Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Happiness Experiment

Remember January 2014?  I do...the New Year held so much promise! Resolutions seemed attainable (like me writing blog posts more frequently...we see how well that's turned out!) During our company holiday party, I heard a catchy song I had never heard before named "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. Now it's played at nauseum on Top 40 radio stations, but remember, this was back in January!

I liked the song so much that I watched the video, and saw it was essentially everyday people shaking their groove thing and dancing however they liked. So I started dancing along. And then I thought, what would happen if I danced to this song every day for 30 days? Would it make me any happier? Would I start the day with a literal spring in my step?

Part of my inspiration was from Gretchen Rubin, who has written several books on happiness including The Happiness Project and Happiness at Home. She is also writing a book about happiness and habit forming which intrigued me. If it takes 21 days to form a habit, how long does it take for a happiness-inducing habit to form? And when would I actually start feeling happier?

So every morning for 30 days (except for a few days where I doubled up) I danced. And shimmied. And swiveled. And all those things normally reserved for describing Elvis' hips. And during the process I was 1) out of breath, 2) energized, and 3) really enjoying myself! At 5:45 in the morning, I was starting my day on a happier note. Even on the days when I was tired, or just in a bad mood, I thought to myself, "Just get started and see where it goes." Every time I ended up finishing the song and smiling.

As I started choreographing moves and developing a routine, I was reminded of when I was in elementary school and made up dance routines to records playing on my Fisher Price record player, and then to cassette tapes (Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul, mostly). I was reminded of a time when I felt free to create, when I didn't really care what I looked like because I was expressing myself in a truly authentic way. Why is that so hard to do as an adult? Why is it so SCARY?

Of course, if that is where the story ended, it would be an OK happiness experiment, right? I mean, I ended up feeling happier so I achieved my desired result. But what I wanted from all of this was something more. I wanted to share my expression with others and to put something that was truly mine out into the universe to see what happened. Enter Jen Garrott and Vault Productions, who listened to my crazy idea and made it a reality. She did a fantastic job, I must say!

Sometimes being brave means taking something from the basement at 5:45 in the morning to broad daylight and not apologizing for it. So here is the result of my happiness experiment and an experiment in bravery as well. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's the end of January- but I'm just getting WARRMD up!

Some of you who read this title may think that I neglected to use Spell Check before I posted. What an amateur! But actually, I created an acronym to help me remember the things I want to focus on in 2014. I'm not sure if I'm the only one who thinks that New Year's Resolutions are somewhat depressing, since it always seems that I get sick of trying to follow through with them by the end of January. My brother's girlfriend bought me a FitBit and while I've been trying to clip it to my hip every minute of the day (except when I shower of course) to track my activity, I have occasionally wanted to throw it against the wall or just hide it in a drawer, especially when it's sticking its tongue out at me. But that's another post for another day :)

So the reason that I say that I'm getting WARRMD up in January is that I have decided that 2014 is the year of doing more of the things that I want to do, the things that inspire me and make me truly happy! I would invite you to sit down and really think about the things that make you happy and make you feel most alive, where life feels like it's flowing and you lose track of time. Then commit to doing at least one of those things per day, even if it's just for two or three minutes. Here are some of my ideas I hope you can learn from:

Write: As you can see I've been a little lax in my blog postings, mostly because I have felt that inner judge and gremlin tell me that I don't have anything interesting to say. Quieting that inner critic is not going to happen overnight, but I know that if I just start writing the words will flow. Some of you know that I enjoy writing poetry, but what you may not know is that when I get inspired to write poetry my heart starts beating really fast and I just have to get what I want to say down on paper. It's like a puzzle that I have to solve before I can move onto anything else. I'm energized and can't wait to share my poem with someone right away (usually my poor husband!) If writing is something I love and is a gift that God has granted me with, it would be a waste to not use it as often as I can. That means that you'll probably see more blog posts from me (if anyone is reading this anyway!)

Art: I am not what you'd consider a crafty person, nor do I frequent Pinterest. However, I still feel that I can and should express myself in artistic ways. For example, one of my goals is to put together a photo album from our Japan trip in September 2013. The album seems daunting, but once I start working on it I find that I'm inspired to find creative backgrounds and arrange the pictures in a fun and colorful way. (By the way, I'm using Mixbook and I really like it.) When I hang out with kids I sometimes get the opportunity to color in coloring books, and I realize that it's quite relaxing. So why not buy coloring books and color on my own time? Even if it's for a few minutes a day, it relaxes my mind and energizes me for the rest of my day.

Relax: Speaking of relaxing, that's another daily goal of mine. Sometimes this just means taking deep breaths when I'm feeling overwhelmed. Or enjoying the little things in life. One of the best gifts I got for Christmas was body wash and scrub that smells like chocolate. They actually have a warning on the bottle telling you not to eat it, and I understand why! It smells AMAZING. Chocolate-scented bubbles are a great way to have a small indulgence before I start or end a busy day.

Reflect: I have made meditation and prayer a part of my daily life, and have also committed to thinking of (or even better, writing down) one thing I am grateful for every day. See my previous post about gratitude here. It's so incredibly easy to think about what is not going well for us, what we don't have, or what we want. I'm committed to shifting my perception to reflect on the abundance of life and the things that are going well, as well as thinking of and praying for others.

Music: Having a husband who is a professional musician is somewhat intimidating, but he is always very supportive when I sit down to the piano to play. I'm so grateful that my mom taught me piano when I was young because it's something I can always go back to that relaxes, energizes, and inspires me. Also I feel like I'm clearing out the cobwebs in my brain that are formed from work and the cycles of every day life. My goal is to play piano at least once a week, even if it's only for five minutes.

Dance: I LOVE to dance, but I don't do it nearly enough. I'm not really a "club" type of person and much prefer the dancing that occurs at weddings, but I haven't been invited to any weddings lately. But that shouldn't stop me from dancing around my basement and honing my mad dancing skillz (also not a Spell Check error) for when they're needed, right? You never know when there's going to be a dance off and it's always good to be prepared :) But seriously, dancing is something that makes me feel relaxed, energized and free.

I hope that these have given you some ideas of how to have a more enjoyable 2014! I'll see you on the dance floor, and you better BRING IT!