An Exercise in Happiness

Science has shown that giving thanks and reflecting on one’s blessings is an excellent way to raise your level of happiness, and since this is the week of Thanksgiving I thought I would blog about a written exercise I did years ago that has stuck with me to this day.

The exercise is really quick, write down the first 20-things that you think of when I say, “what are your favorite things to do that make you happy?”  Probably many of us will interpret “favorite” and “happy” in different ways, but I want you to consider not just the things that you think are “whee fun” like a roller-coaster, but the things in life that give you a sense of satisfaction and contentment.  Feel free to write more than 20.  Do this now.  If you haven’t written down your list of things then don’t read any farther.  Once you are down with your list you can read below.  I’m going to write down my list so you can’t read any farther without scrolling.

My top 20 things that make me happy:

1) Spend time, especially outdoors, with my family

2) Do something outdoors: Hike, bike, ski, play soccer, play tennis, dance, play handball, swim, spelunk, boulder, sail

3) Take a yoga class

4) Read a book, especially Jane Austen or Sherlock Holmes

5) Watch a favorite movie, especially a comedy

6) Do something crafty

7) Cook

8) Travel

9) Camp

10) Talk with a friend

11) Have tea with friends

12) Have a picnic

13) Go antiquing (I don’t even have to buy anything, I just like looking)

14) Finish a project around the house

15) Organize, edit, style my closet

16) Sing, especially with a group

17) Write a song

18) Take a walk through a garden or a forest

19) Host parties

20) Create a new recipe

Okay, once you’ve written down your list, go back through your list and put a “$” sign before anything that takes more than $20 to do.  For instance on my list only 4 of the 20 things cost more than $20 to do: skiing, traveling, camping and hosting parties.  The first time I did this exercise I was in my 20’s and it was a REVELATION to me that most of my favorite things could be done for little to no money.   It can be easy to associate money with happiness, but the reality is that often the deepest satisfaction in life comes from things that are simple and inexpensive to do and can often be done on a daily basis.  I find that there are often themes that can be found in common among different lists, because the reality is that most humans find deep satisfaction in: 1) spending time with loved ones, 2) being engaged in creative pursuits and 3) being engaged in physical activities.  These are activities that not only make us happy, but are also very good for our health physically, mentally and emotionally.  If you had difficulty coming up with your list of 20-things that make you happy, try it again now and see what’s different.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  I wish you health and happiness.  Namaste.

New E-Articles available for purchase

Over the years I have written a number of articles related to sustainable living.  These have now been repackaged to be available for purchase as e-articles.  They range from 3 – 10 pages in length, and are all written to be accessible to those completely new to these concepts.  E-articles are $5 each or $20 for all of them.

To purchase these articles send an email to with which article(s) you would like. We will then send you a PayPal invoice and then email you the articles when payment has been received. Topics include:

-Cloth Diapering 101: an introduction to cloth diapering and including information about why, how and where to buy

-Guide to Sustainable Party Planning: Tips for planning any party, from a child’s birthday to a wedding, in a more sustainable fashion

-intro to Composting: we talk about the different types of composting, how to start and trouble-shooting tips along the way

-6 R’s of Conscious Consumption:an explanation to the 6-R’s of conscious consumerism and how to employ them in order to have your lightest footprint possible on the planet.

-13 Ingredients to Avoid in Bath and Body products: An in-depth explanation of the 13-ingredients we avoid and why.  This includes a wallet size card you can print out and carry with you when you shop.

-How to make your own cleaning products: this article is a great primer on all of the “parts” of cleaning products (what you need when, where and why) and the non-toxic ingredients you can use to keep your house clean and sanitary.

-Intro to Eco-Friendly Pregnancy:An introduction into some considerations that you may want to take into account before and during your pregnancy and after your baby is born. Tips include how to avoid environmental toxins, dietary ways to prepare your body for pregnancy and tips for caring for a newborn without conventional chemicals.

-Incorporating Sustainability into your Everyday Life: An introduction into how you can incorporate the mindset of sustainable living into your everyday life.  Sustainability is about living in a way that ensures that our planet and species can continue for generations to come, and includes efficient management of resources and avoidance of toxic products.  This short article will explain to you how you can adopt this mindset in order to live a healthier, more economical and more resourceful life.

-Starting an Edible Garden: Growing your own food is fun and leads to healthier eating habits.  This article discusses considerations including where to plant your garden, how to prepare your soil, a discussion of different types of gardening (container, in-ground, raised-bed) and easy ways to get started.