“826 Napkins Will Never Be Enough”

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…wrote Garth Callaghan to his daughter, Emma. Callaghan has cancer (again) and is racing to write enough napkin notes — over 800 — to put into her lunches until she graduates from high school (which will likely be after he’s gone). Napkin Notes: Make Lunch Meaningful, Life Will Follow is the book, and soon there will even be a movie to inspire us to make the most out of every single precious day we have.

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Watch this and maybe you’ll be moved to write a napkin note to someone you love.

“4-7-8” = Falling-Asleep Math

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What if there were a simple, all-natural, non-pharmaceutical way to help you fall asleep — or fall back asleep? Unlike the New Math that none of us are smart enough to do, this sleep technique named with a sequence of numbers — 4-7-8 Breath — is simple: breathe in for 4 seconds; hold that breath for 7 seconds; then exhale that breath for 8 seconds. Taking in that extra oxygen and getting rid of the carbon dioxide slows your heart down and quickly calms your body. It’s just a fancy way of saying mindful breathing, but if you’re already confused, let Dr. Andrew Weil demonstrate how to do it.

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(H/T Alina Gonzalez, Bydie)

Because tiny hamsters eating anything wins the internet

You know that thing they do in Hollywood to describe The Next Best Thing: “Terminator” meets “Tootsie” meets “Die Hard 20?” Well, Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Burritos, the first in a new web series of tiny hamsters eating various kinds of tiny food, is Marcel The Shell meets Stuart Little meets Top Chef. Get ready to binge-watch what could morph into “The Real Hamsters of New York.”

(Extra joy for GIF lovers: //giphy.com/embed/fBuaXUsb0qCLS)

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(H/T Wimp.com and HelloDenizen)

And The Golden Globe Award for Gratitude Goes To: Michael Keaton.

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We watched (most of) The Golden Globes so you wouldn’t have to (you’re welcome), and while we were watching we had an epiphany: There isn’t a Golden Globe award for gratitude, but after tonight there really should be. Actor Michael Keaton accepted his Best Actor award for “Birdman” with unusual grace and a surprising message: gratitude. The youngest of seven who grew up in a rundown farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania, Keaton said the themes in his family were simple: “Work hard. Don’t quit. Be appreciative. Be thankful. Be grateful. Be respectful. Never whine ever. And always keep a sense of humor.”

His speech was worth all the bad jokes and awkward intros. Skip ahead to the 2:14 mark if you want a really good cry.

Happier’s Anti-Bullying Week

For me, the first time was when Michael Chernin, a Woody Allen look-alike, punched me in the stomach on the way home from school for no apparent reason. A few years later, D.B. French threatened to beat me up after school — from third grade to sixth grade. In seventh grade, it was the boys from Silver Lake, chasing my friend Jenny and me around the stark hallways of our brand new junior high and calling us bruta at our lockers. When she kicked one of them, they got a group of their girls after us, and for a year we saw their faces, full of braces and hate, in the little windows on the doors of our math and English and French classes, mouthing the words: You die after school. You die after school. Not a day went by without the threat of being dragged into the girls’ bathroom and getting our heads dunked, then flushed, in the toilet (a.k.a., getting a”swirly”).
 
In those days, we didn’t tell our parents. Or our teachers. We suffered in silence and usually it went away (I don’t remember any problems in high school, besides my own adolescent misery). But it’s different now. Bullying doesn’t end at three o’clock the way it did for us: it’s on a 24-hour cycle, just like the news. It’s also public. Kids can be hunted down at all hours of the day and night and humiliated online. We’ve all read the tragic stories of teens whose spirits were crushed and whose lives were destroyed by non-stop cruelty and harassment. And we all know someone — a friend, a friend of a friend, the child of a friend — who have been targets at school.
 
When I first met Nataly (we’ve been friends long before I started working at Happier), she told me stories about moving to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union and how hard she tried to fit in at school those first few years. One of the most heart-breaking stories was about the day she was made fun of for a sandwich she brought to school — and how she came home and heard that her father had been made fun of, too, at his job, for the same sandwich. This past spring, when I came to Happier, the most interesting data point Nataly shared with me was that emails were pouring in from teens who were grateful for the safety of Happier and who were telling us that it was the only place they felt comfortable expressing positive things about themselves — and about their parents. Families are using Happier together — sharing small positive moments with each other throughout the day and cheering each other on — instead of playing a perpetual game of hide-and-seek online the way they do on other sites. And Nataly is working with a large charter school system in San Diego to kick off a Happier in Schools program in early 2014.
 
We’re committed to spreading the word about our very special community to teens and families everywhere, and we’re devoting this week to anti-bullying. We’ll be asking you to share moments about standing up for others and moments when others stood up for you. We’ll be asking you to reach out to people who feel alone, and to open your heart just a little more than you already do to make room for those who feel like they don’t easily fit in to the world. We’ll be asking you to be braver, and nicer, and kinder than we know you already are.
 
In between getting ready for the holidays this week, make someone else, and yourself, happier: spread some compassion and inspire others to do the same.
 
 
 
 

Rewriting Tolstoy

It’s that time of year again — the time of year when most people are living the famous line from Leo Tolstoy’s novel,  Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Starting with Thanksgiving and barreling straight through Christmas and into New Year’s, people everywhere — young and old, single and married, happy and sad — are making plans to spend time with their families. Some will drive to the next town over for a quick visit; others will travel across the country or halfway around the world — filling highways and train stations and airports as they make their way home to reconnect: to share meals and gifts and time with families they don’t often see.

For some people, the holidays are filled with uncomplicated joy and happiness — gift-giving and cookie-baking and matching-footed-pajamas! For others, the holidays are filled with stress and angst and sadness. For them, the holidays don’t look or feel anything like that Norman Rockwell painting.  For them, the holidays are emotionally complicated and difficult to manage.

So this year, if you’re one of those people — like most people are —  instead of spending the holidays counting all  the ways in which your unhappy family is unhappy in its own way — instead of rolling your eyes at every bad sweater and every drunk uncle and every semi-hurtful-remark; instead of counting, on the fingers and toes of both hands and feet (and the hands and feet of everyone in the room), every grievance and complaint — however justified! — instead of falling down the usual rabbit hole of holiday misery and depression, why not try something different:

Use what you’ve learned all these months using Happier and find the small positive moments in your holiday visit.

For some of you, this will be easy — so easy, it might threaten to ruin your holiday because you’ll be so busy focusing on all your happy moments your family will complain that you’re not paying enough attention to them! But for others, you’ll have to dig deep to find those moments. You’ll have to look past all the old wounds and try to find beauty and love and peace in other things:  a safe flight home; the perfect crust of an apple pie; a Butterball turkey perfectly cooked, even though the stupid thermometer-thingy was broken and didn’t pop up.

Instead of suffering in silence about the big things, try expressing gratitude aloud for the little things: Thank your mother for making your favorite green bean casserole (even if it’s really not your favorite but she just thinks it is); thank your father for a warm fire well-lit; thank your spouse or your partner for making the trip home with you and for enduring your family’s eccentricities and idiosyncrasies with grace and patience. If you do, you’ll be able to rewrite Tolstoy:

All happy families are boring; each unhappy family is interesting in its own way and can be made happier by focusing on really really really small positive moments during holiday visits….

(And for a laugh, here’s an Xtranormal Video I made last year about Thanksgiving: “Hello 1-800-Butterball? My Turkey Is Fine, But My Family Is Killing Me!”)