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Hector and the Search for Happiness March 22, 2016

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew, Uncategorized.
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urlI recently saw Hector and the Search for Happiness about Hector (Simon Pegg), a quirky psychiatrist, who has a good business, a beautiful girlfriend, Clare (Rosamund Pike), who does everything for him, and an expensively furnished apartment. Yet he isn’t satisfied with his life. Everyday he listens to his client’s problems, yet he feels like a fraud because he’s giving them advice and they aren’t getting happier.

The pressure within Hector builds as he listens to a client’s seemingly “trivial” problems until finally he explods and yells at her.

After another incident where Hector overreacts, he decides he needs to take a journey to figure out what happiness is and to resolve some issues from the past. Clare is too busy at work to come on the trip with him and her immediate reaction is that he wants to break up. He says he doesn’t and asks her if she’ll be there when he returns. She asks him how long he’ll be gone. When he replies that he doesn’t know, she says then she doesn’t know if she’ll be there or not.

Clare gives him a journal as a parting gift and he uses it to write down his own insights into happiness. He also asks the people he meets what they think happiness is and jots down their answers. His journey takes him to different places in the world with his focus being on interacting with people not on seeing the sites.

The story is told with humor mixed with some real insights into life and the different ways people look at happiness. In the journey Hector is confronted with life, death, illness, love, wealth, poverty, sex, family, and nostalgia.

The movie is good in that it makes you reflect on what happiness means to you. It shows how each person defines happiness differently and how some people aren’t happy now but think they will be in the future after they make a lot of money or retire or are healthy etc.

As I watched it, I thought about my own concept of happiness and how to live a happier life. I realized I have many good things in my life, but I often don’t see them. For me being happy should be in the moment, in the here and now, not in some time in the future. I don’t have to wait for something to happen to be happy. I also don’t have to let other people’s actions control my happiness. I’m happier when I see the blessings in my life and the gifts that are all around me. I also realized love is the key to happiness.

We’re all like Hector in that we are each on our own journey of self-discovery to find the meaning of life and happiness.

What makes you happy? Have you ever longed for something thinking it would make you happy and when you got it, discovered that it didn’t give you the joy you thought it would? What does happiness mean to you?

Here is the official trailer of the movie.



30 Days of One Minute Meditations by Monie Turner May 11, 2014

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
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30 Days of One Minute Meditations by Monie Turner


30 Days of One Minute Meditations

30 Days of One Minute Meditations

Years ago I had an author pen pal in Canada that I exchanged writing with. Over the years we lost touch, but recently we reconnected and now she’s published an eBook on Amazon that I wanted to share with you. Its title is 30 Days of One Minute Meditations. You can get it on Amazon until May 13, 2014 for free. The book made it to # 1 in personal transformation and #1 in meditation.


I’ve found these short exercises can help me connect to an enjoyable moment in my past and bring it into the present. In one technique you imagine yourself by a stream watching the water. I imagined myself back where I was last weekend. My husband and I were in northern Minnesota and had gone for a hike. We stood by a stream and I looked into this amazingly clear water to the rocks below. I felt happier after the short meditation.

The book has great daily meditations ‘to calm yourself, stay focused and release stress, and find answers to your daily personal load of questions.”   These meditates can help you when you need to set a goal, or need creativity or intuition or when you need to keep in balance when dealing with a challenging situation. The techniques can help you find peace and harmony.


Here are the instructions for using the book:


“Read over the day’s instruction, then close your eyes and use your imagination for one minute to create the scene in your mind. You are now ready for your daily activities with a clear mind and peaceful demeanor. Using the scenes before you sleep can assist with a good deep sleep and healthy dreams.”


Here is a sample meditation:


Day nine

“It’s evening, dusk, a dark blue sky, and the moon is silver just over the horizon. The wind ripples the leaves of the trees and the rustling is soothing. An owl hoots and asks, ‘Who?’ You laugh and tell him, ‘I am me, soul, enjoying the evening air, free of constraints.’”


Day Sixteen

“Imagine you are sitting in the most comfortable chair, just drifting off when you realize that your guardian angel is just behind you and sending waves of love to you. You allow yourself to absorb as much as you want. The love wraps around you, safe, comforting. Enjoy.”


Here is a link to the book.




Do you meditate or contemplate? How does it help you?

website: bluestarvisions.com

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Gratitude Creates a Happier Life December 3, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review, Uncategorized.
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We all want to be happy and have a good life.  Some people seem to naturally be cheerful and others struggle with depression.  Regardless of what type of person you are, current studies show that one of the ways to be happier is to be grateful for all the blessings and good things in your life.  We learn to see and be grateful for even the little blessings like seeing a cardinal at a birdfeeder, getting a card in the mail, or having a good meal with your family.  By focusing on the positive things we experience each day we become more aware of the blessings in our lives.  Gratitude opens the heart to love.

Gratitude Works

Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, has done research on gratitude for eleven years and has done many studies.  Some of his studies show that people who keep a gratitude journal and write down five things they are grateful for every day are happier.  The benefits for keeping a journal are psychological, social, emotional, and physical. Psychologically people felt more alert, alive and aware.  Socially students found an increase in their grades.  Emotionally people experienced more positive emotions.  Physically people exercised more, their sleep was better and they awoke each morning more refreshed.

Emmons has a youtube on the gratitude studies he has done.  You might find this one of interest.


Words of Gratitude


Emmons has also written books on Gratitude such as Words of Gratitude and Gratitude Works.

Here are several quotes on gratitude that I found uplifting.

Gratitude “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

John F. Kennedy

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.

Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

Thomas Merton

How have you found gratitude helps you?  Have you ever kept a gratitude journal?  If so what benefits did you notice?

Happiness Is a Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman September 17, 2013

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Happiness is a Choice

Happiness is a Choice

I just finished reading Happiness Is a Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman.  Kaufman’s perspective is that happiness is a choice and we can learn tools that will enable us to be happy.  Many years ago he decided to make love and happiness a priority and it greatly enhanced his life as a result.


Kaufman is a therapist, author, speaker and the founder of Option Institute. His own life was profoundly changed when his third child was diagnosed as severely autistic. He and his wife turned to God to find understanding and inspiration on how to deal with this challenging condition.  They decided to embrace their son’s uniqueness and worked with him every day for over three years.  Eventually their son overcame his autism completely, which is nearly unheard of in the medical field.


Through his work at the Option Institute Kaufman discovered that people who are successful in finding happiness share certain character traits.  In his book he goes over each of these traits and shows us how to use them to have a happier life.


The qualities Kaufman and his group found were: make happiness a priority, personal authenticity, let go of judgments, be present, be grateful and decide to be happy.  Let’s look at them one at a time.


The first is to make happiness the priority and bring happiness and love center stage.  In our society we make happiness dependent upon achieving our goals.  If a child is asked what they want, they might say a bike; a teenager might say a driver’s license; and an adult might say a better job or relationship.  It’s not until people are in their sixties that they begin to talk about health, peace, happiness and love.


When a person was asked why they wanted an event or item, they said it would make them happy. Kaufman challenges this idea and said, “Why not be happy now and then pursue whatever we want?” (p. 176).  He goes on to say if we don’t tie our happiness to getting something, we are free to do anything we want.  We don’t need love, recognition or praise to feel good.


Second is personal authenticity, which is the freedom to be yourself, rather than suppressing your thoughts.  Kaufman let go of a ÷≥friendship where the other person wanted unhappiness and anger reinforced.  Instead, he found new friendships based on acceptance, respect and love.  He said, “We cherished each other as we were rather than as we wanted the other person to be” (p. 128).


The third trait is to let go of judgments and accept people and situations as they are.   When we discard judgments, we can embrace people and situations more openly.  “Judgments about people and possibilities limit our thinking and what we might try to accomplish” (p. 201).


Kaufman goes on to say that we can challenge and change the judgments we make.  “The secret to happiness lies not in events, but in our responses to them” (p. 208).  As an example of this Kaufman talks about a family whose child had cerebral palsy.  The parents thought his condition was terrible.  When they let go of that judgment, they were able to discover the beauty in their child and discovered God in the condition.  If we embrace situations without judgment, we can find the elements in every event that serve and teach us.


The fourth characteristic is to be present by learning to discard regrets about the past and worries about the present.  One woman discovered that only when she stayed present did she truly experience God.  She released the pain of her past and chose happiness as a gift to give herself and her loved ones. “Our focused attention greatly enhances the power and pleasure of any event, as well as our ability to handle and draw lessons from it.  When someone speaks, we can look at her directly and listen to her words. . . thus amplifying our appreciation and understanding of her commentary as well as honoring her attempt to communicate with us” (p. 237).


Next is being grateful by appreciating specific people and events, even during hard times.  When people are happy, they have a sense of gratitude.  Kaufman found that as he walked the path to being happier and more loving, he never ceased to be awed by the blessing of inner peace he’s found.


He’s also recognized inner guidance and a “user-friendly” universe that makes happiness possible.  When we are grateful we enjoy and appreciate an experience and see the blessing and wonder of it.


Last is deciding to be happy.  This encompassed all the other qualities, for if we prioritize happiness we will be authentic, present, grateful and nonjudgmental.   Kaufman ends by saying we can chose to live in happiness and love and greet everyone around us with appreciation and delight.


For me the idea of choosing to be happy is an exciting one.  I can make happiness a priority in my life.  I can create my world and how I respond to it.  I can be happy no matter what challenges I’m facing by not judging the situation as good or bad, and  by being grateful for all of life’s gifts.  This book can help anyone who wants to be happier and is ready to take the next step into a fuller, richer, happier life.


Here is a YouTube video with Barry Neil Kaufman  on Happiness Is A Choice- No Matter What






Appreciate the Blessings August 21, 2013

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Geese crossing the yard

Geese crossing the yard

My last blog was on happiness and the book THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE by Shawn Achor.  In the book the author gives techniques to be happy.  One is to write down three good things that happened each day or that you are grateful for to stay focused on the positive in your life.


Fawn in our yard

Fawn in our yard

Yesterday I was working at my desk when I had a nudge to check the mailbox.  We have a long driveway on a wooded lot.  The mailman hadn’t come yet, but as I started back up the driveway I saw a doe with three spotted fawns.  The fawns were frolicking around and eating apples that had fallen from our apple tree.    The doe kept her eyes on me and stamped her feet.  I stood still so as to not bother her or her fawns.

Fawn walking

Fawn walking


As I watched them I was grateful for the gift of seeing these beautiful creatures.  I was open to seeing the blessing.  When they wandered away I continued up the driveway and a saw a garter snake.  The light shone on its yellow stripe as it moved gracefully through the green grass.  Seeing it reminded me of my childhood.  I like garter snakes and played with them when I was young.


Butterfly on a Birch tree

Butterfly on a Birch tree

Later, when I got the mail I saw a lovely Mourning Cloak butterfly on the orange daylilies growing beside the mailbox.  At the end of the day I went for a walk and again saw the doe and her three fawns in a neighbor’s yard.  Everything I saw seemed to shine with light and the love of life on this special summer day.




I realized that the technique of writing down three things a day was working for me.  It was helping me see the blessing in my life even when things are challenging.  I also realized I had gotten lax in writing down three things each day.  I was reminded that we are responsible for our own happiness and that I need to keep looking for the blessings in my life that come in the form of flowers, trees, animals, family, friends and having a nice home.

A chipmunk

A chipmunk

Tree frog

Tree frog

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor July 29, 2013

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9780307591548_p0_v1_s114x166In this blog post I want to exam the topic of happiness.  Happiness is one of the most googled topics on the Internet and depression is high around the world. What causes some people to be happy and others unhappy or even depressed?  What contributes to happiness?  Can people increase their level of happiness and if so how?


I was discussing this topic with one of my sons and he recommended a book called the The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor.


In the book I found the answers to my questions, including some great techniques to be happy.  What stuck out for me about the book is the idea that we can be happier no matter who we are.  Just as there are things you can do to have better health and/or improve your brain, there are simple techniques you can do to be happier.


In the introduction Achor says that most people have a formula that they have been taught by schools, parents and society.  “That is: If you work hard, you will become successful, then you’ll be happy.” As a result of this thinking we believe that we have to have something good happen before we can be happy. I’ll be happy when I get a raise, reach a goal, lose weight or get a new house.


Achor tells us that this formula is broken because with every goal we accomplish we set a new goalpost for success.  Moreover, the formula is backward.  Happiness is a precursor to success not the other way around.  “Happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement—giving us the competitive edge that I call the happiness advantage.”


This discovery is based on thousands of scientific studies and Achor’s own work with Harvard students and Fortune 500 companies worldwide. Achor observed that Harvard students who felt that being there was a privilege excelled, whereas those that were focused on the stress and pressure missed out on opportunities.


Achor came up with 7 principles for happiness.


▪                Principle #1: The Happiness Advantage

▪                Principle #2: The Fulcrum and The Lever

▪                Principle #3: The Tetris Effect

▪                Principle #4: Falling Up

▪                Principle #5: The Zorro Circle

▪                Principle #6: The 20-second Rule

▪                Principle #7: Social Investment


In each section Achor explains the principle and then gives techniques for improving happiness. When talking about the first principle “The Happiness Advantage” Achor said that positive brains have a biological advantage over neutral or negative brains.  If we capitalize on the positive we on are smarter, more motivated and more successful.  Achor gave different techniques in the book to increase the happiness in your life.


One technique I’ve been using is to write down at the beginning of each day three positive things that happened during the last twenty-four hours.  I found that this keeps me focused on the positive things in my life.


Another technique I’ve tried is to commit conscious acts of kindness.  This can be as small as smiling at someone or opening a door for someone, to weeding my Mother’s garden or having a friend over for dinner.  It makes me feel good to do something for someone else.


A third technique is to exercise.  I try to do this every day.  It’s warm in Minnesota this time of year and I enjoy swimming, biking, hiking, and yoga.


Achor also suggests meditation to calm the mind and step away from multi tasking.  Instead I take time everyday to contemplate.  I often sing the word HU to uplift my consciousness.


Here are a few additional ones

Write about a recent positive experience three times a week.  By doing this you relive the experience.

Spend money on “doing” things that you enjoy.  For me it might be on going to a play or going on a trip.

Make plans to do things that you can look forward to.


I highly recommend reading The Happiness Advantage if you’d like to be a happier, more creative, positive, successful person.  We can all have the happiness advantage.


Here is a humorous Ted Talk YouTube with Shawn Achor.  It’s worth listening to.



To brighten your day here is a YouTube of a baby laughing.


I’d like to end with a quote on happiness.

“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”

Martha Washington