HAPPINESS HOW-TO

Cheering each other on

 

My New Book The Happy Life Checklist is Almost Here!

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

The way I see it, we all have at least a couple of areas in our life where we feel pretty darn good, right?

Maybe, for instance, you’re feeling confident about work or you’re good at giving yourself little moments of tranquility, but you could really use a boost in the love department or the engaging-with-others-with grace one. But the way I see, the more balance you have, gratefully appreciating all areas of your life—from being busy to kicking back; from time with others to time alone—the more fulfilled you allow yourself to feel.

That’s why I wrote my new book The Happy Life Checklist: 654 Simple Ways to Find Your Bliss, which will (holy cow!) be on shelves in just over a week. (Release date: Feb. 4) It’s a collection of small ideas that will help you savor and celebrate every day in every area of  life that produces happiness.

For this reason, the book covers ten areas you can focus on that contribute to a life of beautiful balance. So you can flip through the book and pluck small ideas from the places where you could a boost, be it delightvitality, wonder or comfort.

Here’s a big happiness secret: If you are always focused on the big goals ahead, always gunning in one or two areas of your life but ignoring the rest, you won’t feel as blissful as you could. So slow down. Savor the little things. Experience it all. Because happiness is in the second and minutes of life, not just in the years. Start filling your list with more fun and fruitful things today.

The Happy Life Checklist is available now for pre-order on Amazon.com. So…ready to get your happy on?

—Amy

Happy Life Trick: Pick a New Year’s Theme Word

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Successful companies know a little something about branding. They decide how they want us to view their company, and they run with it. Looking to “save money” on your car insurance? You think Geico. Looking to “think different” about your technology? You might pick Apple. A company can’t be considered a master in comfort, price and innovation. It’s better to pick one element and aim right for it.

Beauty? Peace? Gratitude? Choose a word or phrase for the year that speaks to how you want to live. (Image: Ken Spencer, Hummingbird)

Beauty? Peace? Gratitude? Choose a word or phrase for the year that speaks to how you want to live. (Image: Ken Spencer, Hummingbird)

And the same goes with branding our own lives. To achieve our dreams, we have to know how we want to live, in order to make the choices that get us there.

That’s why, a few years ago, I started giving my life a theme word. One year it was “Authenticity” and another was all about “Passion.” This past year was about “Freedom and Abundance.” So for me this past year, I ran every opportunity past my theme to see if the choice was right for me. Hmm, some extra paying work that also fed my curiosity about a topic I wanted to research? That was an abundant yes.

For 2014, I’m playing around with the ideas of “Fortify” and “Family,” and I want to give you a chance to think about whatyou want from your next year, too.

Try this: Instead of making New Year’s resolutions about little goals in your health or habits, think bigger: Think about how you want to feel in your body, among your friends, as you walk through the world. The come up with an adjective or phrase that best describes that feeling. To make it easy, picture this: You run into an old friend on the street and talk for a bit. Then, she suddenly stops and says, “It’s funny. But looking at you, I see such ______________.” What do you want her to see? What feeling do you want oozing out of your pores? Strength? Contentment? Joy?

Here are some other ideas to get you thinking:

 Brave/Bravery. Perhaps you want to feel more bold with your work choices, your travels, your heart.

• Persistence. One of my friends has said she’s through being told “Maybe” by potential clients, and she’s determined to make her company a success by trying again and again and again until she makes it. And when she’s walked out of another maybe meeting, she’ll think, ‘Persistence, baby,” and throw her shoulders back and schedule another one.

• Love & Tenderness. Maybe you’ve been a bulldog go-getter all year, and you could use a reminder to soften up and make more loving choices in the months ahead.

 Light/Lightness. If this year has been particularly grave and serious, maybe your new year could be about lifting the weights, breathing, letting loose, and letting go.

Take your time. Think about how you want to feel strolling down the sidewalk of life this next year. Go deep. Brand your heart’s choices. And aim for a truly new year.

Big love,

Amy

If you want to receive inspiring posts like this, sign up for my happy email Vitamin Optimism at amyspencer.com.

Singles, Here’s What You’re Doing Wrong!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

The other day, I was trying to get a spark going in our fire pit, when a friend of mine stopped me and said, “Here’s what you’re doing wrong…” I found myself stiffen a bit, a precursory defense, steadying myself for the blow. It turns out I wasn’t pulling the butane lighter’s saftey back while I was pressing the flame button. A simple fix. Too bad all of life isn’t that easy, right—especially in dating. Well, maybe it is.

Are you tying yourself up in knots with the negatives?

Are you tying yourself up in knots with the negatives?

I realized after fixing my butane button issue that hearing “Here’s what you’re doing wrong” is enough to make anyone stop in their tracks and pay attention. This isn’t easy for me to do that for you: I’m a dating optimist. My first book, Meeting Your Half-Orange, is all about loving who you are and being authentically, gloriously happy in your own skin while you focus all your energy on how you want to feel in your ideal relationship. Which is to say I believe every “single” person is uniquely awesome and that you’re not doing anything “wrong.”

But if you’re killing yourself trying to come up with the end-all reason for why you’re still frustratingly single, the fact is, you are doing something wrong. And to be all “meta” about it, here’s what it is:

What you’re doing wrong is that you’re focusing on what you’re doing wrong.

What you focus on, you see, is everything. And that’s because what you choose to focus on actually affects the neuronal pathways in your brain, which affects how you perceive the world and how the world perceives you. The scientific term in play is neuroplasticity, and I explain how it all works in relation to dating and love in Half-Orange. It is utterly fascinating stuff and it’s no joke!

If you’re single and focusing on “what you’re doing wrong,” then it’s all you’ll see, and it’s all your brain will store in its implicit memory. In other word, it’s time to stop the cycle. Today, focus on what’s right—and only what’s right. Just for today, at least, don’t think about how old you are, or how long you’ve been single, or what past boyfriends or girlfriends or spouses have said about you for a minute. That’s all irrelevant. All that matters is who you are right now, this minute. And if you can look at what’s right about your dating life, you can change what ensues from this minute on.

So do this for me: List three things that you’re doing right, right this minute:

1.

2.

3.

Visualize what you’d write in those blank spots—the awesome things you’re doing that are spot-on. Maybe how you’re giving it a shot with dates you’re not 100% on, because you’re open to seeing what might happen. Maybe how you’ve come to love a physical aspect about yourself—a mole, a height, a curve—and will settle for nothing less than a partner who loves you for it. Maybe how you’ve mastered making tapenade and can’t wait to show it off.

Fill in those blanks your own way. If you don’t, well, that’s what you’re doing wrong. You owe it to yourself and to your love life to give yourself positive props every single day. The more right you see, the less wrong your life will feel, and the better the energy you’ll be putting out there for your wonderful other half to come find you. It’s an easy fix: Pull back the safety and push the right button, and you’ll light the spark you’re working on, too.

You might also like:

Whaddaya Doin’ New Year’s Eve?

Big love and happy listing,

Amy Signature 4

 

 

 

What Do *You* Do When No One Is Watching?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

We’re all pretty good about what we do when people are watching. We might pick up a pen our boss has dropped. Say “Bless you” to a coworker who sneezes in a meeting. Or open the door to let our date walk into the restaurant first. But who we really are is us on our own—the one we think no one is paying attention to.

Who you are here—alone, out in public, in the world—is how you'll feel about yourself. Give it your best shot. (Image: Sea Cliff bench by Ken Spencer)

What we say and do in those moments affects how we feel and who we are. That’s why I love this quote: “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” —H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

On one beautiful day in Venice, it was warm and breezy and sunny, the day people imagine every day in California is like. I walked into the bank and  witnessed this interaction of woman in line speaking to the man behind her:

“What a beautiful day, right?” she said. “Wow.”

“Terrible,” he said.

The woman laughed. She assumed he was kidding. “I know, it’s perfect,” she replied. “I could be out there all day.”

“What, with this wind?” he said, shaking his head. “It’s drying everything up. Pulling the smog from the Valley. It’s awful.”

The poor woman stood there stunned. And it was a reminder to me how the smallest interactions throughout our day say a lot about how we’re feeling and who we choose to be. Sure, maybe this guy was having a terrible, awful no-good day for many reasons, and that “drying wind” was the straw that broke his camel’s back. But maybe if he knew—if we knew—the way we were coming off in the world, it might inspire us to try to do it differently.

Try this: Imagine for an afternoon that some kind soul upstairs is doing a Powerpoint presentation on how to be a happy person, and your live tape has been pulled up to illustrate it. What can you do this afternoon that feels in line with the positive, good person you want to be? aHere are some ideas:

• Hold a door for a stranger.
• Make friendly small talk with the shyest-looking person at the party.
• Compliment the jacket of the person next to you.
• Pet the dog.
• Offer a ride.
• Lend a quarter to the guy out of change at the coffee counter.
• Smile. Laugh. Clap. High-five.

Go on, give that Powerpoint guy a real show. And then, after you do a few of these things, tune into how you’re feeling. Pretty great, right? Probably proud of your actions, warm in your heart and perfectly happy to have someone say, “You’re on Candid Camera!” Because this is how you want to feel and appear all the time.

Choose a bumper sticker motto for life that helps you make the right decisions, put on the right expression and be the person you want to be. Even if no one is looking, you’re looking. Want to feel like the good guy character? Be the good guy. Amazing how that works.

The motivating messages we use in our lives affects what we do and how we feel. So try using that bumper sticker motto for life and see how you feel.

Big love,

Amy

 

Happiness Idea: Toss Your Eraser!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

If you struggle with making any of ‘em—from what to wear to work to whether or not to give love another shot—then today’s little happy life idea is for you!

The art of life is not that you take the clear path in front of you, it's that you set off on one and just see where it leads. (Image: Amy Spencer, Montauk Path)

My husband Gus and I can be pretty bad at making small decisions. It takes us 20 minutes to choose what to eat for lunch and 15 minutes to actually eat it. It takes us 45 minutes to pick a movie to watch, and Gus is asleep 10 minutes in. And our next vacation? My word, we’ll be debating the options until March. But I know we’re not alone.

With all the decision-making our modern world allows, sometimes we get so caught up in making the right choice that we paralyze ourselves from making any choice at all! In his book Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz writes, “Choice no longer liberates, but debilitates.” What’s really behind all this? Well, I think that with all the information at our fingertips to help us make a perfect decision, we’re now terrified of now making the wrong one.

But here’s the thing. No matter how many pros & cons lists we make about a choice, sometimes it won’t work out. Sometimes the lunch place has stale bread, the movie stinks, the second date is a disaster and the job makes us miserable. And that’s okay! Becuase that’s how life works. We’re moving forward all the time. Like John W. Gardner once said, “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” No, you don’t have an eraser, but you have a huge, bright, empty piece of paper in front of you to draw in whatever direction you want to go next.

Try this: Give your brain’s decision department a break. Be bold! Imagine taking a permanent marker to draw your sign on the one piece of posterboard you have left. Just trust your gut, listen to your heart, and go for it. If you find yourself feeling along the way that it’s just not working out…redirect! There are very few decisions or mistakes in life that can’t be fixed. A wedding can be called off, and a called-off wedding can also be called right back on. Money can be mostly refunded, jobs can be quit, movies can be walked out of. And that piece of posterboard, it has a backside, too. Sure, maybe you end up with a little headache trying to fix it…but weren’t you giving yourself as much of a headache in struggling over the decision in the first place? Free yourself my making any choice at all, then see where it takes you next.

Gus and I have another trick that helps: We have an app called “The Decider” on our iPhones. And when we find ourselves torn between two great options, we declare, “Let’s let The Decider decide.” We type in the choices, watch the arrow spin, and see our future chosen for us. Really, it’s a relief. And so far, it’s worked out just fine.

Let’s not spend 30% of our lives debating what to do with the other 70%. What a waste of our spirit! Be fearless. Put the pencil to paper and just draw. Let your hand and heart guide you (or a Decider decide for you) and see how free you feel just making a choice so you can get back to living the brilliant art of your life again.

Big love,

Amy