How To Plan Gift Giving For The Holidays

By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S

Christmas is a chore when you  have five children. When they were young, like very young, it wasn’t as difficult. But as they got older, the toys and needs got much more expensive. When we were not so wise with our money, we would easily put 2000.00 on a credit card and not have it paid off till the spring. We have tried many different way to do Christmas gifts without breaking the budget.  We now draw names at Thanksgiving since most of them have a significant other. We also celebrate gift giving on New Years day and save Christmas for more reflection, hanging with family and just enjoying the day.  This means that the week after Christmas, we shop and get all the great deals. Since we all only buy one nice gift, we end up having a great time finding that deal and giving a great gift. But over the years, we have learned some key ways to save money for Christmas gifts should you celebrate in this way.

1). Make a list and a budget and keep to it. When you know what people need or want and pair that with what you CAN afford, it is easy. Shop on Amazon, have it sent a month before Christmas, Viola! This is a sure way to not exceed your means, don’t spend more than you can afford.


2) Go in with someone on gifts. Sharing the cost with other family members or friends means you can be more creative and spend a little more money by sharing the cost. This is also a fun way to spend time with others during the holidays.


3) Draw names.  This is easy, and you can buy the person what they want since you only must get one person something. This method is easy on the budget and the person can get something very nice.


4) If you don’t have a lot of money even with a budget, make gifts and food. You can dress up containers in nice paper and make a special tag. See Recipe below.

Hot Cocoa Mix


  1. 2 cups confectioners' sugar

  2. 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process

  3. 2 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder

  4. 1 teaspoon fine-grain salt

  5. 2 teaspoons cornstarch

  6. 1 pinch (or more to taste) ground cayenne pepper*, optional

  7. Hot milk or water to serve


  1. Combine the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, milk powder, salt, cornstarch and cayenne in a large airtight container. Secure the lid and shake vigorously to combine and remember to shake prior to every extraction.


  1. To serve: Place 2 tablespoons of the mix in a mug and add about 2 fluid ounces hot water or milk. Stir to combine. Fill the mug with more hot water or milk and enjoy.


  1. Don’t stress. Remember the point of gift giving. Some time it isn’t worth the stress to give what you don’t have. Make a card to express your love and kindness. Give to the people that mean the most to you. Next time you have more money, you can buy them something special.  I have never believed that going into debt to give people gifts they don’t need or want is ever a good idea.

5 Things You Shouldn't Say to Your Spouse

By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S

This May we will be celebrating our 30th year anniversary. We had 5 children and 2 are married and one is about to get married. Our married children often share with us the issues they struggle with. We laugh and think; “We haven’t fought about those things in years”. This is because over time, we have learned some valuable lessons to de-escalate an argument, to create endearing moments, and to not let things get under our skin. Below are some of our personal rules for things you shouldn’t say to your spouse.

 Don’t criticize with mean words you know will get a rise out of your partner. This seems to be a favorite of newly weds when first learning to fight. You don’t know what to say, you are hurt, and you think of the one thing you know will make them hurt, “you are fat”, “you are lazy”, “you are a liar”. These digs and insults come out every fight and cause division, resentment and can seriously damage self-esteem. This is the person you chose over everyone else, treat them with respect and leave off the 4th grade insults.

Stay away from absolutes (Always & Never). When you are fighting, and you say; “you always” or “you never”, you are stating an absolute that is rarely even possible. Telling your spouse “you never support me” or “you are always dramatic” states that they have never or always do that one thing. When in fact there are times they are supportive or not dramatic, we just focus on the negative. These statements negate all the good things done and makes for a difficult hole to get out of. Try stating something like; “I feel unsupported sometimes” or  “today you seem to be fighting some difficult emotions, how can I help”

Try not to blame your partner. Blaming your partner puts them on the defensive and makes them feel horrible. When someone feels horrible it is hard to admit to wrong doing or even want to change. Stating things such as; “Why didn’t you pay that bill, or Why didn’t you clean the house” is judgmental and lacking in support. Try saying things with “I” statements such as; “I feel worried when a bill isn’t paid on time” or “I get concerned when the house isn’t as clean as you usually have it, are you ok?”

What ever you do, don’t involve your in-laws in your fights. Of course, mom and dad have good advice but for your spouse, not you. They want to kick their butt or give them a word or two. This does no good for your battles. You want to figure things out between the two of you without input from the peanut gallery.  It will ruin future communication if one of you is afraid of getting tattled on to a parent and respect will be lost.

Don’t threaten to withhold love, sex, money or time. Giving threats is stating you have run out of proper communication skills to work out the issues. Talking things through and coming up with appropriate compromises is essential. If the argument isn’t settled, agree to disagree for this moment in time and decide to pick up conversation later to see if you can’t make progress on compromise.

Tips for Healthy Conflict Resolution

By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S

Have you ever avoided going to family functions because of that one irritating family member or friend? Do you keep to yourself because Uncle Dave brings up politics with you even though you have nothing to say to him? Do you have that one friend that constantly shares their beliefs and world view on you, instigating you into a conversation which inevitably ends up in an argument in which you feel exhausted and stressed? Do these situations make you want to stay home for the holidays and avoid any an all arguments?  I feel the same way, but there are proven techniques that can help you in conversation to de-escalate a situation and even make it go away. Try some of these handy phrases with your next overly exuberant relative or friend and see if it doesn’t calm him/her down.

According to Shira Offer  “Difficult people are likely to be found in contexts where people have less freedom to pick and choose their associates,” Offer noted these individuals are usually people “with whom our lives are so complexly intertwined,” like family members and coworkers. “Social norms do not allow us to simply walk away from them, however much this might be tempting to do sometimes,” she wrote. Because of that, we need to find ways to navigate conflicts gracefully (Duan, 2018).

 “Arguments are a part of most relationships, friendships, and workplaces. Humans are social creatures, and inevitably we will come across a person’s perspective or a topic area with which we disagree. While we try our best to be respectful, it can be difficult keeping things neutral” (John M. Grohol, 2016).

Below are some proven techniques that will help you defuse an argument. You may not WIN the argument, but you may still be friends when it is all over.

1)  Take a breath and pause. There are no rules that say you must respond immediately, especially if you feel attacked. Stop for a minute, pause and think about why the person is saying what they are saying. Disagreeing just for the sake of fighting back gets you know where. Pause, count to 3 or 10 if you must, to calibrate your responses.

2)  Listen! No, REALLY listen. Practice on your family members by reflection. After someone says something reply with; “It sounds like you are going though….” Or “I hear you saying…” When someone feels like you are listening and really hearing them, they feel validated. Listening is not the same as consent. You do not have to agree with a person to listen to them.

3)  Express appreciation for their opinions. Express how much you appreciate the other person’s point of view and establish respect for their opinion, though different from your own. Compliment them on how passionate they are for their concerns on the matter.

4)  Agree with at least one thing said. When in a heated discussion, you can find one thing the person has said that you can agree with and share with them. This can be as small as stating “I agree this topic can be tough to navigate for people” This removes the need for the person to dig his/her heals in. This also shows you are not determined to burry them with your own thoughts and opinions but rather you care about their point of views too. After you find common ground you can disagree respectfully.

5)  There doesn’t have to be a winner. Decide early on the value of the conversation, realizing that there doesn’t have to be a winner, nor do you have to agree with something you feel passionate about. Realizing it is ok to not agree with someone and ok to not WIN the person over to your side, is OK. You can go home the same person, without giving up your convictions but may learn something from someone else in the process.

6)  Be confident in who you are. Sometimes people who are passionate about their arguments, may tend to get personal with their digs and insults because of their passion. Don’t take it personally. Know who you are, what you stand for and express to the person you are interested in what they have to say. Thank them for sharing their point of view and giving you something to think about. Don’t get caught up in the emotions of what was said.



Duan, C. (2018, February 13). How to De-Escalate Conflict in Any Situation. Retrieved from The Wire:

John M. Grohol, P. (2016, July 12). 6 Tips for De-Escalating an Argument. Retrieved from Psychcentral:



Understand Your Teen


By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S

I first want to say that even after five children, I don’t think I am an expert, but after 8 years of therapy, 5 children and being a teen myself, I feel I do have some insight to what they are feeling and going through. Maybe that is why I like working with teens so much. If you ask my children, they hated talking to me, they said I used therapy terms on them such as, “tell me about”, “so you are saying” and “you must be feeling”. My children didn’t like this, but they are useful phrases for my office and teens that visit me.

First, when I was a teen, I did not get along with my folks. I was part of a blended family and of course, nothing was ever fair. I fought with my mother, my step siblings, my father and his wife, my stepfather. I felt I had no friends, did terrible in school, was chronically depressed, and even wanted to end my life and thought about suicide often. I had an eating disorder, hated myself, low self esteem and felt nobody understood me. I had suffered several instances of sexual trauma, sexual abuse and bullying from others and thought I was the stupidest person on earth.  So, when a parent said things like “ snap out of it”, “when I was your age….” “you are so negative”…I knew they didn’t get it or understand.

With my own children, I remembered this and tried to be there for them, and then I found myself saying the same things, “Why are you so negative?”, “Life is short”, “smile”, “life isn’t that bad”.  I tried to empathize with them and tried to let them know I understood, but like my parents, I really didn’t. I made assumptions that I knew, I closed myself off to their emotional needs thinking their experiences were just as mine were.  What I didn’t realize until I started counseling teens, was that every year teen experiences change, new things exist, challenges change, people change and life changes. The things I experienced are much different than the things my children experience.  Every year my kids were teens, they each experienced it differently. Not only are the experiences different, each personality is affected differently.

I started to really have an extreme love for teens in my counseling office. I started to really bond with them quickly and my empathy grew for this age group. Now when I see teens, I get it, and I understand things I never even understood with my own children. Parents ask me all the time, “are they bipolar” “will they ever go back to normal” “is he/she different than everyone else”. Most of the time I can say, “No, they aren’t bipolar, they are just experiencing emotions through their personality in their lifetime issues”

Why are things so hard? I don’t know if things are harder than they were when I was a teen, but because we aren’t a teen in this hard time, we can’t understand things or compare them to when we were teens. We must be able to bend our beliefs and knowledge to include the issues that are of today into what the teen is experiencing. When a teen says, “You just don’t get it” or “You don’t understand” chances are, you are comparing their life to your own, and you really don’t get it.

What can you do? Below are a few things to try to help build a stronger connection with your teen.

  1. Try to sit and listen and not say anything, just listen. Things you can say to show you are listening are; “I hear you saying”, “tell me more”, “it sounds tough”

  2. Do you not use the word “Why”? This word makes kids feel stupid. They assume you don’t trust them, and you think they have made a bad mistake and there is no turning back. Instead say something like, “Help me understand” or “what can I do to help?”

  3. Don’t judge.  It is possible your teen is experiencing something you have no idea about. Again, ask, “help me understand”.

  4. Seek professional help from a good counselor.  There is nothing wrong with seeking a therapist, they may have different insight that you do and offer some skills for the family that is helpful during the teen’s life. Getting counseling doesn’t make you weak, it means you are strong. Almost all our therapist here have gotten therapy at some point in their lives.

  5. Have patience, this too will pass. Your teen is developing into a young lady or young man and you have an opportunity to put your fingerprint on their life. Being patient with their mood swings, crazy ideas and strange issues, makes it easier for them to need and trust you later. This is the time for YOU to be the hero and let them be them.

Quest for Happiness

By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S

In many of my quests to embrace what life has to offer, I have learned how to do some awesome things that create a sense of happiness and contentment. Just a few things I love doing and have learned to do that bring me more happiness are; weekend cooking, crockpot cooking for a month, budgeting, organization hacks, Chicken keeping, vacation planning, budget parties and party planning.  However, I get the most enjoyment and happiness from the following things; Gratitude journaling, giving my time or money and being mindful.



Gratitude journaling is not a recent invention, it has been around many years with many adaptations. A gratitude journal isn’t just a happy recording of a day like thanksgiving, it is a record of things you really appreciate in life and you appreciate them being in your life so much you write them down. It is a creative way to bring more positivity into your life instead of focusing on what is not good, or things that have not gone as planned. 

For instance, when irritating things happen to us, sometimes that one event taints our whole day because we talk about it for hours. “Can you believe this, I took my car to the shop and the woman was so rude, she told me my warranty expired yesterday and they can’t replace the tire for free. She practically yelled at me. I am telling everyone how that company treated me.” This one comment will make the rest of the day seem horrible, awful and remove the potential of seeing anything good the rest of the day or even week. 

The gratitude part that could be recorded would sound something like this. “ I got a nail in my tire and took to the shop to get fixed. The lady seemed like she was having a bad day, so I asked if she was feeling ok. She replied it was a hectic day and then informed me my warranty had expired. I told her that was ok and asked if there were any deals on tires and she talked about one deal that I could take advantage of. I thanked her and told her about some good restaurants in the area for a good lunch, so she could take a break. She was appreciative that I was so nice.  I felt happy I could brighten her day. My tire was fixed in an hour and I got a 30% discount when she rang me out”  In my journal, I write about how grateful I was that I could get my tire fixed and that I was able to get a discount, I write how thankful I was to be able to cheer someone up and say a little prayer for them to have better days. I shared in my journal how happy I was that I didn’t have an accident on the bad tire and hurt myself or someone else”  Being thankful becomes so much more when we choose to view our circumstances from a positive point of view rather than focusing on the bad things that happen. I often feel so much better realizing the good things, rather than wallowing in the bad.

Here is a template;


I believe that when I give some of my money or time to a person in need, it brings me great happiness. I am still not sure why this is.

Patrick Svedin writes “In a 2008 study, subjects were asked to rate their happiness and given an envelope containing either $5 or $20. The participants were randomly assigned to either spend the money on themselves or on someone else by the end of the day. (Dunn, 2008)

“Those who spent the money on someone else reported happier moods than those who spent the money on themselves. A separate group was asked to predict outcomes of the experiment and most believed those who spent money on themselves would be happier. Not only were they wrong, they were significantly wrong. The research suggests “thinking about money may propel individuals toward using their financial resources to benefit themselves but spending money on others can provide a more effective route in increasing one’s own happiness.” Ed Diener, E. S. (1993)

So, are we confused about the idea that spending money on ourselves brings us more happiness? We do get that great rush of energy when why buy great new things, but it doesn’t last long.

“Studies have shown when an individual’s basic needs are met, the amount of income as it relates to our happiness is weak, Haltiwanger, J. (2014)”. In his 2008 book Gross National Happiness, best-selling author Arthur C. Brooks says research reveals if you were to increase your wealth with about $100,000, you would increase your happiness level by two percentage points.

“This suggests that other strategies (such as working on spiritual or family life, or volunteering for charity) might be more cost-effective than simply striving to get more money,” he writes. Brooks, A. (2008).

I know from my experience, when I give a little money or time to someone else or a charity or a friend in need, I feel amazing, whole, encouraged and happy that I was able to help. True wealth is not acquired through earthly possessions, but by leading a fulfilling life. (Haltiwanger, 2014)There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing you have made a palpable difference in the lives of other people.

Giving to others might take money out of your wallet, but it could mean the difference between life and death for some people. You never know how far a dollar might go. A tiny stone can create a massive ripple when thrown into water at the right moment.


Being Mindful is a relatively new activity in my life. Within the last 10 years, I have learned to understand what it means to be mindful. Learning the art of mindfulness keeps me from engaging in otherwise unhelpful activities that cause a significant amount of distress in my life. I have learned that being in the present moment, I relieve myself of the responsibility of being a worrier, and a negative influence on those around me.

Being mindful is all about this very moment in time. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but this moment. I find when I am worried about finances, or something I said a while ago, I take a moment to reflect on this very second. Breathing slowly and taking in the appreciation of the moment. Gretchen Rubin states in her book; (The Happiness Project) “The days are long, but the years fly by” This is so true. When my kids were young, I remember dreading the daily grind, the bottles, diapers, fighting, screaming, late night feedings and sickness. Now my children are all adults, and I miss their cute baby faces and wish for a day to see them as little munchkins again. I embrace every moment now and I stop myself from thinking about all my regrets, lost moments and faded memories. I see them now, I enjoy this second now, as it will be gone too in a jiffy. 

Being mindful brings peace to a long day, softness and understanding to frustration and knowing to the unknowing. When I take time to be mindful, taking away all my distractions, I get happier. It just happens. I enjoy life more, I am more content and appreciative.

There are great apps for your phone that can assist in mindful learning. Try some of these on the list: Breathe, Calm, Relaxing Music, The Mindfulness App, Mindfulness Coach, Pacifica, Happify

By John Kabat Zinn


Brooks, A. (2008). Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America and How We Can Get More of It. Basic Books.

Dunn, E. A. (2008, March 21). Spending Monday on Others Promotes Happiness. Science, 1687-1688. Retrieved from Science.

Ed Diener, E. S. (1993). The Relationship Between Income and Subjective Well Being: Relative or Absolute? Social Indicators Research, 195-223.

Ed Diener, E. S. (n.d.). Their Relationship between income and subjective well-being: Relative or Absolute?

Haltiwanger, J. (2014, December 14). The Science of Generosity: Why Giving Makes You So Happy. Retrieved from Elite Daily:

Rubin, G. (2009). The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning ... Harper Collins.





Failing for Success

By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S


I see many clients whose biggest issue stems from failure. This doesn’t surprise me, as I try to avoid failures in my own life too, as they are seemingly more painful than I would like to experience. When talking to my clients, I have deducted that for most of them, failure is something that they would like to avoid or experience if possible. In many of the clients experiencing failure; they personify the feelings into “they are a failure”. I have also experienced these feelings myself. I began to wonder, why when we experience a failure in an area, we become failures? So, in my research to help client’s not feel like failures, I have found some helpful tips to help us all realize that failure isn’t about failing, it is about success and the process of failure makes us a better person. Here is how it works.

In 2008 started a business called Road to Zion Books. This business was very successful, in the beginning. The money was pouring in, we had a great client base, great website, good webstore and it was working great. Then it wasn’t. It was broke, and it didn’t work, and it took us two years of being in denial before we went bankrupt and lost our business, home and everything. I failed. It was extremely painful, horrible and my poor kids lost their home too. I felt like a failure, I was a failure by all the definitions I knew of. But was I really a failure?

We often too many times think that we are what we do. If we fail at something, we ARE failures. I had to process this for some time, do some research into people who have failed, listen to my clients to come up with what I am about to tell you.  I am a person, I am made up of more than my failures and failure is a process to our ultimate goals for success.

Think about  Bill Gates. At age 17 he and his childhood friend started a business called Traf-O-Data. When showing a supervisor his product, it failed to perform. The business failed to get off the ground. If Bill Gates had thought of himself as a failure, and he gave up, where would he be today (Worker, N.D.).

I am sure you can think of failures in your own life that brought you closer to something you wanted or were striving for. Therefor, I have put together 3 reasons we should embrace failures.

1). Failure is our great teacher. When we fail, it is connected deeply to intense emotions. We are not likely to forget the failure and the accompanying lessons we learned.  I learned not to take my business for granted, I learned that I need to do research for a well-run business. I learned that you can’t always depend on others to do things the way you want, and I also learned that I had too high expectations. These lessons have served me well in my other businesses which are being run successfully.

2). Failure is a word, an action, it is not who you are. Many times, we get caught up in labels and for those with low self-esteem, you are looking for excuses to put yourself down. I ate too much, therefore I am fat, I failed, so I am a failure, I didn’t sleep last night, I am an insomniac, I missed the note in the song, therefore I am a lousy singer.  These are all mistruths.  I like the quote, it is not our mistakes that define who we are; it is how we recover from those mistakes (Bennett, B.,

3) Failure inspires and motivates us. Yes, we can choose to be discouraged by failure, but why not be inspired by the knowledge that failure provides to us. The inspiration helps us make appropriate changes to our lives, character and growth to get closer to our goals. Failure is an opportunity to make things work. "A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do to endure the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying." B.F. Skinner

Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Living an examined life is important; it’s what inspires growth! We should always reflect on our goals, our priorities, our relationships and the way that we treat others. This kind of self-awareness is what helps us reaches our highest potential. However, as someone who is constantly examining my own life, I have also found that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. The right way pushes us on. It allows us to celebrate our successes but also gives way for improvement. The wrong way, however, can leave us feeling full of guilt, remorse and regret at the things we have said and done in the past. It is in these moments where learning to forgive ourselves becomes vital (Willis-McNeely, 2013).



Bennett, B. (2018). Brainy Quote. Retrieved from:

Image. (2012). Retrieved from:

Willis-McNeely, E. (2013, June 14). You Are Not Your Mistakes. Retrieved from Darling,:

Worker, W. (n.d.). 48 Famous Failures Who Will Inspire You To Achieve. Retrieved from Wonderlust Worker:

Is it a Meltdown or a Tantrum?

Written by: Dr. Penelope Chavez-Frigon, Psy. D.

I recently completed a seminar on Autism, specifically on evaluating and managing meltdowns.  I found it very interesting that far too many people, including professions interchange the terms meltdowns and tantrums.  They are actually vastly different.  So, I pose two questions: Can a meltdown turn in to a tantrum? And can a tantrum turn into a meltdown?  The answers are no and yes, respectively.  What are the main differences between the two? 

A meltdown is completely out of a person’s control and is not something voluntary.  A person (particularly an individual with autism) cannot control a meltdown.  Once a meltdown happens, it has to run its complete course.  Cognitive functioning/cognitive awareness is completely lost during a meltdown.  It is not purposeful, it is not seeking to manipulate a situation, the individual is not trying to get something out of it.  It is not behavioral and behavioral modification is not going to work.  There are generally visual cues and often reasons for a meltdown.  Maybe the individual has a sensory overload.  Possibly there is a surprise or a change in a routine.  Maybe the person encounters a problem and has no clue how to solve it.  For an individual about to experience a meltdown, it may very well feel like the end of the world is about to happen.  The person who is experiencing the meltdown is experiencing a primitive fight or flight reaction.  Given this, unless there is an imminent safety concern, it is best not to attempt to restrain to restrict physical moment.    After the meltdown has finished and the individual has been able to calm down, you will see genuine remorse and possible shame.  Namely, the individual may ask questions such as, do you still love me?, will you still be my friend?, are you mad at me?

A tantrum is completely within the realm of control.  It is behaviorally motivated and in fact, it is a learned behavior.  The individual who is having a tantrum is seeking out something.  There is an end goal, namely to get what they want.  There is no significant cognitive impairment during a tantrum.  The individual tantruming knows what he/she is doing and will continue to tantrum until their desire is satisfied or their tantrum is behaviorally modified.  At the end of the tantrum, it is not likely that the individual in question will express genuine remorse.  I posed the question, above, “can a tantrum turn into a meltdown?”  Why is the answer, yes?  Well an individual could start out having a tantrum because he/she wants something, but then cognitive functioning is lost, or the individually becomes neurologically overwhelmed and then a meltdown starts. 





Deborah Lipsky (2018) Autism Spectrum Meltdowns: Effective Interventions for Sensory, Executive Functioning, and Social-Emotional Communication. (digital seminar)

Mirror Images

By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S

I attended a training this past week on how to “Rewire the Anxious Brain” by Heidi Schreiber-Pan, PH.D, LCPC. I had heard much of the information in a previous training by Dan Siegel. But what I  forgot was a study of "Mirror Neurons" where the neurons in the brain show activation of mirroring qualities such as eye contact and sound. Have you ever played that game with your friends or siblings, where you try to make the other one laugh while keeping a straight face? It is really hard not to laugh.  This being said, depression is also contagious or mirrored as well.  As you will see in the following video, mirror neurons also respond to touch.  Visit Dr. Christine Neff’s website for some great ideas for self-compassion and touch.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S

 “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” —Abraham Lincoln


I have lived a while now, 50+ years. I have some experience and several years of counseling myself. However, I wasn’t always happy. In fact, it would have seemed I enjoyed my sadness. When I was young, maybe even a child, I experienced shame, hate and even some physical and emotional abuses. It isn’t that I didn’t want to be happy, but I just wasn’t, I was sad, unhappy, and even mad.

People with happy brains have their parents to thank, to a certain extent, not only for happy genes, but also for loving childhoods. Studies have shown that angry or critical parents can alter a child's happiness level until it's set around age 16. But can adults adjust their own feelings of happiness (Mendelsohn, 2018)?

In our current society, researchers have found medications such as anti-depressants do what? Not make us happy, but to make us less sad. With the recent studies in Positive Psychology, we are finding methods to change the way our brain thinks to help promote more happiness in our lives.

University of California-Riverside psychology professor Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her new book, "The How of Happiness," argues that as much as 40 percent of our happiness "is left for the intentional activities that we can choose to engage in -- the things that we do and think every day of our lives." (How happy are you? CLICK HERE to see where you fall on Lyubomirisky's Subjective Happiness Scale (Mendelsohn, 2018).

Now I have learned that despite some of the negative things I experienced when younger, I could change my brain and be happier. I was a complainer, very unhappy, always unsettled, worried, anxious, waiting for something bad to happen pretty much describes my every day till around age 40. I began making subtle changes in my life along with changing the way I view things, my response to things and my choice to be happy about things.

Consider this list of 12 Intentional Actions to Choose Happiness Today. Embrace one new action item… practice all of them… or simply use them as inspiration to discover your own. (Baker, 2015)

1.      Count your blessings. Happy people choose to focus on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative. They set their minds on specific reasons to be grateful. They express it when possible. And they quickly discover there is always, something to be grateful for.

2.      Carry a smile. A smile is a wonderful beautifier. Our facial expression can influence our brain in just the same way our brains influence our face. In other words, you can program yourself to experience happiness by choosing to smile.

3.      Speak daily affirmation into your life. Affirmations are positive thoughts accompanied with affirmative beliefs and personal statements of truth. Affirmations used daily can release stress, build confidence, and improve outlook.

4.      Wake up on your terms. Most of us have alarm clocks programmed because of the expectations of others: a workplace, a school, or a waking child. That’s probably not going to change. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose control over our mornings in the process. Wake up just a little bit early and establish empowering, meaningful, morning routine. Start each day on your terms.

5.      Hold back a complaint. The next time you want to lash out in verbal complaint towards a person, a situation, or yourself, don’t. Instead, humbly keep it to yourself. You’ll likely diffuse an unhealthy, unhappy environment. But more than that, you’ll experience joy by choosing peace in a difficult situation.

6.      Practice one life-improving discipline.  Embrace and practice at least one act of self-discipline each day. This could be exercise, budgeting, or guided-learning… whatever your life needs today to continue growing. Find it. Practice it. Celebrate it.

7.      Use your strengths. Each of us have natural talents, strengths, and abilities. And when we use them effectively, we feel alive and comfortable in our skin. They help us find joy in our being and happiness in our design. So, embrace your strengths and choose to operate within your giftedness each day.

8.      Accomplish one important task. Choose one important task that you can accomplish each day. And find joy in your contribution.

 9.      Eat a healthy meal/snack. One simple action to choose happiness today is to eat healthy foods. Your physical body will thank you… and so will your emotional well-being.

 10. Treat others well.  Treat everyone you meet with kindness, patience, and grace. The Golden Rule is a powerful standard. It benefits the receiver. But also brings growing satisfaction in yourself as you seek to treat others as you would like to be treated

 11. Meditate. Find time alone in solitude. So, take time to make time and use meditation to search inward, connect spiritually, and improve your happiness today.

 12. Search for benefit in your pain.  When you encounter pain, remind yourself again that the trials may be difficult, but they will pass. And search deep to find meaning in the pain. Choose to look for the benefits that can be found in your trial. At the very least, perseverance is being built. And most likely, an ability to comfort others in their pain is also being developed.

Go today. Choose joy and be happy. That will make two of us.




            MENDELSOHN, M. (2018). Pursuit of Happiness: Your Behavior. [online] ABC News. Available at: [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].

           Baker, J. (2015). 12 Intentional Actions to Choose Happiness Today. [Online] Available at: