Early Morning

Cardinals welcome the day serenading anyone listening
Woodpeckers keeping rhythm from tree tops
As the sun paints pastels on the underside of clouds

The cold clear air providing a spacious echo
Green pokes through snow promising hope for the daffodils
Tiny leaves reaching forth from branches

A feast for the senses this early morning
before the sun rises over the horizon
promising Spring unfolding.

Version 2

Early morning before the sun rises over the horizon is my favorite time of day to be outdoors. It is quiet then and I continue my morning thoughts & considerations as my dog finds her way around the smells of the night. Always, I delight in the magic of early morning as the birds begin their song and I imagine they are welcoming the return of yet another day.

Today, called for a hike into the woods. So off I went. It is a cold April day with a wind chill that bites my cheeks. I keep going — legs moving, arms swinging, and my breath adjusting to both the cold and the pace. As always, the first mile is the hardest as I head up a mile before leveling to a steadier terrain.

Hiking is my ‘go to’ when, not only do I want exercise, I also want to contemplate life, process the complexities of my days, and find myself whole again and cleansed when I return. I always know that my hikes change my perspective on my life which, like everyone, has it’s share of stress and drama. Today, I took a detour through the woods to pause at the edge of a hidden mountaintop lake — gratitude fills me at the simple beauty and awe all around.

Exercise is well known to be even better to allay depression and anxiety for most people. I, personally, find that to be true. Once I get beyond the first mile or twenty minutes I can feel my body and mind let go into a rhythm of more ease and emotionally more centered. For many years, I found this release through swimming and running. Now, hiking and being surrounded by nature is my exercise of choice. I find the meditative experience that accompanies being in nature is what I crave. What is your exercise of choice?

Choice, Every Moment, Everyday

Version 2

What choice can you make today to be 5% happier? This is a question I ask on those gray days— whether gray outside or inside. Sounds so easy to make different choices and, yet, not always so easy. Today happens to be one of those days for me. I woke up to snow and wind (and, yes, it was forecast) which, surprisingly, I was disappointed that the forecast was correct in early April. I decided to finish a book I’d been reading. Once I finished the book, I found myself wandering around the house with little that interested me in doing. After about an hour of wandering, I decided to ask myself, “What can I do to be 5% happier right now?”

Making choices to be just 5% happier takes practice, mindfulness, and commitment with each choice. How do we begin? It is as simple as asking the question and waiting for an answer. Within minutes, I did decide to cook (which always makes me happy). Doing one simple thing changed my mood from OK to feeling satisfied and looking forward to dinner.

Through studying Positive Psychology, I have learned to ask questions, such as, what can I do to feel 5% happier. Other questions I ask help re-direct my focus from what I think isn’t working to focusing on what is going well and what is good. So I will ask myself, what is going well right now?; what can I do or say to feel differently?; who can I be that is more positive, mindful or present?; what can I appreciate more in this moment?.

One of my favorite questions, ‘Who do I want to be today?’, is a question I ask myself most mornings as I finish my journal writing before heading off to my day. My answers set a positive tone and intention to my day which has made my life more meaningful. It has become a positive anchor that I create each morning for myself and am, then, better prepared for the curve balls that life throws my way (most days there is at least one unexpected curve ball).

At the end of my day, in my evening meditation, I answer another question, ‘What am I grateful for?’. Gratitude has been proven to have lasting benefit toward a positive life and better health. For me, I remind myself of those experiences, things, people, animals, and family that make my life richer (even a good meal or a great movie find their way to my lists). Sometimes on my list are experiences that weren’t so positive but I learned from them. Acknowledging my gratitude keeps me from taking my life for granted. When I end my meditation and tuck in for the night I go to sleep with a full and open heart.

Each day we make choices — what to wear, what to eat, when to exercise, what to pay attention to, read, learn and do. I like knowing that I have choice. We also have choice around how to react, how to be present, and how we want to feel. Mostly, my choices have become much more mindful and positively focused. As a result, I am overall, happier doing what I love and living with purpose.

So, I’ll end here with how I began…

“What choices can you make today to be 5% happier?”

New Experiences, New Neural Pathways, And Lot’s of Fun!

Spent the weekend with my grandchildren which always feeds my happy & healthy with play, adventures, and fun. This weekend was filled with ‘first’s’ which I am grateful to participate in and witness.

My 5 1/2 year old learned to tie her new shoes! Version 2To be sure a new neural pathway was formed in her brain, she tied & untied, tied & untied, over and over again. Each time she was ever so proud of her accomplishment!

For my 14 month old, he participated in his first Easter egg hunt. After the first two finds with the help of his Dad, he was off and running to keep up with his sister.

Version 2 The day before Easter, the sun was shining so we headed outdoors with sidewalk chalk on the driveway — nothing like fresh air, creativity, and keeping up with a toddler learning to run with his new shoes to feed the soul with joy!Version 2 For me, my fun was photographing the events when I wasn’t dying eggs, filling eggs, working on puzzles, or joining the fun with sidewalk chalk!

My return home is full of memories, appreciating my family, and looking forward to our next adventures!

Smile, Look Up & Expand Your Body


These are three simple adjustments we can make anytime, anywhere, to change our mood, lift our spirits, inspire self-confidence, and communicate our strength and positivity. They are smile, look up (yes, that’s right, look up to the sky), and expand your body or as Amy Cuddy in her book, Presence, calls stand in a power pose (more from Amy Cuddy later).

  1. Look Up:

Looking up is a simple action with powerful results. If we are worrying, feeling blue, or stressing about something, our eye gaze tends to be down — anywhere below eye level. A simple adjustment to our mood is to look up. Lifting our eyes and head to look up changes our posture — we stand taller, open our chest & heart, breathe deeper, and feel lighter and more joyful.

I remember working with young children who were mostly from troubled families. They would come to Day Care each day with their feelings on their sleeves or in their fists. When they walked, they often looked down toward the ground. When someone approached them, they would startle or duck down. When sitting, they would wrap their arms around themselves as if protecting their hearts from harm. On walks or even indoors, I would have them look up toward the tree tops or the sky and tell me what they saw. This simple shift in their gaze lightened their mood almost immediately with laughter and open dialogue soon after.

This simple practice of looking up is something I do on all of my walks. If I am feeling down or out of sorts, I will walk outside and look up to the sky. I’ve known for many years that looking up changes my outlook, lifts my spirits, and I go about my day in a more positive frame of mind. I am even convinced that on long hikes or runs, when I look down at my feet I feel more pain in my body and when I look up, my pain diminishes and often releases entirely.

This has been my little secret awareness for many years until reading Amy Cuddy’s work on how we hold our bodies, I now know there have been studies done that support what I’ve known all along! When we change our posture to a powerful pose (expanding, looking up, and becoming bigger) rather than a powerless pose (folded in on ourselves, looking down, shoulders rounded) we benefit by feeling more self-confident, self-assured, less anxiety and depression, and less physical pain.

Looking up! How simple is that!

2. Smile:

Another simple practice I use is to smile. My Positive Psychology instructor, Tal Ben-Shahar, teaches that it isn’t just any smile, but an authentic smile which includes smiling with our eyes. We all know the fake smiles. We’ve seen them in photo’s of people who are told to smile for the camera but aren’t really feeling it — they are smiling only with their mouths. An authentic smile is one where we smile with our eyes as well as our mouths!

When you look at someone or a group of people and they are smiling or even laughing, what do you naturally do? Of course, you smile or laugh with them even if you don’t know what they are happy about! Laughter and smiles are contagious and they feel good because they communicate to the brain to release ‘feel good’ chemicals (hormones).
My first Qi Gong class always ended with the instructor saying, “Put a smile on your face and then open your eyes.” With a smile, I breathed deeper, stood taller, and moved onto the rest of my day in a more positive mood.

Research now shows that the posture we hold triggers our brain to release different hormones that match our posture. A simple act of changing our physical posture with a smile directs our feelings and our actions. When I wake in the morning, I stretch, pet my dog & cat, and put a smile on my face — all before getting out of bed. This daily ritual sets the tone for my day.

I challenge you to practice waking each morning and, before tossing back the covers, put a smile on your face first and then see how you feel and act. Imagine everyone in your family or circle of friends beginning the day with putting a smile on their face!

3. Expand Your Posture into One of Power:

Amy Cuddy, in her book, Presence, talks at length about how we carry ourselves — our posture. She says, “The way you carry yourself is a source of personal power – the kind of power that is the key to presence.” Her research and that of many others sited in her book, substantiate that expanding our body by standing taller, opening our chest, looking up, and arms open (not wrapped around ourselves) has many benefits. When we stand in a powerful pose we communicate presence, self-confidence, and self-assurance. We are more creative, courageous, generous, resilient, and open. In her words, “It doesn’t change who you are; it allows you to be who you are.”

When we stand or sit with our posture open, powerful, and head held high, we communicate and feel very differently than when we sit or stand in a powerless position with head bowed, arms wrapped around ourselves, and our shoulders rounded.

Try it. Walk around the room in a powerful, open posture. How do you feel? Then, change to a powerless posture and notice how you feel. When we stand in a more powerful way we feel happier, more optimistic, confident, and less stressed or anxious. We can more easily access positive memories and positive outlooks when we stand in a powerful way.

These are three simple practices that communicate to our brains to feel better by releasing positive hormones. I encourage you to try them out and then share them with those in your family and circle of friends. If everyone did that, we would find ourselves living in a better world with happier people!

Lastly, I highly recommend reading Presence by Amy Cuddy. She also has done research on the not so positive effects of technology (head bowed over a cell phone, texting, playing games, watching the news) and the posture that is being expressed worldwide…