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Archive for March, 2011

Today is the last day of the third month of my Happiness Project for 2011.

To recap, I chose to focus on Friendships. My resolutions for the month were to:

  • Show up
  • Make time for someone important every day
  • Express appreciation
  • Stay in touch
  • Celebrate birthdays
  • Listen, engage, stop talking!
  • Join 2 social groups
  • Enroll myself in a class
  • Make 1 new friend
  • Act friendly

Strengthen Friendships:

Show up

I can proudly say that my calendar has been very packed this month with new adventures and plans with old friends. I haven’t backed out of anything that I have agreed to and I tried my best to show up to as many things as I could. I must also admit that although I was hesitant to leave the comfort of my home, I did in fact have a lot of fun getting out of the house and will continue to “show up” in the upcoming months.

A side bonus I received from this resolution is a new appreciation for the nights that I do stay home. I was really taking those lazy nights for granted because they happened night after night. Now, when I do have a free night, I don’t waste it away playing on the computer; I fully embrace the free time and have spent those nights hanging with my man or catching up on all the books I’ve been meaning to read.

Make Time for Someone Important Every Day

I’m pretty sure I have done this most days. I haven’t consciously made the choice to go out and find someone to talk to every day or anything but if someone has stopped by to chat, I have tried my best to stop whatever else I’m doing and give that person my full attention when possible.

Express Appreciation

As I mentioned in my Happiness Project update, I had a hard time with this one. I expressed my appreciation to a few of my friends but I found it very difficult and awkward to express my feelings freely. I do feel this is a very important thing to do though so I will continue to force myself out of my comfort zone and say what’s on my mind.

Stay In Touch

My main problem to resolve this month was my tardy response to friend’s emails and Facebook messages. For the most part, I did pretty well with this. Of course there were some days when I truly was too busy to email someone back while I was at work but I really did try to respond as soon as I could.

From an initiator stand point though, this resolution didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped. Two key components of my Happiness Project are to increase the good feelings in my life and to decrease any bad feelings. Unfortunately, on a number of occasions, reaching out to others and trying to connect only increased the negative feelings. I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only one that has difficulty responding to messages. During this month, I have reach out to a few different friends and have received no response in return. So instead of reconnecting and boosting my good feelings, I just feel rejected and disappointed.

Celebrate Birthdays

I have successfully compiled one grand list of all my good friends, family and favourite co-workers birthdays. I have also purchased a ton of birthday cards and have slowly been handing them out as the birthdays pop up. There haven’t been many birthdays during this month though so I’ll have to wait for the upcoming months to really celebrate.

Listen, Engage, Stop Talking!

Epic fail. This is just something I cannot seem to get through my head. Don’t get me wrong, I do listen when other people talk but I am also eagerly waiting for a break in the conversation so that I can speak up with my latest news, opinion or advice. Although I am going to continue working on this, because I really would like to become a better listener, I think I am going to have to surrender to the fact that I enjoy talking. I can only cross my fingers and hope that my friends don’t mind and that maybe some of them are even friends with me because I talk so much.

Build Friendships:

Join 2 Social Groups

I’m happy to report that I have joined 2 groups I found on meetup.com!

The first is a social group for positive people who meet up once a month to hang out and discuss awesome, happy things.  I have attended one meeting so far and had a blast! Although I was the youngest person there, and probably won’t make any solid girlfriends-for-life connections, I still met a lot of great people and had a lot of fun.

The second group is a book club for women aged 25-40. I haven’t attended a meeting yet but I think this will be a great group for me. Not only do I love to read, and am very excited to have new book suggestions, but I also think that there is real hope for some great friendships to come out of this group.

Enroll Myself in a Class

Thanks to a recommendation from a wonderful woman I met at the first social group meeting I attended, I was able to enroll in a fantastic painting class. I had a ton of fun at my first class and can’t wait for the next! I also attended a meditation class which was…unique. I don’t think I will become a regular there but I may drop by once a month for their group potluck and meditation session. 

Make 1 New Friend

I have met a lot of people over these last few weeks but I wouldn’t say I’ve made any solid friendships yet. I believe friendships take time, and exposure, so I will have to see where all these groups and classes lead me. However, the main purpose of this goal was to get me to put forth a little effort and I do believe I have done that. 

Act Friendly

I have definitely been very friendly and have actively opened myself up to others this month and have felt great doing it. I’m really not sure why I was always so shy in the past but I’m going to continue to speak up, smile at new friends and engage others in conversation.

This month was an interesting month for me. My biggest accomplishment was taking all the steps I took in building new friendships. I am very proud that I put myself out there and conquered some of my fears. I must now admit defeat and give the glory to Gretchen Rubin. I did not believe that introverted people become happier by being around other people, but after this month, I have to agree with Gretchen on this one.

This month also put a lot of my current friendships into perspective for me. There are a lot of people in my life that I took for granted and really didn’t realize just how awesome they are. On the other hand, I also realized that there are a lot of people who I no longer connect with. I tried to pursue a better friendship with them, or I had convinced myself that the relationship was better than it was, but the truth is, I was fooling myself. People grow apart and friendships fade but that’s ok. I’m just happy that I did this project and figured out which ones are worth keeping. 😀

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I am a huge believer in living my life with little or no regrets. I try to look at my past mistakes as lessons learned. I also believe that all the events and decisions I’ve made in my life, whether good or bad, have made me the person I am today.

Often times, as I am doing something, whether it is watching TV or hanging out with friends, I will ask myself,“When I’m on my deathbed, will I regret spending this time doing this activity?” If I answer yes, I immediately stop doing that activity and try to do something more pleasurable or productive. So many of us just walk through life in a state of numbness; we don’t even realize that we are often wasting away our precious days on things that just don’t matter.

I often urge my hardworking, miserable friends to let go of the belief that following all the rules and doing what is “right” is the best road to take. Instead, I encourage them to follow their own dreams, to pursue what they believe in and to do whatever it takes to make themselves happy. Just because you tolerate your employer demanding that you put in free overtime or that you believe answering your work emails on your days off is acceptable doesn’t mean it is the “right” thing for your health and happiness. I see so many people sacrificing time with friends and family for the benefit of their company and all they gain in the end is more responsibilities, higher stress and damaged relationships.

I was recently sent a link to a fabulous article on this very subject. This article was written by Bonnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who worked for years with people who were dying.

Here she lists the top 5 regrets people admit on their deathbed.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. 

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it. 

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
 

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. 

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle. 

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. 

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. 

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. 

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships. 

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Are you guilty of any of the following? If you are, I have a startling revelation for you.

You can change this right now.

Everything in life is a choice. The decisions you make, the outlook you have, the positions you take and the way you spend each and every day is your choice.

How will you choose to live?

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I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I analyze others, all the time. I will often sit and fume over what other people have said or done and ask myself why they would do such a thing.

As humans we have this futile need to try to interpret what others have said or comprehend the reasons they had for doing something a certain way. And when we can’t understand why, we get frustrated and sometimes even outright angry.

Why do we do this? Is it simply because we are curious about how others exist in this world? Do we merely want to figure them out so that we can understand them better? Perhaps, we figure, if we can understand them more then we could possibly change them. Is this our way of trying to control things? Is it so we can get everything in our world exactly as we want it?

One of my Happiness Project Personal Commandments is to “mind your business”. I tend to get way too wrapped up in what other people are, or are not, doing. This act of constantly examining other people can easily turn a potentially good day into one filled with irritation and resentment. Another Personal Commandment is “Don’t take things personally”. Often times, when we scrutinize what others have said or done, we make assumptions and develop theories, which more often than not, leave us believing that the other person is deliberately trying to upset us. This is often not the case. We tend to waste away our days filling up our brains with made-up scenarios and we end up feeling worn out and anxious. 

Think about how much of your day you squander wondering why someone said what they said, or why they are the way they are. More importantly, how do you feel when you focus all of your energy into trying to comprehend them? Do you feel good spending your time making misinformed assumptions? Do you become aggravated and confused? 

May I suggest we stop trying to figure them out and just let them be? We are not gaining anything by continuously examining them. All we are doing is dedicating our time and energy to solving the unsolvable. How about we just accept that they are different from us, assume the best in them and start focusing our energy on the things we can understand and change…ourselves. 

The next time you find yourself confused and irritated by what someone else has said or done, take a deep breath, remind yourself to “mind your business”, turn your focus to something more pleasant and just let it go. Our time on this planet is much too short to waste away on unimportant things.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for technology and new and improved devices but I think there is a limit to what we really need in our lives…and I think that limit was surpassed a long time ago.

Wherever I go, I see people of all ages walking around like zombies with their phone in their hands, typing away. In the theater, at a hockey game and even at restaurants, I see numerous individuals ignoring their genuine, in-the-flesh friends and family while they incessantly pump the keys of their little phone.

Most people will make the argument that all this technology allows us to stay connected to others, but are we really connected at all? Sending a “lol” to a friend or clicking “Like” on their Facebook status is not connecting. Opening your mouth and actually speaking to the person sitting across from you at the restaurant is what I consider connecting.

With divorce rates on the rise and family turmoil escalating, I can’t help but wonder if technology is behind it all. Kids no longer play outside, friends no longer meet for coffee and spouses spend most of their time working from home when they should be showering their loved ones with love and attention.

I just don’t understand it…what is the big deal? Do you really need to be available to everyone at every single minute of the day? Is that email you just received so important that you must read it immediately? Would the world fall apart if you didn’t get your latest text?

I really think that as a society we need to prioritize our lives better! If you truly want to connect with your friends, please put away your phone and actually converse with the person next to you. If you sit down for dinner with your family, how about trying to actually talk to them instead of checking the latest updates on Facebook? And for all you workaholics out there, could you possibly commit to putting away your laptop and Blackberry for just a few hours each night and spend some quality time with your family? Is that really too much to ask? I assure you that your friends, spouse and kids will greatly appreciate a little more undivided attention, and who knows, maybe you’ll even notice that you’re a lot happier and perhaps even feel a little liberated not having that device permanently attached to your hip. Go on, give it a try….

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I just recently did a small random act of kindness for a friend of mine and it made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside!  I can’t say what it is yet, as this friend might read this post, but it’s super thoughtful and this person will definitely enjoy the surprise when it finally arrives. 😀

I don’t even know how to put into words the joy I feel when doing something kind for someone else – especially if it’s anonymous. All I can do is give you some ideas, tell you how amazing it is and encourage you to spread a little kindness too!

Here are a few suggestions for scattering some kindness around your city.

Kindness to Others

  • Buy a meal for a young couple or family sitting next to you at a restaurant.
  • Buy shoes or clothes for a family in need.
  • Bake cookies for a neighbor or teacher, just because.
  • Help an elderly person with yard work or grocery shopping.
  • Visit a nursing home and bring cupcakes. Sit and visit with a few of the residents. You’d be amazed at the loving reception you will receive as many residents rarely receive visitors.
  • Leave an extra large tip for your food server.
  • Buy the meal for the person behind you at the fast food drive through.
  • Bake goodies and take them to the police station, fire station, or hospital.
  • Buy a balloon bouquet and ask the nurses at the children’s hospital to deliver them to a child.
  • Plug someone’s parking meter.
  • Write to management at places where you get especially good service and praise them (specify names!)
  • Tape a quarter to a pay phone with a note welcoming anyone who needs it to use it.
  • Adopt a family through a social service agency, not just at Christmas. People go hungry all year.
  • Volunteer at a local shelter, crisis nursery or soup kitchen. This will give more to you than you can imagine.

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Quote of the Week

We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” ~ Author Unknown (although some believe Dr. Seuss said this)

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I’ve confessed that I don’t particularly enjoy driving, and I especially dislike having to park, so that’s why I absolutely love pulling into a parking lot and seeing the oh-so-inviting pull through parking space just calling my name.

Pull Through Parking Spaces

If you’re anything like me, or any other warm-blooded human being, your spirits immediately rise when you scan the lot and spot that sweet pull through parking space. I know that any open space is nice to find, especially if it’s near the front of the store, but there is just something extra special about finding that wide open, connecting parking spot just begging you to drive on through!

There’s no backing in or out for you mister, it’s just smooth sailing all the way through! You don’t have to risk backing over the little old lady scooting along behind you as you crank your head and try desperately to see if anything is in your reversing path. You don’t have to attempt the extreme reverse-in parking stunt that you learned so long ago in driving school, trying like hell to center yourself without hitting the opposing cars. Today is your lucky day! You are on easy street from here on out; so just put on your blinker, crank the wheel and smile your way all the way through that awesome pull through parking spot.

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