Tag Archives: happiness

“As Soon as I Finished the Video Game, I Thought, ‘Well, There’s 8 Hours of My Life I’ll Never Get Back.'”

Interview: Eric Barker.

I got to know Eric Barker through his blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree.  It’s a funny, practical, and interesting look at “how to be awesome at life.”

His new book, Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, came out last month. It’s already a bestseller and has generated a lot of buzz.

It’s all about learning what makes people successful — or not — by looking at science, great figures in history, and stories from everyday life. Some of his conclusions are quite counter-intuitive.

I knew that Eric thinks a lot about happiness, habits, health, productivity, and all the related topics, so I was curious to hear his answers.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier? 

Eric: Exercise. Spending time with my girlfriend makes me happier, but that’s less of a habit and more of an addiction.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Stanford professor BJ Fogg has a concept called “Minimum Viable Effort” which I love. Since consistency is so critical to building a habit, he says to start off doing the absolute minimum — but doing it consistently. So even if I was utterly exhausted, I would make myself go to the gym. I wouldn’t work out, but I’d go. Then I’d turn around and leave. It felt utterly ridiculous but it got me into the habit of going every day. (Now I actually exercise and it’s far less ridiculous.)

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness? 

I tend to ruminate. I’ve reduced this by using something mindfulness expert Joseph Goldstein told me: whenever you’re dwelling on negative thoughts, pause and ask yourself, “Is this useful?” 99% of the time, it’s not.

Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

Exercise, meditation, and socializing (I’m quite the introvert. If this isn’t practiced like a habit, often it doesn’t happen.)

Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

For me, the most effective way to break bad habits and encourage new ones has been through manipulating my environment. Eating healthy is easy when you only have healthy food in the house. I often employ Shawn Achor’s 20-second rule. I make good habits 20 seconds easier to engage in and bad habits 20 seconds harder. It’s shockingly effective.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

Questioner. Definitely. If something doesn’t make sense to me, I have a really hard time with it. I find this helps me accomplish tasks effectively, but can cause problems in my relationships if I don’t temper it.

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

I don’t work according to a clock. Things are done when they’re done. So that means sometimes I pull crazy long hours and everything else gets shoved aside when I’m in the thick of working — including good habits.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.? 

Years ago I spent an entire Saturday playing a video game from beginning to end on my Xbox. As soon as I was finished I thought, “Well, there’s 8 hours of my life I’ll never get back.” I haven’t seriously played a video game since.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

I resist them until they’re solidly a habit. Once they’re something I do daily, it’s like flipping a switch and I get irritated if I can’t do them.

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

Yes — but generally because they were a very bad example and I said, “Whoa, I don’t want to be like that.”

“It Is Not Just Okay But Necessary to Let Myself Feel Good.”

Interview: Courtney Maum.

Courtney Maum is a gifted writer, and her terrific new novel Touch just hit the shelves — so if you’re looking for a book to read this summer, here’s one for your stack.

It’s getting a tremendous amount of buzz, such as being chosen as an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times Book Review, as one of “The 6 Juiciest Summer Reads” by Glamour, and as one of “The 29 Best Books of the Summer” by the New York Post.

And while I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, I always do, and I think that Touch has one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long time.

It’s about Sloane, a trend forecaster who goes on a quest to understand the value of “in personism,” that is, real-life human interaction. Many of the fictional trends mentioned in Touch have already proved to be eerily prescient.

In addition to writing, Courtney Maum also has a position that instantly caught my attention – she is a product namer for the cosmetics MAC cosmetics and other companies. As someone who is obsessed both with color and language, this fascinates me.

A great job for a novelist!

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Courtney: Horseback riding. This was something I got great joy from when I was a little girl, but I stopped riding when I was ten. Thirty years later, I decided to start again. At first, I was reluctant: it felt really indulgent, it takes a lot of time and resources to ride. But it brings my mind and body such strength and honest joy. Now I feel proud that this is something I’ve decided to do for myself, on my own terms. The fact that I’ve made a habit of it reminds me to remind myself that I am worth it: that it is not just okay but necessary to let myself feel good.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Do not drink three Venti servings of Starbucks coffee in one day! I ruined my young adulthood with caffeine. I became completely hooked at a young age. I’ve always been incompetent at math, and growing up, I was at the kind of school where it wasn’t kosher to underperform, so I had a math tutor. I was thirteen, and she’d show up to our sessions with the huge cups of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, which have such a specific smell. I was so entranced by her beverage, she started bringing one along for me as well. And that was it. I became addicted to caffeine.

In high school and college, I worked at Starbucks—this was back in the late 90s when Starbucks was still novel, and I got the coffee for free, so I’d just take it around everywhere with me, like a designer handbag. I got free refills. I was drinking it all the time. I was awake my entire sophomore year.

I haven’t given up “caffeine” per se—although I stopped drinking coffee about ten years ago. I’m a black tea drinker now, one cup of tea a day. I don’t get jittery and nervous and sick-feeling the way I did with coffee. If I could go back, I’d tell my younger self that caffeine addiction is not a good look for a person who already struggles with sleep issues.

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Insomnia. I’ve always struggled with sleep issues, even when I was a little girl. It’s never been easy for me to quiet my mind, and like many people with similar challenges, the less I sleep, the more I worry about not sleeping, and so the less I sleep.

After touring for my first book, my insomnia got so bad, that (along with some other personal issues I was dealing with) I spiraled into a depression. So over the last year, I decided to do whatever I could to tackle this unhealthy habit. I saw a therapist and a pharmacologist; I tried different medications. I went to an acupuncturist, a shaman, the works. I saw a nutritionist who put me on an herbal regimen that helped. I tried going off of stimulants, off of dark chocolate, off of white rice…I tried whatever the professionals wanted me to try, but the irony of course, is that you can’t be stressed out about adhering to the rituals that are supposed to improve your sleep, because stress just makes it worse. So what I’m focusing on mostly right now is treating the root cause—my brain. I do what I can to give myself access to real happiness and rest. There are inevitable periods when I’m overworked, but I no longer want “overworked” to be my way of life. And I don’t give myself a hard time about taking medication anymore. I used to be really dyed-in-the-wool against that: I used to think that I could treat anxiety and depression by going for a run. Now, if I need support, I take a sleeping pill, and I don’t beat myself up about it.

Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

De-connected quality time is extremely important to me. And I literally mean de-connected: time spent away from the Internet and my phone. I try to start workdays writing by hand with my phone off and my computer stored away somewhere out of sight.  When we join friends for dinner, I don’t tolerate cell phones being out. I can’t stand the sight of that frenetic slab pinging away while we’re trying to settle into a conversation. It’s tough being a parent, because ideally I really want to spend time with my daughter without my cell phone on me so that I don’t even have the option to be distracted, but this is hard to do because common sense tells you that you should always have the capability to place an emergency call. This is one of the reasons I’m tempted to get a dumb phone: a secondary cell that only calls and texts. Light Phone has a great one out right now.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

Oh, yes! Earlier in my career, I gravitated toward professional opportunities that had me in close contact with a super intelligent, super creative, super passive aggressive boss. I would constantly find myself unhappy and destabilized in a job that was unpredictable and usually underpaid. And I’d drop everything for these bosses, time and time again. A single email from them would see me decimating an entire weekend of plans just so I could come through for them, be asked “what they would ever do without me?” in a thank-you text. [Courtney, I suspect that in my Four Tendencies framework, you are an Obliger.]

As creatively fulfilling as a lot of these jobs were, I often felt terrifically unhappy and unsure, and I was always nervous: I couldn’t settle into my present or enjoy a moment with friends because I was constantly expecting a missive from my high-powered boss.

The lightning bolt came in 2007 when my husband, on another day that I’d come home from work crying, told me, “You know, this job pays nothing. You went to a great college! You get that there are other jobs out there, right?” But although I quit that particular position, it took me a decade to break the bad pattern I was in. I’m mostly freelancing in the branding world now, but I now choose to collaborate with people who respect that I have a personal life, that I need private time. This has resulted in my private time feeling like a much safer space. I don’t have to worry about crazy desperate “need this ASAP” emails any more.

A Moment of Happiness from a Hobbit, from The Lord of the Rings.

“Take care! I don’t care. Don’t you worry about me! I am as happy now as I have ever been, and that is saying a great deal. But the time has come. I am being swept off my feet at last,” [Bilbo] added, and then in a low voice, as if to himself, he sang softly in the dark…

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I love that line, and think of it often: “The time has come, I’m being swept off my feet at last.” It almost sounds like Virginia Woolf.

Once, I fainted very slowly, and I remember the curious feeling of having my body utterly take control of itself, and being helpless to direct my actions consciously. It was oddly pleasurable — that feeling of being swept off my feet.

Now I want to go re-read The Lord of the Rings books.

“Once I Stopped Jonesing for WiFi, Life Was Old School Awesome.”

Interview: Daniel Lerner.

Dan Lerner teaches the most popular elective at New York University, “The Science of Happiness.” One of my favorite subjects!

His new book just hit the shelves. U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life) is a fun, comprehensive guide to staying happy and productive in college — and beyond. It’s a mix of science, tips, and example from real life.

Obviously, with a daughter going off to college in a few months, this title caught my interest. I hope that she’ll go forth unafraid, and thrive once she arrives.

Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded on the subject of habits?

Dan: While there are many influential components of effective habit formation, one that is not only among the most powerful is may also be the most pleasurable: positive, supportive relationships can turn a chore into a welcome challenge, and pain into pleasure (well…almost).  You are more likely to drag yourself for a run when you know that you have committed to do it with a pal. People regulate their study or work habits study more effectively when scheduling it with others. And, hey, none of us quit smoking because the body just stops craving nicotine – we do it because we want to see our kids grow up, and not just live longer lives, but do so longer with friends and loved ones. You’ve got to have a darn good reason to develop (or quit) a habit, and other people can help get you (and you can help get them) over the hump. [Dan, I’m guessing that you’re an Obliger.]

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Cell phones, email, and surfing the web. OMG, make it stop. I did a boys’ week last summer with my buddy, his sons and my son. We were in the wilds of Colorado, an hour away from any and all connectivity. Once I stopped jonesing for wifi, life was old school awesome. Even the boys –- whose ages range from 7-10 — were over the moon happy with board games and slingshots. Here in the city when I hang with my boy I often leave the phone at home, and for work I am constantly on the lookout for wifi free cafes. I think that my work is important, but it’s not like I am needed to save lives at any given moment. I mean really…what is so important that I can’t go for an undistracted game of catch or focus on some quality writing time?

Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

If I haven’t worked out in over 48 hours I am a different person – and by that I don’t mean a better one. Just ask my family – they have actually kicked me out of the apartment with a stern “Maybe you should go to the gym. Now.” Two hours later I have gone from rabid pit bull to playful puppy dog. Oh, and every night since he was born 9 and a half years ago, the last thing that I do before I go to sleep is tiptoe into my son’s room as he sleeps, kiss his forehead, and whisper to him that I love him more than anything in the world. It is such a lovely way to remind myself of what’s important, and a regular reminder that no matter how the day went, I am truly blessed.

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

When I am in New York City, I won’t let anything get in the way of physical exercise, because I know how much better I am for my family, friend, and work when I am able to move. On the road though it can get tough to maintain as I generally fly into a city and spend time with colleagues and students from wheels down to wheels up. That said, my sleep habits when I travel get a major boost. As the saying goes, early to bed (that’s been freshly made, where I am alone, without two dogs, and no chance of an early morning surprise superfly full body leap from the nine-year-old animal that is my son), early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and…you know the rest.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

I used to enjoy the occasional cigarette – a social smoker if you will. After my dad passed away I never lit one up again. It wasn’t that he died of cancer related illness – he lived a happy, full 88 years — but I remember the moment that it happened thinking that I didn’t want my son to have to go through that kind of sadness any sooner then he absolutely needed to. I have changed many habits as a result of my son, getting more sleep (to be a better dad), cutting back on the work obsession (to be a more present dad) and meditating (to be more present when I am present). Kids? Wha-BAM! They are a walking, talking source of lightning energy anytime that we choose to tap in. [Yup, Obliger.]

“It’s Easier to Let Myself Down Rather than to Let Other People Down.”

Interview: Amy Blankson.

Amy Blankson is a person who knows a lot about happiness and good habits. Remarkably, she’s the only person to be named as a “Point of Light” by two presidents (President Bush and President Clinton). What a credential — a two-time Point-of-Light! I get a big kick out of that.

Her new book just hit the shelves, The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies to Balance Productivity and Well-being in the Digital Era.

I was eager to hear what she had to say about happiness and habits.

Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded on the subject of habits?

Amy: I’ve learned that, despite being highly sophisticated human beings, we regularly make irrational decisions that move us further from our goals.

We have just enough information at our fingertips to think that we have thought through an idea well; however, on closer examination, there are major gaps in our thought processes (called illusory knowledge). For example, as you look at each of these pictures below, your brain begins to add shapes and lines that are hinted at but don’t actually exist.

The brain does the same thing each time we are faced with a decision, whether big or small. The brain fills in the gaps with illusory knowledge—that may or may not be accurate—to draw conclusions and make decisions. It turns out that, most of the time, we are all-out wrong. In fact, roughly 50 percent to 80 percent wrong!

This phenomenon explains why we so often talk ourselves out of making choices that we know are good for us, like practicing gratitudes or journaling or exercising.

To truly create sustainable positive change, we have to learn to recognize the illusory knowledge in our environment that causes limiting beliefs about our potential (i.e., I want to lose weight, but I don’t really think I can because I know lots of people that struggle with it—even if I have never tried). Only then can we begin to reframe our thought processes so we can mindfully begin to fill in the gaps where we might need more facts and information so that we can make empowered choices.

Or for a more personal example, let me tell you a story: Two years ago, a group of girlfriends invited me to walk a half marathon with them in the Outer Banks. Now, mind you, I have always hated running, but I thought walking wouldn’t be too bad. Plus, I was really craving a girls’ weekend away, so I signed up on a whim. About one week into training, my “friends” decided we should run the race instead. What?! I panicked. I had never run longer than one mile before. In elementary school when I was five years old, they asked me to run a mile. About a quarter of the way in, I almost collapsed because I couldn’t breathe. Since then, I had resisted running at all costs.

But, as I now understand, I had a limiting belief based upon a single data point: my loss of breath at age five. I didn’t know whether that was an asthma attack, or if I had been born with one lung (a condition somehow undetected by every doctor in my life), or if I was just perhaps not in the practice of running. So I set out to log and quantify a renewed attempt at running, using the MapMyRun App, which geo-tagged my location as I ran my first five minutes. During my first training session, I noted that my breathing began to get difficult at exactly .39 of a mile (at the four-minute mark). I also logged how long it took me to get my breath back (six minutes), how my legs felt, what my heart rate was, and in what kind of weather conditions I was running. Two days later I tried again. I made it the same amount of time before my breathing became labored. I logged that information. Then over the next few runs, my run duration began to increase, my speed got faster, and my breathing recovered sooner. I suddenly had real knowledge: I could run at least four minutes without breathing hard—but my full potential was still unknown.

Six weeks later (the halfway point in my training), picture me running five miles in the mountains on vacation. Yup, that was me. This transformation did not happen overnight but was rather a series of little battles and choices along the way that required me to rethink what I thought I knew about myself. By the end of my training, I found myself sprinting to the finish line of the half marathon, having run the whole 13.1 miles without stopping.

This feat continues to be one of the proudest moments in my life, not just because I finished the race, but even more so because I overcame limiting beliefs that I had struggled with for years. Quantifying my behavioral patterns and having more than one or two data points changed everything.

Illusory knowledge threatens to derail our decision-making about behavior change by skewing our perception of reality. These traitorous ideas are often hidden in the smallest, quietest thoughts in our heads, whispering falsehoods, spreading seeds of doubt, and holding us back from achieving our full potential. The key to making better decisions is taking the time to look thoughtfully at the details that shape our larger environment. You’ve probably heard the expression, “Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.” It’s worth stopping to realize that there would be no forest without trees.

At GoodThink, we define optimism as the belief that our behavior matters. And when we latch on to this idea, we begin to take ownership of these small moments, recognizing that they are not just fleeting thoughts but critical choices that shape our future. Until you believe that your behavior matters, change is virtually impossible. Every day, you have the opportunity to make an active choice that your behavior does matter, both for your success and happiness—not in some distant future, but right now, right here in your life.

What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Saying gratitudes every day consistently boosts my happiness level. When I’m having a hard day, this practice reminds me that there are multiple ways to perceive the same scenario. In fact, psychologist Sonja Lubyamirsky writes in her book, The How of Happiness, that 90% of our happiness is up to our perception of the world, which explains why so many people reading the same book or listening to the same talk can perceive that event in entirely different ways.

In 2008, my husband Bobo and I were stationed with the Air Force in Biloxi, Mississippi. I can honestly say that Biloxi was not on my top 1000 places to live in my life, but I genuinely tried to make the best of the experience. We bought our first home, got our first dog, and starting making friends in the community. However, three months later, Hurricane Katrina hit and I lost my house, my dog, and my community. Anxiety began creeping into my life as I felt like the world was out of my control, but practicing gratitudes really helped me to climb out of that dark place and anchor myself in what I could control.

Today, I teach my three young daughters to say gratitudes at bedtime, and I’m proud to say that they have become incredibly good at coming up with long lists of gratitudes (either that, or they are professional stallers at bedtime; either way, I feel like I’m winning).

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

First, habits are a work ethic. This sounds obvious, but at 18 I thought I could simply conceive of a new habit and it would magically happen. Now that I’m 3x older, I realize the importance of habit sustainability. I understand that there are seasons in our life, where habits ebb and flow.  When I was a young mother, I was pretty excited to just get a morning shower and remember to brush my hair; now that my kids are older, my habits are much more focused on being a positive role model (reading in front of my children, saying my gratitudes around them, doing acts of kindness, etc.).

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Absolutely! I actually have a t-shirt that says, “I’ve had my morning coffee. Now you may speak.” Coffee has become a bit of an addiction for me, not because of volume but because of ritual. I love waking up to making a steaming mug of coffee and sipping on it while I launch into my work; but if I don’t get my coffee, I turn into a whiney version of Jekyll and Hide that can’t think straight and isn’t on her game. As a naturally anxious person, I know caffeine is not good for my long-term happiness, but this is most definitely a work-in-progress in my life.

Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

A few years ago, I realized that my husband has certain habits that make him tick…I call them the four F’s: family, friends, faith, and fitness. But for me, my list is a bit different.  Acts of service, the arts, meditation, and exercise are my keys to feeling like my optimal self. When I take the time to do community service or play piano or just stare at the clouds and think, I feel the greatest sense of alignment internally and externally. I try to maintain a growth mindset about striving towards my potential (which is how the ancient Greeks defined happiness). For instance, I recently decided to pick up the cello at age 37 because I crave learning and growing with intention. I also regularly try out new wearables like posture trainers to give me new insight into mind and body.

Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

This past January, I tried something called The Daniel Fast, which was an incredibly restrictive diet that is based on the book of Daniel from the Bible.  No meat, no dairy, no sugar! For some people, this would be no big deal (evidently you, Gretchen, are one of these!); but for me, no sugar was a serious challenge.

However, I had a couple of factors that propelled me to successfully maintain the diet for 21 days: first and foremost, I knew deep down that I needed to change my sugar habit because I was addicted. It was time to do something, so I was mentally ready. Second, I had a number of friends trying the diet at the same time; I know from positive psychology that social support is the single greatest predictor of long-term success and happiness, so I leaned on my friends to help me stick to the plan. There was a LOT of whining involved, but after about 5 days, the cravings began to subside and I became a nicer person. And third, I knew that this habit change was for a defined period of time, which enabled me to feel like the task was do-able and also not permanent.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

I’m an Obliger. I wish I weren’t, but I am. Because I’m an optimist, I attribute my tendency to meet outer expectations rather than inner expectations to my strong sense of empathy.  But even as I write this, I know it’s a cop out. I don’t like conflict, and it’s easier to let myself down rather than to let other people down. However, as I’m growing older, I’m beginning to realize that other people’s opinions don’t matter as much as my own; in fact, other people are watching me to shape their own behavior.  As a thought-leader in the digital well-being space, I need to lead the way, even if I make mistakes along the way. I receive letters on a daily basis from readers who remark how my authenticity and transparency is inspiring to them. So if my story helps inspire one other person, it’s all worth it.

[For those particularly interested in The Four Tendencies: Note that this is an accountability strategy that works for many Obligers: thinking of their duty to be a role model for others.]

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

Travel certainly throws me off of my healthy habits, but I recognize that I tend to baby myself a bit more when I’m traveling (more coffee, more chocolate…) to deal with the stress and uncertainty. I’m actively trying to fight these temptations by indulging myself in other ways. I recently found a bag of Biena Honey Chickpeas in an airport store. I indulged on those instead, knowing I was loading up on protein and fiber instead of just sugar and caffeine—and I felt so much better afterwards!

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

In my line of work, I test out hundreds of gadgets and apps designed to increase well-being. I’ve been shocked by posture trainers, pricked by blood testers, and had my skin ripped off by Velcro adhesive. I’ve literally got my skin in the game! That being said, I was particularly shocked to have a lightning bolt experience with a wearable called the Spire Stone last summer.

As back story: the Spire Stone is a small lava-shaped rock with a clip that attaches to your waistband or bra strap; it uses your breathing patterns to determine if you are feeling calm or focused or tense. As a naturally anxious person, I found this feedback loop useful to remind me to breathe more often; however, about five days into my trial period with the Spire, this device went from fascinating to fundamentally transformative for me.

Through an unfortunate series of circumstances, my eight-year old daughter Ana broke her neck last summer in our backyard pool. Fortunately, she is fine now and doing back handsprings all over the house; but at the time, I remember driving Ana to the hospital to get X-rays while wearing my Spire stone, and it surprisingly said that I was feeling quite calm…it wasn’t until we were walking out of the hospital, with Ana in a giant neck brace, that the Spire stone began to vibrate, indicating that I was feeling tense. And I thought, yeah I know–my daughter just broke her neck!! But the vibration caused me to pause and think about why I was feeling tense, and I realized… “I was worried about what other people would think about me, as the mom of a child with a broken neck…rather than being present with Ana, supporting her as she wrestled with her new reality—a summer of no gymnastics, no lacrosse, no swimming. This 30-second feedback loop from the Spire stone was just enough to help me reframe my thoughts and mindfully pivot to be more of the mother I wanted to be.

For me, this is technology at its finest—helping to raise our consciousness and to fuel well-being through science-backed solutions. And I was incredibly grateful to have this lightning-bolt moment to help me align my intentions with my actions.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

I embrace habits whole-heartedly!  I maintain a chart on my bathroom mirror called “My Journey to Health and Happiness” to help me keep track of my daily habits; rather than by tracking my habits by the day of the week, I focus on trying to maximize my “win-streak.” Speaking to another gold star junkie, I know you’ll appreciate this—I literally give myself a gold star if I complete a task, which helps me get back on the horse if I miss a day or two.

1pixAmy Blankson Happiness Habit Chart

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

My brother Shawn Achor (author of The Happiness Advantage) has had a big influence on my habits. He was the one who introduced me to the science of positive psychology, and taught me how “the twenty second rule” could help me stick to my positive habits better (i.e., make positive habits twenty seconds easier, and make negative habits twenty seconds harder).