New Year

Happy New Year from Catching Happiness

December 31, 2021

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Well, folks, we made it. 2021 is winding down. I hope you have a happy, peaceful, and safe New Year’s Eve. Here are a few words of wisdom to see the old year out and welcome in the new:

“No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.”



“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.”

—T.S. Eliot


“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”

—William E. Vaughan


“What the new year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year.”

—Vern McClellan

 See you in 2022!



All Days Are Gifts

December 24, 2021

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

“When you drive past other people’s houses, all the windows look brightly lit and all the faces look happy. But of course that happens when anybody drives past the houses of the Holiday Impaired, too; almost everybody looks good from far away when surrounded by a warm light within a frame of darkness. Let’s face it: we—the best and the worst of us—all tango through all these times as well as we can manage. Some years will be better than others, but all such days deserve recognition and, yes, celebration.

 “Why? Because, despite the fact that the holiday is not going to be perfect, not going to be like something out of a magazine (unless you count the official publication of the World Wrestling federation), and not going to be everything you hoped, it is a chance to make what might be just another day a memorable time. All days are gifts and should be celebrated; the holidays give us a chance to do it together.”

—Gina Barreca, “The Holiday Impaired,” collected in Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season, and merry Christmas to all who celebrate!



Will Work for Joy

December 18, 2021

Photo by Kolby Milton on Unsplash

“I am willing to allow more joy into my life.”

—Monday yoga class affirmation.

It’s easy to feel joy when everything is going the way you want it to. But what about when life blows a big fat raspberry in your face? How can you seek joy when you’re going through tough times, and feeling grief, frustration, or anger?

While the holiday season does bring many simple pleasures (Holiday lights! Peppermint chip shakes!), it also ushers in longer to-do lists and the weight of a year-end reckoning. It can be a heavy time of year, especially if you’ve suffered losses or have troublesome issues on your mind (and who doesn’t?!). It can feel anything but joyful. And for many people, the cold, dark months of winter can be an added strain on their mental health.

It’s these rough times when we need to dig deeper to find practices that help us to feel joy.* Fortunately, psychologists and other professionals who study joy and happiness have some help for us. (While joy and happiness aren’t precisely the same thing, for the purposes of this blog post, I’m lumping them together.)

 Here are a few tips I’ve found useful lately:

It’s OK to feel joy, even when times are tough. Even when happy things are happening to and around me, sometimes I don’t let them register because so many people are suffering right now. I feel guilty, like I’m being insensitive. As Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of Joyful (see my post about the book here), points out “…feeling joy is different than pretending nothing’s wrong. And in [a] world where anxiety is a fixture, not an anomaly, joy is essential to our survival.” (Her entire post, “Can You Still Find Joy When It Feels Like the World Is Ending?” is worth a read.)

Let your environment help you feel more joyful. I also recently listened to a podcast interview with Ingrid Fetell Lee, and she reminded me how many ways we can bring joy into our surroundings. Two of her suggestions that I’ve embraced already include:

Having something green in my office (helps to reset concentration and attention). I have a lot of green in my home office, including green furniture and artificial plants (my cat eats real ones).

Keeping something silly or surprising in my car. Cars have a lot of little individual compartments that close up, and, according to Lee, that creates the potential for surprise, one of the factors that adds joy to our lives. I have a tiny origami dragon in one of the little compartments on my dash that makes me smile every time I see it. This could be a fun thing to do for someone else, too—hide a little fun surprise in their car.   

“Practice” positive emotions. According to psychologist and neuroscience researcher Lisa Feldman Barrett, our brains use our past experiences to make sense of and create the present. “By practicing particular emotions, you can ‘rewire,’ your brain…. So when you start to feel a negative emotion, such as sadness or frustration, you can more easily swap that negative feeling for a positive one, such as awe or gratitude.” For example, maybe the next time you’re stuck in traffic, instead of feeling frustrated, pause and feel grateful for the fact that you have a vehicle that runs and can take you where you need to go.

This may seem a bit “Pollyanna-ish,” I know, and I’m not saying we should ignore or stifle negative emotions completely. I do think we as a society have allowed ourselves to forget how good we have it and we’d be happier if we turned our focus more often to all that is good in our lives.

Actively seek experiences which bring about positive emotions. What actions or experiences bring you joy? How often do you deliberately perform those actions or have those experiences? Especially when times are hard, we can’t wait around for happiness and joy to “just happen.” We have to pursue them. As Natalie Dattilo, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, reminds us in “5 Happiness-Boosting Things to Do Before the End of the Year, According to a Positive Psychologist,” “Happiness doesn’t just happen… Routine and planned activation of the pleasure and reward centers of the brain is required to feel good and to preserve our ability to feel good in the future.”

These experiences don’t have to be complicated or expensive, either. The example I liked the best from this article, was the “awe walk”—a walk where you deliberately look for the unexpected and delightful—allowing yourself to experience the beauty and intricacy around you. (Read Dattilo’s five end-of-the-year happiness tips here. And for more ways to seek delight, visit NPR’s Joy Generator.) 

If you’re feeling little joy right now, I understand. And when you’re suffering, it seems impossible to do the things that might make you feel better. I hope one or more of these small things will help.

What little things can you do to welcome joy into your life?

*Please note: these suggestions are meant to help with run-of-the mill negative moods and emotions. They are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please seek the help of a mental health professional or other qualified provider if you have a mood disorder or depression.


Forget the Supply Chain, These Are the Shortages We Should Be Concerned About

December 10, 2021

Photo by Boris Dunand on Unsplash

“Order your gifts early,” the headlines trumpet! If you don’t, you might not be able to give the perfect gift and you’ll disappoint your family and friends! Those supply chain shortages we’ve been hearing about mean fewer things are available, and they’re taking longer to get here.

Though it’s definitely frustrating to find a gift you think someone will love, only to realize you can’t get your hands on it, it’s really nothing more than an inconvenience. No one is going to be seriously affected if he doesn’t get [insert holiday gift here]. I’m more concerned about these things our society is showing critical shortages of:

  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Empathy
  • Consideration
  • Forgiveness
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Gratitude

We’re all tired. We’re all fighting our own battles. I don’t think I’m the only one who finds her feelings running very close to the surface. It doesn’t take much to tip me into anger, frustration, fear, or grief, so I’m trying harder to hold onto patience and kindness, to keep my mouth shut when I want to “correct” someone, and to be grateful for my precious life.

Supply chain issues or no, we can all give the gift of letting that car merge into traffic ahead of us. Being patient with the overwhelmed cashier. Forgiving our partners for hurting our feelings.

We can do without the most popular gadget of the season. What we can’t do without is caring about each other.

Fall fun list

Updates, Updates, I Have Updates

December 03, 2021

That headline sounds a lot more exciting than the updates I have for you warrant, but I do, indeed, have updates.

2021 Gratitude Challenge

Though I didn’t post every day, I participated in the 2021 Gratitude Challenge throughout November. I decided to go easy on myself and post only when I felt inspired, though I read and thought about all the prompts. I wound up posting 18 times. Three of my favorites: 

Day 4 Laughter

Last week my friends and I attended opening night of the first show of our Broadway series in Tampa. Tootsie made me laugh out loud, and oh how I've missed that! It's been almost two years since we've been able to see a show, and how sweet it was. I'm grateful not only for the laughter, but for all the wonderful performances of the artists. We're so happy you're back!

Day 13 Kindness

Wishing for a world where kindness is the norm, and every day is World Kindness Day. Grateful for the kindness that exists even now, when being kind is sometimes taken advantage of. Kindness isn't weakness.

Day 24 Art

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls."--Pablo Picasso. I don't know about you, but my soul needs a shower! I've missed visiting art museums, and I'm looking forward to going again soon. I'm grateful for the escape and inspiration art provides, especially paintings like these my husband and I saw at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Maine.

(To see all my Gratitude Challenge posts on Instagram, click here.) 

My fall fun list

I did great with my modest fall fun list, and since a couple of these were out of my control, I’m calling this a win. Completed items in red.

  • Resume attending touring Broadway productions at the Straz in Tampa. First up: Tootsie at the end of October. 
  • Go see Dune in a theater with my husband. (Watched at home on HBO Max instead, and glad we did.)
  • Decorate my house for fall.
  • Do my current jigsaw puzzle. It’s not fall-themed, but I’d like to put it together before buying any more puzzles.
  • Buy some fall potted flowers—mums or?
  • Walk at a local park or recreation area with my husband and dog.
  • Eat dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse with another couple. We’ve had to cancel this meal twice because of COVID. (Unfortunately, this got cancelled again.) 
  • Choose a new set of inserts for my planner for 2022. 
  • Plant some cool season veggies and herbs. Hope springs eternal, despite some pitiful efforts in the past. Planted lettuce spinach, and jalapenos from seed. (The spinach and lettuce sprouted, but the jalapenos did not. I bought a seedling from a big box store…and then my cat ate most of its leaves, and the dog ate some of the spinach before we realized what she was doing. The struggle is real.)
  • Read and/or write outside…once we get a real cold front. (Didn’t happen yet, but technically I have until December 21 before fall becomes winter and it’s likely that I will work outside before then…)
  • And yes, drink at least one pumpkin spice latte.

Why I share updates

I don’t really think you’re waiting on the edges of your seats to see if I complete the Gratitude Challenge or drink a pumpkin spice latte. The point of creating and sharing fun lists and other challenge-type info is to encourage you to think about what YOU would find fun and challenging, with the bonus that it keeps me more accountable if I’ve shared my plans publicly. I try to write about both my successes and failures so that maybe someone will benefit from my experiences (today’s tip: keep young vegetable seedlings away from pets). These lists also help me think about how I spend my time. I tend to get caught up in the day-to-day rush and don’t plan or allow for the very simple pleasures and everyday adventures that bring me joy.

What else is on your mind, Kathy?

Why, I’m glad you asked!

Dear Reader, I’m thinking about the holidays. How they can be fun without being overwhelming. What will make them feel festive and special? I foresee a holiday fun list in the future! There may also be a year-end review of some kind. What should I include? Favorite books? Word of the year update? If you have suggestions, please share in the comments below.

What’s on your mind these days? Holiday fun? Year-end reviews? Planning for a new year? Any updates you would like to share? Id love to hear in the comments.