Category Archives: gratitude

Use it or lose it!

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN                                                          

Are you interested in keeping your mind and thinking sharp? Then use it. Recent research tells us that frequent participation in problem solving and thinking games and activities will help us ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Want to maintain your physical strength and abilities? Then start exercising and keep at it. Amazingly our muscles will grow stronger as long as we are using them. Using them can include strength building exercises, playing sports, or completing activities of daily living.


Do you want to remain a sexual person? This same principle applies. Use it or lose it. Engaging in sexual activities keeps your sexual desire alive. And when the desire and urge are present chances are that acts of romance will follow.

Now lets consider your happiness muscles. Are you using them frequently and regularly? If not you are bound to slowly lose them. Use it or lose it applies to your Mental Health & Happiness too.

Do you know any grumpy people? Sadly there are more peevish older people than those of other ages. But being irritable and crotchety is not reserved exclusively for the elderly. Anyone who is not exercising, using and working out their happiness muscles is in great peril of becoming ill-tempered and churlish.

Rather than waiting for the research to confirm this idea, understand NOW that if you don’t practice strengthening, endurance and flexibility in developing your happiness muscles you will lose them.

Choose to meet your needs for safety, fun, love & belonging, power and freedom every day in responsible and respectful ways. Exercise your happiness muscles in the following ways:

smiling    producing    giving thanks   journaling   relaxing being mindful   creating       being in sunshine   exercising  physically   sleeping     healthy eating     socializing     volunteering   meditating                                                          

What do you do everyday to improve your personal well-being?

Remember if you don’t use it you’ll lose it!              

Grateful and Healthy

Contributed by Kim Olver

If you are signed up for the Mental Health & Happiness Daily Challenges, then you know we talk a lot about gratitude. We believe gratitude contribute to mental health and happiness. I happen to know personally that it works for me. I am happier when I focus on what I am grateful for rather than on what might be going “wrong” in my life. Now there is neurological evidence . . .

Read about it here:

Happy New Year: Reflect, Release, Restore & Renew

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

We are all born with five basic psychological needs that drive our behavior:

Safety & security, the psychological aspects of survival
Love & Belonging

Mental Health & Happiness can be developed, improved and maintained by spending conscious time, energy and intention every day meeting our basic needs. How? Responsibly and effectively:

Being safe
Loving and connecting with self and with the important people in our lives
Being powerful with others and through personal competence

This time of year, the time we say good-bye to 2014 and welcome in the New Year 2015, is a perfect time for some self-evaluation.

Reflection: How are you doing meeting your needs for safety?

for love?
for power?
for fun?
for freedom?

Release: Are there any ineffective or irresponsible behaviors you want to release, let go, or eliminate? You might find it helpful to determine which need or needs you are                 attempting to meet with destructive behaviors. Now you can start a new, different,               more effective and responsible behavior to meet the need or needs.

Restore: Are there any habits or behaviors that you have let slip or dropped, even though you  know these habits helped you meet one of more of your needs? What need or needs     do these lost behaviors or habits help you meet? Now is the time to restore those               habits, routines and behaviors that are helpful, responsible and effective in meeting             your needs.

Renew: Now is a perfect time to renew your commitment to improving and maintaining your  Mental Health & Happiness. Spend conscious time, energy and intention every day responsibly and effectively following your instructions and meeting your needs.


in this


This precious day

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Do you remember the last time your child came crying to you to have his or her wounds, pride, and heart comforted? You probably didn’t know it was going to be the last time until weeks later! Eventually you realized your child was handling his or her own soothing and comfort. And to your great regret you realized your child no longer needed your warm embrace to cover the booboo with your kisses. That part of your relationship slipped to an end. If you had only known the last time was going to be the last time you might have held tight a little longer to savor the moment.

canstockphoto0189025Do you remember the final lingering kiss from a lover that is no longer in you life? Don’t you wish you knew it was going to be the final kiss at the time? Knowing it now is too late to savor, enjoy and appreciate that moment.

Did your mother, grandmother, or some other magical chief make a dish that only she could cook to perfection? My mother cooked green and shelly beens with pork fat to perfection. She was a good southern cook who cooked this favorite summer indulgence when all the ingredients were fresh and readily available. Sadly, my mother is no longer living. Luckily she lived with me the last 2 years before her death. Together we cooked my favorite dish one more time. While I ate I knew it was to be the final time. With this knowledge I really savored and ate with gusto.

Luckily, many of life’s precious moments that cannot be experienced again are replaced by new precious moments. I can no longer sooth my son’s sufferings from cuts and bruises. But my grand children come to me occasionally for the same comfort. This time I don’t miss the moment. Each time I’m aware that this very moment could potentially be the last.

Have you lost your happy in happily ever after?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD,RN

Remember the promise of life as an adult?  What happened?  Ever wonder why you seem to be spending your days worrying about your children’s happiness, your aging parent’s happiness, your spouse’s happiness, your boss’s happiness and even the happiness of the members of the PTO and Girl or Boy Scout troop?  Ever wonder what happened to your happy in the promise of life Happily Ever After?

How much silly and frivolity do you regularly practice in your life? Let’s start there. You are a responsible adult with serious and important work to do and tasks to perform. But clowning, telling and hearing jokes that lead to groans and moans may be as necessary for your happiness as are water and chocolate.

Perhaps you imagine participating in such activities would be childish. EXACTLY! Children possess a greater sense of HAPPINESS NOW because they capture every moment to be silly, frivolous, and filled with laughter and horse play! (Remember horse play, the thing that most public pools prohibit?)

Frivolity and silly are not the only aspects upon which to focus. When you arrive at work today, take a moment and notice and give thanks for all the other drivers who cooperated with you allowing you to get to work safely (even if it wasn’t on time). Did the sun rise today? That’s worth noticing. What kind of weather are you experiencing today? Give thanks for another day filled with sunshine, or rain, or wind, or whatever it is that this day is filled with. What are the good things you may not have considered that you get to experience with this kind of weather?

All of the many upsets, demands, frustrations and moments in which to complain will be present whether you take note of them or not. So will all the moments worth noticing and relishing because of their joy, awesome nature and ordinary miraculousness. Why not let today be the day you focus on the positive and let someone else monitor and complain about the negative.

Start today resolving to notice and add more moments of joy and laughter in your day. When you do you will be creating  the meaningful life that includes you and your happiness. Aim for Happier Ever After instead of Happily Ever After. Now make Happier happen by your own actions, thoughts, focused attention and celebrations.

My journal: A lifeline from despair

By Dr. Nancy Buck

My life was falling apart. My husband of 24 years left, saying he wasn’t sure he wanted to be married to me anymore. He needed time on his own to figures things out. My twin sons had left for college. The family dog ran away.

I was alone in our home, but there was no more “our” or “we.” Was there even a home anymore?


I didn’t know what to do. Crying didn’t help. Talking with my sisters and friends gave me only temporary relief.

Day after heart breaking day, the sadness, isolation, failure and oppression was unbearable.

My lifeline, it turned out, was my journal. Every morning I wrote my three morning pages. Every evening I listed five things I was grateful for. Most days my gratitudes consisted of:

1.    I am breathing in

2.    I am breathing out

3.    I am breathing in

4.    I am breathing out

5.    I am breathing in and out

The lessons I learned during that time were many. The most important lesson was to keep breathing no matter what.

You never know what might happen next, what internal strength will be discovered, and what gifts will be revealed in the next moment.

And if you don’t keep breathing you never will know.

So keep breathing, in and out, in and out, in and out.

Changing Habits

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Could you list all your daily routine tasks? What is your morning ritual? How about your evening  process getting ready for and going to bed? Easy, right. Yes, these habits probably change slightly or perhaps more dramatically when you are on vacation or away from home. But most of us have a solid routine we follow throughout our day, whether we are conscious of it or not. We are creatures of habits.

Following these routines in fact, helps us to meet our need for safety and security, accomplishing these necessary chores and tasks mindlessly and thoughtlessly. Being thoughtless and mindless is not a good practice in all areas of our lives. But it is for the daily mundane and necessary habits that take up much of our daily hours.

Take a moment and consider your regular and routine thoughts. Do you know what they are? These habitual thoughts change from time to time as your plans and events change. For instance, you might be considering all you want to accomplish before you take your summer holiday. It is unlikely that you are spending much time and energy thinking about your Christmas or Hanukkah celebration now. But it was only 6 or 7 months ago these habitual thoughts probably filled your thinking.

Just as you can change your morning ritual by brushing your teeth before you eat breakfast (although I don’t know why you would want to) you can also change your habitual thinking. But before you can change it, you need to first be aware of what you are thinking and telling yourself.

For instance:

 When you think about your sibling(s) what are your thoughts? Happy and pleasant?  Sad  and worried? Angry and disconnected?

When you think about your job, your boss or employees, your colleagues, your pay and benefits, what are your thoughts

When you think about your:   children?   finances?   spouse?  friends?  neighbors?             political representative?  weather?

What are you worrying about? How are you spending your thinking time? Are your habitual thoughts contributing to your Mental Health & Happiness? Maybe it’s time to change your thinking habits and switch to joy, appreciation and love. When you spend more time in grateful thinking, your actions, feelings, and physiology will also improve leading to improved Mental Health & Happiness.

Unhappy for no reason

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Are you employed by another? How often do you feel frustrated because you have little or no choice about the decisions you make? Are you a parent? How often do you feel as though your children are trying to be in charge of you instead of the other way around resulting in you pressing harder to prove you are the parent with the power? Are you in an intimate love relationship? Do you have moments as a couple when you want and pull for one important thing while your partner wants and pulls in a different direction?

It can feel hard, exhausting, challenging and confusing when faced with any one of the above. Feeling unhappy, out of sorts and out of balance when dealing with these kinds of problems may be an understandable and even effective strategy. Your heart and brain are driving you to search and find good answers and solutions. Here is one solution you may not have considered.

canstockphoto0374035Shift your point of view and perspective. And do this shifting to a completely unrelated topic from your problem at hand. Shift to something by either going very small and mundane or very large and broad.

When going small, find the smallest joy or briefest moment during the course of the day where you feel grateful, joyful or at peace. It won’t necessarily help solve your problem. Instead it will give your brain a break, a moment of relief and flood of pleasure chemicals adding to your feeling of well being. This just may help open you to more solutions and ideas. Continue this practice frequently instead of simply staying stuck in your “I have to figure this out” behavior.

Or go BIG. At the end of your life do you think you will still be stuck in your present dilemma? Boy, I hope not and I bet you do too. And chances are “this too shall pass.” But in the meantime, spend some time asking yourself bigger questions, like Why are you here? Do you believe there is a God? What evidence do you have to support your belief? Is there life on another planet? Human? Do you believe or imagine you lived a previous life? Even if you don’t believe, who might you have been? Get the idea? Start asking yourself and contemplating the BIG questions about the meaning of life and more. This will give you time to be an explorer, searching in unknown and unknowable territory. The result may just be opening your mind to new, different and maybe even helpful ideas and perspectives when you return to your problem.

Even though it feels as though you are facing the impossible, considering and contemplating life in the micro and macrocosm can help give you much needed stress relief and maybe even good and new solutions.

You Never Know

By Denise Daub

Woke up this morning to a glorious day… windows open, breeze whipping through the house, wind chimes playing music on the porch… great day for a run.   Last time I went for a run the heat and humidity was so bad, I couldn’t breathe.  I decided I wouldn’t run outside again until the humidity broke and here it was… great day for a run.

I got dressed, put on my new running sneakers and went out. I knew that I really needed this for my mental health, happiness, physical health and well-being. I made it a special point today to look around, enjoy the coolness of the morning, the lush green grass and the blowing trees in the breeze.  I thanked God for the day and the ability to do what I am doing… running.  At age 50 and 80 lbs overweight, I decided to take up running.  I am on week 7 of my program for two weeks now, not able to complete my goal yet… but I am running.

woman running

But today something happened that helped me reach a turning point.  As I was running and looking around me I noticed another runner coming the other way.  In all the times of running, that hasn’t happened to me before.  I wondered… and as we passed we smiled and waved at each other.  So, you say… isn’t that the polite thing to do?  Of course, if I was walking she would have done the same thing… but I wasn’t walking.. I was running.. She acknowledged me as a fellow runner.  I have arrived.

I have been running for a few months now and I know that I am runner, but something about that simple gesture just nailed it for me.  The woman had no idea that her simple wave made my day and went a long way towards increasing my mental health and happiness.  She had no idea that I have been struggling for a few weeks, was starting to believe I couldn’t do it, couldn’t lose the weight or ever really complete a 5K run.

As you go through your day, remember we are all at different places in our lives and we can never know what someone else is going through or thinking.  Your smile or wave of acknowledgment can make someone’s day.  

A Father’s Legacy

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

I miss my Dad every day. He taught me so many things, including to be curious and pursue learning. Dad never met a person, read a book or was involved in a life event he couldn’t learn from and turn around and teach.

In fact, my Dad (and Mom) taught me the most important lesson about Mental Health & Happiness. They loved and really liked each other. Plenty of good advice in the world preaches to married couples that they should be each other’s best friend. I was lucky enough to witness this between my parents. They laughed with each other almost every day. From them I learned how sacred and nurturing it is to develop and maintain a respectful and caring relationships with the important people in your life.

My father was a gentle man, intellectually curious and also able to be silly. He took time to teach each of his three daughters to play tennis well, to correct our school English compositions and show off his bicep muscle dance. He saved thousands of empty plastic milk jugs for no good reason, and taught himself to play classical guitar, then later the flute to counter the effects of emphysema.

What are your memories of your father? What legacy did your father give you?

What did your own Dad teach you about being a father if you are one? This might include what not to do for some. What are you teaching your sons about being a father?

How did your Dad contribute to your own Mental Health & Happiness?