Tag Archives: Happiness Project Update

Happiness Project Update 26: The Antidote to the This-Currently-Sucks-Right-Now Moments

3 Jun

This one was easy. I didn’t even have to think about how to do it or form ways to bring it into my daily life. It was already there. It had to be if I was hoping to survive the malaise of my current Life-Wasn’t-Supposed-To-Turn-Out-This-Way-Plan-B-2.0 existence.

Attitude. I had to pick it.

Had to.

It’s probably the reason why I picked up Rubin’s book in the first place. Most people didn’t need to pick up her book. Most people don’t need Tony Robbins, Randy Pausch, or Elizabeth Gilbert quotes to light a fire under their ass. Most people are happy the way things are … I was not most people. I was in the this-currently-sucks-right-now group, and I think I was the CEO. Still am, but my attitude about it has changed a bit. And it’s not due to anything great that has happened to me. Nothing of blockbuster proportions, but the difference is that I’ve just been able to find little moments and hold on to them with a 10th degree black belt Kung Fu grip. I savor them, until the last drop, because who knows when this cup is going to be full again.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

So when Rubin suggested that attitude was one of the keys to a Happiness Project, I was like … yeah … I got this. I know this. And then she followed it up by suggesting that you incorporate LOL in your daily life. Now when I first saw this a while back, I had no idea what it meant. I wasn’t into text messages. I was more into conversations, but when I realized it was “laugh out loud,” it sort of became one of my rules of the day. Although I don’t like using the abbreviation as a note to myself, for others yes, but for myself I usually I have to spell it out for a more meaningful effect.

Sometimes this is difficult when you’re the CEO of your-life-currently-sucks-right-now. Especially when I have those Thelma-and-Louise-I-should-just-jump-off-a-cliff-right-now moments. Finding The Wish Factor can be hard. I have to look outside of me to find the funny. Like when you think you’re a writer and the rejection letter in the mail tells you, no, not today you’re not. Like when you can’t handle the ‘for worse’ part of your “for better or worse” vows and you just feel like throwing your partner out of a moving car … tuck and roll, baby, tuck and roll. Like when you look in the mirror and wonder where all that gray hair came from and then you realize it when you hear the high-pierce screaming of your kid’s voice for no apparent reason at 3 a.m. Like when your mom gives you advice on raising your kids for the 10oth time and the deep breathing Namaste business isn’t helping you. Laughing out loud isn’t possible in these circumstances. It doesn’t come from within, not at that moment.

But I still get the antidote from somewhere else.

And other than tuning into the amazing Jason Bateman, one of my go-to people for laughter is Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. I’ve got to say, there are times when I’m really not feeling it for one reason or another, but I manage to laugh out loud thanks to Fallon. He makes me forget my crappy moods. One of my favorites has to be when Justin Timberlake appears and they perform the History of Rap. But my most recent cracking up experience had to be when John Krasinski showed up.

 

 

Jimmy had the antidote. Laughing out loud had never been so easy for me. That is one Happiness Project lesson I didn’t need to be reminded of, but I was glad I was on the right track.

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Happiness Project Update 22: The Food Network Adventure Begins

21 Feb

This is where failure usually happens. You think being 37, I’d be used to it by now and maybe even immune to it, but no. It still stings. Even though there is an abundance of chocolate covering every stumble and fall, it’s not easy “finding the lesson” when things don’t go the way you hoped. But when things work out, it’s definitely a do-a-cartwheel feeling.

“Do what you do.”

Pursuing a passion. I’ve got lots of these, and thanks to The Happiness Project I’ve been able to do many cartwheels this year and last year, most of them involving sports or other adventures requiring BenGay afterward, like the triathlons, and The Warrior Dash. But I think this chapter may be asking me to pursue a passion I haven’t done yet.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

And I wondered, well other than sports, writing, television, movies and books what else am I passionate about that I haven’t explored? I’ve dedicated parts of my Happiness Project these last couple of months to plenty of athletic adventures that made me feel genuinely happy and not just momentarily, but the whole entire day. It was an emotional high and it had nothing to do with chocolate. It was just the rush of being successful and accomplishing something I set out to do.

That pushed the reset button on my life and I decided … yeah I want that feeling. Pictures are great, but I soooooo want to bottle that up and open it and relive those feelings for when one of those crappy days rolls around and slaps me in the face. So I continued my athletic adventures. I’ve enrolled in a beginners roller derby class and registered for an urban climbing race, which also benefits the American Lung Association. I’m on a mission to do an athletic adventure at least once month and maybe I won’t need that special bottle.

I continue to write as that is one of my biggest passions and I get a great sense of satisfaction every night when hit that “publish” button on my blog. I feel like I did something. Just the other day I reached the 400-posts mark and it felt good to reach that number. I didn’t tell anyone, but I didn’t need to in order to feel fantastic, the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream which involved chocolate was reward enough. Plus I’ve got to admit, I patted myself on the back and gave myself a gold star.

Movies and television I am so on top of that. In fact I may be too on top of that. Some people say it’s not that great to watch a lot of television or movies, but I say why not? Television and movies are awesome. Sometimes they provide escape, comic relief, or inspiration and I’m always for that.

But this chapter inferred I pursue something new, or something I hadn’t done yet.

“What you choose to do on a free Saturday afternoon is an indication of your passion.”

Normally the answer to that involves, sports, working out, television or movies. But there were two things that came to mind. Food and travel. I’m all about food. I love it. I enjoy it. I look forward to it. I savor every bite. Sometimes I even dream about it. And the calories? C’mon now. It’s me The Guat. Calories don’t matter, I just walk it off or buy bigger pants. And travel? If I had any money I would being traveling places at least once a month, but since I’m a poor writer all I do is travel to the supermarket with coupons and dream while I’m in line. But I could make travel possible, even if it’s just for a weekend.

So there it was, I found my answers. But in order for the chapter to work, I’d have to choose just one and seeing how I’m financially challenged, food would probably be the better choice. And what an awesome second choice, right? Who doesn’t love food? And I could probably travel to places through food, right?

So in addition to my other projects I’ve decided to pursue food. Eating it mostly, but cooking it of course. I’ve decided to try a new recipe once a week. I’m really not one for following cookbook recipes since I’m a big Food Network fan, but I’ll take the recipes from wherever I can find them. Julia Childs cookbook, Authentic Guat recipes cookbooks, Tyler Florence, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Paula Dean, or any of the cooks featured on the network. But I’m not going to fool myself into getting a Rachel Ray recipe and thinking I can do it in thirty minutes. Because I’ve learned the hard way. That chick is lying. It takes at least an hour.

But no matter how long it takes I’ll finish. Whether it’s baking or sautéing, I’m on a new adventure. It’s culinary and it will probably involve chocolate. Oooooh. Maybe in every dish. Stay tuned because the Food Network Adventure begins.

Happiness Project Update 19: It’s All About Options

9 Jan

“People that say money doesn’t buy happiness, they’re just not trying hard enough .” Will Truman

While undergoing my own Happiness Project the money question definitely came up. And like most people I understand that money alone can’t buy me happiness, but it can definitely help get me some. I’m not talking about material things, like diamonds or name-brand purses or clothes. I’m talking about opportunities. I’m talking about options. Money affords you the kind of opportunities that puts smiles on your faces and checkmarks next to your bucket list items.  Sometimes it’s the difference between seeing the glass half-empty or half-full.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Most people I run into are adamant about money not buying happiness. An absolute no … it does not. However after reading Rubin’s chapter about money and happiness, I was so glad to find out that she shared my point of view. It does help get you there sooner, but it depends on a few factors. First off, it depends on the kind of person  you are … adventurer, introvert, sports enthusiast, bookworm, television addict, foodie, coupon clipper, mother of two, or single dude out on the town. Although I fit into multiple categories I realized, after my little happiness update on fun a while back,  that simple things make me happy. A good hamburger. A good piece of chocolate. Hearing my favorite song. Dancing to a good song with my kids. Watching a great movie. Sports, playing or watching at any level collegiate, professional, or Olympic style. Everyone measures their needs and wants differently, depending on what makes them happy and what they do for fun.

Rubin’s second factor deals with how you spend your money. The kind of person you are will probably influence your purchasing decisions. You might be a tech dude who purchases the latest gadgets as soon as they come out, or you may be a person whose purchases are well-thought and researched so that even though you are spending money, you still feel like you’re doing what you can to get the best deal. You can be a person who splurges on a really nice bottle of wine every so often as a treat, or you can be the kind of person that eats at Chuy’s on Tuesday, because it’s 2-for-1 taco night.

Some people splurge on themselves for their own happiness, while other people may splurge on family or friends just to see them happy. In truth I do a little bit of both. If I go out in search for some awesome Hawaiian chocolates and run into a good bottle of wine that my friend would really enjoy, I’d probably buy her the bottle. I’m all about little splurges. I learned that from a friend of mine a while back. During her week-long craziness as a middle school teacher, she said she would often splurge on something once a week. Spend a little extra, just to make herself feel good … feel happy. Instead of going to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee, she may have stopped by that specialty food store and bought herself a fancy exotic Central American cup of coffee. A large. She taught me about little splurges, thus my wide knowledge of fantastic chocolate.

But she also reminded me of big splurges. It’s been a while since I’d been on a trip where I had to stay in a hotel. A long while. She told me that when she went on a trip with her husband they stayed at a fancy hotel, and he ordered room service. It was a good experience for them, a happy one. It made them feel good. I often envision them in those fancy white robes and matching slippers, eating on the balcony or something. Being happy. I thought yeah … I need to splurge big every once in while. Nothing too crazy, but something room-service worthy.

Rubin’s last contributing factor affecting the money and happiness relationship dealt with how much money you had in relation to others. Now I’m not much into comparing and contrasting my bank accounts with that of my family or friends. It’s just not how I roll, but Rubin’s point wasn’t so much a compare and contrast. It was more of a perspective thing.

“One person’s fortune is another person’s misfortune.” — Gretchen Rubin.

Dude. Yes! Like if Oprah ever complained about having a bad day, I’d be like … are you kidding me? I wish I had one of your bad days. It’d be an improvement to my current starving-writer-working-class existence. But then again someone in another state or country could be looking at my life and thinking, dude you’re definitely rolling in it. They might be delusional for thinking that way, but hey … you, gotta have perspective.

So in the end having money or wealth doesn’t necessarily make you happy, I know this, I got that. But money does provide you with options. Massive options and when it comes to happiness, it’s all about options. I’ve got to work on expanding my options. Maybe I’ll start small and upgrade my Netflix subscription.

Baby steps … baby steps for bigger options.

Happiness Project Update 17: BFFs or Just BFs

27 Nov

When you were younger it happened during recess, nutrition, or lunch. Or most likely during class when you were passing notes … just to keep them updated as to what happened during third period. As you got older it happened over coffee, sporting events, concerts, boys, men, tailgating, or parties. Sometimes it happened because you realized you had the same Alanis Morissette break-up experience.

Friendships … they develop for many reasons.

And according to Rubin living a life of happiness requires maintaining strong bonds of friendship. Not the casual acquaintance kind, but the true kind — the kind of friend you can call if you’re stranded somewhere and you don’t have Triple A, the kind of friend that you can call to be your wing-man at a party, the kind of friend that you can call to hold your hair back while you’re throwing up either because of a Tequila hangover or bad Thai food, the kind of friend that takes your call at midnight because you’re freaking out over a fight you just had with your current flame, the kind of friend that will give you an alibi if CSI came knocking on your door, and the kind of friend that splits their last stick of gum with you. A true friend. A BFF, or just a BF.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Through all her research, Rubin found that people with strong relationships are more likely to be happier in life. Friendships … they play a big part of your Happiness Project. Family … yes we know there’s a bond. Whether you want it to be there or not you’re linked by blood forever. For better or for worse. But friendships are different. They’re a necessary link outside the nuclear family that support you and let you fly your freak flag whenever.

Making time for friends. A basic premise? Yeah.

But a very necessary reminder, especially for those of us that are so busy and consumed with jobs, school, family, or parenthood. It’s good to be reminded that you’re not just a professional blue-collar or white-collar worker, you’re not just someone’s mother or father. You’re not just someone’s son, daughter, or cousin. You’re someone’s friend and if you’re a good friend, or if you want good ones, you’ll strengthen or deepen your existing friendships.

Rubin suggests a couple of concepts, but the one that seemed to grab me was the simplest one: Be generous.

Generosity can come in many forms. Gifts, kind acts, compliments, showing up to birthday parties, or making the time to buy someone coffee … all types of generosity. Since most of my “circle of trust” friends are busy women with BIG Cheese jobs or mothers on the break of defeat because they’re raising kids alone I thought I’d sent out a compliment.

I mentioned a while back how I found an old picture of myself and I thought … hey I knew her … she was awesome where did she go? No where really,  just buried deep under the hustle and bustle of life. But seeing that picture brought me back … way back. It was a nice reminder of my bad-ass self.

So I thought I would pass on the goodness. I posted a picture for a weekly challenge not too long ago. Renewal. And it was group picture with some of the members of my “circle of trust.”  I thought it would be a good idea to send it out to them with the hopes that they might be reminded of their own bad-ass self. Maybe they were lost and the email helped center them again, maybe they were in an awesome state of mind and this email just heightened the experience. Either way I wanted them to feel badass … feel needed … feel appreciated … feel like their friendship made an impact. They matter.

“Friendship thrives on interconnection, and it’s both energizing and comforting to see that you’re building not just friendships but a social network.”

Gretchen Rubin

I sent that email out to my circle of trust — my social network — and whether they responded or not, it felt good to let them know that their friendship was important, that they were important,  and that they were contributors to a time where I felt like myself.

It was a good chapter — a good reminder that friendships expand your happiness, and I needed to put effort in maintaining them if my own Happiness Project was going to work. Otherwise I could end up like Stockard Channing in the First Wives Club. And you really don’t want to end up there.

Happiness Project Update 16: Pantene Moments During Crunch Time

8 Nov

“Who is she to talk about happiness when everything in her life is fine?”

She asked the question and I thought about it. And yeah … when I started this whole Happiness Project it did cross my mind. I thought yeah … Gretchen Rubin should be happy. She’s got everything she wanted … everything I wanted, what’s up with her? She doesn’t need any more happiness. She’s got surplus. I could use some. I’ve got deficit … in the trillions.

Yeah it did cross my mind. But as I continued reading and got to the end of  the “Be Serious About Play,” Chapter she brought up a good point:

“Are you more likely to think about happiness — and take action to try to build happiness — when everything in your life is going well, or when you’re facing a catastrophe?”

Dude. Everyone could use happiness, when you’re at the bottomless pit of crappiness you need it. When you’re happy you need to realize that you have it and you should do everything you can to maintain it.

Everybody’s answer is different.

After reading all the responses at the end of that chapter, I realized that for me, it’s a combination of both. I think about happiness during my mid-life malaise and when I have my Holy-Crap moments. On most days I have small moments of happiness … I hear a great song, I dance in the living room, I post on my blog, I eat a great piece of chocolate, I sit in the quiet of the night, or I watch an awesome episode of Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men, or Breaking Bad. They’re not ever-lasting moments, but I enjoy them while they last.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Then on some days, like when I accomplish triathlons and Warrior Dashes, when I get seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, when I have pizza-making night with my kids, a girls-night out with my friends, or Halloween-athons with the family, these moments last a lot longer. Sometimes the entire day or the whole night and even though I’m tired, weary, or exhausted, I’m so grateful for the day-long happiness — for the Guat smile, for the Guat laughter.

Most of this gratefulness stems from surviving all the crappiness that’s come my way. And since I haven’t had many happiness marathon moments, I tend to really appreciate and savor them when they come.

I recognize them when they happen. It’s like having a bad hair day six days in a row and then on the seventh day, you look like a Pantene model, with soft-silky hair. You remember when this happens.

You try to bank these days.

“It’s like saving money, you can’t save for when you get laid off, or after you get laid off; rather you have to save while you have a job and the money is still coming in. Life is like that, you have to DO while you are able to think of what you want, what you like, what needs it will fill, how it will enhance your life, how it will help you to maintain you, so that you have some reserves when crunch time comes.”

Crunch time. It’s all about trying to have your Pantene moment, or remembering a Pantene moment, when Crunch Time happens. That’s one of the lessons I learned from this chapter. You think about getting happiness when you’re going through a catastrophe, and you’re grateful for happiness when it comes. Or at least that’s the goal.

But I’m also learning what specific things make me happy. In this chapter finding out what “fun” meant for me was a nice holy-crap moment. I mean I already knew what I thought was fun, I was just reminded that other people’s idea of “fun” was different from mine and that was O.K. Even though I may find ideas exciting and great, they might not be fun for me, and I’m all right with that because during Crunch Time all that matters are the little Pantene moments that contribute to the “good hair” days in my life, those little Pantene moments that I can deposit or withdrawal from the bank at any time, during  Holy-Crap moments or catastrophes.

 

Happiness Project Update 15: Getting A Mango Every Now and Then

24 Oct

“Finding more fun.”  I’m enjoying this chapter in Rubin’s book. I’m all about more fun, and less interested in mid-thirties malaise. Well now it’s late-thirties malaise.

I never knew that fun fit into three categories: Challenging Fun, Accommodating Fun, and Relaxing Fun. I’ve had my share of experience in all three.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Apparently with all the research, “challenging fun” yields the most satisfying feelings, but it is also the most demanding and requires a lot of hard work. It often presents anxiety and frustration during the preparation period, but the payoff is great.

Case in point … The triathlon I just finished. This definitely fit into the challenging fun category. Although it didn’t really create frustration or anxiety, the training and preparation leading up to the race was difficult and demanding. The only time I felt frustrated was when someone of something impeded my training regiment. I thought I’d be seriously sidetracked during the race if I didn’t meet my daily training regiment, and doing well was part of the fun for me.

But competing in the triathlon itself left me in an amazing I-am-badass frame of mind. Sports competitions in general made me feel that way, and winning had nothing to do with it, although it helps. But it’s not required. Participating was the achievement for me. It was jolt I needed to ease the my late-thirties malaise. I realized that challenging fun, the sports kind, needed to be a recurring theme in my own quest for happiness.

Accommodating fun? This was just a part of being a parent and a being the better half in a relationship. You go to places just to appease the other person. Fun is happening but maybe not directly for you. Stuff like going to the park with your kids, when all you really want to do is stay at home because you’re exhausted from the night shift. But you go because you know your kids want to be there.You just ignore the Mommy & Me Mafia group hanging out by the swings.

For couples, Accommodating Fun is essential for survival. It’s going out with your partner’s friends and hanging out. This definitely requires accommodation, because sometimes your partner, dude, or chick has friends that you just can’t see in person. You don’t hate them or anything, you just feel that hanging out with them is truly a waste of time because if you had met them randomly on a separate occasion by yourself, you would never hang out with these people. I mean ever. Ever. They’re just not your crowd.

But you do it because apparently it’s fun for someone, just not you.

I’m not into these accommodating fun things. For kids, yes I’ll do just about anything, as long as my kids enjoy themselves, I’m up for it. However, hanging out with some of my dude’s friends … not so much. Some of his friends are good. However, it’s the others … my life is too short for the others. When we were dating I might have made an exception but now that I’m older and wiser, with gray hairs popping out, I realized my time is extremely valuable. So when it comes the others, I’d rather stay home and watch cable television. This is much more engaging, exciting and stimulating. Cable TV is pretty amazing.

Television. According to Rubin, this is considered Relaxing Fun — the kind of fun that’s easy, no stress and no preparation involved.

Dude … working your DVR to record all your shows is definitely stressful. You want to make sure you get the whole show and that it’s not accidentally erased because someone changed the channel.

And since I’m a total television addict, I disagree with Rubin and think Relaxing Fun is very essential. It creates escape from your day-to-day malaise and sometimes gives you that edge-of-your-seat drama or comedy that makes you think, that makes you dream, that makes you crack up, that lifts your spirits up, and that makes your day. If you don’t feel like that … you’re probably watching the wrong shows.

But out of all of them, I guess Rubin’s is right. Challenging fun in the long run, contributes more to your happiness because it allows for stronger personal bonds, mastery, and an atmosphere for growth.

I realized that I needed a little bit more of that in my life. I don’t know if I’ll be doing triathlons every month. I sincerely doubt it. I’m not Wonder Woman, but I do need that Challenging Fun at least once a month. I need all kinds of fun once week, but the Challenging Fun … I need that to thrive. I need it to feel more like myself. I need it so that instead of all these lemons life gives me, I’ll end up with a sweet mango every now and then.