by Nicole Stottlemyer

It slid across the carpet, landing right in front of me. I picked it up. It was beautifully designed, and had two blank lines staring back at me, just waiting for me to write my name and my 30-day challenge.

“Think of one habit you really want to create,” Braco said.

Braco Pobric, a graduate of the very first Certificate in Positive Psychology program, was gracing our alumni group with a presentation on his book, Habits and Happiness. As the title suggests, Braco is passionate about helping people develop habits that will lead to increased happiness. And the room was full of CiPPsters who were equally passionate about building connections with each other and deepening their understanding of the material.

“Make sure this habit is something you want to commit to for the next 30 days,” Braco added.

How often do we take the time to think about a habit we want to create? Usually about once a year, as the new year is beginning. But I’d been thinking about the habit I wanted to develop for a long time, and I knew exactly what word to write on that blank line.

“Now find a partner who will be your accountability buddy for the next 30 days,” Braco said.

Annie, Beth, and I happily became a group of three—and, serendipitously, we had all chosen the same new habit: Exercise! We were excited to form our own little support group, and agreed to text or e-mail each other updates to help provide support and encouragement. (The “buddy system” has been proven to support the exercise habit: A study from the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University surveyed married couples who joined health clubs together and found that couples who worked out separately had a 43 percent dropout rate over the course of a year, while those who went to the gym together had only a 6.3 percent dropout rate. It works for friends and groups, too.)

As for me, I’ve always known that exercise is important for physical health, but it wasn’t until I took CiPP that I learned how absolutely critical it is for my mental health as well. My level of happiness is directly related to my level of physical activity. Multiple studies reveal a link between exercise and well-being.

There are long-term benefits, too. In his book Spark, John Ratey discusses research showing that physical exercise actually expedites the creation of new neurons, which explains why it helps us think better and why it wards off the effects of old age. People who exercise regularly are less likely to get Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, because the brain is renewed through physical exercise in a process called neurogenesis. Cool, right?

Annie said that calling it “exercise” seemed too daunting—too much like work. So we decided to call it “Daily Fun Movement” instead. And I’ve been checking off my “Daily Fun Movement” box every day since then.

Funny how, in life, if we aren’t careful, we can check all sorts of boxes that don’t bring us true happiness. Being reminded of what really matters, thanks to Braco, helps make the choice clear. Habits and happiness are inextricably connected.

As we go through life, striving for what we think will make us happy and fulfilled, let us keep in mind that, as author and “success expert” Brian Tracy says, “successful people are simply those with successful habits.”

Click here to learn more about the Certificate in Positive Psychology.


Nicole Stottlemyer is a coach, facilitator, and senior teaching assistant with Wholebeing Institute, and holds Wholebeing certificates in Positive Psychology and Positive Psychology Coaching.