The Art of Play

Play is not just for kids; it’s for everyone! Getting in touch with that young fun can have numerous benefits: reduced stress, improved creativity, and a better work-life balance. Here are some ways to incorporate play into your life: 

  1. Revisit Old Hobbies: Revisit hobbies from your past. Take up painting, coloring, dancing, a sport, or an instrument!
  2. Explore Nature: Go outside! Hike on a trail, go to a park, or have a picnic. There are so many ways to get yourself in nature. You’ll be surprised how good you feel!
  3. Mindfulness: Take up mindfulness activities like coloring, going on walks, meditation, or mindful eating. Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine can really change your outlook on life!
  4. Adventure: Go to a new restaurant for dinner. Go to a new shop in your city. Or, even more daring, go to a new city on a whim! Explore your surroundings and see new places! 
  5. Creativity: Try some kind of creative expression. Whether it’s painting in your bedroom or joining a weekend improv group, encouraging your creativity to flow can really engage your brain!

Remember, play is not something that you outgrow or become too old for. It’s a timeless activity essential for a life of happiness and well-being!

 

It’s That Time of the Year Again!

3….2….1….HAPPY NEW YEAR! Filled with endless possibilities of where the new year will take us, this time of the year can feel exciting and sort of like a reset for us all. The New Year also calls for many of us to create a new set of New Year Resolutions that reflect our values and where we want the New Year to go. With this being said, I think it is important to review how to build SMART goals so that we can be as successful as possible in attempting to achieve them.

The S stands for specific. Make sure you are not too broad in your resolutions, and focus on the specifics of what you want to achieve and how you plan on achieving it. The M stands for measurable. Numbers will be your best friend. Quantify aspects of your goal so that it will make the overall resolution more clear on what you want to do and how you are going to know when you are showing success. The A stands for achievable. This aspect requires mindfulness and self-honesty to uncover whether or not a resolution you create is plausible. Reflect on your skills, your mindset, and what is happening around you in order to make the most achievable goal you can. When we make goals more achievable, we tend to be happier that we are making progress and feel more motivated to tackle others. The R stands for relevant. This also requires mindfulness and self-honesty, and is one of the most important steps in goal building. Create resolutions that match with your values, interests, and desires. It should be something that means something to you and not something you feel others want for you. This will help motivation levels and overall enjoyment of your progress. The last letter stands for time. Having a “deadline” is crucial because it keeps you honest and motivated to know how much time you have left. Otherwise, you will find it is easy to blow off your resolution farther and farther into the New Year. 

Building SMART goals are a great tool to be on top of your New Year Resolutions, however, remember that mistakes and failure are a part of them too! Do not feel bad if you feel you are slacking, but be proud of yourself for trying. Don’t give up when it gets hard, yet, don’t strain yourself too much! Goals should be a fun way to better yourself mentally or physically, so if you find your goal is doing the adverse, reflect on how you can tweak it to make it more obtainable. 

How Chocolate Can Brighten Your Day

As we are deep into the holiday season, nothing feels better than a warm cup of hot cocoa. Along with tasting incredibly delicious, it is an excellent mood booster! When you eat chocolate, your brain releases feel-good chemicals, including serotonin and endorphins, making you happy and content. High-quality dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants, meaning there are also health benefits to eating chocolate. Here are some chocolate recipes to brighten your day:

  1. Homemade Hot Cocoa
  2. Chocolate Covered Strawberries
  3. Chocolate Peppermint Bark
  4. Homemade Brownies
  5. Chocolate Chip Cookies

Indulging in this decadent treat will not only make your tastebuds happy but is scientifically proven to make eat yourself to some chocolate this holiday season!  

The Power of Reading

Along with being a leisurely pastime, reading has many therapeutic benefits: stress reduction, improved empathy, improved sleep, and cognitive stimulation. Here are some feel-good book recommendations: 

  1. “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  2. “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens
  3. “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  4. “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert
  5. “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin

These books cover many topics, but all share a theme of motivation and inspiration. Reading can be a great tool in your therapeutic journey. So, next time you want a fun activity, pick up a book!

It’s the Holiday Season!

The holiday season, a time typically filled with joy and celebration, can sometimes leave us overwhelmed and stressed. From the never-ending to-do lists to the pressure to create picture-perfect moments, it’s easy to lose sight of what truly matters during this time. Many of us expect that the holiday season should be a non-stop parade of joy and contentment. We often set high expectations for ourselves and our loved ones, thinking that the perfect holiday exists somewhere beyond the horizon. That’s why it’s essential to reflect on the concept of happiness during this season!

It’s important to remember that happiness is not a destination; it’s a journey. Instead of chasing a vision of what the holidays should be, consider redefining your perspective on happiness. Embrace the idea that happiness can be found in the present moment amidst the imperfections and unpredictability of life. One way to find happiness during the holiday season is through mindfulness. Instead of dwelling on what’s missing or what could be better, focus on appreciating the now. Take a moment to savor the laughter of loved ones, the warmth of your surroundings, and the simple joys of the season.

The holiday season is an excellent time to practice gratitude. Reflect on the things you’re grateful for, both big and small. It can be as simple as the warmth of a cozy blanket or the taste of a delicious meal. Practicing gratitude can shift your focus from what’s lacking to what’s abundant in your life. Additionally, don’t forget to prioritize self-care during the holidays. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the season’s demands, so take time for yourself. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a relaxing bath, or simply going for a walk, self-care is an essential part of staying balanced and happy during this busy time.

As you navigate the holiday season, remember that true happiness isn’t about perfection or extravagant gifts. It’s about embracing the imperfections, finding joy in the present moment, and cultivating meaningful connections with loved ones. By practicing mindfulness, expressing gratitude, and caring for yourself, you can make this holiday season truly special and full of happiness. So, as you ponder your own holiday experience, consider how these ideas can help you find the happiness you deserve during this festive time of year.

Personalizing Your Space: Creating a Joyful Home

  1. Vibrant Colors: Color psychology can really affect your mood. Vibrant greens, blues, and yellows can be both calming and uplifting. 
  2. Plants: Bringing nature into your home can really improve your mood. We all know that going out and seeing nature is good for our mental and physical health, so why not bring it inside!
  3. Pictures: Putting photos around your home of loved ones and good memories can bring a really positive, personal touch to your home!
  4. Organize: Organization is a great way to reduce stress and make you feel on track and in control. It also will make your space look better in general!
  5. Aromatherapy: Incorporating various aromatherapy (candles or essential oils) can both give a lovely aesthetic to your home and use smell to improve your mood.
  6. Personal Sanctuary: Dedicate a part of your home to be “your area.” In this space, you can put books, records, yoga materials, or whatever activity makes you feel rejuvenated. 

Try incorporating these decorating tips into your home to make your space a place of happiness and positivity!

Productive Happiness!

Sometimes it feels very easy to brush something off for a later date. We may try to avoid boredom or stress by navigating around a project, task, or assignment, only to be hit by the boredom and stress even more when we realize we have to get it done, now with limited time. This pesky procrastination can be more dangerous to our mental health than we really think, however. Procrastination has been linked to higher stress, lower life satisfaction, symptoms of depression and anxiety, lack of persistence, and negative self-evaluation. To avoid procrastination, try to reward yourself for starting on a task while periodically taking breaks. Break the mindset that it will be a hard task or be boring, and instead embrace challenges. While we are productive and getting things done, we may start to feel a little happier about ourselves and the tasks we are working on! So, avoid procrastination and find happiness in productivity! 

Just Breathe!

Breathe in…breathe out! Sometimes we tend to move too fast. We may feel that we are always on the move or have to complete something every second of the day. This can get in the way of us recognizing that we need to stop and take a break. Even just sitting down to control our breathing, making sure to focus on the ins and outs of air from our lungs, can promote relaxation, reduce stress, and overall allow us to regain a positive state our busy lives seem to take us away from. Research has shown that practicing healthy breathing techniques are associated with comfort, an overall sense of relaxation, and increases in pleasantness. Furthermore, these breathing techniques have been associated with reducing anger, anxiety, and overall arousal, creating a sense of calmness and positive affect within us. Sure, yoga or meditation may be a great way to practice breathing techniques, but even just stopping every once in a while to focus on our breathing patterns can calm us down and promote a healthy headspace to move forward with our day!

Reminisce to Reduce Stress!

Acute stress, or short-term stress, is common. It is hard not to feel anxious when we try to navigate our busy lives with responsibilities that, at times, may feel like too much! Acute stress, though, can be detrimental to our overall mood; it can decrease emotional regulation which can bring forth negative emotions, and if built up, can lead to undesired mental conditions such as anxiety and depression. Research suggests, however, that through reminiscing over positive memories of joyful experiences we have had in our lives, we can alleviate some of this acute stress and regain our positive attitudes! In one study where participants were induced with stress, they found that those who recalled positive memories and experiences they have had, had lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and lower reports of negative moods. Keeping these findings in mind, next time you are experiencing a stretch of stress in your life, try to sit back, relax, and reminisce over fond memories you have of when you were the happiest. You may find this will help alleviate the worry you are feeling, and allow you to regain a positive mood as you tackle your day to day life!

Sometimes You Just Gotta Let it Out!

Emotions are normal. We, as humans, experience emotions on a daily basis whether they are positive, such as feelings of joy and happiness, or negative, such as sadness and anxiousness. Regardless of which side the emotion lands on, expressing our emotions is important. This is especially true when it comes to letting emotions out in the form of crying. Crying encompasses a wide variety of emotions from complete joy to complete sadness. Nonetheless, crying is an important mechanism in our lives that has been associated with releases of stress and emotional pain. Inversely, keeping in emotions and not letting yourself cry can lead to physical distress as well as mental health conditions that will only get worse if you continue to bottle up what you are feeling. According to psychological research, emotional crying releases oxytocin and endorphins which promote physical and mental ease. These feel-good chemicals essentially drain out a lot of the emotional pain and stress we may feel. Of course, however, too much of a good thing is bad; if you find yourself crying frequently and often, assess what is causing the emotions and recognize if this is a negative or positive aspect of your life that is impacting you. Nonetheless, if you feel like you need to cry from time to time, let it out! Your body knows what’s best for you, even when it comes to your emotions!

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