In Motion

March 30, 2018

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

“Your life has a natural motion. Surrendering reveals how flowing this life could be.”
—Kelly Martin, When Everyone Shines But You: Saying Goodbye to ‘I’m Not Good Enough’


Spring Break

March 26, 2018

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

Looking back on my posts so far this year, I see that I’ve mentioned refilling the well of inspiration several times—but I’ve yet to actually do anything about it. My brain has scattered itself in the winds of spring, and I’m having a tough time concentrating on anything. I even forgot to send March’s Happy Little Thoughts newsletter yesterday, not realizing it was the last Sunday of the month! I promise it will be in your mailbox by the end of today. (If you don’t already receive HLT, you can subscribe by clicking here.)

So I’m granting myself a spring break. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be taking a break from blogging, except for the Friday posts of quotes or poems. I hope to come back with fresh inspiration, and maybe even an epiphany or two.

P.S. There may be a road trip involved—stay tuned!

Action for Happiness

If It's Friday, It Must Be Time for Link Love

March 23, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad it’s Friday. I have some writing to do today, and then my husband and I are going to the movies tonight! And then…ah, the weekend. I hope you have some fun weekend plans in store. And if you have a few spare minutes, here are some links to love. Enjoy!

Just because it’s almost the end of March (already?) doesn’t mean we can’t use the prompts on Action for Happiness’ Mindful March calendar. So many great and simple ways to become more aware of the happiness all around us.

I know this isn’t in the usual Catching Happiness wheelhouse, but Shakespeare’s Top 50 Insults made me smile. (“Thine face is not worth sunburning”).  Be sure to scroll to the bottom for the Shakespeare Insult Generator. (If you don’t, you’re a spleeny, onion-eyed foot-licker!)

I adore solitude. If you do, too, you’ll probably recognize these “23 Things Only People Who Love Spending Time Alone Will Understand.” So many of these resonated with me.

If you’re in the market for an everyday adventure, consider trying something for the first time. Dani DiPirro at Postively Present has a list of some possibilities here. Pick something and do it!

Speaking of adventure, my friend Laure Ferlita just announced the possibility of an art retreat in the south of France, in addition to her already-scheduled Blue Walk tour in Paris. This sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any artists out there.

Gretchen Rubin’s “My Best Advice for Graduates: 12 Tips for a Happy Life” is worth reading, even if your own graduation, like mine, is far in the past.

Cats and yoga. Namaste.

Have a happy weekend!


International Day of Happiness Is Almost Here!

March 19, 2018

Since 2009, I’ve been writing about happiness and related concepts—and even now I sometimes struggle with the feeling that happiness is frivolous—a topic that doesn’t really matter in the face of the real and pressing problems of the world. I’ve even wondered if it’s OK to be happy.

But happiness is only frivolous if you define it as the fleeting feeling you have when you’re only pursuing your own pleasure and everything is going your way. True happiness is more than that—it’s a lasting feeling of well-being. What could be more important?

Happiness is so important that on March 20 in 2013, the United Nations declared the first International Day of Happiness “as a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.” As we observe it each year, it serves as a reminder that happiness is important on a global level. 

On a personal level, I think we should each be mindful of what makes us truly, deeply happy. Then we should go about filling our lives with things that matter in the long-term, not futile pursuits and thoughtless busy-ness. When we are happy, we make others happy. We operate from a place of abundance rather than lack, opening our hands to let happiness flow to others rather than clutching it desperately for ourselves.

So today, tomorrow, and every day, I wish for you, and for myself, a life of meaningful, deep happiness and true well-being.

How will you celebrate the International Day of Happiness?

For more information:

The latest World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. The United States dropped four places to 18th, and Canada was 7th. (Finland ranked number one.) 

Kristen Ulmer

Let Them Be

March 16, 2018

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

“Honor your moods not by forcing a different reality, but by just letting them be. It’s very Zen. When you’re sad, just be sad. When you’re afraid, just be afraid. When you’re overwhelmed, just be overwhelmed. When you’re unfocused, can you find a way to let it be and simply enjoy that state?

“This is how—like water through a hose—these states will come into, through, and out of your life. Do this and that reality will always run its course, and there will be space right behind it for something else to enter.”
—Kristen Ulmer, quoted in Tribe of Mentors

Life lessons from the barn

Life Lessons From the Barn--Relax Your Mind

March 12, 2018

I rode Tank on Saturday while a lesson was taking place, and I heard the trainer call out one of my favorite expressions to one of the students: “Relax your mind.”

I’ve heard her use this phrase often, usually when a student is stretching outside her comfort zone and becoming uptight about it. In riding, if you’re anxious about taking a jump, for example, your horse will pick up on it and might refuse the jump, or spook at it. After all, if you’re worried about it, there must be something to worry about…

So much of horseback riding—and life—depends on our mental states. Our anxiety levels, expectations, intentions, our ability to let go of fears and worries. It’s all too easy to get worked up about specific situations, or even life in general, until our minds resemble spinning hamster wheels of thoughts (I’m especially prone to this at around 3:15 a.m.).

The antidote?

Relax your mind.

It’s a good skill to learn, and one that I’m still working on. Here’s what I do when I remember to relax my mind:

  • Stop holding my breath and start taking deep, slow breaths. This sends a calming message to my nervous system.

  • Unclench my muscles, releasing physical tension.

  • Open my eyes, ears, heart, and mind to the entire situation—i.e., stop staring intently at whatever I’m worried about, expecting it to blow up in my face.

When I’m able to relax my mind, the outcome is always better, even if it’s not ideal. 

How would you follow the direction to “relax your mind”?


Feathered Friday--Birds at the Backyard Feeder

March 09, 2018

“I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.”
—Pete Hamill

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the backyard with you-know-who lately. While I supervise playtime (she eats, or at least chews, everything and we’ve already been to the vet once because she ate something she shouldn’t have), I have the chance to slow down, be quiet, and observe. Our yard is full of birds, some of which I’ve never noticed before. The simple pleasure of observing the birds coming and going has made my backyard jaunts happier. Today I thought I’d share a few of our pretty feathered visitors:

Rufous-sided towhee 

Red-bellied woodpecker


Mr. Cardinal

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Bonus Butterfly:

Zebra longwing
What’s making you happy today?

Danielle LaPorte

Insanity and the March Rebellion

March 05, 2018

Photo courtesy Ryan McQuire, Gratisography.com

You’ve probably heard this definition of insanity before: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Well, call me insane.

For more than a year, I’ve been creating monthly, quarterly, and yearly plans, setting goals for each month, religiously writing down and crossing off tasks and to-dos in an effort to build my freelance writing business, strengthen my health, maintain our home, keep in better touch with my friends and family, improve my horsemanship, sketch more, and so on. I want to experience all the simple pleasures and everyday adventures I can—I don’t want to waste any precious time, or look back and wonder what I did with my life. My lists usually help me stay focused and remind me that I have a choice about how I spend my time.

Until they don’t.

Until I reach overload, and realize I’m moving many of the same items from list to list, week to week, month to month, without doing them. Expecting that “this month it will be different.” (See, insanity.) Even the ones I was nailing were beginning to bug me.

Danielle LaPorte’s words in White Hot Truth sounded eerily applicable: “Contemporary women revere their [To-Do] lists like Moses loved his stone tablets. They are directions to the Promised Land. The thrill of crossing something off: check, check, and check. Mmmmm, feels so good. So good that you might write stuff down that you’ve already done just so you can cross it off (yep, you got it bad). Like any addiction, the to-do list is destined to lose its thrill when it rules us….

“My list started feeling like a row of soldiers shouting at me…. Once I started paying attention, that background noise became awfully loud. Its refrain, on repeat: I sort of suck because I should…” 

Well then.

So last week when I hauled out my master list for the year, my goals workbook, February to-do list, and prepared to write out March’s list of goals I hit a brick wall.

Nope. I can’t do it this way anymore, at least for now. I’m sick of copying the same-old, same-old goals and tasks from month to month. Even the ones that consistently get done every month. It’s only March and I already feel burdened and rebellious. I do not want to feel burdened and rebellious. I write about happiness, fercryinoutloud.

The Rebellion caused me to look at my proposed goals and decide 1) whether I still wanted to do them, and 2) whether I could realistically do them this month given the other responsibilities on my plate (I’m looking at you, Luna). I hate admitting this, but I do not have the physical or mental energy to do the number of things I want to do at any one time. And I can’t always be saying no to the simple pleasures and everyday adventures that give me joy and help me relax in favor of working or “achieving.”

I sat for a few moments reflecting on which of these many (many) items were truly important for me to accomplish (and do well) in the next four weeks. Which ones would I enjoy most—whether because the thing itself was enjoyable or having it checked off the list would make me feel especially relieved and happy.

Instead of copying all of February’s goals to a new file, renaming it, and removing the items that got checked off in February that don’t need to be repeated in March, I started fresh with a blank piece of paper and wrote down just a few things I’d like to do in March. The writing jobs I’m committed to. Puppy obedience classes. Planning and preparing for an April trip to California to see my parents and my friend Kerri. My list was shorter, but more meaningful to me.

I don’t know what March is going to bring. Maybe I won’t even accomplish what’s on my shorter list. But at least for now, I don’t feel quite as insane.

How do you cope when you feel overwhelmed by everything you’d like to do?


Honoring the Gift of Life

March 02, 2018

Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

“Happiness is about understanding that the gift of life should be honored every day by offering your gifts to the world.”
—Mike Maples Jr., quoted in Tribe of Mentors (Tim Ferriss)

Note: Tribe of Mentors is full of great life advice. I’m only about a third of the way through. Expect to see more quotes from the book appear on Catching Happiness.