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“The world was meant for you and me To figure out our destiny(A Thousand Beautiful Things)

To Live,To Die,To Breathe,To Sleep,To try to make your life complete- Lyrics from the song A Thousand Beautiful Things by Annie Lennox


Happiness is not a goal. Happiness is a by-product of life choices. Not enough Americans understand this reality.

The noted psychiatrist Martin Seligman has done a tremendous amount of research on happiness and has created a website about happiness. On his website he offers a number of questionnaires. The questionnaire on personal strengths is nine pages long and takes about forty minutes to complete it’s titled VIA Survey of Character Strengths.

His conclusion is that you have greater happiness when your work utilizes your top 5 character strengths.

The idea is that after completing this strength survey, you can then ask yourself how much a part of your life works from a framework that appreciates these five strengths. Here is the link to this valuable website: authentic happiness.

AFTER you do the survey and get your personal results, go to the end of this section to learn the top five strengths that contribute the most to happiness. It’s important not to color your results, because the survey is part of an active research study.

There is a range to happiness, and knowing your own ordinary joys is important; such as ripe tomatoes in July, time for the Sunday NY Times, choosing a new book to read, watching a movie by a favorite director, or gathering people around your table for good food. Being open to life, new experiences, and learning is a huge part of finding happiness. Carry your fears and discomforts graciously, knowing that we all have them and the possibility of greater happiness is yours.

True happiness is not seen in the accelerated lives that are described in Vanity Fair, nor is it found by the couch potatoes solely devoted to TV. Neither of these positions are likely to accomplish happiness. Life is to be lived more choicefully, with greater imagination and a willingness to take more risks to find happiness.

Live life with a fine appetite and happiness is more likely. Apply courage to fresh ideas and restore the possibility of novelty. Remember routine can be very dangerous to well-being & happiness.

Happiness is a different equation for each of us. It might include reading favorite novels, learning a new language, being generous, traveling (why is half the congress proud they don’t have passports?) listening to music, having conversations with elderly people, staying challenged, supported and stimulated—or perhaps it’s none of these. Happiness is not a fixed quantity.

We are a consumer-driven culture that misleads us to think that materialism, rather than community responsibility, is the source of happiness.

Since the 1990s, Daniel Gilbert has been thinking about and researched happiness and emotional prediction. He’s discovered we make a lot of mistakes in expectations, which he calls “miswanting.”
His newest book is the bestseller Stumbling on Happiness

Top five regrets of the dying as reported in The Guardian 2/2012
A hospice nurse has gathered the five most common regrets of the dying. Ask yourself what would your biggest regret be if this was your last day to live?

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Here is a TED talk video given by Daniel Gilbert on our mistaken expectations about happiness.


How to Live Better:

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“Our mortality gives us zest or we might as well be a cow.” -Laura Perls

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs really does need to be evaluated in your own life. Are you eating the right foods, skipping meals, or getting enough exercise? The most important thing you can do with sleep is try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.

Practicing habits that are nurturing and self-supportive are important to follow on a weekly basis. Eat breakfast, drink a lot of water, stop drinking soda. Sports Psychologist Jim Loehr suggests practicing “habits of the heart” that balances out the stress of our work life. Loehr and Tony Schwartz wrote a book called The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewalthat describes this process in greater detail.

Living a richer life is connected to knowing more about what’s important to you. What are the values you want to live by? My husband lives the Jewish practice of Tikkun – to repair and transform the world. He volunteers in the most serious way of everyone we know. One of his highest values is community service.

Think of the roles you play in your life. One example would be “What kind of a mother do you want to be?” Come up with an adjective that captures what matters to you in each of your roles, i.e. kind mother, honest partner, generous daughter-in-law, highly organized administrative assistant. Decide how to be more generous in your life. It may be as simple as buying a treat from the French Bakery for your secretary when it’s not Secretary’s Day.

Think of a small way to nurture creativity in your life. Paint your son’s bedroom with his favorite color, no matter what it is. My mother painted her dining room a bold sunset red and it’s one of the memories that makes me smile. If calm or peacefulness is a value, begin a daily ritual of Buddhist Meditation which has proven effectiveness. If you want to be a positive parent, try noticing the special things your children do that so often go unnoticed.

In April 2012 an article caught my eye of a 92 year old Hy Strachman who had to give new meaning to his life when his wife died. He solved this creatively by shipping bootleg copies of DVD’s to soldiers overseas, over 4,000 boxes. He figured out a new way to be happy.

You can decide to be closer to your partner and become less driven. Just take the small steps to make it happen. Participate in the national event, “Take Back Your Time Day” on October 24th. By October 24th of every year you will have worked as many hours as most Europeans will for the entire year. The book Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America is a collection of 30 essays that are worth while. You might also consider reading What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in Americaby Tony Schwartz, who interviews many people and is practicing his new values in his own life.

We have the ability to shape our own lives. Change creates a lot of anxiety, and resistance is about maintaining the status quo. If you have the courage to persist in a new change for a month, the probability of success increases. Keep in mind that just as in the recovery process for addicts, know that relapse is a part of it. Credit your changes with the same patience as if you were practicing a musical instrument.

For more ideas, see the Boredom section on this website. Please note many ideas for this section come from Living on Purpose by Kay Butler in the Sept/Oct 2003 Psychotherapy Networker magazine.

Motivation to Change for Greater Happiness:

So while we understand that we need to exercise, not watch so much t.v, meditate or think of 3 things we are grateful for every day how to get ourselves jump started can be a real mystery. Shawn Achor is a positive pschycologist at Harvard talks in this audio file about how to get started:


About Schmidt
It’s an interesting movie because Jack Nicholson plays against type. A vacant man who retires and realizes he’s wasted his life. A cautionary tale about living without vitality.

31 Questions To Consider
…on your way to a more vital life. Be specific in answering them.

“The broadly engaged mind is the source of a happy life” – Bromo in That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Prouix

  1. How have you been generous?
  2. What curiosity have you pursued recently?
  3. Who are your good friends beyond your family & relatives?
  4. Do you know any neighbors?
  5. Have you gathered people together for more than just the holidays?
  6. How do you keep yourself challenged or stimulated?
  7. Have you been to museums?
  8. What music do you listen to or create?
  9. Do you know what drains your energy?
  10. Do you know what replenishes & nourishes your energy?
  11. When did you last make a new friend?
  12. Do you talk with old people?
  13. Do you talk with children?
  14. What supports do you have in your life?
  15. Where have you traveled?
  16. Do you read newspapers, novels, poetry, blogs, etc?
  17. Do you know any languages?
  18. What plays, films or lectures have you been to?
  19. Have you tried therapy or group experiences to develop more self-awareness?
  20. What have you written or painted? (Letters and journals count)
  21. How have you been creative? (Cooking, dancing, gardening, blogging, or building mosaics)
  22. What do you do to keep your body physically healthy?
  23. Are you studying anything new?
  24. Do you listen to your children or nieces & nephews? Be sure to enjoy their disagreement & eagerly await to discover who they evolve to be.
  25. Do you volunteer?
  26. When was the last time you tried something that made you uncomfortable?
  27. What do you enjoy besides shopping, drinking, or eating out?
  28. When was the last time you had fun?
  29. What are you proud of about your time on this planet?
  30. Every week, do you do enough things to take care of yourself? If so, what are you looking forward too?

In Mary Zimmerman’s new play The Arabian Nights, a wise young woman arrives at the Sultan’s palace and offers to answer any question they ask her correctly. Of course, she does this easily. One of the questions the Sultan asks her “What is the purpose of life?” She answers “To cultivate enthusiasms.”

Authentichappiness.com research has reached the conclusion that there are five traits that contribute to greater happiness. Evaluate yourself on each of these:

1. Gratitude 2. Optimism 3. Zest 4. Curiosity 5. Ability to love and be loved.

What are specific ways you can build each of these into greater strengths? For example, to expand gratitude write a letter of thanks to someone you haven’t acknowledged from your past or present.


Be ruthlessly honest with yourself make a list of what’s important to you in your life based on your actions and choices. For example, think about what you spend your money on, what directions does your energy go to, how you spend your time. Then ask yourself, “How do you want to live differently?”

Links To New Possibilities:

Bike Pittsburgh

Girlfriend Circles and Girlfriend Social – Both sites help you make new friends in your community

The Kahn Academy-“Our mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone.”

Meetup – Makes all kinds of connections for people who own mini coopers to wine tasting.

Pittsburgh Contra

Pittsburgh Glass Center

Rails to Trails

The Sprout Fund – Pittsburgh nonprofit that supports innovative ideas

Venture Outdoors

Western PA Orienteering Club

Pittsburgh Cultural Connections:

The Academy for Lifelong Learning – A program for people eager to extend their education in their senior years by taking non-credit courses on the campus of CMU at no charge. E-Mail: [email protected] for more info.

Backroads -Great travel opportunities for people who are solo

Calliope -Sponsors Folk & Roots Acoustic Music

10 Literary Evenings -presents authors who lecture and share their ideas

The Frick -Offers Free summer concerts on First Fridays

Mattress Factory -a Northside contemporary arts venue

mcgjazz.org – Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Programs.

Osher Lifelong Learning Center at University Of Pittsburgh – Experience lifelong learning with noncredit courses designed forindividuals who are retired or semi-retired, age 55 or over at the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Arts -Art activities sponsored by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Pittsburgh Filmmakers – showcases 3 theaters that offer movies that are not the normal Hollywood fare

Quantum Theatre – a play series that specializes in unique settings

(Also, look at websites listed at the end of Single and Dating section)

FIND Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Match – hit search and find up to date list of possibilities for 304 organizations in Pittsburgh

Beyond Pittsburgh:

duolingo.com -learn a new language for free

CATF.org – Contemporary American Theater Festival- See 1-4 new plays by established playwrights in Shepardstown, WV

CIweb.org – Website to learn more about Chautauqua Institution and what it offers as a vacation destination

Elder Hostel – inexpensive ways to travel if you are 55 or over and love to learn

Film Movement – a monthly club that offers movies that don’t make it to theaters

Go-Today.com – offers travel packages to Europe that are worth driving to Newark for

Humana Festival – 36th Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays

Live Mocha – helps people learn languages by swapping messages and correcting them. Also offers lessons.

TED Talks – A website that is a clearing house for knowledge and ideas from the “world’s most inspired thinkers.”

Thelma and Louise – Women can search for traveling companions

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