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mental health

5 Secrets Happy People Know

Written on March 1, 2012 at 9:37 am , by

One of Roko Belic’s wealthy Hollywood friends approached him with an interesting question: “Why does it seem like the people who clean celebrity homes and do their yard work are oftentimes more happy than the celebrities themselves?” Belic found this concept so fascinating that he spent years exploring the topic. The result: Happy, a documentary by the Academy Award-nominated director that is now available on DVD.

We spoke with Belic about the project, and he shared these five simple steps to make your H.Q. (happiness quotient) skyrocket.

Smile and the world smiles with you... (Photo by Della Bass)

  1. Be grateful. “Gratitude is one of the best tools to boost your mood,” Belic says. “Thank someone who did something for you with a handwritten note, even if it’s just a few sentences long.” The act of writing the message adds happiness to your life for days. If you send the note, you extend the joy even longer (as you anticipate the letter arriving in their mailbox). And if they thank you back?
  2. Novelty keeps life fresh. Try something—anything—new! Whether you take a different route to work, eat at a new deli for lunch or go to a concert rather than a movie this Friday, doing something out of the ordinary “helps you appreciate what you have and expands your life,” Belic says.
  3. Set humble goals. Many researchers have tried to pinpoint what makes certain countries, like Denmark, happier than others. Having expectations that are within reach seems to make you feel more accomplished. “Aim to provide for your family or find a job where you are friendly with your co-workers,” Belic suggests, rather than trying to win the lottery or finish first in a marathon. You’ll be much more likely to actually make these goals a reality and won’t feel like you’re missing out on the “better things in life” if you frame it this way.
  4. Go with the (fitness) flow. Aerobic exercise affects the dopamine system in your brain, Belic explains. “Think about it: You rarely see a person complaining about how terrible they feel after finishing a good run or spending a day surfing,” he says. Fitness is even more beneficial for your mood if you’re able to find “flow” in the activity. Look for something that totally captivates your attention and keeps your mind fully on your body rather than on paying the mortgage or something else stressful.
  5. Share the wealth. “Happiness is contagious. Research has found that the happier you are, the happier your friends are—and even your friend’s, friend’s, friends are,” Belic says. Translation: If we were playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, joy spreads to your third degree connections. If you prioritize your happiness by following the previous four steps, you’ll boost the collective mood. “This isn’t just good for individuals; it’s good for the world. Happier communities have fewer crimes, less pollution and more people who are willing to help a stranger in need,” Belic adds.

Now tell us: What’s making you smile lately?

Fashion Diaries: A Mexican Adventure (Part 2)

Written on December 13, 2011 at 9:47 am , by

I’m back in New York from the white sandy beaches of Mexico with some more great stories to share with you! (Missed part one? Catch up here!) One the second day of my stay at the Paradisus La Perla in Playa del Carmen, I was given the opportunity to enjoy a deep tissue massage at the Yhi Spa (pronounced like “G”).

Walking into the spa was like a dream—the scents, the sounds, the friendly and prompt staff—it was as if I was the only customer they were tending to, which is such a nice feeling to have! I was directed to the changing room, where I was given a big comfy robe and sandals to wear, and then had the option of using the steam room, the sauna or the pool, prior to my massage. After a few minutes of some relaxation time, I was brought to my suite where I met my wonderful masseuse, and experienced one of the best massages I’ve ever had! It was relaxing, soothing and all of the knots that I had in my upper back (trust me, there are many) were suddenly released. It was such an amazing experience, and I wish I could go back. I didn’t want it to end!

The spa at the resort offers a variety of massages, facials, hair treatments manicures and pedicures, and is honestly one of the most serene places that I have ever been. Now that I am back in New York, I’m wishing I could be back at Yhi getting another massage. Wishful thinking!

More from FITNESS: Follow this guide to turn your home into a serene spa.

8 Steps to Put Yourself on Your Priority List

Written on September 20, 2011 at 9:00 am , by

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

How often have you found yourself thinking or saying the following?

  • “I wish I had more time for myself.”
  • “I’m so busy! I don’t have a moment to breathe.”
  • “I need more hours in the day.”
  • “I don’t have time for that.”

We lead crazy, busy lives. And the one thing we never seem to have time for is ourselves. This problem seems even more pervasive as we work harder to meet the challenges of this new economy.

Creating more personal time tops the list of goals many people want to accomplish. Here are a few ways you can make “me” time a reality:

1. First, decide that you deserve some time to yourself each day. Stop feeling guilty for taking time out for you, and realize in the long run, it’s a win-win for everyone. When you are tired, stressed out and pulled in too many directions, it is hard to give your best to all you must accomplish. Remember, self-time is not selfish—it’s a necessary dimension of self-care!

2. Decide how best to spend “me” time. How each of us chooses to spend free time is as individualized as we all are. If you had an extra 15 minutes, a half hour, an afternoon or an entire day, what would you do to make yourself feel rejuvenated, relaxed and happy? Write a list and keep it handy when you begin scheduling time into your calendar.

3. Evaluate the things that are wasting your time each day. Do you check your emails constantly and end up spending more time on your computer than you planned? Run to the supermarket daily to pick up dinner rather than plan in advance and shop once? If this sounds like you, you must take the time to organize your responsibilities, and you will gain more free time.

4. Learn to say “no” to requests to do things that you don’t really want to do, don’t value, or don’t bring you satisfaction and joy.

5. Ask for help with chores that don’t necessarily have to be completed by you alone.

6. At the beginning of each week, take a few minutes to designate specific time slots for all that must be accomplished—including “me” time. Treat your personal time like you would any other appointment and make it non-negotiable.

7. Commit to a minimum of 15-20 minutes of “me” time every day. Do something (or nothing) that completely lets go of responsibilities and releases your mind, allowing you to be alone with your thoughts.

8. Create a daily ritual. This can be a bath, listening to music, taking a walk or meditating. You will find yourself looking forward to this time!

Read the entire Spark article here

More from SparkPeople:

Putting “I” Back Into Your Vocabulary

Fitting Healthy Habits Into Your Hectic Life

The Proven Weight-Loss Program That Isn’t a Diet

How to Tame Wedding Planning Stress

Written on August 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm , by

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

So you’ve joined the ranks of your friends on Facebook and are planning a wedding, too? Congrats! But we know the planning can at times wreak havoc on your mental health, so check out this post from our buddies at SparkPeople…


It’s a gross understatement to say that planning a wedding is stressful. With all of the coordination, timing and numerous things to prepare for (not to mention family politics!), it’s no wonder that nice, normal people turn into grumpy grooms and bridezillas. However, you don’t have to become a stressed-out stereotype on your big day. In fact, it is possible to plan a wedding and keep your healthy cool—no matter the situation.

The Stressor: You and Your Fiancé Want Different Types of Weddings

One of the biggest wedding stressors occurs when you and your fiancé have very different ideas of what your special day should be like. Traditional and in a church? A tropical destination wedding? The options are limitless and stress can be high from the get-go, if the soon-to-be-wed couple can’t agree on what kind of ceremony to have.

How to de-stress: Before you plan any wedding details, sit down with your fiancé and make a list of the top three things that are important to each of you as far as the ceremony and reception are concerned. Then, calmly and patiently compare lists to see where you can compromise. If he wants a small wedding but you want a big one, you can always hold a small ceremony and then a big after-party. Marriage is all about give and take!

The Stressor: Overbearing Family Members or Friends
Almost every bride and groom deals with at least one or two overbearing (yet well-meaning) family members or friends while planning a wedding. Whether it’s a future in-law, your own parents, or even a bossy friend, everyone seems to have an opinion.

How to de-stress: Remember that this is your wedding—not everyone else’s. It may be hard to tell your loved ones “no”, but if you want your wedding day to be truly special and unique, you must stand your ground. Politely and firmly state your decisions with the support of your partner. Think of it as if others are trying to derail or sabotage your diet—it’s really none of their business!

The Stressor: Fear that Your Dress Won’t Fit
Of course you want to feel confident and healthy on your wedding day…but stress only hurts your weight-loss efforts.

How to de-stress: First, make sure that you aren’t being unrealistic about your body image on the big day. Your wedding weight-loss goals must be realistic, especially since planning takes a lot of time and you may not have as much time as you think to exercise and cook healthfully. Second, be sure to drink enough water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and get that beauty rest. These three things will really give you that wedding-day glow. Lastly, visualize yourself walking down the aisle with confidence on the big day. Picturing yourself in a positive light helps squash stress and can give you the energy to plan, plan, plan!

Keep Reading: How to tame stress from the budget, guest list, and more!

More from SparkPeople:

Free Weight Loss and Fitness Plans

Stay Healthy While Planning Your Wedding

De-Stress in 3 Minutes or Less