Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An App to Make You Happier

I've now been using the Happier app for a year.

In honor of that anniversary, here's an article I wrote about the app featuring some local users.



Amy Oliver wanted to follow her therapist’s advice.

“She wanted me to start keeping a gratitude journal,” recalls Oliver, a 44 year old who lives in Clinton. “And I was constantly forgetting.”

Then she remembered an app called Happier that she’d seen on the iPhone app store. “I thought maybe that would be a good way to do it, to keep track of things without having to write it in the journal every day,” she says. “I became hooked really, really quickly.”

Happier launched one year ago, and was named one of 2013’sbest apps by Time Magazine. The brainchild of Nataly Kogan, Happier is based on scientific studies showing that people who write down a few positive things about their day are healthier, more energetic, less stressed and anxious, and get better sleep. The app makes it easy to share those little happy moments.


“If you actually use Happier, if you get into the habit of finding small positive things, it actually makes you happier,” says Kogan. “We have thousands, tens of thousands of emails from people that tell us just how much this has impacted their life, which is amazing.”

“It helped me to celebrate the tiny little moments that I might otherwise just forget about,” says Oliver. “The fact that other people can ‘smile’ at your moments, it helps me to realize that it’s not so stupid that I’m enjoying a coffee at Starbucks.”

Kogan sees these little moments as validation of a larger truth. “To be happy in life, you don’t need a billion dollars, you don’t need to go to the moon, you don’t need to have the perfect wife, husband, career – you can appreciate having a coffee at Starbucks. I can appreciate that I got in my car and had heated seats. I’m not going to post that on Facebook, it’s not a status update, it’s not anything epic. But you know what? I’m really grateful.”

Eighteen year old Rachel DeSilva, a senior at Spartanburg’s Chapman High, joined Happier with the intention of becoming more optimistic. “Before Happier I used Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr,” she says. “They're completely different because mostly people try to down you or complain or show how their life is better than yours in some way…But Happier is just everyone sharing their happy moments of the day and instead of ‘liking’ their status, you ‘smile’ at their happy moment. I personally love the confetti that it shows when you share your happier moment.”

Kogan recently launched a 21-day gratitude course that can be taken within the Happier app. She’s following that up with a 7-day meditation course and, later, a short yoga course. It’s all about finding ways to look for good things even when things don’t seem so good.


“It’s a place for teaching each other that these tiny moments are there, even on the bad days,” says Kogan, “and, yeah, you actually should appreciate them. It’s a moment, it’s not just the blur of life.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Holy Donuts

I wrote a song about donuts. And played it on my ukulele. And made a (lame) video for it.




Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Happier

A couple of months ago, I discovered an app called Happier.
The concept is to share three things a day, three small moments that bring you happiness. I find it to be very helpful in downplaying the negative and stressful parts of day to day life.

As one of Happier's founders recently wrote on their blog, "While chasing some unachievable state of the BIG HAPPY I had ignored so many of the small happy moments that were part of my everyday – the sound of my daughter’s footsteps as I put my key in the door and she ran to meet me, grabbing our favorite Spanish Latte with my husband on a morning walk, hearing a friend tell me I made her smile. I became a lot happier when I started focusing on these small moments, elevating them out of the routine, pausing to actually be grateful for having them in my life."


I was asked to be part of a Q & A for their blog. I really enjoy sharing the good news of Happier and was, well, happy to contribute.



UPDATE:

As Tim King mentions below, part of the power of sharing small happy moments comes form receiving positive responses from others. That's why Happier is so great (and why, I think, it's harder for it to be useful if you're using it in the "private" mode - if no one else sees your updates, there'll be no feedback).

The more I use Happier, the more I appreciate the helpfulness of it. The app is not about a bunch of Pollyanna's sharing how great everything is. It's about finding even one, small, positive thing amidst an otherwise unredeemable day. It's about reshaping your own thinking to be aware of even the tiniest happy moment. So maybe, just maybe, you'll start feeling happier all the time.

Here's founder Nataly Kogan's wonderful TEDx talk about the power of Happier - and pancakes. Mmmmm. Pancakes...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ukulele Goldsmith

So I've been busy trying to accomplish the most natural thing in the world - play Jerry Goldsmith songs on ukulele.

First up, the theme from the TV show Man From UNCLE. Who knew there were any lyrics at all?



Next, the Love Theme from Logan's Run - As We Follow the Sun.



Brings tears to my eyes.

And speaking of tears, you will certainly experience a lump in your throat while listening to my ukulele cover of Jerry Goldsmith's exquisite love theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, A Star Beyond Time.



Jerry Goldsmith is certainly smiling down on me now. Or, um, perhaps, spinning in his grave.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy St. Asimov's Day!

Today is Isaac Asimov's birthday.

To celebrate, here is a photo of me with some - only some - of my Asimov books.


Yes, I am a nerd.

Meanwhile, I would also like to remind you of my short story, In Memory Yet Green (also the title of the first volume of Asimov's autobiography). The story appears in the anthology My First Time, which is now on sale for only $2.51.

I will now celebrate the way Isaac would - by writing.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Autumn


If your family is anything like mine, you have learned more than you ever thought you would about the eating habits of giraffes.

Autumn, the Greenville Zoo’s female giraffe, is pregnant and due any day now, and thanks to a webcam, we can observe Autumn 24 hours a day. My kids love Autumn. My daughter has instructed me that if I see Autumn starting to deliver her baby during the school day, I am to call the school and get a message to her class immediately.
In the meantime, Autumn eats. And stands in her stall. And eats. And eats. And stands. And eats.

It’s oddly compelling. We’re waiting for Autumn to deliver a baby giraffe into the world.  But to look at her, you’d hardly know she was pregnant. But we wait. And we watch.

It’s strange how invested we can become in the life of a giraffe. But it’s not just our family. My wife chats about the giraffe-cam with coworkers. A recent report indicated that some 200,000 viewers across the world have tuned in to the webcam. There’s just something about Autumn.

Meanwhile, it is autumn. The days are cooling, the leaves are dropping, and you can get just about anything in a pumpkin spice flavor. My kids complain that it’s too cold, but I love it. I can’t wait to put on sweaters and jackets and have even more of an excuse to drink hot coffee all day long.

But not yet. It’s not really cold enough for scarves. And the leaves aren’t really pretty enough to justify a drive to the mountains. And Autumn the giraffe is still just eating.

So we wait. We wait for the change of season to really kick in. We wait for the leaves to turn those glorious colors. We wait for the baby giraffe to arrive. We wait. And we wait. And we wait.

When you think about it, don’t we spend an awful lot of our lives waiting? We’re forever waiting for things to turn around, waiting for the right person to come along, waiting for a sign. From God. Am I doing the right thing? Have I made the right choice? Am I doing what God wants me to do? When will I know?

The waiting is the hardest part.

Whether it’s waiting for a new baby to arrive or waiting for the weather to change, the waiting is hard.

But we can still enjoy it. For every day is a gift. Every meal is a gift. Every pumpkin spice latte, every zoo webcam, every single leaf that falls onto my lawn and has to be raked. They’re all gifts, whether we recognize them or not.

So today, choose to recognize the gifts. The simple, tiny everyday gifts. A smile from a friend. A sweater that you bought on sale last year. A leaf that, yes, has to be raked and isn’t even a deep pretty red color yet, but is, by itself, an ancient symbol of happiness and a reminder of the miracle that is life on this planet.

We are surrounded, every day, every minute, with abundant reminders of the preciousness of life and the uncountable gifts with which God has blessed us.

So recognize them. Thank God for them.

We are all busy and we are all distracted and we are all waiting for the next big thing – whether it’s a new job or a baby giraffe. 

We’re all waiting. So why not try our best to enjoy the wait.

Thank you, God.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My New Book - "Growing Greenville for 50 Years"

I wrote a book.
It's called "Growing Greenville for 50 Years: A Celebration of Greenville Technical College 1962-2012."

Produced for the college's 50th anniversary, the book was released last night at a celebratory gala. I am co-author, having written many of the chapters and helped arrange the overall flow.

It was a fun project to work on and I'm proud of the result - it's a great looking book. And I learned a lot about the huge effect Greenville Tech has had - and continues to have - on the community.