50 Inspiring Journal Prompts For Self-Awareness & Growth

Man with pen poised to write, pauses to consider a journal prompt for self-awareness.

Wherever you are on your journey toward a “better you,” you know that change and growth aren’t easy. Sometimes just knowing where to start is the toughest part. Something as simple as inspiring journal prompts for self-awareness can make all the difference between staying stuck and making progress.

Working on yourself is a lifetime effort and commitment. But there always seems to be that chapter of life that could be subtitled “Self-Help.” 

You may delve into the reading, journaling, meditation, therapy, and support groups after a major loss or life-changing event. 

Or you may immerse yourself in the effort without realizing it, inspired by self-curiosity and a hunger for growth.

You may love the work. You may dread it. And you may even wonder if there’s an end to the self-help advice and lingo that follow you wherever you go. 

And you would be right in line with all the reasons that self-awareness is a practice, not a destination.

But even a practice needs a starting point.

Journaling, for example, is central to self-discovery. Writing has a way of translating your subconscious to a conscious form that confronts you with otherwise hidden truths.

It’s a ritual that adds discipline to your life while giving you time with your thoughts.

And yet, despite so much to write about, even journalists get writer’s block.

Fortunately, you aren’t the first person to embark on the search for self. And you aren’t the first to wonder where to start.

When your mind can’t nail down an idea or thought to explore, it helps to have journal prompts for self-awareness on hand.

Here are 50 to get you started:

  1. What are 10 things for which I’m grateful?

  2. Who are 5 people I admire and why?

  3. What are 5 things I think I’m good at?

  4. What are 5 things I think other people think I’m good at? Do the two lists match?

  5. What physical fears do I have (heights, tight spaces, airplanes, certain animals, crowds)?

  6. What fears about life do I have (health, talking in public, not being good enough, not having enough money, not finding love)?

  7. How are my fears holding me back? What things would I do if I weren’t afraid to?

  8. Where and when did I start having these fears? Did something specific happen to cause them?

  9. What is the most courageous thing I have ever done? How did I feel afterward? And how did it change my life?

  10. What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me?

  11. What is the kindest thing I have ever done for someone else?

  12. Am I taking good care of my body? If not, what are 5 specific things I can do to take better care of it?

  13. What 5 things/people/animals do I love most in this world? How do I feel in and out of their presence?

  14. What habits do I have that don’t serve me well? When and why did I develop them?

  15. How would my life look if I stopped 3 of my worst habits and replaced them with good habits?

  16. What negative mindsets do I need to release?

  17. What is one thing I deeply regret? And what have I learned from it?

  18. To whom do I still owe an apology or amends? What is holding me back?

  19. Who do I believe owes me an apology or amends? Am I still holding a grudge?

  20. Twenty years ago, how did I imagine my life today would look? Is my life better, worse, or just different than I had imagined? How so?

  21. How do I imagine my life looking 5 years from now? Ten years?

  22. If money weren’t an issue, what things would I do?

  23. If time weren’t an issue, what things would I do?

  24. What talent do I wish I had that I don’t?

  25. What talent do I have but not use to the best of my ability?

  26. Looking back, what advice would I give to myself on my high school graduation day?

  27. If I could change one thing about how I acted in an important relationship, what would it be?

  28. In what ways do I feel misunderstood by the world? What 3 things do I wish people understood about me?

  29. What causes me the greatest heartache?

  30. How would I most like to change the world?

  31. What do I love most about my home?

  32. What qualities do I look for in a friend?

  33. Do I like being around people?

  34. Do I need time to myself after work or being around a lot of people?

  35. How do I feel right now? How does my body feel? Do I recognize connections between what’s going on in my thoughts and what’s going on in my body?

  36. If I could talk to myself in the third person, what kind, validating, compassionate things would I say?

  37. What would the perfect day look like for me?

  38. What are 10 things I need to be happy?

  39. Am I comfortable asking for help?

  40. Do I believe I am a good person?

  41. If I were someone other than myself, would I want to be friends with me? Why or why not?

  42. How do I think other people see me?

  43. In what ways have I turned out “just like my mother/father”? In what ways am I different? What do I think of those similarities and differences?

  44. What hurt from my childhood has never been healed?

  45. Which of my responsibilities do I find distractions for? What feelings or outcomes am I trying to avoid?

  46. How do I handle conflict?

  47. What triggers me into arguments/conflict?

  48. What would help me feel less stressed on a daily basis?

  49. Do I like myself? Love myself? Enjoy time to myself?

  50. What makes me smile? What small thing can I do today to make someone else smile?

Somewhere near the top of this list of journal prompts for self-awareness you may have started making your own list. And that’s great! That’s the purpose of a prompt – to crack open the door so the light can flood in.

Journaling is just one of the ways that self-awareness can be developed. It’s intended to be liberating, without the guardrails of self-editing and critique.

(If you want or need journaling prompts in a guided-yet-freeing format, check out any of the colorful, fun, insightful books by SARK. Below’s a picture of 3 I have on my bookshelf.)

Self-awareness is a process, a practice, a journey of discoveries and choices based on those discoveries. 

As it deepens, it grows. And the journey, if you choose, lasts a lifetime.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing your self-awareness (and maybe get a few more journal prompts for increasing self-awareness) so you can become more you.

Looking for more information about how you better know and accept yourself? You’ll find what you’re looking for in How To Be More Self-Aware.

How To Find Reasons To Be Happy

Happy woman standing with her face to the sun enjoying its warmth.

For all the reasons to be happy in this life, there are times when everyone struggles to find them. Personal losses, relationship changes, even too much status quo — they can all put a fog over an otherwise sunny disposition. 

We’ve all watched the human-interest stories at the end of the nightly news. You know, the ones that make you feel humbled by the ability of people who, in the face of tragedy, manage to stay happy.

The ones that make you want to be a better person and work on your own attitude because of someone else’s inspiring attitude.

The ones that make you remember your own childhood and the fact that children are inherently happy, even in poor countries

And every Christmas we are reminded by the Whos in Whoville that material possessions are just bonus to genuine happiness. They aren’t the reason for it.

What is essential can’t be taken — even by a grumpy Grinch — without our permission.

So what are you supposed to do when you find yourself overwhelmed by negative circumstances and emotions? Is it possible to be happy in the midst of loss, grief, injustice, and insecurity?

Sometimes the best way to start something is to stop something. When you don’t know exactly how to find reasons to be happy, stop doing the things that prevent happiness.

Living in the past, especially with regret; holding onto grudges and not forgiving; always striving for perfection. These are just a few of the ways that you can sabotage your own quest for happiness.

These negative mindsets can also blind you to the happiness that has already been present in your life.

The short-answer, fortune cookie wisdom to the search for reasons to be happy is that happiness is a choice. It’s a perspective that you choose as a constant in a life full of unpredictability and loss.

While there are many ways to go about building a happy life, there is a common thread that, in one way or another, underlies them all.

Gratitude.

While not considered a virtue in the biblical sense, gratitude is considered the highest of virtues in the moral sense. The Roman philosopher Cicero even called it the “parent of all other virtues.”

To be in a state of gratitude is to be in a state of awareness and celebration of the gifts of the present

To choose gratitude is to choose to seek what is good, positive, and possible in every moment, every circumstance, every person.

And, in the same way that two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time, two thoughts can’t occupy the same brain space at the same time.

You can’t be busy looking for the good in the world and simultaneously stewing in anger or fear.  

Gratitude helps you find reasons to be happy because it’s a mindset of recognizing sources of happiness.

It’s what makes you slow down and consider the gifts of the moment. The breeze that just swept through your hair. The ladybug on a flower. A warm day in winter.

The stranger who smiled and waved. The just-because card in your mailbox. The forgiveness from someone whose feelings you had hurt.

The simple meal you made for dinner. The exhausting workout you had. The pound you lost. 

One more day of sobriety. Two bags of clothes cleared out of your closet. Three grandchildren coming to visit.

The reason gratitude is directly linked to happiness is that it puts a positive spin on the past, present, and future. 

Of all the things you could focus on in your past, gratitude will draw to mind all the ways you have been blessed. It will remind you that you have always been provided for, even against the odds.

And isn’t it amazing that you can, from where you stand today, transform the power of your memories of the past?

In the present, gratitude opens your heart and prepares it to see all that is good. It sets your radar on high alert for the infinite reasons for happiness.

Even when you find yourself confronted by negativity or injustice from other people, you will find the kernel of goodness. 

You will seek to learn something from those with different opinions and beliefs. 

And you will marvel at your own ability to allow love and respect to rise above the need to “be right” or win an argument.

All because your heart is aware of goodness. And your heart’s awareness becomes your mind’s attitude.

Gratitude can even shape your future by giving you hope and trust that good things will come. You have already conditioned yourself to know that you will find goodness because you always look for it.

I’m sure you want to know how to create a happy and healthy life for yourself. Who doesn’t?

But did you know that gratitude is directly linked to health, in part because it motivates you to do healthful things?

So, all those happiness-inducing activities like exercising, getting out into nature, and eating well are all rooted in gratitude.

The realization that life is a fragile gift not to be taken for granted is inspiration to take care of it. 

Happy people are more active and take better care of themselves. They feel better. Their pain tolerance is higher. They don’t become entrenched in little irritants.

Exercise, for example, releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel happy. Feeling happy within yourself makes you want the world to feel happy, too.

via GIPHY

And, as is always the case with doing good things for yourself or others, goodness begets goodness. 

Wanting others to be happy and healthy energizes you to reach outside yourself to help them. It also requires that you want yourself to be happy and healthy too.

And, no surprise here, being generous and volunteering your time and resources eventually circle back to increase your own happiness.

Finding reasons to be happy doesn’t have to be an epic search for the Holy Grail. It’s a mindset, not a quest.

And nowhere is happiness more powerful than in the most mundane activities that make up the majority of life.

Sometimes happiness is as simple as singing a Disney song while doing the dishes, or feeling indulged by clean sheets on the bed.

And it is always as simple as prioritizing the happiness of someone else.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself.

Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.

How To Survive An Unhealthy Marriage While Working To Make It Better

Sad man sitting in the dark contemplating how to survive his unhealthy marriage.

What do you do when it’s all falling apart and you feel as if trying to save your marriage is an uphill climb? What if you’re not fighting just the blues or boredom, but something more inherently problematic? Do you know how to survive an unhealthy marriage while also working to make it better?

Every couple wants the sizzle to last, even though they know that a certain amount of monotony will sneak in. That’s just the nature of familiarity and the price of being with one person for the rest of your life. 

All those crazy, sleep-depriving, romance-obsessed hormones have done their job. And, predictably, they eventually take leave and give way to sustainability. (Thank God!)

Before diving into tips for how to survive an unhealthy marriage, a few distinctions are in order

Just as with photography, the gray scale can make transitions in relationships so nuanced that you barely notice them. Even black and white have degrees of intensity, often noticeable only in direct comparison.

So, what’s the point of applying the science of art to the science (and art) of marriage?

If you’re going to work on making your marriage better, it’s important to recognize what needs work…and why

You don’t need to know exactly what the final edition will look like, as even that will constantly evolve.

You don’t even need to know all the details of how your marriage got to where it is.

But you do need to know where you are at this moment.

Recognizing and acknowledging your own feelings, behaviors, reactions, and choices will help you zero in on that gray scale.

Are you unhappy? Bored? Tired? Frustrated? 

Have you and your spouse stopped talking about anything but kids, work, and weather?

Do you exhale a big sigh of relief when one of you has to go on a business trip?

Do you and your spouse bicker, fuss, criticize, blame, and fight instead of cooperating and collaborating on mutual goals?

Has sex fallen into a bygone era?

Are any of the three Toxic A’s — affairs, addiction, excessive anger — present?

These are important questions that will help you determine if your marriage is unhealthy or toxic — or simply needing some spring cleaning and TLC.

Telling you how to survive an unhealthy marriage while also working to make it better is going to focus on (no surprise) you.

Click your heels together three times and repeat after me: “The only person I can control is myself. The only person I can control is myself….”

Does that mean you can’t talk about all those maddening, hurtful, selfish things your spouse does that are (obviously) at the root of all your problems?

Hell no.

What it does mean is that how you talk about them matters. 

And, more importantly, what you recognize in yourself — and how you change what needs to be changed — matters most of all.

This is about “survival,” right? And survival is about getting from point A to point A-½ with more hope than you had half a step ago.

It’s also about getting down to essentials: knowing what to let go of, what to keep, and what to seek.

And the easiest place to start is with “stop.” Stop anything that’s destructive, inflammatory, unkind, sarcastic, avoidant, aggressive (even passively), critical.

Behave as if everything you do is about how to survive an unhealthy marriage…even if you don’t stay married. 

Your goal may be to survive with your marriage intact, but, again, all you can control is yourself. 

So how do you want you to look/feel/behave as a relationship partner? If you were designing your ideal relationship, what would your contribution look like, regardless of your partner’s contribution?

Think back to when you were falling in love with your spouse.

How did you communicate? It was probably pretty easy and gratifying, wasn’t it?

You listened attentively. You weren’t threatened by a difference of opinion/feeling/need, but instead reflected upon the different viewpoint.

You likely accepted responsibility — both for initiating kind and loving gestures and for assuming responsibility when you were wrong.

You infused your relationship with far more positive than negative feelings and interactions.

You made time for your partner, even when it wasn’t convenient, because you wanted to be together. You also knew that quality time together was essential to the strength of your relationship.

You sought cooperative solutions. You intuitively recognized when your partner’s happiness or well-being was more important than having your own way. And you knew that compromise usually got you far more than what you wanted in the first place.

You probably also took good care of yourself, knowing that how you presented yourself was a gift to both your partner and yourself.

Before you assume that surviving your unhealthy marriage is all about you…well, you would be right.

And your spouse’s survival is all about him or her.

The point is, you have a choice at every juncture in your life. Every interaction is a fork in the road — a point of decision about what kind of person you are going to be. How do you want to feel about yourself and the power of your own choices to influence the quality of your life?

Only when you are holding up your own end of the deal will you be able to discern the salvageability of any relationship. 

And the big takeaway in that message is how incredibly powerful you are. You can effect change for the better, just as you can affect your marriage for the worse.

By committing to your own self-awareness and -improvement and communicating your concerns in a healthy way with your spouse, survival becomes possible.

And, assuming your spouse also wants to restore your marriage, survival goes from possible to probable. You can, believe it or not, fix an unhealthy marriage and get that loving feeling back.

The days of first falling in love may be over. Children, grandchildren, mortgages, losses, seeing one another at your worst — the challenges and mundane of life aren’t very infatuating.

But falling in love again — in a renewed, mature, sustainable way — is both possible and necessary. And, in the long run, it’s the key for how to survive an unhealthy marriage together.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach who helps people, just like you, who are struggling with an unhappy marriage. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know.” And if you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.

Is It Possible To Be Too Self-Aware?

Dog with his head tilted to the side in a questioning manner.

Surely the world would be a kinder, gentler, happier place if more people worked on their self-awareness. And yet, for those already well-versed in the attribute, their struggle isn’t about being self-aware. It’s about being too self-aware.

Sounds implausible, doesn’t it? Like having too much money, intelligence…or chocolate. How can too much of a good thing be a not-so-good thing?

Let’s start with the basics: What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is an ongoing process of recognizing, acknowledging, and understanding yourself, both internally and externally. 

Internal self-awareness is a bit like sliding down the rabbit hole and observing your own inner thoughts and feelings. You become an objective observer of your subjective self.

“Wow! Two years ago I wouldn’t have had that opinion.” 

“I feel nauseous and weak every time I reach for the phone to call (whomever).” 

“Why am I judging this person whom I don’t even know?”

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have my same political beliefs.”

Internal self-awareness, in and of itself, bears no judgment. It recognizes, collects information, and pauses to acknowledge physical, mental, and emotional messages.

It then uses that information to shape or refine thoughts and behaviors.

External self-awareness, on the other hand, is like sitting in your own audience and observing yourself. 

It’s the awareness that compels you to adhere to social norms. It says, in essence, 

“I’m not the only person in the world, or even in this room.”

“My thoughts and opinions aren’t the only ones that exist.”

“I’m in church, so I need to be quiet and reverent.”

*I wonder what others see in me when I am around them.”

“I wonder if the audience can tell how nervous I am.”

*I need to mind my manners at this party.”

External self-awareness can lead you to soften the expression of harsh thoughts when you’re in the company of mixed viewpoints.

It can also guide you to choose your wardrobe according to the setting and guest list of a venue.

Most importantly, external self-awareness is built on your curiosity about how others see you, while internal self-awareness is about how you see you.

How then, is it possible to be too self-aware if awareness is such a good thing? After all, we all know people who seem to have no sense of themselves or their effect on others, and it can be maddening.

Again, another distinction….

Enter evaluation.

Self-evaluation is often confused with self-awareness.

While self-awareness is about attention to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, self-evaluation assigns value and judgment to them. 

For example, you might feel embarrassed about a mistake you made.

If you’re practicing self-awareness, you acknowledge your mistake and take action to correct it. “Ahh, lesson learned. I have some apologies — and then some corrections — to make. Glad I found out now.”

If you’re being self-evaluative, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Call yourself derogatory names.
  • Lie about the mistake.
  • Avoid anyone who knows about your mistake.

You may even become less willing to take risks out of fear of making another mistake.

Whether the context is internal or external, micromanaging your self-awareness under a microscope of evaluative scrutiny can be counter-productive.

Being “too self-aware” internally can lead to stress and anxiety.

Your mind ends up spinning itself into a downward spiral of self-criticism, insecurity, self-doubt, and disapproval. You question everything you think and feel against a backdrop of unworthiness and inferiority.

Locked inside the vault of your own mind, you can imagine how carried away that process can become.

Being “too self-aware” externally can lead to social anxiety and such lack of confidence in public that you isolate or appear socially awkward.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also called social phobia, takes external self-awareness to an extreme. The sufferer has so much anxiety over everyday interactions — so much fear of being embarrassed or judged — that they withdraw from life.

How tragic.

Somewhere in the process of gaining perceptions, perspective gets lost.

When babies begin to develop internal self-awareness — “I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m tired, I want…” they are developing survival skills. They are recognizing themselves as thinking, feeling, interactive entities in a larger context of influence.

As they mature, their thoughts evolve from “survival” to more complex, relational, and abstract. 

Some people never examine the connection between their thoughts and feelings and the behaviors and consequences that come from them and their expression.

Having too little self-awareness is not only damaging, but potentially dangerous.

But having too much self-awareness, if that is even possible, can rob you of a healthy life. 

It’s the self-consciousness that reflects unrealistic truths about your interior life and external presence. You assume inferiority and extreme scrutiny and judgment, so the world becomes a hostile place — even in your own mind.

The part of self-awareness that is missing in these extreme cases is acceptance.

Acceptance is the difference between “I made a mistake” and “I am a mistake.”

It’s what empowers you to process your awareness into better behavior.

It’s what makes you use all those “notes to self” as a catalyst to living a more enlightened, productive, socially- (and self-) responsible life.

And it’s what helps you construct enough boundaries to be able to say, “It’s none of my business what other people think of me.”

Self-awareness is a perpetual personal journey and exploration of who you are, why you do the things you do, and how you can become more of who you truly want to be. 

In that sense, you can’t be “too self-aware.”

What matters is whether and how you use what you learn to become the highest fulfillment of yourself. 

Awareness, even when difficult, exists to propel you forward. Embrace it as the messenger it is.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing self-awareness and becoming more you despite all that’s happening in your life right now.

Looking for more information about how you better know and accept yourself? You’ll find what you’re looking for in How To Be More Self-Aware.

What To Do If You’re Struggling With Life After Divorce

Man sitting with his hands covering his eyes as he struggles with life after divorce.

Divorce is rarely easy. It marks the end of something you thought would last forever – through thick and thin. And when your dreams are destroyed, moving forward from the destruction can be really, really hard. What you need to know first is you’re not alone. Struggling with life after divorce is pretty common.

If fact, at least 50% of everyone who divorces struggles with moving on with their lives. I know this because there’s usually one spouse who decides divorce is the answer while the other wants to work on the marriage. And, as you know, it only takes one to make the decision to divorce.

However, not everyone who decides divorce is the answer to the problems in their marriage finds it easy to move on with their life. Many of the deciders struggle with life after divorce too.

So, if you’re struggling with your life after divorce, you also need to know that you can get through it. You can create a new life for yourself that feels good. And, yes, you can be genuinely happy again.

Here are 7 steps for you to take that can make your life after divorce better:

  1. Cut yourself some slack.

    When I got divorced, I wanted to be able to move on with my life ASAP. I felt frustrated that I was struggling with my life after divorce. As a result, I wasn’t patient with myself. I kept pushing and tried to force myself to feel better.

    As you’ve probably guessed, that was a recipe for prolonged misery.

    What I learned (and what I teach my clients now) is that you can’t force your emotions to just change. But what you can do is make different choices about how you perceive and work through them.

    For instance, if you feel a wave of anxiety because you’re struggling with something, you can take a deep breath (or several) and choose to look at what’s the fear behind the anxiety. And once you understand the fear you can figure out what action you can take to address the concern.

    It may seem counterintuitive, but by taking appropriate action, you are actually cutting yourself some slack. Instead of beating yourself up for feeling a certain way, you’re first understanding your emotions and then being proactive about dealing with them.

  2. Allow yourself the time you need to grieve.

    Grief is a normal part of divorce. You’ve lost a way of life.

    It’s important that you allow yourself the time you need to grieve. And the time you need will be COMPLETELY different from the time your former spouse needs.

    One of the most common mistakes I see people make when it comes to grief is they compare themselves to their former spouse. They believe that if their ex is feeling better, then they should too. Then there are others who believe that if their ex is feeling bad, then they should too.

    I was one of those people who struggled with my ex feeling bad – at first. And then I struggled with him feeling better.

    Everyone heals at their own rate. And, frankly, it can take some time.

    (However, there is such a thing as getting stuck in your grief. This is called complicated grief. If you’re concerned that you’re dealing with complicated grief, you’ll want to reach out to a therapist for diagnosis and support.)

  3. Nurture yourself.

    One of the things that can often fall by the wayside when you’re struggling with life after divorce is simply taking care of and being kind to yourself. It can seem as if there’s just too much going on as you figure out how to create a new life for yourself. Yet it’s critical that you nurture yourself, so you can have the energy – physically and emotionally – to do all you want and need to do.

    Nurturing looks different for everyone. You may like massages or long walks or binge-watching a TV series or napping or exercising or spending time with friends or reading or ….

    It’s not so important what it is that you find rejuvenating. What’s important is that you regularly take the time to care for yourself.

  4. Begin to dream a little.

    Many people get so caught up struggling with life after divorce that they forget to think about the future and how wonderful it can be. Yet, if you allow yourself to anticipate something good that you’re looking forward to – big or little – you’ll find that the positive flow of emotions can actually help pull you through the tough stuff and toward the good stuff.

    What’s a dream you’re looking forward to becoming a reality?

  5. Become curious.

    When you’re focused on the struggle of life after divorce, it can be really hard to recognize anything good about it. Yet there is good – even if the only good you can see right at this moment is that you woke up this morning.

    And I’ll bet there’s more that’s good about your life right now. One of the best ways to find it is by shifting your perspective. And curiosity is one of the best ways to shift perspective and focus.

    When I was going through my divorce, I felt incredibly alone, unloved, and unlovable. And I kept focusing on that. And the more I focused on that the more alone, unloved, and unlovable I felt.

    However, I had family and friends who continued to volunteer to help me. When I started asking myself why they were doing this, I was able to shift my perspective and recognize they were doing this because they loved me.

    The change in my experience was pretty dramatic. I stopped feeling sorry for myself because I now had “proof” that I was indeed loved and lovable and could choose not to be alone.

  6. Develop new friendships.

    Another way many people struggle with life after divorce is feeling they don’t fit in with their friends any longer. This often happens if most of your friends are married.

    The experience of being single is different than being married. And you may find it uncomfortable only having married friends because you feel like a third wheel.

    That was definitely my experience. I loved all of my married friends and yet there were some things about my life that they just couldn’t relate to – like dating or not having another adult in the house.

    And so, I decided to take a divorce recovery workshop. In it I met lots of people – women and men – who were having the same types of struggles I was. In fact, a couple of the women in that class became very dear friends. (And, yes, I did go out on first dates with 2 of the men.)

  7. Ask for help.

    Finally, when you’re struggling with life after divorce, it can be challenging to remember that you don’t have to do everything on your own. When you were married it was probably fairly simple to ask your spouse for help. However, when you divorce you know you don’t have access to their support as you once did. You can feel all alone as a result.

    Yet there are plenty of people who can help. Chances are your family and friends will be happy to help if you simply ask. You can also hire people to do the chores that you just don’t have the time or the skills or desire to do.

    And if the struggles you’re facing feel like too much to handle, you can work with a helping professional, like a divorce coach, to support you in getting back on track.

Initially, life after divorce is a struggle for most people. However, by following the 7 steps above, you can find your way to living a life you love again.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’re tired of struggling with life after divorce and would like some support, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me and together we can begin putting together a plan for the next best steps you can take to start feeling better.

Looking for more information about how to start over after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.

If You Want To Live A Happy Life, Stop Doing These 7 Things

Man smiling and enjoying his happy life while leaning on a railing with NYC in the background.

Somewhere in a one-in-a-million fortune cookie is written all you need to know if you want to live a happy life. (And on the flip side of that pearl of wisdom are your guaranteed winning numbers for the upcoming Lotto.)

You and I both know, of course, that winning a jackpot won’t guarantee a happy life. Genuine, lifelong happiness is more complex — and, ironically, simpler — than that.

And, while Confucius may tell you the key to being happy, we know it’s not that simple.

Ultimately, if you want to live a happy life, you’re going to have to journey inside yourself. 

There are always things you can do to open the channels to happiness

But there are also things you would do well not to do if you’re seeking the Holy Grail of bliss.

So today we’re turning the mirror onto things you might be doing to stand in the way of your own happiness.

Here are 7 things to stop doing if you want to live a happy life.

  1. Living in the past.

    You can’t change it. You may have regrets and choices you wish you could change. But languishing in them only serves to perpetuate them.

    More importantly, living in the past robs you of today. And today — this hour, this moment — is where life is.

    ”But I was my happiest when I (fill in the blank)….But I can’t get over (fill in the blank).”

    If these roadblocks keep detouring you from the scenic view of your life, ask them what they want to teach you.

    Do you have amends to make with people? Make them.

    Are there things you need to simply accept? Accept them.

    Do you have things you loved doing but gave up? Resurrect them. Reinvent them. Discover new passions.

    Whatever you do, thank the past for its contribution to your life and leave it in the rear-view mirror.
  2. Living in the future.

    If you want to live a happy life, living anywhere but in the present will rob you of that treasure.

    Yes, even living in the future.

    ”But what about my dreams and goals? Those are about the future.”

    Absolutely. And you should never give them up. Dreams inspire, motivate, energize. And they are actually a component of a happy life.

    However, if you dangle them before your life as a condition for being happy now, you are living in the future.
  3. Not listening to your inner voice.

    It’s there for a reason. Your inner voice, intuition, gut feeling — it’s your God-given compass.

    Your inner voice not only warns you when something isn’t safe or right. It also tugs at your heart when something is right.

    It is just as easy to ignore your calling as it is to ignore a warning.

    Whether fear of failure or lack of trust in yourself causes you to ignore your inner voice, your happiness needs you to step up and listen. As Rumi wrote, “Respond to anything that excites your spirit.”
  4. Holding onto grudges.

    You don’t have to go to church to be reminded that forgiveness is for the one forgiving.

    Holding onto grudges and refusing to forgive places a weight on your shoulders. It forces you to keep the wound open and the memory of injury alive.

    There is nothing about forgiveness that expects forgetting. Refusing to hold onto grudges is simply a way of releasing others to their own lessons and journeys.

    It’s also a reminder to yourself that happiness is light, and grudges are heavy.

    Let go of what doesn’t serve you and feel the immediate lift.
  5. Trying to fix other people.

    It really is so much easier to focus corrective energy on others rather than on yourself, isn’t it?

    After all, you know what’s right, best, and proper, and those who don’t subscribe to your program need your intervention.

    Getting the rest of the world in line makes your world make more sense, helps you feel in control of your life.

    But falling into this trap only serves to narrow your life and prevent your genuine happiness. It leads you toward unacceptance, intolerance, and self-righteousness.

    Consider shifting your fix-it focus to a philanthropic heart. Helping others in need has a beautiful way of expanding the heart and mindset.

    By focusing on improving someone’s circumstances, you forget about trying to fix the person.
  6. Seeking perfection.

    Striving for excellence in the various areas of your life is an admirable quality.

    But expecting perfection as a condition for love and happiness is an unhealthy (and learned) mindset.

    Perfectionists are often locked in a pattern they learned in childhood. “If I make a mistake, I get punished. If I don’t do this perfectly, I’m not lovable.”

    If taking a risk that leaves the door wide open to mistakes makes you uneasy, then you’re probably where you need to be.

    We’re all here to learn and grow. And, if it gives you a boost of confidence, just think of all the amazing inventions that were born out of mistakes!
  7. Comparing yourself to others.

    Be you. Do you. Express gratitude for your life, your journey, your uniqueness.

    There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition in the right context. But comparing yourself to others as a gauge for your right to happiness will always leave you wanting more.

    So be you. Share your unique gifts with the world that greatly needs them. 

    After all, you know the saying: “Everyone else is taken.”

Finally, there is one “must-do” to top off this list of “don’ts” if you want to live a happy life.

Smile. Curl those corners upward and feel your spirits follow suit.

Smiling actually causes a release of dopamine and serotonin. It’s like tricking your brain into happiness.

Call it putting the cart before the horse or faking it ‘til you make it. But a smile tells the world — and yourself — exactly how you intend to live your life.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself.

Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.

7 Things To Know About Getting Used To Life After Divorce

Woman looking sad as she struggles with getting used to life after divorce.

It’s that one constant in life: change. A new home, a never-thought-I-could-do-this career move, the death of a loved one, getting used to life after divorce….They’re all about change, movement, growth…and adapting.

Some change you expect, whether you welcome it or futilely wish it away. There is, after all, a reason those in-the-know say that aging isn’t for sissies, despite the irony of its blessing.

Some change happens on a dime, and it can just as easily be for profit as for loss.

Some change comes from tragedy — split-second, terrifying, incomprehensible, forever life-altering.

And some change happens with your full awareness and full participation, regardless of any prescience of the outcome.

Divorce, despite its collective branding, is unique to every couple. It is also unique to each individual within that couple. 

There are, after all, multiple histories that build the foundation of every relationship. 

And, if and when you leave that relationship, you will leave with a new history. 

You will always have your personal early chapters. But relationships can shift the way even those are read and ultimately perceived.

You will also have new chapters. Chapters influenced by the melding of two histories in the creation of a new history. And chapters rich in individual character development that can serve as the starting point for a new, expanded story.

In TV lingo, it’s a spin-off. 

In relationship lingo, it’s getting used to life after divorce or a breakup.

Whether or not you want(ed) your divorce, your new life will be filled with change.

Some will frighten you. Some will excite you. Some will baffle you. Some will exhaust you.

The constant in all of this change is you. And therefore, getting used to life after divorce is going to be part of a new history that you write.

What do you need to know to set yourself up for success?

Here are 7 snippets of insight and wisdom to help you regain control of your life without being thrown off-track by the unpredictable.

  1. You will experience a lot of emotions. You just will. Embrace them.

    You basked in emotions when you were dating and planning your wedding. All that euphoria, anticipation, and dreamy-eyed wonder about marital bliss. All those shades of white for your picket fence.

    Sigh. Life was so uncomplicated then.

    And now? Now it’s all heartache, anger, and disappointment. What the hell happened?

    Life changes bring everything up. They’re like the once-a-decade move-all-the-furniture house cleaning. Cobwebs and lost Legos everywhere. Streaming sunlight making a marquee of all your dust.

    You know it will all come together at some point, but right now you’re feeling a bit Agnostic.

    It may be a while before you’re able to look back and say, “My life got better after divorce.” But, if you can at least accept the emotional ebbs and flows as messengers of vital information, you’ll be pointed in the right direction.

    And know that there are always camaraderie, support, and expert help available.

    Your emotions may be yours alone. But you don’t have to navigate them alone.

  2. You will journey through grief, even if you wanted your divorce. Embrace it.

    You don’t have to be pining for your ex to grieve the loss of your marriage. You were half of that union, so losing it is like losing part of yourself.

    You were vested — body, mind, and soul — in your marriage.

    Grief is, despite its undesirability, an acknowledgment of that investment. Looked at positively, it is a process of remembering what is worth our efforts, even when we don’t get what we were hoping for.

  3. You will lose friends as part of the divorce. Thank them in your heart for being part of your life and bless them on their way.


    As if the loss of your marriage isn’t bad enough, now you have to permanently change your invite list.

    People will always take sides, even without malintent, especially if a divorce isn’t amicable. It can be messy for everyone, not just the couple.

    Take a deep breath and strive to remember your gratitude for the experience of those alliances in your life. Spend time with the lessons they taught you, even as you grieve the loss (perhaps only temporary) of treasured friendships.

    Remember that everyone is on a unique journey. And you were part of their journeys just as they were part of yours.

  4. You will make new friends during and after your divorce. Welcome them into your life.

    Life is funny that way. It removes things from your path so you can see clearly what it has gifted you just up ahead.

    And so it is with friendships, alliances, and even love.

    You are on a new path. You have new feelings, new hopes, new needs. Do you honestly think life would neglect you when it is asking so much of you?

    Welcome the unexpected. You never know when your lifelong greatest friend is going to be one accidental encounter away.

  5. Your new post-divorce life will ask you to do things you’ve never done before. Embrace the challenge to learn and grow.

    Whether it’s learning finances or re-entering the work field or doing your own laundry, getting used to life after divorce will challenge you.

    It can be tough to remember this when you’re emotionally wiped out. But your life has great purpose. And, no matter how much you may lament the frustration of realizing it, it is aligned with all you need to achieve it.

    Acknowledge the frustration, but embrace the opportunity to grow.

  6. You will find yourself standing in front of the proverbial mirror a lot. Look closely. Change what doesn’t serve you, but learn to really love the person looking back at you.

    Tough not to blame your ex for the failure of your marriage, isn’t it? He just didn’t get me. She didn’t appreciate me. He ignored. She nagged.

    Even if your marriage had an imbalance in fault, there is always enough responsibility to go around.

    If you’re going to take credit for the good stuff, you have to own your share of the no-so-good too.

    Getting used to life after divorce is, to a great extent, about getting reacquainted with yourself.

    It’s easy to get lost in the “us” role of marriage. Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of knowing, caring for, and taking responsibility for yourself.

    But now is the time to take a deeper look.

    What do you love about yourself? What could use some work? How did you contribute to the demise of your marriage, even if that contribution was neglect or avoidance?

    What do you still need to acknowledge, heal, strengthen inside yourself so you can be part of a more vital relationship in the future?

    Every relationship is a mirror. And none is more important than the mirror you hold up to yourself. 

  7. You will come to realize that you are stronger than you ever imagined.

    You build strength with increased load, repetition, and time. It’s the presence of change and challenge that increases the load, decreases your endurance, and makes you sore for a while.

    And it’s the presence of perseverance that gives unlimited promise to all that sweat equity.

Getting used to life after divorce is no more an overnight achievement than getting to the point of divorce was. It’s a process.

And the success of that process will be determined by you.

You will never know all that’s around the corner in this “new life.” But your willingness to look around the corner as you walk down a new street will open your life to endless possibilities.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’d like additional support rebuilding your life after divorce, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.

Looking for more information about how to start over after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.

When Is A Marriage Unhealthy?

A woman trying to cover up her sadness about her unhealthy marriage with a smile.

When is it time to take notice? When is a marriage unhealthy vs. just in need of a little spring cleaning? 

Just like housekeeping, marriage inevitably sees its share of “just stick it in the dishwasher for now” management. Kids need to get to school, you need to get to work, bills need to get paid. And, well, the house needs to be cleaned.

But eventually there is a moment of awakening. That moment when your eye catches the gray layer on top of your furniture, and a finger-swipe reveals what’s underneath the dust.

Is just a little Pledge-and-wipe warranted, or is this an indication of what might be lurking in corners and under the furniture?

When is a marriage just navigating “life”? And when is a marriage unhealthy?

If you knew how things would look and feel years down the road, surely you would pay attention now.

Or so you would think.

The truth is, we are constantly forewarned about every aspect of life. Health, exercise, nutrition, investing, parenting, education, etc. 

And yet, if you’re like most of the world, it’s not until the consequences strike that you take notice.

When it comes to recognizing an unhealthy marriage, there are signs that can help you catch it early. And your response upon your awareness will determine if your marriage dies, survives, or thrives.

First of all, it’s important to recognize the difference between an unhealthy marriage and a toxic marriage. They may sound the same, but they are divided by a spectrum of hope.

In order to help you answer the question When is a marriage unhealthy? it’s important to consider multiple viewpoints.

There’s you, your spouse, children (if you have them), and your marriage.

(*Note: If you or your children are in danger due to physical and/or mental abuse, please seek help immediately. An abusive or toxic relationship exceeds the discussion in this article and warrants immediate professional intervention.)

How is an individual affected by an unhealthy marriage?

This can be a tricky discernment, as individuals bring their own “stuff” to marriages. Unresolved childhood issues, health issues, relationship and communication styles — they all play a role.

But, if you start noticing a decline in your self-esteem, or if you start feeling depressed or hopeless, take note.

You don’t want to jump to the conclusion that your spouse or marriage is at fault. But these could be signs that you are living in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage and are bottling up the symptoms.

Usually an unhealthy marriage involves poor communication. Even “no” communication delivers a huge message.

So you may not notice that your spouse is showing signs of self-deflation or depression.

If either of you is suffering from a “loss of self” or progressing depressive symptoms, it’s time to reach out for help.

Sometimes there is a chemical or hormonal imbalance at the root. And something as simple as the right antidepressant and individual therapy can help turn things around.

Another individual sign is the onset of fantasizing about life without your spouse. You escape the work called for in your marriage by imagining a life where everything is fresh, easy, and even romantic.

Your fantasy may or may not involve another partner. But, if it does, you may already be considering or entering an emotional affair with someone outside your marriage.

And that can be the start of a slippery slope.

But it is always a sign that something isn’t right on the homefront. And, before you just throw in the towel, pay attention to how you (and your spouse) are feeling, and take action.

How is the marriage itself affected when it is unhealthy?

Here is where you may notice the most tell-tale signs of an unhealthy marriage. 

The challenge with problems that exist between you and your spouse is the tendency to blame and procrastinate.

You’re feeling badly because she did (fill in the blank). 

You don’t want to have sex because he doesn’t (fill in the blank).

You don’t share your feelings because s/he “should just know.” Or “s/he never used to be this way.”

The absence or infrequency of sex, for example, is a huge red flag. You’re either having it or you’re not. It’s either gratifying or it’s not.

But one thing’s for sure: Sex is that intimate distinction between romantic love and all other love. When it’s healthy, it has physical, emotional, and relational benefits.

And, when it disappears, all three areas suffer from the loss.

When is a marriage unhealthy in terms of conflict?

When it comes to fighting, too much, too little, and the absence of rules of engagement are all potential indicators of an unhealthy marriage.

You didn’t commit to a lifetime with your partner with anticipation of fighting all the time.

Likewise, you have always known — with your head, anyway — that marriage involves tough times and sometimes tough disagreements.

But how often are you disagreeing compared to the times you’re sharing common values, viewpoints, and visions?

And how do you engage in those disagreements? Do you hear yourself starting every sentence with “You always/never do/don’t”? Or “You make me feel (fill in your own negative emotion)”?

Perhaps you’re on the receiving end of that communication style. 

And perhaps you are both equally guilty and don’t have a clue how not to do it.

If and when you notice that one or both of you are avoiding the other, your marriage is undoubtedly crying for help.

You fell in love with the person with whom you most enjoyed sharing your time and soul. This person was the first you wanted to shower with good news and take comfort in with bad news.

You knew that this was the person with whom you could get through anything. And gosh darn it, nobody else in the world made you laugh or smile so much!

But now you may be seeking the company of friends (or potential emotional affair partners) instead of spending time with your spouse.

Date night may be a thing of the past.

And the responsibilities of home life may have fallen into the category of too-mundane-to-endure.

While the list of signs of an unhappy or unhealthy marriage is long, there is a group of signs that should always give you pause.

Relationship discussions regularly reference the research of John Gottman. And for good reason.

His Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have served as accurate predictors of a marriage’s demise or survivability.

If you notice a pattern of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and/or stonewalling in your relationship, it’s time to get help…

…that is, if you want to fix an unhealthy marriage and get that lovin’ feeling back.

The simple act of asking When is a marriage unhealthy? is not an indication of doom. If your curiosity is born out of love and commitment, it may be the doorway to renewal and greater happiness. 

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach who helps people, just like you, who are unhappily married. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know”. And if you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life

How Unexpected Events Give You The Opportunity To Increase Self-Awareness

Man sitting on a balcony and contemplating his self-awareness.

When the unexpected comes knocking (and it always will), how do you greet it? As an anxiety-inducing uh-oh that needs to be circumvented or eradicated altogether? Or as an opportunity to increase self-awareness and problem-solving skills?

This whole concept of self-awareness may conjure up images of escaping to Walden Pond with an Oprah’s Book Club bestseller. New Age-y, impractical, midlife-enlightenment stuff that makes eyes roll and guests leave the dinner table before dessert.

But not so fast….

While any term preceded by “self-“ may sound like a topic for another day, no prefix is more conducive to a vibrant life with healthy relationships.

And the foundation of all these “selfies” is self-awareness. 

Life, in its broadest sense, is about lessons. And those lessons grow out of our perceptions of and responses to the events life presents to us.

As you develop self-awareness, you also develop communication and relationship skills — genuine, sustainable, transferable skills.

And, as you increase self-awareness, you also develop leadership skills that can improve every area of your life.

Think about a favorite teacher, boss, or project lead. Why was that specific person chosen for that specific position? And what made him/her so good at it?

Chances are your answers will include qualities like compassion, empathy, self-control, integrity, and the ability to handle unexpected events and emergencies.

Self-awareness refers to your ability to identify, understand, and manage your emotions. Only then can you do the same for others.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is having emotions that you can’t identify, understand, or manage. Your feelings have you, not the other way around.

If you operate at this level, you’re likely to live in fear of anything that is unpredictable or unexpected. 

It’s uncomfortable to have emotions you don’t recognize. It’s like having a stranger in your home…and he’s not planning on leaving.

You have to make the choice, usually subconsciously, that you are going to block out your feelings. As they consume you from the inside out, you busy your life from the outside in. Comfy, cozy denial.

But you won’t really be comfortable, despite your rehearsed ability to maintain a certain amount of numbness in your status quo.

Chances are you will experience heightened anxiety, and not just about one issue. Everything becomes cause for anxiety.

Living with generalized anxiety disorder disrupts every aspect of life, whether or not the sufferer is aware. 

The quest to keep life orderly, predictable, and under control leads to a fear-based existence that is anything but under control.

And all that because of those emotions that don’t get named, let alone embraced and listened to.

Back to those life lessons….

You know the saying, “Be careful what you ask for.” Scream to the universe, “Give me patience!” and guess what the universe is going to provide?

The opportunity to demonstrate patience.

After all, how will you ever know you have it if you can’t put it into practice?

And so it is with unexpected events and the opportunity to increase self-awareness.

Once you decide to see the universe as a benevolent teacher, you will realize that everything in your life is there for your good.

You want to become better at your job? 

You want to have a happier love relationship? 

You want to feel comfortable having difficult conversations? 

You want to learn how to speak effectively to different viewpoints? 

You want to be the person that others trust in a crisis?

You want to be the person that others confide in?

You want to stop being afraid of “what might happen if” and start living life more fully, courageously, confidently?

Then guess where the journey begins.

Yes, the yellow brick road starts with your foot on the starting point of self-awareness. And life is paved with opportunities to keep it growing.

But that means meeting the unexpected, befriending it, and allowing it to journey with you.

What presents as a brainless scarecrow becomes a prodding of your curiosity and your quest for greater knowledge.

And what would knowledge be without the heart and courage to apply it?

Each unexpected encounter is a wake-up call to the traveler who wants a meaningful journey.

As each encounter, each unexpected event, is welcomed without fear, you learn more about yourself. 

What do I need to learn? What has kept me from learning it until now? 

What am I so afraid of? What’s the worst that can happen? Do I not trust myself to handle whatever comes my way? Why or why not?

And what do I need to love more unconditionally within myself so that I can love others more unconditionally?

As you increase self-awareness, often without fanfare, your life begins to open, expand, blossom.

Living with anxiety is like looking through a high-powered zoom lens. What’s in the foreground is in sharp, isolated focus. But the periphery and background are blurred because of the narrow field of vision created by the lens.

Self-awareness, on the other hand, is like a wide-angle lens that brings everything into focus. You see left to right, front to back. There is no need to obsess about one subject in the foreground, unless a situation calls for that kind of focus.

The challenge, of course, is in the process of recognition and identification.

Something happens that makes your stomach feel queasy and makes you want to run away. It triggers an eerie, visceral remembrance, and you just don’t want to go there.

And yet, your inability — or downright refusal — to invite the feeling to your consciousness for exploration puts a little more of your life under lock and key.

You admire your colleague who somehow manages to survey the situation and ultimately bring it to a creative resolution. 

Why can’t I be like that?

Oh, but you can!

There are plenty of ways to increase self-awareness. The key is to set the intention and then “slow down the moment” to ask what it wants to teach you.

That promotion you want? Observe those in upper positions and ask yourself what they do well that you struggle with. Perhaps ask to interview one of them so you can become better at your job. (Bonus points.)

Those difficult conversations with combative topics? Take a listening approach for a while. Listen for things you may not have considered before. 

And listen for expressions that make you feel uneasy or threatened. Is it really the topic that turns you off? Or is it the way people express their thoughts and opinions in your presence? 

Do you recognize yourself in that uneasiness? Or do you recognize a communication flaw in your relationships — one that your own personal growth could help to remedy?

Those “what if’s” you’re always so afraid of? Take on one challenge with the mindset that whether you succeed or fail is really a neutral outcome. You’re taking it on to learn, to grow, and to shrink the monster that has been lurking in your imagination.

How did you feel about committing to something new or uncomfortable? How did you feel after you completed it? 

Give the feeling(s) a name — happy, sad, exhilarated, embarrassed. And meditate on where those responses originated in your life…and if and where they still belong.

When your life is mired in predictability, you don’t have the motivation to stretch outside your Netflix-and-chill comfort zone. Auto-pilot takes so much less effort.

But it also keeps your life in the basement, sequestered far below the penthouse where the view and the party are.

Say thank you to the benevolent universe. And trust the unexpected events it sends you as messengers charged with leading you to your highest self. 

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing self-awareness and becoming more you despite all that’s happening in your life right now.

Looking for more information about how you can cultivate your self-awareness? You’ll find what you’re looking for in How To Be More Self-Aware.

How To Create A Happy And Healthy Life For Yourself

Woman jumping for joy because she is living a happy and healthy life.

It seems like such a given of an aspiration, doesn’t it — the simple desire for a happy and healthy life?  And yet, guilds of writers, philosophers, and Buddha wannabes expound on how to achieve it.

For all our modern advances and easy-access knowledge, we humans still go about trying to reinvent the wheel. Or so it seems with the simplest of quests.

And that meddling little thing called Life sure has a way of interrupting its own bliss at the most inopportune times.

In the infinite wisdom of Rosanne Rosanna Danna, “It’s always something. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. It’s always something.” 

Sometimes we humans just need to be reminded. Pulled back a little. Put on pause. Baptized in a font of crystal clear simplicity and essential proverbs to keep us connected to what matters.

If you’re in need of a little refresher course in building a happy life that’s healthy too, you’re in the right place.

Some of these practices belong in your daily routine. And some lend themselves more to a weekly, monthly, or yearly routine. But they will all help to reawaken your happiness.

Here are some easy tips for steering your life in the direction of happiness and health.

• Eat nutritious foods.

Eating healthfully can seem so boring, especially if you have to do all the prep and cooking. It’s far easier to reach for a box in the freezer or that chocolate stash in your purse.

But our bodies — these miraculous, perfectly orchestrated servants during our time on earth — rely on quality fuel to do their job. Eating plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, for example, does more than just help maintain a healthy gut and weight. It also helps provide sustainable energy and a balanced mood.

Yes, you really are what you eat.

• Drink plenty of water.

Your body needs water for every single function. Without it, toxins and metabolic waste are forced to linger in your body.

Many dysfunctions — physical, mental, and emotional — can be traced back, at least in part, to dehydration. If you’re not providing a steady flow of water throughout the day, your body will be forced to recycle the old stuff. Yuk.

• Get plenty of sleep and have a sleep schedule.

Leading a happy and healthy life requires knowing when it’s time to work…time to play…and time to rest.

If you shave off even one hour of sleep a night, you will be a full night sleep-deprived by the end of the week. And the effects of sleep deprivation can be debilitating to your body, mind, productivity, and happiness, both now and down the road.

• Exercise.

Your body was designed to move. Indulge it, and reap the rewards of all those wonderful endorphins that exercise releases.

Take a walk after dinner.

Put on some music and dance with your family in the evening.

Enroll in a new weekly class.

Get on your Peloton and give your digital trainer a ride for his money.

Just make intentional, sustained movement a part of your daily life.

• Get out into nature.

Nature has a way of connecting us to what is pure and “now.” There is a frequency to the sights, sounds, and energy of nature that is calming and healing to the mind and spirit.

Find new trails for walking your dog.

Buy an annual pass to your state parks and visit a new one every month.

Plant flowers in the spring and fall.

Put your bare feet into a flowing creek.

Climb a mountain, sit on a rock, watch a falcon dive.

Just “be” in Creation.

Consider taking your love for nature one step further and volunteer to help with clean-up efforts in your own community.

• Stay connected to people you love and enjoy.

Social connection has been proven time and time again to be essential to a happy and healthy life. Those who maintain meaningful connections with friends and family live longer and are healthier and happier than those who isolate.

• Help someone else.

There is nothing like doing for others that does so much for your own happiness. And the more genuine and selfless your intentions, the more genuine and lingering your own satisfaction will be. That’s just the way kindness, generosity, and love work.

Imagine what an amazing world it would be if everyone was committed to helping others!

You don’t even have to go looking for opportunities. Just say “yes” to the countless invitations that present themselves to you in both small and big ways. By opening your heart to giving, you also open your heart to receiving. Isn’t it wonderful the way that works?

• Simplify.

When is the last time you heard of someone leaving a peaceful, happy, simple existence to take on the craziness of Wall Street?

Not that it doesn’t happen. But the stories that capture our attention are the ones that involve leaving the craziness to find joy in simplicity.

You can embrace the same principle without giving up your day job or moving out of town. Just start decluttering, letting go, simplifying.

Create a ritual around the process if doing so helps you release what no longer serves you. And always keep a visual of the calmness and peace that come from living with purpose and intention.

• Go somewhere new at least once a year.

Everyone needs a break from the daily grind. Every mind needs fresh stimulation. And every relationship — even the one with yourself — needs a periodic adventure to re-energize itself.

If you’re tight on funds, make the most of a day or weekend drive. The benefits of this ritual are really dependent on your own intentions and openness to life’s surprises.

• Practice gratitude.

Gratitude is perhaps the simplest, most benevolent key to “being in the moment.” It stops you from reaching into the future with longing for what you don’t have. And it stops you from looking into the past for things that belonged only to the past.

An attitude of gratitude sets your focus on what is. It is a commitment to looking for beauty, goodness, and abundance — in nature, in the world, in others.

• Smile!

Try wallowing in a pity party with a big smile on your face. Right? Kind of silly, isn’t it?

The very act of smiling has a positive effect on health, mood, and perspective. You have had a lifetime of connecting smiling and laughing with happiness and fun. So it’s no wonder that your brain rebuilds that bridge when a smile crosses your face.

And the added bonus is that your smile may be the greatest gift in someone else’s day.

You’ve probably noticed that nothing here is earth-shattering. Some tips are about caring for your physical health, some are about caring for your emotional health, and some are about caring for others.

In the long run, creating a happy and healthy life comes down to a mindset.

And, to return to the wisdom of Gilda:

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

YT: Dr. Karen Finn is a life coach. Her writing has appeared on MSN, Yahoo! & eHarmony among others. You can learn more about Karen and her work at drkarenfinn.com.

Blog: I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself.

Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life