Activate Happy!

14971092_10211694010732885_823850486_o              14975942_10211692529855864_2088299197_o

Saturday, November 5th, was the 2nd annual Activating Happy conference. Though, conference doesn’t seem like an appropriate title; usually conference implies dry, dull or even necessary as dictated by a sales manager or trade show mandate.

Activating Happy is a day-long adventure into brains, science, inspiration, discovery and delight. Created by a lovely inspirational lady, Sandi Serling Zimmerman, Activating Happy is about knowledge, action and fun. I went last year, the first year, and it was so great I wondered, “How will they be able to top that?” The variety of the speakers, their specific expertise related to science, brains or some body-mind correlation to happiness, was all so helpful. Yes…For lack of a better term, helpful describes the format and intent of Activating Happy.

“Happy” is a word that is sometimes overused. It denotes a platitude or unrealistic expectation. But what does it really mean? What does it really mean to you? I know I think about the idea of ‘Happy’ a lot. I wonder for me if it means inner peace? Fulfillment? Contentment? Joy? Maybe all of the above? Is is momentary? Is it a sustained state?

As the speakers of the day shared, Activating Happy is part science, part humor, part creativity, part skill, part habit, part motivation. I took pages of notes but here are a few morsels from the speakers:


Rob Sample (co-proprietor of Mother’s Bistro along with his wife Lisa Schroeder, and purveyor of many talents) was the day’s Master of Ceremonies. Always with humor and intelligence, Rob did a fantastic job of seamlessly moving the show along and keeping it lively!


Brad PendergraftFinding Your Way: What You Need To Know About Your Brain For Happiness And A Meaningful Life: Neurons are open for the business of being redirected. Through a few steps of “wiring and firing” pathways of happy habits are just waiting to be shown the way. Thank goodness! Phew! I am what I think I am and I am not what I think I am.


Danielle BakerThe Power Of Nonverbal: Use Your Body Language To Feel More Confident, Capable & Happy: How do I think I come across in the world? How do I want to come across to the world? Happiness is shown in the eyes. And teeth, when smiling. Must get dental whitener and show the world I mean business. With confidence.


Steve LinderHappiness: A Neuro-Strategies Approach: Events happen. Seemed corny but Steve used a trash bag analogy of how we place, then fill the bag that we use to carry our problems around with us everywhere, based on events. Slung over his back, others can see the problems, even if he/we [when the problems are ours] can’t. We allow ourselves, and even invite ourselves, to get more into the problem, pretty soon, can’t see anything else. (This is when he peered deep into the bag, put the bag over his head). Through the example of finding a small hole in the bag, eventu14954506_10211692529975867_501408855_oally discovering ways of making the opening of possibility bigger, he was able to bust through the problem and able to use action of the solutions to view beyond the confines of the bag. He talked about the question of HOW (solutions), not WHY (victim), as a key to finding solutions out of our problems. I’m totally oversimplifying what was an impactful presentation but it was effective! (In fairness to Steve, post-bag shot!)


Dr. Nina MeledandriTasting Happiness: How Mindful Eating Supports A Happier Life: Food, and mindful eating, can create the opportunity for self-compassion, kindness and self-respect. Food is about savoring and enjoying the moment. This was experienced by Dr. Meledandri leading the audience in an exercise of mindful eating and savoring of a Kind bar. When our feelings are not masked by food, “What we feel, we can heal, what we name, we can tame.” The focused tasting, touching and smelling of the Kind bar was an interesting experience.


Susan ShadburneHow To Be Happy, No Matter What: Susan’s talk was heartfelt and compelling. She shared her own personal journey of repeated heartbreak, illness, loneliness and eventual hope. I appreciated how she talked about the journey of getting to know yourself–warts and all–takes time; including how you don’t love yourself, and how you might. This was a powerful thought I took home with me.



Part Two:

15007748_10211692521455654_1550069344_o   14964188_10211692521575657_1690464863_o   15007758_10211692521615658_514377743_o   14954316_10211692521655659_584183074_o

Dr. Larry Sherman – Sex, Chocolate and Prairie Voles: This speaker was my favorite last year, and I have to say, he was again this year. A totally accomplished, heady neuroscientist, who has a gift to take all the nerdy stuff and make it compelling. Yes, he was able to tie all these ideas together of sex, chocolate and voles, as his talk was about the neuro-psychological/physiological origins of pleasure. Why we seek it, how we crave it, how it’s created. Good news is that while we crave pleasure, and sometimes bad habits ensue as a result, we can also redirect our brains to create better habits and yield similar results which ultimately create happiness.

Henrik BotheWant Happiness? Start Dropping the Ball: Talk about possibility, focus AND fun! This expert entertainer shared the message that humor, fun, and not taking oneself so seriously all the time adds to a happy life. He put on quite a show for us of spinning plates, and sharing that we succeed and learn in life from not only the plates that manage to make it and spin, but also all those plates that don’t. The audience held our collective breath as Henrik was adding the last few plates! We were all impressed and blown away by his skills and showmanship!


Polly CampbellStop, See & Savor: The 30-second Strategy To Boost Happiness: Polly’s message was a breath of fresh air reminder about how happiness and beauty are ever-present and available; all we need to do is make them happen simply by taking the moments to recognize them. Polly is authentic, funny and heartfelt. We genuinely enjoyed and appreciated Polly’s warmth and stories.

14971499_10211692530335876_1072189411_o  14976293_10211692530495880_542337207_o

The day closed with a lovely surprise and unlike any other from all the conferences I’ve attended. The lights dimmed and on the giant screen appeared a scene of a starlit night, a campfire and the sounds of crickets. With what felt like an Eastern Oregon destination of solitude, beside a “campfire,” Brad Pendergraft lead us on a journey about the importance and wonder of nature; How nature heals and offers happiness. His motivational words in combination with the setting were really powerful. Then, a cool thing happened! A small spotlight came on and shined the light on a real tree stump that had Galileo in it, a beautiful live owl.

Alina Blankenship is a rockstar publishing maven (Bree Noa) who also happens to rehab wild birds of prey such as owls and hawks and then release them (Wings Over Wine). She uses the rehab period and subsequent release to educate people about the science and nature of these amazing birds. Alina brought Galileo to add a special surprise element to the day, and share a true touchstone with nature. It was awesome!  14958007_10211692530855889_293488092_o

I can’t say enough about Sandi’s dedication and awe-laden vision of Activating Happy to help people find more meaning in their lives through knowledge and tangible action, and to brighten up our world. Her ongoing commitment and inspirational example is such a gift. Excellent job Sandi, be proud of how fantastic the event was! You touched many people this day! I know you had a great team of people around you too, that volunteered many, many hours to deliver this seamless, heartfelt, thoughtful, impactful event to us lucky participants.


Photo: Danielle Towne

The world could use more Activating Happy and I’m sure with Sandi’s talents and passion, this day is just one of many many splendid gifts to follow. For more information visit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: