International Day of Happiness 2015 – Friday, March 20

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Rev your happy engines, because March 20, 2015 is the official “International Day of Happiness!”

You can visit the official site here.

On the website, they have a downloadable document of ways you can enjoy and contribute.

Here are few suggestions:

  • Do something kind for others
  • Volunteer
  • Get to know your neighbors!
  • Look for the good in others around you

There are a ton of ideas of how to get involved in fun ways on the official site (linked above). Follow the hashtag #happyacts on Twitter for even more inspiration and ideas!

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”  H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 

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Sweet Dreams! Sleep Awareness Week™

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It’s already that time of year again: spring forward, or Daylight Saving Time. This is not the fun one, where you gain an hour – but the dreaded one, where you lose an entire hour of sleep. Boo.

This past week was the official Sleep Awareness Week™ – a campaign for public awareness of the importance of sleep.  I’m not going to argue with the value of that, but I think most of us already know how important a good night’s rest is!

Still, it’s a great idea, and their website has some great sleep tips and tools you can use, so check it out!

I used to battle insomnia, so I’ve got some handy tricks up my sleeve I’d like to share with you as well. My repertoire is one that uses all the senses, so let’s approach it like that.

Sight

This one is very hard for me, but I can’t lie, it helps!

If you can shut off the TV or computer an hour before you go to bed, thus giving your eyes a much-deserved rest, your body will be in a much better state in which to relax into sleep.

Sound

If you’ve never tried audio recordings to help you get to sleep, you are in for a treat! Try a variety of sounds while you rest, such as:

  • Rain falling on a roof
  • Ocean waves
  • Forest sounds
  • Soft, classical music
  • White noise

In today’s world, you don’t have to get in your car, drive to the mall and find a “record store” (in quotes because nobody says that anymore) to find something like this.

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You can download single tracks, albums and apps right onto your phone, so you’re always set for a good night’s sleep.

And of course, there is my standby favorite, guided meditation downloads specifically geared for getting to sleep. I’m always telling people to try one – they are quite simply miraculous!

Taste

Try some calming hot tea before bedtime (not too much, you don’t want to have to wake up to relieve yourself, or that defeats the purpose!).

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Make sure it is naturally decaffeinated herbal tea for best results.

My favorite hot tea in the whole world for bedtime is aptly named “Sleepytime Tea,” by Celestial Seasonings. All of their teas are divine. Even if you don’t consider yourself a tea person, give it a try. I didn’t think I was until I found this brand.

I love tea so much now that I even enjoy Earl Gray tea, which I thought was disgusting when I first tried it 20 years ago. Still, nothing can keep me from my full-octane-nuclear-strength coffee in the morning. Woe to the person who steps between me and my beloved Kuerig, which doses me by the hour.

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My children have memorized the mantra “don’t make eye contact with mom” – they know this by heart as a rule to abide by before I have my first cup of joe in the morning.

Touch

Pure freshly laundered cotton sheets were a given when I was a child. Maybe that is why I never put up a fuss about bedtime, because my bed linens were blissfully soft and comfy.

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Today, even when I try to purchase “fancy pants” sheets, they just don’t have the same feeling.  I stole some from my mom, I admit. Shhh, don’t tell her.

I did some web searching and found this interesting post that addresses this topic, with some tips and ideas. I’m bookmarking it for when my mom finds out I took her extra sheets.

So find yourself the best, comfiest bedding linens you can – they don’t have to be expensive (from what I hear – see that post above), but even if they are, save up, because getting a good night’s rest is worth the investment.

A good mattress is important as well – but I find that to be a boring topic, and I figure if you need a new mattress you can do what I do and just Google some reviews online.

Smell

I am a sucker for linen sprays – I love them so much, I can’t even begin to tell you how obsessed I am with them.

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I received some lavender linen bed spray as a gift at least 20 years ago, and that is when my addiction started. You can find bed sprays in every scent imaginable, but I’d advise you stick to the ones that will actually calm you.

If you purchase one with an invigorating citrus scent, do not blame me when you can’t sleep (but you can send it to me if you don’t want it – I’ll just spray it everywhere else).

Here are some of my favorites.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling Martha Stewart-like, I’ll even make my own – it’s pretty easy actually!

Nighty night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite

What sick person came up with the “don’t let the bedbugs bite” part of that little ditty? Seriously, that’s just cruel. It caused me some anxiety growing up. Bugs? What bugs? There are bugs in my bed?

I just leave that part out and tell my kids “night night, sleep tight, angels watch you through the night.”

May the angels watch over you tonight as you try out some new methods to get a good night’s sleep!

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If you have any ideas, tips, recommendations, please share them in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Postcrossing – global postcard exchange for fun!

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Who doesn’t love getting something special in the mailbox? If you are looking for a quick pick-me-up kind of hobby, have I got an idea for you!

I joined a site called www.postcrossing.com a couple of years ago, and now I have hundreds of postcards from all over the globe.

I’ve gotten cards from Argentina, Belarus, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Israel, Korea, Lithuania, Mozambique, Peru, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine...and that’s just off the top of my head!

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The motto of Postcrossing is:

 

“Send a postcard and receive a postcard from a random person in the world!”

 

The Postcrossing Project

People (like you and me!) can send and receive postcards from all over the world, for free (except for the cost of the stamps). When you send out a postcard, you will get one from a random Postcrosser from somewhere, anywhere.

You can choose to include the U.S.A., but you don’t have to if you prefer to just receive postcards from other countries.

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Sounds good, but how does it work?

After joining the site (it’s free!), you request to send a postcard. The website will display (and send you an email) with the address of another member and a Postcard ID –  then you mail a postcard to that member, with the Postcard ID prominently clearly written on it so they can register that they received it.

When the other Postcrosser member receives your card, they then register it using the Postcard ID you wrote on their postcard. When your first recipient registers your card –you then get a postcard from another user.

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You are next in line for the next person across the globe who requests to send a postcard!

How many cards you can send and receive goes up incrementally. If you want to send a lot, you can get a lot – it’s really up to you.

Give it a try!

I urge you to at least try this for a bit – you can send as many or as few as you like. Some people just do a few a year – I’ve gotten up to where I send and receive about 10 – 12 a month.

My mailbox is quite happy – and our postal carrier has commented on how lucky I am! I told her I wasn’t lucky, and explained about the website. She seemed interested, so maybe I’ve already recruited one other Postcrosser.

There’s nothing in it for me to refer other people – I just love to tell others when I find something new and fun to do and/or experience.

So head on over to www.postcrossing.com and check it out.

Happy Postcrossing!

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Random Acts of Kindness – more meaningful than you may know

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I will never forget the first time I was the lucky recipient of a “RAK” – a “Random Act of Kindness.”  It was a couple of years ago.

The day unfolded almost like a scene from a gritty TV drama: it was rainy, dreary and miserably cold, and I was in a rotten mood.

I was in pain, I was angry, frightened, and sad – you name it.  I had just received some awful news at the doctor, and I was crying like a three-year -old – the kind of cry where you just scream and rant and don’t bother wiping your tears away.

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Really dignified scene, if you can imagine. I was just letting it all out with the music cranked up in my car.

I remember I had on some angry music like AC/DC – it went very well with my mood. I didn’t even compose myself at stoplights, like I usually do if I’m screeching along with the music. I really didn’t care if anyone saw me.

I was in 100% full self-pity mode. WOE. IS. ME. I think we’ve all been there, right?

Anyway, so I decided to treat myself to a yummy Starbucks Latte to warm up and make myself feel better (shhh, don’t tell me how many calories are in them – I don’t care).

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I made my order, and coasted up to the drive-through window. As I rolled down my window, the pretty blonde barista (with bright red lipstick – I remember these things) said

 “the customer in front of you paid for your order, you’re good to go!”

…with a big smile, as she handed me my latte.

I was stunned. It took me a second to process what she was saying, and when it hit – I felt an amazing sense of joy and gratefulness just wash over me. My cheeks actually started warming up!

I took the latte from her hand, and said something dorky like

 “OH! Okay, that’s um – how cool is that?! Thank you for doing…well, I mean thanks!”

I felt a unique mixture of surprise, slight awkward embarrassment, and just a dash of that feeling you get as a kid when you first see the gifts Santa left you under the Christmas tree.

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That sounds quite dramatic, I know – but that is precisely what I felt in that moment. A stranger just….randomly…..decided to buy my latte! I had heard of “RAKs” – but had never been the recipient of one.

It really does restore your faith in humanity, as the saying goes.

My rotten day was transformed – SNAP – just like that. I was in the best mood. So much so, that when I got home, the first thing I told my husband was about the RAK, not about the doctor visit. That had become secondary in my mind, just a pesky irritation.

What had loomed so monstrously in my mind had been hit with a shrink-ray gun, just because some random stranger decided to buy my latte.

There are a couple of takeaways from this, from where I’m sitting.

  • Doing something kind for a stranger, even just a small gesture, can completely make their day. It can change the course of their entire day – think about that for a moment!
  • Our minds are weird. Really weird. They can be our best friend, and our worst enemy. That’s not news to you, I know that. But I don’t know that I’ve ever actually felt that, in real time – until that moment.

I am at a total loss as to explain how I could go from complete and utter misery, to be filled with profound joy and gratefulness – in an instant.

In an instant.

So that RAK didn’t just change my day, it changed my outlook. I have always “known” that if you change your thoughts, you can change your life (hat tip, Norman Vincent Peale).

But I didn’t “know know.” And now I do. It affects everything I do now. That very day, I took out my journal and made a list of RAKs I could start doing, immediately.

I wish so much that I could find that stranger in the light grey Honda CRV (again, I remember these odd things), and give them a big hug of gratefulness.

If you want in on this, and need some ideas – check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. The ideas are endless!

Who knows? You could end up making a tremendous positive change in someone’s life.

Even if it’s just a latte on a rainy day.

Happy RAK-ing!

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Feeling Lazy? Here are 4 ways out of the funk

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 “UGH”

A very quick preview of what comes up on a web search is very revealing. Start to type in the words “how to stop” and guess what comes up in auto-fill? Usually “being lazy” and “procrastinating” are near the top of the search results.

One good takeaway from that is knowing that if you are struggling with feeling lazy, you are far from alone.

Apparently, millions of other people are having the same problem. In today’s hectic, fast-paced world, our plates are overflowing with to-do lists, meetings, obligations, and of course, the ever-present smartphone continually buzzing out notifications.

It’s enough to make you just want to forget it all and go take a nap. Since that isn’t usually possible, apathy can set in, and minds can stubbornly just refuse to cooperate with that inner voice saying “get more done!”

When that happens, we feel lazy. Indifferent. Passive. And weary, oh so weary. Our goals end up getting short shrift in while we are drowning in minutiae – that state where we just put off things that are important because of…

“The tyranny of the urgent.”

This is a phrase coined by Charles Hummel in 1967.

So fifty years ago, people were struggling with this dilemma, and this was in an era free of smartphones, texting, emails, and the resulting suffocating feeling of being “on call” 24/7.

We all want to know how to overcome laziness and get things done, so let’s figure out how.

1. Are you truly lazy?

No, really – this is a serious question. Plenty of people think they are “lazy” when in fact they just feel guilty about not getting more accomplished. It’s possible that you are not lazy at all, and in fact just a perfectionist. And perfectionists rarely think they are accomplishing enough, if ever.

If you’re a perfectionist, then you likely won’t ever feel like what you do is enough. Or good enough, for that matter. Give yourself a break.

Another thing to consider: you’re not lazy if you truly have too much on your schedule. You have 24 hours a day, or more likely 16, if you manage to get 8 hours of sleep a night. There is only so much one can accomplish in that time, given that you also have to eat, take bathroom breaks, wait in lines, possibly commute to work, and so on.

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If you are kicking yourself because you aren’t working out enough, yet you also have a demanding job, a spouse, 3 kids, and a mortgage to pay – you aren’t lazy. You have a scheduling challenge.

In order to determine how best to define your problem, you have to establish what it actually is. A litmus test for this is to take a typical week in your life – making no radical changes – and track it.

There are several time tracking apps and sites that can do the heavy lifting for you. Just pick one, any one of them – and start tracking.

After the week has passed, take some time to review the results:

  • If you see that your time was jam-packed with activity – work, eating, exercise, etc. – and you just aren’t getting to your dream goals, like say, working on a novel – you don’t have a problem with laziness. You just need to tweak your schedule.
  • If your time tracking reveals that you are putting in hours, but not accomplishing as much as reasonably possible (“reasonably” is the important word here), then you could probably use a tune-up on self-discipline.

2. Don’t count on “the right mood” (hint: there isn’t one)

The number one, unquestionable habit of people who are highly successful, is this: they never, ever wait until they “feel like it” to get something accomplished. If you are waiting for just the right mood to come wafting by, you will be waiting a long time. Possibly forever.

Moods are funny things. They are unpredictable, testy, fickle, and most of all, hard to pin down. You might as well try to throw yourself on a wave in the ocean and hold it down. It’s not going to happen. Waiting to do something until you “feel like it” is a recipe for failure.

3. Drop the excuses

George Washington Carver, a man who clearly did not make excuses (he invented hundreds of uses for peanuts), said “Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

What are some of the most common excuses people make?

 

  • “I’m too tired”
  • “I don’t have enough time”
  • “It’s too late”
  • “ It’s too hard”
  • “I can start later”
  • “I need more money”
  • “I’m too old”
  • “I’m too young”
  • “I’m too fat”
  • “I’m too scrawny”
  • “I’m not smart enough”
  • “I’m too busy”
  • “I don’t know how”
  • “I might fail”
  • “I’ll do it when the kids are in school”
  • “I’ll do it when the kids graduate from school”
  • “It’s not the right time”
  • “I’m waiting for ___ to happen”

 

Surely some of these sound very familiar. Don’t beat on yourself if you’ve made some of these excuses, everyone has. It’s part of the human condition.

Cave men, if they could talk, probably said they were too tired to go out hunting and gathering.

The difference was, they had no choice. It was hunt and gather, or starve to death.

Given that in our gilded age of excess, we typically won’t starve if we put off a goal, so we tend to lack the appropriate motivation. If we were facing starvation, or had a charging rhinoceros behind us, it’s guaranteed we would get up and get going. Fast.

The solution? Find something that motivates you.


4.Finding motivation

Motivation is the carrot that propels the donkey to keep plodding along, he wants that carrot!  What is your “carrot?”

  • Fear – probably the strongest motivator out there. Remember the rhinoceros scenario? Being motivated by fear means you are scared of possible negative or painful consequences.
  • Self-improvement – if you have a fire inside yourself, eager to achieve greater knowledge, power, and personal growth, then you are motivated by the desire to become a better version of yourself.
  • Connection – an inner longing to connect and bond with others is a very powerful motivator. This goes hand-in-hand with the need for acceptance.
  • Helping – the aspiration to contribute to others – or society in general – is a motivation based on wanting to “make a difference.”
  • Power – this can be based on a couple of things: wanting to control others in some way, or just have personal autonomy (in other words, not needing others to help). The desire to take the wheel of control in our own lives is another aspect of this.
  • Rewards – if you get stars in your eyes and a flutter in your heart over the idea of making a ton of money, then you are motivated by rewards. Of course, you could also just want outside validation, not money, as a reward, Either way, you are motivated by the idea of gaining something.


Think of motivation as fuel for your tank
– just like your car requires gasoline in order to move, and your body requires food in order to survive. Motivation is really no different – it is simply the fuel that gets you from where you are now, to where you want to be.

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No more self-sabotage!

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We human beings are quirky. We are endowed with several wonderful qualities, such as the ability to communicate, love, dream, and find courage in the face of daunting circumstances.

 

We also have quite the tendency to self-sabotage, often right on the cusp of success. Why is this? Why would we knowingly, purposely quit, give up, cry uncle, back out, and buckle under just when success is within our grasp?

 

It’s a brain thing. Call it a minor malfunction or glitch, if you will. Our mind can trip us up far more than anyone, or anything else in this world. It whispers into your subconscious sneaky lies such as:

 

  • You can’t really do this.
  • You don’t deserve this.
  • Eh, you don’t really, truly want this.
  • Even if you make it, it won’t last
  • This is boring. Let’s screw this up.
  • Hey, look over there – something shiny!

 

You’d think your own brain would be your friend, but apparently it has other ideas about your dreams and goals. The mind seems to be kind of a prankster, actually. So if you are serious about accomplishing something, and don’t want your meddling mind getting in the way – you need to trick it right back.


Strategies to strengthen perseverance

 

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs” – Victor Hugo

 

The word “perseverance” sometimes seems a bit intimidating. After all, it’s commonly associated with highly successful athletes, corporate kings, miracle stories, and other things that seem slightly out of our reach.

However, perseverance isn’t some magical pill some are given, leaving the rest of us in the cold. It is a skill, nothing more. A skill that can be learned, practiced, and mastered by anyone. It’s like a muscle, work it out a bit every day, and before long, it will be strong.

 

Ways to strengthen your perseverance muscle include:

  • Start small – think of a minor project you’ve been meaning to get done. It can be something as simple as cleaning out your closet (admittedly this isn’t minor for many). Assign yourself a very specific time allotment per day to get this done, say, 15 minutes.
  • Question your perspective – how you perceive a task will define how much of a challenge you think it is, and whether or not you can do it. It’s all in how you see it – like the old “half glass full or empty” experiment we all know. If you can take a negative thought, such as “I’ll never get this done,” and then challenge it, telling yourself “yes, I can, and here are 3 reasons why,” then you’re gold.
  • Define the WHY – keep in the forefront of your mind what it means for you, and why it is important to you.

 

Just as important as perseverance is the ability to keep your goal realistic. That’s not raining on your parade, or saying you shouldn’t aim high and “shoot for the stars,” as they say. It means don’t set the bar for success so high that you virtually are asking for a major melt-down.

 

Room to breathe

Goals and dreams are like us, in some ways. They need support, love, encouragement, pep talks, perseverance (of course) – but like us, they also need room to breathe.

To make this happen, you need to create margin. In the book “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives,by Richard Swenson,  margin is described as

…the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.”

 

If in your quest for your goal, you leave no room for mistakes, rest, and breaks, you will undoubtedly begin to burn out. This is the point where your mind starts to whisper “this is too much work, you can’t do this.”

Don’t let that happen. Learn how to create margin so you can have an emergency reserve of perseverance when you need it the most – likely when you are close to the finishing line.

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Benjamin Disraeli once said,

 

“Through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure.”

 

What he did not say was that many people seem to have a tendency to, as some joke, “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”  You don’t have to be one of them. You can stop the cycle of self-sabotage.

You can challenge yourself, develop self-awareness, press on, and reach your goal.

 

 

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