Monday, May 11, 2015

Brighten Someone’s Day - and your own - by Volunteering

Brighten Someone’s Day - and your own - by Volunteering

You may have noticed that you felt happier after volunteering for a great cause. An article on altruism and happiness on PBS explains that acts of kindness make people happier because it provides a sense of community with others, it helps people be more compassionate and find the good in others and it boosts people's self-esteem.

With so many ways to get involved and volunteer in your community, it can be hard to know where to start. Consider some of the following suggestions found below:

Global Volunteering

Do you want to volunteer in a big way? Are you looking for a reason to travel internationally? Look for worldwide programs, such as Doctors Without Borders, International Volunteer Programs Association or Global Volunteers. These programs can find you volunteer opportunities throughout the world based on your preferences and skills.

Food Banks

If you prefer to stay local, food banks or soup kitchens are a great choice because they are in most cities. Volunteering positions might include managing food intake and distribution or preparing the food for those in need. So, if you're a kitchen whiz, this could be the position for you.

Building Homes

If you like working outside and with your hands, consider volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. The organization builds homes for those in need. If working with wood and a hammer isn't for you, there are a plethora of other volunteer positions available. Check out its website if you want more information.

Children's Hospitals

Children in hospital care often have to miss out on classic childhood experiences, such as field trips, sports, after-school activities and trick-or-treating on Halloween. You can help brighten their Halloween by dressing up in full costume while you volunteer. Pick a kid-friendly costume like a super hero or a silly full-body morphsuit.

Disaster Relief Organizations

If you desire to help people in the most desperate of situations, consider working for a disaster relief organization. One of the furthest-reaching and longest established organizations is the American Red Cross. Its workforce is composed of about 90 percent volunteers, who respond to about 70,000 disasters each year.

Literacy

If you are a voracious reader, consider sharing your passion with kids. After all, strong reading and writing skills are fundamental to children's future success. There are many organizations that serve to increase literacy where you can volunteer. One such organization, 826, offers reading and writing programs in seven major cities. Learn more on the 826 website.

Animals

If you are an animal lover, consider volunteering at your local humane society. You can walk dogs, play with cats, help with adoptions or assist with general office work. Don't forget your furry friends when thinking of those in need.

Homeless Shelters

If you live in a medium to large city, chances are you have a local homeless shelter. These shelters need volunteers to distribute meals, run programs and collect clothes and materials. If you are qualified, you could even provide counseling or job training, and help instill others with skills that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On dreams, myths and happiness

A post by Laura Musikanski from the Happiness Alliance.

My life's calling - or vocation, from the latin vocare "to call" - is happiness work for me, the happiness movement is rooted in sustainability, social justice and the well-being of all
beings and this planet's ecosystems.  

Happiness work has changed my life. When I stepped into in in the summer of 2011, I felt I had found the next step in the work I was doing in sustainability (I was executive director of Sustainable Seattle then).  We brought a subjective indicator of wellbeing - the Gross National Happiness Index - to the sustainability movement, and are helping to spread the use and understanding of how to use subjective data by communities to increase personal and societal well-being. No small task. It has been a ton of work - all of it intensely rewarding emotionally albeit volunteer and hard on the pocketbook! That aside, I am still dedicate to this work and still love it. I did not know at four years ago that I was on a path that would lead me to find my own happiness.  

Four years later (and deeply happy) this work is taking me on another path that I did not expect.  Lately I have been exploring dreams and the importance of myths.  I have always had vivid, colorful dreams but never really spent much time reflecting on them. Joseph Campbell says that myths and dreams have the same logic, and Carl Jung spent much time on his own dreams. Drawing images from my dreams is part of what I am doing, and delving back into myths (as a child I spent countless hours pouring over D'Aulaires Greek Myths, then later Edith Hamilton and Robert Graves).  It feels like this work is important to the happiness work, but I do not know how... 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Finding Happiness in Your Work After 50

Finding Happiness in Your Work After 50 
Post by Heidi Cardena 

Women baby boomers aren’t fading away quietly into retirement. A large number of them are proving that entrepreneurship and following your dreams isn't just for millenials. Older women have
the strength, resources and life experience to affect real change in the world. From changing our landscapes, to changing our attitude, to changing our lives, women who use their talents are a formidable force for good. Take a look at what you can learn from these inspiring women over 50.

Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper has been enchanting audiences with her unique style, lyrics and songs since the '80s. However, her outspoken activism for the gay rights movement is a result of growing up during the Civil Rights Movement in the '60s. Now, she is a co-founder of the True Colors Fund, which raises awareness of LGBT youth homelessness and promotes tolerance for a safer and equal society. Lauper explains that she wants to inform and encourage straight people to support LGBT youth and their right to be accepted for who they are. Her latest artistic endeavor is the award-winning music and lyrics for the Broadway play “Kinky Boots,” which can be seen on Broadway now. The play keeps with her message of being who you want to be.

Barbara Davis
Another inspiring woman in the entertainment industry is the chief operating officer of The Actors Fund, Barbara Davis. The Actors Fund provides a safety net for those who work in the entertainment and performing arts industries with social services, health care services, employment and training and housing. She has been with The Fund for 30 years and is the vice president of the Waldman Foundation and advisor for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine in New York.

Hillary Clinton
Women in politics are in a position to work for fundamental change in the world. One inspirational woman politician is Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State, Senator for New York and the First Lady of the United States. She advocates for children’s rights and welfare, gender equality and reproductive rights in the U.S. and worldwide. She currently is pushing for equal pay for women and support for women in the workplace to be successful and move up in their careers. Additionally, she is working to help disadvantaged girls receive an education.
Edna Levitt

Edna Levitt
Women like Edna Levitt show that life can begin after 50. Levitt fell in love with fitness later in life and decided to share her passion with others by starting a fitness business at age 66. Not only does she run her own business, but she also speaks about and demonstrates fitness techniques for older adults and she wrote a fitness book about strength training with resistance bands.


These are just a few inspiring women entering the second half of their lives are making a real
difference in the world. Whether you start your life working with the public or change courses later on, you can find the same kind of satisfaction and success in helping and inspiring others. So, find your passion and get to work!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hungry Ghosts- reposing!

Hungry Ghosts

My father sent me an article from the Guardian with my birthday present. It arrived late from Paris,  where my father lives, like the postal service of my childhood.The article is dated January 16, 2015: Outsider’s Critique of the Hurried West, written by John Vidal. It contains nine shots against Western culture or more specifically white people –fired by Amazonian shaman Davi Yanomami: wealth, greed and selfishness, shopping addiction, the high cost of living in the urban landscape, war for natural resource exploitation, politics (no explanation needed), healthcare systems focused on illness, conservation rather than restoration of the environment, and finally the orientation of man versus nature rather than the human as part of nature.    In essence, the white man is the reason our world is going to hell. 

I can't argue.  But I think there is more to it than that.  Davi Yanomamicontrasts the white people approach to war with that of his own “If one of our people is killed by arrows or sorcery blowpipes we only respond by trying to kill the enemy who ate him.”  Is this the proposed alternative?  And - let’s not forget that its easy to criticize, easy to shoot down, easy to find faults in others.   Not so easy is the creative, generative and loving path.

Lately, I have been listening to Joseph Campbell lectures. One of his observations is that the divide    To this, I do not think the problems Davi Yanomami points out are only of the white man, or the western culture. It seems to me, the mindset of selfishness, greed and “never enoughness” – what some call “the hungry ghost” are the problems facing us all.
between the East and West is no longer. Whether the forces of globalization, media, information technology or time, the differences between “white man” and that of any other race, color, creed or nationality are diminishing.

 Joseph Campbell also said, in his last lecture for Myths and the Masks of God, that  “the first low of our biology is self-protection, the first law of the spirit is compassion.”  Here, it seems, is a sign for a solution. I have also been listening to lectures on Jung, and by way of that a lecture given by Robert McDermott on Rudoph Steiner who paraphrases Steiner as saying something to the effect of  ‘our job on this planet is to so so love nature.’  My dharma teacher, Robert Beatty, has spent much of his life trying to understand why we treat the planet and each other poorly when we are of nature, we are the environment, we are the planet.  It's a problem the sustainability movement has also been trying to understand, and the happiness movement as well.  In fact, one of the early findings in the happiness movement is that nature and happiness are deeply connected.

On the backside of the clipping my father sent me is a story of an Afghani family that walked three weeks across land “littered with landmines” leaving behind the bodies of his parents and one of his sons killed during the journey to come to Kabul where his children shake from the cold at night and the economy is “on the rise” from an annual per capita income of $210 to $700 due to international funding, mostly foreign military spending.  The article points to opium and corruption as the growth industries, and gives an example of jobs created: scrap metal collecting (by a man would dreams of going to school to become and engineer or doctor).

It’s about as far from happiness as you can get.  And yet, love and creation is in our nature as much as it is in our nature to destroy.   This is part of the reason I believe so much in sustainability and the happiness movement.  Another has to do with my family.

My father, a Parisian Jew, was a child when WWII broke out. He was one of the lucky ones who   As his daughter, I grew up within the context of survival of WWII, and with the deep crisis that happens to a people when questioning how something so terrible could happen.  I remember very early in life, looking at image of concentration camp victims. From early, I embraced that part of my job, as his daughter, was to encourage in him, and in myself, the creation of a context where people would take care of each other, and would not allow something so terrible to happen again.
survived.


As a grandmother today, I think about the world my grandson is inheriting and this is yet another
reason for my dedication to the happiness movement, as much as it is to give hope to those robbed of it from the past, it is to help lay down the foundation for future generations to live in a natural, social and economic world that is vibrant, loving and caring of each and every being.  It is easy to get lost in the horrors of the world, to decry all the evil of human nature, and to give up.  But that is not the inevitable end for humans. As great as our destructive, selfish, mean and greedy power is, with all the innovation, production and outcomes that have come from it, so great is our generative, giving, loving and compassionate power – and perhaps, even more.

By Laura Musikanski

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How do YOU define happiness?

On Defining Happiness by Laura Musikanski 
Yesterday Mitch, one of the founders of The Rules Change Project, asked me how I define happiness. He explained that he defined it by how one feels, but was wondering anyway. We had a great conversation about what it will take to bring about a new economic paradigm, sustainability and wellbeing for all.

Mitch's question is not an uncommon one -in fact, it is most common.

It's particularly important not just because of defining happiness (affect/feeling, satisfaction with life and the domains, or external conditions of life and eudiamonia) but also to put to rest the war some have on happiness, pronouncing eudiamonia (a sense of purpose, being your true self in a fully integrated way, etc.) more important than how one feels and the pursuit of pleasure or hedonism, the war some have on the impact of genetic set points versus external versus internal factors and all that.

It's important to because how one defines happiness can include all of this, and embrace the interconnections.

And, like here, I did give Mitch the usual long-winded explanation, but told him I had just finished an infographic for just that purpose. So here it is, with the hope that a picture (or infographic, in this case) is worth a thousand words:
(download here)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

On a Healthy Happy Home

How to Style Your Home for Maximum Health and Happiness,
a guest post by Katie Writes

Your home is your sanctuary. A place you can get away from all the stresses and strains of the outdoor world, and it should reflect that. The last thing you want after a long day is to come home to a place that is cluttered up, with leaks or drab paintwork.

What you surround yourself with in your home can have a huge effect on your mental and physical
well-being. Have you ever walked into a room that is light and airy and beautifully decorated, instantly instilling a wonderful feeling of calm? With a little effort, that is what your home can be like.

Homes designed for maximum happiness generally share common themes—plenty of light, well-arranged furniture and uncluttered surfaces. Using this as your base and adding in a spark of your own personality, you can create your perfectly balanced oasis.

Create Light
The easiest approach, of course, is to have large windows in every room to allow the sun to pour in. If this is not possible then paint the walls a fresh, sparkling white or neutral tone.
Avoid chunky, dark furniture as this will absorb the light. Light reflecting items like acrylics and glass will appear to take up less space, in turn making the room seem more open.
Hanging mirrors in a darker room is a great way to create light. Placed opposite a window, the mirror will reflect light into the room. Having two mirrors opposite each other will reflect light, creating a brighter feel.

Go Minimalist
Less is definitely more when you are styling your home. Get rid of clutter and allow your house to breath—your home will instantly feel more peaceful.
Choose hidden storage solutions and maximize space under tables and beds, to stash items you don’t often use.

Bring Nature into Your Home
Nature is well documented to have a positive effect on your well-being. Decorating your interior with will increase oxygen levels and help to eliminate nasty toxins from the air. Toxins can build up from synthetic materials in our home and even in our clothes.
house plants
Feng shui experts say that flowers give different energies depending on their type, so having them in your home will have a range of positive effects. Mix colors depending on your mood, like red and violet for increased energy, green and yellow for increased happiness or blue for a more calming effect.

Create a Safe Haven
Your home should be your safe place, where you can completely be yourself, whatever you choose that to be. Make sure your home has up-to-date safety features. Knowing your home is protected will allow you to relax with confidence.

Windows are an eye to the world but should be covered at night time to create that cozy nest feel. Consider implementing chic handcrafted window coverings to add a touch of personality and comfort to your decor.


After a little thought and organization, you can create a home that will fulfill all your needs, spiritually and physically. Get it right and you will enjoy a happier, healthier and more productive life.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Change the world with Castles in the Sky, and an ask for you to help build

About this post: The world changes because people build castles in the sky - dream impossible dreams, and then take action to make them happen.  Marilyn Winter-Tamkin, Meryl Lefkoff and the group at Emergent Diplomacy have been laying the foundation to build the a castle in the sky to change our economic paradigm and our world. I met Meryl in 2012 at the UN's Happiness & Well-being high level meeting, and Marilyn shortly after.  Both are phenomenal people who are doing phenomenal things.  This post is for all of you systems thinkers who believe a better future is possible (like me!), and an ask that you contribute to this world-changing castle in the sky. Laura 

A guest post from Marilyn Winter-Tamkin
People around the world are suffering and growing angry about increasing inequality,poverty, global
climate change, and endless war. Political leaders are not changing the situation.

Bretton Woods 3.0 is about changing things. Bretton Woods 3.0 is an unprecedented global summit to be held in May, 2016 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It will bring together grassroots activists who understand how to successfully mobilize large communities with leaders who focus on innovative perspectives and solutions to the overwhelming problems we face. This is a gathering where magic will happen.

After 10 days of working sessions, participants will emerge with a collaborative global strategy and action plans to ignite and maintain long term coordinated mass action. These ongoing actions will be designed to keep pressure on policy makers to change the way we measure human progress; to make our current economic policies more compassionate; and to create a new economic system that protects our children's future and the planet's resources.





Interested? Participate with Indiegogo campaign site.

We hope you will contribute generously, and ask you friends and colleagues to consider doing so, too.

Yes, we really can change the world!

Many thanks,

Marilyn, Board Director of Emergent Diplomacy