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The Odd Little Things That Make Life Worth Living

Commercialism and pop culture will tell you that you need unlimited financial resources to break the smallest smile, but that’s a load of hogwash. The fact is and has always been the same: the things that really make life a joy are absolutely free.

If you want some endless sources of smiles that come from the oddest places this following list of strange pleasures is sure to put a smile on your face and remind you of what a privileged individual you truly are.

1. The clean feeling after a shower

The day was long and tiring, the demands were high and the AC was out of order, but all that is gone with the flick of some magical chrome knobs. The miracle of indoor plumbing is a source of pleasure few take for granted. The feeling of the day’s battles, filth, and distress washed away and the evening of hallowed relaxation awaiting is a priceless joy.

2. Doing something for others

Society and civilization teach us to look after for No. 1 and it can get lonely and cynical in your own little world. But, try a little stretching of the soul and what a great feeling comes over you. It really is more blessed to give than to receive.

3. Good Company on a Soft Sofa

It can be difficult to make a good connection with another soul i this techno-paradise. But curling up on a warm couch with a beloved friend, lover or even house pet is a prize to be valued. There is something in the shared warmth of human life that strengthens bonds and makes the lonely trip life is less solitary.

4. Laughing so hard it hurts

Do you remember the last time you laughed so hard you felt your sides would split? Science has proven that those who reach this point or exertion from sheer gaiety are likely to live longer and less likely to suffer from a degenerative disease. If you need a good subject to unleash the bellows of joviality just look at your own life and situation, you got to admit it, you’re pretty funny.

5. Finding lucky money in unexpected places

Have you ever been making your way through your day; your mind a pleasant blank or a ball of confusion when a lucky stack of cash that seems to be completely forgotten by the world suddenly introduces themselves? Whatta feelin’! Finding money in unexpected places like old clothes books, drawers and car seats is like a gift that keeps on giving.

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The Science Behind People’s Obsession With Pumpkin Spice

The Pumpkin Spice, which is a drink Starbucks has greatly advertised as a fall favorite has obviously become an obsession for many people. After being away for quite some time, Starbucks is expected to get it back on their menu in a week’s time, with the anticipation being as big as ever. Unlike other Starbucks beverages, this one has its own Twitter account, Instagram page, hashtag and many enthusiastic devotees who cannot help but express their longing for it on all these platforms. In fact, some enthusiasts are so hitched on it that they are demanding it while others have successfully placed orders in stores even before the beverage is officially launched.

Starbucks actually calls this beverage their most popular seasonal beverage. The Pumpkin Spice seems to trigger lots of questions with one of the most common one being whether there is some science behind people’s obsession with this beverage. The truth is that there could be some science and we are here to break it down for you.

1. You Are Biologically Wired To Love The Beverage

Any combination of sugar and fat is a big attraction to many. When the fat and sugar interact in your taste buds, they boost your flavor and make you crave for more of the same. Besides the sugar and fat, Pumpkin spice also has some salt, which besides boosting the beverage’s overall taste acts as a food enhancer to the taste buds and to the brain as well. Obviously, people love tasty things and that is the reason why Pumpkin spice has been an obsession for many.

2. The Brain Associates It With Happy Times

Just think of all the fun rituals associated with autumn. You obviously have some happy thoughts about autumn and all the memories it produces; carving pumpkins, dressing up for the Halloween, picking apples, jumping into leaf piles and coming together for Thanksgiving. The spices associated with the fall season (cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon) help trigger all the happy memories and thoughts to the mind and sipping the Pumpkin Lattice is one way to enjoy these spices. This beverage connotes happy memories.

3. There is a Caffeine Hit

Caffeine is arguably the most commonly used mood-altering substance in the world. Coffee lovers can confirm that caffeine stimulates the nervous system to boost your energy and make you more alert. It can also cause you crave for more of caffeinated drinks, like Pumpkin Spice.

What is Happy According to Psychology

There are arguments to be made about what happiness is. Is it a state of being? Is it our perception and reaction to various events throughout our lives? Is it avoiding that which we might find displeasing? Some would argue that happiness is something that we must work toward as humans, some may even argue that we cannot attain real happiness in this life – that what we experience now in our mortal life is only a build-up to true happiness in the afterlife. Others believe that happiness is simply just a matter of how we see and engage the world around us.

There are several concepts within the field of psychology alone that suggest different means and different matters regarding how to attain happiness. One of the more prominent fields over the last several years is a study called positive psychology. The study entails examining ‘what makes living worth living,’ according to Psychology Today. What it aims in doing is validating the good in one’s life: that focusing on the good events that happen is as essential as using what is regarded as healing psychology to counteract the bad. Some have misconstrued the purpose of positive psychology over the years, but those who studied it and developed it suggest that positive psychology is meant to complement healing psychology, not to supersede it or suggest that positive psychology is more critical to one’s life than using healing psychology to sort through traumatic events. What positive psychology hopes to establish is that focusing on and acknowledging positive, beneficial experiences is just as necessary to one’s mental health as attempting to correct or mitigate the effects of negative, detrimental experiences. In short, it’s not just about avoiding or correcting painful things that happen in our lives; it’s also about giving weight to the good, pleasurable things that happen in it as well.

Considering the obvious subjectivity of happiness, as many different things have a wide-ranging emotional impact on many different people, psychology is also well-known for having developed several different scales used to determine one’s own measure of contentment or satisfaction with regard to their lives. The Subjective Happiness Scale, a 4-item questionnaire, is one such test, developed by Sonja Lyubomirsky and Heidi Lepper. While not necessarily greatly detailed or in-depth, the test itself is said to measure a perceived quality of life by the individual rather than a perceived quality found by outside sources, that being other people or psychologists themselves.

Many things influence our perception of happiness according to psychology, and there are a few prominent theories regarding the hierarchy or structure of these needs. Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of “needs” that all humans should observe in an attempt to attain happiness.

  • Physiological – the basic needs in order for a human to survive at all, including food, water, air, clothing, and shelter. These needs should be satisfied first and foremost, as all other needs are pointless without survival.
  • Safety – security against stress or potential dangers. Some of these safety measures come in the form of personal protection, financial stability, and avoidance of injury or illness.
  • Social belonging – the satisfaction of interpersonal relationships. These can come in the form of friendships, family, and romantically inclined relationships.
  • Esteem – the need for respect or acknowledgment from peers or those involved in one’s life. A lack of attention to this part of the hierarchy can lead to cases of inferiority complex or depression and can have a great impact on higher levels within the hierarchy.
  • Self-actualization – acknowledging one’s own potential and taking steps to realize it and accomplish as much as one can or feels he/she should within his power. Realizing this need within the hierarchy requires significant understanding and accomplishment within the baser levels.
  • Self-transcendence – relating one’s self-actualization to higher needs and goals no longer pertaining strictly to the self, “refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness.”

Suggesting that one may be happy or unhappy in one’s life appears to base itself greatly within internal understanding as a result of a lot of external sources – how we interpret and react to the world around us, and how we can apparently adapt ourselves in living: not only to avoid the negative experiences as often as possible, like having a car that’s a lemon but to embrace, acknowledge and understand the positive ones as well.

What is Happy According to Religion

For many people in this world, the idea of happiness is a rather simple concept in theory. Most of the time, it involves doing things or being in positions that make us feel good. Some of us associate happiness with having a good job that allows us to provide for a family. Some of us think about traveling the world and experiencing exotic cultures. Some of us are happy just being able to bring others to that state through means such as community service and volunteering. And while these are all viable options of achieving happiness, it doesn’t really answer the question of what happiness exactly is. Is it as simple as just being in a state of well-being that is the polar opposite of being in an undesirable state? Can it be characterized or quantified? Is it even real, or is the entire effect just a placebo to stave off something else?

From a religious standpoint, the idea of achieving happiness seems to have deep roots in ethical concerns and, as St. Thomas Aquinas states, “an operation of the speculative intellect.” More simply, a contemplation of what are considered divine matters. Many religions believe that true happiness does not necessarily occur for the self, but rather through the self in acts of outward kindness and the betterment of circumstances for those around him or her. This is why ethics seems to play a crucial role in religions and spiritual beliefs such as Confucianism.

In many religions, happiness – true happiness – is not something to be attained be in the mortal world. Rather, there are those who might say that the struggle for happiness is a life-long endeavor, because true happiness is only attainable in the afterlife – Heaven, as many religions call it, particularly Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All of these religions offer specific aims in life, ways for those faithful to them to live and to treat others. The ideal for all of these is the effort of appealing to God, receiving judgment at the time of our deaths and to be found worthy of entering Heaven.

For other religions such as Buddhism, happiness is a matter of “settling karmic debt.” Buddhism encourages following a code of guidelines known as the Noble Eightfold Path – some may this is similar to the structure of something like the Ten Commandments in Christianity. However, Buddhism also places emphasis on the concept of rebirth, a concept that usually leaves many people confused as some differentiate it from reincarnation. The general goal of rebirth in Buddhism is to attain a state known as Nirvana – complete freedom from desire, jealousy and ignorance. It is described as a state of pure contentment and understanding.

The common thread in many of these religions is that, while being happy does exist in the realm of mortal lives and while many may interpret happiness as a state of mind, true happiness as far as many religions seem to define it or its ability to be attained is with service, compassion and understanding toward a divine power and outwardly to others. In some cases, such as Buddhism specifically, this sort of attained happiness – or peace or bliss – can take several lifetimes to achieve. When this state is finally reached, the necessity of death and rebirth no longer exists, and one knows true happiness as an end state.

Three Songs That Have Happy In The Title

If you’re feeling down in the dumps, then perhaps the best way to elevate your mood is with a favorite song. Then again, you might be better served in a search for new music, which is a deeply satisfying quest by itself. Why turn to music, though? A number of great reasons exist: music can reduce depression, help you sleep better, make you happier, and even enhance your exercise regimen–which can make your mood even better. Here are three songs that have “happy” right in the title!

The song “Happy Days” by Pratt & McClain, or Brother Love, was used for the opening theme song of the same-titled TV show, a sitcom made in the 70s. It wasn’t used until the third season, but this chorus-song version was as much a hit as the Pratt & McClain version, which made it to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It’s impossible to think of songs with Happy in the title without thinking of this song. And in our opinion, this song was much better than Rock-A-Round The Clock. 

When “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” was first vocalized by Brenda Holloway, the original composer, it did all right. When Blood, Sweat & Tears, a band based in Phoenix, Arizona, played their version with frontman David Clayton Thomas, it hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart–smashing Holloway’s record that had previously held at number 39.

Everyone loves a good bit of gospel. Well, maybe not everyone, but that didn’t stop The Edwin Hawkins Singers from realizing a version of an eighteenth-century hymn you might recognize called “Oh Happy Day” that came out in 1969. It made it to number four on charts at the time. It was used in several more contemporary movies such as Big Momma’s House and Nutty Professsor II: The Klumps and Secretariat.

Three songs isn’t that many, so here’s an honorable mention: “Shiny Happy People” performed by R.E.M. came out in 1991. Although R.E.M. is still widely known, this song was the last one that made it to the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100.

We’ve all been there. Sometimes it’s good to get outdoors and take a short break from the harsh reality of a long workday, and sometimes we just need a quick pick-me-up from the daily grind. Music can reduce stress, help you manage eating habits, enhance your capacity for learning new things, relax you before a rough surgery and improve recovery time afterward, help you recall old memories, reduce pain, raise IQ, and keep your brain healthier for longer. Music isn’t just something we love–it’s something we need, and you shouldn’t miss out on the great songs that are out there just waiting to be heard, new and old alike.

The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

At some point, you’ve probably heard that a little bit of chocolate each day can be good for you, and maybe you’ve already searched for some answers as to why. There might be one or two things you didn’t figure out. First of all, you should know that a little bit means just that: a little bit. Anything can be bad in excess, even though a lot of the things we like can be good for us in moderation. You can eat one or two ounces of dark chocolate, and that’s enough to reap the rewards.

Second, you need to know what constitutes “dark” chocolate. You’ll want to try to find something with at least seventy percent cocoa in it, and the more the better. The bigger the percentage, the less sweet the chocolate will taste. Some people like the bitter taste of extra dark chocolate, but it isn’t for everyone.

These are a few of the health benefits you can enjoy from a moderate daily helping of dark chocolate!

It contains high quantities of minerals that your body needs. These include: magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, potassium, zinc, selenium, and phosphorous. The chocolate does contain caffeine and theobromine, but only in small amounts that won’t affect your sleeping cycles.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the dangers of free radicals wandering around in your body. Essentially, free radicals are atoms that require electrons for pairing. While they look for the electrons they need, they can inhibit your DNA from carrying out coded procedures. Your cells die off as a result. To prevent this from happening, your body uses antioxidants to get in the way of any free radical chain reactions that could lead to a lot of damage to your cellular unction. It turns out that dark chocolate may have an even higher number of antioxidants than other “superfoods” like many different kinds of berries, thereby preventing free radicals from harming you.

Dark chocolate can also lower blood pressure, increase HDL (the good kind of cholesterol), and slash your risk of heart disease. In one study of 470 men lasting fifteen years, cardiovascular death was reduced by fifty percent in those who consumed cocoa. Other studies showed that cocoa can likely clean arteries of calcified plaque when consumed several times a week. On top of all this, it can help protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun.

That reduction in blood pressure and slashed risk of heart disease has another important take away: your brain will get more blood. Because of this, the elderly can expect to experience increased mental function.

Although a lot of the research into dark chocolate consumption over an extended period of time requires more time and complementary studies to ensure accuracy, we do know that there are a number of definitive benefits to eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate several times a week at the least. Just be sure not to overdo it–the high amount of sugar in any kind of chocolate can do a lot of damage if too much is consumed.

What Are Endorphins?

Balance.

That one word has become a catch word in most lifestyle, physical and mental health and being successful in life.

Whether it’s having a balance between work and family, or a balance between vegetables and desserts, or a balance between feeling good or feeling bad, we are always looking to find that balance. Anything that is imbalanced is considered a disorder of some kind. And the unfortunate thing is that we often try to correct the balance with some kind of drug or treatment, instead of actually changing some part of our lifestyle in order to achieve that balance.

Depression is an imbalance between happy and sad feelings; obesity is an imbalance of weight which may be an imbalance of food consumption or an imbalance of exercise (or both); being exhausted could be an imbalance between work and resting at home with family.

The human body and brain have ways to counteract these imbalances, based on conscious choice and natural chemicals produced by the body to counteract an unnatural imbalance in the system.

Endorphins are natural chemicals that provide balance of mood by counteracting sad or angry feelings. Endorphins are released naturally in times of stress of anger or sadness to help balance and give equilibrium to the human body. Depression is a disorder where not enough endorphins are produced to counteract the sad feelings.

When endorphins which are naturally released are not adequate to provide balance, some people go to professionals for treatments to increase the release of those endorphins.

Endorphins are a group of chemicals (most noteworthy of dopamine and serotonin) which are produced in various parts of the body (pituitary gland, brain, and spinal cord are most common) in reaction to negative stimuli like pain or stress. These chemicals are neurotransmitters which come in contact with certain receptors in the brain, suppressing negative emotions and pain.

When you feel pain or stress for a prolonged period of time, many professionals have suggestions to help you be in control of agitating your body into creating more endorphins – and the suggestions range from having sex to getting exercise (endorphins are credited with “runner’s high,” which is the euphoria that regular runners seem to feel when they run a distance) to eating chili peppers to just giving and receiving a lot of hugs and touches from close friends and family, can all contribute to establishing feelings of happiness or a dulling of any physical or emotional pain. Just avoid sexual harassment.

Certain endorphins have the specific task of dulling pain, while others (such as dopamine) bring out euphoric or positive feelings.  The pain-suppressing endorphins come about when there are feelings of pain, while the others come during stressful periods to keep us calm or come during times of excitement or joy to help us feel happy and positive.

Our bodies are all about balance. Endorphins are about giving us emotional and mental balance, and it is our job to take care of our bodies with balance in order to maintain that mental and emotional balance necessary for optimal health.

Can I Stop Taking Anti-Depressants?

When depression hits, we want to hit back.

Eventually, though, the anti-depressant drugs we might take to combat depression may make us think that we have depression beat and that we can handle the depression on our own. So knowing that these drugs can be highly addictive, we eventually want to feel good enough to be able to take ourselves off these drugs and live an addiction-free life.

Maybe the drugs are working well and you think the depression is beat, or maybe you think the drugs are not working, or you think they are working but the side effects are annoying you more than the relief.

But like many addictive medications like painkillers or trying to quit cigarettes, it is never a good idea to come off anti-depressants cold-turkey. While you could start taking anti-depressants in one day, you cannot usually just stop taking them in an instant. It takes an agreed-upon plan, and discussion with your doctor to ensure whether certain conditions are present in your situation to endorse a gradual reduction in the medicine.

Why a gradual reduction and not cold turkey? It has to do with the addictive nature of the drugs. Anti-depressants, in order to combat depression, make changes to the chemical composition of your brain. These changes create a “new normal” brain chemistry, and just cutting off the source of that right away can disrupt the brain chemistry and may create side effects that feel worse than the original depression.

The key to getting off antidepressants is to make sure you are not doing it alone. Working with your doctor or psychiatrist to plan a program that involves either lowering the dose gradually, cutting back the frequency of doses – or perhaps both under specific circumstances. The weaning will happen over two or three weeks, with regular monitoring by your doctor to ensure that withdrawal symptoms, depression or anxiety symptoms do not manifest.

Making the decision the get off anti-depressants does not come quickly. Usually, doctors will prescribe the medicine for anywhere from nine to 12 months at a minimum, with regular checkups with the doctor along the way.  Some conditions that might determine your readiness to begin a weaning program are:

  • The depression or anxiety is subdued. Even on anti-depressants, a professional can determine how much of your good feelings are the drugs and how much of it is actually the reduction of the depression or anxiety.
  • The depression isn’t getting any better. Anti-depressants aren’t 100-percent effective, and after a few months, your doctor can determine whether you need a different treatment. But the new treatment can’t begin until you are off the anti-depressants.
  • Side effects of the drugs are greater than the relief from depression. Two of the most common side effects are weight issues and sexual dysfunction.

Depression and anxiety can be powerful disorders, so they will often require powerful anti-depressants which have addictive qualities and can provide several side effects. It is understandable to eventually get off anti-depressants, but as your body adjusts to the drugs, it usually needs a gradual plan in order to get off the drugs and live a life free of disease and medication.

All Time Best Video Games

Video games have been part and parcel of the teen/young adult cultural experience for going on 40 years now, since the advent of the video arcade that featured games such as Pong, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Tempest.

Soon thereafter, the arcade started moving into the living room, as video-game consoles became all the rage with Atari, Nintendo and others through the 1980s. Then, things have evolved to unreal proportions, where video games are now immersive experiences of virtual reality and some of the commercials look like trailers for blockbuster movies.

And before, while it was just you, a quarter and the computer inside the video game, now you have an interactive experience where a person can put in a game at home and play with thousands of others from all over the world – and even communicate with them in a social-network setting.

The evolution of video games has created its own demographic – the gamer.  And gamers have been vital in developing franchises in the gamer world, as certain games became hugely popular and spawned sequels and expansions of the franchise. Here, we’ll list for you (in no particular order) five of the most enduring video-game franchises of all time. If you are even a casual gamer, chances are you’ve played one of these or at least know somebody who does.

Mario

Mario is “The Simpsons” of video games, as the little plumber man started as one of the characters on the old 1980s arcade classic, Donkey Kong. He was the one who had to jump over the barrels that the gorilla, Donkey Kong, would roll down the ramps. Mario broke away from his primate friend and spread his own wings, combining with his brother, Luigi, to create Super Mario Bros., followed by MarioKart. He’s been around for 30 years, but he doesn’t look like he’s aged a day considering he has infinite lives and never dies.

Sims

Who wants to live an alternate reality?  We’re not alking a fantasy world, but a world that is plausible and yet is not your life. Welcome to Sims, the game that has developed highly successful franchises over the last 15 years since it first launched. With Sims, you can create entire towns and people, putting it whatever houses and businesses of your choosing and even control every aspect of the lives of the people you place in that town.  You could create a “relationship” with that crush and make her fall madly for you, or you can create a bully and finally stand up to him!

Call of Duty

Perhaps one of the most famous military/war franchises around, Call of Duty was one of the first such games to reach popularity. A very realistic game will garner a lot of players and will last a long time in the gaming subculture, and CoD meets that standard with its sights and sounds. It is one of the early adopters of an immersive experience, as if a player is actually in a war zone and surrounded by mayhem, starting with a World War II motif and moving forward through several of the most prominent military actions over the last 75 years – and even into new areas we’ve never broached in real life.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Like Sims, Sonic is another cartoon-like game, with a furry little friend named Sonic who runs rampant. Originally a Sega creation, little Sonic has been a rival of Mario on Nintendo system games for a number of years. He hasn’t had his own game in years, but his supporting role with Mario has been enough for him to have a popular recurring role with many gamers.

Resident Evil

Perhaps the zombie apocalypse idea came to root here with this horror-themed franchise that has lasted 20 years and has spread its storyline (yes, it has characters and a storyline!) over 12 games.  If you have ever loved horror films and always wanted to be in one, this is about the closest you may ever get. Enjoy it, because there are no Academy Awards for surviving.

TV Characters Who Were Just TOO Happy

Yes, sometimes you’re watching your favorite TV show or movie masterpiece and there’s one character that just grates on your nerves. Not because that character is actually poorly written, not because you actually love to hate or hate to love them, but because they just won’t stop smiling. How can that be realistic? What is he hiding? Sometimes, you just want that character to see the more miserable side of the world. Of course, that never happens. These TV characters were way too happy for whatever reason and cruel reality never got anywhere near them.

We’ll start with the barest, most obscure memories. Do you remember the Sidler on Seinfeld? He was that guy–always smiling–who would sneak up on Elaine without really meaning to, and it bothered her so much that she ended up giving him a case of tic-tacs to carry around as a sort of alarm system. When she told him the reason for the tic-tacs was his bad breath, he didn’t get the slightest bit offended. He smiled, said thanks, and they went on their way. Naturally, Elaine got tired of the sound of tic-tacs.

Maybe we should explore the darker side of things. Even on a drama about a serial killer like “Dexter,” there had to be one character who always had a smile on his face. Look no further than Masuka, the lead forensics investigator. Sure, most of his smiles–and they were endless–came to light after a crude sexual innuendo or terrible joke, but the show definitely needed him for some well-placed comic relief.

You probably won’t be too surprised by these others. Happy the dwarf deserves a spot on this list. I mean, when your very name is “Happy,” what choice do you really have? He was the guy who always smiled and always saw the best in everyone, and he was the guy who didn’t know how to frown. Sure he was a cartoon character, but who cares? Happy represents a good life lesson for the rest of us. No matter how bad things get, there are still things that matter all around us–and we should focus more on those.

Then again, Baloo from The Jungle Book might top even Happy the dwarf. This guy knew how to have a good time even when the world was chaos all around him and his little friend. With a positive outlook and the right way of looking at even the worst of situations, you never know what the powers-that-be might have in store for you next. Baloo epitomized this philosophical viewpoint, and maybe we should try to be more like him.

Who did you think was just too happy to be on TV?