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

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

my little guide to keeping a gratitude journal

Listing 3-5 things in my gratitude journal, every night before I go to bed, has really opened my eyes to everything that I can be thankful for. I can absolutely say that I already feel more grateful (and hence happier) during my everyday life than I did before. However, writing in a gratitude journal every day can easily become stale and feel forced after a short while. Here is how I have kept it a pleasant habit, which I intend to keep for at least few more weeks:
  • keep it pretty: if you are a visual person, it helps to have a nice pretty-looking notebook dedicated to your gratitude.
  • keep it simple: I try not to write too much. Usually I just list 3 words. Otherwise I think this habit might become more arduous and difficult to maintain.
  • keep it fresh: in order to benefit from writing in your journal it is necessary to keep it fresh. i.e. not just thoughtlessly write: mom, dad, house, dog...night after night. Take a couple of minutes to think about the things you listed and relive the joy and happiness you associate with the words you wrote down.
  • keep it constant: it is my happy habit. I keep my journal and a pen next to bed and writing in the journal is the last thing I do before I turn off the lights. It reminds of my happiness project, of my progress, and of my goals.
  • alternatively: if keeping a journal still feels tedious, find alternative ways to think about gratitude. Find a person in your life, that you can talk to on regular basis about what you are grateful for. I've started to do this with my four year old daughter every now and then. Just before she goes to sleep we talk about our day, and what we are grateful for. So at the same time as I remind myself to be grateful, I am forwarding this great habit to my daughter. Two birds, one stone (is there a nicer idiom in the English language with the same meaning?)

happy journal writing!

Friday, June 8, 2012

positivity task list

Today has not been my best day in terms of staying happy and positive. I've found it impossible to stay patient with my children, which makes me feel terribly sad, as well as bad about myself. But tomorrow is a new day. And in general I do feel better and more positive. Devoting this month to happiness and positivity has helped me to focus and be more aware of my feelings. I've not been perfect at keeping my resolutions so far but I feel like I'm improving. Exercising is the most difficult one, while meditating and writing a gratitude journal have become pleasent parts of my daily routine. In addition to my resolutions I've made a list of tasks that I want to complete during June. These tasks should further help me find a positive attitude and make space for more happiness in my life:

  • Zen space: clear my desk and my bedside table.
    Most of my space is fairly chatoic at the moment. Starting small, I want to tackle my desk and bedside table. My bedside table cannot be seen for clothes, unopened mail, and piles of drawings from my daughter. And I am not even sure what is in the two drawers. I think it would be a nice zen feeling to go to bed with an organized nightstand, with a clear surface to put away my book and my glass of water. Luckily my desk doesn't have any drawers to organize, but there are piles of unidentified paper stuff. I am sure work would feel more peaceful and productive with a beautiful clear desk.

  • Zen mind I: write a comprehensive to do list.
    Write a list of every nagging task that comes to mind. Then (next month?) start tackling that list in an organized way.

  • Zen mind II: complete a big, daunting task at work that has been nagging my mind for a while.

  • Read: Eat, Pray, Love, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living and Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment

  • Watch: Amelie and It's a Wonderful Life

  • Make a happy list: Make a list of things that give me pleasure and joy in life

  • Do a positivity challenge: I want to try this, the last week of June.

    Have a wonderful weekend!
  • Thursday, June 7, 2012


    Laughing makes you happy - being happy makes you laugh. Laughter boosts our immune system, relieves tension and stress and even prevents heart diseases. It's difficult, if not impossible, to fake real laughter. I would love to laugh more, although I am not sure how to accomplish that. I tried googling "how to laugh more", and although I found doing that hilarious in and on itself, it didn't proof particularly useful. I guess I can't expect google to solve all of my problems;) So I've been thinking about what really makes me laugh:

  • My kids (of course): children have such a natural, contagious laughter.
  • My aunts: my mother and her three sisters all have a talent for telling stories. They are also very good at laughing:) When they all come together, everyone around them also ends up with tears of laughter. I feel so privileged to have these women in my life.
  • Damn you autocorrect
  • Modern Family
  • Arrested Development

    Any ideas how to make that list longer?
  • Sunday, June 3, 2012

    my first secret of adulthood:

    exercise is first and foremost about health and taking care of your body, not about looking good in a bikini

    So after 32 years I have learned that taking care of your body is super important. I am lazy, and I've never really been athletic. Until I finished college I got away with it, in the sense that I didn't gain weight. When suddenly that wasn't the case, I dragged my ass to the gym with the motivation that I had to fit those jeans, or look good in that bikini. That motivation didn't work well, and my visits to the gym have been quite random throughout the last few years. After being pregnant twice in 4 years, I realized how vulnerable my body is, and how important it is to take good care of it. Not to look better (although that would be a nice side effect), but to feel better. To be strong, fit and healthy. That being said, I have found it extremely difficult to find the time and energy to take care of my dear body, but I know that I need to make it my priority.

    A friend told me about a program: c25k (go from couch to running 5 km in 9 weeks), and I thought it would be a perfect start ("start small" is one of my new mantras). I would love to do some yoga, and I know I also have to strengthen my muscles, but this is my first step.