Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Get Happier

Every year, the company I am lucky enough to work for (www.collectivenext.com), co-curates TEDxBoston (www.tedxboston.org) which is focused on sharing the revolutionary ideas of those who live, work, and are from the Boston area. The stories are always amazing and this year was no different - from the woman who had the idea to put "organs on a chip", meaning that she puts cells on a slide, grows diseases on them, and then tries different ways to cure those diseases....all on a microchip. Her goal? To grow a human on a chip to use as a petri dish for medical advancement. Or how about the man that is turning food waste into renewable energy? Or the two best friends that have started Fresh Truck which brings fresh fruits and vegetables to urban areas that don't have access to fresh, affordable, healthy food. I will admit...listening to these stories every year makes me feel a little stupid. I'm just going to be honest. When my friends get together on Friday nights we aren't talking about how to cure SARS....I'm just sayin'....

I always do feel incredibly energized from the stories I hear each year - it makes me want to do something impactful, even if it is just something little. Enter Nataly Kogan, chief happiness officer of www.Happiness.com. She was our last speaker of the day and I now have a new rule...the person that is last can't make us cry. It's purely selfish...we take pictures of the TEDxBoston team immediately following and she caused me to ruin my make up. Thanks a lot Nataly.

Let me tell you a little bit about Nataly's story. She shared with us that she had fled Russia in 1989 with her parents, moving to refugee camps first in Vienna, then Italy, and then finally just outside Detroit, living on welfare. After all she went through, she decided that she was going to be "happy" - which meant chasing the American dream. She was wildly successful in all areas that she pursued, and although she felt "successful", she realized she wasn't necessarily happier.

Because her father was a scientist, she turned to science to explore how to be happier. During her research, she uncovered a simple fact - that people that write down or focus on a few things that
they are grateful for each day, reported feeling more optimistic and feel less stressed. Focusing on the little moments in life that make you happy will indeed make you happier. Nataly stresses that we should focus on collecting moments, not things.

Now, back up a minute. I ran into her in the bathroom during rehearsals earlier in the day and had to tell her how much I loved her outfit. She was wearing an adorable orange dress with fantastic shoes, she has an adorable Halle Berry like hair do, and you just get a happy, adorable vibe off of her. I am always a big believer in giving strangers compliments on their outfits. Doesn't it make you feel good when someone asks you where you got your shoes or tells you they love your skirt? I know I do, so when I see someone wearing something I love, I go right up to them and tell them....much to my teenage kids chagrin.

Fast forward to Nataly's talk when she started talking about all the things I believe in. I experienced a similar situation where I was a workaholic, cramming my time with the things that didn't really matter, although at the time they seemed incredibly important. I finally left that job and started this blog to chronicle my attempts to find more happiness in my life. Not only am I a big believer in being more positive, but I truly do practice it.

Before I fall asleep each night I take a minute to mentally name at least one thing that I am grateful for that day. Nataly says one of the simplest things you can do to be happier is to be grateful for and thank those that do something little to make you happy. So, I'm going to take my moment to share with you the things that I am grateful for today.

I am grateful to work for company that embraces innovation and allows me to be exposed to such incredible, inspirational people...not only those that spoke today but those that I work with every day.

I loved when Mimi texted me today saying the bunny was hot and asking if we could sew her a bikini this weekend. We joked about whether it should have flowers or carrots on it. Just what a bunny needs - a bikini. For the record, I said no to that...but it was really cute of her to suggest and just what I needed in the middle of a crazy, busy day.

I was thankful to hear Eliot Fisk today - he is a classical guitarist - check him out at http://www.eliotfisk.com/. Just absolutely mesmerizing music.

Today, I am also grateful for my friends. For the last several years my friend Cori has come in for the event and for the last two years, her sister Robin, who lives in PA, has joined us too. Tonight we engaged in a conversation about having those key friends who you can share things with, bounce ideas off of, and just enjoy the simple moments in life. Over dinner our conversation ranged from  talking about all the speakers who inspired us, the inability to do jumping jacks (successfully) after having kids, the importance of finding hobbies and other outlets that spark creativity, and just how fantastic Ryan Gosling's abs are. I'm a firm believer that these types of conversations, with your friends, can make your day just a little better. Thanks Cori & Robin for a great night!

So, why did I cry at the end of Nataly's talk? Well, other than the fact that you know I cry at commercials on tv, it was really the moment when she thanked her parents, who were there with her today, for all the sacrifices they made and making her the person she was today. It might have been easier to take in if she hadn't teared up while saying it. I'm a sucker for those that can't get their heartfelt sentiments out. I tend to sob. It's not pretty. Today my eyes just turned on the waterworks and I spent a good 5 minutes brushing away my tears before going on stage with a swollen red face for pictures. I am also grateful that I heard something that made me smile and cry at the same time. How incredible is that sentiment? Pretty powerful.

At the end of her talk, Nataly asked us all to fill out a nametag that said "My name is_______________ and I'm happier today because_____________." I love walking around the reception tonight and seeing the answers which ranged from "spending time with my son last night" to "taking the water taxi today". It truly is the little things that can make us happy...and then string those happy things together to enhance your life and focus on the most important things. The happy moments in life. What made you happy today?

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