Tag Archives: Happiness

Thursday Book Review: The Happiness Project

It’s time for me to give this book the space it deserves. I have written about it in two posts already (April Goals and Healthful, Happy, and Loving Project) so my regular readers know how much I love it, but let me give you some details.

BookCover

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, is for every person of every type of life. If you think you can get more happiness out of your everyday routine, or if you’re just looking for a bit of motivation, read it!

Basically it chronicles a lawyer turned author’s year-long quest to make a happier life for herself. What I love about it is that she decided she already loved the pieces of her life: her kids, her hubby, her location, etc, but she wasn’t as thankful for them and she knew she should be. How many of us are guilty of that? It’s probably why you read this blog (and any other blog) in the first place. You are trying to improve your life without seriously changing it.

And we have all tried. Goodness have we tried. Personally, I set goals pretty frequently but rarely do they make an impact on my life. That’s because they aren’t tangible resolutions. That’s a key phrase: tangible resolution. It has to be a resolution not a goal because goals only exist until you reach them, resolutions are forever. And you have to lay out tangible steps to make these resolutions a reality. Otherwise they will never stick.

Commandments^ Here’s my list of rules for my Happiness Project.

And here’s and example of my resolution: I want to lower my overall stress and anxiety level throughout the day.

My tangible steps to reach that goal: I will build in a walk or breathing meditation, some quiet time, in the middle of everyday so that I have a few spare minutes to reset my stress-meter. And it’s working!

Basically, this book is an inspiration. Rubin spent an entire year figuring out how to make her happiness a reality. She researched and then she experimented. She laid out a plan and then went for it. The sheer determination and will power it took to keep those resolutions was massive, I’m sure.

I have recommended it to several patients and now I’m recommending it to you. Any self-analytical and driven person should read this book. Check it out from the library, buy it here, or just follow Rubin’s blog! And no, I’m not getting paid for this, there are just things in life that deserve attention.

And if you read my blog with any regularity, you’ll see me implementing these resolutions myself. Mine need some work but I’m on the right path! I’ll keep you all updated. In the meantime, have a stellar Thursday 🙂

Love and a big smile. – Ash

 

Mindful Monday: April Goals

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I still haven’t finished the book. It sits on my dining table, my bedside table, and the couch and every once in a while, I pick it up and read a chapter or two. But it’s not because it’s a slow read, it’s because I’m savoring it. There are very few books that make me feel the way this one does. It calms me but motivates me. It reminds me that my life is about making me happy and nothing else. I know it sounds selfish but a lot of making myself happy means helping other people be happy too. 🙂 I’m talking about the Happiness Project. It’s amazing. Read more about it in my Healthful, Happy, and Loving Project post.

SmileyFace

So, as promised, I will continue my efforts by revising and adding to my March Goals.

First, My Commandments. I read a list of these every morning. It reminds me what to focus on when I start to lose my footing.

  • Just because it’s fun for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s fun for me.
  • Me is the perfect person for me to be. (< I realized that I don’t actually have a lot of trouble with this one)
  • It’s NOT “doing nothing,” it IS “active relaxation.”
  • Life is play, not an endless stream of work.
  • A true smile and laugh can change a whole conversation.
  • Want what I already have.
  • I don’t have to be good at everything
  • When I’m sad, stop thinking of the future. Just smile and make that moment happier.
  • Be happy when I succeed.

Second, a review of March Goals.

  • Take a 5-minute walk down the block, every morning between shower and work. SLOWLY. (This was amazingly effective. It slowed me down after rushing around all morning like a headless chicken. It helped me be more productive and relaxed during the work day.)
  • When I’m sad, stop thinking of the future. Just smile and try to make that moment happier. 
    (I actually didn’t have too many unhappy moments in 2 weeks but I anticipate that they will happen. So I’m adding it to the commandments.)
  • Choose a day of the week to talk to each parent and sibling. Like I do with Gran. (Did this!)
  • Read this list every day. (Great reminder and totally necessary for this project)
  • Remember to be happy when I succeed. (Something I DEFINITELY need to work on. This is added to the Commandments.)

And finally! My April Goals:

  • Continue the daily, 10-minute walks.
  • Create a folder for design inspiration. I read lots of design magazines and websites. Visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright designs in Chicago this weekend made me realize how much pent-up design energy I have. I want to have a folder on my computer for digital archives and a physical folder for magazine and newspaper articles. I’m hoping this will help me start sketching again too.
  • Learn to cook with the Vitamix: juice, smoothies, soup, and ice cream. I got my tax return so I’m going to buy it today. YAY!!
  • Finish the two health books I’ve been page through for the last 2 months.
  • Eat at least one raw meal per day.
  • Have at least one entirely vegetarian day per week.
  • Read this list every day.

I’ll keep you updated with part of this that are working and parts that aren’t. Did anyone else read this book and love it?

Ashley Life Update:
Mike and I spent this weekend in Oak Park, a suburb just outside Chicago. We were celebrating our 1-year anniversary and seeing a few sites that we hadn’t got to yet. We don’t know where we’ll be moving in June so we want to see as much of Chicago as possible. We stayed at an eccentric yet absolutely lovely Bed and Breakfast. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about opening my own Healthy B&B. To the extent that I’ve designed most of the rooms in my head and know the general rules that I’d like to operate under (ie. huge, comfy beds and soft towels, simple healthy meals, and a gym for sure). Now I just have to figure out where the money will come from. Hah.

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Mike took the NRA intro to guns class I got him for Christmas well I slept off the lingering and oh-so-annoying flu. Then he met me at FLW’s Robie House in Hyde Park. That night was spent out on the town. We don’t like to party much but when we have a free night and a city full of entertainment, we take advantage. Mike treated me to a very chic, very delicious dinner at an underground jazz/prohibition bar and then we went dancing uptown.

Sunday (Easter!) was spent touring the FLW house and studio around the corner from our B&B and visited Trader Joes (man I miss that place!) before the 3 hour drive back to Peoria. We sort of just ignored easter. Much to my chagrin, without any kids or parents around, there wasn’t any good excuse for an Easter egg hunt.

I hope you all had relaxing and family filled holidays! Love and hugs – Ash

 

Mindful Monday: Gratitude

What is a “thankful mind?”  Why are there books and blogs and entire websites dedicated to thankfulness? Why do all the happiness experts tell us that having a thankful mind is one of the keys to overall wellbeing? You will never know until you try it. Trust me, it changes the way you think.

Since starting this blog, I’ve found other bloggers who write entirely about why they’re thankful. While I won’t go that far (I have WAY too many other things to say) it can be a great mental exercise to follow their lead.

So I know it’s Monday, and the working world has started turning again, but how about you just take a second to reflect on why you’re thankful?

There are two quick posts from other bloggers that may get your juices flowing.
Day 431 – Ruth Rainwater and Year of Kindness Challenge: Week 12 – Dallas Woodburn

The three things I’m thankful for today:
1. The internet and Skype. Yesterday I got to talk to a friend in China AND North Carolina. It was almost like they were sitting right next to me. I love technology.
2. A fully stocked kitchen. I spent yesterday morning and afternoon cooking up all kinds of deliciousness. I haven’t always had my own happy, clean, fully stocked kitchen in which to experiment, and I love it!
3. My Gran. She is one of the most understanding and respectful women I know. When I miss our weekly phone calls, I feel just a little more anxious and unsettled. Just the sound of her voice peps me up and calms me down at the same time.

What are your three things today? 🙂

 

The Healthful, Happy, and Loving Project …

BullEye

March Goals:

  • Take a 5-minute walk down the block, every morning between shower and work. SLOWLY.
  • When I’m sad, stop thinking of the future. Just smile and try to make that moment happier.
  • Chose a day of the week to talk to each parent and sibling. Like I do with Gran.
  • Read this list every day.
  • Remember to be happy when I succeed.

These seem like some pretty specific goals right? How did I arrive at them? Well …

HappinessProject

There’s a really awesome book a friend sent me. It’s called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Instead of being all preachy and general, she chronicles the details of finding her way to happiness. She lays out a list of what she wants to improve and then divides that list into manageable parts. It’s basically a book about baby steps.

I’m finding it very inspirational so I’ve decided to do the same. Every month I’ll lay out my goals for you all to see. I’m not doing this because I’m particularly unhappy. I just have so much awesomeness in my life and I think I could appreciate it better. If I’m not 100% content when everything is hunky-dory, what will happen when life isn’t so nice? I want my happiness to be strong enough to withstand even the hardest challenges.

The questions I’m asking myself:

  • What makes me feel good?
  • What makes me feel bad?
  • Is there any way in which I don’t feel right about my life?
  • Do I live in a way that encourages growth?

My answers to solve these questions – 2013 Goals:

  • Stop being so concerned with the future (haha, does the list of goals act against that?).
  • Learn to switch off work and relax.
  • Be outdoors more.
  • Wake up more energized.
  • Pay off my credit card bills.
  • Invest in quality cooking and cleaning tools – then use them to their full potential.
  • Communicate more regularly with friends and family.
  • Improve our nutrition (eat more raw, nutrient-dense food and cut out all dinnertime grains and sugars).
  • Remove toxins from our food, personal hygiene, cleaning products, etc.
  • Learn to enjoy riding my bike again.
  • Stop putting so much pressure on myself.
  • Remember to be happy when I succeed at these goals.

Things I don’t want to change:

  • My commitment to exercise.
  • My love of healthy cooking.
  • The strength of Mike and My relationship.
  • The strength of my ties to my family.
  • My plans for travel.
  • My thankful heart.
  • My cleanliness and organization.

Happy

My Commandments:

  • Just because it’s fun for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s fun for me.
  • Me is the perfect person for me to be.
  • It’s NOT “doing nothing,” it IS “active relaxation.”
  • Life is play, not an endless stream of work.
  • A true smile and laugh can change a whole conversation.
  • Want what I already have.
  • I don’t have to be good at everything.

To that end, I will let you know, each month what my focus goals are for that month. I’ll pick as many or as few as I think I can handle. Some of them may be focused on for multiple months, some may be much easier than that. Since March is 1/3 of the way in, this month’s list is relatively short. But there’s no better time to start than today!

Does anyone want to join me in this? It can be as big or small of a project as you like. Let me know!

Love and a big smile. – Ash

 

The Dark Side of Happy

I recently updated my “about me” to include a few rules. One of them is that I have to tell the dark side of being happy. There is one. And, although it’s not around the majority of the time, it does drop by for a cup of tea every few weeks.

“You can’t know happy without knowing sad.” – My Dad

That’s true actually, you can’t recognize the happiest moments of your life unless you have something to compare them to. On that same token, everyone’s moments operate on a different scale. Your sad may be MUCH sadder than mine. I think that’s the case as people get older and they experience more loss and hardship. But that’s also why, as people get older, they have the opportunity to really find happiness. Because they can find it in the smallest of victories, the smallest of successes and joys. Middle school sucked. I had very little sad in my life so every tiny thing that went wrong seemed catastrophic. Back then, my biggest crush completely ignoring me was heart breaking. My definition of heartbreak shifted massively when he died in his sleep ten years later at the premature age of 24.

With every big life experience, my happy/sad scale shifts, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore the three-day stints of deep melancholy that seem to creep up on me. They happen about once every few weeks in the Winter and once every month or two in the Summer. It’s almost like I can feel when they’re coming. I can fight them off for days but something always triggers a breakdown. Last week, it was my wonderful Google Hangout session with my girlfriends. I’d been sleepless, working a lot, and having some lonely days. Then I saw their smiling, beautiful, happy faces, and my self-pity just threw me over the edge.

So accepted it. I let myself be sad for 24 hours. I forgave myself for the 20 minute cry session and for being morose for a day. Every happy person has to come down from that plateau high up in the sky. Happiness takes work and sometimes you just need a break.

After the 24 hours passed, I put on my hiking boots and started the climb back up that plateau. I talked to a few of the people who love me unconditionally. First I cried to Mike but the poor guy can only take so much. When I felt that he needed a break from listening to my whining (because that’s what it was) I just called my family and spilled my heart to whoever picked up the phone first. By now they know what I need and they just listened to all the reasons my life was “terrible.”

CarWash

Then I spent the day slowly setting up activities for the weekend. First, to perk my mood, I drove my car through a car wash. Who doesn’t love to turn up the music and watch the water swirl around?? Then, that night, I had dinner with some bike girls in the area and got closer with one really cool chick. On Saturday Mike and I went on a lovely afternoon date and that night we went line dancing! (< more on this stuff later) On Sunday I went for Indian buffet with a few new friends from work. I was the only one who could pull myself out of the funk and, for me, I knew I just needed to be around other people.

So here I arrive at Monday, completely exhausted but in a MUCH better mood. I’m cresting the happy plateau today and hopefully I’ll be able to stay up here for a few weeks. Whatever the case I know I can’t possibly understand happy without a little sad 🙂

 

Motivational Monday: How Could You Not Smile At This?

 

Happy Monday everyone! I know Monday’s are a slow day for most people so I thought I would post something to quickly boost your spirits.

You no longer have an excuse not to smile today.

Some tips for a great Monday:

– Smile and nod at everyone you see today. The smiles will be spreading by the end of the afternoon.

– Set goals for your day and for your week so you know the kind of effort you’ll be putting in for the next 5 days.

– Make plans with friends for tonight and the rest of the week. Give yourself a light at the end of the tunnel.

– Remember how lucky you are to have what you do. You guys are one of my happy things 🙂

I hope you all have great weeks ahead of you!

 

Questions: What’s one thing you’re looking forward to this week?

 

Happy Friday! Please Help…

 

Good morning/afternoon/evening (depending on where you’re reading this from) and welcome to my new blog layout. Isn’t it pretty?? I have been telling a lot of people about this blog lately and I really have no idea who is actually reading it! So today I have 2 [very easy] questions for you.

I want a ridiculous amount of posts on this. Please? Friends, family, strangers, anyone! This will help me a ton only if I get lots of comments.* To comment, click on the heading of this post and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Questions:

1. Which category of posts do you benefit the most from: fitness, nutrition/recipes, inspiration, gratitude, or design? You can click on the category links to the right if you have no idea what I’m talking about.

2. How often do you actually read this thing? Please be honest, I love writing but I only want to write as often as you read.

Also, any other critique or praise is welcome. I want to know what you guys think.

 

^ This is how excited I am about hearing back from you guys. Seriously.

Now wipe that frown off your face and smile!