Archive for March, 2012


TODAY’S HAPPINESS HOW-TO: Put on a Pair of “Happy Glasses”

Monday, March 19th, 2012

What do you see? A washed up boat? Or a vessel waiting for its next big journey? (Image by Amy Spencer. Punta Uva, Costa Rica, 2011)

“It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”
—Henry David Thoreau

What are you seeing when you look outside your window at these early spring days? Well, that depends on what you want to see.

I’m a sucker for those sunglass stands on the boardwalk, and can stand for twenty minutes trying on a dozen cheap pairs. The pair that make everything yellow. The pair that make it look like you just stepped out of an 80’s movie or into the 70’s. But you know what the best kind of glasses are? The glasses that we wear in our minds. The pair that can take what you see and utterly transform it into what you want. How do you make them happy glasses? Simply choose to see the positive side. Yes, choose.

Here’s what I mean…

If you look at a disastrous first day of work, you can see a depressing defeat or…a really funny story for the co-workers who will be your friends in a few weeks. If you look at a date that’s leaving you flat, you can see another failure in love or…a conversation with a new pal you may have been destined to meet. And if you look at the clouds in the afternoon sky, you can see an imperfect day or…a more interesting sunset as the sun lights up the layers of the sky.

Try this: This week, try on a pair of positive glasses. Choose to see everything that comes your way with a positive spin. See exciting changes, hopeful opportunities, funny missteps, smiles on strangers, interesting weather and fresh starts. The world doesn’t look the same to all of us. It doesn’t even look the same to two people looking at the very same thing. You see what you choose to see. You can see what want. This week, slip on the glasses that allow you to see your life from a brighter perspective. The best part? You won’t owe the sunglass guy $10, because your positive point of view is free!

What’s one negative thing in your day that you can look at today in a positive light? Tell me how you’ll frame your tough situation as if you’re wearing “happy glasses.”

Big love,


TODAY’S HAPPINESS HOW-TO: Make Them Feel Important

Monday, March 12th, 2012

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
—Novelist and theologian, Carl Frederick Buechner

When I was on my first marathon date with my now-husband, Gustavo, I don’t remember exactly what we talked about for seven hours straight. But I remember how I felt while we talked: Listened to. Liked. Respected. Funny. And the more I think about it, that, for all of us, is the most important part of every interaction. Not necessarily the words we use, but the feelings that come with them. Whether it’s a romantic connection, a friendly chat, or a business meeting, feelings matter.

When we talk to others, it’s so easy to get caught up in how we think we sound, right? You know, that little voice that may be wondering, “Do I seem smart enough?” “Am I giving the right advice?” “Nailing the answers in an interview?” “Saying the most charming thing?” But it’s not that we say and do all the right things that matters. It’s how we feel in one another’s presence. Knowing this, make others feel valued and special and good around you. Feelings matter. To us and to others. So that’s what this happiness-how to is all about.

Try this: The next time you get self-conscious about whether you look right, walk right, talk right, remember it’s not just about the words! Smile when you talk to someone. Use their name. Greet them warmly. Ask them about themselves. Really listen. Try to understand. And tune into how you’re feeling so you can truly be present in the moment. When others feel warm, valued and comfortable in your presence, they’ll want to be around you more. So during your next date, meeting, job interview or catch-up lunch with a friend, forget the words for a minute and focus on the feelings.

Buechner is right: They will never forget how you made them feel. Make others feel calm, happy and good around you, and you’ll find you better about yourself, too.

Big love,

10 Ways to Get to the Heart of People

Friday, March 9th, 2012

When I was at Art Basel in Miami a few months ago, I was mesmerized by the work of artist Juan Genoves, specifically his piece “Duel,” that was shown by the Malborough Gallery in New York. Here’s why: From far away, the painting appeared to be very detailed images of pedestrians from above.

But the closer you got to it, the more you saw…

…they were really just little blobs of paint that, in a quick glance, appeared to be something else entirely! It’s the way we see others in life, isn’t it? We make assumptions about people from across the street, the room or the restaurant table. And we’re missing out on so much because of it.

The art made me think about how often we let our quick glance or five-minute conversation with someone be all we use to get to know who someone is. But I’m sure you’ve had an experience, like I have, when talking to someone a little deeper reminds you that getting to the heart can change everything. Wow, you think, they weren’t at all what I expected. And we’re always for the better when we get to the heart of knowing someone.

So here are ten ways you can get to know someone better in a short time.

1. Ask them their life’s purpose. Maybe it’s “to have a good time.” Maybe it’s “to be a good friend and mother.” I’ll never forget how much my opinion changed of a man I met who worked in banking when he told me his life’s purpose was to create a school with his sister for disadvantaged youth. Don’t assume their core beliefs, ask them about it.

2. Say, “Tell me. What’s the best thing that happened to you today?” Every day doesn’t have a promotion, great date or baby’s first steps. And you’ll learn a lot about someone by hearing what means “best” for them on a daily level. And you’ll raise their day by letting them tell you about it.

3. Ask, “What’s your biggest fear?” I asked this question at a party one night to everyone who entered the kitchen, and it led to the fastest bonding you’ve ever seen between strangers. From “heights” to “failure” to “being average” to “not being able to have kids,” hearing someone answer this question is like seeing into their soul.

4. Ask what movie they can’t turn off if they come across it on cable. For me, it’s Escape from Alcatraz and Something’s Gotta Give, and I think those both say something about me in a breaking-free-of life-and-wanting-to-write-in-a-huge-house-in-the-Hamptons kind of way. Like the cable TV world’s dream analysis, let the person you’re with tell you what draws them to the movies they love.

5. Have them tell you what their best skill is. We all want to be noticed for what we’re best at, but we don’t always get the chance to show it or talk about it. In this case, give someone else that chance. What a gift, letting someone share their best—and it will shift the energy of your conversation in a profoundly positive way.

6. Have them tell you what they wish their best skill was. Sure they’ve mastered ventricular endoscopic neurosurgery, but they never could hula-hoop. Funny, that.

7. Ask, “What are you absolutely awful at?” I had a friend who, in every conversation, was always claiming the final expert word on everything from cooking to fitness to art to bike maintenance. But one day, after I admitted something I was terrible at (probably how I’ve become so bad at math, I literally use my fingers to tally up the tip on a restaurant bill), she shared a weak spot, too. And I’d never liked her more. Open the door for a hilarious and revealing topic and guide them to the welcome mat.

8. Ask about their most exciting moment as a kid. When you get someone talking about their childhood, they will be transported back to that place of innocence, eagerness and genuine feelings. Whether it was meeting a baseball great, singing the lead in the school play, or being picked first for a team, the flashback is likely to bring out their playful, softer side.

9. Find out what they’re most proud of today. Their children? The table they built by hand? Re-gaining use of a leg doctors said would never walk again? What sets off beams of pride says a lot about the person.

10. Ask, “So…what makes you happy?” You may find yourselves making Charlie Brown lists of how happiness is everything from a warm puppy to a strong morning coffee to a kayak at sunrise on a calm bay. And while everyone else in the room is griping about their work day with wrinkles on their foreheads, you’ll be smiling, relaxed and feeling as happy as if you were experiencing what you’re talking about. Bring out the good parts of life.

Don’t accept the rash judgment your eyes or mind are quick to make for you. Dig deeper with the people you meet. Find out what makes them tick, what moves their soul. The more we learn about each other, the more real our connections and relationships can be.

Get to the heart of people. That’s where the good stuff is.

Big love,




Amy Spencer is the author of Bright Side Up: 100 Ways to Be Happier Right Now and Meeting Your Half-Orange: An Utterly Upbeat Guide to Using Dating Optimism to Find Your Perfect Match. Get her iPad and iPhone app Bright Side App and Half-Orange Optimisms for positivity on the go. Sign up for Amy’s weekly Vitamin Optimism email and follow Amy at