Got Happy Face?

Want to turn that frown upside down?

If you are not smiling, you are probably not having fun. Sometimes we simply need to be intentional about our happiness. When I realize that I am in a funk, sometimes I just need to take a break from what I am doing, and do something different. There are some activities that, just by doing them, will trigger an inner happiness that puts a smile on my face. Smiling alone makes me feel happy, as it releases endorphins, which also reduces my stress levels and helps me be more positive and productive. Below is a list of some of the ways I’m able to intentionally put a smile on my face.

Here’s how:

By… watching super cute animal videos… especially the goats and puppies.

By… chatting with your bestest “estefriend” (two or more friends who are fans of Gloria Estefan are considered EsteFriends.)

By… listening to your favorite song (or have yourself a little jam session). EsteFriends get happy listening to “I Just Wanna Be Happy.”

By… making a list of everything you are grateful for in your life.

By… watching Big Bang Theory (or your favorite sitcom).

By… performing a random act of kindness (paying it forward).

By… cuddling with a friend’s baby.

By… stopping to smell the roses. (Just make sure there are no bees first – they don’t make me smile!)

By… going outside to play with your dog.

By… getting outside to your favorite nature spot (the mountains, the beach, a park).

Help us help others with your smiley ideas.

Got Laughter?

Life is boring without it!
OR… so, when your face actually does freeze, you won’t be frowning.

Here’s why you need laughter:

Because… laughing makes all (ok most) situations better.

Did you ever trip over the curb and break your arm? Although it was painful, your friends giving a little laugh at your expense made it slightly less painful (don’t try it, just trust me). And even if your friends laughing at you with your broken arm doesn’t really make you feel better in the moment, the pain meds will make you laugh, and after a year or two, all of you will indeed laugh when the story gets retold a gazillion times!

Because… it helps form connections with others.

Do you find yourself drawn to the friend at the party being Sulky Sally or Laughing Larry. Of course it’s Larry! Laughter draws us in and gives us a connection to that other person because that person has to be fun (at least more fun than Sulky Sally). Seriously, who wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I will be Sulky Sally today.” Everyone wants to be Laughing Larry (or Lori).

Because… laughter is contagious.

Have you ever walked in the room AFTER the joke was told, but everyone is laughing so hard, you just laugh at them and the ridiculous snorts and convulsions going on? Well, there you are… it’s contagious.

Because… it has several health benefits.

When you laugh it helps to decrease stress levels. It also helps to lower blood pressure and can improve sleep. This is based on personal experience, rather than scientific research. I have found that when I can find something to laugh about, I quickly forget whatever was weighing on my mind and causing some stress.

Because… it’s actually a form of exercise!

When you laugh, you engage muscles in your abdomen (and your cheeks) giving you a bit of a core workout. I’m not telling you to skip the gym, but if you get a good laughter workout in, you could probably have an extra cookie. If your cheeks hurt after you laugh with your family and friends, then you need to exercise that muscle more often and get into shape. I’ve heard that M&Ms are calorie-free when shared with friends while laughing (again personal experience rather than scientific research)!

Because of the wonderful things it does (you know you are “laughing” and have that song from Wizard of Oz in your head right now!)

Share a time when someone picked up your mood by bringing some laughter to the situation.

Got Strength?

If you do, you can have more balance … literally!

Two years ago, I suffered random nerve damage in my right arm/shoulder. This rocked my world and turned it upside down, both physically and emotionally. I could no longer pull up my pants or brush my teeth. To make matters worse, I was struggling with the idea that I could be sitting at my desk in my office, and part of my body just stop working for no apparent reason! The physical pain was immediate and intense and I took pain meds every day for more than a year. The accumulated emotional trauma was pretty significant as well.

After many specialists over 18 months and nearly as many opinions about what was wrong, nerve tests finally returned positive/normal. The nerves had healed on their own over time. The only problem was, I still couldn’t move my arm! Having not used it for such a long period, the muscles had withered away and my shoulder was “frozen.”

I was referred for physical therapy for nearly four months and was able to regain my motion, and started regain strength (and confidence). Now I’m working with a personal trainer at the local YMCA, and my right arm is getting stronger and I’m beginning to believe that it will catch back up to my left arm. After nearly two years, I’m feeling better than I have in a very long time. I don’t remember the last time I took pain meds, and I am beginning to sleep better at night. Life is becoming more balance, and I can use my arm again!

Here’s why:

Because… I can put my pants on without falling over (you know you are curious)!

Aside from gaining Hulk type strength and some semblance of emotional balance, my actual balance is back, too. And I suppose I didn’t even realize I had lost it. While rebuilding the muscles in my arm, my trainer is also working on core strength and lower body strength. The loss of my overall strength was gradual and invisible. I’m sure it started to fade away long before the nerve trauma to my arm. After two months with the personal trainer, I realized one day that I was putting on my clothes without leaning against my bed to keep from falling over. It was like, whoop one leg in, whoop other leg in and on to the next task to get ready for the day. Even though we do not work on specific balance exercises every week, the increased strength in my core and legs has helped improved my overall balance. Long story, I know. But I am amazed at how overall weak I had become. And I didn’t realize how weak I was until medical treatment prompted me to regain some strength! So, a by-product of my arm recovery is that I can put my pants on without falling over, and it’s always good to stay On Your Feet!

Because… now I walk faster!

In the past, when walking with my friends, I was a few (or 20) steps behind. They would always wait for me to catch up, but we would quickly get separated again. Recently I was out of town visiting friends. Surprisingly, I was the leader of the pack, waiting for them to catch up with me! I was in an unfamiliar place, but I was walking through that place like I owned the joint! The increased strength has also improved my stride, stamina and speed.

Because… strength training helps you do more than just pick things up and put them down.

Strength training has many other benefits besides gaining muscles. It helps you have a better frame of mind with increased confidence. You have more energy to devote to decision making and spending time with family and friends. You sleep better at night and wake up easier in the morning. Your overall health and immunity improves.

Because… now I think I am a badass because I can do a one-legged squat (don’t mess with me)!

Can you?

Do you incorporate strength training into your workout routine? What are some of your favorite strength building activities?

Got Deactivated?

Don’t let people steal your money!

In a three month span, I had over $1,000 in fraudulent charges, all to the same place, on my debit card. After replacing my card three times, I asked if there was a way to block all charges to that particular company. (Fedex… why would spend $1,000 at Fedex?!) I was told that FedEx could not be blocked from processing transactions, but that I could deactivate my card between purchases so it could not be used.

The first three times this happened, I had the same reaction as these goats! Since then I have been through aversion therapy and I am coping much better with the fraudulent world we live in. Sometimes we have to laugh to keep from crying.

So, at first I was quite irritated by the process and having to log in and out of my bank every time I needed to use my card. Although I had been trying to use the envelope system, I was certainly not perfect at it. What I found was, once I deactivated my card I got so much better at carrying cash. The thought of spending five seconds logging in and another five seconds (Yes, 10 whole seconds!) to make my purchase, made me despise using my debit card. I got in a better habit of taking the money out of the bank and spending cash so I didn’t have to waste 10 whole seconds (or have the embarrassment of getting declined because I forgot to unlock it. Just trust me, it sucks!). Because I am spending cash, I am actually spending less money, too!

Protect yourself by using the G.O.A.T. method of locking your card and using cash for most everyday purchases. It’s the Greatest Of All Time!!

Here’s why:

Because… it helps you get in the habit of using cash instead of your debit card.
When you swipe your debit card (or even worse, your credit card), there is no real pain of how much money you are spending. Using cash makes you aware of how much money you are actually spending. When you have no choice but to use your cash, you think more about the purchases you are making. Over time you begin to focus more on ensuring you have the cash you need and being mindful of your purchases.

Because… it prevents the possibility of fraudulent charges being made to your card (and the unpleasant process of getting those charges reversed… trust me I know!)
With technology available today, people are able to gain access to your information in seconds. Once they get a hold of your bank information, and even your personal information, they don’t wait long to start spending. To get that money back, you need to convince the store that it was not you that spent $1,000 mailing packages to Ghana from Pennsylvania when you live in Massachusetts. It may be up to you to prove to the store you did not make those purchases and they decide about refunding the money. Some banks can also be helpful, but often you have to go through the store itself.

Because… you will feel more in control of your money, and you will stop doing math in your head to try to figure out how much money you have left in your checking account.
When you use cash for purchases, you know exactly how much you can spend, because you can physically see how much more money you have until your next paycheck when you get to go to the ATM again. When you decide ahead of time how much you are willing to spend in a certain category, you can reference that when you are faced with a spontaneous opportunity to spend money. You can quickly figure out if the purchase helps you reach your money goals. You also know that the money you left in the checking account to pay the power bill will still be there when the bill actually arrives and is due!

Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? Share your story with us. What tips do you have that might help others prevent the same thing from happening to them?

Got Passion?

Does your day fly by, or does it drag on and on?

More often than not, do you look up and it is already time to go home? Did you lose yourself in your work and lose track of time? This is a good sign that you are passionate about your work. However, there are other factors to consider as well. Do you like what you do? Are you good at what you do?

People Feet Journey Quote Shoes Passion Selfie

If you are not passionate about what you are doing every day, you emotionally can begin to resent what you are doing. You will not put forth your best effort which can affect your future with a company or within your career.

When you focus on a career that combines all three of these concepts, you increase the chances that you will be happier and more successful. It also makes it easier to let little things go about your job that are less favorable… that coworker you can’t stand, the traffic you sit in to get to work, the minor mundane tasks you don’t like, but need to do. You will create an environment where you can thrive and grow!

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Do you like it?

This is probably the easiest place to start your self-evaluation. When you like what you do, it is much easier to get up to go to work each day and give 100% of yourself to what needs to be done. You will be more willing to go the extra mile when asked to do something extra because you are not emotionally drained because you hate what you are doing.

Are you good at it?

Just because you like what you do, does not necessarily mean that you are good at it! For example, I likes to sing, but…. I’m not so good at it. Keep in mind, that the reverse is true as well. Just because you are good at something, does not mean that you like it. I am very good at data entry, but don’t really like doing it.

So, it is important to make sure that both of these are true – that you like it and you are good at it. But these two are only part of the formula, and may not lead you to long-term satisfaction in your professional life.

Do you lose track of time while doing it?

This one is much harder to describe and to do the self-examination. Once you have identified some work that you enjoy and that you are good at doing, it’s time to examine whether or not the work is intrinsically satisfying. To get started on the inner reflection, some questions to ask yourself is, did you lose track of time while you are working? At the end of the day, were you exhausted, but you had a smile on your face and you felt very accomplished? If so, that is a good indication that the work is very satisfying to you, and that you will be able to sustain long-term passion in your career.

On the contrary, if you lost track of time, but you were simply exhausted at the end of the day and were not too excited about coming back the next day, you might just be earning a paycheck doing something that you are good at and somewhat enjoy. However, you will likely get “burned out” pretty quickly and wonder why you ever started that job in the first place.

When you find you no longer have positive answers to these questions, it’s best to begin evaluating your passion. Do you no longer have a passion for the job or career you are in, or is it just time for a change of environment to be able to continue your passion?

Tell us if these three components are present in your current professional role. If not, how can you begin to move toward creating a life that includes all three?

Got Rearranging?

Rearrange the room to rearrange your mind

How long has your bed been in the same corner of your bedroom? Longer than a year? What about your living room furniture? Even longer? My dining room table has been in the same spot for three years. Last week I rotated the table 45 degrees – and I LOVE it going this direction. It is like the dining room is twice as big as before. 

This week I plan to rearrange my bedroom. I already have the new layout in my head. When I get some stronger bodies here for a visit, the shake up is on! The anticipation of getting a fresh physical perspective on life within the room where I spend so much time in self-care has already increased my energy!

In addition to a fresh perspective, rearranging a room or two in your house can also help you clear some clutter. This reason alone can provide the motivation you need. But there are plenty of positive reasons to rearrange.

Here’s why:

Because… It makes you feel refreshed.

When you rearrange a room, you suddenly feel like you have a brand new room. Think about how you feel when you put on a brand new outfit, you feel like a rockstar! When you rearrange your room, you see it for the first time and your 20 year old couch is now brand new. It makes you feel happy and free to be in there. Chances are also pretty good during the rearranging process you put everything in its place so the room is clean and organized.

Because… It prevents you from buying more stuff.

As you start moving things around and you physically touch all the stuff you have, you realize you have WAY more stuff than you thought. The refreshed feeling from rearranging can help you realize ways you can repurpose the stuff you have in other ways. When you rearrange your furniture you suddenly realize that you don’t need a bookshelf in one room and it can be used someplace else, preventing you from buying a new one. When the room feels knew it also tricks your brain into thinking you have all new stuff so you don’t need anything else!

Because… It helps you clear away some clutter.

If you move your bed, you will feel compelled to sort through the boxes underneath and throw out items that are no longer relevant in your life. If you are moving your bed from corner to another, you will certainly need to clean out the corner where the bed is going. You will throw out that stack of magazines you never read, the pile of birthday cards you received for the last two years, the old hair dryer that doesn’t work anymore, the pair of tennis shoes that you replaced four pairs ago… you know the piles, we all have them!

Tell us how often you rearrange your house and how it makes you feel.