Majoring in Happiness

It happened again last week. While volunteering at a conference, I met Coach Valerie Alexander selling her book, “Happiness …as a Second Language.” One glance at the cover and I was hooked. As I rummaged through my purse for cash, Valerie presented me with a bright lemon-yellow motivational wristband declaring, “Speak Happiness.”  I offered up my most gracious smile. In my book an inspirational band beats a gold bangle.

Full disclosure: I am a junkie, to be specific, a happiness junkie. Whenever I find myself near a book about happiness, I must take it home and add it to my library. Sure, I knowingly practice joy and bliss. On most days, that comes naturally.  But I delight in the study of happiness and aspire to one day earn an honorary degree in the subject.

As a life and career coach, it is sometimes my responsibility to guide clients back on the path to their happy zone.

beautiful girl holds two face masks with happy and angry emotion

Let’s face it, life happens and when discord enters our lives like an unwanted guest, feelings of contentment vanish. Gloomy days turn into dark nights. Unless we make a concerted effort to get back to the light, depression sets in. Mood disorders gone unchecked can influence chronic health conditions. Consequently, happiness is strongly linked to good health thus the popular cliché, “laughter is the best medicine.”

In her book, Alexander writes about achieving permanent happiness. I’m not certain we can always achieve an everlasting buoyant frame of mind, but I do believe a solid understanding of happiness techniques help negate our blue moods.

So when stuck in reverse, what are some activities that pull us out of the doldrums? My first “go to” is to focus on finding one positive in a negative situation. Stay with it until you can find one.

Positive thinking

Next, shift to something that needs your attention. Glimmers of happiness return we when take our minds off our troubles by getting productive. As so aptly professed by the Dalai Lama, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

The Dalai quote brings me to another strategy to blow away the blues. In a word, kindness. Did you know practicing daily acts of kindness generates a physical reaction?

kindness word inside love cloud blue sky only

Your brain produces serotonin bringing a content, almost blissful feeling. A friend of mine refers to it as a “kindness kick.

When time permits, get on the move. Thrust those endorphins into gear by a solid workout. Or, immerse yourself in nature. Head out the door with a notepad or camera. Jot down or photograph any sign of surrounding beauty.


Want an activity more energizing? Turn up the music and rock out with your favorite playlist.

This week invest some time into understanding how to create and cultivate a positive mindset. Get serious about the study of happiness. The happiest people on the planet are probably individuals who did homework on the subject.

Rock Your Life: Embrace Your Inner Child

The other day I created this post on Facebook. “You are an adult to your inner child. Give yourself permission to eat ice cream for breakfast… in your cowgirl boots.”  Judging by the likes and comments, this little ditty delighted a number of friends. Like me, they probably sometimes tire of being an adult. Not only is it hard work, as grown-ups, we sometimes lack the creativity and spontaneity of the young.

little girl with ice cream in studio isolated

Are you too wound up in the parameters of adulthood? I know I am much of the time. When I need to step back, turn off the noise of the world and shake off my Ms Manners persona, I turn to my old friend Dr. Suess. I think he nailed it when he said “I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain.”

crazy monster

I’ve always cherished reading to children and delivering the sing-song verses written by Theodore Geisel, (AKA Dr. Suess) the man dubbed as the modern Mother Goose. We love his characters because they embrace coloring outside the lines. Rarely do they play by the rules. (Actually, Theodore was prone to breaking the rules too as evidenced by some trouble he got into at Dartmouth. Along with some buddies, he was caught drinking in his dorm room.) I know, no big deal right? Well this was 1924 when prohibition reigned so there was a penalty.

Embracing our inner child means sometimes looking at the world wearing glasses two prescriptions too strong.

Funny nerdy school boy in classroom

Perhaps Suess was doing this when he wrote: “From here to there, and there to here, funny things are everywhere.”


So jump on the bandwagon today and plan something fun. Break out of the constant mold of proper adult behavior. Head to the mall and buy some light-up shoes to wear to work on casual Friday. Hide a bottle of soap bubbles in your desk drawer and blow them over your cube when the boss isn’t looking. Get creative and mix it up a bit. As Suess reminded us, “There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.”

About breakfast…forget your morning Starbucks ritual of a non-fat decaf cappuccino or your skinny green tea latte. Stop at the nearest Ben and Jerry’s and opt for a scoop of one of their insane flavors like Pumpkin Cheesecake. As for me, I just might show up at the breakfast table wearing a pink tutu

Ballerina in pink tutu leaning forward

and munching on cold pizza my favorite wacky breakfast treat.



Kindness Lessons Learned from a Board Game

Free Happy Woman Enjoying Nature. Beauty Girl Outdoor.

Not long ago I was playing Monopoly with my two young nieces. At one point, Alina, who is six, decided she wanted to gift some cash to her sister whose bank account was rapidly dwindling. When I inquired of Alina why she would just give money away, she simply replied she had more than enough. At that moment I was torn between which lesson to impart. Was it more important to explain the object of the game was winning, or should I cast the rules aside and let Alina continue with her act of kindness?

kindness word inside love cloud blue sky only

I needn’t have struggled with the decision because Aisaylnn, her ten-year-old sister, wisely stepped up to field this coaching moment. She very sweetly lavished praise on Alina and made it clear how much she appreciated the gesture. Aisalynn then explained a win was more meaningful if earned fairly.

Life Lesson

Without missing a beat, the game continued leaving me with a warm glow over what I had just experienced. The life-lesson lingered with me throughout the day causing me to examine my actions. How often have I acknowledged I had more than enough?  Do I give generously and frequently? Do I possess the bigheartedness of a little girl? Having pondered this I decided a kindness campaign is definitely something to keep on the front burner.

My Kindness Journal

I’m a tracker. Weighing, measuring and logging results are motivational in my world. Alina’s charitable example prompted me to initiate a Kindness Journal.

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Knowing at the end of the day I must log in a minimum of five benevolent or thoughtful acts keeps me in grace. Sometimes my actions involve giving physical items away as I truly do have more than enough. Other deeds may be as simple as reaching an item from the top shelf in the grocery for someone in a wheelchair.

Your Challenge

My challenge for you this week is to take kindness to heart by acting on it daily. Make a caring gesture expecting nothing in return. Typically your kind deed will live on. Here’s some geeky brain stuff: scientists have coined the term, “upstream reciprocity”

Brain cell

to explain your act of generosity inspires others to also pay it forward. Another bonus: givers also experience a brain boost in a release of endorphins which are “feel-good” chemicals.

Each night when I finish my journal entries I cannot help but smile and think how much you can learn by playing a board game with a six and ten year old.

Please let me express my gratitude to you for reading Life on the Sunny Side. I welcome your comments and would love  input on how you raise the bar on kindness.