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by Allison Aboud Holzer

bliss-tip-graphic-copyOn this lovely Super Bowl evening, I am reminded of the magnetic power of annual rituals. No amount of coaxing, pleading, or enticing with a delicious home-cooked meal could convince my husband to relegate Super Bowl watching for the evening. And while he graciously invited me to join him for the festivities, no amount of tackling, punting or grumbling men in spandex could convince me to watch. The Super Bowl is one annual ritual that many Americans partake in and fully enjoy – and one that I happily sit out!

As it turns out, between national holidays, religious holidays, birthdays, March madness, and more, we have a multitude of prescribed annual rituals that serve a purpose in our lives. In Tal Ben-Shahar’s book Happier, he talks about the importance of rituals in providing us with an opportunity for connection and reflection. We have a choice about whether or not to partake; if we do, they force us to set aside our busy lives for some leisure time, entertainment, and socializing with friends or family. Other more mundane annual rituals like trips to the dentist’s office or H&R Block promote our health or financial well-being. But what if, rather than simply deciding which rituals to enjoy (or happily sit out!), we actively and intentionally created our own?

I challenge you to create a new annual ritual that you think will bring you greater fulfillment in your life. Consider an area of your life where you would like to devote more attention. What type of ritual might you create? Here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing:

·Write a love letter to your spouse on the day you first met

·Create a bucket list and pick a special day every year to renew it

·Invite your best friends to an annual weekend getaway

·Pick a cause you care about and actively participate in an annual event or march

·Eat green eggs and ham on your birthday

Hmm. I might need to explain that last one. You see, every year I can remember as a child my mom made green eggs and ham on my birthday. She would wake me up in the morning with breakfast in bed and we would read the Dr. Seuss book together. It was such a simple thing, really – requiring just a little creativity and some green food coloring. But the impact was powerful. I looked forward to my green eggs and ham every year and remember that brief shared time together with great fondness.

As green eggs and ham illuminate, your new annual ritual doesn’t need to be complicated to have magnetic power and a positive purpose! It just needs to be fun and needs to be you.


by Dr. Timothy Sharp, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute

If you’re one of “the lucky few” then you’re very well positioned to dr-timothy-sharp1live a great life because by “the lucky few” I’m referring to those of you who find happiness comes easily.  No matter what’s going on around you, you still remain optimistic and positive.  And as well as enjoying happiness, you’ll also live longer, maintain better relationships and even be more successful at work.

Most of you, however, won’t fall into this very small group but the good news is that’s OK; because you can still create more happiness if you do the right sorts of things.  Regardless of whether or not you’re a natural optimist you can still learn to the proven principles of positive psychology and as a result, enjoy happiness more often.

Now this posting doesn’t present a simple strategy but rather, an over-arching approach I’ve used with wonderful effect in my work over the years (see  And it’s based on the simple but vitally important notion that to achieve anything in life we have to plan for it.

Most people understand that to be fitter and healthier we need to develop relevant plans – for exercise and diet.  Well, the same is true for happiness but unfortunately, most people spend more time planning their annual holidays than they do planning their lives; I have nothing against annual holidays but I can guarantee that if you take even just a fraction of the time you spend thinking about holidays and dedicate that time to contemplating life goals then you’ll enjoy incredible benefits.

Now before I go further I should explain that “plan” is not just a word but that it’s also an acronym.  Let me quickly explain The Happiness Institute’s PLAN model:

P represents a Positive image of the future

L is for Leveraging off what you already have

A is for the Action plan you need to develop and

N is a reminder to focus on your most immediate Next steps

In summary, then, this simple but (and I can vouch for this personally) very powerful model can help you determine your destination for life and set your course for the future.  If you imagine what a great life would look like, consider what you already have (in the way of strengths, attributes, characteristics and resources) that will help you get there, determine exactly what you need to do, and take it one step at a time then I’m confident you’ll go on to live a happier and more successful life.  And when you do, feel free to tell me your story; I love hearing about the positive outcomes of others!

Dr. Timothy Sharp is Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute.  He’s one of Australia’s leaders in the exciting new field of positive psychology, a sought after public/corporate speaker and he has Professorial appointments within the UTS School of Business and RMIT’s School of Health Sciences.  Dr. Sharp provides consulting and coaching services to individuals and organisations as well as Positive Psychology Training programs to relevant professionals.


by Allison Aboud Holzer

The U.S. News and World Report special year-end issue included an article called “50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009.”This article highlighted 50 simple small changes we can make in our lives to improve them, many inspired by recent advances in technology, business or society. Some examples from the article include:

This article has inspired me to write a new column for the Bliss Blog that includes a series of Bliss Tips. I will try to connect each Bliss Tip to current research in the psychology, sociology or other behavioral science fields. And, in the spirit of the Bliss Blog, I will always include a practical way that the tip can be used to better your life. In addition to this column, I will continue to invite guest authors – experts across various fields – to continue our discussion about this curious thing called happiness.

From the Bliss Blog to all readers, Happy New Year!

Allison Holzer

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POH is an organization committed to the pursuit of happiness through education. This blog offers a forum to discuss happiness, positive psychology, fulfillment, and other related topics. While POH has created this forum for community learning and discussion, please note that blog entries reflect the opinions of the individual bloggers and not the POH organization. I invite you to peruse the site and respond with your feedback and insights!