Friday, December 21, 2012


It's been a while.

The last few weeks I've been exhausted, overwhelmed, borderline depressed...which is disappointing considering the effort I've been putting into being happier, stronger and more positive.

But on the other hand, that happiness effort definitely helped me to deal with myself and to stop this downward spiral that I was experiencing.

Depleted, drained, exhausted, empty are words that describe how I've been feeling within. This also means that I've been vulnerable, sensitive, reactive, irritated and impatient.

At a certain point I realized that I would not only be doing myself a favor, but everyone around me as well, if I took some time where I made it my priority to take care of myself.

I went back to my journal and wrote a lot, I looked for things to be thankful for in my life, work, relationships, etc. I sought inspiration in some of the happiness and self-help books I've been reading the last few months. I've been trying to get more sleep, to take vitamins every day, to eat healthier, to meditate, to do a few minutes of yoga every morning and to exercise 3 times a week. I've taken some time to relax, just be and read.

Gradually I feel like I am getting myself together...

I'm more hopeful, and more positive at the moment. It's not a happy post, but I wanted to share this, because I think it is common and in some sense normal to get hit by minor depressions. And I think it is important to remind myself and others, that it's okay to be selfish once in a while...and that sometimes the most important thing you do is to refuel and take care of yourself.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


In his book, Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-free Play, Neil Fiore advises people to keep a procrastination log. The idea is to record when you procrastinate, what you procrastinate on, your thoughts, your feelings, your justification, and how you deal with it. (Of course how you deal with it, is a little bit affected by the fact that you are monitoring your procrastination). Here is my log from the last couple of days:

Work, morning 26/11. A co-worker asks me to take over her project. I really do not want to, but I also sympathize with her situation, and end up agreeing to it. It involves giving a lecture in front of 200 people within a few days. I still haven't started preparing. Feel a bit like a victim for having taken on this task. Feel overwhelmed, and stressed about not having enough time to prepare, about doing a bad job, about being unable to answer questions etc. I procrastinate even thinking about this and still haven't started the preparation.

Work, morning 27/11. Working on a simple project. As I am working I realize the project is more complicated and time consuming then I originally thought. I feel overwhelmed and frustrated. As some kind of reflex, I open up my email and facebook. I procrastinated for about 10-15 minutes, but then forced myself to get back to the task.

Work, afternoon 27/11. I finally get back to my important project that has been neglected for a while. There is no fixed deadline, but I feel like this project should have been finished months ago. It involves finishing up a research project and sending it out for publication. I am really reluctant to finish this up, as I am afraid that it has mistakes, or that it will not be perceived well. At the same time I am irritated at my self that I haven't gotten this project out of the way sooner. As to justification, I feel like I never have time to work on the project and finish it up, but I am still very much aware of that lack of time is not the main problem here.

Home, evening 27/11. I look at the boxes in my living room. Simplifying the children's room a few weeks ago left me with 4 boxes full of toys that I am not sure what to do with. It feels wasteful to throw them out, I want to give them away but I don't know who would take toys for charity. Then I feel overwhelmed about the task of figuring that out, and about getting the boxes somewhere else. I am also concerned that my kids will actually miss some of the toys, and I will have to explain to them that I gave them away. I should probably involve them in the process....but that too is overwhelming. I am frustrated at myself, my indecisivness and my tendency to drag project like these on forever.

Work, morning 28/11. Need to start on a task that I expect to be both boring and time-consuming. For a moment I get caught in the victim role, I think about what I "have to do" and what I "should be doing." I check email and fb for 10-15 minutes. Then I shake it off, and think to myself "I choose to start on this now, and get it over with as soon as possible," and I make a commitment to myself to work on it for at least 30 minutes. The task ends up being less boring and less time consuming than I expected it to be.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

the last minute

I may have mentioned this one or two times before, but I have a problem with finishing tasks in time. While I meet deadlines and usually show up for appointments on time, there is often a lot of last minute stress involved. I've tried to avoid these situations but unfortunately been rather unsuccessful.

Some people claim they are more efficient when working last minute, or that they are more creative when working under pressure. I refuse to believe this. It may be true that there is some correlation between being creative and being an unorganized procrastinator, but I don't think that is a causal relationship. I sincerely believe that those creative people would be even more creative if they managed to overcome this bad habit. It is exhausting, it is stressful, and recently, I've really started to see how this stress affects my temper and how I sometimes take it out on the people around me.

When people repeatedly get themselves into these last minute situation it usually means they have a bad sense of time. But it is also very psychological. I don't think it is laziness. It is perfectionism, insecurity, indecision and sometimes a lack of ability to focus.

When deadlines approach project becomes better defined in my mind. The time-limit becomes more tangible and what I can and cannot do is more evident. But I also become stressed. There is no room for assessing, being creative, revising and refining. There is also no room for unexpected things, like computers crashing, children getting sick, etc.

So how do I deal with this???
  • The practical side involves stuff like making plans, using my calender, being better organized, putting a buffer in my work plans, dividing big projects into smaller ones, etc. I've done all of this to some extent. It helps. But still I often end up with the last minute situation...
  • What is probably more important is to work on the psychological side: the insecurity, the indecision, the perfectionism. I somehow need to shift my paradigms.
  • Finally I think it takes practice. It is a bit like a muscle that needs exercise. I need to find situations where I can start practicing with smaller projects, and then go on to bigger projects.

If anyone has good advise on this I'd love to hear it!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November: back to basics

November is the sixth month of my impeccable project. I feel like now is the time to sit down, take a breath and evaluate the progress I've made so far. I want to use this month to reestablish and reinforce some of my earlier resolutions. Moreover, I want to take time to finish some unfinished projects...making space for new, more exciting ones:)

For the last couple of months I also feel like my resolution charts have grown out of control, and I have been slacking on some of my more important habits, such as my meditation practice, my gratitude journal and I've also found it difficult to find the time to sit down and write posts for this blog. However, these resolutions are the foundation to my project. The feeling of balance and happiness that comes with meditating and focusing on gratitude is truly amazing. And this blog has been so valuable to me. Writing the posts helps to keep me on track, but more importantly it has given me the opportunity to interact with and get inspiration from other bloggers on a similar journey. So...

Resolutions that I want to reiterate this month:

  • meditate
  • write in my gratitude jorunal
  • blog at least 2x a week
  • be present
  • bring lunch to work (healthier and saves money)
  • be proactive: focus on voice, posture, and excuses

Tasks that I want to finish in November:

  • empty my email inboxes (there are currently 3756 emails that need to be processed)
  • finish the blanket I'm knitting
  • Christmas presents (part of my impeccable time/stop doing things last minute resolution;))

Looking back:

  • June *Mind and Positivity*: In June I started meditating, writing in my gratitude journal, exercising on regular basis, and I also started this blog. I focused on happiness, and read several books on the topic. This month really was a success, and a great way to start the project. I think of this as the basis for everything, and want to continue focusing as much as I can on positivity and happiness. In the last couple of months I have been slacking in this area, and it is very important to me to get back on track...
  • July *Home*: In July I focused on my home, both the apartment we live in, but also on getting to know Copenhagen a little bit better. I bought flowers, lit candles, made the bed every day, decluttered...and walked a lot arount the city. Many of the habits from this month have really stuck. I wish I was better at keeping the clutter away...but there is definitely an improvement. After some delays, I painted my children's room, and gave away four or five boxes of toys. That room looks so much better now, and the children are actually much better at playing in their room now when they have fewer toys:)
  • August *Family*: This month was really important to me, as I worked on my relationship with my children. To lighten up, be more patient, be better at talking and listening. This was super successful, and our communications have really transformed. This alone has made the project worthwhile:)
  • September *Work*: I wanted to use September to decrease stress, and to become more organized at work. This was not a very successful month. But hopefully some of the work I did that month will prove to be useful for progressing in the future.
  • October *Time and Money*: Unfortunately I did not address my money issues at all that month. I did continue working on my relationship with time, and made some improvements. But apparently this is not an easy task for this will continue to be on my agenda. In October, I also started reading the 7 habits of highly effective people. The first habit is to be more proactive, and I have been working on that with some success. That alone makes me feel like I achieved something of imporatance in October:)

Looking forward:

    I've rearranged the rest of my project a bit and now the calander looks like this:
  • December: Impeccable Fun and Friendship - be there, reach out, lighten up and have fun
  • January: Impeccable Health and Beauty - find ways to treat myself and my body better and with more respect
  • February: Impeccable Love and Marriage - be kind, have fun, love infinitely and unconditionally
  • March: Impeccable Passion and Meaning - Find my passion, work on independence, and "being me", make time time for what is important
  • April: Environment and Nature - find ways to enjoy nature and be kinder to the environment
  • May: Bootcamp Impeccable

luv, Di.

Friday, November 2, 2012

October: wrap up

In October I wanted to deal with money and time. I did make some improvements with regards to time, but was less successful in dealing with money...

My October Resolutions

  • Wake up 6:20: I set my alarm clock every weekday, but it was sort of irrelevant as my children woke up before that time almost every day. It did give me a sense of having more control over my mornings though. I am undecided whether I should try setting the alarm clock 10-15 minutes earlier. On the one hand I would love to have a little bit of time for myself in the mornings before the crew wakes up, on the other hand I feel like I desperately need all the sleep I can get...
  • Be present: I definitely made the effort here:)
  • Monitor/log every penny: this did not happen.
  • Take a few days where I log my time, minute from minute: I did this for two days and was not surpriced to find out that too much of my time is divided between Category I (urgent and important, such as workstuff that has imminent deadlines) and Category IV (non-urgent and non-important, such as spending too much time on facebooking, internet browsing, watching tv). My goal is to increase time in Category II - i.e. spend more time on things that are important but non-urgent.
  • Be proactive: I definitely exercised this muscle a bit.
  • Make weekly plans: I did and it really helped me get an overview of my schedule, goals, projects, deadlines, etc. I think this can be very helpful when trying to move my time more into Category II.
  • No non-essential spending: Unfortunately I was not very good at this.
  • Bring lunch to work: I did this for the first week and than I gave up. I will try again.
  • Say positive affirmations about abundance (in terms of both time and money): did this a few times, but not nearly every day.
  • Do not stress about time or money: Not really successful here.

Other related things that I did this month was to start reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People...and in order to minimize stress and urgent tasks in the next couple of months I took up this challenge and have started preparing the holidays:)
Have a wonderful weekend!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Important Tasks, Urgent Tasks and Nagging Tasks

I've been struggling a bit with my project this month. Work caught up with me again, and I've been way too busy, hardly being able to keep head above water. But one of the main goals for this month was to improve my relationship with time and learn how to avoid these situations.

I think that perhaps the most important thing I've learned since starting the happiness project is to be more patient and persistent, as important changes usually take time. I've realized that things rarely happen as fast as I would like, but if instead of giving up, I move on, accepting my failures and learning from my mistakes, eventually amazing things happen. When I look back to my situation when I started this project, I definitely know that I do not want to give up.

So even though my relationship with time is not quite there yet, I want to focus on what has improved. This month I've been planning my time on weekly basis. Each Friday I look at the week ahead and list my deadlines and urgent projects. I also list a couple of important tasks that I want to accomplish. I don't try to schedule every minute of the week. It never works anyway. But I try to get an idea how much can be done during that week considering appointments, meetings, deadlines etc. Each morning I look at my weekly plan and goals and plan the day ahead. This has definitely helped, and I feel like I have more control over things...I am less reactive to outside demands. But the problem is that I still have too many urgent tasks on my to do list. I want to make more space for things that are important to me, but are repeatedly postponed because they are not really urgent.

When I think of urgent tasks these are tasks with clear deadlines that have to be completed now...or never. They can be important, or they can be not so important. Many tasks are not really urgent when they come up, but because I start working on them too late they become urgent. And when they become urgent, I loose control over my time, and I become more reactive than proactive.

I also have nagging tasks on my to-do list. These tend to be semi-important tasks that are not exactly urgent, but because they have been on my to do list for way too long, they make me feel guilty and hence take up way too much energy.

My goal is to eliminate as many urgent and nagging tasks from my to-do list as possible. This means either doing them or dropping them. And then I need to work on my habits to prevent new urgent/nagging tasks on my to do list.

October is already coming to an end. For the next few days I want to log my time in 15 minutes intervals, to get a better sense of where all that time is going...

Friday, October 19, 2012


I've been neglecting my blog - which I am not happy about. But hopefully I'll be able to give more time to it now.

This post is a super short one. Have a wonderful wonderful weekend, and check out this awesome video:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


"The difference between people who exercise initiative and those who don't is literally the difference between night and day. I'm not talking about a 25 to 50 percent difference in effectiveness; I'm talking about 5000-plus percent difference, particularly if they are smart, aware, and sensitive to others."
-Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

One of my resolutions this month is to be more proactive, less reactive. This means thinking more about what I need, what I want, what I think. And work from there. Instead of primarily responding to external factors, other people's needs, other people's wants and other people's thoughts. Of course this does not mean that I want to be selfish and self-centered...

There was a little story in Covey's book about his daughter who had a birthday party, and didn't want to let the other kids at the party play with her gifts. While the author says he was quite upset about her behavior, he goes on to saying that perhaps she didn't want to share those toys because she hadn't had the opportunity to feel her ownership over them. And how can you share something that is not yours? I've thought about this story a lot, and how I think it relates to people's codependent behavior. Many people are constantly trying to be nice, trying to please others, trying to think about other people's needs and wants, but end up feeling frustrated and unappreciated. But this is the key. To have something to give, to be able to take care of others, we first need to feel the ownership, i.e. feel that we have something to give. We need to take care of ourselves, and then I believe, taking care of others comes very naturally to us. If we are proactive, we will not feel like other people are taking advantage, or that we are doing things just because we think that we should. We will make better decisions about when it is right to accommodate others and when it isn't. And being nice and helpful makes us feel happy, not powerless or depleted.

As with regards to time and schedule, it can be quite easy to fall into reactive mode, when life is busy and there are constant outside demands. Tasks that are urgent, but perhaps not very important for your values or long time goals, can take up most of your time. On the other hand, there are many things that are important to your values, goals and happiness, but are not exactly urgent, and hence sometimes time disappears without you doing a single thing that is REALLY important to you. The happiness project as a whole is to me a tool to deal with that. The resolution charts are making me accountable to myself, in doing things on daily basis that are consistent with my goals and values.

As I have focused on my thoughts, feelings and language in the last few days I have realized that whenever I am feeling frustrated, anxious, stressed, or angry, I am being reactive. I am making myself a victim to circumstances, to the environment and to other people's behavior. To give myself a little pat on the back...I've also realize that I have made an amazing progress in the last few months. While I still have some way to go, I can already see that I am going in the right direction and that I am not nearly as reactive in my thoughts and language as I was just 4 months ago!

I feel like I am taking a big step:) And in the next few weeks, I am going to substitute more of the I should, I must, I have to, I can't, by I can, I will, I prefer, I choose


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October: Impeccable Time and Money

Taking responsibility

Time is money.
-Benjamin Franklin

Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.
-Harvey MacKay

I decided to tackle time and money in the same month, as I have a very similar relationship to both. I often become stressed and anxious about the lack of time or the lack of money. I do not feel in control over my schedule or my finances. Time and money seem to disappear, and I don't know where it's going. I never have a buffer. I spend out the first days after I get paid, and by the end of the month I usually have zero money, or worse...negative money. In a similar way, I do not have a time-buffer. When I have deadlines, I am working until last minute.

Moreover, there is of course a very close relationship between time and money. We exchange one for the other. We give our time to our employers, instead we get money to buy food, clothes and other stuff. And some of that stuff, when you come to think about it may really not be worth your time...

My October Resolutions

  • Wake up 6:20
  • Be present
  • Monitor/log every penny
  • Take a few days where I log my time, minute from minute
  • Be proactive
  • Make weekly plans
  • No non-essential spending
  • Bring lunch to work
  • Say positive affirmations about abundance (in terms of both time and money)
  • Do not stress about time or money

My October Goals

Friday, September 28, 2012

September: wrap-up

Time flies. It is already end of September! I have to admit that I didn't start off on the right foot this month. But I managed to get back on track. I think I've always found it a bit cheesy when people talk about being on a path or a journey. But that is exactly how it feels like. I realize that in the past I've often turned around and given up at the slightest resistance, but now there is something that makes me want to keep on going. And I know that while I have setbacks, bad days, and disappointing moments...what matters is to accept it, learn from it and move on.

So, while the last few weeks have been incredibly busy I did make time and room for some improvements. My resolutions for September (Impeccable Work) were the following:

  • process emails and all inboxes every day
  • use my calendar and to-do list every day
  • declutter my office and my computer
  • think positively about work, and about my contribution at work
  • clear my desk everyday
  • take time to focus on an important project

The habit of processing all emails and inboxes immediately, made a huge difference. It really gave me a sense of being on top of things, and having things under control. It decreased stress and anxiety for sure. I've also been going through old emails, and while decluttering my office, I've found things that should have been dealt with and processed long time ago. I even found a couple of unopened letters, that were dated January 2011! While these were well hidden, I am sure my subconcious has been aware of that monstreous to do list that has been hiding in my email inboxes, and various folders and drawers in my office. Getting these into the daylight has definitely been a relief. I can feel that I am both more relaxed and more energetic while at work, than I was before. I am not done though, and I will continue the decluttering at the office in the coming weeks, until it feels 100% zen.

Similarly, the simple habit of clearing my desk every day before I leave work, makes it so much more pleasant to come to work in the mornings. It is like making the bed in the morning: low cost & high benefit habit.

I've yet to master the habit of using calendar and to-do list regularly. But I think that this will be easier now, when the feeling of coming to work is not so dominated by urgencey. In the past I had the feeling that I constantly had to be putting out fires and that I couldn't deal with anything that wasn't super urgent. But I am sure that there are better times ahead now.

Overall I think I was successful in having a more positive attitude towards work, and towards my own contribution at work.

I did spend a lot of time on important projects at work, but much of it was last minute work, that had to be done, and could not be postponed.

I had hoped that by the end of this month, all of my office and computer clutter would have been dealt with. It is easy to become discouraged when you do not accomplish your goals. But the important thing is to focus on the positive side. My office really looks and feels completely different than it did 4 weeks ago, and if I keep on going, doing a little bit every day, I will reach that goal at some point. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter weather it takes 4 weeks or 8 weeks or even 12 weeks.

I've shuffled the remaining months up a bit, and decided to deal with Time and Money in October. I believe it is important for me at this point to take responsibility, and I think that being responsible for your time and money is fundamental for having a sense of freedom and independence. But more on that after the weekend...


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Anger Eating Demon

Here is a little story that I heard some time ago, supposedly first told by Buddha himself:
Once upon a time there was a wise king who had to leave his palace for a business trip. During the king's absence, a demon (asura) arrived, walked right into the palace and sat down on the king’s throne. Upon seeing this, the guards became afraid, but soon their fear was replaced by anger and they started shouting, "Get out of the throne, how dare you sit on the throne of our ruler? who do you think you are!" As the guards became angrier and angrier, the demon grew taller, stronger and more powerful. This continued with each insult and with each threat coming from the guards, until the demon had become so huge, he took up most of the room.

When the king returned and saw this enormous demon in his throne, he knew immediately what to do. He entered the throne room and said, "Welcome friend! How nice of you to visit me! Has anyone offered you something to eat yet? Would you like something to drink?" With the king's friendly words the demon started shrinking. And with each kind word and kind gesture it became smaller and smaller. The king continued until the demon disappeared completely, and the king was able to retake his throne.
(I've found several versions of this story, and this is how I remember hearing it. But you can read the "original" here).

When I first heard the story, I understood the message to be that we should respond to anger with kindness, but at the time I was thinking about other people's anger. When I was writing my last post, this story came back to me, and I saw that there is another way of interpreting this story. Perhaps the story is not only about other people's anger, but also about your own anger and inner demons. When you ignore or resist your demons they grow bigger, stronger and more powerful. But when you address your demons, acknowledge them, name them and embrace them...they start to shrink and to loose their power. Until at some point they dissolve and disappear completely.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

More on Stress. And on Practicing the Opposite.

I don’t buy magazines often these days, and when I do they tend to be either fashion - or interior design magazines. But yesterday I was at the airport waiting for a delayed flight so I decided to visit the airport bookstore. I wanted to try something new so I grabbed a copy of the Yoga Journal. If I'd had a highlighter I think I might have highlighted the whole magazine – it’s just so in line with what I have been thinking lately. Perhaps it is true what some say, that when you are open, you’ll find that the answers you need are right in front of you….:)

In particular, there was a wonderful article titled "Untangling Anxiety" - written by Sally Kempton, a teacher of meditation and yoga philosophy.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:
Anxiety can be a powerful teacher. It can show you were you’re hiding stress or holding unprocessed emotions. It might even remind you that there’s something you need to take care of. Most important, anxiety often signals the need for growth or for some inner shift.
It’s only when you are willing to bring consciousness to your anxiety – to pay attention to the bodily sensations it brings, the thoughts that go along with it, and the situations that trigger it – that you can begin to learn from it.

…many of us tent to confuse anxiety with diligence and believe that our anxiety helps keep us safe.
One day, perhaps, you might notice that what you have perceived as anxiety is, at its core, just pure energy. This energy can be experienced as anxiety, but it can also be experienced as excitement or a feeling of being keyed up and ready for action. It can signal the necessary tension, the inner fire, that accompanies growth.
The more you can be present with that tension and work with it-even, at times, allowing it to be there without resisting it-the more your anxiety can melt into its essence.
All of our energies, even the negative ones that can be so painful and limiting, have at their core the pure energy of life.
As we resolve the issues that lock anxiety into the body and as we release the emotions and mental habits that create so much of our suffering, something radical happens. These primal negative emotions, centered in the amygdala and brainstem, start to show us their other face. They point us to the energy that yoga calls shakti-the leaping, dancing energy that can make any moment a creative moment and any experience a potential doorway to joy.
In the article the authors talks about six steps to ease anxiety (or any negative feeling you might experience):

1. Body: where is tension showing up in the body?
2. Heart: Focus on the heart, the breath and energy coming in and out of your chest.
3. Question: What about my situation is contributing to the anxiety?
4. Thoughts: Bring awareness to the thoughts running through your mind, ask yourself: can I let go of that?
5. Feelings: Tune into your emotions, and name your feelings.
6. Opposite: Summon up a feeling of warmth and pleasure. Bring something good to your heart. The Yoga Sutra calls this pratipaksha bhavana, or “practicing the opposite”- countering a negative feeling with a positive one.

Cliches are clichés for a reason, and reading on spirituality and self-help you often come across the same ideas again and again. I was happy to see how the message in this article lined up with the parenting book I am currently reading (How to Talks so Kids Will Listen...And Listen so Kids Will Talk). The book recommends dealing with your children's negative feelings in the following steps: 1. Listen, 2. Acknowledge (I can understand you’re upset that I forgot your favorite doll at home), 3. Name the Feeling (You must really miss her, I know how much you care for that doll), 4. Fantasy (Should we put on our fairy wings, fly home and get your doll???).

It's funny how I wasn't sure about that last step, until I read the article on anxiety. Then it totally made sense. Practicing the Opposite, countering negative feeling with a positive one. I love that!

I now have a post-it sticker on my desk that says: 1. body, 2. heart, 3. question, 4. thoughts, 5. feelings, 6. opposite. I also have a post it sticker at home that says: 1. Listen, 2. Acknowledge, 3. Name, 4. Fantasy. I'll be practicing this for the next couple of days, to see how it works:)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


“Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness”
-Richard Carlson

One way to deal with stress is to try to eliminate the causes, such as leaving things until last minute, over-committing, letting clutter and to do lists get out of control. The problem with this approach is twofold. First, no matter how much you try to control things there will always be (potentially) stressful situations that arise. Secondly, it may cause you to back away from challenges and you may consequently end up stuck in a very small comfort zone.

Although I want to use this month to work on some of the bad habits that have caused stressful situations in the past...It is more important to me to realize that stress is internal, and when I manage to be present/mindful being stressed (or rather not being stressed) becomes a choice.

It feels a bit careless not to stress about the still unprepared lecture that I'll need to give in a couple of days....but getting stressed out really has NO benefits that I can think of. It is unhealthy for mind and body. It makes me really cranky, and it actually makes me unproductive-because when I am stressed I can't focus and constantly move from one thing to the next.

My challenge now is to take a deep breath every time I feel stress bubbling up - and ask myself: What is it that I am stressed about? What needs to be done? If I can, I'll do what needs to be done. If I can't, I'll just let go of the stress and anxiety that I am feeling. Focus on being relaxed, present and mindful. Less stress, more zen.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The following is list of behavioral patterns that have caused me problems and pain in the past:

  • I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.
  • I minimize, alter, or deny how I truly feel.
  • I have difficulty making decisions.
  • I judge what I think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough.
  • I am embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts.
  • I value others’ approval of my thinking, feelings, and behavior over my own.
  • I have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects.
  • I have trouble setting healthy priorities.
  • I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
  • I put aside my own interests in order to do what others want.
  • I am afraid to express my beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
  • I give up my truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.

These are taken from the list "Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence." The list is quite comprehensive and I am sure most people can probably recognize themselves somewhere on the list.

Whether I am - or am not - technically defined as a codependent person, and where the causes for these patterns lie, is not really important to me. What is important to me now is to deal with these patterns.

I knew before my happiness project started, that low self-esteem was a problem. But it is really just now, as I've become more mindful of my thoughts, behavior and feelings, that I've realized how big the problem is, and how much it affects my everyday life.

So now is the time to change, time to grow, time to become happier and stronger....

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September: Impeccable Work

Less stress, more zen

I love September, I love the fall. I love the autumn rain, and the feeling of a new beginning. Although work tends to become more busy, I feel like it is time to quiet down. Less doing, more being.

But that being has been incredibly busy in the last couple of weeks, and I've been way too stressed. I feel like I am struggling to keep my head above water. Actually, at the moment, it feels more like drowning....The main goal of this month is to find more zen at work.

Getting through this month with a postitive attitude is going to be challenging enough. But I will try. And I also want to use this time to improve my work habits.

I have such bad habits when it comes to work: I procrastinate, I stress, I do things last minute (and then want to do everything perfectly), I procrastinate some more.... So:

My September Resolutions

  • process emails and all inboxes every day
  • use my calander and to-do list every day
  • declutter my office and my computer
  • think positively about work, and about my contribution at work
  • clear my desk everyday
  • take time to focus on an important project

I've also been simplifying my past resolutions, and they now look like this:

impeccable mind
meditate, write in my journal, blog, exercise, work on my co-dependency issues

(When I started exercising in June my goal was to be able to run 5k by the end of the summer. I just finished my first race and ran 5k in just under 30 minutes:))

impeccable home
declutter, make the bed, light a candle and/or play music, knit, do weekly groceries

impeccable family
sit down and play, watch my voice (no snapping), speak clearly, use cheat sheet from book (how to talk so your kids will listen....), vitamins in the morning

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

August: wrap-up

August was family month. I took a two-week-vacation and completely abondened my routine during that time. Consequently I did not do super-well on my resolutions. On the other hand, the main goal of the month was to have more quality time with my family, enjoy being with my kids, be more patient and have more fun. And in that sense, I think this month was a succesful one.

The Resolutions
I was really happy to discover that it almost took no effort for me to watch my voice and avoid losing my temper at home. This would not have been the case a few months ago!

I did spend a lot of quality time with my children, I sat down and played with them, and took some time to sing and dance and be silly with them.

I did take many many photos.

I did not manage to establish a morning routine, I forgot the vitamins almost every day, and I did not teach them much.

The Tasks
I read the Power of Now, and I am half-way through the parenting handbook: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Both books are awesome. It is almost ridiculous how many self-help books I've read in the last couple of months. It is actually quite addictive:) But I definitely feel like I have learned a lot!

I made phone-calls to my family.

I thought about my pleasures of childhood: Playing outside! When you are a kid, there is no such thing as bad wheather. Windy, snowy, rainy,'s all equally wonderful. And being outside in nature. And then having some hot chocolate and toast after a long day outside. Playing cards with my grandmother. Making shows (singing and dancing) with my sister. Drawing, Painting, Reading. Going to the library.

I made some kind of a family mission statement: I want my home to ba sacred place, and a happy place, for all four of us. We are one, we respect one another, and we care about each other's happiness and well-being. I want to teach my children to have respect for themselves, and respect for others. I want to help them to become independent and confident individuals. I want them to be happy and at peace.

Other tasks did not get done this time. Perhaps later:)

The theme of September is Impeccable Work. I'll post about my goals for this month in the next couple of days.


Monday, August 27, 2012

my cave

When I began meditating every day I started to dream more, or perhaps I became better at remembering my dreams as I woke up. There are two things that repeatedly appear in my dreams; water and animals.

My amateurish interpretation based on those dreams, is that (for me) water represents my subconscious feelings, and animals symbolize obstacles and hindrances.

In a dream that I had about the same time as I was starting my Happiness Project, I found myself lying on a floor of a dark cave. The cave had three openings, in each opening there was a sleeping grizzly bear. Behind the bears I could see the bright blue sky, the sun, the grass...

My first thought in the dream was why I had been left in this cave, why I had to deal with this alone. How was I possibly going to get out of this situation without any help. Then I realized that the openings were quite big, and as long as I could slowly and quietly stand up, i.e. without waking up the bears, I would be able to escape.

Then I woke up.

It occurred to me later that the happiness project was about "standing up". Or at least that the first step in my project should be to about standing up; becoming stronger, more positive and more self confident. This entails working on my codependency issues. It means that I need to take better care of my self, and have more respect for myself. It means I need to accept what is, and take responsibility for what is not right in my life. It means getting rid of all the clutter, mental as well as physical. This is all gradually happening. But there is still work to do.

As I am prioritizing my tasks and resolutions for my happiness project, I am keeping this in mind. My job now is to prepare, to get ready, to make space for new goals, bigger dreams, and more happiness.

And I am excited to see what happens as I make my escape.

Friday, August 24, 2012

the why?

At the moment I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed by everything that I want to achieve in my life, as well as everything that needs to be done. The happiness project, and my resolution charts have been of great help in shifting my daily routine so that it is better aligned with my goals and values, but I feel I still need to regularly step back and gain a better perspective. To remind myself where I want to go. As I was thinking about this in the last couple of days I came across the following quotes/ideas:

Why are you doing what you are doing?
I was at a job-related workshop where a woman was talking about marketing strategies. She emphasized that we should always be asking ourselves why we are doing what we are doing. Is it out of habit? Is it to please other people and/or social norms? Or does what you are doing have a true value for you and your goals (and happiness)?

You can do anything, but not everything (David Allen, author of Getting Things Done)
In particular you can not do everything at the same time! This one has been difficult for me to accept (and I am not quite there yet), there are so many things that I want to do. But often I spread myself way too thin, and in the end become exhausted without achieving anything. Focusing on too many things is not efficient, or an effective way to reach your goals.

I don't know anyone who focused on what they wanted, worked on it daily, and didn’t achieve it (Kyle Cease)
I came across this quote on another blog, and thought it was a nice reminder, and an inspiration to think big, to prioritize my goals, and to make room to work on the most important ones EVERY DAY.

So these are my tasks for the weekend:
  • Examine my habits, my choices, my resolutions and ask "the why"?
  • List my goals - and prioritize them.
  • Simplify my resolutions and my routine where I can.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, August 20, 2012


I've been on a vacation for the last 10 days. I had hoped to be able to maintain my happiness routine during my days off, but it's been 10 days since I last meditated, a week since I last exercised, and other resolutions such as lighting a candle, drinking 2 cups of green tea per day, making sure everyone takes their vitamins....have been completely ignored.

However, I think it has been healthy to take a short vacation from my resolution. It gives me a better sense of which ones are important and worth keeping, and which ones I can let go off. I still have couple of more days before I'll get back to my routine. I am going to enjoy these days. Enjoy being. But I am also looking forward to getting back on track:)

Friday, August 10, 2012

being here & now

Being here and now sounds so simple. Yet it is so difficult for most of us. Our mind is constantly dragging us into our past and into our future. It is making up scenarios and stories. It is obscuring the present with all these thoughts, 90% of which may be completely useless, even harmful.

The main message in Eckhart Tolle's book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment is that we are NOT our minds. Our mind is a tool, a great tool when used wisely. But a tool that should not consume us, and not take us over completely. The mind keeps us from the present, and being present, being in the NOW is the key to enlightenment.

One of the main goals of meditating is exactly to regain the power of our minds. To be able to turn it off for a moment and experience our inner being. And in doing so, it strengthens our core, our true self, so gradually our true self doesn't get blocked out as much by our egoistic mind.

And while meditation is great, and a wonderful instrument, the ultimate goal is to find the stillness, the peace, the wisdom that you experience during meditation, in every moment of your life. We should be able to experience this whether we are working, exercising, talking, walking...but it is a muscle that needs to be trained. Tolle describes the ability to be fully in the Now as almost a shortcut to enlightenment, as it is all that you need, and it is always available to you. The problem of course is that embracing the moment is quite difficult for most people - and it takes practice.

how to be in the now?
  • Meditate. I think meditation is a great first step. If you meditate regularly, even for just a few minutes every day, you will experience the peace that comes with a quiet mind - and hence you know what you are looking for in the Now.
  • Watch your mind. Don't fight it, but observe it. Observe your thoughts, your negative or positive self-talk. Your stories. This is so unbelievably eye-opening.
  • Exercise. Some people find inner peace when they are exercising. Perhaps if you are pushing yourself to the limit, you are forced into the Now, forced to turn off your uncontrollable mind for the time being. My own experience is quite the opposite. When I exercise, my mind is usually unstoppable. I can't stop thinking about how much I loathe exercising, how I would rather be at home drinking coffee, eating pastries and listening to Tom Waits records, how I can't go on for freakin' 10 more minutes, etc. etc. But these days as I go for a run, I try to shut my brain down. I focus on the now. Put on my running shoes, turn on my ipod, just start running. Then (and here it gets more difficult for me) as I am running, I try to focus only on the now, my breathing, my surroundings, my body, my music. Just observing, not judging.
  • Listen to others. I really want to be able to listen to others fully and completely. Not be occupied with what I will say when it is my turn to talk. But just be present and listen with my whole body.
  • Listen to yourself. I think it is also valuable to listen to your own voice. Any negativity, resistance, and worries that go through your mind - can be heard in your voice if you listen carefully. Stay with your voice and learn from it.
  • Feel your inner body. Tolle emphasizes this in his book, and this truly leads to an amazing feeling. And an amazing realization when you discover how disconnected from your body you are most of the time. Focus on the inside, on your feelings and what happens inside your body as you get stressed, as you become joyful, anxious, excited...Feel your whole body whatever you are doing. Do this while you meditate, and then try it as you walk, as you listen, as you exercise, as you eat. Amazing.

The Power of Now is perhaps not a book for everyone. Maybe you need to be fluffy enough to enjoy it:) And at times I found the tone of the book to be slightly arrogant. But nevertheless I would recommend it for anyone who is looking for an inspiration to become more aware, more present, more in the Now. Below are a few quotes from the book that I found worth highlighting:

A victim identity is the belief that the past is more powerful than the present, which is the opposite of the truth.

Do what you have to do. In the meantime, accept what is.

The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is.

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life. Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to the past and future...

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.

When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you can find the life underneath your life situation.

It is true that only an unconscious person will try to use or manipulate others, but it is equally true that only an unconscious person can be used and manipulated.

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love - even the most simple action.

The moment your attention turns to the Now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace. You no longer depend on the future for fulfillment and satisfaction - you don't look to it for salvation.

Negativity is never the optimum way of dealing with any situation.

To complain is always nonacceptance of what is.

If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. No excuses. No negativity. No psychic pollution. Keep your inner space clear.

You can improve your life situation, but you cannot improve your life. Life is primary. Life is your deepest inner Being. It is already whole, complete, perfect.

The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That's all there ever is.

Monday, August 6, 2012

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

-by Kahlil Gibran

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August: Impeccable Family

Be present, treasure the moment, let out your inner child

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
-Albert Einstein

In August I want to focus on family and parenting. I am so happy that my project has already helped a lot when it comes to doing a better job as a mom. I can see how, as I have become a happier person myself, my kids have become happier and more balanced. There are less tantrums (on both sides) and much more joy. This was one of the fundamental reasons that I wanted to do a happiness project. Hence I am truly grateful to see these positive effects, after just 2 months.

Of course there is still plenty of room for improvement. I want to have more fun with my kids, be more present for them, treasure the time that I have with them, make sure that I treat them with the same respect as I treat adults, and help them to grow up to be happy, strong, confident and independent individuals.

I am also going to use this month to reach out to my parents, siblings, and in-laws. For example by calling them and sending them pictures and news of the kids.

My August Resolutions

  • play and be silly
  • watch my tone
  • no snapping
  • talk with my children
  • teach them something new
  • sing and dance
  • establish a family morning routine
  • teach my daughter to tidy up her room before she goes to sleep
  • take more photos

My August Tasks

  • This month's reading list: "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (How to Help Your Child)", "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment", plus a couple of H.C. Andersen's Fairy Tales.
  • Think about my pleasures of childhood
  • Call my mom, dad, siblings, and in-laws
  • Send photos and a "newsletter" to closest family
  • Make a list of old and new family traditions
  • Paint the kids' room
  • Frame and hang up kids' art and family photos
  • Create a "family mission statement"
  • Read about home-schooling and un-schooling
  • Organize the memorabilia: write in my children's diaries, put photos in "my son's first photo album", find better ways to organize and store their and my own memorabilia.

Happy month of August!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July: wrap-up

Time flies, it is already end of July! July (Impeccable Home) was in some sense two different projects. The first one was to make our apartment less cluttered, more peaceful and more beautiful. The second one was to try to feel more at home here in Copenhagen.

Overall I am happy with my progress this month. I didn't manage to finish everything. And I did have a few bad days last week, where I wasn't doing too well with my resolutions. In particular I let clutter accumulate everywhere around me; at home, in my office, even my bag and wallet were suddenly overloaded with unwanted stuff. It was definitely a reflection of an inner turmoil that I was going through, but I think I am back on track now.

The apartment
I made the bed everyday, I lit candles, played music, and bought flowers on Fridays. These are little, and perhaps silly things, but I found those to make a notable difference to the feel of my home. I tried to make a habit of putting stuff back in place after use, I wasn't too successful with that one, but I will definitely continue trying. I did some decluttering, and while I wish I had done more, I am at happy that I've managed to maintain my clutter-free areas. It feels like I have more breathing space at home now. One of my resolutions was to make weekly menu plans, and do weekly grocery shopping. This has been such a time- and stress- saver. I can't understand why I wasn't doing this before!

I finished this months' reading list: "Apartment Therapy: The Eight Step Home Cure," "Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide" and "Feng Shui That Makes Sense: Easy Ways to Create a Home That FEELS as Good as It Looks." I found all of these books to be useful and each of them contributed to my project in a different way.

My big goal for this month was to paint and redecorate my kids' room. I am not done, but I did take some "big" steps. I already bought the paint, and will use one of the weekends in August to finish up.

A smaller goal was to finish a blanket I started knitting two years ago. Having half-finished projects lying around for too long is not good for your energy. The blanket is not done. But I've been knitting every night now, and actually quite enjoy it. I put knitting on my resolution chart to remind me to keep going until the blanket is done:)

I had fun with this one. I went for a few walks around the city, ate delicious ice-cream in Tivoli, visited the little mermaid, read some Danish fairy-tales, got to know a bit about the Danish royal family as well as the basics of Danish politics. I fixed my bike, so now I can start biking around again, and I signed up for a Danish course that will start in the fall.

Older stuff
I continued with most of my older resolutions. I am definitely more positive than I was 2 months ago, I smile more, I am more patient, more balanced. I've been much more aware of my often negative, and limiting self-talk and have been working on substituting this with a more positive one. I still meditate almost every day, and plan to add another 5 minutes to my meditation sessions (making it 20 minutes). I finally got exercising in my routine (running three mornings a week), although this one is still an effort for me.

August: Impeccable Family
The focus in August will be on my kids, how to make them happy and healthy. And how to be a better parent. I will post more about my tasks and resolutions later this week.

Cheers, Di.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

happy news

I was feeling a bit down after reading the newspapers this morning, most of the news being about massacres, wars, crimes, and of course the economic recession. Even the less serious and less gruesome news are often destructive and discouraging. While I want to read the news, and know what is happening in the world, I would like to balance the regular news with a few happier, more positive, and more constructive news:

It turns out there are several webpages out there devoted to happy and positive news. How wonderful! Here are some:

happy news
positive news
daily good
good news network

Thursday, July 19, 2012


"By purging the excess from our homes, our schedules, and our minds, we empty our cups-giving us infinite capacity for life, love, hopes, dreams, and copious amounts of joy"
-Francine Jay

"What is clutter? Clutter is anything that you don't want, love, need, or use."
"Clutter is postponed decision-making"
-Cathleen McCandless

I've been making an effort to declutter my home the last couple of weeks. I find it challenging, but at the same time it is very rewarding to see the progress. When I came across the quote above; about clutter being postponed decision making, I realized that the clutter in my life has a lot to do with my reluctance to make decisions, so I feel like I am working on my "decision making muscle" at the same time as I am improving my surroundings.

Some people (like myself) easily get used to some level of clutter in their homes. However, while perhaps unnoticed, the clutter can still affect your energy, making you feel tired, lazy and lethargic. Our external world is a manifestation of our inner world. A cluttered home can both be a cause and a symptom of a cluttered mind. Decluttering is about creating breathing space, creating room for our ideas, thoughts and creativity - and the incremental improvements that I have been working on this month already make me feel better at home; happier and more relaxed.

The process that has been working best for me is based on something like this:

1. Controling the inflow & putting things back in place

This month I have been focusing on establishing the invaluable habit of putting things immediately back in place after use. Unfortunately this doesn't come very naturally to me, but without this habit my decluttering effort would be like trying to fill a leaking bucket. There is also a constant inflow of new clutter that need to be monitored; mail, gifts, artwork from the children, etc. New clutter can easily pile up faster than you get rid of your old stuff. Hence, the first step is essentially to control the inflow, to be a good gatekeeper to your home. I try to examine whatever comes in and immediately deal with it (find a place, throw it away, put it in the "outbox"). In his book Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan talks about the importance of having a good healthy filter at your front door: have a doormat to keep the dirt out, a coat hook or hanger to put your coat, bag, boots, etc., and a place where you can lay down your things (keys, wallet, etc.) and sort through your mail along with other things you bring with you into the apartment. Optimally I think that the entry should also have a chair or something you can sit on, while you take of your shoes and sort through your stuff.

2. Setting up some kind of a system

I could easily spend a lot of time and energy (and have definitely done so in the past) just moving the clutter around. It is important to decide what you are going to do with the stuff that you do not want in your home. Some of the clutter can easily and immediately be thrown out, but there is likely to be plenty of stuff that you want to sell and/or give away. Designate a box, a shelf, a closet, or a corner as your outbox, where all this stuff goes. Also put your "maybe stuff" in the outbox. Set a deadline for yourself to empty the outbox. As decluttering is a constant process, it may be a good idea to set dates e.g. every 3 months to empty your outbox.

3. Decluttering

My strategy has been to do a little bit each day, so I wont get overwhelmed. Each day I try to work on one drawer, one shelf, or one surface. When it comes to clutter, what you can't still there, sucking away your energy. That being said, it is nice to start with the surfaces. They are usually relatively easy to declutter, and at the same time it makes a huge difference in the way your home looks and feels. Surfaces should not be used for storage, they should be used to display the things you love, things that you find beautiful and/or inspiring.

When decluttering, I find it best to empty the surface (shelf, drawer, etc.), visualize for a couple of minutes how that space would optimally look like, and then examine each thing thinking: "do I love you, need you, use you, like you? are you more valuable to me than the space that you occupy?" I've also found it useful to look at my stuff and think about what I want to keep, instead of what do I want to get rid off.

I am not super-organized, and I try not to worry too much about it at this point. All your stuff should have its place, in a particular drawer, shelf, etc. But I am not alphabetizing my cd's, my books or dvd's. And in the end, the less stuff you have, the less need you have for being crazily organized. I'm rather aiming for arranging my things, e.g. my closet, to be visually pleasing.

4. Dealing with difficult clutter

There is some clutter that is difficult to deal with. On the top of my list are A. other people's stuff and B. gifts and sentimental clutter. With regards to A, I've kept the Ghandi quote in mind: "Be the change, you wish to see":) I think within reason of course, your spouse (or roommate) has to be allowed to deal with his/her own clutter. At this point my strategy is mostly to ignore it. With regards to B, I find it really difficult to get rid of gifts, even though it is something absolutely not my taste. I've put some of these in the outbox, hoping that when it comes to emptying the outbox I will be completely detached. And I bought a box for my "sentimental clutter" - I can keep whatever fits in that box, if the box is overflowing it is time for purging. At the end of the day I think it is important to remember that I am doing this for my own happiness. It is important to understand the reasons for why we tend to cling to our stuff, but if I feel bad about throwing something out, then it can wait.

5. Reflect on your progress and maintain your clutter-free spaces

This is super important! Take some time every day to look at your progress so far. Enjoy the peace, the beauty, the simplicity that comes with less cluttered surfaces, closets, etc. Make sure you maintain the areas you've decluttered so far.

If you are in the process of decluttering you might want to check out Franicine Jay's blog: miss minimalist and her book The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life.

If you have any advise that has worked well for you when it comes to simplifying and decluttering, I'd love to hear it.

cheers, D.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


In June I started meditating for 10 minutes each day. The first week I found it extremely difficult to sit still, and I didn't seem to be able to quiet my mind for even a few seconds. But gradually it became easier and more pleasant. Now I meditate for 15 minutes per day and find it essential to my daily routine.

The benefits of meditation are wide-ranging. Regular meditation is e.g. associated with better sleep, lower levels of stress, lower blood pressure and increased happiness. I've come to think that meditating is to our mind what exercise is to our body: necessary.

On a personal level, I have found that the meditation has increased my awareness, my focus, and helped me to stay more present. But there is also something that I can't quite put in words, some sense of self-knowledge and well-being that is difficult to describe.

Just as people can choose from limitless ways to exercise, there are also various ways to meditate and one needs to experiment a bit to find out what works and what doesn't. Here is some advise that I have found useful so far:

Work with your schedule.
In a perfect world, I would meditate at dawn and dusk in a beautiful setting. I would sit on a nice pillow in comfortable clothing, perhaps light a candle. I would be alone, it would be quiet. However I am almost never home alone, my kids wake up at dawn, and I collapse to bed at dusk. When I do have the opportunity to meditate at home, I really do love to sit in a lotus position on my yoga mat. But most days I meditate at work. I am lucky to have an office, where I can just close the door for 15 minutes. I sit on my office chair, close my eyes and meditate.

Find your anchor.
The purpose of your anchor is to keep your mind focused, and bring it back when it starts to wander. The anchor can be vocal (e.g. mantra chanting, praying), visual (e.g. a candle light, a mandala, a religious icon), or it can be as simple as counting your breaths (silently). I mainly use my breath as my anchor. I count my breaths to 10, then start again, until I feel that I do not need to anymore. It is important not to be too attached to your anchor. The purpose of the meditation is to still the mind, not to count your breaths. When your mind is still you can stop counting. If it starts wondering, you start counting again. Another thing that I have used, is to focus on the so called chakras or energy centers of the body. This may not appeal to everyone. But interestingly it has made me much more aware of the physical aspect of my feelings. How it physically feels to be stressed, happy, anxious, etc. I focus on each chakra for a few breaths, starting with the lowest one and then move up to the next one. When I have focused on all the chakras, my mind us usually able to stay still for some time.

Be gentle.
Breath gently. Get into your meditation gently, stop gently. If you start daydreaming, or fidgeting, gently bring your mind back to meditating.

Be still.
I think there is a disparity between different traditions in the emphasis on stillness while meditating. But I find it very important for my own meditation experience to stay as physically still as possible.

No expectations.
It is important to sit down with an open mind and no expectations. The experience varies a lot. Some days it is easy to sit still and quiet the mind, other days it seems impossible. Some days the experience is very spiritual, other days not so much. It is a journey of ups and downs. There are days where meditating has brought something difficult to my attention, some feelings or memories that I have intentionally tried not to focus on. But that is part of growing, part of the benefits.

Smile (gently;)) while meditating. It brings you a sense of peace and happiness.

Eat and drink.
Try not to meditate right after a meal, or when you are too hungry. And avoid caffeine just before meditating. Have a sip of water before you start.

Resources: For meditation beginners like myself I would recommend the following resources:

happy meditating.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

taking care of your home: head, heart, breath and bones

This month I am enjoying taking care of my home. Nesting is in our nature, and I think that most of us want to have a place we can call a home, a place that is some sort of an oasis where we can relax, play and completely be ourselves.

Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan's book Apartment Therapy is not your typical book on home decoration and interior design. First of all, the book doesn't have any photographs:) It is not about imposing a certain style on the reader and it is not just about making your home look better, but healthier and more comfortable. The author talks about the four elements of a home: the bones, the breath, the heart and the head. To have a healthy home it is important to take good care of all four parts.

the bones:
This refers to the physical structure of your home: the walls, the floor, the windows, the ceiling and the fixtures in the house/apartment. The bones should be kept clean and in good condition. Taking care of the bones means e.g. regular dusting, fixing a leaking sink and changing a light bulb. The author suggests that on a subtle level the cleanliness of your home can impact your own energy and vitality. He lists four questions to keep in mind when examining the bones of your home:

1. Do you consider your home to be in good shape?
2. Is everything in good working order?
3. Do you take care of repairs quickly?
4. Do you clean your home often?

the breath:
The breath or the flow of your home is about clutter and arrangement. The breath can be blocked by clutter accumulation or by poor placement of furniture. Ailments include shelves and bookcases that are too full, tables and other surfaces that cannot be used because of clutter, or "dead spots" in your home, i.e. parts of your home that are never used. The author poses four questions with regards to breath:

1. Do you consider your home comfortable?
2. Do you sleep well at night?
3. Is your apartment organized?
4. Is it easy to clean and declutter?

the heart:
The heart refers to the style and the emotional life of your home. Heart elements include color, shape, texture, and decorative things. Adding heart to your home can mean pillows on your couch, rug on your floor, photos on your wall or a vase with flowers on your table.

1. Do you consider your home beautiful?
2. Do you feel you have a sense of style?
3. Does your clothing express your style?
4. Does your home express your style?

the head:
The head is the functionality of your home; whether your kitchen utensils are easily accessible, whether you have a good reading light, whether you have a place to put your bag when you come home etc. Interestingly, when I consider the homes around me, it occurs to me that the main activity that most homes support is watching tv. I am not saying that tv is all bad and evil, but perhaps there are other activities that should be supported as well.

1. Does your home support everything you want to do?
2. Do you use your home often?
3. Is there room for everything you want to do at home?
4. Is there a good space for what is most important to you?

While the idea is simple and straightforward, it has been eye-opening for me to look at my apartment with these elements in mind. I think my main focus now is on the heart and it is wonderful to see how my little resolutions are already contributing to this part: lighting candles, playing music, buying flowers. I am also working on the breath, making the bed every morning and trying to declutter. After moving between countries and continents 3 times in the last decade, I have been forced to examine my belongings regularly and haven't accumulated as much stuff as I probably would have otherwise. Nevertheless, the clutter is there, and I really want to get better at keeping my surroundings simple and fairly organized.

If you are interested the webpage apartment therapy has endless resources and ideas on how to improve your home.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Path

I came across this painting the other day, called "The Path", painted in 1936 by Russian artist Nicholas Roerich. I thought it fitted nicely with my present state of mind:)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July: Impeccable Home

When in Denmark, do as the Danes do

During July I am going to focus on my home. Initially when I outlined my year, I was thinking about our apartment - that I wanted it to be more of a "home". I wanted to make it less cluttered, more peaceful, more beautiful and more cozy.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I started thinking about "home" in more general terms (not planet earth though, that will be tackled later;)). I have been living in Copenhagen for two years now, but I haven't managed to feel at home here yet. So I decided to expand on the topic a bit, and also use this month to get to now the city better, its culture and its people.

Immersing myself in Danish culture for a month fits my project perfectly as Danish people are known for their love of "hygge", which can be roughly translated to "coziness". Danes tend to have beautiful homes decorated with candles, fresh flowers and beautiful furniture. Their homes also tend to be quite simple and uncluttered (despite usually having amazingly little storage space!). Additionally, according to the Gallup World Poll Danish people are the happiest in the world! Learning from the happiest people on earth, must be good for my happiness project:)

My July Resolutions

  • Light a candle
  • Make the bed
  • Flower Fridays: buy flowers every Friday
  • Play music: Put on a CD when I come home from work
  • Declutter
  • Put things back in place when I am done using them
  • Read the newspaper
  • Make a weekly menu plan
  • Weekly grocery shopping
  • Walk somewhere new every week

My July Tasks

  • Paint, declutter and redecorate the kids' room. For some reason I find this is utterly scary. As soon as I start thinking about this I get anxious, and filled with discouraging thoughts. It's ridiculous right? I've tried tackling my home before and failed. I've made the plans, but as soon as I actually need to take some action, I find some excuse not to. (no time, not enough money, etc., etc.). But really, it is just a room! I can do this!
  • Add and subtract in each room: Subtract one thing from each room, and replace it with something that better reflects our taste.
  • Read: Apartment Therapy: The Eight Step Home Cure, Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, and Feng Shui That Makes Sense: Easy Ways to Create a Home That FEELS as Good as It Looks
  • Buy something from a flea market. Danes love to sell and buy stuff at flea markets. I love to visit flea markets, but never end up buying anything. Mainly because I am too indecisive. But I'd love to add something old and beautiful to our home.
  • Read about the royalties. Danes love and respect their royalties. I should at least know who is whom:)
  • Knit a blanket. I have a half-finished blanket in my drawer that I started knitting about 2 years ago. Time to finish!
  • Fix my bike. You can't really call yourself a "Københavner" without riding a bike.
  • Visit the little mermaid
  • Read a couple of H.C. Andersen's fairy tales
  • Go to tivoli and have an ice-cream at the "Vaffelbageriet"
I think July is going to be awesome:) cheers, Di.

Monday, July 2, 2012

June: wrap-up

In June my focus was on happiness and positivity. Overall I am surprised how this month has changed my perspective. It is not that I have managed to be happy at all times, or that I have been constantly positive and cheerful, but there is a feeling of growth, of being on the right path.

My core has strengthened and my baseline happiness has increased. My "neutral" state is happier. I am not as easily annoyed, and I am not as easily thrown of balance. That being said I did have my grumpy days where I found it almost impossible to stay happy and cheerful. Perhaps these days are inevitable, but I want to become better at dealing with those days. I want to make sure that I do not take my grumpiness out on my kids, my husband and other people around me. The increased awareness that I have experienced this month has helped, and I can at least see my mood swings coming. I can also better recognize that while they are sometimes triggered by other people's comments, behavior or other external factors, the reason is some internal imbalance, and that there is noone or nothing to blame. On the whole I am satisfied with my progress and I am positive that I will see more improvements in the coming months.

My resolutions:

The daily meditation has been of fundamental importance in my progress this month. Although I've just been meditating for 10 minutes per day, I can already feel the benefits of this resolution. I am less stressed and I am much more aware of my thoughts and feelings. I will continue with my daily meditation and extend my meditation session to be 15 minutes during July.

Keeping a Gratitude Journal.
I've managed to keep this resolution most days. And usually it was quite easy to find things to be thankful for. I guess that is the main lesson learned here:) I am also going to stick with this resolution for at least few more weeks.

The goal was to go out for a run 3 times a week. That didn't quite happen. But at least I got started. And I had at least one successful week:) I also signed up for 5k run in August to motivate myself and I want to be able to run those 5k in less than 35 minutes.

The target was again three times a sort of a check mark here. Writing a blog, as well as keeping the resolution charts has been the key to staying focused on my goals and my progress. Reading blogs on other people's happiness projects has also been very helpful and inspiring.

Walk in the Sun.
The main reason for this resolution was that during the last two winters I have suffered from a lack of vitamin D. I've been constantly tired, and I seem to get every cold, flu, bug that is going around. But now it is summer, and seeing some sun and daylight is really not something I have to worry about. I think I will let go of this one for now but I might add it again as the days get shorter.

The idea was to start my day by really focusing on an important project for 90 minutes. No email, no phone, no facebook, no wandering thoughts etc. It is a great way to start your workday, and leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment. But is has been somewhat difficult to keep this resolution. I've had to take some days off this month because of traveling, and because my kids have been sick. And even when I've been at work there have been urgent emails, meetings, etc. that I need to take care of. I did manage to do this a few times, but I can't say that it is a part of my routine yet. I will continue trying though.

Last week of June: The positivity challenge:

The last week of June I tried to take my positivity to new levels. If I were to grade myself on this challenge I would give myself a B. I smiled as I woke up, smiled as I lied down to sleep, smiled when I meditated, and basically smiled whenever I could remember. I tried to substitute any negative thoughts and beliefs by positives ones. After reading this post I decided to write down any negative self talk that came into mind, I then replaced each sentence with a positive one. This has been very helpful. I believe that changing your self talk from negative to positive can really be life changing, and I want to continue exploring this. Perhaps by focusing on 1 or 2 "positivity mantras" at time for the next few months.

What I found most challenging was pausing before reacting. I really need, and want, to get better a this, especially with regards to my children. I also did some complaining, some dumping and a little bit of gossiping.

My Positivity Tasks: These were the tasks that I wanted to tackle in June:

✓ Clear my desk and bedside table
✓ Write a comprehensive to do list
✓ Read: "Eat, Pray, Love", "The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living" and "Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment"
✓ Make a happy list
✓ Do a positivity challenge
✗ Complete that big, daunting task at work (almost done though)
✗ Watch: "Amelie" and "It's a Wonderful Life" (I don't think I watched a whole movie this entire month)

And now it is July. I am excited to start this month of Impeccable Home, in which I will focus on making space for happiness in our home, and finding sources of happiness in our city. I will post more about that tomorrow.


Monday, June 25, 2012

an incomplete list of things that I enjoy

  • books, libraries, bookstores
  • music, Tom Waits, Ella Fitzgerald
  • painting, drawing, looking at colors
  • reading magazines on interior design, visiting stores that sell furniture and decorative stuff
  • meditating
  • yoga
  • scrabble & trivial pursuit
  • crossword puzzles
  • chess
  • hiking
  • nature
  • coffee and tea
  • big family gatherings, holiday parties and weddings
  • art museums
  • being with my children, talking, reading, laughing, watching them sleep
  • math
  • listening to people's stories from "back in the days"
  • doing nothing
  • walking around cities without a map and without a destination
  • chocolates and desserts

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last week of Impeccable Mind: Don't worry, be happy

The last week of June is about to start, and today I am starting my positivity challenge, i.e. for 7 days I will try to my best to speak only positively and fill my mind with only positive thoughts.
  • When negative thoughts and emotions come up, I will accept them but move on. In particular these thoughts should not be allowed to spiral into more and more negativity.
  • Pause before reacting. Our reactions are on auto-pilot most of the time. We react to situations and thoughts in a similar way as we have done in the past. I want to become more aware of this and take control over my reaction where it is needed.
  • Replace my negative self talk with positive self talk. I especially notice my negativity voice when I want to exercise. As soon as I wake up my mind starts making up excuses as to why I should not bother to exercise, how I may as well do it tomorrow, because tomorrow I will probably not be tired, it will probably not be raining, etc. etc.
  • Smile more. Smile when I wake up - Smile before I go to sleep.
  • Talk positively: No complaining, no gossiping, and no dumping.
  • Be more cheerful. In the words of one-hit-wonder Bobby McFerrin: In every life we have some trouble, When you worry you make it double, Don't worry, be happy......
  • Find positive role models
  • Get more rest: Be in bed before 10:30 pm. But also stop thinking so much about how tired I am! It just makes me more tired!
  • Exercise 3 times! This was a resolution for June. And I am happy that I have started exercising again. But it still takes a lot of effort, and I haven't managed to make it to 3 work out sessions per week yet. But this week I will! I actually already went out running this morning. So 1 down, 2 to go.
  • Prepare my mornings. I think it is important to start your day on the right foot. And with 2 small children, the mornings can become a bit chaotic. So this week I will take 10-15 minutes in the evening, to prepare my mornings. For example make the lunch boxes, pick out clothes for everyone, clear the kitchen table, etc.

Friday, June 22, 2012

my comfort zone

I've been feeling extremely happy in the last few days, but at the same time quite restless. Although I am more content with my life as it is, my happiness is giving me the energy and courage to experience something new, and to expand my comfort zone in some way. But I am not quite sure yet what to do with this energy. As I was thinking about this earlier today, I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and made a list of ideas for expanding my cozy little comfort zone:
  • talk to strangers
  • start drawing/painting again
  • bring out my inner hippie
  • paint a room in my apartment
  • have a big fancy dinner party
  • cut my hair short
  • chant while meditating
  • be fit
  • be successful
  • have enough money
  • call instead of emailing
I wrote these down as they entered my mind, and some of those were quite surprising to me. Such as "be fit" or "be successful". I am not unsuccessful at what I do, but I know that I have more potential in me. Do I really choose not to be too successful? Reading through the list I also realized just how small my comfort zone has become. It is amazing to think that it is actually somewhat stressful for me to organize a nice dinner party or to choose a color and paint a wall in my apartment. It is my counter-productive perfectionism, my fear of rejection, my fear of mistakes that are defining that tiny zone of comfort. I am going to change that, and each month I am going to have a task and/or a resolution that moves me at least slightly out of that little box.

I would also love to hear what other people do to expand their comfort zones?

One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again. -Abraham Maslow

I am ready to grow:)

Monday, June 18, 2012

resisting happiness

I have really started to notice the difference in my level of happiness, which I find amazing after such a short time. Almost every day I'll have a moment where I just feel unbelievably happy and lucky in my life. Meditating has increased my awareness, and I am much more conscious of my train of thoughts, of my feelings and how they change from one moment to the next. One strange thing that I have observed is that I seem to have a tendency to resist being "too" happy. So I've been thinking about why that is?

There are probably many reasons why people on some unconscious level choose not to be happy, or at least not "too" happy. Some feel they do not deserve it. Others need sympathy from others. To me, the state of happiness feels very fragile and I believe the main reason for my resistance is some kind of a protection mechanism. The happier I am, the harder the fall back to "normal". Something like that. But now it is time to stop resisting and just surrender to as happy as I can possibly be and see what happens:)

If you want to be happy, be.
-Leo Tolstoy

Friday, June 15, 2012

maybe it will be perfect

About a week ago, I was crawling into bed just after midnight. I had been home alone with the kids for several days and was utterly exhausted (respect to all you single parents out there!). My son had been waking up at 5 am every morning, and as I was trying to fall asleep I started thinking about how horrible I was going to feel after less than five hours of sleep. omg I am going to be so tired tomorrow, it is going to be impossible to focus or do anything at work, I am going to be so grumpy, and impatient with the children, and now I am so anxious that it is going to take me forever to fall asleep...yada yada yada....then very suddenly all this negativity stopped and this thought popped into my head: but who knows, maybe this time he will sleep until 7, maybe everything will be perfect. And after that nice positive thought, I immediately fell asleep. Funnily enough that is exactly what my dear little boy decided to do the next morning. He slept until 7:00 am!

So here is my lesson. I tend to focus way too much on worst case scenarios. Partly to protect myself from disappointment, and partly to prepare myself to deal with that hypothetical situation. However this can really get me depressed, anxious, stressed etc. And often about something that never becomes reality anyway. It is not necessarily the answer to always assume everything will be perfect, but if I am allowing the possibility of worst case scenarios to enter my mind, I should make sure to consider that the possibility of a best case scenario, the possibility of perfect, is also out there. So I have found myself repeating this "mantra" in the last few days, when I feel like I am worrying too much: who knows....maybe it will be perfect.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

5 ways to become happier today!

In the video below Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Happier and a teacher of positive psychology at Harvard University talks about how we can make ourselves happier. In short, his 5 advise are:
  • accept your painful (negative) emotions
  • spend time with your friends and family AND be present
  • exercise
  • cultivate gratitude
  • simplify