Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fun Things for Fall.

Fall picture by George E. Norkus

Fall has arrived with all the fun it always brings – colorful changing leaves, cool, crisp nights, Halloween, and hot chocolate with marshmallows. But this year, I wanted to think of a few different things to appreciate about the season. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Candy bars don’t melt in the hot car on the way home from the store.
  2. Entertainment – ever watch someone raking up leaves on a windy day?
  3. Cozy firelight. Something about a warm, crackling fire just says contentment and comfort.
  4. Singing in your car. Finally a chance to roll up your windows and belting out your favorite tunes without hurting the sensitive ears of other drivers.
  5. No more pests. Bees, mosquitoes, snakes and other creepy-crawlies go away for awhile.
  6. Apples! Apple pie, applesauce, apple cider, apple butter, and of course – an ordinary apple. Yum!
  7. Bulky sweaters. They’re colorful, bright, and great at hiding the flaws of our not-always-perfect figures.
  8. Quieter Saturdays once the lawnmower is retired for the season.
  9. Sunday is for Football!
  10. Romance time. Snuggling under the covers for warmth leads into something more.
  11. New TV shows. The end of summer re-runs and a return of old favorites.
  12. After the exciting fireworks of multi-colored leaves, you get to crunch-crunch-crunch them under your feet as you walk. I don’t know why it’s so fun, but it is.
  13. Being outside all day long and not getting sweaty.
  14. Pretending to be someone else for a day. Isn’t Halloween great?
  15. Smelling cedar and pine in the chimney smoke.

What are your favorites?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Best Ways to Deal With a Harry Potter Hater.

Yes, believe it or not HP Fans, there are actually people who do not adore our little black-haired, super-genius, evil-defeating hero known as Harry Potter. These foolish muggles overlook the greatness of The-Boy-Who-Lived, thinking him nothing more than a silly little child.

When you come upon such addle-brained and unenlightened people, simply try some of these well proven strategies to cope with their narrow little minds:

  1. Make sure they are healthy. Find out if they have had a recent check-up. A head injury could account for their confusion on the subject. Check their pulse and peer into their eyes to be sure they are breathing and not in a coma.
  2. Be friends. Assure them that you understand how much better the Jedi in Star Trek was. Always salute them with “Live Long in the Force.” This is sure to please.
  3. Squeal in horror as you recognize a Death Eater in disguise. Shout “Death to Voldemort,” and run away screaming.
  4. Express your sympathy about their being dyslexic. No wonder they haven’t read the books yet poor things!
  5. Gently pat their hand and assure them it’s alright to be afraid of the unknown. Offer to teach them the “Lumos” spell if they’re also afraid of the dark.
  6. Send them frequent HP updates, including new movies, the upcoming theme park, each character’s film career and whatever other interesting tidbits you can find. Tell them “you don’t know what you’re missing – let me show you.”
  7. Remark on how much they look like a Harry Potter character. Argue with yourself over which one they remind you of most. “Hagrid - no, Dumbledore – certainly not, ahh, I have it – Dobby!”
  8. Report them to the Ministry of Magic. These are obviously criminal masterminds whose resistance to the esteemed Mr. Potter is simply a reflex of their dislike for any “meddling goody-two-shoes.”
  9. Assume they are a pessimist who thinks everyone is terrible. Suggest you can teach them skills to become as optimist as you have been inspired by the heroics of Harry and his friends. Offer to give them numerous examples.
  10. Check them into the nearest psychiatric hospital for examination. Nothing but mental impairment sufficiently explains their lack of adoration for our favorite hero. :0)

Check out this fun video on You Tube.

For more ways to annoy Harry Potter Haters.

P.S. Check out my other web site Bright Days for a look at the upcoming Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, FL. Opening Spring 2010.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Opposite Day.

Picture by Pink Sherbet Photography

Here’s a fun approach to a childhood favorite – opposite day. Today, try doing things that are the opposite of what you would normally do. The point here is to experiment and have fun. Try doing something that is different from your normal routine. It can be a small change or a big change, just as long as it’s new to you.

Try juice instead of coffee in the morning. Take a new route to work. Park in a new spot. Talk to people you normally avoid. Eat foods you haven’t tried before, or eat in a different order. Try spaghetti for breakfast. Drink milk at dinner.

If you are normally talkative at work, read the newspaper instead, or go for a quiet walk by yourself. If you watch reality TV, try a cartoon or a fantasy movie instead. Turn of the radio as your drive to work and see what the silence sounds like. Smile at other drivers as you go by.

Try a new style of dress. Go casual in the most comfortable (work appropriate) clothes you own. Or play dress-up like you did as a child, putting your best effort into looking and feeling great. Wear a different sock on each foot. Wear tennis shoes with your pants.

If you are normally around adults all day, visit a playground full of chattering, happy kids. Or visit the cute and cuddly puppies and kitties at the local dog pound. Instead of reading the paper, take a walk in the bright sun.

Here’s an easy one we all forget – change your computer screen. Make your background a different color, and change your screensaver. Move your stapler and pencil cup to the opposite side of your desk. Rearrange your files or take down all your “normal” family photos and put up pictures of your favorite movie heroes instead.

Why try opposite day? Why not? Life is all about the living. It’s like the old say “How do you know until you try it?” Take a chance and make a change. It may be one you enjoy so much you’ll keep it up for many months to come. Have fun!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Take a Chance.

Photo by Powderruns

Take a chance. Be silly, risk embarrassment, try something new. Even though you may mess up, make a mistake or fail, it’s worth the attempt. When you loosen up and give things a chance you’re open yourself to new opportunities, new friendships, and new fun.

Take today for example. A coworker came over and asked if I would put a hat on backwards and join her in signing happy birthday to a coworker turning 50. I was embarrassed, but decided to do it. And it was funny! The coworker was embarrassed too, but pleased about the attention and we got a couple of laughs. It was a great way to break up the workday.

Too many people don’t try anything new because they’re afraid of looking stupid. But that’s crazy thinking. We don’t teach our children not to try – if we did they’d never learn to walk, ride a bike or do a million other things. And most people won’t make fun of you – they’ll congratulate your effort and encourage you to keep going.

If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. Tony Robbins

If you don’t try, you’ll never know. How do you know you can’t draw if you haven’t put in any practice? Are you sure you can’t garden just because you killed your first plant? We all continue to learn and grow every day. Something we were afraid of yesterday could turn out to be our newest talent today.

Isn’t the worst thing to have never tried at all? It’s like the saying “better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” Isn’t it better to receive some love and then lose it, then never to experience love at all? Life is like that. If you do it and it fails, then you’ve learned something. But what if you do it and it works beyond your wildest dreams? Anything is possible.

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
Vincent van Gogh

Life is best when experienced firsthand. It’s the roller coaster ride into the unknown. Your first time on a plane. Singing in front of a crowd. Jumping off the high dive. The exhilaration of climbing that mountain, taking that first step of new journey. It’s what keeps our dreams alive.

Take the chance. Dare to dream. Do something different. Even if you fail, you’ll have learned something along the way. That’s a reward in itself.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Live and Learn.

Lesson Learned. Sure by Mike Licht,

Are you an optimist? Studies say that they live longer, are healthier and happier than their pessimistic colleagues. But it can be tough to do.

Take yesterday for example. I had written an interesting article about “constant improvement” and how choosing to improve yourself makes the process much more enjoyable and fun than having it forced upon you by the outside world.

Sadly however – I apparently didn’t check when I copied it onto another document, and I lost the article. Even when you only spend 15 minutes writing that can be frustrating, but when it’s longer it really hurts.

At first I was really mad. Stupid software! Stupid computer! But alas, the truth is that the fault lies with me. I should have double-checked, like I usually do, to make sure I had properly saved the information. I should have made sure, like I usually do, that I saved the original as a back-up until I posted the article. But I didn’t.

Sure I’d like to put the blame on someone or something else – like the software or computer I was using, but that’s not being honest. And – I’m trying to make some of those constant improvements to myself. I am already an optimist, but I still tend to try and put the blame for failure on people or things outside of myself.

So now, I’m admitting it. I messed up. I didn’t pay attention. I let being tired and hurrying to complete my project get in the way of doing things right. I took a shortcut and it back-fired. Okay, no big deal.

But I bet you the next time, after acknowledging my role in this, I’ll be a lot more careful. Next time I’ll pay more attention and do it right. Next time, you’ll actually enjoy reading what I’ve written. Meanwhile at least this will be good for a laugh!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Happiness How-To.

What’s Happiness by Absolut1

I’m no expert, so don’t expect world class advice. But I can tell you I’ve been studying the habits of happiness myself for the last several years. Some of my friends may tell you that I’m far from perfect at staying happy. A permanently high level of happiness is hard to achieve – but that’s not to say that it’s not worth working for.

Even though I try and sometimes fail, I still think that happiness is under-rated as a success factor in life. Many people brush it off as frivolous, a waste of time, or unreachable simply because there is not set way to accomplish it.

Just because the definition varies by person, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth pursuing. Of all the skills and habits you’d like to acquire in your life, I’d say uncovering your happiness goals and finding out what actually makes you happy would be right at the top of the list.

Scientists have begun to study happiness seriously in the last 20 years and have discovered a wealth of information. Happiness is vastly wide-ranging topic and covers a variety of ideas and subject such as positive thinking, optimism, humor, goal-setting, gratitude, appreciation, stress relief,

Even if you worked on your happiness for the rest of your life – is that so bad? I certainly enjoy learning new skills, going on new adventures, and finding new interests. Happiness covers all those topics. Happiness is really simply a part of your journey of self-discovery. It’s about understanding yourself.

So here’s my 2 cents worth on some of the most important parts of happiness how-to:

  1. Lighten-up. We’re all too serious. We listen to news 24/7, most of which is bad, and wonder why we feel upset and angry. We like to complain, criticize and fault find. But the truth is that wonder, beauty and joy surround us every day. Plus, what does all that misery and frustration get us? Nothing but stiff necks, aching heads and an upset stomach.
  2. Appreciate what you have. Too many of us, pass through life with luxuries that at least 50% of the world doesn’t have – yet we complain how poor we are. We need to realize how blessed even our poorest people are compared to others. And how blessed we are to have the freedoms we enjoy.
  3. Tell others you love them. If you want to feel happiness and love, try to share some with family and friends. Often we take for granted that others know how much we care. But until we tell them, they may not really know. If you don’t have the words, check with Hallmark, they’re master messengers of love.
  4. Slow down. Take time to notice the warm sunshine, the sight of your spouse’s smile, the tantalizing aroma and mouth-watering taste of homemade chicken soup. Take a day off and go to a park, where the naturally slower rhythms of nature will help you settle into a more peaceful frame of mind. Don’t go so fast through life that you miss out on the little things – those are the best part!
  5. Today is a new day. The great thing about life is that as long as we still breathe, we have a chance to right our mistakes. It’s never too late to start over, to make amends for our errors, and to make this day the best day of our life. Once you fully recognize this, every day is full of endless possibilities.
  6. Smile whenever you have a chance. Because we’re all imperfect people and life is unpredictable, we will always have problems in our lives. That’s why it’s so important to enjoy ourselves when we have a chance. Don’t be afraid to smile at a baby in the store, to laugh at a joke with a friend, or share good news with your coworkers. Joy brings light and happiness into even the darkest room.
  7. Do what you enjoy. I don’t just mean a job you love. Whatever you love – photography, fishing, rock collecting or jazz music, do more of it. Join a club, go to a tradeshow, find a Internet site or forum online, teach it to children or simply talk about it with others. Keep your passions alive and well.
  8. Love the little things. When is the last time you star-gazed and searched for shooting stars? Or watched the wind blow the grass while you drank a glass of tea? Or read a great book? Saw a fantastic movie? If your answer is “I don’t remember,” you have some work to do. Small joys are some of the best things in life. Like a child’s laughter or a sunset, they are usually free, but fleeting, so it’s best to enjoy the moment while you can.
  9. Be open to change. Knowing that things will change is half the battle. The other half is accepting the change. We are habitual creatures, and we enjoy a predictable, set routine. Whether at work, at home, or just the “society norms,” we expect things to be a certain way. When we are open to the possibility of change we can get experience a deep enjoyment of our current happiness, because like Christmas, some things are simply more enjoyable because of their rarity.
  10. Be positive. Optimism is a great tool for happiness. When you look for the good in every situation, you are always learning and growing. It also helps you discover kindness, generosity and love you may have overlooked before. Even when times are had, you can still enjoy the love and support of family and friends, your health, or simply the beauty of a new day.

Of course this is merely the tip of the iceburg. Happiness is so much more than this. But it’s important to start somewhere. To help you further your research here are several of my favorite web sites on the topic of happiness:

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Institute

Chief Happiness Officer

Positive Psychology News Daily

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happiness Goals.

Dynamic Maggi by Ali Brohi

In the last few months thousands if not millions of people have been worried, scared, frustrated and upset by the roller coaster ride that is our economy. But what can you do in the face of all the instability, bad news and fear? Now is the time to focus on yourself.

Start by beginning to make a set of happiness goals. Some of the things that can bring you happiness may be health, friends, leisure activities and hobbies, work satisfaction, being creative, learning a new skill, have harmonious relationships, and contributing to a goal bigger than yourself.

So how do you begin? Let’s dream big! Start by imagining your perfect life. What is different about it? What kind of job do you have? Do you have more spare time? Are you more relaxed? Do you workout everyday? What activity gets you animated and excited?

Now start listing the steps it will take to achieve your dreams. List big steps and little steps. They could be:

1. Read more books.

2. Start a garden.

3. Exercise 3 times a week.

4. Get rid of debt.

5. Have more fun.

A goal list will give you direction and purpose. Writing down your goals and posting them where you can see them helps keep you on track. I suggest keeping your list on your computer where you can update them at will.

Make weekly and monthly goals. For instance, for your monthly goal, you could add steps to your goals, such as:

1. Books – make a book list of favorite subjects, authors and titles.

2. Garden – subscribe to magazine, or join garden club.

3. Exercise – buy new videos to make workout more fun.

4. Debt - save $200 a month.

5. Fun – go to the movies one night this month.

You could also have long term goals and short term goals. Your long term goal may be to start a new career, and your short term goal could be to take a career test online to find out what kind of work you like to do.

Remember not everyone enjoys the same things as you. Don’t let anyone criticize your goals and dreams. Some people might love to take a dance class and meet new people, while others would be more content in a solitary pursuit like writing or painting. Do what you love – not what others think you should do.

What could be better than working on your happiness? Just the thought of it makes me smile! Of course I can’t begin to dive into all the joys and benefits of increasing your happiness. But I know from experience that is possible. For more great insight in happiness visit these sites:

Top ten happiness tips

The Happy Guy

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Institute

30 Happiness Tips

52 Tips for Happiness and Productivity

9 Tips that Lead to Happiness

7 Tips for Making Yourself Happier in the Next Hour

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lessons of the Fool.

Jester by Todd Sternisha

It’s April Fools Day! Time for some light-hearted silly nonsense. A chance to relax, un-wind and let our worries sit on the sidelines for a little while. Too often we only see a jokester and a half-wit. Today let’s look at some of the lesson the fool can give us.

King’s funny man. Whenever I think of a fool, I think of the image of the court jester, there to provide entertainment for the king. The fool could say or do things that would normally get you thrown in the dungeon, yet as jester, he was safe from this doom. The fool could poke fun at serious subjects and by share a unique perspective by seeing things from an opposite viewpoint than everyone else.

Being a fool isn’t necessarily foolish – it could be good sense. Fools see the humorless as funny, and the amusing as significant. Turning a topic upside down helps you see all sides of it. Fools also knew the importance of seeing the humor in life. While the peasant might not have seen a funny side to having their pig killed by a run-away horse cart, the fool could see the feast that would result!

Foolish doesn’t mean stupid. Often people mistake the idea that if you are foolish, you are incompetent or incapable of learning. However while many fools may have been clumsy or socially inept, they were far from dumb. A fool could provide entertainment to the richest and noblest people in the kingdom. He rubbed shoulders with the brightest minds and best thinkers around.

Fools understand the value of a good laugh. Jesters and performers, many fools were called upon by their king to be of service by providing a diversion from worries and fears during times of hardship and strife. By poking fun at the royal family, the castle and other “off limit” topics, the fool could help the general population relief their stress through laughter and fun.

To be a fool, you have to be brave. Think about what it was like to be a fool. Wearing some ridiculous get-up, acting like a buffoon, taking on taboo subjects in the name of comedy. Not every fool was a beloved figure. To do your job and do it well, you must take risks. And you must be content in knowing that you have value even if everyone else thinks you’re worthless.

Being will to be foolish shows the greatest wisdom. In your own life there are many times when you feel foolish. You may make a mistake in an important presentation. Or have to apologize for a thoughtless comment made in haste. Having the courage to take a chance, to risk looking stupid is the surest path to enlightenment. When you break out of your comfort zone, you know you are heading towards learning and growth.

Learn from the fool. Open your mind to new possibilities. See the absurdity in the comedy of life. Be brave, be yourself, and don’t underestimate the value of a good laugh now and then. Have a little fun and know that foolishness is more than it’s cracked up to be.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Appreciation Is a Skill.

Sky Palette by Nicholas_T

Appreciation, like gratitude is an often over-looked tool for happiness. Think about it for a moment. How many times in a day, are you appreciative for a kindness someone does for you, or the good service you have received?

Do you notice when a waitress is courteous and timely, refills your drinks without asking and gives you plenty of napkins? Are you aware when other vehicles melt out of your way and lights turn green before you reach them?

What about other everyday items that you take for granted? The kiss from you spouse before you leave for work, or dinner on the table by 6pm. Kids that are doing their homework and get at least most of their chores done each week. Do you recognize the good things you have while their happening?

Appreciation can lead to a more satisfying life. When you notice the good things in life; efficient cashiers, a kind coworker, cherry blossoms in bloom or even your own good health, you feel good.

Appreciation is a gift. It makes us focus on the beauty of the sun, the birds singing in the trees, the wonder of the emerald grass and cobalt sky above. It heightens our enjoyment of simple things like receiving a hug, hearing a child’s laughter or saying the words “I love you.”

Because of our fast-paced lives and the time demands of our jobs, children and personal responsibilities, appreciation helps us be aware of the numerous wonders and beauty that surround us every day. It helps us count our blessings – we have plentiful food, clean water, a warm bed and time to relax and treasure it.

If you want to be more positive and optimistic, take time to appreciate what you have. Your family, friends and coworkers. Your job and steady paycheck. Your health. The conveniences that make life easier – washer & dryer, microwave, TV, CD player, and car. The variety of items for sale in your local grocery store and favorite department store.

During these stressful times when many people are feeling fearful and scared, the power of appreciation can help us to see a variety of people, places and things to be thankful for. Now is when your ability to observe the numerous blessings that still surround you is more important than ever.

"Let us rise up and be thankful,

for if we didn't learn a lot today,

at least we learned a little,

and if we didn't learn a little,

at least we didn't get sick,

and if we got sick,

at least we didn't die;

so, let us all be thankful." – Buddha

Also check out: Appreciation in Action

Friday, February 27, 2009

Push Your Way Past a Bad Mood.

The Grumpiest Cat Alive by jonnykeelty

We’ve all been there, those times when nothing is going right and troubles and misery keep adding up day after day. Bills are piling up, work is a chore, your daily schedule is overflowing and your dog just died. These are the times when a bad mood begins to progress into depression if you don’t take action.

So what do you do? The regular routines don’t work. You find your gardening dull, TV a bore, reading is an effort and everyday activities seem to take more work than their worth.

Now is the time to push yourself. You have to get moving even when you don’t feel like it. Sitting around thinking about your difficulties only focuses your mind on the problem, not the solution. In order to get out of this funk and start enjoying life again, you have to take action.

The good news is you don’t have to actually tackle your problem right now. You don’t have to finish every to-do item, or complete all your tasks at work, or pay off your entire credit card debt. Instead you need to do something productive, that you can control and that makes you feel happier and more energetic.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Exercise.Don’t feel like exercising?Do it anyway.Even moving around for 10-15 minutes will get your heart pumping and send those all-important endorphins to your brain.Take a walk, dance, kick the soccer ball around or hit a punching bag.Just get moving.
  • Talk it out.Tell a friend or coworker that you’re not feeling yourself lately.Talk about books, movies, or TV shows you have in common.Just communicating, even if it’s about nothing at all will help you feel more connected to people and ease your loneliness.
  • Do something nice.For some reason when you share a smile they tend to multiply.Bring in donuts for the office, or buy a funny card for a friend.Compliment someone’s outfit, help out with a problem, or post a joke on the bulletin board.Doing good feels good and will boost your happiness by at least one level.
  • Speak positively.Sometimes we feel bad because our talk is negative.We talk about our problems, our dislikes, our annoyances and irritations.These constant reminders of our difficulties only serve to reinforce them.Instead switch to talk about something good.A friend’s new baby, a movie you want to see, the warm weather this week, or a funny thing your child did.Build yourself a foundation of good thoughts to help you see that life is generally good.
  • Music.No idea why it works, but music is like wine for the soul.Match the music to your mood, hard rock to pump up your fighting spirit, pop for an peppy beat, comedy and soundtracks for a quick laugh, or classical for a soothing symphony.If it makes you want to dance, that’s just an added bonus.
  • Take lots of breaks.When we aren’t feeling good and our mood and energy are low, it is helpful to take lots of frequent breaks.5 minutes every hour you can read a positive quote, stand in the sunshine, take some deep breaths, close your eyes and rest in silence, or do some simple stretches.Pick your favorite technique or mix and match them for the best effect.
  • Take action.One thing is for sure, if you do nothing, nothing will happen.The only way to get rid of a bad mood is do something about it.There is no secret cure for the blues.(How we all wish there was).Instead, try doing something you usually enjoy and see if it lifts your spirits.Go out to eat, see a movie, visit the park, go shopping, call a friend, meditate, nap, play kick ball, or ride a bike.Anything and everything.I have found that sitting around thinking about your problems is one of the biggest contributors to making you feel worse.Put your attention on something better instead.
  • Repeat often.All too often even I fall prey to this mistake.I do the exercise, fun, or relaxing activity, but I only do it once a week, or for an hour a day.When you’re feeling down, you need to do things that bring you happiness more often than usual.Here’s where your Joy List or Funny File comes in handy.Find things that put a smile on your face – and repeat frequently.The more you do things that make you feel good, the sooner you’ll feel better.The consistent focus on good things will help you see the world in a positive light again.

When life has kicked you around a bit too hard, it may be tough to get up off the ground and start over. When your fear, anger, and frustration come from a variety of different situations, it can be extremely difficult to find a solution. The old tricks and quick pick-me-ups may not work. Don’t let yourself be discouraged. Keep at it, and things will improve. Sometimes just when you think the sun will never shine again, it comes out bright and gleaming. Keep at it, and never give up.

For some really Zany Fun and a great pick-me-up check out this article over at Brighter Days for You and Me!