Lisa Cypers Kamen Harvesting Happiness

Lisa Cypers Kamen Harvesting Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness is not a new endeavor.  As Time Magazine’s Jeffrey Kluger points out in his July 2013 story, the intent of happiness was written into our constitution, it was of such paramount importance that our founding fathers made a structured effort around its pursuit, and it has been interpreted in a 100 different ways since our Constitution’s publication.  In America, we have a unique opportunity to maximize a human quality that we take for granted-our ability to not only pursue happiness, but also to create our own joy.

Pursuing happiness infers that there is work involved-a personal responsibility to seek and carve a path to a state of bliss.  As with any pursuit, there is a plan, there are tools of managing the endeavor, there is an investment of time, there is a map, and finally there is the will to choose and accept the journey one is embarking on.

As with any journey of endurance, there might be setbacks, obstacles we did not count on, injuries that need healing, and a focus that needs redirecting.  These qualities are inherit in our emotional pursuit to not only being happy, but to live a joyful life regardless of the circumstances surrounding our physical adventure.  It is through the trials of unhappiness that we may find our transformation to personal growth.

As the country ponders what it means to physically be happy (the bigger car, the bigger house, the vacation, the newest electronic toy, the corner office, more money, etc. . .) I am addressing the necessary invisible tools of pursuing tangible happiness that changes perspectives, alters life focus, enhances daily life, and creates lasting human success.

Here are my top 5 tools for creating personal joy while in pursuit of happiness:

1. Seek Economic Success but Only as a Means to Provide What You Need, Not as a Tool for Joy: While it is important to live in one’s “happy place” it is not a requirement for creating more joy in the world.  America has, as many societies, based its collective ethos on materialism and acquisition.  Any society that does this is doomed for disappointment and eventual economic disaster. We have witnessed this in America during the past few years and are seeing the global fallout across Europe and other continents of Gordon Gecko’s mantra, “Greed is Good” in the film Wall Street.  As Americans, we are being given a fabulous opportunity in this new economic paradigm to re-frame the race for the biggest, best, most expensive, prettiest, and smartest prize. We once coveted financial capital and many of us now realize that it is the social and emotional intelligence that makes us healthier, wealthier and wiser.

2.  Recognize Happiness Is An Inside Job: True joy is not for the faint of heart. In order to be happy, individuals must be willing to face adversity, discomfort and tragedy with grace and not be defined by it. Genuinely resilient people who present a strong sense of hope, optimism, and belief in life and themselves tend to be happier. I like to define true happiness as a dynamic state of being that comes from the alignment of our passion, purpose, place, and meaning in the world.  If we are without purpose (family, home, service), then we seek purpose in elements outside of our control.  Happiness comes from what we can control and how we decide to act.

3.  Stop Blaming Others or Events For Your Un-Happiness: The pursuit of personal happiness is not an exclusive club. Bad things happen economically, personally, and physically, but we need not be defined by those events. In fact, when we use challenging circumstances as the jet-fuel or catalyst for positive growth and transformation, life automatically becomes richer, satisfying, and happier as a result, allowing us to develop attributes and strengths previously unknown-we pursue a purpose-our happiness.

4.  Make A Conscience Choice to Seek Personal Happiness: Think of it this way, each of us has the absolute freedom to be happy and at the very same time, the liberty to be miserable. Abraham Lincoln once said that we are as happy as we choose to be so why not choose happiness? Can or will everybody be happy? No, simply because they make choices that do not support their upliftment and overall wellbeing. Again, my tagline in business and life is “Happiness is an inside job.” These words are powerful because they validate the concept of self-mastery and responsibility for our own lives and ultimate joy.

5.  Fake It Until You Make It: We have often been told that our actions follow our emotions, but in reality it is the other way around, emotions will follow our actions. So the next time you are not feeling happy then go out in the world and create something happy. Offer a service to another, simplify your schedule for appointments of absolute importance, find a plant to nurture, be actively engaged in a good cause, if not for yourself then for someone else. Happiness is a natural reaction to unselfishness-it is a contagious emotion. And that is a contagion worth contracting.

Lisa Cypers Kamen is President of and Director of 501 (c)(3) nonprofit (Harvesting Happiness for Heroes) which provides positive psychology coaching curriculum in PTSD management for wounded warriors, military spouses, caretakers, children and families of the fallen challenged with the invisible side effects of post combat life. 2013 International Positive Psychology Association and USC Guest Speaker, Happiness Expert, Author of Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys To Unlocking A Joyful Life and Recent 2013 Florida Department of Citrus “Take On The Day” Wellness Campaign Spokesperson, and TEDxMalibu Organizer.

For Interview please contact Carrie Hill at 757.621.9319 or

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Parade_RestBy Lisa Cypers Kamen, Harvesting Happines 4 Heroes – Originally published in The Huffington Post

In February, we’re told that our minds should revolve around foil-wrapped chocolates, bouquets of flowers and celebrating how much our loved ones mean to us. But we should also remember the military women struggling to return to their civilian lives as mothers, wives and friends. Here are a few of their stories.

Sue was riding through the dusty Afghanistan terrain with her fellow military police when their Humvee hit a trio of landmines. The unexpected, life-shattering blast left her two fellow soldiers dead as they helped her to safety. Sue became the Afghanistan War’s first female double amputee that day. Years later, she still carries the burden of the tragedy. Sue is just beginning to master the use of her prosthetic legs, and she is still overcome with trauma whenever she is reminded of the day her fellow soldiers perished. Struggling with PTSD, Sue turns to her service dog, Lyla, to help her learn to trust and love again.

When Lashonna returned home from dual tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, she could hardly contain her excitement. She was going to see her family for the first time in months, and was craving the comforts of home. It wasn’t the happy reunion she had been hoping for. As Lashonna spiraled deeper into PTSD, her behavior became more erratic, her family less patient. Faced with loved ones who could not relate to her suffering, Lashonna found herself homeless on the street. It’s only through the help of a nonprofit for homeless female Veterans that Lashonna is now moving into an apartment — her first true home since returning from war.

Alicia spent every spare moment away from combat helping the Afghanistan villagers have better lives. One of her proudest moments was building an all-girls school to provide Afghan children with the resources needed to have a stronger community. But once Alicia returned to Rochester, N.Y., community became a foreign word. She rarely left her apartment, grocery shopping in the middle of the night simply to avoid crowds. After months of avoiding the world, Alicia underwent PTSD therapy and embarked upon the difficult task of reclaiming her civilian life.

A marine gunner in Iraq, Mariette was calm, collected and sharp under the amount of pressure most of us could never imagine. When she returned home, the littlest things began to rattle her. Backfiring cars brought back painful flashbacks of her hardest battle days. Once fearless, she found herself afraid of crowds, hyper vigilant and paralyzed by memories of war. She turned to writing and therapy to regain her confidence and courageous spirit.

BriGette is a victim of military sexual trauma. After being raped in the army, she developed a deep mistrust of her male supervisors. This emotional pain didn’t dissipate when she left the battlefield, instead throwing her into a cycle of homelessness and joblessness when she returned to American shores. A single mother, BriGette struggled to provide love and warmth for her child even as her own challenges were becoming insurmountable. Through support groups, BriGette was empowered by the stories of other women. She’s now an advocate for women Veterans.

What do all these powerful women have in common? They each took the courageous step of seeking treatment for their trauma. And if that’s not an act of love to be remembered I don’t know what is.


Service_the_film_logoBy Lisa Cypers Kamen, Harvesting Happines 4 Heroes – Originally published in The Huffington Post

Last week, the Department of Defense announced that women will soon be allowed to serve in combat. There’s been a lot of talk about what this means for women, with some feminists celebrating the decision and others worrying about the harsh reality to come. But what about how women in combat will affect PTSD?

PTSD is an epidemic. It affects American servicemen and servicewomen of all backgrounds, all ages and all military titles. But in recent years, the prevalence of PTSD has increased among our female Veterans, sitting around 20 percent according to the Department of Defense. Among male Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, most sources put the rate somewhere between 14 and 18 percent. But with more women joining the front lines, this rate is bound to increase, and fast. We owe it to our female Veterans and our active duty servicewomen to learn more about how PTSD affects them.

Here’s what we know now: Even after the ban disappears, women may still be less exposed to the front lines. But at the same time, women are much more likely to suffer Military Sexual Trauma, also called Military Sexual Violence. These experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening acts of sexual harassment are closely linked to PTSD. In one study of Korean War Veterans, exposure to sexual assault put an individual at a higher risk for PTSD than combat. More than 50 sexual assaults occurred per day between October 2010 and September 2011, and women were by far the most common victims. One-third of our active-duty servicewomen say they have experienced MST.

When women develop PTSD, they often experience different symptoms than men do. Women suffering from PTSD are more likely to develop anxiety and depression than men are. But at the same time, it’s also less common for women to develop the substance abuse and violent tendencies that often plague men living with these invisible wounds of war. No one has discovered exactly why, but many researchers say the differences boil down to the biology of men and women’s brains.

Luckily, there’s a silver lining to the story. Women are more likely to develop PTSD because of MST and their biological reactions to fear, but they’re also more likely to seek treatment. In my experience counseling Veterans, my female warriors tend to walk in on day one more comfortable showing their true range of emotions. My male Veterans also find success with positive psychology, but it often just takes a little extra work to get there. Other data shows that women are naturally more conditioned to be intimate and draw from a larger range of coping strategies.

As the ban on women in combat gets officially lifted, our female active-duty personnel and Veterans will likely become even more susceptible to PTSD. The high instances of trauma seen on the front lines and the significant likelihood of sexual trauma at the hands of military personnel are two critical hurdles for the health of our servicewomen.

Without more concrete research on how women develop and cope with PTSD, our female warriors will continue to face these insurmountable hurdles. The more we know, the better we can serve them.


Lisa Cypers Kamen and Harvesting Happiness

Lisa Cypers Kamen and Harvesting Happiness

By Lisa Cypers Kamen, Harvesting Happines 4 Heroes – Originally published in The Huffington Post

When PTSD transfers from the battlefield to the home, this disorder quickly becomes a family affair. So set an extra plate at dinner tonight; PTSD is joining you.

One of the things I hear time and time again is that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an isolated condition. If you think that’s true, you’re not alone; I used to be one of those people. But when I began working with veterans, I discovered something profound: PTSD affects every person in the sufferer’s life, from spouses to children to extended family to friends. Secondhand trauma is real, and if it lingers untreated, can be just as scarring as having PTSD yourself. For children, the exposure to PTSD is especially toxic.

Children who see their parents struggle with PTSD typically respond one of three ways. Some take on the role of the rescuer, taking on a parental role to compensate for their parent’s difficulties. Other children begin to withdraw when they stop receiving the emotional support they need from mom or day. For a third group of children, the result is secondhand trauma. Through this process, the parent’s horrors become the child’s horrors, and child lives out his parent’s legacy of suffering. Secondhand trauma robs children of their youth, creating a lasting heritage of doubt, mistrust, and a fear of reliving the hurt one’s parent has endured.

Any of these three scenarios can damage a child’s emotional development. That’s why it’s so important to include the entire family in a veteran’s PTSD treatment. By encouraging an open dialogue among family members and their loved one with PTSD, behavioral therapists such as myself can help happiness become part of the healing process. Children can learn to create joy in spite of the challenges by rediscovering playful moments and using that happiness to reengage with the present. As families struggle to regulate amid PTSD, it’s essential that they talk about their feelings and allow space for this joy to creep back in.


Harvesting Happiness for Heroes

Harvesting Happiness for Heroes by Lisa Cypers Kamen

By Lisa Cypers Kamen, Harvesting Happines 4 Heroes – Originally published in The Huffington Post

The New Year is here. For most of us, that means we’re in full-on resolution mode, seeing the year ahead through rose-colored glasses and a prism of unbridled opportunity. Vows to curb our consumption of carbs, pursue our passions, and spend time with the ones we love abound, as we leave 2012 in our dust. As we have bid adieu to 2012 and greeted 2013, let’s take a moment to reflect on the reality of the last 12 months through our veterans’ eyes.

Our veterans had another tough year. Their unemployment hovered well above the general population’s joblessness rate, with 1 in 10 of our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans out of work as of November. Our warriors continue to be stigmatized by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that now grips nearly one-third of our veterans. The military sex abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base has resulted in more than 40 women coming forward with heartbreaking stories of unwanted sexual advances by their instructors.

But by far the most devastating issue facing our military personnel is suicide. New data shows that more active-duty soldiers committed suicide than died in combat in 2012. It’s a tragic testament to our society’s shortcomings in treating PTSD.

These issues make each day a hurdle for our veterans, whether the calendar reads 2012 or 2013. But as we jump into the New Year, I propose a different kind of resolution — one that’s not about losing weight, accelerating our climb up the career ladder, or traveling to foreign shores. This year, let’s finally give veteran health care the attention it deserves. Stopping veteran suicide, unemployment and sexual abuse all starts with PTSD. By striving to provide holistic, stigma-free care for our warriors, we can take a large step toward helping them heal their invisible wounds.

Let’s make their priorities our priority. Let’s make 2013 the year of the veterans.


RelaxFronCover-sBy Lisa Cypers Kamen, Harvesting Happines 4 Heroes – Originally published in The Huffington Post

What do Madonna, Matthew McConaughey, and Jennifer Aniston have in common with our veterans?

Yoga. With this celebrity fitness secret now going mainstream, even our veterans are hitting the yoga mat. Why? To treat their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s the latest proof that, sometimes, a harmonious brain-body connection is the best medicine.

With more than one-third of our veterans suffering from PTSD, it’s clear that the go-to therapies — pills and prescriptions — aren’t solving the problem. But interestingly enough, research shows that trauma-sensitive yoga, which uses breathing, stretching and meditation, can help calm the portion of the brain that gets hyper-aroused during a stress episode — no medication required.

If you’ve ever practiced yoga or meditation, this probably doesn’t surprise you. Yoga has been known to have a cathartic effect, unlocking a person’s repressed emotions. And in the case of PTSD, it can help a person shift his or her focus inward, away from the stress and trauma, by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system. Yoga isn’t a substitute for warranted medical care, but it is an integrated, evidence-based strategy that will help people cope, heal, grow and thrive.

In my day-to-day work with veterans, I have seen firsthand how a three-prong Brain-Body-Breath approach helps them turn post-traumatic stress into post-traumatic growth. Here’s how holistic PTSD therapy works:


The first step in treating PTSD is to help an individual communicate emotions in a safe, constructive way. After engaging in talk therapy, counseling and peer groups, I begin to see our warriors develop constructive tools for grieving and expressing their emotions.


Another crucial aspect of overcoming trauma is to be at ease with one’s body. Through practices such as trauma-sensitive yoga, individuals can train their bodies to use relaxation and awareness as tools when turmoil or stress arise.


Through proper breathing and mediation, individuals with PTSD can learn to become rooted in the present moment, which will help them overcome PTSD-related trauma episodes that often occur without a moment’s warning. Meditation can also improve a person’s stress release, mood and ability to relax.

This trifecta of wellbeing keeps myself and the veterans I work with balanced, joyful and able to persevere no matter what curveball life throws. This integrated, holistic approach to healing helps PTSD sufferers turn their trauma into growth. And here’s the best part: The only side effects are peace of mind, happiness, and a more centered view on life.


Robert_Biswas_Diener_1Dr. Biswas-Diener is widely known as the “Indiana Jones of Positive Psychology” because his research on happiness has taken him to such far-flung places as Greenland, India, Kenya and Israel. Dr. Biswas-Diener is a leading authority on strengths, culture, courage, and happiness. He has published dozens of scholarly articles and multiple books on diverse psychological topics. He is best known for his pioneering work in the application of positive psychology. Dr. Biswas-Diener is the foremost authority on positive psychology coaching and has consulted with a wide range of international organizations on performance management and leadership development. To learn more about Dr. Biswas-Diener and his work, visit:

Cheryl_HunterCheryl Hunter was born and reared in the remote Colorado Rocky Mountains. She is a cowgirl who grew up on a horse ranch, training horses and riding rodeo. Today, Cheryl is a bestselling author, speaker and high-performance expert who specializes in providing Fortune 100 caliber coaching for individuals. Her expertise is in guiding her clients to architect a very specific blueprint for their businesses and their lives that produces dramatic results in a very short window of time. Cheryl was drawn to her work as a result of her own life path; she overcame a traumatic, life-altering experience that ignited a strong desire to contribute to others. To learn more about Cheryl and her work, visit:

 Find your Happiness with Lisa Cypers Kamen every Wednesday at 9 am PST/12 pm EST on ! For more information, visit Lisa’s websites, , and

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Naomi_KryskeNaomi Kryske is a Hurricane Katrina survivor whose fear and helplessness in the devastating Category 5 storm gave her insight into traumatic stress. Determined not just to survive the experience but to triumph over it, she wrote The Witness, an intense crime/suspense novel set in London and told from the victim’s point of view. Naomi shares with us that overcoming PTSD comes in many formats, and for her, it was writing fiction. To learn more about Naomi and her work, visit:

Jody_BremerJody Bremer is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a Masters of Arts in Clinical Psychology with Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. Jody received a special certification and verification from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists in Working with Military and Their Families in Private Practice. Servicemen from the Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force are a significant specialty, allowing her to provide personalized care for all of the military members and their families struggling with the specific hardships the military incurs, such as long-term separations, deployments, and PTSD. To learn more about Jody and her work, visit:

Find your Happiness with Lisa Cypers Kamen every Wednesday at 9 am PST/12 pm EST on ! For more information, visit Lisa’s websites, , and

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McKenna: May be too grainy?  For Kripalu promo page (there's an alternate)By Lisa Cypers Kamen, Harvesting Happines 4 Heroes – Originally published in The Huffington Post

Economists and the media tell us we have just come back from the precipice of the “fiscal cliff.” I posit that we are on the verge of an even more serious crisis, “The Emotional Ledge,” a result of allowing ourselves to believe everything we see, hear, feel and think. This impairs our ability to self-regulate and undermines our emotional and physical safety, well-being, sense of self and happiness.

Like other dystopian authors, Aldous Huxley held a pretty bleak view of society. In A Brave New World, his future looks something like this: We live to consume. We’re brainwashed by advertisements and institutions that make us feel as though we’re free, even as they wipe out any originality and creativity in us. We lack meaningful relationships. We live in a society where art and religion are four-letter words, but where science reigns supreme. Science controls how we live, when we die, and what we look like; we’re all born in labs, adjusted to be exactly how society wants us to be.

Some aspects of this dreary dystopia seem farfetched (after all, we’re not all born in laboratories, and most of us still value deep connections with our fellow humans). But there’s also some fitting forecasting at play here: Our society is becoming more preoccupied with consumption, and technology has begun to rule many of our lives. And advertising and media do play a strong role in how we humans think about the world, which can threaten our originality — if we let it.

Huxley’s view of the future doesn’t have to be our future. Yes, the world is imperfect. There are a lot of negative forces at play. But with the right attitude and approach to life, we can avoid making Huxley’s terrifying vision of society our reality. It’s time to embrace the United States of Amazing.

What is the United States of Amazing? This is no saccharin-sweet view on life, and it’s not a Pollyanna perspective. It’s the art of swallowing the bitter pills that come from life’s disappointments and choosing happiness as a vitamin regime. So, with 2013 right around the corner, I urge you to explore this brave new world with these Emotionally Intelligent tools in your arsenal:

  • Might
  • Gratitude
  • Kindness
  • Passion
  • Empathy
  • Amusement
  • Inquisitiveness
  • Curiosity
  • Transparency
  • Vibrancy
  • Authenticity
  • Love
  • Bravery
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Compassion

The outcome is always unknown, but by applying the United States of Amazing viewpoint to your journey, you’ll find the future looks brighter than it does bleak.


Upper Left Scroll #2: Replace photos with ChildrenBy Lisa Cypers Kamen, Harvesting Happines 4 Heroes – Originally published in The Huffington Post

Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel Catch-22 is a witty, ironic discussion of the double binds our WWII troops faced due to the military bureaucracy. But here’s the thing: More than 50 years later, this double-bind hasn’t gotten any better. The term Heller coined to describe “no-win” military policies can still be used to describe many of the situations our veterans face as they return home from war. The latest Catch-22 for our heroes? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stigma in hiring.

In a recent New York Post piece, numerous veterans describe this Catch-22 in blatant terms: If they disclose that they suffer PTSD, the New York Police Department won’t hire them. But if they hide their PTSD from the military (and the NYPD, which receives the military’s medical files), veterans run the risk of losing their health care if the condition gets more severe.

One veteran said he passed the NYPD entrance exam in 2006, before his tour overseas. When he developed PTSD from the fighting and admitted it to the military, they shared that information with the police department. NYPD then disqualified him from serving on the force.

This is where PTSD stigma has gotten our veterans.

Although it’s understandable for a police department to require mental health screenings for officers who may have to use deadly force, that doesn’t change the fact that our veterans are in a devastating double bind. Our veterans still face dire jobless rates,and often turn to addiction or self-harm when they have nowhere else to go for help. Seeking help should be seen as honorable, courageous and an important step in taking care of one’s health; but because of the stigma surrounding PTSD, a veteran wears a scarlet letter as soon as he or she divulges any PTSD symptoms. It’s time for stigma to stop trumping our veterans’ strengths and virtue.

One way to decrease these ill feelings toward PTSD, a condition affecting nearly one-third of our troops is to ramp up public education efforts. Our veterans and their families aren’t the only ones who need to understand what it means to live with this condition; employers and other civilians are a big piece of the puzzle. When we teach employers and the public to understand and accept PTSD as a treatable condition, we are helping our veterans slowly break free from this stigma.