Five Tips to Take the Stress Out of Moving

MovingOkay, although I blog about happiness, I am officially stressed out.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, “How Clearing Clutter Can Make You Happy,” after 15 years in our home, we are moving. Moving is recognized by researchers as one of the most stressful events in life. In fact, moving ranks up there with the death of a loved one or divorce.

I am not moving far – just 15 minutes away. My husband and I are building a house across the street from my parents so I can help my Mom who is suffering from health issues. In the meantime, we’ll be living with them.

Oh my! It feels like my life is being turned upside down.

So what can you do if you are in my shoes? Whether you’re moving just around the corner or to the other side of the world, packing can seem overwhelming and daunting, bringing on anxiety and even panic.

To help you out – and myself as well – I’m listing five tips to take some of the stress out of moving:

1.      Start Early

Even if you’re just thinking about putting your house on the market, get started right away. Clear out the clutter and start paring down to the essentials. Sell or donate items. If you need some ideas of what to get chuck, check out my blog. Take my word for it, the sooner the better. I should have started this process earlier.

2.      Be Organized

Have a system. Be sure and put room labels with a brief description on every box. Tip: Your cooking routine will be dramatically disrupted before, during, and after you move, so prepare a basic kitchen kit to have on hand. You don’t need a full set of pots, pans, dishes, or utensils. Just keep a few necessary items packed in one box and label “Essential Kitchen Tools” so you can whip up a few simple meals.

3.      Have Resources Ready

Nothing is more irritating than to be in the middle of packing and run out of boxes, tape, bubble wrap, or packing paper. Have plenty on hand. Keep towels, dish cloths, sheets, and blankets accessible to protect delicate items and furniture.

4.      Ask For Help

Admittedly, this is one of my downfalls. Don’t try to do everything yourself and then realize a day before your move that you’re not ready. Ask family and friends early on to help you out. Books, DVDs, china, and other items can be easily packed ahead of time with some help. Provide pizza and beer to show your appreciation. Thankfully, my children and siblings are helping me now, but I should have probably asked earlier.

5.      Take a Break

When your head is spinning and your nerves are shot, take a 15-20 minute break to clear your mind and calm your senses. Have a cup of tea, call a good friend and vent, close your eyes and listen to some relaxing music, watch something funny. You’ll come back with renewed energy and be able to get more accomplished.

Okay, those are my five tips. Now it’s time to get back to packing. Wish me luck!

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Ten Ways to Improve Your Body Language and Feel Happier

“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People can tell a lot about you by your body language. As Martha Graham said, “The body never lies.”  In fact, body language – - including your posture, the way you stand, sit, or walk, and your facial expressions – – can be a powerful tool that helps you be more successful and happier.

Recent research proves that fact and shows that body language has more far reaching implications on your mood and happiness than previously thought. Body language can even change your hormones and essentially mess with your mind, according to a recent Harvard study.

Perhaps your body language is bringing you down or lifting your spirits without you even realizing it.

For example, the study showed that when you stand in a posture of confidence by standing straight, putting your hands on your hips, and opening your shoulders, your testosterone levels increase while cortisol levels decrease. When you sit up straight, you feel more energetic and in control. You are also more likely to think positive thoughts and call to mind good memories. If you smile and laugh more, you feel happier. If you walk with a spring in your step, your energy level increases. On the other hand, if you walk hunched over, it can zap your energy.

That’s why it definitely pays to be aware of your body language and make necessary changes. These changes will not only make you feel better, but will help you communicate more effectively with others, improve your relationships, and be more successful in your career.

What if you tend to slouch and cross your legs like me? The good news is that you can change your body language and reap the benefits with just a bit of practice. Take note of how you sit, stand, walk, and communicate with others. Visualize how you could look more confident, happy, and relaxed. Observe and learn from others whose body language and attitude you admire. Then try practicing in front of a mirror. Don’t worry, no one will see you.

To get you started, here are 10 ways you can improve your body language:

  1. Keep your muscles relaxed.
  2. Slow down your movements.
  3. Don’t fidget, touch your face, shake your legs, or tap your fingers on a table.
  4. Loosen your shoulders and move them back slightly. You will feel less stressed and more calm, composed, and peaceful.
  5. Don’t be like me and constantly cross your arms or legs. Not only is it not good for your body, but it makes you seem defensive or guarded. Keep your body open and you’ll begin to feel more confident and comfortable in your own skin.
  6. Lighten up. Smile and laugh more. Research shows that you can trick your brain into thinking you’re on the road to happiness.
  7. Quit slouching. Sit and stand straight.
  8. Keep your head up and look ahead when you walk. It will put you at ease and in a better mood.
  9. Move happily too, with a spring in your step and with a relaxed swinging arms.
  10. Have a positive attitude. How you feel will come through in your body language and can make a major difference in not only how others see you, but how you see yourself.

Take one or two of these tips and work on it every day for a few weeks until they turn into new habits. Pretty soon you won’t even have to think about standing up straight or smiling more. Make your whole body say you are happy and self-confident and positive feelings and actions will follow.

Ten Ways to Start Your Morning Right

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before I begin, let’s get something straight. I am not a morning person.

Like that joke, “I could be a morning person…if morning started at noon.” Okay, maybe I’m not quite that bad. Let’s just say I’m not one of those people you see out jogging at 5 a.m. And I prefer if no one talks to me until I’ve had my first cup of coffee.

That being said, I realize the importance of beginning my day happy and relaxed.

Those first few hours can set the tone for the rest of the day.

You can start the day stressing out while you’re making a frantic to-do list in your head or frustrated because you can’t find your keys. Or you can create joyful habits that start your morning off right and increase your chances of having a productive and happy day.

To help you start your day on a positive note, I’ve listed 10 keys to a great morning:

Plan Ahead

The night before take just a few moments to plan your wardrobe, make your lunch, set out your keys, and organize your to-do-list. Get to bed at a reasonable time so you avoid waking up late and rushing through a hectic morning. This is the ticket to waking up feeling in control and less stressed.

Stretch

 Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When you first wake up, ease away stress and tension from the previous day with a few stretches. This way you can start your day in a relaxed and soothing manner before you even get out of bed. I’m not talking about breaking a sweat before breakfast. Just some quick and simple stretches. Begin by greeting the morning by raising your arms toward the sky and then above your head. Stretch your legs all the way to your toes and elongate your spine, stretching your back and ribcage. Sit up and stretch your neck and shoulders and incorporate a sitting side stretch to target your torso. With those simple steps, you get the blood flowing, provide extra oxygen to your tissues, and are limbered up and primed for the day.

Start Your Day Joyfully

Begin your day by doing something that makes you happy. I must confess, for me that means some quiet time savoring my first cup of coffee. Everyone is different. Maybe that means taking a long, hot shower, going for a jog, cuddling your spouse, listening to music, sitting on the porch, or some snuggle time with your kids or grandkids.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have a Relaxing Breakfast

Don’t skip this important part of the morning that provides energy and nutrition. Forget driving through McDonalds and eating at your desk. Make your favorite breakfast and eat it outside on the patio. Or listen to soothing music as you slowly enjoy the first meal of the day.

Pray, Meditate, and Breath

Purge yourself of negative energy by making time to pray, meditate on spiritual matters, or for some thoughtful introspection. Even if you are rushed, spare a minute to take several slow, deep breaths to stay in the present moment and begin your day with calmness.

Be Grateful

Consider at least one thing for which you are thankful. That item might include life itself, good health, your family, a beloved pet, your job, or just a simple pleasure. Jot it down or snap a picture on your phone to refer to later in the day when you feel stressed. See my blog, Start Each Day with a Grateful Heart, for more ideas.

Take in Nature

Take a moment to pause and marvel at the miracle of your surroundings. Step outside on your patio and enjoy the warm sunshine, listen to the rustle of the wind through the trees, watch birds frolic in your fountain. At the very least, bring fresh flowers indoors and allow the bright colors to raise your spirits. Or look out the window and open your senses to nature during those important early morning hours.

Read a Motivational Quote

Many people read or watch the morning news, which can be a negative way to start the day. How about reading something uplifting, inspiring, or even humorous which will provide positive or fun thoughts to keep you energized and hopeful throughout the day. For me, this means reading a daily text that contains an encouraging and motivational Scriptural thought.

Listen to Music

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Spend a few minutes listening to music that makes you feel invigorated, relaxed, motivated, or inspired. Or keep the music on as you go through your morning routine. If you start your mornings on the computer like me, create playlists specifically for those early morning hours. Or simply sing your favorite song in the shower.

Show the Love

Connecting with the ones you love before you leave the house is a great positive way to start your day. Kiss and hug all the people in your house and tell them how much you love each and every one of them. Give your family pet some extra attention. You’ll experience joy and calmness and this action will keep you focused on what’s really important throughout your day.

There you go! Use these 10 tips and you can start the day on your own terms and make it a great day!

How Clearing Clutter Can Make You Happy

After living 15 years in the same house, we’re moving. Oh my, the STUFF we’ve collected and stored.

So the process begins. Last night, I was packing up my kitchen with my daughter-in-law. The cabinets were full of cookbooks I’ve never cracked open, expired food in the pantry, small kitchen appliances I never used, and then there was the dreaded “junk drawer.” As I was filling up trash bags and putting aside things to sell, I felt incredibly FREE.

Why hadn’t I done this sooner?

ClutterIn fact, why do we Americans love to collect stuff? A Self Storage Association study showed that by 2007, the normal family in the middle of a move that was using storage short-term did not represent most of their clients anymore. Half of renters were simply storing what wouldn’t fit in their homes, even though the size of the average American house had almost doubled in the previous 50 years. These clients, who often pay $1000 a year or more to store their excessive belongings, are contributing to a $154 billion industry.

Those who don’t rent storage units are packing clutter into their homes. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that one-quarter of people with two-car garages have so much stuff that they can’t park a car inside. Another study reported 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late and incur fees because they lose them.

Why are we doing this to ourselves when cleaning out all that clutter is so beneficial?

Think about it. Conquering clutter can clear the way for a more productive life.  Without physical obstructions like piles of unopened mail, old clothes, and Tupperware without lids getting in the way, you can get organized and do more in less time.

The National Association of Professional Organizers reports we spend one year of our lives looking for lost items. According to the National Soap and Detergent Association, getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40 percent of housework in the average home.

So are you ready to get rid of the clutter and make your life easier and happier? Here are some common things you can get rid of to get you started:

  • Any object you don’t love, enjoy, or use
  • Clothes and shoes that don’t fit, are damaged, or you haven’t worn in over a year
  • Things that might come in handy someday – but never do
  • Recipes and cookbooks you’ll never use
  • Half-finished projects
  • Photographs, letters, and cards from people you don’t remember
  • Books you’ll never get around to reading
  • Email and social media clutter
  • Old toiletries
  • Expired food and medicine
  • Old magazines and newspapers
  • Excess paper clutter in your home office
  • Any object or photograph that triggers bad memories

And the list goes on. You know what you need to do. Quit resisting the idea of letting go of stuff you’ll never use. Stop procrastinating. Get rid of all those projects you’ll never finish, all the junk you’ll never fix, and things that need to be handled but you don’t want to confront.

You’ll get rid of unwanted stress, improve the energy in your home, and make room for new opportunities, ideas, and possibilities.

The simple act of clearing out clutter enables you to see clearly what is working in your life and what no longer suits a purpose. This insight can give you the confidence to make other empowering decisions such as how you want to spend your time and who you want to spend it with.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Simply take it one step and one room at a time and work toward the goal of a clutter-free home.

As you donate, recycle, or dispose of your clutter, think of the happiness and freedom it will bring you. You’ll have more time to do things you want to do.

Conquer that clutter and begin living a life that you love!

 Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why Losing Weight Doesn’t Bring Happiness

Image courtesy of sattva/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sattva/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m forever trying to lose those 10 extra pounds. But a recent study shows that I shouldn’t worry about it so much.

We all grew up with the myth that if our thighs weren’t slapping together and we could fit into that pair of skinny jeans or wear a bikini again, we’d be SO much happier.

Think again. Although there are reasons to watch our weight – like improving our health – it turns out chasing after happiness shouldn’t be one of them.

According to a recent survey for So Fabulous, a plus-size clothing line from the U.K.-based retailer Littlewoods.com, losing weight doesn’t necessarily make you happier. The survey asked 2,000 women about their current size, happiness, and body confidence. Researchers discovered that 49 percent of those whose weight had fluctuated in the past few years were happiest at a size 12 to 14. Fifty-two percent of size 2-4 women would prefer to be curvier. In addition, women who wore smaller sizes (2-8) were more critical of their bodies than those women who wore larger sizes.

Even more startlingly, according to a new study from the online journal, Plos One, researchers found those who slimmed down were 80 percent more likely to be depressed.

Should this come as a big surprise? Maybe not.

As a society, we tend to admire all those super skinny celebrities. But are they happy? How often do we read about their addiction problems, painful divorces, serial cheater husbands, and miserable lives? However, we often push those facts aside as we diligently imitate their latest crazy fad diets and weight loss methods.

“It’s not the external achievement of some goal that’s going to make us happy,” says clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. “You think that will automatically change your life in some meaningful way, but it could be that your life pretty much remains the same.”

Let’s face it. Happiness doesn’t—nor should it—depend on your weight. Your spirituality, finding purpose in life, your relationships with loved ones, and your overall health are much more important. These are the keys to finding joy, fulfillment, and happiness.

Most of us are aware of that fact, but can’t seem to quit striving after that perfect number in our heads. Even if the constant stress of dieting and depriving ourselves of foods that we enjoy makes us cranky and then depressed when we inevitably gain those 10 pounds back.

This obsession reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite books, Lonesome Dove, when  Gus McCrae tells a prostitute who thinks if she can only get to San Francisco, she’ll be happy: “If you want one thing too much it’s likely to be a disappointment. The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk—and feisty gentlemen.”

I’m not suggesting drinking buttermilk or seeking out feisty gentlemen, but hopefully, by now we’re older and wiser. Most of us have watched our weight yo-yo over the years and know that skinny doesn’t always equal happy.

Don’t get me wrong. I still would like to lose those extra 10 pounds (or maybe it’s more like 15 now). But that’s because I’m aware of the health benefits, not because I want the perfect body or because I think losing weight is the key to enjoying life.

And if I never lose those extra pounds, well, I can live with that.

Five Quick Pick-Me-Ups

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Day five of a nasty summer cold and I’m feeling a little blue. Isn’t it so much better to get sick during the winter when you can cuddle up next to a fire and read a book?

But since I write a blog about happiness, that’s enough whining.

However, this whole feeling miserable and a little depressed got me to thinking.

How can you make yourself feel better without much effort or time? I know exercise or taking a quick walk around the block can lift your mood (see How Exercise Makes You Happier ), but what can you do if you’re stuck at home?

So I made up a list of instant mood-lifting tricks that will make you smile in five minutes or less – even if you’re housebound with a box of Kleenex like me:

Listen to a Happy Song

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Music can soothe the soul and refresh the spirit, as I wrote in my blog, Music and Happiness, I listed 15 of my favorite happy songs if you want to check it out.

One more song to add to the list, a friend posted a different rendition of the Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” by Walk Off the Earth on Facebook. Love, love this! Makes me feel ever-so-happy and feel so much better! Watch the video and it is sure to make you smile.

Pet Your Dog

When you pet your dog even for just a few minutes, your body releases feel-good hormones like serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. That means lower blood pressure, less stress, and even a boost in immunity. As I wrote in my blog, Friends with Benefits: How Pets Make Us Happier, our adoring furry friends make us feel loved, provide companionship, and put us at ease. Of course, not only dogs make you feel better. Any pet will do.

Laugh

Mirth
Rishi S / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Watch a funny movie.

Laughing can improve our immune system, help dissolve stress, and increase our relaxation response. In fact, a good laugh can relax our muscles for up to 45 minutes after we’ve finished chuckling. There’s an increase in dopamine, the pleasure center of our brain, and laughter produces endorphin, feel-good chemicals that can even temporarily reduce pain.

As we all know, day-to-day life drags us down and a good laugh can seem a million miles away. So how can we lighten up and bring more humor into our lives? For some suggestions, you can check out my blog, How to Bring More Humor and Joy to Your Life.

By the way, you don’t even have to laugh out loud. Even being quietly amused or smiling can bring on some of these wonderful benefits.

Take a Deep Breath

Deep breathing sends oxygen surging through your bloodstream, helping to calm your entire body. Or try a whiff of lavender or rosemary. Add a few drops of either oil to a room diffuser. Aromatherapy isn’t just for spas. Inhaling those aromas can lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Flip Through Old Photos

When you’re feeling down, break out your kids’ or grandkids’ baby albums or browse through pictures from your favorite vacation and stroll down memory lane. Upload your favorite photos to your computer and set them as a rotating screensaver. Or splurge on a frame that flips through digital photos.

Studies have shown that viewing pictures made people feel 11 percent better. And as my last blog, Why Being Nostalgic Is Good For You, pointed out, reminiscing is good for you.

So there you have it. Five instant mood lifters when you’re feeling blah. I don’t know about you, but I feel better already. :)

Why Being Nostalgic Can Make You Happier

Image courtesy of Idea go/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea go/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just listening to Hotel California, watching Jaws, or seeing an old episode of The Brady Bunch on TV can make me nostalgic for the 70′s

In fact, thinking about all the cheesy stuff that made that decade unique – bell bottom jeans, mood rings, earth shoes, the Hustle line dance, shag carpets, and ding-dongs – can still make me smile. Makes me pine a bit for the days when guys at school called me foxy.

I think we baby boomers are especially sentimental about our roots. It’s no wonder marketers take advantage of that fact and abundantly use images and music from our youth to tempt us to buy their products.

Lucky for me, it turns out reminiscing is not a bad thing – especially if we view the past through rose-colored glasses.

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Feeling nostalgic can give us a positive outlook about the future, according to research from the University of Southampton published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin last year.

In fact, various studies have shown that nostalgic memories can help combat loneliness, provide psychological comfort, raise self-esteem, foster feelings of belonging, help us deal with adversity, and increase optimism about the future.

An article by Psychology Today pointed out that this is because “many nostalgic experiences are connected to personal accomplishments and momentous life events.”

“Life is not one great success after another,” the article continued. “Our daily existence can often be tedious and sometimes depressing. Using nostalgia, we can inject some meaning and excitement into life.”

On top of that, nostalgia helps us feel more connected to others. When we think of past experiences, objects, movies, and music, we often think of good friends or fun times with our family. It’s a reminder that we can form and maintain relationships, that we are lovable, and that people care about us.

Of course, thinking of the past can be bittersweet at times since we all have painful memories. And I’m not advocating living in the past. As I’ve discussed in a past blog, it’s much better to savor the moment and enjoy the present than wallow in the past or stress out about the future.

But the fact remains, as these studies show, as a whole the effect of nostalgia is positive. Most of us tend to focus on the good times and only reminisce from time to time. That’s why nostalgia, as a rule, makes us happy.

So when you’re feeling a bit down or vulnerable, nostalgia may be just what the doctor ordered. Especially if you think about all the successful, worthwhile, and fulfilling moments in your past. Those cherished memories can contribute to a brighter outlook which we all know is good for us.

Does Chocolate Really Make Us Happy?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before I get to the question posed in the title of this blog, I have to vent just a little.

Don’t you wish that experts would quit changing their mind? At first, researchers adamantly told us that dark chocolate had the same type of antioxidants found in red wine and the flavonoids were good for our heart. In fact, they told us that chocolate was good for our blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, prevented cancer and fixed practically everything that’s wrong with us.

Okay, everything except that darn expanding waistline.

Then they went and ruined my day and changed their mind. Now experts claim chocolate isn’t so healthy for us after all.

But I’m not buying it. They change their minds every two minutes, right? Besides, the former studies totally make sense to me. I’m sure you’ve heard this argument before. Chocolate is derived from cocoa bean. Beans are vegetables. Sugar is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. Both are plants – which correct me if I’m wrong – puts them in the vegetable category. (By the way, I don’t really mean that, you must know that you correct a menopausal woman at your own risk.) In addition, chocolate candy also contains milk which is a healthy dairy product. Enough said.

Of course, keep in mind that you’re listening to someone who owns T-shirts that say, “Will work for chocolate.” I’m a Chocoholics Anonymous dropout. As the joke goes, “My version of the 12-step chocoholics program is as follows: Never find yourself more than 12 steps away from chocolate at any time.”

Image courtesy of ponsuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ponsuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As I wrote over at Hot Flash Daily in my article, Confessions of a Menopausal Crack Head, I’ve always been a chocoholic, but with menopause it’s SO much worse now. In fact, menopause has turned me into a bit of a selfish, hoarding, and yes, mean chocolate addict. As I confessed in the article, when my three-year-old granddaughter somehow found the last piece of chocolate hidden deep in the cupboard, I found myself uttering menacingly, “Give me the chocolate and no one gets hurt.” Poor thing couldn’t hand it to me fast enough and run for her little life. Hell hath no fury like a woman whose last piece of chocolate has been stolen.

Oh, of course I’m kidding! Well, sort of.

Anyhow, to get back to the question in the title of this blog, does chocolate really make us happy?

In short, the answer is yes. Chocolate contains a variety of chemicals, some of which make us feel good by boosting our endorphins (the feel-good hormones).  Tryptophan, also found in chocolate, is used by the brain to make serotonin which helps us feel relaxed and happy. Caffeine gives us an extra boost of energy along with a calming effect.  Scientists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego even suggested that chocolate contained substances that produce a cannabis-like effect on the brain. Who doesn’t want a bit of happy high?

Several years ago, one study surveyed 1,367 men in their 70′s with similar socioeconomic backgrounds and asked questions about their health, satisfaction in life, and emotions like happiness and loneliness. In addition, they also sneaked in a question asking what kind of candy they preferred. Guess what? Those who preferred chocolate showed lower frequencies of depression and loneliness and had a more optimistic outlook on life. 

So there, experts! Even if you take away health benefits, we still have all the mental benefits of this beloved substance.

As the funny Dave Barry said, “My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.”

Even Thomas Jefferson agreed. “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain,” he said.

What a wise person. Who can argue with Thomas Jefferson?

And if I need more validation, Baron Justus von Liebig said in the 1800s, “Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”

“Exhausted power” = hello, that’s me, a tired woman who needs this beneficent restorer.

“Best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits” = writer = once again, that’s me. No wonder I need so much chocolate!

So the addiction continues. Last night I found an old Tootsie Roll that had rolled under the refrigerator and was so stale, I almost broke my front tooth biting into it. No matter, chocolate was drooling down the front of my shirt and I was in hog heaven enjoying every last morsel.

Chocolate is good for me. It makes me happy. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As the Partridge Family sang, “Come on, get happy with some chocolate.” Okay, I made up the last part – but so what? It’s true!

(If you’re menopausal like me and need more humor in your life, you can check out my latest articles at Hot Flash Daily: Cry Me a River, Go With the Flow, and Even Your Nails, Dangit.)

Happiness as a Writer

Image courtesy of Feelart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of Feelart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Don’t get me wrong. As a professional writer, I am eternally grateful to make a living from what I love to do best.

However, following your passion certainly has its ups and downs. There’s the financial challenge of earning a living, the constant deadlines, the inevitable rejections, and the isolation.

 

Famous writers have explained the torture well:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” —George Orwell

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.” —Robert Benchley

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” —Harper Lee

All true. Writing is one heck of a rollercoaster ride!

Twenty years ago, I decided to jump into writing full-time after having several articles published in magazines. Let’s just say, it didn’t go so well. Writing as a hobby was different; it was a thrill just to see my byline. But as a business, writing was super frustrating. Editors didn’t answer my queries. Smaller magazines paid on publication, not acceptance, which often meant waiting months or even a year for payment. A few editors held articles for possible publication for months then sent a standard rejection letter.

By jumping the gun too soon, I was forced to temp as a receptionist at a hotel chain to make ends meet – a job I absolutely detested. Some days were spent crying in frustration and I swore off writing – not for the first or last time.

Many years later, I was finally able to write full-time, but the highs and lows continued. For instance, when an agent agreed to represent my first YA novel – oh, what a high that was! I was dancing on tables. But when the book didn’t sell and my agent dumped me, my self confidence and emotions took a dive. Later, I received three journalism awards and had a book I co-wrote published by McGraw Hill. I was on top of the world! Then my second novel was rejected by agents and publishers sending me crashing to the ground.

You get the picture.

So how do you stay happy through the crazy ups and downs if you want to be a writer?

Here are a few tips:

  • As I learned the hard way, don’t quit your daytime job before you have a steady income. By the way, most writers have a source of back-up income or a part- or full-time job so they can live out their dream.
  • If you want to write full-time, come up with a plan of action. List your monthly and yearly goals. It’s great to have a passion and a dream, but if you don’t have a plan in place, it won’t become a reality. Be prepared. Becoming a professional writer takes time, effort, patience, perseverance, and sheer determination.
  • Talk to your partner. You are going to need his or her support. Be honest and realistic. Have a time-frame for meeting your goals. If it takes longer than anticipated, and there’s an excellent chance it will, have a good backup plan.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. In other words, don’t make your whole world about writing and publishing or you will go completely bonkers. Have a well-balanced life that includes time for your spirituality, your loved ones, and other interests.
  • Writing should be a satisfying experience on its own. Getting into print is just a bonus. Don’t live and die by whether you get published or not. As Allen Ginsberg said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” Simply writing in a journal can be rewarding as I wrote in my blog. Or expressing yourself through poetry is a wonderful creative outlet.  Financial success is not the measure of your success as a writer.

If you are truly meant to be a writer, you won’t give up or allow all the many setbacks to discourage you to the point of quitting. Use the tips above to retain your joy and enjoy the journey.

If you’d like more advice on becoming a writer, you can check out a recent guest blog I wrote on how to get published on Editing Addict. Or if you’re interested in writing in retirement, take a look at an article I wrote for Retirement and Good Living.

Ray Bradbury, who I was privileged to hear speak at a writer’s conference years ago, always had the best advice. I’ll end this article with one of his great quotes:

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

The Connection Between Health and Happiness

Image courtesy of marin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of marin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Everyone knows there’s a link between health and happiness. I know, duh, right?

However, there’s a bit of a twist you may not be aware of, which I’ll discuss in a bit.

First, let’s talk briefly about the connection between health and happiness. No doubt, you already know that if you remain healthy and physically strong, you’ll be happier. And you’re probably aware that since negative emotions harm the body, a positive, optimistic, and happy outlook on life will help your physical health.

For example, a 2012 review by Harvard School of Public Health researchers published in the journal Psychological Bulletin looked over the results of more than 200 studies and found a connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

All the more reason to take care of yourself physically by eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising as well as having a positive attitude – especially as you age. By the way, if you want a pep talk to help you get you off the couch and start exercising, check out my blog, How Exercise Makes You Happier.

But want to hear something surprising?

While it’s true that good health is a major predictor of happiness, studies have shown that people in poor health – including those with life-threatening illnesses like cancer – are often happy as well.

I know – watchu talking ‘bout Willis, right? I was as surprised as you.

A study that appeared in the Journal of Happiness Studies a couple of years ago found this was the case, excluding those whose daily lives are disrupted by their condition, such as people with chronic severe pain or urinary incontinence. Psychiatrist Bryan Bruno, MD, Chairman in the Department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says many people adapt remarkably well to changes in their health status as long as the decline is not too rapid. The exception to the rule is people with a history of depression or anxiety.

Why is this good news for baby boomers?

These studies show that people can adapt to health impairments that often come with old age. So if you’re one of those people who worry excessively about the inevitable health declines that accompany old age – stop stressing out so much!

As a matter of fact, getting old may not be as bad as you think it will be. A recent Pew study found a sizable gap between the expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and the actual experiences reported by older Americans themselves. People in the study generally reported feeling happy, touting the many of the benefits of growing old. The list included having more time to be with their families, traveling, volunteering, and enjoying hobbies, as well as more financial security, less stress, and having fun with their grandchildren.

So as the famous song says, “Don’t worry, be happy.” And in the meantime, stay healthy and happy so you can enjoy life to the fullest.