behavior · creativity · culture · happiness · Social

10 Ways to Make Your Life More Playful

As we start summer, remember to spend some time playing! Here are 10 tips how.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” ~George Bernard Shaw

I was 25 and traveling through Ireland by myself. I was in Cong, a rural small town outside of Galway. It was quiet. Very quiet. Even though I had met people on my trip, I was starting to feel lonely.

I was thousands of miles from home. I had nobody around who knew me well or cared for me, and in the days before cell phones or internet cafes, I couldn’t just get in touch with my friends or family at the drop of a hat.I went on a walk in a local park, along a wide stream that emptied into a small, pristine pond. The weather was grey and gloomy, the park was damp and romantic-looking, with its bending trees and dark water.

On a whim, I sat down by the edge of the pond and began to do something I hadn’t done in probably 15 years: I started to build a fairy village out of sticks, pebbles, and leaves.As a child I had practically lived in the backyard, building intricate tiny villages, exploring the spaces in between plants and trees, making tree roots into cottages and lumps of mud into hillsides.

It calmed me down and got me away from sometimes troubling thoughts. In Ireland, I found the same thing happened: My loneliness and anxiety vanished, and an hour or so later when I finished, I felt better: lighter, and less worried.

read all about the 10 Ways to Make Your Life More Playful.

behavior · creativity · emotion · happiness · psychology

Surefire way to make yourself smile

Feeling a little down after the festive weekend with possibly WAY too many chocolate bunnies? There is a cure for that. But don’t take my word for it, ask Canadian artist Alison Ann:

I was a bit sad that my vacation was over until I remembered this little gem of a project that I did on a cool January eve.

The goal here was to draw 100 smiley faces in an act of self cheering.
It totally works.
Here is my sample, and I encourage you to do the same.
If you do do the same you should share it with others too.. or share it with me!!!
Or share on this blog! 🙂

Happy Monday!


anthropology · behavior · brain · community · happiness · health · mental health · psychology

Life Lessons Passed On

English: Elderly Muslim during the Republic of...

I was really inspired by that blog post I shared a couple of months ago about cancer survivors and what they’d learned about life. I also posted a survey done with older folks last year giving advice on what NOT to do.

Well, thankfully all of that hard-earned knowledge is coming out in book form. Many of the interviews can also be at From the NYTimes:

Eventually, most of us learn valuable lessons about how to conduct a successful and satisfying life. But for far too many people, the learning comes too late to help them avoid painful mistakes and decades of wasted time and effort…

Enter an invaluable source of help, if anyone is willing to listen while there is still time to take corrective action. It is a new book called “30 Lessons for Living” (Hudson Street Press) that offers practical advice from more than 1,000 older Americans from different economic, educational and occupational strata who were interviewed as part of the ongoing Cornell Legacy Project.

Its author, Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at the College of Human Ecology at Cornell and a gerontologist at the Weill Cornell Medical College, calls his subjects “the experts,” and their advice is based on what they did right and wrong in their long lives.

You can also read a summary of their advice in the article: Advice From Life’s Graying Edge on Finishing With No Regrets

What are your life lessons?

behavior · brain · emotion · happiness · mental health

How being grateful for the little things makes a big difference

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...
Being thankful for the little everyday things, like just being able to eat, is better for you psychologically over the long haul. Image via Wikipedia

I received this newsletter post from financial advice blog LearnVest. It provided some interesting insight into another reason why practicing how to be grateful in itty-bitty ways (see my earlier post) is actually better for you in the long run.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratefulness and what really makes us happy. This has been a truly happy year for me personally—the LearnVest audience has grown 310%, our company is celebrating its two-year anniversary, our team has tripled in size, and, to top it all off, I got engaged last month to the best guy I know.

All of this has reminded me of the “happiness lab” I worked at back in college, where I witnessed one psych study that changed my life:

When given the hypothetical choice between lots of big wins in a short amount of time (like all of your dreams coming true in a week) and one consistent thing they already liked, guaranteed forever (like a warm cup of coffee every morning), most people chose the big wins: a bigger house, a fancy car, a promotion, winning the lottery.

But the lab’s researchers found that the coffee-every-day-forever approach really makes people happier when push comes to shove. Why?

We say we want a bigger house, but then we have to maintain it. We say we want a promotion, but it comes with more stress and longer hours. Meanwhile, one reliable, comforting constant in our lives—like a soothing cup of coffee every day—can make us feel great. In general, the big things we strive for don’t necessarily make us happier.

This study proves scientifically what many of us have always known: Money can’t buy happiness.

This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to think about what really makes you happy. Is it writing? Taking pictures? Giving back to the community? I have a feeling you’ll find that many of the best things in your life don’t cost a thing, or are well within your reach right now.

I hope you can find the laughter and the joy in every situation. May this year and every year bring you a lot to be thankful for.

Toward a richer life,

Follow @alexavontobel

anthropology · behavior · community · happiness · mental health · Social

Transparency: Which Countries Are the Happiest?

Thanks Facebook for directing me to this follow-up to my earlier post!

For decades, the World Database of Happiness has tracked down how happy people are—not at all happy, not very happy, quite happy, or very happy. As it turns out, most of us are mostly happy, even when things aren’t going so well. Here is a look at how happy people said they were (on average) over the last 30 years.

Find out more at Transparency: Which Countries Are the Happiest? – Culture – GOOD – StumbleUpon.

anthropology · behavior · community · culture · happiness · health · mental health

What Makes People Happy? The Economics of Happiness | The Art of Manliness

dad July 26 1936
Image by liberalmind1012 via Flickr


A very nice essay about what it takes to be a happy, healthy man, woman, or general human being:

Men have a certain innate restlessness. We’re always looking for a new adventure, wanting to feel like we’re progressing in life, and wondering if the grass might be greener somewhere else.Our ever-searching nature can be a good thing if it’s channeled into pursuits that really lead to greater happiness and satisfaction. But restlessness can also get us terribly off track if we expend our energy journeying down avenues that are really dead ends.

…the key to finding the truly greener pastures is to concentrate on going after the right things-the things that really will make you happier-instead of expending your energy in pursuit of a happiness mirage.

This is where the economics of happiness comes in. Numerous studies have revealed what factors in life are correlated with greater happiness. Now granted, these things correlate to greater happiness; they don’t necessarily cause happiness. But I always say it’s at least worth checking out where the happy people congregate. Below we highlight eight areas of a man’s life that we often associate with increasing or decreasing our happiness and analyze if the grass really is greener in those pastures.


Read the best ways to be happy (or unhappy) at What Makes People Happy? The Economics of Happiness | The Art of Manliness.

behavior · happiness · health · mental health

The Problem With Getting Better, Happier And Stronger — a life in translation

Life has been crazy for me lately, with lots of changes. And even though it is good change, it hasn’t been fun. It’s actually been kind of scary and stressful. I discovered this blog post at the beginning of this summer, when the change was just starting to get rolling – yes, change can also take a loooong time. But re-reading it, and re-re-reading it, is a nice reminder that I’m not alone in my feelings.

Sometimes I think about why there aren’t more people running, sprinting towards greatness. Why there aren’t more people continually evolving into something better, stronger, and happier. I wonder this a lot as I read or listen to stories about miserable jobs and unsatisfying home lives and dreams that have been left to decompose. And, I think I’m starting to understand why some people just stay, as they are, and stop aspiring for betterment.

…changing for the better constantly and drastically, well, for lack of a better word, can completely suck sometimes. As much as you want to believe that everyone around you will be supportive and gracious about this new and improved you, it’s sometimes not the case.

more via The Problem With Getting Better, Happier And Stronger — a life in translation.

I’m just thankful that I do have people around me who support my change. Be kind to those around you who are changing, growing, developing further into who they are.