Taking a Break

April 26, 2022

Due to a family health emergency, I’m taking a break from Catching Happiness. Thank you for your understanding.

Adrienne Su

The Drinking of Tea

April 15, 2022

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

In honor of National Poetry Month, today’s post is a poem courtesy of American Life in Poetry.

Introduction by Kwame Dawes: Sometimes a poem achieves its beauty by a certain fixation on a small detail that is not burdened with the need to be ​“important”. Here, in ​“Oolong”, Adrienne Su creates her own tea ritual, a meditative moment to reflect on the ordinary, the quotidian. Tea and the drinking of tea, treated to such careful study, become a way to think of life as it moves from strong to weak and back again.

Oolong

From strong to weak, a single cup
can carry me from waking up
to the mild hush of the bedtime snack.
Fresh hot water brings it back
from depletion, or threat of such.

What ancient genius gained so much
from roasting pieces of a shrub?
I watch it change, as daylight flags,
from strong to weak,

ending with the faded touch
of flavor that was once robust.
faintness helps the mind relax,
but part of me remains perplexed
that every day unfurls as it must,
from strong to weak.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Adrienne Su, “Oolong” from Peach State, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Barn

12 Minutes in Heaven, or an Unexpected Simple Pleasure

April 08, 2022


New property--Tank is on the left

The barn where I board recently moved to a larger property a few miles away from the original location. It’s a couple of minutes farther from my house, but the main road leading there is a straight highway with light enough traffic that I can use cruise control most days. 

This is my version of a commute.

An unexpected simple pleasure

I’ve spent 18 years driving back and forth to barns, and to my surprise, these drives have become simple pleasures in and of themselves. I generally don’t enjoy driving, but this road is so well known to me that it’s not stressful to drive it. There’s not a lot of traffic, I won’t get lost, or have no place to park when I arrive at my destination. I’m going somewhere I love.

I listen to music or an audio book, and watch the sky, admiring the clouds (or wondering if it’ll rain), and looking for rainbows.

My mind sometimes gets busy when I slide behind the steering wheel, but it becomes especially active when I drive to the barn. It’s like all the thoughts I’ve been holding at bay while otherwise occupied flood my mind when my guard is down. This can be both good and bad.

I often think over problems I’d like to solve, or ponder a tricky passage of writing. Sometimes it’s more like asking my subconscious mind to get to work while I’m at the barn and completely absorbed—“Here’s the problem, get back to me with the answer!” Sometimes the break produces solutions, sometimes not.

Somehow, driving amplifies my emotions. During hard times I’ve pulled to the side of the road to cry. During happier ones, I’ve joyfully belted out show tunes and other favorites, singing along to the radio or to some of my collected music. I often feel gratitude while driving—for the privilege of having my horse, and lately for having a reliable vehicle and money for gas.

“What’s Next Syndrome”
In the rest of my life, I’m often in a hurry, and want to Be There Already. I suffer from “What’s Next Syndrome,” always impatient to go on to what’s next instead of embracing now. In the car, I’m in my own private world—no one can ask me questions or make demands. There’s nothing for me to do except what I’m already doing: driving. (See my essay “Driving I-5 in the USA” for similar reflections.) That 12-minute drive to and from the barn allows me to transition from work to play and back again, and I’m letting myself enjoy it!

What’s an unexpected thing in your life that makes you happy? 


National Poetry Month

The Solace of Poetry

April 01, 2022

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., and almost every year I write a blog post to promote it. Why? Because since my teens, reading poetry has brought both happiness and solace—a simple pleasure I like to share here on Catching Happiness. 

And also I need the reminder to include more poetry in my reading life. I usually read one or two books of poetry each year, and I still subscribe to a weekly email from American Life in Poetry (see link below), but National Poetry Month reminds me to read more.

For the poetry curious

If you’re curious about poetry, or would like to get back to reading it, here are a few easy ways to get started:

Sign up for Poem-a-Day here

If a poem a day is too much, subscribe to American Life in Poetry’s once-a-week poem newsletter. 

Listen to the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Off the Shelf podcast.

Enjoy some Spring Poems—classic and contemporary poems to celebrate the advent of spring. 

Author and blogger Modern Mrs. Darcy (Anne Bogel) has written several posts on poetry, including this one. You might also enjoy hearing her discussion of poetry with her friend and poet Dave Harrity on Episode 75 of What Should I Read Next?

Check my post “It’s National Poetry Month—No Foolin’” for links to apps and other poetry resources.

And for anyone whose interest in the art and culture of Ukraine has been piqued, here are two poets whose work I’ve recently come across: Ilya Kaminsky (That Map of Bone and Opened Valves) and Serhiy Zhadan (read two of his poems here).

If you’re a poetry lover, what are your favorite ways to experience poetry?

Check in

First Quarter Check-In

March 25, 2022

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

I hate to break it to you, but 2022 is one quarter of the way done…or it will be next week.

Time seems to have picked up its pace, racing forward with no regard to my readiness for it to be the end of March and Almost Summer (in Florida we have two seasons: Summer and Almost Summer). While I’m a little surprised to find myself teetering on the verge of April, the first three months of the year haven’t been all bad, despite bouts of depression and continued horror around the world. This year, I’m going to try something new: reviewing both my word of the year and my goals every quarter. Previously, I’ve been much more haphazard about the review process.

The year so far

I’ve taken to heart what I mentioned in “First Thoughts for 2022”: “I want a year of ease and serendipity and settling into the spaces of my life in a way that feels organic instead of molded to fit arbitrary goals I set for myself.” I’ve continued to concentrate on my word of the year, simpler. Since I didn’t set a big bunch of goals at the beginning of the year, I don’t feel bad about not having a long list of shiny accomplishments checked off.

The thing I’ve noticed most is that so far this year, I have been operating more slowly and mindfully. I catch myself rushing, and slow down. I single task more often. I’m becoming more realistic about what I can accomplish in a day. This is a valuable mindset shift that’s starting to feel more natural. 

A few noteworthy accomplishments:

  • Continued to add slips of paper to my Happiness Jar.
  • Read two books related to my exploration of simpler (The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta and Do Less, by Kate Northrup). Next up, Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport.
  • Moved Tank to new accommodations. My entire boarding barn relocated to a new, larger property this week. A huge undertaking for the owner, and a bit of upheaval in my settled routine, but the property is great and it will be a positive move. (Tank is happy, so I’m happy.)
  • Continued taking a couple of online courses, one personal and one related to blogging.

Coming attractions

During the next three months, I plan to continue to take small steps toward reenergizing my writing. I’m going to start planning a trip to California to see family. And I’ll continue some cleaning and organizing projects around my house.

I’m also preparing to take an internet break in April (inspired by David from Raptitude, who wrote about taking an internet break here, and about how it went hereI’ll write more about this when I’m just about to do it).

I’m far too tied to my devices—laptop, tablet, phone. A couple of weeks ago, my (newish) laptop’s internal fan died, and I had to use my old (slow and glitchy) laptop to complete some work until we could fix the new one. I couldn’t go even one day without a computer. It’s true that most of my work uses a computer, whether for research, connection, or actual writing, but I also read quite a few blogs and listen to a couple of podcasts on a semi-regular basis. I’ve been scrolling Instagram nightly after dinner while we’re watching something mindless on TV. I try to maintain one day a week where I don’t go to the computer, but I don’t always manage that. I find that when I have a few minutes, I jump online to “catch up” on blog reading or emails. There are other better ways to spend time.

As I continue to learn what simpler means to me, I feel that it’s about “less, but better.” About going deeper into things that matter rather than trying to do or be All the Things. About slowing down enough to feel content. So far, I’m pleased with my word of the year choice, and after some rough days, I’m feeling slightly more positive overall. Baby steps, one day at a time. Learning to live with hard things and still function. I’m looking forward to the second quarter of 2022. 

How is your year progressing so far? Any surprises? 

Austin Kleon

The Only Way to Keep Going

March 18, 2022

But Men Must Work and Women Must Weep, 1883 by Walter Langley, 
Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

“‘Art is the highest form of hope,’ said painter Gerhard Richter. But hope is not about knowing how things will turn out—it is moving forward in the face of uncertainty. It’s a way of dealing with uncertainty. ‘Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable,’ writes Rebecca Solnit. To have hope, you must acknowledge that you don’t know everything and you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s the only way to keep going and the only way to keep making art: to be open to possibility and allow yourself to be changed.” 

—Austin Kleon, Keep Going

Happiness

Six Simple Pleasures for a Spring Happiness Refresh

March 11, 2022

Photo by Justin Ha on Unsplash

Even though I love winter in Florida (so much less sweating!), right about now I need a refresh. My routines have become ruts. I’m caught up in reading bad news and forgetting how fortunate I am. I don’t want to fail to enjoy or appreciate what I have, and I want to gently encourage myself to move forward on my personal and professional goals. If you feel the same way, maybe you need a spring refresh, too! 

Since my word of the year is simpler, I’m starting small and not adding a lot of unnecessary complexity. I’ve chosen these six simple pleasures to embrace spring: 

  • Growing a mini herb garden

Despite (ahem) mixed success with gardening, hope springs eternal. I love having fresh herbs available when I cook, and they are less work to grow than vegetables. M-a-y-b-e I can keep them alive through our brutal summer? Right now, I have basil, rosemary, oregano, and thyme. Unfortunately, my lavender plant recently died a quick and puzzling death. I may call this good, or I may add one or two additional herbs, depending on how these fare.

  • Keeping fresh flowers on the kitchen table

This is a continuation of something I’ve been doing for a while, but it brings me so much joy every day that it’s worth mentioning. (The only downside is keeping my cat from pulling on the flowers and knocking over the whole shebang, sending a waterfall onto the floor!)

  • Investing in new pots and pans

My current set was given to us as a wedding present more than 30 years ago. I cook dinner most nights, so my pans get used a lot. I won’t tell you how long it took me to decide on a set, but I finally did! I haven’t actually used them yet—they’re sitting on the kitchen table until I clear out the old ones—but I’m looking forward to trying them out.

  • Lighting a candle (rather than cursing the darkness)

Even though the days are getting longer, I still get up while it’s dark because my husband goes to work so early. I don’t like it. So I try to make the early mornings as pleasant as possible. I enjoyed the calm I felt while reading by the Christmas tree in December, so I’ve tried to recreate that feeling by lighting a scented candle and keeping the lamplight low while I do my morning reading and journaling. It feels like being held in a little circle of peace.

  • Following a schedule

Over the past couple of pandemic years, my already loose schedule went completely to pieces. I felt like I was either always working, or always wasting time. I’m experimenting with putting myself on a schedule with set work hours, an actual lunch break, and weekends off. I need a way to work with reduced distraction while at the same time keep work from bleeding into all waking hours. My goal is to reduce the number of decisions I make about my time, while still retaining some flexibility. Right now, a schedule feels like a safe place, and a way focus on what I can do instead of on all the things I can’t.

  • Wearing perfume

My friend and walking buddy, Barb, inspired me to stop saving my perfume for “someday.” During our walks, we often share our efforts to declutter and organize our spaces, and one thing that comes up is things that we’ve been saving for special occasions. Perhaps you’ve noticed we’ve had very few special occasions in the past two and a half years? We both have multiple perfumes and scented lotions cluttering up our bathrooms. I’ve started putting on perfume almost every day, even if I’m not leaving the house. Just because it gives me pleasure.

Are you ready for your own spring refresh?

Refreshing your life doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or require huge changes. If you’re not sure where to start, think about what would be pleasing to your senses. What sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches will refresh your spirit and boost your mood? Perhaps you could start listening to music while you cook or do other household chores (also on my list to try!), eat at a new-to-you restaurant (or buy takeout), experiment with diffusing essential oils, set up a reading nook with an extra fluffy throw, or refresh your home or office by buying some spring-ish decor (or even just rearranging what you already have). Remember, you don’t have to make major changes to see real benefits…unless you want to!

Just writing about these things is boosting my mood! This weekend I’m going to see what other spring refresh-ments I can think of.

How about you? What are your favorite ways to refresh your life in spring? Do share in the comments!

For more ideas for bringing spring joy into your life, check out these resources (no affiliation):

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, Ingrid Fetell Lee (Amazon, Bookshop). I wrote a blog post about this book here.

Aesthetics of Joy website (by the author of Joyful)

Hill House Living, Paula Sutton (Amazon, Bookshop).

Alexandra Stoddard’s writings, particularly Living a Beautiful Life (Amazon, Bookshop) and Creating a Beautiful Home (Amazon, Bookshop).

Anxiety

Overcoming Overthinking

March 04, 2022

Photo by Sensei Minimal on Unsplash

Lately I’ve noticed a worrying trend in myself—my tendency to overthink things has gone into overdrive. Around 2 a.m., my eyes pop open and my mind takes off. My thoughts run in circles, replay the time I was brusque with my mother-in-law, or dash ahead looking for things to fret about.

Query: why do I never wake up at 2 a.m. to replay something delightful that happened? Or to think about something I’m looking forward to?

Hello, my name is Kathy and I’m an overthinker

Before I continue, I want to clarify that there are several types of overthinking—some more serious than others. What I’m speaking about here is a generalized pattern of negative or repetitive thoughts as well as a tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over making a decision. For me, it looks like falling into a spiral of replaying mistakes and of worry about the future, especially when I’m tired. Small decisions loom large and little challenges feel overwhelming. Sometimes I can’t go to sleep, or I wake in the middle of the night as described above.  From what I hear from my friends, I’m not alone.

It's certainly not bad to think. But as our world continues to offer us tragedy and suffering on an unimaginable scale, our (my) thinking can become overthinking. And overthinking isn’t good for us. Jenny Maenpaa wrote, “Overthinking is an anxious tendency that I encounter in my psychotherapy practice. There are many ways we tend to overthink, such as rehashing the past—replaying the same scenario over and over in our head. Worrying is another form, in which we obsess over what the future might bring…. Research has shown that overthinking can decrease energy, limit creativity and cause sleeping problems.”

(Click on the first link below for three excellent exercises she uses to reduce overthinking.)

Thinking too much can cause overwhelm, keep us from making decisions, and drain the joy from life.

 Practices for coping with overthinking

Here are four practices that have helped me. Maybe they’ll help you, too:

Letting go of perfectionism (or trying to). As Anne Bogel notes in Don’t Overthink It, right doesn’t equal perfect. When I start to get wound up about the possibility that I didn’t make the absolute perfect choice of new cookware to replace my decrepit pots and pans at the absolute best price, I remember that I did my research, thought about the purchase, and made a reasoned choice. That’s good enough. I don’t need to obsess about it.

Postponing the thoughts. I don’t know why my brain thinks 2 a.m. is the ideal time to trot out every concern, little or large, that has been on my mind—but it does. I’ve started simply saying, “I’ll think about this in the morning. Right now, I need to rest.”

Distracting myself. In the middle of the night, I make mental lists: alphabetical book or movie titles, foods, and so on. During the day, I play a game, read, watch a video or TV show, or play with Luna. Anything that will give my busy brain something else to ponder.

Repeating affirmations. Before bed lately I’ve been turning to Morgan Harper Nichols’ “Phrases to repeat to yourself late at night,” which I found on Instagram:

I am loosening my shoulders.
I am relaxing my jaw.
I am taking a moment to stretch.
I am taking deep breaths.
I am looking forward to rest.
I am releasing worry.
I am letting go.
I am trusting in the process.
I am ready to dream a beautiful dream.
I am practicing peace.

During daylight hours, if I need to reach for encouraging words, I read through a few of the 3 x 5 cards with inspirational quotes I’ve gathered over the years.

Overthinking divorces us from simple pleasures. It doesn’t help us make better decisions or be kinder to others. All it does is exhaust and overwhelm us. The world itself is exhausting enough without our own thoughts becoming a source of anxiety. I hope these practices will help you as they’ve been helping me. 

Do you have any practices you use to calm your thoughts? Please share in the comments!

For more information:

“A psychotherapist shares the 3 exercises she uses every day ‘to stop overthinking’”

Dropping the Rope: The Power of Letting Go

Life Lessons From the Barn—Relax Your Mind

Don’t Overthink It, Anne Bogel (Amazon, Bookshop)

Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts, Martin N. Seif, Sally M. Winston (Amazon, Bookshop)

Getting Back to Happy

Give Yourself the Opportunity to Be Happy

February 25, 2022

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

“This minute decide to never again beg anyone for the love, respect, and attention you should be showing yourself. Today, look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I love you, and from now on I’m going to prove it!’ When you practice self-love and self-care, you give yourself the opportunity to be happy. And when you are happy, you become a better friend, a better lover, a better family member, and a better you.”

—Marc and Angel Chernoff, Getting Back to Happy

Birthdays

This Is 27--Happy Birthday, Tank!

February 18, 2022


Though like all registered American Quarter Horses, Tank turned another year older on Jan. 1, his actual foal date is Feb. 18. For reference, a 27-year-old horse is roughly equivalent to a 78-year-old human. (And to answer the question nearly everyone asks, horses live an average of 25-30 years.) 

Tank is finally starting to show his age, though he’s still in remarkably good shape for an old guy. I’m currently working with his vet and farrier on a non-life-threatening lameness issue that is keeping me from riding him. Even so, we have had to turn him out alone in a smaller enclosure because he was goofing with the younger horses and galloping around like a maniac because of the cooler weather. He still gets plenty of grooming, carrots, and treats, and I’m going to look into alternate activities to do with him while he’s temporarily sidelined, and for when riding is permanently off the table. Maybe I can teach him to paint

At the end of this month, we will have been together for 18 years. I’d wanted a horse since childhood, and when my husband and I were contemplating relocating to Florida (his home state) from California (mine), he sweetened the deal by promising that I could have a horse if we made the move. I don’t think either of us really thought that would be possible, but I filed that promise away for many years until time and finances made it possible to consider. Tank has been one of the best investments of time and money I’ve made in my life.

Tank has been a friend and partner through adventures, he’s taught me lessons in patience, sacrifice, kindness and courage. During our rides, he’s helped me dig deep to conquer fear. I’ve learned to put aside my own comfort to give him what he needs when he’s sick or injured (twice a day visits to the barn to flush wounds or medicate eyes during the height of summer heat and humidity…). I’ve cried into his mane, and allowed the sound of him munching hay soothe the sore spots in my heart. We’ve gone on trail rides, explored different types of terrain and jumps at Fannin Hill Farm, and hit the water together at a lake and the beach. I’ve spent hours just hanging out with him while he grazes. And as a bonus, I’ve met some of my closest friends at the two barns where he has lived. I’ve written about our experiences many times here on Catching Happiness. A few highlights:


I wrote about the process of finding him for the AQHA’s member magazine: “Why, Yes, That Was Me in the December Issue of America’s Horse.”



I’ve “learned to speak horse” and hosted horse birthday parties.

I’ve imagined what it would be like “If My Horse Had an Instagram Account.”

I’ve learned so many life lessons along the way, like this one.

And I’ve shared some of our more mundane experiences in “Look Mom, No Cavities!” and “A Little Off the Top and Sides and…Belly.”

Here are a few photos from our time together. Happy birthday, Tank—thank you for all the simple pleasures and everyday adventures!

Fannin Hill

Our first day together

Beach boy

Experimenting with riding without a bridle

Ho ho horse

In his prime, with a shining summer coat


The two of us just hanging out

Summer 2021

Tank and Paloma, the first of his lady friends at our new barn
Contemplating life

Snoozing
On the trail

Happy New Year 2022

Cheer up

Link Love—Cheer Up Edition

February 11, 2022

Photo by Ahmed Zayan on Unsplash

The Internet can be a mixed blessing. It can entertain us, teach us, and keep us connected with our friends and family—and it can deal our self-esteem some crushing blows and contribute to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Today let’s concentrate on how it can brighten up our lives! Since many of us have been struggling either with winter blahs or various other challenges related to staying positive, I thought I’d devote a Link Love post to some links I’ve found uplifting and encouraging lately. Be sure to share any of your discoveries in the comments below!

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s annual “10 Things Saving My Life Right Now” post is always a comfort. Be sure to read the comments, too.

I’ve listened to this piece several times since I read this story. It’s so beautiful and calming, and what an amazing accomplishment.

100 Ways to Improve Your Life Without Really Trying. The simpler the better! I do #20 several times a week, working on #57, and #78 is genius!

“The One Habit to Break to Find More Joy.” Ingrid Fetell Lee always has something thought-provoking to say.

Stories like this one help me remember that there are kind people in the world, and that small gestures can make big differences.

The “How Not to Be Grumpy” episode of the Soul + Wit podcast came at the perfect time. I picked up some suggestions to help me cope with the days that I feel less than *happy*. 

More music. Stunning cover of Stairway to Heaven performed by Heart:


Have a happy weekend!

Depression

My Depression Ate My Blog Post

February 07, 2022

The inspiration for the title of this blog post

Well, kind of. I missed my normal post day last week because I experienced a depressive episode. I’d been working on a post about mindset, focus, and expectations, and I just wasn’t able to finish and post it as I planned on Friday.

I don’t tell you this to ask for sympathy or make excuses. While I don’t want to dwell on them, I feel it’s important for us to be open about mental health struggles. I want Catching Happiness to be a place of uplift, peace, and inspiration. I want to contribute to the “happy” in the world, to offer encouragement, a positive attitude, and support to you, my dear readers and friends. I know we’re all facing our own challenges and troubles, and I believe we need to be real about how happy or unhappy we are, rather than ignore or gloss over what feels hard. 

Today is a better day. I’m leaning on the habits that (mostly) hold me together

Today is not as hard as Friday was. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe, I’ll even finish that blog post about focus, mindset, and expectations! 

Note: Jenny Lawson, “The Bloggess,” writes extremely well about the condition of depression, and I especially enjoyed “Is Today Hard?” (post contains adult language). 


 

Hope

Do You Need to Be Happy to Feel Hopeful?

January 28, 2022

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash


“Hope isn’t the same thing as happiness. You don’t need to be happy to be hopeful. You need instead to accept the unknowability of the future, and that there are versions of that future that could be better than the current one. Hope, in its simplest form, is the acceptance of possibility.

“The acceptance that if we are suddenly lost in a forest, there will be a way through.”

—Matt Haig, The Comfort Book


Happiness

Holding on to Happiness: Creating a Happiness Jar

January 21, 2022



 

Quick, tell me three happy things that happened this week. They can be small or large, they just have to be something you noticed and took pleasure in.

Surprisingly hard, isn’t it? It’s so much easier to remember the trauma, the disasters and catastrophes, than it is to remember the quiet little moments that actually make up most of our day-to-day lives. I wanted to change that for 2022, and one of my solutions is the Happiness Jar.

Happy little things

I can’t take credit for the Happiness Jar. The original concept, which I’ve seen attributed to author Elizabeth Gilbert, is to jot down one thing you’re happy about or grateful for every day and store it in a jar. At the end of the year, read all the good things that happened to you over the past 12 months.

I’m tweaking it a little. Instead of one thing every day, which seems overwhelming to me (and not simpler), I’m going with a minimum of one per week, with the option to put in more if I so choose. At the very least, I’ll have 52 slips of paper, and that’s a lot of happy little things! Since Jan. 1, there was one (rough) week where I had just one good thing to put in. But last week, I already had two by Wednesday. 

Focusing on recording the happy little things has made me start to look for things to write down, and to schedule things to look forward to. I think this is going to be the gentle nudge I needed to start planning a few more simple pleasures and everyday adventures.

Another great thing about this practice is the happy little things can be really little…and they can (and should) be things that you find happy/uplifting/funny/awesome/fill-in-the-blank. This is a personal practice, intended for your eyes only.

As Liz Gilbert wrote, “In fact, my happiest moment each day is usually just a glance of something sweet and small, an unexpected flush of emotion, a bit of sun on my face, a pleasant encounter on the sidewalk, a cool glass of water at just the right instant, the cat-like contentment after a nap, a glimpse of a bird just out of the corner of my eye, a recognition of some tiny lovely thing.”

I thought you might enjoy seeing this little project come together, so here are a few photos. You'll see I had a lot of “help.” I was lucky enough to have a bunch of cute papercrafts given to me by a friend that I could use to decorate my jar.  And to jot down my happy little things, I’m using pages from a mini notebook someone else gave me. So much happiness and affection in this one small package!


Started with a plain canning jar and a small notebook

Collected some papercrafts and ribbons and fooled around to see which I liked the looks of


Took the ribbon out of the cat’s mouth

The finished product

Containing your happiness

Of course, you don’t need to buy or make anything special to record the happy little things that happen. You can keep a journal of happy, either handwritten or on your computer. You can take a photo of what brings you joy and create a folder to keep the pictures in. You can look at your happy little things every week, every month, once a year, or never. This is YOUR happiness, and YOUR happiness jar should you decide to actually use a jar! There aren’t any rules! (Type “Happiness Jar” into your search engine and you’ll find a multitude of photos and tutorials if you want some additional inspiration.)

The point of the Happiness Jar is to pay attention to and record good things. We all have them, even in the depths of crisis and despair. Maybe this will help us hold onto them a little tighter.

How do you record happy little things? Please share in the comments below. And do let me know if you decide to do a happiness jar of your own!


Goals

First Thoughts for 2022

January 14, 2022

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

How have the first two weeks of the new year been treating you?

I’m finally taking a breath after a whirlwind last couple of weeks of 2021, another year I’m not sorry to put behind me. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks recovering (I’m so tired…you?) and regrouping. (Read: digging out my office which has become, once again, a Pit of Despair.)

The beginning of a new year is a natural place to think about goals and changes you want to make. But this year, instead of planning a whole year’s worth of goals, or diving head first into the deep end, I’m taking a gentler approach overall. For example:

Word of the year

Remember my word of the year (WOTY), dare, from last year? Probably not, because after that first optimistic post, I don’t think I revisited it on the blog even once. And not much more often in private. Too many varied and disrupting events took place in 2021, and dare just didn’t fit well with how the year played out. In this instance, choosing a word of the year was kind of like when health experts try to match the annual flu vaccine with the flu strains expected to be circulating…and fail!

In retrospect, a better WOTY for 2021 would have been “survive.”

So anyway, as 2021 wound down, a word kept reappearing in my consciousness, and as I usually do when that happens, I’ve taken it as my WOTY for 2022:

Simpler.

Not shiny or glamorous, but fitting, in that the past two years have made me hunker down and reevaluate my life in unexpected ways. I’m looking forward to seeing how simpler influences how the year unfolds. Two things that come to mind immediately are the way I cook (my menu planning and cooking need a revamp that makes them simpler) and what I concentrate on in my writing. I’ve been chasing too many different types of writing projects and I’ve managed both to lose the joy of writing as well as dilute my focus and skill level. I’m sure more will come to my attention as the year goes on.

(Two of my online friends have also chosen words of the year. Read their posts here and here.)

Goal setting/yearly planning

I’m very good at complicating things, overscheduling, and being wound too tightly. Rushing, rushing, rushing. Fitting more in when I should take more time to do fewer things. (Another way in which simpler may help.)

I came across this sentence in something I read (forgive me, I can’t remember where I found it), and this sums up what I want for 2022:

“I want a year of ease and serendipity and settling into the spaces of my life in a way that feels organic instead of molded to fit arbitrary goals I set for myself.”

I’m slowing way down. Being a lot more deliberate. There are a few things on my “I’d like to accomplish” list for 2022. I’m using Gretchen Rubin’s “22 for 22” framework, but I only have about 10 things listed so far. 

What I’m not doing

I’m not doing any reading challenges. I’m not going on a diet. I’m not “making big plans,” at least not yet. 

And speaking of plans, I just finished reading Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, by Oliver Burkeman (Amazon, Bookshop, no affiliation), which is not about time management in the traditional way at all. This passage resonated:

“…planning is an essential tool for constructing a meaningful life, and for exercising our responsibilities toward other people. The real problem isn’t planning. It’s that we take our plans to be something they aren’t. What we forget, or can’t bear to confront, is that, in the words of the American meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, ‘a plan is just a thought.’ We treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command. But all a plan is—all it could ever possibly be—is a present-moment statement of intent. It’s an expression of your current thoughts about how you’d ideally like to deploy your modest influence over the future. The future, of course, is under no obligation to comply.”

Almost none of my plans over the past two years have come to fruition. I’m disappointed, but at the same time, simply grateful to be alive and relatively unscathed. I’m not even going to try to guess what 2022 holds, but I am going to stay optimistic and open. To continue to embrace simple pleasures and everyday adventures—and to share any happy discoveries with you.

Do you have any special plans for 2022? What is your word of the year?

For more easy, beginning-of-the-year inspiration, check out these links:

The Soul + Wit podcast, “Less Hustle, More Happiness.” 

The Action for Happiness Happier January calendar.