Tag Archives: Happiness

List and destroy

A brief encounter with an old friend last week ended with an off-handed remark that it seemed to her I was behind in life. I guess in her mind the fact that I’m not dating anyone or married or engaged or popping out babies like it’s my full-time job is a little weird. While I tend to not let myself get bogged down by comments like that (I can think of a million other awesome things to be doing besides getting married), I can’t deny that a lot of non-useful thoughts have been stuck in my head. Not only are these thoughts distracting but they seem to be soaking up my time, energy, and general happy disposition so when I read this article about a three-step approach to simplifying your life and getting past the trivial things that seem to bother us, I decided to give it a try.  

I wasn’t in a particularly philosophical mindset at the time I read the article so I took the route that gave me some semblance of control. I started by writing out a list of all the things that were bothering me. I even included the petty, stupid stuff so that my list included not just the things I needed or wanted to get done but also things people said or people I don’t like (I’m sure we can all guess who made the list). Once my list was complete, I went through each item and pinpointed some immediate, tangible step I could take to address the issue. Even if I knew I couldn’t resolve the issue right then and there I could at least pinpoint an immediate step I could take to make progress towards the end goal. Just like larger school or work projects, breaking down overwhelming feelings into smaller tidbits has been helpful in alleviating stress. Plus, I’ve found that this process has been a good way of recognizing that while some things are petty and not so important in the larger realm of life, my feelings are still valid and little things do matter (as much as we try not to let them).

Since writing my list of things bothering me, I’ve destroyed more than half of the action steps listed (and all in one night at that). The list ranges from menial stuff like “the fact I have a food baby –> do 15 situps” to more serious things like “Forbes says I should have 3 professional mentoring relationships and I have none –> email Eric already!” and “Not being present in the moment –> buy a new gratitude journal and write down all the things you’re loving today.” Overall, I’ve found the process to be really helpful in changing my disposition. And call me anal, but I love that it makes me feel more in control about the trivial (and not-so trivial) aspects of life.

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As an aside, for all those people out there who are engaged or getting married or dating someone or popping out babies … I am genuinely happy for you because your life is fuller and richer in so many different ways than mine. Someday that will be me but right now I’m perfectly okay with being right where I am. ❤

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Gaining mental clarity

“I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home. I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are: grand and beautiful.”
-Henry David Thoreau

Hiking in the woods might be the perfect and ideal activity to clear the mind and gain a little bit of clarity, at least for me. Not only is it great aerobic exercise but it serves as a way to get rid of the excess energy stress often places on the mind. Considering my struggle with battling burn out all through the month of March, I chalked this weekend up to spending my time doing various outdoor activities and soaking up the sunshine. The perfect antidote as it turns out.

Since Saturday was opening day of the Columbia Farmer’s Market, Liz and I made plans to meet there and pick up some supplies for an afternoon BBQ before heading out to Shooting Star for a morning hike with Miley. While I prefer shopping local whenever I can, I wish the food was a bit more affordable. I had a really hard time paying $2.50 for ONE tomato. It was well worth it though; our afternoon BBQ of burgers, salad, and potatoes hit the spot. I even picked up how to make homemade dressing and healthy potato salad (use balsamic vinegar and eggs instead of mayo and mustard) from Liz.

Until the latter part of the hike, Shooting Star was practically vacant. Miley fished for rocks and Liz and I chatted about life. By the end of the hike, both of our spirits were lifted and I came to the realization that given the crazy ups and downs over the last couple of months, I finally feel like I’m back to myself and ready to take on the next chapter of life. Nice girls (and guys) may finish last, but we always come out on top in the end. I look at the people who have been there for me these past few months and they are all people who lift me up and allow me to be my true self (no matter how weird and dorky I may be). I’m no longer desperately trying to fit into someone else’s mold of who I should be and I have to say it feels good to shed that weight. I am happy and I think I’ve finally reached the mental clarity I’ve been yearning.

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Is the pursuit of happiness a bunch of bullshit?

Well, maybe – according to Gala Darling. But according to me, maybe not.

My cousin Jenna sent me the link to a blog post on this very topic and I absolutely loved reading it. Essentially, Gala Darling talks about how over the past couple of years we’ve had the concept of chasing happiness forced down our throats by books like The Happiness Project and in the end, unless you practice daily the strategies listed in these books, they don’t really amount to making you happier. In her mind, happiness is something that just happens.

Overall, the article was really insightful and had some good points but I thought the author missed the main point of books like The Happiness Project. It’s not always that the author of the book or even those who read the book are actually unhappy. They’re seeking to find meaning and enrich their life experience and by making practical and tangible goals you end up learning more about yourself. The author of the blog post refers to those practical strategies (like cleaning out your closet or making your bed every morning) as happy diversions that don’t actually make you happy. Maybe for Gala Darling it doesn’t, but for others maybe it does. I thought this statement pretty much contradicted her main theme of the blog post: that happiness is different for everyone; what works for one doesn’t always work for another. If you love yourself happiness will just happen.

I love the concept of radical self-love but do I think the pursuit of happiness is a bunch of bullshit? No way. I adore books that ignite inspiration and force me to examine my own life. I like being challenged because in the end I think it all leads to radical self-love anyways. Chasing it, well you learn more about yourself beyond just what you like to do. You understand your values and how they were shaped. You appreciate them and all of my chasing has given me an appreciation for the journey. I’m never satisfied just settling and I love myself even more for that.

For me, I guess I just don’t believe that self-love and chasing happiness are mutually exclusive. If you want to change your life and love yourself more, don’t you ultimately implement practical strategies? And by chasing radical self-love aren’t you ultimately chasing happiness?

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I’m the average of…

Recently over dinner with friends, the subject of personal success came up. Although the discussion was short it got me thinking about what I thought made my life successful. What goals had I achieved so far? What goals did I hope to accomplish in the future? How do I define and measure my own personal success? I think it’s common for most people to define their personal success in terms of their educational or professional accomplishments. For me, though, they aren’t the first things that come to mind. My educational and professional accomplishments certainly add to my overall feelings of accomplishment, but I guess it just seems so ordinary and boring. I want my personal success to be defined more abstractly; I want it to be more meaningful.

Randomly and out of boredom, I decided to check out a blog that Gretchen had talked about in her Happiness Project, LifeHacker.  The first article that popped up was How The People Around You Affect Personal Success. I loved this article because in both my professional and personal life I’ve made it a priority to maintain a positive outlook and upbeat approach to everything I do. When you’re surrounded by negativity, it’s easy to get sucked in and that’s exactly what I don’t want to happen. The author of this article believes, wholeheartedly, that the people you surround yourself with contribute a great deal to your personal success or failure. His premise is that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So, in a 24 hour day, you probably spend time with some family or friends and co-workers. Of all of them, who are the ones that are incredibly happy, achieving their goals, and inspiring you to chase your dreams? Those are the people you want to surround yourself with and as soon as you do, you’re bound to think, act, and do in bigger ways – which ultimately increases your personal success. My favorite quotes from the author:

-You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose accordingly.

-Don’t be afraid to lose some friends, support from your family, or anything else if that means you start surrounding yourself with the right people.

-Don’t be the average of average people.

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Happiness interview: me

Gretchen Rubin often states that the route to happiness is different for everyone. What makes one person happy, fulfilled, and satisfied doesn’t always hold true for someone else. For this reason, every couple of weeks she conducts a happiness interview with various people shes encountered who have different methods and tools to reaching and maintaining happiness in their lives. These interviews are my favorite part of Gretchen’s blog because they spark creativity and inspiration in my own life. When I was reading her latest happiness interview this morning I started wondering how I would answer the same questions, which gave me some blog inspiration (yay!). So, here it is. The answers to my very own happiness interview.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier? Lindsay: The happiest part of my daily routine are my morning life chats with co-worker, best friend, and life-chat buddy, Liz Gebhart. Finding that 30 minute or one-hour window in the day where we get to be completely ourselves is something that makes me genuinely happy. I am a firm believer that you have many soul mates in your life and Liz is one of mine. We share a common interest in building our life around doing what we love, being ourselves, finding happiness in both work and play, and exploring our purpose in life.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old? Well, that was only six years ago so I’m not sure I can provide all that much insight but I can certainly say that I’ve learned happiness is based on your own disposition; it’s not based on how other people make you feel. Finding happiness is about loving and being true to yourself first. I don’t think you can make others happy until you first make yourself happy.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness? When I’m stressed out or pissed off or my feelings get hurt, I tend to chew on small aspects of the situation and focus on the negative too much – almost to the point where it seems all-consuming, which certainly gets in the way of my happiness. Although I can easily recognize this behavior and shift my perspective fairly quickly, it’s easy for me to get caught up in all the negative-ness if I find myself surrounded by someone who is negative as well. When that happens, I have to put forth more effort to shift my perspective and focus on the positive aspects.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself that “Outer order contributes to inner calm.”) “If you’re unhappy, change your disposition and shift your perspective.” This isn’t an actual quote, it’s just something that I find to be helpful in remembering that your happiness is dependent solely on you. If you’re not happy, be proactive and change it.

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (mine is reading children’s books). I am a coffee fanatic. The best present I have received and which gives me a small boost of happiness every time (every day) I use it, is my Keurig. The smell of coffee alone makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

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? Absolutely. I recently had dinner with a friend which inspired a conversation around the need to make proactive changes in her life. I think people easily forget that they have the power to change their lives if they aren’t happy with the way it is. Moreover, if you have a bad day or a bad week, it doesn’t mean your entire life is bad. I can think of several people who are very proactive and it adds a lot to their happiness. On the flip side, I can also think of several people who are not proactive and from an outside perspective, it certainly detracts a lot from their happiness.

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 living in Guatemala, I felt exceptionally happy and fulfilled in life. I had a clear direction and purpose. I felt fulfilled. And to top it all off, I had companionship. New love and a satisfied, fulfilled life makes for one happy lady.

Is there some aspect of your home that makes you particularly happy? Having a minimalist vision for my house and following the vision through. I felt so accomplished after re-doing my guest room, cleaning out my closets, and going through old mementos. It’s hard work to go through years of belongings and differentiate between what is trash and what is treasure. Ultimately, though, I’ve created a feel uniquely my own when you walk in the front door and when people comment on how comfy and homey my house is – it just makes me feel really good.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa. Retail therapy. Enough said.

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