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Why Knowing Yourself Better Helps You to Thrive- The Science of Autology

Why Knowing Yourself Better Helps You to Thrive- The Science of Autology

What is the key to happiness? Although many believe a piece of cake brings happiness, it can also be true that happiness isn’t always a piece of cake! With over 40,000 books on the shelf written with the goal of helping you to be happier, it’s clear there is no magical one-size-fits-all happiness solution.

Each person has a unique happiness recipe. Imagine if I gave you the list of ingredients to make a chocolate cake without telling you the amount of each ingredient, the order to add them or how long to bake it.

This is where most how-to-be-happy books fall short. They give one single list of ingredients.

There’s a lot to being happy.

  • your thoughts
  • your sleep
  • your nutrition
  • your genetics
  • your circumstances
  • your mindset
  • your focus and determination
  • time & effort

Knowing about yourself (autology) will help tailor a recipe that you can bake. Some of us bake gourmet chocolate cakes while others prefer a simple box mix. Once you find a recipe that you like, it doesn’t matter where you learned it, just that you can bake it well.

Let’s learn about your personal happiness recipe:

The Ingredients

  1. Sleep– your body needs to be rested for the optimal mindset. The goal is to awaken on your own without an alarm feeling rested.
  2. Nutrition– the fuel you choose for your body and your mind matters. There is science that shows certain diets prime you for happiness. It’s also important to control the news you watch, the conversations you have and the time spent doing things that drain versus boost your energy.
  3. Habit Formation- the steps it takes to become happier require you to form new habits or get rid of habits. Knowing how you tend to create habits will help you to make a plan that you can actually implement. Insight without action doesn’t work. Try this habit formation quiz to learn your tendency. This will help you to stick your recipe.
  4. Practices- Positive Minds International uses seven different science-based domains. These are Positive Purpose, Positive Social Connection, Positive Presence, Positive Self-Knowledge, Positive Experience, Positive Mindfulness, Positive Gratitude. You can begin with this series of quizzes to see which areas you could use the most help with OR you may just have a gut feeling that one or two of these areas are most challenging. Check the chart below for a little clarity.

Positive Purpose– A strong sense of purpose or intention increases engagement and well-being.  If you are living a

purposeful life you have goals and actions to move toward them. If you aren’t clear on your purpose, check out this article and request the Purpose Finder worksheet.

Positive Social Connection– Friendship and connection through altruism matter. When we connect socially or give time, money or effort to help someone or something, we also receive benefit. Here are 2 quizzes from the Greater Good Science Center on social capital and altruism. Check out this blog too for questions to connect.

Positive Release– Release means letting go or forgiving. You probably know if you are challenged by letting go. Don’t worry if you are- it’s a common challenge! Check out this quiz from Psychologies.

Positive Self-Knowledge– I’m a total self-knowledge junkie so here’s a short list of my favorite online resources and quizzes to heighten your awareness of how you relate to others:

Habit Formation- 4 Tendencies

5 Love Languages


Meyers Briggs

Strengths Finder

VIA Character Strengths

Big 5

Positive Experience– This one can be the simplest place to begin. You have things that boost your mood. Anything from reading, walking on the beach, funny movies, travel, etc. Take time regularly to participate in a variety of experiences that feel joyful to you.

Positive Mindfulness– This includes both mindfulness and meditation. It can be anything you participate in that allows you to experience present moment awareness. Some love swimming or hiking, others choose prayer or meditation.

Positive Gratitude– Another simple one, gratitude practices can be taking time to acknowledge important people at home or at work. It can also include a gratitude journal. Don’t forget that gratitude includes both giving and receiving. If you think gratitude is a strength, try focusing on how you receive it. 


5. Time- be realistic and think about what you will actually be able to implement. Are you dedicating 5 minutes each day or the entire day Sunday? Are you able to commit to 15 minutes three times a day or a full week of 24/7 immersion? Planning practices that fit easily into your schedule is important. When you choose an area to target, maybe Gratitude or Mindfulness, choose a specific task like meditating 5 minutes twice a day or writing daily in a gratitude journal. Use your habit formation type to set yourself up for success. Get an accountability partner, build in rewards, and most importantly remember that a little is still better than none.


I’m curious to know more about people reading my blog. I know I’m an Upholder whose love language is TIME, I’m a 7 with 3 wing, I’m ENFJ, my top strengths are Woo and Ideation, my character strengths include creativity and love of learning. My big 5 put me at extreme ends of openness and extraversion and unusually low with neuroticism.

Comment and share yours. Let’s see what personalities are reading about positive psychology and happiness!



Letting Go Might Be the Best Superpower in Your Happiness Toolkit

Letting Go Might Be the Best Superpower in Your Happiness Toolkit

I use seven science-backed happiness hacks to change mindsets and encourage a resilience tipping toward joy. I’ll let you in on a secret- one of the seven seems to have more power than all the others. It’s forgiveness.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. Mark Twain

When we hold on we impact our own health at a cellular level. The production of hormones is thrown off and the ability to fight infection drops. People with higher self-esteem find it easier to forgive. And this isn’t just about anger. Many people choose sadness over anger but guess what- sadness is just anger with less intensity.

Have you ever had a relationship where the break up lasted longer than the time you spent together? Do you still have a nemesis from your childhood? Do you stop trusting people easily? If you answer yes to any of these, you may need to strengthen your forgiveness muscle!

Take the forgiveness quiz.


A few things to remember that can help you as you get better at forgiving.

  1. Forgiving does not mean you condone the action
  2. You don’t have to forget when you forgive.
  3. You don’t need to relate to the person you forgive.
  4. When you forgive you give up all hope of a better past.
  5. When you let go of the past you are free to open up to a new future.

Deep healing occurs with time. Or it can happen overnight. There isn’t a way that is better. Whatever works for you works for you!


Why Social Connection is Your Shortcut to Happiness

Why Social Connection is Your Shortcut to Happiness


I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Brene Brown

Connection lifts you up. When I feel a strong connection with someone they encourage me to expand, they inspire me to grow, and they let me show my weaknesses without judgment. In a world where everyone has 1000 Facebook friends and every Instagram post can get hundreds of likes, some people fear the loss of true social connection.

It is now more important than ever to have true friends.

What is a True Friend?

There are old friends, the ones we share stories with. They may have been there the longest but that isn’t the same as being a real friend. An old friend and a new friend have equal chances of being a true friend.

  • True friends talk about ideas more than people.
  • They discuss the future more than the past.
  • They will tell you if there’s spinach in your teeth.
  • They celebrate with you.
  • They listen.
  • They can do nothing with you
  • They know when to help you and when not to help you
  • They like your spouse
  • They encourage you to eat better and exercise in a balanced way
  • They forgive you when you make a mistake

When you think about your friends remember even though 100 pennies= 4 quarters, it’s better to the quarters where friendship is concerned

Who Are Your Five

You’ve probably heard that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. Note, the most time not the best time. Think about your five. Are they who you want to be like? If not start editing. You can do this by reducing time with the downers and spending more time with the ones who lift you up. You can also seek out new friends.

I actually had an experience once where someone I met told me “I really like you but I have enough friends.” Perhaps this was their truth or maybe they were doing the friendship equivalent to “It’s not you, it’s me.”

What Science Says

People with true friends

  • live longer
  • have sharper minds and experience less dementia as they age
  • have better immune systems
  • increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • boost happiness and reduce stress
  • increase self-confidence and self-esteem
  •  have overall better lifestyle habits

There seems to be no downside to social connection.

Try This to Foster Closeness

There is a study showing that answering a specific set of questions actually brings people closer together according to Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone, R. D., & Bator, R. J. (1997). The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findingsPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(4), 363-377.

Click here to get a free download of the closeness questions.

Who would you call to share good news with? Why not share this with them to say “thank you for being a friend! You can do the closeness questions together too.

Can You Be Happy Without a Purpose?

Can You Be Happy Without a Purpose?


Those who felt their life to be meaningful were less depressed and felt greater satisfaction with their lives.-Stager et al 2006

Simon Sinek taught us to start with why. In his groundbreaking TED talk he explained that people with a purpose love going to work and they’re more productive and creative. They go home happier and have stronger relationships. They treat their colleagues, clients, and customers better too. Inspired employees make for stronger companies. And if that isn’t enough, purposelessness, the opposite of living with purpose, is a risk factor for both depression and poor relationships. It’s obvious that having a sense of purpose and meaning underlying day to day actions is good for you. This doesn’t help at all if you don’t have a clue what yours is!

We can get so caught up in looking for our why that sometimes we cannot see what’s right in front of us.

How you live your life including your choice of activities, your values, and your passions are all deeply connected to your bigger purpose. Purpose doesn’t have to be lofty or altruistic (although it might be). Knowing what feels important to you can be useful in clarifying. You can begin by looking for your smaller purpose, your intention behind every action.

When you are driving to work think of your intention- to get there safely and on time.

When eating your lunch what’s your intention- to fuel your body with healthy foods.

When you yelled at your partner what was your intention- you wanted them to know that you felt frustrated. (this may not have been the strongest method but at least you can identify what you were going for, right?)

When you binge-watched Santa Clarita Diet for 4 episodes what was your intention- okay, maybe sometimes there isn’t a strong intention behind every action but noting that is progress in and of itself.

Over time, as you check-in regularly on your intention you will become more familiar with how and why you make choices. This is an exercise in learning about YOU. The successful outcome will have you knowing more about yourself.

Next, see if there are areas of your life where purpose has more clarity. Sometimes there is clarity in some areas but not others. Try thinking of your purpose as:

  • a consumer- how do like to spend (or save) your money?
  • a traveler- do you enjoy new places or prefer familiar ones?
  • when exercising- do you like the gym, yoga, or running?
  • when eating- do you love long lingering meals or grab and go?
  • for entertainment- do you like movies or live theater?
  • when reading- do you like magazines, novels, or biographies?

Your purpose doesn’t lie in these answers but as you practice you may notice that purpose is clear about how you parent but not how you spend leisure time.You know you enjoy volunteering but you don’t love the job that pays the bills.

I have a little questionnaire I use with clients who want to get clearer on their purpose. If you want a copy, I’m happy to send you a download. Email me- tamara@posminds.com with “Purpose Worksheet” in the subject line and I’ll send one your way.

To answer the question in the title, of course you can be happy without a clear purpose but science and history both show that purpose increases happiness.

If you get clearer, I’d love to hear your purpose. I’m posting mine in the happiness trajectory facebook group. Feel free to join! Remember, purpose is fluid, it changes as you change. Purpose is also one of seven happiness boosting habits- stay tuned for the other six.



Self-Esteem- Is It Feeling Good or Doing Well?

Self-Esteem- Is It Feeling Good or Doing Well?

Healthy self-esteem is important for both happiness and well-being. There’s a difference between having self-esteem and pursuing it. One conundrum; too much focus on self-esteem can have you avoid things that are challenging. A second; overconfidence sets you up for failure. How do you find the balance? That sweet spot between  knowing your strengths and pushing yourself?
You need challenges to be resilient, to spend time in a flow state, and to grow as an individual. Yet boosting self-esteem alone doesn’t improve your performance. A question I often get-should we focus on feeling good or doing well?
The latest research shows the healthiest type of confidence is non-contingent self-esteem (the kind that allows you to feel good about yourself no matter what)  When you have this type and something goes wrong instead of asking what’s wrong with me  you ask what was wrong with my effort, my plan, or my execution. 
Here’s where the difference comes in- self-esteem is confidence that you’ll be okay even in areas where you don’t do well. It’s all about self-efficacy; your ability to succeed in a particular situation.
I know I’m good at French but I don’t speak a word of German. I know how to french braid but I can’t whistle.
Simply put- competence breeds confidence.