It is believed that our genes are predisposed to certain personality and character traits that can either make us happy and secure our happiness. That may be true, but it’s only one part of the puzzle. The Complete of us is made up of many things, and research proves that we can build our happiness muscle despite our genetic predisposition.
I have had to deal with many health issues as well as personal trauma. I am fortunate to love learning, which is what led me to seek out help to ease my pain. My first step was to accept the fact that we can all change. This belief allowed me to make better decisions and reach my full potential.
Throughout the decades of my life—I’ll spare you how many—I lived on a wing and a prayer. It worked for me as a blues musician traveling the world. Later, I became a mother of three wonderful human beings and adopted a boy. Then, I inherited another son. It took all of my emotional and physical energy to raise these five loving, energetic, and diverse people. I had quit high school to go on the road as a singer, but eventually, I went back to school and became a social work counselor and then director of a non-profit teaching positive parenting skills. (I think I drove my children crazy with all the parenting styles and programs that I tried!)
When my children were grown, I realized I felt stuck. I was unsure of my purpose. I asked myself: Who am I now, anyway? I wanted to create a meaningful life for me, but how do I do that? Did I deserve it? How much time did I waste? Was I able to do more? Could I Do you want to go back to school? I was in my 50s—was I too old?
Then I heard about the Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology, and something inside me, something I had not previously paid attention to, screamed at me: Go! And I listened. My life changed dramatically after I became certified in positive psychology at the age of 55. I started a small business teaching and sharing positive psychology, called Happily Ever Actions. COVID struck just as it was poised for success.
I was unable to travel to speak or teach so I decided that I would write. My first book, which I soon realized would become a trilogy, was The View From Within: Spiritual Pathways for Happiness co-created with my fiancé, photographer Joseph A. Bologna. Published in June 2021, it’s a gorgeous collection of photos depicting the sights, insights, and teachings of spiritual practices from around the world.
The next book to appear was Finding Unshakable HappinessThe August release of, which gathered the stories of 25 CiWPP graduates, was released in August. Each chapter is a personal testament and each story beautifully written. Together, we have achieved something amazing.
The book is divided into five sections according to the five positive psychology concepts that I find most powerful. These ideas and all the practical tools that go along with them have transformed my life. Amazingly, the topics chosen by the authors fit perfectly into these five sections. Here they are:
The Ideal Self: Understanding who I was as my best possible self, finding role models to follow, and learning how to show up in that way, confident and strong, gave me a new road map. I was able to overcome obstacles, build resilience, be myself and had a moral compass that no one can shake. In the presence of a pandemic, family issues, or any crisis, the Ideal Self can show up in everything we do, when we remember that it is our choice to respond in that way.
Positive Emotions Joy, interest, contentment, love, happiness … Barbara Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory describes how savoring positive emotions can transform our thoughts into behaviors and shape our daily habits. These positive emotions can lead to a wider range of mindsets than the narrower mindsets that are created by negative emotions. Joy, for example, can spark the desire to be playful. Interest is a catalyst for curiosity and the desire of exploring. Contentment is the emotion that allows you to enjoy. These emotions can be shared in close, safe relationships that allow us to feel heard, seen, and understood.
Living with Intention Appraising and reappraising who we are, and following the moral code outlined in our personal road map, leads to understanding the character strengths that are part of our personality. This information can help us to align what we value and believe with what gives us meaning and purpose. From that foundation, we can choose our actions and reactions. This took a lot practice for me. It is possible to be more open, hopeful, resilient, and optimistic once it becomes a routine. The best part of living with intentionis that “negaholism” will no longer zap your self-confidence or energy.
Benefit Finding and Living a Happy Life Utilizing a benefit-finding growth mindset helps us stay open to learning more about ourselves at different developmental stages of our lives. My friend is 92 years old. She is a benefit-seeker. This helps her navigate life, and informs who she really is and how she can help others. She is an inspiration. Perseverance, persistence, and the work put into developing the practices and habits that enhance well-being—like benefit finding—are key to fully Living a fulfilling life.
Full-Hearted Love: The fifth learning that has most impacted my life is knowing what it means to thrive and flourish. For me, this means understanding the role of gratitude and full-hearted love. Although it can be romantic, full-hearted love does not include romantic love. It is accepting all situations and people in life, and being grateful for each one. It’s the choice to let love lead the way, to be the response to just about everything.
These five things are in my toolbox as well as the toolboxes of my coauthors. They support us to be resilient, strong, healthy, happy, and strong. I hope that the book will have an endless ripple effect that touches people around the world, much like positive psychology.