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There is always an even-happier thought

5 things to do when you’re down.

Being happy doesn’t mean you’ve got a smile plastered on your face 24/7. Even the queen of cheer, Leslie Knope, has her rough patches.

Down days are part of life, period. Even after kicking depression almost entirely to the curb, I have occasional mental meltdowns when things seem hopeless and shitty and I become the Grand Marshall of my very own self-pity parade (those floats tho!).

Because all of us could use a little help for how to feel better, here are a few things to do when you’re down. They’ve proved pretty foolproof for putting me back on track, and I hope the same is true for you.

Nature + exercise.
Either of these is awesome on its own, and both are known mood boosters, but taken together they become a powerhouse of happiness. In a world of cubicles and air conditioning, most of us lack a deep and meaningful connection to the natural world. No longer are our lives ruled by the Farmer’s Almanac — which is great in that we don’t have to spend hours churning butter or grinding corn. Unfortunately, we also lose out on the sense of peace and perspective nature offers. And exercise, of course, is an antidepressant all on its own. When you’re feeling down, get outside and get moving, even if it just means a walk in Central Park or a jog alongside a man made lake. When you have extra time to spare, seek out National Parks and other natural landmarks in your area. Nature is a mental health tool we under-utilize (and vastly under appreciate).

Read a positive book.
Reading is amazing (and I’ve thought so ever since my parents introduced me to the library at age four), but not all reading materials are what I’d call “uplifting.” If you’re already feeling down, reading Lonesome Dove or Requiem for a Dream probably isn’t going to help matters. Better to aim for something that’ll turn your frown upside down. When feeling rotten, I tend to get the most enjoyment out of self-improvement and/or spiritual books. They remind me that better feelings are just around the corner, and that life is grander and more magnificent than I generally remember. Here’s a list of some of my faves, and I’d add Beyond Positive Thinking and A New Earth to that list, for sure.

Write lists.
I’m a huge believer in the power of lists, and not just when it comes to grocery shopping. Writing lists of things you love, things you’re grateful for, things you like about yourself, good things that happened that day or week … the list of list ideas is endless. ;) Keep it positive, and immerse yourself in the good feels that come along with putting your attention on the positive aspects of your life.

Destroy your cognitive distortions.
Most of the time, when we enter a downward spiral, it’s because we’ve been indulging toxic thoughts. Frequently, we’re not even aware of it, ‘cuz they’re tricky little suckers. The key to feeling better in the long AND short terms is to battle back against those irrational, totally untrue thoughts and beliefs. The best way to do so (says research) is via a technique developed by cognitive behavioral therapy legend Dr. David Burns. He came up with a list of cognitive distortions — aka a list of the ways we lie to ourselves on the regular — and a way to beat them. The best strategy is to sit down with this list, and this worksheet, and identify and fight back against your irrational thoughts. It’s enormously helpful, and over time it’ll make a world of difference for your mental health. It’s also an instant mood booster to realize that many of your thoughts are BS, and you aren’t in fact, the stupidest, ugliest, most worthless person in the world.

Do a guided meditation.
Rarely does a guided meditation fail to do anything other than make me feel fantastic. They’re relaxing, they’re healthy and they’re one of the best ways to treat yo’self — because you deserve it. If you’re feeling rotten, make the time to sit or lie down and let yourself be carried away by dulcet tunes and soft voices. The Chopra Center has some awesome ones available on their website, and there are a million apps and YouTube videos of free meditations, too. I also highly recommend Glenn Harrold’s meditations (for download via app/play store). They’re not free, but they’re fabulous and well worth the sticker price.

“If you want to be a doormat you have to

You can’t please everyone and it’s so important to stop trying.

Hello, my name is Hannah, and I’m a people pleaser.

If you’d asked me a couple of years ago, it’s likely I would have scoffed in denial at such a notion. “I do what I want,” I would have said.

And I do. I live life my own way, without a lot of regard for what authority figures or society or anyone, really, suggests I “should” be doing.

But when it comes to interpersonal relationships, that devil-may-care attitude of mine goes out the window. I’m constantly trying to avoid conflict. In other words, I’m always attempting the impossible, because trying to appease everyone is the definition of impossible.

If you’re anything like me, you may be aware of this, intellectually … all the while still trying to be the one exception; the one person in the world who makes everybody happy. Because OF COURSE you can buck the odds and be the first human EVER to incur complete and total adoration. Right.

Pleasing other people is exhausting. In addition to sucking all the energy out of you physically, mentally and emotionally, it also makes you a target for users and abusers. When you’re a pushover, people tend to push you over. Duh.

Someone once told me that the most spiritually advanced people in the world also have the strongest boundaries. Of course they do, because they’re not afraid.

When we’re terrified of upsetting others, we’re demonstrating a serious lack of confidence. Our fears are illuminated by other’s displeasure — we’re scared of rejection and judgment. Meanwhile, people with a deep and consistent sense of self-esteem don’t live with this kind of anxiety. They have no doubts about their own worth, and therefore, nothing to fear.

The truth is, we are ALL worthy. We’re all of equal value and equal deservability. We each have a place on the planet and a right to carve out our own lives. We don’t have to apologize for who we are or what we need.

In recent weeks, the universe has unleashed an avalanche of examples in my life when it comes to this subject matter. I’ve had to live with other people’s displeasure in several scenarios, despite my effort to always be understanding and forgiving and nice and do whatever it is that’ll theoretically make them happy. Clearly, this is a lesson I still need to learn.

Normally, these kinds of circumstances would fill me with dread. Spiders? Love them! Heights? My fave! Small enclosed spaces? Fun times! Unhappy people? Watch me crawl under a table and quake in my booties.

But Frozen’s ubiquitous tune is my new motto: LET IT GO. Rubbing people the wrong way, on occasion, is an unavoidable part of life. It’s a fear I have to overcome, unless I want to spent the next 60 years hiding in a closet, living in a cave or walking on eggshells everywhere I go.

I’m tired of feeling like I have to apologize for existing. “Sorry” is a word I use far too often, and from here on out, I’m only apologizing when it’s really, truly warranted. No more feeling guilty about taking up space. You can’t please everyone, and I’m finished with that futile endeavor.

I believe in compassion and empathy and understanding, always, but kindness and strength are not mutually exclusive. We have to protect ourselves; honor ourselves; love ourselves enough to stand up, tend to our needs and say NO. It’s a fine line, but one I’m determined to walk. I think I just need a little more practice. ;)


Letting things happen instead of making things happen.

In the rule book that governs our culture, action is always deemed better than inaction. Inaction equals laziness and indifference and worthlessness. Inaction is what couch potatoes do. Or so we’re ld to believe.

Go-getters, on the other hand — they conquer the world! They achieve greatness, they win big, they rack up all the hotels in Monopoly. Doing > Being = the value judgment of our world.

But here’s what gets me about this belief: for centuries, spiritual leaders have been telling us to LET GO. Not to cling and struggle and strive, but to let. stuff. happen. “Let go and let God.” “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” And so on.

That concept seems almost absurd in our modern society, doesn’t it? In our world, the notion of “not doing” is so utterly abhorrent. “You’re not going to DO anything about that situation?!” You must be a) lazy b) worthless c) uncaring.

We’re taught that anytime anything happens that we don’t like, we’ve got to DO SOMETHING about it. Never mind what that something is, we’re just supposed to stand up and act like we’re taking control.

No matter how you slice it, “not doing” has a crappy connotation.

But what if life really is about going with the flow? What if we’re meant to leave desperation and struggle and control behind? What if we’re only supposed to take inspired action — action that feels natural and comfortable and FUN?

In my own life, I’ve seen this at work many times. The moment I stop TRYING to do or have or be something, it tends to flow right into my experience. In other words, things work themselves out much better on their own than they do when I’m meddling. Unfortunately, I have a hard time getting away from society’s push to DO, FIX and STRUGGLE all the time.

A perfect example of this concept at work was my former life as a heavy drinker. For years I knew I should stop or cut back or DO SOMETHING about the issue, but every attempt was met with failure. Until it wasn’t anymore. One day, I’d just had enough. I didn’t force myself to stop drinking, I WANTED to stop drinking. It didn’t involve willpower or deprivation, and it still doesn’t. Now, I’ll have a couple sips of a beer and I’m done. There’s no effort involved, no trying, no clinging desperately to sobriety.

That, in my humble opinion, is how change is meant to happen — naturally. No force, because force only causes resistance.

My weight is another example. For years I’ve struggled with body image issues — from an eating disorder to various crash diets, I’ve been shaming myself about my weight for as long as I can remember. But the ONLY times in my life when I’ve lost weight in a healthy way was when I let go; times when I was really happy or really busy and stopped focusing on my weight. It was when my attention was elsewhere that the pounds dropped off.

These days, I’m still not at my proper weight (and by proper, I mean what’s most comfortable for my particular body). I’m a little heavier than I’m meant to be because I still occasionally overeat out of boredom or sadness or stress. But I’ve given up dieting. I’ve given up TRYING to drop weight, because I know that’s a losing battle. When the time is right, the weight will go. Effortlessly. This, I know.

In my heart, I know letting go is the answer to everything. When we flow with the current instead of against it, miracles happen. Life works out the way it’s supposed to.

The key, I believe, is to surrender. Instead of attempting to orchestrate everything around us, we can open ourselves to the unexpected. We can let things happen, instead of trying to make things happen. Butterflies and flower buds and babies in the womb don’t FIGHT to grow into what they are — they simply unfold. Perhaps the rest of our lives are meant to unfold in exactly the same fashion.

Personally, I’m resolved to do less struggling and more surrendering. That’s when the miracles happen.


Letting go of ‘not good enough’

Not good enough is a nightmare. It’s a burden, an albatross — masochism at its worst. And like an intractable illness, it tends to hang around indefinitely.

I know all about this disease known as not good enough. I was diagnosed in my early teens. Heading into high school, I was overwhelmed by the presence of lithe, pretty girls with perfect hair and trim legs. They appeared effortlessly confident, a quality I couldn’t conjure up in my wildest dreams.

Boys loved them. Older boys loved them. I’ll never forget one such girl and her flouncy, flirty red dress. She was a freshman (as was I) and the senior boys flitted around her like hummingbirds to nectar. I, meanwhile, still slept with a stuffed chimp and watched Saturday morning cartoons. Lithe and flirty were not in my repertoire.

Since then, not good enough has hung around, steadfast and reliable. It’s been there, kicking me when I’m down, holding me back from my goals, alienating potential opportunities. It’s the little voice that reminds me I’m not thin enough for anyone to love, I’m not witty enough to make it as a writer, I’m not motivated enough to achieve my goals  — that I’ll always be broke and powerless and alone. Not good enough is deadly.

The good news is, not good enough is more diminutive in my life these days. It’s a little less powerful and a lot less believable. I don’t buy into its bullshit anymore. I’ve made progress. Every day I chip away at its facade, and every day it loses a little bit of its hefty girth.

There’s one thing I know, for sure, however; one indisputable fact I want everyone to remember: not good enough doesn’t exist. It’s a lie we told ourselves long ago, and believed. It’s a tall tale, and we’re the storyteller.

We tell ourselves these tales, brought on by one experience or incident in our formative years, and then we live as if these tales were true. Someone didn’t love us or someone left us or someone was cruel and we told ourselves it was because we’re not good enough. We believed that tale, and built our lives on it.

But we can change the story. We can tell ourselves new tales, happier tales — tales of our own worth and value and uniqueness. We can chip away at not good enough until it’s nothing more than a fleeting memory, a fading dream that slips away as we awaken.

We’re ALL good enough. Every last one of us. We’re more than good enough, we’re amazing and brilliant and totally acceptable just as we are. We’re lovely snowflakes; seven billion bodies and minds and experiences, all one-of-a-kind and built to be so. We just have to keep reminding ourselves. As we start to believe in being good enough, we make room for tales of joy and wonder and abundance; all the lovely things we deserve.

So here’s to happy tales and happy endings — I’m a big believer in both.


“Embrace your imperfections.Fancy your

Dear universe, thanks for the lessons learned in 2014.

As it so happens, I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. I used to be. I used to spend every December 31st typing out a seemingly endless list of things I needed to change about myself and my life. Lose weight, save money, get more work done, yadda yadda.

These days, I’m of the opinion that life is more about acceptance and self-love than a constant obsession with MORE and BETTER. Starting the new year with a laundry list of things you don’t like about yourself seems a little less than productive, particularly considering the failure rate of resolutions.

Instead of focusing on failings, I think we should spend the last few hours of the year highlighting all that’s right and good and lovely in our lives. With that in mind, here’s my list of what I learned in 2014.

Dear Universe,

2014 has been, well, interesting. Of course, the same could be said for every year you’ve blessed with on planet earth. Never a dull moment on the roller coaster ride of mortality! To thank you for your endless grace and abundance, here’s a list of what I learned in 2014. Cheers to shiny new lessons in 2015.

You have your own time.
You, universe, aren’t working from the same schedule as the rest of us. Despite how badly I might want something RIGHT THIS MINUTE, I’ve learned that you frequently have other plans. Relaxing into your itinerary is a lot easier than trying to force mine into fruition.

LET GO are the two most important words in the English language.
It’s funny how words like work, strive, cling, fight, push are given such positive connotations in our society. Yet the longer I’m around, the more I realize that letting go is the way to sync up with you. Letting go requires faith, but faith is the first step towards making miracles happen. To “let go and let God” is always the best solution.

Uncertainty is the nature of you.
Quantum physics has taught us that infinite possibilities are the nature of the universe, and our choices determine our reality. But with possibilities comes uncertainty, irrevocably. Certainty = rigidity, and that’s not the nature of life. I have to learn to be more comfortable with not knowing. Good thing I love surprises. ;)

Other people are everything.
As an only child, I have a tendency to fly solo. While I’ve always been blessed with amazing friends, it’s easy for me to fall into lengthy periods of solitude, particularly if I’m not feeling so hot. Unfortunately, too much alone time contributes to depression in a big way. Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for individuality, but nurturing strong bonds with others is a must for a happy life. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and into more social situations has made a world of difference in my life, as has volunteering to help others every chance I get. In short, embracing other people is a source of endless joy and fulfillment — they make life worth living. Really now, what would this world be if it were just me, myself and I?! #boring

I can live without cheese.
This may sound like the least contemplative item on this list, but it’s actually one of the most significant. 2014 was the year I went vegan, despite protestations that “I could never be vegan because I can’t live without cheese.” Turns out I can, and going vegan is one of the best things I’ve ever done. For me, there’s something vastly important about living my principles. How could I profess love for animals (and the planet!) when I was contributing to their suffering, all for the sake of my own pleasure? Now, I live my values, and it’s a hell of a feeling. Also, non-dairy cheese is pretty amazing (Daiya FTW!), and is getting better all the time. SO THERE CHEESEMAKERS.

Above all, I want to say THANK YOU. Thank you universe, for the lessons learned and for the chance to make the most of every moment I’ve been given. Endless gratitude, and virtual kisses.

Love you to the moon and back,


Cheers to a family Christmas, however yours may look.

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that “family” comes in an infinite number of variations: every size, shape, species and incarnation. Large, small, by blood, by friendship, by proximity, by interest. In my opinion, the only requirement that defines a family is the presence of LOVE.

LOVE makes a family. 

That really hits home for me this year. My parents have been divorced since I was 12, and for the first time in at least two decades, I’m spending Christmas with both of them.

Some people might find that, well, odd. But I think it’s perfect. Better yet, perfectly imperfect. We’re a family and we’ll always be a family. We all love each other, and that’s the ONLY thing that matters.

This year and every year, I want to send love and joy and peace to all the families. A family of one woman and six cats, a family of two men and three kids, a family of five best friends, a family of sixteen cousins and five aunts and six uncles and four grandparents and whatever and whoever else. Each family is unique and wonderful, just as it is, however it presents itself. I have lots of people I consider family, many far-flung, but all close my heart wherever I roam.

So this year, here’s to messy, complicated, beautiful, irreplaceable love. Here’s to broken pieces put back together. Here’s to a family Christmas and endless LOVE. May it shower down on you and your family today and every day.


Christmas movies ranked: my definitive list.

Christmas movies are kind of my thing. Actually, CHRISTMAS is kind of my thing. I’m like Clark Griswold (minus the crazy) meets Buddy the Elf meets Scrooge’s nephew Fred. Holy crap do I love Christmas.

So, unsurprisingly, I spend the entire two months leading up to the big day listening to Christmas tunes, putting up Christmas decorations and watching Christmas movies. Because of this unfailing annual dedication, I consider myself the Roger Ebert of Christmas flicks.

With that being said, I think you can count on my definitive ranking of Christmas movies to be the best one ever compiled. EVER. If you disagree, I’m happy to a have a lively, festive debate with you in the comments section. Fire away with alternative opinions. ;)

Here is it, my list of Christmas movies, ranked in order from 20 to 1. Because Christmas movies make me happy, and I hope the same is true for you. Feliz Navidad.

(Honorable mentions: Ernest Saves Christmas (may he RIP), I’ll Be Home for Christmas (JTT!), The Preacher’s Wife (Whitney at her best), All American Christmas Carol (epic) and 12 Christmas Wishes for My Dog).

20. Bad Santa 
This movie *almost* didn’t make the list because, um, it’s sorta disgusting. On the other hand, it has a happy ending, so it redeems itself in my eyes. And I can’t deny that Billy Bob Thornton kills it as a royally screwed up Santa. Plus, that kid steals the show.

19. Love, Actually
This was actually on my naughty list for a long time, mainly because I couldn’t deal with the Emma Thompson/Alan Rickman storyline. SO depressing. Personally, I expect happy stories in my Christmas flicks. On the other hand, almost everything else about this movie is pretty damned adorable … (almost). What really makes it, of course, is Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon. Christmas cuteness for days. Clearly, that’s now how British government works, but who said movies had to be anything resembling realistic?!

18. Switchmas (aka Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas)
This is a Netflix gem about a Jewish kid who’s obsessed with Christmas. He manages to switch places with another kid and head to Christmastown, Washington (I wanna go there!) where he leads the town pageant and basically warms hearts all over the place. “Christmas is for everyone” is the tagline. ‘Nuff said.

17. Disney’s A Christmas Carol
Yet another version of the old-school story, this 3D version is full of eye-popping animation and features Jim Carrey as cranky cheapskate Scrooge. It runs a little long (particularly when the Ghost of Christmas Past gets involved), but I think it’s one of Jim Carrey’s most enjoyable turns. When it comes to Carrey, I’ll take him as Ebenezer over the Grinch any day. Oh, and it’s also *slightly* creepy, which adds to its appeal.

16. Just Friends
Amy Smart makes another appearance as the irresistible Jamie Palomino — high school obsession of Ryan Reynold’s formerly chunky Chris Brander. With Anna Faris and Chris Klein in unforgettable supporting roles, this flick is a Millennial classic. And how ’bout Faris with the toothpaste, huh? Priceless.

15. A Christmas Story
Ralphie in a rabbit suit, leg lamps and frozen tongues — we’ve gleaned oodles of pop culture fodder from this flick, and it never gets old (even though TBS is trying to make us hate it forever).

14. A Miracle on 34th Street (the original)
Natalie Wood was a DOLL, plain and simple. Forget Cindy Lou Hoo, she would have melted the Grinch’s icy heart in no time. Every time I see it, this flick makes me long to live in ’40s era Manhattan. That hair! Those clothes! The retro Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade!

13. Jingle All the Way
It’s mind-boggling to consider what was allowed to make it to the big screen in the mid ’90’s. This is Arnold at his best: ridiculous. Everything about this movie is entirely unbelievable, which is what makes it so utterly entertaining. Also, Sinbad and Phil Hartman. Miss him!

12. Trading Places
This is a little risque as Christmas flicks go (not that everyone hasn’t seen Jamie Lee Curtis topless in one movie or another), but a comedic classic nonetheless. When Dan Akroyd gnaws on salmon in his dirty Santa suit, it may be the shining moment of his career. And pre-Nutty Professor nonsense, Eddie Murphy was at his best. Theirs was a heck of a bromance.

11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original)
In general, my affinity for Dr. Seuss extends only as far as Cat in the Hat. I respect the genius of Seuss, but my loyalties have always tended to lie elsewhere. Growing up, I was never a Grinch girl, but his transformation from hateful hermit to big-hearted, honorary Who has definitely grown on me. Plus, I adore little Max and his strap-on antlers.

10. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Forever and ever will I believe in the magic of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Character over perfection, any day, any time, anywhere. Charlie Brown knows what counts.

9. It’s a Wonderful Life
Iconic, classic, unforgettable — all of these words apply to Frank Capra’s classic (which, btw, was a bomb when it first came out). I love George Bailey as much as the next girl, but I’ve always been a bit bothered by the undercurrent of the virtues of self-sacrifice. Yes, George did wonderful things to help others, but should he really have had to give up ALL of his own hopes and dreams to do so? Who knows though — perhaps he used some of that cash money to (finally) take Mary on a trip around the world.

8. A Christmas Carol (with Sir Patrick Stewart as Scrooge)
As we’ve established, there are an incalculable number of versions of A Christmas Carol floating around — some better than others. This is one of the best, because Patrick Stewart is THE MASTER of everything he does. That moment when he figures out how to laugh again … I mean REALLY. Oscar worthy.

7. A Muppet’s Christmas Carol
I own many versions of Dickens’ classic tale — animated, modernized, puppeted. With heart-warming songs like It Feels Like Christmas, the antics of Rizzo the Rat and Michael Caine as Scrooge, this is Christmas gold. Besides, Kermie makes the perfect Bob Cratchit.

6. Home Alone
Kevin McCallister + aftershave = classic Christmas memory for all Millennials.

5. Home Alone 2
Some people may take issue with the fact that I rated this above the original, but here’s why: any Christmas movie set in Manhattan automatically earns bonus points. Manhattan is the Christmas capital of the universe. Besides, how awesome is Duncan’s Toy Chest? It puts FAO Schwartz to shame. And who else was obsessed with the Talkboy because of this movie?

4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Nothing says relatable like a totally dysfunctional family Christmas. Welcome to America. Add the kidnapping of Bill Murray’s brother, lights that’ll burn out your eyeballs and singed cats and you’ve got a timeless classic. Clark Griswold’s adorably misguided attempts to craft a Christmas straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting age oh so well.

3. Scrooged
Because Bill Murray you guys. Best. Scrooge. Ever. And the fact that it’s totally dated and screams 1988 (right down to the Tab soda) makes it that much more of a classic. Also, Bobcat Goldthwait.

2. 12 Dates of Christmas
You’ve probably never heard of this movie (unless you’ve watched every Netflix holiday offering at least three times, like some of us). It stars the adorable Amy Smart and former Saved by the Bell heartthrob Mark Paul Gosselaar. It’s about a girl who clings to a rigid notion of how things should be, refusing to embrace what’s new or different. That is, until she’s forced to live Christmas Eve over and over again, a la Groundhog Day (but twinklier). It’s adorable, funny and touching in a totally lighthearted way.

1. Elf 
Hands down, Will Ferrell’s best movie. To me, Bob Newhart will always be Papa Elf, Ed Asner will always be Santa and Zooey Deschanel will always be Jovie. This movie is the definition of sweetness and light. It’s everything I want the world to be — everything that’s good and bright and lovely in the world (fictional or not). It’s amazing, and I tear up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. the hardened New Yorkers start singing Christmas carols. This is the best movie Christmas has ever (and dare I say, will ever?!) seen. In conclusion, “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.”


“A happy person is not a person in a

Finding happiness in [really] hard times.

I’m broke. So broke, I don’t know how I’m going to pay my car payment this month. Or my health insurance. Or, in a couple weeks, my rent. I’m at that charming level of destitution where I’m checking ebay to see if my possessions are worth anything (they aren’t).

It hurts to write that almost as much as it hurts to say it. But I believe in honesty and authenticity and earnestness. Only by tearing down our walls and showing other people our weak spots can we help them heal theirs. I believe we find strength and courage in knowing that other people face the same struggles we do. It makes us feel less alone. That’s why I share things that are embarrassing or difficult or painful for me to admit. I want you (whoever you are) to maybe? possibly? hopefully? feel a little bit less alone.

I’m not writing this to complain about financial issues. Hell, I don’t like complaining about anything. I don’t believe in complaining. It’s toxic energy, likely to attract more of the same. Bitch about being broke … and you’re likely to attract more being broke to bitch about.

But denial is no place to pitch a tent either.

There’s something powerful and significant about accepting what IS, in any given moment. Lying to you or to myself about my current reality isn’t going to change anything. The niggling at the back of my brain, the weight on my mind and heart, the empty bank account — pretending these things don’t exist won’t make them disappear into the ether. I never thought I’d be in this position, but I AM in this position. At least for now.

So here I am, in this particular point and time in space, seeking a way to cling to happiness in the midst of desperation.

This is a painful place, particularly given my beliefs about life. I don’t believe in accidents, or coincidences. I don’t believe life happens TO you, while you’re blown about like a feather in the wind. I don’t believe in victims or bad luck. I could point fingers, but I don’t believe in carrying resentment or blame, either.

I do believe that from the broader perspective, we create our own lives, our own circumstances and our own challenges. I also believe that we can’t always see the bigger picture from our limited, earthbound perspective. That part can be heart-wrenching.

Everyone has SOMETHING that wants to drag them down and steal their joy, and finding happiness in hard times may feel difficult (if not impossible). For me, right now, the challenge is financial. But you might be facing the end of a relationship or a terrifying diagnosis or the loss of a loved one or any other number of seemingly brutal (or, as Glennon Doyle Melton might say, brutiful) circumstances. Life is a series of hills and valleys.  The good news is, happiness is hiding in every precipice and dip.

Funny enough, I’m happier even now than I was in some of my darkest times — when my bank account was healthy and plump. In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found in even the darkest of places, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” I have bleak, black moments, sure, but I also have lots of light, joyful ones, and that’s where I have to put my attention.

So here’s what I’m doing right now — I’m taking happiness one second at a time. I’m reminding myself that I’m alive, I haven’t missed a meal, I have a roof over my head, the sun is shining, Christmas music is in the air, people love The Happy Wall, I have friends and family and dogs who love me very much. I have many things to love and cherish and enjoy, and as many times as my mind goes galloping down that dark, precipitous path towards a worrisome and imaginary future, I’ll gently lead it back to the things I have right here, right now.

I’ll leave you with this. Saturday, a friend and I were walking around a shopping center when I spotted something on the sidewalbreathe-necklacek: a gold necklace — wire, twisted into a word. “Breathe,” it read. It still had its $64 price tag attached. I took it into several nearby stores, hoping to return it to its home, but no one recognized it. As we drove away, it hit me. This was a message. BREATHE, Hannah, breathe. Listen to the universe — it’s clearly making a point.

I don’t know what the future holds, I only know what’s happening NOW — this precious moment, just as it is. One breath at a time.

And life, in this moment, is a-ok.






50 reasons why being vegan makes me happy.

Veganism is a lifestyle choice that tends to engender a lot of misunderstandings. Plenty of people think it involves way more deprivation, sacrifice and, well, lettuce, than it actually does.

The truth is, making the decision to go vegan is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s been nearly a year, and I’ve never felt better. Veganism has been easier, more delicious and way more fun than I ever imagined possible. Yes, I get enough protein, and no, I don’t survive on celery and tofu.

With that being said (and in the hopes of squashing some misconceptions), here are 101 reasons why being vegan makes me happy:

50. No animals are harmed on my account. That’s the best feeling ever.
49. Delicious new vegan products are released on the daily. Trying them makes me feel like a kid on Christmas.
48. It’s like being part of a cruelty-free club.
47. I’m advancing the cause of kindness — towards people and animals alike.
46. I no longer feel like a hypocrite when I awwwwwwww over a picture of a baby cow or cuddly chicken.
45. Just Mayo.
44. I’m in the company of a lot of amazing human beings and activists.
43. Chris P. Bacon.
42. I’ve never felt better.
41. Someday, humanity will be totally horrified at the way we treated our animal friends — and I think that day is coming sooner than later. I feel good about being on the right side of history.
40. VegNews magazine.
39. I’m helping to heal the planet.
38. No baby chicks are getting ground up (seriously, that’s a thing) so I can eat eggs.
37. I’m treating my body with lots of TLC.
36.  Esther the Wonder Pig.
35. I’m way less likely to get heart disease, Diabetes or most of the other chronic, preventable illnesses.
34. So Delicious CocoWhip.
33. I live my values. I don’t talk about loving animals, then passively participate in their murder. I live compassion through my choices.
32. If I have to throw away any food (I try not to!), at least nothing died unnecessarily.
31. Animal agriculture produces more climate change gases than every car, boat, bus, truck, motorcycle and airplane on the planet, combined. I’m not contributing to that.
30. Vegan recipes on Pinterest. So. Many. Choices.
29. I get my proteins from healthy places. Plants. Yes, plants have proteins: complete proteins.
28. My dogs are healthier since they went vegan with me. Seriously. You should see their shiny fur!
27. I’m not sacrificing the happiness or well-being of other animals (or humans — do you know what life is like for factory farm workers?) for the sake of my appetite.
26. I’m doing my part to make the world a better place. I feel like my life has meaning, and that’s hugely conducive to happiness.
25. 1,776 animals are killed for food every second of every day. But every vegan saves more than 100 animals per year. I’m making a dent.
24. Cooking is about a billion times more fun when there are no animal products involved.
23. Prissy and Pop. 
22. Field Roast grain meats.
21. Animal sanctuaries feel like my second home.
20. I’m not eating residual feces, blood, antibiotics or growth hormones. Gross, I know, but when beef is for dinner, so is all that yucky stuff.
19. Cholesterol isn’t even a thing for me.
18. Happy cows.
17.  I’m BFFs with Joaquin Phoenix. Ok … maybe not, but we’re in the same club (see #48).
16. Pigs = dogs = chickens = cats = cows. And they’re all
15. Gardein.
14. Turkey Appreciation Day > Thanksgiving.
13. I’m not eating ground-up animal hooves without even realizing it (gelatin).
12. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. A vegan movie if there ever was one.
11. Seed Food & Wine Festival. Nom nom nom.
10. This chicken that likes to give hugs.
9. I’ve been exposed to and inspired by amazing vegan entrepreneurs like Josh Tetrick, Ethan Brown and Brendan Brazier.
8. It keeps me believing that human beings are good and kind and compassionate at their very core.
7. Sublime.
6. By writing about veganism, I’m helping raise awareness about where our food comes from. When enough people figure out that what we’re doing is completely unsustainable (and cruel), our system will start to change.
5. Atlas Meat-Free Deli.
4. Plants are amazing, and I never realized just HOW amazing before I went vegan. Did you know there are five different classifications for lettuces, hempseed has a whopping 10 grams of protein per two tablespoon serving and jackfruit tastes like Juicy Fruit gum?
3. Starbucks Soy Peppermint Mochas.
2. I’ve helped to influence other people in a positive way, just via leading by example. No browbeating, judging or attacking involved.
1. I’m spiritually, mentally and physically healthy, and veganism is a huge part of that.

There are way more than 50 btw, but I know attention spans are short. Hopefully these will tide you over. ;)

“To know even one life has breathed

How giving back makes you happier.

I get asked a lot of questions about happiness, and people pretty frequently quiz me about the motivation and impetus behind its pursuit. Lots of folks see happiness as a flighty and self-centered quest, as though seeking happiness were all about hedonism and personal satisfaction.

But that’s not what happiness is all about. Happiness has a larger purpose. Happiness is good for the world.

Here’s why: Happy people are more generous. They’re kinder and more involved with their community. Happy people have a positive effect on their immediate environment. Basically, they have a ripple effect on the people and places and organizations they come in contact with. They add TO the world, and help make it a better place. We know this from research.

Happy people don’t start wars, fall prey to corporate greed or perpetuate injustice — unhappy, misguided people do. If the world were full of happier humans, it would be a more just and peaceful place.

But, and this is a big but, when it comes to happiness and the pursuit of such, there’s a huge piece of the puzzle that tends to be missing from the traditional American paradigm: giving back. In America, we’re led to believe that happiness is all about us — that it’s a personal and individual endeavor. And while it’s crucially important to value and honor our individual selves (self-care you guys!), we can’t be happy without meaningful interactions and relationships with other human beings.

We need other people in order to be happy. And one of the most meaningful, fulfilling ways we can connect with others is through giving back. Giving back makes you happier. Volunteering, performing random acts of kindness, helping people who need it = all equal instant joy. There’s lots of research that leads to this conclusion, including a recent analysis that suggests volunteers have a 20 percent lower risk of death than non-volunteers, plus lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being. And um, who doesn’t want those things?

Giving back adds to well-being in so many ways, I couldn’t possibly acknowledge them all in one blog post. It’s the ultimate source of the warm fuzzies. It makes you feel more connected and engaged with other human beings. It ups your compassion quotient. It gives you a sense of civic pride and efficacy. It’s a win, all the way around.

Because it’s the holiday season, people are more inclined to look for opportunities to help and give back, which is AWESOME. Gotta love that Christmas spirit! But unlike eggnog, charity work isn’t something you should treat yourself to only around the holidays. Give yourself the gift of giving back all year round. You’ll be way happier for it.

Whatever your cause of choice, there are countless ways to get involved. The important thing is that you DO IT. For your own sake, and for the sake of the world. <3