resources to lift you up.

Emily Coxhead  had the idea to begin a newspaper that “added sunshine to a person’s day”. She and other volunteers collaborated on this fun and enlightening newspaper. To learn more about it or order the next issue go to:  http://www.thehappynewspaper.com

9781611800586_p0_v3_s192x300[1]Sitting Still Like a Frog” Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel is a fun way to encourage children (and their parents) to meditate. Eline Snel is a therapist who has been working with Mindfulness for 20 years, developing training programs. She is the founder of the Academy for Mindful Teaching in Leusden, Netherlands.

Bedtime “shenanigans” led me to try meditation with my children. Does anyone still use that word? I think it is a nice way to explain the silliness that occurs at my children’s bedtime. Sometimes..er..okay a lot lately my little ones have difficulty settling in. Even after their bath and stories, they are still playful. I find having them lay down in their beds and talking them through a relaxation meditation can be very helpful.  “Sitting Still Like a Frog” helps parents and teachers use meditation at various times during the day and it also includes a meditation for bedtime, “Sleep Tight”.

Eline Snel uses the description of a frog to develop an understanding of the importance of stillness.  My children found it interesting and fun.  There are positive reviews from teachers who have used it in their classrooms. You will find an Introduction to Mindfulness, Parenting with Mindfulness, Weathering the Storm Inside, Handling Difficult Feelings, It is Good to Be Kind, to name a few. The book includes a CD of 11 mindfulness practices you can do with your child. Our children LOVE to spend time with us. Sometimes simply role modeling  gets children interested enough to try a new thing. I realized, though my children preferred  my voice over listening to the CD at bedtime. My friend, Kathleen noticed that with her daughter. Familiar voices are the best, of course. Your children may prefer you to do the narrative for the bedtime meditation.

Let me know what YOU think! You can share what you like about the “The Happy Newspaper” or how your children respond to “Sitting Still Like a Frog” by commenting on this post. I would be very interested in your feedback!

Happy Reading!

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“That Makes Me Happy!” News

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“That Makes Me Happy!” has really done just that. It has made me happy.  Many of you have been asking how things are going with my children’s book. After the book launch, opportunities for volunteering to share my book and teach the lesson it holds fell into place. Volunteering and focusing on my family filled my time and this blog took a back seat.  Now it is time to catch up.

My enthusiasm for the science of happiness resulted in writing “That Makes Me Happy!” a story that teaches children they can cultivate their own happiness. At the end of the story children can make a “Happy Ring” to practice the strategies which are deep breaths, smiling, and thinking a happy thought.  By reading the story to children, adults can show children we value well-being as much as academics and achievements.

This past school year I volunteered to teach the lesson from my story at my oldest son’s school. As I had read the story in my youngest children’s class the previous school year.  His school had a set time every week to bring health and wellness education to their students. Awesome, right?  The science behind happiness lesson fit right in.  Not ever having taught more than a classroom size of 31 students it was a new experience for me. I was asked to teach the lesson to each grade. There were 100 students in each grade.  Keeping a group that size engaged and interested definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I wished that I could simply read my story and make “Happy Rings” but that wouldn’t fly with these older students (4th, 5th, and 6th graders).  20160802_122551

 

While creating the lesson, I thought back to what really amazed me in the research.  Richard Davidson’s research with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama was top on the list. thRichard Davidson’s research focuses on the brain-emotion connection. When the Dalai Lama heard of his research he urged Richard Davidson to study kindness and compassion. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear.  Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’  Data from brain scans of Tibetan monks were studied. The monks observed had a regime of meditating 8 hours a day, some had done so for 20 years.  The findings led to the understanding that meditative practices and practicing kindness and compassion result in a brain that is more capable of change, in theory becoming more resilient.

“Rather than think of the brain as a static organ, or one that just degenerates with age, it’s better understood as an organ that is constantly reshaping itself, is being continuously influenced, wittingly or not, by the forces around us.”  Richard Davidson 

Brain plasticity, mirror neurons, and calming jars…oh my!   I brought the lesson to life by using student volunteers.  Teaching a group of 100 students was a challenge for me. Did I already say that? Teaching your own class is much different from teaching a large group of students you do not know. Using strategies like positive self-talk, visualizing the lesson going well, deep breaths, and having a growth mindset kept me on track.  I also had support from a few teachers with each grade.  Once I had taught the first group of 100 students, I felt proud of myself and realized it helped me to grow. It felt like such an accomplishment to have taught this lesson to my son and his peers.  Thank you to the staff and students of Proctor Elementary School.

My cousin, Helen, a third-grade teacher was very excited about my story. I offered to read it to her class. In April Saint Joseph’s school welcomed me to share my story with 4 classes, kindergarten, first, second, and third grade! Reading my story, sharing author secrets, and creating “Happy Rings” together created my happy! Seeing the smiles, the interest, receiving inquisitive questions, the excitement about using “Happy Rings” is truly priceless! Thank you to Mrs. Fitzgerald, all the staff and children at Saint Joseph’s school.

My more recent news for “That Makes Me Happy!” is it has traveled overseas! “That Makes Me Happy!” will be read in classrooms in France, India, and possibly Germany!20160802_131341 (1)

 

 

 

“That Makes Me Happy!” is doing just that, making me happy. I hope it is making many people happy. In fact if you have read the story and made “Happy Rings” please e-mail me how many children made the “Happy Rings” at: thatmakesmehappy@yahoo.com.  I will be keeping track of how many are made. So far, there have been a little over 100 Happy Rings made. I look forward to seeing that number grow. I am also happy to have taught over 400 children that they can cultivate their own happiness and a few strategies to begin with: deep breaths, smiling often, and thinking happy thoughts.

Did I imagine all this when I took my first “baby step” which was starting this blog? No, I did not. I knew I wanted to share this wonderful information with friends, family, and especially children. I am glad I found a way using many of the strategies I have been writing about!

Thank you all for reading My Happy, you are a big part of this!

A Custom Bracelet For Me?

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A Custom Bracelet For Me?

Have you ever wanted a piece of jewelry that you could see in your imagination, but could not find in a store? I was feeling this way as it has become increasingly important to me to be mindful. I could imagine a bracelet to be worn as a reminder of what I hold important.

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”  Greater Good Science Center

This is not an easy task in our day to day lives. It is unfortunate, but sometimes my mind wanders, I worry needlessly, I react instead of responding, yes, it is true. As much as I am aware how much better life can be when we are mindful, it takes practice not to fall back on old habits.

I learned the Chinese symbol for mindfulness means “presence of heart”. This reminded me of all the hearts that have been given to me since I was a child.  When I was a tween my friend, Susan, gave me a small porcelain heart jewelry box with blue flowers on it. In fact, oIMG_20160512_173125041_HDRver the years, I received many heart boxes and I still have the small collection. I was also given heart necklaces in all shapes and colors. Another kind friend, Carolyn, gave me a her own heart precious stone because she knew I was going through a tough time.  IMG_20160512_173153239_HDRHearts have been present in my life and thoughtfully given to me with love, leading me to visualize a heart bracelet with the words “presence of heart” written on the inside.

I was looking for a piece as an expression, a way to remind myself to be mindful, to follow my heart, and a simple way to start a conversation. With that said, I asked Lisa, a jewelry designer I am fortunate to know, to design this bracelet idea for me. I was unsure of the cost or if she could visualize what I was trying to describe.  Lisa listened, sketched and we discussed what I wanted. We also discussed a “price point”.  A “price point” is the range you would like to spend. Depending on the metals used the price could be higher or lower. I also wanted a specific heart shape incorporated into the piece. A heart with a lattice type of design. This would have increased the cost if Lisa needed to design that heart shape. Luckily and surprisingly, Lisa had heart charms from Australia with the design I was thinking of. After discussing my book, my thinking behind it and all the work I have been doing with my blog and volunteering. I wanted a low cost version of my bracelet idea, as well.  A similar piece that would be a reminder to following one’s heart and dreams.

Lisa surprised me by having the bracelet ready quickly as she knew I would love to wear it at my book launch which was coming up at the time.

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When I got her call that it was ready, I was very excited to see it. Driving over to the jewelry store I felt so fortunate that “little ole’ me” would have a very own custom piece of jewelry designed by Lisa Scala!IMG_20160512_172904037

IMG_20160513_094432998It was BEAUTIFUL and even better than I had imagined. Lisa stayed true to what I had described, adding her flair to it.  I love wearing the bracelet, it really does remind me to stay mindful, follow my heart, and opens conversations with children and friends. Lisa also designed these necklaces and bracelets for me.  I hope my work encourages others to follow their heart and dreams.

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Lisa Scala

About the Artist

 

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“Lisa Scala is a gifted designer whose unique collection of handmade jewelry and accessories has delighted customers for over 25 years.

Her one-of-a-kind pieces reflect a life-long passion for art, natural beauty and vintage charm. As she puts it, “The refined simplicity of my designs is inspired by my observation and love of nature, combined with my upbringing in the antiques trade.”

A recognized jewelry artist—with a degree in Jewelry and Metalsmithing—Lisa has received awards from multiple arts organizations, and her works have been featured at high-end galleries across the US.” Lisascala.com

If you love these pieces, like I do, please visit Lisa’s gallery or visit her website at http://www.lisascala.com to see more of her unique designs or to create your own custom piece of jewelry.

Having a custom piece of jewelry possible for myself was a happy surprise!

Happy International Day of Happiness!

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Happy International Day of Happiness!

 

Enjoy your day with people who make you smile and laugh. My family is lucky to be spending a fun day celebrating a special friend’s 5th birthday!

 

I am sharing the following from Action for Happiness which is a movement for positive social change.

“We want a society that prioritises the things that really matter. Join us and help spread happiness – at home, at work or in your community.”

Source: Let’s put the things that matter first

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Have a great day! 🙂

Happy Book Launch

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Ringing the singing bowl to focus our hearing

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patiently waiting

 

my favorite part, reading the story and seeing smiles

my favorite part, reading the story and seeing smiles

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My friend, Margit has supported every step of my happiness journey and made these cookies for the book launch. She hand did each face!

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smiles

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I think these cookies stole the show! 😉

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Happy drawings!!!

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Getting to write special messages was so fun!

 

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Margit’s cookies made everyone smile

untitledThis photo was taken at the next reading I did for story time at our library during vacation week. We used masks to act out the story. So cute!

 

 

We had a very happy book launch at my town’s library, thank you to all the librarians and a special thank you to Lindsey and Becky! Celebrating with my family and friends always makes me happy.  I always know I can depend on them to be as happy as I am to come together and celebrate, especially for something they know means so much to me.  A number one priority to creating your happiness is to strengthen your social connections. I hope they know how much I appreciate their support, especially at my happy book launch. Sharing “That Makes Me Happy!” and making Happy Rings with my family and friends was truly one of the happiest days I have ever had.

Twenty-five families attended and listened to the reading of “That Makes Me Happy!”.  All the children were terrific listeners and participants. The event was also attended by  Alison, a reporter from our local newspaper.  I look forward to reading the article and seeing the pictures. There was so much going on and I wished I could have chatted more and been able to talk to each child about their drawings. During the book launch children made their happy thought circles and then added it to a Happy Ring to take home. My friend Kim shared with me that her son’s happy thought was me! I was very surprised and almost cried! How sweet was that!James and Tiffany

It was also very heartwarming when one friend shared her enthusiasm for the “Happy Rings” and how her sons have been able to have fun using them for calming strategies. She was very kind to post this comment on “My Happy”:

“That Makes Me Happy! was read in my son’s preschool class and he loved it! He was excited to share with the family the Happy Ring he had created. To this day, I use the techniques described in the book and the Happy Ring as calming strategies for both of my boys. They always end up smiling and laughing with each other. Tiffany, I am so happy to share in your special day tomorrow as you launch the book. Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment!” Amy

It was also important to me to explain some of the great research that led to my motivation to write “That Makes Me Happy!”. First, I explained the work of Richard Davidson. Richard Davidson is a neuroscientist and emotional specialist. At a recent conference hosted by The Mind and Life Institute, Davidson talked about his center’s work in the field of contemplative neuroscience.  He says one of the most important insights this work is leading us to is: we can train for well-being. “It is the neuroscientific evidence particularly which shows us that the circuits in the brain that are important to underlying well-being exhibit plasticity–it changes as a consequence of experience and as a consequence of training.  We know that the brain is constantly being changed, wittingly or unwittingly.”  “We can all take responsibility for our own brains and we can shape our own brains in ways that are more positive and can lead to the cultivation of well-being.”

Read more about Richard Davidson’s work at: http://www.centerhealthyminds.org

Next, I shared the information about the course given by UC Berkeley, “The Science of Happiness”. Not only does this course cover all the latest research in positive psychology, it also teaches students happiness practices to cultivate well-being.  Although it is a 10 week course, if you are not taking it to earn credit, you have the materials for six months and may take it at your own pace.  Between the discussion groups and Facebook page there is opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. Simply hearing the stories of others looking to learn more about positive well-being is very uplifting.

Read more at http://www.greatergoodsciencecenter.org

Local organizations that support SEL in other ways are

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http://www.friendshipconnectiononline.com/

http://www.artfullifecenter.org/

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http://www.mindfulschools.org

 

Lastly, I organized a “Happiness Bundle” for my town library. I have pictured the books I included below. I tried to think of everyone, whether you are an avid reader, a magazine flipper, a movie watcher or a parent looking for children’s books about happiness. I feel like this is the best grouping of books that I have read in the sea of new happiness books. If you live in my area, I hope you get  chance to borrow some of these finds. 🙂 If you are not, your own library may have some of these titles. If not, you can ask them if they could get them in.

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As you can see I have a lot to share! The title “That Makes Me Happy!” truly describes what all this is about, Creating My Happy! I hope that it also Creates YOUR Happy!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this day so HAPPY! 🙂 A special thank you to Olivia for taking pictures at the book launch and Lois for taking pictures at the story time. Thank you to Margit for the delicious custom cookies and to Alex, my excellent assistant at the launch.

 

Tiffany’s Picks for Holiday Giving 2015

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I can’t believe it has been a year since I wrote Happiness for the Holidays.  Now that I have a year under my belt, I revisit old posts. Since I covered ways to bring happiness to the holidays, I thought sharing gift ideas in this year’s post would be fun!

One of my favorite things to give is a good book. Stop, don’t yawn! I know what you’re thinking, but there are so many good ones that I can think of. I, myself, love to read and my children LOVE to read, too. They are just as happy to get a new book as they are with a new toy. You are not just giving a book, you are giving an experience, an inspiration, a laugh, a cry, a mind opener, a comfort.

Okay, before I go overboard, here are Tiffany’s Picks for holiday giving:

Raising_Happiness_ This is one of my favorite books for any parent, caregiver, or anyone who works with children. This is an easy read by Christine Carter, Ph.D. She includes the latest research in positive psychology and she gives examples from her own life, raising two daughters.  I found it to be very inspiring.

9780785832874_p0_v2_s192x300 My friend Kim, brought me to have a medical test recently.  When she returned to pick me up, she had bought me one of these adult coloring books. I really appreciated her help that day and was glad she brought my attention to these coloring books. Yes, it is fun to color and did you know it is being compared to meditating? 🙂 For the many who cannot seem to find a meditation practice that feels comfortable (including yours truly), try one of these books or give one to someone you love. The benefits of getting into a creative “flow” are being compared to the benefits of meditating. To learn more about the benefits of meditating please see my post:  “Meditation is Concentrated Happiness Training”

9781416957768_p0_v2_s192x300If you saw this book in my children’s room you would think it was ready to be recycled. I have read this book so many times it is literally falling apart. Sean Covey and Stacy Curtis create 7 animal characters in 7 stories to illustrate habits that help kids to be happy. One of my favorite stories is “Lily Plants a Garden”. Lily really wants a garden, but her mother tells her it is a lot of work. Lily writes her mom a letter and explains how she will work hard and share what she grows. It will be a win/win for the family.  Learn more about Sean Covey at  http://www.seancovey.com

9780594560975_p0_v4_s550x406Now I know this is not a book. I found this Buddah Board at Barnes and Noble while shopping for books. 😉 Love this! It is relaxing to use, inspires creativity, environmentally friendly, and of course, fun!

Good luck finishing up your to do lists!

Happy Holidays Sign

Happy Holidays to all of you, may it be filled with peace, love, and joy!

 

 

A special thank you to Ramona Crisstea http://www.ramonacrisstea.com After viewing her fashionista post on holiday giving, I used her formatting choice for this post. Please visit her blog and see the SAMMYDRESS post for unique gift ideas.

 

 

 

 

Dear My Happy Readers, Thank You

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IMG_20151123_080218039This is an example of a “Gratitude Letter”, one of many happiness practices that I have been learning about in the  “The Science of Happiness” course, UC Berkeley.  (I included a typed version at the end of this post.)

We were asked to write a gratitude letter after viewing a video of people who were asked to do the same. We were also asked to read the letter to the person we were writing to. Both the act of writing and reading the letter have been shown to improve health and happiness in the writer of the letter and the recipient. The people in the video were only told to write the letter at first. After they wrote the letter they were given a phone to call the person they wrote the letter to. Most everyone reacted very surprised and a little embarrassed. Sometimes we are less reserved when we write to someone as opposed to speaking to them directly. It was a fun video to watch, also very touching.

Gratitude is something my parents felt very strongly about. Both their families had faced many struggles including the Great Depression. My mother and father instilled in each of us how lucky we all were and that we should always be thankful. Thankful we were together, thankful we had a warm home, thankful for our loving extended family, thankful for our clothes, and thankful for three meals a day.  As an adult, I see what a gift this was. Although we faced some very difficult times, we were happier than we would have been if we didn’t appreciate what we had. I think this is why I found this happiness practice to be enjoyable, natural feeling, and of great value.

I appreciated learning about this happiness practice and thought you might like to give it a try. The letter to all of you is not exactly what the instructors had in mind.  😉 I did write another to a long time friend.

The following were the guidelines given to us:

Choose a person who you feel grateful to. Someone who made an impact in your life, but you may never have expressed your gratitude.

Write them a letter explaining why you feel that way (putting pen to paper feels better, somehow, than typing it).  Include how they helped you and how it still means so much to you today.

Try to meet in person to read the letter to them. Notice their expression and their emotions as well as your own.

If you cannot do this in person, you can try skyping, facetime, or like the old days, a phone call. You can still hear their responses.

 

I also learned another way to strengthen gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal.  Researchers have found that keeping a gratitude journal increases happiness. After conducting additional research in this area researchers discovered that the people who wrote in their journals once a week as opposed to three times a week were happier. Sometimes more isn’t better. The best happiness practices are the kind we enjoy, we can do without stress, and you believe it can make a difference to your happiness.

Simply telling people in your life why you appreciate them is a wonderful way to increase your happiness as well as theirs. I know many of us are not only thankful on Thanksgiving, but all year long.

Let me know if you try the Gratitude Letter, I would be very grateful! 🙂

To learn more about how gratitude improves health and happiness or to learn more about “The Science of Happiness” course  visit:

http://www.greatergood.berkeley.edu

Look for “Core Themes” and go to “Gratitude”

“The Science of Happiness” will be re-launching on January 5th 2016 “A free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life, Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Kether and Emiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE Credit hours available.” Greater Good Science Center

 

Typed version of my letter to you:

Dear My Happy Readers,

Thank you! I am so grateful you take time from your busy lives to read my blog posts.  I am so fortunate to have learned through writing comes healing, gratitude, learning, growing, connecting, and so much more.  It is an amazing feeling when you read, comment, share or like something I wrote! Thank you again for reading and being positive.  May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving (if you are in the states) or a wonderful week if you are not.

With Gratitude,

Tiffany

 

 

Stop Learning, Start Thinking, and Create!

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“Stop Learning, Start Thinking, and Create!” Jacob Barnett

Below you will find a most inspiring Ted talk by a teen, Jacob Barnett! I am often searching through Ted talks in areas of my interests. I happen upon Jacob Barnett’s talk and was truly amazed. While most people will be amazed by this young person’s genius, I am amazed by his enthusiasm, humor, and happiness! Jacob lives his life focused on his passion, not his grades, IQ, or achievements. He is focused on what he loves, yet he’s not even sharing that subject (quantum physics), he is inspiring us to stop learning, think, and create. My writing would never do this talk justice, please watch it below.

If you haven’t heard of Ted talks…….

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After watching the video you have learned that Jacob has autism. He speaks of the difficulties his parents encountered because of his developmental delays which included an inability to communicate and interact like a typically developing child.  The Barnett family refused to accept that their son would never learn or speak. Kristine Barnett’s book “The Spark” shares her story of staying focused on her little boy’s “spark”.

Whatever drew Jacob’s interest would be what she would use to try to connect her son to her world.  With that focus, much love,  creating childhood memories (in the midst of therapies), and carving a new path to educate her son, Jacob grows into an amazing child and has gone on to create an original theory in  astrophysics.  Jacob’s talk and his mother’s book speaks volumes to parents who might be struggling with similar problems and to all parents, no matter the situation, who want to see their children happy. Jacob’s message to us all is to stop the learning, take time to think about your passion, and use your unique perspective to create!

After reading “The Spark” I wanted to share the story and Jacob’s message to take our passions seriously no matter what they are. To recognize the passion in your children and encourage, no more than encourage, to give them opportunities to do their passion. Kristine Barnett worked with many children in her daycare and always found success when she focused on the children’s “sparks”.  She did not trust that her son’s school would do the same.

I do not know what their school’s plan would have been for Jacob, but I do know what systems are in place today. I appreciate Kristine Barnett’s positive message to focus on our children’s “spark” and to trust our intuitions (especially about our children), however, I would also like to support all the incredibly dedicated people working with or  parenting children with autism by offering a sense of what help for children with autism is like today.

Today there are caring professionals and parents who use a variety of approaches to bring out the best in children with autism. Schools support these children by educating their social and emotional smarts, as well as supporting or challenging them academically.  Parents also use outside resources to add to those efforts, such as play therapy and social skills groups.  Children with autism are of course, all unique individuals and may require a  balance of doctors, counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, teachers, besides their main support system of family and friends. The needs of each child is not the same as another, some need more support while others need less.

In fact, ALL children need to be educated, supported, or challenged in academics, social skills, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness to bring out their best!

If I might add to Jacob Barnett’s encouragement, I would also encourage families this summer to spend some much-needed mindful family time along with a focus on your passions.

Stop learning, start thinking, be mindful, create, and be happy!