happy

7 Major Ways to Train your Brain for Happiness!

Neil Pasricha states it perfectly in his book, “The Happiness Equation” – most people have their happiness model completely backwards. For instance, we think great work leads to big success which leads to happiness. Neil Pasricha challenges this model saying it doesn’t work like that in real life. That model is broken. We do great work, have a big success, but then instead of being happy we just set new goals. We never get to happiness! We just push it further and further away. But if we take “be happy” off the end of the equation and move it to the beginning? Everything changes.

If we start with being happy, then we feel great. We look great and we end up doing great work because we feel great doing it. There are seven big ways to ways to train your brain to be happy, and you may be surprised how simple these are! You don’t have to do all of them at once, do one a week, or find one you really enjoy and do it weekly!

#1 – Three Walks

Happy people don’t have the best of everything, they make the best of everything. Be happy first.

Penn State researchers reported in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology that the more physically active people are, the greater their general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm. How much? Just a half an hour of brisk walking three times a week. The American Psychosomatic Society published a study showing how Michael Babyak and a team of doctors found that three thirty-minute brisk walks or jogs even improve recovery from clinical depression! Yes, clinical depression. Their results were even stronger than studies using medication!

#2 – The 20-Minute Replay

Writing for twenty minutes about a positive experience dramatically improves happiness. Why? Because you actually relive the experience as you’re writing it and then relive it every time you read it or remember it! Your brain sends you back into the experience. In a University of Texas study called “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words,” researchers Richard Slatcher and James Pennebaker had one member of a couple write about their relationship for twenty minutes three times a day. Compared to the test group, the couple was more likely to engage in intimate dialogue afterward and the relationship was more likely to last. What does the 20-Minute Replay do? It helps us remember things we like about people and experiences in our lives. You don’t have to do this daily, you can of course, but try it once a week to begin with.

#3 – Random Acts of Kindness

Carrying out five random acts of kindness a week dramatically improves your happiness. Most of us don’t naturally think about paying for someone’s coffee, mowing our neighbor’s lawn, or writing a thank-you note to our apartment building security guard at Christmas. But Sonja Lyubomirsky did a study asking Stanford students to perform five random acts of kindness over a week. Not surprisingly, they reported much higher happiness levels than the control group. Why? They felt good about themselves! People appreciated them, and they had a greater sense of self-worth.

#4 – A Complete Unplug

“The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal.” A Kansas State University study found that complete downtime after work helps us recharge for the next day. Turning your phone off after dinner [gasp!]. Not using the Internet on vacation. Be present in the moment…for more than one moment!

#5 – Hit Flow

Get into a groove. Be in the zone. Find your flow. However you characterize it, when you’re completely absorbed with what you’re doing, it means you’re being challenged and demonstrating skill at the same time. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this moment as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Do you get that from playing drums? Lifting weights? Taking pictures? Make time for it!

#6 – 2 Minute Meditations

A research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at brain scans of people before and after they participated in a course on mindfulness meditation and published the results in Psychiatry Research. What happened? After the course, parts of the brain associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, while parts associated with stress shrank. Studies report that meditation can “permanently rewire” your brain to raise levels of happiness!

#7 – Five Gratitudes

Remember this: If you can be happy with simple things, then it will be simple to be happy. Find a book or a journal, and write down five things you’re grateful for from the past week. The key is actually writing them down! Back in 2003, researchers Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough asked groups of students to write down five gratitudes, hassles, or events over the past week for ten weeks. Guess what happened? The students who wrote five gratitudes were happier and physically healthier! Charles Dickens puts this well: “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

This post is adapted from an article by Neil Pasricha titled, “7 Ways to be Happy Right Now”

Learn more at The Institute for Global Happiness!

4 Lean, Healthy Meals in 5 Minutes!

Need some quick and easy weekday meals? Weekend prep doesn’t have to be some arduous marathon requiring hours of time and every pot and pan in your kitchen! This week we’ve got 4 quick and easy recipes that you can crank out in a flash and feel happy about your meals without agonizing labor!

This week start by buying 4 pounds of Ground Turkey. Brown 3 pounds, cool and separate into 1 pound containers to freeze. With your fourth make these Veggie Loaded Meatballs!

Delicious meatballs packed with broccoli, carrots, baby spinach, green onions, and garlic! Just swap out the beef for to keep things simpler this week!

First? Go Shopping!

Here’s your grocery list for all 4 recipes!

• 4 Pounds Ground Turkey
• Rice (cook ahead if possible!)
• 1 Bag Favorite Frozen Veggies
• Zoodles (Zucchini Noodles, found at most grocery stores in the produce section)
• 1 pound Carrots
• 2 pounds Broccoli
• 2 heads garlic
• 1 small ginger root
• 1 small bag of Baby Spinach
• 1 bunch Green Onion
• 2 Avocados
• Flax Meal (only need 2 TBSP)
• 1 can Tomatoes
• 1 can Black Beans
• 1 pack Taco Seasoning
• 1 pack Ranch Seasoning
• Soy Sauce
• Chili Paste
• Plain Greek Yogurt

Optional Extras:

• 1 can low sodium Cream of Chicken Soup
• Feta Cheese
• Fresh Parsley or Basil
• Hot Sauce

(Creamy?) Turkey and Veggies

Ground Turkey + 1 Bag Frozen Vegetables + Dry Ranch Seasoning
(or substitute YOUR favorite seasoning combo)

Thaw one of your pounds of turkey, toss in a pan with a bag of your favorite frozen vegetables, and your seasoning!

Need a more “comforting” taste? Add up to a can of a low sodium cream of chicken soup and maybe serve over rice or quinoa!

Zoodles + Meatballs

Save time by buying a container of zoodles (zucchini noodles) since they are now quite common in most produce departments. Rewarm your meatballs in the oven or toaster oven while sautéing zoodles with olive and seasonings.

Get an added veggie boost by tossing in a handful or two of spinach. Serve as is or get creative with some tossed feta cheese or fresh parsley and/or basil!

Speedy Stir Fry

Ground Turkey + Onion + Broccoli + Carrots + Chili Paste

Combine some garlic, soy sauce, and ginger with ground turkey and set aside.
Stir Fry onions, broccoli, and carrots in vegetable oil.
Remove from the pan to a bowl.
Reheat turkey and sauce, recombine with veggies, and add chili paste.

Speed up this recipe even more by buying a bag of pre cut broccoli from your produce department or a “stir fry raw mix”. Rice could be pulled from the freezer and microwaved.

Full recipe here!

Rapido Burrito Bowl

Ground Turkey + Tomatoes + Black Beans + Avocado

Heat turkey and add taco seasoning. In a bowl combine rice, taco turkey, tomatoes, black beans, diced avocado and a sauce made of plain Greek yogurt and hot sauce.

Full recipe here!