Happiness Interview with The Brazen Kitchen’s Leah Lizarondo

One of the greatest blessings of my life is that I get to meet really cool people – people like Leah Lizarondo.

Leah is a fellow TEDx speaker, food writer, super successful blogger, public policy expert, former CEO of a non-profit, wife, mother, and fabulous dresser. I can’t think of anyone else I respect or admire more than her.

She also has a mega-watt smile that is frequently on display, so naturally I had to harass her into doing a happiness interview with us!

Happiness Interview with Leah Lizarondo

How do you define happiness?

This was a hard one for me and I think being older has really helped. Its like what you say — letting go of the “shoulds” — but really along with that is not giving a fuck about what other people think. Not to say I put my whole life out there in the open. But when you let go of the “shoulds” and not give a flying F, you suddenly realize that you’re free.

Freedom, the MANY definitions of it, is happiness.

I say many definitions because freedom is not one concrete thing. There’s a lot of self-consciousness in our 20s and 30s and with that we allow ourselves and our actions to be defined by what other people think–whether it’s society at large, your parents, your boyfriend, your friends. I think that’s why I moved to NY in my 20s; I wanted to be away from everyone who knew me and just be free to explore, do things, and make mistakes. And boy did I push the envelope. I made TONS of mistakes. But I would never trade it for anything else. I look back at it now and I think, well, that was fun.

Fast forward almost 2 decades later, I realize that freedom, happiness, all these things comes from our own energy and drive.

How do you fit what makes you happy into your day-to-day life?

First, whenever I hear myself say “should” its a signal for me to think again. Its a constant exercise. We are programmed by shoulds (I even find myself saying it to my kids!) so its take a lifetime to deprogram.

I also try to move towards happiness every day — even on the hard days. That may mean: pulling out my yoga mat even for a 15 minute practice no matter how tired I am, making sure I tuck my kids in and have a few moments of sweet conversation with them on a particularly busy day, doing one thing that moves a work goal forward no matter how small, eating something that makes me feel nourished.

What “shoulds” have you let go of to pursue your happiness?

I’ve had to balance my values as a parent and the pace that I want to have with my work. That’s the biggest thing — all the work shoulds.

I never changed a diaper or really ever held babies before my first child, but as soon as I give birth my whole life changed. That sounds like a cliche but its true. Before I gave birth I was 100% career at the expense of everything else. But after, I just couldn’t — and didn’t want to — do the same. From not holding babies, I became an attached parent in all its Dr. Sears textbook incarnations. I co-sleep, my kids nurse well into toddlerhood, and I like to spend time with them a lot.

Time is finite. Something had to give, and it was work.

That decision did not come without much hand wringing. Even just recently, I let go of a plum project that many people would give their right arm for. But, it would have required really long work weeks and being away too much. That decision was hard, but I have a little 21 month old who will grow up too fast (and I know that because I look at my 9 year old and think, wow, how did that happen?)

I’ve had to adjust my expectations — not in what I want to achieve work-wise (I’m just as goal-oriented), but in the time bounds.

I’ve also let go of a lot of relationship shoulds. I used to think that every relationship had to be fixed, to be just right, but really there’s freedom in embracing imperfections. And, some relationships require just walking away from. That is OK. Relationships also don’t have to be constrained within conventional definitions, social mores. Convention changes all the time — so I’ve had to set my own definitions.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?

From yoga, and the hardest to be mindful of:

Be present.

That in itself is a meditation and really hard to understand sometimes. I’m still working on this!

What do you do when you’re feeling unhappy?

I drink and do drugs. Just kidding.

I go out, see my friends, be out in the world. I learned that when I am feeling unhappy, it’s usually a feeling of disconnection — whether its with myself, where I am, with someone.

If I surround myself with good friends, good people, HAPPY people, I reconnect. And, as you know, studies have shown happiness is contagious (all kinds of energy is) and good energy is very attractive (and sexy) so I seek it out. Pretty soon, I feel so much better. Humans were designed to connect and I am a voracious connector. I love people.

I also do things that I know are GOOD FOR ME but not necessarily easy. In other words, taking care of myself.

Women have a hard time doing that. Moms I think sometimes feel guilty.You know how in those airplane safety demos they ask you to put the oxygen mask on first? I used to think, well, that’s counter-intuitive, but hey you have to keep yourself alive to be able to care for others. So I do things that make me feel alive. I make myself do yoga, I drink a green juice or two, I get a massage, I go somewhere alone or with friends.

I think of “the greatest love of all” and I used to think, that’s selfish. But really, sing it with me, “learning to love yourself…”

Thank you, Leah, for making me google the lyrics to that song and discover that it is not about being pregnant but about loving yourself – only 30 years after it was released!

Your turn! What do you do that is GOOD FOR YOU but not necessarily easy? Tell us in the comments to inspire and encourage others.

42 Quick Fixes for Happiness

Is there a quick fix for happiness? Yes and no.

There’s nothing simple you can do right now that will make you happy forever and ever. There are, however, lots of little decisions you can make every single day to help you live a happier life.

Happiness is not a destination

Being happy is a continual process, a constant choice to act in a way that reflects what matters most to you. Happiness happens when you bring to life your ideals.

Happiness, in other words, is very much about what you do.

So what can you do right now to be happier? I’ve put together a list of easy things you can do to be happier. They’re tiny actions that can yield big results – and none of them require more than a few minutes of your time.

42 Quick Fixes to Be Happier Right Now

  1. Make your bed.
  2. Stretch for a few minutes before you get dressed.
  3. Take a mindful shower.
  4. Smile at yourself in the mirror.
  5. Put together a new outfit from your existing wardrobe.
  6. Hug someone.
  7. Take a new route to work.
  8. Drive with the radio off.
  9. Send a “just thinking of you” text to a friend.
  10. Listen to a positive affirmation.
  11. Make eye contact with and smile at a stranger.
  12. Take the stairs.
  13. Stand barefoot in the grass, dirt, or sand.
  14. Eat a fruit or vegetable.
  15. Send a thank-you email.
  16. Walk around the block.
  17. Have lunch with a co-worker.
  18. Clean out your purse.
  19. Hold the door for someone.
  20. Tidy up a shared space.
  21. Listen to your favorite song from beginning to end.
  22. Take three deep breaths.
  23. Do a crossword puzzle.
  24. Draw a picture.
  25. Clear off your desk.
  26. Eat outside.
  27. Make plans to see a friend.
  28. Call to say “I love you.”
  29. Send a “good job” memo.
  30. Write down three things that you’re grateful for right now.
  31. Take an interesting picture of something ordinary.
  32. Do the dishes.
  33. Look at old pictures.
  34. Try a new recipe.
  35. Dance.
  36. Call your grandma.
  37. Do 25 jumping jacks.
  38. Answer (or finally delete) an old email.
  39. Sing. Loudly.
  40. Throw out anything that is expired in your fridge.
  41. Buy someone a cup of coffee.
  42. Write a positive review for a book, product, or favorite restaurant.

How many could you do before the end of the day today? I challenge you to pick three right now that you’ll commit to doing in the next 24 hours.

Your turn! What quick fix for happiness would you add to this list? Post it in the comments to inspire and encourage others.

Happiness Interview with My Friend Sam Laffey

This is the second time my friend Sam has given me a happiness interview. The first time, she asked me what the heck I was thinking – and her responses to my interview questions made me ask myself the same question. Turns out Sam was in “a bit of a funk-o-la” at the time even though she looked on the outside like she was doing all the right things.

That was three months ago.

Last week, out of the blue, Sam sent me another set of responses to my original interview question. The difference was like night and day.

The moral of this story: even funk-o-la is temporary.

sam laffey happiness interview

What does it mean to you to “be happy” or have a happy life?

For me, being happy is finding an inner peace with what is and making the choice to live life with intention.

Whether it’s a big choice like not going to an event that I know will drain me, or a small choice like unfollowing someone on Facebook who is throwing negative crap at my day, I consistently ask myself, “Will this feel good? Will this energize me? Will this bring me peace?” If the answer is no, well, then the answer is no.

Choosing to do more of what makes me smile, makes me laugh, lifts my heart and gives me energy makes my life happy.

What have been the best ACTIONS you’ve taken in pursuit of happiness?

#1 is making the choice to be happy, to pursue happiness.

will this feel goodFor so long, despite ups and downs, bad moments and good, I declared myself to just “not be a happy person.” Even on a smiley day where everything went amazingly, I would still say “This was a great day but I’m not a happy person.”

Once I realized that continuing to hold onto that belief was only getting in my own way, and simply feeding my fear of being happy, I made the conscious choice to do what I could to be happy, including acknowledging moments where I was happy.

Which brings me to #2. I swear Britt didn’t pay me to say this but seriously, my gratitude practice has been one of the most significant actions I’ve taken in pursuing happiness.

The primary benefit of my gratitude practice is increased awareness. Even if I don’t include every last little thing each day, I am consistently checking in with myself. “Ah yes, this feels great. I love this. I want to remember this. I want to do this again.” Or “This kinda sucks. Let’s not repeat this thing.” Another benefit is just seeing the patterns overtime of what makes me happy.

My top 3 things currently are spending time with my adorable pups, eating wonderful food, and spending time with friends. With that information, I’m armed with the knowledge to choose to do more of those things in the future.

What “shoulds” have you let go of in order to pursue your happiness?

The only “should” I’ve had to let go of in order to pursue my happiness is “You should (call, write, visit, apologize, etc) because she’s your mother.” My mother isn’t happy and blames everyone she can besides herself for that. My mother has made it clear she is not interested in having a relationship with me. My mother is emotionally abusive. It took me 30 years to free myself from the obligation of going back into that minefield, but finally doing it probably ranks as #3 up there with best actions I’ve taken to be happy.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?

The best advice about happiness I’ve received is that it’s not a race to be won and then left in the dust.

Happiness is another facet of my overall health that requires daily attention and effort, and the occasional tune-up.

You can find out more about Sam and her copywriting services here.

Read more interviews with other happy people.

How to Get More Love from The People You Love Most

How to Get More LoveWe hadn’t spoken since noon the day before when I had told him I was done.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I’d tempered my declaration to a slightly more reasonable level, “but I am done trying to connect with you!”

He opened his mouth as if to respond but closed it again without speaking. I watched him take a breath, clench his jaw, and shove down any signs of anger or understanding. And then, with a single word, he lowered the cone of silence.

“Fine.”

Shortly after that he left to spend the afternoon with a friend, and I settled into losing myself in motherhood and housekeeping. When he came home we moved in our own wide circles around the kids, overlapping with restrained civility only when absolutely necessary. The next morning he left for work without saying goodbye.

My heart broke.

Yes, I’d technically been the one to use the D word – but he was the one who was executing it so easily. He was the one pulling away effortlessly. He was the one holing up and refusing to reach out when he knew that I was hurting. I was the one he’d rejected!

Our perceptions can be so, so stupid. And blinding. And fickle.

Just a few days earlier I’d been telling a friend of mine the story of our marriage. I’d told her all about the things I learned from almost getting divorced and the horrific behavior Jared had put up with and forgiven while I was “finding myself”.

“Wow. You can’t ever say he doesn’t love you,” she’d said.

“No,” I’d agreed, “he definitely has proven his love.”

But now I was saying I was done. Now I was saying he didn’t care. Now I was saying I was the only who tried and he was the one who needed to… to… to love me better?

You can’t ever say he doesn’t love you.

With my friend’s words echoing in my head, I struggled to make sense of what I was feeling and who was to blame. Finally, I summoned my courage and sent him a text.

“I know in my head when I think about our entire history together that you must love me. But when I don’t feel loved right now, it’s really hard to hold on to that.”

The standoff was over.

With that one admission I had reopened the lines of communication and we did, eventually, find our way back to each other.

love

There are few things scarier or more painful than thinking the person you love most in the world doesn’t love you back. Unfortunately – as my own recent marital breakdown demonstrates – it is surprisingly easy to find yourself thinking exactly that, no matter what your loved one actually feels or thinks about you.

But there is hope.

It’s never too late to turn things around and start feeling the love you need. These steps can be used over and over again to pull you and your relationship back on track.

1. Stop trying to guess how your partner feels.

One of the lessons I’ve learned repeatedly in my almost 15 years of marriage is that how I feel has nothing to do with how Jared feels about me. Whether or not Jared loves me (he does) is not the point.

Focusing on how Jared feels is a convenient way for me to shirk responsibility for my own happiness.

It’s also a really good way to tick off my husband and close down communication – because there are few things more infuriating than being told by someone who is not you how you feel.

Don’t let yourself get distracted by this non-issue. Instead…

2. Figure out how you want to feel.

OK, so you want to feel loved. What else? What does feeling loved mean to you?

Love to me is about being seen, chosen and cherished.

Love to you might be about being protected, respected, valued, or desired. The more you understand about what other feelings are tied up in love for you, the better you’ll be able to…

3. Identify specific actions that help you feel loved.

This is often the hardest part of getting the love you want, but it’s also the most important.

That doesn’t mean there is one universal list of behaviors that make everyone feel loved. We interpret and respond to actions differently. We have unique triggers.

It’s your responsibility to know what your triggers are.

If you don’t know what actions make you feel loved, start with this free quiz to identify your love language.

4. Share those actions with the person you love.

I used to think that if Jared loved me enough he would automatically know what I needed.

Because apparently love makes us mind readers.

Except, it doesn’t.

The only way for our partners to know what they can do to make us feel loved is for us to tell them. The more specific we can be, the better chance they have of meeting our expectations and our needs.

Of course, this is also terrifying.

Hi, I’m feeling unloved and unloveable! Let me beg for your affection by telling you exactly what you have to do for me!

And a little embarrassing.

I really feel loved when you tell give me a specific list of things that you love about me.

It’s no wonder I tend to resort to my love-inspired-mind-reading theory.

In recent years, I’ve been able to use my history with Jared to bolster my courage in these moments. I also remind myself that I am absolutely loveable and so of course he is going to want to love me.

Ultimately, finding the courage to be vulnerable comes down to having faith that you can survive the consequences of that vulnerability – even if that includes rejection.

5. Ask the person you love how they feel love.

This serves two purposes.

First, chances are that you and your partner speak different love languages. That means that he is probably trying to love you in ways that are meaningful to him – and possibly wasted on you. It helps to be able to recognize these well-intended behaviors for what they are:

  • effort
  • proof that you can trust this person enough to reach out.

The second reason to learn your partner’s love language is so that you can…

6. Practice loving them in their love language.

One thing I’ve learned from my own experiences and from coaching others is that we tend to turn inward when we’re feeling insecure. When we are too focused on ourselves, we become like blackholes where love and light go to die. No matter how much love someone is throwing our way, we are blinded by our self-centered perspective.

The solution is to turn our attention outward.

And when we do, we’ll inevitably see that loving someone else well helps us to experience love ourselves.

Bonus: the more loved your partner feels, the more motivated they’ll be to listen when you ask for what you need.

It’s like an endless, awesome loop of love!

And you can get it started.

But be careful. You can’t love someone well with strings and expectations attached. Avoid the trap of thinking that you can skip open and honest communication if you just make your partner happy. Remember:

  • You cannot make someone else happy.
  • Being happy won’t transform your partner into a psychic.

The best way to reconnect with your partner and recharge your relationship is to rely on personal responsibility, self awareness, vulnerability, and courage. It’s with those strengths that you’ll be able to identify what you need and ask for it.

Should You Make Your Kids Happy? Dr. G Has the Answer

Every single time I have talked to a group of women about happiness, I have been asked this question:

Is it my job to make my kids happy?

Finally, I’m thrilled to have an answer that comes from a source I trust.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa – you can call her Dr. G – is a family physician and parenting expert. She’s also smart, compassionate, and believes in every parent’s ability to know their own child best (which is the only kind of parenting expert I’ll listen to!)

Here’s what she has to say about happiness, parenting, and where the two overlap.

Get the Behavior You Want... book cover

How do you define happiness?

A room without a roof? Just teasing. I define happiness as one part contentment, one part excitement and one part physical pleasure! That last part could be an ice cream sundae, a massage, a sandy beach or a boat, depending on the moment.

What is a parent’s responsibility in their child(ren)’s happiness?

Our job is to give our kids the tools they need to find and make their own happiness. We have to take the long view (because goodness knows they can’t!), and raise them towards a worthwhile adulthood.

What do you do when your kids are unhappy?

I ask them about it. I ask why, and what and how, and then I ask how he might solve the problem he faces, or how he might move on from the disappointment.

I show empathy. I do not set myself up as the person who will fix it, but I often mention that I could offer some suggestions.

dr g advice on parenting and happinessWhat “shoulds” have you let go of in order to be a happier parent?

That I should have a clean house, that I should cook a full dinner for my kids every night, that I should be with each of them for each game/performance/playdate.

We do a lot of balancing with 4 boys in 6 years, out of necessity. It’s taught me some great lessons, like what I can let go and what I shouldn’t. If we only had one child I don’t think I would have traveled that path!

What’s the best advice about happiness you’ve ever received?

That happiness is more rare in the “big” moments than in the everyday. We often have a lot of expectations built up and emotions swirling at the milestone events. That the happiness in the car on the way to the graduation while singing along to a great song on the radio is every bit as valuable (and often more achievable) than happiness while shaking the university president’s hand.

How much do you love the idea of a parenting expert who might not have a spotless house or be serving a homemade dinner every night? Lots!

But that doesn’t mean that Deborah is a hands-off parent. In her new book, Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate, Dr. G makes it clear that she wants her kids to succeed in the real world and she takes a proactive approach to making that happen. If you’re looking for some practical advice to get your kids to be more responsible, respectful, and resilient, I highly recommend checking it out!