Happy Thought #6 – The Comfort of Friends

Today’s post will be short and sweet. I’m not feeling well today but have really found a lot of value in this exercise and wanted to stick with it.

The events in the Capitol today have been alarming, to say the least. When it first started I couldn’t help feeling completely and utterly DONE. I’m so exhausted from all of the hatred, anger, and fear we’ve seen in our nation in recent years.

In that moment of feeling like I was hitting the end of what I could handle, I reached out to a ongoing group chat I have with my friends and immediately felt some level of relief.

Therefore, the comfort of friends is my happy thought today. In the midst of this past year’s craziness, one silver lining is that I’ve become closer with so many friends as we’ve all worked to support and help each other.

I appreciate them all more than I can say.

Remember, in the face of hatred, love will always loom larger. ❤️

Happy Thought #5 – Our Ability to Choose Our Reaction

My company has been remote since the beginning of the pandemic and I will be staying remote permanently. So today my mission was to officially pack up my office.

Now that I’m at the end of the day I can say confidently that today had a lot of potential to be difficult. However, each time something difficult came up, I found myself changing my outlook.

Here’s what happened:

  • I found myself getting frequently emotional, thinking how much I’d miss seeing my coworkers in person regularly.
  • I had only planned on the packing taking a couple of hours but it took about five.
  • When I finished the 40 minute commute home, I realized I’d left my work computer at the office so I had to drive back to get it.

As these thoughts happened, I shifted my outlook in the following ways:

  • I reminded myself that I haven’t seen my coworkers in person in about 9 months but we’ve still found meaningful ways to interact.
  • I reminded myself I could still see my coworkers periodically as most of us live in the same city.
  • I was grateful to have such great coworkers who I want to see regularly.
  • I reminded myself that I had blocked the entire day for this project so the fact that it took longer than normal didn’t really impact me.
  • On my initial drive home I had enjoyed some of my favorite podcasts. So when I realized I had to drive back to the office I decided to look forward to more podcast time.
  • Because of my extra drive, my hubby and I decided to order food in for dinner, so it led to a nice treat for the end of the day.

It’s not always easy and this was a light day compared to some days many others are having right now. Regardless, I never cease to be amazed at our capacity to choose how we react to a situation. That’s why this is my happy thought today!

Happy Thought #4 – When a Plan Works Just Right

For a while now, I’ve been struggling to find time to fit in some activities of personal importance.

The first was just creating space for myself. This is a term you’ll find discussed in Neil Pasricha’s book, The Happiness Equation, among other resources. I love the way Neil talks about this. He says, “Stop thinking to do. Stop doing to think. Stop both and your brain gets really excited!”

I know that excitement. I’ve experienced it and recognize it, but I’m not always the best at making time for it…until the last few weeks when I gave myself a nice break for the holidays without much of an agenda.

In that time off, I found myself acknowledging that there were several things I wanted to find time for but each of them came with their own challenges:

  • I wanted more “space” in general, to just BE. I pictured this as meditation time but I kept operating under this illusion that for meditation to be valuable, it had to be for longer spans, like 30 minutes to an hour.
  • I wanted to be better at completing therapeutic stretches I’m supposed to do as a result of an injury a few years back. While doing these my thoughts often wander to other things I perceive in the moment to be higher priority and it feels like I’m wasting my time, even though I know the stretches are valuable.
  • I wanted time to internalize some principles that are part of the coaching certification I’m working on. Ideally, I’d be able to deeply think about each principle on a regular basis, explore what it means to me, how I can apply it to my life and my coaching, etc. But again, that required time for me to slow down.

During the space I created over the holidays, I suddenly hit on a brilliant idea. Why not combine all three?!

I already had a plan to work out every day before work and a good workout requires a good stretch, right? So, rather than spending 5 minutes cooling down from my workout, what if I added just 5 minutes on to that and added in my therapeutic stretches?

And what if I used that stretching time to focus on productive, positive thoughts?

And what if those productive, positive thoughts could be focused around internalizing my coaching principles? After all, all of those are centered around being more conscious, more aware, more intentional with our lives. Prime fodder for a great meditation!

So, this morning I gave it a shot and LOVED it! Just 10 minutes of my time was spent, only 5 more than normal, and I was able to fit in 3 items of great importance to me.

The result? I went into the day feeling peaceful and relaxed AND I organically solved a problem that’s been plaguing me for some time. All because I gave myself space and time to think.

Now I can’t wait to have that time tomorrow. 😊

What’s an example of a plan that’s worked out perfectly for you lately? Where you to just “give something a shot” and it ended up being exactly what you wanted or needed?

I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Thought #3 – Beauty in Following Through

Just before Christmas, I was getting back into a habit of working out. I let myself take a break between Christmas and New Years but wanted to ensure I jumped back into it as soon as possible after my family headed home. With that in mind, I got up this morning to go for a run.

As I was putting on my shoes, I noticed the skies were overcast and it gave me a moment of pause. What if it started raining while I was out? Then I saw some tags I have on my shoes with one of my favorite quotes:

She believed she could, so she did.

So I continued lacing up and said to myself “What if it DOES rain while I’m out?” Then I’ll get a little wet, no big deal.

I grabbed my headphones and the arm band for my phone, then stepped out the front door…to find it already downpouring, with a small waterfall coming off the roof.

I paused again, then remembered what I’d just told myself. What would it hurt if I got wet? Nothing.

So I went for my run and yes, I got wet, but I also got:

  • My workout in, as I had planned.
  • The joy of feeling strong and confident during my run.
  • To tell myself I was a rock star for continuing to run, when many others (myself included) might have gone back inside.
  • To feel like I’m moving in the right direction for my health.

So, my happy thought today is how much beauty there is in following through with a personal commitment.

Many of us are in the throes of New Years resolutions and/or taking a fresh look at ourselves and what’s important to us. The beginning of the year is a wonderful time for reflection, change, but more importantly, action.

The action part isn’t always easy. When we start to take action on things we want to change or improve, we’re bound to come up against resistance on all fronts – emotional, mental, or sometimes even physical, like this rain was for me today. Whatever your resistance is, know that you can do it.

When it comes to small changes and small actions – going for that run, choosing that apple over that cookie, picking up the phone to make that difficult call – whatever it is you’re working toward, it’s on your mind for a reason. You want to tackle it for a reason.

So when that resistance comes up, especially on something that’s relatively small, the best advice I can give is to challenge yourself to do it, as you planned, and allow yourself some time for reflection afterward. Did you regret it? Did you wish you’d followed your “gut” and skipped whatever it was?

I’ve never really regretted following through and I bet you’ll feel the same. Or perhaps you’ve already experienced this yourself. What have you followed through with lately, despite hesitating? How did it make you feel?

I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Thought #2 – Vision Boards

It didn’t take me long to find today’s happy thought. I LOVE vision boards.

That’s it. That’s the whole thought. Yet there’s so much that goes into that thought and the reason behind it.

If you’ve ever found yourself floundering with what you really want from life, work, whatever, or if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by how large some of your goals might be, a vision board might help.

That’s because visualization is one of the most powerful exercises we can do in the pursuit of what’s important to us. Studies show that people who write down their goals are 50% more likely to achieve.

For me, vision boards:

  • Help me keep a focused eye on both my short- and long-term goals.
  • Help me break my goals into small, manageable pieces.
  • Provide an almost meditative experience that helps me internalize what I want to work on.
  • Provide a way to cheer myself on and celebrate my accomplishments.

You can do a Google search and find a million ideas for how to vision board and what a vision board should or could include. The beautiful thing is there really are no rules!

The best vision boards:

  • Are personal to you, meaning you put them together wherever and however you want.
  • Are easily visible and frequently checked.
  • “Operate” in a way that speaks to your internal motivations.
  • Are entirely for YOU.

The first time I remember actively vision boarding, it was with my bucket list. My husband I lived in a small apartment with not a lot of space and he (bless him!) was fine with me using one of the common walls between our living room and eating space. I simply wrote all my bucket list items on Post-It notes. As I accomplished something, I would remove the note.

Fast forward 5-6 years and now I have a wall in my office that’s more organized and spacious. In addition to using the wall to visualize my goals, I’ve also started using it to enjoy memories of bucket list items I’ve accomplished.

A few years ago I started doing an annual vision board every January, which is what spurred today’s happy thought. This vision board takes the form of a large coloring board where I break larger goals into small chunks and color each “chunk” in as I complete it. Then, at the end of the year, I get to look back and enjoy everything I accomplished.

This was my 2020 vision board.

I’ve yet to accomplish ALL of my annual goals in one year but I always feel like I’ve accomplished a ton. Anything that’s not complete is an opportunity for me to either re-evaluate it’s importance or my approach to completing it.

Or, in the case of 2020, to give myself a break. A lot of those incomplete spaces are items that simply couldn’t be completed due to the pandemic.

This is my vision board for 2021:

It includes goals like:

  • Start a habit of doing a morning workout and meditation (represented by 3 spots because I’ll consider the habit to be established after 3 months).
  • Explore 6 new parks (represented by 1 spot for each new park)
  • Focus on our family’s saving strategy (represented by about 6 spots dedicated to things like researching different savings/investing strategies, reaching certain savings goals, etc.)
  • Complete 3 bucket list items (represented by 1 spot for each bucket list item)

The point is, do your vision board by doing YOU. I love coloring as a stress reliever so a coloring-based vision board is very ME.

What would your ideal vision board be?

Happy Thought #1 – Running With My Family

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you’ve had wonderful, safe holiday season.

I’ve had family with me for the holidays (safely) so I haven’t been posting much but I’ll have a nice, longer post coming soon. In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the last year and things I want to continue or start doing with the fresh slate that is 2021.

As part of that reflection, I’ve decided to start a new practice on my blog – posting at least one happy thought per day. It’s appropriate, right?

Too often, it’s easy for all of us to get caught up in what’s going wrong around us. But, as we’ve already learned, our thoughts are powerful and focusing on the positive can have a tremendous effect on our ability to see more of the good that’s in our lives.

So, for today, the first day of 2021, my first happy thought is that I’m so grateful I started running about 6 years ago.

Prior to that, I would have NEVER said I’d be a runner. Despite that, I did have a bucket list goal to run a marathon. My mom and husband had an interest, too, so we all started running. 6 years later, we’ve done multiple half marathons and more 5ks, 10ks, and 15ks than I can count. For those who are reading closely, yes, that does mean I haven’t met my marathon goal yet but that’s a post for another day.

There are so many reasons running ended up being such a good move for me:

  • The obvious health benefits of aerobic exercise.
  • My mom, husband, and I have run most of our races together so we now have this wonderful activity in common.
  • My mom and I typically run together during a race so we have had lots of extra mother-daughter time over the years.
  • My running time is thinking time. In fact in the last year I’ve started listening to podcasts during runs, which means I get some entertainment and personal development in at the same time.
  • I’ve run more and further than I ever thought I would before, which has helped me truly internalize the thought that I’m stronger than I realize.
  • I’ve made some wonder new friends as part of this.

This morning, my mom and I did a virtual 5k to kick off the new year, and I wouldn’t trade that time or experience for anything in the world.

What are you happy about or grateful for as we launch into 2021? I can’t wait to hear from you!

Turn Emotion into Forward Motion

For those of you who struggle to talk or think about emotions, buckle up because today’s post is all about the “feels.” I mean, come on, did you really think you were going to get through a blog about happiness without emotion coming up once?…Okay, I’ll admit, it’s probably going to come up more than once. 😉

In fact, becoming more aware of your emotions and how they influence your thoughts and behaviors is probably one of the most important personal skills you can learn in the pursuit of happiness.

Before we get to that, though, it’s important to understand one core concept: there are no good or bad emotions.

Uh huh…I can sense the raised eyebrow. Certainly emotions like fear and anger are bad while other feelings like joy and love are good, right? While it’s true that certain emotions may make you feel better or worse – I don’t want to be sad any more than anyone else does – all emotions have equal value and importance because of the story they tell us when we take the time to listen.

Have you ever heard the saying pain is a signal that something is wrong? It’s a phrase that’s often used more for physical pain but the same can be said of our emotions.

When we get a sign of physical pain, most of us immediately take steps to rectify what’s happening. We’ll take a pain reliever, get some rest, see a doctor, or apply any number of other remedies.

But what do we do when our thoughts or feelings cause distress? When it comes to emotional pain, many of us fall into one of a few camps:

  • We try to ignore it
  • We mask it
  • We pretend it doesn’t exist
  • We live in it unintentionally

When we avoid focusing on our emotions, we miss what they’re telling us and, as a result, tend to keep repeating the behaviors or actions that lead to those feelings. It’s the equivalent of breaking our foot but continuing to walk on it and wondering why it continues to hurt.

But what would happen if we treated emotions similar to these physical signals? What if we learned to pay attention to those feelings, understand what they’re telling us, and made active decisions to resolve them (or continue them in the case of emotions we enjoy)?

Still don’t believe that there are no bad emotions? Just like physical pain tells us about an injury or an illness, emotional pain may come up in instances where:

  • We’re acting outside of our core values
  • Stretching outside our comfort zone
  • In need of a change to our lives, careers, relationships, etc.

There can be any number of reasons that our emotions flare. The point is, there is a reason. In this way every emotion, even the ones we dislike, serves a purpose. They tell us about ourselves and, as such, can serve as a beacon lighting our way to the experiences, relationships, careers, and lives we want.

So then the question becomes, how do you turn on this powerful radar?

  1. The first step is to simply start paying attention to your emotions and what circumstances they’re connected to.
  2. Next, you focus on naming the emotion. Is it fear, anger, anticipation, contentment?
  3. Finally, you try to identify why you’re having that emotion in that particular situation.

When you try this exercise, even at a rudimentary level, you might be surprised as to what you’re feeling and why. Many of us group together emotions that are perceived as negative or positive. But once you start to break them out and define them along with their root cause, you’ll begin to pinpoint what they’re telling you about yourself.

When I first started becoming more emotionally aware, I found a journal to be most effective. In the moment, I would do my best to identify the emotion and the situation it was connected to. Later, when I had more time, I would work through what had triggered that emotion.

If journaling isn’t your thing, here are some other ideas that may provide inspiration to help you pay more attention:

  • In a work space, specifically, use something small like post-it notes or popsicle sticks to write down all the emotions you can think of. Set them where they’re highly visible and pull the appropriate emotion to the side when you feel it.
  • If you utilize your phone a lot, use a list or note app to make a list of emotions and highlight or notate beside individual emotions as they occur.
  • If you spend a lot of time in your home, get refrigerator magnets that represent different emotions and move them from your refrigerator door to your freezer door (or vice versa) as you notice specific feelings.

Think about what will work best for you and run with it! No matter what you do, becoming more emotionally aware is a fantastic way to make progress towards feeling happier on a more regular basis. Once you know how you’re feeling and why, you gain a level of control and can begin to take small steps towards the thoughts, feelings, and results you want.

Think about what will work best for you and run with it! No matter what you do, becoming more emotionally aware is a fantastic way to make progress towards feeling happier on a more regular basis. Once you know how you’re feeling and why, you gain a level of control and can begin to take small steps towards the thoughts, feelings, and results you want.

Now, of course, that isn’t to say it’s the only step. In fact, one warning I’ll give you is that sometimes becoming more emotionally aware may feel like it’s making you unhappier. You may begin to judge yourself and become self-critical when you realize the root cause behind your emotions.

The best advice I can give you is the same thing I told myself: this is about journeys not judgement. Just by taking the time to become more self-aware, you’re automatically progressing and taking active steps toward self-improvement. Give yourself the space and grace to follow that journey through to the end, where a happier version of yourself waits, ready to make your life and those around you shine brighter.

Of course, sometimes it can be helpful to go through this journey with someone else. If that’s you and you think you could benefit from some coaching to become more self-aware or to address any other challenge or goal, shoot me an email. I’d love to talk with you and see how I can help.

Until next time, have a wonderful, happy week!

What is Happiness?

2020 has been a particularly challenging year for so many people. Our lives have been turned upside down and we’ve had to come up with entirely new ways of working through our daily lives.

If you had to name the emotions that have dominated this year, you might come up with feelings such as:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Helplessness
  • Hopelessness

If any of those emotions resonate with you, trust me, you’re not alone. Just writing down and acknowledging those emotions makes my heart sink. The extra difficulty that comes with these feelings is how much they weigh us down. I liken them to walking through a murky bog. With each step you take, mud and water sucks your feet down, making the next step harder and sapping your energy until you can hardly move.

While it may not always feel like this, I’d like to offer some hope for better days by sharing one important truth. We all have a unique and wonderful power – the power to choose how we think and feel. The power to choose happiness.

If that statement makes you bristle a bit, know that when I mention this incredible power of choice, I don’t say it lightly. Choosing to be happy is not always as simple as it seems for many reasons and everyone’s needs and journey to that happy place are different. Going back to the emotional bog I mentioned before, for some, choosing happiness can mean that they get sucked out of the bog and fly away. For others, choosing happiness may mean having to take each excruciating step there is to reach the other side.

I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.

– Mae West

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before you can choose to be happy, you have to know the answer to a very important question: What exactly is happiness?

  • The organization, Action for Happiness, says happiness is “the sum total of our feelings about how good our lives are, taking all things into account.”
  • Positive psychologist researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
  • The organization, Happiness International, says happiness is “when your life fulfills your needs” and that it’s “a feeling of contentment, that life is just as it should be.”

So…does that clarify things? Maybe not.

That’s because, at the end of the day, happiness is 100% subjective. That means, the best way to answer that question is really to flip it around and ask you – what do you think happiness is?

For me, happiness is knowing what’s important to you and living wholly within that so you feel entirely fulfilled in your body, mind, heart, and soul.

You’ll notice, all of these definitions (including probably your own) are complex. Of course, that’s because happiness is a complex concept. That’s also why it deserves an entire blog dedicated to it, not to mention countless organizations, non-profits, scientific studies, books, and entire professions.

If my definition, or some version of it, resonates with you than you probably recognize that there are several pieces of the definition that require further clarification and thought. For example:

  • Most of us rarely actively define what’s important to us. If you don’t know what your values are, it’s challenging to live them.
  • Even if we think we know what’s important, sometimes our perspective is clouded by family, societal, or even personal pressures.
  • If we truly do understand what’s most important, conflicting obligations may still create distractions that block our path and make it difficult for us to live those values.
  • If we know what’s important to us but we believe we’re lacking that or not capable of having it, that could lead in the opposite direction – to unhappiness.

That’s okay. In future posts, we’ll address those challenges along with many more topics that will get you closer to achieving true happiness. For now, the most important takeaway is that you need to understand what happiness means to you. Consider that definition your North Star.

Below are important questions that will help you gain some clarity. Answer all of them or just the ones that jump out to you.

  • What does happiness mean to you?
  • When have you been at your absolute happiest?
  • Why did that time make you so happy?
  • What would the happiest version of you think like?
  • What would they look like?
  • How would they spend their days?
  • What themes do you notice from your answers?

Need some inspiration as you think about your personal definition of happiness? Try experimenting with emotions that oppose the list that started this post. Emotions such as:

  • Joy
  • Excitement
  • Anticipation
  • Contentment
  • Serenity
  • Love
  • Hope

I don’t know about you but just thinking of those emotions brings a smile to my face. What makes that smile wider is thinking about where those feelings come from. Where do they come from for you? Is it a person, certain circumstances, certain acts?

Answering those and similar questions will bring you that much closer to understanding what makes you truly happy.

I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s also entirely okay if you don’t know how to answer the questions above or if you’re unable to come up with your definition. We’ll get there. In fact, I invite you to shoot me a message if that’s the case. I’d love to hear from you and I’d love to help.

Until then or until my next post, I wish you all some truly happy moments!