Category Archives: Happiness

Napping Makes Baby Boomers Happier

Call it a siesta, forty winks, or shut-eye. Or be cool and call it a micro or power nap.

NapWhatever name you use, it turns out a short nap can make baby boomers less cranky and more happy. We knew that all along, right?

I mean, there’s a reason my yoga mat fondly reminds me of the napping mat we had in kindergarten – so I always feel like ditching exercising for a quick snooze.

Recent research shows that taking naps of less than 30 minutes improves our sense of well-being, as well as boosting performance. More than 1,000 people took part in the study, conducted for the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

You don’t have to tell me twice. I’m so good at napping I can do it with my eyes closed!

Says Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire (who truly is a wise man like his name in my opinion): “Previous research has shown that naps of under 30 minutes make you more focused, productive and creative, and these new findings suggest … that you can also become happier by just taking a short nap.”

In other words, combine nap and happier – and let’s all get nappier!

nap businesswomanEmployers take note. Another study by NASA on sleepy military pilots found that taking a 26-minute nap while the co-pilot was in control boosted alertness by more than 50 percent. Doesn’t everyone want more productive and happier employees? So, if you catch us sleeping at the desk – leave us alone!

Actually, a lot of famous people have been known to nap.

Albert Einstein claimed he needed daytime naps to fuel his marvelous brain.

JFK enjoyed afternoon naps with his lovely wife by his side. Jackie even advised his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, to take up the habit.

And Leonardo DaVinci believed in 15 minute naps every four hours. On the other hand, DaVinci didn’t believe in sleeping much at night, claiming we all have lots of time to sleep after we die. Now that’s a depressing thought. Let’s move on.

In fact, there is a downside to this napping study. The research found that those who took longer naps were less happy than those who did not nap at all. Sorry to say, too much napping is associated with an 82 percent increase in the risk of heart disease.

Go ahead, pop my bubble.

As a Minion meme states: “Naps are tricky because you either wake up refreshed and relaxed or you have a headache, dry throat and you are unaware of what year you’re in.”

True, true. But still, I’m sticking with the main message of this study that shows a short power nap will make you happier. I’m a believer!

Images courtesy of FrameAngel and imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Embrace Hygge Like Happy Norwegians

Norway was just named the happiest country in the world. Why are they so darn happy and what exactly is hygge?

NorwayMy interest in the word was peaked after reading the latest World Happiness Report, a survey of 155 countries, that was released just last week.

Once again, despite frigid arctic temperatures and months of darkness, the happiest people on the planet apparently live in Nordic countries.

As mentioned, Norway jumped up three spots to claim the title of “world’s happiest country” for the first time. Denmark, the previous winner for three years in a row dropped to second. These countries were followed by Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

In case you’re wondering, the U.S. came in 14th place, dropping down one spot from last year. Europe didn’t fare so well either. Germany was ranked 16, the United Kingdom 19, France 31 and Italy 48. Not surprisingly, people in the Central African Republic are unhappiest with their lives, according to the survey, followed by Burundi, Tanzania, Syria, and Rwanda.

In the end, as in past years, Norwegian countries took most the top spots. Could the reason they are so darn happy have to do with the Danish term hygge?

If you’re from or have visited a Scandinavian country, maybe you know about this funny word that’s hard to pronounce.  To say the word, try puckering your lips and aim for a throaty word somewhere between hoo-gah and hue-guh. The good news is, it’s easier to embrace hygge than to pronounce.

Hygge is also difficult to define, but is translated loosely into the English word coziness and is associated with relaxation, indulgence, and gratitude. However, Norwegians would probably argue there’s much more to the word.

relaxHygge requires being present in a moment – whether it be simple, soothing, or special – that brings you comfort, contentment, or pleasure.

The word refers to the ability to enjoy the good things in life with people you love. Hygge can describe soft candlelight, comfort foods like a pork roast or home-made cinnamon pastries, sitting by the fire on a cold night with fuzzy socks, or simply being kinder to yourself and others. It’s about transforming an afternoon cup of tea into an event with friends. Some people translate the word as coziness of the soul.

So, let’s get back to this year’s happiness report and see what hygge has to do with the results.

The report looks at several happiness indicators, including a nation’s per capita GDP (gross domestic product, often used to measure a country’s economic growth) social programs, life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and corruption.

It should be noted that although people in Nordic countries are comparatively well off financially, the report proved that money does not equal happiness. This is shown by the surprising fact that Costa Ricans are apparently happier than much wealthier Americans. Another economic powerhouse, Japan ranked poorly at 51. Mexicans and Guatemalans scored happier than the Japanese, even though they are much poorer.

Some would argue that Norwegians are better able to appreciate the small but comforting things in life – or hygge – because they already have all their basic necessities in place. That includes free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year. With their basic needs met, Nordic countries can focus on their well-being and what truly brings them a better quality of life.

Maybe that’s true, but I think we can learn a few lessons from the Norwegians and the way they live.

The idea of practicing hygge is carried over into their work as well as recreational activities. Working overtime and on weekends? Unheard of in Nordic countries! Most businesses shut down before 5:00 p.m. In addition, Norwegians have proven to be less materialistic than other cultures, appreciating low-cost activities and simple things in life. They focus on experiences instead of stuff.

A strong emphasis is put on quality time and sharing meals together as a family in a cozy atmosphere. Priority is given to maintaining cherished relationships and supporting their communities.

Yes, these countries have harsh weather, but these people are a hearty bunch who show their appreciation for nature and the great outdoors year round. In winter, most Norwegians aren’t sitting in their houses all depressed. They can be found skiing, dog-sledding, snowboarding, snow-shoeing, and enjoying the spectacular northern lights. During summer months, they take advantage of the warmer weather to hike, swim, cycle, and sail.

In the end, I think the report confirms that happiness has less to do with money and success and more to do with spirituality, our relationship with others, gratitude, a giving attitude, and being present and mindful.

And maybe adding a little more hygge to our lives.

So, go ahead. Eat that pastry guilt-free, invite friends over for a glass of wine by the fire, or luxuriate in a candlelit bath. Savor the moment and let the warm, fuzzy feelings flow.

Images courtesy of Maxim Weise and graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

Happiness in Life’s Simple Pleasures

As I write my blog this Monday morning, it just happens to be International Happiness Day and the first day of spring. How often do those two cheerful days coincide?

happy girl umbrellaThat means you should have been experiencing bliss to the extreme that day! Since I publish every Thursday, the day has passed. Was it a great day for you? Not so much?

Every year, on March 20, as International Happiness Day is celebrated, I wonder if that means the remaining 364 days of the year are deemed grumpy, gloomy days.

Actually, we don’t need a special day to find some bliss. Any ordinary day will do. If you weren’t aware of International Happiness Day, how about we celebrate today? Let’s pause and enjoy all of life’s simple treasures and treats we look forward to throughout the day. Yes, we all have them!

You know, the moment you open up your drapes and sunlight fills your home. The aroma of coffee in the morning. Those delightful blueberries on your cereal. The hot shower in the morning that awakens and refreshes you.

Open the door and walk outside. Feel the brisk air on your skin and the sun on your face. Hear the birds sing out joyfully. Notice the colorful spring flowers exploding in your front yard. Enjoy your favorite song on the radio as you drive to work. Don’t just sit there, sing along!

Get away from your desk or out of the house and eat lunch in the park. Enjoy the fleeting spring season in its full budding glory. Take a moment and write, text, or call a friend. Give someone a big smile to brighten their day and perk up yours as well. Make it a point to do something nice for a stranger or give someone a sincere compliment today.

When you get home, give your loved ones a big hug. Make your dog’s day with a walk around the neighborhood, a treat, and an extra pat on its head. Relish each bite of dinner. Watch the sunset. Enjoy your favorite comedy and laugh loudly. At the end of the day, remember each blessing and thank God in prayer.

If a gloomy thought dares to enter your head this day, usher it right out and replace it with a happy, positive thought. No groans or gripes allowed. Mentally shout “next” in your head and move right along. Relish this day of simply being alive.

Who needs a special day to celebrate the beauty of bountiful bliss? Use these simple little tricks and happiness will greet you like bright, cheerful tulips and daffodils on a lovely spring day.

Image courtesy of alex_ugalek at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

 

The Enchantment of Snow

Why does snow falling have the ability to make us feel so entranced and enchanted?

“Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes,

Silver white winters that melt into springs,

These are a few of my favorite things.”

Aw, I still love those famous lyrics from my favorite movie as a child, Sound of Music.

Family Snow Day

Family Snow Day

Although we live in the California desert, we’re only an hour drive away from the mountains. This weekend my husband, son, grandchildren, and I went up to Idyllwild to play in the snow.

The trip got me to thinking about why snow can make us feel so darn happy.

(And yes, I am aware that I was only visiting the snow and didn’t have to live, shovel, or deal with the slush afterward. But don’t rain – or snow – on my parade!)

Here are my top three reasons snow brings us such unadulterated joy:

The Magic of Nature

snow gate “Silently, like thoughts that come and go, the snowflakes fall, each one a gem.” — William Hamilton Gibson

Actually, I lived in northern California as a child, Idyllwild as a teen, and Washington State for a few years as an adult. I remember well the pure excitement of waking up to a white winter wonderland where the snow gently kisses meadows and trees in a breathtaking way.

I know some of my friends up north and back east may be sick of the snow by now, but let’s not lose that childlike wonderment and genuine delight. No matter how old we are, we can still appreciate the way snow beautifies everything it touches, creating a still and stunning landscape.

Forming those first footprints in a vast white pristine field while breathing in the invigorating fresh cold air allows us to connect with our natural surroundings in a profound way.

Live in the Present

“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky – unbidden – and seems like a thing of wonder.”   Susan Orlean

Catching snowflakes on their tongues.

Catching snowflakes on their tongues.

A fleeting snowfall forces us to pause and take note of the entrancing beauty. No matter what’s happening in our lives, peaceful falling snow has the serene power to calm us down.

Who can dwell on the past or worry about the future while we’re watching snowflakes gently float soundlessly from the sky?

Who can frown while creating a funny, fat snowman, playfully catching snowflakes on our tongues, or enjoying the thrill of a sled ride? Who can resist screaming with delight during a snowball fight?

And who can stop laughing when you discover your granddaughter is photobombing you in the snowstorm? Not me, as evidenced in the photo below!

snow photo bomb

Time with Your Family

“We build statues out of snow, and weep to see them melt.” — Walter Scott

Ah, so true. Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or creating snow angels, snow forts, or snowmen, or having a raucous snowball fight, snow naturally brings families together. But as the poem notes, all good things have to come to an end. Well, sort of.

Eventually my granddaughter cried because her fingers were painfully cold and it was time to head for the warmth of our home. Luckily, the joy of a snow day continues after you go inside to warm up by a roaring fire with a mug of hot chocolate.  It’s a wonderful chance to snuggle with your loved ones and reminisce about the glory of the day.

So all of you snow haters out there, excuse this Californian’s enthusiasm for the white stuff, but I can’t help feeling the same way as American novelist Candace Bushnell, who eloquently wrote:

“Thank goodness for the first snow. It was a reminder — no matter how old you became and how much you’d seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered.”

 

Five Surefire Ways to Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet

How can you make 2017 your best year yet?

Dump the silly tradition of making a bunch of New Year’s resolutions that make you feel like a failure at the end of the year when things don’t go according to plan. Instead of making an endless list of lofty ambitions, why not take some simple, realistic steps to improve your life in significant ways in 2017?

Are your ready? I certainly am! I’m ready to move forward and make the most of the next 361 days, 8,664 hours of precious time that I can never get back. quote-oprah-year-endI’m ready to continue on my spiritual path. I’m ready to set new goals and create attainable steps to achieve them. I’m ready for new adventures. I’m ready to make my body healthier and stronger.

Want to join me? Here are five simple but effective ways we can all make 2017 an incredible year:

Reflect and Learn

Before jumping into the New Year, take a moment to think about what worked and didn’t work for you last year. What were the highlights? The low points? What were your successes and failures? What made you feel happy and joyful? What made you downright miserable? What life lessons did you learn that you can take into 2017? What changes do you need to make this year even better?

Focus on the Present

Okay, now that you’ve looked over the past year, it’s time to move forward. Forgive and let go of any anger or resentment you’re still carrying over from last year. Resolve to learn from your mistakes and move on. Make the necessary changes to eliminate whatever was making you miserable. Take time to be grateful for all the good things that 2016 granted you. Then, focus on the present. When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself, what would bring me joy and make my day great? Then do your best to make sure it happens. At the end of the day, ask yourself, what could have made my day better? Then make the necessary adjustments. This daily practice will help you create the life you want to live. Another way to live in the present is to savor, appreciate, and revel in seemingly small, ordinary moments that make the day special. Did you feel the warmth of sunshine on your face or enjoy the refreshing smell after a rainstorm today?  Did you hear a bird singing its heart out or enjoy the sound of a child’s laughter? Did you receive a compliment at work or did a stranger say or do something kind? Did your loved one give you a big hug? Take notice and cherish each moment.

write-goalsWrite Down Attainable Goals

According to studies, about half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions but less than 10 percent of people achieve them. I’m not a believer in New Year resolutions which tend to be overwhelming and unrealistic. However, I do think it helps to periodically write down a few specific and realistic goals throughout the year and review them regularly. Doing so will help you remember what you want out of life and set priorities. You can include spiritual goals, health goals, career goals, or personal goals. So you won’t feel overwhelmed, list no more than three at a time in order of importance. Make sure the objectives are attainable. Then write small steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Focus on one goal at a time and give yourself deadlines – as a writer I know this works. Celebrate milestones along the way. Don’t give up too easily and believe in yourself. Start right now. Think of one specific goal you would like to accomplish this year. Okay, now what’s one thing you can do today, right now, to work towards your goal? No excuses – just do it!

Make Your Body Stronger One Month at a Time

Weight loss and going to the gym are popular New Years resolutions that often fail by time February hits and the excitement wears off. So why not take a different tack? Instead of vowing to lose 20 pounds at the beginning of the year, make it a goal to do one simple thing each month of 2017 to make your body healthier. Need some ideas?  In January, find a workout buddy. In February, walk 100 more steps each day. In March, drink less alcohol and more water. In April, get more sleep. In May, eliminate sugar from your diet. In June, sit less and stand more.  In June, explore a new hiking trail. In July, touch your toes every day. In August, try out one new sport or workout. In September, download a free fitness app. In October, eat less meat and more vegetables. In November, try a new healthy recipe each week. In December, take a daily time out and practice deep breathing. You can use these goals or make up your own list. The idea is to practice each goal for one month to make lifestyle changes that will hopefully stick and become good habits.

try-something-newTry Something New 

While it’s good to break free of your comfortable but boring routine, New Year’s resolutions often include intimidating goals like learning a new language, running a marathon, or skydiving. Why not use the method above and promise yourself to try something new each month. You don’t have to choose something difficult, arduous, or life-threatening. Sign up for a class, visit a new city, try a new cuisine or restaurant, change your hairstyle, make a new friend, learn ten phrases in a different language, listen to a different type of music, write a poem or start a journal. Even the smallest change can inspire more adventure and joy.

There you go – five simple steps to make 2017 your best year yet. In addition to the suggestions above, resolve to take time to nurture your spiritual side, to spend time with your loved ones, to laugh and smile, to be generous and help others, and be kind to yourself. Do so and you’ll feel happier throughout the year.

Images in order of appearance courtesy of nuttakit and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

CURRENTLY Fall 2016 Blog Hop: How I’m Finding My Bliss

Back by popular demand: a new CURRENTLY Fall 2016 Blog Hop.

Along with some blogger friends, I’m sharing where I am currently in life, what I’m reading and watching and what I’m loving and dreaming about this fall.

Sit back, have a read, and check out some of my recommendations if you’d like. Then visit the other #Gr8Blogs listed at the end of this post for more Fall 2016 CURRENTLY inspiration.

*Reading…

book-glassesThe last book I read was All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda. The novel caught my eye because of the unusual way it is told in reverse, going backwards in time.

As the book begins, the reader learns about Nicolette’s current life. She’s from a small town in North Carolina and escaped to Philadelphia, but returns home to take care of some family business. Nicolette is quickly pulled back into the mysterious disappearance of her best friend a decade before. Only days after her return, another girl goes missing. The plot thickens.

The novel was a bit confusing, but the story definitely kept my interest. My perspective and suspicions shifted drastically as I moved backwards in time. Not to brag, but I did guess the ending about a quarter way through the book, but maybe because I’m a writer who looks at plot lines very closely. Everyone I know who read this book was surprised by “who done it.” I’d give it four out of five stars.

*Watching…

Just finished Season Five of Longmire. If you haven’t seen this series, you’re missing out. Check it out on Netflix. I love, love it. Robert Taylor plays the charismatic sheriff and is supported by Katee Sackhoff (from Battlestar Galactica) and Lou Diamond Philips, who so marvelously plays my favorite character, Henry Standing Bear.

My husband and I also recently watched the Ron Howard documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, which covers their touring years from 1963 to 1966.

If you’re a baby boomer like me (or even if you’re not!), you’ll love the great footage of the Fab Four’s earliest – and most joyful and optimistic – performances. Howard provides a real feel for these four extremely close young friends on their exhilarating and crazy journey as Beatlemania kicked in and how it affected them.

beatlesThe first wave of baby boomers were reaching their teens and, as the documentary points out, there were more teenagers in the world during that time than any other age group. As you watch the footage, once again, you’ll be amazed by and wonder exactly what inspired such hysterical pandemonium – the massive shrill screaming, fainting, and weeping of completely obsessed girls. Not even The Beatles themselves could figure it out.

The four, only teens themselves when they were starting out, formed a special tight camaraderie. As the documentary shows, they lovingly looked out for each other, as the only ones on earth who truly knew what it was like to experience the insanity that ensued. In fact, The Beatles were so close that decisions had to be unanimous, Paul McCartney explained. That included their brave refusal to perform if the audience was segregated as was typically the case in the Deep South during the 60’s.

The documentary demonstrates brilliantly how the fame and chaos sadly took away The Beatles’ pure and innocent joy of performing their music. And no wonder. Suddenly it took hours to restore a semblance of order at their concerts, people were injured, and the band received death threats as a result of John Lennon’s remarks comparing the group’s popularity to Jesus. The lyrics from their song, “Help!” takes on new meaning in light of these events: “When I was younger, so much younger than today…And now my life has changed in oh so many ways.”

The Beatles swore off touring and went into the studio to experiment with their music a few days after they were forced to perform during a torrential rainstorm in an open-air stadium. Tour roadie Ed Freeman confesses in the documentary: “My job was to sit backstage with my hand on the plug and the instructions were: If anyone fell down, knocked out by the shock, then I would pull the plug and that would stop the show. It was a joke.”

I saw this documentary after attending Desert Trip which featured McCartney. Considering all the challenges this band faced in the past, it was good to see that he has rediscovered the joy of performing in front of a large audience once again.

A nostalgic must-see. The documentary is currently available on Hulu.

*Thinking About…

book-light-bulbMy next book.

As a professional writer, many people encouraged me to share my experiences as a full-time caregiver for my Mom who suffered from Lewy Body dementia (a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) to help other caregivers and family members with loved ones who have this debilitating disease.

At first, I couldn’t do it. The heartbreaking experience of watching my Mom rapidly deteriorate both physically and mentally before my eyes, the difficulty of taking care of her at the end when she began to lose all bodily functions, as well as her death were all too painful to relive.

Although it still won’t be easy, after a year and a half, I’m ready to tell my story and put all my feelings into words in honor of my dear mother who I loved more than life itself. She faced her disease courageously.

It is my hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help other caregivers and all of those who are losing their loved one a little bit at a time like I did. I want to help them cope with the challenges, learn how to take care of themselves during this challenging time, and succeed with their noble and important role as a caregiver.

*Loving…

My God and my refuge, who saw me through the last few challenging years and continues to bless me in so many ways. My loving husband who has supported and loved me for more than 38 years. My children and grandchildren who bring me such joy.

family-visiting-chrisThe above photo of our family was taken at breakfast while visiting my youngest son and his wife who live up near Sequoia National Park. Later, we all visited Kings National Park – my first time there and it was gorgeous. Loved that quick weekend trip too!

*Anticipating…

I live in the California desert where we have long, long hot summers. November is the first month we’ll have temperatures that hopefully are no longer 90 degrees-plus. We planted our fall garden with the grandchildren last weekend. I’m looking forward to many pleasant evenings on the patio with a roaring fire, a good book, and a glass of wine. Also anticipating some relaxing time on our sailboat as the summer crowds at the beach die down and we enjoy our new slip in a quieter area.

*Wishing…

Still wishing for that trip to Africa and it looks like my lifelong dream may become a reality in the next year or so…stay tuned.

*Making Me Happy…

That I am privileged to live another day.

So there you go. Thanks for stopping by and sharing a bit of my life with me. For more Currently Fall 2016 inspiration, visit the #Gr8blogs below.

CURRENTLY Fall 2016 Blog Hop: Finding My Bliss

By Sondra Robbins Rymer

CURRENTLY Fall Blog Hop: Find Your Autumn Inspiration

By Cat Michaels

CURRENTLY Fall 2016 Blog Hop: Autumn Inspirations and Obsessions

By Auden Johnson

CURRENTLY Fall Bog Hop: Autumn Bliss

By Carmela Dutra

CURRENTLY Fall Blog Hop

By Corrina Holyoake

If you are so inclined, please share some of what’s inspiring you these days in the comments below.

Image courtesy of [in order of appearance] everydayplus, artur84, and Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Leisure Time at Home Makes Grandchildren Happy

Can’t afford that pricey vacation to Disney World with the children or grandchildren?

family-vacationA new study from Baylor University points out that family happiness is often found right at home.

If you’re a baby boomer like me, as a kid, you probably spent a lot of time at home eating family dinners, playing board games, and watching “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and “Wonderful World of Disney” every Sunday night.

But have you noticed that today’s exhausted families seem to be constantly on the run dashing from one destination to another?

Turns out our parents may have been on to something back in the day. Sure, it’s fun and exciting to go new places and create memories. But simply hanging around the house enjoying familiar activities also has its benefits.

In fact, this new study points out that leisure time spent at home may actually be a more effective way to foster true, long-lasting happiness.

“When the brain is focused on processing new information—such as taking part in an unfamiliar activity with unfamiliar people in a new location—less ‘brain power’ is available to focus on the family relationships,” lead author Karen K. Melton, PhD., assistant professor of child and family studies, said in a press release.

family-home-drawingIn other words, a quiet evening spent together participating in familiar activities inside the home – while reducing distractions such as cell phones – makes it easier to reap the emotional benefits of quality time together.

There’s another benefit too.

Family members can feel free to “express stress and conflict as well as pleasure during leisure time” if they’re at home, Melton added. This necessary and natural process of blowing off steam that can lead to solving family issues is something that probably won’t happen in public places where people are watching.

Although many experts recommend eating together and discourage watching TV, Melton said there is not a one-size-fits-all schedule for leisure activities that guarantees happiness.

“For some families, quality togetherness is having dinner together or playing games; for others, it may be hobbies, videos or TV, music,” she said. “At the end of the day, what matters is that we are social beings who crave a sense of belonging and connectivity.”

This idea also fits into studies that show children do well with regular, predictable, and consistent routines at home.

That’s good news both for parents and grandparents limited on time and resources.

If you’re a grandparent like me, that means when the grandchildren come to visit, you don’t have to feel the need to run out and do something new and exciting every day. Quit trying so hard, slow down, and enjoy simple activities at home with the children.

Want a few ideas of activities you can try out with your children or grandchildren at your house? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Read a favorite book and have your child or grandchild add his own twist for a unique ending.
  • Have some old-fashioned fun in the backyard. My grandchildren love to play “Eat it or Wear It” with various foods. Want something tamer and less gross? Try good ol’ Freeze Tag, Kick the Can, or Red Light Green Light. They’ll love it! Make an obstacle course. Or pick up a piece of rain gutter at the hardware store, add water and a soap “boat” and voila! You have a race track.
  • Grandma and Grandpa, show the kids some of your groovy moves during the disco era. Dim the lights and give each child a flashlight to turn on and off for that full disco effect. Break out your old Bee Gee, ABBA, and KC and the Sunshine Band albums. Or younger parents, share your favorite dance moves like the Sprinkler, The Macarena, or the Robot with MC Hammer or New Kids on the Block playing in the background. Or choreograph a dance routine to your kids’ current favorite songs.
  • Ready for some quiet time? Lie on a blanket outside and do some star gazing. Do a puzzle together. Make a shoe box dollhouse using cardboard, matchboxes, toilet paper rolls, and scrapbook paper (I spent countless hours doing this as a kid!). Remember string art and play dough? They still work like magic!
  • Kids love to perform. Hold a family karaoke night. Give out “awards” for the silliest performance, best duo, most dramatic voice, or best outfit. Make a “runway” out of folded blankets, play some music, and have a fashion show with exaggerated catwalks and poses. Try a comedy show complete with corny kids jokes, a puppet show based on the children’s favorite story, or a magic show displaying their favorite card tricks.

Save money and take the time to veg out at home. In the long run, your children or grandchildren may be happier!

Images courtesy of digital art and graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Spreading Joy with Inspirational Messages

Are you tired of all the bad news lately? Seems like every time I turn on the TV there is another mass shooting. Then there’s the upcoming election news with all the nasty insults flying and disheartening debates.

Looking for the perfect uplifting anecdote? I read about a fun trend that is SkyROCKeting (hint,hint) across the country.

I found out about this motivational movement in an article about Hannah Barnes. She is 19 years old, lives in Texas, and is battling stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She endured six rounds of chemotherapy.

rocks-laughingBarnes and her cousin were on vacation in Houston and heard about a rock painting trend. People were hand painting stones with inspirational messages and hiding them in public places. Those lucky enough to find the painted rocks either relocated them or made their own to replace it.

They decided to start the tradition in their own community with a “Wilbarger County Rocks” Facebook page. Members post pictures of rocks they’ve found or plan to hide for others to locate.

The two young women claim that the creative act of painting a rock with an inspirational message and hiding it for someone else to find is downright therapeutic. The process took their mind off of negative things as they envisioned the looks of delight as their rocks were discovered.

The good news is that Barnes recently found out she is cancer free.

This idea is marvelously simple and some of the stories behind the movement are touching. The goal is to brighten someone’s day and spread a little happiness, love, and inspiration. Those that participate say the small gesture can make a huge difference in someone’s life.

painted-rocksThink of a less dangerous and more artistic version of Pokémon Go. Or a less complicated type of geocaching. The trend connects people and encourages them to explore their communities without a Smartphone. More like a treasure hunt.

A similar Facebook group was created by Cathy Tomko and Connie Quatermass in Kitsap County, Washington. Quatermass tells the story of how a man with cancer was on his way to a cardiologist appointment when he found a rock painted with a heart. The man was on his way to get his heart checked before beginning treatment. He received good news about his heart and says he’ll be carrying the rock in his pocket during his treatments.

Love it.

Ironically, it seems the rock painting trend began with a tragedy in Oregon. Susan Dieter-Robinson and Tom Robinson got married and their daughters, Anna Dieter-Eckerdt and Abigail Robinson, glued fabric in the shapes of hearts to rocks as decorations for the wedding. Tragically, the two girls were later killed in a hit-and-run crash. Their parents began painting and distributing similar rocks to honor the girls’ memory. In 2014, they launched the Love Rocks Facebook page.

So began a tradition that began spreading to other communities across the country.

Of course, many of these groups have some simple rules. That includes keeping artwork and comments positive and G-rated so children can participate and being respectful of private property, national and state parks, cemeteries, and businesses.

If you want to give this trend a try, you can use acrylic paint found in craft stores or Sharpies. Spray your rocks with a clear gloss spray paint to protect paint from the weather. Community rock groups are easily set up on Facebook if you’re so inclined.

good-job-stickerMessages can be short and simple: Don’t give up. You’re Amazing. Unleash Your Silly. You Are Brave. Live Your Dreams. Take a Moment and Breathe. Create. You Rock. Imagine. Forgive. Thrive. Stop and Smile. Pray. Dance in the Rain. Nurture Hope. Stay Curious. Believe. Be Fearless. Find Joy. Give Freely. Live in the Moment. Laugh Loudly. You Are Enough. Be Blissful. Seek Adventure. Take the Next Step. Let it Go. Relax. Try Something New. You’ve Got This. Have a Grateful Heart. Give Someone a Hug. Take a Chance.

If painting rocks isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other simple ways to brighten someone’s day.

Write down positive quotes and place them in library books for someone to find. Leave a workmate a compliment on a sticky note. Write a love note on the shower door for your spouse to discover. Etch a positive message in the sand. Put a love note in a lunch box for your child to read at school.

I’m sure you can come up with some ideas of your own. Just brighten up someone’s day!

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of suphakit73, BJWOK, and David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Five Ways Living Frugally Can Make You Happier

Unfortunately, we are a country of  credit card addicts.

On average, an American has $4,717 of credit card debt. Only 35% of credit card users don’t carry a balance. That means if you pay off your bill every month, like you’re supposed to, you are in the minority.

cheapskateFor most of our lives, my husband and I happily fit into that latter category. We lived debt-free with the exception of a mortgage and at times a car loan.

We wisely stayed out of credit card debt which was incredibly freeing.

Perhaps part of that reason is that we’re baby boomers.

Our generation was taught to stay home if we couldn’t pay for a trip with cash. The same goes with buying new furniture, designer clothes, the latest technical gadget, or unnecessary stuff we couldn’t afford. My father, who went through the Depression as a child, always taught me it was a huge no-no to fall into the trap of credit card debt.

In today’s world, however, it’s oh-so-easy to use plastic to pay for things we want. In addition, even with the best of intentions, sometimes debt is unavoidable. Credit card debt isn’t always a result of a lack of budgeting or over-spending. For example, a medical emergency or the loss of a job may leave people no choice. Recently, my husband and I were forced to use our credit cards for legal expenses.

This turn of events in our financial lives has motivated me to take a closer look at living more frugally. If you’re in debt and tired of the stress or just want to save more money for retirement, to travel, or to pay off your mortgage early, living more simple and prudently is certainly worth a look.

Why Live More Simply?

Living frugally or as a “cheapskate” may have a bad rap. Now, I’m not talking about reusing plastic bags, making my own shampoo, dumpster diving, or foraging through the forest for food like some of the cheapskate websites suggest. Kudos to you who have that kind of self-discipline, but I don’t have the time and patience for all that.

Just some simple lifestyle changes, such as eating out less, carefully considering purchases, and setting spending limits.

Still, making changes is never easy. Trying to adjust spending habits without good reasons to motivate you will likely fail, leading you to return to your old ways. So, let’s dig a little deeper on the benefits of living frugally for some inspiration.

Jeff Yeager has been dubbed the “Ultimate Cheapskate.” In his book, “The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means” Yeager personally interviewed 300-plus self-described cheapskates. He noted that, surprisingly, for the vast majority, their decision to live a frugal lifestyle wasn’t based on money.

“Their attitudes and approaches to money were most often grounded in something bigger, such as spiritual, religious, or ethical beliefs,” Yeager writes in his book. “They weren’t hoarders or people intent on amassing a large bank account for the sake of having a large bank account. Rather, they were people who were content, by and large, with what they already had.”

Let’s examine what inspired these cheapskates more closely. What are some significant benefits of living frugally and debt-free?

charityNurture Your Spiritual Side and Help Others

If you live prudently, you’ll have more time and money to help others.

This may surprise you, but frugal people tend to be quite generous when it comes to giving to people in need as well as contributing to charities and other social causes. As you know, helping others is a surefire way to make you happier.

When you’re chasing the almighty dollar and working around the clock to support an extravagant lifestyle, it only stands to reason that your spiritual life will be pushed to the side.

If you’re a Christian, you may be familiar with Bible principles that tout the wisdom of keeping money in its proper place, being humble, content, and grateful, avoiding envy, the value of careful planning, and steering clear of borrowing. Living frugally will help you put all those principles to work in your life.

Living below your means will provide you enough wiggle room to do something meaningful with your money. In addition, when you live frugally you are more appreciative of what you have and learn to make the most of your resources.

Freedom to Live the Life You Want and Retire Early

“Let’s face it- being fashionable and hip is time-consuming,” Brook Raymond points out in his article, Frugal Living: Seven Hidden Benefits. “When you’re intent on always having the best, you have to spend time figuring out what that really means. You have to shop around. You have to read product reviews. You have to flip through consumer magazines to see what other people are wearing, doing, and using in order to get up-to-date on all of the hottest trends.”

True, true. When you’re not trying to keep up with the Joneses, you have more time for what really matters. You’ll be free to follow your dreams.

Debt is a burden that can sink you into despair. It can tie you down to a job you hate or a place you don’t want to live. You can easily become a slave to money and things – spending all your time working to keep up with your neighbors to the detriment of your family and other important relationships.

What’s your perfect day look like? I would bet it’s not slaving at a job all day to pay for things you really didn’t need in the first place. Perhaps it’s waking up without an alarm clock, doing something meaningful with your day, spending time playing with your kids or grandkids, or strolling through nature. Financial freedom is the ticket to do the things you really want out of life.

retireIf you’re older and still saddled with debt, in all likelihood, you’ll watch your retirement dreams slip away.

On the other hand, being frugal now means that you can put more away for retirement. Instead of spending your golden years working, you’ll have the freedom to spend time with your family, volunteer, travel, enjoy hobbies, garden, or any other number of pleasurable activities.

If you learn to live frugally now, you won’t be accustomed to an extravagant lifestyle that you’ll strive to maintain when you’re older. You can live on less and still be happy, which means there’s less to put away.

Sounds good to me!

Benefit the Planet You Live On

Here in California we’re in a severe drought, so our family has saved money and water by using artificial grass in our yard. Oh, I balked at the idea at first, but I adore the low maintenance and the much lower water bill. We also got off the grid with solar power which lowered our electric bill here in the hot desert by about $300 a month during the summer months. We planted our own garden and started a compost pile. Love it. The beauty of all that is it saves us tons of money while we’re helping the environment.

On average, each American creates approximately 4.38 pounds of waste or trash per day. That adds up quickly in an alarming way. If you live frugally, you’ll make fewer purchases which means you’ll throw away less. Instead of automatically tossing out stuff that stockpiles in landfills, you’ll find ways to fix, recycle and re-purpose things. Because you’re grateful for what you have, you’ll refuse to let things go to waste.

You’ll drive your old car for 10 years instead of buying a new fancy one every three years. During that time, you’ll save money so you can buy your next used car without going into debt. You’ll use fuel efficient cars or public transportation, reducing the greenhouse effect and global warming. You’ll find simple ways to use less electricity by turning down the thermostat, flipping lights off when not in use, and planting trees for shade.

You get the picture.

Enjoy the Benefits of Better Health

fit-as-a-fiddleObviously, people who live frugally tend to have lower stress levels, which we all know means better health.

In addition, eating simple, healthy meals at home saves a ton of money and is much healthier than fattening dinners at fancy restaurants. Buying fresh food and produce that is in season tends to be cheaper than packaged junk foods.

While saving money on gas, cheapskates walk or bike whenever possible which provides exercise with all its health benefits.

Using homemade cleaning products instead of all those chemicals is healthier and less expensive.

Be Happier, More Fulfilled, and Content

Spendthrifts, compulsive shoppers, and those trying to impress others often picture frugal people as tightfisted, Grinch-like, miserable types who pensively pinch every penny until the day they die.

However, that’s a misconception. Living frugally does not mean a life of deprivation. Quite the contrary, frugality can lead to happiness and make you more satisfied and fulfilled.

As Yeager writes in his first book, “I’m afraid we live in a culture that’s more concerned about amassing a quantity of stuff rather than amassing a quality of life.”

Studies have repeatedly shown that putting experiences before things fosters long-term feelings of happiness rather than brief bursts of excitement.

What have you got to lose? Try living more frugally and reap the benefits. Become part of the “cheap pride” movement. Make cheap the next cool.

Images in order of appearance, courtesy of Mister GC, hyena reality, and Stuart Miles, at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Five Ways to Keep Positive While You’re Sick

How’s my morning going? I just sneezed out a glob of mucus the size of a ping-pong ball. I’m snot feeling so good.

julie-cold-2

Oh, come on! Don’t look so appalled. Like you’ve never coughed up a loogie before. Even you prim and proper folk have snot – I know it!

So, I’ve caught my first cold of the season and it’s not pretty.

Last night was miserable. While I was trying to eke out five minutes of sleep – every time I rolled over, the phlegm flooded from one nostril to the other in a deluge. How does it do that? Is there some kind of secret tunnel between my nostrils? Now that I think about it, I totally took for granted breathing out of both my nostrils at the same time when I was well.

That was a mistake.

Anyhow, I woke up in the middle of the night and my loyal companion, the Kleenex box, was empty. I have fuzzy memories of squinting through blurry watery eyes at the back of my husband’s pajama shirt which suddenly appeared alluring as a solution to my problem. My beloved was snoring blissfully while I suffered alone, waging my war with all this goo and slime. It just seemed like too much work to get out of bed and find another Kleenex box in the dark. To blow or not to blow – that was the question.

I just can’t quite remember what happened next. I blame the cold medication. Well, whatever.

Getting back to my article, since adults get an average of two to four colds a year, typically between September and May, this is just the first and I have a few more snot fests to look forward to – oh goody!

Men have a reputation of being whiners when they’re sick, but I confess, I’ve done my share of complaining this week. I mean, really, how much snot can one person produce?

A lot, it turns out.

Our bodies make about a liter of mucus a day – and that’s when we’re well. That’s 34 whopping ounces, people! To compare, a Big Gulp has 28 ounces. If you’re sick, you produce even more.

Are you properly grossed out?

I had nothing better to do, so I checked out this article by Everyday Health’s article: Seven Facts About Mucus, Phlegm, and Boogers.

kleenixThe first fact was annoying. Snot and phlegm keep your nasal passages moist for protection and are actually full of all sorts of potent antiviral, antibacterial, and other protective chemicals that work to keep you healthy.

Like that’s supposed to cheer me up. Shut up! I don’t care if mucus is good for me. I hate snot!

Even so, that doesn’t keep me from talking about it – so let’s proceed…

Did you know that sneezes travel 30 to 60 miles an hour, and can fly 30 feet through the air? That fact was kind of fun. But, as soon as you sneeze some of the snot out, the body makes more mucus to replenish it. Bummer.

Okay, so I got off the subject. Don’t ask me why I find this stuff oddly fascinating. Maybe my stuffy head along with the cold medicine is making me a bit deranged.

So how do you stay somewhat positive while you’re sick?

Here are a few ways:

  • I’m guilty of this, but don’t grunge around in your three-day old pajamas and figure that there’s no need to bathe if no one is going to see you anyway. Take that long hot steamy shower and slather on your favorite lotion afterwards. Put on some pretty clothes that make you feel better.
  • Look at beautiful things. Venture out into the backyard if the weather permits and look at your garden. Surround yourself with things that soothe your soul – a pretty potted plant, a picture of happy times, or your favorite knick-knack. Keep the area around you tidy – throw those tissues away instead of allowing them to pile up like Mount Everest.
  • Drink lots of water and eat healthy. It’s good for you. Okay, you can indulge in a few comfort foods, you deserve it. But boundaries. After all, you don’t want to add guilt on top of all your miserable symptoms for eating an entire bag of potato chips that only made your stomach feel worse.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Call a friend or family member who loves and puts up with you no matter what and have some fun whining. Post that you’re sick on Facebook and enjoy all the sympathy and well wishes you get.
  • Stay away from all those depressing tearjerker books and movies. If you’re lucky and have a day off, enjoy reading or watching something so compelling or funny or uplifting that it takes your mind off your misery.

And one more important tip. if you didn’t get this from the beginning of my blog – don’t lose your sense of humor. Remember, it’s always better to laugh than cry.

And if you thought I was through being gross, you were wrong. To help you chuckle, get ready for some good ol’ booger jokes. Share the cornball jokes with your kids and grandkids. They’ll love them!

Q: What do you call a skinny booger?

A: Slim pickins.

Q: How do you make a tissue dance?

A: You put a boogie in it.

Q: Where does your nose go when it gets hungry?

A: Booger King!

Q: If you were a booger…

A: I’d pick you first.

One more. I saw this funny tweet, you may have seen this before, but it still makes me smile:

tombstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like the joke goes: I used up all my sick days, so I’m calling in dead.

I know, I know, I have one sick sense of humor! Bahaha-ahchoo!

Image courtesy of khumthong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.