Imagine you are going on a family summer vacation. You book your flights and hotel rooms and have it all planned out. You begin to feel pressure to make the most of your trip because you are using your paid vacation days and spending your money on it. You can’t help but get angry when your flight is delayed. The day after you arrive, your kid is sleeping in late and you can’t get the family moving, and you miss your first activity. You feel your stress levels rising and you snap. Does this sound familiar? Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting things to go as planned that we forget the purpose of what we are doing. That’s why it can help to set intentions. Ask yourself, “What are my true intentions with what I am doing?” If you really think about your true intentions for going on vacation, it probably isn’t to pack in as many activities as possible. It’s probably to relax, enjoy time with family, and forget your worries for a little while. When you take time to think about your intentions, and call them to mind periodically, it can help you handle situations in a way that is better for you and those around you. For example, when you figure out your flight is delayed, but remember your intention is to relax rather than have everything go as scheduled, you may choose to sit back and read your book instead of getting upset. When your kid won’t get up in time for the family activity, if you remember your intention is to have a fun time with your family, then maybe you’ll just play a board game with your spouse while you let your kid sleep in. This can apply to all areas of life–when we really think about the true purpose of what we’re doing, we don’t sweat the small stuff as much, and we find better ways to achieve our true goals.
Manifestation has been a buzz word recently, and whether or not you believe it’s possible, there’s one thing that’s for certain: adapting a positive mindset can help good things come your way. Manifesting is the practice of thinking aspirational thoughts with the intention of making them come true. Imagine your dream job. Say you’re at a point in life where you finally feel qualified, so you apply and get an interview. If you’ve been practicing aspirational thoughts, such as, “I can do amazing things at this job” and, “I am a great addition to any office,” you will go into the interview with confidence. This confidence will shine through, making it more likely you get the position. People think about manifestation differently; some people are more literal, and others just believe that adopting a positive mindset draws positive things into your life. So, while thinking you will wake up with an extra $10,000 in your bank account might not make it come true, there are still aspects of manifestation that you can utilize to improve your life. One way of practicing manifestation is to spend five to ten minutes in the morning imagining that you already have what you want, and it’s good to keep it broad. Say you want closer friendships. You can meditate on how positive it feels to have so much love and friendship in your life. This will make you act more loving and friendly to the people in your life, which can in turn bring you closer together. Think of it in terms of the famous quote “where your attention goes, your energy flows.” Manifestation techniques can help you focus your attention, and thus your energy, in the positive direction you would like your life to take.
We are social creatures who yearn to be respected, connected, liked, and loved. It is great to aspire to have these things, but the shadow side is that we sometimes compromise our own values and interests in order to gain approval. In some cases, we don’t even know our own values and interests because we have been so focused on being liked and accepted that we just map onto others. But what humans really want, at their core, is to be accepted and loved for who they really are. So if you don’t know who you really are, or you’re so concerned with being accepted that you hide who you really are, the acceptance and love that comes your way will never feel complete. If you think you’re one of those people who doesn’t truly know themselves, you can change that over time. Instead of following others’ senses of right and wrong, try brainstorming your own morals and uncovering what’s really important to you. This may take some serious thought and time. Once you’ve done this, you can begin to live by your own set of values.
Another part of knowing yourself is becoming closely in touch with what you enjoy and what feels authentic to you. If you’re out of touch with yourself, you probably look to others to see what should bring you joy, but in reality, this is very specific to each person. A good way to start is by allowing yourself to do that one thing you’ve always wanted to do but never allowed yourself to–maybe it’s dying your hair that fun color or joining a beginner’s dance class. Starting with a small thing that some part of you has always wanted to do will get you back in touch with that genuine feeling of joy, and then it’ll be easier to tell what other things bring you joy and what things do not. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t like, but we can get better at saying “no” when it’s not necessary to say “yes.” If you feel like you know yourself but are scared to show your true self, it can be helpful to find an outside community, or perhaps just one trusted friend, that is more accepting of what you are scared to show to the world. There are all sorts of online communities on platforms like Facebook or Reddit that you can begin to dip your toes in. Once you feel more supported by some people, it will become easier to show your true colors to all the important people in your life. There will always be people who don’t want you to be who you truly are, but accepting this just frees up space for different people to come into your life who will love who you are. Once you’ve become more authentic in the way you show up in the world, you will feel more on track with your life and more accepted and loved, at least by the right people. Even if fully embracing yourself results in you being a bit different from others, many people admire others who are fully and unapologetically their unique selves even if they are different. And most importantly of all, it will be easier for you to admire and love yourself.
We live in a consumerist society. We’re constantly exposed to advertisements telling us all the things we need to be better, and it’s easy to get caught up in this mindset. We all want to be happy, so what does the science really say? Research over the past decade has shown that experiences make us happier than material goods. Why is this the case? Psychologists believe happiness lies within moment-to-moment experiences. We can’t be in pleasant moments all the time, so while it’s still good to try and stay present regardless, the reality for most of us is our minds tend to wander quite a bit. Research shows that our minds actually tend to wander toward dark places, unless they have something positive to look forward to in the future, or something fond to remember about the past. So when you can’t live in the moment, the best place to reside is in the anticipation of the future. Research shows that anticipating an experience elicits more happiness, pleasantness, and excitement than anticipating a material good. Waiting for a material good involves more impatience. People also tend to have fonder memories of experiences than of acquiring possessions. Also, people are more likely to compare their possessions with others than their experiences. Furthermore, experiences are more associated with identity, social behavior, and connection, which lead to long term happiness. Even after the fact, people enjoy sharing their experiences and hearing about other people’s experiences more than they enjoy discussing possessions. It’s okay to invest in and enjoy material goods, especially ones you get daily or weekly use out of. But, with this information in mind, there are probably purchases you can forgo to save money and effort that you can then put toward bringing more experiences into your life–and the lives of those important to you! These experiences can range from bigger vacations to smaller weekend trips, to simple evenings at a restaurant or movie theater. It may be time to reconsider what types of gifts you are giving others, and what type of rewards you are providing for yourself. It’s time to create more happiness for you and your loved ones!
If you had a day to go wherever you want, where would it be? Would it be a day trip to the beach to relax in the sun, or to the mountains for a long hike? Maybe you’d wake up and prepare a delicious picnic, grab a book, and go relax outside all day. Do you like tubing on the river, or visiting botanical gardens? Maybe you just want a day at the spa or shopping mall. We have a challenge for you and your partner, or best friend, or whoever you want to spend more time with. We want you to both name your perfect day trip, and then take turns accompanying each other on your dream day. It’s June and the weather’s warm and sunny, so what are you waiting for?
When’s the last time you did arts and crafts? Almost every kid enjoys it, but we rarely see adults allowing themselves the same fun. The truth is, many of us stop doing art when we become more self-aware and self-conscious of what we’re making. We only want to do what we’re good at, and we find it embarrassing to make something child-like. In our teenage years, many of us stop being praised for our creative spirit. We stop exploring artistically and maybe even forget why we loved it in the first place. But more and more research is showing that adults need fun and play as well, and art is one of the easiest ways to do that. A good first step to get back into it is to allow yourself to make something silly with no judgment. You could make paper plate masks, sock puppets, origami, paper lanterns, or dream catchers. You could paint rocks, splatter paint, finger paint, or even draw with your eyes closed. If you know you’ll be too concerned with how the final product looks to enjoy making it, you can vow to throw away your project at the end, regardless of how it turns out. This will allow you to focus on the process. You could do this with kids if you have any in your life, plan a night with friends, or simply get into it alone. There’s no harm in trying!
Many of us meet with our friends over coffee or drinks. Does it ever feel like you meet just to catch each other up on your lives and then go your separate ways? If this sounds like you, we challenge you to reapproach your time with friends, and actually make some memories doing activities together. It can bond you to go on an adventure, such as camping, hiking, or kayaking. Maybe you want to satisfy your inner children by doing art together or going on a picnic. Perhaps you want to explore the town by going to museums or site-seeing. Or maybe you want to see a movie that you can discuss afterwards. There are plenty of ways to shake up your time together. While simply sitting down for a conversation is a very important element of friendship, so is going out and exploring the world together, and creating beautiful memories and stories that you will cherish.
Research shows that having regular family dinners is linked to positive mental health for all family members, and linked to better behavior in children. The busyness of modern life and family members’ varying time commitments may make it difficult for everyone to come together at the same time, so we don’t want parents to feel stressed about having a family dinner every single night. But perhaps you can set a goal of having three to four family dinners per week. It may be a good idea to have a little family meeting the weekend prior to go over everyone’s schedules and note which evenings you will set aside to eat together. You can also do some menu-planning during this time. Sometimes it can be fun to have everyone contribute a different dish. This meeting itself can be good family bonding! If you don’t have a family, planning a weekly dinner with friends is a great alternative.
Modern life requires many of us to be on our phones a lot—and the addictive nature of them often causes us to stay hooked even longer than necessary! Going phoneless for a day can help us reconnect with ourselves and our sense of inner peace, and help us feel more present in the world around us. It may help your concentration and decision-making. While you won’t be able to communicate with friends or family far away, staying off your phone can help you deepen your connections to the people who are right there. If you are used to using your phone at night, going phoneless will likely improve your sleep. Even a brief break can help you get back on track with these things, and remind you of what really matters in the here-and-now. We recommend choosing one day a month to go phoneless, perhaps the first Sunday of every month. If necessary, you can warn friends and family you will be off your phone on that day. If you need to be around your phone in case of an emergency, there is an iPhone setting with which you can put your phone on silent, and if someone calls twice, it will ring. Taking a break from your phone is an act of self-care that may benefit you more than you know, and it is at least worth a try!
Music has the power to touch us deeply, to move us to tears, and to lift our spirits. It can make us nostalgic, sad, happy, motivated, relaxed, reflective, etc. Science shows music activates regions of your brain involved in movement, planning, attention and memory. It can release the brain chemical dopamine, which relieves anxiety and improves mood. Thus, music has the capacity to improve your attention span and memory, and to help in healing your mind and body. So, which songs should you listen to to get these effects? Songs with an upbeat tempo, a cheerful major key (rather than a gloomy minor key), and lyrics about fun events or love, are most successful at making us happy and having positive effects on our body and mind. Some songs scientifically shown to make people happy are “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees, “Dancing Queen” by Abba, “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and The Waves, and “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel. But, as most things are, the way music affects us is highly personal, and also depends on our individual history (for example, a song that reminds you of childhood, or a happy time in your life, could evoke strong emotions of joy). A great way to learn what music makes you feel best is simply to pay attention to how you feel before and after listening to a song—and if it makes you feel great, add it to a “Happy Songs” playlist for later!