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happiness advantage shawn achor

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21 Days of Happiness Habits

We’re 21 days from jumping for joy!

We’re 21 days from jumping for joy!

I recently shared in my Instagram stories that I’ve been living over here in funk land lately. What?! That girl that is over here trying to spread cheer and help you “make every day feel like the weekend” isn’t living in a constant state of joy? Not so much. Yes, overall I consider myself to be an optimistic person, and in person I am pretty outgoing and energetic.  However, since October I’ve been feeling pretty darn apathetic, lethargic, and unmotivated!  Just stuck! I call it a funk, but by medical terms I think it’s really a mild depression that I sometimes find myself in when I haven’t been managing my anxiety over time.  Lack of regular exercise, letting trigger foods (wheat/dairy/sugar) creep back into my diet, and not spending enough quality time with friends having fun outside of work all add up.

So yeah, my rose colored glasses seem to be lost, and frankly it’s all been very confusing!  I don’t actually feel sad. I don’t cry or sleep all day or do a lot of things you may think a depressed person would do.  I have SO much to be genuinely thankful for, and in so many ways life is better than ever! Our shop is doing great, I’ve had a couple great recent features about our lovely new home,  my marriage is really solid, and I have some truly amazing friends!  I have all those things and still feel just “meh”.  So I have been beating myself up about feeling this way, because what do I have to complain about? Well let me share some of my negative thought loops that keep creeping in:

I wish I had more energy! Life’s not that hard.

What is the point of having lots of Instagram followers if I’m not making a positive impact? Why am I not figuring out a way to make more of a difference?  

Should I be trying to have a family? I’m 35! I want a family one day but it isn’t something I want today. What’s wrong with me?!

I’m a smart person, why am I not making more money!?

What should I do next? Instagram might not be here forever, so maybe I shouldn’t make that such a big component of my business. 

I should get off the couch and go do laundry! My husband works really hard AND cooks for us so why am I not motivated to do more?! 

Feeling stuck :(

Feeling stuck :(

I definitely recognize the power of self talk, but getting myself into this pattern of negative self talk really crept up on me! It’s easy to tell yourself positive stories until it’s not.  Before you know it, your brain is noticing the negative more than the positive, and then it’s REALLY difficult to get back in a truly positive mindset.  My friend Brenda recently reminded me that our brains really are like computers and sometimes they need just to be reprogrammed.  So, enter a 21 day plan to help myself and anyone else with a little reset...

Awhile ago, I read the “Happiness Advantage” and was recently reminded of it again on this podcast.  In his books, Happiness researcher Shawn Achor (you can also hear him on this Ted Talk) shares some strategies that yielded improved long-term happiness in his studies.  I’ve shared these techniques below and decided I can definitely do all of these things for the next 21 days.  If you want to join me January 1-21 (or on your own timeline if you’re reading this later), let’s do this!

-What’s the daily game plan?-

1. Walk (at least 15 minutes)

2. Doubling Journaling (1+ minute)

This concept is explained better in this podcast episode or in this book, but basically you write down a positive experience you had that day (or previous day if you’re journaling at night). Then you note 3 specific details to help this memory solidify in your mind. 

3. Meditate or pray (2+ minutes) 

Quiet time of any kind can be pretty challenging! I’m using the Headspace app’s guided meditations to make it a little easier to accomplish. Even just 5 minutes are helping me improve my relationship with my thoughts and help me live in the present.  

4. Name your gratitudes (~3 minutes) 

The key is to a) name 3 new things you’re thankful for each day and b) share why you are grateful for that thing. Feel free to fit this in while you’re brushing your teeth, or commit to sharing with your spouse or roommates at dinner.  Or, join my Instagram accountability group (more on that below).

Example: Yesterday I had an uplifting phone call with my good friend.  I was wearing mismatched socks, the weather was pretty warm, & I noticed lots of gorgeous camellias in bloom while I was walking.

5. Social outreach (2+ minutes) 

Achor suggests to spend 2 minutes and email or text someone every day and thank them for something.  That sounds like a good way to connect and focus on appreciation, and I say go for it if you want!

I’m trying this in a slightly different way.  For one, I’m trying to just spend more time with friends having FUN (at least once a week).  Daily I have another plan: Since social media is such a big part of my job, I’m going to try to be more social with it. A lot of what I do is strategy and growth and blah blah, and social media is a place that has become triggering for my anxiety as of late due to the comparison game (I’ll never have that many followers as so in so, I’ll never get as much work with brands as she is getting, etc. etc.).  For a long time I was able to keep my eyes in my own lane and be happy when I saw others doing great things too, but I’ve noticed the more uncertain I am about my career, the more these comparison thoughts creep in for me.  Anyway, for this part I will be doling out likes and compliments (via comments or DMs) to people I come across in my feed (who I often just scroll past).

Feel good bonus: if you’d like to join me avoiding dairy/gluten/sugar for the next 21 days that always helps me feel way better. Our body really doesn’t need any of these things and they are often linked to anxiety/depression and even dementia. 

-Total daily time commitment-

20-30 minutes. 

-Get social for max success-

Why do we feel like tackling the chore of fighting depression/apathy/a funk is something we have to do alone?  The more people I’ve shared with lately the more my friends and spouse have been checking in with me.  The more people you share your struggles with, a) the more people you’ll encounter also having trouble and b) the more people you’ll have supporting you so you don’t have to go it alone.

The first 15 people to DM me on Instagram and say “I’m in” can join my 21 day accountability group- where we will share our gratitudes with each other daily from January 1-21st.

-Why 21 days?- 

As a speech therapist who has helped patients learn memory strategies and other cognitive functions, I’ve always heard that it takes 21 consecutive days to make a new habit. The Happiness Advantage research seems to reiterate this principle. Besides, this doesn’t sound like too insurmountable of a commitment, so let’s run with it!

-Have I tried this and know it works?- 

Yes and no. I have already noticed a big difference when I walk for at least an hour a day, and days I’m sedentary really contribute to my feelings of “blah”.  This summer I found that journaling really helped me get clarity and get thoughts out of my head so they don’t get stuck in a loop there. And so far, I have definitely noticed a greater awareness about my thought patterns from meditating just 5 minutes a day.  So no, I haven’t tried all of these things for 21 days straight, but from trying individual components of this plan I can tell there are going to be benefits!

Should I have tried this before I roped you into this with me? Sure. Are we going to give this a shot together anyway? Yessss! 

-Let’s measure our success-

If you do anything for 21 days in a row, you’re a winner in my book!   However, I do want you to rate your current status now and again on January 21.  In your journal, give yourself an overall numerical happiness rating on a scale of 1-10 (1=misery, 10= ecstasy) & take inventory/jot down details of some specifics of how you’re feeling recently. 

-Disclaimer-

I’m obviously not a mental health or medical professional, and I’m currently working with a therapist and medical doctor to develop my own overall treatment plan.  If you are experiencing depression, I definitely recommend that you also seek professional help- it’s a wonderful thing!  Please email me if you are in need of any local resources!

images by:  Kim Graham Photography

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