The Work I Did To Be Happy

how to be happy

Work has been such a huge part of my life – in every aspect of the word.  Work as in – at a job.  Work as in – working on goals, investments, endeavors and such.  Work as in – doing the work required to be happy.  Really happy.

I have worked my tail off for as long as I can remember.  My family had very little growing up.  So I learned how to work very hard at a young age.  I had big goals then (and later :))  And I have accomplished really all of them.  (OK, except that cottage.  And let’s add in a brownstone to really cap it off.  ha!  🙂

Working hard has been incredibly fulfilling for me.  I mean – it’s turned into extraordinary experiences.  I financed my own schooling.  I went to one of those gorgeous, to-die-for private liberal arts women’s colleges in Virginia.  I spent a summer in Paris living in a studio rooftop apartment, later graduated, and moved to New York basically that same week.  I bought my first, second, third, and fourth cars.  I bought and renovated my first, second, and third homes in New York.  And I personally seeded a full blown fashion line in New York City.  And all of this – every bit of it – was done on my dime.  Yes, that’s a lot of work.  That is years of sacrifice to make it all happen, starting at age 12.  I guess you could say that growing up poor suited me.  It helped me to know from a young age that I could do anything.  Both because I had a reason to have to accomplish things on my own, and because I also had great parents rooting for me every step of the way.

BUT, the greatest work I have ever done has been outside of every single one of these things.  It’s the work I have done to be happy.  All of the things above did not make me happy.  It was something else…

how to be happy


The work I did to be happy involved surrendering what I thought I NEEDED.  Essentially, everything

A baby.
A husband / LOVE.
A million dollars.

I had to give up the NEED for every single one of these things for something greater…something that transcended it all.  And what I gave these up for was alignment with the Divine…THAT is really all I needed for true wholeness – and true happiness.  I mean that.  THAT is all we truly need!!!  Tapping into that is better than ANYTHING – better than the best marriage, better than all the money in the world, better than beauty, better than time.  (Take that from someone who was very skeptical of God um…like just 5 years ago.)  You see, when I was attached to these things and NEEDED these things to be happy, fulfilled, and whole…life was not so great.  In fact, it was quite awful.  You may remember that I felt DEAD.  Life was full of pain, a broken heart, a stressed out life to the max, and literally no self worth.

But as soon as I made my one and only priority aligning with the Divine, my entire life changed.  I healed in ways I never, ever thought was possible.  I felt happiness and wholeness like I had never known – and I’ve felt that everyday since.  How did I do this?  I had to unattach myself from the NEED to have my life laid out in a certain way in order to be happy.  I literally had to give that ALL up.  That’s a massive surrender.  I mean, we’re human, after all.  That’s a lot to give up.  But not giving it up just led to dysfunction, that awful sting in my heart as I laid in bed at night, desperation to be loved in order to feel whole, anger and hatred so deep I could just tremble, hurt that made me  wonder if I would die in my sleep, insecurities or fears about my personality and looks, the belief that I literally had nothing to offer anyone, the feelings of failure, loss and nothingness, the belief that I was not worthy of being loved.

Click over for a Q&A about the nitty gritty for HOW I DID THIS…

The work I did to be happy

So how did I unattach myself from the “needs” that were only leading to dysfunction?  
I changed my priorities.  No longer was it my priority to “figure out how to make my husband love me” or to “have a baby or else.”  My priority became the pursuit of ALIGNMENT, PEACE and REAL LOVE…ABOVE everything else.  That had to trump EVERYTHING.  I had to decide what I treasured more:  dysfunction and attachment to things and circumstances, or freedom and peace.

How did I “align” and tap into that flow of peace and happiness?
Very simple.  I pursued all the virtues of the Divine…love, forgiveness, compassion, gratitude, joy, hope, etc.  So in all those awful moments that I described, I started to pursue these virtues in those moments instead.  (That’s where the surrendering takes place.  You have to surrender your so called “needs” in those moments, for something greater.  You have to surrender the knee jerk reaction that you so badly want to have – the reaction of anger, fear, offense, jealousy, envy, or whatever…and the justification that goes along with it.)  But as you PURSUE these virtues instead, it’s like the other crap starts to melt away.  It’s making that initial step to surrender your natural self that takes all the power, desire, and courage in the world.  But once you do it, the power of the virtue starts to snowball.  It starts to dominate and embody you, instead of the other awful thing that you were trying to rid yourself of.  Basically, when you pursue these virtues…you “at one” with the very energy that they represent…you “at one” with God himself.  You know, “light is attracted to light”, etc.  There is an ENERGY associated with this stuff.  You will feel it!!!!!!

[Some of you may recognize this whole dang process as the Atonement.  This is the Atonement.  This is redemption.]

Was it difficult to unattach?
Well, once you really realize your so called “needs” are causing so much dysfunction…um…it’s not too difficult to want to change gears.  Unless you just honestly want to be miserable and be a victim forever.  A lot of people are attached to this way of life (maybe they were raised that way) and they just aren’t ready to give it up.  They live and die miserable.  Though I really, really do believe it’s within us all to give up that kind of miserable life.  I think it depends on how much you want to be free.  I wanted it bad.  I had had ENOUGH of living in pain.  I really, really had had enough.  I didn’t want to die that way.  I wanted something better.  And I was willing to do the work.

How do you maintain this?  Do you ever slip?
Of course I slip!  I did have off and on moments as I was learning this.  Things just come and come and COME at you – especially during a divorce.  Oh my.  But I kept at it.  The more you do this, the easier it does become.  And the quicker your turn around becomes.  There are still times when I have an off moment.  If I don’t care for myself physically, I might have more of those moments.  But I know if that happens, that it’s ok.  It’s just a reminder to get back on track.  And I know what to do to get there.

The work I did to be happy.

What else helped you to unattach?
The name of this blog will give you a clue.  LOVE.  🙂
I wanted to be a good mom someday, so out of love for my unborn children, I decided to do all this.  Love is the GREATEST fuel on earth for doing really difficult things.  I also tapped into this kind of love with my ex husband.  I had to surrender a lot in that situation.  i.e. the expectation of him to love me, the desire for him to think I was attractive (he had a personal issue with the way I looked), the desire for him to want to have a child with me, etc.  These things were not lining up the way I had hoped and dreamed.  After 7 years, he said he didn’t love me and never had.  So yes, I had to give up all of those expectations and needs, in order to stay “aligned”.  But I did so, out of love for him as a human being.  No longer as a husband or someone I desired.  But a human being who was in pain.  A human being whom I wanted to have compassion for.  A human being who maybe could have benefited from my surrendering.  Maybe, maybe not.  But I was going to offer it, regardless.  (Again, I wasn’t perfect at this, but I worked hard at it and it came together.)

Do you really think other people can do this, too?
I am betting my life on it.  I wouldn’t be writing this blog otherwise.

Any more tips?
PRACTICE.  Practice applying this in the smallest of ways.  Practice surrendering to a bad hair day.  A burned dinner.  A missed train.  A rude comment.  Watch your reactions.  Practice turning things around by pursuing virtues.  The more you practice this, the more it becomes WHO YOU ARE.  The more it becomes your automatic response.  The more your brain actually begins to change it’s wiring!!!!  The more you actually change the very being that you are.

Final tip?
ASK for an opportunity to practice this.  Decide that you’re ready to do the work.  Ask for it.  Be open to it.  There is POWER in that.  There is willingness in that.  And there’s no better time to start than now…


I hope this was helpful.  Feel free to ask more questions.  I’d love to hear if this connects any dots for you.  I’m trying to explain it, but would love to hear if I need to do more.  And, any and all personal experiences are welcome here.  They are so empowering to others (and to us).  I just love it that you all have made this blog a place of sharing, empowerment and vulnerability.  It’s really so beautiful to see.

Also, you might enjoy a related post that Danny did on this same subject here:  Choosing Happiness: A Sunday Sermon.

With love,


(photos by Saydi Eyre Shumway, in Boston)

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  1. Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 9:49 am - Reply

    I just had major opportunities to practice this. We are getting married and his father's family was so angry at us because we are keeping it small and quite simple. There are 2 reasons for that: we are concerned about the content of our wedding and not the traditional party form (which might sometimes make people focus more on the theater spectacle than the value of this sacred bond)and because we can't afford an enormous wedding (and there is a huge difference of quality of having 250 people or 50)! We were severely agressed by them and we chose love as an answer. We explained our reasons very calmly (while they were screaming at us), we listened with compassion and we tried to cool down their fears. It was an awesome exercice. On the other and, we did have an emotional hang over on that. Because we were really agressed, we felt completely exhausted.

    Then, some of my fiance's spiritual friends are not coming to the wedding and gave us really lame excuses. And I got angry because I know this is hurtful to him. He was capable of not judging and just accept it and stay aligned with Love. I didn't manage it that well. It really made me angry for about two days. Then, I let go. I realized that this is where they are right now, either they don't realize how important this is to him/us, either they don't care. But it's their choice and what we should do is offer them inconditional love, indifferent of their capacity to love us back or realize how important this is to our lives.And it really set me free. Sometimes, I still think about it and feel a little pain in my heart, but I am choosing Love too. It's the only healthy way to go…

    Thank you for your lovely post!

    • Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      I think it's very important not to judge people for not participating in our big events, especially weddings and other expensive, gift-associated events that our culture has gone a little out of control with. There are many reasons a person might not be able to attend a wedding. I have had to turn down dozens of them because they are not in my budget. I just cannot afford the travel, gift, special clothing (if required), etc. And I'm not willing to live outside my means. I'm not entitled to that. And in the end, a day is just a day. Yes, it may be a special event. But no friendship should be measured by whether someone showed up on a particular day.

    • Cathy Wolfram March 23, 2013 at 5:37 am - Reply

      At my mother in laws funeral mass our minister said these words which may help you; "your presence or lack of presence here today speaks volumes. We all have choices to make and "presence" or lack of helps put our relationships in perspective".

    • Anonymous March 23, 2013 at 6:55 am - Reply

      Thank you Anon for your answer! I have also declined tons of weddings for different reasons. But if it is "possible" and the person is a good friend of mine (not a colleague, not someone distant, not just someone I like, but someone I truly love), I do my best to go.

      I totally agree with the expense factor, but the difference in this case is that precisely we are not doing a "traditional wedding", it's more like a picnic! We are not asking for gifts, we told people that if they wanted to offer something, they should give it to a charity of their choice and not even mention it to us. And for those who live farther away, we are offering the tickets. We chose that over a "traditional wedding", because what we wanted was just to be with the people we love. Period. No fancy things, not asking them to use their money on this or that. No special dressing required. That's why it's harder to understand. This is also the reason why his family was "scandalized" that we weren't doing a traditional thing… I guess we can't please everyone. But I do get your point and there might be other legitimate reasons for them not to attend. Thank you for telling me that!

    • Anonymous March 23, 2013 at 7:12 am - Reply

      Hi Cathy, it's funny to read your comment because it goes in the opposite sense of Anon's. I do agree that this put our relationship's on perspective and that's what we are trying to understand: what is going on. Is the bond broken somewhere?

      But then I read Danny's comment to the lady who recently got divorced and I think that's it. Whatever their reasons are, that is their choice and what they can do right now. I can't control that, I can't change that. We did what we could for them to be there and for it not to be difficult to anyone to attend. But I can choose how to react to this. First it was an automatic anger response and still there is pain (I feel it as I type this), but I must choose how to react. As Danny says indifferently of what they will do or not. And Love is the best choice I know. I don't want to hold grudges because they aren't coming. My automatic reaction would do this, but I think I should be better than that. And as Anon put it, this is indeed a special event, but does it erase all the friendship? It shouldn't. So I am working on forgiving them for hurting us maybe even without realizing it. And I hope at some point we will be able to reconcile. Not for them to excuse themselves – because there might be nothing to excuse – but for us to understand together their true feelings and reasons on it and for us to tell them how important this is to us. But it will most likely happen after the wedding…

      Thank you Cathy for your answer and for reassuring me that this put things on perspective too.

    • Anonymous March 23, 2013 at 8:49 pm - Reply

      What a great way to do a wedding!!! I wish wedding culture in the US would shift to follow your example – meaningful, understated, homemade, affordable events. It would introduce so much sanity into the whole process for everyone. And I'm guessing it would provide happier unions by increasing the focus on meaningful relationships and the commitment made that day rather than on the catering, flowers, tens of thousands spent, etc.

    • Anonymous March 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      My friend got mad at a few of her friends who didn't attend her wedding, and at that time she said it was a valid way to determine who her "real friends" were. Then she unexpectedly got divorced. Then she decided that her "real friends" were the ones who were there for her during her divorce (not necessarily the same ones who came to the wedding). You don't know what life will bring. Weddings are important, but ultimately, they are just a day. They are not the sacred, lifelong commitment itself. Friendship is based on dozens, hundreds, thousands of days together. Please don't just friends by what happens one just one day that you've decided is all-important.

    • danny March 23, 2013 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      Love this:

      "Weddings are important, but ultimately, they are just a day. They are not the sacred, lifelong commitment itself….Please don't just friends by what happens one just one day that you've decided is all-important."

      And I agree, it is friends that you find in the most unlikely of moments that will matter the most. It's great when that intersects with important days like a wedding or a birth or whatever else…but friendship is shown not so much by how they behave on days of celebration, but whether or not they are there when they are truly needed.

      In the months following my separation from my first wife and eventual divorce, people I never suspected I'd be close to became my most dear friends of all, for that unique moment in time. Different people will fill different roles at different times…they are all valuable and should be cherished. Let all malice or ill will fade, and be grateful for all the things that made you want to invite them in the first place.

    • Anonymous March 24, 2013 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      Thank you everyone for your suport and comments! It helped me a lot! Yes, different people fill different roles at different times and it's one day. It made me laugh to think that when friends forget my birthday, I don't mind at all because I can feel their love and presence in my life all year long. So it's funny to observe how I didn't manage to think of that automatically concerning the wedding! Oh my! Ego sucks, doesn't it? LOL!

      What I meant about putting into perspective it's not saying who are "real friends" or who are not, but trying to figure out if there is a communication problem or checking if someone has been broken…

      And all this discussion helped me to choose love with a more open heart! (And guess what? That little pain in my heart? Gone!) Hooray to that!

      Thank you Anon for supporting our kind of wedding! I love it when people get it!

    • Anonymous March 24, 2013 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      Oops!I meant: if something is broken between us!!!

  2. Rita March 22, 2013 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Hi! This is my 1st comment! Thank you so much for sharing your way into a more calm and fulfilling life! This was an inspiration for me. I've been with my partner for almost 9 years and I still have "issues" with some members of his family. It's been quite hard to welcome them in my heart. Specially after having my first baby. Back then I realized that they were completely different from us and their views of the world were not the same as ours… But he loves them and wants to be with them. So your post was a "click" to me! I MUST star to surrender and become a better person. And i think I should start with this..

    big kiss,

    • mara March 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      yay for your first comment! I'm so happy you wrote. SO glad this post was helpful to your situation. All the best !!

  3. Lauren March 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Very well written, Mara! I am thinking of sending a link to this to my mom, who is still struggling greatly several years after a divorce.

  4. Sharlee March 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Yes, Mara, this really helps. That last paragraph: surrender a rude comment, bad hair day, etc. That helps. That puts it into easy to apply language for me. I struggle with other people…I also struggle with my body image sometimes, it's something I'm working on…but this really helps. I'd love to see more like this. Great post…thank you!

    • mara March 27, 2013 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      Thx, Sharlee. I love hearing that our readers appreciate posts like this. I need to do more. I have so many topic ideas. I wish I was a faster writer 🙂

  5. Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Just prepping for a lesson and read 2 Nephi 31:19–particularly the latter part of the verse where it talks about relying on the merits of Him who is mighty to save. Then I read what you wrote and it made me smile! 🙂
    Thank you for writing this!

    Changing the topic a little, I went off gluten and dairy to help my face, because you wrote about it helping you in previous posts. I was also having intense migraines daily, and was surprised that by going gluten free (I took out dairy first, then two weeks later gluten) that my headaches completely stopped–YES!!! It felt like a much needed miracle. I told my friend whose daughter has been suffering with them for a long time and for five weeks she has been migraine free. Writing about your struggles and challenges and how you've overcome them has been really beneficial to me and so many others. Thank you again!

    • mara March 27, 2013 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      Loved your comment – thank you. And WOW. So amazed that your migraines have cleared up. I have heard that has happened to others. I used to get migraines with my period once a month…and they also have cleared up completely. I haven't had a headache in years and years – can't even remember the last time…

  6. ellen March 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    I love the photos — I work about a mile from that boiler building!

  7. Kara March 22, 2013 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    I'm really trying to figure this all out for myself. but am not quite getting the mechanics of it. I just went through an awful divorce. I am so much happier now, see that I'm way better off not being married to him, and am working so hard to move forward. What I get hinged on is that i still get SO angry at him (mostly by feeling disappointed). It's not as penetrating as it used to be, and I try to just see his lashing out as HIS problem with anger, not necessarily MY problem. But it still angers me and often ruins my mood for an entire day. We have a gorgeous 3-year old daughter (I have custody, she sees him 2x per week), otherwise i'd just completely keep my distance from him (that would be so much easier…). What do you guys recommend? I'm not at the place for forgiveness yet (though I have no regrets because the marriage brought me my daughter), i'm able to manage not really hating him any more – so I'm getting there. Is it just a matter of time and trying over again every day work on keeping the anger at bay? You have both been through divorces, so I sure could use some wisdom on this. This is the only thing really in my life that causes anxiety – everything else is so good. Again – I'd like to hear about the mechanics. Deep breaths, self-care, stuff like that?

    • danny March 22, 2013 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      Hello Kara,

      Thanks for wanting to work on this stuff in the first place, that already says a lot more about you and the growth available to you then you might think it does.

      The mechanics begins with awareness. You have to be aware of your emotions in the first place, and you must accept responsibility for them. Instead of saying something like "I'm angry because he lashed out at me", realize that his lashing out is his own thing, and whether or not you get angry about it is your thing. It sounds like you're already getting there, but this takes time, and a lot of practice.

      Accepting responsibility for your emotions means CHOOSING for yourself what your reactions will be no matter another person's place. You probably already do this with your 3 year old to a certain degree. I'm sure plenty of times when she throws a temper tantrum it really gets at and annoys you…but I'm guessing there are plenty of times where you maintain your cool.

      You can do that because of expectations. Currently, you don't expect your daughter to be a master of her emotions. In fact, you expect tantrums every now and then while she learns and grows and matures. It's harder with your ex, because you expect more out of an adult.

      But you kind of need to change your expectations. Sure he shouldn't be doing that…but he does. It's kind of like taking your dog out for a walk and always coming across that one dog that just has to bark his brains out. It certainly isn't pleasant, but by now you know that every time you pass that house that's what you expect. The question is, knowing that this is the consistent behavior of that dog, are you going to mentally create a list of reasons why that dog shouldn't do that each time and how irresponsible the neighbors are and let it ruin your walk? Or are you going to let some compassion form in your mind that accepts the situation as it is (and probably will be tomorrow) and say "Poor dog, they probably don't give him enough attention"

      Going the route of justified annoyance, or the route of compassion…is your choice and your choice alone. It has nothing to do with the actions of the dog or its owners. You alone make that choice.

      You said you're not at the place of forgiveness yet…this perhaps is part of the problem. Don't confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. Forgiveness doesn't mean that his actions were or are acceptable. Forgiveness means YOU being willing to let go of the anger/grudge-holding and negativity associated with them, whether or not you reconcile. Reconciliation takes two, forgiveness is individual, and they don't even have to deserve it by changing or saying I'm sorry.

    • danny March 22, 2013 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      Doing these things will take time and practice. Like Mara said in the post, if you can't control your reaction with your ex, then start by learning to control your reaction with something smaller. Start by deliberately choosing to be less annoyed with your daughter regarding something. When you become aware impatience welling up, see if you can choose to remain still, calm, and choose patience and kindness.

      This is all about deliberately choosing virtues (love, kindness, forgiveness, gratitude, hope, etc.) instead of their opposites. Non virtue just sneaks up on us uninvited, and it is so easy to justify. This is about being someone who acts for themselves, instead of someone who is acted upon. (And if you can't choose love for the sake of your ex, then choose love and forgiveness for the sake of your daughter. For her sake, be determined to let go of even justifiable stuff so that she doesn't have to worry about whether or not your day was ruined by someone else.)

      Finally – get some books. If you haven't read Eckhart Tolle – go read the Power of Now and A New Earth. He talks more about how to become aware, and how to be more conscious and deliberate. That's the first thing Mara's teacher had her read. She took notes and started applying it.

      You're going to do awesome.

    • Anonymous March 23, 2013 at 6:41 am - Reply

      God bless you Danny for this comment! You should come more often!

    • danny March 23, 2013 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      Thank you, I would love to….but as you see I get a little carried away sometimes. 🙂 I find that if I get involved in commenting it becomes hard to focus on other things that need my attention during the week, so I have to limit it.

      Hopefully one day I will be able to devote the time and attention Mara does each day! Few things would make me happier.

    • Anonymous March 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm - Reply

      We would all love that too! But thank you for popping in sometimes and thank you for being out in the world working and being paid to do so, so that Mara can be here and help us out! God bless you both! You are wonderful!

    • Bri!!! March 29, 2013 at 3:52 am - Reply

      Danny, you made it so clear! Thank you!

  8. Sarah March 22, 2013 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    I cannot imagine anyone thinking you are anything less than the most radiant, beautiful woman. Your ex-husband must have been blind. 🙂

    • Sally March 24, 2013 at 1:57 am - Reply

      Agreed. 🙂

    • mara March 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Oh ladies – you're so sweet (thank you!). But I guess it's safe to say it was a bit more complicated. There was a mental diagnosis involved (OCD) that possibly was the explanation for how he felt about physical appearances.

  9. Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 9:58 pm - Reply


    Would you mind sharing a bunch (10?) of specific examples – both tiny and bigger – of really specific times you actually applied this and how it looked and played out? I agree with all this in theory, but it's hard for me to take it from the abstract to practice.

    Also, how do you apply these ideas to a relationship that is very, very toxic. For example, I've tried to apply some of this to my mother, but it hasn't changed the dynamic. For example, if she's yelling abusive things at me and I try to react kindly, she just keeps acting the same. I soon crack and revert back to our high school-level interactions. Not sure how to be big enough to change myself in the face of a very hurtful person who likely won't meet me half way.

    Thank you!!

    • mara March 27, 2013 at 9:56 pm - Reply

      YES – GREAT IDEA!! I totally want to do this. I have some stuff in the works. Stay tuned!

      And just quick – in regards to your mother…I think sometimes we have expectations of people. We WANT them to behave in a certain way or we really think that they SHOULD behave in a certain way because of their role. And so, it helps to surrender those expectations – to literally give them up. The high school level interactions will never lead to her changing her ways. She is the only one that can decide to change. And so – release her from fulfilling any obligations or expectations in your mind. Get your wholeness elsewhere. Every person needs to do this – whether they have a good mom or not. We ALL are doomed if we base our wellness and happiness on another person. For me, I tap into wholeness by being a woman of God – by being filled with the purpose of being a good person. That is what makes me whole. Other people do not provide that wholeness for me. This helps me when I'm around a toxic person…because I don't NEED them to perform in a certain way. My inner wellness is not based on their decisions. And even in rough moments, I try to offer the best of my self – just because that's who I want to be – not because anyone deserves that out of me. ALSO, sometimes it doesn't make sense to continue subjecting yourself to someone who is toxic. I really believe that in some cases it's best to cut off or severely limit the interactions. This doesn't have to be done spitefully on your end…and you don't have to be full of anger and hate on the other side. One can still have forgiveness and peace in their heart for another soul, but just not choose to be around them. And I think that's a-ok. Even in the case of family.

      Sending you lots of love and encouragement – – keep working at this in the ways that feel right. I *know* things can get better.

      p.s. another idea…when you know you might be around her, gear yourself up for it. Prepare for it mentally. Literally prepare for the worst and role play in your mind how you would like to respond. This can help a lot. I've done this before.

  10. Angela June March 22, 2013 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    I love your style! Love the vulnerability of sharing – love the message. Just heard some great thoughts on Charity this week and your post ties in so nicely with that virtue. Charity – pure love – for others. Think of how amazing our world would be if we all saw each other through the eyes of charity. I know I need to heed your advice and PRACTICE letting the petty annoyances go. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    It's probably hard to imagine, but how would you apply these ideas to daily life if you were obese? I have such a hard time surrendering to that fact and instead spend a lot of time hating my body, not trying to date because I know most men aren't attracted to me, hating how my clothing feels, etc.

    • snosie March 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      Anonymous – I'd suggest you focus on what your body CAN do. Having broken limbs etc, I learnt to realise that FUNCTION is something to be God dang thankful about. Being grateful you can put a shirt on over your head. Be thankful you can type, and read a blog. It does take a big shift, but it'll be well worth it. And be thankful for everything you do to be more healthy – my biggest mantra 'any little bit of effort is better than nothing' – so if I eat one carrot, it's better than eating no vegetables. Sure, I could be eating 5 vegies a day, but I did something, and something is better than nothing.

    • danny March 24, 2013 at 10:16 pm - Reply

      This post that made it's way around the internets goes along with what Snosie said –

      With all things, a big part of the change is in the smallest little attitudinal shifts. We've all got to start somewhere, might as well start where you are right now. It isn't about overcoming it all in a single day, or ever entirely overcoming it at all. It's about even taking one step and feeling proud a step is taken, and taking another one tomorrow.

      And it's about an attitudinal shift that allows you to celebrate and have gratitude for small victories instead of being shamed by repeated failures.

    • mara March 27, 2013 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      Just a little idea – don't focus on weight, but wellness. In my own journey, physical health was what I focused on FIRST, actually. Sometimes I forget to write that into my posts – like even this post. But I have plans to write about it more. But yes, making time to nurture my physical health is what allowed my spirit, mind, and body to be in sync. Without a healthy physical soil (as my healer would say), it's like the spirit and mind will not have a place to grow their roots. A few things I did to care for my physical self and nurture myself: a little less sugar. I made time for acupuncture (just the act of making time for anything like that was a big deal at the time). I actually kept a food diary for a few months to help me make sure I was eating enough whole foods (I had a habit of skipping too many meals due to being so busy and not thinking of myself enough). I started walking around the park. I tried to get more sunshine since I had been completely deprived of it for years. I slowed down my pace a little and worked less hours. All of these things helped my emotional and spiritual self to thrive for the very first time in my life. It was THEN – after caring for my physical self for just a few months, that the foundations of this blog came to be real in my life.

      SO – I'm excited for you. You have so much potential. You have so much worth. You have so much divinity within you. I have no doubt that even the smallest little changes in caring for your physical self can help your spirit/mind to thrive. Much love, Mara

  12. Teresa March 22, 2013 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    Mara I can not stop crying. This post is perfect! The timing of it is amazing. I've been talking to my friend Hailey this week and the conversations we have had goes right on with what you have shared exactly. This morning she told me that I HAD to make sure I read your blog today. I am so happy I did.
    I have wanted to make this change in my life but I could only get a sliver of that true happiness that you talk about. I wasn't welling to give up ALL the "things" I thought would bring me happiness. I got to the point just this week that I had to make a change. The really big one for me is to be happy by myself. To find happiness within myself and not through other people. To not relay on others to give me that satisfaction of feeling loved and wanted. To not wait to do things because I don't have someone to do it with. I decided that I am ready to really learn what God has in store for me. That it is time for me to work hard. Work hard to be happy. Remembering that the harder you work the more satisfaction you will receive. No more excuses! This last Sunday was the first day. And let me tell you I loved it. I felt empowered like I have never felt before. This whole week I have been focusing on ME. I am working hard. Harder than I have before. I feel like I am more in lined with God. Keep him in my thoughts. Asking for his help. Not only am I focusing on myself but looking for how I can help the people around me. I want to make someone else day, put a smile on their face. Working hard on seeing everyone I come in contact with as a child of god. To see them as God does and treat them with that respect. Servicing others is when you find yourself. I've been looking for those opportunities. Which is really easy cause it everybody. Everybody needs a boost. I am not thinking what can someone do to make me happy I am thinking what can I do to make someone else happy.
    I haven't done this alone. I have two amazing friends who give me support and motivation. Hailey being one of them. One day Hailey and I were talking about times that we were really happy and why were't we like that now. Why does that happiness only last a short time. We realized that there were certain habits that we had not kept up on. One of the habits we found that we both had lost was reading and studying the scriptures. And then came up with a couple of other habits that we needed to do everyday to help us be happy. We call them "Happy Habits". I got that idea from my sister. These are our happy habits: 1.Praying 2.Reading/Studying Scripture 3.Exercising 4.Writing. We find when we do our happy habits it makes are day happy. The focus on my day is different when I do them. Its so much better. Not only are the three of us doing our "happy habits" we are checking/reminding each other to do them. We send each other a text message and a picture showing that we are doing our happy habits.
    This week has been something else. It feels good to work so hard for something that I truly want. I love that I am doing it by myself but yet not. I have to work hard but it sure makes a difference to have that support. To have someone to check on you, to keep you in line. I am excited about life. The excitement is different. I feel that I can finally do it. But its because I am letting go of the "things" that I thought would bringing me happiness and letting go I am finding true happiness. I still have a ways to go but its lifestyle change. I am going to put in the hard work everyday so I can have it.
    Mara and Danny thank you so much for the things you share. You both are truly inspiring. I love you both! I hope what I wrote makes sense. Writing isn't something that come easy. Thank you thank you for this post! Thank you for being great examples.

    • danny March 23, 2013 at 1:57 am - Reply

      We love you too Teresa! Hailey wrote us an email earlier today shared a little about your happy habits, and I gotta admit that made us both pretty happy! But getting this little comment is even better!

      I know you're no stranger to service, I have always admired you and been grateful for the way you and your siblings have served Grandma. So you happen to be a great example to me as well. Know that we are both grateful for you and delighted to call you family.

      What a blessing that you have friends committed to this as well! We're excited to hear how things go for you over the next few weeks and months. Perhaps you'll have some insights that could help someone else from what you learn.

  13. Anonymous March 23, 2013 at 5:00 am - Reply

    This post was so relevant to me, especially this week. I am in a pretty rough and gritty grad program right now, and sometimes I just feel so hopeless and down on myself. I went through a lot of self-reflection during my undergrad years, and thought I had this happiness thing figured out, but like you said it can creep back in. Those thoughts, feelings, etc can find their way back in. I feel it happening to me, big time! Not being married, or having kids, or any of those things that a lot of people my age are already doing tugs at me. It makes me bitter that I do not have those things. I would rather be married and a mom more than anything. Don't get me wrong, I do love learning and I know that grad school is the right decision for me, especially for my future family. But sometimes it just eats at me that I don't have those things yet, and will I ever?

    Thank you again for this post. I have a lot of things I need to work out. BUT, I do notice that when I surrender myself to God, and allow him to help me figure this crazy world out my life is so much more peaceful. And the anxiety doesn't stick as much. Part of finding that inner peace is allowing ourselves to grow from bad experiences and allowing ourselves to align our inner soul.

    You are both amazing!

    • mara March 27, 2013 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. I need to write a post about the first part of your comment. It turns out, that there are a lot of miserable moms and wives. Some people do put marriage and kids on a pedestal – as if life would be better with them. But…as with all things, basing your happiness on circumstances is a gloomy path to take that will always lead to dead ends (and husbands and children that receive way too much pressure from a mom who is basing their happiness on them). Use this time to surrender to your beautiful life just as it is. Be open to possibilities. But do not base your happiness on what might come to you in the future. It sounds like you already are doing this…and I'm rooting for you every step of the way. I know it's not easy, but it will be the most rewarding journey of your life and the greatest gift to ANYONE who ever is in your life. Much love, Mara

  14. Cathy Wolfram March 23, 2013 at 5:39 am - Reply

    Nothing better than surrendering it all to God and letting go 🙂 Thank you for sharing your journey Mara.

  15. J, K, L, and D March 23, 2013 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    I have never commented before, but I love, love, LOVE reading your inspiring posts. (My former sister-in-law, who I love & miss very much, turned me on to your writing. She found solace, peace & happiness through the midst of a messy divorce from your blog. She also recommended a piece on vulnerability you guys wrote that I adore…and am still working very hard on. It's really hard for me to let myself be vulnerable to this day because of some past hurts. Weird how much we let the past still affect our adult selves, huh?)


    Thank you for posting today's "how to be happy" post. I needed it more than you know. Hopefully it will be the kick in the pants I need to get off my duff & work harder to be happy – today. Not tomorrow, not when I get skinnier or when we pay off our loans or when the kids get bigger, or when whatever happens, but TODAY. I appreciate both of your insights more than you know – thank you.

    Any plans to write a book someday? 'Cause I'd totally buy it…

    Or offer any more classes? I missed the last batch of offerings!

    I mainly just wanted to say thanks again for all you do, and happy weekend! 🙂

  16. Denise March 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    Oh Mara, this post reasonates and speaks from my heart. Surrender and making peace with pain is something I have learned to do within the past 5 years and yes of course I slip. But I have learned to stuff love into my broken heart, broken when I buried my college age daughter when she had a sudden asthma attack (while attending Brooklyn College), surrendered to accepting my younger daughter's severe depression and awful years that followed(I couldn't fix it), losing all 4 parents and lastly,believe me, this is nothing, my husband's loss of job. This in 5 years. When I stuffed my heart with the love of all family, friends, neighbors, my girlscouts and daughter's friends, I found I made peace with my pain and surrendered to things I cannot control or change. And yet,there is so much joy and love in my life because I gave up the anger, fear, etc. and filled myself with love and gratitude and joy. Mara, you have a gift with words and wisdom and I can't tell you how much this post means to me. By the way, I have commented acouple of times on your blog and I still have so much more to go through on it.

    • danny March 23, 2013 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      Denise – Mara just called me to ask me if I'd seen the most recent comment, she said I would love it. So I came to check it out….this is beautiful. My heart reaches out to you for the pain you've had to experience, and my heart also reaches out to you because of the wisdom you share and I'd love to learn more of your journey.

      Would you ever consider sharing more, maybe even doing a guest post? Mara and I sometimes worry that too much of this blog is told from our voice, we want others to see that there are people ALL OVER living and experiencing the miracles you described in the way you described them. I think you could help a lot of people. If you feel comfortable sharing, send us an email. If not, thank you for the comment. It brings us great joy to know that others have experienced what Mara and I have. So many kindred souls out there.

      With love – Danny and Mara

  17. TJ March 24, 2013 at 3:47 am - Reply

    I needed to read this tonight. I'm in the midst of so many big decisions as a newlywed who's navigating a new marriage, finishing grad school and embarking on a new career. I can't remember how I found your blog, but it has been an ABSOLUTE blessing to my life. Aligning with the Divine, leading one's life with love and surrendering to whatever life presents are lessons that I learn again and again and again. I'm so blessed by these words tonight. This post reminds me that sometimes we have to let go of what we think we're supposed to have to gain what's really in store, and often, it's better than what we anticipated. Thank you for the reminder. Just know I'll be printing this post out and referring to it from time to time. I'm having a "holy ghost" moment as my southern Baptist family members would say! 🙂 Thank you for your powerful words.

  18. Trish March 24, 2013 at 7:45 am - Reply

    Perhaps in a few weeks' time, or maybe a few months, I'll be able to articulate what this post – and your blog – has meant to me. I don't know where you two get your insight from (is there a University Of Contentment I haven't heard of?) but it's quite amazing. And I say this as a 'devout atheist'. I don't believe in 'God' but I do believe in some higher power, some greater force, and so your words resonate with me anyway. You have a way of explaining things that just makes the world make sense. Thank you.

  19. Anonymous March 25, 2013 at 2:38 am - Reply

    This is really interesting and helpful…..but dang if you can feel so insecure about your appearance (and you are gorgeous), then how can we "regular" people not walk away after looking at this feeling worse about ourselves?

    • danny March 25, 2013 at 3:08 am - Reply

      That's a very good question. You have to ask yourself if what is being shared is only circumstantially true, or really is a deeper truth that applies to all things. That's a question only you can answer.

      I'll help you think about it though….couldn't Mara say the same thing about infertility? What if she heard someone saying the same stuff she says on the blog, but the person after going through years of infertility finally had a child? Would Mara then be able to say "well all your information is helpful, but you've got a child…what hope do I have while still infertile?"

      Is it really the infertility that matters? Is it physical attractiveness that matters? Is it having a perfect relationship? Is that really what it boils down to?

      Or are some people that have kids just as miserable as some people who are unable to have them? Are some people who are beautiful just as insecure as those who aren't? Are some who have a supportive spouse just as unhappy as those who don't.

      The more I see of life, the more I learn from others that circumstance is largely, if not entirely, irrelevant. The consistent trait of those who enjoy real, deep, meaningful happiness….those who love, forgive, live a life full of hope and faith, offer kindness regardless. They tap into a contentment that sustains them whether they find themselves in a concentration camp, or castle.

      Virtues are the key to happiness. In the words of Aristotle "Happiness is an activity of the soul, in accordance with virtue".

    • Anonymous March 25, 2013 at 4:23 am - Reply

      WOW. This comment from Danny was the most true and inspiring thing I've read in a very long time. Puts so much into perspective that I've been thinking through lately. Wow. Wow. Wow. Thank you Danny for writing this. I hope to hear from you more! Especially about God. I yearn to hear you guys share about your relationship with Him. Thanks for the comment. It does my soul so much good this very night.

    • M March 26, 2013 at 3:42 am - Reply

      Wow-Danny. That comment was profound. You articulated yourself amazingly well. You ought to post that on the blog so everyone can see it.

  20. Heather March 25, 2013 at 3:54 am - Reply

    Thank you Mara (and Danny) for this post and the comments. You guys really are helping so many people and making such a big difference. I know you can see it from the comments, but if you only knew how many people read and feel and think in silence too. You have already made a big difference to me. I'm in the middle of making my own turn around right now and my husband and I were talking about this just this morning. It's amazing how much the Lord is willing to help when we're actually willing to listen. We were talking about this quote from Ezra Taft Benson this morning, “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He can deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, and pour out peace.” I have been working on "surrendering" and "turning my life over" over the past week, and it has been really hard work. This post really is timely. My life looks so different from what I hoped and dreamed it would be. It's not bad, just different, and sometimes my overwhelming reaction is to throw myself even harder into making it into the version that I wanted . It puts new meaning in "kicking against the pricks." This whole surrender thing is tough. But since pursuing my version of happiness out of concern for what other people think and perceive hasn't really panned out; here's to pursuing God's version of my life and his virtues. Even writing this comment is a little win and surrender for me. It's much easier to observe silently. Being vulnerable is not really my favorite thing, but it's usually worth it 🙂 Thanks for being willing to be vulnerable and open, you guys make such a big difference.

    • mara March 27, 2013 at 10:16 pm - Reply

      YAY!!! This comment made me smile from ear to ear. I'm so happy you wrote. And it sounds like you are on such a beautiful path. It's the most rewarding path you could ever take. Sending you lots of love on the journey. -Mara

    • Anonymous June 23, 2013 at 11:41 am - Reply

      God isnt a male name. God isn't male or female.

  21. KelliO March 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    So glad Mara pointed out Danny's comments! I'm glad I came back to this post after the weekend.

    I, too, am usually a silent observer on this blog. I have read nearly every day since you started. I'm sure it is a good thing, as it was a good primer for beginning my marriage last summer. I think I'm finally starting to get it a little bit at time. Thank you for sharing what you do, over and over, for the specific examples and mechanics on how to do so. When you do so, it is easier for me to recognize that I can do this, too.

    I am better at seeing the blessings now, and they pour in when I respond more lovingly in my young marriage! Your little corner of the internet is so positive and full of light. It is becoming obvious that you are making waves for good!

    • mara March 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      SO wonderful to hear. And thanks for having the courage to leave a comment. We love you and all our readers for the wisdom and support you add to this blog!

  22. Jenny @ Tilt and Turn Windows March 26, 2013 at 6:33 am - Reply

    Very impressive post… this one of the best posts for people who have lost hope about their life and their future..

  23. Glen Cooper March 26, 2013 at 8:34 am - Reply

    Thank you writing this blog. It struck a chord with me 🙂 I have retweeted it and reposted it out our FB page. Thank you! Check us out on twitter @HappiJar – you may like what we are doing…. 😉

  24. JP Peterson Ricks March 27, 2013 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    I needed that. Thank you.

  25. Starlee March 28, 2013 at 4:07 am - Reply

    I thought I'd share a little something with Kara – something a little more "mechanical" that has helped me better control my emotions. This works well with children and has helped (and continues to help) me at those inevitable moments when anger, negativity, frustration, etc. try and find a place inside of me. Sometimes it's helpful to assign a shape or a color or an object to the emotion you're experiencing. By making the emotion more tangible, it becomes easier to push it away. It may be a balloon that you release into the sky, a box that you drop in the middle of the ocean, a ball that you dropkick to hell, a color that you erase, etc. For me, I simply take a deep breath and breathe it away. It's not so much the deep breathing that helps, but the releasing of something inside of me that does the trick.

    My husband happens to be one of the most loving, optimistic, and peaceful people I know. This is something he has practiced for many years. I always feel so blessed to observe this "releasing of negative emotions" in action. When his patience is tried by one of our kids, an unkind word is said, a problem suddenly arises at work, etc. I can watch him accept whatever emotion he is feeling, then choose to push it away. It happens so quickly, but is often visible if I'm paying close attention. This may seem strange, but it totally works. And it will feel weird – and maybe a little silly – at first, but it will become more automatic the more it is practiced.

    It's also been helpful for me to understand that it is not necessarily bad to feel negative emotion. It is part of the human condition to experience sadness, anger and resentment, fear, frustration, etc. But, it is up to us to decide how long we'd like those feelings to linger. Don't beat yourself up for feeling a certain way. Just recognize/accept it (as Danny says) and choose to let it go. And focus on the progress you've made. We all have a long way to go 🙂

  26. Brianne March 28, 2013 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    This is completely off the subject of your post but on the subject of the photos you included in the post. Were these taken in front of the LDS Chapel in Boston? My husband and I went to that chapel while we were living in Cambridge for law school. I miss living in Boston so very much! Just curious if I still recognized the outside of the building! Thanks for this blog you put so much time into. It brings a smile to my face each time I read through the posts I've missed since the last read! You have helped me realign my perspective and seek to enjoy my life right now with everything that I have right now!!

    • danny March 29, 2013 at 2:02 am - Reply

      Good eye! That is where those pics were taken.

  27. Anonymous June 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Hi! I came to read this from Danny's post this past Sunday. I want to try it but I just don't get it!! 🙁 I can't imagine what exactly I'm supposed to do when "persuing virtues", especially when my first reaction wasn't good and I realize that I need to stop. Example: my husband lives in complete denial and he's always the victim. Most days with the little things, I practice and can usually let go of my frustrations. Other days and when big things are at stake I try to be kind, patient, understanding, etc. but I feel I too have a limit, you know? If I choose to leave the conversation then I get all sorts of frustrations from him, but if I stay I completely lose it! So, how do you deal with that? What do you think about, how do you handle your boiling emotions right in the middle of it? Sometimes when I notice I lost it I keep going at it and get worse, almost as if I took the bad route, already screwed up and the kind option is no longer available… would you be so kind to post step by step instructions on pursuing virtues or recommend a good book on this? Maybe even some examples of how you did it when you first started, though that might be too personal. If your ex-husband was being unkind when you first started practicing, what did you do? How did you react? Did you go work on your stuffed animals? Know what i mean? sorry if I'm asking too many questions, you inspire me and I really, really want to change. thanks btw, you guys are the best

  28. Bethany November 9, 2013 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Mara, I understand what you mean when you say to surrender your needs and expectations of what you think will make you happy…but I don't quite understand what you mean when you say you surrender to a bad hair day, burned dinner, etc. What does that mean? I guess I understand the bigger picture (surrendering your will) but am having a hard time seeing it applied in the day-to-day.

  29. Kitchen Gal January 29, 2014 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Lovely post, you sound so incredibly successful and I'm glad you've found your balance!

  30. Rachel February 10, 2014 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    This is probably the third or fourth time I've read this post. And how badly I need it in my life. I was happy once: grateful, compassionate, understanding, but I got bogged down in expectations and turned into someone that I don't really like. Thank you so much for writing here; it's my touchstone and my inspiration.

  31. Anonymous March 14, 2014 at 4:04 am - Reply

    I just stumbled into this blog, and reading it brought me to tears. I have had a tumultuous year. My mother passed away from cancer and my marriage crumbled. I had married who I thought was my best friend, we were polar opposites, we had known each other for 16 years and were married for 10 years. My mother was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, a few weeks into my mother's diagnosis, he tells me that he never really loved me. That he will always care for me, but was never in love, I find out shortly after that he had a month long affair with a co-worker. It's been a year since my mother's passing and since my husband left, and I still hold on to the love, and have realized that I have been holding on the notion that he might return, and have made my happiness contingent on his love. This entry really made me realize, that I need to surrender, and make myself happy in order to find happiness in life.

    • danny March 14, 2014 at 4:54 am - Reply

      Well Anon, may we say "Welcome!"

      Our hearts truly do go out to you for what you've suffered. And by that I mean both the unfortunate and tragic circumstances….and also the unhappiness and despair that has accompanied them.

      Please know that you are not alone in your journey. Mara and I have both walked this path, and found happiness and healing, and love from a healthy place. We have experienced some of the same things you described, and they demanded of us the same thing that your circumstances are demanding of you….a new way of living.

      Yes, surrender! Yes, find a way to build on something much more solid and stable than another person, a particular desired circumstance, or even your own actions. Build on something deeper and more reliable than that.

      If this post resonated with you, you might consider also reading a similar post I did a few months later on the same subject. Here you go….

      There are of course many other posts on the subject in this blog. Try browsing the tags for Happiness, Self Worth, Trials, Spiritual Enlightenment.

      Hopefully you will find in these posts, and in your own personal journey and path, the healing that you seek.

      With Love, Danny and Mara

  32. Happy birthday message October 14, 2014 at 1:17 am - Reply

    What a great post, you look so go together! <3

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