2018 Happiness Project

Happy New Year! 🙂 I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is gearing up for an even better 2018. A lot of people are skeptical when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, but sometimes a new year can be the perfect starting point to begin incorporating new practices into our lives. Last year, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, in which the author underwent a full year of adopting positive new habits based on happiness research. I loved the book and its practicality so much that I quickly became a fan of Gretchen’s podcast!

Inspired by both the book and the podcast, I decided to take 2018 to create my own happiness project, based on applicable lessons from the book. For the next six months, I will focus on ingraining new healthy practices into my life (and re-ingraining some old ones that have fallen to the wayside!), and will share my results and lessons learned on the blog each month.

Feel free to adopt these practices into your own life from month to month, or create your very own happiness project using the resources from Gretchen’s site. Don’t forget to share your own findings in the comments section!

2018 Happiness Project | Wellness & Wanderlust

  • January 2018: Boost Energy.
    • Practice better sleep hygiene and go to bed earlier.
    • Exercise more often.
    • Go for 15-minute walks before work each morning.
    • Take time to reorganize.
  • February 2018: Focus on Nutrition.
    • Undergo a Whole30.
    • Make time for meal prep every Sunday.
    • Try one new recipe each week.
  • March 2018: Lighten Up & Appreciate the Present.
    • Attempt a “Pollyanna Week” of minimal to no complaining.
    • Keep a one-sentence journal.
    • Practice gratitude each day.
  • April 2018: Reevaluate Finances.
    • Look over my monthly budget and find areas to cut back.
    • Organize coupons and gift cards for more efficient use.
  • May 2018: Make Time for Friends.
    • Prioritize social time with friends.
    • Don’t gossip.
    • Show up.
  • June 2018: Pursue a Passion.
    • Dedicate more time to writing and blogging.
    • Submit an original piece to a new publication.
    • Work on learning a new technology.

What are your resolutions for 2018? Share in the comments section below!

Eat, Pray, Be Present

“The other problem with all this swinging through the vines of thought is that you are never where you are. You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in this moment. It’s something like the habit of my dear friend Susan, who – whenever she sees a beautiful place – exclaims in near panic, ‘It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!’ and it takes all of my persuasive powers to try and convince her that she is already here.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

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As I was stumbling my way through the India section of Eat Pray Love (yes, I’ll admit I’m having trouble getting through some of the meditation chapters), I found myself transfixed by the above passage. To give readers some background about this book, here is my publisher-style synopsis: After a tumultuous divorce and a crushing depression, author Elizabeth Gilbert travels to Italy, India and Indonesia to experience indulgence, spirituality and balance.

While staying at an ashram in India, Gilbert struggles to slow down her mind and learn how to meditate. One of her biggest problems always seems to be her inability to focus on the task at hand; in other words, her inability to live in the present. In addition, she talks about how this hinders her relationship with a higher power.

Although I’m not a particularly spiritual person, I can completely relate to Gilbert and appreciate her difficulty in stopping to smell the roses. In our fast-paced world, we’re often looking to see what’s next. We find ourselves thinking about our weekend plans in the middle of class, making our mental to-do lists during club meetings and figuring out the best ways to multi-task. With a million things to do at once, I am constantly multi-tasking, and although this definitely helps my time management, it also means my life moves at top speed.

Sometimes I jokingly blame it on some undiagnosed case of ADD, but in the time since I logged onto WordPress and started writing this entry, I have also planned out two Freshman 15 articles and a Friday Five, read a few more chapters of Eat Pray Love, started pre-ordering my Harry Potter tickets and worked on my psychology notes. I’m not alone in this — in fact, many of us tend to get bored easily because we can’t seem to stay present. Why else would websites like StumbleUpon be so popular?

We’re constantly reminiscing about the past, contemplating the future and picturing other places we could be, instead of just living in the moment and experiencing everything as it comes to us. Gilbert’s solution to this problem is meditation, but for those of us who don’t go to yoga every week or have access to Sanskrit prayers, it is important for us to at least stop and think about what we’re doing. Breathe a little. Capture your surroundings with the five senses and don’t think so much about that new top you want to get or the exam you just took. Life will seem more meaningful and a little less monotonous if you take the time to really be present.

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Extra, Extra: I would like to welcome two of my real life friends to the blogosphere, Kalehli of Tilting at Windmills and Jessie of Simple Sophistication. They are awesome people who started their blogs in the past week, so go check out their stuff (as well as some of the other amazing links on the side of my home page)!

Getting Stuck in December

As I listen to my latest mix CD for the road (which perhaps breaks a few of these rules), I find myself listening to Track #4 quite often. It’s Taylor Swift’s latest single, Back to December, one of the first songs I’ve heard from her that really wasn’t all sunshine and “boy in the corner, please notice me.” (I’m not a hater, trust me… I have a soft spot for those songs too!) Of course, my friends make fun of me for this — “It’s the most depressing song on the album!” they laugh, insisting we play Better than Revenge or Mine instead — but I still love the song nonetheless.

For those of you who live under a rock and haven’t heard it on all the pop radio stations in the past few months, Back to December is a song about heartbreak and regret — probably, more specifically, about her ex-boyfriend Taylor Lautner. She sings about how she wishes she hadn’t treated him the way she had, and that if she could go back to December and change her actions, she would.

Anyone who has made a decision they regretted could easily find the appeal in this song. Swift expresses those feelings in such a relatable way, and it is easy to apply them to many situations one has been in. However, the more I think about this, the more I wonder how helpful this song really is.

On the one hand, careful consideration of the decisions we have made in the past allows us to make better choices in the future. On the other hand, the more we think about our mistakes, the harder it can be to move forward. Instead of simply changing our ways, we sit around and dwell on the fact that we didn’t change our ways when it really “mattered.” We find ourselves looking at the past as a black-and-white photograph, one without blemishes, and forget the beauty of where we are today.

While listening to this song, I realized that every time Swift and I went back to December, we both got stuck there. With a new year ahead of me, I don’t want that to ever let that happen again. Instead, I want to begin each month — each day! — anew.

Why Everything Looks Better in Black and White

“We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves.” – Lynn Hall

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As I sit at my desk wearing my old middle school cheerleading shirt and listening to K-Ci & Jojo, I feel like I’ve been transported to a time that has since become a series of distant memories. Maybe there’s a reason I’ve let these memories gather so much dust; any time someone mentions sixth through eighth grade, I dismiss them with a quick “Those were the worst years of my life,” and then move on to the next topic.

And yet, there are certain aspects of those three years that give me that warm fuzzy feeling. Ask me about my favorite Halloween nights and you will learn that two of them took place when I was a tween (which wasn’t what we called ourselves back in the day, but I digress). Play I’d Do Anything by Simple Plan for me and I will go on and on about the concert I almost attended just to hear that song live, then tell you about the boy that sixth-grade-Val used to associate the song with. Mention the band Something Corporate to me, and I’ll tell you all about the friend who overheard me proclaiming my love for Andrew McMahon in eighth grade and then gave me his copy of Leaving through the Window.

The point is, as horrible as I made those years out to be, I still have been able to look back on a lot of it with a smile. When someone brings up an interest or hobby I had when I was younger, even if it’s something I have since grown out of, I’m reminded mostly of the good feelings those elements gave me. Even when something led to a not-so-fond memory, the nostalgia itself can be just enough.

It all reminds me of something my Advertising professor told us last spring: we tend to react well to the things that remind us of our past. It’s the very reason why my old mentor brought us Gushers and gummy worms as snacks during my freshman year of college, and the same reason why twenty-something-year-old girls still occasionally listen to the Spice Girls. Regardless of what was going on in our lives ten or fifteen years ago, we generally conclude that it was a much simpler time than the one we are currently in.

Therefore, everything looks better in black and white (and sometimes sepia) because those colors give everything a vintage feel. We like to romanticize the past, even if it had its darker moments. — Tweet this!

However, sometimes I don’t think we cherish the present enough. Regardless of how artistic a black-and-white photograph may look, just think of the beautiful splash of colors in any given “present” picture, and remember that while nostalgia is great, too much focus on the past will leave you stuck there.

A Decade So Bright

“I guess when it comes down to it, being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up. These are the best days of our lives. The only thing that matters is just following your heart and eventually you’ll finally get it right.” – The Ataris, In This Diary

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When I turned 20 years old, roughly three weeks ago, I couldn’t help but remember a conversation I’d had with a friend in the wee hours of the morning on New Year’s Day 2010. As we discussed the beginning of a brand new decade, it had only just begun to hit me that this decade would be different from any other that I had experienced — it would present with it new opportunities and challenges that I had never before encountered, and probably require more self-growth than I’d ever undergone in my life. I then began to evaluate every decade I’d lived through thus far.

Born in September of 1990, I was alive for most of the 90s (if only as an embryo for the remaining nine months), but my memories from then are somewhat blurred. My life consisted mostly of Disney princesses, Barbie dolls, Spice Girls music and boys with cooties. Even back then, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, but my dreams were fuzzier than my curly brown hair; in other words, I would have just as easily settled for becoming Belle or Posh Spice. I associate the 90s with my childhood – a more innocent and carefree time.

In fact, it wasn’t until the new millennium that I was exposed to some of the world’s harsh realities. For me and many of my peers, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 made us question everything we ever thought we knew about human nature, and opened our eyes to the fact that life wasn’t the fairy tale we’d always been told it was. The economy took a nosedive soon after, and in turn we witnessed various other forms of human greed and suffering throughout the world. This wasn’t to say that these things hadn’t happened long before, but we were finally old enough to comprehend what was going on around us.

The decade also brought with it the preteen and teenage years. It was a time of mean middle school girls and the mean middle school boys who broke our hearts before we ever really knew what that meant. It was also a time of insecurities and awkward encounters and frustrations. I moved on to high school in 2005, where dances and parties and football games made you cool, and hearts were broken on Spirit Week. As I floated around between cliques and juggled cheerleading and yearbook, I struggled to find a sense of identity, and never entirely embraced those four years.

In May 2009, I graduated high school and hurried off to college, which was a nice little beginning and ending all at once. Flash forward 17 months, and here we are. It’s October 2010, I’m a sophomore in college and I have my whole life ahead of me. So, what’s next?

I’d like to think that, as I spend the remainder of the 2010s in my twenties, I will be focused on finishing my education, obtaining a career I really enjoy, eventually finding the love of my life and maybe even starting a family. Of course, life doesn’t always pan out the way you expect it to, and so who’s to say that any of this would become a reality?

In fact, ABC has a new show called My Generation, which is a mockumentary zeroing in on nine people from the graduating class of 2000 and revisiting them in 2010. Obviously, this is just a show, but it’s interesting to see how current events and life experiences changed each of the characters over the course of 10 years. It’s important to be flexible in your expectations for the future, but shows like this make me wonder just how much my environment will shape my goals and decisions in the years to come.

Although I don’t know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life, I do have a basic mental outline, and can’t help but ask myself how I will adjust if things don’t go accordingly. What if laws change, or people change, or some completely unforeseen incident changes everything I have ever known? Do we try to hold onto what’s left, or do we pick up the pieces and move on? Will those events change us?

I hope to look to this new decade as a bright new beginning – a future that offers several different roads to happiness and success, regardless of what those words mean to me in ten years – and I wish the same for you.