What’s Happiness, Anyway?

I’m writing this post at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom,  “the happiest place on Earth.” Specifically, I’m in the indoor playground attached to the Dumbo ride, getting some blogging done while the kiddo expends a bunch of pent-up energy.  

Here I am, listening to a podcast IN THE DUMBO PLAYGROUND while writing this very post!  

Here I am, listening to a podcast IN THE DUMBO PLAYGROUND while writing this very post!  

So why is Walt Disney World so darn happy?

I think I’ve figured it out.

Forget riding the rides and meeting the characters. You can get that at pretty much any amusement park. 

Nope, I think the secret sauce of happiness here is that Disney employees (“cast members”) are exceptionally nice to the masses (“guests”). They go out of their way to make the Disney experience magical (their word) for everyone.

Disney cast members (OK, I’ll use their terminology) are constantly putting themselves in their guests’ shoes: wondering what it would feel like to be in a particular situation, anticipating potential problems or roadblocks guests may experience, and ensuring any concerns are addressed immediately to the guests’ satisfaction.

Example: Somehow, my husband's online Disney Experience account got jacked up and his FastPasses (reservations to get on rides at a designated time) weren't working. Within a few minutes on getting on one of the rides (a very kind employee let him get on it with the rest of us), someone at Disney texted me asking if he was having a problem with his FastPasses, and if so, would we like them to resolve the issue? Um, yes.

BOOM. Done.

We didn't have to reach out to anyone to fix this annoying glitch––they took the initiative and fixed it for us. Where else do you get this kind of attention? 

They also pay special attention to kids. We bought Alex a coloring book, and the cashier reached under the counter and gave him a little pack of Disney crayons. And I can’t tell you how many times he’s been given cool Disney stickers by random cast members for no reason at all. Little things like this make a big difference to a kid—and to that kid’s parents.

Now, I'm not a shill for Disney, believe it or not.

(My in-laws are the hardcore Disney fanatics––they bring us here every single year. Not complaining!)

No, I'm just sitting here, contemplating the concept of happiness while surrounded by overstimulated, highly sugared, deliriously joyful elementary school aged kids swarming a junior-sized ropes course. 

So let me get to my point . . . .

Here's how I think the unbelievable Disney customer service experience is the basis of WDW's famed happiness:

It's all about empathy––the ability to place yourself in someone else's position and feel what they feel.  

It's pretty obvious how other people empathizing with you would make you happy. Wouldn't we all love that? But how does empathizing with other people make you happy? 

Let me explain.

In the normal course of life, you encounter all kinds of conflicts with others: stupid things like idiot drivers and rude restaurant servers, bigger things like fights with friends, enormous things like the end of relationships. What would happen if we all practiced a little more empathy in these situations?

Imagine taking a step back and trying to see the situation from someone else's perspective: 

  • Why would they be acting this way?
  • Why would they be upset?
  • What could they be thinking/feeling?

That's right, I'm asking you to (temporarily) ignore what you're thinking and feeling to concentrate on the other person. Difficult, I know, but hear me out.

Taking a moment to practice seeing things from the other person's side––minus the anger and hostility you probably feel––builds understanding and allows you to see that person as another human being, with complex thoughts and feelings beyond being a "bad guy" or a "bitch."

And that, in turn, helps YOU. (Yes, there is a selfish element to all of this.) 

Freed from the rage and hurt and everything else that would otherwise blind you, you will see that person for who they truly are: someone reacting out of insecurity or deep pain or simple obliviousness. 

And this will make you happy.

It will make you happy because you'll no longer be weighed down by destructive emotions that do nothing but burden you. You will exercise compassion––not necessarily excusing the other person's behavior, but understanding where they're coming from and why they may have reacted the way they did. And you'll develop the ability to extract yourself from the situation, to see that it's not all about you; rather, their actions and behavior had much more to do with their own baggage than anything related to you. You'll be free to see the bigger picture. 

That freedom will make you happy.

Now imagine everyone in the world doing this. Wouldn't that be amazing? 

It starts with you.

13 quotes from HENRY DAVID Thoreau that never fail to jolt me awake from my mundane existence

I admit, I'm a total junkie for the transcendentalists. They really speak to me. I can get lost in writings of Emerson, Whitman, and the subject of today's blog post, Thoreau, without even realizing any time has gone by at all. Not quite sure what it is about them, but there's something in their words that just yanks at my soul and demands that I pay attention.

Anyway . . . without further ado . . . .
 

13 Thoreau quotes that truly smack me in the face every time I read them

  • I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. [. . . .] I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.
     
  • Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
     
  • Never look back unless you’re planning to go that way.
     
  • The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
     
  • Be yourself––not your idea of what you think somebody else's idea of yourself should be.
     
  • Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.
     
  • It is never too late to give up your prejudices.
     
  • Things do not change; we change.
     
  • Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.
     
  • Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined.
  • Not all who wander are lost.

  • It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?

  • What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.

 

{insert mic drop here}

 

Which of these quotes hit you the hardest? Why?

Please let me know in the comments below––I'd really love to hear your take on Thoreau. 

Creating New Habits: Part 2 (Holding Myself Accountable)

In Part 1 of this post, I talked about the new habits I'm adopting. We all know creating new habits is pretty tough, so how am I keeping myself accountable? The answer is surprisingly simple:

I'm tracking my new habits IN MY BULLET JOURNAL.

Yep, I've boarded the bullet journal train––choo choo!––and I have no idea why I didn't do this sooner. It rocks.

There's roughly fourteen billion ways to set up a habit tracker. I opted for the least creative method in existence because I just wanted to get it done, and if I overthought it, I'd probably still be sitting here spellbound by all the crazy awesome ways people have constructed their habit trackers and feeling overwhelmingly inadequate. Oh well, at least now I have #bujogoals. (Yes, "bujo" is the official cool-kid abbreviation, and yes, I feel like a tool for using it.)

My habtracks (YOU GUYS I JUST COINED A WORD WHO'S THE COOL KID NOW HUH) are simple charts. At the top are the days of the month, along the side are the habits I'm focusing on. When I do The Thing, I color in the corresponding box. When I don't do The Thing, I leave the box blank. This isn't rocket surgery. But hey, I got a little creative with the colors, right? I get to build rainbows! And there are few things I love more than rainbows. :-)

Below are my charts for this month. (Yes, WDW = Walt Disney World...three days 'til vacay!) For the record, I don't expect to do all the things in the Daily Habits chart every day––it's more of a way to keep track of how often I do the things listed, rather than aim for doing all of them daily.

my morning routine
daily habits
my evening routine

As you can see, I'm straight-up kicking ass with my nightly routine. But the others? I...uh...have some room for improvement. BUT THAT'S OKAY!

Why is it okay that I'm not doing all that great with my new habits? This answer is also surprisingly simple:

i shifted my MINDSET.

In other words, I've made a crucial change to the way I think about habits altogether. 

In the past, I've attempted to establish new habits––and I failed just about every time. The reason for my failure was always the same: it was all tied up in my definition of failure. I'd do fine for a few days, but inevitably, I'd fall back into my old ways and not do The Thing. Then I'd get frustrated, which instead of motivating me, would convince me that all was lost and I might as well give up because obviously I wasn't able to do The Thing every day or week or whatever. So I'd quit, all because I messed up a few times. And THAT'S the failure. The point is to Build. The. Habit., not be perfect. (Thanks a lot, perfectionistic tendencies.)

Besides making rainbows, another fun thing about the habtracks (I'm determined to make habtracks a real thing) is having an excuse to color every day. :-D  It delights my inner child every time I break out the markers. Who doesn't love markers?!


So now that I've showed you my habtracks (it's happening, you guys), I wanna see yours! How are you keeping track of the things you want to change in your life? I'd love it if you shared your "habit journey" in the comments. Until next time . . . may your habtracks (IT'S TOTALLY A THING NOW DEAL WITH IT) be as colorful as my language when I'm watching college football. 

GO BUCKS! 

 

Creating New Habits: Part 1 (Change is Hard)

I'm working on building a number of new habits all at the same time. (Probably not the best way to do this, but whatever.) So it turns out, developing new habits is pretty tough stuff, which is why just about all New Year's Resolutions end up in the trash heap of Good Intentions. 

 

HERE'S SOME HABITS I'M CURRENTLY WORKING ON:

 

Waking up early

I am so not a morning person, as anyone who knows me well can attest to, but I'm trying. 

Good God, I'm trying. 

I recently read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and am in the process of reading The 5AM Miracle by Jeff Sanders, and I must say, their arguments are compelling. Essentially, they both advocate to wake up early and get some sh*t accomplished before the time you'd usually get up. Getting stuff done early make you feel great. And based on the times I've actually dragged myself out of bed to do some of the stuff I've planned, it's true. It really is a great way to start the day. And I'm tons more productive on the days I get up early compared to the days I wait until my five-year-old personal alarm clock bounces into my bed demanding snuggles and breakfast (in that order). 

I've got to become more consistent about it, though. 

 

Starting a new business

This is something I've been working on for at least 7-8 months now. My business, UpSprout Studio, is a combo of web design, copywriting, branding, and training services. I'm looking to work with female entrepreneurs/small business owners who know they need to establish an online presence for their business, but are intimidated by tech stuff and don't know where to begin. I help them out by setting up a Squarespace website for them, complete with visual branding and copywriting, and then teaching them, via live videoconferencing, how to manage their own website.

Now I just need clients. {insert tumbleweed blowing across the screen here}

But until I get booked out at least a few months in advance, I'm working on all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes along with creating a brand-new business: things like setting up workflows, writing templates, taking online courses to improve my skills, reading as much as possible about topics related to entrepreneurship, looking for clients, and oh yeah, working on my own website.

Plus I'm trying to adjust my daily routine to accommodate my business work in addition to all the other stuff I do, which hasn't been an easy transition, lemme tell ya. 

(You may be thinking, Why is she attempting to start a business and a blog at the same time? Answer: Because I'm me, that's why, and that's the sort of crazy sh*t I do.)

 

Writing consistently

I attempted NaNoWriMo this year, although I don't write fiction, so instead of writing a novel in a month, I planned to write blog posts every day for a month (and post at least 3 times a week). Welp, given the paucity of blog posts here, let's just say it was not exactly *ahem* a rousing success. But all is not lost! I'm not giving up on my goal of writing 3–4 blog posts a week (2 for this blog, 2 for my business blog). 

 

Exercising every day

I'm trying to re-establish my running routine (3–4 days a week), establish a solid yoga practice (at least 3 classes a week), and on my "off" days, do something to get my body moving (ex. take a walk). Essentially, I just need to get off my ass and move. Right now, I'll take just about any kind of movement. Just MOVE.

 

Meditating every day

This one is actually going pretty well. I enjoy meditating––I always feel better after doing it. I typically listen to guided meditations, which I find helpful because they give my mind something to focus on. I know the point of meditation is to get your mind to stop thinking, in a sense, but for me at this point in my meditative practice, I need a crutch, and guided meditation is that crutch. 

 

Better personal hygiene 

OK, that one sounds gross, but don't get all judgy on me. Hear me out. I'm not a disgusting pile of filth, I assure you. BUT––and this is an important caveat––when I'm slipping into a depression, my daily hygiene habits slide. I'll go to sleep with makeup still on my face, I'll put off a shower until tomorrow, or I'll be "too tired" to brush my teeth at night (when it gets to that point, it's a clear warning sign that something's up and needs to be addressed ASAP). Developing a more intentional daily hygiene routine is something I believe will help me avoid that decline––or if it does happen, I'll at least notice it sooner. 

 

SO HOW AM I WORKING TO ESTABLISH THESE NEW HABITS?

I've found the key to getting myself to actually DO these things lies within what seems to be a pretty simple solution . . . which I'll talk about in tomorrow's blog post. (Cliffhanger!)

 

 

OH YEAH . . . . ALMOST FORGOT TO ASK!

What habits––or (seeing as we're almost to a new year) New Year's resolutions––are you trying to implement in your life? How's it going so far? I really want to know! Leave a comment below and tell me what you're trying to change. (We need to support each other, you guys!)

 

8 Badass Ninja Tactics I Use to Fight Off Depression: Part 2

In my last post, I listed four things I do to ward off depression. If you haven't read it yet, click here to check it out. 

Here's the remainder of my list:

 

5) vitamins & SUPPLEMENTS

Boy, I take a ton of these. I chose my supplements based on peer-reviewed medical research that showed a benefit to using them in treating or preventing depression. Essentially, science gave them the thumbs-up, and I generally trust science. 

I've been taking these supplements for years:

  • Multivitamin
    This is just a good idea, folks. Just do it. I take this one because it's gentle on my tummy.
  • Krill oil (AKA good ol' omega-3 fatty acids)
    I take krill oil largely because it's supposedly much easier on the environment than fish oil––there's a jillion krill in the ocean (actual number). There's also a good case to be made for going as far down to the bottom of the food chain as possible, in part because you avoid contaminants such as mercury. I take this one because it's a super-mega-dose, and I feel the additional amount makes a big difference. 
     
  • Probiotics
    There's a ton of research indicating that mental health is strongly linked to gut health. I don't know all the specifics, but I do know that my digestive tract gets irritated really easily, and taking daily probiotics helps to keep it happy, which in turn keeps me happy. I've taken a ton of different probiotic supplements, and for me, this one works the best. (I need lots of different strains to keep my irritable gut from taking out its wrath on me.)
     
  • Vitamin D
    Less sunlight means less vitamin D. In addition to my light box, which helps to crank up my vitamin D levels, I take this supplement every morning.



About 5-6 weeks ago, I added the following supplements to my daily regimen:

  • Magnesium
    In this article in Psychology Today, Dr. Emily Deans notes that Americans today get considerably less magnesium in our diets than in past generations. "When you start to untangle the effects of magnesium in the nervous system," she writes, "you touch upon nearly every single biological mechanism for depression."  She posits that less magnesium = more depression, backed by lots of scientific evidence. I take this magnesium supplement every day. 
     
  • Iodine
    I learned a lot about the supplements that help prevent depression from this article on the site Everyday Health. In it, author Therese Bouchard writes:

"Iodine deficiency can be a big problem because iodine is critical for the thyroid to work as it should, and the thyroid affects more than you think: your energy, metabolism, body temperature, growth, immune function, and brain performance (concentration, memory, and more). When it’s not functioning properly, you can feel very depressed, among other things."

While I don't technically have hypothyroidism, whenever I get bloodwork done, my thyroid levels are on the cusp of being considered abnormal. Because of this, I figured it was a good idea to start taking an iodine supplement in the form of dried kelp––which, like krill, is an ecologically sustainable resource.

  • Iron
    Iron is supposed to help your energy levels, and energy is something I tend to struggle with. While I'm not technically anemic, every time I get my blood checked––just like with iodine––my iron levels are on the low end of normal. I really think my daily iron supplement is making a difference. (I take this one, but there's a ton to choose from.)

 

I think all of the above supplements have been truly beneficial for me, seeing as I've been doing quite well for the past month and a half. Granted, I implemented a number of positive changes around that time, but I figure the supplements aren't hurting me, so I might as well keep it up.

(Important note: My psychiatrist gave me the green light to take all of this stuff. Too much of anything isn't good, so make sure your doctor is cool with you taking any of the above supplements before you add it to your daily routine.)

 

6) MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION

I promise you, guys, this isn't super woo-woo. It helps tremendously.

I've heard that depression is worrying about the past and anxiety is worrying about the future. And neither exists. All that exists is right now. This is the crux of mindfulness: being aware of what is happening right now. Right this second. Meditation helps you tap into the mindfulness mindset.

Guided meditation works best for me because listening to someone else telling me what to do keeps me focused. Maybe at some point, I'll get better at meditating on my own, but for now, guided meditation is where it's at. I've found meditation apps to be particularly helpful, especially Buddhify and Calm.

But my absolute favorites are self-hypnosis apps by Andrew Johnson, who has the most soothing Scottish accent I've ever heard. (Self-hypnosis is a form of meditation, you guys . . . it's not going to make you cluck like a chicken every time you hear the word "weekend" or something silly like that). At least for me, his apps are unbelievably effective.

While I often use these guided meditations to help me fall asleep, they're not only good for sleeping. In the early afternoon, my energy level often plummets, and I suddenly feel like keeling over and taking a nap. Lately when I've felt like this, I've stretched out on the couch and listened to an energizing meditation instead (try the free "Power Nap" app by Andrew Johnson). I'm telling you, within 15-20 minutes, I'm raring to go. I'm absolutely bursting with energy! 

Meditation works, people. Use it.

 

7) WRITing

Sometimes, unloading my thoughts in a journal really helps to alleviate any depression starting to creep up. You can try writing down positive thoughts if you want, but honestly, I've found it most helpful to dump every negative thing crawling around my mind onto the page. Somehow, this works. I feel tremendously relieved after jotting everything down. Even though I'm aware (as I'm writing it down) that these thoughts are bunk, that it's just my depression or anxiety talking, when I'm done, I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders and I'm noticeably less depressed/anxious.

Try it. It works.

 

8) MEDICATIONS

I take a lot of daily medications. Right now, I'm on five psychiatric medications. Five. One for ADD, four for depression/anxiety. True, I'm (slowly) tapering off one of them, but still. That's a lot. And though I don't like to admit it, I'm embarrassed by it, even though I shouldn't be, because no one would judge someone with heart disease or cancer for taking a lot of meds. 

But guess what? I take them anyway. And they help. So I keep taking them.

If you need medication, take it. That's the only way it'll work. And when you start to feel better, KEEP TAKING THEM. You feel better because the medication is WORKING! Don't stop taking it until your doc tells you it's OK and gives you a taper schedule (because if you go off your meds cold-turkey, chances are high you'll hate yourself for it a few days later. Trust me. Been there.)

So yes, staying on my meds is a key part of keeping depression at bay. 

 

 

There you have it: 8 badass ninja tactics I use to fight off depression. Depression is too tough to tackle on your own––I've found it really helps to have advice from people who've been there and gotten through it. Hopefully this helps someone out there.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE:

If you're struggling, please know that you're important, you're loved, you have amazing gifts to offer the world, and even though you don't believe a word I'm saying, it's all true. You deserve to feel better, your deserve to enjoy life and all it has to offer, and you can and will get better.

Seek help. Tell a friend. Tell your spouse or significant other. Tell a family member. Tell a mentor. Tell your doctor. Tell someone. I know it seems exhausting to find help, and you think you're a hopeless case anyway, but that is depression talking, not you. DEPRESSION LIES. Don't believe it. All you have to do right now is believe that someone can help you. That's it. Tell someone, and they'll help you find help. You're worth it, friend. Don't give up now. You're stronger than depression. I know you are.