The Best Laid Plans..

bestlaidplans

I am on a mission to become one of those impressive morning people.  Last week I shared with you (Who Needs Sleep?) some of the sleep-related research I’ve been exploring.   In my search, I found some helpful tips from Fitness Magazine’s article, “How to Become A Morning Person.”  Nearly two months ago, I used these tips to begin developing my action plan, but along the way I’ve realized that there was much more that I needed to adjust. Today I thought I’d share with you what I’ve been up to.

My previous routine looked a little like this:
(life in Nebraska)

  • Get home from work
  • Do not work out.. because I’m too tired
  • Nap
  • Eat dinner
  • Lay on couch with or without husband until 10:30/11pm watching T.V.
  • Brush teeth, but leave make-up on most nights…it takes too much energy to take it off
  • Lay in bed scrolling through social media or reading articles on my phone for 30min – to- a really long time
  • Fall asleep around midnight or 1am (or later)
  • Alarm #1 goes off—snooze
  • Alarm #2 goes off—snooze
  • Alarm #3 goes off—snooze
  • Alarm #4 goes off—snooze
  • Husband (who gets to sleep in later than me) says, “Stopppppp pushing snoooooze! Get up!!”)
    OR

    • (Snooze X3 & then decide to just turn my alarm clock OFF surely I’ll wake up if I turn it off…. instead I fall immediately back to sleep… wake up panicked with 15 minutes before I have to leave for work).
  • Finally get out of bed.  I rush a shower.  Throw hair in pony tail.  Throw my scattered work in a bag (forget some of it on the counter).  Grab multiple protein bars to eat throughout the day (Yes, multiple expensive chocolate peanut butter protein bars to eat for breakfast and lunch). Run out the door.  Yell at every car that is going the speed limit in my path.  Text the husband to let the dog out, I didn’t have time to.  Arrive at work disheveled, exhausted, and on edge.
  • Repeat (x5).

Making Changes:
Weekly Routine

That had been my consistent routine for the last several months in Nebraska.  There’s no wonder why I consistently felt unfulfilled, exhausted, and generally unhappy.

Our move to the DC area has been the catalyst for me to make some major changes.  Gone would be the days of constantly playing catch-up, and feeling guilty for everything I did poorly or didn’t do at all.  Although my main focus has been on sleep, the more I examined my routine, the more I realized how much more I needed to adjust.

Work out at least 4x per week.

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My exercise routine has consistently been inconsistent, and I’ve hated that it was.

Shortly after B & I were settled, we tried out a few gyms and then decided to join one that was very different for us both.  We joined a kickboxing/boxing gym that I’ve fallen in love with.

I actually want to work out regularly for the first time in my life.  I finally understand the expression about how the best exercise should be fun.  It’s an intense 30-minute workout, and I leave drenched in sweat.  I currently feel stronger and more toned than I’ve ever felt in my life.  Plus punching and kicking things makes me feel like a badass.

Make quality healthy dinners.

The last few months in Nebraska,  B & I had a regular routine of “fending for ourselves” when it came to dinner. We were eating different things at different times, and I hated it.  This past summer,  I began looking up various vegetarian recipes, and we made an effort to eat together once again.  I explored different recipes and we discussed which ones should be added to the rotation.

I knew that this was easy to do during the summertime when I had little else occupying my time, but knowing myself, I knew I would need to put something in place to make the cooking process a little faster… Especially with all of the time consuming fresh salads I had been making.

Sunday Food Prep.

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I’ll elaborate more on this process on a later day, but suffice it to say that an hour spent on Sunday prepping food for the week has resulted in super easy salads for dinners, and very healthy lunches throughout the week.  I invested in a new salad spinner, a storage container to keep my prepped veggies fresh, a new lunchbox, and some nice new glass Tupperware containers for my lunches.

Gone are the days of expensive protein bars that I consumed for both breakfast and lunch.  Now, I make my own protein bars for a snack.. not for my main meal.

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Have More Fun.

Looking back, I think a reason that I delayed sleep for as long as I possibly could each night, could have potentially been due to the fact that I rarely looked forward to what the next day was going to bring.  I’ll elaborate on this at a later date as well, but I’ve been making a huge effort to go outside of my comfort zone to make friends, to explore the area,  and to get involved in a volunteer opportunity that I would enjoy.

 

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Now for the part about sleep…

KEY TIPS : 

  • Figure out how much sleep you personally require.
  • Get up at the same time (even on the weekends).
  • Create A sleep sanctuary
  • Establish a relaxing routine
  • No screens before bed… no screens in bed.
  • Don’t Hit Snooze… ever 

 

How much is enough?

Mayoclinic.org reports that most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.  Although many adults report requiring far less sleep;  research indicates that getting less (or far more) than 7 hours per night is related to higher mortality rates.

Dr. Haward from How to Become A Morning Person suggests resetting your internal clock by allowing yourself to wake naturally for at least a week (i.e., do not use an alarm clock).  I was able to do this during my summer break, but obviously it’s more difficult when you work a typical schedule.  A variation can be accomplished through going to sleep at an earlier hour each night and documenting the effects.  It’s important to note that sleep deprived individuals will initially sleep for far longer as their bodies attempt to make up for lost time, but that it will eventually even out.

Tracking my sleep:

I previously mentioned the importance of data collection/progress monitoring. I originally had created an elaborate Excel sheet to track my data, but not surprisingly,  I continuously forgot to document the hours that I spent snoozing.

Instead I decided to invest in the .99 cent app, “Sleep Cycle.”  Although Sleep Cycle claims to assist in waking you more peacefully by analyzing your sleep cycles and waking you during a flexible 30 minute window.  Psychology Today’s article,  “Sleep Cycle App:  Precise or Placebo?” states that the jury is still out on whether the phone is actually sensitive enough to gather accurate data on your sleep cycles, it is however useful for tracking other data… like time spent sleeping per night, which was perfect for my purposes!

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When attempting the “sleep until you wake naturally” phase.  I became acutely aware that I was indeed one sleep deprived soul. With no alarm (or husband) to wake me, I initially easily slept for 9-11 hours per night.  Eventually  however, it began to even out.

Using this tool, and its many graphs, I became aware that my ideal amount of sleep per night was within the 7-8 hour range.  A minimum of 7 was necessary, but 7.5-8 was ideal.   When I slept less than 7, I began to take note of the extreme difficulty I would have opening my eyes in the morning, and the sluggishness that I felt throughout the day.  So with this in mind, the goal was established that I would need a minimum of 7 hours per night.

Nightly Routine

Prep for the Next Day.

Planning for the next day ensures that even if I slip up and over sleep, I’ll at least have everything ready to go if I need to rush out the door.  This includes:

  • Pack my work bag
  • Prep anything that needs to be prepped for my lunch
  • And lastly most importantly, buy a coffee pot with a timer.
    • I was spending far too much money on buying a cup of coffee each morning in NE, instead B & I invested in a nice new coffee maker with a timer.  I had an image of an old Folger’s commercial where I would wake and stretch with a smile as I smelled the aroma of coffee brewing each morning…. This hasn’t been my reality, but regardless it’s still really nice.

Establish A Relaxing Routine.

Many sleep experts suggest incorporating the following into a “wind down routine”:

  1. A hot bath
  2. A worry list
  3. MediationScreen Shot 2014-10-13 at 12.40.42 PM

I deviated from this plan slightly.  Instead I planned to hop in the shower, create  my list of to-do’s for the next day, after that I allowed myself a little social media & news article browsing (so as not to be tempted in bed) lastly I downloaded the app Headspace to use for 10-15 of meditation each night.  Headspace recommends mediating in the morning or during the day, and states that mediation shouldn’t be a tool used to make yourself tired, but that’s what works to silence my brain at night, so whatever works!

Create A Sleep Sanctuary.

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A sleep sanctuary means that the room should be:

  • Dark
    • Cover all lights from chargers or alarm clocks
  • Chilly
    • 68-69 degrees is recommended
  • Silent
    • A white noise machine.  This part is dangerous.  If you are anything like me, you should get one with a timer.  White noise is perfect for when you are trying to fall asleep, but less perfect when your alarm goes off in the morning and your still being lulled by the sounds of an ocean.  Ours has a 90 minute timer.
  • No Screens
    • No tv; or phone; or tablet; or computer in bed.

Get Up to ONE Alarm.
Do Not Hit Snooze.

This has been, and continues to be my greatest struggle.  I had been using my phone as my alarm for years, but the recommendation is to put your alarm clock across the room so that you physically had to get out of bed to turn it off. Unfortunately, I needed my phone close by for my app to collect appropriate sleep data.  I therefore purchased a cheap alarm clock, and set it up across the room… but I’ve continued to struggle.

A Peaceful Morning.

  • Walking the Dog.
    • In Nebraska, this poor pup would be “let out” in the morning, but I would never actually take her for a walk in the am. My new goal included a nice little 10-15 minute walk for her in the morning.  I also planned to drink a glass of water during our morning stroll, because apparently water first thing in the morning is a good thing to do.  An added bonus is that exposure to light first thing in the morning is also helpful in combatting seasonal depression… even if it’s cloudy.
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  • Eat a Hot Breakfast.
    • At home… not in the car.
  • Have A Calm Start to My Day.
    • More than anything I wanted to wake up early enough so that I could have a “calm” start to my day. This is less easy to objectively define. Basically I don’t want to feel rushed.  I wanted to enjoy a warm breakfast, and a casual stroll with Georgie.  I wanted to allow for plenty of time to get to work so that I wouldn’t be a ball of rage as I drove, and I wanted to arrive at work with a smile on my face and not a guilty feeling in my gut because I was running late…yet again.


“The best laid schemes of mice and men”….

Meaning: The most carefully laid plans, may go wrong. 

Everything you just read I did without fail for a solid month and half.

But then recently….

I’ve been making little exceptions here and there,  “maybe I’ll just stay up late tonight to watch this show with B”…  OR  “I don’t feel like prepping food for the week today.. I’ll just do it tomorrow instead.”

These little exceptions to my carefully laid plan have started to wreak havoc to my routine.  I stayed up late to watch a show… and then was too tired to do my nightly routine… and then had the hardest time waking up… and then came home exhausted, and then it just set in motion a total derailment for the rest of the week.

All of the articles that I read in preparation for this plan were very adamant about how non-negotiable an early bedtime was, and I’m finding that personally to be 100% true.

As I’m sure you’ve come to see, I’ve never naturally been a person who is driven by routine and the pragmatic details of my day.  At work, I am driven and task-oriented, but at home I frequently function through my current emotional state.  I’ve been doing what I feel like doing, for so long that a rigid weekly routine is a major challenge for me to live by.  What I found through my month and a half of “rigidity” however, is that a touch of structure is truly necessary for me to have the energy and time to actually be spontaneous and able to better enjoy life.

So starting right…now,  I’m steering the train back on the track.  To know better is to do better, and I officially know better.

All The Best,

 

But enough about me…

I’m really curious if others struggle with these things as well.

Do you have a hard time sticking to a regular routine?

What have you found are some of the best ways to get back on track when you feel yourself starting to slip?

Do you have any additional tips that help you to fall asleep at night?

Do you think I’m straight up crazy for how much time I spend thinking about this stuff?

 

 

Who Needs Sleep?

Etsy: PrintsOfHeart

Etsy: PrintsOfHeart

Oh, hello.  Remember when I used to blog?  Me too.  It’s been quite awhile, it’s true.  Regardless of time gone by, I thought that the best place to start back up would be where I left off.

When we last spoke, I was sharing with you a bit about my own little Happiness Project.   The initial stages of this process involved an enlightening conversation between my husband and I, in which I used Gretchen Rubin’s leading questions to hone in on my initial focus. The result was an enlightening conversation focused on the gap between how I wanted to live vs. how I actually was living, you can find a bit about that candid conversation here:  Identifying the Problem.

As I eluded to in my last post, the initial focus of my own little Happiness Project has been to work on an issue that has been plaguing me all of my life…my inability to fall asleep.  

Now when I say all of my life, I am being very literal.

As an infant I refused to sleep. My mother reports that I did not however refuse to scream at the top of my little lungs throughout my many restless nights (that may be the reason that I’m their second and last child…. either that or they had created perfection, and knew another child would just be a disappointment)….

In elementary school I remember lying in bed for hours and hours.  As cars passed by my window I would watch the shadows dance across the ceiling, morphing into monsters in my mind which would soon become the subject of many horrific nightmares. I would desperately want to tiptoe downstairs to wake up my mother, but was torn between the fear that I felt from my nightmare, and the fear I was soon sure to feel walking through the dark house at night where murderers likely lurked in every corner.  After much deliberation, I’d usually settle upon bringing my pillow to cover my vital organs in case the monsters were of a sniper variety.

In late elementary school my mom finally took me to the family pediatrician who stated that I was probably old enough to have a TV in my room to help me fall asleep.  Yup. A TV. Thanks doc.  Not surprising, it didn’t help.  It did however lead to me watching television from approximately 10p-2am every night.  I was having too much screen time, before “too much screen time” was even a thing.

In High School I remember catching a quality 4 hours, and the trend continued into college.  At times the reason for my restlessness would be due to the fact that I couldn’t “turn off my brain.”  As soon as my head would hit the pillow, it would be flooded with thoughts and anxieties.  At other times however,  it was more due to the fact that I wouldn’t “hit my stride” until later in the day.  I would consistently feel most awake and motivated after the sun had set.  I could throw myself into studying, writing, reading, or doing something creative for hours on end…  tasks that I somehow lacked the motivation to do during a more reasonable hour. This naturally led to a later bedtime, and an irregular sleep schedule that simply doesn’t jive with the diurnal society we exist in.  I used to protest that, “I simply don’t require very much sleep.”    This was 100% inaccurate.  I just didn’t even know at the time how differently my mind could feel with more rest.

Present Day.   I think B said it best, “You don’t have a nightly routine where you take time to prep for the next day… you go to bed late…sleep very little, and then you can’t wake up..which leads to being frazzled and frantic in the morning…you are then exhausted at the end of your work day… which means you waste time doing ‘brainless’ things because you don’t have the energy to do anything else.. and by the time you have the energy to start doing productive tasks the sun has set…which means the gym is probably closed, so now you can cross “exercise” off once again….and then you start the cycle all over again where you stay up late”…..   Ugh.

In researching this little problem of mine, I stumbled upon some information that made me feel somewhat like less of a lazy worthless human being for having such an immensely difficult time with opening my eyes in the morning.

“Larks” and “Owls”: The Genetics of Circadian Rhythms

Humans are a diurnal species, meaning that we are generally active during the day and sleep at night. Some individuals feel more awake, alert, and able to do their best work in the morning. We typically refer to these people as “larks,” or morning-type individuals. Others have a hard time waking up or feeling alert in the morning and feel that they are most productive in the evening or night. We refer to these people as “owls,” or evening-type people.

What determines our desire to wake with the sun or, conversely, burn the midnight oil, is influenced by the same system that regulates the cycling of many bodily functions. Our internal biological clock resides in the brain and regulates the timing of functions such as appetite, hormone release, and metabolism. Of all the cycles controlled by the circadian system, perhaps the most obvious is the sleep-wake cycle—when we go to sleep and when we wake up.

Although our internal clock is set to approximately 24 hours, the exact timing of circadian clock varies from one person to the next. Differences in the speed of the circadian clock may help determine whether you are an “owl’ or a “lark.” For instance, there is some evidence that if your circadian clock runs faster than 24 hours, you may tend to be a “lark”; if your clock runs slower than 24 hours, you tend to be an “owl.”

Although we often use the term “morning person” in fun, being a morning or night person is influenced by the genetics of how fast or slow our internal clocks tick. Genes influence how fast or slow our internal clock runs and, as a result, how closely it—and our body’s functions—align with the 24-hour day. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and WGBH Educational Foundation

So this could quite possibly be a reason as to why this whole “normal sleep schedule” thing never came as easy to me, but it did little to help me know how to change it.

How To Become A Morning Person.

Luckily, article after article stated that although there is a genetic link to our sleep patterns, behavioral changes can have a major impact.  So in search of tips to do just that, I read the aptly titled article from Fitness Magazine,  “How to Become A Morning Person

The author Bethany Gumper, begins the article by describing her desire to be one of those women who jumps out of bed and throws on their running shoes for an early morning workout while most of the world is still asleep, which was a far cry from her current reality in which she presses snooze for an hour straight before finally peeling herself out of bed.  If you remember back to my last post,  when asked to: “Imagine a person you admire and describe that person.”  I responded:

  • She wakes up early, she doesn’t push snooze, she eats very well, she exercises regularly and is in amazing shape, she volunteers, she is considerate towards others, she has a passionate hobby, she has routines. (Identifying The Problem)

Needless to say, I read on.

In her search for a new sleep pattern, she worked with, Colette Haward, MD, a psychiatrist and sleep expert in New York City. Dr Haward reported, “There’s a genetic component to your circadian clock. But for many people, behavioral changes make a big difference.”  Dr. Haward went on to describe simple daily behavioral changes and how Ms. Bethany Gumper could use these tips to eventually reach her goal of rising with the sun.

Key Tips: 

  • Figure out how much sleep you personally require.
  • Get up at the same time (even on the weekends).
  • Create A sleep sanctuary:  dark, chilly, white noise, no electronics
  •  Establish a relaxing routine
  • No screens before bed… no screens in bed
  • Don’t Hit Snooze… ever 

Several months ago, I took these tips to heart and developed a plan to finally become the morning person of my dreams.  Stay tuned for how I’ve been working towards my goal, and what I’ve learned along the way.

Oh, you can also expect some life updates soon too.

All The Best,

 

Identifying the Problem.

Getting Started.

On my most recent post (The Happiness Project),  I shared with you a pretty great book that I just finished reading, and am now re-reading.  This book inspired me to provide structure to my own little Happiness Project (i.e., what this little blog of mine was supposed to be about in the first place). The author, Gretchen Rubin, provides several resources to begin your own Happiness Project on her Website

To get started, I sat down and brainstormed a list of things I enjoyed, and then without sharing my thoughts; I asked my husband, B, to help me add to it.  I asked him to answer the question, “When have you seen me most happy?  It could be anything”  He started naming different things, and I began jotting them all down.  He produced a list of 16 different items.  Some things were slightly vague like, “Doing something out of your comfort zone, and then having it go well” (I pressed for specific examples).  In addition, he also gave specific activities like: watching live music, having quality 1:1 time with friends, going for a run, being in the midst of beautiful natural scenery, creating & completing a crafty project, doing things for others.

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Gretchen Rubins Happiness Project Toolbox

Getting Started. 

I loved B’s list.  He came up with a lot of things that I hadn’t really thought about.  The more I examined the list; however, the more that I felt as though it wasn’t really capturing the big picture.  It’s true, I love music and art and and learning and travel, and doing kind things for others, I should be doing those things more frequently, but it wasn’t yet speaking to “The Gap.”

The gap between who I was and who I aspired to be.  Nor was it speaking to the reason that this gap existed in the first place.  To dig a little deeper,  I read these questions and then began answering them in a “free association” format to B.

The questions:

  • What makes you feel bad?
    • When I can’t wake up in the morning and therefore oversleep (When I push snooze 5+x’s)
    • When I don’t give Georgie the exercise she needs
    • When I eat poorly
    • When I go days without exercise
    • When I waste “my minutes” (aka the minutes of my life) doing unproductive/unenjoyable things (i.e., browsing social media).
    • When I feel rushed/frazzled
    • When I feel exhausted
    • When I don’t do things I enjoy.
  • What makes you feel good?
    • (The opposite of everything above)
  • Imagine a person you admire and describe that person.
    • She wakes up early, she doesn’t push snooze, she eats very well, she exercises regularly and is in amazing shape, she volunteers, she is considerate towards others, she has a passionate hobby, she has routines.

Ah-Ha!

After exploring these questions, B helped me figure out where my “behavior chain” (i.e. A causes B which then causes C) tends to go astray.  He so eloquently said, “You don’t have a nightly routine where you take time to prep for the next day… you go to bed late…sleep very little, and then you can’t wake up..which leads to being frazzled and frantic in the morning…you are then exhausted at the end of your work day… which means you waste time doing ‘brainless’ things because you don’t have the energy to do anything else.. and by the time you have the energy to start doing productive tasks the sun has set…which means the gym is probably closed, so now you can cross “exercise” off once again….and then you start the cycle all over again where you stay up late”…..

So to summarize with Gifs.

B:

wltzMe:

staf

 

Eat Well. Sleep Well. Exercise Well.
Groundbreaking Stuff.

Ok.  So it’s really not groundbreaking stuff, but I love what Gretchen said at the very beginning of her book:

People have been thinking about happiness for thousands of years, and the great truths about happiness have already been laid out by the most brilliant minds in history… The laws of happiness are as fixed as the laws of chemistry.  But even though I wasn’t making up these laws, I needed to grapple with them for myself.  It’s like dieting.  We all know the secret of dieting–eat better, eat less, exercise more–it’s the application that’s challenging.  I had to create a scheme to put happiness ideas into practice in my life. pg. 7 The Happiness Project, Gretchen Ruben

Ah Yes, the application is challenging.

I discussed last time (HERE), that the first step in solving a problem is to objectively define what it is that you are looking to change.  I’ve gone from the vague, “I want to feel happier…or more content... or more satisfied…or more balanced…or maybe more accomplished?” to finally pinning down my first action item.   Getting more sleep might seem like an easy task for some, but this is a huge undertaking for me, so for the past week I’ve been researching articles on sleep, and helpful tools that assist in getting more of it. I’m going to share those specifics very soon, but first I’ll leave you with the song I listened to on repeat on my Sony Discman as a ten year old insomniac to give you a taste as to how far back my sleep issues go:

All The Best,

Happiness Project

About eight months ago, my husband stumbled upon an article about a book that you’ve possibly heard of:  The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.  

He  thought it would be something that I would enjoy so he made a special trip to Barnes and Noble and purchased it for me.  At the time I was stressed with work, and was doing very little leisurely reading, so this book spent a lot of time collecting dust over these past several months.  On a recent rainy day I finally cracked it open, and I am so glad that I did.

The premise is simple, but really interesting.  One day, the author, Gretchen Rubin, had a sharp epiphany while riding a city bus home.  She was flooded with the realization that while she was blessed in so many ways (good health, two beautiful daughters, a caring husband, supportive family and friends, a comfortable financial situation) she found herself regularly suffering from, “midlife malaise” which she defined as being, “a recurrent sense of discontent and almost a feeling of disbelief.”  She would often wonder, “Can this be me?”  She had this feeling that one day she might just look back on her life and think in awe, “How happy I used to be then, if only I’d realized it.”  However her present reality felt more as though she was existing on autopilot, and doing so haphazardly.

With this realization in mind, she felt the need to become more grateful for each day, while also setting higher standards for herself as a wife, mother, writer, and friend.  She wanted to let go of daily annoyances and investigate new passions.  To accomplish her daunting task, she first dug into the science of happiness and how it might specifically relate to her. Like most of us, an Eat, Pray, Love adventure was out of the picture for her.  Yet she still knew that her life was not as happy as it could be, and that nothing was going to change unless she made it change, and thus she began her year-long systematic journey to do just that while still living within the confines of her current life.

So what does happiness even mean and how would she know once she’s “reached it”?  She chose to spend less time objectively defining the term (as there are SO many various definitions), and instead recognize that happiness is an elusive term that is very subjective in nature, and for her she would recognize it when she felt it, and that “it” would most likely continue to change over time.

Systematic Approach.

While reading the negative comments (I like to read the negative comments of books that I enjoyed…that’s normal, right?!) somebody wrote, “This book made it seem far too complicated to be happy.

I can definitely appreciate how some might have a difficult time connecting with the format of her year-long endeavor; however, the school psychologist within me appreciated the systematic nature of her approach.  She gives fare-warning that to be true to her own nature her process would indeed consist of in-depth research, to-do lists, charts, and compulsive note taking.

Other negative commenters echoed that her data collection process, and strict structure made the journey seem daunting and nearly idiosyncratic in nature in regard to increasing ones own levels of happiness.  I can appreciate these perspectives, but for me personally I greatly enjoyed her approach for several reasons…

Paralyzed By Options.

Honestly, the reason I started this blog was to help hold myself accountable on my own (unbeknownst to me at the time) little Happiness Project.  After  completing graduate school, I was finally stepping out of the world of academia, and in doing so, soon realized that I had pursued little else along the way.   I can completely empathize with this author at those unnerving thoughts of, “Is this really me?”  I can relate with feeling dissatisfied with how I spend my free time, or with my lack of passionate pursuits.  Over the past several years my husband has attempted to be helpful by emphasizing my exorbitant amount of options, “You can literally pursue anything that interests you!”  For whatever reason, the thought of limitless options has been paralyzing for me.  (Side Note:  I feel like I need to put in a slight caveat here…I’ll elaborate more later…but I fully recognize how extremely lucky I am to have the luxury to have such a “problem”).

Duh.
(Why I dig her process)

After the first several chapters it’s like a light switch finally turned on in my brain. Gretchen utilizes two processes that are a foundation in my profession:

Measurable Goals and Progress Monitoring.

In the field of school psychology/education, these are two terms that are used constantly.

As a school psychologist, I frequently work with adults who request my assistance for a student for whom they are concerned.  I assist with determining the “function” of the problematic behavior and then assist in the development of a behavior plan, which is exactly as it sounds.  A specific plan that if followed with fidelity, should assist in decreasing inappropriate or problematic behaviors and increasing more appropriate ones.

In the development of behavior plans, there are multiple critical components, one of which is the development of a clear, observable,  measurable,  behavior definition.  Frequently adults that work with children who have challenging behaviors, might have lists a mile long of behaviors they’d like to correct, so we shorten it to the one or two of the most problematic (or disruptive) behaviors to initially target.  The behavior definition has to pass the “tell it to a stranger test” or in other words, if you described the behavior to a stranger, would they be able to replicate it?  (e.g., “He throws the biggest fits”)—might lead to quite different interpretations by multiple observers, and thus would not be a great behavior definition.

Gretchen does a really great job of clearly defining for herself the behaviors she wishes to increase (or decrease), and also encourages others to do the same.  It’s easy to say, “I’d like to eat healthier.” But what does that mean even mean exactly?  When the behavior definition is vague, the whole process falls apart.

Another critical component in the development of a behavior intervention plan, is collecting data or, progress monitoring.  It’s crucial to collect data to show how frequently behaviors are occurring before and during the ‘intervention.’  This tells us extremely important information about if what we are doing is actually working, and helps us use our time efficiently.  Simply progress monitoring a behavior is a powerful tool in itself.   For older children (and adults), simply having them monitor their own problematic behaviors (even if they lie about the frequencies) has even shown to have a positive effects!

Gretchen Rubin created monthly charts where she progress monitored her behaviors in several areas each day.  She reported that this was one of the most critical components in her process, and also shared examples on her blog!

I don’t practice what I preach.

Or at least I haven’t been applying what I know to how I live.  Gretchen Rubin makes it very clear that each “Happiness Project” would look completely different, but felt the need to share her own as she personally has found much benefit in listening to other personal narratives. For me reading this book gave me a sense of direction.  It gave me a really great place to start.  Instead of grasping at random straws like trying to pick out random activities or hobbies I’ve realized that I need to take a step back, and evaluate my own “behavior chain” (A causes B which then causes C).  I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming, and had an extremely in depth conversation with my husband the other day, and I think I have a really good starting point (More on that later).

Gratitude.

Other negative commenters said things like, “I find it very hard to relate to Rubin when she tells the reader right in the beginning she’s already happy and that she and her family live in New York’s Upper East Side.”  and not to mention those who said, “If you are self centered, young and stupid then this book is for you. The author is in a world of her own and, I think and hope, figures out life is not about “her, her, her…

I get this perspective.  I really do.  There are awful things in this world. Humans are existing in the most deplorable conditions and fighting the most daunting battles in an attempt to meet their basic needs.  My husband literally walked in as I was writing this post and shared horrible news of a pregnant wife who suddenly passed away from an allergic reaction.  All you have to do is turn on the news for 2 minutes to see how fortunate so many of us are to live where we live.

Gretchen Rubin discusses these criticisms right off the bat as well.  She talks about how she grappled with whether or not a “self-centered “project was a worthy venture.  The more she researched though, the more she saw that those who report higher levels of “happiness” are “more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in others, friendlier, and healthier.”   So while a year long “Happiness Project” might seem incredibly self-absorbed to some, her mission seems genuinely more focused on appreciating the minutes on this earth that make up our days and years and lives.   She’s exploring practical ways to turn vague happiness theory into specific actions with the hope that the efforts will begin to rid herself of her mental roadblocks, to be more present in her daily interactions with loved ones, to connect with others, and to switch off the autopilot function of  her life, because a she states multiple times:

The days are long, but the years are

 

All The Best,

 

Cool information about Positive Psychology and Happiness: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/home

Gretchen Runen’s Website:  http://www.gretchenrubin.com/
(She has really amazing resources!)

Psychology Today (Happiness): http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/happiness

 An Excessive Amount of Huffington Post “Happiness” Articles:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/happiness-research/

 

Pink Gloves.

 

Pink Gloves (4)B and I just joined a new gym that we are both really stoked about.

It’s something totally different from what we’ve ever done before. There are different stations, and every day there is a different workout led by trainers who show you what to do at each station. We’ve gone about five times so far, and I seriously love it.  I’ve never sweated so much in my life, and I’m already starting to feel a little stronger.

There are really great trainers that work there, but I thought that I would share a little anecdote with you.  I should preface this story by saying that there is a very large portional that I’ll end up sounding like this little lady.

The initial conversation we had with the gentleman who was handing us our new boxing gloves and equipment went a little something like this:

***

Gentleman:  We have pink and black boxing gloves, I’m assuming you want pink (looks at B).

B:  haha. I’ll take black

Gentleman: (looking at me & laughing at his joke) Pink works for you?

Me:  Actually, I’ll take black as well.

Gentleman:  (Laughs… and then realized I wasn’t joking.)  Are you not a girly girl?

Me:  I don’t know, I’m just not a fan of pink, I guess?

Gentleman:  We can order different colors, would you prefer purple?

Me:  No, Black is fine, really. 

(One minute later)

Gentleman: (Very earnestly to B & I)  This workout format is actually really good for women, because they don’t have the opportunity to gab when they should be working out. 

***

And then I did this:
rondaOk. So that isn’t me.  It ‘s Ronda Rousey.
I’m probably going to need a month…potentially two before I’ll be able to do that

What I wanted to say:   Oh Ya, this gym is ideal for women, except I noticed that you aren’t equipped with fainting couches?  Will someone ensure that I’m lowered to safety when the tightness of my corset and unpredictable emotions set me into a fainting spell?

What I actually said: …..nothing.

Question:  Would you have responded differently? 

On a similar note.  On our Road Trip to DC, as soon as B and I entered Tennessee, I switched the station to country music to get in the mood.  I haven’t listened to country music in quite some time, and we immediately noticed that nearly every song went a little something like, “Hey GIRL, slide on over in my truck,  I’ve got a six pack, and you’re looking mighty fine in those painted on jeans…bla bla bla.”   Apparently, I’m not the only one that had picked up on this ‘one-dimensional’ female country character because there’s a new song out that pretty much hit the nail on the head.  Check out the new music video by Maddie & Tae for, “Girl in a Country Song” and their interview on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered below.

Teenage Songwriters Take On Bro Country 
(NPR ‘All Things Considered’ Interview)

Music Video 

All The Best,

 

Home Decor (finally!)

framesWall Art.

We found out that we were moving to the DC area right after we painted our walls.  The next thing that was on our ‘to buy’ list was picture frames and wall art.  It would have been pretty ridiculous to hang personalized photos on the walls of a home that we were trying to sell, so I’ve been waiting patiently to purchase home decor for quite some time.  I have so many pictures that I’d love to display from our travels, and have found a few cute typography prints from Etsy that I think will be fun to hang as well.  I especially love the vintage Missouri and Nebraska maps… an ode to our hometown roots.

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Small Spaces.

We have this narrow little nook in our bedroom.  I haven’t started my new job yet, but I know that once I do, I’m going to need a space to work.  I’ve been scouring the internet and new/used furniture shops for a desk that is 30″ or less that I could squeeze into the nook, but haven’t had much luck.  Until I found this little space saver from West Elm.  It’s a little pricey for such a small desk, but it’s all that I’ve been able to find thus far that will fit my current purpose, and could also easily be used for other purposes if/when we eventually move to a larger place.

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All The Best,

 

Road Trip.

Roadtrip. (2)

Prior to learning about the news of our move, I  had desperately wanted to take a road trip over the summer.  My road trip vision shifted regularly.  I initially wanted to explore a beautiful national park solo, and then thought it might be more enjoyable with a friend…  because well, you know….

tumblr_m5b3ntvcG21r8w6t4o1_500 The road trip idea soon transformed from it’s original, “Into the Wild” go where the wind takes me drifter vibe, into a trip with four specific stops, a dog, a husband,  and a final destination. As we waved goodbye to Nebraska, we headed just south towards our first stop.

Goodbye Missouri.

Have I mentioned that saying goodbye is difficult?  Missouri is where I’m originally from and where much of our family and friends still remain.  We passed through for a day or two, and saw as many people as we could.  Georgie was even able to spend the night at her favorite person’s house (my mom), and B and I were both able to say our “see you laters” to friends and family. IMG_5503

I can’t mention leaving the midwest without mentioning these two.

My gorgeous sister-in-law has created the two most beautiful children and it breaks my heart into approximately  one million pieces, and tears stream out of my eyes if I perseverate too long on the fact that we won’t get to be apart of their lives the way we’ve been able to over the past several years.  We’ll just have to get really good at sending videos and Facetiming.  We also changed our credit card to one for airline miles, so hopefully we’ll be able to visit frequently…and I’m sure it won’t be long before they’ll get to spend their summers with their ‘cool aunt and uncle…’ right?!

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Hello Nashville

Nashville was the first stop.  Ironically my friend, Allison, had just visited Nashville and had blogged about her 10 favorite spots.  We tried to check out a few of her faves, but as I mentioned, we had Georgie, so we were very limited as to where we could stay and what we could do with a dog.  The first night (July 3rd), we made sure she was settled and then headed downtown to grab some dinner at Merchants, a spot with amazing service and tasty southern cuisine.  We then ventured into a nearby bar to check out some live music.  I was absolutely blown away by the musical talent.

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July 4th- Nashville Still

I saw Radnor Lake State Park on TripAdvisor, and thought it would be a good thing to do with George, and it definitely was.  There were intricate trails that you can’t take a dog, but there is a paved path around the lake that you can.  It was very shady, and the perfect thing to do to start our day.

I then plugged in Allison’s recommendation for “I Dream of Weenie” an adorable food court that sells hot dogs (I had a delicious veggie dog, but they had tofu dogs too).

East Nashville had a very cool/hipster vibe. As B and I were sitting there enjoying our hot dogs there was a guy sitting on a blanket to our right playing a guitar and singing, and young family whose daughter wandered away and the mom shouted after her to come back by saying, “Poet, honey come here!”

We headed back out to downtown later that night for the “2nd greatest fireworks show in the country” and to enjoy more live music.  We had totally underestimated how crowded it would be.  The weather was perfect which brought over 200,000 people downtown.  Crowds that large start to make me feel slightly overwhelmed, so we found a good spot in the back for the earlier shows, and then made our way into a “Honky Tonk” for another hour or two, where I danced around to a ridiculously talented cover band.IMG_6873IMG_6877

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Nashville to Charlotte.

The journey from Nashville to Charlotte slightly scratched my itch for a National Park road trip.  We passed through the Smoky Mountains, and took in some of the beautiful scenery.   We spent only a quick night in Charlotte, and then left the next morning, but I was very impressed with what I saw and definitely want to venture back.

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Virginia Beach.

By the time we reached Virginia Beach, my usually chill pup was a ball of anxiety.  We went for a walk down the boardwalk of  “Resort Beach” to stretch our legs and then checked into the hotel where she was glued to my leg everywhere I walked.  The whirlwind of family visits and hotel stays  had her feeling (I assume) as though we were going to drop her off and never come back, so we made our night out in Virginia Beach very brief.  The boardwalk at Resort Beach was extremely crowded, and it wasn’t really my vibe.  The next morning I convinced B to drive 30 minutes in the opposite direction towards “Sanbridge Beach” which was far more my speed.  There were a lot of rentals with pools and sand volleyball that looked like it would be a fun place to go with friends or family for an extended weekend.

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Home.

For the past 10 days we’ve been getting settled.  In true B fashion, we had everything that we owned unpacked and in its place “proper place” in just a few hours.  We celebrated with a meal and some wine at a local establishment.  Much of the first week has been sorting out logistics (internet/cable, finding a grocery store, spending the day at the DMV, hoofing it around town, finding a new gym and grocery store), all the fun that moving brings!  We’ve also made time for a little fun! We’ve spent some time veggin’ at our new apartment pool, enjoying homemade dinners and wine on our balcony, finding some awesome farmers markets and dog parks, navigating the metro, and exploring the area!

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All The Best,