Mindful Monday: Happiness Hygiene


Let’s talk about happiness for a second. Holbrook Jackson said that “happiness is a form of courage,” and I wholeheartedly agree. It takes a lot of courage to be happy – to make the big (and sometimes scary) changes necessary to become a happier person. Hey, I would like to be happier. I would like to stop feeling like dog poo. I would like to be okay with where I am in life. (By the way, I hope you know that my Mindful Monday posts aren’t coming to you from the other side of strife, like I’ve transcended life’s shitstorms and am meditating over here in Pleasantville. Trust me, I am trudging through the mud with you. I am SO SICK of being sick. I want to punch sick in the nut sack. BUT. These posts are part of MY practice to make myself a happier person and be content with the here and now. Part of my path is summoning up the courage to write about this messy stuff and try to be an example of creating positive change. Annnnd some days are better than others.)

So, what’s the deal? Why are some people able to make positive change (and be happier) while others remain stuck in the same ol’ same ol’?

Shawn Achor says because before we can be happy or successful, we need to first develop the ability to see that positive change is possible. 

Okay, I totally had a lightbulb moment when I heard that for the first time. That’s it. When we are dealing with an issue, and we get that first glimpse that things are turning around for the positive, we develop that ability. And then our perception starts to shift, and it’s like a positivity snowball. For example, say you have been dealing with low back pain forever and ever, and after a visit to the acupuncturist, the pain diminishes, and you’re like, “WOOHOO I’M GETTING BETTER,” and the synapses start firing in your brain and it’s like a happiness partay, and in turn, the healing process kicks in big time. And it’s not just dealing with physical illness…this same cascade happens with all sorts of relationship and personal issues too.

So, is there a way to help develop that ability? I mean, we do sit ups to strengthen our abs…how can we strengthen our ability to see that positive change is possible?

Lucky for us, there are some ways to finesse that part of our psyche, thanks to smarty pants, Mr. Achor. He says we need to create a single, positive change in our life that shows us that our behavior actually matters in regards to happiness. And! The cool thing is that these exercises have been scientifically proven to trump genes and environment. So, if you were born sad to a sad mom and a sad dad, it don’t mattah. You can still change, my friend. These exercises had 85-year-old pessimists turning into, gasp, dare I say, slight optimists!

Are you ready? It’s a 21-day challenge. There are 5 things you can do – try them all or just try one, but the key is that you need to be consistent for 21 days. Don’t do it for 3 days, and be allllll “that was lame…it didn’t work, NOTHING WILL EVER WORK.” If you have that attitude, then yes, you are absolutely right, nothing will ever work. (And honestly I’m being a stickler because I’m the queen of quitting way too early. I am writing this post as a reminder to myself.)

There will be no quitting. NOT TODAY, FRIENDS. Or, you know, for the next 3 weeks. Deal? Deal.

1. Every morning when you wake up, say 3 things for which you are grateful. They have to be new every day – no repeats. Gratitude changes your vibrational frequency, and you will start to notice an abundance of good around you.

Are you sitting there, already doubting this? It’s okay – I felt the same way, but then I told myself that I can’t knock it until I try it. 21 days, here I come. FEEL MY GOOD VIBRATION.

2. Once a day, write down a meaningful experience that you’ve had over the past 24 hours. It doesn’t need to be some dramatic exchange – just something that happened that made you feel happy. You see, our brains aren’t so good at telling the difference between something that is actually happening to us and something that we are recalling or perceiving, so when you write down the meaningful experience, your brain assumes it’s happening for real again, so it’s like double the goodness.

3. Exercise! Once again, yet another expert talks about exercise. Just 15 minutes of cardio per day teaches your brain to believe that behavior does matter, and then that positivity snowball will start rolling.

4. Meditation – Nope, you don’t need to go all transcendental for 30 minutes. Just 2 minutes of slowly breathing in and out a day. This exercise trains your brain to do one thing at a time. Research suggests that a multitasking brain has a harder time falling asleep, is more stressed, and has lower energy. By taking time to relax the brain has a chance to undo the negative effects of trying to manage everything at once.

5. This is my favorite one. For the next 21 days, send a thank you to someone. It can be face-to-face, a phone call, an email, via social media, whatever. Just thank someone for something they’ve done for you. So, in addition to thanking people in my life face-to-face, I’m actually going to do this one on my blog too…I thought about it, and worried that it would be annoying to some of you, but hell, I’m doing it anyway. Starting on June 21st, I am going to write a short post every day thanking someone in the online space for inspiring me. I think I shall call it 21 Days of Praise. #21daysofpraise HASHTAAAAAG

I think you should do it too. How could this be a bad thing? It could be the happiest-making event ever! Can you imagine how you would feel to be on the receiving end of such a gift? Amazing! Adored! Loved beyond all means! I’m possibly going over the top.

I hope some of you will consider sharing praise to the people that inspire you too. Maybe we can do a link-up or something. I have absolutely no idea how to do that, but yeah, 21 Days of Praise. Let’s spread the happy, peeps.

  1. natalie

    June 16, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Sarah… this is tremendous! I believe it. I have seen it in my own life. I’m excited to practice this with you and your community for the next three weeks. Big smiles over here!

  2. Megan

    June 16, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Alright, well, let’s do this, then.

    Thanks, Sarah, for posting this. I’m a lapsed meditator (http://gomighty.com/Megan/i-need-your-help-help-me/) and also really needed the message about positive change being possible.

  3. amti'b

    June 16, 2014 at 9:17 am


  4. lisa

    June 16, 2014 at 9:59 am

    I’m in! I so love and appreciate you and this! Awesome :-)

  5. Heather D.

    June 16, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I’m in. THANK YOU, Sarah!

  6. Stacey

    June 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Can we talk about thank you notes for a minute? In the last couple weeks, I’ve had two people THANK ME for the thank you notes I sent them! They did something nice for me, so I sent them a thank you note, and then they thanked me back! ha. Don’t underestimate the power of a hand-written thank you note:)

    • whoorl

      June 16, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      Thank you notes are the best!

  7. Meredith

    June 16, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I literally just walked out of an hour and a half presentation by Shawn Achor. He was amazing. Super excited to hear how realistic optimism can take things to the next level and are the biggest indicator for success. I am ordering his book now!

    • whoorl

      June 16, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      What? That is the coolest! I would love to see him speak. :)

      • Meredith Kummell

        June 17, 2014 at 1:15 pm

        @whoorl It was bizarre to have you talking about him on the same day! It is a real estate conference in San Jose, CA that was put on by a San Diego real estate coaching company. 2 days of awesome seminar for $75. A total steal. And Shawn was the only guest speaker. He was charming and super informative. Why don’t we have jobs studying happiness? It seems like a good gig!

  8. Sarah

    June 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Hi Sarah–I stumbled upon your blog in the same way that I used to stumble into 6am pilates class with you (with Erica). I was the quiet (read: sleepy), mormon lawyer trying to get in shape after giving birth. Anyway, whether or not you remember me, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry about the “shitstorm” you’re in. And I love this post and Mr. Anchor’s advice. I’m going to try this along with you.


  9. Laurie Ann

    June 16, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I’m in!

  10. Julie

    June 16, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    I’m so in!! I even created a blog to keep me on track and hold myself accountability. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions and sharing all that you do.

  11. Kimberly

    June 17, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Just found your website and loved this post. I am starting today!

  12. Susan

    June 17, 2014 at 8:46 am

    This is yet another timely post for me. In reading your earlier posts on meditations one of the ‘mantras’ I had thought of for me was “Positive change is possible” and “I can change.” Taking this as a sign from the universe!

  13. kristiina

    June 18, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Sarah, I’m still along for the ride with Mindful Mondays…but I’m kind of living vicariously through you. I get so inspired when I read the posts, but then have a hard time incorporating the ideas into my life. I maintain that I’m making subtle changes in my outlook/perspective as a result of reading posts like these and trying to stay positive. The action items are what get me….how do you have time?? I was all set to try the 21 day happiness challenge, but got too overwhelmed by it all. So I’ve decided to pick two of the five with the hope that I will have a better chance of completing the challenge. Baby steps, right? Wish me luck! And thank you for the encouragement and sharing your journey with us :)