What’s in a smile?  A simple smile can turn someone’s world around.  If you don’t believe me… try it.  So, why don’t people I encounter smile more?  On the bike trail, cyclists smile… runners, not so much.  I guess that’s why I never got into running – it doesn’t look like runners are having very much fun.   To me, fellow cyclists seem so much more joyful doing their workout.  We always smile at one another or, at a minimum, nod hello.

My bf informed me from a reading a guide book to Paris, that you weren’t supposed to smile at people on the street while in Paris. If you smiled at people, the locals would think you were crazy. What?  Really?  How sad.  In Paris, I smiled anyway. Let them think I am a nut case, I don’t really care.

While in Greece, we met an Italian who had just opened a café called Dolce Vita in the neighborhood we were staying in. He commented that he wanted to have a café where everyone knew each other, said hello, and had meaningful conversation.  I liked this idea!

At a recent visit to Hidden Peak Teahouse in Santa Cruz on Monday, I was delighted to sample some sumptuous teas and frequent a establishment where electronic devices are not allowed.  I M A G I N E a public area where you can sit, enjoy some worthwhile conversation and not be interrupted by a electronic device, or see others distracted by their electronic babysitters?!?!  This makes me smile.

Cultivating Awareness

Are we drawn to certain things for a reason?

I absolutely believe so.

How is that the new perfume that I picked out, wear this year, LOVE, and get many compliments on just happens to be called: La Vie Est Belle (Life is Beautiful) a new Lancome fragrance??? Coincidence?  The concept of this fragrance is centered on the idea of natural and simple beauty, freedom from conventions and the choice of one’s own vision of happiness. The fragrance is a kind of outlook on life, inspired by joy and pleasure in small things.

On that same note, I’m doing my best to live each day awake and aware of the finiteness of life.  As I make day to day decisions, I keep asking, “If today were my last day on earth, would I be satisfied with this choice?” By doing so, I’m becoming acutely aware of what adds comfort, contentment, peace, and meaning to my life.  I’m realizing some pretty interesting things.

One thing is how little value I’ve attributed lately to the simple things that bring me immense joy – watching the birds feed from my sunroom window, listening to my wind chimes making their beautiful melody when the wind catches them,  being in the presence of my dog, since dogs have no concept of time, she is the perfect example of “living in the moment“, sleeping with an open window so I can hear the the sounds at night, or listening to the rain without doing anything but savor the sound.

It’s so easy to put all of our energy into what we’ve been conditioned to value -advancing a career, making a living, building a business, or completing our to-do lists.  In our drive to succeed, we tend to miss, (or dismiss) the events that bring us joy.  They seem only secondary, a reward after a hard days work, or a peripheral pleasure we happen to stumble upon.

I’m making pleasure a primary goal.  I’ve been tracking the little things that bring me joy for quite awhile now and it’s always a surprise at what makes the list.  Simple things.  Tiny things.  Things that often cost nothing at all.

This week, try and make an effort to become aware of the little things that make you smile.  As you notice them, pay attention to how they make you feel.  If they feel good, really good, attach value to them immediately.  Tell yourself, “This is the kind of experience that matters.  I want more of this in my life.”  Awareness is a powerful motivator for change. If you keep up this practice, you’ll start to see things change, almost effortlessly and amazing things will begin to happen in your life.

La Vie Est Belle (Life IS B E A U T I F U L ….)

Being on an extended vacation (1 month+) should be mandatory for everyone.  Why?  When you are able to get away for a month or more you REALLY get a chance to relax/dream/LIVE….

I wish each and every one of you this opportunity in your lifetime.

While on vacation, relaxing, dreaming ….

I pondered this, question among myriad other things….

How would I like to present myself to the universe?  Here’s what I came up with so far:

Wisdom of an Owl (no wonder owls keep crossing my path – even while on vacation!!!!)

Compassion of Kwan Yin (Always drawn to Kwan Yin images/have several)

Spirituality/Faith of Dalai Lama/God

LOVE this image — as if he is telling a joke or something….

I appreciate all cultures, but specifically certain things come to mind off the cuff:

Love of life of the Mediterranean culture

Graciousness of the Asian culture (Their Work Ethic,Gardening, Food – is there a name for this, the love of everything Asian??)

Financial saviness of the German culture

Pride of the African American culture – (I remember reciting Martin Luther King’s speech, I Have a Dream in my high school English class.)

BIG Hearted (How many more heart items can I have in my home and not be thought of as a mental case?)

This is a trait I seek out in everyone….

Powerful as MMA Fighter, George St. Pierre

A beautiful thing to watch this warrior fight!!!

Loyal as a Dog (Dogs ROCK!!!) – I also appreciate their ability to LIVE IN THE MOMENT!

Nothing but pure love/adoration for my Princess Gracie….

Fun as a 2-5 year old! (Love children, but that age is JUST THE best!!)

A friend’s son, Will… is this not one of the most precious images you have ever seen of a Father/son???

Generous as Bill Gates/Warren Buffett/Oprah Winfrey  (Now, if I could only make enough money so I could give so freely)

Funny as Jerry Seinfeld/Dave Chapelle/Robin Williams/Kat Williams…

Bottom line – How do I make a difference?  Leave a legacy that my son, Brendon Ricciardi will be proud of?

Hereafter , this is my mission.

How do YOU envision yourself?  How will you leave your legacy?.  Think about it and please share with me. I would love to open up an interesting dialogue….




Try a Media Fast!

Fasting is defined as the abstention from something for a period of time. It is primarily used in the terms of food, but can be applied to virtually anything in life. Fasting not only gives us a chance to get away from something, but also the clarity and silence that may be needed in order to reflect on what is going on with our lives. Here are some examples of how to fast daily; put some into practice and see what happens.

  • News Fasting: Do we really require constant updates on the hour, second about everything that is going on everywhere? Are we so obsessed with things globally that we neglect to focus on the most important thing in our life, our daily personal journey? Take time away from the TV, newspaper, internet, radio and do something more enjoyable. Most everything we hear about and read is all negative because negativity sells!  How sad that is the world we live in. Who needs that? I sure don’t. You can still keep updated on current events, just don’t let them run your life. I listen to NPR in the morning and might also check the head pages of AOL and look at the headlines, anything that is important will be there. If I find something I want to read about, I will click on it, if not, then, I am done for the day. No need to sit through 30 minutes of pure negative energy from the local news. Take control over what information comes into your life, and what does not! Just cause an update is there every 5min, doesn’t mean that we actually need it in our life.
  • Computer Fasting: I am a big fan of the computer, just like everyone else, but I don’t want it running my life. Although I do a lot of work on my Ipad, I find that I get more done in concentrated efforts vs being on the internet for a big part of the  day. There is always email, websites, forums, blogs and other things constantly being updated. Take time to schedule when you do these tasks and then be able to walk away and get on with your day, even if that is just sitting outside enjoying nature. Tip: Schedule your computer time as needed. Get on, check the emails, respond right away, delete or file, and keep that inbox clean. Read the sites you want to read and then move on. Do it once or twice a day, or however you need to schedule it. Don’t just log on all day long and wander around the internet, as you could easily waste a whole day and be less productive.
  • TV Fasting: This is pretty self explanatory – and an easy one for me since I only watch it minimally on the weekend.  When I do watch it, it’s usually documentaries, or movies. How many hours do you waste in front of the TV? Are you even really watching the shows you enjoy or just incessantly flipping channels?  Do you like to keep it on for background noise?  Do you complain about not having enough time to do something, always wanted to try a new hobby, or anything else? Imagine taking that 1 hour a day wasted on TV and put into a pursuit you have a passion for whether it be a career move, writing a book, or something as simple as hiking a trail daily, or spending that time GETTING a MASSAGE. Imagine the positive impact and what your life could be, thinking anything was possible. Enjoy the shows you like, turn off the TV when they are over.
  • Cell Phone Fasting: Sometimes I just like to put down the cell phone on silent and just want away from it and the distraction. How liberating that feels!

    I have always liked the song, No Phone, by Cake, especially the following lyrics:

    “No phone, no phone

    I just want to be alone today.

    No phone, no phone,

    No phone, no phone.

    I just want to be alone today.”

    “But what if someone calls and my house is on fire…”. Are you really using that or any other excuse to yourself? Really, when has something like that ever happened? Unless you are expecting an important call, chances are slim that anything will need your immediate attention and can probably wait a few hours. We are so addicted to carrying and answering every call. These are precious moments in your life that could be used for whatever you want them to be, instead of just talking to people who are looking to kill some time and gossip. You will find as you become more focused in your life, you will have less time and interest to just “shooting the breeze”. Nothing wrong with being around friends, but make time for that aside from calls on the phone that are interrupting your daily activities. Nothing is that urgent.  I can’t really do a cell phone fast during my work week since I am self employed.  However, I have begun a cell phone fast on the weekends by only checking it only 1 or 2x a day depending on if I am working.

    These are just a few examples of how you can incorporate the practice of fasting to any part of your life. You could fast from negative people, dining out, drinking, being inside all day, exercise at the gym (yes…take a break and just enjoy the day doing whatever you like, you may just return the next time with even more energy and see better gains thereafter), information overload (books, magazines, newspapers, etc) and more. Take control of how you want to spend your time, and the only way to know what you want to do is take time to just relax and it will come to you in those moments that are known as “inspiration”!  Be inspired……




Doing for Others – Solace in Service

Daily Om

by Madisyn Taylor

So many times, when we are being of service to others, we find the answer or solution to our own problems.

When we feel bad, often our first instinct is to isolate ourselves and focus on what’s upsetting us. Sometimes we really do need some downtime, but many times the best way to get out of the blues quickly is to turn our attention to other people. In being of service to others, paradoxically, we often find answers to our own questions and solutions to our own problems. We also end up feeling more connected to the people around us, as well as empowered by the experience of helping someone.

When we reach out to people we can help, we confirm that we are not alone in our own need for support and inspiration, and we also remind ourselves that we are powerful and capable in certain ways. Even as our own problems or moods get the better of us sometimes, there is always someone else who can use our particular gifts and energy to help them out. They, in turn, remind us that we are not the only people in the world with difficulties or issues. We all struggle with the problems of life, and we all feel overwhelmed from time to time, but we can almost always find solace in service.

In the most ideal situation, the person we are helping sheds light on our own dilemma, sometimes with a direct piece of advice, and sometimes without saying anything at all. Sometimes just the act of getting our minds out of the obsessive mode of trying to figure out what to do about our own life does the trick. Many great inventors and artists have found that the inspiration they need to get to the next level in their work comes not when they’re working but when they’re walking around the block or doing dishes. We do ourselves and everyone else a great service when we take a break from our sorrows and extend ourselves to someone in need.

Life is Too Short to Be Anything But Happy……


This has been an interesting month for me thus far.    Some conversations I have had during the month make me ponder, what makes a person happy?

Last week I had a client tell me her mentally challenged son was generally not a happy person.  I asked about any hobbies that he enjoyed or what brought him joy.  How sad to generally be unhappy in your life.  🙁

I also had another interesting conversation with a client that deeply saddened me.  She said her 90 year old Father told her he has only been happy ONE time in his entire life!! She then recounted this one beautiful memory from her childhood – a simple memory of being outdoors on a sunny day picnicking with just her and her father.    My client went on to say that sometimes her husband annoys her because he is so happy go lucky.   However, she said in the next breath that she was wished she could also be so happy.

How many of us in the world are unhappy?  How do you overcome being unhappy?

Life being what it is, we all go through challenging periods in our lives.  To get through a difficult period you need to remain positive and keep the faith that things will improve.  Be thankful for all of the things that you do have.  Remember that there are always others who are less fortunate.  Your attitude can alter any situation.  You also need to surround yourself with positive, upbeat people.

Thankfully, no matter what difficulties I have faced during my existence, my default emotions have consistently been happiness/positivity.  It doesn’t hurt that I have a job that I love and an amazing support system of  people in my life.  I also give thanks every day for the blessings that I have.

Some things that contribute to my happiness ( in no particular order):

1.  Strong support system

2.  Nature

3.  Wildlife

4.  Laughter

5.  Good food, premium wine, craft beer

6.  Travel

7.  Sunshine

8.  Exercise

9.  Good Health

10.  Animals

11.  Learning

12.  Making other people happy.

13.  Surprises

14.  Art

15.  Rafting

16.  Live Music, or music in general

17.  Children

18.  Interesting Conversation

19.  People watching

20.  Road trips

21.  Massage

22.  Power Naps

23.  Theater

24.  Hiking

25.  Cycling





52 Tips for Happiness and Productivity


  1. Try rising early. It’s not for everyone, I’ll admit. It may not be for you. But I’ve found it to be an amazing change in my life. It has made the start of my days much more positive, and I now have time for writing, exercise, and silent contemplation. I talked about this recently in my post 10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It.
  2. Do less. This is both a happiness and productivity tip. Doing less will make you happier, because your life won’t be so hectic and filled with stress. You will have time for things that give you pleasure, for the loved ones in your life, for life itself. It’s also a productivity tip: if you focus on the essential tasks, the big ones, the ones that will give you the most return for your time, and eliminate the rest, you will actually be more productive. You’ll get fewer tasks done, but you will be more effective. See How to Pare Your To-do List Down to the Essentials.
  3. Slow down. Many new readers to this site have read my productivity articles and think that I’m all about being hyper-productive. I’m not. Long-time readers know that I am about a simpler way of life. Unfortunately, in my free-lance blogging, other websites usually ask me to write about productivity, so the preponderance of my productivity writing has given the impression, I think, that I think people should be churning out work at an amazing rate, to the exclusion of all else. Actually, I feel that life is much more enjoyable if you slow down. By doing less, you can actually get more done, even if you work more slowly. And when you’re not working, you should definitely try switching to slow mode. Drive slower (it is so much more relaxing), walk slower, eat slower. See Slow Down to Enjoy Life for more.
  4. Practice patience. I’ve talked about how I’m trying to develop patience in my parenting article, How to Become a Patient Parent, but these tips really apply to everyone. If you easily lose your temper, you can become more patient with these tips. Once you’ve developed this skill (and it’s a skill, like everything else, not an unchangeable inborn trait), your life will become much saner and you will be much happier.
  5. Practice compassion. This may be the most important tip of all, in my opinion. If you were to choose any of these, I would choose this one. The first part of compassion is empathy — and this ability to understand how others feel can be developed through practice. Start by imagining the suffering of a loved one. Understand their pain, the emotions they go through, and why they would react the way they would. By doing this exercise a number of times, you are developing a skill that can be applied to others — for every person you see, try to understand what they are going through. Try to learn and understand more about their background, and why they react the way they do. Once you’ve developed this invaluable skill, learn the other half of compassion — acting on your understanding, and helping others, alleviating their suffering, acting with kindness. This one thing can bring true happiness to your life, and the lives of those around you.
  6. Find your passion. Another indispensable tip. This might be the second on my list of priorities. Find something you love to do, and your life will become immensely improved. You will love your work, the thing that you spend 40 hours (or more) a week doing. You will become more productive, procrastinate less, be less stressed. You will produce something you are proud of, and happy about. Read this article for some practical tips.
  7. Lose weight. This only applies, of course, if you are overweight. But losing your extra fat (and when I say lose weight, I mean lose fat), decreases your health risks (obviously), makes you look better, and in general is very likely to increase your happiness about yourself. I actually recommend that you learn to be comfortable and happy with how you look now, and not feel negative about yourself even if you are overweight. However, I’ve found that losing weight (at least for me) is a great way to feel better about your body. Do not make this an unhealthy obsession, however — lose weight gradually, and enjoy the process. See the next two tips for the best methods for doing this.
  8. Exercise. Make this a daily habit. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, but for me, it’s made me feel so much better. I actually enjoy exercise now. It’s a time of contemplation for me, and I feel so much better about myself afterwards. See Top 42 Exercise Hacks and How to Make Exercise a Daily Habit and 7 Ways to Build the Exercise Habit.
  9. Eat healthy. I don’t recommend dieting. It’s too restrictive and you usually fall off it at some point. I do recommend changes to your diet, however — ones you make gradually, and that can be sustained for life. It not only helps lose weight, but really, once you start eating healthier, it is actually much more enjoyable. See my Top 15 Diet Hacks for more.
  10. Meditate. OK, you might be like me — not into New-Age stuff. But meditation can actually be a very simple method for relaxing, for bringing calm, for returning yourself to sanity, for contemplation. My friend Scott Young wrote a good post about doing that here.
  11. Get organized. This one’s not necessary. You could go through life wonderfully messy, searching for stuff, enjoying the search. But I’ve tried disorganized, and I’ve tried organized. The second is much more enjoyable to me. Read How to Never Lose Anything Again for a start on the subject, as well as how I keep my family organized.
  12. Think positive. Another one of the most important tips on this list, thinking positive — as cliche as it might sound — is one of the single best changes you can make in your life that will lead to so many more positive tips. As I wrote about here, learning to think positive was the skill that turned my life around. It makes everything else on this list possible. Read more about it here.
  13. Simplify your finances. Cut down on the number of accounts you have, cut down on your credit cards, spend less, reduce your bills. Make your finances automagical. Simplifying your finances greatly reduces your stress. Also see 10 Habits to Develop For Financial Stability and Success.
  14. Simplify your life. Another of my top tips. I’ve greatly simplified my life, in many ways, and I can say that having less stuff in my life, and less to do, has greatly increased my enjoyment of life. De-clutter, simplify your commitments, simplify your work space, simplify your wardrobe, simplify your rooms.
  15. Accept what you have. The problem with many of us is that we always think that we’ll be happy when we reach a certain destination — when we get a certain job, or retire, or get our dream house. Unfortunately, it takes awhile before you get there, and when you get there, you might have a new destination in mind. Instead, try being happy with where you are, with who you are, and what you have. To do that, instead of comparing what you have with other people, or with what you want, compare yourself those who have less, with those who are going through tragedy, with those who are struggling. You will see that you actually are extremely blessed. And this can lead to more happiness with your current situation.
  16. Envision your ultimate life. What would your ultimate life be like? Where would you live, what would you do, what would you do with your days? Come up with a clear picture of this, and write it down. Now, one step at a time, make it come true. Some ways of doing that follow.
  17. Set long-term goals. Your vision of your ultimate life will help you come up with long-term goals. Of those goals, pick one to accomplish within the next year, and really focus on that. Now, pick one medium-term goal to achieve in the next few months that will get you further toward your longer-term goal. Now decide what you can do this week, and today, to get you to your medium-term goal. Just choose one thing at a time, focus on it, make it happen, and then choose the next thing to focus on. See Think About Your Life Goals.
  18. Review goals. Setting goals is important, but the key to making them a reality is actually reviewing them (at least monthly, but weekly is better) and taking action steps to make them come true. Again, focus on one at a time, and really focus on them. Read Review Your Goals Weekly.
  19. Life mission. Related to envisioning your ultimate life, but different — it’s important that you think about how you would like to be remembered when you die — so you can start living the life that leads to that now. Live with purpose in life, and wake up every day with that purpose in mind. Read the Key to Dying Happy for more concrete steps.
  20. Plan your big tasks for week and day. Give purpose to your day by determining the three most important things you can do with your day, and making those a priority. Do the same thing with your week to increase your productivity: pick out the big tasks you’d like to accomplish this week, and schedule those first. See Purpose Your Day and Plan Your Big Rocks First.
  21. Maintain focus. One important key to achieving your goals is to maintain focus on them. To do this, again, it’s important that you select one goal at a time. This will prevent your focus from spreading too thin. It’s also important that you give yourself constant reminders of your goal, so you don’t lose that focus. Put up a poster of your current goal, or print it out and put it out somewhere visible, and send yourself emailed reminders. However you do it, find a way to maintain a laser-sharp focus, and the goal will come true.
  22. Enjoy the journey. Goals are important, but not at the expense of happiness now. It’s important to maintain a balance between going where you want to go, and being happy as you go there. It’s easy to forget that, so be sure to remind yourself of this little, but important, tip as you make your journey.
  23. Create a morning and evening routine. These are two great ways to add structure to your day, make sure you review your goals and log your progress, and get your day off to a great start. An evening routine, for example, could be a great way not only to wind down from a long day and review how your day went, but to prepare yourself for your next day so the morning isn’t so hectic. Your morning routine is great way to greet the day, to get some exercise or meditation or quiet contemplation, or to get some writing or other work done.
  24. Develop intimate relationships. It’s great to have a special someone, of course, but intimate relationships could be found with anyone around you. If you have a significant other, be sure to spend time each day and each week with that person, to work on your relationship and communicate and continue to bond. But if you don’t, there’s no need to despair (if in fact you are) … intimate relationships can be developed with friends, other family members, kids, roommates, classmate, co-workers. Every single person we meet is a fellow human being, with the same desires for happiness, for food and shelter, for an intimate connection. Find that common thread, be open and sincere, find out more about each other, understand each other, and give love. This can be one of the most important things you do.
  25. Eliminate debt. Financially, this is a huge way to relieve stress and make you feel much more secure. I suggest that you get rid of your credit cards (if you have a problem with credit card debt or impulse spending) and create a snowball plan for yourself. It may take a couple of years, but you can get out of debt.
  26. Enjoy the simple pleasures. You can find these everywhere. Food (I love berries!), sunsets, sand between your toes, fresh-cut grass, playing with your child, a good book and a warm bed, dancing in the rain, your favorite music. You could probably make a list of 20 simple pleasures right now, things you enjoy that you could find every day. Sprinkle those little pleasures throughout your day. It makes the journey much more enjoyable.
  27. Empty your inbox and clear your desk. This might take a little while to do at first, but once you’ve emptied your inbox and cleared off your desk, it doesn’t take long to keep them clear from then on. It’s a simple habit that’s vastly rewarding. I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from having a clean desk. I recommend you give it a try.
  28. Build an emergency fund. This is standard-issue financial advice, I know … and yet it is extremely important. I cannot stress how important it is to have at least a tiny emergency fund in the bank. You often hear that you should have six months saved up. Don’t be intimidated by that. Start out with just a hundred dollars if you can. Cut back on a few things. Then build it up, every payday. Once you have, let’s say, $1,000, it will make a huge difference in your life. It’s not much, and you should still add to it every paycheck, but at least now you’re not living paycheck-to-paycheck, and if an unexpected emergency comes up you can pay for it, rather than not paying other bills and falling behind. It’s a simple step, but it will mean a lot.
  29. Keep a journal. This is not one of the more important tips, but I can attest that it’s rewarding. I, for one, have a bad long-term memory, and by writing things down, I can look back and remember what happened a month ago. I just started this a couple months ago, actually, but ti’s been awesome. I started an online journal, something I call the one-sentence journal, and my goal is to just write one sentence a day. Sometimes I write two or three, but the idea is the same — just get one or two things down that happened that day, so I can always look back on it later.
  30. Use the power of others. Achieving your goals can be difficult, but using the power of others makes it much more likely to happen. For example, put positive public pressure on yourself by announcing your goal on your blog. Or join an online forum, or a group in your neighborhood, that you can count on for support. I have a mailing list for the May Challenge here on Zen Habits, for example, and our group has helped me stick to my goal of daily exercise even when I started to falter — and the rest of the group can tell you they’ve experienced similar success because of the positive power of the group.
  31. Read, and read to your kids. I read all the time — it’s one of my favorite things to do in the world. I love to curl up with a good novel (or even a trashy one) and I can waste away an afternoon with a book. And I’m passing on my love of reading to my kids, by reading to them every day. I love spending time with them this way, and we all enjoy the stories we share together through books. See Best All-time Children’s Books.
  32. Limit your information intake. In our lives today, we get a tremendous amount of information through email, blog feeds, reading websites, paperwork, memos, newspapers, magazines, television, DVDs, radio, mobile phones and Blackberries. Not only can this be overwhelming, but it can be distracting and can fill up your life until you have no time for more important things. Go on a media fast to get control over your information intake, and to simplify your life
  33. Create simple systems. Once you’ve simplified your life, the way to keep it simple is by creating systems for everything you do regularly. Create an efficient system for laundry, mail and paperwork, errands, your workflow. Anything, really. See ways to Streamline Your Life and to make your mail and paperwork painless.
  34. Take time to decompress after stress. There will inevitably be times in your life when you go through high stress. Perhaps several times a week. To maintain your sanity, you need to find ways to decompress. Here are some great ways to do that.
  35. Be present. Time can go by extremely quickly. Before you know it, your life has passed you by. Your kids are grown and your youth is gone. Don’t let your life slip by — enjoy it while it’s here. Instead of dwelling in the past or thinking about the future, practice being in the here and now. Here are some practical tips for being present.
  36. Develop equanimity. Keep your sanity through all the challenges that life throws at you. Rude drivers, irritating co-workers, mean commenters on your blog, inconsiderate family members. This takes a bit of practice, but you can let these things slide off you like you’re Teflon. Try these practical tips.
  37. Spend time with family and loved ones. One of the things that can lead to the greatest happiness, make this a priority every week, every day. Clear off as much time as possible to spend with those you love, and truly enjoy those times. Be present as you do it — don’t think about work or your blog or what you need to do. Read this for more.
  38. Pick yourself up when you’re down. There will always be times in our lives when we get a little down, even depressed. Take action to get yourself out of your slump. Here are some great ways to do that.
  39. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is hard to do, but it can be a great way to accept who you are and what you have. Whenever you find yourself comparing yourself to a co-worker, a friend, or someone famous (those models on magazines with amazing abs), stop. And realize that you are different, with different strengths. Take a minute to appreciate all the good things about yourself, and to be grateful for all the blessings in your life.
  40. Focus on benefits, not difficulties. If you find yourself struggling to do something, or procrastinating, stop thinking about how hard something is, or why you don’t want to do it. Focus instead on what benefits it will have for you, what opportunities it will create — the good things about it. By changing the way you see things, you can change how you feel about them and make it easier to get things done.
  41. Be romantic. If you have that special someone, find little ways to be romantic. It can do wonders to keep your relationship alive and fresh. It doesn’t take tons of money, either. See these ideas to get you started.
  42. Lose arguments. I know someone who just celebrated his 50th anniversary, and I asked him for his secret to a long and happy marriage. He told me, that if I ever get into an argument with my wife, to just shut up. What he meant, I think, is that I shouldn’t try to be right in every argument. I think this is a reminder many of us need, not just the married ones. But instead of just giving up the argument, instead of trying to be right, instead seek to understand. Really try to understand the other person’s position, to see it from their point of view. This little tip can lead to much happiness.
  43. Get into the flow. This is both a happiness and productivity tip. Flow is the term for the state we enter when we are completely focused on the work or task before us. We are so immersed in our task that we lose track of time. Having work and leisure that gets you in this state of flow will almost undoubtedly lead to happiness. People find greatest enjoyment not when they’re passively mindless, but when they’re absorbed in a mindful challenge. Get into that flow by first doing something you are passionate about, and second by eliminating all distractions and really focusing on the task before you.
  44. Single-task. I don’t believe in multi-tasking, at least not on a day-to-day basis. Instead, focus on one task at a time. This leads to greater productivity and less stress. You can’t go wrong with that kind of combination. See these tips for more.
  45. Be frugal. This is a habit, rather than a goal. It is a way of living, a different mindset, and the best way to live within your means. It doesn’t mean being cheap or forsaking pleasure, but it does mean finding less expensive ways to do things, learning to live with less (and be happier in the process), and controlling impulse spending. I don’t have a single article to give you as reference, but frugality is a recurring theme on Zen Habits.
  46. Start small and slow. Regular Zen Habits readers know that I advocate starting slow with any goal or habit change, and starting with a small goal rather than a big one. Why small? Because it’s something you are sure to achieve — and once you do achieve it, you can use that success to push you to further success. It’s a simple technique, but it really works. Start slow when you start exercise, or other similar activities — there’s no need to rush it in the beginning, to overdo it. You have the rest of your life!
  47. Learn to deal with detractors. We all face detractors in our lives. They are the naysayers who, even if they are well-intentioned, will make us feel unworthy, or that you cannot achieve a goal. They will tease or be negative. In order to achieve your goals, you need to learn how to deal with these detractors and overcome this common obstacle. Read these tips for some ideas.
  48. Go outdoors. These days, too many of us spend so much of our time indoors, especially if our jobs and our ways of having fun are all online. Our kids are often just as bad or worse, with so many ways to watch TV, surf the internet or play video games. Get them and yourself outdoors, appreciate nature, the beauty of the world around us, and the fun of physical activity. See this article for more ideas (to do with or without kids).
  49. Retire early. This isn’t a sure way to become happy — you can retire and be bored out of your mind and unhappy — but it’s surely a cool goal. And if you do something meaningful with your life, such as volunteer and help others, it can be a way to be really happy. It’s not an easy goal, either, but you can retire early by cutting back on your living expenses, increasing your income, and investing the difference. The more you can do of all three, the fast you’ll retire. And that’s a truly liberating idea.
  50. Savor the little things. Sure, the big things can bring big pleasure, but there are so many more little things in our lives. Savor them when they come up. It’s a way of practicing being present — stop and notice what you’re doing right now, what’s around you. And take time to enjoy it. Read this article for more.
  51. Be lazy. There’s a time to be productive, and there’s a time to be plain ol’ lazy. I like the latter, and do it every chance I get. Does that make me a lazy person? Probably not, but even if it does, I don’t care. It makes me happy, and the kids love being lazy with me.
  52. Help others. While finding pleasure in life is one way to be happy, doing something that is more than you, that helps others to be happy or to suffer less, is even more rewarding. I suggest you find a good cause or two and volunteer some of your time. You don’t have to commit to big chunks of your life, but just volunteer for a couple of hours. All of us can find a couple of hours in a week or a month. If you do this, you will find out how tremendously happy this will make you. You might even become addicted.

Read more about simplicity in Leo’s books, The Zen Habits Handbook for Life & The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life. More here.

Be Thankful!

I inadvertently saw the first half of the documentary “Redemption” this weekend.  We had originally gone to see “Silver Linings Playbook”, but went into the wrong theater.  We were so engrossed with the documentary, thinking it was a short and just a prelude to the movie, we watched it for thirty minutes before realizing we were in the wrong theater.  Whoops!  The first half of Redemption was thought provoking, depressing and sad.  I had no idea “canning” (people who survive by collecting cans and bottles from bins and redeem them for money) was a way some people make their living or supplement their income.  One of these canners in this documentary used to work for IBM, another worked at the World Trade Center before it was destroyed.  Their story was heart wrenching.  I intend to watch the rest of the documentary soon.

No matter how difficult your situation is, be thankful for what you have.  There are so many less fortunate than you. My Mom always shares this quote from her grandfather, “I felt sorry for the man who had no shoes, until I saw the man who had no feet.”

For more information about the Redemption documentary: