Sometimes I forget.

I get caught up in “This is the most important project I should be working on!” And I forget. And then things go downhill: my mood changes (I feel rotten, don’t want to be around people, get sad more often), my attitude changes (“everything sticnks”), my drive and motivation change.

And then, one morning, I wake up and say, “Hey! I haven’t exercised all week.” What kind of example is this to clients that I’ve worked with? Whenever I’ve worked with a coaching client, he/she has “homework” between each session: a Body Exercise as well as a Mind Exercise. Ask any effective coach: the best progress for a client happens between sessions. When people are focused on gradual, deliberate change (often in the same time at the same place: more on this below). There is something to be said for consistency in life. What we do each day is what we can see as results in hindsight.

That’s why exercise seems trivial, and at the same time, exercise can decrease depression, anxiety, and stress. Even more interestingly (!), not only can exercise make us healthier, but lack of exercise can make us feel depressed (I searched for the specific result I wanted [that not doing 30 min of exercise per day is linked with increased depression], and cannot find it right now, but will find it for you later and update here; the closest immediate result I found is that lack of exercise is the key between depression and cardiovascular disease).

Just last week, 2,000 adults polled in the UK turned out to not have been exercising enough. This article says that minimum exercise for adults is 30 min per day for five days. Others say 10,000 steps per day is a good metric of exercise. Still other fitness devotees say interval cardio three times a week for 20 minutes each time, and weight lifting three times a week for under an hour.

Whatever your choice of HOW is great as long as the choice is TO DO. I’ve just returned to my choice of TO DO. I cannot believe I dropped the ball on exercise.

Me who says it’s the second most important thing towards happiness here and here.

The last thought as I go back to the large project I’m working on is based on the research by Dr. Wendy Wood at Duke: a habit is something people do at the same time in the same place. Think of brushing your teeth: same time, same exact location. How can you make exercise a habit? For me, it’s running when I wake up, and running generally the same path, but with increasing the number of minutes each week. What’s your trick?

Great summer to you!
(Or winter if you’re in Oz or NZ). :)



My brother is so cool! He has done some research on music and the stock market: specifically does the volatility in the stock market react to beat-variance? Beat-variance is how much the beat in a specific song varies – are there slow parts and then fast part and differently paced parts?

He has made the most amazing music video ever:

I watched this ten times in a row. My two favorite videos on YouTube now are this Music and the Market and the Evolution of Dance. Enjoy!

Phil Maymin is a finance professor at NYU, and here is what SmartMoney had to say about this research:

Phil Maymin, an assistant professor of finance and risk engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, has crunched 50 years worth of stock-market data — along with more than 5,000 hit songs. And he says he’s found an inverse correlation between stock-market volatility and whether the hot music of the moment is frenetic or steady.

… What’s more, Maymin says that it appears as if musical tastes can predict future market volatility. A strategy based on predicting market volatility from past beat variance appears profitable, on average. “The model predicts that realized volatility next year will be lower than it was this year,” he says. Read more here.


Dalai LamaTibetan chuba dressI went to see the Dalai Lama on July 17, 2008 at Radio City Music Hall in NY. It was completely packed, and the room has 5,933 seats. It seemed that about one third to half of the women, men, and children in the audience were dressed in Tibetan formal wear – beautiful attire in exquisite print.

I was sitting in a good seat, part-way to the front, and as soon as the Dalai Lama let us know that that he would be answering some audience questions, I thought that since I had read most of his book on happiness, I would love to hear his impromptu thoughts on what makes him happiest. So I wrote on a piece of paper a question in large capital letters and gave it to a man collecting questions near our aisle.

Dalai Lama happiness questionThen many, many pieces of paper were brought to the translator’s desk on the stage. I don’t know how many from about 6,000 people. It looked like a lot of pieces of paper, and I absolutely didn’t think my question would be answered, but eventually after the first two questions – one of which included a detailed answer to ‘who are the protesters outside the event?’ – my question did come up. It was the third question out of four, and it was really delightful to hear the Dalai Lama’s answer.

Here is the question: “What makes you happiest? What makes you the most happy?”

The Dalai Lama’s answer was first a joke along the lines of “I don’t know.” And then he answered: “People make me happiest.” He pointed to the audience and to himself, and said that he thinks this kind of interaction – people speaking to each other – makes him happiest. He said it is “only ‘I,’ not ‘we-them,’” implying that everyone – himself and the audience – are part of the same “I.”

Then he ran through several additional things that make him happiest:

• Sleep – He actually stayed on this topic for a few minutes, describing how he goes to bed around 7pm every evening, and wakes up at 3:30am to be able to meditate before a 5:30am breakfast. He even joked about how his brother makes fun of him for such an early wake-up.

• No dinner after lunch – The Dalai Lama was quite firm about how he enjoys not eating in the evening after the mid-day meal. He said, “It’s good. I don’t get fat like man who looks like woman with baby [pregnant woman].” He mentioned that he always feels very hungry when it is time to eat.

• Vegetarian preference – Finally, the Dalai Lama mentioned that he prefers a vegetarian diet, and that he was vegetarian in 1965 for 20 months, and that he is now mainly vegetarian.


This is one of my three favorite holidays.
It is a love story in Japan.

WHAT TO DO:

1) Get a piece of paper and write down a wish
2) Tie it to a plant or an outside tree by 7pm tonight (that’s my addition – 7pm on 7/7)
3) Your wish will come true if it does not rain today where you are

Here’s the story as I wrote about it two years ago. It is a colorful, wildly fun holiday in Japan!
tanabata_tree.jpgtanabata_children.jpg
(Images from here).

THE TWO STARS:
Tanabata means “Festival of the stars.” This is a story about the two stars Altair (the boy) and Vega (the girl) which are the main stars in two constellations, Aquila the eagle and Lyra the musical lyre:

aquila.giflyra.gif


Altair and Vega are also two of the three stars of the Summer Triangle, and appear closest to each other in the summertime. (Images from here and here).

THE LOVE STORY:
There was a girl named Orihime – she was the daughter of the Sky God and she wove beautiful weavings. One day, she looked out of her window and saw the oxen-boy, Hikoboshi, and they fell in love. They spent so much time together that she didn’t have any time to weave, and so the Sky God separated the two, and allowed them to only meet each other on the seventh of the seventh.

Why is the Milky Way involved? “In the Chinese Calender, there is almost always a half moon on July 7th and they believe ORIHIME and [HIKOBOSHI] use that half moon as a boat to meet each other over the great river in the sky, AMANOGAWA [the Milky Way],” reports this site.

YOUR ROLE:

As long as the Milky Way does not overflow, everyone’s wish will come true on this day. So you can put on your bright summer cotton kimono, called the “yukata,” and you can go dancing in the parks, and you can write your wishes on brightly colored paper (as Dave describes here!) and tie them to a plant (in Japan, it would be a bamboo tree). And finally, you make that wish wholly and deliberately, and then you let go….


This is the first official announcement on my site about my father’s book.
You can get it on Amazon for $7.95. It’s by far one of the best books I’ve ever read.

My dad – Zak Maymin – wrote a book called “Publicani.” Publicani is a term for a government official and tax-collector in biblical times. It is set in the near future, when one family fights against the government after the government tries to take something from one of the family members. It’s a major action-adventure book. And it’s really – more than anything – a page-turner. You want to keep reading to see how it turns out.

Get the book HERE on Amazon.

Publicani

The book has received great reviews:

  • A Riveting, Entertaining Read
  • Thriller, science fiction, satire, plea for human dignity and liberty, mysticism, novel about families: you can answer All Of The Above, but you can’t stop turning the pages.
  • A fascinating twist on eminent domain, a futuristic political thriller from start to finish
  • Politically, we are already in the world of the publicani
  • Gripping, Thought-Provoking

I look forward to hearing what you think about the book! Please enjoy it!

Senia


There’s a group I used to visit a lot that’s stopped having discussions recently (the Happiness Group), and in that group, there were a lot of discussions of what Happiness is. FYI, here’s an overview of the group’s best hits (Favorite Posts 1 and Favorite Posts 2)

I know there’s a lot here – choose one or two to check out. I just wanted to get the phrases and the links out for reference and because they’re about a time and a place.

Here are some oldies but goodies about what people said:
Happiness Is … PLAY!
Happiness Is … Flow
Happiness Is … Learning from Adversity
Happiness Is … Endorphins
Happiness Is … Knowing It’ll Work out in the Endfun little one!

Happiness Is … Doing New Thingssee articles by me, Kathryn Britton, and Sherri Fisher
Happiness Is .. Exploring Every Axis (i.e., Expectations Management)
Happiness Is … Having a Tail

Happiness Is… Putting Things In Motion
Happiness is Memorable

Happiness Is… Knowing YOUR Boundaries

Happiness Is.. No Drama
Happiness Is… Listening to Your Body

Happiness Is … A Study
Happiness Is … Your Own Darn Behaviors
Happiness Is… Being Curious


Why do you need to travel to Scandinavia to enjoy a hot cup of tea after a meal in a restaurant? This is an idea I spoke with my friend E.C. about years and years ago. I still so simply and truly buy into this. You can be more observant. You can enjoy life more. You can do something different. You can enjoy a hot cup of tea right where you are – both in your kitchen and at a local restaurant.

E.C. told me that he had traveled to China, and had seen so much, and had observed so many details of regular life. And had taken so many photos. And then he wondered why people don’t do the same where they are? Why don’t people look for the details and observe the anomalies of daily living? Why don’t people explore what’s really underfoot?

There’s no expectation to do so, and people are busy, and people are not in a relaxation-enjoy-life mindset, and people feel rushed with daily chores, errands, expectations. But … does it need to be this way?

You don’t need to go to a monastery in India. Or break bread in the mills of Poland. Or dip into the Dead Sea.

Right around where you are. What can you do?

Gretchen wrote about breaking the hedonic treadmill by not having access to sending emails for a few days. Then, when she came back to email, it felt soooo good! Exactly.

My grandmother tells a story of a family with seven children that all lived in one room. The family went to the Rabbi and asked the rabbi, “What can we do? We have no space.” The Rabbi said, “Go get a goat and put her in the center of your one room.” The family said, “What?! That doesn’t make sense.” And the Rabbi said, “That’s my recommendation.” The family came back a week later, and told the Rabbi that didn’t seem to help. The Rabbi said, “Now, take the goat out of the room.”

That’s it! That’s the hedonic treadmill. Change things up. Feel too cramped? Make it more cramped, then relieve the pressure.

And you can create your own new experiences to also break the hedonic treadmill. How can you do something very, very different just exactly where you are?

There’s a folk story about a man for whom everything had gone badly, and he went off to live in a far-off country. He wrote letters to his parents telling them of things going on with him, and eventually, things were not going great in the new place either. So his father write him a letter, “Son, how do you expect things to be very different there? You took down there the same thing that was an issue here – you took yourself. So come back and figure yourself out here. We’d love to see you.”

I read this story as very positive. Like, look inside and make the changes you want to make, and then enjoy yourself and your life more. I can see how it could be read differently, and give the father an overly didactic and moralistic tone, but I don’t think about it that way – I read it as a dad’s concern and suggestion for his son.

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In summary, try any of these 6 ways to do something differently – exactly where you are:

  1. Go to a new restaurant nearby with your spouse or good friend. Dress nicely. Enjoy each bite. Write a review to each other over email afterwards.
  2. Walk in an area of town you know, but take photos as if documenting for National Geographic and email them to friends later.
  3. Do your regular sport but pay attention to each muscle. This is an idea I picked up from David Seah. If you’re not actively doing a sport, do this with walking.
  4. Go enjoy the sun in a new way. Find a day that is sunny. Go outside for ten minutes with the idea of enjoying the sun in a new way. What can you try? With your eyes closed? Sunning just the back of your neck for example? Dancing in the sun?
  5. Buy one flower, and spend ten minutes smelling it differently. Smell it when it’s near you, when it’s far away, when it’s in water, when it’s not, when it’s in the sun, when it’s in the shade. What works best?
  6. Hug something soft – a stuffed animal, a dog, a cat. Really feel how the softness feels. Describe it to a friend.

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You’ll notice a lot of the above ideas are also about sharing the feeling of the something different that you’re doing – sending an email about it, describing it. Go ahead and share. As Karen Salmansohn says, really share. Shaaaaaare.


We asked this question yesterday at the first meeting of the Happiness Club NY!

QUESTION: If you had been Marty Seligman, Mike Csikszentmihalyi, and Ray Fowler when they met in 1999 to discuss a new subfield in psychology that would study what is right with people, what topics would you have wanted to put on the table? What topics would you want to study?!

Here are the answers from yesterday:

EXPERIENCES we can study – such as thoughts, emotions…

  • Internal vs. external happiness
  • Consistency in Happiness over time
  • Studying hobbies, flow experiences
  • Exercise and happiness
  • Weightloss and happiness
  • How to move on from a bad thought
  • Conscious happiness, awareness
  • Optimism and adjusting thoughts and controlling thoughts
  • Pleasure
  • Meaning
  • How to increase happiness
  • Happiness in marriage, in relationships, in long-lasting friendships (also “group”)

INDIVIDUAL TRAITS AND CHARACTERISTICS we can study

  • Drive, motivation
  • Responsibility, reliance
  • Personal will
  • To what degree is happiness determined at birth? – Chemical and neurobiological components of happiness
  • Generational: if your parents are happy, are you?
  • Focus
  • Studying traits of good leaders
  • Studying traits of successful people
  • Studying traits of philanthropists
  • Studying optimists (also “experience”)
  • Difference between individual and community happiness (also “group”)

GROUP AND COMMUNITY issues we can study

  • Happiness at work, fun at work (LOTS of interest in this topic)
  • Is happiness cultural?
  • Does happiness have socioeconomic factors?
  • Is there a ripple effect to happiness – if you’re happy, then are others?
  • Happiness and children

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OBSERVATION:
What’s interesting is that the list we came up with has a lot of questions that the original founders of positive psychology came up with too. And it’s not really a coincidence that even though we were sitting in a Columbia Business School classroom, we came up with the fewest categories for “group.” Similarly, in positive psychology, group and organization issues have been the least studied.

You might be wondering why we separated our questions into those categories. Well, first we brainstormed a lot of topics we would want to study, and then we used the three “pillars” of positive psychology to group all our brainstormed topics.

See you at the next Happiness Club NY meeting on July 11, Wed eve – for a discussion about “Is there any magic techniqut to positive thinking? And what if I don’t want to think positive?”

Link: What is Positive Psychology?