Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Aristotle Knows About Happiness and New Year's Resolutions

Image: Google

Hello Optimists,

I'm really not one to make resolutions for the new year. I'd rather be a "let's do it now" kinda girl. But, I read a great article today that really got me thinking about how we can start off our new year with some goals in mind that are a bit different than what's usually on the list.

The article I read was about getting rid of unhealthy vices, finding your virtues and starting good habits using Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics as a reference. I was intrigued by the reference that "Aristotle claims that virtue and vice are up to us", so I thought I would read a bit more into his piece to see how the decisions we make could impact our lives.

After a quick Google search to find the full text, I knew there was no way I was going to read all 10 Books in the collection. So, I gave it the old "college try" and pulled it up in SparkNotes.

I know, I know. You can stop rolling your eyes now. I admit this is a total cheat and I too am a little disappointed in my unwillingness to delve into a fabulous ancient Greek philosopher's text. Maybe next time, when I have a good 6 hours to devote to it!

Despite popular opinion, you really can get some good info from SparkNotes, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Aristotle's writing in this essay has a lot to do with finding happiness. In fact, he cites happiness as our highest goal in life and explains how to find our path to reach it. 

Without getting too philosophical on you here, Aristotle's main point is to help us find out what our life consists of, to teach us how we can learn about the good things in life, what makes them good, and how we can build our world around that. 

So, with the new year coming at us fast, I wanted to tie in a few of the lessons learned here through Aristotle's piece and help us create positive New Year's Resolutions that will last. While we may have the usual "lose 10 pounds", "find a new job", or "cut out fast food" on our list of resolutions, here are a few more to consider:

  • Develop good character. "Ethics" descends from the Greek word ethos, meaning “character.” Let's take a good assessment of our ethics to create a fresh, new approach to living our lives.
  • Spend more time with friends. According to Aristotle, happiness is a public affair, not a private one, so with whom we share this happiness is of great significance.
  • Do the things that make you happy. Aristotle treats happiness as an activity, not as a state, and makes the point that happiness consists of a certain way of life, not of certain dispositions. 
  • Remind yourself of the "why" everyday. Contemplating things in life and being fully aware of the things around us is one of the points Aristotle makes in Ethics, and it's really important for us to remember. Reminding ourselves of why we like what we're doing (or why we don't like what we're doing) can help us stay on a path to happiness. 

If any of you have read the full text, I tip my hat to you, and welcome you to share more of your insight here. It's just a bit too much for me to tackle all at once! 

I thought this quote from Ethics would be a good end to the post, as most of you will likely be ringing in the New Year with friends and family:

 Between friends there is no need for justice, but people who are just still need the quality of friendship; and indeed friendliness is considered to be justice in the fullest sense. It is not only a necessary thing, but a splendid one.

Wishing you a happy start to the new year!

Keep Smiling,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Have a *Happy* Holiday

Hello Optimists,

No matter what holiday you're celebrating this winter season, you cannot deny that there's a feeling of joy in the air. And there's no better time to start (or continue) to see all the good that life has to offer.

As they say (...whomever "they" are): 'Tis the season.

'Tis the season to be jolly.

'Tis the season to be happy.

'Tis the season for feeling that feeling deep in your heart.

I'll be celebrating Christmas with my family this weekend, and I'm very much looking forward to welcoming in a lot of smiles, laughter, and love.

My previous Christmastime posts on How the Grinch Stole Christmas and a Holiday Collection contain some of my all-time favorite, favorite, favorite quotes, so I thought this year I would add one more to the list and share something with you that is a bit different than usual, yet still offers up that heart-warming feeling.

If you have 2 minutes to spare and are looking for an innocent, lovable, ridiculously cute moment, watch this:

"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don't clean it up too quickly." -Andy Rooney

Wishing you, and your families and friends, a season of joy, happiness, and love...and more cute puppies.

Keep Smiling,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Smile Test: Can You Spot the Fake?

Image from Delivering Happiness website

Hello Optimists,

Can you see tell whether someone's smile is genuine or fake?

That's the question that researchers at the BBC want you to answer by taking their Smile Test.

I first found out about this cool little activity from an article posted by Delivering Happiness, where they shared that the science of smiling has been researched since 1860. Pretty cool.

If you have a few spare minutes, take the 20-question Smile Test to really see if you've got what it takes to spot a true grin. Each question has an accompanying video of a person smiling, so you can really "experience" the gesture and make a decision on whether it's real or fake. You'll be surprised at how difficult it can be!

After you've completed the test and get your results, the BBC provides you with some great information to further assess and improve your ability to spot a genuine grin.

Here's a piece of the assessment that I pulled from my own results; I found the information really intriguing, and though you might like to read it too.
Fake smiles can be performed at will, because the brain signals that create them come from the conscious part of the brain and prompt the zygomaticus major muscles in the cheeks to contract. These are the muscles that pull the corners of the mouth outwards.
Genuine smiles, on the other hand, are generated by the unconscious brain, and so they are automatic. When people feel pleasure, signals pass through the part of the brain that processes emotion. As well as making the mouth muscles move, the muscles that raise the cheeks – the orbicularis oculi and the pars orbitalis – also contract, making the eyes crease up, and the eyebrows dip slightly.
We know how important smiling is, but just as important is our ability to spot the real deal. I hope you hop on over to the site and test out your smile-spotting skills.

Report back here with the results!   :D   (Just for the record, that one's a real smile!)

Keep Smiling (genuine smiles),

Monday, December 12, 2011

How #GoodSpotting Makes a Happy Holiday

Hello Optimists,

I came across a great project today that I thought you would all be interested in. It's called "#GoodSpotting", and yes, the hashtag is included.

I found the #GoodSpotting project on Positive Impact Magazine, and I learned that it is hosted and run by The Case Foundation, which invests in people and ideas that can change the world. This social media-led project promotes sharing acts of kindness over social media and rewards a few lucky Good Spotters with $500 to use for the holidays and $5,000 to have donated to their favorite non-profit.

With the campaign ending on December 23, this is a great way to make this a Happy Holiday Season.

Check out the video below to get all of the details and to learn how to take part in this fun project:

And remember this quote as you go on Good Spotting:

Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world. -Annie Lennox
Have you heard of this project? I'd love to hear about your entries to the sure to share them with all of us on Facebook and Twitter as well!

Keep Smiling,

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Learn 8 Steps for Success in 3 Minutes

Hello Optimists,

I cozied up under a warm blanket with a cup of coffee this morning, and switched on a morning talk show to see what hot stories were making the news. The text on the screen read:

Secrets of Success: A Positive Attitude Pays.

Well, isn't that funny? Turns out, the whole segment was about ways to be successful in a new job, but I found that the tips they shared were quite relevant to everyday life. Starting your day with a positive attitude, whether you're headed into work or not, certainly has its benefits - so being an Optimal Optimist is worth it!

After watching the segment, it got me thinking more about "secrets" of success, so I decided to turn to a trustworthy source, TED, to see what other scholars and experts had to say about it.

I came across a short video that summed up some great things to keep in mind about being successful in life and thought I would share them with you today.

If you have 3 minutes, check out this video featuring Richard St. John's 8 Secrets of Success:

Oh, and one more thing...
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. -Abraham Lincoln

Keep Smiling,