Gratitude makes you happier, healthier, and more popular

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What does it mean to “give thanks?”

Well, it depends. It depends on who, where, when, and how.

If you were around in October 1621 at the Plimouth Plantation, you might have been part of the “First Thanksgiving”. Here, the Native Americans and Pilgrims came together to celebrate the first harvest in the New World.

The settlers had struggled the previous winter due to a lack of supplies and food. Many had starved or became ill and died as a result. Yet, a number survived. Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag tribe, had given the colonists food to get through their first winter.

After the snow thawed, the Pilgrims gradually learned to live off the land. Squanto, from the Patuxet tribe, taught them how to grow corn and catch eel. After this successful harvest, they threw a three-day feast that included waterfowl, turkey, venison, corn, and various shellfish.

Although such festivities were held intermittently in the years since, Thanksgiving finally became a federal holiday in 1863, thanks to Abraham Lincoln. Since then, Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the U.S. on the fourth Thursday of every November.

Fast Forward to Gratitude Today

While roast turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce are staples for the Thanksgiving holiday today, how often do we really practice gratitude?

We complain about this and that. We get agitated when deciding what to wear if we’re not served right away at a restaurant, and after a store doesn’t stock our favorite brand of coffee. But is it a surprise, given we live in an age of abundance?

When it comes to our everyday needs and wants, we have variety right at our fingertips. We can have any type of food delivered right to our doorstep. Our phones ping notifications on today’s trending news. And if you’re looking for entertainment, just open up your internet browser. While these are all good things, we easily take what we have for granted.

People’s acts of kindness often go unrecognized. In many cases, the recipient fails to say a simple “thanks” or give any acknowledgment. In an everyday quest to get things done, people are consumed by their own lives and forget to take the time to thank others.

It seems as if the original intent behind that first Thanksgiving feast has been lost with time.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Both giving and receiving thanks are important. But in order to understand why we need to see the benefits.

There are three main benefits to being thankful:

1. Strengthening social relationships

Gratitude can help us befriend others, improve existing relationships, make amends, and recognize others’ good deeds. In romantic relationships, practicing gratitude for the little things can make all the difference. In one study, expressing gratitude towards the partner improved the relationship quality for both people.

Letting someone know that you’re grateful for the person’s actions, or simply for being in your life, can improve your relationship. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a stranger, friend, parent, relative, or whoever. Thanking others breeds positive feelings all around.

2. Improving our personal sense of well-being

In a study, one group of participants wrote about the things they were grateful for, a second group reflected on the daily things that irritated them, and a third group wrote about their week with neither a positive nor negative slant. 10 weeks later, the grateful group was more optimistic and happier about their lives, while the group that focused on negativity was more likely to visit the doctor.

Giving thanks is not only rewarding intrinsically, but it also helps us feel better about what we have. We’re more joyful overall. Even if you’re having a bad day or things don’t go the way you want, there are definitely some things that you have to be grateful for.

3. Maintaining good health

According to one study, gratitude is linked to the quality of your sleep. People who reflected on the positive things that happened in their day had a better night’s sleep than those who with a negative outlook.

The quality of your sleep is directly related to how you feel during the day and your overall health. Those who were less grateful were more stressed, anxious, and depressed. The opposite was true for those who were more grateful.

To sum it up, here’s a quote from the Wall Street Journal article “Thank You. No, Thank You” on how gratitude affects our lives:

“Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections, and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics.”

How to Practice Gratitude

Now that we’ve seen all the benefits of gratitude, we need to incorporate more of it into our lives Practicing gratitude can easily be done using these three ways:

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Jot down a few things you’re thankful for. Place a notebook on your bedside table so that it’s convenient. The best time of the day to write in your journal is right before sleeping. That way, you can reflect on everything that’s happened during the day and you get a happier night’s rest.

To start and end your day on a good note, try The Five Minute Journal.

Remember to be specific. Instead of writing that you’re “thankful for your friend”, think of a specific example, such as “my friend shared her own experiences with work conflict, which helped me navigate a similar situation.” Thinking of particular instances forces you to think hard about the good things that have happened.

2. When in doubt, say “thanks”

We often forget to thank people for the little things, such as lending a pen. Sometimes, we even forget to say “thanks” for the bigger things, such as gifts or loans. If you’re not sure what to say, a simple word of thanks does wonders in making the other person feel valued.

If you met someone interesting at a networking event or completed an academic course, reach out and send an email to the person to thank them for what they taught you. Opening up the lines of communication can lead to opportunities down the road.

3. Use positive phrases

When you’re faced with a dilemma, switch out those negative phrases for positive ones. For instance, I had a power outage that lasted for days. While it was definitely inconvenient, at least I had a chance to interact with people, free of electronics, and catch up on good old-fashioned books.

Whether something is a problem or an opportunity depends on how you look at it. And the way you look at things changes your mindset, attitude, and actions.

A Simple Act of “Thanks” Can Blossom into Something More

The Pilgrims held a feast to celebrate the promise of a bright future. They made it through a difficult winter and recognized how much they had to be thankful for. They saw a place where they and their descendants could thrive.

It’s interesting how such a simple, seemingly insignificant event would go on to become an important annual tradition. If only the Pilgrims who celebrated in those early days recognized the weight of their actions then.

Who knows what significant events can unfold from the small actions you perform today?

10 Inspiring Quotes on Innovation

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.

10 Inspiring Quotes on Innovation

You know the saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Well if nothing changes, we stay the same. We don’t grow. We don’t evolve. We don’t get better. And that’s not going to work—not for you, and not for the world. We need positive change. We need new ideas. We need progress. Read these quotes on innovation to inspire your next big idea and contribute to yourself and the greater good.

quotes on innovation

“The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.” –Arthur C. Clarke

“What is now proved was once only imagined.” –William Blake

quotes on innovation

“I want to put a ding in the universe.” –Steve Jobs
“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” –J.K. Rowling

quotes on innovation

“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” –Albert Einstein
“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” –Peter F. Drucker

quotes on innovation

“If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.” –Charles Kettering
“Innovation is seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” –Dr. Albert, Szent- Györgyi
quotes on innovation
“There’s a way to do it better – find it.” –Thomas A. Edison
“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” –William Pollard

5 habits of truly happy marriages, according to a marriage expert

Positive psychology is the science of strengths and looking at what makes individuals and couples thrive.

Marriage takes work. Everyone knows this. But what many don’t realize is that they might be working on the wrong things. Or even working on the right things in the wrong way.

“In our culture, there’s so much focus on getting together rather than on being together and staying happy together,” says Suzann Pileggi, who, along with her husband, James Pawelski, director of education at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, authored Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. “Looking at positive psychology research and seeing what is it that can actually lead to a happier marriage.”

Positive psychology is the science of strengths and looking at what makes individuals and couples thrive. “The research shows that, if you’re focusing more on growing the nuggets of what’s good, you have a better chance of having a happy relationship.” In other words, know your strengths and spend time maintaining them. Here, then, are five tips that Suzann and James say will lead to better days for you and your spouse.

1. Cultivate a healthy passion

That idea of starry-eyed lovers who are forever on each other’s minds and obsess over each other daily? Total B.S. In fact, per Pileggi this thinking is detrimental, as it can give rise to the idea that obsessive passion is a healthy thing.

“In the beginning of a relationship, you can’t stop thinking about your partner, you might be distracted at work, you might cancel plans with friends to see your girlfriend or future spouse,” she explains. “But if that continues months or years into the relationship and you’re not seeing your friendsanymore, you’re not engaging in activities that you did before the relationship, and you can’t focus on anything else, that could be more of an obsessive passion.”

In order to create a healthy passion, Pileggi says to be sure to make room in your mind for your other interests and other people. Then, when you are with your partner, find ways to connect over things that you both enjoy. “It’s about forging a deeper bond, not trying to be competitive,” Pileggi says. “So don’t choose something that you really like and enjoy and your wife has no interest in. The idea is to connect, not to compete.”

2. Embrace the upside

At the beginning of a relationship, positive emotions are flowing with regularity. Excitement, joy, passion are all right at your fingertips. But, as the relationship progresses and you both get more comfortable with each other, some people expect that those positive emotions will just happen without any effort. Not so.

“The research shows that the happiest couples with the most sustainable marriages are the ones who actively cultivate them all the time and prioritize them as opposed to waiting around for them to happen,” she says. “Because, like with anything, the newness of something, those heightened positive emotions, the level and the frequency just naturally don’t occur as much as in the beginning of a relationship, the falling-in-love stage.”

So, couples in long-term relationships who are looking to cultivate positive emotions have to ask themselves what can they do each day, what activities or actions can they do in order to keep positive emotions flowing in a marriage.

“Imagine if you just bought a gym membership and went once and then said, ‘Okay, now I’m going to be fit,’” Pileggi says. “No, you work out regularly and throughout your lifetime.”

One activity that Pileggi and her husband discuss in Happy Together is a ‘Positive Relationship Portfolio,’ And yes, it is actually a portfolio: of pictures, mementos, and other such items that mean something in your relationship. If that’s your style or not, we get it. The point of the exercise is to devote time to thinking about the fond memories, which, per Pileggi, is extremely important. However you do it is up to you.

3. Savor experiences

Positive emotions and moments are fleeting. Pileggi says that it’s important to slow down and take time to enjoy them. “Research shows that if you spend at least 15 minutes savoring something you could increase your satisfaction,” she says. “One way to do that is sharing secrets with one another. Ask your spouse about a favorite childhood experience, or a secret they never told anyone or big idea or dream they always had for the future.” The point is this: The more you open up and talk about these sorts of things, the deeper a bond you’re able to create.

4. Locate and focus on character strengths

What are your partner’s strengths? Do you know? Positive Psychology researchers have identified 24 character traits that people possess in different measures. Things like creativity, curiosity, zest, love of learning, leadership. Pileggi recommends taking a Character Strengths test with your partner (one is available here). Then, once you’ve determined what your strengths are, you can have conversations with each other about them. From there, Pileggi says, you both can go on what she and her husband call a “strength date.”  Sounds weird right? But the idea is sound: each of you to pick a top strength and go on a date that plays to — and satisfies — both of them.

5. Emphasize gratitude

“If your partner feels taken advantage of and not acknowledged, they’re not going to be satisfied,” she says. And just saying “thanks” isn’t enough.

An example: If your spouse gives you a gift or does something kind for you, don’t just thank them, but also say something like, “You really know what I need and you’re such a good listener.” or “You’re so thoughtful, and I can see how thoughtful you are with our children and the way you are at work.”

It’s about being deliberate and specific in how you express appreciation for your partner. “Express your thanks and express it well,” says Pileggi. “Which means focusing on your partner and her actions and her strengths rather than solely on the gift and the benefit to you.” The end result: Per Pileggi, couples who did this decreased their chances of breaking up six months later by 50 percent.

30 Super Inspiring Quotes About Finding Success as an Entrepreneur

1 .”In business, the only thing that is more important than the number is the person.”

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2. “The reality is there’s an element of risk and luck in anything that you do. But I find that with disciplined risk, you’re either winning and succeeding or you’re learning. And that’s really the foundation to evolving and growing as a business.”

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3. “Being an entrepreneur means one word: freedom. I have the ability to chart my own course and pursue what I’m passionate about.”

Brandon

4. “I know that I’ve got to do my job better and harder than anyone in that building so that everyone there can take care of their families. And that’s one of the coolest feelings for me.”

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5. “The word to me is synonymous with ‘hustler.’ As an entrepreneur, you cannot be afraid to put yourself and your ideas out there and figure out how to give them life.”

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6. “I do not have a staff of hundreds. I have a very tiny staff trained as artists and architects, and I only take on one building at any given time. I’m very protective of staying small.”

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7. “Most successful people reflect daily. It gives our brain a chance to pause the chaos with conscious thought of our previous actions and to hopefully derive meaning/learning from those moments! But only if you’re honest with yourself!

Mario Amstrong

8. “‘Fear of failure’ is something that shouldn’t be in your vocabulary in the military, or entrepreneurship. You need to take calculated risks and not be afraid of setbacks. And in both cases, you need the mindset that I will do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.”

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9. “Entrepreneurs cross the fine line between crazy and genius.”

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10. “I want to improve the world and spend my life doing something meaningful.”

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11. “Being an entrepreneur is following your passion and finding a profit in it. You spend 70% of your life at work, you better love what you do.”

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12. “An entrepreneur is someone who sees a need in the market and does something about it, rather than just sitting on the sidelines.”

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13. It is about having a vision and mission that is bigger than me.”

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14.”Being in the military taught me to risk it all early and to risk it all often.

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15. “We have to slow down, particularly women who have been taught to overachieve in every single endeavor. They believe they have to be outstanding every single day at being a parent, spouse, and contributor at work. If you are trying to do that, you are going to crash and burn, and very likely not be outstanding at any of it.”

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16. “You need to get to a place where you can prosper at your passion. Like I have a couple of artist friends that have a real job and do their art on the side. If their art gets big, they’ll do that full-time, but there’s no reason to go broke in the meantime.”

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17. “An entrepreneur is someone who gets shit done.”

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18. “Being an entrepreneur means to be an artist of life. To be willing to take big risks, because of the deep belief in creating things that matter.”

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19. “Unwavering belief in yourself and enthusiasm for what you’re doing. Those traits naturally create a sense of ownership that you can’t buy anywhere — not even Jeff Bezos can sell it!”

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20. “Bringing your entrepreneurial vision to fruition takes a team of smart and experienced people. Find them, trust them and empower them to help you make decisions.”

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21. “You gotta succeed. If you’re not succeeding, you’re not recruiting anybody.”

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22. “An entrepreneur is someone who has the passion and courage to try something that’s never been done before.”

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23. “Entrepreneurship is about solving problems, not getting fixated on them.”

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24. “Being an entrepreneur is different than starting and quickly exiting a startup. I think entrepreneurs create long-term companies and jobs.”

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24. “When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to understand that no one is going to swoop in and save the day. You have to enjoy solving problems for your customers and for your business.”

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26. “To me, an entrepreneur is someone who has a goal of impacting other people by helping them solve a problem, and through that help, aims to grow and scale to help even more people.”

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27. “As an entrepreneurs, you have a fire burning inside your belly, a vision and a dream that you will do anything and everything in your power to bring to life.

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28. “Entrepreneurship is about the fight — the process of getting your product and service in the hands of consumers and building a company along the way.”

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29. “You have to do more than just your role. You have put on a lot of different hats and do a lot of different jobs that are outside of your daily tasks.”

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30. “I think the best entrepreneurs are able to create win-wins that lead to sustainable business growth and economics.”

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The story behind Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ shows us how to make projects our own

Aretha Franklin, the great American singer who became a defining voice of the 20th century and the acclaimed Queen of Soul, died at her home in Detroit on Thursday from pancreatic cancer, her publicist said. She was 76.

“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on,” Franklin’s family said in a statement.

A preacher’s daughter, Franklin began her career as a teenager in the 1950s, and her inimitable voice allowed her to hop between gospel, R&B, classical and jazz genres with grace. She went on to win 18 Grammy Awards, sell more than 75 million records in her life, and become one of the best-selling selling artists of all time. But out of all the songs she recorded, “Respect,” her demand for dignity, became her signature song that is still played in living rooms and at political protests today. The story of how Franklin took a song originally written and released by Otis Redding and made it her own can be career inspiration for us all.

How Franklin made “Respect” her own

In Redding’s version, “Respect” is about a man pleading with a woman to give him respect in exchange for what he can provide for her. Redding sang: “Hey little girl, you’re sweeter than honey / And I’m about to give you all of my money / But all I want you to do / Is just give it, give it / Respect when I come home … ”

When Franklin recorded “Respect” on Valentine’s Day in 1967, she kept most of the original lyrics but transformed the meaning of the song with the addition of a bridge and the call-and-response of her sisters. Under Franklin’s version, “Respect” became more than a domestic dispute. It became an empowering feminist anthem for women to be treated equally at home and at work.

“Oooh, your kisses,” Franklin sang, “Sweeter than honey / And guess what? / So is my money.” In her most memorable addition, Franklin spelled out her demand for parity for emphasis in the bridge: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/ Find out what it means to me /R-E-S-P-E-C-T / Take care, TCB [take of business].”

 

 

When Franklin’s version hit the airwaves, it became a massive hit, spending two weeks as the No. 1 song in America in 1967. It became a rallying cry for women’s rights and the civil rights movement. Today, it has been referenced and sampled in dozens of feature films. We all want R-E-S-P-E-C-T. “I think that hook line is something we all relate to,” Franklin told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s something we all appreciate and expect.”

It ranks No. 4 on “Songs of the Century,” a 1999 project by the National Endowment for the Arts. “Respect” is now remembered for being Franklin’s more than Redding’s. Even Redding acknowledges this. When he played it himself at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, he said, “This next song is a song that a girl took away from me!”

Magic melodies for the soul

“Kindness
is never weakness
if it has potential
to cause death.
So, if you can
“kill them with kindness,”
the ball is in your court.
YOU have the power!”

 

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Introducing Magic melodies for the soul

“IF I’M GOING TO BE A LIGHT WORKER, I CANNOT LET THOSE IN THE DARKNESS DIM MY LIGHT”

Picking songs for an album is an art form in itself..I tell ya! However, I loved all the songs that were recorded and it was so hard to leave some off.  There’s some really special songs in there and I hope you enjoy them!

 

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

Love Song in Winter (Winter Sonata)

“Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people’s legs like house cats. It was magical, this snow globe world.” 

Mihran Kalaydjian Playing Love Song in Winter Sonata

Special thanks to all my fans who participated.

Mihran Kalaydjian Playing Love Song in Winter Winter Sonata

Music Arrangements: Edward Khoury

Record Labels: Paramount Studios

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My caress goes away without cause,

I got my fingers … In the wind, when passing,

the caress that wanders without destiny or object,

the lost caress who will pick it up?

 

I could love tonight with infinite piety,

I was able to love the first one who came right to get there.

Nobody arrives The flowery paths are alone.

Missing car, roll … will shoot …

 

If in the eyes you kiss this night, traveler,

if the branches shudder a sweet sigh,

If you oppress your fingers a small hand

It takes you and leaves you, it gets you and leaves.

 

If you do not see that hand, or that mouth that kisses,

If it’s the air who weaves the illusion of kissing,

Oh, traveler, you have the eyes like heaven,

In the molten wind, will you recognize me?

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Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

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The 25 best cities to move to if you want to be happy

Would you be happier if you lived somewhere else?

According to a new survey of a half-million people across the nation, those who call Boulder, Colorado home reported being the happiest in the country — based on 15 different categories ranging from physical activity and healthy eating to vacation time and financial stability.

The list of the 25 Happiest Places in the United States, produced by National Geographic in connection with author Dan Buettner — whose book Blue Zones of Happiness shares advice from happy people around the globe — and national polling organization Gallup, lays out the top places where you can be surrounded by chipper, cheerful people.

Here are the 25 happiest places in the country

Boulder, Colorado

“Bolstered by a sense of community, access to nature, sustainable urban development and preservation policies, and perhaps even that clean mountain air, Boulderites overwhelmingly feel ‘active and productive every day,’” National Geographic concluded. “Per capita, more people walk to work in Boulder than in any other city in the U.S. Low rates of smoking and obesity, and high rates of exercise, contribute to the satisfaction locals feel.”

Santa Cruz-Watsonville

With the nation’s oldest amusement park and extensive coastal access, Santa Cruz is a paradise for surfers and beach-goers. It’s also a short distance from the area’s breathtaking redwood forests.

Charlottesville, Virginia

 

 

Recent controversial protests notwithstanding, Charlottesville ranked high on the National Geographic/Gallup poll in terms of overall happiness — both for its educational outposts of the University of Virginia as well as its access to the picturesque and hike-friendly Blue Ridge Mountains.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Fort Collins has a wealth of natural beauty, including Arapaho national forest, the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, with waterfalls, and abundant hiking, biking and water sport activities. In addition, according to National Geographic, Fort Collins’ Old Town storefronts inspired the creators of Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A.

San Luis Obispo, California

With endless hiking trails, artists studios and outdoor markets — as well as a famous Bubblegum Alley where the walls are covered with, you guessed it, chewed bubblegum — San Luis Obispo is a hub of happiness.

San Jose, California

The epicenter of Silicon Valley, San Jose features a host of outdoor recreational facilities as well as the legendary Winchester mystery house, wildlife habitats and museums.

Provo, Utah

Provo boasts access to picturesque mountains, waterfalls and ample hiking, as well as museums and dining options.

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut

This metro area is just 40 miles from NYC, has plentiful public transportation, and features the highest concentration of corporations in the nation, according to National Geographic.

Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

Located on Cape Cod, Barnstable Town is a recreational paradise where residents and visitors can whale watch, boat, golf, check out wildlife sanctuaries and visit museums and historical sites

Anchorage, Alaska

In addition to being one of the happiest cities, Anchorage also was recently named one of the most hard working cities in the nation.

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida

This coastal town is known as much for its high-end real estate as for its pristine beaches, not to mention its upscale shopping. It also features botanical gardens, zoos and state parks.

Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California

The coastal town is flanked by the Santa Ynez mountains, features architecture dating back to its former Spanish inhabitants and has a stretch of beaches and quick proximity to a host of California wine tours.

Salinas, California

Located just south of the Bay area, Salinas was home to author John Steinbeck and boasts a museum in his honor, along with a number of parks, zoos and gardens.

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu’s reputation as a paradise is borne out by its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, as well as by abundant natural treasures including volcanoes, parks and hiking.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan and a collection of museums, botanical gardens and arboretums.

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California

The picturesque west coast city — which has been the set of countless movies and TV shows — offers abundant recreational options for those who love the outdoors as well as rich culinary and cultural offerings.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

The stunning natural beauty of Colorado comes through again in Colorado Springs, located at the base of the Rockies and near the glacier-carved Pikes Peak. The town also boasts the Garden of the Gods, a park with red sandstone rock formations.

Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire

The riverfront town is home to The Currier Museum of Art, which lays claim to original Picasso and Georgia O’Keefe works, a Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building, and historic sites tracing the town’s history as a manufacturing and textile hub.

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California

This coastal town has beaches for sunning, surfing and windsurfing and an historic main street with churches that dates back to 1809. You can also take an easy day trip to Channel Islands National Park, where wildlife including seals, foxes and birds await along with caves to explore.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, District of Columbia/Virginia

While its role as the seat of government gets all the attention, the greater Washington D.C.-Virginia area is a walkable city with many hiking, biking and walking trails and access to nightlife and dining. Locals are surrounded by museums, historical sites and public transportation

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota/Wisconsin

Home to the Mall of America, the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area also includes a sea life aquarium, football, hockey and cultural hotspots including the Walker Art Center sculpture garden.

San Diego-Carlsbad, California

The coastal city is home to a collection of surfing beaches, gorgeous flower fields with acres of seasonal wildflowers, and a Legoland California theme park.

Portland, Maine

The port city is a hub of culture, history and natural treasures, from a host of parks and water activities including kayaking and boating to easy access to skiing and beaches.

Austin, Texas

Rounding out the list is Austin, where the annual South by Southwest festival has catapulted the southern town into the forefront of music, art, film, food and tech. Homegrown artist and Boyhood writer/director Richard Linklater has set up his production shop Detour Filmproduction in town and University of Texas-Austin keeps a steady flow of young students cycling through the city.

A Poem For Myself

I was born in Mississippi;
I walked barefooted thru the mud.
Born black in Mississippi,
Walked barefooted thru the mud.
But, when I reached the age of twelve
I left that place for good.
My daddy chopped cotton
And he drank his liquor straight.
Said my daddy chopped cotton
And he drank his liquor straight.
When I left that Sunday morning
He was leaning on the barnyard gate.
Left my mama standing
With the sun shining in her eyes.
Left her standing in the yard
With the sun shining in her eyes.
And I headed North
As straight as the Wild Goose Flies,
I been to Detroit & Chicago
Been to New York city too.
I been to Detroit & Chicago
Been to New York city too.
Said I done strolled all those funky avenues
I’m still the same old black boy with the same old blues.
Going back to Mississippi
This time to stay for good
Going back to Mississippi
This time to stay for good-
Gonna be free in Mississippi
Or dead in the Mississippi mud.