Posts Tagged With: happiness

What Makes You Happy?

Hello everybody! Today, I have just one question to ask: what makes you happy?

Hopefully a lot of things and people and events pop into your mind. That is AWESOME, and I am genuinely glad for you. It should be that way! But I have a confession: I’ve often struggled to come up with ANY answer to that question, and I’ll bet others have the same difficulty.

To give a little context that I will surely elaborate on soon: I recently experienced some of the greatest months ever, but the good times came to a halt when reality finally hit. In other words, I dated a really awesome person for a regrettably short time, and now that relationship has unfortunately ended. I went from being the happiest I’ve been in a long while, to being incredibly sad and dismayed.

IMG_1876

Now, there is a lot of research out there on happiness, and I am by no means an expert. I’m not even a novice, really. That being said, the approach I’m using to move towards happiness and towards becoming the better person that I truly want to be – it fit under advice given by researchers. Not too shabby, huh?

Important above all else is the intention to be happy. According to a variety of research, that alone is an important first step towards feeling and being happier. For me, even amidst all the self-generated angst and all the negative thoughts – I knew that I didn’t want to feel that way. I wanted to feel better; and I must say, that underlying desire has pulled me through some of the toughest times I’ve experienced.

In fact, intent and intentional actions seem to be the best way to find that happiness we’re constantly searching for. It’s waking up and telling yourself that today is great. It’s thinking about the things for which you are grateful. It’s getting excited about the plans you have. It’s scheduling in time with people and activities that energize you in positive ways. It’s taking a moment to enjoy the little everyday things that we experience.

Basically, it’s every good thought you have – and finding ways to fill your day with more positive thoughts like those than anything else.

If you’re anything like me, however, getting into that frame of mind is incredibly difficult, especially when you’re feeling like you’re at your lowest low. So, the pieces of advice I want to leave you with today are the following:

  1. Find the things that make you happy WHILE you’re feeling that way. Not only does this feed into the idea of gratitude and learning to enjoy the moment, but it also helps you when you hit another rough patch. One of the problems I encountered post-breakup was trying to distinguish what exactly made those times so wonderful. It was easy to latch on to the idea of “I was happy because I was with him” and harder to realize that the reason might actually be closer to “I was happy because I felt cared for and I made someone else feel happy, too.” I’d say write it down, because I’m a list person and having a “What Makes You Happy” list has become clutch in my life, but I know that for some people, words just aren’t their cup of tea. So, whether you write it down or not, just do something to acknowledge what you are feeling and WHY you feel that way.
  2. Find things that make you happy ANYWAYS. Like I said, I was already sad when I started trying to discern “how to be happy” again. Even though I took a super logical approach and didn’t feel all that enthusiastic about it, I sat down, busted out my trusty bullet journal (it’s so cool, I love it), and started doing what I do best – writing and making lists. I now have a What Makes You Happy page (petting dogs, talking to people I love, working out…), a Laughter List of things I know make me smile (Arrested Development, YouTube videos…), and even a list of Who You Gonna Call where I wrote down names of people I love and know I can talk to no matter what (my RAs, my roommates, close friends…). Any time I find myself laughing or doing something that makes me feel good, I go add to my lists. I can’t avoid every kind of sadness – because life is going to be filled with ups and downs no matter WHO you are – but I trust that having these on hand will help me feel better and happier much faster.

Patrick Stump Love

Again, I’m no expert here. But I can tell you that I want to lead a happy and healthy life, and to do that will take constant effort. Until we can internalize the positive behaviors and make optimism a natural state, it will be a tough road. And even if and when we get to that point, life is not always going to be easy.

Regardless, I 100% believe you can find happiness in yourself and in those around you! Whether it’s a fleeting moment, or you’re having the best months of your life – take a minute to acknowledge that joy, be thankful for it, and remember why you felt the way you did.

That way, next time someone asks you what makes you happy – you’ll have plenty of answers to give. 🙂

I’m linking below to some fantastic articles that explain in more depth and clarity the ways in which you can actively engage in choosing your own happiness. Sending good vibes your way!!

Scientifically Train Your Mind to Be Happy

The 8 Things The Happiest People Do Every Day

How to Increase Happiness & Meaning in Life

Practice Happiness (former blog post!)

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Waking Up

It’s been over a month since O-Week, and I’m still kicking. It was amazing and intense, and if you haven’t heard me talk about it yet – trust me, you will. But the reflection on that event (and how I feel like a totally different person coming out of it!!) is for another today.

However, it will suffice to say that summer was a busy time overall, and the weeks leading up to the actual event were particularly crunched for time. I had already been struggling to get into some type of routine in terms of exercise and eating, but during those last few weeks I felt like my attitude took a straight nosedive.

Those weeks encompassed very little exercise and a diet that makes me cringe just thinking about it – but I wrote it off as unavoidable, said I’d reset once everything finished, or more often than not I didn’t even think about it.

Ignoring the problem won’t help us fix it.

I essentially became passive in my choices of fitness and food. This “unaware” lifestyle carried on through O-Week and weeks after. The times I finally did stop and think about what I had eaten, was eating, was about to eat…I would get upset and feel even less empowered than I already did.

So the cycle intensified, until I was eating dessert three times a day, spending extra money on fast food lunches, and not exercising at all.

Personally, that stuff doesn’t feel good to me. Looking in the mirror and feeling “bleh” doesn’t feel good to me. Feeling sad and lazy and unfocused doesn’t feel good to me. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything.

cute-animals-tired-dog-puppy-sleeping-flat-out-picsPerpetual sighing.

After sharing these concerns with my counselor – in particular, my disappointment in what felt like out of control eating – she suggested a simple idea: before eating something, ask yourself, “Do I want this?”

Since that session, about two weeks ago, I’ve been pausing to ask myself “Do I want this?” before I eat certain foods or meals. I’m not doing it obsessively or excessively, which are behaviors I am prone to when it comes to body image issues. Rather, I do it to give myself the opportunity to decide.

The answer isn’t always “no” and it isn’t always “yes” – but in the end, it’s my decision. Having that sort of control in something so basic as food preference is crucial part of life that I sometimes forget about. Food doesn’t control us!

I’ve also started asking myself “WHY do I want this?” in addition to the yes/no question. It often helps put my behavior into context.

Case in point:

I reach for the cake in the kitchen. “Do I want this piece of cake?”

“…yes.”

“Why do I want it?”

“Well, I already had pie at dinner, and then I watched TV for two hours…”

“Okay. Do I really want this?”

“I guess…no, not really.”

Sleeping-Cat-on-FoodThe struggle.

Sometimes I’ll take a small bite instead of an entire slice, or I’ll just get out of the kitchen and go back to my homework or cleaning or whatever it was I was doing before. Other times, if I do decide to indulge, I don’t let that decision influence my decisions later on down the line. The cake I ate last week does not mean I’m a failure and have to eat badly today. It means I ate a piece of cake. (This concept is still difficult for me, but I am trying my best to keep my mind positive!)

My conscious eating (each and every attempt at it) makes me want to be more “conscious” in other aspects of my life. For example, it has helped me cut down on my Netflix time during the week – before I put on a show, I ask why I want to watch TV (usually it’s to avoid homework). I also do it when I’m on tumblr or Facebook for too long (again, I’m usually avoiding something like exercise, work, or other responsibilities).

It’s been a low-key, easier way to adjust to healthier habits. Progress is slow, but I feel like this is something sustainable. It sounds simple, but it’s decidedly useful! When we aren’t thinking at all about our choices or actions, it’s easy to go through the motions of life without living it. It’s been helping me change my perspective and my behavior already, and I hope it can be a tool for you too!

I don’t know…it just feels good to be awake. 🙂

tumblr_mi1ll8otpM1qcnwyso1_500Happy/excited/energetic puppy = my current spirit animal.

If you’re interested in some articles on conscious eating, I found these helpful and inspiring:

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Eating

Love Yourself Through Mindful Eating

10 Tips for Conscious Eating

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A Relationship With You

A few days ago, I stood around in my gym shorts and sports bra, and I looked in the mirror. For the first time in such a long time, I could look at my reflection – really look – and like the person staring back.

Even as I write this, I genuinely cannot understand how it’s possible to feel like this. Acknowledging that I disliked myself was easy, because it was so normal for me. Feeling this free and confident – it is such a strange state, but I love it.

Here’s the weirdest part: in addition to a lot of uncomfortable situations (like biking for the Beer Bike races and awkward public parties), the tipping point into this state of mind all started with a rejection from a boy.

I guess that’s unfair, as it is less of the rejection and more of the overall experience. It was short, sweet, and had closure – so honestly, I can’t complain. But it left such a meaningful impact on me that I have to get it out into the open.

So it started with me being seriously confused about why a guy was interested in me (much less someone so attractive). How was that even possible? And actually interested about my life, what I was doing, what I thought about certain things – just me in general. Sometimes I don’t like myself, and so it is borderline impossible to understand why someone else would.

But this guy was totally quirky and so REAL – it was almost overwhelming. Interacting with him made me feel like I could actually express myself, even if that meant being dorky, or saying something totally ridiculous. He was just himself, and I think that is exactly what I needed to see in someone.

 “I think it’s intoxicating when somebody is so unapologetically who they are.”

— Don Cheadle

And when it comes down to it, the experience was an empowering one. He always asked me what I wanted, what I was comfortable with, and essentially reminded me that I DO have a say in what happens in my life. Let me give a typical example:

Him: “Do you want to go for a walk?”

Me: “We can.”

Him: “I know we CAN. But I’m asking – do you WANT to?”

Such a simple question, and it never occurred to me to say no (or yes, or maybe later, or ANYTHING). I wasn’t thinking about me at all, really. This happened a lot over that short frame of time, but with every question and every chat, I was reminded that I was important, that I was pretty, that I was interesting, that being with me meant something, that I had a choice in what was happening – and I guess you could say that the message started to hit home.

Happy Bunny

Yes, putting others first is commendable. Yes, we should be considerate of others’ emotions. Yes, we need to be polite and understanding.

But that doesn’t mean we put others first at the expense of our well-being. It doesn’t mean we ignore our emotions in favor of everyone else’s. It doesn’t mean we have to compromise our desires and beliefs to make someone else happy.

Life is full of relationships – but at the end of the day, the relationship that matters MOST is the one we have with ourselves.

I know this can be hard to see, especially in the context of a college lifestyle, but also just in general. Here are some of the personal relationship issues I’ve encountered, just to name a few:

1) The pressure to be involved in SOME sort of relationship, no matter what it is. There is this pervasive idea that if you aren’t in some sort of relationship – hooking up, dating, crushing on someone, or what have you – then something is wrong.

For example, there is this one girl that I think is absolutely beautiful, and she is so ridiculously sweet on top of that. She’s just fantastic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people are in love with her. So when I mentioned her to my roommate, my roommate said, “Oh, she’s beautiful. I don’t know why she doesn’t have a boyfriend.” Well, maybe she’s too busy. Maybe she likes someone back home. Maybe she just isn’t interested in dating right now. (All of which are valid reasons, though she doesn’t need to justify her status). Regardless, we don’t know, and it doesn’t matter because guess what? Being single doesn’t mean there is ANYTHING less amazing about her. Dating someone wouldn’t change that, either.

2) Relationships lack closure. Whether it is because we have led someone on (or someone is leading us on), or we refuse to accept that something is over, most times I’ve had any sort of relationship, it has ended awkwardly and without any sense of finality. Rejecting someone is not fun. Getting rejected is not fun. But it is so much easier and less painful to be honest and end something quickly, rather than drag it out until the only emotions and thoughts left are negative ones.

Imaginary Relationship

3) Finally, we put a lot of emphasis (too much??) into what others think. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t worry over what others think about us. If you want to chop your hair off and dye it brown, THEN DO IT. Who cares if that guy doesn’t like it, or your friend thinks it’s weird? Forget it, it’s not ABOUT them. Only you know what you want or don’t want, how you feel, and what different things mean to you. It’s a bit cliché, but also true: only you can do you. So do it. Like I said before, that guy was quirky to the max, but at least he let me be myself.

VIDEO: Shailene Woodley on confidence.

The most important relationship in our lives is the one we have with ourselves. It’s about you. And if you’ve never heard it before, or if you don’t think it could be true, I repeat: IT IS ABOUT YOU. Other relationships – no matter how open and enhancing and positive they might be – will never be as fulfilling if, at the core of it all, we aren’t happy with ourselves.

Others can be the stimulus of our emotions, but we are in control. I’m not saying we have to be happy all the time, because the struggles are just as important as the good times – but we have got to love ourselves. We can get so much out of relationships, even the ones that end. But don’t let the ones that end (or the unhealthy ones you may be keeping…) make you forget how important and great you are for just being you.

So in my case, sure – I am bummed that whatever happened with that boy ended so quickly. But for once, I like myself enough to 1) not be mad at him and 2) not let the rejection send me spiraling. Instead, I’m lifting weights at the gym again because it makes me feel strong. I’m controlling my eating A LOT better – because I care about myself, and I don’t want to hurt myself again. I’m wearing what I want – and feeling confident about it, even if it’s gym shorts and a tank – since it’s my choice. I’m going for walks, petting dogs, dancing around my room, and doing things that I love.

Patrick Stump Love

I’m just more relaxed about who I am in general, no matter how awkward or goofy that means I come across. It’s me, so…there is nothing for me to be embarrassed about, especially not when I’m happy about where I am.

Sometimes, you might just CLICK with someone and they will be with you for a long time. But other times, a person might walk into your life to show you good music and remind you that you are important…and that’s it. And that’s also okay. People will walk in and out of our lives, we will be sad or disappointed, and we will be happy and comforted. But the highs and the lows and the people that come and go should never, EVER make us forget our true value and worth.

So in closing, I just want to reiterate how amazing and important you are RIGHT NOW. Not a few weeks from now, not after you lose a few pounds, not once you start dating someone…right NOW. Do what it is YOU want. Be unashamedly who you are – quirks and all – because you NEVER know the kind of impact you might be having on someone.

Beautiful Dogs

And please, love yourself above all else. You matter – to me, and to so many other people. Stay strong, friends!

Also, a huge thanks to everyone who has provided support and encouragement for this blog (and just in general!). It means a lot. Much love to you all!

Categories: Perpetual Progress | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Don’t Hate…Appreciate (Your Body)!

Long time no blog…as per usual. Super sorry, I wanted to write about this for nearly a month now, but I was not in the frame of mind to do it. I could not bring myself to talk about how much I appreciate my body – especially not when I felt so bad about it.

So, here’s the story. Back in February, I started weight lifting and biking regularly. I wasn’t insanely consistent, but I still did a lot of my regular routines. Then, towards the end of the month, I got sick with a mild form of the flu. It was not a good time, mostly just sleeping and feeling awful, but luckily it only lasted a week! I hadn’t been sick like that in a long time, so long that I almost forgot what it was like.

I was feeling generally better but super distressed for not working out or eating well for that week. So I went to the gym…

AND I COULD NOT DO ANYTHING.

Do You Even Lift

Seriously. I tried doing regular weight lifting and could barely get through a short set of minimal weight without wanting to quit. I got on the stationary bike and after 10 minutes was totally wiped out and had to walk slowly on the treadmill instead.

It was like this for the next few days until finally, FINALLY my body had recovered sufficiently enough to get back in the game. On one hand, it was my fault for trying to do so much so quickly. But on the other hand, it really opened my eyes.

To quote a famous song, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?” (“Big Yellow Taxi” by Counting Crows, if you’re curious!) That is EXACTLY what happened. It is easy to forget all of the cool and amazing things our bodies do for us, especially when we are too busy focusing on feeling uncomfortable or comparing ourselves to others.

Personally, I find things to criticize about my body on the daily – “I feel soft”, “I’m not the same size I used to be”, “No one’s interested in me”…you get the picture. Sometimes my expectations for my physical appearance are so unrealistic and hypercritical that I forget all the good things about my body AND myself.

Here’s the truth: we aren’t going to love our bodies just because we reach a certain weight, or fit a certain size. We won’t love ourselves just because someone is attracted to us. We can’t embrace all the positives in our lives when we feel so awkward in our own skin. We have to appreciate and respect ourselves before we can internalize the great things about us and around us.

But here’s the great thing: our bodies ARE amazing and we SHOULD appreciate them. And us!

From chibird.com

Just think about all the great things we do, without even realizing it. Our immune system keeps us from getting sick. Our digestive system takes care of all those energy conversions and absorptions. Our muscles let us move. Our brains regulate everything. WE ARE COOL.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we loved our bodies like they deserve? What would happen if we treated them with respect and care, instead of being so harsh and unforgiving? What if we treated ourselves like we deserved?

I take for granted the times I’m able to lift weights. I take for granted my endurance. I take for granted all the times my nose isn’t stuffy. Heck, I take for granted every day I wake up and feel hungry or sore from a workout.

I’m alive and my body is working like it should. It’s not perfect, I’m not perfect, and we won’t ever be – but we’re all real and fun and amazing, and that’s more than I could ever need.

So, I just want everyone to be happy and thankful for what we have. We all have a lot going for us, besides living in awesome bodies. Just remember that a lot of people already love you. Now it’s time for YOU to love your body, and to love yourself. It’s not always easy…but it will be worth it. You deserve it!

Categories: Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Practice Happiness

I looked in the mirror the other day, and a realization struck me.

Why did I spend the last 19 years of my life pretending like I am not intelligent, fun, or attractive?

That type of mentality colors every thought and action, but perhaps so subtly that we don’t realize it.

It could be something as simple as starting a story off with a negative point, for example:

We messed up at the beginning of the performance, but nailed the rest of it.vs.The crowd loved the show, especially when we nailed the ending.

Or being unable to relish our accomplishments:

I got second place in Music at State, but I missed third place in Language/Literature by one question!

And even accidentally impeding our decisions before we even consider acting:

That guy is amazing, but everyone likes him. I would never have a shot.

We can think like this, which is easy but also terribly unsatisfying. Or, we can make the conscious effort to engage in a practice of being happy.

I am going to draw on the lessons from my intro to social psychology class at Rice University, taught by Dr. Sandra Parsons, because I think the touching lesson can truly help us improve our mindset. The lesson goes a bit like this:

1. Be kind to others.

Giving a close friend a surprise care package, or writing a genuine note of appreciation – regardless of the other person’s response – made me happier than buying candy for myself, or writing a journal entry about my day. We have the ability to affect others in beautiful ways, and that is a powerful thing. Never underestimate the impact of a friendly hug or a few sincere words.

Bear Hug

2. Think positively.

This goes back to my initial point: our behaviors and emotions reflect our internal dialogue. When we re-frame our thoughts into positive ones, it can make a world of a difference. So next time something doesn’t go according to plan, try changing that “I’m awful” comment into a “Let me try this differently next time” thought. We all have room to grow and improve – why not embrace the opportunity?

http://poppyposts.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/positive-thinking-quotes-1.png

3. Set new goals.

I performed two dances in our cultural show this past weekend, and immediately after I didn’t know what to do with myself. No more practices, no more rehearsals, and no more random dance breaks with my partner. It actually made me so sad! But I’ve realized I love dancing, so now that we accomplished our goal of performing, I’ve decided my next goal is to learn a new style, as well as go out social dancing to improve my salsa skills. A sense of purpose is a vital part of keeping us challenged and engaged, and thus happier as we work towards our goals.

Fire

4. Practice gratitude.

And finally, perhaps one of the most important activities we can do is to practice gratitude. One way is via a gratitude journal (yes, I know Oprah is a proponent of this, but hear me out!). As this article states, the act of maintaining a gratitude journal “[forces] ourselves to pay attention to the good things in life we’d otherwise take for granted”. Expressing thanks to those around us is also a form of practicing gratitude (and hearkens back to the “be kind to others” mentality). It’s easier to be happy when we stop and realize the wonderful things happening in our lives.

http://www.tinystepsmommy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Thankful-Printable.jpg

I’m slowly coming to terms with the idea that I am a good person. I’m goofy, shy, humble, intelligent, pretty, and a multitude of other characteristics. But I am good BECAUSE of my personality and my looks, not DESPITE them. And so are you.

You are awesome, and I probably think you’re the bee’s knees. I hope this post helps, because I know I’m tired of being sad, and I think a lot of us go through the same thing. But we aren’t alone, and we do deserve to experience happiness.

Keep being great, my friends! And as always – I’m here for you!

Categories: Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Are You Afraid Of?

During Academic Decathlon, I felt perpetually stressed. Any time I got into a complaining or worrying mode, some teammates would joke and say, “Ariel…you’re happy when you’re unhappy!” Darn those boys – in a way, they were right.

I always think about this story when I find myself in a rut.

Some weeks are better than others, and this past week was unfortunately a bad one. On the surface, it should have been a great time: it included a lovely message from a lovely friend, opportunities to network with awesome lawyers, coffee outings with my dad, chances to journal, a fun intern lunch, and generally a lot of good things happening all over the place.

So why, despite the abundance of happiness, was I feeling sad?

I think honesty is key, and if I’m being honest with myself (and with you), then the answer is clear. I was afraid.

What am I afraid of, you ask? Well, here’s small a list to start.

I’m afraid of…

  • Gaining weight
  • Losing friends
  • Eating
  • Bingeing
  • Feeling depressed
  • Dating
  • Bad grades
  • Setting a bad example
  • Failing
  • Succeeding
  • Change

Let me explain some of these more in-depth.

  • I’m afraid of change – for better or worse – because it’s unfamiliar. For example, feeling upset isn’t fun, but I’m also used to it.
  • Failing scares me, but so does succeeding. Failing means others are better than I am, but succeeding sets the expectation that I am good at something. (What a shocker!)
  • Gaining weight from bingeing, and bingeing because I’m eating, and eating because I’m sad, and being sad because I failed, and failing because of a bad grade…everything runs together.

I just get scared sometimes. While the fact remains that I am very lucky to have so many great things in my life, a small part of me feels like I don’t deserve it at all.

I’m pretty sure that’s why last week, I stopped doing INSANITY, Zumba, or any exercise. It’s why I decided to not only eat things I didn’t want, but to eat A LOT of it. (Seriously, I’ve had so much ice cream and sweets in one week that it’s a little bit ridiculous.)

I was scared that I was too happy, that the good in my life wouldn’t last – and I was scared about what that would mean for the future. What if I lost weight, but gained it back during the semester? What if I started a fun friendship, but ruined it by dating? What if I shared these thoughts with my friends, but they thought I was a drama queen?

What if, what if, what if…?

So what if I gained weight again? I could lose it again. So what if I dated a guy and we broke up? It just wasn’t meant to be. So what if my friends thought I was dramatic? I’d find out which friends truly loved me.

I’ve got a lot of random, contradictory, sometimes senseless fears. I’m afraid of a lot of things people might find silly – myself included! That doesn’t make those fears any less real, or less important. It does make them manageable though, if we’re willing to recognize them.

When I feel this way, I get introspective. Here’s a quote I found while attempting to sort my thoughts.

Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with the emotion. It won’t hurt you. It will only help. If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself, “All right, it’s just fear, I don’t have to let it control me. I see it for what it is”.

– From Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom

A week went by, and I spent it dawdling in fear. I think I would prefer to spend this week more productively – maybe biking at the YMCA, cooking with my mom, or cleaning my room (I’ve been saying that ever since I came home for the summer).

Regardless, I have a lot more fun when I do things I enjoy, and I look a lot prettier when I’m not crying all the time. I’m going to make a conscious effort to embrace the daily blessings in my life, rather than being afraid of them. Accept the good, and cherish it; times will be tough enough, without us being so tough on ourselves! I deserve the good things that come my way, and so do you.

Now it’s your turn: what are you afraid of? Better yet, what are you going to do to fight those fears?

As always, it’s a daily battle. But I’m right here with you!

nothing

Categories: Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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