Clutter does not create happiness

Do lifestyle changes make a difference to your happiness and well being? At Lifetree News we have shared the importance of honoring your strengths.  Another focus has been the “challenge of materialism.” As you reduce your clutter and become more mindful about your “stuff,” you become happier, get more done and improve your relationships.

 We live in a “world of consumerism.”  Consumerism has encouraged us to define ourselves, communicate our identity, and seek meaning through acquiring “stuff” more than through our deeper values, activities and community. But once basic needs are met, continually acquiring more material goods does not lead to more happiness.  Instead, it becomes a deterrent to happiness.  Researchers find it leads to greed, anxiety, and depression. We are much happier when we are honoring our strengths, connected with others, and serving a deeper purpose.

People today are becoming informed of the human cost of “stuff” - trafficking, sweatshop exploitation, forced and child labor and many other ills. As people become more aware of these inequalities and problems, many are redoing their relationship with stuff.  Beyond being mindful individually, activists are generating collective efforts for greater structural change toward creating a world that works for all.  Can we do “stuff” differently?  It depends on what it means to us.

Can we do “stuff” differently?

What does stuff mean to you?  When we define ourselves as continually needing more stuff, it is often motivated by feelings of inadequacy, scarcity, and lack – of not enough.  When we recognize our strengths and values as human persons, we recognize we are enough. Our existence as persons in and of itself provides extraordinary value. We find other ways of creating happiness.  

As you reflect your own unique view towards “stuff,” I encourage you to acknowledge your strengths.  Acknowledging your strengths can help you in five ways.

1. It will help you see that happiness and well being is more than just experiencing pleasure. Enjoying the pleasures of stuff is important, but once the pleasure wears off more is not better.  Chocolate is great, but too much is not. 

2. When you tap into your strengths, you will discover the kinds of activities and work that engage you.  This is where you are enthusiastic and excited, leading to a deeper level of happiness than pleasure.  Find your areas of strengths, and, use them more.  It will help you to make decisions and cut through what is important and what is not.

 3.  You will discover that you can use your strengths to serve a purpose greater than yourself.   For example, the character strength of justice may be important to you. If so, learning about the working conditions of those producing the goods and purchasing Fair Trade products can be deeply gratifying because it promotes equality.

4.  As you discover your strengths, you will better appreciate yourself and others.  When you become more positive, your relationships strengthen and improve.

5.  Aligning your activities and goals with your strengths helps you to get things done.

Try an experiment:

Take one small area in your home – such as your clothes or the kitchen pantry.  Then reflect, how much is enough? What do you really need?  Is there an excess you can donate to others? When you donate, do you feel happier and more connected?  Try it.

Jeff Shinabarger’s book, More or Less has a series of little experiments that can help you discover how much is enough for you. You will also discover the benefits of generosity, connection and joy of sharing with others.  Check it out.

To your generosity,

Dr. Alice



Annie Leonard:  How to be more than a mindful consumer. mindful-consumer.

Jeff Shinabarger.  More or Less:  Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity. Colorado Springs, CO. David C. Cook, 2013.

Discover your strengths.  Take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths at



Joy in The Face of Pain?

All of us lose loved ones over the course of our lives. The pain of those losses especially sharp during the holiday season.  The events in Connecticut this last week have been especially tragic.  We find ourselves dazed, sad, angry, and fearful.  We want to do something to reach out to reassure ourselves that our world can be safe and caring. How can we experience the joys of the Holiday season at a time like this?

Many times, when we face tragedy, we look at it from the present moment.  It can fuel quick action. Other times, after the initial emotions subside, we dismiss it and go on with our lives. Rather than acting on the negative emotion or dismissing it we can choose the practice of calming, embracing, and looking deeply into the pain, honoring our suffering in an empathetic and supportive way.   It taps into our hunger for the sacred and a deeper spiritual power.  A deeper spiritual message emerges and we begin to view it from a broader perspective.  The pain transforms to an energy the helps us to create new intentions and new actions. 

When we look at the challenges of the shootings this year, we can see deep societal issues -- a need to reduce the emphasis on violence, healthy role models for boys, and the need to have restrictions on assault weapons to name a few. We can each be sensitive to these issues and take new actions within our awareness of the values that are important to us.  All actions count, no action is too small. When we honor our deeper values in memory of those important to us, they stay with us in spirit.  

Let us heal ourselves by using these painful experiences to honor the those in Connecticut increasing our awareness of the problems, and taking new action in their honor.  It gives deep meaning to our lives and an appreciation of the power of spirit to bring us through adversity. 

Perhaps this is the essence of the Joy of this season, -- the ability of our higher spirit to bring us through pain and tough times.

Celebrating the Family Meal

 Family get-togethers remind us of the importance of celebrating the family meal. Family meals bring us together, nourish us, and uplift our spirit.  All too often, however, family meals can create a lot of stress. Who is family? With whom can you get together?  Are you stressed out from buying all the stuff and the work?  Are you worried about family arguing and people getting along?  Has it actually been a hard time this year?  Come join us to help you transform your challenges into joy.

Listen to Three Wise Women give you tips on celebrating the family meal.  You can listen to the replay of our teleconference call in the Seminars section.

Build your family spirit.  Here are three tips to get you started.

·         Be Grateful – What you seek you will find. If you focus on the positive, you will get more of the positive.   Learn how to simply by looking at the positive. It will increase your happiness and joy

·         Co-Create – Honor your strengths and the strengths of others.  It will increase your ability to unify and work together to find co-creative solutions – ones you can all enjoy. People commit to that what they help create.

·         Celebrate - Cherish your family stories, especially the ones where you overcame a challenge to create success.  It will amplify your good will. 

Samantha Shields, a home energy specialist will be giving us her insights on simplifying, and managing the challenges of time and stuff.  I will be giving you tips for gaining cooperation and building positive family energy. Dr. Jane, a cultural anthropologist, will help us reflect on family meals and the larger community.


Dr. Alice

Tips for Managing Family Differences

I recently visited my roots, my family of origin.  We had a successful gathering.  We enjoyed being with each other, and also had to make decisions regarding our larger family goals, such as managing the family farm.  In almost every family, individual members often can have different views.  While this can give rise to potential conflict, it can also lead to stronger and more effective teamwork. The challenge is to stay positive, working in individual perspectives, while also looking at the best interest of the whole. Here are three tips for managing differences so as to create success.  

Focus on the Positive

Celebrate your strengths. We all have individual strengths and at the same time share deeper values and strengths with the people we love. Recognizing your character strengths, such honesty, love of learning, sense of humor, is important because it focuses on what you love to do that also serves the greater good. Family is a good place to discover and share them.   When you can use your

Celebrate Your Strengths

What is it that enables you to cultivate your talents, build deep lasting relationships with others, feel pleasure, and contribute to the world?  What is it that allows you to develop a sense of well being?    We all have character strengths that empower our lives.  When you tap into your strengths, it leads to a solid foundation of self esteem and increases your optimism, enthusiasm, and joy.  Here are some ways in which they show up.

 Discover your Strengths

During the day, when do you feel the most strong, enthusiastic, and deeply absorbed in your work?  These are the times you are in your strengths.  Your strengths are the areas where you can become deeply engaged.  When you use your strengths more frequently, it increases your happiness, sense of well being, and joy.

Create Harmony - Move Beyond the Battle with Stuff

Battling stuff can be a real challenge for many families. If you want to move beyond the battle, you might want to consider tapping into your strengths, and put the challenge of battling with stuff in a broader context.  Today, many see simplifying our lives as a an opportunity to change to a much healthier style of living.  It becomes a way create a new vision and take action to make a difference. Here are a few tips to that might help you broader

How to Be Emotional Strong - Tap Into Your Strengths of Character

Today, with the many changes in the economy, the loss of jobs, and the challenges of the weather, it is easy to become anxious and depressed.  The next series of posts look at the importance of cultivating your resources for

"Catching Happiness"

Listen to our monthly conference call, "Catching Happiness,"  in which  I interviewed Barbara Altman, author of the book, Cry Depression, Celebrate Recovery.

In this call we explored an approach to growth that rejected pathologizing termonology in favor of a language of hope, individual character strengths, and personal longings directed toward meaningful goals.

Presidential Strengths

Have you ever noticed that many of our holidays are around the celebration of our deeper values and strengths? When we honor President's day,  we honor the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for their strengths of leadership. Memorial day honors those who have died in service to our country.  All are examples where people have followed their higher values.

America's sacred Contract: Crisis or Opportunity

A most wonderful and passionate story teller, Caroline Myss has prepared a CD "The Sacred Contract of America." It will invite you to actively participate in resurrecting America to its highest potential.  America, according to Caroline Myss, currently "is on a respirator." She recognizes that many Americans feel disappointed on what their country has become.

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