Home All My Favorite Things: A Variation on Oprah’s List for Positive Psychologists

Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, ACC is a performance coach, author, and motivational speaker who specializes in helping people design and achieve their life goals. Full bio.

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“Raindrops on roses and

Whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and

Warm woolen mittens”

Oprah favorite thingsJulie Andrews sang about them. Oprah has them. And so I now want to do a fun column about “My Favorite Things,” too, to pay homage to some of the things that bring happiness and contentment to my life in the hopes that my findings might give some of you a fresh idea about how to make yourselves a little bit happier on a daily basis.

Of course, I have to tie this to the world of Positive Psychology and research, or this column wouldn’t belong here, so here are the rules for making my annual Favorite Things recommendations:

  1. The recommendation must have increased pleasure, engagement or meaning in my day-to-day life.

  2. It must have some empirical evidence supporting — or relating to — its possible efficacy as a happiness-booster.

  3. It must be available to others.

  4. It must pertain to one of the sixteen areas of life that have been shown to enhance life satisfaction.

Here they are:

Mind aerobics

Mind aerobics

“Mind Aerobics” is a product that is based on the science of binaural beat technology, and I have become addicted to these CDs since I met their inventor on the “Ocean of Gratitude Cruise” exactly one year ago. By wearing stereo quality headphones and letting different tones enter my right and left brain hemispheres, I can create alpha, beta, delta and theta waves that speed up some of outcomes seen among long-time meditators. This affordable brain retraining program has several CDs that enhance concentration, reduce stress and cortisol levels, and promote creativity. I’ve never produced so much good writing on deadline as I have with these musical tones filling my brain. (If the above link doesn’t work, go directly to my “Recommended Products” page on my website.)


Oskar Schindler

“Schindler’s List” is a movie that has been out for several years and that won Steven Spielberg many well-deserved honors. It is a moving portrayal of the heroism of Oskar Schindler, who found a way to save over 1,000 Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. This warts-and-all portrayal of a very brave man who did the right thing impacted me and my family in numerous ways. We had an extended discussion about how role models can build our own self-efficacy, how volunteering your time and efforts to a worthy cause can improve your lifetime happiness, and how being courageous and going way outside your comfort zone is what builds authentic self-esteem.

Pausch last lecture

Randy Pausch

Although it will make you cry, it will also make you laugh and show you how to live and how to die. Carnegie-Mellon professor Randy Pausch did one of the bravest and most moving things I’ve ever seen when he gave his “last lecture” in September 2007 to his students. Pausch is dying from incurable pancreatic cancer, and although he is a handsome, fit-looking father of three young children, he said that he wanted to spend whatever time he had left with his family. Pausch’s lecture was viewed and downloaded millions of times within weeks of posting it on the internet, and for good reason. If you can get through this three-hanky video on Pausch’s home page, you will understand more about how to greet each day with joy, how to appreciate the people who are in your life now, and why living each day in pursuit of your childhood dreams is so critical.



Making and perusing a family scrapbook has all of the elements of Positive Psychology. By selecting pictures for this important project, you will be savoring happy memories, getting into a state of flow by creating beautiful pages, and you will be evoking the power of journaling.

Anyone can make a scrapbook, and now there are affordable ways to create them online! I don’t think I’ve ever seen or participated in a leisure hobby that had so many elements of Positive Psychology in one place.



My life has been revolutionized by the purchase of an Airdesk, which I now have next to our treadmill in the basement. The Airdesk allows me to read, answer emails on my laptop, and even write chapters of a book while still walking on a treadmill. “U.S. News & World Report” recommended the purchase of an Airdesk (or something like it) as one of the top ways to improve your life in 2008. Instead of passively sitting all day and preventing you from getting exercise, an Airdesk makes smart multitasking possible for even the busiest person. On a number of occasions I have hit six miles of walking (over 12,000 steps on my pedometer) while answering emails in recent weeks, and I was in better physical shape after doing it!

I admit to being a research hound. I love reading research more than I enjoy reading anything else, and there is one piece of research that moves me whenever I look at it. It is called, “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect,” and it was published in 2005. Co-authors Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ed Diener and Laura King methodically go through hundreds of pieces of research to show that happiness precedes success, and not the other way around. You can’t read this document without deciding to try to enhance your well-being in some of the myriad ways mentioned in this 53-page report.



There are numerous free newsletters and other things you can get emailed to you, but there are only a few that make a difference in my life no matter how often I receive them. The best and highest-quality newsletter I receive is the weekly “Yoga Journal” publication, that brings you free and insightful information about meditation, yoga, ancient wisdom traditions, class finders, and much more. The site where you can sign up for the newsletter now has videos of how to do the poses correctly, which is a wonderful addition. I always feel inspired, happier and even inclined to do a stretch or warrior pose when I look at the newsletter, so it’s a no-brainer for my “Favorite Things.”

Pink iPod

iPod Mini

I know I’m the last one of the block to get one, but when my daughter passed along her used pink mini iPod to me, it changed my world. I get it, dear readers. This gadget is so much fun to use that I find myself listening to music far more often than I once did with my old CD player. Researchers are learning more and more about the power of music to change our moods, so this little item has a solid spot on my Favorite Things list from now on. I’m also able to listen to audiobooks on this device, which is managing to enhance my learning, too.



In the last year, I have had some of the toughest deadlines of my entire life for two new books: I’m Still Caroline (became Positively Caroline) (June 2008) and Create Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide (Sterling, January 2009). To continue to work, be a mom and meet these difficult challenges, I’ve had to go to quiet hotels within fifteen minutes of my house for eight months on many weekends while my husband took over household duties. Although the Washington, D.C. area is certainly not cheap, I’ve been able to get three-star hotel rooms for approximately $37/night by bidding on Priceline. Not only have I been able to accomplish my writing goals, I’ve given myself the joy of anticipation on a regular basis by knowing that I would have a soft bed, uninterrupted writing time, and as much hot water as I wanted, by doing regular bids. Move over, Captain Kirk! Priceline has a new spokesmodel!

I’d love to hear what other people have on their favorite lists because I never know when or where I’ll hear about an affordable and unusual Positive Intervention that speaks to my needs and works well in my life or the lives of my clients, who are always looking for off-the-beaten track ideas. I look forward to learning more by seeing what everyone posts in the comments section!


Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?. Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803–855.

Miller, C. A. & Frisch, M. B. (2009), Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide. New York: Sterling.

Miller, C. A. (2013). Positively Caroline: How I beat bulimia for good… and found real happiness. Cogent Publishing.

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Ellie 9 February 2008 - 12:00 pm

This is cool! I love some of the suggestions you made about finding ways to exercise while working. I have, on occasion, gone days without moving from my desk and think that this “Airdesk” sounds like a great device for working mothers like myself. Thanks for the tips!

Caroline Miller 9 February 2008 - 12:44 pm

You’re welcome! I’m slowly adding more pictures and links to dress up this submission, but at least you get the idea about what has floated my boat lately!

Bridget Grenville-Cleave 10 February 2008 - 4:18 pm

I really loved this posting. It’s a really creative way to get people to focus on the positive things in their lives, without getting stuck on the usual list of health / friends / family and so on. I wonder if it’s connected to gratitude?

Also, how strange that your first item is about brain waves, I was only reading some research yesterday; it’s a promising area for PP interventions I think…I’ll look into Mind Aerobics straight away. Thanks!

Caroline Miller 11 February 2008 - 3:01 pm

Hi Bridget,
It is important to go outside of the familiar resources and areas we all think of quickly, so this was a fun list to make. Hope it spurred some fun ideas!

Jo 11 February 2008 - 3:03 pm

Good on you Caroline. After going to Martin Seligman’s lecture in London last year, I refocused two of my blogs on broadening experiences.

The first series on http://scotchcart.wordpress.com (November 2007) is about the things I learned as a Zimbabwean in the diaspora. I’ve noticed quite a lot are about food (!)and the pleasurable life. I suppose that is not really surprising. When you are displaced, you are living more at the bottom of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy. I also avoided listing things that came about because the world has changed in the intervening time. I decided to list those after I finished my list of 20 things I’ve learned since 2000.

My other blog also started as a resource for diasporans arriving in a foreign country but also picked up my newfound interest in Web2.0. This blog has slowed down (I’m a little Gen X to be keeping up with a Gen Y lifestyle). It has been tremendously useful in settling in a new country and it is a broaden-and-build mechanism I am very glad to have.

I’d be happy to have any suggestions on these series and to talk with anyone interested in building Web2.0 applications for positive psychology!

Thanks again for the post!

Jo 11 February 2008 - 3:04 pm

And the name of the second blog IS: http://flourishing20.wordpress.com


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