Life can be really hard sometimes, but what some research has shown is that even a hard life can be a good one, if we attach the right meaning to it. This post, which is also a podcast episode shares some powerful strategies to increase meaning in your life.
1. Decrease Regret by Taking Action
You may have listened to the podcast episode with Mauro Gatti where we talk about finding happy news and staying informed in a positive way and not losing hope with all the negative news in the world. One of the best things he said in that episode was this: “There will always be hope as long as there is action. Do you need extra hope in your life? Take action toward the things that you value!
What’s something you can just do today to decrease the regret you would have in the future?
Here are the top 5 regrets of the dying:
I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself rather than the life others expected of me
What can you do to connect with your friends more? How can you arrange your life to work less? How can you be more yourself? What are you doing express your true feelings? How are you deliberately adding to your levels of happiness?
2. Commit Something to Your Life List
I have a list that is growing. I had a bucket list before, but after hearing about Stacy Taniguchi’s 100 LIFE list, I changed the name. I don’t like the focus on avoidance of death or hurrying before you kick the bucket. I like the focus on LIVING and celebrating the life we have now.
Here are a few things from my LIFE list:
I have two categories: to accomplish and to experience.
In the “to accomplish” category:
Get a doctorate degree
Write a lastingly relevant book
Deliver a TED talk
Teach over 10,000 students about how to thrive in life
Give my mom a home to live in
Become a blackbelt in some martial art
In the “to experience” category:
experience Being a dad
Experience the summer Olympic Games in person
A photographic tour circumnavigating the globe
Thank J.K. Rowling in person
Swimming next to a whale
A bioluminescent beach at night with my camera
Your list will be different than mine, but what I have found is that as I contemplate these experiences and accomplishments that I want to have, it makes me excited to be alive. It brings meaning to the struggle in my life. The hard stuff becomes a little less hard because I’m headed toward something.
There is a book called The Happiness of Pursuit that I highly recommend. In this book, the author often talks about the importance of always having a “life-affirming quest”.
What is your life affirming quest? Do you have one right now or are you just kind of floating along? No judgement. I have definitely had some moments of floating along.
No matter what your job or your current vocation, adding something to your life list can be a catalyst for a life-affirming quest and make your life more meaningful.
If you have things to live for, you’ll be more likely to live.
3. Educate Thyself
Another one of the top regrets of the dying was that they didn’t finish or get enough education that they had wished.
There are dozens of online resources to move your education forward, even in the little non-deliberate moments during your day. Studies show that you’ll see your life as much more meaningful if you spend time learning something new like a new skill or musical instrument than if you just watch a TV show that you enjoy. Nothing against TV shows you enjoy, but if you want to INCREASE meaning in your life, it’s not the path of least resistance.
4. Join a Church or Community, or Become a Raving Fan
Belonging is one of the Pilars of meaning and being a part of a community really helps to build the sense of belonging. Some people are very religious and love being a part of a religious or spiritual community. I just took part in a global event for my church that was virtual, but that made me feel a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself even when I was just engaging virtually.
I’m a part of the greater positive psychology community and I love gathering with others who feel called to help the world become a happier place. Tonight I’m gathering with some of my fellow positive psychology activists. They are my tribe. It feels like a family where I belong.
I’ve never been a huge fan of any sports team, but I have felt the exhilaration from being a part the roaring crowd like in 1997 when the Jazz played the Bulls in the NBA finals or when Jimmer Fredette was leading BYU to the final four in March Madness or when I was cheering for team USA at the Penn Relays Carnival in the USA vs the world races. It’s a magical feeling to cheer for a team you love. There is something deeply meaningful about it.
Whether you participate in a church or community or just pick a team to root for, it will increase your sense of belonging, which is a pillar of meaning.
One thing I have really enjoyed and that has improved the closeness of some of my newer friendships has been a fun tradition called “friendiversaries”.
We figure out what day (or pick a day if we can’t figure it out) was the day we met or became friends, and then each year on that same day, we just do something awesome to celebrate our friendship! It’s really quite special.
6. Connect to the Infinite
About a month ago, I went on a trip to the Giant Redwood forests of Northern California. One of the things on my life list was to hug the tallest tree on earth. This tree is named Hyperion and it is over 380 feet tall and 800 years old. It was an amazing experience to find this tree and touch and be present with it. Among the thousands of giant Redwood trees, I found myself connecting to something ancient. I took my shoes off and walked barefoot in the forest and just listened. Most of the trees were so tall that I couldn’t see the top and it hurt my neck to try. All of them were too wide to reach all the way around even when me and my wife both connected hands. This was a transcendent experience for me where I was able to spend time with living creatures that were in some cases over 3000 years old!
I have also had experiences connecting to what I believe is a powerful being that transcends our existence. Benevolent coincidences have happened to me that cause me to ask “why me?” But in a completely positive and grateful way. I know I am a privileged white male, but I also know that there are other things that have happened to me that have nothing to do with any of that. Things so intimate and personal that there is no way it could just be confirmation bias or coincidence.
Whether you connect through nature, or contemplation of the vast cosmos or praying to some higher power you believe in, do something to invoke awe in your life. This will upgrade your wellbeing and improve your health. You’ll be endowed with energy and purpose to move toward your life-affirming quests and you’ll find peace and positivity to craft a narrative for your life that will fill you up. As you are filled, you’ll be able to connect to and serve other people around you from a place of abundance.
Listen to this episode on your favorite podcast app:
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of negativity in the news? Do you doomscroll? Well, 2020 is the year of the doomscroll and it can be really hard to avoid the negativity that inundates our digital news feeds. I have spoken about the benefits of taking breaks from the news and the negative impact that constantly watching the news can have on our health. Some choose to avoid the news altogether, but with the constant changes in even our local regulations, you have to be informed.
My guest on today’s episode of More Happy Life is Mauro Gatti, the creator of The Happy Broadcast, an anxiety free news broadcast that started as Mauro’s way of using his skills as an artist to decrease his own anxiety. He started looking for positive news to balance the negative news. When he combined this with his gift as an artist, The Happy Broadcast was born. He has been illustrating and sharing positive news on social media since 2018 and it is one of the most inspiring Instagram accounts I have ever followed and has grown to over a half-million followers in just a few years because of the powerful positivity that he is spreading. I even did a special episode based on the news on The Happy Broadcast.
I loved my conversation with Mauro and hope you not only listen to our conversation, but that you go follow his inspiring work. We all need a little positivity boost amidst the things that are out of our control. One big takeaway I got from Mauro was to get out and do something. Even if you only watch negative news, do something to be a part of the solution! All the positive news is a result of someone who decided to take action for a good cause.
In our episode we covered a lot:
Why Mauro started The Happy Broadcast
How hard it is to find positive news (you don’t just stumble upon it)
The impact doomscrolling has on our health and how to stop doing it
Why it’s important to stay informed, even amidst the negative news
How to have a healthy relationship with the news and social media
How to have more hope in the face of seeming doom
The secret sauce to a happy life
Mauro’s dream for the world
My favorite quotes from Mauro:
“Kindness requires action”
– Mauro Gatti
“Staying informed is important, but being overwhelmed by tragedy serves no purpose.”
– Mauro Gatti
“Kindness is the secret sauce to live a happy life.”
– Mauro Gatti
“There will always be hope as long as there is action.”
– Mauro Gatti
Listen to this episode on your favorite podcast app:
Originally from Italy, Mauro Gatti lives in Los Angeles where everyone surfs except him. Mauro is an award-winning creative director, illustrator and designer who loves pizza, dogs, and imagining things. He also loves to make people happy with his art, because a smile is the cheapest route to happiness.
Mauro is also the creator of The Happiness Broadcast, where he finds positive news from all over the world and creates art to depict the positive stories. His account on instagram has over 530,000 followers with even more on Facebook and Twitter. He recently published a book that just came out yesterday (September 22nd) and is both pleasing to the eye and inspiring to the soul.
Sexuality and Happiness is a topic I have not discussed on the More Happy Life podcast. I have wanted to for quite some time, but I wanted to introduce it with the right person and I think Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is the right person. This podcast talks about all things from the foundation of positive psychology research. I think positive sexuality is a really powerful topic for the listeners to hear about and to discuss on social media after hearing this episode. There is so much negativity around sexuality and desire (not just in conservative cultures like the LDS culture) and I am excited to shed a positive light on this topic with an expert. Listen today as we discuss the positive side of sex and our own innate sexuality.Some of the topics we cover:
How our sexuality is linked to our wellbeing
Why sex can be such a taboo topic and how to make it easier to have safe conversations about it
What can help parents in talking to their children about their sexuality and sex
Why it’s so important to work out your own relationship with your own sexuality as a parent
The concept of human embodiment and pleasure
How people who believe they are addicted to sexuality can switch from victim to chooser
Not just the list of “DON’Ts but also a list of DO’s
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is a LDS relationship and sexuality coach as well as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois. She has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Her teaching and coaching focuses on helping LDS individuals and couples achieve greater satisfaction and passion in their emotional and sexual relationships.In addition to consultation with couples and individuals (in person and online), she teaches online relationship and sexuality courses designed to foster self and sexual development and create happier relationships and individuals. Dr. Finlayson-Fife also offers many live workshops and retreats for couples and individuals.Jennifer is a frequent guest on LDS-themed podcasts and writes articles for LDS-themed blogs and magazines, on the subjects of sexuality, relationships, mental health and faith.
When was the last time something really hard happened to you? How did that change your life? Have you healed and moved on from this? Bruce Feiler’s research showed that the average adult goes through a major disruptor about every twelve to eighteen months. And that adults face three to five big ones, what Bruce calls “lifequakes,” with an average aftermath of three to five years. This aftermath of disruptors could last over half the life of adults! I feel very strongly to help people going through major transitions and for this reason, I brought Bruce Feiler onto the show. His recent book Life Is In The Transitions is the topic of our discussion today on episode 134.
We talk about the major stages of transitions that and how to best navigate those.
The three stages of transition are:
1. The Long Goodbye
2. The Messy Middle
3. The New Beginning
During these stages there are many common markers or milestones. Bruce gets personal with me in asking me to share more details of something that was a major “lifequake” for me: my divorce. It was amazing how well my experience matched the data that he has been gathering about transitions across the stories of hundreds of people all over the world in the project Bruce has called “The Life Story Project”. We discuss how to best share your new self once you have made the decision to say goodbye to the old and we talk about the importance of ritual in transition. We roughly cover many of the following tools for transitioning:
Accepting the new you
Creating some sort of ritual to help you to symbolize the new you
Adding something to yourself like learning a new skill or creating something beautiful in your life.
Sharing this new self with others
Crafting your new story
Surround yourself with people who cheer you on as the new you
Listen to this episode on your favorite podcast app:
A six-time consecutive New York Times bestselling author, presenter of two-prime time series on PBS, the inspiration of NBC’s Council of Dads, and TV host whose two TED Talks have been viewed more than two million times, today’s guest, Bruce Feiler (FY-ler), the author of the book Life is in the Transitions, joins me in an amazing episode. You may have read his article The Stories that Bind Us, in the New York Times that went viral in 2013. Friends, I’m blown away at my guests every time and Bruce is now one of my favorite people.
For the women listeners who want to support the men in your life, this is the episode for you. For the men who need support from other men or women, listen in. I loved Kristin’s thoughts in this episode to help liberate men to express themselves. Personally, I have struggled to feel comfortable as a man to express myself. I am a very expressive person and it’s hard to know when I can express my true emotions. This conversation was refreshing for me to dive into the barriers to emotional expression that exist in Western Culture for men. We also dived into some amazing topics in positive psychology like gratitude, wonder and awe. I just returned from one of the most awe-inspiring places on earth – the giant redwood forests of Northern California. I thought a lot of Kristin’s Stop and Wonder tool.
I hope you tune in to the whole chat with Kristin Petrucci.
Note: This podcast was recorded in 2019 and may have a few anachronistic referrals; please do forgive. However, the content we talk about is lastingly relevant and worth a listen!
More About Kristin Petrucci
Kristin Petrucci received her post graduate positive psychology training from the University of Utah. She is a Transformational Speaker, Corporate Mindfulness Expert and Positive Psychology Coach. Her main focus is to help men live victoriously. She believes that Active Gratitude is the key to Victorious Lifestyle and is the Founder of KP Speaks. She would love to collaborate and can be found on Instagram @kpspeaks_ and Linkedin
In Episode 132, I speak with Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, THE leading researcher on social isolation, loneliness, social connection and how those things impact health. Maybe you have heard the statistic that loneliness is worse for your health than smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day. Well, we dive a little deeper to clarify this notion to include the difference between loneliness and social isolation. We also talk about what a healthy socially connected life might look like. We also cover a few preliminary data points on how the coronavirus pandemic of COVID-19 has had an impact on social isolation and loneliness. Listen here or on your favorite podcast app.
Main points from our conversation:
What led Dr. Holt-Lunstad to study social neuroscience and health psychology.
What is the definition of an epidemic?
Is there actually a loneliness epidemic in the world?
What data can back this up?
The impact of COVID-19 on loneliness (some data is showing a 20-30% increase in loneliness (due to social distancing).
That Gen-Z has the highest prevalence of loneliness (some data shows up to 79% reporting feeling lonely)
What is the difference between loneliness and social isolation?
Why is social connection so important for our health?
How do social connection or social isolation compare to the impacts of well researched things like exercise, sleep, smoking, etc.?
What would a healthy socially connected life look like?
Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad’s advice on how to be happier:
Increase social connection and emphasis on your close relationships.
Positive relationships are key to a happy life.
Listen to this episode on your favorite podcast app:
Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, where she is also the director of the social neuroscience lab. Her research is focused on the long-term health effects of social connection and has been seminal in the recognition of social isolation and loneliness as risk factors for early mortality. Recognized as an expert in the field, Holt-Lunstad has provided expert testimony in the US Congressional Hearing, worked on the US Surgeon General’s Emotional Well-Being in America initiative, served on the advisory group for the UK Cross-Departmental Loneliness Team, and a consensus committee for National Academy of Sciences. She also serves as scientific advisor for the Australian coalition to End Loneliness, the Foundation for Art & Healing, the Rural Aging Advisory Council, AARP Services Inc. and United Healthcare; and she regularly consults tech companies as well.
Holt-Lunstad has received too many awards to name and is making a positive mark on the world with her research. Her work has been highlighted in the BBC 100 Breakthrough Health Discoveries in 2015 and has been covered in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, Scientific American, “This American Life,” the TODAY show, NPR, and many other major media outlets. I am honored to be her TEDx speaker coach for her TED talk, and something we joke about is that her research has been cited in at least 10 other TED talks and dozens of books.
It’s an honor to have Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad on the show and I hope you listen all the way to the end for her advice on how to build a happier life.
Add more life to your days and more days to your life by applying science-backed inspiration and research from Andy Proctor, a well-being expert and PhD candidate studying the science of human connection.