Being happy doesn’t have to be so hard insists the lovely and talented writer Amy Spencer (see her photo below). She told me that happiness can be as simple as doing the sweet little things you like more often. Try stuff like hugging a loved one or putting your feet in some warm water. Her advice is to find joy in everyday small things instead of just focusing on the biggies (new job, dream vacation, different house.)
Check out this book, and also the helpful and uplifting book trailer . Directly from Amy, here are 5 Ways to Be Happy Instantly below:
“Remember how summer seemed to go on forever when you were a kid? It felt like six months of playing outdoors, going to camp, swimming, riding bikes, hitting the beach or playing stickball in the street. And now? Sheesh, Labor Day has come and gone before we know it.
That’s because the way our brains work, the more emotionally charged a situation is, the more it’s stamped deep into our emotional brains. This is why you don’t forget your most gushing first love, your most embarrassing moment, your most heartbreaking breakup or your scariest accident. The bigger the emotion—be it happiness, guilt, fear, love, excitement—the bigger the effect. Because your kids are new to life, they’re getting a lot of emotionally charged input every day, so their days seem bigger and fuller than ours. It’s as if they’re watching their life movie in slow motion, taking in every frame while we are watching ours on fast-forward. We’ve already seen it all before, so we don’t even notice the good stuff anymore. But why should your kids have all the fun, right?
One of the biggest keys to happiness is to appreciate the small joyful moments in your life by consciously seeing your life through a child’s eyes again. I’ve come up with hundreds of ideas you can do this in my new book The Happy Life Checklist: 654 Simple Ways to Find Your Bliss. Because if you can appreciate the fun you’re having each day, your whole year can feel like a big, long summer. Happiness comes in the seconds and minutes of life, as well as in the years. So here are a few quick ways that you can savor the small moments—for free and in five minutes or less—right now!
1. Sing at the top of your lungs. Crank up the volume in the car and sing from your soul. This is why windows close and roll up, isn’t it? I like to put on the 80s station to find some GoGos hits, because I find when I’m belting out an upbeat song, I’m not focused on life’s small annoyances—like traffic, meetings, or emails. Plus, the act of singing releases the brain’s feel-good endorphins and lowers stress. Show your kids how healthy it is to let music amp up your mood.
2. Kiss your child on a spot you love about them and tell them why. A dimple you see when they naturally smile; an arm that embraces you in love. Showing gratitude has one of the greatest impacts on our happiness. So actively appreciate the ones you love today.
3. Live in your beautiful mess. That’s right, a day full of mess can be beautiful, too, because it’s your mess: dishes dirtied with a good meal, comforters crumpled from a long sleep, and sneakers in the hall after a day of family fun. Just once, don’t stress about cleaning up and see the mess as a passing snapshot of a life that will be so much different a decade from now. Take in this moment, right now. Love your as-is mess because it’s all yours.
4. Jump! Who said kids get to have all the fun? Add a little play into your life by getting your feet off the ground, even for just a second. Jump off a bench. A diving board. A sand dune. Or the sidewalk. Or hop, skip or jump hand-in-hand with your little one and feel the freedom of being young at heart.
5. Pull out your nice silverware for leftover night. Or light a candle you’ve been saving. What are you really waiting for? Research says savoring small moments boosts your mood. So when I recently ordered some pizzas for a night in, I pulled out my nice wine glasses for our waters and sodas and the night felt instantly elevated. Use what you’re saving and celebrate the special occasion of today.”
Today’s the big day for writer genius Jennifer Senior. Her big release, All Joy and No Funhits shelves. She tackles some big parenting ideas–issues that we all have but never speak of. For example, why does happiness decline so much once we have children according to vast amounts of scientific research? What’s up with over-scheduling our kids when all of that running around makes us miserable?
Her article in New York Magazine, where she is on staff, first stirred up the topic. The book goes into detail after fascinating detail about how our kids change our lives completely. She studies real families all across America to explains why this phenomenon happens and tells us what to do about it.
The point of this tome seems to call to parents, “Hey you, it’s hard. And you are not alone!” Oh boy, just read the part about teenagers. Hint: Adolescence is harder for parents than it is for kids.
I asked Jennifer exactly what her goals are with this book and which topics she thinks push the most buttons. Get a great feel for All Joy and No Fun by reading the Q&A below.
KK: How did you get the idea to write about such a controversial topic?
JS: Okay. This is the part where I quite possibly reveal myself to be completely delusional when I say: I didn’t – and still don’t! – consider this topic controversial. I mean, what’s controversial about examining the ways that kids affect their parents? All of us are profoundly influenced by our kids. It’d be nuts to think that our kids are born and we remain the same.
As for how I got here: In 2010, I wrote a story for New York Magazine that tried to figure out why so many studies – across such a wide variety of academic disciplines – said that children don’t improve their parents’ happiness. I read about this finding in 2006, before I had a kid, and it struck me as bonkers, because all I wanted at the time was a kid. After I had said kid, my understanding became more nuanced, but this research still struck me as both totally right and dead wrong. I wanted to delve deeper into it, and I did. I suppose the magazine story was characterized as “controversial” at the time, but again, I never saw it that way, and I think those who made it to the end of my story didn’t either. (I mean, what parent doesn’t find the experience a mixed bag? Especially now, when there are no norms about anything?) But there was only so much one could say about that subject. What really interested me, in the end, was the broader question of how children shape their parents lives. I was, and remain, genuinely shocked that there aren’t several zillion books devoted to this topic.
KK: How do you think your research can help readers–moms of young kids in particular?
JS: What I’m really hoping is that my research will help people say: Whoa, so I’m not alone? It’s a sense of identification, really, that I’m hoping to provide.There’s no normed knowledge out there about our parenting experience. We’re all improvising, all doing it in our separate silos, all wondering whether our feelings are typical, without realizing that there’s actually tons of research out there that tells us what we’re feeling and experiencing is typical—the research is just scattered in all sorts of different places. So, for instance, in my chapter about how children affect your marriage, I’m really hoping that some woman will be sitting in bed somewhere, reading the book, and she’ll suddenly elbow her husband: You see! I told you there was a reason I was feeling this way!I don’t care that you do the yard work and shovel the driveway! I’d much rather you took the kids off my hands for a couple of hours. It says right here that most American women find child care more stressful than the chores you do.
KK: What is the main message you’d like to convey about modern parenting?
JS: That it’s precisely that: Modern. People think they’re supposed to know what they’re doing, when in fact “parenting,” as we know it, is only 70 or so years old. Before World War II, kids worked on behalf of the family’s welfare. Now, kids don’t work, and parents work twice as hard to support them. They treat their children a future investments. But the future, by definition, is unknowable, which means we are all working entirely without a script. Normlessness creates a lot of tension. We’re not sure what we’re raising our kids for, and we’re certainly not sure how to negotiate this new task within the setting of a modern marriage, with both parents working, which is now the norm.
KK: Have you made any personal parenting changes since writing and researching All Joy and No Fun? Which one(s)?
JS: Somewhere along the way in my research, I came across a piece of data I never used in my book but saw played out repeatedly in kitchens across the United States. It’s this: Parents who are good at self-regulation may not themselves be happier, but their children are happier. So I do try, mightily, to keep my temper at bay, even though I often fail.
And there’s one bit of research that is in this book that I seriously take to heart. It says that if parents hash out their divisions of labor before their first child is born — not just in broad terms, but with hyper-specificity —there’s much less conflict between them. Now, my husband and I weren’t organized enough to do that before our son was born. But I’ve discovered that I can still use this technique. Specifically: If the weekend is ahead of us, and I know I have three tasks looming — things I must must must do — I now warn my husband ahead of time and tell him what I need. And vice versa. We negotiate in advance who needs what time to do whatever. And you’d be amazed how much tension that eliminates. Before coming across that research, I had a much more passive approach: The weekend would come along, I’d tell him there was something I needed to accomplish, and he’d get very tense, like I’d sprung it on him. Now, he’s really relaxed about stepping in, because he’s been forewarned. And vice versa.
KK: Do you have any advice for moms who are struggling with the issues you raise such as constant guilt and all of this concerted cultivation?
JS: Yes! Don’t go bananas. Give yourselves a break, and give your kids a break. n terms of guilt: Remember, national time-use surveys say you spend more time with your children than your mothers spent with you (or women did in the 1960s, for that matter, when most weren’t in the workforce). And in terms of anxieties about concerted cultivation: We may have all sorts of notions about what will put our children in good future standing, but I’d like to point out: When I was in high school, it was considered essential that we all learn Japanese. That didn’t turn out to be the case. One can’t predict the future. We have no idea what our kids’ jobs will look like. Their jobs probably haven’t even been invented yet. Can you imagine Larry Page and Sergey Brin as children, looking at their parents and saying, “One day, I’m going to make all the information in the world searchable. And I will call my company Google.” Their parents would have rolled their eyes.
Want to jumpstart 2013 with positive thoughts, new goals and increased happiness? May Cause Miracles may do the trick for moms who enjoy self help books and can devote 5 to 10 minutes a day to this project. (That’s really all it takes–I’ve been reading right before bed, and I get all calm and relaxed.) I’ve completed Gabrielle’s Days 1 and 2, and she’s inspired me to face my biggest fears–and not be so scared of them. I can’t tell you if it’s going to work until I do 38 more days, but I’m digging it. Who doesn’t want to kick anxiety to the curb? Or add a little happiness to life? Count me in! I’ll totally drink that water.
My husband loves when I get on these kicks. He abides by the most basic rule in the universe: When Momma is happy, everyone is happy–and vice versa.
What’s so successful about May Cause Miracles is its accessibility. Gabrielle takes complicated, multi-layered philosophical ideas and breaks them down so they make perfect sense. Her easy, friendly style makes her relatable and irresistible. She’s grounding her advice on old but sound psychological and metaphysical ideas, especially a program called The Course. She writes that our fears are just limiting beliefs. “They’re just smoke and mirrors, a bit of mental sleight of hand that leads us in the wrong direction in life.” In order to create everyday miracles (meaning positive thoughts, a can-do attitude and happiness), we need to label what scares us, be willing to change our beliefs, to surrender to to a higher power (God or your inner self or whatever inspires you), to practice and to forgive. “Finally, there is love,” Gabrielle writes. “Where there is fear, there is no love…living with an open heart and embracing love as our true purpose is essential to living a miraculous life.”
Gabrielle just started a live class in NYC last night, but it’s also available online, and you can download yesterday’s lesson. She’s personally presenting and teaching from her new book in this May Cause Miracles Live Course ($178). But the book is only $12.99 (see the May Cause Miracle trailer below), and there are also affordable meditations on the website. I love her fun and reassuring Spirit Junkie app, especially because it’s $1.99.
How I adore you, self help. This is a hot category right now (definitely check out Help, Thanks, Wow), so at least I know I’m not alone in my devotion. Are there any books that got you jazzed up recently?