What’s warming my heart and making me cry on this Tuesday.

So, those of you who know me, know how much I love Michael Franti. I love his spirit, his music, his message, and his heart. I also love his partner, Sara Agah, who is also an incredible human being. Together, they created the Do It for the Love Foundation, a nonprofit, wish-granting organization for those with life-threatening illnesses, and other traumas. In short, they are two amazing people individually, and even more magical together. This weekend, they got engaged. Michael posted this video on YouTube that he made for her as part of the proposal.  I have probably watched it 10 times today, choking up each time.  Finding love is a beautiful thing, but it’s made even more beautiful when you share that love with the world around you. Take a look, and feel free to weep tears of joy along with me.

Also, if you’re so inclined, get involved with Do It For the Love!

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What are you so afraid of?

So, I bought a book today after work, titled I Quit Sugar. I then took said book to Starbucks, where I read it while drinking a grande CaramelNonsenseSomething Frappucino. No, the irony is not lost on me. I’m the same person who loves to eat candy while watching The Biggest Loser, and judge everyone (I know I’m not the only one who does that, BTW). Anyway, it struck me while I was sitting there-I do a lot of thinking and talking and dreaming about the things I want to do, from the mundane (i.e.,something as silly as cutting out sugar in my diet), to the more grand (pursuing my interests more seriously/professionally). Yet, day after day, I do the same thing, and very rarely do I step outside my routine. Of course now I have a kid, so there’s something to be said for routine, but you get what I’m saying. I’m paralyzed by real change, for some reason. I think a lot of us are. We are all so scared to take a chance.

I think when we’re younger, we are thrilled by change, by risk, the opportunity to take a crack at something you have no idea about. Everything is new and fresh and offers adventure. Yet somewhere between the carefree nature of your younger days and where you are now, your brain starts automatically conducting risk-benefit analyses on just about everything that could be affected by change. Health insurance, the comfort that routine provides, failure, outside criticism, worries that you’re being irrational and entitled (a perk of my generation), your 401k, guilt for taking the time to start doing what fills your soul. Or maybe you’re just so tired that the thought of taking two extra steps a day to work on something new seems unmanageable. So you shrug it off, and keep moving forward.

How did I get here? I wonder. When did I become so inflexible and constrained by my own life? It happens so subtly, throughout your twenties, after college when you’re chasing the goals that our culture sets for us-success, measured in tangibles. We’re told we should be making a ton of money, and be perpetually happy, sexy, skinny, funny, smart. You need a big house, great cars, vacations, stuff, stuff and more stuff. Fill your life with things and what do you ultimately want? More things. Nothing is ever enough. So you keep working in that job that does nothing for your spirit, that causes you more grief and stress and pain than anything else…so you can put that mass-produced Pottery Barn farm table in your house. It’s all so stupid.

So, I decided today that I’m going to stop being afraid of being free, of being happy. I wear a bracelet around my wrist everyday, an old gold key engraved with the word “Fearless”, to remind me of who I want to be. It’s time to start living that. I am going to start wanting and needing less, giving more, and living with intention. I want to stop doing things that aren’t good for me, physically or spiritually. It’s a terrifying thought. But we’re only enslaved by the things that we let control us, so it’s time let it go, and take a risk.

Five things to improve your happiness (or mine, as it were).

Look, it’s easy for us to dismiss the world, and our current state of affairs as less than savory. A lot of things DO suck, at the moment. That’s why it’s so important to nurture your own happiness, in whatever ways you can. Here are five things that give me joy, big and small. Try a few, or feel free to tell us in the comments section below what ranks highest on your happiness meter.

1)Take a picture everyday.
-There are a million different moments and memories waiting to be snapped every single day. It doesn’t matter if they’re poignant or pretty or well-composed. The idea is that you’re chronicling your life, and telling your own story. I think you’ll be surprised at what you capture. And you don’t need anything fancy to do so-whether you’ve got a point-and-shoot, a DSLR, or a cell phone-as they say, the best camera is the camera you have on you. If you’re really into it, start a blog, or a gallery to share it with others.

2)Tony Bennett’s “Winter Wonderland” as a mood enhancer.
-As it happens, I’m either usually irritated on my way to work, or not feeling so positive on my way home. My solution? Tony Bennett’s Christmas album, most notably the “Winter Wonderland” track. I consider this an upgrade from my former pick-me-up: Mariah Carey’s Christmas album (but I still love you, Mariah). Who cares if it’s the middle of summer? It makes me feel better. Give it a try-I promise you’ll come away happier. And if you don’t, you’re a total monster, and there’s no helping you, or that little black space where your heart used to be.

3)Develop your own soundtracks for life.
-How often have you thought, “God, life would be so much better with an accompanying soundtrack?” Or, if you’re like me, you’re on-the-spot creating those playlists in your head, as you’re experiencing things. So, what I’ve done is create those track lists, in iTunes, complete with fun title (also useful for future referencing). Now, I’ve got endless track lists for nearly every situation in life. Some examples: “Smashing Mailboxes”-for when you’re feeling angry, and very Damn-The-Man; and “Sing Me to Sleep”-full of those perfect, haunting voices that disintegrate the stress of the day. Playlists are also great gifts for people, because I think sharing music with others that represents you, and that reminds you of them, is a very, very cool thing.

4)Anonymously committing good deeds.
-This can take a million different forms-paying for the coffee of the person behind you, leaving a book that someone mentioned wanting to read in their mailbox, or raking a neighbor’s lawn while they’re at work. You get the idea. You’ve made someone’s day a little brighter, you feel good, and you’ve most likely inspired that person to be more aware of the goodness in people, and want to replicate those kindnesses. You get back from the world, what you put out there.

5)Do something that scares you.
-This sounds daunting, but I’m not talking about scaling a mountain, or voting a Tea Party candidate into office. I’m talking about doing something that maybe you’ve always wanted to, but havent, due to fear. I’ll give you an example: I’ve been writing, writing, writing since I was fourteen years old. I have boxes and boxes full of journals, notebooks, you name it. It’s what I love to do, and it makes me incredibly happy. However, it’s also incredibly personal, and sharing my writing has always been an act of vulnerability I didn’t think I was up for. This year, though, I decided to take that leap (thanks in large part to the encouragement of some great friends), and start sharing my writing, and as an extension of that, my life. It has been the most freeing, amazing experience, and I can’t even articulate what joy it’s given me. Having people respond in a such a positive manner has given me the reassurance that I did the right thing. So, moral of the story? Do what you love, and put yourself out there.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in my “Things That Make Me Happy” file. There are a million things that give us joy in life, we just have to take the time to acknowledge them. So, that said-tell us, what makes YOU happy?