What Makes You Happy?
Happiness can mean something different to each of us. It can make us
feel a certain way or make us smile. Happiness might mean having peace
of mind, good health, or a plethora of money. Will a new car, handbag,
or job really make us so content that we need nothing else? Is there
really such a thing as happiness, or is it a fantasy in an often brutal
People in developing countries struggle to find fresh water, food, and
homes, while those in developed countries worry about which iPhone or
computer to purchase. Do advancements in technology make us more content
or more frustrated? How many of us use our smartphones to record
precious moments or beautiful scenery only to miss experiencing the
event through our eyes, hearts, and souls?
Religious faith can help temper the harshness of reality, so is religion
a key to happiness? Is a sense of self-assurance the key? How about
generosity, respect, and kindness to others? Is hope a key to happiness?
Remember the first car you so desperately wanted, the one you couldn’t
live without? Where is it now? Are you happier because you once owned
it? Does fame and wealth expedite happiness? Numerous celebrities and
affluent individuals may dispute that fact. More money and more power
often mean more problems. People often look to the golden years as the
ticket to happiness, but what does retirement really mean? Loneliness?
Financial hardship? Many continue to work well after the time they
assumed they would.
Can a loving relationship make us happier? Yes and no. Those who have
the greatest ability to bring us joy can also bring considerable pain
and sadness. Have you ever been dumped? When someone you love leaves
you, it’s difficult to look positively at that relationship and
consider only the good times, especially because their absence is
We search for happiness in experiences, people, and accomplishments.
Those of us who love chocolate and dream of every deliciously decadent
bite understand our taste buds will be satisfied only temporarily, and
the result of having our cake and eating it too is not only potential
weight gain but perhaps depression and disappointment as well. So can
chocolate, pizza, or whatever decadent delicacy we dream of being true
The Dalai Lama wrote, “The purpose of life is to be happy,” but is
happiness a right, an obligation, or the ultimate goal in life? Is it
True happiness comes when we discover contentment regardless of our
environment, financial status, geographical position, or state of
health. Just look at the elderly in nursing homes. Why are some
ninety-year-olds buoyant and upbeat despite knowing they’re at the end
of their lives while others are cranky and bitter?
Having experienced times in our lives that bring us to our knees might
help us to appreciate the beauty and joy of little things. Can finding
contentment in each moment—the silver lining of a cloud—be a
shortcut to happiness? Our minds are incredible tools. We can think
ourselves deeper into negative situations, imagining what might occur
and limiting the freedom of our natural, joyful state. Or we can imagine
that unlimited better times are ahead.
Think of the few things that bring you so much joy, compassion,
confidence, and peace that your heart feels like it will explode: a
smiling baby, a vast sky, the ocean, a puppy or kitten. Imagine the
capacity to feel those emotions during challenging times—in your
deepest, darkest moments of fear and vulnerability. How would that
change your life?
Now it’s time for you to take your four minutes of positive action and
examine the things that bring you profound joy. Grab your pen and start
writing about what makes you happy. Dig deep, and don’t just focus on
What makes you happy?
The Secret to Staying in Shape
When I was in high school, I was twenty pounds heavier than I am now.
Then in college, I became part of the Freshman Fifteen Club—not a club
you want to join. At a time in my life when I should have been at peak
physical condition, I was overweight. If I add it all up, I’ve gained
and lost over a hundred pounds in my life.
As a smart college girl, I knew many tricks to lose weight. Among the
all-time worst weight-loss gimmicks were wrapping my body in plastic
wrap, donning a sweat suit, sitting in the sauna, and simply starving
myself. None of these, as you probably know, worked. Only when I started
to teach group fitness classes regularly did I start to shed pounds.
Another important change was that I stopped thinking about what I was
going to have for lunch while eating breakfast. I kept busy. Finding
something you love to do prevents you from eating out of boredom. Have
you ever been so involved in a project that you forgot to eat? Compare
that to inhaling a bag of chips while watching television.
Exercise is the key to lifelong health; it lowers your blood pressure,
helps you sleep better, prevents inflammation (which can cause diseases
such as cancer), and is wonderful at reducing stress! Some days, you may
want to run a marathon or swim a mile, and some days, you may just want
to go for a walk or stretch.
People often ask me what class I like to teach or what my favorite
workout is. After having taught thousands of classes to thousands of
people for decades, I can say my favorite workout is Zumba® in the
Circuit, a program I helped develop. Having trained in dozens of
different fitness programs, from step to Spinning to kickboxing, I can
appreciate the value of each curriculum and enjoy most of them. I love
to dance but don’t have hours every day to get my heart pumping and do
weight training; I know I can get a full body workout in sixty minutes
and have a blast through Zumba® in the Circuit. Am I biased? You better
believe it! I’ve spent hundreds of hours training, testing, and trying
different fitness modalities and have learned that an interval training
fitness program works best for me. We dance for one song, then do
exercises targeted to a specific area such as squats and lunges for legs
for one song, and repeat the process until we’ve worked every major
muscle group—all under an hour! The result is an exciting variety of
movements that gives me a cardiovascular workout and prime muscular
conditioning. But here’s why it works for me: I love it!
You’ll be more interested in exercising if you like what you’re
doing. Some people prefer weight training, running, swimming, biking, or
yoga. I like to do all those and vary my workouts often. It’s best to
utilize the muscles in different ways to achieve a well-rounded fitness
program and a balanced body.
Today’s lesson is quite basic: do something, anything, every day! Make
sure to include these three areas when considering an exercise program.
•strength training (using weights, tubes, or your own body)
•cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, swimming, dancing)
But remember to consult a physician before starting any exercise
Here are some simple ways you can incorporate more exercise into your
•Park your car farther away from your destination.
•Take the stairs.
•For every four minutes of chores, do ten jumping jacks.
Make a commitment to better your health by moving or stretching at least
four times a week for at least thirty minutes. In your calendar, write
the times and days you can work out this week.
Excerpted from "4 Minutes a Day, Rock 'n Roll Your Way to HAPPY" by Shemane Nugent. Copyright © 2015 by Shemane Nugent. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.