The Fledgling Journey

Navigating a Good Life One New Experience at a Time

Author: Lauren (page 1 of 13)

13 Things that Science Shows Improve Happiness

I read this article about 13 things that improve happiness. It got me thinking about how I tackle these happiness tactics.

1.   Awe. 

The article says “technology has exposed us to so much and made the world so much smaller. Yet, there’s a downside that isn’t spoken of much: exposure raises the bar on what it takes to be awestricken.” So true. I do not find myself easily phased by much these days, or easily impressed either. I could probably maximize my awe-inducing moments by spending more time outdoors. Experiencing awe in nature (in person rather than through photos) is a unique experience. According to another article, people who spend more time in nature feel more alive. Win-win.

2. Being social

“Socializing, even when you don’t enjoy it, is great for your mood.” I needed to hear this quote! I am the kind of girl who loves to hole up with a good book. If I am in sweatpants and cozy on the couch at 8pm and a friend asks me to go out for a drink, I usually decline.  I also have some social anxiety, which doesn’t always make me look forward to socializing. I’m also someone who likes the idea of making plans, but when it comes to do the thing that was planned,  I don’t want to do it anymore. Socializing isn’t something I consistently look forward to, which can cause me to isolate myself. I’m not completely sure of the best way to handle this, but one idea is spontaneity, for example inviting someone to do something with me if I’m out and about. I should also remind myself to say yes. If someone invites me to do something, I should go. I don’t have to stay very long, but I will remind myself of the quote above about socializing being a mood booster, even if I don’t enjoy it at the time.

3. Taking responsibility

“We need to feel in control of our lives in order to be happy.” I’ve certainly fallen into this trap. I think “oh if this or that were different, I would be happier.” Or “I’ll be happier when I have more money/more friends/a significant other/ lose 10 lbs…” The list goes on. I can’t place blame on other people or circumstances for my state of happiness. I need to find ways to create happiness here and now. For me, that means consistently doing the things I enjoy AND trying new things. Pushing myself to do something that makes me uncomfortable improves my confidence. I didn’t ever think I’d hang glide in Switzerland (especially because I have a fear of heights), but I did it. It’s something I will cherish forever and honestly one of the coolest things I’ve done. On that trip I also traveled alone, which also pushed me. Sometimes I was uncomfortable, but I certainly don’t regret it.

4. Going with the flow

“You can make yourself unhappy if you’re trying to exert too much control.” I’m actually pretty good about this. In fact, some people might argue I’m a little too go-with-the-flow and could stand to be more decisive.

5. Limiting criticizing.

It’s easy for me to think my way of doing or thinking about something is the right way. I think most people do, otherwise they’d do or think differently. Thinking too firmly that I’m right can lead me to criticize others, even if it’s just in my head. One thing that has helped me limit criticism is knowing that when I have a strong reaction to someone’s behavior, it’s because I’m responding to some part of it that I see in myself and don’t like. That insight has helped me let go of a lot of negativity. Knowing why I feel a certain way helps me feel more in control of my emotions. Aside from limiting criticism of other,  I could certainly reduce my self-criticism. Sometimes I say things to myself that I would never say to a friend. Self-criticism can be equally mood-sapping.

6. Not complaining

“Complaining is a self-reinforcing behavior. By constantly talking—and therefore thinking—about how bad things are, you reaffirm your negative beliefs.” I could certainly complain less. In fact, I gave myself a challenge to go a few consecutive days without complaining, but mysteriously never got around to completing that challenge. Go figure. I try to remind myself that I should work on whatever is within my control and let the rest go.

7. Giving zero flying foxes about what others think

I’m surprisingly good at not caring about what others think. I credit getting some mental health counseling with having a strong sense of self, which in turn makes me care less about what others think. I can be insecure, but I think that has more to do with worrying if I’m good enough than worrying what other people think. I typically trust my judgment and opinions above others and it has served me well.

8. Positivity

I have mixed feeling about positivity. There is some science behind the “act the way you want to feel” mantra, but people who are excessively positive strike me as fake. Life is tough. There are a lot of bad things going on in the world. It’s hard to move past the that and focus on the positive. I wouldn’t call myself a pessimist, but sometimes I get bogged down by negativity and could stand to work on  gratitude. That would certainly have a positive influence.

9. Keeping good (positive) company

“Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves.” I should probably strive to surround myself with more people who inspire me and who make me want to be better. Much of the company I keep is in a similar stage of life as me. We sometimes feel unfulfilled and don’t really know how to fix it.  While positivity has a place, I appreciate when my friends are real and vulnerable. There’s a line between expressing feelings and wallowing. I certainly wouldn’t say any of my friends drag me down. I try to be aware of when someone is causing me to indulge in less than productive behavior and create some distance from that person when it happens.

10. Not comparing yourself to others

I’ve cut back on time spent on Facebook because I it causes me to fall into the comparison game. Facebook only includes the highlight reels and can give a skewed sense of how other people’s lives are in reality. I have a quote on the wall in my office that says “comparison is the thief of joy.” It serves as a reminder that if someone is doing well, it doesn’t discount my success. We are all following our own paths and I am trying to trust my story. I don’t always know where I’m going in life, but I know that comparison won’t improve things.

11. Setting goals

According to the article “having goals gives you hope and the ability to look forward to a better future, and working towards those goals makes you feel good about yourself and your abilities.” My 31×31 list incorporates this concept and it has generally been enjoyable to chip away at that list.

12. Facing fear.

I’m fairly good at facing my fears. However, I still have an intense fear of public speaking I’d like to conquer. As the article points out, “fear is nothing more than a lingering emotion that’s fueled by your imagination. Danger is real. Fear is a choice. Happy people know this better than anyone does, so they flip fear on its head. They are addicted to the euphoric feeling they get from conquering their fears.” I’ve worked on conquering fears by skydiving, zip lining, traveling alone, and hang-gliding, but could stand to face some fears on a smaller scale, like public speaking.

13. Presence

I could certainly work on my mindfulness. The article says “it’s impossible to reach your full potential if you’re constantly somewhere else, unable to fully embrace the reality (good or bad) of the very moment. To live in the moment, you must do two things:

  1. Accept your past. If you don’t make peace with your past, it will never leave you and it will create your future. Happy people know that the only good reason to look at the past is to see how far you’ve come.
  2. Accept the uncertainty of the future, and don’t place unnecessary expectations upon yourself. Worry has no place in the here and now. As Mark Twain once said, ‘Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.'”

Wise words Mark. I often find myself worrying, focusing more than necessary on the future, or mulling over my past. I try to remind myself that worrying is a waste of energy because it can’t affect an outcome. Mindfulness and presence are tough work. I know meditating is a good practice, but I find it tedious. I’ve heard the Insight Timer app is a good place to start, so I added it to my 31×31 list of goals.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on these 13 ways to improve happiness. I’d love to hear them. Have a good Monday. I’d say have a great Monday, but lets me real, Mondays are Mondays. Wait, is that just me being negative? 😉

Friday Favorites

Good morning. It’s Friday the 13th! Spooky. Watch out for black cats and ladders 🙂 Onto Friday favorites.

Ellenos Pumpkin Pie Yogurt

This brand of yogurt is the absolute best. The pumpkin pie flavor is seasonal and SO GOOD. Basically a dessert. I can’t find a photo but I’m going to track some down soon.

Family Tree

I was talking to my mom about her side of the family and thinking I would like to put it all together in a family tree. I can’t really find a template for what I want, but I’m thinking something like one of these:

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Road Trips

I really want to take a road trip so it’s on the list for 2018. I found this infographic and it has me thinking about where I would go and the route I would take. I really like that it shows the best season for each route. Some other maps show North –> South routes. You can find more on my Road Trip Pinterest board if you’re interested.

Image Source

Looking at Old Travel Photos

Check out my Instagram (also on the sidebar) 🙂 I absolutely love looking at travel photos because they bring back the best memories. They’ve largely been sitting in a folder on my computer though, so I’m working on that. If you’re interested, you can also find more on my travel page. I’ve been on two Rick Steves’ tours with his travel company and they are the absolute best. They are not cheap, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. His Adriatic trip to Croatia and the surrounding area is hands down the best trip I’ve ever taken. The photo below was taken in Dubrovnik.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Creating your own Happiness Project

I was rereading sections of Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project, where she discusses how a happiness project is one approach to changing your life. If you want to be happier and develop your own happiness project, there are a few important things to first consider:

  1. According to Rubin’s research 50% of happiness is genetic, 10-20% is circumstances (income, health, occupation etc) and the rest is a product of how you think and act.
  2. The opposite of happiness is unhappiness, NOT depression. Depression is a whole other beast.
  3. It isn’t self-centered to focus on becoming happier. I’ve certainly questioned whether it’s selfish to focus on my pleasure when I lead a privileged life. Am I ungrateful if I’m trying to make myself happier? In a word, no. Happier people are better able to help others, they are more engaged in social problems, do volunteer work, are friendlier, and make better leaders. Putting your own oxygen mask on before helping someone else with theirs doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you better equipped and more effective. When your tank is full, you have more to give. As Gretchen says, “one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make others happy and one of the best ways to make others happy is to be happy yourself.”

Ok, now that’s out-of-the-way, there are a few steps to deciding how to craft your own happiness project:

1. Identify what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement.

2. Identify what brings you anger, guilt, boredom, and remorse.

3. Make resolutions with concrete actions to increase satisfaction and decrease remorse. The resolution might be “get more sleep” but the concrete action is imperative, for example “go to bed by 10 pm on weeknights.” The resolution could be “exercise more” but the concrete action is “go to the gym after work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.”

4. Develop ways to keep your resolutions. Don’t be afraid to try new tactics and adapt as your life changes. If going to the gym after work isn’t helping, try before work, or maybe skip the gym and go for a walk outside. Whatever works for you.

I think of my 31×31 list as a happiness project of sorts. But, Gretchen’s strategy is more focused than mine. My list is kind of all over the place whereas she chose a theme for each month. Some examples:

January – Vitality

Excercise better, sleep better (keep room darker, don’t do anything stimulating an hour before bed, toss & organize your things.

June –  Friendship

Social bonds are some of the most important aspects of happiness –remember birthdays, be generous, be friendly, don’t gossip.

July – Money

I highly recommend reading this part of the book. Rubin talks about the connection between money and happiness. Money can’t buy happiness, but money is a source of stress if you’re struggling to make ends meet. Two of my biggest take aways were:

  1. It depends on the kind of person you are – essentially do you have a lot of expenses that are non-negotiables and how expensive are the things that bring you satisfaction (aka organic food or cheap food? antique books or library books? long walks or snowboarding?). Some people love the thrill of spending money and some people love the satisfaction of saving it. Many people fall somewhere between.
  2. It depends on how much money you have relative to the people around you and your own experience. If you spend a lot of time with people who have more than you do or if you grew up more comfortably than your current lifestyle, money could be a source of dissatisfaction.

All in all, really think about what kind of spending will bring you the most contentment. For example, fine food and drink don’t float my boat, nor do fresh flowers. Some people get a lot of satisfaction out of seasonal decorations. I don’t decorate for holidays or spend much money on seasonal items because they don’t make a huge difference to me. However, traveling and a nice camera bring me immense happiness and are things I always look forward to doing and using. Accordingly that’s where my money goes.

Another thought related to money: if there’s something in your life that’s a constant source of frustration or tension, consider throwing some money at the problem to get it taken care of. Pay extra for grocery delivery. Buy the pre-cut fruit. Pay someone else to walk the dog.

I think it’s also important to consider what makes you happier; abundance or minimalism. I would rather spend more money on one thing that will last a long time and is a classic style. However, I know people who love a good bargain and would rather have a plethora of options than spend a lot on one item. Neither way is right or wrong, they’re just different perspectives.

Anyway, back to the bigger picture. There are some other areas Gretchen focused on each month: eternity, books, mindfulness, attitude, parenthood, leisure, and much more. I recommend any and all of her books, looking through her blog, or listening to her podcast. All are filled with thought-provoking ideas and practical tactics. I hope these ideas get you thinking about what your happiness project might entail.  Have a great Thursday 🙂

Working on it Wednesday – Stop Pam-MSing

I have a 30×30 31×31 goal/bucket/project list that I’m chipping away at – 31+ things to do by the time I turn 31. I previously ignored this list for months and finally realized I need to plan ahead if these are truly things I want to do. I’m checking in on Wednesdays, which is helping me keep track of my progress and keeping me accountable.

October Projects

Things I worked on:

  1. Reading Mansfield Park — I have about 200 pages left
  2. Watch an AFI Top 100 Movie — I watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I liked the female character who was the brains behind the operation and the optimism of the new politician set up to fail by the other politicians. It was a little boring politically and more dialogue than action, but significant because it’s kind of an old school version of house of cards and one of the earlier political movies. certainly unique for its time. It’s interesting to see how politics have changed, if only in the fictional world.
  3. Continue reading Lord of the Rings — A tree tried to eat some hobbits and this dude sang to the tree to get them out. It’s gettin real. I’m on page 172 out of 529.
  4. Finish up retirement account rollover — I outsourced to my sister and I am so incredibly thankful. Seriously. I owe her big time.
  5. Work on dad’s birthday present — Talked to my mom about it. need to make a to do list with some deadlines.
  6. Do 5 year journal entries for month of October — This is still fun every month
  7. Make 3 items for Etsy shop — Working on embroidering a jacket and bought fabric for making scarves.
  8. Work on podcast ideas  — I talked to sister, who is doing the podcast with me. We need to make a to do list with deadlines.

Things I haven’t worked on

  1. Learn to make another classic cocktail
  2. Try a new Skillshare class
  3. Update blog travel for Switzerland
  4. Develop an app idea and consider putting on freelancer — because of the podcast, I’m going to bump this for now
  5. Buy a new DSLR camera
  6. Research WA cottage food laws — bumping for now
  7. Improve SEO  — bumping because #8 is similar but more fun
  8. Promote blog on Pinterest
  9. Create a Seattle food & drink spots to try list
  10. Don’t complain for 1 day

What worked: The title of the post — stop pam-MSing — is from an episode of the office where the boss, Michael, tells the receptionist Pam essentially not to PMS. Insanely rude, but if you watch the show, you might be able to find the humor. The reason i like the show is it’s satire at its best. Anyway,  I’m doing better about not stressing about being behind schedule. This makes it much more fun and much less pressure. I feel zero guilt about taking something off the list which is hugely helpful. I am  learning to enjoy the process. I think that’s really important…it’s not just the result, but also taking a minute to appreciate and enjoy how i get there. if there are parts i can make more fun i do it! If there are parts i can make easier, I also do it. If can find enjoyment, any task will be better. not every minute will be bliss, but keeping perspective on both the goal AND the journey is important to me.

That’s it for now. Warm wishes to you on this Wednesday 🙂

Show and Tell Tuesday – A Day in the Life

I’m linking up for Show and Tell Tuesday with Momfessionals. These posts are always fun. It’s always interesting to see how people spend their time.

It’s Monday morning and I meant to wake up earlier, but 6:44 is what happened. I can live with it.

Time to drink some water. I left this by my bed last night to remind myself to stay hydrated.

I made my bed.  And yes, that’s a stuffed owl.

Sprayed some of this because I really like the scent. For some reason I cannot get this photo to rotate.

I fixed two eggs and a smoothie for breakfast. Also spilled a lot of chia seeds. It’s definitely a Monday.

I used Green Blender’s sunflower apple smoothie recipe and it was reasonable. Not the best, but also not the worst. I finished getting ready and…

…took a quick selfie on the way out the door.

Trying to pump myself up for Monday while on the bus with Pandora’s Club Dance Radio. It sort of worked.

I can’t show you much of what I do since our cases our confidential (I’m a paralegal) but I can show you my desktop background. Cozy, right?

There’s this awkward window where I can half see into the hallway from my office. I decorated the nook with glassy babies. I put  battery-powered candles in them, but they’re pretty weak. They were all gifts and it makes me happy to look at them 🙂

One of the attorneys I work with dropped off an article about Santa Fe because she knows I like the city and am actually thinking about relocating. My family is against it…but it’s definitely a possibility. Only time will tell.

Around 10am I decided I needed coffee. Lately I’ve been on an iced latte kick. After sufficiently caffeinating myself, I worked on some projects and went to a meeting. I didn’t pack anything for lunch, so I went back to Starbucks and used my free reward for some peanut butter jelly time.

The day ended up going by pretty quickly. On the way home from work, I was playing Tetris on my phone and an ad popped up for a new game. I’m pretty sure it’s for a child, but I’m hooked and have zero shame about it. I usually listed to podcasts on my commute but wasn’t in the mood today.

My plan was to go to the gym right after work, but the dumb game sucked all the battery life out of my phone, so I had to wait for it to charge.

While waiting I threw in a load of laundry. In case you’re wondering, these bleach crystals are better than liquid bleach, especially if you’re an apartment dweller using shared laundry facilities. I highly recommend them.

I put on my gym clothes so I couldn’t talk myself out of going to they gym. Good times. Great selfies in semi-clean bathroom mirrors.

I cooked spaghetti squash in the microwave before I left so I would have something to eat after the gym. My preferred cooking method is to poke the squash all over with a fork or knife and stick it in the microwave for 10 minutes. Works like a charm. I let that cool and headed to the gym.

I used the treadmill and elliptical for 10 minutes each. Short and sweet. My deal with myself is I just have to go, I don’t have to work out very hard. Usually by the time I get there I put in a reasonable amount of effort, even if I don’t stay long.

Red faced, sweaty, and realizing the vest is not flattering. Oh well.

I took a fast (and cold) shower and  warmed some spaghetti squash with pesto. Very tasty. I talked to my sister for awhile and she told me about the haunted tour of Pioneer Square she had just taken. It was spooktacular. My words, not hers. I decided to have a little candy and this candy is made with real honey, so it’s essentially health food. I’m going to finish up this post, do a hot second of fiction writing, read a page of LOTR, and call it a night. It will probably be midnight by the time I fall asleep. I’d say that’s close to my average bedtime, so I need to work on going to bed earlier! Another Monday in the books 🙂




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