If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands!

Happy People

If you’re over 50—or if you’re currently enrolled in kindergarten—you’ll  know the title is from a song. Although whether we’re really happy or not may not be a simple thing to know, we all clap our hands anyway.

But how do we know if we’re happy, technically speaking? Well that’s a matter for experts to examine, including Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and bestselling author on the subject of living long, healthy & happy. I’ve read Buettner’s articles and many others about happiness—took a whole college course in psychology focusing on what makes happiness tick—and I’ve come up with my personal best list.

Top 7 ways you know if you’re happy:

  1. You laugh a lot. Like every day. Multiple times a day. Sounds simple, right? But really think about this one before you answer it for yourself. How often do you laugh? (Also, how often do you cry?)
  2. You like going to work every day. Especially if you’re like me and you don’t have to go anywhere! It’s no surprise that a long commute can be a big negative in people’s lives according to Buettner. It’s also no surprise that liking your job can make you happy.

    But did you know that you don’t even have to like your job to be happy  if you like the people you work with? 

    In fact, according to Buetner and others, liking your fellow employees and having friends at work is more important than making more money. I can personally attest to the truth of this!

  3. You have a great social network and get together with friends/family often. Everyone agrees about how important the people in your life are to your happiness, right? Maybe it’s hard to put this into practice in  every day life, but those who do are happiest.
  4. You are healthy. While it’s not something we think about, according to statistics, it is harder to be happy when you’re unhealthy. So don’t take this one for granted.
  5. You make a decent living. No need for riches. But just in case, I did buy a Powerball ticket when the jackpot went to $625 million yesterday. It would be a kick to play Santa Claus with all that money. Which brings me to the next tell for happiness.
  6. You focus on others with acts of kindness, helpfulness, care, donating and/or volunteering. Or maybe you’re there for someone with a shoulder to cry on in a tragedy. Of course, you probably already know how these things can make you feel all warm and fuzzy.
  7. Life Balance. You have the right amount of work, socializing and sleep—and all those other personal care things to keep you healthy, like staying active. This is no news for anyone who spends too much time at work, or too much time sitting around. Or not enough time sleeping!

Now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

I’m going to work on getting more sleep!

Tell me what you’re going to do to improve your happiness.


5 Tips for Going Public (Speaking, that is!)

Most writers are solitary by nature. We spend long hours in quiet places, forging our stories, dreaming up vivid locations for them, crafting characters we hope readers will bond with. hand-281995_640 It’s hard enough for us to imagine the world reading (and judging) our stories. To even consider standing up in front of an audience of 100 or more people and talking about ourselves and our work would be, at the very least, daunting.

When I first was asked to speak in public I felt physically ill. Nauseous. Chest pains. Weak knees. I was fairly sure I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t. It was an anxiety attack, and it went away after my speech was over…but that didn’t make the experience any less terrifying.

I’ve spoken with others about how hard it can be to put oneself in front of large group of people and perform. Their stories of “stage fright” are often similar. But I’ve come away from those conversations with a few tips to share with you. And even if you aren’t on a public speaking tour, some of these might help you get through other challenges in life.

20151107_092450 (00000002)1) Prepare…prepare…prepare! Before stepping to the front of a classroom, an auditorium, or lecture hall—write your speech, create an entertaining Power Point or handouts, and practice talking through it until you don’t need notes. The more comfortable you are with the topic and delivery, the less you’ll worry about making mistakes when you’re with other people.

2) Give your audience work to do. They’ll love you for including them in the moment. Ask questions. Encourage participation. Provide a worksheet or two to keep them busy. They’ll hear what you’re saying but will focus part of their attention on their responses.

3) Tell a funny story. I don’t mean canned jokes from a book. Share with your audience a special moment from your life. Were you afraid, thrilled, shocked, mortified, sad or deliriously happy. Anecdotes from real life provide an emotional bridge between you and others.

4) Be upbeat. There’s enough strife in the world. No one wants more. If I’m talking about the challenges of the publishing world, I tell it like it is: it’s hard to get published! But everyone knows this. Reassure your listeners about the opportunities and point out the practical tools and methods they can use to succeed.

5) Smile, move, use your body. A stiff body and grim looking speaker may still be brilliant…but you’ll relax more easily (and so will your audience) if you loosen up a bit. I do deep stretching exercises to get the blood flowing before speaking. (Off stage.) Then, throughout my talk I try to remember to smile at appropriate moments and signal my openness to people listening to me by opening my arms wide, or gesturing, or walking back and forth across the stage or even venturing into the audience. When you move, you are less likely to tense up—either physically or emotionally.

And here’s a bonus if you’re really feeling anxious about your moment in the spotlight. Before you step out to do your thing, imagine that you’re going to a party. This party is being held in your honor, and your most loyal friends and avid fans are joining together to celebrate your success. After all, you’re the one who has been asked to speak. It’s your time to shine! Enjoy the moment. You’ll be great!