How To Be Happier

smileAs I stared out the rain-spattered window of a New York City bus, I saw that the years were slipping by.

“What do I want from life?” I asked myself. “Well…I want to be happy.”

I had many reasons to be happy: My husband was the tall, dark, handsome love of my life; we had two delightful girls; I was a writer, living in my favorite city.

I had friends; I had my health; I didn’t have to color my hair. But too often I sniped at my husband or the drugstore clerk.

I felt dejected after even a minor professional setback. I lost my temper easily. Is that how a happy person would act?

I decided on the spot to begin a systematic study of happiness. (A little intense, I know. But that’s the kind of thing that appeals to me.)

In the end, I spent a year test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and tips from popular culture.

If I followed all the advice, I wanted to know, would it work?

Well, the year is over, and I can say: It did. I made myself happier. And along the way I learned a lot about how to be happier. Here are those lessons.

1. Don’t start with profundities. When I began my Happiness Project, I realized pretty quickly that, rather than jumping in with lengthy daily meditation or answering deep questions of self-identity, I should start with the basics, like going to sleep at a decent hour and not letting myself get too hungry.

Science backs this up; these two factors have a big impact on happiness.

2. Do let the sun go down on anger.
I had always scrupulously aired every irritation as soon as possible, to make sure I vented all bad feelings before bedtime.

Studies show, however, that the notion of anger catharsis is poppycock.

Expressing anger related to minor, fleeting annoyances just amplifies bad feelings, while not expressing anger often allows it to dissipate.

3. Fake it till you feel it. Feelings follow actions. If I’m feeling low, I deliberately act cheery, and I find myself actually feeling happier. If I’m feeling angry at someone, I do something thoughtful for her and my feelings toward her soften. This strategy is uncannily effective.

4. Realize that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Challenge and novelty are key elements of happiness.

The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction.

People who do new things — learn a game, travel to unfamiliar places — are happier than people who stick to familiar activities that they already do well.

I often remind myself to “Enjoy the fun of failure” and tackle some daunting goal.

5. Don’t treat the blues with a “treat.” Often the things I choose as “treats” aren’t good for me. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt and loss of control and other negative consequences deepen the lousiness of the day.

While it’s easy to think, I’ll feel good after I have a few glasses of wine…a pint of ice cream…a cigarette…a new pair of jeans, it’s worth pausing to ask whether this will truly make things better.

6. Buy some happiness.
Our basic psychological needs include feeling loved, secure, and good at what we do.

You also want to have a sense of control. Money doesn’t automatically fill these requirements, but it sure can help.

I’ve learned to look for ways to spend money to stay in closer contact with my family and friends; to promote my health; to work more efficiently; to eliminate sources of irritation and marital conflict; to support important causes; and to have enlarging experiences.

For example, when my sister got married, I splurged on a better digital camera. It was expensive, but it gave me a lot of happiness.

7. Don’t insist on the best. There are two types of decision makers. Satisficers (yes, satisficers) make a decision once their criteria are met.

When they find the hotel or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied. Maximizers want to make the best possible decision.

Even if they see a bicycle or a backpack that meets their requirements, they can’t make a decision until they’ve examined every option.

Satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers expend more time and energy reaching decisions, and they’re often anxious about their choices. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

8. Exercise to boost energy. I knew, intellectually, that this worked, but how often have I told myself, “I’m just too tired to go to the gym”?

Exercise is one of the most dependable mood-boosters. Even a 10-minute walk can brighten my outlook.

9. Stop nagging.
I knew my nagging wasn’t working particularly well, but I figured that if I stopped, my husband would never do a thing around the house.


If anything, more work got done.

Plus, I got a surprisingly big happiness boost from quitting nagging.

I hadn’t realized how shrewish and angry I had felt as a result of speaking like that. I replaced nagging with the following persuasive tools: wordless hints (for example, leaving a new light bulb on the counter); using just one word (saying “Milk!” instead of talking on and on); not insisting that something be done on my schedule; and, most effective of all, doing a task myself.

10. Take action. Some people assume happiness is mostly a matter of inborn temperament: You’re born an Eeyore or a Tigger, and that’s that.

Although it’s true that genetics play a big role, about 40 percent of your happiness level is within your control.

By Gretchen Rubin
Real Simple


Blueberry Buckle

Blueberry buckleINGREDIENTS (Nutrition)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease one 8×8 inch pan.
Cream together 3/4 cup sugar, shortening, and egg.
In a separate bowl mix together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into sugar mixture, alternating with milk. Stir in blueberries. Pour into greased 8×8 inch pan.
To make topping: Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, cinnamon, and butter. Sprinkle over cake batter.
Bake at 375 degree F (190 degrees C) for 25-30 minutes.


Hungary All The Time? Ten Foods Guaranteed To Keep You Satisfied

popcornA decade ago researchers in Australia came up with the “satiety index,” a way to determine how satisfied you feel after eating certain foods. Participants ate a 240-calorie portion of each food, then rated their satiety over 2 hours. Using that information, scientists put together a list of the best foods for keeping you full — and new research has proven them right time and time again. Make these tummy-toppers the staples on your next shopping list.

1| white potatoes Curse carbs all you want, but fiber-packed potatoes kept participants in the Australian study full 2 hours after eating — three times longer than the average food. But beware: Researchers were surprised to find that fatty fried potatoes like chips and French fries weren’t as satisfying and didn’t fare as well.

2| eggs They’ve been called the “perfect protein,” and a new study confirms protein’s role in satiety. Researchers at the University of Washington found that people who eat a 30 percent protein diet ate 441 calories less each day than those on a 15 percent protein diet.

3| oatmeal It’s the most satisfying breakfast cereal around, providing more protein per serving than any other grain as well as a good dose of fiber. “Add some low-fat dairy like yogurt or skim milk and you should stay full all morning,” says Elisa Zied, R.D., author of So What Can I Eat? and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

4| beans Their high fiber content is key. According to Ida Laquatra, Ph.D., R.D., director of global nutrition for Heinz, “research shows that high-fiber foods are processed slower and last longer in the stomach, resulting in a feeling of fullness long after they have been eaten.”

5| fish Your last piece of yellowtail sashimi may send you calling for pizza an hour after you finish, but cooked whitefish is proven to keep you full. For best results, steam or grill a thick whitefish, such as cod, bass, or halibut.

6| soup Research from Pennsylvania State University found that dieters who ate soup two times per day were more successful in losing weight and maintained, on average, a total weight loss of 16 pounds after 1 year. Chunky, broth-based soups, such as chicken and vegetable, are most filling.

7| apples An apple a day can keep you healthy?and full. High water content may be the reason. “Foods that contain water have more bulk and a lower energy density — meaning you get more food for less calories,” Zied says. And do we even need to mention the fiber?

8| beef Packed with protein and micronutrients like iron and zinc, a little beef goes a long way. Partner beef with a high-fiber side dish like wild rice or bulgur and you can close the kitchen after dinner.

9| salad “Salad adds the bulk to a meal that keeps you full with less calories,” according to Zied. Additional research from Penn State shows that people who eat salad at the start of a meal wind up taking in fewer calories all day than those who skip salad.

10| popcorn
A?great snack that provides bulk, popcorn keeps your mouth moving longer than the same amount of calories of other snacks like potato chips or pretzels.

Source: by:Julie Meyer, R.D.

Arthritis: Keeping Your Joints Healthy

arthritisThere are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but all have one thing in common: These different diseases affect joints. Many of them also affect the areas and structures surrounding joints. Perhaps more important, arthritis is painful and can interfere with your ability to do the things that you enjoy, from cooking a meal to playing golf.

The number of people with arthritis is staggering. In 2005, 66 million adults in the United States — nearly 1 in 3 — had either been diagnosed with arthritis or were living with undiagnosed chronic joint pain and other symptoms. Although the risk of some types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, increases with age, more than half of those affected by all types of arthritis are younger than 65. In fact, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in Americans older than 15.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you have arthritis, there are steps you can take, starting today, to protect your joints, reduce pain, and improve mobility. The exact strategy depends on the type of arthritis you have, but for most people, there is reason for optimism.

This report describes how arthritis affects the joints and other structures. It explains how the various kinds of arthritis are diagnosed and treated, and tells how to minimize the impact of arthritis in your life.

Obtaining the correct diagnosis is particularly important — and sometimes quite difficult. Joint discomfort can result from any one of a number of different conditions, but even blood and imaging tests often provide no definitive answer. Because being able to describe your symptoms is so important, this report discusses the variety of symptoms that may occur, and which are typical of particular kinds of arthritis.

In addition, you will find here detailed information and specific treatment advice for the two most common types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, along with a brief look at other types of arthritis, such as gout, pseudogout, ankylosing spondylitis, and infectious arthritis.

Because living with arthritis requires more than finding a drug treatment, this report also provides advice about how to exercise safely, cope with emotions, and evaluate whether complementary therapies, such as glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, are right for you.

Millions of people live with arthritis, but this report will suggest ways to live well .

For complete report click here.

10 Great Volunteer Vacations

volunteer2Why not extend the goodwill and start planning for your next travel experience with an eco-friendly volunteer vacation in mind?

Here are 10 great ways to not only get your butt off the couch this summer, but to make a difference through travel with a voluntourism opportunity.

1. The American Hiking Society offers multiple volunteer opportunities to help clean up our nation’s gorgeous trails. Each trip is made up of a crew of between six and 15 volunteers and a leader. The Hiking Society has trips organized by level ruggedness—i.e. whether you’re sleeping tents or cabin—and level of difficulty. The average vacation length is a week, but each volunteer can choose to participate for as long or as short a time period they wish.

If you’re looking for a real getaway, check out a program at the Hawaii Nature Center in Maui, Hawaii in which volunteers will cut new trails through the vegetation or the Summit Creek Trail on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska in which volunteers will remove invasive plant species.

But don’t confuse a volunteer vacation with a traditional vacation: The workday starts early at 8 a.m. and volunteers work for about seven hours, followed by an afternoon of doing camp chores and exploring the local area. But the really good news is that these experiences are affordable: the first trip costs $245 for American Hiking Society Members and $275 for non-members; every trip after that costs only $175 per person.

2. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) teaches students leadership, environmental ethics, and wilderness skills. The organization offers courses ranging anywhere from 10 days to a full year. Previous experience is not needed—all you need to have is a positive attitude and an interest in learning wilderness skills. NOLS has courses for participants ages 14 and up.

One upcoming trip includes a 16-day Whitewater River Expedition in which students learn to kayak and row an oar rig on Utah’s Green River, starting from $3,535 per person. Or, if you are interested in developing your outdoorsy skills this winter, check out the Winter Outdoor Educator Trip in which students learn to build snow kitchens, igloos, and snow caves in Idaho Falls, Idaho. This trip departs in January and costs about $2,500 per person. NOLS can offer college credit if needed.

3. If natural science is your thing, Earthwatch Institute may be for you. The group pairs real scientists with volunteers to work on finding solutions to the world’s environmental problems. Expeditions include visiting the Santa Lucia Reserve of Ecuador where volunteers take inventory of local species and their eating habits, which help’s the reserve workers to create habitat action plans. This trip departs in June and September and costs $2,550 per person.

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All You Need To Know About Strokes

What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts . Without blood and the oxygen it carries, part of the brain starts to die. The part of the body controlled by the damaged area of the brain can’t work properly.

Brain damage can begin within minutes, so it is important to know the symptoms of stroke and act fast. Quick treatment can help limit damage to the brain and increase the chance of a full recovery.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of a stroke happen quickly. A stroke may cause:

Sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
New problems with walking or balance.
Sudden vision changes.
Drooling or slurred speech.
New problems speaking or understanding simple statements, or feeling confused.
A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 or other emergency services right away.

See your doctor if you have symptoms that seem like a stroke, even if they go away quickly. You may have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a mini-stroke. A TIA is a warning that a stroke may happen soon. Getting early treatment for a TIA can help prevent a stroke.

What causes a stroke?

There are two types of stroke:

An ischemic stroke develops when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The clot may form in the blood vessel or travel from somewhere else in the blood system. About 8 out of 10 strokes are ischemic (say “iss-KEE-mick”) strokes. They are the most common type of stroke in older adults.
A hemorrhagic stroke develops when an artery in the brain leaks or bursts. This causes bleeding inside the brain or near the surface of the brain. Hemorrhagic (say “heh-muh-RAH-jick”) strokes are less common but more deadly than ischemic strokes.

How is a stroke diagnosed?

Seeing a doctor right away is very important. If a stroke is diagnosed quickly—within the first 3 hours of when symptoms start—doctors may be able to use medicines that can lead to a better recovery.

The first thing the doctor needs to find out is what kind of stroke it is: ischemic or hemorrhagic. This is important because the medicine given to treat a stroke caused by a blood clot could be deadly if used for a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.


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As Stress on Families Rises, Grandparents Give Grandchildren Boost

grandparentsREX_468x708When Shawn Harrington, 16, of Lawrenceville, Ga., learned that a close friend was pregnant, the first person she turned to was her grandmother, Peggy Harrington. Peggy’s response to Shawn’s news was sobering.

“We talked for a long time,” Peggy says, “and I asked her, ‘What would you do?’ I had her think about the things that she would have to give up. She couldn’t go to college; she couldn’t go out and party; she couldn’t travel when she wanted to. And she said several times, ‘I never thought about it like that.’ ”

The conversation had a profound effect on Shawn’s view of her friend’s situation.

“My grandma told me that once you have a kid, that is your life, it is a decision that you cannot turn back,” Shawn says. “She explained to me how important it is to make the right decisions about what you do, how you do it, and when you do it.”

The Harringtons’ experience illustrates the crucial role grandparents can play in the lives of their adolescent grandchildren. A recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology showed that children ages 9 to 18 with a strong grandparent bond have fewer behavioral problems and better social skills than those who lack that relationship. “Grandparents provide stability,” says Shalhevet Attar-Schwartz, lead author on the Family Psychology article and a researcher at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “They take on multiple roles for their grandchildren: caregiver, playmate, adviser, mentor and friend.”

Perhaps at no time in recent history has this bond been more important.

Grandmother steps into the void

Consider these numbers: Nearly one-third of all children live in a single-parent household, according to the national Kids Count program. Nearly 1 million marriages end in divorce or annulment each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 4 million children are living in blended families, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. And into these unstable family situations, mix in an economic crisis that has left more than 14.5 million Americans out of work, caused massive uncertainty about long-term job stability and increased levels of stress at home across the country.

Meanwhile, the number of teenage girls ages 15 to 19 who are getting pregnant increased for the second year in a row in 2007, reversing a 14-year trend, according to the CDC. Drug use among teens and tweens is also a growing concern. After declining for more than 10 years, the rate of marijuana use among eighth-graders leveled off in 2008. Eleven percent of 13-year-olds report having used marijuana, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse study, and by 12th grade, 15.4 percent of teens have abused prescription drugs such as Vicodin or OxyContin.

The benefit of years

As Attar-Schwartz found in her study, grandparents have a unique ability to get their adolescent grandchildren to talk about their feelings and address some of the more pressing issues of their generation. Since time has given grandparents more experience than their adult children, they are able to naturally occupy different roles. Peggy Harrington understands the worries and concerns of her daughter-in-law, Brenna Harrington, because she lived through them herself while raising her own kids. She believes that her life experience gives her an outlook Brenna does not have yet—wisdom that Shawn herself has picked up on.

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