Why and how getting happier is easier than you think

May 31, 2012

After 5 years as a professional coach and nearly 10 years of research into personal development, I have found many fascinating similarities amongst people. One observation is that people often think increasing their happiness should require lots of energy and effort. It can’t be as simple as expressing gratitude.

Every month I deliver at least 2 positive psychology seminars, tomorrow I’m giving a seminar on The Science of Gratitude. Thus far, we have about 5 people registered. I know that more people will join us and I’m not stressing the numbers, I’m actually finding it reflecting the paradox of our thoughts. When I offer workshops on decision making, stress and overwhelm, we get dozens of people. My last speaking engagement on guilt and worry packed a small room with over 100 participants.

It seems like many people want to get rid of the challenges and obstacles in their life, but may feel that they have the whole “grateful thing” down pact. Now, I’m not saying that they might not, however, I’ve found that many of my coaching clients find that they can think of lots of things to be grateful for, but they don’t necessarily feel the gratitude.

I think people gratitude for granted. Maybe it’s too simple. It’s something your grandma would have wanted you to do… surely you need Prozac, not a little thanks… or do you?

Gratitude is one of the most powerful positive emotions. Studies show that expressing gratitude increased positive emotion and decreased depression symptoms. People reported having more energy, better sleep, alertness, enthusiasm, determination, feeling of being connected, optimistic. People who expressed gratitude were more likely to take better preventative care of themselves and meet their goals.

But this is only part of the story. Experience gratitude creates physiological changes in your body and shifts your biology. In tomorrow night’s workshop we are exploring not just what gratitude is, but how it works.

You’ll learn how to instantly shift from a negative or neutral emotional state into a positive one with the power of gratitude? You’ll learn simple and highly complex gratitude practices. You’ll learn how gratitude works in your body, mind and spirit. I’ve found that when my clients learn the mechanisms behind gratitude, how it works not just that it works, they are more likely to express gratitude regularly.

Want to join us? Click here for details. Can’t make it live? No worries, click here to preorder the recording at a discounted rate (use the code: ___ for __ off)

How much gratitude do you feel right now?

Here are 2 gratitude enhancers:

1) Write about 3 good things that happened to you and how you contributed to that good thing happening.

(Note: In research studies of this very exercise participants significantly increased their happiness level and decreased their rate of depression. Those effects held true 6 months later, particularly for people who valued the exercise and continued to do it.)

Think you have that down? Try what Abraham Hicks calls “A Rampage of Appreciation”.

2) List and feel as many things as you can, big and small that you’re grateful for 5 minutes straight or until you feel so full with the emotion it spews out of your chest. It’s harder than you think, but can completely energize your mind, your perspective and even your immune system.

Let me know how these practices go for you.

I’m grateful to have come across these tools. Understanding and practicing gratitude healed me from a life of bulimia and scarcity. Helped my transform my relationship with my mother and her slow death from Ovarian Cancer. And enables me to manifest new and profound things in my life every day.

I’m grateful that I get to share some of these Positive Psychology tools with you at the New York Open Center in NYC tomorrow at 7pm (the Science of Gratitude workshop), a venue that I spent many years visualizing myself speaking at and expressing future gratitude for the opportunity.


September 19, 2011

According to Change Your Brain, Change Your Body by Dr. Amen, there are specific things that can either enhance your will-power or deplete your resolve.


Will Power Boosters

Brain health

Focusing on brain protection

Adequate sleep

Frequent small meals with at least some protein to maintain healthy blood sugar

Enriched diet

Freedom from alcohol

Clearly focused, written goals

Journaling when sad or anxious

Meditation for relaxation and to boost 2the PFC

Killing the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts)

Gratitude practice

Practicing willpower

Being careful with too much pleasure or too much technology

Finding natural sources of pleasure

Engaging in meaningful activities

Social support

Effectively treating any brain problems


Understanding emotional triggers

Decreasing cravings with B6,magnesium and NAC

Boosting dopamine (L-tyrosine, DL-phenylalanine, SAMe)

Boosting serotoning (5-HTP, L-tyrptophan, inositol, St. John’s wort)

Boosting GABA (GABA, glycine, L-theanine)

Boosting endorphins (exercise,acupuncture, hypnosis)

Will Power Robbers

Any brain problems

Brain trauma

Poor sleep

Low blood sugar

Poor diet



Some form of depression


Negative Thinking

Focusing on problems and fears

Bad habits (giving in)

Too much pleasure

Artificial forms of pleasure

Negative or meaning less behaviors

Social isolation

Being in denial about problems

Lack of exercise

Denial of feelings


Doing this 1 thing everyday is more important than brushing your teeth!

July 13, 2011

In the yogic tradition meditation is a form of mental hygiene.  The same way you brush your teeth to keep them clean and healthy, meditation is a way of keeping the mind clean and healthy.  The constant stream of thoughts (i.e. worries about the future and ruminations of the past) clutter the mind and create mental plaque.

We’re obsessed with dental hygiene, right?  It would be unheard of to go days, weeks or months without brushing your teeth.  Imagine what you might look like if you never brushed your teeth.  Perhaps that’s what’s happening inside your mind…?

Today we’ll look at the role of meditation as hygiene and where you can get your mental toothpaste and brush.  I’ll dispute the top 4 excuses people’s mind creates for not taking the time to meditate and I’ll teach you 2 easy ways to start meditating today!

When was the last time you felt clear headed?  Is your mind calm or is it constantly racing in directions you don’t want it to go?  What’s more important for your existence, your teeth or your mind?

Admittedly, I have a hard time creating and maintaining a daily meditation practice. I’m getting better but it took me a while to get there.  Ironicaly I have spent years researching meditation.   I’ve taken courses, read books, worked with meditation coaches and I’ve even led meditations.  I’ve listened to yogis, intuitive and spiritual healers describe their meditation experiences.  I’ve read peer-reviewed journal articles on fMRI studies of what goes on in people’s brains when they meditate.  I’ve personally had awe inspiring experiences in meditation… Moments of stillness, beauty and connection… Yet, with all that, I could not always get myself to meditate consistently.

However, when one of my teachers, Yogi Charu, described meditation as daily hygiene a light bulb went off in my mind.  That concept helped me get committed to a daily practice.  Even if for just 5-10 minutes a day.

What stops people from meditating every day even when they know it’s good for them?  Here are 4 of the most common, conscious and unconscious, reason and excuses, I’ve used and I’ve seen come up for clients:

1.  “I don’t have time to meditate.”

I think people hear about people meditating for hours and think that they NEED 30-60 minutes in order to experience the benefits.  Simply 5-20 minutes of meditation is enough to get the benefits.   Five minutes is about the amount of time you spend waiting at 5 red traffic lights.  The longer you domeditate the stronger the benefits get, but even 1 minute is better than nothing.  Consistency is key.

2.  “I don’t know much about meditation or its benefits.”

Research shows that meditation increases the factors that promote well-being and decrease the factors that diminish it.  Meditation increases feel good chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and stimulates the left prefrontal cortex of the brain associated with positive emotions.  Meditation reduces stress, anxiety and risk for heart disease.  It improves digestion and helps with weight loss. It promotes better sleep, attention and cognitive function.

3. “Okay, I’m sold on the benefits, but I don’t know how to meditate.  I can’t get mental floss or mindwash at Duane Reade!”

This is true.  However, you don’t have to go anywhere for mental hygiene equipment, the tool is literally under the tip of your nose… Your breath.  In a moment I’ll teach you 2 meditation exercises.

4.  “I tried it but… I don’t know if I’m doing this right…!”

Yes, when meditating you don’t get to pick physical things out of your mind the way you do when you floss, however, you will feel lighter.  Research shows that meditation benefits rise slowly in the beginning, but over time every minute spent in meditation is exponentially stronger than early on in practice.  In one study, the biggest benefits kicked in after 2 months of meditation.  As far as doing it right, the mind will naturally wander.  If you catch it and bring it back to your meditation, you’re on the right path.  It’s deceptively simple, just stick to it.

The mental toothbrush and paste that cleans your mind up the quickest is your breath!  Here are 2 practices that I invite you to play with:

1. Simple 5:5:5 Breathing

This basic breathe involves inhaling for 5 counts and exhaling for 5 counts and repeating for at least 5 minutes.  Research shows that this simple exercise can increase heart rate variability (HRV); the higher your HRV the healthier you are.

2. Jedi Mental Hygiene

This exercise takes a lot more focus but it’s really powerful.  It stimulates both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, while bringing more calm and focus into your body.  You increase the count of your inhale each time by 1 while keeping the exhale constant, then after you get to inhaling for 10 counts you add another count on to the exhale.  It goes like this (I = inhale, E= exhale):

  • Inhale for 1: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 2: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 3: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 4: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 5: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 6: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 7: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 8: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 9: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 10: Exhale for 1
  • Inhale for 1: Exhale for 2
  • Inhale for 2: Exhale for 2
  • Inhale for 3: Exhale for 2
  • Inhale for 4: Exhale for 2

Continue like this… increasing the inhale for 1 until you get to 10, then increase the exhale by 1, until you get to inhale for 10: exhale for 10.

  • Inhale for 8: Exhale for 10
  • Inhale for 9: Exhale for 10
  • Inhale for 10: Exhale for 10

The whole exercise will take about 20 minutes.  Give one or both of these exercises a try and let me know how they go for you!

With love,
Your mental hygienist

P.S. Want to know why breathe is powerful  more about the amazing power of your breathe?!  Join me for my next FR-EE teleseminar title “Science of Breathe:  The Secret to Health Under the Tip of Your Nose,” Monday, July 21th at 12pm EST.  Click here to get access to the call.  Limited spots available!