I can’t even remember how I made a connection with Dani and her site, Positively Present–“positive personal development, with a focus on seeking out positivity and living in the present moment.” So many of the things she writes about are the same things that interest me. I was interested to see how she’d answer some happiness questions.
Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
Dani: When I was 18, I had no idea I could choose happiness by choosing to have a positive attitude.
I used to think a positive attitude—and happiness in general—was naïve, uncool, and boring. Once I finally opened my mind to looking for the good in life, everything in my life changed. I started seeing a guy who was wonderful and supportive. I started spending time with people who were uplifting and encouraging. I created a website that has not only helped me improve my own life, but has also helped people all over the world learn to live more positive lives. And, of course, I wrote my first book—Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present—which was literally a dream come true for me.
Without a positive attitude, I wouldn’t have been able to cultivate positive relationships or achieve my life-long dreams. Choosing to focus on the good things in life has brought more good things my way (call it the law of attraction, karma, whatever you like…). And, in addition, when not-so-good things have come my way, I’ve been much better at coping with them by striving to be positive.
I’ve learned that being positive makes the good times amazing and the bad times much more bearable.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Yes. Though I’m the creator of PositivelyPresent.com, I constantly struggle with staying present. I find myself worrying about the future—or rehashing the past. Living in the now has always been challenging for me (and perhaps it always will be), but simply being conscious of my wandering mind has helped me to be happier.
When I can’t necessarily stop my thoughts from racing forward to the future or backward to the past, I am at least aware of the fact that these worries and concerns are not happening in the present. Being aware of how important it is to stay focused on the present moment encourages to me try to stay in the now—even when it’s difficult.
Staying present may never be effortless for me, but it certainly makes me happier when I’m able to do it. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s worth the effort.
Is there a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?
The first time I read Margaret Bonanno’s quote “It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis,” I was stopped dead in my tracks. I’d always thought of “happily ever after” as something that happened someday, to someone else. When I started to consider that happily ever after was something that could happen right now, to me, my life changed.
I realized I didn’t have to wait for happily ever after to happen. I could start living happily ever after now. I’ve made that my blog’s tagline—live happily ever after now—because I really believe we can create our own happily ever afters—and we don’t have to wait for someday (or someone).
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
A positive attitude (or lack of one) can have a major influence on happiness. I’ve spent time with very negative people and very positive people, and it’s almost shocking how much a person’s attitude impacts his or her life. Having a positive attitude doesn’t come easily for everyone (including me!), but it can make such a difference when it comes to living a happy life.
The trouble is that most people who tend to gravitate toward a more negative perspective don’t often see the benefits of having a positive attitude. They also don’t usually believe they can become more positive—or perhaps, like the younger me, they don’t even want to become more positive. When someone is feeling negative, it can be extremely difficult to remember that having a positive attitude is an option.
Positive thinking doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It’s something people can learn—if they’re willing to put the effort into it. And, in my experience, it’s worth the effort.
Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
When I was about 25, I hit a really low point in my life. I knew something had to change or I would spend the rest of my life in a miserable cycle of self-hate and regret. I searched online for inspiration and wisdom—anything that would pull me out of the dark, negative place I found myself in—and I started reading a lot about happiness. I’d never felt truly happy and I wanted to figure out how to be happier.
The more I read about happiness, the more I realized that if I really wanted to be happy, I had to start being positive. (Something my mom had been telling me for years, but I’d refused to listen to!) I had to start looking for the good in life. Somehow I just knew that if I started focusing on the things that were going right (even when it was hard to do that), more things would start to go right.
I created PositivelyPresent.com to document my own experiences with trying to live a positive and present life. It was a struggle for me at first (and still is sometimes), but I thrived on the support and encouragement I got from readers, people just like me who were struggling to stay positive. As the blog grew, I knew I wanted to take it a step further and create a book that would help people live more positively on a daily basis—and that’s when the idea for Stay Positive was born.
In 2013, I will be releasing another book that documents my personal journey from negative to positive. Sharing my personal experiences through my writing has helped me create a much more positive—and happy!—life for myself. Though opening up emotionally is often difficult, I’ve learned so much about myself—and about how to live a positive and present life.
From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.