happiness project

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It's hard work to be happy. It is something we each have to seek for ourselves and ultimately happiness means something different for each of us. This is probably why it seems so hard to define. I think that it can also be said that people are confused by what it means to be happy. Does it have to involve laughing and smiling? Can it simply be a feeling of contentment? Do we always know happiness when it is happening?

In the book "Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin, there is an exploration of happiness, that while personal for the author gave me some insight into facets of happiness I had never considered. Energy, for example and how it relates to happiness. The author starts here first. She researched energy and its relationship to happiness through the ages and puts a number of theories to the test. Does getting more sleep make you happier? Can you get happy simply by acting happy? This first chapter had me hooked. 

I came across this book a couple years back while "window shopping" with a friend. We had just finished brunch complete with champagne that centered on our search for happiness when we stumbled upon this book in a store. As with most situations with this friend, it seemed the ultimate definition of kismet.

One of my favorite passages from the book is this:

One conclusion was blatantly clear from my happiness research; everyone from contemporary scientists to ancient philosophers agrees that having strong social bonds is probably the MOST meaningful contributor to happiness. The positive-psychology superstars Ed Diener and Martin Seligman cite studies demonstrating that ‘of 24 character strengths, those that best predict life satisfaction are the interpersonal ones.’ Epicurus agreed albeit in slightly more poetic phraseology: ‘Of all the things that wisdom provides for living one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.’
— Gretchen Rubin - The Happiness Project

In fact, studies agree with this.  Some have shown that having 5 or more friends you can go to when discussing matters of significance were far more likely to describe themselves as "very happy" people. These studies even imply that everything we do is enhanced by having people join us for the process, even the ones we dread doing. (apparently misery loves company because it makes the misery...well...less miserable.) By the way this passage and section is discussed in Chapter 6 of the book; "Make Time For Friends."

So, why am I telling you all of this. it is simple really, number one, happiness comes in and from unexpected places, it is good to keep your mind open to the possibilties of where you might find it and to pay attention when it comes along. I like to tell people to make sure they are listening to the whispers of happiness and contentment for they are typically much more enjoyable than screams of happiness. They live in every day life and friendships but are easily missed and often have the greatest impact on our life and memories. 

The second is that FRIENDSHIPS MATTER! CONNECTIONS MATTER! Cultivating these friendships and connections is what matters most. How are you doing this? How are you taking the time to focus on these friendships and connections? If making time for others you help build your own happiness then I guess Phoebe Buffay was right, there is no selfless good deed. You know what thought? I am okay with that. I meant why can't we all win right?

Full disclosure, I do not own this image and found it on Google from this website

Full disclosure, I do not own this image and found it on Google from this website

I had to put the rest of the conversation here, it is just too funny...

Rachel: Maybe Joey’s right. Maybe all good deeds are selfish.

Phoebe: I will find a selfless good deed. ‘Cause I just gave birth to three children and I will not let them be raised in a world where Joey is right.

Phoebe: [on phone] I have found a selfless good deed. I went to the park and let a bee sting me.

Joey Tribbiani: How is that a selfless good deed?

Phoebe: It makes the bee look tough in front of his bee friends. The bee’s happy and I am definitely not.

Joey Tribbiani: Uh, Pheebs, you know the bee probably died after it stung you?

Phoebe: [stares blankly] ...Dammit.

This book really is a great.I mean having a project is always fun, but one focused on happiness, what could be better? So I started my own happiness project I even created my own "Happiness Commandments" and "Secrets of Adulthood at the author's suggestion. Since you are my loyal readers, I decided to share them with you.  These are mine....what would yours be?

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That's enough from ready for your own happiness project? Get the book, don't get the book, your choice, but whatever you do, do it for you.

Click on the image of book to pick it up on Amazon and start your project today. Don't forget to tell me all about it.

Where Have All Our Girlfriends Gone?

In a groundbreaking study UCLA researchers found that something different happens in the body in response to stress if you are a woman. I should first mention that before this study 90% of all studies on stress and the bodies response to it were done with men only. Like many things in this world, there was an assumption that it didn't matter your biological make up in relation to what sex you are born as when it came to our response to stress.

Because of this, the prevailing theory around this response was that of “fight or flight”. This is when a person (man) is presented with some form of stress, the body will release hormones including testosterone that increase energy so that they can in essence do exactly as it says…stay and fight, or get the heck out of their and catch flight. 

For the first time since these types of studies have been conducted, UCLA looked at what happens with women when presented with stress. The results were shocking. A woman’s body creates a chemical in the brain that actually causes us to make and maintain friendships. As we do this we create added amounts Oxycontin (the calming hormone). It seems that when this combines with estrogen, it enhanced feelings of calm that does not happen with men. Only women!

So friendships with women are good for us. They get a bad rap though. You see reality tv shows that seem to soley focus on women tearing other women apart. We read magazines that tell us we have too look better, act better, lose 10 pounds and that it can't happen for all of us, just a select few, and so there is a focus on competition for women instead of camraderie. I remember when I was younger how often I heard the phrase "I just get along better with guys" from most of girls I met. Do we? Do we really get along better with guys? Have we tried getting along with other girls?

I would argue that we have not done this. Add to that the fascination with the voyeristic past time of what I like to call "social media stalking" and friendships with women, or anyone for that matter seem to be a thing of the past. We know so much more about people, but it is only the surface level items we know about. It is this picturesque view of a person's life that is only half real.(if even that much.) In my opinion it seems real friendships are declining. We think we know what is happening in people’s lives, so we call less, we text instead of writing letters and sending cards and we stay home more. We get further away from real friendships.

But why, when all the research tells us how valuable they are, especially for women?


We know that friends are good for us.

Researchers have even discovered that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period.

Another study found that the participants who had the most friends over a 9-year study cut their risk of death by more than 60%

Harvard researchers found that breast cancer patients that did not have a network of friends were four times more likely to die from the disease than patients with 10 or more close friends.

Yet another study, this time by Dove (I love them) found that 70% of women felt prettier because of the relationships with other women.

The studies go on and on to support increases in health and emotional well being are improved by strong female friendships including, lowering blood pressure, protection from dementia and lowered risk of depression to name a few.

As you may know, this past week I left my job and moved home to start my own venture. This first week has been so healing. The reason for that? My female friends. Now, don’t get me wrong, being with my family has its healing properties as well, but it was today when I truly felt a healing.

My friends surprised me with such a wonderful day of catching up to welcome me home in style, including wine, scenery, food, an amazing welcome home package and of course A LOT of laughter. It was at times, almost overwhelming. I normally only get a blast of this during my time home over the holidays. Realizing that this would now be part of my full time life gave me not only a sense of calm but a sense of possibility and relief. (although admittedly, the bag on the let has a slight Law & Order, CSI vibe.)

So what are we doing? I realize that asking this question in a blog, which in and of itself is a form of social media might be a little counter intuitive, but if this is how to reach people in today’s society, well then that is how I am going to do it.



Women have always worn many hats. But today, it seems as if the hats have gotten bigger or maybe there are just more of them, I am not really sure. There is this unseen and un-talked about pressure to be all things to all people. To take care of everyone, to stay on top of remembering birthdays, anniversaries, doctors appointments and then make the cupcakes for some event. The list goes on. We do all of this while trying to maintain a home, a career, family, friendships and maybe even a hobby or two if we are really industrious. But here’s the rub. We CANNOT do all of this. There are times when we are going to burn the cookies, let the laundry sit, miss a work out class, even a deadline, but what we cannot do is miss time with our circle of female friends.  Everything else can be repaired, fixed or redone. This can only happen though if we are centered, happy, relaxed, confident and that comes from our female friends. So stop assuming you are selfish, stop saying you don’t have time and pick up a phone, a pen, a pencil or even your keys and spend real time with your female friends.

I am sure glad I did. And if I don't say it enough THANK YOU for keeping me healthy.

Who keeps you healthy? I'd love to hear the great ways your female friendships have kept you going.




P.S. If you want to read more about how female friendships are good for our health check out some of my sources below.  I have also included a book suggestion in the spirit of #bookitforward on theubject.