Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lose Your Illusions

I recently read the Geography of Bliss by NPR journalist Eric Weiner, a fascinating travelogue highlighting some of the happiest and unhappiest cultures around the world ( , and A Brief History of Anxiety [Yours and Mine] by Patricia Pearson, a look at the rise of anxiety in the US and elsewhere ( Here are two key things I learned about being happy and healthy:

Embrace experimentation. According to Weiner, the people of Iceland are among the happiest in the world. The key reasons: It’s a homogenous society, so there’s little racial or ethnic conflict, and it’s a socialist country, so their basic needs are met (universal health care anyone?). Most tellingly, in Iceland, people are allowed to try things and actually fail at them. They don’t have to be huge successes to feel good about themselves. (Icelanders also drink a lot, Weiner says, and that helps to better accept failures and keep them warm during the cold, dark winters!)

Lose your illusion of being in control. Many people living in poor cultures are happier and less anxious than Americans because they don’t expect success. They actually expect life to be hard. Pearson writes…“The other day my Mexican-born psychiatrist offered me his opinion that what drives anxiety in the Western world is the coveted illusion that we can be in control. Latin Americans, he argued, are bracingly accustomed to injustice and to toil and have no ‘fantasy’ that fate is in their hands.” They just accept hurricanes and other misfortunes as an inevitable part of life, and work to have the pleasure and freedom of spending time with their friends and family. To a great extent, we here in American believe we can mold our lives down to the very last detail and when that doesn't happen, we get stressed-out and anxious.
Pearson argues that we should stop looking for reasons for why things happen to us and just accept the “cruel randomness of fate.”

Harsh words or sound advice? I fall in the latter camp (divorce will teach you that). How about you?

Next on my reading list: Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by psychologist Sam Gosling, PhD.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I was just reading about misunderstood personality types in the September/October issue of Psychology Today Magazine ( and had an "aha" moment. On personality tests I typically score as an extrovert, but I could SWEAR I’m really more introverted. In fact, I usually refer to myself as an “extroverted introvert.” When I mention this to friends, they laugh out loud. I know, I know…I SEEM outgoing when I’m with people, but I’m really kind of a loner. How else could I have survived 20 years as a freelance writer holed up in my home office????
Anyway, I just read that there are “bubbly introverts” out there, people who love socializing but actually crave alone time just as much. "Having good social skills isn’t the same thing as wanting to be around people all the time,” writes Jay Dixit in the piece (a sidebar on page 71 if you're looking!). Don’t get me wrong—I love my friends, I love parties, I love socializing. But in limited doses. Then it's back to my books and movies! I feel so validated!
Other misunderstood types:
“Shy extroverts,” people who love being around others but are shy and may come across as cold, aloof, or stuck up.
"Accidental flirts,” people who are so naturally flirtatious that others may think they’re coming on to them when they really just mean to be friendly. (I love to flirt!)
"Effeminate heterosexuals,” those metrosexuals who come off a little feminine but are very straight.
Any other misunderstood types out there?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's just life

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how much I love Jonathan Tropper's books. Here's a snippet that shows why from How to Talk to A Widower:
“It’s life, that’s all. There are no happy endings, just happy days, happy moments. The only real ending is death, and trust me, no one dies happy. And the price of not dying is that things change all the time, and the only thing you can count on is that there’s not a thing you can do about it.”

Monday, September 7, 2009

Keeping your creative spirit alive

Creativity coach Gail McMeekin has designed an e-book of SPECTACULARLY BEAUTIFUL photography/quote cards to inspire your creative courage over a one-month period.

Gail says about the evolution of the cards:
“I see too many people who abandon wonderful creative projects or initiatives due to fear. Fear keeps you from exploring your goals in depth and implementing successful actions steps to achieve them. Courage, on the other hand, gives you the strength to enjoy the experimentation process of creative exploration and accept the curves in the road as normal, and as a challenge you can overcome. These Creativity Courage Cards are meant to guide you along in your creative quest. When you begin to feel clutched by self-doubt, take some time to read my quotes for a month and enjoy the beautiful photographs by my husband [Russ Street]. You will get your energy back and be able to continue.”

You can buy the e-book of cards for $24.95 on Gail’s website at