1) PRACTICE GRATITUDE
No matter where they are or what they are doing, happy people recognize that they always have something to be grateful for. Research in the field of Positive Psychology has shown that people who practice gratitude are happier, less stressed and less depressed!(2) Happy people can easily find gratitude in the world around them, whether they are looking at the cracks in the pavement in the concrete jungle or the sun setting over the ocean. It is possible to find gratitude even in smallest of things, like a delicious meal, a good book, a challenging yoga class, or a smile from a stranger on the street.
Each of us has a choice on how we focus our attention. Choosing to focus on gratitude for the beauty and uniqueness of life instead the stressors and problems will make you feel happier and more relaxed.
2) FIND A PLACE OF FLOW
In Positive Psychology, the concept of “Flow” is defined as the “complete immersion in activity for it’s own sake.”(3) When we are in flow, such as when we are running a race, writing a song, or reading a great book, our self-awareness dissipates, time seems to stop, and we become focused, peaceful, and attentive to the task at hand. People who frequently experience flow tend to be happy, productive, creative and focused.
You can reach a state of flow by putting special attention to tasks that you find intrinsically rewarding and enjoyable. In other words, carve out some time to do what you LOVE! For more information about how to find your flow, explore Dr. Mikhal Csíkszentmihályi’s book, Finding Flow.(4)
3) SMILE MORE
If you are feeling down or having a rough day, it is possible to cheer yourself up by simply thinking of a person, place or situation that makes you smile! Indeed, research in psychology has shown that the physical act of smiling will make you feel happier, even if you are just flexing the muscles of your mouth and not intentionally smiling!(5)
While scientists are not yet completely certain why the simple of act of smiling makes you feel happy, it has been suggested that smiling contracts the facial muscles, leading to more blood flow to the brain’s frontal lobes, which in turn triggers release of dopamine, one of the pleasure chemicals in the brain.(6) So bust out the comedies and get your giggle on (or maybe let someone tickle you a little bit)!
4) EMBRACE YOUR MISTAKES
We are all perfectly imperfect in this human form, and it is only natural that we make mistakes (sometimes very often!) Living in denial about your mistakes or getting wrapped up in your ego will only you make you miserable and block you from learning valuable lessons that will help you grow and improve.
By embracing your mistakes, you will be able to forgive yourself, and the bonus is that other people might actually like you more! According to Dr. Eliot Aronson’s “Pratfall effect” in Social Psychology, making mistakes makes competent people seem more attractive, and more human to others.(7) Happy people seem to intuitively know this, embracing mistakes as learning experiences and not judging themselves too harshly.
5) MAINTAIN AN OPTIMISTIC ATTITUDE
Happy people tend to respond to negative events in a more optimistic manner than unhappy people. Positive psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman defines optimism as “reacting to problems with confidence and high personal ability,” specifically, recognizing that negative events are temporary and limited in scope.(2) Research has linked optimism with a plethora of positive outcomes including longevity, recovery from illness, overall physical health, enhanced coping skills and problem solving in difficult situations.
Overall, optimism is a central component of staying happy and healthy, so when in doubt, look on the bright side.
6) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE
Even though this life can sometimes feel like an individual journey, we need other people around us in order to feel happy. In fact, recent research has indicated that social relationships are the strongest predictors of happiness, much stronger than income or wealth.(1) For example, according to Robert Putnam’s groundbreaking study, making a good friend causes an increase of happiness equal to tripling ones salary, belonging to a social club is equivalent to doubling one’s salary, and so on.
The take home message here is that social support is a huge indicator of happiness and wellbeing. People with perceived positive social relationships even live longer!8 So be social, surround yourself with people who make you feel good, and release those who make you feel bad.
7) LEARN WHEN TO SAY “NO”
As psychologist Dr. Thema Davis so beautifully puts it, “saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out.”(9) Happy people know that they must say NO to people, ideas, and behaviors that do not serve their highest good. Saying yes to everyone and everything can lead you to feel overwhelmed, increase your stress, and leave you less time and resources to take care of yourself! This is especially true when you agree to do things that do not resonate with you, or allow yourself to be pressured into situations you are uncomfortable with.
The stress that results from feeling overwhelmed can severely dampen one’s happiness and wellbeing. Before you commit to anything or anyone, ask yourself, does this serve my highest good? If the answers is no, then learn to say NO.
8) UNPLUG & SPEND MORE TIME IN NATURE
Although it may feel natural after a lifetime of conditioning, human beings were not designed to spend our day hunched over a desk with electronics plugged into our ears and eyes. No, we are meant to be spending time outside, away from the buzz of technology, the radiation from cell-phones and the blaring of screens. Happy people understand that it is their human birthright to give themselves quiet time to reflect and find serenity. According to the July 2010 Harvard Health Letter, time outdoors in nature has been linked to happiness because light elevates people’s moods, as does vitamin D, a byproduct of spending time outside.(10)
If you really want to maximize the benefits of outdoor time, spend time in green nature – even five minutes of “green exercise” can lead to improvements in mood and self-esteem, according to researchers at the University of Essex.(10) Even better, combine your outside time with meditation, yoga, or other therapeutic movement arts. There is a plethora of research demonstrating that all of these will further enhance your mood and overall wellbeing.
9) PRACTICE FORGIVENESS
This one can be challenging for the many of us who have been wronged and/or who have experienced traumas perpetrated by other people in our lives. But as my life partner, sound healer Jimmy Ohm always says, “forgiveness does not mean that what happened was ok, it just means you no longer want to carry the pain.”(11) When we hold on to anger, resentment and fear towards people, they are actually occupying a space inside of us, blocking us from feeling truly happy and fulfilled.
Dr. Fred Luskin of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project has found that forgiveness is a huge predictor of happiness and wellbeing, explaining how “forgiveness is the experience of peacefulness in the present moment.”(12) For more on his research, visit his website, Forgive For Good.(13)
10) TRY NEW THINGS
Happy people are not afraid to push their boundaries and try new things. Research by psychologist Dr. Rich Walker has shown that people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions than people who have fewer experiences.(14) Sure it might seem scary at first, but what’s the worst that could happen? By going beyond your comfort zone, you might actually surprise yourself and exceed your own expectations for what you are capable of accomplishing. And hey if it doesn’t go as planned, at least you still tried, didn’t you?
As Dr. Alex Lickerman M.D. writes in Happiness in this World, trying something new requires courage, it opens up the possibility for you to enjoy something new, it keeps you from becoming bored, and perhaps most importantly, it forces you to grow.(15) So what have you always wanted to try but you didn’t think you had the guts? What are you waiting for?
11) LOOK IN THE MIRROR EVERY MORNING AND SAY “I LOVE YOU!”
For many of us, self-love is the greatest challenge and blockage to happiness. Years of being told by family, educators and especially the media that we are not good enough, not successful enough, not attractive enough, not capable enough and so on has left many of us feeling beaten down and unworthy. The truth is that no matter who you are and what has happened in your life, YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE! Say it out loud to yourself until you believe it.
Psychologists have long known that self-esteem is intrinsically connected to happiness, but how does one build self-esteem? I believe we build self-esteem through practicing self-love and self-acceptance. One of the simplest things you can do is to look in the mirror every morning and say, “I love you!” For some, this may come easy, and for others, it may be extremely challenging. I know that at first I tried and tried to do this and I would break down in tears because I felt so unworthy. Eventually through practicing daily mantras of self-love and self-acceptance, I was able to learn to love myself. And while the path to unconditional self-love is a life-long journey and not a destination, today I feel happier than I have ever felt. ☺ I hope that these happiness tips will help guide you on your journey as much as they have helped me on mine. Namaste.
Credit: Mind Unleashed
Quick Double Chocolate Cupcakes
1 box devil’s food cake mix, such as Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
2 to 3 cups White Faux Buttercream, recipe follows, colored or swirled with your favorite color
Crushed peppermint candies
Crushed lemon drops
Multicolored jimmies or nonpareils
Mini white and dark chocolate chips
Small chocolate candies
Colored decorating sugars
Cereals such as corn pops, fruit rings or graham cracker cereal squares
White Faux Buttercream:
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring, such as yellow, blue and red, or your favorite, if desired
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two 12-cup standard muffin tins with paper cupcake liners and set aside.
In a bowl, using an electric mixer, mix the cake mix, 1 1/3 cups water, oil and eggs on medium speed until moistened and smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup chocolate chips. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, stirring it occasionally to redistribute the chocolate chips. The batter will nearly fill each liner to the top. Evenly sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips over the tops of the cupcakes. Bake until the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched, or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
When cool, put the White Faux Buttercream out with spoons or small spatulas along with bowls of the cupcake toppings for the kids to decorate their own cupcakes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, whip the butter on high speed until very soft. Meanwhile, place a large sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Using a large sifter, sift the confectioners’ sugar onto the parchment. This helps prevent clumping and makes the mixing easier. Lower the speed of the mixer and, using the parchment as a funnel, pour half the sugar into the bowl and mix slowly until combined. Add the milk and mix until combined. Once combined, add the remaining sugar with the vanilla and mix. Once it is combined, turn the mixer speed up and beat the icing until very light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. If desired, divide the icing into smaller batches and color with food coloring.
Spread the icing on cooled cupcakes while at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftover icing, but be sure to let it come back to room temperature before using. Re-whip the icing to make it fluffy again. Makes 4 cups (enough for 24 cupcakes).
Yield: about 8 cups, enough for at least 6 dozen cupcakes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Ease of preparation: easy
Loaded Chicken Carbonara
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 large eggs
- 1 gallon water
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 2 cups frozen peas
- PREP 20 mins
- COOK 45 mins
- READY IN 1 hr 10 mins
- Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon from skillet with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Drain fat from skillet, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon bacon drippings in the skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken breast halves in the bacon drippings until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 5 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil. Rest chicken for 5 minutes before slicing; set aside.
- Heat remaining tablespoon bacon drippings in skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Cook and stir garlic and ground black pepper in skillet until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour wine into skillet; cook at a simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Whisk Parmesan cheese and eggs together in a bowl. Slowly stream wine mixture into the Parmesan mixture while whisking continually.
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Remove 1/2 cup of the water from the pot for later use.
Put the peas in a large colander. Drain the pasta in the colander with the peas. Return drained pasta and peas to the pot. Stir bacon, chicken, and wine mixture into the spaghetti. Thin sauce with reserved pasta water as desired.
Safeword by Ryan Fu Inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey Film & Book by E. L. James
SafeWord is a new form of Rock/R&B single from Ryan Fu on *Extra MSG. It’s has an eerie feeling to it with the chorus and the verses are classic, weird Fu rhymes. This track shows the producing and composing skills of on Ryan Fu. This track shows Ryan Fu can compose and put together a new sound. This song is about what happens behind closed doors with people who just want to “Get Off.” In this new age of relationships with people, it’s all about instant gratification.
Here are some of the most disgusting additives you are eating when you “treat” yourself to a MacDonalds.
Ammonium Sulfate – This is used to mass-produce bread, it is alsoused to fertilizer soil and kill bugs and more commonly used in strong household cleaning products. Unbelievably, the FDA has deemed it safe at the low levels which are found in food products, but the issue has been raised as to effects on people who eat bread daily. Ammonium sulphate has been linked with irritation to the gastrointestinal tract causing diarrhea and nausea.
Silicone Oil – Chicken McNuggets are full of dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicone oil that is often used to make contact lenses and other medical items. Dimethylpolysiloxane is also an anti-foaming agent.
TBHQ – You can find this additive in 18 McDonald’s menu items. TBHQ, is ususally listed as an “antioxidant,” what it doesn’t state is that it is a SYNTHETIC chemical with antioxidant properties and NOT a natural antioxidant. The chemical stops oxidation of fats and oils which helps to prolong the shelf life of processed foods. It is used in processed foods of all kinds, but it is also found in varnishes, lacquers and pesticide products. It is also used in cosmetics and perfumes to reduce the evaporation rate and improve stability. It is a chemical preservative so deadly that just five grams can kill you, but don’t panic, the FDA says it’s generally regarded as safe (GRAS).
Cysteine-L – Fast food restaurants use Cysteine-L, it is an amino acid derived from human hair, duck feathers and hog hair and is used to flavor their meat and soften their breads and pastries. This is an amino acid which also shortens the baking time of mass produced bread. This is mostly produced in China by dissolving the hair or down in acid and sent around the world as a bread softener.
Prescription Drugs -Researchers from Johns Hopkins University tested feathers from farmed raised chickens and found some interesting facts. Anti-depressants as well as other prescription drugs are added to chicken feed for fast food “poultry”. Basically, the chickens are raised on a steady diet of prescription, over-the-counter and banned drugs.
Propylene Glycol -Propylene glycol is a chemical compound that can be found in anti-freeze, e-cigarettes and fast food.
Carminic Acid – derivived from Cochineal beetles, Carminic acid is used to dye foods, especially meats, red.
Dimethylpolysiloxane - This is found in almost all fried fast food menus and it can be also found in contact lenses, silly putty, cosmetics, shampoo and conditioners, polishes, heat resistant tiles to name a few!
Silicon Dioxide - This usually added to processed beef and chickento prevent clumping and is listed ingredient for chili from Wendy’s and Taco Bell. Experts suggest that it isn’t harmful for consumption, but it’s interesting to know that the ingredient keeping chili meat nice and non-caking is also the primary component of diatomaceous earth, commonly used as a natural insecticide.
Cellulose – ~This is processed wood pulp and is found in nearly every fast food menu item. It is used in proactically everything ranging from cheese to salad dressing, from muffins to strawberry syrup. Food processors use it to thicken and stabilize foods, replace fat and increase fiber content. It also lowers the cost due to minimizing on ingredients such as oil or flour. Powdered cellulose is produced by cooking virgin wood pulp in chemicals to separate the cellulose which is then purified. Modified versions require extra processing, such as exposure to acid to break down the fiber further. Here are just a few of the fast food restaurants that include cellulose in their foods: McDonald’s, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, KFC, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Taco Bell and Wendy’s.
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Credit: Natural Cures Not Medicine