Category Archives: Naturally Happy

Bad Day Recovery

Yesterday kicked my ass!  It’s the only way to describe it. Yesterday was so bad that I still felt crappy and sad when I woke up this morning. I could tell you why but I think it would be more productive to chat about getting over it.

I admire people who can instantly compartmentalize hurt, anger and disappointment.  I want to be one.  I tell myself when life gets me down to just put it out of my mind and not let another moment get ruined. It seems simple enough but I find it so hard! I am the type of person who always ruminates  about what went wrong, even when I don’t want to.  I replay the frustrating or painful scene over and over in a futile attempt to make sense of it.  Sometimes, I think of things that I wish I had said (or hadn’t!)

Enough! Life is too short to be miserable!  I decided the best way to get back in a better frame of mine was too take care of myself.  My first order of business was to get some exercise.  Coincidentally, I needed to drop off my car for an inspection.  Even though the weather is sort of gloomy today, it wasn’t cold or rainy.  I found walking to and from the garage pleasant.  Seeing Spring budding all around and listening to the birds, newly returned from their winter dwellings, was soothing for me.  I find that I crave a connection with nature the most when I have been through something stressful.

When I got back, I took the dogs for a walk too.  Often, I’ve read the best way to help yourself feel better is to help someone else. The dogs always seem so happy when they get a walk, it’s hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm. My Chauncy makes the cutest noises while I am putting his leash on, as if he can’t wait another second to get out the door. It’s such a small thing but it makes a big difference in their day.

After we got back, I decided to cook myself a hot lunch.  My lunches are usually cold sandwiches while running errands on my lunch hour.  So, a hot meal in the middle of the day felt almost luxurious!  It was also needed.  I tend to not very eat well when I’m upset.  So, needless to say, dinner was less than stellar last night. Some good nutrition was definitely required.

Exercise, service, contact with nature and some good food are great ways I have found to lift my mood.  Here are some more:

  • Stimulate the senses.   I have found that filling a room with I scent that I enjoy usually makes me feel better. Lavender is my standby for reducing stress. It’s not called aromatherapy for no reason! Baking bread or some other delish treat is also a good go-to for a happy nose.
  • Do something you love doing. It’s hard to feel crappy when I am crocheting or making jewelry. It’s also helpful to have something else to focus on, particularly for those of us who tend to dwell far too long.
  • Keep a journal.  Sometimes, it can really help to just write out it all out. Not a writer? Speaking to a good friend who is great at listening can release a lot of frustration too.

Need More Time? Make Decisions Less Often

I mentioned in my recent blog post, Wake Up, Write (Right), that my goal was to write first thing in the morning. I have been doing a fair job of forming that habit. However, in order to enhance my chance of success- I need to make a few more changes.

Morning is a very busy time that requires me to make a lot of decisions: What to eat for breakfast; what to wear; what do I need to accomplish today; what to bring for lunch and so on.  It can be challenging to focus on writing when there is a whole day to prepare for as well.  How can I get the peaceful, productive writing time that I need every day?

I believe the answer may be to make as many of those other decisions in advance, as possible.  If I prepare all my lunches for the week on the weekend before, then I can just grab and go each day.  I can do the same thing with my clothes.  If I plan and assemble all five five outfits needed in advance, including jewelry and accessories, I’m saved from making all the tiny choices involved in getting dressed each day.

Paring down decisions, thereby saving time and energy, has been practiced by many successful people including Albert Einstein and former President Obama.  They both simplified their daily decisions by each buying several of the same suits.  So, all they had to do was put them on; no thought required.  The late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, was also famous for his daily uniform compromised of jeans, a black turtleneck and sneakers.  These gentlemen were aware that humans have a limited capacity to make good decisions over time.  So, they eliminated having to make certain choices like what to wear. Thus they were able to fend off decision fatigue longer.

Decision fatigue, quite simply, is one’s diminishing power to keep making good decisions, the more decisions you have to make.  Have you ever watched the TV show Say Yes to the Dress? There was an episode where a man surprised his girlfriend with a proposal and then dropped her off at Kleinfeld’s Bridal right after to buy her wedding dress.  The woman was so overwhelmed with the enormity of having decided to get engaged, there was no way she was going to pick out a wedding dress the same day.  She probably had trouble picking what to have for dinner that night. Forget fatigue, she was decision exhausted!

My hope is that by prepping my week properly in advance and eliminating as many of the daily decisions as possible, I can wake up and write with abandon every single day.  We shall see…

Wake up Write (Right)

“Write everyday at the same time,” is the advice you hear given to writers over and over again.  I have always felt guilty that I have not established an effective daily writing routine.

I have tried writing at all different times: morning, evening and even my lunch hour but nothing stuck for long. My lifelong dance with insomnia made it difficult to write at the same time every morning. My lunch hour was inconsistent as well.  I could probably write at the same time every night but I am too drained at the end of the day most of the time.

To some people, I know this sounds like I am just making excuses but I am sure there are other writers that struggle with the same dilemma. The goal is not to construct the perfect prose every time you write  but you do want to give the best you have to it each day.

I was watching Joanna Penn’s interview with Sarah Painter yesterday. Penn posed the proverbial question about when and how often to write.  A few things stood out for me in Painter’s response. Painter said that she established writing as a daily habit by making it automatic.  She decided to do it first thing when she woke up.  She keeps the computer on the bedside table and grabs it right after opening her eyes.  Her lovely husband brings her a cup tea every morning. (I’ll have one of those, please!) So, she is all set to go. She doesn’t even get out of bed. There is no choice about whether to write.  In fact, the only choice would be- to not write.

The idea of making writing automatic was fascinating but then I thought,  “what about when insomnia keeps me up for half the night?” Painter’s very next words, as if on cue, were, “the reason I like writing first thing in the morning so much is because I am less awake, I’ve got less resistance.” She also pointed out that since the day hasn’t really started yet, there are no distractions.

I read Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, so I was familiar with this process of using a cue (in this case: waking up) to change a habit but hadn’t considered it as a way to establish a writing routine per se. Often people use it to stop doing something like smoking or to remember doing something like flossing after you brush your teeth. I was curious to see if Painter’s routine might work for me.

All day long yesterday, I kept thinking to myself, “wake up, write. Wake up, write.” (I was delighted when the play on words hit me: “wake up, write. Wake up right!” How perfect a mantra is that for establishing a new habit?) I was excited to test it this morning.  As is often the case, I did not sleep well. I was awoken by the phone ringing. So this morning the routine was more like “wake up-talk to Mom-write” but I did it. In fact, you are reading the results right now. I feel comfortable calling day one-albeit not perfect-a success.

My plan is to stick with Painter’s writing routine and “Wake up-write. Wake up right” every day!

Tasha Tudor

The Private World of Tasha Tudor, a review

Recently, I borrowed a book from the library that was published in 1992.  1992 probably seems like a lifetime ago to many of us.  The internet was a nascent network available only to Vax nerds.  Cell phones were only in the hands of a privileged few.  Life was a little slower, quieter and simpler 27 years ago.

1992 was a lot quieter, simpler and slower for renowned illustrator Tasha Tudor who chose to live on a quiet rural Vermont estate with a menagerie of domestic and exotic animals.  Her 1830s lifestyle is beautifully captured in The Private World of Tasha Tudor, a coffee table book by Tasha Tudor and photographer Richard Brown.

The photographs alone are reason enough to pick up this book. It is filled with pictures of Tasha Tudor in her environment. Divided into the four seasons, you will see lush photos of Tudor’s gardens, as well as the inside of her home with her oil lamps, old-fashioned wood cooking stove, homespun linens and beautiful handcrafted items. There are also photos of Tudor with her grandchildren wearing the early 19th Century clothes that Tudor preferred.

“I’m very fond of men. I think they’re wonderful creatures. But I don’t want to look like one. When women gave up long skirts, they made a grave error.  Things half seen are so much more mysterious and delightful.”

Tudor’s humor, wit and frankness fill the pages opposite the photos.  She was someone who knew what she wanted from the time she was a little girl. She was convinced she had lived before in the 1830s and felt more comfortable in that way of life. So, she masterfully recreated a 19th century lifestyle while enjoying a very successful career as the award-winning illustrator of almost 100 books.  One quote that really resonated with me was:

“When I’m working in th barn or house I often think of all the errors I’ve made in my life. But I quickly put that behind me and think of water lilies. They will always eradicate unpleasant thoughts. Or goslings are equally comforting in their own way.”

Great advice! When I realize I am dwelling too much in the negative past, I also try to think of something that makes me happy like my dogs or a beautiful garden.

The book is filled these sorts of self-reflections and other helpful observations. Above all, it gorgeously displays a life that is deeply connected to the natural world, as well as, being in tune with the seasons of nature rather than being ruled by the artificial, digital timing of Today’s world.

I would highly recommend The Private World of Tasha Tudor if you would like to experience the serenity of the 1830s through beautiful photographs and the brilliant musings of a satisfied woman who brought to life the world of her dreams.

While there is light…

I was having a perfectly lazy Sunday morning of laying around and crocheting while previewing audiobooks from the online library catalog when the power went out. I realized I better get my lazy tush up and get done what I could while it’s still light out.

I sprang into action, changing sheets, tidying up and doing whatever could be done without electricity. The power came back on about 40 minutes later.  I had a thought while I was checking the soy ice cream to make sure it was still good.  (One can’t be too careful about these things!) I thought that electricity is such a luxury.  It makes you feel like you can do whatever you want whenever you want.

Stay with me.  This is not a post where I am going to implore you to be grateful for electricity.  You already know all about that, right? I thought so!   It’s actually about something more serious.  It’s about the illusion of having time to do what you want, whenever you want.

Luke Perry, actor and 90s heartthrob, died earlier this week after a massive stroke.  He was only 52 years-old.  He had a steady role on a TV show.  He was the proud father of two kids, nearing adulthood.  He was engaged to be married.  He had what appeared to be a really great life and much to look forward to.  He seemed to be fit and healthy.  Would he have any reason to believe that it was all about to end?  As wonderful a life as he seemed to have, I imagine that he would have liked to have accomplished, learned and experienced even more.

So, I am going to sign off with a question and a blessing: What do you want to get done here on earth before the light goes out?  May you accomplish and experience all that you’ve dreamed of doing, being, serving, loving and having.

Now get busy!

 

 

How to Find the Flow

I mentioned last week that even though I need to write that I tend to resist doing it. Often, my biggest excuse is that I am too tired.  Sometimes, the little battles of life wear me down.  More often than I care to admit, I am too pooped to do anything but watch TV at the end of a long, hard day.

Watching TV might be a comforting distraction but it doesn’t do anything to improve my life and it’s not going to provide me with the satisfaction that I get from being creative.  Also, I know that if I do write that chances are, I will feel better.

Today, I asked myself, “how can I get into the flow?” This is what I came up with:

1. Remind myself that my intention is to write.

2. Pray for help to get into the flow of writing.

3. Sit down and write.

I tried this new ritual out today.  Then I finished a chapter and started the next in a novel that I began writing many months ago.  Today is Saturday.  The real test will be mid-week but  I would call that a good start!

What do you do to get in the flow?

How to Master Life

I am a life-long procrastinator when it comes to personal projects. (Work for anyone else- I’m a mule!) It’s something I am really trying to tackle in 2019. I had an epiphany about it this morning and realized I have been going about it all wrong.

I have been trying to overcome procrastination by becoming more efficient. I have been studying how to establish good habits. I have been watching endless videos on effective morning, evening and writing routines. I have been trying to establish these good habits and efficient routines, only to get derailed by life events and end up feeling like a failure.

Oddly enough, it was my new favorite hobby that led to this epiphany that changed everything. I started learning how to crochet last April and I LOVE it! It’s one of my favorite things to do. Although, I realized that when I crocheted for a long time, as much I enjoy it, there was still something amiss.  There was a little nagging voice in the back of my head saying, “you know, you haven’t written anything in a really long time!”

It was then that it occurred to me that there are things you need to do like eat, sleep and maintain good hygiene, things you love to do like crochet and then there are things you are meant to do- and for me- this is writing.  The things we are meant to do, often, seem to be what we resist the most to our own detriment.

The truth is when I don’t write anything at all, I don’t feel quite well.  Life is literally draining out of me. I realize that sounds dramatic but there is probably something in your life that produces the same effect.  I enjoy crocheting and it adds a lot to my existence but nothing makes me feel quite as alive and purposeful as having written.

So, why do I avoid it?  Why do I procrastinate? Steven Pressfield writes about resistance in the War of Art as if it is a real life bogeyman who quite literally wants to kill us. Whether this is actually the case or not, it’s really the only compelling explanation I have found to demystify the phenomenon of procrastination.

What are you meant to do? What have you been resisting?

Enjoy The Donut!

This past Thursday, Valentine’s Day, I stopped off to pick up a coffee cake for the breakfast we were having at work. While completing that task, I spied a package full of beautifully-baked, perfectly-sugared jelly donuts.

I am not usually someone who is drawn to sweets. I am more of a savory kind of gal. However, there is something about donuts that I find utterly irresistible! I turn into Homer Simpson. (“Doooooo-nut…!”) Normally, I avoid places that sell them for this reason. I tried to summon up my will power to avoid them even in this instance but after circling them three times, I pounced and they were gathered up with the coffee cake.

I scarfed one down in the car on the way to the office. I felt immensely joyful afterward. Then I became concerned that I might be using food to control my mood. I shared this with a few people at the office, who said, “It’s Valentine’s Day! It’s okay to have a sweet once in a while.”

I think they’re right. Since I am interested in nutrition and self-improvement, I tend to review a lot of content by people who seem perfect in their habits. They live on salads, green smoothies and kale and nary a bit of refined sugar ever seems to cross their lips. While that’s admirable, I think as long as I am making the effort to avoid the bakery 90% of the time, it’s okay to enjoy a donut every once in a while. So far, I haven’t started putting on a scarf and sunglasses to sneak into donut shops on the daily, weekly or even monthly yet… So, I can probably cut myself a break.

Do you have a not-so-healthy food that you find too tempting to pass up?

Time to Get this Garden Started!

It’s that time again!  One of my favorite things about gardening is watching seeds turn into plants. I am really excited about this year’s seeds because I purchased them from Seed Savers Exchange.

Seed Savers was founded by Diane Ott Whealy and Ken Whealy in 1975.  The mission of this nonprofit organization is to save and share seeds in order to preserve biodiversity for generations to come. They maintain a collection of more than 20,000 heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable, herb, and plant varieties, including over 1,000 varieties of heritage apple trees.  Their collection includes many organic seeds.

I am happy to support an organization with such a great purpose.  I have to admit though, I am even more excited about seeing what comes out of these seeds!  My tomato plants this year have names like Velvet Red and Black Krim! The peppers are Jimmy Nardello’s and King of The North. How cool is that?

Check out this description for Redfield Beauty Tomatoes: “Historic Variety introduced circa 1889 by H.G. Hastings & Co. of Interlachen, Florida. Flattened pink 3″ inch fruits with excellent full flavor.” When was the last time you ate a tomato from the Supermarket that matched that description? Never.

I think that one of the most marvelous things about gardening is the opportunity to discover something new (and delicious!) right in your own yard. There is a romance to gardening. You nurture these plants along on the promise of the rewards to come when they bear fruit.  The prize you end up with is largely determined by the seeds you have when you begin… like all great romances!

Are you starting your garden from seeds? Have you used Seed Savers Exchange? Please leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you.

 

Have You Got Hygge in Your Home?

Not that long ago, after many years of thinking I knew my ancestry, I discovered that my father actually has a rather substantial amount of Scandinavian blood coursing through his veins.  So, it stands to reason, my siblings and I do too. Perhaps, this is why I took to the concept of Hygge like a cod to water.

Hygge (pronounced hue-ga) is a danish word with no direct english translation.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means:

A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture.)

I can get down with being cozy especially this time of year.  I am a Spring-Summer kind of gal.  Winter makes me want to hibernate!  Since I can’t actually sleep all season, the next best thing is having little comforts to keep me warm and cozy inside when it’s cold outside.  Here are some of my Hygge-ly tips:

1. LIGHTING can make a big difference in creating a warm and nurturing atmosphere.  I like the soft orange glow from this Himalayan salt lamp my sister gave me for Christmas.  Candles can also provide beautiful soft light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. SCENTS provide a mood-lifting experience.  I like blending different essential oils in a diffuser.  This candle-powered one is great because it has  the added benefit of lovely candlelight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. A WARM TREAT can be just the right balm for a weary soul on a chilly day.  No further explanation needed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. CUDDLY FRIENDS are great any time of year but they are definitely more inclined to snuggle up in the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. DREAMING of Spring can help too.  Winter is a great time to plan what you would like to do in the balmier days to come.  Gardeners start planning months before the ground is warm enough to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you got any Hygge-like rituals to help get you through the winter?  Please share them by leaving a comment.