Monday, September 29, 2014

Finding Love in a Hopeless Place

Sometimes life seems hopeless. The world often seems chaotic and critical and it's hard to find a place where we fit in, much less a place where we can be happy. For me, the best way to find happiness in a messed up world is doing things I love. This includes hobbies, but it can also be something very simple. For example, music inspires me and excites me, even me on the worst days. When I'm in a bad mood it only takes about 10 minutes of Pandora to change that.

Finding simple "fixes" such as this can help when you really don't have time to devote to lots of hobbies and recreational activities. So what is your "guilty pleasure?" Well oftentimes you can make the time to do the things you love without giving up other endeavors. I like to go by the 15 minute rule. If you're feeling really stressed out, take 15 minutes and do something just for you. Whether it's music, art, reading, shooting hoops, or even social media, spend 15 minutes doing something you thoroughly enjoy. Taking a couple short breaks like this every day has helped me so much already through the stresses of school.

So keep your head up and treat yourself to a little happiness today!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Beauty that is More than Skin Deep

A lot of times we try to seek happiness from our environment. I find myself thinking all the time things like "I'm in such a good mood because this cute boy texted me" or "I can't believe I failed that exam! I'm so stupid!" Not only will this negative self-talk most certainly not improve your attitude, but these types of thoughts are ridiculous! Your worth is not defined by how many dates you go on or what your GPA is. You are priceless! And you should be happy with who YOU are, not what you think other people see you as.

Women especially seem to have a skewed perception of their physical attractiveness, believing that they are too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too pale, too dark; their hair is too short, their fingers are too long, and their eyes are too squinted. The media doesn't help these insecurities at all. Models are often portrayed as being tall and skinny, with the perfect eyes, hair, lips, and breasts.

I posted links to the following videos because I think they do an excellent job of showing how wrong we are in believing that we are ugly and that others view us that way.

Dove Evolution
Body Evolution
Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Another thing we can learn from these videos is the idea that models are beautified and photoshopped to the extreme in order to portray the image of the most "beautiful," "desirable," or "sexy" woman. However, this image simply isn't real. The following are pictures of a few movie stars with and without makeup. They really open your eyes to that fact that they are just normal human beings like us, still plenty beautiful without all that makeup.

Part of finding happiness is learning to love yourself unconditionally, imperfections and all. We all have physical and character traits that we like about ourselves, as well as ones we wish we didn't have. Comparing ourselves to others is useless. Sure, they may have a strength that is our weakness, but they have weaknesses as well. Recognizing that we all have strengths and weaknesses will allow us to overcome our feelings of inadequacy and learn to love ourselves for who we truly are.

Your job now is to love yourself unconditionally for the person you are, no matter what.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Perspective: It can change everything

"The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude." -Dennis S. Brown

Perspective is all about the way we look at life. If you're not happy with your life, maybe you just need to change the way you see it.

I'm going to illustrate this with a little exercise. Look at the picture below. Do you see the white vase? Now look again. Do you see the black silhouettes of the two people?

Next picture: Do you see both an old and young woman? (Hint: the old woman's nose is the young woman's chin.)

Now check out this picture. It defies gravity in a way that no architecture ever could. The question is, which staircase is the one facing upright?

You get the idea. Our outlook on life changes everything. So how do we change our outlook? While it's not always easy, the best solution is to take it one day at a time. Focus on the positive. You missed the bus to campus? Well now you have the opportunity to get some exercise running there instead. While it isn't always easy to focus on the positive, it is one of the key steps to maintaining the level of happiness you desire.

Another way to change your perspective is about other people. Oftentimes we assume the worst about others when we should be assuming the best. Here is a story that is both entertaining and applicable when it comes to changing your perspective:

A woman was waiting at an airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shops, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop. She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between, which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.
So she munched the cookies and watched the clock, as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”

With each cookie she took, he took one too, when only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other, she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude, why he didn’t even show any gratitude!
She had never known when she had been so galled, and sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.

She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat, then she sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise, there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.

If mine are here, she moaned in despair, the others were his, and he tried to share. Too late to apologize, she realized with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.
By Valerie Cox in “A Matter of Perspective”
Submitted by Tom “The Colonel” Parker

So if you're seeking happiness and aren't sure where to look, maybe turn your pointed finger back to yourself and decide what YOU can do to improve the situation. 

The best way to change your life is changing the way you see it!


Monday, September 22, 2014

What a Wonderful World

Can you guess what this week's theme is? It's not necessarily a one-word answer. I think sometimes we go through life, not really noticing the little things. I tried to illustrate with the gratitude theme that one of the first keys to being happy is noticing your blessings. Sometimes those blessings are obvious, but other times we have to dig a little deeper. One of the greatest feelings in life is noticing the beauty all around us. Watching a sunset, listening to music, or playing with little kids illustrates in just a few simple ways how beautiful life really is.

So for this week's theme I'd like to focus on beauty; recognizing it, appreciating it, and sharing it. I love photography, so I'm also going to take some pictures that I'll post and hopefully open up your eyes to the wonderful things life has to offer.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (which is actually you, so look around).


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Put a Smile on it

Hey everyone! I apologize for not posting more this week, but I hope that we've all felt a little more grateful. I'm going to finish off the week with one last thought on gratitude, and then I'll post next week's theme tomorrow.

Today I'd actually like to feature another blog post I found while surfing through the Internet. I would definitely recommend this article! It really opened my eyes to how much we have as well as how much we take for granted.

So today your homework assignment is to think of something you have that you wish was nicer or better. It could be your car, your house, your family (only kidding!). Now think about it again with an attitude of how grateful you are for it. I promise you this mindset will save you a lot of grief in the future. Everyone stay tuned for tomorrow's post about next week's theme!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gratitude for the Things that Hurt

It makes sense to be thankful for blessings, but what about being thankful for trials? Most of us agree that hardships aren't readily sought after, but there can be great power in thanking God for the things that seem to be making us weaker when in fact they are strengthening us. In the Book of Mormon, a historical book of scripture, a man named Nephi describes the "many afflictions" that he has had to face, but he proclaims, "nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days" (1 Nephi 1:1).

I absolutely love this verse because Nephi recognized the importance of having trials AND being grateful for them. Our hardships make us who we are. We would not have the same strength and courage without them. In order to turn coal to diamonds extreme pressure must be placed upon it. In the same way, people can only grow and become more like God through struggles and pain.

Even for those of you who aren't religious, learning to accept and embrace your weaknesses and hardships is the first step in overcoming them. Take work, for example. Let's say you want to buy the new dodge avenger, so you begin saving your money like crazy, working extra hours, and eating out of a can so you can get the money for this car. When you finally buy it, it will seem so much more valuable to you than if someone had just given it to you because you put in the time to earn it. The same goes for trials. Working through something very difficult will make the light at the end of the tunnel seem so much brighter.

I know that there is hope for each and every one of us. I know that gratitude for both blessings and trials makes us both stronger and happier.

Can I get an amen? :)


Saturday, September 13, 2014

You don't know a Good Thing 'Till it's Gone

One of the things I do all too often is take blessings for granted. I think we all do it, almost without thinking. And suddenly when the blessing is gone we realize how lucky we were to have it. For me, an example of this is my mother. Growing up my whole life she has been the one to fix me food, drive me places, do my laundry, laugh with me on the good days, and cry with me on the bad days. And then comes that momentous day in every teenager's life to leave home and step out into the world, alone. I absolutely love college, but I can honestly say one of the things I miss the most about home is my mom. While she is still alive and I can still talk to her, she isn't right there like she always was. I'm trying to work harder in life at focusing on what I have NOW and being grateful for it. You never know when it might disappear.

Now go tell those you love that you love 'em!


P.S. Here's some lovin' from Calvin and Hobbes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What Constitutes a Happy Life?

Let me guess. You're reading this because you saw the headline title and you want to know the big secret. What is it that makes you happy? And the answer is quite simple, but powerful. You. The only way to be happy is for you to decide it. Now you're probably rolling your eyes and wondering how a teenage girl could possibly know anything about bringing about your own happiness. Give me a few more paragraphs and I'll tell you.

Often the key to finding happiness isn't a change in experience, it's a change in perception. It seems we constantly finding ourselves saying, "Once I move out of the house and live on my own I'll be happy" or "Once I get married I'll be happy" or "Once I get divorced I'll be happy" or "Once I quit my job and travel the world I'll be happy." Unfortunately, while our brains try to convince us that outside sources will determine our happiness, it is really our point of view that does just that.

Let's say your single and looking to get married. Certainly marriage is a point in life that brings great happiness, but if your only reason for getting married is because you don't feel happy and you think marriage will allow you to achieve effortless joy, then you're in for a rude awakening.

The truth is, always living in the future prevents you from remembering you have a present. There is a right now that you need to be living in, otherwise you'll reach the end of your life and realize you dreamed it away. So what's the magical solution to this surprisingly common difficulty? The answer lies with gratitude.

The reason we aren't always happy with our situation in life is because we tend to focus on the negative and compare it with another's positive. An example might be comparing your neighbor's Ferrari to your old clunker. This really isn't a fair comparison because while your neighbor may have a nice car, he is also single and lives alone in his parents' basement with no prospects, while you have a successful career, a loving spouse, children, and a home of your own.

This simple change in perception suddenly changes your attitude about life. Counting your blessings makes you realize how many you actually have. So I have a challenge for you. This week you need to take a few minutes each day to come up with three things you're thankful for. Just three a day for one week. You can write them in a journal, post them on social media, tell them to your cat, or all of the above. It doesn't matter to me. The purpose of this exercise is to open your mind up to your blessings and to help you recognize that even on the hardest days, there is always something to smile about. It's about changing a negative attitude to a positive one. And I promise you that after a week of doing this diligently, you'll start to notice a difference in the way you view life.

An attitude of gratitude is the best latitude.


P.S. PLEASE share your experiences with this little "experiment." You can either comment or email me or both. I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Week 1: An Attitude of Gratitude

One of the tricky things about blogging is keeping information fresh and exciting. Instead of just posting all the time about simply being happy, I want to help you take the steps to get there. Each week I'll post a new theme for that week that will focus on changes you can make in your life to increase your level of happiness and become a more well-rounded individual and member of society. This week's theme is gratitude.

Sometimes the best way to be happy is to focus on all of the great things you already have! This last week on Facebook I was challenged to post three things I was thankful for every day for seven days. I didn't realize what a difference it would make! Stopping to think about your blessings helps you realize you have so much to smile about! As we focus on gratitude this next week I hope to see some comments about how being more grateful makes you happy.

Smile! You never know who's watching. :)


When you're [Not] Happy and You Know it

One of life's greatest questions is "How can I be happy?" To some it may seem obvious, while others have a more difficult time. I don't blame anyone that has trouble finding joy in a world with so much confusion, stress, and uncertainty. For me happiness is about taking it one day at a time and noticing the little things. But sometimes it's really hard to be happy, especially on those days when you're late to work and you lock your keys in the car and you get home and burn your ramen on the stove and then you realize the next season of Psych isn't out yet.

Well my job is hopefully to make your life a little happier, if not easier. With the popularity of blogs skyrocketing nowadays, I figured why not create one that focuses on making other people happy? My hope is that at least a percentage of the things I post will cheer you up and that we can all work together to make happiness a regular emotion and not just a once-a-month venture.

Happy reading!


P.S. I am in LOVE with Calvin and Hobbes, so you can expect some regular cartoons along with my posts.