Everyone wants to be happy, but reaching that goal is quite complicated. For example, what does happiness even look like for you? Many of us haven’t defined it in our own minds. Then we get to more complex questions like, is it even possible for humans to truly be happy?
Join us as noted voice-over talent, podcaster, and actress Randye Kaye explains that our goal shouldn’t be happiness; it should be to be happier. She explains why that distinction is important and how we can get there. And, you guessed it, she shares how this can be a much simpler process.
Randye Kaye’s passions for theater and improv help her inspire audiences and workshop participants to get human again – Connect, Create, Communicate – so we empower each other to live happier, more meaningful lives. Two bestselling books, Happier Made Simple and Ben Behind His Voices, tie into her work as speaker, radio and podcast host, actress, singer, and mental health advocate. Her most recent podcast, Schizophrenia: 3 Moms in the Trenches, is entering its 4th season.
Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without.
To book Gabe for your next event or learn more about him, please visit gabehoward.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast where experts share experiences and the latest thinking on mental health and psychology. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Welcome to the podcast, everyone. I’m your host Gabe Howard, and calling in today we have Randye Kaye. Randye is the best-selling author of two books, “Ben Behind His Voices” and “Happier Made Simple.” Her goal is to inspire audiences to get human again, connect, create, communicate so that we can empower each other to live happier, more meaningful lives. Randye, welcome to the podcast.
Randye Kaye: Hi, Gabe. So nice to be here.
Gabe Howard: I am so glad you’re here because I’ve been wanting to ask you for a while what the line in your bio quote, inspire audiences to get human again, unquote means. Because after all, aren’t we all human? Isn’t moodiness, doubt and fear all part of the human experience just as much as getting happier?
Randye Kaye: Wow. You start right out of the gate with a great question. Yes, of course. There’s a reason that I didn’t name my book “Happiness Made Simple.” I named it Happier Made Simple” because the human experience does include moods and doubts and working out problems and learning from each other and painful lessons and things we wish didn’t happen to us. That is all part of the human experience. What I mean when I say inspiring people to get human again is to accept each other as human beings, to value the shared human experience. That only happens when we are together, hopefully in person. To have curiosity rather than judgment as much as we can so that we, to quote one of the habits of highly effective people, we seek first to understand and then to be understood. These are goals to reach for, and nobody’s perfect. I am guilty of myself of sometimes jumping to a conclusion instead of asking a question. But we’re flawed human beings working on it. And you know, no one is an island. We are all connected, sometimes in really visible ways and sometimes in invisible ways. And just, it’s really hard to laugh by yourself. It’s a lot easier to laugh in a community.
Gabe Howard: While it is easier to laugh in a community, it does seem like so many of our issues are tied to other people, whether it’s disagreements with coworkers, family dynamics playing out negatively or relationships just simply souring. But you do maintain that no one is an island and that there is power in human connection and communication. But isn’t there also power in just opting out of the whole thing and avoiding other people?
Randye Kaye: Oh, well, guess it depends on the kind of power that you want. I. I think often of the Twilight Zone. Now I know that’s an old show, but it’s always on on some sort of marathon. And there was one episode where this man, Burgess Meredith, where he just only wanted to do was be left alone to have time to read. That’s all he wanted. And a nuclear disaster happens and he is left alone and he sees a library and he’s all excited. And then he accidentally breaks his glasses. And then he’s really left all alone because there’s no one there to get him a new pair or fix his glasses. So these are the things like we tend to take other people for granted. And yes, I totally agree that some of us get our energy from being alone so that we can be better with other people. And some of us get our energy from other people so that we’re better at being alone in varying degrees. It’s part of what makes the world go round. So I just want to remind people that, you know, kindness, empathy, other people really do matter, even if it makes your life a little bit messy. And certainly, we want to choose to not engage with toxic people, but we can also choose to recognize the value and beauty of the people we’re close to and the people in the middle, coworkers, the barista at Starbucks, the person who let you have the parking space. Sometimes when we notice the good. We have the cognitive bias to seek out the good and give each other a little bit of grace and forgiveness and dare I be corny love?
Gabe Howard: But, Randye, where’s the line between being Pollyanna, you know, finding the positive and the good in everything while ignoring the negative versus only living in the negative? Which I think everyone listening can agree that, well, if you’re only focused on the negative, yeah, you’re going to feel bad. But there’s a phrase that’s gaining traction called toxic positivity, I sort of agree with it because I hear people that are like, Oh, it’s going to get better, it’s going to be fine. And I’m like, But, but not on its own, right? It’s a bit like if you’re a farmer and your crops are failing and you’re like, It’s going to be okay. It’s going to rain. The farmer who took a realistic look at it and said, okay, I’m going to figure out irrigation. I’m going to figure out how to use that river at the end of my land and irrigate my crops is always going to do better than the farmer who just hopes that it rains and takes care of itself naturally. Where’s the balance in the modern world?
Randye Kaye: I absolutely agree with you. And two things about toxic positivity. One, we are not meant to be happy every minute of every day. That is not the goal. That’s not life. Life is not 100% happy all the time. In fact, that would be kind of boring. It seems like it would be nice, but it would be very boring. We’re not meant to be happy every minute. Our brains are not wired to make us happy. Our brains are wired to keep us safe. And that includes seeing the negative, learning lessons, avoiding things that are going to hurt us. Like that is part of our makeup. So that’s number one. Number two is positivity happens within ourselves. It is not something we force on another person. I’m not telling you to go to someone and go, Oh, just look on the bright side. That is for them to tell themselves, not for someone to tell someone else. I, my friends know me as someone who lives as happily as possible, even during challenges. But if one of them says to me, Hey, Randye, oh, look on the bright side, maybe it happened for a reason. I just crumble. I hate that. Don’t give me that advice. I’m doing that for myself.
Gabe Howard: One of the things that I love is that you help people get happier. Not be happy, not stay happy. Just be happier. And to that end, you have an acronym, BREATHE, that you have described as something that you can do.
Randye Kaye: It’s definitely and purposefully breathe and not breath. Because breathe is an action. Breath is a thing.
Gabe Howard: And of course, it’s an acronym. So, every letter stands for something. I would like to go through that with you to teach the BREATHE acronym to our audience. Would that be okay?
Randye Kaye: Sure, that would be, that would be great.
Gabe Howard: All right. So obviously BREATHE starts with B, what does the B mean?
Randye Kaye: So, the B stands for Being, which many people call mindfulness, but I wanted it to fit in the acronym, and I like being. It’s a moment-to-moment existence and being happier is about having happier moments. So, for being, and for me, this is huge. I just say, you know what? Be here now. Get through this day. Get through this moment. Even if you’re sad, be sad now, but be here now. And these are sort of mix and match. Does that fix everything? No, but it does it does help me when I say, okay, be here. Now, look, I’m brushing my teeth. It leads words lead you down a road. Of the things that those words connect to. So, if you say I have to go to work today, that’s going to lead you down a road of, oh, it’s only Monday. They don’t pay me enough. Why do I have this job? They don’t treat you. I have to go to work can lead you down one road. Shifting one word and saying I get to go to work today and maybe saying it three times to yourself.
Randye Kaye: If the first time doesn’t ring true. You will find yourself going down a different road. That may be like, I’m really lucky I have a job. This job is teaching me a lot, even if it’s not forever. Like you’ll find like saying I get to go to work today can shift your focus. Not to be Pollyanna happy, but just go how else can I look at this? My husband was unemployed for 15 months and he would have given anything to say. I get to go to work today. R is for reality. My core phrase is it is what it is. Now this again, you don’t do right away. When your parakeet dies, you have to absorb the pain. And like with my son’s illness, probably the hardest thing that any parent goes through is when a child is ill or you lose a child and you would never immediately jump to, oh, well, it is what it is. But I do go to that when I find myself going, why did this have to happen? Poor me. It’s not fair. I go, you know, wait a minute, that’s not helping. What is helping is, okay, he has this illness. It is what it is. What can I do? What can I do now? And the other five phrases are like, that is just to lead you down a road.
Randye Kaye: E is for engagement. Just remembering we’re all connected. We’re all connected in ways we don’t know. Appreciation is a huge one. A For appreciation. I just go, this is good. Or how can this be good? Or maybe eventually this will be good. It depends on the situation.
Gabe Howard: Oh, Randy, thank you so much. All right. We’re now at T in the BREATHE acronym.
Randye Kaye: T is for trust. Trust is kind of trusting the master plan, trusting the universe, trusting God, if you will, whatever you call it. Trusting that somehow all will be well. But we don’t always have the power to define what well means. H is for humor. It’s the piece that, as I was reading up on these topics and attending groups and going to webinars, I found that there wasn’t a lot of humor in the happiness movement as I was experiencing it. I get that people come to these groups because they are seeking to be happier, and so maybe that’s part of the makeup of what I saw. But I didn’t see fun and I didn’t see humor. And that’s part of why we’re here together, is laughing at the absurdity of life. There’s a difference between an inconvenience and a tragedy, so an inconvenience can be funny the next day. A tragedy may never be funny. I never want to paint that. That’s different. But if something’s inconvenient, like a traffic jam. Okay, we can mope about it all day. Or we can go. All right, it is what it is. Let me see what I can do. I’m going to call them and let them know I’m late. And now, boy, this is going to make a great story. How I was late for my own wedding. Humor is my love language, and I hang out with people who feel the same way. You get theater people together. I’m a theater actor. They’re not telling stories about the opening night that went great. They’re telling stories about the night the set fell on their head. And the phrase is, isn’t that interesting? Looking at things and going, oh, my grandson said, shut up to me. Isn’t that interesting? And again, we not laughing at other people. We are laughing at ourselves or at the absurdity of life to ourselves. Unless we find a kindred spirit who wants to laugh along with us.
Gabe Howard: And we’re back with the author of “Happier Made Simple,” Randye Kaye. And Randy, that brings us to the final letter in the BREATHE acronym, E.
Randye Kaye: And E is for esteem. This has to do with trusting yourself, your strength, the lessons you’ve learned already, your resilience. Things are going to happen in your life. We do our best to prevent them. But sometimes things happen. We all know it. And I find it helpful to say to myself, you know, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but whatever happens, I’ll handle it somehow or we will handle it somehow. We’ll handle it somehow, because we do. I ask people sometimes when I do presentations on mental wellness at work and beyond to write down something they thought they never could survive. And yet they’re here to tell the tale and what they learned from it. And you would not believe some of the responses I get. I read them anonymously, but there are people who said I lost my husband three weeks after my wedding and it was devastating. Now, what I’ve learned from it is I can find love again. I am lovable, you know, there’s always lessons in everything and strengthen the way we handle things. So that’s a very long winded answer. But I just want you to see that I’m not advocating toxic positivity. I’m advocating a shift in perspective of what we tell ourselves so that we can be more understanding of others and have the energy to not get stuck when we want to make life changes.
Gabe Howard: It seems to me that a lot of people think that they are seeking happiness, but what we all actually crave is contentment. But I don’t think a lot of people understand the difference. What is the difference?
Randye Kaye: I think that happiness has a reputation of, as you said before, being Pollyanna. Oh, it’s all fine. Nothing bothers me. And that is not the goal. The goal is to live life fully. We are put on this earth to live life fully. We don’t know happy if we don’t know sad. Every yin yang, Jewish Kabbalah. Like all of these talk about the balance of life and in the contrasts. Happier is closer to contentment in that we don’t overemphasize the negative. We don’t get stuck in the negative. That we guide ourselves to see things a little bit differently so that we don’t feel incompetent, attacked or a sense of injustice. This is why people get angry. And so contentment, I think, is is a way of looking at the world where you go, all right. Not perfect, but it’s good. It’s good. I did my best today. This was a pretty good day. Things like that. Joy will never last forever. It will never last forever. I saw a speaker, Chip and Dan Heath, who wrote a book about the power of moments. And they used this example of Disney saying, like in the course of one day in Disney, you’re going to have terrible moments like waiting on line for Magic Mountain in the heat. And you’re going to have wonderful moments like when your kid sees Mickey Mouse for the first time. And our brains are kind of wired to remember the really bad and the really positive and somewhere in the middle is contentment.
Gabe Howard: One of the things that I’m thinking about is that objectively I, Gabe Howard, I’m talking about myself here. I objectively have a happy life. I have a family who loves me. I live in a nice house. I have a job. That’s a it’s a dream job. I get to host a podcast and travel the country talking about myself for a living. This was this was tailor made for me. But I know that I have a lot to be thankful for. And again, intellectually, I know that I should be happy, but it just doesn’t cut it for me. What do you
Randye Kaye: Mm.
Gabe Howard: Say to all of the Gabe’s out there who are smart enough to realize, Hey, look, I know I’ve got it good, but I feel I feel like I don’t have it good and I’m struggling to be happy and I’m struggling to be content.
Randye Kaye: Oh, that’s an interesting question. They’re in the studies that I’ve looked at for happiness. There is a level at which what we have gets taken for granted and is no longer contributing to our daily level of happier. For those of us, like you and like me who have lost something and gotten it back. There is a momentary spike of happier, like when you the first day you can breathe after a cold. You’re like, Oh, I’ll never be sad again. I can breathe through my nose. Like, it’s so great. I was in a leg brace for a year and the first step that I took without the leg brace on when my nerves started to regenerate was the happiest I’d been in so long. And now I’m grateful every time I take a step. But it’s not that level of joy that that was like that first step was like, Oh my God, I think I might be all right. Part of it is expectation, like expecting that joy to be there all the time. We aren’t sad for what we take for granted. We aren’t happy when we take things for granted.
Randye Kaye: So it’s good to notice them. It’s good to count them. But maybe the secret is more in the littler moments in in the in the quieter things that not that are not the basics. You know, your health, your home, your family. It’s good to know that’s a foundation. But finding joy may go beyond that to the smaller to the smaller things. I would say that contentment can lie in actively choosing to occasionally highlight those little moments. And be happier for that moment and not expect to be happy all day long.
Gabe Howard: Randye, I noticed in your book, “Happier Made Simple,” that every single chapter starts with a story. May I ask you to share one of those stories? I mean, in particular, maybe your favorite one?
Randye Kaye: Oh, I have so many favorites. But yes, I. I truly believe that people may not remember anything. They might remember acronyms, but they remember stories. We all remember stories. And one of the stories that is my favorite is fairly recent. When my older brother and I went to a party to see if anybody was related to anybody. We all had our DNA tested and just to see, Oh, maybe you’re a fourth cousin of this one. Well, my older brother and I found out at that party that unbeknownst to us, we are only half siblings.
Gabe Howard: Oh, wow.
Randye Kaye: Yeah, that was quite a shock. And we were both like, What? And like I said, yeah, if you were full siblings, you would be at 35 to 50% DNA match, but you guys are like 18%. So at that moment. When we knew that we were both from the same mother, there were pictures of her pregnant with us. We knew we had different fathers. And as it turns out, my younger brother is also only a half sibling and turns out we have three separate fathers that, after much research, we found my older brother and I were conceived by sperm donors. So our parents are both passed away. There was no one to ask about the questions. But going back to that first moment of shock, it throws you like, what? Wait a minute. So I don’t have this. What happened? Did mother, did my mother have an affair? Like, you just don’t know. And I remember we were both looking at each other, open mouth, and then burst into laughter. It was like, this is absurd. And walking out, I remember saying, you know, maybe your father’s Jerry Springer because my brother really looks like Jerry Springer. So, I think he was still more in shock than I was. But we had a laugh. Like at that moment we had a laugh and it got us through the shock of the next few days.
Randye Kaye: It’s life changing to find out your family is different from what you thought it was. My brother wrote a whole book about it and his name is Richard Kaye. You can check that out on Amazon if you want. It’s called “Revelation,” has a picture of us on the cover as babies. But for me, my conclusion has been it’s been a couple of years. Family is what you embrace and who embraces you back. So if you didn’t have great parents, but the neighbors next door let you sleep over whenever you needed to, that’s family. I live in a family of second husbands and stepchildren and all kinds of things. Family is who you embrace and who embraces you back. No matter who the sperm donor was for me. And I ended up finding out who it was. But he had no interest in contact. My father is the father who raised me and wanted me and made the mistakes that fathers make and was committed to bringing me up. That was my father. And so it was very interesting for me to go through, late in life, what many adopted children go through. Everyone’s conclusion is different. My conclusion is family is who you embrace and who embraces you back. And that’s what the DNA surprise taught me.
Gabe Howard: I love this story for for so many reasons. But on a personal level, my mother, she got pregnant in high school and that man had nothing to do with me. But obviously, as I’ve gotten older and needing medical records shared and medical histories and things like that, I’ve I’ve developed the term where I say, well, this is my biological father, meaning the gentleman who impregnated my mother, and this is my real father, meaning the gentleman who raised me. And
Randye Kaye: Yes.
Gabe Howard: I should also point out that calling my sperm donor a gentleman is very kind, but it’s a family
Randye Kaye: [Laughter]
Gabe Howard: Podcast. And I. I want to be nice, but you are absolutely
Randye Kaye: Fair enough.
Gabe Howard: Right. Family is whom you embrace and who loves you.
Randye Kaye: Yeah.
Gabe Howard: Randye, thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for taking the time and thank you for discussing the concept of we can all be happier. I really appreciate it. As do our listeners.
Randye Kaye: It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much.
Gabe Howard: Where can folks find you online?
Randye Kaye: I have just redone my website, so the easiest place to find everything, “Happier Made Simple.” My previous book, “Ben Behind His Voices,” are on my website RandyeKaye.com. And you spell both names with a YE. The E’s are silent, but I talk a lot. R A N D Y E K A Y E dot com. And you will find pages on my writing, my keynotes, my workshops and my work as an actor and a voice over talent
Gabe Howard: I want to give a big thank you to all of our listeners and I want to give a big thank you to you as well, Randye. My name is Gabe Howard and I’m an award winning public speaker and I could be available for your next event. I also wrote the book, “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations.” You can grab that on Amazon, but you can get a signed copy with free show swag or learn more about me by heading over to my website, gabehoward.com. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe to the show. It is absolutely free and you don’t want to miss a thing. And hey, can you do me a favor? Recommend the show, share it on social media, share it in an email, share it in a support group. Send somebody a text. Because sharing the show is how we grow. I will see everybody next Thursday on Inside Mental Health.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast from Healthline Media. Have a topic or guest suggestion? E-mail us at email@example.com. Previous episodes can be found at psychcentral.com/show or on your favorite podcast player. Thank you for listening.