Friday, January 29, 2016

Week 4: What Are You Proud Of?

Every week I get a lot of blog posts and newsletters delivered to my inbox having to do with positivity and this week there was one from Happify with a link to this video with people of all ages talking about what they're proud of.

This made me start thinking a lot about "pride" and how it contributes to happiness.

When we're proud of ourselves doesn't that come off as kind of boastful? In the video,  I felt happy to see the people who were proud of their own accomplishments, and I absolutely feel happy myself when I overcome an obstacle or have accomplished something challenging.

When pride becomes arrogance, it can be a problem, though. I saw Carol Burnett on the Conan show last night and she told about a time in her 20's when she "bombed beautifully" because she had become "cocky." 

Here's a picture of my grandson playing the xylophone at his first grade music concert last night. He took this responsibility very seriously and I felt so lucky to be able to be in the audience and see his own pride as well as the parental pride in the faces of my daughter and son-in-law. That heart-warming, tears-welling-behind-your-eyes feeling you get when you watch your kids on stage? Well, when you're a grandparent, you not only feel it by watching your grandchildren, but by watching your children watch their children.

As we come to the end of January, I feel really proud about my "happiness" resolutions. I was able to keep up with the different books I've been reading about positive psychology, went to church every week, did plenty of small "random acts of kindness," kept a gratitude journal, smiled more, socialized a lot, laughed a lot, and kept up with my weekly blog posts.

I had a couple of disappointments, and I felt proud that (using all my great knowledge of happiness) I spent very little time feeling down or worrying about stuff I couldn't control, and really focused on all the things that I'm happy about.

Here are some happy moments from Week 4 of 2016:
* Laughing hysterically at Stephen Colbert with my friend, Rebecca
* Ping-pong with friends
* Watching Broncos win in the playoffs! (The first football game I was ever interested enough to watch with no one else in the room!)
* Getting in shape by running in sunny Denver
* Having lunch and coffee dates with friends Ravi, Kathy, Jim, Michael, and Chris
* Being very productive with work stuff and home projects
* Getting out my Valentine's decorations
* And, of course, watching my grandson sing and play the xylophone in his musical performance!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Week 3 - Savor the Moment

My usual mantra is Carpe Diem, or "Sieze the Day," but today I'm going with "Savor the Moment." This morning I spent some time reading through this infographic on the benefits of savoring. There's plenty of advice in positive psychology to "live in the moment," and even the infographic includes "focusing on the present moment."

However, the infographic also recommends reminiscing on happy memories and anticipating things we're looking forward to in the future.

I've done a lot of thinking about the balance between "doing" and "saving memories" with photographs, journals, scrapbooks, or blogging. Isn't it the "doing" that's important? If I'm spending all this time "saving the memories" and then later reflecting on them, is that taking time away from the "doing"?

Another piece of advice is to share things that make us happy, to ruminate on happy memories. For me, not only does "saving memories" allow me to go back later and re-live that happy memory, but it reminds me to create and look for happy moments.  It doesn't take too much time to record my memories if I'm not too picky about the photos and even though it's a little embarrassing to write a blog post in which the photos and writing are low-quality, I comfort myself in knowing that hardly anyone reads my blog anyway!

I've experienced so many happy moments (once I started being aware of them) that it's hard to decide which to write about; I'm going to settle on the highlights of my trip to Phoenix last week. Though the trip started as a business trip in which I was teaching a class, I extended it to last through the weekend, because I just love the warmth of Phoenix in January.

Some of the things I loved about my Phoenix trip:

* The wonderful warm 70 degree weather - warm enough to sit outside at a cafe patio to drink chai and write New Year's cards
* The friendly students in the class I taught - a couple even joined me for happy hour after class and we shared wine and gourmet bruschetta
* The welcoming group of people I met in Scottsdale as part of a Snowbirds Meetup
* Enjoying a short, easy run at sea level
* Watching Cinderella with the lovely woman, Julie, who hosted me in the airbnb I stayed at for the weekend
* Finding a Dollar Tree and surprising Julie with some treats when she got back from running a 10K
* Enjoying the serenity and the view from the top of Lookout Mountain
* Finding a Desert Canvas "Rebirth" Festival - This is probably the closest I'll ever get to a "Burning Man" type of event and it was kind of out of my comfort zone, but definitely colorful, artsy, and a unique experience! I joined in with some painting and drum-beating and just enjoyed people-watching and listening to the live music in that wonderful January Phoenix sunshine!
* Attending Mass in a beautiful church with a homily that suggested a life goal of making the world a better place

Friday, January 15, 2016

Week 2 - Ted Talks and Flying Happy

I love TED talks. Every one I listen to is entertaining, interesting and helps me think in new and different ways. Even OfficeVibe – an application that gamifies happiness at work -- gives points for watching a TED talk, so that's proof enough for me that they add to our happiness. 

When the TED talks themselves are about happiness and positive psychology, I get a double-dose of happiness… not only am I happy by learning and being entertained by the TED talk, but what I’m learning about is a happiness itself!

On top of all this happiness about TED talks, there’s also a free Podcast: The TED Radio Hour available.  As a frequent traveler, one of my favorite things to do when on an airplane or bus is to listen to podcasts. You can easily download them from the cloud, so Internet access isn’t even necessary! (All the amazing apps and free stuff we can do, thanks to technology, is another thing that makes me happy!)

So the other day, while on a flight to Phoenix to teach a class, I listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast called, “Simply Happy.”  The Radio Hour has a theme (in this case, happiness) and Guy Roz interviews speakers from related TED talks, along with some snippets from their talks.  The happiness TED talks and speakers, were, as always, interesting, and I highly recommend the show.

So what about my happiness for Week 2? Still going strong! I’m still being ultra-productive on personal projects that have been on the back burner, which always puts me in a good mood. Part of the reason for my personal productivity is that I haven’t been “working” much, but that changed this week. This week and for the next three, I’ll be traveling and teaching Agile classes.

Now I love the “work” I do…  In fact, I’m putting “work” in quotes because it doesn’t feel like work to me. It feels a lot like getting paid to travel and play and teach a subject that I love: Agile methodologies.  (By the way, there’s also a TED Radio Hour called “The Meaning of Work” that entertained me on my way to Phoenix).  However, despite my love of my work, there are some things about this work that I don’t always like.

Whenever I don’t like something, I like to play a little game with myself to figure out what I can do to change my dislike to something I look forward to.  So, for example, one of the things I don’t like about my work is the amount of time I spend traveling.  I don’t like to drive to and from the airport (especially in winter in Colorado). I don’t like waiting in security lines or feeling nervous about being late. I don’t like crowded planes and all the time that feels wasted while I’m sitting on that plane.

So here are some things I’ve done that have helped me enjoy traveling more:

  • As mentioned, listening to the TED Radio show, Podcasts, and audio books
  • Take the RTD to the airport (and recently the fare was lowered from $13 to $9!)
  • I get to the airport earlier than necessary and just relax with my trusty smartphone to entertain me
  • I bought a KTN so that I could take advantage of going through the Pre-TSA lines
  • I bring some kind of tasty snack
  • I take advantage of frequent flyer miles and these have earned me free drinks on SouthWest and so…
  • I enjoy a Baileys and coffee on the plane 

Traveling is no longer a hassle, but something I look forward to!

Other happy moments from Week 2: 
Snuggling with granddaughter, Reneya

Making sweet potato quesadillas for a potluck

Happy Hour at a Phoenix Meetup for Snowbirds

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Week 1 of 2016 - Micro-moments of Happiness

I'm always so motivated to meet all of my goals at the beginning of the year.  I've been taking "happy pictures" off and on for several years, but this year I want to write a "happy blog post" each week.

Barbara Fredrickson in her book, Love 2.0, talks about "micro-moments" of love and connection that we experience with each interaction. Since reading her book, I've been aware of the many "micro-moments" of happiness and positive emotions I experience each day.  I'm also more aware of the "micro-moments" of negative emotion, but then I go back and reflect about why I'm experiencing that negative emotion and whether or not I can do something to change it.  Just being ultra-aware of my emotions and how much control I have over them has really helped me stay in a happy mood all week! And it helps that it was a really good week.

The best thing about the week is that my youngest son is home from Purdue and it's so excellent to have him around. They say that relationships and social connection are the biggest key to happiness and I feel so lucky that I have such a close relationship with my kids.  The "happiest thing" this week for me was all the time I got to spend with Scotty... playing lots of games, watching movies, talking, laughing, eating, and just hanging out together. One of the things I appreciate most about Scotty is that he is almost always happy and laughing himself.

Here are a few photos and descriptions of other micro-moments of happiness I had this week:

 My 4 "daily resolutions" for Week 1 were: 1) Drink More Water 2) Walk 10,000+ Steps a Day 3) Smile at a Stranger and 4) Keep a Gratitude Journal.  On January 1rst, I walked to Starbucks, bought coffee for a stranger who smiled, drank a big cup of water, and wrote how grateful I was for the experience!

Even though I had a resolution to eat healthier food and lose a few pounds, I consciously enjoyed delicious food at a friend's potluck party and at a book club movie night later in the week. I still lost the one pound I'd hoped to lose by the end of the week!

I had a goal to go on at least one "excursion" each week, so Scotty and I went to "Snow Much Fun" an advertised holiday event. It turns out, the "event" was holiday lights in Central Park. The lights were beautiful and even though this was a relatively simple excursion, it was a fun thing to do with Scotty.

A new discovery I made this week was "zoodles" - noodles made from zucchini. I made carrot noodles, too along with a mushroom sauce for a very low-calorie, delicious and healthy meal!