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,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5 Ways to be Positive When You're Surrounded with Negativity

I don't know about you, but I find negativity to be exhausting. 

I've also found that it's contagious. Unless we are Optimal Optimists, then it's easy to get caught up in the pessimism that surrounds us and succumb to the pressures of negativity. It's easy because we don't do it consciously....reacting negatively in jest, I have found, is common. 

As a society, we tend to dwell on the negatives, and converse about all of the bad things that are going on in the world. When there is a lull in conversation, more often than not we turn to the hottest stories in the news to break the silence, and we can almost always agree on the degrading state of the economy, the shame that the "youth" is bringing on our community, the terrible fact that we can't leave our doors unlocked because of the rash of burglaries throughout the neighborhood, or the traffic jams and accidents that litter the highways.

Is this in an effort to make ourselves feel better? That doesn't make sense to me. 

So when we find ourselves surrounded with negativity, there are a few things we can do to be positive. Here they are:

  1. Acknowledge the shortcomings/tragedies/disappointments for the topic at hand, but point out the good in the situation. 
    Ugh, I know things aren't going so well right now, but on the bright side, only better things will come!
  2. Change the subject to something positive.
    So anyway, did you hear that last week's food drive fed 500 people for the holiday?
  3. Call out negative rants.
    Gosh, I feel so weighed down when talking about all of this depressing stuff. Let's focus on some good things from now on, ok?
  4. Propose a positive solution.
    I heard Sam's been singing the blues lately. What do you say we go cheer her up with a fun night out and remind her that things aren't so bad after all?
  5. Walk away from the negativity. Escaping sometimes is the best tactic.
    Sorry guys, I'm gonna skip out on this one. Too many good things happening around us to focus on the bad!
Staying positive takes some work, but it's definitely worth it. Try to think positively when negativity creeps into your life - you will feel so much better! 
You've done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.            -Ralph Marston

Keep Smiling,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2 Thoughts to Kick Off the Holiday Season

The Holiday Season is upon us! 

Have you been scouring websites looking for fun new recipes to try for the holidays?

I have. And it's been so. much. fun.

It's not like my mom doesn't have hundreds of delicious recipes from our family collection, but sometimes it's fun to try out new things and put a different spin on some old favorites. I've been faithfully checking websites like The Food Network, FoodBuzz, Food Gawker, and more almost daily, and I've compiled a ridiculously long list of "must try" recipes.

Aside from all of the great food that we get to make (and then eat!), we must not forget the reason we celebrate. With the official kick-off to the holiday season here in the U.S. coming in just a few days with Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share with you some quotes that make for a *happy* holiday. Of course, we should not reserve our gratitude solely for this day or any other holiday - we should acknowledge it everyday - but it is nice to have a special reservation for our most appreciated moments in life.

Here are 2 thoughts to kick off the holiday season:

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.  ~Meister Eckhart 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I wish you, your friends, and family a wonderful holiday!

Keep Smiling,

Monday, November 14, 2011

What To Do When Enthusiasm Wanes

Hello Optimists,

I was doing a bit of reading today and came across an incredibly poignant little story...

Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" brings us the following:

In a story called, "The Turn of the Tide," author Arthur Gordon describes a time when he found his world stale and flat. His enthusiasm for life waned, and he was getting worse daily.

A medical doctor found nothing physically wrong with him, but he said he might be able to help if Gordon could follow his instructions for one day. He was to spend the next day in the place where he'd been happiest as a child. He was not to talk to anyone, nor to read, write, or listen to the radio. The doctor then wrote our four prescriptions and told him to open one at 9am, noon, 3pm, and 6pm.

The next morning, Gordon went to the beach. His first prescription said only this: "Listen carefully." It seemed insane to listen to waves for three hours. But he did it - and began to hear more and more sounds that weren't obvious at first. He began to think of lessons he'd learned as a child from the sea: patient, respect for the interdependence of things. He felt a growing peace.

The noon prescription read, "Try reaching back." To what? He thought of joyful times of his childhood, and felt a growing warmth inside.

The 3pm message thew some cold water on him: "Examine your motives." At first, he was defensive. Of course he wanted success, fame, security - he could justify them all. But then it occurred to him that these motives weren't good enough, and that fact was making him stagnant. "It makes no difference," he wrote later, "whether you are a mailman, a hairdresser, a housewife - whatever. As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well - a law that is an inexorable as gravity.

When 6pm came, the final prescription didn't take long to fill: "Write your worries on the sand." He knelt and wrote several words with a piece of broken shell: then he turned and walked away. He didn't look back; he knew the tide would come in. 

This lovely story left me with three big takeaways:

First, in order to help ourselves out, we must first take a good look in - to our hearts, our minds, our lives.

Second, worrying about too many little things can take a drag on life. Instead, we must identify and address only the items of main concern, then go on enjoying the present and looking forward to and preparing for what the future can bring.

And Third, where can I find a doctor like that?

Share your thoughts on this story and the subject below. I'd love to hear what you think!

Keep Smiling,

Monday, November 7, 2011

Optimal Optimist Turns 2!

Hello Optimists,

I'm so very happy and proud to say that OO turned 2 years old this past week! 

*Sing it with me now...

♪ ♫  *Happy* Birthday to you, *Happy* Birthday to you.... ♪ ♫

Ah, how wonderful. I was sure I just wrote the OO is 1 Year Old post just yesterday, and a little while before that, I wrote the first post that kicked off the fun here on OO, but to my surprise, it has, in fact, been 2 whole years since it all began. 

Over the two years, I found found that being an Optimist is pretty tough and it takes some work, but the more that I commit to it, the more I see positive changes taking place. It's amazing how, even when you're not looking for it, positivity can find a place in your life. All you have to do is be open to it. 

I've found positivity in the most unexpected of places. Seriously. 

Signs of Optimism, Positivity, Happiness and more have found their way into my life...

I've learned that we can never count out a place where we can find happiness, nor can we expect to find it anywhere. Sometimes the best of surprises is finding that little piece of joy in the times or places where we least expect it, but when we need it most.

So, before I go dive into my birthday cake, I wanted to leave you with a great quote for the day:

To live long and achieve happiness, cultivate the art of  radiating       happiness.      - Malcolm Forbes 

Thanks for being a part of the 2 wonderfully optimistic years that OO has been running....cheers to many more!

Keep Smiling,

P.S. Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook for more great quotes, news, articles, and updates about happiness and positivity! 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How To Conquer Fear and Be a Leader

Image: Google

Hello Optimists,

I came across a great article today about conquering our fears. While at first I thought the article may have been written in the spirit of Halloween, I soon found out that it was about much more than conquering our fear of spiders, ghosts, or that creepy zombie hiding behind the door.

In contrast, this article was about how to conquer fear in life and how become a great leader. After reading through just a few sentences, I was hooked, and I wanted to share my great find with you today.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from the article, spoken straight from the source and interviewee:

"To live passionately, you need to set your unwavering intent on making your dreams come true. Where people lose steam is when they start to question themselves. Of course you want to be flexible in life, but you can't doubt your goals and dreams. You must stand in certainty that it's going to get done, then reverse engineer it. People squander so much mental, physical and emotional energy on doubt and fear. You've been given the blessing to be alive. What are you going to do with it?" -Katia Verresen

 Amen to that!

Such powerful and inspiring words. So what are we going to do with this blessing to be alive? I'm sure not everyone has it all planned out yet, but I think that this person certainly has a point about doubting our goals and dreams. That's how we end up doing nothing with the blessing to be alive, so we can't let fear stand in our way.

If you're interested (and how could you not be?!) you can read the full article here.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or, share them on Facebook!

Keep Smiling,

Monday, October 24, 2011

10 Easy Ways to Find Happiness Right This Instant

Image: Google

Hello Optimists,

I'm always looking for little "happiness boosters" in my everyday life. This is one time I don't mind being the guinea pig. So, after some hard work and strenuous testing, I have come up with a few of my favorites that I wanted to share with you today.

All of the things on this list are easy to fact, each one takes just a few minutes to complete, but from my personal experience, the feelings of happiness they produce last all throughout the day!

Finding happiness isn't as hard as we make it out to be, and after trying a few things out, I'm sure that you'll find that we can really be happy if we just take a moment to enjoy some of the most simple things in life. After all, happiness is a choice, and we can choose it anytime we want, just as today's featured quote says....

If you want to be happy, be. -Leo Tolstoy

So go ahead, just be happy.

Everyone will of course have their own list of ways to find happiness, but I wanted to share with you some of my suggestions. Here are 10 Easy Ways to Find Happiness Right This Instant:

  1. Open iTunes, turn up the volume, and dance to your favorite song.
  2. Go outside and breathe in some fresh air. 
  3. Eat a piece of chocolate. Does the trick every time. 
  4. Look through old pictures of friends and family. 
  5. Call that friend that you've been thinking about lately.
  6. Tidy up - a clean living space always lifts my mood.
  7. Tell someone in your family how much you love them. 
  8. Put on your favorite pair of shoes, even if you've got nowhere special to go.
  9. Go for an impromptu stroll around the neighborhood.
  10. Lookup places to volunteer around town. And then, sign up!

Here's hoping you put some of these into action today and that you start to build up your own list of ways to find happiness in your life.

Do you have a list of ways you find happiness? I'd love to hear what's on it!

I think I'll get my start today with #3...    :D

Keep Smiling,

Friday, October 21, 2011

Now Trending on Twitter: #Optimism and Etiquette

Hello Optimists,

Good news - You can now find OO on Twitter! Follow @OptmlOptimist for new quotes, stories on happiness, and quick tips to help make positivity a part of your everyday life. Let's get #optimism trending now!

One of the first Tweeps that I started to follow was @PosPositive, and they sent out a link to a great article that I knew I had to share with you today. After retweeting, I hopped on here to share with you what I thought was the most important piece of the article. Today's featured quote is taken directly from a post called "A Positive Attitude: The Essence of Good Manners":
A positive attitude has no prejudice. It is not bound by color, race, or religion. It does not care if one is rich or poor. Anyone has the right to display a positive attitude, and it makes that person much more attractive to others.
I suppose I never really related positivity with good manners, but after reading this article, I now see how closely the two are aligned. The message shared here is so true, and it's one of the things I love about optimism. It really is not bound by any extraneous factor that gets in the way of most of our thinking and helps us to eliminate judgement from our lives. A positive attitude is a positive attitude, and anyone can claim a stake in it. Not to mention it's an extremely attractive quality! ;)

At the end of the post, the author shared two pieces of etiquette advice that she shares with her clients, and I found them so wonderfully similar to the message that is often shared here on OO.

The Etiquette Expert advises to:
  • Possess a Great Attitude
  • Don't Forget to Smile
No matter if you're looking for etiquette advice or not, these are two important things to remember, and I hope that you can make these a part of your everyday routine.

If you're on Twitter, I'd love for you to join in on the (short) conversations happening now - tweet me @OptmlOptimist!

Keep Smiling,

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Optimist International

Photo courtesy of Kathy at Bliss Habits

Hello Optimists,

I woke up this morning before the sun and tossed and turned a few times, determined to doze off and dream a few more dreams before waking up for good. It's the weekend, I told myself. This is your chance...go back to sleep. Of course, I couldn't seem to convince myself of the fact that I had no reason to be awake, so I was up...and there wasn't anything I was going to do about it. I watched as the dark sky turned to lighter and lighter shades of blue, and then a bit longer until the sun started filling my room with its golden light. Time to get out of bed.

A few minutes later I hopped onto my computer and had a lovely surprise waiting for me in my inbox. My friend Kathy at Bliss Habits sent me a message saying that she saw a sign yesterday that made her think of me! How sweet! Turns out she stumbled upon a meeting place for Optimist International, a volunteer organization dedicated to "bringing out the best in kids". I thought it would be a lovely topic for today's post, so I hope you're interested in learning more about this group.

Though I am not currently a member,  I did look on their Club and District Directory and saw that they do have a club near my location, as well as many others throughout the U.S. and around the world. Each club is run on its own by the members from each district and they can choose to support their local youth in any way that they see fit. Each group strives to put their name in action by upholding a positive attitude that they can pass on to the youth that they're helping, and they have a special Optimists' Creed that helps them keep their positive thoughts alive. Today's featured quote is Optimist International's incredibly inspiring Optimist Creed:

Promise Yourself ... 
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. 
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet. 
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. 
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. 
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best. 
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. 
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. 
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile. 
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. 
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
Pretty cool, huh? Every line just makes me smile, and I think it's a great little creed/prayer/mantra/verse to keep in mind, whether you're an official member of this organization or not.

I tried to choose one line that was my favorite so I could write about it in depth, but I don't think I can choose just one. Perhaps I will take one line and try to live it out as best I can each least I know I've got 10 great days ahead of me!

So I would love to hear from my OO crew about this -
Are you, or anyone you know, a member of Optimist International?
Which line of the Optimist Creed stands out to you?
Do you know of any other organizations or clubs that are related to this? Please share! 
Looking forward to hearing more about this great organization from you. I encourage you to find a local club chapter and be a part of it! I'm going to look into the one closest to me and get started on putting the 10 lines of the Creed into action!

Keep Smiling,

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: A Fond Farewell

Image: Google

Remember the first time you unwrapped your MacBook from its box? How about the first time you pressed “Play” on your iPod and heard your favorite song being played with unbelievable clarity, or the time when you first swirled your finger around your iPhone, the first really smart “smartphone”? Remember the look on your friend’s face when you offered them a chance to play with your shiny new iPad, or the time(s) when you couldn’t even get into the jam-packed Apple store?

When you stop to think about it, Apple is more than a great company. It’s more than an innovation station. And it’s way more than a brand. Somehow, over the last few years, Apple has become part of our lifestyle; its products are not luxuries, but necessities. The company has grown to consistently draw worldwide attention, fought away competitors with incredible strength, and sustained in a time when consumer spending took an extended vacation.

Now imagine being the man behind all of that.

As consumers, we get incredible amusement and utility from all of these products, but the mastermind that made the Apple brand what it is today got something more out of all of it. Steve Jobs lived out his passion by being the CEO of Apple and continually delivering sleek, innovative, new, and highly-demanded products to the public that not only looked cool, but worked better than anything we had ever used before. And he did it so successfully because he had the courage to follow his intuition and his heart. He knew what he was meant to do, and he did it…quite well.

His passion for following his heart and doing what he loved in life is incredibly inspiring, and I’ve highlighted this passion of his in a post featuring his now famous Stanford Commencement address. Today, as I join the rest of the world mourning the loss of the greatest innovator of our time, there were many opportunities to read about his life and the inspiration he gave to us all.

I found an article called “The 15 Most Inspirational Steve Jobs Quotes” and wanted to share some of them with you today, to honor his legacy and also to continue to spread his inspiring messages of getting the most out of life. Read through these, and the rest in the articles I linked to above, and store them in a special place in your mind.

The world gives a fond farewell to Steve Jobs today, but something tells me he will not be soon forgotten.

“I want to put a ding in the universe.”        And that he did.

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

Keep Smiling, 
Optimal Optimist

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Harvard's Kindness Pledge and DH@School

Hello Optimists,

We all know that optimism and positivity is a universal thing. We all need it. We all want it. And we strive to make it a part of our lives. But over the last two days, I have read about two new initiatives to incorporate optimism and kindness not only in our every day lives, but into the curriculum and experiences of students.

As many of you know, I am a big fan and advocate of the company Zappos for their work on promoting happiness and for their commitment to spreading positivity and happiness in the world, as well as around their workplace. They even have classes for their employees about the science of happiness. Awesome! I have written about the company a few times and reviewed the CEO's book in a previous post here on OO, and I continue to follow all of their great initiatives surrounding their "Delivering Happiness" project.

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to learn about their newest project: bringing the curriculum of happiness into schools with DH@School. To spark the interest of many educators to bring the study of happiness to the classroom, they are planning an inaugural "PHD", or Pursuit of Happiness Day, where they will challenge educators to discuss the study of happiness with their students. This is a great idea that I know will catch on around the country and around the globe and has already gotten a lot of attention in the few days after its launch.

As if that wasn't enough good news on the Optimism front, today I read an article about Harvard's Kindness Pledge which was put into effect at the start of this school year. Incoming freshman are required by the administration to sign a pledge that is an attempt to promote kindness on the campus and in the world. This official document requires students to "stand ready to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society... to act with integrity, respect, and industry, and to sustain a community characterized by inclusiveness and civility," as well as to "commit to upholding the values of the College and to making the entryway and Yard a place where all can thrive and where the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment."

However like most things, the pledge has been up for debate - some are opposed to the implementation of the pledge and think that it is against the traditions of Harvard and will put those who didn't sign "on the spot". Regardless of whether everyone signs this pledge or not, I think it's a great idea and will allow those who want to participate and sign the pledge to start off their college careers on the right foot. 

I certainly think we are on to something here with integrating positivity and happiness into schools, but I would love to hear what you think about this. Do you agree or disagree with the initiatives put forth by Zappos and Harvard? Did any projects like this make their way into your classrooms at school?

Keep Smiling,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Paying It Forward, Literally

Image: Google

Hello Optimists,

I came across a great article the other day about the power of random acts of kindness. Earlier this year I wrote a post called "Mark Your Calendars" about this same subject, and it seems that today it has reemerged.

The article that I read was about a man who decided to pick up the tab for some soldiers dining at a table nearby, just because, and the subsequent reactions and domino effect that his little, random act of kindness created. The soldiers, inspired by this man's generosity, decided to pay it forward, and chose another table at random and picked up their bill. This other table did the same, followed by the next, and the next, and this pattern continued for nearly 4 more hours! No one knew each other, or had reason (other than getting that "feel good" feeling) to do this, but they had been inspired by another's generosity and decided to do their part to make someone else feel happy.

It's amazing what just a little kindness can do. But this takes kindness to the next level, doesn't it? This wasn't a "thanks for helping me move" action of kindness, or a friendly gesture to a new neighbor. This was a purely random act - something totally unexpected that left everyone involved feeling happy, a bit more uplifted, and with an overflowing feeling of pure goodness.

Just reading this story made me smile and also made me think about how little things like this can make the world a better place. I can't think of a better way to make great new friends than by extending a word or an action of kindness.

I often wonder how it is that people extend their circle of friends, beyond the reach of their family, their "inner circle", or their "friends of friends", and now I think I know a great way to do it. Today's quote is a  reminder that not only answers my question, but goes perfectly with the lesson we learned from the random act of kindness story.

Don't wait for people to be friendly, show them how.  ~Author Unknown

I hope this story keeps on giving and inspires you to perform a random act of kindness, or to pay it forward when one is given to you. What better a way to spread the message behind OO than to participate in such an event and to inspire others to do the same?

I'd love to hear about your part in a story like this...have you ever been the happy recipient or giver of a random act of kindness? Tell me about it in the comments below or, even better, share it with the OO team on Facebook!

Keep Smiling,

Friday, September 9, 2011

Think, Speak, Act...All in One

Image: Google
Hello Optimists,

I was reading an article today about Caroline Kennedy's new book which features interviews from her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, just a few months after the President's assassination. I heard about the release of these interviews just a few weeks ago, and have been anxiously awaiting more information on them ever since. Turns out, not only will the new book be released in a few days, but there will also be a special on TV that shares clips of the former First Lady's interviews.

For some reason, I love learning about the Kennedy family and was reading through the article today out of pure curiosity to see if there was anything "new" or profound in it that I had never heard in previous interviews. As I was reading, I was sort of disappointed in its contents, and ended up skimming through most of it. But, as it turns out, the very last sentence of the article, a direct quote, was just what I was looking for. As with most words spoken by history's greats, this was something I immediately knew I had to share, and it goes right along with the message behind Optimal Optimist.
"If you start to say or think that you hate someone, then the next day you'll act as if you hated him." -Jacqueline Kennedy
This is sad to say, but from personal experience I know this to be true. I think we all might. No matter how hard we try to keep our actions separated from our thoughts or beliefs, they always have a way of reflecting one another. For me, I guess it may be attributed to the fact that I can sometimes wear my emotions on my sleeve, and can't seem to conceal my true feelings when I am upset about something. But in general, I find it to be true that once we start talking or thinking about something in a negative way, we can't help but reflect those feelings in our actions.

That, of course, brings us back to the importance of keeping positive thoughts and trying only to speak kind words. If it is true that when we start thinking negative thoughts and they begin to negatively influence our actions, then it is also true that when we starting thinking positive thoughts, they will begin to positively influence our actions. Now that's what we're all striving for. All of our behaviors and actions start in our minds, where we formulate our opinions and thoughts about certain people, places or even things. If we can learn to look for the good in things and keep a positive mindset, then perhaps we can learn to act out only on those positive thoughts.

So what do you think? Can you separate your thoughts and words from your actions, or do you also believe that they are connected?

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Lovely Labor Day

Image: Google
Hello Optimists,

This weekend gives us an extended break here in the U.S. for the celebration of Labor Day. Though this day has been dedicated to celebrating the social and economic achievements of American workers, we also use this time to mark the last of our summer celebrations and the start of a new school year for those that are still studying. This is one of the last-chance efforts to head to the beach, host a cook out or lounge by the pool with an "umbrella drink" in hand.

A day off from work is usually a welcomed vacation, and Labor Day should be spent doing nothing other than relaxing and resting from our "labors", whether those are in the office or at home. I think it's good to take some time to rest and unwind once in a while, and I'm sure glad our government thinks so too. 

I have read numerous studies about the benefits of regular vacation time and about the ill benefits of overworked employees whose long hours at the office leave them unproductive and inefficient in the long run. Unfortunately, I think this plagues a lot of American workers, and our less-than average vacation times combined with our overtime hours in the office account for our ever-present rushed and hustled lifestyles. But that's what we're accustomed to, so when a break like Labor Day comes around, we hardly know what to do with ourselves.

According to this article, vacations promote creativity, stave off burnouts, keep us healthy, promote overall well-being, can strengthen bonds, help with job performance, and relieve stress. Now those are some great perks!

If you're like most Americans fighting the urge to do something "productive" on Labor Day, remember this quote and think twice how it can affect your output.
Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.  ~Ovid
I just love this one, and it's quite true. The reason for a federal holiday like Labor Day is so that we can go back to work refreshed and ready to go after a short "breather" from our otherwise hectic workweeks. 

We are always striving to be the best, to produce the best, to make sure that we're on top of our game, but if we don't take time to rest, we will probably never be at the top of our game. We all need time to unwind, so please, take this extended weekend and just do nothing that pertains to your usual job. I'm sure, if nothing else, that will put a smile on your face!

Have a lovely Labor Day!

Keep Smiling,

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oriental Grass and Optimism? Why, Yes!

Hello Optimists,

You will not believe where my newest sign of optimism popped up this time...

During the past few months I have been working up to a permanent position for the company I was interning at. Last week, I was taken on full-time, so I am *officially* employed as of date. Today, I was sifting through my desk drawers, emptying out any old papers that may have been left behind by someone else and just cleaning things up in the space that will be my own for a while. 

I started by sliding open the top set of drawers on my right side, expecting to see a dark, empty space inside, but instead I pulled open the first drawer and saw a bunch of papers, a pair of scissors, a magazine called "Think Geek", (which is definitely not my style...maybe this was once the IT department?) and a what appeared to be really peculiar mini notepad. It was triangular in shape, and had "The Ornamental Grass Kit" printed on the cover. 

At first, I had to laugh, because I thought, who would bring an ornamental grass kit to the office? Weird. So I picked it up, turned to a random page inside and read this:

"Growth is a metaphor for your own personal journey, and watching the grass you planted with your own hands mature right before your eyes is a wonderful way to reflect on your own path and life. Use the quotes included in this booklet as a way to focus on your own growth process , and enjoy the light and life this kit brings you. Your journey starts here."

My eyes widened in disbelief and I got instant goosebumps all over my arms and legs. I shook my head, chuckled to myself, and continued to page through this little book. Wouldn't you know that each of its pages featured a different quote about things like serenity, peace and nature? 

So there I sat, paging through this tiny book that was left there for me to find, and found a quote that I wanted to share with you today.

"Serenity is not peace from the storm, but peace within the storm." -Anonymous

I also found it quite ironic that I would stumble across this quote in particular, because this week is Serenity Week at Bliss Habits and I had just submitted a guest post a few days ago to my blogger friend Kathy who runs the site, on what else, but "Finding Serenity". My post will be up at the end of the week, but do check out her site whenever you can because it's great! 

Anyway, I loved this quote because it is absolutely true. We often have a hard time finding serenity because we don't look for it in our daily lives. We look at it as an escape from our daily routines, but I think if we put the effort into finding little pieces of serenity throughout our lives we can find that peace we're always looking for. Remember to find peace within the storm whenever things seem to be getting a bit too hectic. 

Keep Smiling,

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's Happiness Happens Day!

Hello Optimists,

Today I was browsing online on one of my favorite websites and found out it is "Happiness Happens Day"! What a lovely surprise.

According to the article, the "Secret Society of Happy People" who founded this day in 1999, originally called it  "Admit You're Happy Day" with the goal of "spreading the joy of being happy, and to persuade people to look on the brighter side of life".

The Secret Society of Happy People?! First, I thought, why haven't I heard of this society before? Then I thought, why I am a not a part of it? And finally, why is it a "secret" society? My curiosity got the best of me, and I just had to find out more. So, I turned to my friend, Google, and headed over to their website.

But before handing in my membership form, I thought about it for a minute, and I realized that I have my own society of happy people right here on OO! Of course, it's no secret, and in fact, I encourage everyone to share it with their friends, but I think we have our own little group thing goin' on here, right?

After reading through the information on the website for a bit, I remembered a great, yet simplistic quote about happiness that I thought would be perfect for this post:
The purpose of our lives is to be happy. -Dalai Lama
I love this one. It gets straight to the point and leaves out all of that other "stuff" that we tend to pack into our brains about finding our purpose in life. Sure, it may go a bit beyond this, but ultimately, being happy is one of the greatest reasons we have to live.

So, the article I came across highlighted 5 "instant mood boosters", or things to make us happy, and I wanted to share them with you.
  1. Tune out. Think of something that soothes you.
  2. Sing! Singing out loud (not just in your head) can counter some of the ill effects of stress.
  3. Get outside. Studies show that spending time in the great outdoors can boost mood and enhance feelings of pleasure.
  4. Take a bath. Being immersed in warm water not only soothes sore muscles, it also has mood-boosting side effects. 
  5. Laugh out loud. Research shows that laughter releases natural feel-good chemicals from the brain.
I like these...and I am happy to report that I did most of them today and they did make me quite happy! I think I would add a few things to that list, like 
     6. Look through pictures of happy times.
     7. Call a friend.
     8. Sit down, and take three deep breaths. 
     9. Do whatever makes you smile, no matter what other people may think.
    10. Put a "happy plan" into action and map out your strategy for fun!

I could probably go on and on about things to add to the list, but I think I'll stop there and let you fill in the rest. What else would you add to the list of "instant mood boosters"?

Keep Smiling,