Happiness Series: Creativity

In our modern consumer society, the majority of people have lost the creativity spark. A lack of creativity is, in my opinion, the biggest danger to our personal happiness. We consume things bought from a store, information and entertainment fed to us through books, TV, social media and the internet. What do we give back to the world? Don’t get me wrong, these things aren’t inherently bad. What is important, is to have balance between that which we consume and that which we create.

Most of my life I truly believed that I “had no creative ability”. It wasn’t until my mid twenties when my astonishingly artistic husband changed my perspective on the concept of creativity. I had always been envious of creative people; my sister with her photography, my grandmother with her painting and crafts. I was convinced that the creative gene skipped me on my family tree. I attempted creative endeavors; my grandmother tried to teach me to paint, sew, weave and bake. The only one of those that stuck was baking and I didn’t consider that creative because I was always following someone else’s recipes. I tried photography, which I really enjoyed but my pictures were never as good as my sisters, so I never considered photography my “thing”. I used to write short stories but was never brave enough to share them with anyone. Did I lack the ability to be creative? No, I lacked the self confidence to consider my creative talents valuable. I lacked the proper perspective of what qualified as creative. My husband passionately believed that I was a creative person who just needed to find my outlet. He ignored my protests that I wasn’t creatively inclined, and I am so grateful that he did. Writing (obviously), cooking, herbalism, photography, and jewelry making are just a few of the creative passions I have incorporated into my life. It wasn’t easy and it took years (and I’m still working at them) to feel confident in my creative talents. Don’t expect your creative talent to come naturally, learning and practicing is an essential part of the creative process. Learn more on my continued learning post.

Research has well documented the connection between creativity and better mental and physical health. Expressing our creativity quite simply makes us better, happier people. I would go so far as to say, to be creative is to truly live. I personally feel, we cannot create true happiness without creativity. Every person in the world has the ability to be creative. The only thing standing in anyone’s way is a lack of action. Find your creative spark and fan it into a life changing flame!

To create something, is creativity. Creativity can be a physical item, a visual creation, something audible or simply an idea. It doesn’t even have to be something completely new. Taking pieces or ideas that already exist and putting it together in your unique way is creativity. Your creativity cannot be compared to creations of others. It cannot be bad or less than. Creativity is an expression of you and your unique perspective of the world. Not everyone will appreciate your specific creativity, but it isn’t for them, it’s for you. Here are some examples and tips for how you can add creativity to your life.

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Happiness Series: Continued Learning

Remember back in childhood when each day was a magical adventure? When did we lose the awe and wonder for life? I watch my toddler explore every aspect of life with the wide-eyed excitement that comes with each new and unique experience. I don’t remember the last time something as simple as a spider crawling across the sidewalk was an amazing, mind blowing experience. She has taught me that the more knowledge and experiences we gain, the less wonder and joy we have in our lives.  

To children the world is unfathomably large, and every day brings a brand new first to figure out. How can you not be excited to jump out of bed and start the day when any number of new magical things you have yet to imagine could happen to you at any moment. As adults, we often get bogged down in the stagnated routines of our day to day lives. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Yes, we have lived (much) longer than those wide eyed two year olds. We aren’t likely to get excited about velcroing our shoes all by ourselves. However, we certainly haven’t experienced everything there is to experience! Bringing excitement and wonder back into your life is as simple as making a real effort to keep learning new things!

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Happiness Series: Digital Detox!

Technology has fundamentally changed how we live our lives and not entirely for the better. The dangers of texting while driving and cyber bullying become more apparent every day. As a society we have started putting laws and policies in place to protect us from these dangers. What about the more subtle dangers that we don’t think about? Each of us should also consider within our own daily lives, how is technology affecting our happiness?

I had to ask myself a very uncomfortable question recently. “What brings you more happiness, Facebook, Instagram and Game Apps? Or reading Dr. Seuss and dancing to baby shark with your toddler?” The answer is easy, playing with my daughter brings me more happiness than anything else in the world! So, the real question is why do I spend so much time absorbed in my phone instead of doing what makes me happiest? Why can’t I make it through one movie on the couch with my husband without checking my phone?

I am a millennial, but I didn’t grow up in the same environment as most people I know my age. I didn’t grow up with technology in the same way my friends did. We had one TV in the house, and it was a turn dial TV (You might need to Google what that is). We never owned a video game system of any kind. Once I was a teenager, we had one desktop computer with dial up internet that was kept in my Mom’s room and only used for homework. I was basically the last person in my generation to discover social media. But now as an adult I’m just as addicted as everyone else…

I decided to commit to a 48-hour digital detox! The days preceding the weekend long detox I was more anxious than I had expected to be. I am so glad I stuck with my commitment! I learned a lot from this experiment, and I encourage you to participate in a digital detox of your own!

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Happiness Series: Nutrition

How does the food we eat effect our happiness? On the surface, the food we eat can physically make us feel good or gross, but I have found there is more of a link to happiness through food than just how our stomach takes it. The food we choose has a huge emotional impact. Food can be nostalgic or comforting. We view some food as a reward or a guilty pleasure. Craving “junk” can make us feel ashamed or deprived. Trying something new can make us feel adventurous. Food can be beautiful and sensuous, and artistic! Food can give us energy to live life! Food can even cure illnesses! 

It feels like everywhere I look there is a new fad diet popping up. The sheer volume of shaming and conflicting information we are bombarded with regarding food is overwhelming. Page after page of “Don’t eat this” and “Don’t eat that”, what are we left with? Searching for ideas on how to incorporate a healthier diet into our life, could almost convince me to give up on food altogether. But I love food! I refuse to live on a diet of celery and cucumber water. On the other hand, I don’t want to live on donuts and potato chips either.

We should want to fuel our bodies, so we have the energy to do the activities we love! We should be able to eat a wide variety of food that tastes wonderful and still provides the nutrition our bodies need! Let’s not aim for perfection, let the goal be balance!

I am not a medical professional and I needed guidance on what a balanced and healthy diet looked like. I consulted my primary care doctor and was referred to a nutritionist in my area.

From that first appointment my life and view of food was changed forever! 
These tips might just change your life too! 

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Happiness Series: Yoga

Interview with Tiffany Ironside of Ironside Yoga
Follow her at @ironsideyoga on Instagram

When I started exploring the concept of happiness not as a destination but as a practice, I was almost immediately lead to yoga. Yoga can have a profound effect on our happiness by means physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Yoga is an excellent place to start if you aren’t sure how to start your intentional happiness journey or anywhere along the way to take your journey deeper. Yoga can make such a profound difference in everyone’s life that I knew it deserved its own dedicated post in this series. Having only dabbled off and on (pathetically I might add) in the subject myself I did not feel qualified to write about it, so I contacted someone who is.

Tiffany Ironside is a roaming yoga instructor and founder of Ironside Yoga. Tiffany provides services such as, large and small studio classes, one on one or small group private classes, kids yoga, yin yoga, restorative yoga, and more. She also offers, energetic healing, tarot readings, spiritual work and is currently working on a skin care line. On top of all of that she is a wife, and mother of two wonderful children, who she homeschools.

Tiffany is an inspiration to me personally and interviewing her was an exciting opportunity! The interview lasted hours so I will paraphrase her answers for this blog. Please know these responses do belong to Tiffany and have been reviewed by her for accuracy. I know you will enjoy her insights as much as I did! Let’s get into it!

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Happiness Series: Physical Fitness

My DOs and DON’Ts of Physical Fitness!

I am not a medical professional, or personal trainer. But I am a busy Mom with a demanding job, a long commute and a million excuses. Exercise has never been high on my priority list but when I started this journey to find true happiness, there was no ignoring it plays a big part in a well-balanced life. If you have ever seen a doctor for any reason you have probably received an ear full about the health benefits of exercise.

I am not here to tell you what exercises to do to get swole. I am still learning what works best for my own workouts. I am here to pass on the lessons I have personally learned while incorporating physical fitness into my own life. Physical fitness, approached in a positive way, can have a profound impact on personal happiness. As I mentioned in my last Happiness post, we need to change our way of thinking to love ourselves as we are now, but we should still also work to improve our health and well-being wherever we can.

Here are my Do’s and Don’ts for physical fitness! Take what you like and leave the rest!

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Happiness Series: Body Image

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When expressing opinions on my own body image I automatically start making excuses, as if the current state of my body is something I need to apologize for or explain.

I could tell you that I’m overweight because I’m still working off the post baby body. But my baby was born a year and a half ago and I weigh more now than I did when I was pregnant.

I could look back at old photos and dream about my skinny days when I was 22 years old. But back then when I was skinnier than I had any right to be, I still thought I was fat.

Once I got past all the excuses, what I came to realize is that my current body size or weight isn’t the real issue.

The real problem is how I view myself.

I know that I am not ugly, but I don’t have a single memory of looking in a mirror and feeling satisfied with what I see. My husband calls me beautiful and I catch myself rolling my eyes. Compliments from acquaintances and friends make me uncomfortable because I can’t believe them. Until I can learn to love myself as I am, no measurement or number on a scale will ever be good enough.

I wanted to start this happiness series with body image because that is what started this journey in my own life. I was searching for answers to why I wasn’t happy because it didn’t make any sense. I have an amazing husband, a miracle of a child, and an excellent career, why wasn’t that enough? I decided it must be because I wasn’t happy with myself, because I am absolutely happy with my life. I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as starting an exercise routine and changing what I eat (although both are good life changes to make and will be addressed in later posts). I wanted to dig deeper and analyze what really brings true happiness to our lives. The more I thought about it and researched it the more it changed my life!

Happiness is not something we find or something that happens to us; It is something that takes constant effort to create and maintain.
Happiness is not a destination; it is the journey itself.

It may seem simple or obvious to some but for me it was a revelation! I have identified and researched several areas in life that have a heavy impact on personal happiness. Through this series I will explore those areas and offer insights into manageable life changes we can all make to further our happiness journeys.

Step one for me was to change my own perspective of my body, and I started with my closet. My closet was stuffed full of clothes I never wore. Each morning I would stare into the depths and as my eyes touched item after item my inner voice was commenting “you look fat in that”, “that doesn’t look good on you anymore”, or “you need to loose a few more pounds before you wear that again”. This ritual of negative self-talk every morning just to get dressed was setting a tone of negativity and dissatisfaction that flowed through the rest of my day. I dedicated an entire Saturday to physically trying on each and every item of clothing I own. If I didn’t feel good about myself wearing it, it had to go! I made four piles; storage, donate, trash, and keep. If I wasn’t sure about an item, I asked my husband for his opinion and let him help me with the decision.

Body Image Piles

Step two was to buy more cloths (let’s be honest I wasn’t left with much…). But first I had to get my mindset right so I could make good, healthy decisions and not end up with a closet of new clothes I never wear. I made a list of all the types of clothing I needed to buy (jeans, work pants, dress shirts, casual shirts, tank tops, etc.…) and how many of each type of item I needed so I wouldn’t go overboard. The most important things I decided to focus on were, size doesn’t matter and live for today. I repeated these to myself before and during my shopping spree.

Size doesn’t matter: Society taught me growing up that the smaller the dress size the better and this pressure still surrounds me today. Between photoshopped models in advertising or unrealistic role models on Instagram, it is hard to escape the expectation that skinny is beautiful. It is hard to accept the dwindling options as the size number grows. It is a battle to avoid the thought “maybe I can squeeze into a smaller size”. Instead of focusing on the size of the jeans, or shirts or dresses, I forced myself to focus on the comfort and fit of the clothes. This was no easy task… I could feel my spirits dropping as I tried on jeans that were too tight and knew I needed a bigger size than I had expected. However, once I bought the clothes I liked, that fit me well and looked good on me and put them in my closet; I forgot all about what size they are. Size really doesn’t matter.

Live for today: I had just removed the clothes that were holding me in the past and I struggled to keep the thoughts of “but what if I lose weight…” at bay. It was important to me that when I looked in my closet each morning, I felt good about anything available to choose from. The clothes I removed weren’t me anymore. I don’t know who I will be in the future and I shouldn’t buy clothes that future me may not like. I focused heavily on what I want my style to be right now. What makes me feel good? When I tried on an outfit, I took my time to analyze what I liked about it and what I didn’t like about it. If there was any doubt at all, I didn’t buy it. I had to go to several stores, and it took an entire day but what I ended up with were only clothes I truly felt good about myself in. To assist I took my sister and my mom with me. Only do this with people you trust to give you brutally honest opinions!

Body Image Results

This was my closet after the overhaul. Each morning since has started with excitement on what I get to wear that day! This exercise alone is not enough to change a lifetime of negative body image. It was however, an excellent first step and led to a deeper look at small life changes that can change our perception and increase our own happiness. This is only the start to my happiness journey stay tuned for more life changing posts to come!

What steps have you taken to improve your own body image?