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I spy joy in barrels

Sokol Blosser Winery Tour

Sokol Blosser Winery Tour

Anyone who knows me knows I love wine.  Love wine. Love the smell. Love the taste. Love the fun glasses you drink it out of. Love it. Last weekend I discovered something that makes wine even better:   Drinking wine while on a tour of a winery with friends.  Super-duper love it.

Our little party of 8 enjoyed tastes of Sokol Blosser wines while touring the winery and getting a fabulous education. Our wonderful guide, Jenna, told us about how the Dundee Hills evolved, what makes the soil great for growing grapes, and why Pinot Noir grapes have inspired movies.

We sipped, listened, oohed, ahhhed, sipped some more.  We walked on the soil, gazed at the view, smelled the yeast, and waved off a zillion fruit flies. We laughed, we drank, we learned.  We were together.

It was a great and wonderful thing.

October 22, 2009   No Comments

I spy joy in happiness clusters

Happiness Clusters

Happiness Clusters

I always believed happiness was contagious.  Now, like so many other things I feel innately but tend to doubt without external verification; I can say I know it to be true.

We now have scientific proof that happiness spreads.  James Fowler (UCSD) and Nicholas Christakis (Harvard) recently released the results of a 20-year study showing the “dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network.”

They analyzed data collected from nearly 5,000 people over the course of 20 years and found that happiness, like health, is a collective phenomenon.

If I’m happy, a friend of mine living less than half a mile from me is 42% more likely to be happy because of it. The increased likelihood of happiness drops to 22% if that friend lives within two miles from me.  However, if you’re my next door neighbor, your increased probability of happiness is 34%.

Amazing, yes?   There’s more.  This effect, although somewhat diminished, reaches out to three degrees of separation. Increased probability of happiness for the friend of a friend is 15.3% and 9.8% for the friend of a friend of a friend. The diagrams in this post show the ripple effect of happiness.

WOW.

Examination of this same group of people shows that having an extra $5,000 increased a person’s chances of becoming happier by 2%.  But if a friend of a friend of your friend is happy, it can increase your chances of becoming happier by 9.8%.  So, someone you don’t know and have never met can have a greater influence on your spirits than thousands of dollars in your pocket.

Wow again.

Combine this with the knowledge that being happy greatly improves the likelihood of being healthy and we now have more than ample reason to make choices that support our joy.  Our happiness is not only good for us, it benefits the friend of the friend of our friend.

I don’t know about you, but that thought alone puts a smile on my face.

July 13, 2009   3 Comments

I spy joy in making friends with money

money heartIn addition to being very intentional about experiencing joy at every opportunity, I have been working on making friends with money.  This may sound silly, but financial stress can be a serious downer and I know when I’m worried about money I’m not as likely to see or feel joy.

It seems that money is like one of those super popular kids in school–so cool and mysterious and utterly uninterested in hanging out with me.  And what I’ve been learning is that, just like the popular kids, money is just money.  If money was a person (popular or not), it would have bad hair days, get a pimple now and again, burp and fart and even have moments of insecurity and low self-esteem.

Money is just money; in and of itself it’s nothing more than paper, or even a mere idea imprinted on paper. AND, it’s a wonderful tool.  Not too dissimilar to a good hair gel or a facial astringent, money can help us get to the good stuff. 

In a fabulous book by Esther and Jerry Hicks, there’s an exercise I’m having some fun with. Every day (or almost every day) I write myself a check from The Universe in increasingly larger amounts.  Starting at $1,000, then $2,000 the next day, then $3,000 the day after that, and so on. And every day I spend every penny of it.  Just like real money, this is all on paper.  I cut out the check of the day, put it in the Bank of Abundance (which is a glass jar on my desk with a sticky note on it that says Bank of Abundance), then I log in the register all the things I’m able to bring into my life with that money, ie: take the family to Disneyland, pay off a credit card, replace the back deck, take my friends out to a champagne brunch, etc.

So far, I’ve deposited $45,000 in 9 days and I’m already seeing a shift in how I think, feel and experience money.  A few items have already made their way into my hands and I’m pretty excited about that.  I feel like I’m on the verge of discovering the secret to the Rubik’s Cube or a cure for the common cold or a way to eat chocolate every single day without gaining an ounce.

Wanna try?  Print out ISpyJoy.com’s Checks from Universe and give it a whirl. 

See you at Disneyland…

July 6, 2009   4 Comments

I spy joy on the beach

Ahhhh...

Ahhhh...

Mom and I arrived in San Diego yesterday for a girl’s weekend with long-time friend and mom’s ex-business partner Ginita.  After a leisurely lunch of chicken Caesar salad and chardonnay, we headed for the beach.

The ocean breeze ran through our hair, the fresh salt air filled our lungs, and the fine sand kissed our toes with every step.  There are few things as pleasing to feet as walking barefoot on a sandy beach. 

Add to that popping the washed-up kelp bubbles like a child jumping on plastic bubble-wrap and I felt as though I was 4, rather than 40.  A fabulous day, indeed.

June 27, 2009   No Comments

I spy joy in friends

My son recently turned eight. We had his birthday party yesterday at our house. There was a badminton set, horse shoes, t-ball, air hockey and a heck of a lot of hot dogs. Most importantly, there were friends.

To be completely honest, I can only remember what games they played based on the remains strewn across the backyard. What I remember most was how much fun they had just being together.

They played, they giggled. They wrestled, they ate, they ran. They laughed. They climbed, jumped and rolled. They beat their chests like the tribe of brothers they are. They were sweaty and dirty and just about the happiest they could possibly be, simply because they were together.

At the age of eight, these kids have a few things figured out.

May 4, 2009   No Comments

Recession-proof joy

In a time when fear and depression seem to be in a more plentiful supply than they have in years, a survey of visitors to ISpyJoy.com reveals the recession-proof sources of joy. Topping the list for what brings people joy are family, friends and pets. The best ways to spread joy to others? Offering a smile, being kind and listening.

These results remind us—and now is a good time to be reminded—that the greatest sources of joy come from being in the moment with our loved ones. And it’s also timely to note that, while ideally we should enjoy what we do for a living, our core happiness is much less dependant on our jobs than it is on things like being in nature, a walk through your city or reading a good book.

See the complete results of the survey here.

March 14, 2009   No Comments

I spy joy in cooking

Last night a group of friends took a cooking class together. This was no ordinary cooking class. It wasn’t held in a restaurant, it was held in a lovely Victorian home. Well, it’s probably more accurate to say it was held in a stunning Victorian home. The class for six was purchased at a charity auction for the Hough Foundation, where it was donated by Greg and Betsy Hatton. Betsy herself prepared and led the class in her home.We six students sipped Greek wine and noshed on braised olives and humus while we prepared a fabulous meal of mizirthra and pine nut orzo with skewered shrimp, scallops and halibut. For dessert we had a heavenly baklava.

The cooking was fun, the conversation lively and the victuals divine.

January 11, 2009   No Comments