“It Is Only Possible To Live Happily Ever After on a Daily Basis.”

Happiness Interview: Dani DiPirro.

I can’t even remember how I made a connection with Dani and her site, Positively Present–“positive personal development, with a focus on seeking out positivity and living in the present moment.”  So many of the things she writes about are the same things that interest me. I was interested to see how she’d answer some happiness questions.

Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Dani: When I was 18, I had no idea I could choose happiness by choosing to have a positive attitude.

I used to think a positive attitude—and happiness in general—was naïve, uncool, and boring. Once I finally opened my mind to looking for the good in life, everything in my life changed. I started seeing a guy who was wonderful and supportive. I started spending time with people who were uplifting and encouraging. I created a website that has not only helped me improve my own life, but has also helped people all over the world learn to live more positive lives. And, of course, I wrote my first book—Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present—which was literally a dream come true for me.

Without a positive attitude, I wouldn’t have been able to cultivate positive relationships or achieve my life-long dreams. Choosing to focus on the good things in life has brought more good things my way (call it the law of attraction, karma, whatever you like…). And, in addition, when not-so-good things have come my way, I’ve been much better at coping with them by striving to be positive.

I’ve learned that being positive makes the good times amazing and the bad times much more bearable.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?

Yes. Though I’m the creator of PositivelyPresent.com, I constantly struggle with staying present. I find myself worrying about the future—or rehashing the past. Living in the now has always been challenging for me (and perhaps it always will be), but simply being conscious of my wandering mind has helped me to be happier.

When I can’t necessarily stop my thoughts from racing forward to the future or backward to the past, I am at least aware of the fact that these worries and concerns are not happening in the present. Being aware of how important it is to stay focused on the present moment encourages to me try to stay in the now—even when it’s difficult.

Staying present may never be effortless for me, but it certainly makes me happier when I’m able to do it. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s worth the effort.

Is there a happiness quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

The first time I read Margaret Bonanno’s quote “It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis,” I was stopped dead in my tracks. I’d always thought of “happily ever after” as something that happened someday, to someone else. When I started to consider that happily ever after was something that could happen right now, to me, my life changed.

I realized I didn’t have to wait for happily ever after to happen. I could start living happily ever after now. I’ve made that my blog’s tagline—live happily ever after now—because I really believe we can create our own happily ever afters—and we don’t have to wait for someday (or someone).

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?

A positive attitude (or lack of one) can have a major influence on happiness. I’ve  spent time with very negative people and very positive people, and it’s almost shocking how much a person’s attitude impacts his or her life. Having a positive attitude doesn’t come easily for everyone (including me!), but it can make such a difference when it comes to living a happy life.

The trouble is that most people who tend to gravitate toward a more negative perspective don’t often see the benefits of having a positive attitude. They also don’t usually believe they can become more positive—or perhaps, like the younger me, they don’t even want to become more positive. When someone is feeling negative, it can be extremely difficult to remember that having a positive attitude is an option.

Positive thinking doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It’s something people can learn—if they’re willing to put the effort into it. And, in my experience, it’s worth the effort.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?

When I was about 25, I hit a really low point in my life. I knew something had to change or I would spend the rest of my life in a miserable cycle of self-hate and regret. I searched online for inspiration and wisdom—anything that would pull me out of the dark, negative place I found myself in—and I started reading a lot about happiness. I’d never felt truly happy and I wanted to figure out how to be happier.

The more I read about happiness, the more I realized that if I really wanted to be happy, I had to start being positive. (Something my mom had been telling me for years, but I’d refused to listen to!) I had to start looking for the good in life. Somehow I just knew that if I started focusing on the things that were going right (even when it was hard to do that), more things would start to go right.

I created PositivelyPresent.com to document my own experiences with trying to live a positive and present life. It was a struggle for me at first (and still is sometimes), but I thrived on the support and encouragement I got from readers, people just like me who were struggling to stay positive. As the blog grew, I knew I wanted to take it a step further and create a book that would help people live more positively on a daily basis—and that’s when the idea for Stay Positive was born.

In 2013, I will be releasing another book that documents my personal journey from negative to positive. Sharing my personal experiences through my writing has helped me create a much more positive—and happy!—life for myself. Though opening up emotionally is often difficult, I’ve learned so much about myself—and about how to live a positive and present life.

  • Brooke

    I love that she mentions how happiness is a choice. Every single person has it in them to be as happy as they have ever dreamed reguardless of what is going on in their life. The only thing between you and your happily ever after is the oh too common woe is me attitude.

    • Dani

      Thanks, Brooke! It’s not always easy to be happy, but it’s always possible!

  • Evan Griffith

    Thank you Gretchen and Dani for this — that quote and title of this piece stopped me also. What I especially appreciate here that Dani articulates so well is how we choose to create happiness.

    And Gretchen — perceptive question about what is it that we repeatedly do that gets in the way of our own enjoyment. . ..

    Evan

    • Dani

      Evan, I’m so glad you enjoyed this article! Gretchen’s questions were great and I was honored to be featured.

  • http://twitter.com/lemead Lindsey Mead

    Thank you so much, Gretchen, for introducing me to Dani. I love this interview and concur 100% with both the revolutionary nature of and absolute truth of living ever after on a daily basis. I look forward to exploring Dani’s site further. Being present in our lives – both the challenges and rewards of it – is something I write (and think) about all the time too. xo

    • Dani

      Thanks, Lindsey! So glad you liked the interview. I’m thrilled to know that you, too, find it important to be present (even though it’s challenging at times). Thanks for checking out Positively Present!

  • Lucy

    I love the philosophy of living in the present moment and strive to remind myself to create a focus wherever possible (of course, as you say, the wandering throughts to the future or past can’t be avoided, but observing them makes it simpler). The area I struggle with is at work, I really enjoy my job, but a large part of my time is spent on functional change and striving towards making improvements to the fundamentals of the business, linking in with key strategies to drive towardsthe future vision. This often involves very futuristic discussions and I find myself becoming very passionate about the if buts and maybes of tomorrow. Do you have any advice on how productive this is?

    • Dani

      Lucy, you’ve raised a great point: sometimes, no matter how much we might want to stay present, focusing on the future is necessary. This is something I struggle with a lot because I’m a very prepared person. I like to plan for the future and be ready for anything — which often gets in the way of me focusing on the present. But even when you’re working on tasks that are future-focused, you can stay present. One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is by focusing on your five senses. Pay attention to what’s happening all around you right in the moment.

    • Katerina Bent

      Okay, please don’t think I’m crazy. I was reading your comment, and a quote my mom used to say came to mind. She used to say, “If you have one foot in the past, and one in the future, you’re pissing on today.” A little crude, I know, but it always made me smile (and sometime, sometimes, pulled me back into the present).
      I know I struggle a lot with staying in the present. I’ve done yoga for about 8 years, but only recently have I really started to focus on the meditative side of yoga. I think that meditation helps me stay in the present. Especially when I focus on all the little sensations that I feel but often ignore.

  • Anne

    I’m not sure it’s possible to just change your attitude. What you CAN do is to reframe problems or disappointments so that they have less power.

    For example, I was talking to my step-mom yesterday. She’s in her 90s, in poor health, and rather depressed. She mentioned that she can’t talk to her sons about her feelings because they get annoyed (her word).

    I suggested that they’re probably not annoyed, but just wish they could help and don’t know how. My step-bros are both very good men–I don’t think they’re annoyed with their mom at all, but probably just distraught over her decline and her unhappiness. Maybe frustrated. But I see their distress as coming from love, not impatience or annoyance.

    I think my comment helped her feelings to some extent. But it wasn’t a matter of changing her attitude, but of looking at the issue in a different light. I’ve learned to do this for myself to a large extent as well, and am much happier for it.

    • Dani

      Anne, you bring up a great point. Sometimes it’s not your attitude that’s the issue — it’s how you’re looking at a situation. A positive point of view can make all the difference. Instead of thinking people are annoyed at her, your stepmother can consider a positive alternative — that maybe people are just upset and don’t know how to help. A shift in perspective can make a huge (positive!) difference.

  • Katie

    Thank you so much for this post. It is my birthday today and I have realised that changing attitudes is a big thing to consider for the coming year. Great site :)

    Sweet
    Apple Lifestyle

    • Dani

      Happy Birthday, Katie! I hope you had a great day yesterday — and I hope you have a wonderful year too. Stay positive!

  • Dani

    Gretchen, thanks so much for featuring me on The Happiness Project! :)

  • peninith1

    Dani & Gretchen–How exceptionally gracious that Dani is responding on this post! Now THAT’S taking time to be present for those who have been present for YOU. . . a fine way to demonstrate how you build happiness in the moment, by sharing the positive with those who are there in the moment with you.
    And thanks for repeating the oh-so-true thought that happily ever after IS lived one day at a time. Learning that, and learning to adopt a positive attitude, if only in an ‘as if’ way, have long been my most effective ways to combat depression and anxiety. You GO!

  • Anne

    Sometimes thinking of the past is very happy. I was laughing out loud (all alone) the other day over the memory of a Christmas tree I decorated decades ago. I got “creative” with it, to utterly disastrous (and hilarious) effect. Wouldn’t want to do anything that ridiculous again, but I’ll probably be enjoying the memory for the rest of my life.

    Also, I like to remember events I enjoyed in the past, and briefly re-live my enjoyment. I don’t do this a lot, but it’s nice when it happens.

    Sometimes, planning and future thinking can be enjoyable, too. All gardeners know that winter is the time to dream of next years flowers and vegetables.

    For me, the main issue is balance and also keeping track of feelings. If remembering the past made me sad, or thinking of the future made me anxious, I would need to look at why I’d do that. Also, if I were putting most of my energy into reminiscing about things that were over, or dreading things that most likely would never happen.

    • Machtelt

      Hi Anne,

      Your words were exactly the ones I was thinking of just the other day. (before reading this interview).
      Re-living the past can make my negative thoughts disappear, or thinking about my upcoming holiday make me smile.
      As long as you are not longing to be next to your christmas tree again, I think you are still in the present. As soon as the idea of the upcoming holiday makes you sad about today, or when you wish that you are already in that little town in Italy (I live in the Netherlands,so that is actually an option…) I guess that is when you have to be conscious and aware of what is going on. It might be a trigger to realize that you need to actively search for happy things going on in the present.

      So, happy memories and longing for the future can be indicators for knowing whether you are positively in the present?

  • Rachel

    Wow! I’ve just added Positively Present on Facebook. Can’t wait to follow Dani.

  • Katerina Bent

    So this comment is somewhat tangential to the interview. For a long time I viewed myself as a pessimist. One day I had a psychology professor bring up the idea that optimism and pessimism were simply coping mechanisms. Some people cope better knowing the worst possible thing that could happen, and then dealing with it from that perspective. Others, don’t want to even think about what could go wrong.
    I found this perspective very refreshing, mostly because I thought being a pessimist was a bad thing. My professor did mention that optimist did appear to be slightly happier than pessimists.

  • http://twitter.com/AmusedNY aMUSEd

    I love this post! I’m definitely going to add Positively Present to my list of blogs to read. Very inspirational… and true!

  • http://www.beallican.com/ Graham Dragon

    I have always felt the novel “Pollyanna” to be very positive and the little girl such a great role model, despite many people using the term pejoratively. To me, striving to be happy, particularly by trying to make others happy, is far more important than most things people regard as the trappings of success. Graham Dragon, editor of e-books on success and personal development available free at http://www.beallican.com

  • June lilly

    I started to read The Happiness Project during a 230 mile hike in the Sierra Nevada this past summer. There were some insights that really resonated with me: in terms of organizing my material world, domestic labor, and making time for hobbies.

    However, for the most part, I found your explorations and discussions quite close minded and trivial. You are self reflective about your privilege and how this shapes your position to ideas of happiness–in spite of this—there was something very main stream and little about it.

    Happiness can not be a naval gazing project to guide people who haven’t cultivated a workable self awareness from snapping at their husbands. I feel people who are truly concerned about well being take a more holistic approach: connecting the dots between everyday consciousness and how our actions not only shape who we are but the world we live in and viceversa. For someone who had the privilege to serve as clerk with the supreme court of the United States, you demonstrate a limited reach in your reflections about humanity, philosophy, compassion and ‘right doing’. There were also some passages about western/eastern cultural dichotomies that reeked of the kind of uninformed american view point the rest of the world hates to see.

    All this is to say, I just didn’t learn very much from you.

    Here is a blog that i think gives more workable tools for developing a kind of ‘happiness':

    http://susanpiver.com/blog/

    • gretchenrubin

      I am who I am. As I explain in my work, I write from my own experience and analysis. Some people find this interesting, others do not! It’s clear what camp you fall in.

      Good luck with your happiness project.

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